Small Town Memories

Recording memories of the SHARPSVILLE, PA, from the 1940s to the 1970s, one story at a time.

Category: Sharpsville, PA, Area 1940s – 1970s

CONTI FAMILY: From Pofi to Sharpsville, Part I

You’re in for a special treat! This month’s guest writer, Gary Conti, shares with us a three-part story: Parts I and II tell of his Italian family, their immigration and life in Sharpsville as Italian-Americans. Finally, Part III describes a visit to the land where it all began.

Gary was born in 1963 and has been a lifelong Sharpsville resident. He grew up on South Second Street until he was 16 years old, and recalls the “good family friend Mary Caracci and her family who lived down the hill on North Second Street. I used to go there with my Aunt Theresa to visit Mary and accompany my aunt when she cleaned the offices of Cattron Communications.” After graduating from Sharpsville High School in 1981, Gary worked at Container Products and Howe Industries for about a total of 16 years. He is currently an employee of United Parcel Service (UPS).

Join Gary as he takes us on his grandparents’ journey from Pofi, Italy, to a new life in Sharpsville, a journey made by the many far-sighted and courageous people who came to America in the early years of the twentieth century.


THE CONTI FAMILY

Part I: From Pofi to Sharpsville

By Gary Conti

Gary Conti, age 5. Sharpsville, PA, c. 1968.

Ever since I was a small child, people would see or hear my last name and ask if I was related to this or that Conti. My answer was that I really did not know. Conti is a very well-known name throughout Italy. Now I have an answer: If they didn’t come from Pofi, Italy, and end up in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, then we are not related. But it wasn’t until 2007 that I learned this answer.  

Opening a Treasure Chest

One snowy January day in 2007 I sent an email that opened a treasure chest of facts that is still full to this day. I sent this email to a man named Tony who spent half the year in his hometown of Pofi, Italy, and the other six months in Toronto, Canada. He was putting together a reunion in Pofi of bloodlines around the world the very month we would be going there in October of 2007. I sent the email and, thinking I may never get a return reply, I left the room to make some coffee. When I came back to the computer, I found how wrong I was. I not only had a reply in minutes but one that told me I had hit the target. “Do you know the Scurpa’s?” he asked. Only all my life! In fact, I found out my grandmother was related to them.         

The recipient of my email inspired me to learn how to research. He taught me how not to trust the years on the headstones of Italian graves. Because records in Italy were lost in wars, earthquakes, fires, and other calamities, the birth and death years on the headstones were mainly those that family members thought they knew. This derailed research he had done seven years before. He also introduced me to the Ellis Island Records website as well as telling me where to write in Pofi and what to say. Within a couple hours, I began hitting paydirt!

The only things I had going for me were the names of my grandparents who died decades before I was born, the name of the town and a few things my aunt taught me.

My Grandfather’s Path to Sharpsville

Italy, showing the location of Pofi in the province of Frosinone. (Source: NASA Space Goddard Flight Center.)

My grandfather was Luigi Conti, born in Pofi, Italy, in 1893 to Francesco and Francesa Giorgi Conti. He and five other men, ages 17 to the 40s, left their village in April of 1913 for Naples where they boarded a ship called The Prince of Piedmont. They made the trip across the ocean and arrived in New York on May 2nd. My grandfather and two others, a Scurpa and Luigi Gori, his best friend, headed to Sharpsville. They were following a path from towns south of Rome — Pofi, Castro dei Volsci, Ceccano, Ceprano and Falvaterra — that had already been made years before.

The men of the southern area of Italy were mostly farmers in what was known as “The Land That Fed Rome.” They and those farther south were forced to give a share of their crops to the Italian Government, which was then used to feed their own families who lived in the region to the north. To this day, this practice is not taken well by the southerners as it became, as a result, almost impossible for them to make a living. Somewhere along the line Sharpsville became known to the people of this area as a place where they could thrive and the push across the Atlantic to our town was on.

When my grandfather arrived in Sharpsville his petitioner was Luigi Gori’s older brother, Giacinto. Luigi went to work at the old Valley Mold & Iron which was at one time the largest ingot mold foundry in the world. He worked there for many years as a molder.

My Grandmother’s Arrival

Marriage of Mattia Recine and Luigi Conti, St. Bartholomew Church. Sharpsville, PA, January 1917.

My grandmother was Mattia Recine Conti, the daughter of Giovanni and Carmine Vona Recine. She did not come to America until December of 1916 and her trip across the ocean was a bit of historical significance. Because World War I was in full force at the time, her ship, the Caserta, had big guns mounted on top. At certain points on the sea, the crew would engage in target practice for possible attacks by U-boats (German submarines). I could just imagine my grandmother’s reaction to that as a passenger!

My grandmother’s voyage was the Caserta’s last trip across the Atlantic, as the vessel company, out of safety concerns, stopped its operations until after the European Conflict.

I have gone over her ship manifest many times only to conclude that she made the trip across with strangers. It’s amazing to me how a woman could make that rough trip alone.  

Mattia Recine arrived at Ellis Island in New York City a few days before Christmas of 1916 and, on New Year’s Day, she married my grandfather at St. Bartholomew Church in Sharpsville. I have never found out if they knew each other back in Pofi and always wondered if the Scurpa’s had something to do with the marriage. The only clue I found was a couple of years before she came to America, my grandfather was living at Alice Row*, with another man whose last name was also Recine.

(*Alice Row was a group of Valley Mold row houses located off North Mercer Avenue on Cedar Street in Sharpsville. “Alice” was the name of a furnace at Valley Mold. The building no longer stands and the site is now used by a dealership to store used cars.)

Beginning Life in Sharpsville

conti_frank_schoolboy_pixlr - Edited (1)

Frank Conti, my father, c. 1936, Sharpsville, PA.

My grandparents’ first child, Sebastian (known to the family as “Sub”), was born in 1918. He was followed a year to the day afterward by Theresa, then Mary, Rosa, my father Frank (left photo) and then Tony. Even though they were born here they spoke little English when they started school.

I came to learn over the years that my grandfather Luigi was a no-nonsense guy who ruled in the old-school way: Punish first then move on. Do what you are told and stay away from his garden! My Aunt Theresa used to tell me how he would sit on the porch at night with a radio and a bottle of homemade “Dago Red” and claim that he could hear Rome on the radio. Anybody who has ever had that homemade wine knows that hearing Rome from Sharpsville after a couple of drinks is possible! Besides the wine he was known for working in that garden, ruling the home and smoking those little Italian cigars that he would always send the kids to get for him.

Funeral for my grandmother Mattia Recine Conti, c. 1937. The children in front are my father and Uncle Tony Conti.

At a very early age, my aunts and uncles lost their mother, my grandmother, (in c. 1937) and their father (in 1945). My father was 9 and my Uncle Tony 7 when their mother died. I never knew a lot about her other than she was good with the kids and kind with many friends in the Italian community of Sharpsville, as you could see in the photo by her casket. My Aunt Theresa and Uncle Sub had some of their teenage years taken away and quickly became very close as brother and sister.

Uncle Sub was the first of my father’s siblings to move away from his childhood home. He found work in the iron mill and married Mary Josephine Sabella in 1937. They lived on Seventh Street just above where Rossi Barber Shop was.

Later, Uncle Sub moved back to Cedar Street when he took my father in. My father told me many times that the Seventh Street house was where he had his first Thanksgiving dinner. I guess Italians did not take part in that tradition early on.

My Uncle Tony is another one for the record books. Because of very poor health as a child, he was not expected to live past teenage years. They found a hole in his heart on a checkup right on the front lines during the Korean War and he was sent to Japan and then home. He later had the first successful open heart surgery in Cleveland. He will soon be 88.

What I learned from Magdalena Scurpa

Aunt Theresa Conti Gula and my grandfather, Luigi Conti, c. 1941.

Magdalena Scurpa, who was related to my grandmother, took my aunt Theresa under her wing and made sure the connection to Italy lived on. As a young kid many years later I would sit at my aunt’s kitchen table listening to her stories as she made sauce, bread and pizzelle (traditional Italian waffle cookies), as well as fried dough. Man, do I miss that stuff!  

She would tell me how the Italians feared The Black Hand, a name given to an Italian organized crime group that blackmailed Italian business owners and struck fear into Italians. It mostly operated before Prohibition and, yes, even in Sharpsville, Sharon and Farrell. It was known around the country and it really took hold in Hillsville near New Castle.

She told me of the time the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the hill above the town of South Pymatuning because all immigrants and African Americans lived in the old neighborhood at the lower end and that cross was in clear view. The story I hear, though, is that the Klan members didn’t stick around after starting it!

Growing up and hearing family stories made me feel like I was a part of it all. It was and still is special to me. I have never forgotten where my bloodlines came from and their struggles.

[Right] A pizzelle press in action. Source: Photo by (and courtesy of) Jacquelyn Stager, author of “Life Between the Buns: Pizzelles Anyone?”, a blog that includes a recipe for pizzelles. (Accessed 2018-10-20).

Next month: The Conti Family, Part II: An Italian-American Christmas, A Golden Childhood.

— Gary Conti, SHS 1981, Sharpsville, PA.

See Also:


THE CONTI FAMILY, Part II: An Italian Christmas, A Golden Childhood
Angel’s Casino: Here Came the Bride
Italians in Sharpsville
Mom and Dad DeJulia


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ITALIANS IN SHARPSVILLE

Ciao, amico mio! Those Italian words and others were well-known in our small town in the 1950s, whatever one’s heritage. First and second generation Italians made up one of the largest ethnic groups at the time in Sharpsville and their language and traditions were by then part of our culture.

Between c. 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States, half of them between 1900 and 1910 alone. The majority of were fleeing rural poverty in Southern Italy and Sicily and seeking work in America’s factories, steel mills and coal mines and help build this country’s roads, railroads, dams, tunnels, and other infrastructure. Today, the descendants of Italian immigrants who stayed in the U.S. are still a large part of Sharpsville’s population at 14.1%, second only to German ancestry at 16.2%.

Italians, like many foreign groups newly arriving in our country, were not always accepted graciously by those already living here. Ralph C. Mehler II of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society, writes in the Society’s March 2017 newsletter (page 1),

Then as now, economic anxiety over the supply and demand of labor mingled with irrational fears over the mores, customs, and religion of foreigners. Thus, we see a report from 1898 about “trouble at Sharpsville” on account of immigrants being employed for the construction of the new water works. “Six citizens have been arrested for interfering with them.” These workers, however, weren’t Mexicans or Muslims, but the first arrivals here from Italy.

The July 2018 newsletter of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society tells of the 1904 flood that washed away the bridge over the Shenango River near the feed-mill. Several of those who were standing on the collapsing bridge were plunged into the river and at least four drowned. Strangely, this disaster has faded from the town’s memory and merited just passing attention by the contemporary press. One newspaper at the time reported that “The four unfortunates were Italians whose names cannot be accurately identified.” Even follow-up reports did not attempt to find the names of the drowned. The article notes that while language barriers contributed, prejudice was certainly behind the indifference.

Italians in Sharpsville: 1950s

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, 311 West Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA. (Source: saintbartholomews.com)

By the 1950s, such “troubles” were a thing of the past for the Italian community. Instead, the Italians’ contributions of customs, food, language and entertainment became a welcomed part of everyday life for all. What 1950s resident can forget the savory pizza at Walder’s Tavern at 111 Main Street!

I remember my mother of Scots-Irish descent strictly following our Italian neighbors’ practices of foregoing meat on Fridays and refraining from hanging laundry on Sundays. We non-Catholics were curious about their genuflecting whenever Italian-Americans passed their church on foot or in a car, the mysterious sooty cross on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, and their worry over which pleasure to “give up” for Lent. I often felt left out of this special part of our society but I was glad I wasn’t restricted by the Pope’s list of forbidden movies that my playmate had to follow. Instead, I could watch any movie I wanted to at the neighborhood’s Ritz Theater (for better or worse)! 

Most impressive to me was the gaiety of the wedding receptions in Angel’s Casino, the building next door to my home. There the guests ate, drank, sang, danced the Tarantella and played the Italian betting game Morra under my bedroom window until long after the bride and groom left at midnight.

There were a few occasions when I accompanied friends to the St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, now over 141 years old, on Ridge Avenue. I remember attending Christmas Mass at midnight and experiencing the beauty and serenity inside the dimly-lit interior, with its vaulted ceiling, tall stained-glass windows and the smoky-sweet smell of burning incense. 

Italians in Sharpsville: The Italian Society

In many communities, early immigrants, like “birds of a feather,” created clubs and places where they could come together to enjoy and preserve their old traditions. Sharpsville had the Italian Society which eventually created the Italian Home. According to Ralph C. Mehler II of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society (SAHS), the group was founded in 1913 and officially known as the Societa Italiana di M[aria] S[anta] Generale Gustavo Fara. 

“General Fara Society on Firm Basis.” The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, 1924. Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Mehler provides a newspaper article about the Italian Society’s early days. It appeared in the 1924 Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to The Sharon Telegraph (page 5) and is transcribed as follows:

GENERAL FARA SOCIETY ON FIRM BASIS
The General Fara Society today is one of the leading fraternal organizations of Sharpsville, its membership including 75 of Sharpsville’s leading Italian citizens.

The society was organized June 2, 1913, by George Rosati, Maurice Stigliano, Carmelo Palazzio and Joseph Ciolto (Ciotolo?)

Since it was organized the society has undergone many hardships. Its membership at one time being reduced to eight men.

Members declare the society is on a sound financial basis today, largely due to the efforts of Thomas Muscarella, the president. During the last year, the membership has been doubled through the energetic work of Muscarella.

Italians in Sharpsville: The Italian Home

Also from Mehler:

The Italian Home we all know (now the Sharpsville American Legion, 617 Main Street) was built in 1950. Yet, earlier on that lot was a commercial building containing in 1912 a barber shop and a vacant store, and two stores by 1929. A newspaper notice from September 16, 1935, notes that land was transferred from Vic Palazzo to the club. This earlier building was smaller and up against the sidewalk, unlike the building from 1950 which was larger, more modern and set back from the street.

We (SAHS) have a funeral photo, with a large crowd of (Italian) mourners gathered around an open casket on the steps of St. Bartholomew’s. Many had sashes, which I assume were meant they were officers in the Italian Home. Also in our collection is an August 12, 1914, edition of The Sharpsville Advertiser. It reports that “Members of the Italian Beneficial Society of Sharpsville are preparing for a great doings on Sept. 8, when they will celebrate the day of St. Mary of Ancona with religious services, a big parade, general picnic outing, addresses and a grand blowout at night in the shape of fireworks.”

The Italian Home was Sharpsville’s only ethnic home, in contrast to the large number of them in Farrell. (Italian, Slovak, Greek, Serbian, two Croatian, two German, Hungarian.)

shps_american_legion

American Legion, 617 Main Street, August 2014. Source: Google Maps.

Non-Italians were evidently welcome at the Italian Home as well. Ralph Mehler remembers “going to a dance there in 8th grade (1975), but it was always somewhat of a mystery.” My diary of 1956 mentions attending record hops at the Italian Home, one of which took place in January, “a lively party” given for the kids of Westinghouse strikers.

In a narrative written in 2013, Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960) recalls visiting the Italian Home in her childhood: 

A large building in town available for parties and receptions was the Italian Home on Main Street.

My young brain assumed it had been built by a coalition of Italian immigrants as a place they could meet, socialize, and retain their sense of community in a foreign land. Now I wonder if it wasn’t privately owned and rented out to whoever paid the price.

A large percentage of the Shenango Valley’s population was first and second generation Italian, drawn to our town by employment in the steel mills. On most Friday and Saturday nights, the music of accordion bands and happy laughter poured from its open doors to the adjacent sidewalk.

No one could live in our town without having Italian friends or neighbors and sooner or later you’d be invited to a happening at the Italian Home. I was invited to more than one event by the family of my elementary school friend, Susan Dunder. I remember eating … fabulous homemade pasta as I wondered what everyone was saying in the unfamiliar language.


Do you have additional details about Italians in Sharpsville? If you would like to share your experiences of living as (or among) Italian-Americans or your memories of the Italian Home, please send us your story. (Also, photos would be great!) Click on “Leave a comment” at the end of this story or send an email to bissella9@hotmail.com.


See Also:

ANGEL’S CASINO: Here Came the Bride
THE CONTI FAMILY, Part I: From Pofi to Sharpsville
THE CONTI FAMILY, Part II: An Italian Christmas, A Golden Childhood
MOM & DAD DeJULIA

Sources:

Cannato, Vincent J. “What Sets Italian Americans Off From Other Immigrants?” Humanities, January/February 2015, Vol. 36, No. 1.

“Italian Americans.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Americans (accessed 2018/9/24).

Mehler II, Ralph C. Sharpsville Historical Society Newsletter, March 2017 (page 1).

Mehler II, Ralph C. “Traces of Lost Sharpsville: Slackwater Dam.” Sharpsville Historical Society Newsletter, July 2018 (pages 3-4, 6).

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church. www.saintbartholomews.com (accessed 2018/9/24).

Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to the Sharon Telegraph (June 7, 1924) in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

“Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.” City-Data.com. http://www.city-data.com/city/Sharpsville-Pennsylvania.html (accessed 2018/9/24).

–Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, September 2018.
Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA.
– Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960), Escondido, CA, March 2013.


UPDATES: Additional information concerning Emma Robison and Emma Deeter has been entered in their biographies on ROBISON SCHOOL I and DEETER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL pages. Check it out!


SHS CLASS OF 1958 CELEBRATES ITS 60TH!

SHS Class of 1958: President, James Jovenall; VP, Dave Johnson; Secretary, Rosemary Connelly; Treasurer, Connie Rodocoy.

We made it! That is, most of us did. This year we commemorate our 60th anniversary of the Sharpsville (PA) High School Class of 1958. Many high school classes have come and gone, but the Class of 1958 is special to us because it is our class, consisting of students (103 graduates) who had studied and played together for some or all of the 12 years from first grade to senior high school. Whether we stayed in town or left for distant places, highlights of those times seem to have been etched in our minds to be remembered for the rest of our lives.

SHS CLASS OF 1958: Our Times as Teens

Ours was the generation whose teen years spanned the 1950s, a decade that began with the Korean War, endured the Cold War and ended during the early years of the Vietnam War. We started with U.S. President Harry S Truman and ended with Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Space Race began when the Soviet’s Sputnik I was the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth (1957), spurring our country’s focus on science education. The 1950s featured the development of portable transistor radios (1954), the first solar batteries (1954), Jonas Salk polio vaccine (1955), the first plastic soft drink bottles (1958), passenger jets entering service, the growth of television and the first transcontinental TV service. And at the end of the decade, Alaska and Hawaii attained statehood (1959).

While all of this and much more was happening in the “outside” world, our concerns were more close to home. Growing prosperity in the 1950s meant that young people did not have to become full-fledged adults as quickly as in earlier times. Enter teen “rebels without a cause,” an age group that became a distinct entity with desires for their own styles. Teenage trends of the 1950s were picked up quickly by the fashion and music industries and are well-known to this day.

During this era teens in our small town were not left behind. At school or anywhere else, one could easily find guys wearing slicked-back ducktail haircuts, rolled-up short-sleeved shirts and “pegged” jeans and girls in mid-thigh-length slim skirts or colorful gathered skirts or dresses with cinched-in waists. Rock-and-roll music was everywhere, playing on our car radios, on jukeboxes and live at record hops and proms.

Sure, there were times when we acted up and gave teachers grief. I remember our frustrated math teacher hurling a blackboard eraser at an unruly student and an English teacher brought to tears after trying unsuccessfully to interest the class in Shakespearean sonnets. (Credit must be given to the several thoughtful classmates who apologized after class to the teacher on behalf of the miscreants).

But Sharpsville High School students during the ’50s were relatively well-behaved, compared to the troubles seen at many schools today. While we may have been reprimanded for talking in class, chewing gum, running in the halls, wearing “improper” clothing, smoking in the restrooms and littering, such misbehavior doesn’t come close in seriousness to today’s school problems of drug and alcohol abuse, suicides, and shootings.

SHS CLASS OF 1958: Our Times at School

Sharpsville (PA) High School Yearbook, “Devil’s Log,” 1958.

The “Devil’s Log” yearbooks show that we were busy enough during school days with not only our regular classes but a variety of extra-curricular activities.

There was the National Honor Society in which juniors (15% of their class in 1958) and seniors (10% of our class) that focused on scholarship, service and character. Juniors and seniors who were enrolled in commercial subjects could belong to the Commercial Club, which worked to develop business leadership. One could volunteer to assist in the library and a few guys who set up equipment for movies, concerts, record hops, rallies and lighting for plays formed the Projectionists’ Club. The girls who belonged to the Future Homemakers of America learned to cook, sew and “anything that will help them when they get married.”

There were also the Latin and French Clubs, if you were studying those subjects. (Spanish was also studied at SHS for which there was no club, but I remember related activities, such as trying out our foreign language skills with the Spanish version of Scrabble every Friday.)

SHS Class of 1958 Homecoming Queen and Attendants. (Source: 1958 Devil’s Log)

Homecoming in the fall of 1957 (and the spring 1958 prom) featured Pigskin Queen Dawn Grove and attendants Connie Rodocoy and Connie Falvo. “They reigned over the Homecoming football game in which the SHS Blue Devils fought gallantly but lost to Meadville,” even though the Varsity Cheerleaders did their best. There was Varsity “S” in which members held an “initiation” each December for any that earned a letter in sports that year. The hapless initiates were required to “dress in feminine clothes and parade through town and do odd jobs to raise funds for…the evening banquet.”

And there was much more: Sports teams that played basketball, baseball or golf (boys only); Devil’s Log staff, Blue and White staff (yes, SHS had a small newspaper, produced by SHS’s top-ranking journalism students), and the Quill and Scroll journalists’ society. The Thespian Society was a select group interested in promoting the dramatic arts, such as our junior class play “Onions in the Stew” and senior class play, “Home Sweet Homicide.” The SHS marching band was complete with majorettes and a color guard.

Our school also had an orchestra and even a swing band. And, even though I wasn’t much of a singer, I particularly enjoyed belonging to the very large A Cappella Choir. Their annual Christmas and Spring concerts were beautiful to see and hear.

We owe many thanks to the diligence and dedication of the teachers and coaches who directed us in these activities. They recognized the educational and social values of these varied organizations and they believed in our potential.

SHS CLASS OF 1958: Our Lives After High School

As the “Devil’s Log” yearbooks are a record of our school history, so were the reunion brochures a rich history of our class since graduation, with a bit of genealogy information thrown in as well.

1988 Reunion Souvenir Booklet, Sharpsville High School Class of 1958.

According to a tally of the 1988 reunion brochure (our 30th year since graduation), 47 of those who provided information were living in Pennsylvania (18 of which lived in Sharpsville), and the rest were scattered about in 18 different states and a U.S. territory (Virgin Islands). Most of our former classmates living outside PA were in Ohio (15), Florida (6), Arizona (4) and California (4). Almost all were parents of 1 to 5 children (plus stepchildren in 2 cases) and some were grandparents.

By 1988, we alumni were presumably at the peak of our careers and were certainly hard workers. The greatest number were employed as educators and school administrators (14). For readers who don’t mind even more statistics, here is a breakdown for the rest of the occupations: corporate treasurer, inspector, coordinator, managers, supervisors, vice president, directors, salespersons, representatives (11), bookkeepers, secretaries, administrative assistants, office managers, clerks (10), insurance agents, agency owners, vice president (6), nurses (6), homemakers (5), mechanic, machinist, maintenance worker (3), contractor, construction (2), dept store employees (2) and ministers (2).

2008 Reunion Souvenir Booklet, Sharpsville High School Class of 1958. Design by Allegra Dungan (Colapietro).

There were also those working as a barber, tax preparer, writer, physician, banker, yoga instructor, photographer, police officer, social worker, railroad employee, CPA, dietician, advertising director, draftsman, lineman, and medical transcriber.

Several were business owners and others worked for companies in Pennsylvania or elsewhere: Conrail, Heck’s Department Store, Dean Foods, California Steel, Packer, Thomas & Co. (Warren, OH), Pennsylvania Power Company, DeBartolo Corporation, Shenango Valley Medical Center, Tultex Corporation, Valley View Department Store, (Masury, OH), Kraynak’s, Packard Electric (Warren, OH), NCR, General Motors, Sharon General Hospital, GATX, Susan Henderson School of Modeling, Youngstown State University, Camp Nazareth, Daily News-Sun (Sun City, AZ), Dillons Tag & Title Agency (Hollywood, FL), Sharon Steel Corporation, Penn Power, Western & Southern Insurance Company, and Smithsonian Institution (DC).

By the time our 50th-year anniversary rolled around in 2008, 43 reported that they were retired, many were enjoying grandchildren, and a few (9) had great-grandchildren.

Much appreciation goes to Betty Zreliak (Ealy), Allegra Dungan (Colapietro), their committee members and all the others who worked on our class reunions, keeping us together for 60 years.

As stated in the 2003 reunion brochure, “We were a unique high school class; our generation was special; our memories are precious.”


SHS CLASS OF 1958: Our Junior Year

Room 205

Room 206

Room 207

Room 208

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: “Devil’s Log,” Sharpsville High School Yearbook, 1957. [Click on image to enlarge.]


SHS CLASS OF 1958: And Here We Are Today

ON STEPS – JOHN KUKUDA – WILLARD THOMPSON

FIRST ROW FROM LEFT – AUGIE DELFRATTE – RON LINZENBOLD – BILL CONLIN – SUE CUSICK MILLER – MARY ELLEN LALLY FREISEN – JUDY IMBRIE BENDER – BETTY ZRELIAK EALY – PAT NICASTRO DILLON – ANNA MARY NELSON PATTON – DICK HIBSHMAN

SECOND ROW FROM LEFT – SANDRA COMBINE JOSEPH – ALLEGRA DUNGAN COLAPIETRO – CONNIE RODOCOY SCHRADER – LYNN ROUX LANTZ – RUTH KRIVAK ISCHO – CAMILLE KRAYNOK CONLIN – DAWN GROVE PERHACS – JACK BUZGA – JIM LEAS – PAUL LIPAK

TOP ROW FROM LEFT – STANLEY ALFREDO – RICHARD PERHACS – FRANK CHRISTINA – STEVE KUSMUS – JIM JOVENALL


SHS CLASS OF 1958: 60th Anniversary

“Sharpsville to Graduate 103 Seniors.” The (Sharon) Herald, 1958. [Click on image to enlarge.]

Our latest milestone was celebrated in July 2018 during a weekend of get-togethers by 27 alumni, as described by James Jovenall, President of the Class of 1958:

The 60th-anniversary reunion of the Sharpsville High School class of 1958 was held on July 14 at DiLorenzo’s Restaurant in Sharpsville. In attendance were 27 classmates and 13 spouses. An icebreaker was held on Friday evening prior to the reunion at Muscarella’s Italian Restaurant.

Jim Jovenall, class president, welcomed everyone and thanked the reunion committee for all their time and effort to bring this to fruition. The committee consisted of Allegra Dungan Colapietro, Sandra Combine Joseph, Sue Cusick Miller, and Anna Mary Nelson Patton. Also noted were donations by Stanley Alfredo, Anna Mary and Tom Patton, Judy Imbrie Bender, and Sue Miller. The invocation was given by Jim Leas followed by dinner.

After dinner, Jovenall asked if any classmates had any memories of their high school days that they would like to share. This prompted some hilarious comments about the class trip to Washington, D. C., class day water balloon incidents, and our class walkout in our junior year.

Jovenall pointed out that 5 of our classmates came a considerable distance to be with us. He also pointed out that Ann Angel has a blog called “Small Town Memories.” Great reading about places and events that Ann recalls from growing up here.

An invitation was extended to everyone to attend the Monday morning coffee hour, 10 am at DeLorenzo’s.

In closing, Jovenall thanked all for attending and looks forward to seeing everyone in five years. All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend.


SHS CLASS OF 1958: In Remembrance

According to our reunion brochures, the following are those who have left us:

The 1983 reunion brochure listed Patricia Kantner (whom we lost c. 1954), Lester Snyder, Robert Gerasimek, Irma Merat (Bushey), Peggy Maloney, Patricia Bodien (Shreffler).

The 1993 brochure added David L. Johnson, Gary Steen and Stephen C. “Butch” Fustos.

As of 2003, the list grew longer, including Betty Wade Mertz (Copenhaver), Vincent Piccirilli, Edward Lucas, Charlotte Cathcart, Judy Harris (Sember), Robert Chase and Sandra Fette (Winner).

And in 2008: Michael D. Ledney, Cecelia Miebach (Kramer), and Earle Gunsley, Jr.

Since 2009 the list has increased to include Phillip Maule, Elaine Dallas (Nickel), Patricia Moore (Carothers), Karen Templeton (Swartz), Marybelle Davis (Vodenichar), David Hazlett, John Jack Ledney, John Palombi, Judy Kazimir (Davey), Daniel J. Auchter, Inex Gibson (Jovenall), Marjorie Gurgovits (Ward), Roger Mattocks, Leo Herrmann, Joanne Wilting (Parra), James Shaffer, and Edmond Marino.


See Also:
Deeter Elementary School
Junior High School
Pebly & 13th Street Schools
Robison School I
Robison School Class of 1960 Part I
Senior High School Traditions

— Ann Angel Eberhardt, (SHS 1958) Goodyear, AZ,
with help from Allegra Dungan Colapietro (SHS 1958), Sharpsville, PA,
and James Jovenall (SHS 1958), Sharpsville, PA.


 

DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part II

When I was a kid, our family didn’t see a doctor on a regular basis as most of us do today. In fact, we had to be in need of a vaccination or really, really sick or injured before our parents called on the doctor’s services. One reason for avoiding a doctor’s visit was that private health insurance was unaffordable for many in those days and employer-sponsored health insurance plans were usually unavailable, including for my family.

In the 1940s when we lived in Wheatland, PA, the family doctor would come to our house with his black satchel full of medicines and instruments in hand.

By the time we moved to Sharpsville, the reverse was true and continues to this day: an appointment would be made to visit the doctor at his place of practice. If it becomes the norm that doctors visit us via computer, we will have come full circle in a way!

As we continue to follow Pete Joyce’s memory journey around 1920s Sharpsville in honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey’s arrival in town at that time, we learn who lived and worked in this small Pennsylvania town and how active it was in those early days. We also better understand the contributions its citizens, and particularly Dr. Bailey, have made to the community, some whose names still resonate today.


Reminiscences of Sharpsville
In Honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey
(continued)

A speech presented by Peter Joyce to the Sharpsville Service Club, 1979
(The text has been slightly edited for clarity.)

Around the corner from Mahaney’s was Abrams the cobbler, Engles Bakery, J.V. Minehan’s Dry Goods Store. Then the Racket Store and C.N. Oates for papers, magazines and confections with an outdoor popcorn machine.

Then Lou Burckhart’s Meat Market and O.B. Law’s Grocery Store. I never saw Mr. Law smile. He had a son who was a lawyer but seemed to spend most of his time reading spicy novels over at Reichards Drug Store. Now we are over to Norman Mertz restaurant where the railroaders ate.

Then over to the ballpark at Shenango and Walnut where the American Legion would hold carnivals to raise money for their home. Hear and see Ray Kane, Bill Hart, Joe Donohue, Ed Davies, Dr. [James] Biggins, [Harry] Pebley and Frank Callahan, the greatest barker of them all. Patriotism was strong and beautiful and inspiring and the Vets used to speak at the schools on Armistice Day, then there would be the parades. We all knew [the lyrics to] ”Johnny Get Your Gun,” “Over There” and “How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm After They‘ve Seen Paree!” ….

Across the road from the ballpark was Mike Nathan’s coal and feed supply. Later it became Bill Lee’s then Parker & Lee. And, on down Walnut street was Andy Bombeck, the contractor.

shps_hanes_methodist_church

The people of Sharpsville were good churchgoers. Father Miller was at St. Bartholomew’s, Rev. Spink at the Grace Reformed, Rev. Cousins at the Methodist Church, Rev. Gossell at the Baptist, Rev. Hills at the United Brethren and Rev. Woods at the Presbyterian Church.

[Above right: First United Methodist Church, 148 E. Shenango St., Sharpsville, PA, c. 1940s. Courtesy of Gail Nitch Hanes.]

shps_car_DixieFlyer

Wade Mertz was doing some building and selling coal and feed, etc. Tim Holland had a new auto agency for a beautiful car called the Dixie Flyer. [Left: Dixie Flyer 1916-1923. Source: AllCarIndex.com]

Stiglianos were baking delicious Italian bread. Ben Jackson was running the Boiler Works making Sharmeters [clock-faced gas pumps. Click here for a photo and history of this Sharpsville Boiler Works product.] ….  

and the Menkes were running three blast furnaces at Shenango Furnace

shps_SAHS_blast furnace

Shenango Blast Furnace, Sharpsville, PA. Source: Excerpt from “This Is Shenango,” 1954. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

The best baseball was played at Joyce Field, near Leona and Hazen now. The streetcars ran every 15 minutes to Sharon. Telephones had come to Sharpsville in the late 1880s and connected the Sharpsville Furnace to the Pierce Coal Co. The first public telephone was at Skip Reichard’s store. The first directory showed only eight subscribers in 1887 and 15 in 1890.

When I look back I think our greatest loss is that we no longer are producing characters. Where are the old Skin Troutman and young Skin, Reptile High Tree, the Turkey Murphys, Blair Boys, Pete Lyden, Squaw Long, Mike Tobin? If I had only written down their stories.

img699

Well, this is the Sharpsville that Dr. Bailey came into. Going as you did from Jamestown as the son of a doctor, to med school, to internship, then to Sharpsville.

You brought with you a lovely, gracious, kind and patient wife, an ideal partner for a young doctor. Youve lived on Locust Street, Ridge Avenue, corner of Main and Mercer, before settling where you are. 

[Above right: Residence of Dr. Bailey on the northwest corner of North Mercer and East Main, 1930s. Courtesy of Gail Nitch Hanes.]

Children came in Gods good time and blest your union. I don’t know whether to describe you as an old-time doctor or a new-time doctor. We all knew that at all times you were a wonderfully kind and generous man. During the Depression, you suffered with the people, but you gave of yourself and to the community. You were the Mercer County Medical Doctor, President of Buhl Hospital and the Mercer County Medical Society. You are a splendid father with a real dedication to the Hippocratic oath. Both your hands and your heart were involved in an act of love to heal—yet never was vanity on display. Your life revolved around your family, your profession and your golf. When you came here we had just dedicated a new High School. The Class of 1922 had 18 graduates, up ten students from 1918.

You have witnessed many, many improvements in this town. Your profession has changed enormously, and our great country has discovered its social responsibility. It’s a long time from Warren G. Harding and his “Return to Normalcy” to Jimmy Carter being “Born Again.” Its a “helluva long time,” is the way Dr. Bailey would say. You have witnessed two world wars, the Depression [and] the convulsion of the 60s, yet common sense prevailed.

The Sharpsville Service Club is proud of you, Dr. Bailey. You are everything that a citizen and doctor should be. You are a credit to your community and we are all so happy that you adopted us 56 years ago. And, we wish you many more years of health and happiness.

See complete narrative at:
http://www.sharpsvillehistorical.com/documents/Reminiscences.pdf

For a transcription of an interview with Dr. Bailey, go to:
 Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” The Herald, Sharon, PA: July 17, 1979, page 28. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

See more about Pete Joyce at:
http://www2.sharonherald.com/localnews/recentnews/0103/ln032201c.htm

— Permission to reprint Peter Joyce’s speech was granted by
The Sharpsville Area Historical Society.


Dr. Nelson John Bailey was born in Jamestown, PA, on March 24, 1892, to Winona E. Bailey and Myron D. Bailey, who was also a physician. Nelson was one of six children.

Bailey attended Grove City College and The University of Pittsburgh. He was graduated from Jefferson Medical College (now Jefferson University) in Philadelphia. When he was ready to enter practice in 1920, his father wasn’t well, so he took over his father’s practice until 1923.

When Dr. Bailey started practicing medicine in Sharpsville in 1923, he moved into the former office of Dr. Addison E. Cattron who had died in 1923. The office was built onto the side of Cattron’s house, in which Mrs. Cattron and their three daughters continued to reside.

As of 1940, Dr. Bailey was living on North Locust Street, Sharpsville, PA. By 1942, his home was located at 116 Mercer Avenue. His business was always at 61 East Main Street.

Dr. Bailey and his wife, Georgia J. (1893-1968), had two sons, Nelson C. and Hugh M., and two daughters, Harriet Jane and Margaret W.

Dr. Nelson Bailey died on October 24, 1988. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery located on the east side of South Mercer Avenue, Sharpsville, PA.


Sources:

 “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVVG-DKD7 : accessed 2018 July 16).]

Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” The Herald, (Sharon, PA) July 17, 1979, page 28. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch.org
(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG32-H91 : accessed 16 July 2018).

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQCK-QCH : accessed 16 July 2018).

“United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VQFC-PF7 : accessed 16 July 2018).


For a wealth of information about Sharpsville in the 1920s, see
Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to the Sharon Telegraph (1924),
in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Click here (1901) and here (1912) for vintage maps of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

For additional references to Dr. Bailey, see:
Dr. Bailey’s Sharpsville 1920s, Part I
Main Street Memories
Immunizations & Home Cures


DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part I

There were two doctors in Sharpsville, PA, in the 1950s that I can remember: James A. Biggins, M.D., (born c. 1909) whose office was at 5 North Walnut Street, and Nelson J. Bailey, M.D., (born 1892) at 61 East Main Street. Some of the other doctors who practiced in Sharpsville in the early days were William Twitmeyer M.D., P.E. Biggins M.D., Addison E. Cattron, M.D. and Benjamin A. Frye, M.D.

When Dr. Bailey retired in 1979 after 56 years of practice, Peter Joyce gave a speech at the Sharpsville Service Club in which he honored Dr. Bailey’s many years of commitment to the health concerns of the community.

Joyce’s words paint a detailed picture of the borough in the 1920s when Dr. Bailey was just beginning his practice and when Joyce himself was a student at Sharpsville High School, graduating in 1929. “Pete” Joyce (1911-2006) lived a long life of dedication to Sharpsville government, church and community. He served as councilman and mayor of Sharpsville for numerous terms and was owner of Isaly’s Dairy on the corner of Main and Third streets.

Joyce describes a vibrant little town bustling with people and activities, where everyone knew your name. You may remember some of the businesses and family names as still around in later years. Or maybe you’ll recognize someone from your own family tree. 


Reminiscences of Sharpsville
In Honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey

A speech presented by Peter Joyce to the Sharpsville Service Club, 1979
(The text has been slightly edited for clarity.)

Peter Joyce, January 4, 1956. [Excerpt from a photo in The Herald]

Dr. Nelson J. Bailey, c. 1979. [Excerpt from an article in The Herald]

My Dear Friends:

How does one assess a lifetime of service? What does one say of a person who has spent 56 years in intimate dedication to healing bodies and sometimes giving peace to the mind of those grieving the loss of a loved one….. Let‘s wander back 56 years and look at the Sharpsville of that time [1923] and some of the people who have gone to their reward, whom Dr. Bailey first met.

Mercer Avenue

Dr. Bailey occupied Dr. Cattron‘s old office, so we’ll start down Mercer Avenue to Jackson Tin Shop where we‘ll see John Jackson and old Mr. McDowell making the famous Jackson oiler for locomotives. Then on down to the corner of Shenango and Mercer to Reichard‘s Drug StoreDr. Twitmeyer occupied the back office. He was tall and thin with white hair and a trim goatee. He drove a buggy pulled by a pure white horse. Then there was Skip himself, the inimitable Skip, short, partly bald, and quick-witted. He would never let the coffees stir long enough—Mike McNerney always did it better. That building was the original Odd Fellow TempleTom West, who started the Valley Mould, held the first convention of the American Anti-Accident Association, the parent of Safety First, meeting there in 1907.

sharpsville_oiler

The famous Jackson self-closing engine oiler.

The Pierce Mansion was across the street with old Jim Pierce who was Burgess. Then there was the very reserved Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Pierce‘s sister, Aunt Cissy. Their maiden name was Pomplitz, and they were from Baltimore. The family had manufactured organs.

Across the street at the First National Bank was brother Frank Pierce, the president. And, he was president of the Sharpsville School Board. There were five Pierce brothers. They all had six fingers and six toes, except Frank. Then there was Mr. Wickerham, also a new arrival as the cashier. There was also Lloyd Bartleson, Howard Merchant, Fred Bartleson, and Mrs. Lee. The bank was staid, sound, conservative—a bank was a bank then and not a hardware store with gimmicks.

Nearby was Barlett‘s Hardware and the Bloch Bros., Morris and Jake, in business since 1907. Karl Smith was the postmaster. Then Locke and Cattron for gasoline and auto repairs. Then Mehl‘s store with old John—tall, thin, reserved, deliberate. He said to me once, “Before you spend a dollar of the people’s taxes, just imagine that it is coming out of your pocketbook— because it truly is.” If only we could recapture those values today.

Across the alley was Shaner‘s Jewelry Store and then Charles Hites Hardware. Charlie was slow, patient, smoke a pipe and was a Socialist. He had everything, but only he could find it. Over the hill was Frye‘s Store, then the Valley Mould and Iron Co., the biggest manufacturer of ingots in the world. Flanked on all sides by company houses occupied by Slavs and Italians. The Irish had been there earlier and moved up on the hills. The Slavs and Italians [followed] them to the hills…. [and were replaced by the African Americans.] I guess that was the story of America then, as one moved up the economic ladder.

Pierce Mansion, built in 1874 by James Pierce in Sharpsville, PA. Demolished in 1952.

It was a raw American, bursting with energy and zeal, but Sharpsville was in a Depression. Most of our blast furnaces were not working and some of the people were moving off to Youngstown and others to Detroit where Henry Ford was starting blast furnaces and promising $5 a day to labor. The Depression lasted several years and was a forerunner of what was to happen in 1929 that precipitated the Great Depression.

Shenango Street

Then along Shenango Street was Perry‘s Shoe StoreElsmore‘s Store and Joe Moscowitz for children and ladies apparel. And then the Colonial Theatre owned by Charles Blatt with Jennie Davies as ticket seller. Nearby Steve Gates, the tailor. Then the Parkway Apartments, formerly the Pierce House when the country was wet. For that period they were luxurious apartments. There were 39 rooms.

The town park was cared for tenderly by Johnnie Keats. His tulips were just out of this world in beauty. Across the tracks was the Pennsylvania RR with Sam Morris and nearby the B & O with old Mr. Wert – Charles Miller as yardmaster and Mr. McElvaney as the big boss. The town park was home to Turkey Murphy, the Blair Boys, Mike Tobin, Pete Johnson and many others. …

First National Bank of Sharpsville, c. early 1950s.

The Stahls had a restaurant at the alley. Then Mehler‘s Barber Shop with Charlie Collins nearby in his corduroy suit. Then Davis Tailor Shop with Dave and John Gavin sitting with crossed legs on the counter. Next to them Muscarella‘s Fruit Stand and the Graber‘s Jewelry Store. His minutes of the Borough Meetings are an example of handwriting at its best. Then, Bob McFarland‘s house and McLaren‘s Drug StoreLaMont‘s Market, Roth‘s Market and Dick Patterson‘s sodas, candy and confections. Above him was old Whig Thompson‘s Print Shop and across the street Dickson‘s Furniture StoreShannon‘s Hardware, where Martha sat on the swing, and Homer Sheasley helped Clair Plum. Homer always had a chew of tobacco in and sometimes it used to escape down the corners of his mouth. Well, everybody chewed, at least all the kids in Irishtown carried J.T. Plug.

A section of the Parkway Apartments, formerly the Pierce House, Shenango St., Sharpsville, PA.

Then there was Pat Connelly‘s Bicycle Shop where he entertained the Robinson Brothers, Charlie Carney, Billy Young. Across the street, the Odd Fellows with a bulging membership, and on down the street Cora Fuller gave music lessons. Elmer Masterson managed the A & P Store with Bob McFarland‘s Drug Store nearby with Bill Seifert always there to run errands. One of Bill’s legs was shorter than the other and he had to have about a six-inch sole and heel on the short leg.

First and Main Street

Harry E. Pebly, Superintendent of, Sharpsville (PA) Schools. [Source: “Devil’s Log” Yearbook 1956]

Then there was Ralph Miller‘s Soda Shop, then Squire Turner as the Justice of the Peace dispensing justice. Then, on down to First Street to the new Ritz Theatre with Charles Gable and his diamond rings and a powerful hoarse voice which we heard later in his famous nephew, Clark Gable. Across the street was Love Funeral Home, the Presbyterian Church and then Al Warren‘s store. Once again the indoor swing with two old people who held hands in between selling groceries.

Mahaney’s, a men’s clothing store on the corner of Main and Walnut streets. Torn down in the early 1970s. Source: Donna DeJulia.

Then there was Sam Sing the Chinese launderer. We all believed Sam had designs on us as we collected our fathers‘ collars. We never knew how or why, but fear is inherent and can play tricks on little boys and girls.

Then there was J.R. Hum‘s Grocery Store and Mahaney‘s Clothing Store with Paul Buchanan, and Harry Pebley working there in the summertime. It might be said that Pebley put Sharpsville on the map athletically. He was a strong-willed man, probably the best teacher I ever had. In football, he could make you want to die to win. Those teams in the early 20s, in football and especially basketball, for the size of the school, were in my opinion, Sharpsville‘s greatest. If you had been a freshman in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924—the total enrollment was 101, yet the athletic record was of real champs. Harry had come recently as high school principal, football coach, basketball coach, faculty manager, athletic director, teacher of physics and chemistry. He would get in the scrimmage himself to show how it should be done.

During this period Dr. Bailey was a new kind of champ: He delivered the Welch triplets[To be continued….]

— Permission to reprint Peter Joyce’s speech was granted by
The Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

For a wealth of information about Sharpsville in the 1920s, see
Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to the Sharon Telegraph (1924),
in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Click here (1901) and here (1912) for vintage maps of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

For additional references to Dr. Bailey, see:
Main Street Memories” (also includes the Robisons)
Immunizations & Home Cures

Many thanks to Gail Nitch Hanes, whose PowerPoint presentation of “Sharpsville, Our Home Town — Then & Now” provided the following photos: Jackson Oiler, Parkway Apartments, First National Bank and Pierce Mansion.

The photographs of Peter Joyce and Dr. Nelson Bailey originally appeared in these newspaper articles in The Herald (Sharon, PA): “Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” July 17, 1979, page 28 (courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society) and “New Sharpsville Council Elects Nelson President: Burgess Joyce Administers Oath…,” January 4, 1956.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, July 1, 2018.


MOM AND DAD DEJULIA

Longtime residents of Sharpsville can tell us a lot about the history of this Pennsylvania borough. Please welcome Donna DeJulia, a 1960 Sharpsville High School graduate and our guest writer this month. She fondly describes her father, a hard-working steel mill worker whose parents had come from Italy, and her mother who saw Sharpsville as a place in which to settle down and raise a family in peace and security.


MY PARENTS IN SHARPSVILLE

By Donna DeJulia

Ladle in the Homestead Steel Mill.

I was born and raised in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, as my father was. His family came from Italy and bought a house at 42 North Eleventh Street down by the railroad tracks. All my life he had told me wonderful stories about his upbringing. Even though they had very little it sure sounded like he and his family had a lot of fun.

Dad told me how, when they were dirt poor and had nothing to eat, he and his brother broke into a train and stole cans of Spam and pineapple that were for the troops overseas during World War II. They took these canned goods and buried them in their backyard. The Conrail police came and searched in vain for the stolen items. In any case, the DeJulias were no pillars of the community! And they had so much Spam and pineapple that my Dad would never eat those two foods for the rest of his life!

When my parents married, they settled in Sharpsville where Dad worked at Shenango Inc. steel mill for over 40 years. A bricklayer by trade, he would climb into those big ladles (like the replica in the Sharpsville town park) and line the inside with brick before they poured steel into them. Even after the owners, the Shenango Group of Pittsburgh, went bankrupt and sold the plant to its employees in 1993, he was still going over to the mill and training people.

ABOUT MOM

It’s funny how two words can be so complicated … “About Mom.” I could describe her physically…but that tends to change with time and it doesn’t entirely answer who she is. Her hair color fades and her waistline grows and then shrinks. There is also this wrinkle in her brow that is deepening every year. Her body is stiff when she awakens. If she doesn’t get a cup of coffee and her bra on first thing in the morning she can’t think.

All this is from years of stress and happiness both from raising her children and grandchildren, not to mention the couch campers that would hang out in her house. Random people have always slept and ate at my mom’s house. You may stop by in the morning and find a foreign body lying on a couch or floor, bundled in a blanket, not realizing who they are until they rise. They could be friends of her four children or friends of her 14 grandchildren. Who knows why they felt more comfortable in her home than in their own homes. If nothing else, there was always someone in Mom’s home with an ear to listen to whatever crisis they may be going through at the time.

My mother lived in Sharpsville for 50 years. She still had her original telephone number she got in 1958, so I guess that would indicate a sense of stability. She may not have had beautiful furniture, a refrigerator full of food or even a lot of personal belongings. The pipes under the kitchen sink were broken, her porch roof fell off and the carpet was shabby, but we still called it home. But one thing she does have is a lot of love and understanding to share and she is always there for her children no matter what they are going through.

About Mom?… Maybe her personality is a clue. She believes in the magic of the moment and that everything in life happens for a reason. What the reason is, is really none of her business. That is for God to know. But she trusts in him and feels he know what he is doing. She believes that laughter heals. She believes in hope. She likes looking way up into trees and examining each leaf that God has created. She believes that children are meant to be heard and have feelings and thought just like adults, but sometimes they are just not given the opportunity to express it. She enjoys a good book. It can take her anywhere in the world and she never has to leave her home. She does not like bigotry or racism and she can barely tolerate ignorance when it comes to diversity. She believes that all people are created equal and are entitled to their opinion just as long as it does not harm others. I learned from her that for the most part there is good in every person. Sometimes you have to look real close, but it is there. This is a glimpse…about my mom.

All Mom ever wanted to do was to live in one house, raise all of her children and have them go to one school district. You see, she moved all over as a child and attended 22 different schools, so that was her and my father’s dream. After 45 years of marriage her husband had passed on and all of her children are grown. Her job in her falling-down house was done. It was time to move on and take care of herself. This is something she has never really done because she has always taken care of everyone else. So, Mom is no longer in Sharpsville, she has left Mercer County to start a new life, a well-needed life that revolves solely around her. It is about time!

MORE ABOUT DAD

Well, on the 12th of July my father has been gone for 10 years. I have this dreaded fear of losing the memories I have of him. The red flannel shirt he always wore. The way he rode through town on his bike and everyone knew him. How he spent the 68 years of his life in Sharpsville, working, raising children and spending quality time with his family.

I rarely remember the man getting angry but when he said to do something, you did it. I remember the fascinating stories he would tell how he and his seven siblings grew up on Eleventh Street in Sharpsville. He was not an educated man, he could hardly read, but he was the smartest man I ever knew. If it was broken, he could fix it. He took people’s malfunctioning VCRs, TVs and any other things that he felt was worthy and fixed it new. He would then give them away after they were repaired, never taking money for them. He had collected so many extra bicycle parts that every kid in town would bring their bikes to be fixed. After he died I had 6 broken VCRs in my closet. I just couldn’t throw them out, not now! Dad may be back to fix them. It was a good three years before they made their way out to the trash.

When my father died on July 12, 2002, I was devastated. It was so unexpected. He was a healthy vibrant man at the age of 68. He rode his bicycle at least 10 miles a day. It was a weekly routine to peddle through town on trash day looking through people’s garbage to see what he could salvage, being the great repairman that he had turned into being after he was forced into retirement in 1990 at the ripe old age of 57. He would scout around and then in the evening he would have my niece take him around in the car and pick up those televisions, VCRs, stereos and anything else that could be restored. He did not drive, never possessed a drivers license and could not read but was able to fix anything that was slightly fixable.

Well, that morning he apparently got up early like he always did. He ate half a bologna sandwich, then got on his bicycle and proceeded to peddle through town. When he arrived at the bank he started to ride through the parking lot, clenched his chest and died before he ever hit the pavement.

Today, every now and then when I am home alone. I can sometimes smell the faint smell of Havana Blossom Chewing Tobacco and Old Spice aftershave. It happened just the other day. I was lying on my bed resting and the window was opened. A small breeze blew across the little room and that smell hit my nose. I felt grateful and full of life. Those times that it happens is when I know my dad is visiting and telling me everything will be okay.

SHARPSVILLE REVISITED

Sharpsville Service Club sign, Sharpsville, PA. c. 2016.

When my father died I really became interested in the history of Sharpsville and have done quite a bit of research on it. Now when I go through the town everything looks different than it did in the 1970s. The buildings look smaller and the population has declined. The sign still stands near the Sharon line stating that Santa Claus visits every house on Christmas Eve. The town still has only one traffic light and the new police station has no jail cell to hold local wrongdoers.

My favorite bench with my initials carved in it has been removed from the town park. The old City Hall has turned into a floral shop. (In June 2017, a fire that originated in the basement badly scarred the City Hall and shut down the floral shop.) And I will never understand why Pierce’s mansion was torn down to build a housing complex. I remember when trains passed by my house daily and I hung out at the fire station and watched HBO on TV. No matter how the passing of time impacts the town it will always be my Sharpsville.

— Donna DeJulia, (SHS 1960) Franklin, PA, 2012.

See Also:
THE CONTI FAMILY, Part I: From Pofi to Sharpsville
THE CONTI FAMILY, Part II: An Italian Christmas, A Golden Childhood
ITALIANS IN SHARPSVILLE

 


THREE LOST BOYS OF SHARPSVILLE

There wasn’t much that was scary in 1950s Sharpsville – maybe watching a horror film at the Ritz (remember “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” 1959?) or the Cold War but that didn’t seem to be part of our everyday lives. Even so, like any place in the world and at any time in history, we weren’t entirely free of events that caused great anxiety.

Here are two stories that momentarily caused quite a panic in our small town in the days of my childhood. (Don’t worry, the endings are happy ones!)


Turmoil at the Oak Street Tunnel

William DeVaux McLean III. Source: Sharpsville (PA) High School yearbook, Devils Log 1958.

George Reid. Source: Varsity “S” photograph in Sharpsville (PA) High School Devils Log, 1957.

“Hey, I know what we can do!” When two young boys, 10 and 12 years of age, are looking for an after-school adventure you know that trouble could be brewing. In this case, the older boy was George Reid, son of Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Reid of Hazen Road, and the younger, William DeVaux McLean III, the son of Councilman and Mrs. W.D. McLean Jr., who lived on Oak Street. It was early spring 1950 and the weather was finally turning warm enough to inspire outdoor exploits.

They decided to explore a tunnel on Oak Street, a dark, dank underground passageway that must have long intrigued them. One can imagine that they were planning the operation all day at school so that, as they readied themselves at home, they knew exactly what to do: change from their school clothes to old blue jeans and shirts, pack a bag with a flashlight and other needs and tell their parents where they were headed.

As an eerily quiet afternoon faded into evening and dinner was served, there was no trace of the boys. Finally, Councilman McLean decided it was time go outside and check on them. Calling into the tunnel from both of its openings, he received no response. Alarmed that the water in the tunnel was a little higher than usual, he realized the situation was getting serious. He decided to enter the tunnel and quickly procured hip boots and old clothes from the nearby Donner Service Station.

Meanwhile, the police and fire departments had been called and arrived within ten minutes to aid in the search. They lifted the tunnel’s manhole cover and Councilman McLean lowered himself in, followed by the Police Chief Walter Karsonovich and several firemen.

While the searchers were sloshing through the tunnel for almost an hour, looking for signs of the boys and calling out their names, the police cars and firetrucks had attracted a crowd of curious neighbors. Unnoticed at the edge of the crowd were the two missing youngsters who had stopped by to see what all the commotion was about. The Sharon Herald reported that they “gave themselves up” to the relief — and exasperation — of all those present. George and DeVaux explained that they had changed their plans and explored the woods and creek at Pine Hollow instead.

–Source: “Boys Join Crowd Watching Search for Them in Tunnel,” The Sharon Herald, April 4, 1950.

Vexation on Veteran’s Day

Patrick Angel, 1955. Source: Sharpsville (PA) Elementary School 2nd grade class photo.

On a chilly November 11, 1955, the Veteran’s Day Parade on Main Street was just winding down. It had included a group of handsomely uniformed Canadian boys who played instruments in the Governor-General’s Horse Guard, a group that particularly fascinated my girlfriends and me. But another event occurred that tempered our enthrallment. My mother, having found me in the dispersing crowd, informed me that she had sent my 5-year-old brother Patrick home, thinking I was there. She became very upset when she returned home later and discovered that he had taken off his hat, gloves and coat, then disappeared. 

Dutifully, my friend and I began searching for Pat in the neighborhood, although too often distracted by one or another of the Horse Guard marchers milling about. We met up with a group of other girlfriends on the corner of Main and Third streets which by now also included a couple of those uniformed cadets. Just then my dad showed up and berated me for not looking for my brother. Feeling guilty and quite embarrassed, I quickly walked home to find a nearly hysterical mother, tearfully promising that if her son is found she would “never go anywhere again, just stay home and watch him!”

I resumed my search outside, joining most of the neighborhood in looking for my little brother. Over 60 years later, Patrick can still recall the rest of the story: “Mom got a call from Aunt Mabel just as I was waking up. It was the telephone that woke me. I remember crawling out from behind the couch and hearing Mom crying to Aunt Mabel that I had been kidnapped.”

When Mom heard a little voice crying out “Ma!” she turned to see that he was safe and sound! The joy that Pat was found was not only felt by his immediate family, but also by the many neighbors who were calling for updates. We concluded later that Pat must have hidden when he found no-one home since was afraid to be alone in the dark.

With that episode at an end, I returned to my friends and spent the rest of the evening becoming better acquainted with the members of the Horse Guards and temporarily forgetting the troubles of the day.

Where They Are Now

After having been lost boys, these youngsters found out three things. One, that there are people who deeply care that you are gone. Two, they will try very hard to find you. And, three, they are both happy and irked once you are found. These lessons must have stayed with them the rest of their lives as they successfully pursued their careers, married and raised their own children and never went missing again!

William DeVaux McLean III (SHS 1958) currently lives in Land O’ Lakes, Florida. He is president of ProDial, Inc., a telecommunications company. DeVaux and his wife Marjorie have 3 children, 4 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

Patrick Nicholas Angel (SHS 1960-1964), lives in London, Kentucky, where he works for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). Dr. Angel serves as senior forester and soil scientist for OSM, where he promotes reforestation partnerships on surface mines through the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative. Patrick and Glenna have 5 children and 3 grandchildren.

See Also The Day the Canadians Came to Town

–Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, with help from
William DeVaux McLean III (SHS 1958), Land O’ Lakes, FL,
who submitted 
The Sharon Herald article,
and Patrick Angel (SHS 1960-1964), London, KY.


WELCH HOUSE: Twice Burned

Disastrous urban fires were common occurrences in the early 1900s. Among the worse such conflagrations were the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City. But even with improvements in fire-fighting and fire safety, fires continue to take their toll, as evidenced by the burning of Sharpsville’s Welch House in 1914 and 1954 and the town’s original Municipal Building as recently as 2017.


The 1914 Welch Hotel Fire

The fire that brought down the Welch House in 1954 wasn’t the only time the building went up in flames. The following story ran on page 1 of The Record-Argus, Greenville, PA, on February 26, 1914:

Sharpsville, Pa., Feb. 26. Fire of an unknown origin, but supposedly originating from a gas jet or a gas stove, caused a $3000 blaze in the Welch Hotel, Sharpsville, on Wednesday morning.

Prompt and efficient work on the part of the fire department prevent[ed] the building from being gutted. Mrs. Welch and her son, Donald, were on the second floor when the youngster called to his mother to come to one of the rooms. Upon arriving there Mrs. Welch discovered the entire interior ablaze. A clothes press and dresser were being licked up by the flames, which were spreading along the floor.

Mr. Welch was summoned and an alarm was turned in. Pending the arrival of the firemen, Mr. Welch kept the blaze from getting a big start by keeping all the doors tightly closed.

The fire hydrants were frozen when the firemen arrived and they had to scurry about the neighborhood before finding an available plug. Before water was secured chemicals kept the blaze from getting beyond control.

An extinguisher from the Shenango Furnace Co. also aided the firefighters. Miss Anna Connelly and Miss Mary Conway, employed at the hotel, were among the heavy losers. The former lost her gold watch and the latter a diamond lavalier and all her clothes. The fire originated in the room occupied by the girls. Three bedrooms on the second floor and the kitchen and hall on the first floor were damaged by the flames.

The End of Welch House

Ralph Mehler of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society relates a story about another proprietor of the building. He was told by Jerry Hurl (SHS 1973) that Jerry’s grandfather, Timor Holland, was an owner of the Welch House in the 1940s (as well as Holland’s Pontiac dealership at 412 W. Main Street). Jerry recalled that the Welch House had 12 rooms upstairs, usually rented by traveling salesmen, and a typical Sharpsville bar downstairs serving food and drink.

[Interior View of Hotel Welch Bar, c. early 1900s, Main Street, Sharpsville, PA. Excerpt from photo #445, Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.]

By the time the building was destroyed in a 1954 fire, it had been owned for two years by Michael Hvozda. Ralph Mehler tells this story from Jerry Hurl: When the Welch House went up in flames, the “town drunk staggered into the fire department to report the fire, only to be disbelieved because, well, he was the ‘town drunk.'”

Additional details of the Welch House fire were recorded on the front page of The Sharon Herald on October 20, 1954, with these headlines:

“Welch House Fire Damage Is Estimated At $40,000”

“Historic Inn At Sharpsville Is Gutted Early Today: 11 Occupants Reach Safety”

“Blaze Of Undetermined Origin Destroys Second And Third Floors Of 68-Year-Old Building Owned by Michael Hvozda”

The article was accompanied by the following photograph:

[FIGHTING THE WELCH HOUSE FIRE — Forty thousand dollars is the estimated damage in the fire which gutted Sharpsville’s historic Welch House early today. Above, borough firemen battle the blaze in its early stages…. The Sharon Herald, October 30, 1954.]

According to the newspaper report, Mr. William Swartz, a roomer in the “Main St. tavern and rooming house,” woke before dawn on a cold October morning to a crackling noise. When he opened the door of a wall cubicle in a third-floor bathroom, flames shot out, coming from the attic above. Alerted to the fire, the owner, Michael Hvozda, and 10 roomers used a small hose and buckets of water to fight the fire, leaving with only the clothes on their backs when the firemen arrived. They lost all their belongings, including their coats and money, to the fire.

The report continues, describing the efforts of the Sharpsville volunteer firemen to quell the flames, using their two pumper trucks:

A fair wind whipped the flames but firemen were able to keep the blaze from spreading to nearby homes in the congested areas, as well as the next-door Gordon Ward garage and nearby Mertz lumber years…. [After three hours of fighting the fire] firemen entered the building about 9:30 to pull down chimneys, a dangling television tower and other dangerous sections of the house.

The fire destroyed the second and third floors and smoke and water damaged the first-floor bar and dining room. Sharpsville Fire Chief Samuel Riley estimated $30,000 damage to the building and $10,000 for furnishings, equipment and clothing. The owner stated that the loss was partially covered by insurance.

The End of an Era…or Not

After almost seven decades, the Welch House’s end had come. When the Welch House was built in the last years of the 19th century, boardinghouses, with their small private rooms and common dining areas, were important to the culture and growth of towns and cities. This affordable housing was a way of life for men and women of a variety of classes, ethnicities and professions, offering not only a cheap and convenient place to live but a way to become part of a boardinghouse family that replaced those they had left behind.

The boardinghouse concept was eventually replaced by tenement houses, apartment hotels and apartments. Today, the need for new and denser housing in urban centers has led to such offerings as micro-apartments, cooperative housing, halfway houses, YMCA boarding facilities, college dormitories and bed-and-breakfasts for travelers. These developments echo the convenience and affordability, as well as socialization, of boardinghouses of yesteryear, such as the Welch House.

SOURCE: “Boardinghouses: Where the city was born: How a vanished way of living shaped America — and what it might offer us today.” by Ruth Graham for The Boston Globe, January 13, 2013. https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/01/13/boardinghouses-where-city-was-born/Hpstvjt0kj52ZMpjUOM5RJ/story.html (accessed 02-March-2018)

–Ann Angel Eberhardt, (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with much-appreciated assistance from
Ralph C. Mehler (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA.

See Also Welch House: Early History


WELCH HOUSE: Early History

Who among us remembers Sharpsville’s Welch House on Main Street? When it was suggested I write something about the “boardinghouse and tavern,” I hardly had a clue. That is, until I heard from my brother, read about it in my father’s memoir, and was provided the details of its early history by Ralph C. Mehler of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.


At one time Sharpsville had at least three hotels. In the early 1900s, there were the Knapp Hotel run by George Mahaney, Pierce Hotel run by James P. Clark, and the Hotel Welch, the proprietor of which was Martin Henry Welch.

The Welch building was still around when my family moved to Sharpsville in December 1949. By then it was known as the Welch House. My brother, Mike Angel, recalls the following:

I believe the Welch House was between 4th and 5th streets on the [north] side of Main Street, close to Wade D. Mertz & Son which sold hardware and lumberIt was a historical landmark, having been there for many years. I think it burned down during the 1950s. I remember it because I delivered newspapers there.

My father wrote in his memoir that, when he and my mother purchased Angel’s Casino on North Second Street in 1953, they spent the next several years supplying the dance hall and its kitchen with second-hand items acquired from other establishments that were selling off their equipment. Among the purchases were a stove, working table, french fryer, and other items from the owners of the former Welch House after it burned down in 1954.

Ralph C. Mehler has generously provided the rest of the story.

[Hotel Welch, c. early 1900s. Main Street, Sharpsville, PA.
Photo #446 Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.]

[Martin Welch Family outside Welch Hotel, c. early 1900s, Main Street, Sharpsville, PA. “Martin Welch holding sons Edward (Ted) and John Welch. One of the horses was named Shady Bell and the dog’s name was Jake.” Photo #443 Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.]

[Interior View of Hotel Welch Bar. c. early 1900s, Main Street, Sharpsville, PA.
Photo #445 Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.]

Michael Knapp, the Original Owner

Michael Knapp was born in the Saarland region of Germany in 1842 and came to America with his family around age 8. His father worked the coal mines of what is now Hermitage. During the Civil War, Michael enlisted in the 211th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers from September 5, 1864, until the end of the war. He also worked the local mines after the war.

In the 1880 U.S. Census, he is listed as a hotel keeper, likely manager of the Pierce House, the only hotel in Sharpsville at the time. (It should be noted that due to the stringency of liquor licensing laws then, hotels were pretty much the only watering holes in town.) In 1886, we learn that he had struck out to build his own inn and tavern – the Knapp House – located on Main at Fourth Street.

Nicholas Mehler, Second Owner

By 1900 Michael Knapp had sold the Knapp House to his son-in-law Nicholas Mehler when it was re-named the Mehler House (as it appears on the 1901 Birds-Eye View map of Sharpsville*). Nick Mehler, besides owning a coal mine and later becoming a popular barber in Sharpsville, apparently owned the tavern for just a few years before selling it to Martin Welch around 1904.

*An excerpt of the map is shown below (the hotel is marked with a 3). The map can be seen in its entirety here.

[“Mehler House” #3 on Main Street. Excerpt of 1901 Map of Sharpsville, PA, created by T. M. Fowler & James B. Moyer. Source: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.]

Michael Knapp Builds Another Hotel

Michael Knapp, in the meantime, erected a three-story hotel, the Knapp Hotel, in 1903. Likely overburdened by the crushing finances of the venture and perhaps still despondent over the death of his only son three years prior, Michael shot himself the day before the hotel opened. 

Another son-in-law, George Mahaney, Sr., assisted Michael’s widow in the management of the hotel. He later bought the building and located his clothing store there. George was five-time Burgess of Sharpsville, father of the Shenango Dam, and universally known as “Mr. Sharpsville.” 

Nick Mehler’s son, Ralph C. “Dutch” Mehler I, originally started selling insurance out of his barber shop on the other side of Walnut Street. He later moved into the Mahaney Building (as the Knapp Hotel was later called). His son, Ralph W. Mehler (SHS 1955), later moved the insurance office over to the Sharpsville Plaza when it was built.

Martin Henry Welch, the Third Owner

Martin H. Welch purchased Mehler House from Nicholas Mehler around 1904 and the building was then known as Hotel Welch. It eventually became the Welch House, a name that identified the building for the next several decades.

Ed Welch, a professor emeritus living in Michigan is the grandson of Martin Henry Welch and the son of Edwin Martin Welch. In 2005 he donated the above photographs to the Sharpsville Area Historical Society (SAHS). Ralph C. Mehler of the SAHS made the photos available for this story.

Next: A Raging Fire Marks the End of the Welch Building

Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA
–Ann Angel Eberhardt, (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ

More About the Mahaney Building:
Walnut Street Businesses II
Walnut Street Businesses III


THE RELUCTANT POLITICIAN

Lately, voters in and around Sharpsville, PA, may be leaning Republican, but in the 1950s, the area was a “hotbed of Democrats” according to a memoir written by August Angel. This was a problem when he decided to run for councilman, and later mayor, as he was a Republican. Here’s his story from his memoir, “Trivia & Me.”


My Run for Councilman and Mayor

By August Angel

The Borough of Sharpsville was a hotbed of Democrats. Anyone not registered or avowing to the party was looked upon as a misfit in the eyes of believers in the “Great Society.” That included me.

The time had come for candidates to enter the political arena. I was approached by a couple of Republican stalwarts to enter the race for borough councilman. Other Republicans who entered previous races had just given up trying to beat the system and the party needed a new face. It was not a big thing for me to take on the task of running. As the owner of a print shop, I could do my own printing, which was always expensive to others – and, to me, a loss wouldn’t be the end of life. My thinking was that I would at least benefit from the name recognition associated with being the only Republican to enter the race for councilman.

Flyer advertising August Angel’s run for Sharpsville (PA) councilman, September 1955.
[Click image to enlarge.]

Throwing My Hat In the Ring

I distributed flyers that simply declared my party and offered a synopsis of my schooling, work, and military tour. My son and his friends posted and mailed the flyers and distributed them porch-to-porch. I did not ask for a vote in person from anyone. Therefore, I had not committed myself to any obligation other than “throwing my hat in the ring” as a Republican candidate, a run that no other Republican wished to try for. There was no way I could lose face.

Election Day Jitters

On Election Day, the first Tuesday of November [1955], I was busy with printing and helping [my wife] Susie serve meals to a civic club meeting at Angel’s [Casino]. Susie and I cast our own votes, but we mentioned nothing about the election to the kitchen and dining room help that day. Politicians are usually so anxious to keep up with vote tallies as reported by voting precincts that they hang around until every vote is in. They make appearances at voting areas to be seen, suggesting that voters choose them. However, when the civic club had finished their dinner meeting, Susie and I cleaned up Angel’s for the next rental and then retired, with little hope as to the outcome of the voting.

The Winner Is…

The next morning, the Sharon radio news announced an upset in the race for councilman in Sharpsville. August Angel, a newcomer and a Republican, had defeated a Democrat by a sizeable margin and was to be seated with five Democrats and a Democratic burgess in the heretofore liberal stronghold.

There really was “no joy in Mudville” for me – the victory was unexpected. I hadn’t worked for the seat, as I was otherwise occupied with my two prospering businesses, my family, and activity in the Masonic Shriners’ fraternity. The seat on Council would mean meetings, assuming an active interest in community affairs, and being confronted with fiscal and physical affairs of a government with which I was not familiar. There would be a lot of quick learning ahead for me.

“Three New Councilmen for Sharpsville.” The Sharon (Pa.) Herald, January 4, 1956.

[THREE NEW COUNCILMEN FOR SHARPSVILLE — Three men joined Sharpsville’s seven-member borough council last night, when Burgess Peter Joyce, second from left, administered the oath of office to G. Raymond Hittle, D., Clair Osborne, D., and August Angel, R. (hands upraised, left to right). They will serve four-year terms. Looking on at left is the new council president, Maurice Nelson, D. Other councilmen include Democrats Michael Falvo, H.C. Diefenderfer and Charles DiMarco. Source: The Sharon (Pa.) Herald, January 4, 1956, p. 12.]

A Ham on the Doorstep

Congratulations were copious. One morning, when I opened the front door to descend the stairs to the print shop, I pushed the screen door against an enormous 15-20-pound ham with no tag or identification. I quickly learned it was a gift from the garbage collector who had a bid before council. He used selected borough refuse to feed hundreds of pigs on his farm just beyond the town limits. That ham I kept – but refused any subsequent “pork” or perks in the four years I was a councilman.

Four Years of Meetings

I had no desire on my watch to gain anything or be in anyone’s debt, even though the job of councilman was an unpaid honor – if you can envision that. For four years, I routinely attended council meetings and offered suggestions or personal opinions. Never was there a confrontation – the members and burgess (George Mahaney) worked amicably. Being the only Republican, I commanded a lot of attention whenever the “chair” recognized me, but I was relieved when my term came to an end.

 

Sharpsville Council Members, c. 1956. August Angel is third from left.
[Click on image to enlarge.]

“Angel is the Man for Mayor”

Nonetheless, I had a deep inner feeling that I still owed the community some sort of service, so I announced a bid for Mayor of Sharpsville. (Until this time, the town’s chief magistrate was regarded a “burgess.” Whoever was chosen would be the first mayor.) 

Flyer advertising August Angel’s run for the first Mayor of Sharpsville, PA, November 1961.
[Click on image to enlarge.]

Though lacking the intense ambition of my opponents in the race, I did not fare badly. Again, there was no personal solicitation – only the distribution of handbills. The Democrats had to counter my campaign with printing, meetings, and house-to-house canvassing. When the voting was over and I was defeated, I actually felt thankful. I had enough personal activities — the print shop, Angel’s Casino, and memberships in other service organizations — to attend to. And there would be no long evenings spent in the municipal building!

— Excerpted from “Trivia & Me” by August Angel [1908-1996].