Small Town Memories

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

Category: Sharpsville PA Area History

THE TWO GEORGE MAHANEYS: Part I

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

There are many references to George Mahaney throughout “Small Town Memories” but did you know that there were two of them … and how much this father and son contributed, in their own way, to the betterment of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania?

Even though they were not technically Sr. and Jr., they were often referred to as such, according to Ralph C. Mehler II, board member of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. However, in the Mehler family (George Sr. was Ralph Mehler’s great-great-uncle) and perhaps more widely, they were referred to as “old George” and “young George.”

The following is the story about “Old” George. Part II, covering “Young” George who originated Sharpsville’s much-loved Santa Claus project, will be covered in a later blog.


NOTE: For reasons only known to WordPress, many Comments are missing from the posts on “Small Town Memories.” Comments submitted by readers have not only been encouraging to the blog authors but many have also added additional – and valuable – bits of history to the story of Sharpsville, PA, and the surrounding area. However, they are not lost. All the blogs and their Comments were copied to Google Documents as backups as they were published. The Comments can now be found on this site’s page titled *ARCHIVE: Comments.* Just click on the link in the menu across the top of any page (under the site’s title) to see the list. Meanwhile, please don’t hesitate to send us your Comments going forward. If appropriate, they too will be added to the Archive list so we won’t miss a one.


“OLD” GEORGE D. MAHANEY

GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Starting Out

Old George, whose full name was George Dennis Mahaney (1878-1966), began his working life at a young age engaged in various small endeavors but eventually became a five-time Burgess of Sharpsville, father of the Shenango Dam, and known as “Mr. Sharpsville.” 

[George Mahaney, article and photo, The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924, page 9.]

At age 13, planning to be a future banker, Mahaney started at the bottom rung, cleaning floors and polishing brass in a bank. Soon, disillusioned by what he saw as a “tough game” of banking, he moved from there to paperboy, delivering the Pittsburgh morning paper to Sharpsville subscribers, then driving a horse and wagon for the Boyle and Fitzmaurice grocery store in Sharon, PA. After being laid off from his driver job, he worked unloading coke from cars at the Spearman blast furnace. That job proved to be too strenuous and he moved on to performing odd jobs for the streetcar line extension workers.

Nick Mehler, Mahaney’s brother-in-law and a popular barber in town, gave Mahaney his first big break by offering to teach him the barber trade. After four years as an apprentice, lathering faces and, again, sweeping floors, Mahaney became an official barber. But he still hadn’t settled down. 

Mahaney’s next ventures involved working for several grocery companies, gaining a solid knowledge of business along the way. After co-owning a ready-to-wear store in Conneaut, Ohio, for a year, he then took over the Knapp Hotel on Walnut Street, Sharpsville, from his mother-in-law, Anna Knapp in exchange for paying off the debts left behind by her husband, Michael Knapp. When Prohibition began in 1920, causing the hotel to lose business, Mahaney entered the men’s clothing and furnishing business.

GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Mahaney’s Clothing Store

[Mahaney’s, a men’s clothing store. 1917-early 1970s, Sharpsville, PA. Source: Donna DeJulia.]

It was in 1913 when George Mahaney and Joseph McGowan had purchased a men’s haberdashery on Walnut Street from the Cohen Brothers. McGowan was in charge until 1917 when the store was moved a few doors north to the former Knapp Hotel cafe and office and became the Mahaney’s Clothing Store on the northwest corner of Walnut and Main Streets that some of us can still remember. When it was torn down in the early 1970s during urban renewal, it was probably the oldest men’s clothing store in Sharpsville. 

GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Early Civic Projects

The June 1924 issue of The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, celebrating Sharpsville’s Golden Jubilee (1874-1924), told much of this story about “Old” George. It goes on to describe two of Mahaney’s most impressive and well-known legacies: his involvement in the areas of civics and sports in Sharpsville.

According to the Telegraph article, he was a “valuable asset” in the printing of the old Sharpsville Advertiser (which existed from 1870 to 1919). “He and other boys used to earn 50 cents per day for turning the old hand press when the weekly was being printed.”

During World War I, Mahaney did his part by chairing Sharpsville’s Red Cross and visiting camps where Sharpsville soldiers were stationed. On Christmas Day 1919, at the close of the war, Mahaney was presented with a gold watch from the ex-soldiers of the community. 

As of 1924, Mahaney was largely responsible for the success of Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary celebrations. He was an active member of the Sharpsville Improvement Board and a director of the Automobile Club. At one time, he was a representative of The Sharon Telegraph, selling and delivering the newspaper in Sharpsville.

GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Sports Enthusiast

Rated in 1924 by the Telegraph as “the best baseball umpire in Western Pennsylvania,” Mahaney is described as pursuing his hobby of Sharpsville area sports with enthusiasm and dedication. According to The Sharon Telegraph:

Mahaney was for several years president of the Sharon team in the O. and P. League and a director of the league. In those days, when the Shenango Valley supported a baseball team, Mahaney was the official umpire at all games.

He started umpiring when a “kid” in Sharpsville and records show his services were in demand when the furnace company teams clashed back in 1898. Malaney at that time was only 20. He carried a bat in addition to a mask, for arguments at that time meant business and the umpire was given the undisputed right to protect himself.

Mahaney has always been a booster for Sharpsville athletics, especially when the high school teams are concerned. Since Sharpsville has awakened from its apparent lethargy in high school athletics and stepped to the foreground, ranking today as one of the leading schools in the county in athletics, George Mahaney has been a regular attendant at all games and his advice has helped the players on more than one occasion.

The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924, p. 9

His son, “Young” George, was a prominent member of the baseball and basketball teams during his four years in high school. (George F. Mahaney will be the subject of a later blog.) 

GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Later Civic Projects

But Mahaney’s accomplishments didn’t end in those early days. Those for which George D. Mahaney is most renowned were achieved since the 1920s. His involvement in most of the civic, athletic and veterans’ organizations in the area earned him the Shenango Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce’s “Man of the Year” award in 1954. According to his obituary in The Sharon Herald, January 26, 1966, pp. 1-2,

A member of St. Bartholomew’s Church, Sharpsville, Mr. Mahaney included among his membership associations the Sharpsville Service Club, Sharpsville Volunteer Fire Department, Merchants and Businessmen’s Association and the Knights of Columbus. He was named to the Mercer County Housing Authority in 1946.

The Sharon Herald, January 26, 1966, pp. 1-2

In 1953 Sharpsville’s town park was named Mahaney Park by the Bureau Council in honor of his long-time service as Burgess of Sharpsville. Located on the southeast corner of Shenango and Walnut streets, the park was laid out in 1916. (It currently features an ingot mold that was one of the last cast in Sharpsville in 2001, a reminder that Sharpsville was once the nation’s ingot mold capital.)

Mahaney’s untiring lobbying for the construction of the Shenango River Reservoir (also known as the Shenango Dam) was recognized by the Valley Chamber of Commerce in 1959. Built between 1963 and 1965, the dam was designed to control the periodic flooding of the Shenango River that affected Sharpsville and more so Sharon and Wheatland. An extra benefit of the Reservoir was a recreation area which includes the Mahaney Outflow Recreation Day Use Area, featuring a disc golf course and the Mahaney Access Boat Ramp.

[Photographs above and below are courtesy of the
Sharpsville Area Historical Society]

GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Family Background

[George D. Mahaney as Burgess of Sharpsville, PA, sitting at his desk in the Borough Building. Undated photograph]

George D. Mahaney was born in Pennsylvania on January 15, 1878. He was the son of D. G. Mahaney, a locomotive engineer who, for many years, was a resident of Erie. 

When Mahaney was 3 years old (c. 1881), he moved with the family to Sharpsville when the town was merely a station stop and over two decades before its streets were paved. The Telegraph lists the school he attended as “the old Second Ward school.”

The record for County Marriages in Pennsylvania lists the marriage of George Mahaney, a merchant in Conneaut, Ohio, to Kathryn M. Knapp (1880-1955) on May 6, 1903.

The 1930 U.S. Census records the Mahaney family as living on Walnut Street in Sharpsville and consisting of George, a clothing merchant, his wife Katheryn (Knapp) Mahaney, and two sons, George F. Mahaney, age 22, and John, age 19. 

After his first wife died in 1955, he married Rose Havlak on June 11, 1959.

George Dennis Mahaney died in January 1966. Three brothers and two sisters preceded him in death. He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Hermitage, PA. His widow survived with two sons, both attorneys, George F., and John K.; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. (Source: “Geo. Mahaney Dies: ‘Father’ of Reservoir,” The Sharon Herald, January 26, 1966, pp. 1-2.)

See Also:
Walnut Street Businesses III
Welch House: Early History

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with assistance from Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980).


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AN OLD-TIMER’S HISTORY of Sharon, Pennsylvania

by Eric Bombeck

In October of 1938, WPIC, the Shenango Valley’s first radio station, came on the air. In its early days radio was seen as a high-brow medium. Stations played classical music, endeavored to educate the public and were rarely crass.

Sharon High Students 1950. Seated: James Miller, Ronald Rowlings. Standing: George Sikora, Radine Woods.

In an effort to involve the community, WPIC put in phone lines from Sharon and Hickory High Schools directly into the studios. Students could now do broadcasts from the schools. More than one high school kid got a job at WPIC because of this. (Joe Prelee, who went on to a storied career in NYC radio, got his start this way.)

The following is a transcript from a WPIC broadcast from Sharon High School on June 23rd, 1950. Miss Mary Lee, the historian being interviewed, was 89 years old at the time of this broadcast, meaning she would have been born around the beginning of the Civil War. She was old enough to have heard some of the stories she tells from people who were here from the beginning. Enjoy this oral history of Sharon as told by Miss Lee in 1950 to two fifth-grade students.
— Eric Bombeck

THE HISTORY OF SHARON

Date: June 23, 1950
Time: 9:15-9:30 AM
Music

Announcer: Good Morning boys and girls, we are broadcasting from the auditorium of the Sharon High School. It is our pleasure to have with us this morning, Miss Mary Lee, a former teacher and very well-known resident of our city. I don’t believe she would mind my telling you that she is 89 years old. She is going to answer some questions about the history of Sharon, which will help you in your study of Sharon.

Jane White and Bob Smith, two children from the fifth grade, Prospect Heights School, will interview Miss Lee. Miss Lee has lived in Sharon for over fifty years and has done extensive research work on the history of Sharon. The children of Sharon are required to learn something of Sharon’s history and this is the first of a series of programs to be presented in this history of Sharon.

“Hickory Township Schools Broadcast Every Tuesday Morning at 9:05 Throughout the School Year. Kinder Quiz: Sandra Stevenson, Joseph Padulla, Judith Vasconi, Juliann Birch, Drew Kelly, quiz mistress Mrs. Sara L. Tarr.”

Announcer:  Jane, do you have a question you would like to ask Miss Lee?

Jane:  Miss Lee, will you tell me who was the very first settler of Sharon?

Miss Lee:  William Budd was the first settler. He was known as “the Father of Sharon”

Jane:  Where did William Budd come from?

Miss Lee:  Budd came to Sharon from Washington County, Pennsylvania. That is on the other side of Pittsburgh.

Bob:  About what year did he came and where did he make his first settlement?

Miss Lee:  Bob, history books tell us he came in the spring of 1796 when George Washington was serving his second term as President of the United States and the nation’s capital was located in Philadelphia. Young Budd’s plot of land included 400 acres and he built his log cabin on what is now the northeast corner of Washington Street and South Irvine Avenue. Later, he built a cabin nearer the river, at what is now 61 South Main Street and spent some time hunting and trapping before he returned to Washington County to marry sixteen year old Drucilla Hultz.

Bob:  To what kind of cabin did young William Budd bring his bride?

The Herald artist’s depiction of
William Budds’ Cabin.

Miss Lee:  The log cabin was a story and a half high. The loft was reached by a ladder, there was a puncheon floor, a clapboard roof and greased paper windows. Bob, if you would like to know more about these cabins, you might look it up in the World Book. It will go more in detail than I can on this program.

Jane:  Miss Lee, what did the Budds do if they wanted some groceries or supplies?

Miss Lee:  Jane, we are told that the Budds produced nearly everything they needed except for farming implements, ammunition and salt. If they needed these, they had to go to Pittsburgh. In those days, it took them three weeks to go. A barrel of salt was worth twenty bushels of wheat. The only roads were the streams and narrow wavering paths made by wild beasts and Indians. Deer were common, wolves howled at night and occasionally a black bear was to be seen on the trip.

Bob:  Didn’t the Budds have any near neighbors that they could borrow from rather than making this long trip?

Miss Lee:  Yes Bob. In 1798 Charles and Frances Reno settled east of the Shenango River and north of William Budd’s, around what is now Reno Street, down near the Junior High School. The Bentley’s the Stokley’s, the Hoaglands, McBrides and Loves all moved into the valley and,  in spite of hardships, these pioneers had come to stay. On May 23, 1798, the second generation made its first appearance, in the tiny person of James Bentley, the first white child born in Sharon.

Jane:  Miss Lee, what do you know about the early homes of Sharon?

 Location of William Budd’s first cabin in Sharon – Baker Service Station at 183 S Irvine Avenue.

Miss Lee:  We know the earliest homes of the pioneers were log cabins. Then, these were replaced by frame homes. In 1851, long rows of company houses were built for the people who were working in the iron mill. In one of them, over thirty years later, there grew up a Welsh immigrant boy, who was to become the first Secretary of Labor and afterwards, a Senator of the United States, James J. Davis.

In 1864 Sharon was becoming a good-sized town and brick homes were replacing the frame ones. Some of these are still standing on East State Street. The brick home, opposite the Golden Dawn store on the corner of North Oakland Avenue and East State Street, where the Sample Funeral Home is located, is one of these homes.

The first stone house to be built in Sharon is still standing on Dayton Way, just across from the Wishart planning mill. The second stone house to be built was the Buhl Mansion, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Forker, East State Street.

The house which was occupied by Gariety Funeral Home, at the corner of Washington and South Water Avenue is considered one of the oldest buildings in Sharon. This house which has been remodeled and enlarged many times was originally a log cabin.

Bob:  Miss Lee, surely if the people of Sharon were interested in building nice homes they wanted a name for their village.

Miss Lee:  Oh yes, Bob. William Budd took care of that in 1815. Tradition tells us that he was worried about that, so he decided to choose a name from the Bible. He put three names in a muslin covered box. The third name drawn was “Sharon.” We do not know whether he had in mind the plains of Sharon or the Rose of Sharon when he selected the name.

Jane:  We know in the very beginning the Budds had to go to Pittsburgh for their supplies but when did they finally get some stores in Sharon?

Miss Lee:  Well, Jane, in 1815, Elias Jones bought 100 acres of land north of State Street, west of the Shenango River. He built a distillery and a storeroom and became Sharon’s first distiller, innkeeper and postmaster.

In 1818, the first bridge was built over the Shenango River at the cost of six hundred dollars and then wooden sidewalks were built so the shoppers could visit Jake Cozadd’s shoe shop or Elias Jones’ store. The mail now came twice a week from Mercer by stagecoach instead of horseback. The Sharonites who made the great trip to see General Lafayette at Mercer twelve miles away, in 1824, came home to a village whose streets were unlighted and choked with dust or deep mud. By 1825 new names had appeared in Sharon, and new faces in business houses. “Daddy” Washington Porter kept store at the southeastern corner of State Street and Water Avenue where the news stand is now located. David Budd had a new tavern. Sharon was still a log settlement but it was home to people who had faith in the future and the courage to make the future bright.

Bob:  Miss Lee, I thought Willson’s furniture store was one of the oldest stores in Sharon. When did it have its beginning?

Miss Lee:  You are right Bob. It was in 1845 that James Willson, a Brookfield boy, stood on the top of the West Hill and looked down into the valley and then toward Brookfield Center, trying to decide whether he would start his business in the flourishing Ohio village or in the smaller Pennsylvania settlement below on the muddy Shenango River. He decided that the new covered bridge, the building though only a single-track affair, twenty feet wide, would enable Sharonites to get across the river, beyond the city limits, where expenses were less. From that boy’s decision sprang Sharon’s oldest family business, now known as the Willson Furniture Store.

Jane:  What were some of the other businesses that were established about this same time?

Miss Lee:  Jane, I have been told that many people were interested in establishing banks, The Shenango Hotel with eighty-six rooms, a drug store by Reno and Espy, a music store by W.C. DeForest, a cloak and millinery shop by Mrs. Mark Cohen and many other shops.

Bob:  We have learned in our study of geography that people cannot live in a community unless they have some way of earning a living. How did these early pioneers make a living?

Miss Lee:  Bob, everyone must work if they want to earn a living and these Sharon pioneers were no exception.

In 1802, Benjamin Budd gave Sharon its first industry. Budd built a saw and grist mill on the east side of the river in the southern part of the present Sharon. The mill was operated by power furnished by a dam in the river. In 1822 Clark built a flour mill on North Water Avenue and in a few years he put in fulling and carding machinery. In 1810 coal was discovered near Sharon and at first, it was used in the homes for fuel but later it was used in the iron mills. 1846 was the outstanding year in the development of the blast furnaces. Six blast furnaces were built in the Shenango Valley to make pig iron with charcoal and native ores. In this same year Frank Allen began his experiments at the Clay Furnaces, where he succeeded in substituting coke for charcoal, and finally, in using the raw coal as a fuel, a discovery which greatly influenced Sharon’s future.

Sharon had a tremendous boom in the ‘50s. The rolling mill started in 1851 and soon was turning out forty-five tons of pig iron weekly, at a cost of $18.00 a ton.

These are just a few of the early industries that were carried on, which enabled the early settlers to earn a living.

Jane:  As I look at this beautiful auditorium where we are now, it makes me want to know something about the early schools of Sharon. Miss Lee, I imagine you too are interested in the early schools.

Miss Lee:  The two-million-dollar school system of today is a far cry from the first log cabin school in 1800. It was then that Thomas Rudge used the birch switch as the first teacher in the new community.

At present, there are ten public school buildings in use. The first of the schools now in use was East Ward, built about 1880, South Water Avenue and the Prospect Heights Schools in 1904, Russell Street was constructed in 1908, Jefferson Avenue in 1909, the Senior High in 1923-1924, Wengler in 1927, Junior High in 1929 and Thornton Avenue in 1929.

Daniel Hates, a Revolutionary War veteran, began teaching in 1803 in a log house erected for the purpose, on what was known as the Hoagland Place. This was one mile north of the present State Street, about the same time a log building was erected for school purposes near where the Baptist Church now stands on West State Street.

Besides these schools, there was a schoolhouse built of round logs that stood on the north side of State Street.

The first brick school in Sharon was built in 1850 near the present site of the Pennsylvania depot. In the early 1920s the building was turned into a railroad roundhouse.

Jane, as you can see, the people of Sharon have always been interested in education and want the very best for their boys and girls.

Bob:  Miss Lee, they tell us the church is the greatest factor on earth for the building of character and good citizenship, and it is a storehouse of spiritual values. Without a strong church, neither democracy nor civilization can survive.

Do you think these early settlers believed this?

Miss Lee:  Yes, Bob. These early settlers were very much interested in starting a church. Again history tells us that on June 24, 1804, the Baptist Church was organized with nineteen members – the Hoaglands, Morfords, Renos and the four Bentleys, and the rest of the early settlers. Morford and Hoagland were deacons. Services were held in groves, barns and houses for three years. Within a year after the church was organized, Adam Bentley, with an ox-team, went to New Jersey, four hundred miles away, to bring back Reverend Thomas Jones who was willing to come if his expenses were paid. The parsonage was a log cabin on the farm of Wayne B. Wheeler.

In 1807 William Budd donated land for the church and the graveyard. The land extended west from the present site of the First Baptist Church. Later, Mr. Budd gave an adjoining lot to the Methodists and the two lots were thrown together for the general use of the town.

Jane:  I know you can’t tell us when all the churches in Sharon were established but I would like to know when the First Presbyterian Church was started. That is the one I go to.

Miss Lee:   That is my church too, Jane. It was organized in 1844 with twenty-four persons present.

Bob:  I go to the Sacred Heart Church. Do you know when it was organized?

Miss Lee:  Why yes Bob. In 1859, a Sharon Mission was started in charge of Father Hartman. Father John O’Keefe was the first pastor named for the Sharon congregation. Services were held in the homes of members pending the erection of a rectory, after which mass was celebrated in a room in the parsonage. In 1854, the cornerstone was laid for Sacred Heart Church on a plot of ground donated by Dr. J.M. Irvine. The building was pushed rapidly because the congregation was growing steadily with the arrival of new people in town, attracted by the rapid development of the iron industry.

Jane and Bob, that is all the time I have to tell you about Sharon’s early growth but if you would like to hear more about the building of the Erie Canal and about the wonderful contributions made to the community by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Buhl, I will be only too glad to tell about them sometime again.

Announcer:  Thank you Miss Lee for giving us this interesting information. I am sure we will all look forward to your next visit.

Goodbye everyone, this is station W.P.I.C. signing off for the Sharon Public Schools, which can be heard every Tuesday morning at 9:15.

– Submitted by Eric Bombeck, (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA. Transcription and photographs from WPIC Archives, courtesy of The Way It Was Newspaper.

CRICK’S PHARMACY and Soda Fountain

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Photo of Crick's Pharmacy, c. 1950.
Crick’s Pharmacy on the corner of N. Mercer Avenue and E. Shenango Street, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1950. Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Crick’s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain

Vintage-style metal sign.
Source: eBay.

Among the fond memories of anyone who lived in Sharpsville in the 1930s through the 1960s was that of Crick’s Pharmacy, “Home of the Famous Coffee Stir.” Crick’s was one of those old-fashioned corner drugstores with a wooden floor and pressed tin ceiling, where patent medicines were lined up behind glass-paned cupboards and a soda counter was located just inside the door to the right, complete with a “soda jerk” who prepared your drinks. Tables and chairs where placed in front of the counter where customers could relax and savor their soda fountain treats. The table tops and chair seats were round and made of wood. The legs of the tables and chairs and the chair backs were of twisted and bent iron wire. Children were not left out: One of the table-and-chair sets was adorably child-size.

Example of a soda fountain bentwire chair.
Soda Fountain Bent Wire Chair. Source: Fort Bend Museum.

Was Crick’s counter lined with upholstered swivel stools? Did the soda jerk wear a bow tie and white clothing and hat? Was there a menu listing griddle sandwiches, hot dogs and chili dogs? Or banana boats and sundaes? I don’t recall but all this was usually part of the soda fountain picture. What I do remember were ice cream sodas, milkshakes, malted milkshakes, cherry and vanilla cokes or phosphates, root beer floats and most clearly, the famous coffee stirs. The coffee stirs were so desired that my neighbors would send us kids to Crick’s with coins in hand to purchase the drinks for them as a kind of early take-out service.

(For more coffee stir memories and a recipe, see the blog, Coffee Stir, on this site. See also, Uniquely Sharpsville: The Coffee Stir, an article in the July 2017 Newsletter for the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. The story is accompanied by an image of the original recipe as well as a 1953 photograph of George Mahaney and Sid Owen at the counter of Crick’s soda fountain.)

The IOOF Temple

The history of Crick’s Pharmacy and the building it occupied, took several twists and turns. According to Ralph C. Mehler II, SAHS board member,

“It was the original Odd Fellows Temple, built in 1902 and used by the IOOF [International Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization] until they constructed a new building on Walnut Street in 1912. The IOOF building stood catty-corner from the bank/Opera House at Mercer and Shenango streets. Skip Reichard ran his drugstore there [beginning c. 1915] and was the inventor of the coffee stir. When he died in 1939, his wife, Gert Knapp Reichard (sister of my great-grandmother), operated the drugstore until she sold it to Obie Cricks in 1952. She died a year later.”

Another early inhabitant of the IOOF Temple was E.W. Hawk’s Confectionery which sold, among other things, fruits, tobacco and cigars, as advertised on the window.

Photo of E.W. Hawk's Confectionery, early 1900s.
E.W. Hawk’s Confectionery in the IOOF Building, Sharpsville, PA, early 1900s.
Source:
The Way It Was Newspaper

The Further Evolution of Crick’s

Photo of Obie Cricks, owner of Crick's Pharmacy, 1952-1960s.
Obie Cricks, Owner of Crick’s Pharmacy, Sharpsville, PA, 1952 – 1960s. Source: The Way It Was newspaper.]

“Obie Cricks then built a new, modern drugstore across Mercer Avenue in 1960. It still served coffee stirs and had those bent wire chairs and tables in the fountain area (including child-sized ones which I fondly remember). At some point, Obie’s son Charlie took over. He then, in partnership with Dick Stigliano and Gary Garrett, formed Greenwood Pharmacy, a regional chain of drugstores. Greenwood was sold in the approximately early 1990s to a national chain [Eckhard]…which eventually became part of Rite Aid [64 N. Mercer Avenue]. You would really have to be an old-timer to refer to the current Rite Aid as ‘Crick’s.’ The IOOF building would have been torn down by the early 1970s as part of Urban Renewal.”

Other Sharpsville Pharmacies

Ralph Mehler sent these results from research on Sharpsville pharmacies in city directories in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society:

A review of the City Directories shows that there were two pharmacies in Sharpsville for much of the 20th century. The earliest appearance I see for Fred K. Reichard is in a 1913 city directory. In a 1907 directory, at this same location was a D.H. Beck; prior to that in 1903 was an A. A. Reichard (no apparent relation to Fred, though). His competitor was McFarland’s Pharmacy located at 5 W. Main Street (where the First National Bank branch is now). About 1957 this became Zickar’s. McFarland’s was originally located in the early 1910s on N. Walnut Street. The proprietor was Robert L. McFarland, who died in 1935…. Robert’s father, Winfield S. McFarland is listed as both a physician and a druggist at 49 Main Street. I’m not sure whether this was a home-office from which he also dispensed prescriptions, or if he had a drugstore.

More About Soda Fountains

There was a reason that soda fountains were located in drugstores. In the 1850s, people went to the drugstore for drinks that would ease or cure their ailments. At first, those drinks were used to cover the taste of the medication that would often include ingredients such as caffeine and cocaine.

Three events led to the birth of the soda fountain: In 1880 the carbonated drink was invented. Then in 1914, Congress passed a law against selling cocaine and opiates over the counter. And in 1920s Prohibition closed the bars. For these reasons, soda fountain drinks were touted as “non-intoxicating and delicious treats.”

Beginning in the 1970s, mass-produced canned soft drinks, an increasingly mobile society and prepackaged supermarket ice cream contributed to a rapid decline in the popularity of the soda fountain.


Both Reichard’s and Crick’s Pharmacies will always be highlights in the history of mid-twentieth-century Sharpsville, not only for the drugstores’ iconic coffee stirs but because they and their soda fountain represented a different kind of culture, when the booming prosperity of the post-war years helped to create a widespread sense of stability, contentment and general harmony in both large and small towns of America.

See Also COFFEE STIR

– Ann Angel Eberhardt, (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with the assistance of Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA,
Eric Bombeck (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA, and Wikipedia.


Rise of the GOLDEN DAWN

by Eric Bombeck

By Eric Bombeck

I recently had a chance to sit down with Lou Epstein, whose grandfather Nathan Rosenblum founded Golden Dawn Foods. Lou resides in Sharon, Pennsylvania, with his wife. This is his family’s story…in search of the American Dream.

Nathan Rosenblum. Came to America from Lithuanian at age 18 in the 1890s, peddled groceries, then founded Golden Dawn Foods.

In the late 1800s, Lithuania was in a time of unrest. The Russian government was impinging on the freedom of the Lithuanian: The Catholic church was under attack and the printing of anything in the Lithuanian language was banned. America, however, was becoming a shining city on a hill. Immigrants flocked into Ellis Island by the millions.

Around 1890 Nathan Rosenblum left Lithuania to come to Sharon. The iron industry in the valley was booming and jobs were plentiful. Nathan soon realized that there were small food markets all over town, but what about the people who were too far away to walk to them? There were no limitations on what you could do in America and Nathan decided he would be a peddler.

Starting with a horse and cart he would go to outlying areas of Sharon to sell fruit and other groceries and dry goods. About this time, he married Cecilia Kamenofsky and together they opened a small store on Shenango Street downtown. He would peddle while she ran the store.

Louis Rosenblum (holding reins) and David Rosenblum, Nathan’s sons, peddling groceries before Golden Dawn Groceries was established. [Source: Tri-State Food News, Pittsburgh]

Business was great and Sharon continued to grow. Then came those fateful nights in March of 1913. The river began to rise on March 24th and didn’t reach its maximum height of almost 17 feet until March 27th. The water battered the Rosenblum’s store. Nathan and his bride lost half their merchandise and watched as the Shenango River swept their piano away.

Undeterred Nathan began to wholesale foods to small local shops and markets. By 1920 he had a four-story warehouse on Silver Street, Nathan and Cecilia had 5 children and Nathan Rosenblum and Company had a bright future.

[Click on image to enlarge.]

In 1931 Nathan passed away and the wholesaler business he built was passed down to the kids. The trio of H. David Rosenblum, Oscar Ben (Cutter) Rosenblum and Sam Epstein (their brother-in-law) were to be the senior management team. In the 1930s they began to look for a new name for the business. There was a brand of flour then named Golden Dawn and it sounded like a great name. They asked permission from the company and officially changed the name from Nathan Rosenblum and Company to Golden Dawn.

After the war, in 1946, the foundation was laid for a new warehouse on Shenango Street. (In 1960 it was expanded to 40,000 square feet.) The next big step was franchising. There were many advantages to being a franchise. Stores could get the Golden Dawn brand-name food as well share the advertising in the local paper or on the radio. (Golden Dawn was one of the first advertisers on WPIC which began airing in 1938.)

Click on image to enlarge.

Franchises were a fairly new concept but Golden Dawn did it right. They had their own meat department and their own advertising department where they printed ads or anything the stores needed. There was an accounting department and later in the 1960s they kept track of it all with an IBM department. They even built their own displays and racks. The first Golden Dawn was located where the Sharon News Agency is now, across from Daffin’s Candies. Magnatto’s and Donofrio’s were two of the earliest franchises enlisted.

There were 135 stores in the Golden Dawn family at its peak. The store owners that hit their numbers could go on trips that included Paris, Monte Carlo and Acapulco.

Shenango Valley Golden Dawn locations as of 1978. [Source: The Sharon Herald]

In the very early 80s Golden Dawn was bought out by PJ Schmitt out of Buffalo. Lou Epstein was hired on by them and worked many years after for them. Then in the early 90s they went into bankruptcy and took the Golden Dawn name with them. Many stores weren’t sure if they could legally keep the name on the front of their stores so they took down the Golden Dawn signs. Today there are ten remaining stores left from the once great Golden Dawn empire: Farrell Golden Dawn, Walt’s in Mercer, Shawkey’s in Jamestown, Zatsick’s in Conneaut Lake, all in Pennsylvania. Orlando’s has 3 up on the lake in Ohio: in Jefferson and Orwell, Ohio, and in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.

Businesses like empires rise and fall. But only in a democracy like ours could a Jewish-Russian immigrant, selling fruit from a cart door-to-door, build a business that would grow into a 135-store franchise. One day the sun will set on the last Golden Dawn store, but it will continue to be true that anything is possible in this great land we live in.

— Eric Bombeck (SHS 1979),
South Pymatuning, PA, May 2019

THE GREAT SWITCHBLADE INCIDENT OF ’75

by Eric Bombeck

Hi, I’m excited to announce a partnership of sorts with Small Town Memories. Fellow Sharpsville alum, Ann Angel Eberhardt, has graciously agreed to add me as co-editor to her amazing site. I look forward to adding my own quirky take on growing up here in “the valley.”

I am the publishing editor of The Way It Was newspaper here in Mercer County. I also have a few radio shows on local radio stations. The Bombeck Show can be heard on Wednesday evenings at 5:00 pm (eastern) on WPIC 790 am, www.790wpic.com.

This site has always focused on growing up in Sharpsville, but after a discussion with Ann, we thought it may be time to expand the site to include stories about surrounding areas. I feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful and important site that is preserving the memories of our beloved home towns.

— Eric Bombeck

The Great Switchblade Incident of ’75

By Eric Bombeck

Almost every teacher I had at William P. Snyder Junior High in Sharpsville said some version of the following statement to me at one time or another:

“Eric…Shut up…You’re never going to get a job just talking!”

You’d think it would get better in high school, but I distinctly remember walking into homeroom my junior year and stopping cold at the door. Mrs. Fowler had literally filled the front blackboard – top to bottom – right to left – with these 3-foot high letters:

[Image by Gustavofer74]

Mrs. Fowler meant nothing by it, she was just having a little fun, and I took it that way. (Maybe I’m just now realizing that when I had the chance at a job as a radio talk show host at WPIC, I took it just to prove to that somebody would pay me just to talk. But that’s off subject.)

Of course back then the world was a little more black and white. If you got outta line in school they paddled you. Simple – swift – justice. I was often at the wrong end of the “justice” being served up in my junior high years. In fact, I was paddled so many times (usually for talking) in Junior High that I could fill this paper up with stories for the rest of the year. (I went online to see what year they made paddling illegal in schools. To my surprise corporal punishment is still legal in 16 states, almost all in the south!)

This is a Junior High story about the time I wasn’t paddled!

It was the spring of 1975; I was in eighth grade. Being that there was only grades six, seven and eight in our building, eighth graders were kinda like the seniors of the building. Really immature seniors.

One day while sitting in “Buzz” Conroy’s science class on the second floor, one of the office secretaries walked into our room to make an announcement. She said, “I would like all the boys to put their hands on top of their desks right now and then stand up and follow me.” All roughly 15 guys stood up and she lead us down to the principal’s office.

Principal Jerry Tallarico acted like a tough guy, but there was a twinkle in his eye that let you know he was just doing his job, keeping the hormone-influenced mob (us) in check. He was sitting at his desk and the 15 of us were jammed into a space that could hold about 4 or 5 adults comfortably. He explained that a classmate of ours named Dave had been seen with a switchblade. He then said we were to come up in front of his desk individually and empty our pockets. The first kid, named Rob, was really nervous until Mr. Tallarico said, “I’m not interested in your cigarettes, son.” One by one each kid emptied his pockets.

I have to explain that there were some kids who were unaware of what was going on around them during these formative years. I was, however not one of those kids. For some reason I knew intuitively that eighth grade was the “last hurrah” of being a kid. Next year high school would be here, dances, girls… It would be time to grow up. But this was eighth grade, what’s the hurry?

[Image by PublicDomain Pictures]

Earlier in the day, the librarian had asked me to take some craft projects down and throw them away. One of the projects had dozens of little green plastic army men in it, and I of course, instead of throwing them away filled my pockets with them, jean jacket pockets included. I was a little old for them, but maybe I could take them home and blow them up with firecrackers or something.

The mood in the room was somber. After all, we were looking for a deadly weapon. Then it was my turn. As I approached Mr. Tallarico’s desk, I could see this was a pretty serious issue in his view. I started with the plastic army men in my front pockets first. Keeping with my credo of the “last hurrah” of youth, I began to set the army men up one by one on opposing sides like you would do if you were preparing for mock war. The front pockets were emptied and about 25 army men were on the front of the principal’s desk. As I was continuing to empty my pockets, I stole a glance at Mr. Tallarico. It was better than I hoped for; it was all he could do to keep from laughing. “Operation Immature” was working but there were more pockets to empty. I moved to the front jean jacket pockets and began to unload army men from them. After one jacket pocket was empty, I moved to the other one. At this point, my shtick must have been getting old. Mr. Tallarico laughing and irritated at the same time, half yelled, “ALRIGHT, I’ve seen enough of this, clear my desk.” By the look on his face, as he sat back in his chair, it seemed that the tension in the room had been broken. My job here was done.

Everybody emptied their pockets and nothing was found, so they sent us back to “Buzz” Conroy’s (the mad man of science) class.

When it was all said and done, Dave didn’t have a switchblade after all. It turned out to be a switch-comb.

[Source: Sharpsville High School Yearbook, “Devils Log 1958,” page 11]

When I think about those days in Junior High, I am reminded of the final line of the movie “Stand By Me,” a film about being a kid. Richard Dreyfuss says,

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12 …. does anyone?”

– Eric Bombeck, (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA


For more about the shenanigans of Sharpsville Area boys
in the old days, see:
South Pymatuning Township
The Three Lost Boys of Sharpsville
A Treehouse Grows in Sharpsville


Return of THE SHARPSVILLE ADVERTISER

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Welcome to the new home page! The long alphabetical list of titles still exists, but has been moved to another page, titled “A to Z Index.” Just click here or on “A to Z Index” in the menu at the top of the page for links to all the past blogs. Or if you’re looking for stories by a particular author, go to “Author Index.”

Meanwhile, you have quick and easy access to the latest blog which now displays at the top of the home page. You can also scroll down to see all the other blogs in reverse chronological order. 

[NOTE: Please ignore the recent “Small Town Memories” notification for “Dr. Bailey’s, Horse-and-Buggy Days” which required a password. It was sent inadvertently (my fault) and the page it refers to has been deleted. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.]

Return of
THE SHARPSVILLE ADVERTISER

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Walter Pierce’s newspaper of the 1870s, The Sharpsville Advertiser, wasn’t the only newspaper published with that name. My father, August Angel, fulfilled his dream of publishing a newspaper with the same name from 1959 until the Angel family re-located to Kentucky in 1964.

Read more about the history of Sharpsville’s newspapers in the Sharpsville Area Historical Society (SAHS) newsletter, July 2014 SAHS newsletter (vol III, no 2). SAHS has 18 editions of the first Sharpsville Advertiser and 6 of the second Sharpsville Advertiser in its collection.

How It All Began

Brochure printed in 1960 by The Sharpsville (PA) Advertiser print shop. (Click on image to enlarge.)

August Angel originally learned printing skills while attending trade school during his high school years. His first job after graduation from Miami (Ohio) University in 1936 was at a boarding school located deep in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky. There, at the Pine Mountain Settlement School, he set up and supervised a student print shop and also taught classes in printing as well as other subjects.

After seven years at the Kentucky school and two additional years teaching printing at a high school in Dayton, Ohio, he tried his hand at other occupations. He finally returned to the printing trade in the 1950s as an assistant foreman in the composing room of The Sharon (PA) Herald newspaper.

At the same time, longing to “be his own boss,” he started a small print shop in what was then Sharpsville’s business district on North Walnut Street. As his business grew, he quit the Herald job and moved his print shop to a larger building on North Second Street in 1949. At last, he was truly his own boss.

The Sharpsville Advertiser PRINT SHOP

August Angel in his printer’s apron, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1960.

Before the advent of the digital revolution around the 1970s, print shops (including my Dad’s) consisted of a variety of large and noisy machines that produced small-format material, such as bills, letterheads, business cards, and envelopes. I remember Dad teaching us to feed the treadle-powered letterpress, which required quite a bit of hand-eye-and-machine coordination. My family lived in the apartment above his Second Street shop and I often fell asleep at night to the rhythmic sounds of those machines and the odors of printer’s ink and the chemicals that were used to clean the platens and type.

As demand for his print shop business grew, Dad upgraded to more automated machinery, such as linotypes, typesetting machines that cast characters in metal as a complete line rather than as individual characters. He wrote:

I had bought two linotypes from the (Sharon Herald) newspaper — one a 2-magazine and the other a 3-magazine. The company was selling these because of its transition to recently improved technology in typesetting – the change from lead casters to film exposure and chemicals.

…These were added to the shop’s Ludlow “Kelly B” press, that could print a 17 x 22-inch page, … a 2-hand-fed C&P press … and a windmill 10 x 15 Heidelberg, the second Heidelberg to be installed in the State of Pennsylvania.

About that Heidelberg press: Dad saw its potential when he was treated to a personal demonstration of the machine in front of his shop. The Heidelberg was brought in a special van with extension cables that were connected to a local plug. The demonstration showed how this new kind of press could print a job much faster, more precisely and more smoothly than any other machine. (Its innovative “windmill” feature is described here.)


(Click on image to enlarge.)

Dad was sold on the Heidelberg and ordered one from the German maker (which is now known as Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG) for around $2,200. It arrived at the print shop on a flatbed truck in June 1954, encased in a large wooden crate and accompanied by a man who stayed several days with my family to reassemble it since it had to be taken apart to get it into the print shop. Then he proceeded to instruct Dad in its operation.

We all enjoyed the Heidelberg man’s presence, particularly when he bought ice cream and peanuts for us children. Once the crate was emptied, he changed it into a playhouse for my younger brother Pat. About a year later it was re-built to fit on the branches of our backyard tree and used as a treehouse for my older brother, Mike, and his gang.

The Sharpsville Advertiser NEWSPAPER

The weekly paper that Dad started is described in “A Look Back: Sharpsville’s Newspapers” July 2014 SAHS newsletter (vol III, no 2) as one of “[p]urely local news, with an anodyne reportage perhaps in keeping with the placid days of the Eisenhower era.”

Dad wrote only a little about this venture in his memoir but did provide this information:

A source of great satisfaction to me in the printing trade was the weekly tabloid I christened “The Sharpsville Advertiser,” a 4 to 8-page newspaper, sans editorials with the same name as my shop. It was the summary of local news events that had occurred during the week, up to the time of the press run. Readers liked to see their names in print, and the advertising by merchants paid handsomely for all expenses incurred in its production. These included the weekly salary of a disgruntled printer from The Sharon Herald who joined me as a linotype operator and general makeup floor man, as well as a full-time pressman who operated the three impression machines – Kelly B., Heidelberg, and hand-fed.

Dad doesn’t mention it in his memoir, but he must have known that the origins of the name for his shop, and then his newspaper, dated back approximately eight decades to the newspaper started by Walter Pierce, the son of James Pierce who was an important figure in Sharpsville’s early history.

The Sharpsville Advertiser’s FIRST ISSUE

April 9, 1959, must have been an exciting day for Dad, as the Kelly B press churned out the first issues of his newspaper. In the upper left corner of the first page is an introduction, stating that it is “A Newspaper Of, By and For Residents of Sharpsville.” In keeping with SAHS’s adjective, “anodyne,” it provides these objectives:

This paper has no axes to grind. Rather, its objective will be to promote a harmonious aid among residents of our community by giving them a better understanding of the community’s accomplishments and problems. This harmonious air will be a giant step toward progress that will make a better Sharpsville and thereby heighten its stature in a better Shenango Valley.

This paper will take no sides in controversy, either political or otherwise, but will tend to present an unbiased factual report in its news columns.

However, this paper will afford citizens of the community an opportunity of voicing their own individual view on controversial matters or other issues through letters that will be published in an “editor’s Mail” column. Your letters are invited.

AUGUST ANGEL, Editor and Publisher.

The following images are the first two pages of volume 1, number 1, of The Sharpsville Advertiser:


(Click on image to enlarge.)

The Sharpsville Advertiser: MEMORIES

Dad’s newspaper lasted from 1959 until our family left Sharpsville in 1964. During the period of its existence, I was attending Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, but Dad was still recruiting me when I visited home, as well as people in the neighborhood and other family members to assist in its production. We collated and hand-folded the pages before he purchased a folding machine. We distributed the issues throughout the town and attached mailing labels to the newspapers for mailing out-of-town. (The first several issues were complementary, followed by an annual charge of $3.00). And we solicited ads from local businesses.

James Jovenall, a high school classmate (SHS 1958), was among those in the community who were hired to help out. He wrote in a Comment to the January 2015 blog, “Ritz Theater III”:

I also worked for your father for a short while selling ads for the Sharpsville Advertiser. All good memories.

His mention of ads triggered my memory of ad-running:

I’m pleased to know that ad-running for my dad’s newspaper was one of your good memories. I also held that job for a summer during college years, probably around 1960. I walked all over Sharpsville’s business district, visiting owners of banks, restaurants, dry cleaners, funeral homes, pharmacies, insurance agencies, bars, and various other small shops, asking them if they would buy or renew their ads, and if so, the size and information they wished to display. It wasn’t the easiest job for the timid person that I was and I particularly felt uncomfortable entering those dark, smoky, males-only bars looking for the owner. But, yes, it’s a fond memory now.

The Sharpsville Advertiser: FINAL YEARS

In 1964, my father along with my mother and younger brother left Sharpsville to return to a small village in Kentucky, where my mother was born and still had an extended family. Not one to take a break and with printer’s ink still in his blood, Dad set up a much-needed print shop deep in the southeastern Appalachian mountains.

The building that held The Sharpsville (PA) Advertiser print shop, 1949-1964. (Photo by Northwood Realty Services Hermitage, 2016.)

The Kentucky shop was a great success for many years. In the early 1980s, he sold it to his co-founder and finally retired to a log house on a farm in London, Kentucky, where his two sons and their families also lived and are still there to this day.

In June of 1967, Dad sold the Sharpsville shop for $15,400 to a couple who continued the print shop business. They ran it until 1967 when their premises were raided by the FBI, State Police and local police after a three-month-long investigation. The couple was charged with printing football and basketball tickets for sports lotteries but they quickly left town before they were to appear in court. That most likely ended the business of printing on North Second Street.

Eventually, the building that held the print shop was occupied by an entirely different business, Cattron Communications, until 2010 when it was acquired by Laird Technologies. As of 2017, the building has been occupied by Webb Winery which features a tasting room and a cafe.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, March 2019.

See Also:

A Treehouse Grows in Sharpsville
Main Street Memories
Walnut Street Businesses II


CONTI FAMILY: Return to Pofi, Italy, Part III

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

This is the last in a 3-part series on finding one’s roots. In this story, Sharpsville’s Gary Conti visits his father’s hometown in Pofi, Italy, and makes many joyful discoveries. If you are inspired to research your own family’s history, a good place to start is familysearch.com. Give it a try and, if your search brings interesting results, tell us about it!

“Pofi Panorama” by Anelli Giacinto [Source: http://www.tripmondo.com]

THE CONTI FAMILY: Return to Pofi, Italy

Part III: A Journey of My Own

By Gary Conti

Preparations

A lifelong desire of mine was to visit Italy and finally the dream was coming true: the date for departure was set for October 10, 2007.

One of the most exciting time of my life was during the months leading up to the trip. Preparations may have been a lot of work, but work that was both fun and rewarding. When Tony, the man from Pofi who had emailed me in January, called me the first time, we became friends during our hour-long conversation. Later, he called while on a business trip from Toronto to Cleveland and we arranged to meet at the Quality Inn on Route 18 in Hermitage, Pennsylvania (previously known as Hickory). As he pulled into the parking lot there were many people around but when he got out of the car and saw me, he seemed to know who I was. I asked how he knew and his response floored me. He said, “You have the facial features of Pofi!” Wow!

He went on to say that family research had been his hobby for many years but, until he found the Scurpa family that he was looking for, he had never heard of Sharpsville. That changed fast. As we exchanged emails and did research for my planned trip to Italy, he could see as I did the ship manifests of person after person from Pofi and surrounding towns who listed Sharpsville as their final stop. He didn’t have much time because he had to make a meeting in Cleveland so we soon parted, promising to keep in touch.

We’re Off to Pofi, Italy

In red: Province of Frosinone in which the Comune di Pofi, Italy, is located.

Finally, October 10th came and my wife and I were off for 10 days in Italy. I am not a good flyer after a very bad flight from Arizona to Pittsburgh back in 1988. This time, the meds I was told would put me to sleep never did a thing, so I watched two classic movies, Niagara with Marilyn Monroe and The Roaring Twenties with James Cagney, twice each to help the time go by.

Finally, we landed in Holland and ran to the gate to catch a final flight to Rome aboard Air Sweden. We arrived in Rome late morning and I thought it looked like any other city and was not impressed at first. That changed when the lights came on at night! Everything lit up, The Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, every place in the city just seemed to come alive at night.

We ate at a cafe that looked like we had seen it before and eventually we figured out why. It was the cafe early in the movie Roman Holiday, so now I watch that movie whenever I can for the memories of the trip.

Then came the trip of 60-plus miles south to Pofi on a double-decker train, a kind of transport that I’d never experienced before. As we approached the area of Pofi, the first thing I wondered was why would anybody leave this amazing beauty to come to Sharpsville? It was everything you think of in the Italian countryside: beautiful massive mountains everywhere with whole towns built up the sides. It would be like standing in the middle of Sharpsville and seeing every town around it at once. Amazing!

We were enjoying the view so much we missed our stop and ended up at the other side of Pofi. We were in trouble, like being out in Hartford, Ohio, and wanting to be in Sharpsville with no car! I went into a little store and began trying to explain what our issue was and starting to tell my surname and those of others from Sharpsville. We had a ride in seconds.

Arrival in Pofi

My wife Kimberly and I as tourists in Pofi, Italy, 2007.

I just wonder if we were the only Americans to visit Italy and end up being taken to our destination by a Russian because that is just what happened. Thank God she spoke English! We were dropped off at my friend Tony’s home on the same property that held his restaurant and inn. He was back in Canada by this time but his family put up the welcome sign and offered food. People from around the town heard of our arrival and started coming to see us. 

The food, as great as it was in Rome, was a step up in Pofi: peppers from the garden, pasta carbonara, salads with wine, limoncello (a lemon liqueur) and a brandy I’d never heard of called Grappa (Italian moonshine!) I wasn’t seeing very clearly after a couple of drinks. And this was just the lunch! After we spent a few hours at Tony’s house, we arranged that I return in three days for a trip to the town of Pofi to visit Tony’s son and the Comune.

A Visit to the Comune di Pofi

This time I traveled by myself. It was very early in the morning and I couldn’t help thinking how people that lived in Pofi could take a train to work in Rome every morning. How great would it be to do that from Sharpsville to Pittsburgh! This time I got off at the right station in the beautiful town of Ceccano. On the mountain by the tracks sat a church 1200 years old! 

Pasta Carbonara. [Source: http://www.taste.com.au]

As I looked around I realized I had another issue. The plan was for me to call Tony’s son from a pay phone, a convenience that was still around in Italy. The problem was they did not operate like the ones I had known back in the States. I was stuck again. I started walking around looking for help when an Italian woman asked me, Gary Conti from Sharpsville, for directions. Wow! I couldn’t help her but she helped me by finding someone to assist me with the phone.

When Tony’s son picked me up at the station and took me right into old Pofi, we did what all Italians do first: Go to a cafe for espresso.

What an amazing town! Old cobblestone streets with alleys running between homes and a medieval tower with a clock at top of a hill. Nothing like that in the Shenango Valley for sure! This day the town was having an Italian-style flea market and people were everywhere.

We went to the comune (municipality office) where Tony’s son introduced me to whomever came in. I worked at the time for UPS and when an Italian UPS driver came in and was told I was a co-worker he smiled and laughed.

A street in Pofi, Italy. [Source: Pinterest.com.]

From there the clerk took us to a rack on a wall with books of surnames on the side and said, as he helped a man renew his driver record, to look them over and see if I see a name I know. Immediately I saw Conti, Gori, Campoli, Fornelli, Depofi, Molinari, DeQuili (DeJulia) Campagna, Rossi, and on and on. Every single book had names with ties to Sharpsville and were names I had known forever.

Another thing I found out that day was that Pofi had other things in common with Sharpsville. Pofi’s population (about 4,200 inhabitants) was almost right on the button with us. The town and the outlying area reminded me so much of both our town and South Pymatuning. The landscape changed from town to rural area in just seconds.

One of the men then told me something that surprised me. He said that as many people who made the trip to America and never returned, there almost as many who worked a few years and returned to Pofi and bought property. He told me that I was without question looking at some land that was bought with money made in the mills of Sharpsville. That was something that I had never thought about. 

The Journey Continues

The next few days marked the end of the trip. I really hated to leave. The people of Pofi had given me bottles of homemade wine that somehow made it back through customs and did not break and did not last long back home.

Since that trip, I keep finding new information. About a year ago at work, I received a call on my cell phone from Tony. He was helping someone in Ceccano, Italy, who had deeds with family names but did not know the location of the place in America they had moved to. Tony took a look and told her that he not only knew where this town called Sharpsville was but knew someone who lived there! He gave me a name I did not know. When I searched for it on the internet using Google, I learned that it was again a well-known name in Sharpsville with the Italian spelling. The names on the deeds were Gabe Develli and his sister! Gabe was a friend of my father’s and his son Tony and I played basketball on the championship team at St. Bartholomew’s together. It goes on!

— Gary Conti, SHS 1981, Sharpsville, PA.

See also:

THE CONTI FAMILY: From Pofi to Sharpsville, Part I

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

CONTI FAMILY: From Pofi to Sharpsville, Part I

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

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: From Pofi to Sharpsville – An Italian Christmas, A Golden Childhood
THE CONTI FAMILY, Part III: A Return to Pofi, Italy – A Journey of My Own
Angel’s Casino: Here Came the Bride
Italians in Sharpsville
Mom and Dad DeJulia


.

ITALIANS IN SHARPSVILLE

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

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!

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

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.