Small Town Memories

Exploring the history of SHENANGO VALLEY, PA, one story at a time.

Tag: Angel’s Casino

THE TWO GEORGE MAHANEYS Part II

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

This month marks the fifth-year anniversary of Small Town Memories! We’ve been going strong since August 2014 when the first post, “Coffee Stir,” was published. Who knew that so much history — this is our 78th post — could be gathered for a blogsite that focused mostly on life in one small town during one short period in the mid-20th century! Many thanks to those who joined with us to preserve and share the history of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, and its surrounding area.

Stories contributed by Eric Bombeck, this site’s co-editor, are helping to expand the time frame and geographical area of Small Town Memories to include the Shenango Valley, a place that the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce describes as “a charming tapestry of small cities, boroughs and townships.” Stay tuned for Eric’s next story.

NOTE: Posts that have been published in the past are sometimes updated or corrected, so remember to check back on your favorites from time to time to see if anything has changed or something new, such as a photo or comment, has been added. The latest additions are photographs of Reynolds Drive-In and the pavilion at Buhl Park as they look today, submitted by Mike Angel on a recent return visit to Sharpsville, his hometown. Also, a second advertisement for Mahaney’s Clothing Store, submitted by Eric Bombeck, has been included in last month’s blog, Part I of “The Two George Mahaneys.”


“Young” George F. Mahaney

“Young” George F. Mahaney did not exactly follow in the footsteps of his father, “Old” George D. Mahaney, who was a well-known businessman and longtime Burgess of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania. Instead, Young George carved out his own notable path. 

George F. Mahaney: Memories of Early 1900s Sharpsville

In a 1979 interview originally published in The Herald, George F. Mahaney, born in 1908, remembers details of life as it was in Sharpsville in his earliest days. This interview can be read in full in the November 2012 Newsletter for the Sharpsville Area Historical Society under “Reminiscences of George F. Mahaney Jr.” Among the various bits of Sharpsville’s history that Mahaney related are the following excerpts:

  • In 1915, the only three places in Mercer County licensed to sell alcoholic beverages were located in Sharpsville: The Knapp Hotel on Main and Walnut streets run by Mahaney’s father, the Welch House owned by Martin Welch on Fourth and Main, and Pierce House, owned by James Pierce where the plaza is located now on Mercer and Shenango streets.
  • example of streetcar

    “Thornton Hollow Street Car and Public Bridge near Sharpsville, PA.” Used with permission from Wayne Cole, author of Ghost Rails XI: Shenango Valley Steel : Sharon Steel Co, ColeBooks, Beaver Falls, PA, 2014.

    All three hotels followed the law that liquor could not be served after 9 p.m. Special streetcars would arrive in Sharpsville around 5 or 6 p.m., packed with people to visit the hotels before the 9 p.m. deadline. The streetcar operated until 12:30 a.m. Sometimes the motorman would sleep in the streetcar because he had to begin driving it again at 5:30 a.m. to take people to work.

  • People would go to an Erie Railroad station at the foot of Mercer Avenue to board a Pullman train for New York City. This service ended in the 1920s.
  • Downtown Sharpsville had a number of meat markets in the early 1900s: Lamont’s, and Burchart’s, for example. The butchers Sam Faber and Jim Rose sold only meat, which they cut fresh as you waited. Mahaney recalls that the price of 1 1/2 pounds of veal was 45 cents.
  • Sharpsville’s grocery stores in the early 1900s included Holland’s, Mehl’s and Byerly’s. Groceries were delivered by horse and wagons and the kids knew the names of all the horses. There were also milk delivery by Deneen’s Dairy, ice delivery and an ice-cream salesman in a little horse-drawn buggy. Small cones cost a penny and large cones a nickel.
  • Sharpsville featured three livery stables, one on Second Street (which eventually became Hanlon’s Hall for roller-skating then Angel’s Casino for parties, dances and community meetings in the 1950s). The other two were on Main between Walnut and Mercer streets and on Mercer Avenue.

Mahaney continued with anecdotes concerning unpaved streets, gas lights, poolrooms, “Sharpsville Days,” railroad travel, movies, movie theaters, Pierce’s Opera House, vaudeville acts, sports, home ownership, ice cream parlors and the post office. 

George F. Mahaney: Founder of Sharpsville’s Santa Project

GGeorge F. Mahaney (left) & Sid Owen

George F. Mahaney at right with Sid Owen enjoying a coffee stir at Cricks’ soda fountain in 1953. The original photo was taken for a national magazine’s article about the Sharpsville Service Club’s Santa Claus visits. This photo, from the July 2017 Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter is used courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

For the last 75-plus years, Sharpsville has had a special project that has set this small town off from most, maybe all, others. A day or two before Christmas Day, Santa Claus pays a visit to each Sharpsville child (whose porch light is turned on to beckon Santa). A great deal of preparation goes on beforehand so that Santa’s visit is as smooth as possible. All of this is accomplished by volunteers.

Much credit for this delightful tradition goes to George F. Mahaney and his friend Sid Owen. In the blog “Wall-to-Wall Santas in Sharpsville” on this site, Gail Nitch Hanes (SHS 1964) writes the following about the origins of Sharpsville’s Santa Project:

It all began in 1943 when George Mahaney Jr., a Sharpsville attorney, asked his friend Sid Owen to ”play Santa” for his children. Well, Sid was such a big hit with Mahaney’s children that he was asked by neighbors to drop in to visit their homes as well that night. 

The following year, both he and George dressed in the red suits and visited even more homes. By 1947-48 there were so many homes and children to visit, Mr. Mahaney recruited members of the Sharpsville Service Club to assume ‘Santa duty,’ which began our town’s most beloved tradition. This year [2014] marks 71 consecutive years that Service Club members dressed in their red and white suits and, with the help of their special ‘elves,’ scattered throughout the Borough on December 23rd bringing smiles and the Christmas spirit to the children and their families.

Santa Claus suits

Left to right: Stacia Moore, George F. Mahaney, Ralph Mehler I. c. 1958 or 1959. (Photograph courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

The photograph on the right was included in a newspaper article c. 1958 or 1959, with this caption:

“SHARPSVILLE CARRIES OUT 11th ANNUAL SANTA PROJECT. Twenty-one Santas and an equal number of ‘helpers’ will visit every child in Sharpsville, PA, on Christmas Eve. Miss Stacia Moore, employee of Sharpsville Dry Cleaners, takes the Santa uniform from storage for Atty. George Mahaney, chairman, (center) and Ralph Mehler [I], who is ready to serve as Santa for the 11th consecutive year. ….” (Unnamed newspaper, no date, possibly 1958 or 1959. Photo courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

Read more about Sharpsville’s Santa Project on these pages:
WALL-TO-WALL SANTAS in Sharpsville
A SHARPSVILLE CHRISTMAS
SHARPSVILLE’S SANTAS 

George F. Mahaney: His Career As a Lawyer

Both George F. and his younger brother John “Jack” Knapp grew up to become lawyers. George Mahaney lived most of his life in Sharpsville and, as of the 1950s, his office was located in the Boyle Building, Sharon.

George Mahaney was a member of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB), a statewide organization founded in 1911 that served Pennsylvania’s borough governments, representing their interests and helping to shape their laws. Mahaney served as the president of PSAB from 1967 to 1968. 

As president, his talk in March 1968 before the Ford City VFW indicated the direction he felt that boroughs should take. According to The Kittanning Paper, his suggestions included “more power for boroughs to enter into mergers, consolidations, adopting home rule charters, removing all existing debit limits, and permitting the legislature to adopt new debt ceilings.”

See Also: THE TWO GEORGE MAHANEYS: Part I (George D. Mahaney)

Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958),
Goodyear, AZ, September 1, 2019


Sources

Cole, Wayne A, and Vince Skibo. Ghost Rails XI: Shenango Valley Steel: Sharon Steel Co. ColeBooks, Beaver Falls, PA, 2014. Print.

Hanes, Gail Nitch (SHS 1964). “Wall-to-Wall Santas in Sharpsville: A Beloved Memory From Our Past…. .” Small Town Memories, December 2017. Internet resource.

Historical Headlines – March 29.” The Kittanning Paper. Entry for March 29, 1968, describes Mahaney’s talk before the Ford City VFW suggesting “more power for boroughs.” http://www.kittanningpaper.com/2018/03/29/historical-headlines-march-29/7228. (Accessed 7 August 2019.) Internet resource.

“A Look Back: Reminiscences of George F. Mahaney Jr.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, November 2012, Vol. 1, No. 4, pages 1-3. (From an interview in The Herald, 1979, about Sharpsville in the early 1900s.) (Accessed 7 August 2019.) Internet resource.

Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB). https://boroughs.org/subpage.php?link=PSAB%20Past%20Presidents. (Accessed 7 August 2019.) Internet resource.

“Uniquely Sharpsville: The Coffee Stir.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, July 2017, Vol. VI, No. 2, page 3. (Accessed 7 August 2019.) Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHC2-GSX : accessed 7 August 2019), George J (sic) Mahaney in the household of George Mahaney, Sharpsville, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 72, sheet 10A, line 17, family 255. Internet resource.


SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL TRADITIONS

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Much has been written about the pros and cons of following traditions. Some see traditions as stifling growth and creativity. But traditions can also be seen as helping us to connect with the past and giving us guidance and comfort as we go forward. Here are some of the traditions that led us Seniors toward graduation in the 1950s. They are the same traditions, with only slight variations, that helped many others before and after our time to get through those final years of high school.


Senior High School Traditions

Ann Angel, dressed for the prom.

Ann Angel, dressed for the prom, 1958.

The Junior-Senior Prom

The Class of 1958 was responsible for planning and setting up the Junior-Senior Prom that was held in 1957. The following year we attended the Spring Fantasy Dance designed by the then Junior Class.

In 1957, the subject was “Calypso,” inspired by the popularity of Jamaican influence at the time in music and film. Remember Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” or “Day-O”?

After much hard work by most of our class members, the ordinarily mundane gymnasium interior magically became a tropical Caribbean island, complete with two young boys in island garb sitting in an open-sided straw hut. It was a dreamlike time for all — the guys in their rented white-coat tuxedos and the girls in floor-length or quarter-length gowns of several layers of pastel tulle — as we dined and danced to the music of Joe Cann and His Orchestra.

Sharpsville High School Yearbook, "Devil's Log," 1958.

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

Yearbooks

It’s surprising how longstanding some high school traditions can be! Leafing through my mother’s 1935 yearbook, my daughters’ from the 1980s, and my own in 1958, I’m reminded of the French saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” These three generations of yearbooks recorded similar subjects: student photographs, of course, and those of students participating in sports, activities in the arts and many of the same types of clubs.

And there were the handwritten autographs by fellow students in each book expressing the same kind wishes and remembrances: “Don’t forget all of our good times…,” “To a real swell friend and classmate…,” “Remember those trig classes and how we suffered,” “Wishing you the best in your future” and so forth.

 Class Rings

The class ring was a big deal in the 1950s, particularly if you had a sweetheart who would then wear it on a chain around the neck (or wrapped in tape to fit his or her finger) to signal that the two of you were “going steady.” I don’t think I ever actually wore my own ring, but it does show the wear and tear of having been in the possession of my then one-and-only.

Today, a teenager can price-check rings in an assortment of stores, including Walmart, but Jostens Inc. was our sole provider in the 1950s and 1960s. (Jostens started the class ring tradition over 100 years ago!) I don’t recall the exact price of my blue-stone, 10-karat, gold 1958 SHS ring, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t even close to the 3-digit prices of today’s rings! (Read about a “found” class ring below.)

Click on photos to enlarge.

…And All Those Other Senior Traditions

Then it was October and time for the school homecoming game (alas, the Blue Devils lost to Meadville), followed by the homecoming dance. These activities were reigned over by the Pigskin Queen and her two attendants who were voted for by students from a group of six that had been pre-selected by the football squad.

Along with attending proms, assembling yearbooks, and getting our class rings, the Sharpsville High School Class of 1958 continued to slog through the usual senior-year schoolwork, such as taking exams and writing our theses. Many of us attended a class trip to Washington, DC, others put on fundraising events to pay for these activities, and we all paid our various fees, ordered commencement invitations, acquired caps and gowns and practiced the graduation ceremony.

And on the designated Class Day, we celebrated our achievements by acting as wild and carefree as we knew how, 1950s style. First, we dressed alike in the obligatory class outfit: blue and white striped sailor blouse and hat for girls and white pants or shorts. The boys dressed similarly, except for their striped shirts. Then, (I read this in the 1958 Devil’s Log yearbook but don’t recall it), we presented a Class Day Program for the Juniors that featured “dancing, singing and jokes.” And lastly, we noisily cruised Sharpsville streets in decorated cars for the rest of the day looking for something else to do. As I recall, I don’t think we were very successful in the latter activity. In any case, we tried hard to make it a day to remember and I guess, in that, we were successful.

Despite the passage of time and changes in styles and technology, these high-school traditions live on. We’d love to read about your memories of this special time in our lives, when we were preparing to bravely leave our teen years behind and take on whatever adulthood would bring.

See Also:

Junior High School 

SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!

–Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ.


Found Class Ring

In the days of Angel’s Casino, someone in our family found a class ring while cleaning up the dance hall after a record hop. My father, originally intending to find the owner, put it in a box and apparently forgot about it. Recently, the ring was found again among his possessions by my brother, Mike Angel. It features the letter “H” (possibly Hickory High School?] on a red stone and the date 1962. Three-letter initials are engraved on the inside of the band. If you think it belongs to you or someone you know, please let us know in Comments.

“H” Found Ring, 1962.

"H" Found Ring, 1962. Side view.

“H” Found Ring, 1962. Side view.


THE DAY THE CANADIANS CAME TO TOWN

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

There must be something deep in the primordial souls of girls in their early teens to be drawn like a magnet to certain individuals of similar age, whether a rock star or movie idol or perhaps just someone who looks and acts very cool.

This story, originally described in detail in my 1955 diary, tells of such an encounter by several of us Sharpsville girlfriends with a group of Canadian boys, how it affected us at the time, and how – and maybe why – those feelings are still remembered over sixty years later. (Actual names of the Sharpsville individuals mentioned in this story have been replaced by initials unless permissions have been granted to use full names.)


Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay.com

November 11, 1955. We still called it Armistice Day, although this national holiday was renamed Veterans’ Day just the year before. On that day, Sharpsville, like many other towns and cities across the country, commemorated the World War I peace agreement with an Armistice Day Parade down Main Street.

My girlfriend JC and I were just happy for a day away from school. Shivering in the brisk cold air of a Friday afternoon, we joined other onlookers next to a judge’s stand set up in front of the Gordon Ward Appliances store.

The usual flag-waving and baton-twirling groups, veterans’ clubs, and civic organizations stepped smartly past us, including the Sharpsville High School band and a marching unit from George Junior Republic, a nearby boys-only institution. Then one particular group grabbed our attention. To us, there was nothing “usual” about this regiment of approximately 40 young guys in uniforms nor their name and origin. As their banner told us, they were cadets affiliated with Governor General’s Horse Guards in Toronto, Ontario. I learned much later that the Horse Guards had a long history of active service in the defense of Canada. Since WWII, the organization volunteers its service on United Nations missions augmenting Canada’s Regular Army. The boys in this parade weren’t riding horses, but their red and blue uniforms and soldierly bearing were quite enough to impress us.

When the last of the parade passed by, JC and I headed for the football stadium to watch a special marching exhibition by the cadets scheduled for later in the evening. On the way, we kept our eye on those Canadian boys who were milling about, their brightly-colored uniforms standing out on the wintry gray streets and sidewalks — and who were also watching us. We soon came upon two other school friends, JW and JG, who shared our interest in these visitors from another planet. JW, the more brazen of the four of us, summoned enough nerve to call out to several of the cadets complimenting them on their marching. This was all that was needed for several of the boys to cross the street and join us. Then the fun really began.

sharpsville_canadian2

Ann Angel & Larry, a Horse Guard cadet, November 1955, Sharpsville, PA

For the next several hours, we walked around town, talking and laughing and joking and teasing, until we ended up at JG’s house, tired but too engrossed in each other to give up yet. One of the boys had a camera that was passed to JG’s mother to record our get-together in black-and-white photos, which served forever after as confirmations of this momentous occasion.

But all good times have an ending, and, like Cinderella’s, ours ended at midnight when the boys courteously walked us to our respective homes. My house was located next door to a dance hall that my Dad owned. There, a reception was being held for the parade participants, complete with food and dancing. Larry, the guy I found myself paired with by that time, and I stopped in and he introduced me to even more of his cadet buddies. When one of the boys asked me to dance, I felt as if I were in a Disney movie.

When Larry and I finally arrived at my door he asked for my pink chiffon scarf “‘cause in Canada that’s what the girls give to the boys.” He gave me his address and said “so long” instead of goodbye because “saying goodbye would mean forever” and he planned to return in a few months. What lines! But I soaked them up like a brand new sponge.

In my next diary entry, dated Monday, November 13, 1955, I gushed, “All us kids do now is talk about those Canadians. And no wonder! They beat Sharpsville boys by a mile.” Of course, the cadets had the advantages of being exotic “foreigners,” looking smart, and, above all, they had paid flattering attention to us. We never tired of going over each detail of that night — as we met at Sandy’s over pizza or at Crick’s Drug Store over phosphate sodas and a shared bag of Wise potato chips. In the process of reliving the fun we had together and the hopes of capturing it again in the future, we became close friends, probably the best overall outcome of the whole experience.

But seeing those young guys ever again was not to be. As fervently as they had promised in their letters, even telegrams, that they would return and as much as we hoped it would be true, time stretched into months, then a year, without so much as a glimpse of them again. The number of letters and photographs we exchanged dwindled along with our initial excitement until the memories moved into the background of our minds. When I finally realized this was the case, I asked my diary, “Now what will we do?” In hindsight, I can answer that. We can –and did– live out the rest of our lives in even more compelling ways and in far different places than we young and innocent girls could ever imagine.

EPILOGUE

In 1992, I traveled through Pennsylvania with my daughter and husband, stopping at the places I had lived long ago: Wheatland, Sharpsville, and Cleveland. In Sharpsville, I had a delightful reunion with two friends from my school days, one of whom was featured in this story. My friend and I reminisced about the Canadian Boys Event of 1955 and the range of emotions we felt at the time. Not only did those and many more shared memories reignite that long-ago friendship but they also indicated to us how much we have — and haven’t — changed in the sixty years since that time.

See Also THREE LOST BOYS OF SHARPSVILLE

–Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Phoenix, AZ, March 2016


TOM THUMB WEDDING & THE PHC

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

In 1946, when my brother, Michael, and I joined other children for several Saturdays at the imposing Protected Home Circle Building to practice walking down an aisle as pretend wedding participants, I don’t think we really understood what it was all about. On the day of the Tom Thumb Wedding, however, I’m sure I felt quite elegant when my mother tied matching ribbons in my hair and dressed me in a homemade pink chiffon gown adorned with flower appliques. My brother was decked out in a little tuxedo, also sewn by my mother, and probably wishing he were back home climbing trees in his front yard instead of participating in this curious ceremony.

The Protected Home Circle (PHC), which sponsored the mock wedding, was a fraternal life insurance company founded in Sharon, Pennsylvania, in 1886. The company not only provided insurance benefits to families, but also sponsored social, patriotic, and religious activities for young people as a deterrent against juvenile delinquency. I recall my brother and I, at a very young age, attending ballroom dancing classes and watching a puppet show during a Halloween costume party in that massive four-story white brick PHC Building.

But the Tom Thumb wedding was the big show. This elaborate event consisted of 52 little boys and girls none older than 12 years except the teenaged “cleric” and his two attendants. Looking at the photograph of this wedding party, taken 70 years ago, I can imagine once again the long trek down the aisle between chairs of proud parents and other relatives, in step with Richard Wagner’s “Wedding Chorus.”

In the lead would be the numerous bridesmaids in long dresses of a variety of pastel colors and styles escorted by groomsmen in black attire. Six of the bridesmaids, including a pair of twins, carried bouquets of flowers which must have ranked them higher than the rest of the bridesmaids.

Next were the tiniest of the tots. First, the flower girl wearing a wide-brimmed hat and carrying her little basket of petals that she scattered on the bride’s path. She would have been accompanied by the ringbearer, distinguished by his white suit and short pants, and carrying the white satin pillow with the rings.

Then the main event: the lovely bride on her “father’s” arm, the long train of her gown held by a page, another wee boy dressed similar to the ring-bearer as they walked slowly towards the officiant and groom waiting on the “altar.”

Tom Thumb Wedding sponsored by The Protected Home Circle, Fall 1946.

Tom Thumb Wedding sponsored by The Protected Home Circle, Sharon, PA, Fall 1946. Michael Angel is in top row, directly between bride and groom; Ann Angel is third from right, top row.

The bride did not hold a bouquet, at least not in the formal photograph taken afterward. Instead, it appears that she is holding a prayer book. The photograph doesn’t give much indication that we were enjoying the occasion, so maybe Mike and I were not the only ones who were just cluelessly playing our roles as we had been trained. After “vows” were exchanged and the photograph was taken, we filed out in the proper recessional order and then headed with our parents for the reception in a banquet hall.

Reception following Tom Thumb Wedding., sponsored by The Protected Home Circle, Sharon, PA. Fall 1946. Ann & Michael Angel seated at table, 4th and 5th from left. Mother, Susie Angel in upper left corner.

Reception following Tom Thumb Wedding, sponsored by The Protected Home Circle, Sharon, PA, Fall 1946. Ann & Michael Angel seated at table, 4th and 5th from left.

Marriage of Livinia Warren and General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton), February 10, 1863, at Grace Episcopal Church, Manhattan, New York, NY.

Marriage of Livinia Warren and General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton), February 10, 1863, at Grace Episcopal Church, Manhattan, New York, NY.

Tom Thumb weddings were originally inspired by one of showman P.T. Barnum’s many publicity events in the late 1800s. Barnum promoted popular museum attractions that included performances by the little person Charles Stratton, an actor whom Barnum renamed “Gen. Tom Thumb” after the English fairy tale character who was no larger than his father’s thumb. Barnum arranged and funded an actual wedding of Charles Stratton to equally minute Lavinia Warren in the winter of 1863. Their sensational wedding was a welcome diversion for the country during the dark days of the Civil War. Soon after, re-enactments of this diminutive wedding, featuring children, became popular as youth activities or fundraisers across the country and, after rising and falling in acceptance for over 150 years, continue to be held to this day.

The Protected Home Circle Building has its own story. According to John Zavinski’s article, “Fraternal Group Rose From Ashes of ’36 Sharon Fire,” in the April 2011 issue of Life & Times, an original yellow-brick castle-like building of the same height was destroyed by fire on April 21, 1936, after just 33 years of existence. Exactly a year later, on the same East State Street location on the Shenango River, a cornerstone was dedicated to the construction of today’s art deco building.

As of the early 2000s, after a change to mutual life insurance and a short-lived merger, the PHC company is no longer in operation. Today the building, now known as River Walk Place, is owned and occupied by Gilbert’s Risk Solutions, a venerable local firm that also sells insurance.

The Protected Home Circle (PHC) Building and the Shenango River, Sharon, PA. Source: http://www.tara-inn.com, accessed 2019-04-28. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Michael’s little black tuxedo also had a second life. Almost ten years after the Tom Thumb wedding, it was worn by my younger brother, Patrick, in Sharpsville’s annual Halloween parade and afterward in a costume contest that was held at Angel’s Casino. He was awarded the prize for wearing the Best Costume on Boy Under Six.

 – Ann Angel Eberhardt, SHS 1958, Phoenix, AZ


For more information, see:

Benjamin, Melanie. “America’s Royal Wedding: General and Mrs. Tom Thumb.” THE BLOG on Huffpost Style. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-benjamin/royal-wedding_b_850540.html (accessed 01-30-2016). Internet resource.

Benjamin, Melanie. The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel. New York: Delacorte Press, 2011. Print.

Weeks, Linton. “The Wondrous World Of Tom Thumb Weddings.” http://www.npr.org/sections/theprotojournalist/2014/11/15/363787614/the-wondrous-world-of-tom-thumb-weddings. Internet resource.

Zavinski, John. “Fraternal group rose from ashes of ’36 Sharon fire.” Life & Times, April 2011, page 22. http://www.zavinski.com/columnnowthen/pages/1104-nowthen.pdf (accessed 01-30-2016). Internet resource.


ROLLER-SKATING AT THORNTON HALL

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

My earliest memories of roller-skating featured a slate sidewalk. It consisted of only about 5 or 6 dark bluish-grey slabs. Its smooth, hollow-sounding surface was coveted by skaters because the rest of the sidewalk was the usual noisier teeth-rattling blend of pebbles and cement. In the late 1940s, when a little community still existed in the flatlands of Wheatland, PA, (obliterated in 1985 by a tornado), we kids would gather at the slate sidewalk in front of my third grade teacher’s home on Church Street to roller-skate round and round on it because it was the smoothest ride in town. Those were the days of all-metal 4-wheeled skates, that we attached to our shoes using skate keys.

Then in the 1950s we learned about indoor roller-skating rinks. Our family had moved next door to Hanlon’s Hall, a former skating rink with a beautiful wood floor. What a glorious surface we then had to skate on and how much improved were those wooden-wheeled high-top shoe skates!

My father eventually purchased the building, renamed it “Angel’s Casino“, and rented it out to skating parties, wedding receptions, civic groups, and teen dances. But it wasn’t the only recreational hall around. Thornton Hall was the nearest popular skating and bowling venue, located close to the border between Sharpsville and Sharon.

Here are Judy Caldwell Nelson’s memories of roller-skating at Thornton Hall in the 1950s.


Thornton Hall, located near the border of Sharpsville and Sharon, PA, a favorite teen gathering place in the 1950s. Revisited by Ann Angel Eberhardt in 1993.

Thornton Hall, located near the border of Sharpsville and Sharon, PA, was a favorite teen gathering place in the 1950s. Revisited by Ann Angel Eberhardt in 1993.

At the corner of Hall and Thornton avenues sat a large brick building named Thornton Hall. The front side was occupied by a grocery store, the term supermarket not yet used, and a pharmacy. The backside was the entrance to a roller rink with a bowling center above.

My friend C____ was an excellent skater, frequenting Thornton Hall’s rink on many Friday nights. She owned her own skates and case, sure marks that she knew how to skate backward. I was frequently persuaded to accompany her and had to rent old and smelly skates with an ugly brown stripe down the back marking me as an inferior performer. While the lovely C____ gracefully glided and spun to the organ music of the “flea hop” with partners just as accomplished, I struggled to remain upright along the rail waiting for the next “free skate” announcement. That’s when all the clumsy beginners, like me, took to the highly polished maple floor. Unfailingly, I would fall at least three times during the two-hour skate session and carry home sore buttocks and bruised hips. I never became a good skater and was never asked to skate dance. After C____’s father passed away, she, her mother and sister moved to Florida and my trips to Thornton Hall roller rink ended. C____, a close friend, never offered to show me the finer points of skating.

Even though I spent more time sitting out than on the floor, I never got bored, for a great amount of romantic drama could be observed as these evenings progressed. Sobbing girls and pouting boys argued back and forth holding me enthralled with their intense teenage emotions. Class rings were given and returned, sometimes even thrown in the general direction of the owner. The women’s restroom was often a drama queen’s sanctuary. There a sobbing “queen” would be attended by two or three friends attempting to comfort her as she wailed away her latest experience with an unfaithful boyfriend.

My big claim to fame at Thornton was being known as the sister of Jack Caldwell, evidently considered a “cool cat” by the girls his age.

Oh, the gliding couples! It was Rollywood to me. The music was so beautiful and there was a large spinning globe covered in tiny bits of mirror suspended from the ceiling. During the couples dances, the lights would be lowered and colored spotlights would reflect from that wondrous globe onto the floor. The pastel lights would circle around the floor and the skaters bodies as they moved dreamlike around the rink.

My older cousin, V____ C____ was an excellent skater as well as a majorette in Sharon High School. I remember seeing her skating with her then boyfriend with colored lights floating over them as they circled around again and again.

sharpsville_image_skatesAlso, my older sister Roberta Jessie Caldwell was a wondrous skater and I enviously watched her many times skating around. She never had a lack of partners. The dedicated skaters wore short skirts, often with net slips underneath. Their skates were beautiful and had special – as in expensive – wheels and toe stops so they could stop on a dime.

Like Roberta and my younger sister Irene, I was never a good skater. My partners were always my girl friends. We would join hands and skate around the floor. In this way, we could help support each other and lessen the chances of falling.

On cooler summer days we would walk home down Ridge Avenue. with the gentle wind fanning us and rustling the leaves of the maple trees that lined the street. On hotter days we would duck into the Thornton Market and grab a Popsicle to cool us off before our walk home.

— Judy Caldwell Nelson (SHS 1958), Shoreline, WA

See Also: Paperboys & Pinsetters


 

ANGEL’S CASINO: A Place to Party

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

This is the last installment of my memories of the Casino. Next week, we’ll take a look at a new subject and author. Keep those comments and submissions coming! What events do you remember attending at “Angel’s”?


Record hops and wedding celebrations weren’t the only types of gatherings at Angel’s Casino. In his memoir, Dad wrote:

Utilization of the former livery stable under my ownership evolved slowly and unevenly…. Soon after purchase, the building was rented for roller-skating on the fine maple floor, mostly for kids’ private birthday parties – at first to give some semblance of occupancy. This activity lasted only a short while, because rentals by adult groups such as wedding parties, civic and fraternal groups, and clubs were more in demand.

…[E]very evening of the week, except Sunday, the hall was used for some function or other. There were only two activities promoted by yours truly – a regular weekly dinner for the Kiwanis Club serving 15 to 20 members and Friday night dances. The rest of the rentals were privately sponsored.

Besides birthday parties and Kiwanis Club dinners, the hall was used for many other functions, such as square dancing by the Masons, a style show by the Foster Shoppe, card parties by the Women’s Auxiliary, a fur coat show by the Women’s Club, and banquets for the Degree of Honor Society, Sharpsville Service Club, and the Sharpsville Patrol boys. There were also skating parties for a variety of groups, including the Sharon Herald newspaper employees, Girl Scouts, and Shenango Furnace Company employees. An entry in my 1954 diary describes the day when we kids watched wide-eyed as Paige Palmer, the hostess of one of the earliest televised fitness-oriented television shows, “The Paige Palmer Show,” stepped from a luxurious black car to speak before a Women’s Club meeting.

Click on image to enlarge.

My hard-working mother, Susie Hall Angel, was in charge of preparing the meals served at club meetings and was often praised by the guests for her tasty home-style cooking. A typical plate would consist of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable, such as baked chicken, creamed potatoes, and green beans. The dinner would end with a simple dessert, such as ice cream or fresh-baked cake or cookies.

Dad would recruit family members and friends to assist my mother in the kitchen and with the other chores required to run a community meeting place. Dad paid us something like 50 cents an hour to sell tickets and pop at record hops, wait on tables, and help clean up after these events. As I wrote in my 1956 diary, “There must have been a million dishes to wash.” But earning some spending money usually offset any reluctance I had to do these chores.

After leaving Sharpsville, I was distracted by college, marriage, and career, and lost track of the hall activities. After my parents retired and relocated to my mother’s home state of Kentucky, they sold the hall to Donaldson’s Funeral Home located on the corner of North Second and West Main streets.

In 1992, I returned to visit the hometown of my youth, only to find the Casino, having apparently run its course, was razed and replaced by a parking lot for the funeral home. What an inauspicious ending for “Angel’s Casino,” a place that enabled numerous community gatherings, and thus held so many fond memories for those of us who lived in the Sharpsville area in the 1950s and ’60s!

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, Arizona, April 2013.
— Excerpts are from “Trivia & Me,” (1996) by August D. Angel.


See Also:
ANGEL’S CASINO: The Early Years
ANGEL’S CASINO: Here Came the Bride
ANGEL’S CASINO: The Record Hops


ANGEL’S CASINO: Here Came the Bride

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

After two weeks of visiting family in Kentucky and North Carolina, I’m back at the keyboard with another Sharpsville story. This post is the third of 4 installments covering my memories of Angel’s Casino, the dance hall that my family owned and operated in Sharpsville, PA, during the 1950s and 1960s.


Angel’s Casino became so frequent a venue for wedding receptions that all that revelry was wearing us out. To possibly discourage some prospective renters, Dad eventually raised the hall rental cost to $500 a day. The renter was responsible for decorations, food, refreshments, and music.

But, oh those celebrations! Much of Sharpsville’s population consisted of people of Eastern European descent, and they knew how to throw a party. According to my dad:

Wedding celebrations and dances were strictly Saturday affairs at Angel’s and booked months in advance. The hall was rented for 24 hours, 6 am Saturday to 6 am Sunday for Polish, Italian, or Greek wedding festivities, each with its own germane flavor. An “American” wedding paled in comparison to the joyous celebrations of these ethnic counterparts.

By late afternoon of the wedding day, we children would watch eagerly for the bride, bridesmaids, groom, and others of the wedding party to arrive at the reception. When the bride stepped out of a fancy car wearing a billowing white gown and veil and holding her bouquet of flowers, we gasped in awe.

Angel's Casino: Here Came the BrideSometimes the neighborhood kids would put on their good Sunday clothes and attend the wedding, invited or not, to pick up a little tulle bag of almonds coated in pastel-colored candy or have a bit of the wedding cake. Mike recalls, “I smoked my first cigar that was for the taking at the wedding reception tables. I also ate a lot of the candy-covered almonds.”

We loved to watch the attendees as they danced the polka, waltz, or jitterbug to a live band that usually included an accordion and a saxophone. I don’t recall whether full-sized dinners were served, but there were plenty of desserts, and alcoholic drinks flowed freely for the adults.

When the wedding was traditionally Italian, the bride and the bride’s father would dance first, followed by the bride and groom. As the newlyweds twirled about the dance floor, a hat or bag was passed among the onlookers who were expected to fill it with money. And then the intoxicating music of the Tarantella was played as guests dance-stepped together in a circle, some waving handkerchiefs above their heads. After many glasses of wine, guests would repeatedly cheer phrases in their native tongue, wishing the newlyweds good luck and happiness, accompanied by enthusiastic applause and much laughter.

Meanwhile, several young guys would often stand on the landing at the side entrance and engage each other in the Italian hand game of Morra. Players would extend their arms to display a certain number of fingers while simultaneously shouting in Italian the total number of fingers they estimated would be presented by both players. If no one guessed the correct sum or the players guessed the same number, the game continued until there was a clear winner, based on a point system. On many a Saturday night I tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep to the sounds of their exuberant bets backed up by lively dance music just below my bedroom window. According to my brother Mike:

I always referred to it as “Motto”; at least that’s what it sounded like. All the young men and boys in Sharpsville and Shenango Valley knew how to play. I was good at it! A lot of money was won and lost betting on the game.

The bride and groom usually left at midnight, but guests continued their merrymaking for several hours. By that time, I was desperately wanting to sleep and counting the hours until they finally went home.

Years later, “The Deer Hunter”, a 1978 movie about the Vietnam War, opened with scenes from a wedding reception located in western Pennsylvania. The Russian-American traditions the film portrayed reminded me of those wedding receptions at Angel’s Casino.

On the day following a large event such as this, our family and friends met at the hall to bring things back down to earth. We removed the decorations from the walls and ceiling and scrubbed down the kitchen, bar, and restrooms. Then we sprinkled the floor with saved-up dampened coffee grounds to keep the dust down as we began sweeping. To clean such a wide expanse of dance floor, we would form a sort of brigade, each holding a hog-bristle push-broom and sweeping in unison, side by side, from one end of the hall to the other. But the beer must have soaked permanently into the walls and floor, as no amount of cleaning would rid the place entirely of its odor.

Cleanup after these raucous events was such a chore for us I promised myself that my future wedding reception would be restrained, polite, and non-alcoholic. And it occurred just as I had planned, but I’ll have to admit that it wasn’t nearly as much fun.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, Arizona, April 2013.
Excerpts from Michael Angel (SHS 1960), London, Kentucky,
and “Trivia & Me,” (1996) by August D. Angel.


See Also:
ANGEL’S CASINO: The Early Years
ANGEL’S CASINO: The Record Hops
ANGEL’S CASINO: A Place to Party
ITALIANS IN SHARPSVILLE


ANGEL’S CASINO: The Early Years

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

sharpsville_image_casino_adThe lively music of a polka or lingering smell of stale beer still can bring to mind the dance hall my father, August Angel, owned from 1953 until 1964. Located at 19 North Second Street, the building was directly across the narrow alley from our family’s apartment and my dad’s printing business. Quite large in size and covered in beige and black faux-brick asphalt sheet siding, it wasn’t the most attractive structure in town. But in spite of its unassuming appearance, this building was a highly popular community center for over a decade.

In the 1940s, the building had been a popular skating rink complete with rental skates and organ music, and a venue for wedding receptions. It was owned and operated by Mr. Hanlon, who lived in an apartment above the hall and also owned several other properties in the area, including Shady Grove on the Sharpsville-Greenville road and land in Hickory Township (now Hermitage) that he eventually sold to DeBartolo Corporation, a builder of shopping malls.

It took only a year after our family moved to Sharpsville for Dad, always the entrepreneur, to see potential in such a building and decide to purchase it from Mr. Hanlon in December 1953. According to my dad’s memoir:

Before the turn of the century, it housed the town’s livery stable. When automobiles became an affordable, convenient, and fashionable mode of travel, the “hay burners” were abandoned…. Likewise, the need for a livery stable ended and the building was used for other purposes.

img1895 - Edited

Sanborn-Perris Map Company, Limited. Logo for Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, 1895.

The Sharpsville Area Historical Society site has a link to a collection of Sanborn Maps of Sharpsville from the Library of Congress. These maps were among many prepared by the Sanborn Map Company from New York to assess fire insurance liability in urbanized areas in the United States. Founded in 1866, Sanborn is still in operation, currently offering “geospatial solutions and technology.” One of the maps, dated 1895, (Sheet 4), shows a livery stable on North Second Street in the same location of the building of Dad’s description. The building is depicted as a skating rink in 1905 (Sheet 5). The 1912 map (Sheet 10) shows that house no. 30-31 was used as “carriage & painting 1st [floor], table varnishing, 2nd….” Next door, house #31 held a mattress and table store (Robinson Brothers’ Table Factory).

My Dad, in his memoir, continues:

Since I could afford it, I bought the Sharpsville building, although it was on an impulse. I had no immediate plans for what I would do with it.

My parents immediately went about cleaning up the hall, and over the first several years, gradually remodeled the structure. The restrooms were modernized, an annex containing a commercial kitchen was added, a bar area was built at the far end of the dance floor, the windows were replaced, and, in 1954, a neon sign was installed when the name of the hall was changed from “Hanlon’s Hall” to “Angel’s Casino.” Also, during the revamping, my father added a green canvas canopy that stretched from the front door to the sidewalk. In my young eyes, this was a very swanky touch.

At first, my dad had concerns about his purchase:

The Casino had many initial faults — it was an old building on a short side street in the center of town and lacked parking space. Also, the name, “Angel’s Casino,” may have been inappropriate. Perhaps it should have been christened the more fitting name of “The Commons.”

For years the community had misgivings as to whether it was good or bad for Sharpsville. Two of the most vociferous complaints were about the traffic jams the social gatherings created and the influx of strangers, especially youth, into the previously close-knit community.

However, traffic and parking problems were brought under control and the neighborhood became accustomed to strangers. My rental business created ripple effects in the form of substantial profit increases for businesses and more jobs for residents – especially as extra duty security personnel. Also, the Casino was in a central location that large groups of people could easily access, unlike meetings in church basements, school lunch rooms, or auditoriums. And in time the dubious name “Casino” was seldom used and “Angel’s” was the catchword for the building.

sharpsville_jukebox_pixabaySome of the building’s decor was left over from its skating rink days, such as the rows of fading crepe paper fringe that hung from each rafter overhead, an old upright piano, and a Wurlitzer jukebox full of 45 rpm records of 1940s music. When in operation, its frame of neon columns would light up in dazzling orange, yellow, and green. My favorite item was the mirrored ball suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the dance floor. Confetti-like bits of color would reflect on the guests and floor, creating a magical and romantic mood when a ballad was playing and the lights were turned down low.

Msharpsville_mirrorball_pixabayy parents often supplied the hall with second-hand items they had purchased from other establishments that were selling off their equipment. The wooden folding chairs came from Woody Wooddell, a locally well-known “hillbilly” singer and disc jockey on Sharon’s WPIC and other radio stations in the area. A stove, working table, french fryer, and other items were purchased from the owners of the former Welch House Hotel on Fourth and Main streets, that had burned down a year before.

Most of the dishes, silverware, and cooking utensils in the kitchen were obtained at a bargain price when the U.S. Army Camp Reynolds, located midway between Sharpsville and Greenville, was closed after WWII. I was intrigued by the thought of hapless German prisoners eating from the same plates we now owned.

For several years a family of four rented an apartment in the front half of the upper level of the building. The older of the two little boys often joined the gang of kids who played hide-and-go-seek, baseball, or cowboys and Indians on North Second Street. On Sunday afternoons, their mother would sit on the porch at the top of the stairs to their apartment and watch us play while she listened to a radio program of Croatian folk music. Her washing would hang on a clothesline that stretched across the alley from their upstairs porch to ours, operated by use of a pulley. After several years the family relocated to a house on Ridge Avenue and the hall’s upstairs rooms and kitchen were reconfigured to provide small dinners for local civic groups.

The other half of the hall’s second floor consisted of a large attic-like storage area. I sometimes poked around in that dusty, cobwebby space because it held odds and ends from the past, such as piles of rusted skates with moldy leather uppers, old 78 rpm vinyl records (mostly organ music), storage trunks, and an old-fashioned sleigh. (The sleigh was possibly built by the Robinson Brothers’ Table Factory which existed next door to the Casino building in the early 1900s.)

When my father purchased the hall, gave it a new name and began to develop a new identity for it, he could not have imagined how well-known it would become due to the major new genre in popular music.

The End of the Casino*

This big brown building must have been quite deteriorated by the time it was torn down around the end of the 1970s to clear the lot for the new fire station. There was at least one last occupant before that happened: the DeJulia Statuary Company. According to Ralph Mehler of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society, it was run by James DeJulia, and later his son Louis, from about 1951 until 1978. They made decorative and religious plaster statues and wall reliefs, eventually moving their facility, possibly in 1973, from South Pymatuning to the Casino building at 19 North Second Street. Mehler writes:

According to the county online index of property transfers, the best I can tell is that Louis DeJulia … transferred that lot to the Borough of Sharpsville. The Borough then transferred the lot to James & Phyllis Cattron on 8/8/1980. The fire department building was built around 1978. So, I’m guessing the building was torn down around then.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, Arizona, April 2013.
Excerpts from “Trivia & Me,” (1996) by August D. Angel.
*Updated November 14, 2019.

sharpsville_image_mike in alley

Mike Angel, age 12, stands in alley between Angel’s Casino (left) and our home and printing business. Sharpsville, PA, 1954

fam_casino-2

Angel’s Casino, Sharpsville, PA. Photo by Pat Angel, c. 1976.

SEE ALSO:

ANGEL’S CASINO: The Record Hops
ANGEL’S CASINO: A Place to Party
ANGEL’S CASINO: Here Came the Bride