Small Town Memories

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

Tag: Deeter Elementary School

CANTEEN

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

A hearty welcome to all of you newcomers to the “Small Town Memories” community. I hope the stories on this site inspire you to share your own memories of living in the Sharpsville area in or around the 1950s through 1970s, whether in a short comment or a longer narrative. Corrections to existing stories are also welcome. Just use the Comment box at the end of any blog or attach your writing to an email to bissella9@hotmail.com.

A comment from Toni E. Nackino, a descendant of the original owner of Isaly’s, asked for certain information about that small dairy store on Sharpsville’s Main Street. If you have the answer, please let us know. You can respond in the Comment box at the end of the “Isaly’s” blog. Here’s her question:

I was looking for information on when the store burned down. Which I always thought was so odd, since the fire station was next door! lol…
…I would love to have someone respond to my query about the Isaly store in Sharpsville burning down. Thank you


THE CANTEEN

On the far side of Sharpsville, PA, children attended an elementary school in a large brick building with the name of Deeter. On one side of Deeter was a narrow two-story wood frame structure that we called the Canteen. In the early 1950s, the Canteen was one of the few places that we Sharpsville teens could gather for fun and games with others our own age.

sharpsville_image_canteen

Theater poster. [Source: Wikipedia.org]

Although “canteen” is a word that can be used to denote a container for water while hiking, the focus here is on “canteen” as a gathering place. Borrowed from the French cantine and the Italian cantina meaning “wine cellar,” a canteen in the mid-18th century was a type of shop in a barracks or garrison town, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. By late in the next century, the word had evolved to mean “refreshment room at a military base, school, etc.”

Teenage canteens of the 1950s were likely holdovers from the previous wars when canteens were places that provided soldiers a recreational break from their duties. The Hollywood Canteen in the 1944 movie of the same name, also provided a venue to cavort with famous movie stars of the day. Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960) wrote that she “somehow came to believe the canteen in Sharpsville may have been used by soldiers from nearby Camp Reynolds during World War II.”

“Life on the Home Front: Keeping Them Straight and Narrow: Youth Strategies.” [http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us]

Canteens for young people in the community, as well as for soldiers, evidently existed during the war years when restless teens had little to do outside of school and faced an uncertain future. According to a 1944 guide for setting up a youth center, prepared by the Associated Youth-Serving Organizations, Inc, “Youth likes to feel that it has a place similar to that of the soldier or sailor and with the same type of activities” and therefore encouraged such amenities as a game room, jukebox, snack bar, and dancing in a co-ed atmosphere.

By the 1950s, however, teen troubles were viewed somewhat differently. Juvenile delinquency was in the news and communities were seeking ways to assure that their young people weren’t among those who fell into such antisocial behavior as vandalism or violence.

Thus, like many communities across the country, Sharpsville’s Canteen, later known as the Youth Center, came into being. I don’t recall who the sponsors were, or whether a fee was charged, or whether it resembled a soldier’s canteen. And I don’t think that any famous movie stars were ever present! I do remember that 1950s rock-and-roll records were played and that we mostly sat on chairs along the walls, boys in one group and girls across the dance floor in another group, too shy in those early awkward years to do much mingling. Irene Caldwell O’Neill remembered these details:

Here on Friday nights, parents volunteered to chaperone seventh and eighth graders as they danced to music from a jukebox (upstairs) or played ping-pong or table-top shuffleboard (downstairs). The girls tended to congregate upstairs and usually jitter-bugged together to Fats Domino or Chuck Berry and the Comets songs or sat at the little tables drinking cokes and eating chips. The boys massed downstairs around the shuffleboard table or played ping-pong. Never once do I remember a boy dancing at the canteen. In spite of this gender separation, it was here that courtship rituals began that would last until graduation. We were all very carefully checking each other out.

Teen canteens exist to this day, such as the aptly named CanTeen, a current program in Cicero, New York. It is interesting to note that CanTeen’s focus is “to keep youth safe and entertained during their out of school time.” During the past seven decades, the purpose of canteens seems to have evolved from keeping youth busy in the 1940s, to keeping them out of trouble in the ’50s, to keeping them safe in today’s even more worrisome times. But all such organized social programs have tried to create an environment that would mold young people into responsible and upstanding adults. Not an easy job and not 100 percent effective, but it has been worth the try.

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

See Also Deeter Elementary School


DEETER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

During the 1950s and 1960s, Sharpsville, like other towns across the United States, was experiencing an increase in the number of school-age children due to the post-World War II baby boom. Consequently, the Emma Robison School wasn’t the only elementary school in Sharpsville at that time.

This story covers Deeter Elementary School, but later we’ll also revisit Pebly and 13th Street elementary schools. If you attended any of these or others in the area as a child, please consider sharing your recollections and any photos you may have.

From the Class History in the 1958 Devil’s Log, the Sharpsville (PA) High School yearbook (page 94):

Way back in the year 1946 about 200 eager, aspiring little toddlers left their Mommie’s arms and ventured forth into a strange and curious world…

Some of these fearless little ones ventured into the inner and sinister recesses of the Deeter Building. Others roamed boldly into the unknown at the 13th Street School…. [T]he Robison Building at 7th Street was greedily gobbling up the young innocents who wandered trustingly into the big doors. Still, in other sections, Clark and South Pymatuning to be specific, future and then unknown friends of ours were suffering fates at equally strange and unknown establishments.


Deeter Elementary School

sharpsville_cent plate_deeter

“Emma Deeter School – 1869” depicted on a plate commemorating Sharpsville’s centennial year. (Source: Ebay)

All I knew about Deeter Elementary School was this: If you were of elementary school age in the 1950s, you either went to Deeter School or Robison School. (Beginning in seventh grade, students from all the elementary schools attended Sharpsville Junior-Senior High School.)

Deeter Elementary School: Miss Emma Deeter

According to the March 2014 issue of Sharpsville Area Historical Society newsletter, Deeter School was named for Miss Emma Deeter, who was a student during the early 1880s and later became a teacher.

Emma C. Deeter was born around 1861 and, according to the 1880 United States Census, lived with her family on Main Street. At age 19, she was working as an instrumental music teacher. Her father, Simon Deeter, age 61, was a “laborer” and her mother, Kate (Thomas) Deeter, age 58), kept house. Emma Deeter had one sister, Mary Deeter (age 17) and a brother, James L.M. (age 28) who was a blast furnace clerk. Kate’s sister, Margrett Thomas (single, age 39), was also living with the family.

Emma Deeter began as a teacher in the Sharpsville School District in 1882, having received her degree from the Northwest State Normal School, later known as the Edinboro (PA) State Teacher’s College and is currently the Edinboro University.

As of the 1910 United States Census, Miss Emma Deeter was a teacher of English and the head of a household which she shared with her widowed sister, Mary (Deeter) Jones, Mary’s daughter, Kathryne Florence (Jones) Beck, age 22, and her husband, Daniel H. Beck, age 32, who was a druggist.

In 1924, an article on page 7 of the Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to The Sharon (PA) Telegraph pays homage to her many years as a teacher.

MISS EMMA DEETER HAS LIVED LIFE OF REAL SERVICE

Miss Emma Deeter, loved by all, is one of Sharpsville’s oldest residents.

Miss Deeter’s father ran a boat on the canal and moved his family here in 1862 by boat. At that time there were no railroads, no postoffice and only about 14 homes in Sharpsville. Miss Deeter declares Clarksville was like the metropolis of Mercer Co. at that time.

Miss Deeter has taught constantly in the Sharpsville school since 1882 with the exception of one year. She has endeared herself to all. Many of the children taught by her can say they have the same teacher their mothers and fathers had when they went to school. Besides teaching school she also instructs a private class in piano at home.

Four years after this article was published, the school, previously known as the “Second Ward School” was named the Emma Deeter Elementary School in her honor.

Deeter Elementary School: The Building

The first part of the  brick building, located on the corner of East Main and Mercer Avenue, was built sometime after 1870 and before 1876, according to the Sharpsville Area Historical Society’s walking tour of the town (or constructed in 1869 according to other sources):

[In] 1870, General Pierce swapped [a frame building used as the first schoolhouse in Sharpsville] for a parcel uptown as well as donation of $2,000 toward a new school building. The new building (upon the site now occupied by the Mertz Towers at 52 S. Mercer Ave.),…expanded twice in 1876 and 1883, was later named the Deeter Building.

A photo taken in the 1930s of Sharpsville from the top of the Shenango Furnace Company’s #1 Furnace, includes a distant view of Deeter School “with its belfry.” This photo can be seen in the March 2013 issue of Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter.

I don’t know if the school that we attended was based on geographical boundaries or not. My older brother and I attended Robison, across town on Seventh Street, in the early 1950s. Later (1955-1956), although we still lived on Second Street, my younger brother went to Deeter, which was closer to our home. According to my 1955 diary, Pat’s first-grade teacher at Deeter was Mrs. Kenton. Here are his recollections:

I went to Deeter in the first grade and then to Pebly elementary school for the second (1956-57) to sixth grade (1960-61). I was 6 years old when I started Deeter in September 1955 but soon turned 7 years old in October 1955….. There was a flight of stairs and halfway up the stairs, there was a reproduction of a painting of boys in a field flying kites on a windy day. There was a pretty big playground and during the summer there was a program that engaged children in arts and crafts activities to keep them out of trouble during the idle summer months I suppose. My chosen craft was casting plaster of paris figurines and painting them. 

I  remember the ‘canteen‘ – an outbuilding on the school grounds where there was a weekly (Saturday night?) ‘dance’ or ‘record hop’. That’s where I first heard the pop song, ‘Rock around the Clock.’

I also remember all of the children in the entire school being marched single file from the school down the hill (Walnut Street?) to Dr. [James A.] Biggins office where we all got polio shots. That would have been in the 1955-56 school year… Those of us who received the polio shot in our left arms back then earned a little round scar which remains visible on my arm to this day. My children didn’t get a polio shot but rather an oral dose, so the scar dates the children of the 1950s and 60s.  

Click on image to enlarge.

An excellent photo of the Deeter Building accompanies the following article, published in the May 2015 Newsletter for the Sharpsville Area Historical Society and written by Ralph C. Mehler, SAHS board member and 1980 graduate of SHS:

Deeter Building, c. 1907. Source: SAHS Newsletter, May 2015.

This view of the Mercer Avenue school dates from about 1907. Of course, those who remember it know it as the Deeter Building so named in 1949 in honor of long-time teacher Emma Deeter.

The structure was built in three stages. The first in 1869, with a matching section alongside in 1876. The rear section with the bell tower and a connection between the two wings was erected in 1883. Sidney W. Foulk of Greenville and New Castle (who also designed the First Universalist Church here) was the architect of that third addition.

The building was closed in 1964 and demolished in 1973. The Mertz Towers now occupy this lot, with School Street the only reminder of what once stood here.


Most of those elementary schools are no longer around, but our memories do live on. The Class History in the 1958 Devil’s Log goes on to say:

[We] survived the beginning stages of adjusting to a brand new life…with the kindness and consideration of our grade school teachers to help us over the rough spots, we soon passed over those carefree, wonderful days of skipping rope, playing marbles, dusting erasers, washing boards, playing kick-the-can, prisoners base, [and] mumblety peg….

See Also:
Canteen
Junior High School
Pebly & 13 Street Schools
Robison School I
Robison School Class of 1960 Part I
Robison School Class of 1960 Part II
Senior High School Traditions
SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ
— Pat Angel (SHS 1968), London, KY
— Ralph Mehler (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA