Small Town Memories

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

Tag: elementary school

WHEATLAND IV: Once Upon A Time

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

This is the last in a series of blogs recording memories of Wheatland,  a small town near the western border of Pennsylvania where my family lived from 1945 until 1949.


WHEATLAND IV: Once Upon A Time

More About the Slag Dump

A recent email from Tom Hoovler, a former resident of Wheatland and Farrell, PA, vividly describes his memories of the red-hot steaming slag that was dumped over a hillside by the local steel mill:

Steel Mill Gondola

Steel Mill Slag Ladle.

Ah, what memories. When I was growing up, you could see the light from the dumping of the ladles all over the valley. Up on the hill in Farrell, where I lived, the night sky would light up with a bright orange glow. This was even more intense in the winter when there would be snow on the ground that would reflect the glow from the sky.

And quite often, you would hear a dull thudding sound, when the engineer would lurch the train forward to shake loose the nearly solid slag residue that remained in the ladles. If you were watching from a fairly close distance, as I would sometimes have the opportunity to do, you would see that remaining solid residue come tumbling from the ladle in one big chunk, and it would finally collapse into the pit. Quite often, this didn’t happen until the engineer had made the train lurch several times in order to shake it loose.

My father worked for Dunbar Slag Company on Ohio Street, just on the opposite side of the river from Wheatland. This was located on Sharon Steel property and the molten slag pits were not far from their location. There were times we would go over there at night to see the dumping of the ladles from a close proximity. Very good memories, indeed.

Elementary & High Schools, Revisited

More memories (and a correction) from Tom Hoovler:

Your experience of walking to the Wheatland elementary school seems comparable to the stories my mother has always told, especially about the trains. And your description of the elementary school experience at the time was not all that different from hers, in fact, it really wasn’t all that different from mine, with the exception of the walking distance. Fortunately, I never had to walk more than three blocks when I was in elementary school.

There is one thing, however, that you were incorrect about and that relates to the Wheatland high school students being bussed to school. They never actually did that. As my mother would attest, they had to huff if up over the hill all the way to Farrell High School. And walk home. Everyday. Apparently, you weren’t aware of that because you had moved to Sharpsville by then. 

Even in my day, when the Farrell School District starting busing elementary students to schools outside of their own neighborhoods, all high school students still had to walk. I had a one-mile walk to the high school, but at least it was not as steep a grade as the Wheatland students still had.

Professor King 

sharpsville_noteOne of the most colorful figures in my Wheatland recollections was Professor King, my first piano teacher. I can still see him, hovering tall over me, dressed in dark clothing that contrasted sharply with his flowing white hair and leaning on a cane. I had the idea that he wore a black cape, but maybe that was just because he loomed so large in my eyes. We always called him “Professor King.” I don’t recall ever knowing his full name. My father describes in his memoir:

One of my well-worn music lesson books from the 1940s. [Photo by AAE]

One of my well-worn music lesson books from the 1940s. [Photo by AAE]

There was room in the shack [on Second Street] for an upright piano that the nearby Methodist Church gave me when the church was donated a new one. Both Michael and Ann began taking piano lessons from Professor King and did so for many years afterward. The Professor was a retired older man, who was impressively tall, intellectual, and always meticulously dressed. He made house calls to his students, a modern-day version of the traveling musician.

The Professor would walk from one house to another in Wheatland, teaching children, black or white, the basics of playing the piano or violin. My brother and I continued our lessons with him when our family moved to Sharpsville. By this time, we rode the bus to his Wheatland residence. Eventually, he lived in an apartment in Sharpsville, and we walked to our lessons with my mother. I remember that, as she took her turn at her violin lessons, I would lose myself in the stories and black-and-white photos in his stack of Life magazines.

My brother and I continued our piano lessons with various teachers throughout high school (and I did so into my college years) thanks to our parents’ encouragement. Looking back, I now appreciate not only my parents’ resolve but also the Professor’s efforts to provide us with a solid foundation in the study of music.

Bicycles, Roller Skates, and Cherry Trees

Mike Angel & playmate. Wheatland, PA, April 1950.

Mike Angel & playmate. Wheatland, PA, April 1950.

The area in which our family lived in the Wheatland flats was semi-rural, allowing us children plenty of room to play at our various outdoor activities. Dad bought us second-hand bicycles and helped us learn to ride them. The bikes were a bit too large for us at first which made learning to ride them a challenge. But we persisted, and soon enjoyed the feeling of freedom and the excitement of speed as we rode with our friends up and down the cinder-covered dirt road that was Second Street. I think my brother’s blue bicycle was a Schwinn. I know my red and silver bicycle was a Raleigh. It had a wire basket and a curious row of holes along the rim of the rear fender. I either imagined or was told that string or wire used to be threaded through the holes and connected to the axle, forming a protective web that kept little girls’ dresses from being caught in the spokes.

Although our street had no sidewalks, that didn’t stop us from roller skating even if we had to carry our skates to other blocks in the neighborhood to do so. The sidewalk in front of the church on Church Street was our favorite because part of it consisted of dark gray slate slabs. Oh, how smooth that surface was compared to the bumpy ride on concrete walks! Our skates were all-metal with leather straps, typical of kids’ skates in those days. We used a skate key to turn bolts and lengthen the skates as our feet grew and to tighten the clamps that held the skates to our shoes.

In those days, we had no inkling of smartphones or video games, but we had plenty of things to do. On long winter weekends indoors, we had coloring books and comic books (which we traded with friends) to keep us busy. Then there were the summer playground activities that were provided for us by the town. I created quite a few brightly painted plaster of Paris figurines — including small busts of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington — for my parents to display on the family bookshelf.

We also had our own personal playground in the form of the cherry trees in our front yard. Their short height and widely spaced tree limbs were perfectly designed for climbing. The trees encircled a small open area with a table and benches, where our family and friends would sometimes gather for a nighttime bonfire under the stars.

The Traveling Carnival

sharpsville_carnival-colorA high point in our summers in Wheatland was the week or so when colorful tents and rides of a carnival would spring up, as if by magic, in the middle of an empty field across from the church. My brother and I were given a few coins and then sent off, unaccompanied by any adult, to roam about the carnival grounds to our hearts’ content, carefully deciding how our handful of coins would be spent.

I no longer can recall the rides or the food at the carnival, but the freak show stays in my mind, as grotesque to me now as it was then. Hearing the carnival talker shout, “It’s all right here! Sights that will scare you, that will astound you! See the bearded lady, the strongest man in the world, the amazing contortionist!” piqued my curiosity enough to pay the entry fee and enter the tent to see for myself. One of the shows featured the Spider Lady. You peered into a lighted box and saw the head of a lady on the body of a huge black spider. It was obvious even to my young mind that it was an illusion created by mirrors. Another “freak” was a man who claimed he could bite the head off a chicken. This was the most disturbing act, but it too was trickery, which was fortunate for the hapless chicken.

sharpsville_ducks-2Of all the carnival games, I was sure to visit the Duck Pond because I won a prize every time I played. All I had to do was pick up one of the little yellow rubber ducks from the many floating by in a trough of water. The number on the bottom of the duck matched a number on one of the various prizes displayed on the shelves along the back of the tent. I never won the grand prize of a large stuffed toy animal or a curly-haired doll in a fancy gown, but I was happy enough winning trinkets, such as a shiny ring, a plastic comb, or a tin whistle.

Demographics Once Upon a Time

Indeed the flatland in the southern part of Wheatland was once a little community, populated by residents of various backgrounds. According to the U.S. Census of 1940, many of them were relatively new to the United States, including Romanians (as was my grandfather), Polish, Hungarians, Slovakians, Austrians, Germans, Lithuanians, Czechs, Scots, Croatians and Italians. There were others who were African-American and white southerners (including a few of my mother’s relatives from the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky) who traveled north to find work.

The men were mostly hard-working clerks or laborers in the local sheet mill, steel mill, Malleable Steel, Tube Company, Westinghouse, tin mill, the coal yard, on the railroad or the “road project.” The women kept the household running and the few who were employed were teachers, waitresses, seamstresses in the “sewing project” or domestics. The projects were possibly home-front WWII efforts.

There were still over three decades yet to go before the tornado destroyed the town. Although I no longer lived in Pennsylvania by then, I can imagine the succession of families quietly living out their lives in the flatland of the Borough of Wheatland, Pennsylvania, before the community was gone forever.

Wheatland Flats III - Once Upon A Time

Sawhill Memorial with this message: “Dedicated to the memory of those who suffered the death and destruction caused by the tornado which crossed this site on May 21, 1985. Wheatland PA.” Location: Corner of Clinton and Main streets, Wheatland, PA. [Date of photo: June 1993]


Residents of the Borough of Wheatland who lost everything, and in some cases their lives, in the tornado are memorialized by a monument on the corner of Main and Clinton streets. The word “SAWHILL” etched in the granite refers to the two plants of Sawhill Tubular Products which were among the buildings that suffered the greatest losses in lives and property. [See the Memorial as of August 2014 on Google Street View here.]

— Tom Hoovler, FHS 1976, Buffalo, NY, and
Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, 
December 1, 2016.


See Also:

WHEATLAND FLATS I: Third Street

WHEATLAND FLATS II: Second Street

WHEATLAND FLATS III: Elementary School & Pony Pictures


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WHEATLAND FLATS III: Grade School & Pony Pictures

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

When I started writing about 1940s Wheatland, I didn’t expect to remember as much as I did. As my dad said about writing his memoir, “Once I started, the memories just kept coming.” This is the third of four installments about the “Flats” of Wheatland, Pennsylvania, describing a thriving little community that existed over thirty-five years before the entire village was destroyed by an exceptionally violent tornado on May 31, 1985.


WHEATLAND FLATS III: Grade School & Pony Pictures

By the turn of the decade to the 1950s, my family was living in a remodeled barn on Second Street, my new baby brother joined the postwar baby boom, the town endured the Big Snow, and we kids were attending Wheatland Public School.

First Grade, Wheatland Public School, c. 1946. [Ann Angel, back row, fourth from left.]

First Grade, Wheatland (PA) Public School, c. 1946. Teacher: Mrs. Juanita Lloyd. [Ann Angel, back row, fifth from left.]

Wheatland Public School – “Uphill Both Ways!”

I wish I could remember the first day of my first grade in 1946, but it’s just too long ago. At that time, there was no opportunity for most pre-schoolers to attend nursery school or kindergarten. I vaguely recall that a Catholic church in Sharon, PA, had a kindergarten, but it charged a tuition that my parents probably could not afford. 

Wheatland’s public school building, located on Mercer Street, was a typical two-story brick schoolhouse topped by a large bell that rang at the start of the school day. First through fourth grades, the only grades I attended in this building, were on the lower floor. Every hour, I could hear the shuffling feet of students changing classes overhead. However, I never saw the upstairs fifth through eighth-grade rooms because my family was living in Sharpsville by then. When Wheatland students finished eighth grade, they were then bussed to Farrell, PA, to attend senior high school. (See correction in WHEATLAND IV: Once Upon A Time.)

I performed well enough in Wheatland School, but getting to and from the school was quite a trek for me. Google Maps shows the distance as only six-tenths of a mile one way but that’s not how it felt. The distance between my home and school seemed like miles, particularly during those cold, snowy Western Pennsylvania winters. Initially, I walked alone or with friends, but in two years my brother, Mike, was walking with me to his first and second grades.

The Flats of Wheatland, PA, in the 1940s.

The Flats of Wheatland, PA, in the 1940s.

From Second Street we walked to Church Street and continued north past the little white steepled Methodist Church where my brother and I attended Sunday School, a few houses, and a lumber mill until we got to the railroad tracks. If we were lucky there would be no freight train sitting there immobile and blocking our way. Waiting for a stopped train to move seemed interminable and, if my memory of school kids actually crawling under the cars to get across is only in my imagination, we did consider it in our desperation. After crossing Broadway, the main street in town that led west to Farrell and Sharon, we trudged up the hill another block or so to our school.

I still remember the names of some of my classmates. as well as those of my first through fourth-grade teachers: Mrs. Juanita Lloyd, a well-liked grandmotherly lady, then kindly Miss Patton, Miss Davidson who had the best-decorated room, and finally Miss Garrity. And I remember the sweet smell of the white paste in glass jars that we used to stick strips of paper with sentences on them onto the appropriate pictures. I think these were supplemental workbooks that accompanied our reading books about “Dick and Jane,” characters so well-known to schoolchildren from the 1930s to the 1970s.

On the return trip from school, we often stopped at the Wheatland Post Office on Broadway to pick up our parents’ mail. It was customary for us schoolchildren to crowd around the postmaster’s window, call out our family’s last name, and our mail would be handed to us. I’ve always wondered why our parents trusted little kids to bring home all their mail in one piece, but I guess we did so most of the time. Today’s Wheatland Post Office is located on Council Street, a block away from its former Broadway location.

Almost 50 years later in 1993, I visited Wheatland and searched for my elementary school, only to find that the building was gone. All that remained was a concrete pedestal holding the school’s cast iron bell and a plaque indicating the bell’s original source, the Wheatland Public School. Currently, Buchanan Manor, a home for senior citizens has been built on the site. That big school bell is now on display (as of 2014) in the front yard of the Manor next to a World War I memorial. (See it on Google Street View here.) My school building was gone, but I greatly appreciate that the little town saved the bell.

(It’s probably no coincidence that the retirement home’s name is “Buchanan.” Pennsylvania’s other “Wheatland” is the former home of James Buchanan, the 15th president of the U.S. He purchased the large Federal style house, located outside of Lancaster, PA, in 1848 and lived there off and on until he died in 1868. The estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.)

“Howdy, Partner!”

Photos courtesy of Mike and Fredi Angel.
Click on photograph for an enlarged view.

“Ma, they’re selling pony pictures! Can we buy one, please, please, please?!” My mother would often tell of our running home and breathlessly bursting in the front door with this exciting news and urgent request. A traveling photographer with a pony was all the country’s rage in the 1940s and Wheatland kids weren’t left out. Movies and comic books featuring cowboys (and cowgirls) and Indians were popular at the time, so sitting on a pony dressed in a cowboy hat, vest and chaps was a child’s dream come true. The resulting black-and-white photos, taken on Church Street and probably costing only a few coins each, are displayed to this day in my brother Mike’s home.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ. 
November 2016.


See Also:

WHEATLAND FLATS I: Third Street
WHEATLAND FLATS II: Second Street
WHEATLAND FLATS IV: Once Upon A Time

Read more about the 1985 Ohio/Pennsylvania Tornado Outbreak here.


ROBISON SCHOOL Class of 1960 (Part II)

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

By Irene Caldwell O’Neill
March 2013

Welcome to the second part of Irene Caldwell’s story, Robison School Class of 1960. This blog picks up where it left off last month. Here you’ll read about the fifth and sixth-grade students, still mostly the same kids of course, but a tiny bit older and taller. Irene also reminds us of those extra-curricular aspects of our education: swimming lessons, restrooms, recess, lunch, winters, safety drills, and the playground.


sharpsville_robison_grade5

Fifth Grade, Emma Robison School, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1952.

Fifth Grade, 1952-1953

"Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees" by Johnny Gruelle. (1960). Source: www.etsy.com

“Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees” by Johnny Gruelle. (1960). Source: http://www.etsy.com

Miss Helen Bruner, an older woman with quiet but firm control was our fifth-grade teacher. In spite of her small stature and soft voice, she often sent unruly boys to the cloakroom where she would soon follow with her wooden paddle. A good run around the playground would have been a kinder option, but those were different times. I liked Miss Bruner because she was fair, never raised her voice and read to us from Raggedy Ann and Andy.

I learned to write in cursive with pen and ink that year. Dipping our pen points into ink pots, we practiced row upon row of circles which formed tunnels between the lines on cheap yellowish paper and then the letter of the day with our arms held high for the necessary free flowing arm movement. Most of us had black writer’s bumps on the second finger of our right hands and a very few on their left hands.

Mrs. Bruner was often seen wearing a double layer fox stole which fascinated me. Who would want to wear dead animals around their shoulders, each head biting the tail of the animal in front of it? She died in 1968 at age 79.

Patty Coyne, Dorothy Davenport and I were adopted as friends by Carol Crosier in fifth grade. Carol was very pretty and lived in the more affluent part of town, close to Buhl Park. She was the organizer of any outside activity and we followed her lead unquestioningly.

That year’s class photo has me, of tiny stature, standing as usual, in the front row. This time it’s Bobby Gault on my left. Just below Miss Bruner is Kathleen Hanley, another freckled redhead. My last year at Robison was taught by the principal, Ralph Kelly, and his co-teacher Edna Allen. Miss Allen was a good teacher with an impeccable carriage.

Duane Carbon sat in front of me that year. Once every week he wore a black and white pinto-patterned flannel shirt. When bored I’d stare at the pattern, first making the black sections stand forward and then the white shapes.

Emma Robison School, Grade 6, c. 1956

Grade 6, Emma Robison School, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1953

Sixth Grade, 1953-1954

In sixth grade, we made a lot of maps and finding large enough paper was a challenge. I made my South America map from butcher paper given free by the meat cutter at (Warren) Stewart’s Market. My youngest sister had just been born and was drinking formula made from canned milk with paper labels covered with cows. I cut out those cows and pasted them on my map to indicate the cattle industry of Argentina and Brazil.

Our class photo that year is taken with Mr. Kelly. I’m wearing a neck scarf and a plaid skirt, again in the front row, flanked by ever happy Roy Yeager and ever serious Georgeanne.

My brother had different teachers than I; Miss Grimes, Mrs. Myers and Miss Bartholomew were some of them, but the other names are lost to me. Our music teacher, Mrs. Armstrong, died of cancer during one of those six years and the school planted a small pine near the long front walk in her memory.

Swimming Lessons

Every Friday morning we were bused to St. John’s Church in Sharon for swimming lessons in their indoor pool. The chlorine content of the water was so high that everyone’s eyes were red for the rest of the day. I learned to swim only because if I hadn’t I would have drowned. The instruction we received was minimal. At the end of the course, an evening program was put on for parents to appreciate their water babes’ expertise. Our task was to dive in, swim the length of the pool and climb out at the far end. How I made it, I’ll never know; carried by the angels of St John, maybe.

On those Friday mornings, the girls were allowed to wear pants, even jeans, but had to go home and change into a skirt or dress at lunchtime. My jeans were lined with warm blue plaid flannel and one cold winter day I rebelled at changing. Upon returning to school, two female classmates jumped me with dire predictions of Mr. Kelly’s paddle. I hate to admit running home to don an acceptable dress.

Restrooms, Recess, Lunch, Winter

Student restrooms were in the basement to which twice daily visits were as strictly regimented as all other activities. Rarely was a student allowed to take a bathroom break on his or her own, but some teachers were more considerate of this than others.

At recess, we played closely supervised and organized games, guaranteed to make some students feel inferior as the appointed team captains chose sides for “red rover” or dodgeball. Being small, I was always among the last to be picked.

At lunchtime everyone walked home, to eat or not, depending on their circumstances. My siblings and I had only to cross Pierce Avenue and run down a short alley to our house where we hunted in the refrigerator and cupboards for something appealing.

Winter was difficult for girls because to be warm we had to wear two-piece snowsuits, put on and removed three times each day. The leggings were held up by suspenders and our mandatory skirts had to be stuffed inside like shirts, creating a wrinkled appearance for the whole day. Usually, a girl would rather have frozen legs than deal with those leggings. I can still smell the wet wool mittens, hats and scarves drying on the cloakroom radiator, see the snowsuits hanging on iron hooks and my fellow students rummaging through the pile of rubber boots that had to be pulled on over our bulky unfashionable shoes.

In December, the school put on a Christmas program with each class performing a different song and any exceptionally gifted children doing a talent solo. I remember dinging my little triangle while we all sang “Silver Bells” and Allegra Duncan (SHS 1958) playing the violin. The students stood on the opposing stairways and the whole program took place in the great central hall where a tall pine had been placed decorated with construction paper chains, stars and snowflakes, all made by the students.

Safety Drills

With milder weather, an occasional fire drill was prearranged and someone timed how quickly the school was evacuated. The first-floor students simply walked out the front door. On the upper floors, the teachers opened the tall windows which students exited through to the fire escapes.

Sometimes we had atom bomb drills. The town air raid siren would sound and all of us ducked under our desks assuming the “bomb” position, forehead resting in the crook of one arm while the other covered the back of our necks. A few years later we had to exit the building and lay in the grass along Seventh Street, again in the bomb position. WWII wasn’t very far in the past, the Cold War was on everyone’s minds and there was an intense fear of Soviet Russia and “Commies.”

Playground

During the summer holiday, a program called “Playground” took place behind Robison. Miss Allen and another woman ran it with none of the normal classroom discipline. No one had to attend and you were free to arrive or walk away at any time during the day. We sat at picnic tables and were assisted in making potholders, lanyards, cork paintings and plaster of Paris figurines which we later painted and proudly bestowed on our parents. There were song fests where the girls and boys shouted stanzas of “Rueben, Rueben” at each other and foot races with no prizes. One of the proudest moments of my life was winning the girls’ foot race, beating an older, stronger and heavier girl. She was as surprised as I was. I loved those summer programs and appreciated seeing Miss Allen as a regular and relaxed woman in jeans and untucked shirts, as well as her frequent smiles.

Occasionally, even Mr. Kelly would drop by. During school days he always wore gray suits, white shirts and ties and, tall and lean, actually looked quite handsome for an older man. It was strange to see him in casual clothes and listen to him talk of everyday matters. One day he explained how the school board, against his superior advice, had allowed Shenango Furnace to dump a few tons of “red dog,” a steel byproduct on the farthest areas of the playground. The once huge and lovely trees that lined that edge soon died and their ugly bare skeletons still remained in reproach of that decision. (Ralph Leland Kelly was born in 1907 and died in 1959.)

Near the picnic tables were a few pieces of play equipment, swing sets, a sliding board, a low merry-go-round and monkey bars. The playground was near a small hill with a creek running along the bottom. This wide hill had no trees and tall grass waved gently in the spring breezes. We called it Goat Hill because it was said that a neighboring family had grazed their animals there. We loved that hill for its height, lack of power lines and trees which made it the perfect place to fly kites. The height achieved by a kite was only limited by the number of balls of string one could tie on. Most of the kites and string had been purchased at Stewart’s Market. Near the top of the hill were two large dugouts of unknown origin, but put to great use in many childhood games.

— Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960), Escondido, CA, March 2013


Such were the memories of Irene’s five years at the Emma Robison Elementary School in the early 1950s. If only all our memories of times past were as pleasant as these! It was a simpler world and possibly a safer one, long gone but not forgotten by those of us who lived it.

See other stories about Robison School:

Robison SchooI l by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Robison School II by Judy Caldwell Nelson

Robison School Class of 1960 (Part I) by Irene Caldwell O’Neill


ROBISON SCHOOL I

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

It’s September, the time of year that always meant back-to-school for 1950s children. The sight of today’s backpack-laden kids trudging off to school often as early as mid-August can still bring back those memories of long ago.

A song that would put anyone in a back-to-school mood is Chuck Berry’s 1957 rock ‘n’ roll version of “School Days.” As he sings about dealing with teachers, students and school subjects, he describes the high school experiences and concerns all of us can relate to then and now.

Elementary and high school occupied most of our young lives except for those three-month summer breaks each year, so it isn’t any wonder that memories abound, good and not-so-good. Join us as we recall those “dear old golden rule days” at Robison School during the early 1950s.


The Emma Robison School building sat like a stately mansion at the end of a long sidewalk that cut across the middle of the front lawn. The Y-shaped brick structure on Seventh Street had two stories, tall narrow windows, steep roofs and a sky-high chimney. At first, the building held six rooms for approximately 150 pupils, but later it grew to 10 room for 217 pupils. It was the place in which I spent my fifth and sixth grades at the ages of 10 through 12 years old.

The Beginnings

A timeline on the Mercer County Historical Society website mentions that the cornerstone of the “Sharpsville Public School” was laid on May 25, 1892. Miss Emma Robison taught there from 1900 to 1937. According to an article in the 1924 Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary Supplement to The Sharon (PA) Telegraph (page 10 ): “Miss Emma Robison has served as principal in the Seventh-st. School building for many years. She also teaches Grade Seven of that building.” 

“SEVENTH-ST SCHOOL TEACHERS.” Miss Emma Robison, 1st on left, back row. Source: Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary Supplement to The Sharon (PA) Telegraph (page 10), June 7, 1924.

At some time in the years that followed that 1924 article, the school was renamed in Emma Robison’s honor. A vintage postcard depicts the school with a woman and child sitting on concrete steps leading to the sidewalk. (See image below.) The fashion of the woman’s clothing suggests that the photo was taken in the late 1930s or early 40s, possibly after Emma Robison’s last year of teaching in 1937 and when the school adopted her name.

shps_robison_school

“Emma Robinson (sic) Grade School, 7th Street, Sharpsville, PA.,” 1930s. Image courtesy of Mike and Fredi Angel.

Starting the Day

During the first week of the school year, the wood floors would be extra shiny and the interior would have a pungent smell of whatever they applied to the floors. Early morning before school began, students would be standing in groups or chasing each other about on the sidewalk and grounds.

To signal the start of the school day, a teacher appeared at the massive front door, stood at the top of the steps, and rang a handbell. We immediately formed a line and entered the building two-by-two, stamping our little feet to the beat of John Sousa marches emanating from a record player, climbing the wide wooden staircase to the fourth and fifth-grade classes on the second floor. We ended our march as we entered the dark recesses of narrow cloakrooms that were adjacent to our assigned homerooms, removed our hats and coats and hung them on rows of hooks.

The School Room

sharpsville_school_chalkEntering our classroom through a doorway at the opposite end of the cloakroom, we moved on to our desks, which were assigned to us in alphabetical order by our last names. This seating arrangement continued into high school and, having the last name of Angel, I was always placed near the front of the room and always between the same students whose names came alphabetically before and after mine.

The folding seats and writing surfaces of our desks were made of varnished wood supported by wide ornate black wrought iron legs. The top of the desk, under which we would store our books, tablets, and pencil box, had a round hole for an inkwell in one corner and a groove to hold a pen or pencil along the top edge. On the wall was one of those typical school clocks with Roman numerals and a pendulum. Most likely there were the usual framed copies of paintings of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln hanging about the room.

sharpsville_image_cursive

Posters of the Palmer Method of penmanship were displayed above the blackboard and the pull-down world maps.

Good penmanship was emphasized. To keep us reminded of this, a long white narrow paper chart displayed the cursive alphabet in upper and lowercase across the top of the blackboard. During writing lessons, which were based on the Palmer method, we would dip the nibs of our wooden handled pens into the bottle of ink that was securely fixed in the desktop hole and practice our characters, perform exercises such as circles and ovals, and learn the proper way to write a letter. Cursive writing was one area in which I excelled. My work was displayed on the schoolroom wall with the others and I was awarded an A in penmanship on the report card that I carried home to my parents every six weeks. Thanks to this early training, I had at least readable handwriting for the rest of my life.

The Teachers

"Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery. (1950s). Source: www.pinterest.com

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery. (1950s). Source: http://www.pinterest.com

There were about 20 students in each of the two fifth-grade and two sixth-grade homerooms. My homeroom teacher for both those years was Miss Allen. At the end of each day, she would read to us a chapter of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book, Anne of Green Gables. We enjoyed following the exploits of that spunky red-headed girl, alternatively happy for her achievements and tearful during her rough times.

Each day, several teachers moved from classroom to classroom to present their lessons. Geography was taught by Miss Genevieve Bartholomew, using colorful pull-down maps of the countries. As for music, which she also taught, we often sang melodies from our music book using the scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do) instead of words to the songs. Although I had been taking piano lessons since the second grade, this was one lesson I could never master.

According to an article in a series titled “Life Stories” in The Herald dated March 27, 2006, Miss Bartholomew taught at Robison School for 38 years and was still going strong at age 95. (See the complete article here.)

Miss Helen Bruner was our arithmetic teacher. (See photo of “Seventh-St School Teachers” above.) Because I was behind in my math education when my family moved to Sharpsville, I was required to stay after school, along with a few other hapless students, to work on my multiplication and subtraction.

The Russians are Coming!

Although my time at Robison School felt safe and peaceful, the nation was in the midst of the Cold War and feared the possibility of nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. We were told that there was only one second between a flash and the explosion of a hydrogen bomb. As we practiced ducking under our desks, I tried to understand how long a second really was. I finally had to face the fact that I was doomed because there wasn’t time to do much of anything!

Other Activities

Judy Caldwell, who became my best friend, always had creative ideas for having fun. We spent many times together sketching our own fashion designs, writing to pen pals, collecting stamps, exploring Pine Hollow creek and woods, attending tap dancing lessons at Buhl Club, and swimming at the Buhl Park pool. My friend discovered that grade-schoolers could borrow books from the high school library. What a bonanza! At once I immersed myself in the lives of the impoverished but resourceful and happy Five Little Peppers, as described in a series of books about five children of the Pepper family written by Margaret Sidney.

The school provided at least one extra-curricular activity, weekly swimming lessons for sixth-graders at a pool in the basement of St. John’s Church that was located in the nearby town of Sharon. Learning how to save oneself from drowning was certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but that unheated water was very cold!

My brother Mike has the following recollections of those days:

The flagpole located in the front of the school was the center of a lot of play and ceremonial activity. I believe I was on some sort of detail assigned to raise the flag in the morning and another kid or two lowered it in the evening. When I saw the 1983 holiday movie, “A Christmas Story,” in which the kid got his tongue frozen to the flagpole, I immediately thought of the flagpole at Robison School where the same thing happened to [one of my friends]. I guess it was a common occurrence back then.

At one time, a tree planting ceremony was held in the front of the school commemorating something special (don’t remember what) – I wonder if the trees are still growing. The girls’ and boys’ restrooms were located in the basement of the school adjacent to the furnace room. I remember the smell of the furnace room as I think they burned coal (it really wasn’t offensive). The janitor must have been the best in the business because I recall how impressed I was as a little boy that the school was so neat and clean.

Something I always thought of: While attending the Robison School, I was told that at one time the 7th Street hill in front of the school was used for a soap box derby race. Kids would make a soapbox racer and race them at a yearly organized event until an accident of some sort occurred and the event was discontinued. I don’t know if the story is true or there were actually any races, but as a kid, I remember I was disappointed they no longer held the event because I would have been there with my racer.

Another memory: Prior to the school being dismissed, I along with others on the safety patrol left school early to attend to our assigned posts. My post was the crossing at 7th Street and Ridge Avenue. We picked up our long bamboo poles with red flags on the end, which were stored under the outside produce stand at the corner grocery store. When the students crossed the road, we held the poles out and stopped the traffic and let the kids cross safely.

After-School Fun

Mike continues:

I can’t recall the name of the grocery store but can recall what the owner looked like. [According to Judy Caldwell Nelson, the store was called “Stewarts’ Corner Grocery,” owned by the Stewart brothers.] He was real good with the children and treated them well. I bought a lot of penny candy from him.

Also, on Fridays two Filipino men hawked Duncan Yo-Yo’s at that location. The men sold Duncan Yo-Yo’s of all price ranges and special yo-yo string that sold for 5 cents each. They held yo-yo contests weekly and at the end of the school year the yo-yo company gave away a grand prize. It was a Duncan Yo-Yo encrusted with various colors of glass that looked like diamonds and must have been worth millions of dollars! I never won anything but enjoyed the event. I think one of the kids also won a bicycle one year.

sharpsville_photo_fifth_grade

Miss Allen’s Fifth Grade Class, 1950-1951. I’m in the middle row, third from left.

Moving On

The school year came to an end in May or early June. I don’t remember whether there was any preparation or guidance for our move to the Sharpsville Junior-Senior High School for seventh grade, but I do recall how sad Miss Allen was to see us go after having us as her homeroom students for two years.

The more that time has passed, the more idyllic those early school years seem to have been, unspoiled and full of promise. We were fortunate that those dedicated grade school teachers managed to provide us with a strong basic education, and in a building of such a grand design as the Emma Robison School.

See Also:

Deeter Elementary School 

Junior High School 

Pebly & 13 Street Schools

Robison School II

Robison School Class of 1960 Part I

Senior High School Traditions

SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!


— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with help from Michael Angel (SHS 1960), London, KY,
and Judy Caldwell Nelson (SHS 1958), Shoreline, WA. March 2012.

PINE HOLLOW

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Wild violets. Photo by Ann Angel Eberhardt.

Wild violets. Photo by Ann Angel Eberhardt.

Memories of my childhood hikes at Pine Hollow bring to mind a thick dark forest carpeted with purple and white violets and an occasional jack-in-the-pulpit…and the time my girlfriend and I dared to go skinny-dipping in the inviting cool waters of the winding stream. Of course, we were caught in the act by my brother and his entourage who were also exploring Pine Hollow that day. The group of delighted spectators included my cousin, who has never forgotten the episode and has never let me forget it. 

Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Source: Pixabay.com

Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Source: Pixabay.com

We unofficially called the area “Pine Hollow” although it may have actually been a part of Pine Hollow Run, which is located in one of several watershed basins that supply Sharpsville with tap water. Carrying our knapsacks filled with snacks, pencils and sketching pads, and other “emergency supplies”, we would follow the narrow creek that wandered through the woods, teetering over the flowing water as we crossed on a huge decaying log, occasionally stopping to search for crawdads, minnows, interesting stones, and frogs. My brother Pat recalls that he “accompanied Mom to Pine Hollow once on an excursion to hunt mushrooms. Fond memories of that place for all of us.” 

As the sun lowered in the sky and a towering railroad trestle came into view, we sensed that we should start back home. We did so either by walking for about a mile along the Erie Railroad tracks or backtracking to the main road (Route 518) until we returned to our small-town lives in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

pmss_image_hill house woods1

Forest view. Photo by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Irene Caldwell O’Neill, the originator of this series of Sharpsville memories, shares similar recollections of Pine Hollow during the 1940s and 1950s in the following essay.


OUR RIVER
by Irene Caldwell O’Neill

The Shenango River was always a method of transportation and the reason several towns had grown along it. Starting in the mid-1800s a steel industry flourished along the banks, bringing jobs to the area but also polluting the air and river water. In the 1950s the river didn’t look as polluted as it certainly must have been. The PCB level had yet to be measured, so locals swam in the water and ate the fish they caught without worry.

The Shenango flowed gently most of the time, curving here and there through lush farmlands and isolated forests until the series of small steel towns appeared, beginning with Greenville in the north and ending with Farrell, Sharpsville being in the middle. In each town, tall black furnace towers spewed dark smoke in long plumes that stretched for miles across the valley.

The river had once been part of the Erie Canal system and the crumbling walls of lock number 10 are an easy walk from the edge of town. My last visit to number 10 was in 1957 with D___ M____, innocently holding hands as we looked down from the tree-shaded path.

Camping at Pine Hollow

A tributary of the Shenango River flowed through an area called Pine Hollow, where thick green woods grew along sloping hills. In the summer of 1947, my family camped in those woods. For two months we lived in a large brown canvas surplus army tent and slept on folding GI cots.

Every night we cooked over an open fire, ringed with big white rocks. Mom would set her coffee pot or frying pan on a steel rack laid atop the rocks and turn out great bacon and eggs or hamburgers. I ate a lot of hot dogs speared on sharpened sticks and cooked until the blackened skin burst and juice sizzled in the flames. Or potatoes we coated with mud and buried under the firewood until done.

Beside the tent, in the tiny pool of an icy spring, Mother submerged bottles of milk, jars of butter, eggs and other perishable food. Long yellow streamers of sticky flypaper interspersed with drying towels, bathing suits and underwear hung from the rope strung from big tree to big tree around our campsite. The flies got stuck but didn’t die and those yellow ribbons seemed alive themselves, with constant buzzing and wing-flapping as the bugs tried mightily, but fruitlessly to escape. More than once my long hair got stuck as I walked by. I still shudder at that.

We bathed, swam and played in the river the whole day wearing bathing suits even to bed if they had dried. My always bare skinny legs and arms were covered with mosquito bites that I scratched until they bled, but that was better than the poison ivy rash my brother Jack had all over his body. He had only to get within a foot of the plant, which grew everywhere in those woods, to soon have a rash. Flaking layers of pink calamine lotion coated his limbs giving him a weird splotchy appearance.

On the log dining table sat canning jars full of river water and the tadpoles we’d caught. None of them ever quite made it to full frogdom. I now realize they died because we didn’t know what to feed them.

Dad worked at the railroad yard during our campout and would ride to our campground on an outward-bound train at the end of his day. We’d hear the afternoon train coming and walk toward the tracks to meet and escort him home. He’d carry the evening paper, the day’s mail and a bag of whatever he’d been told to pick up. At night we sat around the fire watching the flames and talking about our day. Sometimes Mom and Dad would tell stories about the world of their childhood while we listened intently before falling onto our cots for a sound sleep.

On Dad’s days off he joined us in the river and would swim across, back, and then against the current in the middle. He showed us how to skip stones and look for fossils in the rocks. Mother mostly hung around the campsite, seldom walking down to the water. She had never learned to swim, and, like Jack, had a major sensitivity to poison ivy, always afraid of coming near it. I hope she was reading a lot and enjoying the freedom from housework drudgery.

Hiking in Pine Hollow

We never camped in Pine Hollow again or anywhere else for such a long period. There were a few shorter trips to Cook Forest [State Park] but never anything to compare with that wonderful summer. In later years, my brother, sister, and I would often walk through town to the river and turn into those woods for a day of peaceful adventure. We wore surplus army rucksacks filled with towels, bathing suits, sandwiches and fruit to allow for long hours in the “wilderness.” We followed the trails of many, many years and knew our way well enough to never get lost even when we strayed off the path to dig flowers for our yard. Mother loved jack-in-the-pulpits and lilies-of-the-valley, so we brought them home to plant, hoping to please her.

We weren’t the only children exploring the woods so meeting others we knew while swimming or hiking was expected, but it was sometimes nicer to enjoy the deep quiet alone.

Tragedy on the Railroad Trestle

Children moving along the river paths would sooner or later have to cross the river if they wanted to stay in the woods that were farther from town. The shortcut was via the railroad trestle bridge which had no pedestrian walkway. Walkers had to step from wooden tie to wooden tie the length of the bridge. Most were at least a little afraid and hopped across quickly trying not to look down at the drop to the river. We nervously talked about how easy it would be to slip between the ties and fall to our death, at the same time listening for the sound of approaching train whistles and planning our escape.

One June day in 1957, as two children were midway crossing the trestle, a fast and long freight train approached, whistle blowing loudly. G___ F____, a classmate of [my brother] Jack’s froze in fear and despite the urgings and tuggings of her companion could not be led from the bridge. She was finally abandoned as her friend ran for safety.

A photo of the trestle with an arrow indicating the exact spot she was struck appeared on the front page of the next day’s Sharon Herald. Jack and I stared at that photo for a long time trying numbly to absorb the reality of the event. All who knew her and all who had walked those ties were completely stunned. This tragic loss of a peer brought a terrible sadness to our river playground and many of us could never return.

– Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960), Escondido, CA. April 2012.

sharpsville_map_pinehollow3

Topographical map showing Shenango River’s tributary, Pine Hollow Run near Sharpsville, PA. http://www.topoquest.com


SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Here’s a story guaranteed to bring back memories to those who grew up in the Sharpsville area in the 1950s and 60s. Bill Parcetic is no longer with us, but you’ll feel that he’s still alive and kickin’ when you read about his boyhood antics. Many names have been kept intact for the sake of a good story, but if you are someone he mentions who would like your name removed, please let us know.

NOTE: Be sure to check out this Group page on Facebook titled “South Pymatuning Township Memories”:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/SouthPymatuningTownshipMemories/

Thomas Riffe, who grew up on Carlisle Road in South Py through the 1960s and early 1970s, started the Group “as a place to reminisce, share stories and pictures and to keep our memories alive.” If you lived in or near South Py in the 1950s-1970s, please consider sharing your memories with others who have done so at his site.


Growing up in South Pymatuning Township

By Bill Parcetic

What you are about to read actually happened. It’s all true. It has taken over 50 years to bring these stories to light and you’ll be shocked to learn what was going on right outside of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania. You’ll read of children deprived of TV, huddled in their cramped bedrooms listening to a small radio for entertainment, of these same children playing on piles of dirt or building their own shelter with discarded building material. You’ll be shocked to learn of grown men who trudged through deep snow to buy the barest of food to feed their families. Of teenage boys who openly walked the township with real firearms, dogs that were forced to walk miles without food or water for the pleasure of their owners. But most shocking of all, small children forced to ride in cars and buses WITHOUT seatbelts! The people who lived through all this called this time…THE GOOD OLD DAYS!

This is my view of growing up in an area outside of Sharpsville. I’ll begin by telling you about some of the history we had in these other districts before we got to Sharpsville.

I went to Farrell city schools for kindergarten from first grade through half of the third grade. In November of 1950 we moved to a house my dad built on Route 18 in South Pymatuning Township. When I say he built it, that’s what he did: He cut the wood with a hand saw and hammered the nails. The south edge of our property bordered Hickory Township (now known as Hermitage, “livin’ on the edge!”). At this time Route 18 was a two-lane road and from our house you could see all the way past where the Corral [Restaurant] is now. There were no trees or buildings in the way.

The Big Snow [of 1950]

South Pymatuning Township

(Pixabay_cc0)

I tell you about the location because, for my mom and me, this became a very dramatic location. So this was November 1950 and shortly after we moved in we got hit by the BIG SNOW…on a Friday afternoon. This affected all of us living in the area at the time, but this is how it was for us.

My dad was in the habit of stopping for groceries after work on Fridays at Nicholoffs Market on Idaho Street in Farrell. (D’Onofrio’s Food Center was a few years yet to come.) Dad would get home around 5 p.m., but on this night he was late. It snowed and snowed. Mom and I watched out the front window for dad’s car. Six o’clock went by, then seven. Fewer and fewer cars were able to make the trip down the road and there were no snow plows coming. A lot of men from Clarksville, Transfer and Greenville worked at Sharon Steel and Westinghouse, so there should have been a steady stream of cars. Then no cars came along! Finally, around 8 o’clock a lone set of headlights could be seen way down the road. It turned out to be my dad. He only got a short way up the driveway before coming to a halt because of the deep snow. We had about three feet in places.

No cars moved on Route 18 for two days. We were isolated and my mom was sorry we moved. She had always lived in Farrell and years later she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I remember George King, Betty King’s father pulling a sled and walking to Joe Antos’ store in Clarksville for milk and other stuff. (Clarksville became Clark after the Shenango Dam was built.)

Neighborhood Kids

At this time those of us who lived in South Py on the east side of the river went to school in Hickory. The kids in Clarksville had a wooden two-story “school house.” How many of you knew that? Betty King [SHS class of 1959) lived next door to me and we were good friends. The closest classmate to me was Bob Heiges down over the hill toward Clarksville. The next closest classmate was Rodney Houck. He lived on Valley View Road, kinda behind me. There was a country lane behind my house that went to Valley View Road and that was my connection to Rodney and Rodger Gill, Don Hancock, Jim and Bill Wilson, and Carol Gunsley. We called Valley View Road “Old 18” because it used to be Route 18 before the section I lived on was built in 1943 to make it faster to get to Camp Reynolds (more trivia).

Summer Fun

With all of us spread out like that, it was impossible to get a baseball game together or any team sport. In the summer we’d play Monopoly or some other board game. We were NEVER in the house. Riding broomstick horses never caught on like it did in Farrell, but we had huge piles of dirt left over from the excavation of our basements! I had a good time going up and down dirt piles.

South Pymatuning Township

(Pixabay_cc0)

My dad made Betty and me stilts to walk around on. After we got the hang of that we were all over the yards. I liked to build forts and hideouts with all the leftover building materials. We had bonfires in the backyard and roasted lots of marshmallows and hot dogs.

After I got a bicycle my world opened up a bit. l spent a lot of time learning to ride a bicycle. I never had a new one, and the ones I had were way too big and I had a hard time getting on them.

Talk about heavy old bikes! Dick Heim had a really sweet old Schwinn. It had “knee action,” a big spring in front that allowed the front forks to move up and down to give an easier ride. Yeah…it was a Cadillac, and Dick kept it shiny: We’re talkin’ mud flaps and reflectors.

Skates, Ponies, Jokes and Guns

In the winter we had Stanley Stewart’s pond that he built in Winwood Acres. That’s where a lot of us learned to skate. Adults skated there too. And we had more fires there to keep warm. For the big thrills we’d sled ride on that big hill on Valley View Road that goes down into Clark. And no one told us not to. What good times!

Speaking of this hill…it was a bear! I had to push my old bike up the thing. Rodger Gill lived near the top of it. Although he’s no longer living I know he wouldn’t mind my telling some things about him. He was a full-blown diabetic. He missed a lot of school back in the third grade. He had a pony and all this western gear he’d wear when he showed the pony. I guess I wanted to ride it, but I can’t remember ever doing that. (We learned to accept disappointment in those days.) However, I did learn to put a bridle on a horse and how to cinch a saddle. Skills I haven’t used since, but I’m ready if l ever need them!

Rodger was one of those very pleasant kids that adults like, clean-cut, polite, etc. But he did introduce me to the “dirty joke!” This kid always had an off-color story to tell. It might only be about his pony passing gas in front of the lady next door, but to me it was new stuff! We’d laugh and laugh and I’d run the story over and over in my mind as l pedaled home on my bike, so as not to forget it.

Jim Patterson and l were shooters. We regularly carried .22 rifles with us into the woods. I moved past the BB gun stage pretty quickly. We’d pass the time on the school bus telling each other about our latest hunting adventure. At our 50th reunion Jim reminded me of the day we rolled metal can lids across his yard and shot at them with our 22s. No one got hurt and no one called the cops. We knew our guns and we tried to shoot safely.

Ice, Fire and True Friendship

South Pymatuning Township

German Shepherd. (Pixabay_cc0)

On one cold winter day, Fred Brown and I walked with our dogs up the river on the ice. Fred’s dog was a German Shepherd named “Bullet” after Roy Roger’s dog and mine was a mix that I got from Tom Antos. His name was “Toby,” named after a tree he liked to lay under in the back yard. That doesn’t have the excitement of a name like Bullet but he didn’t mind. I walked everywhere with him.

Now, walking on river ice may not seem real smart and it wasn’t. After a while we came to a bend up near Reno’s farm and on the bend where the water ran faster, it wasn’t frozen.

You have to understand that Toby loved to fetch sticks. One time I took our old Christmas tree out to the garden to burn and Toby tried to drag it back. You can see he was serious about fetching! (You can also see that burning things comes up a lot in my story.)

We took a break on this bend to watch the fast flowing water. (Actually, we were gauging the ice and trying not to look stupid about walking on it.) Toby was looking at the ice too. He was more stupid than I was, but not by much. I picked up a stick and threw it at this hole in the ice, never thinking what the dog’s reaction might be. Toby, without hesitating, jumped into the water after it! Holy CRAP! Toby hit that cold water and knew he’d messed up. He was being swept downstream, looking up at us! Fred, with even less hesitation than Toby showed, threw himself down on the ice and reached into the water and grabbed Toby as Toby’s head hit the edge of the ice and was ready to go under! I got down and grabbed Fred’s ankles, and we got the dog out.

We built a fire (of course) to warm up. Toby didn’t seem to mind his brush with death and started a fight with Bullet! Maybe Bullet said something smart to Toby that started the fight….we’ll never know. Once again Fred jumped into the fray and got Bullet by the tail and started swinging him around in a circle….with Toby in pursuit….and me chasing Toby. What a sight it must have been! The moral of the story? Get a German Shepherd, they don’t jump into cold water! This is a true story of friendship.

Move to Sharpsville Schools

Some of us were going to school in Hickory as I said earlier, until the school in Clarksville burned down. The kids in Clarksville had a wooden two-story “school house.” (How many of you knew that?) The volunteer firemen couldn’t put the fire out with their 1927 Model T fire truck so, figuring they had to save something from the school, they started throwing school books out the window. My good friend Fred Brown told me the boys from town picked the books off the ground and threw them back into the burning school! I believe it….l got to know all those guys.

All of us, including the Clarksville kids needed a school, so a deal was worked out to send us to Sharpsville. Those of us in grade school got sent to South Pymatuning Elementary School. For me, that was for just one year, the sixth grade. l don’t remember much of that except I liked it more than Hickory.

(Funny how some people stick in your memory. In Hickory, there was a kid who ate the eggshells from his hard-boiled eggs at lunch time… I guess today he’d be called a “special needs” kid. He was the sweetest kid you’d ever meet. He was 18 years old at that time, and I’ve never forgotten him. I never saw him again.)

On to Sharpsville middle school and the seventh grade. This is where I met so many of you and made so many friends. l can’t tell you much about the west side of Sharpsville. I got to meet those classmates slowly over a period of time. The reason was that I didn’t know what area most people were from. I’d hear about Deeter, Robison, and I didn’t have a clue where they were. So it recently dawned on me that as we started seventh grade we were a bunch of strangers! I thought everyone from Sharpsville knew everyone else from Sharpsville. That just wasn’t the case.

Our One and Only School Bus

South Pymatuning Township

(Pixabay.com)

We had the same bus driver the whole time I was in school. His name was Kenny Paden. A really nice man who had a farm out on Route 846.

For that matter, we also had the same bus for all those years. It was like a 1948 GMC and the worst bus Paul Bortner [then owner of Bortner School Bus Inc.] had in his stable. He didn’t trust us to ride a better bus. Remember the story of the boys throwing the books back in the fire? Well, that’s what Paul was worried about. Sometimes Paul Bortner drove our bus….you never saw a better bunch of kids! If Paul drove, you didn’t want to make eye contact with him in that mirror that the driver can watch the passengers with. “I’m watching you Parcetic!”

[Read more about the Bortner Bus Company here (The Herald, 20 Nov 1997) and here (The Herald, 21 Sept 2000).]

One time that old bus caught fire out on Route 258. We put the fire out with snowballs….but that’s another story.

– Bill Parcetic ( 1942-2014), Sharon, PA – (Sharpsville High School 1960).

For more about the shenanigans of Sharpsville Area boys
in the old days, see:

The Great Switchblade Incident of ’75
The Three Lost Boys of Sharpsville
A Treehouse Grows in Sharpsville

Bill Parcetic’s narrative was submitted to “Small Town Memories” by Judy McCracken (SHS 1960), who wrote: “I worked with him for a year to write his memoirs of his years in the Navy—we got it done and printed two weeks before he died—I think it kept him going a long time with that purpose—what a treasure for his family.”


PEBLY & 13th STREET SCHOOLS

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Harry E. Pebly Elementary School

[Click on image to enlarge. Press Esc key to return.]

The Harry E. Pebly Elementary School was named after the then superintendent of the Sharpsville Joint School System. Harry Eugene Pebly, Sr. (1894-1967), had studied at Thiel College, Michigan State College, and University of Pittsburgh, where he received a Master’s in Education. After serving the school system for 36 years as coach, teacher, principal, and superintendent, he retired in 1956. (Pages 16-17 in the 1957 Devil’s Log Sharpsville High School yearbook features his photograph and an article expressing a fond farewell and appreciation.)

After my brother Pat Angel’s first year at Deeter, he recalls this about his years at Pebly School:

I remember the faces and many of the names of the teachers, most notably Mrs. Kilburn, my third-grade teacher (Pebly, 1957-58). She was the teacher who cast me as the ‘ugly duckling’ in the school play which I considered then and now a great honor. As a very shy child, it boosted my self-confidence to play the lead role in that little school play. I like to think that Mrs. Kilburn had that in mind when she chose me. Her husband was a plumber and he had a shop near where the only red light was in town. 

My best friend all through elementary school, Mickey A_____…was from the only African American family in Sharpsville. He lived in the “projects” and had 2 sisters, Shirley and Martha. They were Seventh Day Adventists and my friend’s mother often gave him and me Bible lessons when I would go over and play at his house. I remember playing Monopoly with him and his dad.

Mickey would show up each school morning at my door to walk with me up the Second Street hill to Pebly. In the fifth grade, we become ‘blood brothers’ by cutting the palms of our hands with a knife and then pressing the cuts together, mixing our blood. I’m sure we were influenced by the TV series (1954-55) on Davy Crockett (‘King of the Wild Frontier’) on Walt Disney’s ‘Disneyland’. I remember that we both pledged to be true and loyal friends forever.

I think Mickey and his family moved from Sharpsville after elementary school. I went back to the projects in the 1970s and made inquiries about Mickey’s whereabouts. Some folks remembered the family as being the first black family in the projects but didn’t know where they had moved to. I wish I could find him and reminisce about our childhood and to tell him how much his friendship meant to me.

A news report from The Record-Argus, Greenville, PA, newspaper (page 12, February 7, 1956) mentions the school:

A name for a new street leading to the Harry E. Pebly Elementary School is to be selected by council. Council may ask Sharpsville school pupils to select the name.

Patrick doesn’t recall much about this street except that it was “engineered differently than the older streets in Sharpsville and an oak tree planted in someone’s honor (Mr. Pebly?) in the school courtyard. The tree is still there — bigger of course than when it was planted in 1956.”

According to Google Maps street view, the 1950s style building still stands but the Harry E. Pebly Elementary School is indicated as “closed.”


Thirteenth Street School

sharpsville_schools_13th_street - straight - Edited

“Thirteenth Street Elementary School, Sharpsville, Pa.1922-1957-58.” (Source: SHS Class of 1958 50th reunion souvenir booklet, August 16, 2008.)

A booklet commemorating Sharpsville’s Centennial in 1974 records that the Thirteenth Street school buildings were erected as annexes to the Deeter Building.

In 1922 the school board purchased a plan of lots at 13th Street to take care of the pressing school needs of that area. The two wooden structures were moved from the Deeter Building to these lots to provide Grades 1 and 2. The buildings were open to the public in 1922 and served the community until they were closed in 1958.

The property at 13th was later sold on bid. All students from the 13th Street area subsequently attended school at the Seventh Street School.


These elementary schools are no longer around, but our memories 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:

Deeter Elementary School

Junior High School

Robison School I

Robison School Class of 1960 Part I

Senior High School Traditions

SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ
— Pat Angel (SHS 1960-1964), London, KY


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


ROBISON SCHOOL II

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

By Judy Caldwell Nelson

Hup, two, three, four. You’re in the army now.

Robison Elementary School was the school I attended from third through sixth grades. The school was a large red brick building with wooden flooring and two grand staircases leading to the second floor. There were beautifully polished railings on the sweeping stairways.

As I recall, the fourth through sixth-grade homerooms were on the second floor. Miss Bruner was my fourth-grade teacher and I believe she secretly wanted to be an army sergeant. Of course, women were not permitted in the armed services in those days unless they were nurses. Not to be deterred, Miss Bruner probably decided that the next best thing would be to become a teacher and treat her students like army recruits.

When we students left school in the afternoon, we all had to line up four or more abreast on the upper stairway. Miss Bruner had a wooden ruler and she would rap it sharply on the stairway railing in time to her hearty cries of “Left, left….left, right, left.”

We were not permitted to descend – and escape – until we were all keeping perfect step. Sometimes we would march in place for five or more minutes until we reached the gloriously perfect cadence that probably filled Miss Bruner’s heart with rapture. And woe unto he or she whose marching was deficient, for that ruler could rap on other things besides the railing – like arms, hands, heads, etc.

Of course, other homeroom teachers lined their students up in the same manner and made them march as well. But no other teacher expressed the military ardor of Miss Bruner. Someone should have presented her with honorary sergeant stripes.

Unfortunately, that beautiful old school was torn down and replaced with a more modern structure with absolutely no personality.

The Robison Building located at Seventh Street was erected in 1892 as a six-room building built to accommodate approximately 150 pupils. The cost of the building was $16,000. It now consists of 10 rooms and it supplies substantial room for 217 pupils from grade one through six. The building was named in honor of Miss Emma Robison who taught here from 1900-1937. [Source: SHS Class of 1958 50th reunion souvenir booklet, August 16, 2008.]

Read memories of Robison School by other writers here:
ROBISON SCHOOL I
ROBISON SCHOOL Class of 1960 (Part I)
ROBISON SCHOOL Class of 1960 (Part II)

Top of page: Emma Robison Grade School, Sharpsville, PA,  on a map drawn by Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler and published by T. M. Fowler & James B. Moyer in 1901. [Source: Library of Congress.]

– Judy Caldwell Nelson (SHS 1958), Shoreline, WA, March 2013