Small Town Memories

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

Tag: Sharon Herald

PETE JOYCE, Community Leader & Isaly’s Owner

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

One thing that always reminds me of Pete Joyce from the 1950s is chicken noodle soup.

“And what are we having for lunch today?” asked the tall waiter in a white apron as he advanced from behind the counter holding a receipt pad and pencil. “Chicken noodle soup, please!” answered one of the two children seated in the store’s red upholstered booth. It was the same question and the same answer each weekday for four months. 

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

The waiter chose two small cans labeled Heinz’s Chicken Noodle Soup from a shelf, then heated and served this warm and savory lunch along with packets of crisp soda crackers. The children were my brother Mike and myself. (My nine-year-old reasoning was that if we tried any other soup, we may not like it and then go hungry for the rest of the afternoon.) We paid 15 cents for each bowl. The patient and accommodating waiter was Pete Joyce, owner of Isaly’s Dairy on the corner of Main and Third streets, Sharpsville, PA.

This daily routine was occurring in the fall of 1949, during a time when my family was preparing to move about six miles from Wheatland to Sharpsville. Because the remodeling of our new Second Street home and printshop wasn’t completed by September, my parents thought my brother and I should begin the 1949-1950 school year at Robison School in Sharpsville in any case. That meant that we had to commute by public bus (including transfer to a second bus on State Street in Sharon) to attend fourth (my brother) and fifth grades with a break for lunch, ours being at Isaly’s. After school we would meet my dad, who ran a printshop on Walnut Street, and the three of us would return to Wheatland. This commute lasted until we finally moved into our new residence just before Christmas. 

[“Isaly Dairy Co. 306 W. Main Street, Sharpsville, with manager Frank Porter holding grandson Larry Shannon, June 1939.” Photo courtesy of Sharpsville Area historical Society.]

There were a few other direct connections between my family and Mr. Joyce that I can recall. Approximately six years later, Pete Joyce, by then a former burgess and now councilman, swore in three new members of the Sharpsville Council. One of those members was August Angel, my dad. 

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

In 1961, Pete Joyce and my dad, “two veteran Sharpsville political personalities,” according to a Sharon Herald article, were unopposed for their party’s nomination for burgess at the May primary elections. Pete Joyce, a Democrat, won the election in November, replacing the retiring Burgess George D. Mahaney.

Throughout our years in Sharpsville my family continued to shop at Isaly’s, purchasing such items as milk and cream and Isaly’s iconic skyscraper cones, chipped chopped ham, Klondikes and half-gallon brick-shaped ice cream in delicious flavors such as Neapolitan (layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) and White House Cherry (vanilla mixed with Maraschino cherries). Mr. Joyce wasn’t always the waiter since he hired young teens to help out.

My younger brother, Pat, recalls that the first hamburger he ever ate was at Isaly’s. Pat says he can still see Pete Joyce in a white waiter’s hat and apron serving him a sizzling patty of ground beef between slices of a round white bun with a dill pickle on the side and squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard for the taking. The cost of the hamburger was 25 cents.

[Above: This Canonsburg, PA, 1950 Isaly’s store-front looks very much like Sharpsville’s Isaly’s in the 1950s. Source: Brian Butko’s The Story of Isaly’s: Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones, Stackpole Books, 2001.]

I seldom eat canned chicken noodle soup these days except as my comfort food when I have a bad cold. But the chicken-broth odor and salty taste of that soup still bring to mind Isaly’s and Pete Joyce, the man who was mayor of Sharpsville in the 1950s and 60s.

Pete Joyce: SERVICES AND HONORS

All the while that Pete Joyce owned and operated Isaly’s, an early type of convenience store that provided the community with deli and dairy products, magazines and comic books, and other everyday items, he also tirelessly served in a variety of political, governmental, civil and church endeavors. 

After graduation from Sharpsville High School in 1929, he attended the former Shenango Valley Commercial Institute in Sharon, PA. He first entered politics when serving on the Sharpsville Area School Board in 1940, while, according to the 1940 U.S. Census, he was an A&P store manager. 

His first and second terms on the board were interrupted by World War II. Joyce enlisted in the U.S. Army on January 28, 1942, and served four years as a captain of the Army Truck Company 3891 and was awarded the Bronze Star.

After his war years, Joyce was councilman and mayor of Sharpsville for numerous terms, ending his political career as Mercer County Commissioner. According to The Herald, March 22, 2001,

He followed [his military service] with 18 years as a borough official, including terms as burgess and then mayor from 1953 through 1957 and 1961 through 1969. Joyce also was elected in 1958 and again in 1976 as county commissioner. In 1962 he came within 3,000 votes of being elected to Congress.

“Sharpsville: Hibernians tap Joyce for honor.” The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2001

Joyce was a member of many other boards throughout the years. He was a board member of Catholic Charities (for 50 years); the former McDowell Bank (now National City); the Buhl Trustees; Mercer County Board of Elections; and chairman of the board of the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging Inc. He was a member of the Catholic Social Service Club for many years and president of its advisory board. 

He initiated the formation of a pension fund for borough employees and donated his own salary to it. He led efforts that resulted in the establishment of the Mercer County Regional Council of Governments and the Shenango Valley Regional Planning Commission (now Mercer County Regional Planning Commission). He also belonged to the Pennsylvania Economy League. In 1973 he was appointed regional municipal services officer for PennDOT. 

His participation in many other philanthropic and service organizations included a 40-year membership with the Sharpsville Service Club and its past president, chair of the Community Chest (now United Way), as well as a member of the Pennsylvania Economic League. Mr. Joyce was a fundraiser for Kennedy Christian High School in Hermitage, PA, which was established in 1964 and since 2001 is known as Kennedy Catholic High School. 

He was a lifelong member of  St. Bartholomew Church in Sharpsville where he was a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine teacher of young people. He eventually became the church’s oldest male parishioner. In addition, he served as president of the former Mercer County Holy Name Society.

As a member of the Mercer County Historical Society, Joyce was respected for his knowledge of Mercer County history and genealogy. According to his obituary in The Herald

He was fascinated by history, especially of the local area, Thomas Jefferson and the Civil War. He often acted as a source of information for others with similar interests.

“Pete Joyce” Obituary. The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2006

Pete Joyce was named “Man of the Year” by Shenango Valley Jaycees and Shenango Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1977, he was named outstanding Democrat of the year by Reynolds Area 2 Democrats. The date of February 2, 1980, was declared “Peter J. Joyce Day” by local mayors. These and many other tributes show the high esteem that the community held for a man who had a vivid sense of duty to his church, community and country and an indefatigable love of work! 

Pete Joyce: FAMILY BACKGROUND

According to the U.S. Censuses, Joyce’s grandparents, Peter M. Joyce (c.1868-1940) and Nora Murray Joyce (c.1865-1950) immigrated from Ireland in c. 1893 and were among many who were attracted to Pennsylvania by opportunities for work in the steel mills and on the railroads. 

Pete Joyce was born in Sharpsville on April 11 1911, the youngest of six children: Bridget, Mary (1901-1981), Patrick J. (1903-1979), Norah (Nora? 1906-1918), Catharine F. (1909-2002), and Peter (1911-2006).

The 1920, 1930 and 1940 U.S. Censuses record the family as living on Walnut Street in Sharpsville, next door to the Biggins family whose recent ancestors were also from Ireland. James A., one of the Biggins children and close to Pete Joyce’s age, became one of Sharpsville’s well-known and fondly remembered medical doctors. Next door to the Biggins lived George F. Mahaney and his family. George F. was the son of George D. Mahaney, a longtime Sharpsville burgess who was succeeded by Joyce in 1961.

On May 5, 1943, Pete Joyce married Madeline Lucille (O’Connor). They had two daughters, Madeline and Patricia, and a son, Thomas P. Joyce.

Peter (“Pete”) J. Joyce died on March 17, 2006, at the age of 94, and was buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Heritage, PA, where he joined other deceased Joyce family members, including his wife Madeline who died in 2000 at the age of 88.

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

See Also:
ISALY’S DAIRY
The RELUCTANT POLITICIAN
DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part I & Part II

Sources

Butko, Brian. Klondikes, Chipped Ham & Skyscraper Cones: The Story of Isaly’s. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001. Print.

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVL2-WH8Q : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter J. Joyce, ; Burial, Hermitage, Mercer, Pennsylvania, Saint Marys Cemetery; citing record ID 97764525, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com. Internet resource.

“PETE JOYCE (Peter J. Joyce 1911-2006).” Obituary in The (Sharon) Herald, Mar 22, 2006. 

“SHARPSVILLE: Hibernians tap Joyce for honor.” The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2001. 

“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6YJ-T4Y : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter Joyce in household of Peter Joyce, Hickory, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing ED 88, sheet 14A, line 22, family 284, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992). Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RZX-977?cc=1810731&wc=QZFW-ZW7%3A649490601%2C649589501%2C650224201%2C1589282491 : accessed 16 January 2020), Pennsylvania > Mercer > Sharpsville > ED 72 > image 30 of 34; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002). Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQCK-8CC : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter J Joyce in household of Peter M Joyce, Ward 2, Sharpsville, Sharpsville Borough, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 43-83, sheet 4A, line 16, family 60 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration). Internet resource.


BIG SNOW OF 1950: Saving the Trumps

by Eric Bombeck

This year’s winter storms bring to mind the major storms of the past that many of us in northwest Pennsylvania have endured. One of those was The Big Snow of 1950, more widely known as “The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950.” Local recollections of this massive “extratropical cyclone,” as the weather experts called it, were published on “Small Town Memories” in 2017.

Here is a captivating story about The Big Snow as experienced in South Pymatuning, PA, researched and written by Eric Bombeck. Appreciation of the cozy warmth of your own home will greatly increase as you imagine the trials of the Trump family and their rescue by some very brave, selfless and resourceful men and boys.


The Big Snow of 1950: Saving the Trumps

By Eric Bombeck, February 2019

The Sharon (PA) Herald, Wednesday, November 27, 1950, front page.

On Thanksgiving day 1950, it started snowing in the valley. It didn’t quit snowing until late Saturday. In total, a little less than three feet fell in the Shenango Valley. It became known as “The Big Snow” and before it was over, it killed 250 people and caused 66 million dollars in damage in 22 states. The storm was, in essence, a very rare inland hurricane with gale force winds, causing 5-8 foot drifts.

In town, everything stopped. Workers stuck at Westinghouse worked 36-hour shifts because no one else could get to work or find a place to park even if they could get there. The brand new Shenango Inn was slated to open that weekend but had to be delayed. The roof in a hangar at Chadderton Airport collapsed damaging four planes. Longtime podiatrist, Dr. Leonard Pleban, who was in practice until a few years ago, was going to open his office that Friday but was snowed out. Richard Fahnline was a board operator at WPIC radio that year. He recalls that the only way he could get to work at the station was to walk there. During the 72 hours after the storm, the station became the nerve center of the valley. The skeleton crew there slept in the building in 3-hour shifts, taking to the airwaves to help with one emergency after another.

Getting to the Trump Family

By Sunday, the valley was paralyzed by the snow and word came into WPIC that, out in South Pymatuning, the Trump family was trapped in their house on River Road (near where Joe’s Greenhouse is now). The Trumps, whose six kids were between the ages two and fourteen, were out of coal and nearly out of food.

[Click on image to see an enlargement.]

In Sharon, Humane Society agent Russell Pass was listening to WPIC when he heard about the Trumps. His job was to protect animals, but sometimes you have to make the hard decisions in life, the right decisions. (Maybe even the decision that will get written about 68 years later!) Russell decided that he would take the Trumps enough supplies to get them through until the worst was over. It was late evening and he reasoned he would be home at his regular bedtime. But there was one problem: his station wagon was in his garage, which happened to be blocked by a 6-foot snow drift. He called Sharon city street foreman Ray Stuart who showed up with a bulldozer to clear his drive.

Road crews were not equipped with modern day plows back then and getting to the Trumps all the way out in South Pymatuning wasn’t going to be easy. Russell needed help, he gathered a few volunteers and headed out North Water Avenue. They got as far as Meyers Hill (where the Sharon shooting range is) and the roads became impassable. There was no choice but to hike the rest of the way. Some of the guys carried sacks of coal on their backs while others carried food.

Evacuating the Trumps

Almost an hour of trudging through the waist deep snow finally brought them to the Trump house. When they got there a new surprise awaited them: Mrs. Trump was pregnant with her seventh child. She and the whole family needed to be evacuated. There was no way Mrs. Trump could walk out in 3 feet of snow. Russell Pass decided that there was only one way to get her out…they needed a toboggan.

A phone call was made to WPIC and the weary on-air personalities announced that a toboggan was needed. At the same time, some high school kids were sled riding on the east hill of State Street in front of the Buhl Club. While the boys were warming up at the gas station (near the current site of Daffins), the police, who were tuned to WPIC, came in and asked to borrow the toboggan. Most of the crew were members of the junior class at Sharon that year, many of them Sharon football players. Not only did the guys give up their toboggan, but they also offered to make the trip out to save the Trumps. Back in South Py, Russell Pass began the long trek through the snow back to his car at the foot of Meyers Hill when the police gave the boys a ride to meet him. Then they all ventured back through the snow to the Trump house. By the time they reached the Trumps, it was in the wee hours of the morning.

Mrs. Trump and her family were all dressed in their warmest clothes and the whole crew headed out towards Russell’s station wagon in the middle of the night. Mrs. Trump was lashed to the toboggan and some of the football players carried some of the younger children as they trekked through the high snow back to the station wagon. History doesn’t record who carried the Trumps’ two dogs all the way back but it’s a pretty good bet that Humane Society agent Russell Pass was carrying one of them.

The Trump Family: Rescued!

Finally, the whole crew reached the station wagon. The Trump family was taken to Mrs. Trump’s mother’s house on Grant Street, very thankful to be safe. Russell Pass then drove his trusty station wagon back to the foot of Myers Hill to pick up the boys to take them home. Russell missed his bedtime by just a little bit…it was 8:30 Sunday morning by the time he got home. “The Big Snow” would take many lives that weekend, but not these lives, not on Russell Pass’s watch.

I spoke with Jean Trump Goodhart, one of the Trump children, who was involved in the rescue in 1950. Jean lives only about a mile from her old homestead. When I asked her about that night, she told me she had to rely on her older sister’s memory of the events. Jean actually rode out of trouble that night on the toboggan…but you say wait…Mrs. Trump rode out on the toboggan! Yes, that’s true. You may have already guessed that it was Jean who Mrs. Trump was pregnant with on that legendary night of ‘The Big Snow” in 1950.

Helping with the rescue that night were Richard Heile, Herman Weller, William Pringle, Bob and Bill Weber, Jim Morrison, Dave Bestwick, Andrew Mazuda, Gene Goodnight, Eric Charles and William Wilson.

For other personal narratives about this epic snow event, go to Big Snow of 1950.

For another story by Eric Bombeck, go to Snapping the Whip at Buhl Park.

Eric Bombeck (Sharpsville High School 1979) lives in South Pymatuning, PA, and publishes The Way It Was Newspaper. Check it out on Facebook: “The Way It Was — Newspaper Companion Page.” He also hosts the weekly “Bombeck Show” on WPIC-AM, Wednesdays at 5:00 pm, 790-AM, or http://www.790wpic.com.