Small Town Memories

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

Tag: Sharon PA

How PATAGONIA (PA) Got Its Name

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

This month’s blog is the second part of Dick Hudson’s narrative about his hometown of Patagonia. Here he explores the origin of the town’s unusual and colorful name.


Patagonia, Hickory Township’s
Family to the West

By Dick Hudson

Often I and others of us who have lived in Patagonia are asked by those who live in the traditional area of “Hickory Corners” why our area is a part of the township, what is its history, and, most of all, why the name “Patagonia.” I offer a response on behalf of all who have lived in that little conclave of families across the river, up the hills, and next to the Ohio line.

Some General History

[The following information is from the Hermitage Historical Society website: A Short History of Hermitage by Mairy Jayn Woge.]

In 1796 or 1797, Thomas Canon settled in what would become Hickory Township. In 1798, Col. Henry Hoagland, William Campbell, Daniel, Bashara and John Hull, William Welch, Archibald Rankin, John Hammel, James Young, and the Rev. Satterfield all settled in Hickory Township. Hoagland built a farm west of the Shenango River in what is now Patagonia.

In 1800, two schools opened in the region. One was three-fourths of a mile east of what is currently downtown Sharon. The other was on the Hoagland farm west of the Shenango River. Education was already important to those living in this area!

The first school teacher in Hickory Township was Revolutionary War veteran David Hayes. He taught at the log schoolhouse on the Hoagland Farm in what is now the Patagonia area of Hermitage.

Later History and the Actual Formation of Hickory Township

Hickory Township was formed 33 years after the Pennsylvania General Assembly organized Mercer County. Until 1833, the land that would become Hickory was split between Pymatuning and Shenango Townships. The dividing line was State Street. Petitions signed by residents of the Shenango Valley led to the founding of Hickory. The township was named after Andrew Jackson, President of the United States from 1829 through part of 1837. Jackson’s nickname was “Old Hickory.”

(Is it simply coincidence that Hickory is now called Hermitage, and that Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville, TN, is called “The Hermitage”?)

The bulk of the land in the township was divided into 200 to 550-acre parcels set aside by the Commonwealth for Veterans who fought in the Pennsylvania line. Early Hickory Township contained the sites of Sharon, Wheatland, Sharpsville, and Farrell – which was a farming community. Pioneer settlers included Thomas Canon, William Campbell, Col. Henry Hoagland, Andrew Robb and the Moore family. Hoagland had a very early farm (about 1800) in what is now Patagonia.

During the 1800s, the towns of Sharon (1841), Wheatland (1865), Sharpsville (1874), and Farrell (1899) all were incorporated, thus changing the area known as Hickory Township. Hickory Township once extended around Sharon to the north and over the river to the west. When Sharpsville incorporated, it took away that land link, but the “Patagonia” area was left still a part of Hickory Township.

[Click on image to enlarge.]

[Left: A section of Mercer County, PA, showing the location of Patagonia (see arrow). Right: The original boundaries of Sharpsville, PA, shaded in rose. Sharpsville’s three main additions that were carved off from Hickory Township in 1874 are outlined in blue. Source: www.localgeohistory.pro via Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, May 2020.]

NOTE: See the May 2020 issue of Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter for more about Sharpsville’s annexation of parts of Hickory Township.

Now, Some Background on Argentina’s Patagonia

[The following information is from “The Fascinating History of Patagonia” on the Chimu Blog site.]

Ferdinand Magellan – the first man to have allegedly circumnavigated our planet – is touted with officially ‘discovering’ Patagonia in 1530, although it’s likely a few explorers came before him and, finding the land inhospitable, simply left. Magellan’s deputy reported seeing patagones, or great giants of men, and it is from this description that the name for the region derives. By the mid-1600s, Christian missionaries had already arrived; yet, although the Spanish attempted to build settlements in Patagonia over the next 200 years, none was very successful.

It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, when some hardy Welsh arrived, that Patagonia in Argentina finally saw some true-blue settlements. Merely 200 adventurous Welsh men, women and children set sail from Liverpool, bound for Patagonia’s Chubut Valley, where they hoped they could live, prosper and protect their cultural ancestry. And so they did. Over the next few decades, they were joined by many more immigrants, all helping to create towns like Gaiman, Dolavon and Trevelin.

Nowadays, although a very small percentage of the local Patagonian population boasts pure Welsh ancestry, there are hundreds of thousands with traces of Welsh blood running in their veins. Nearly 5,000 in the region can still speak Welsh. Bilingual schools and cultural centers remain at the present, all aimed at preserving this truly fascinating side of Patagonia’s history.

The Welsh in the Sharon, PA, Area

[From a journal article, “The Welsh Experience in Sharon,” by Robert Llewellyn Tyler.]

The article identifies the Welsh as a distinct ethnolinguistic community in Sharon during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and provides an analysis of changes in socioeconomic status as indicated by occupational shifts. Further, the article states,

The Welsh from the 1840s and forward characterized themselves in a series of definitions of Welshness, which over time transformed the image of Wales. … The Welsh saw themselves as the most virtuous and hard-working people in Europe, in farm, mine, and factory, the most God-fearing, the best at observing the Sabbath, the most temperate with regard to drink, the most deeply devoted to educational improvement and to things of the mind.

Tyler, Robert Llewellyn. “Occupational Mobility and Social Status: The Welsh Experience in Sharon, Pennsylvania, 1880–1930.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, vol. 83, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1–27.

There were many people of Welsh backgrounds in the local area. They were proud of their heritage, had great pride in what they had become, and were knowledgeable about travels and the emerging world.

Consequently, in a matter of about 50 years, the Welsh had settled both in Argentina’s Patagonia and in the Hickory Township area as well.

Why the Name?

The question has always been why our small western Pennsylvania town was called Patagonia. The following addresses that question.

In the late 1800s many Welsh settled the area. They were noted for being very industrious and valued education and travel. As written above, the Welsh helped settle Patagonia in Argentina, and those who settled the local area would have known about this far-away enchanting and mysterious place. Around that same time, Patagonia in Argentina had caught the public’s eye around the world. Contributing to this international interest was the narrative, “The Wilds of Patagonia” (1911: MacMillan), written by Carl Skottsberg about his famous Swedish expedition to Patagonia in 1907.  

So, I suggest that those who lived in the area and had some Welsh background, picked that name due to its being this far-away fascinating place that those from their native country helped settle and develop, and they were proud of that.

But, even more evidence: I have since discovered a direct connection between the Welsh in Argentina and those in the Sharon area in the 1800s. Bill Pritchard, who grew up with us in Patagonia, told me that his father was 100% Welsh and that his ancestors came from Argentina in the mid-1800s. I only knew that the Welsh had settled in both Argentina and in the Sharon area, but did not know that some of the Welsh in Argentina then made the next move to “our” Patagonia. Bill’s grandfather built the house he lived in on North Water Street in the late 1800s, and Bill’s father was born there in 1900. Welsh people came up from Argentina’s Patagonia; how about that!

That direct connection between the Welsh in Argentina and those who came to the Hickory area would have certainly been the reason for the locally named “Patagonia.”

— Dick Hudson (Hickory High School 1963).
Colbert, GA, July 1, 2020.


See Other Posts by Dick Hudson:
PATAGONIA MEMORIES
WESTINGHOUSE PARK Baseball Field


Sources: (All websites were accessed 17 June 2020.)

Hermitage Historical Society website. https://www.hermitage.net/367/Early-Settlers.

Local Geohistory Project, which educates users and disseminates information concerning the geographic history and structure of political subdivisions and local government. www.localgeohistory.pro 

Mehler, Ralph C. “Building the Town: Annexation & Development.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. IX, No. 1, May 2020. http://sharpsvillehistorical.com/pdfs/Newsletter/2020/May2020Newsletter.pdf

Pattara, Laura. “The Fascinating History of Patagonia” on the Chimu Blog site: https://www.chimuadventures.com/blog/2017/10/fascinating-history-patagonia/

Tyler, Robert Llewellyn. “Occupational Mobility and Social Status: The Welsh Experience in Sharon, Pennsylvania, 1880–1930.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, vol. 83, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1–27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/pennhistory.83.1.0001. Tyler is from Newport, Wales. He researches Welsh communities overseas and is widely published.

Woge, Mairy Jayn. “A Short History of Hermitage.” Hermitage History Society website, https://www.hermitage.net/367/Early-Settlers. Woge (1925-2005) was a reporter for The Sharon Herald, 1961-1967, The Youngstown Vindicator, 1967-1971, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1971-1990. She also was a founding member of the Hermitage History Society in 1977.

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The STAGECOACH

by Eric Bombeck

[A jam-packed stagecoach rushes through town. Source unknown.]

It’s hard to believe that around the time Sharon, Pennsylvania, was first settled c. 1800, 500 yards up the west hill was considered “The West,” or more accurately, “The Western Reserve.” In those early days if you wanted to get somewhere you rode a horse, drove a horse-drawn buggy, sailed in a ship, or walked. The 1800s, however, was a century of change. If you were born about the same time Sharon was founded and lived to be 100, you would see life-changing advances in transportation, primarily in steamboats, trains, automobiles and in the increased number of canals and roads.

There were many small communities in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, but they were all isolated from each other. It really was not much different from how it was back in Europe since antiquity. Many communities over there, a mere fifty miles apart, often barely spoke the same language. Here in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the advent of one thing began to tie all the communities together — the stagecoach.

[French forts in the Ohio Valley, 1754. Source: http://www.ncpedia.org]

In the late 1700s, the French began to expand the ancient Indian trails so that they could build a series of forts in western Pennsylvania to protect their land from the British: Fort Presque Isle in Erie, Fort Le Boeuf in Waterford, Fort Machault in Franklin and Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh. (Concerned by reports of French expansion into the Ohio Valley, the British sent a young George Washington right through our area in 1754 to negotiate with the French.) 

By the War of 1812, as troops began to travel on foot to Erie, it became clear that better roads were needed. Turnpikes were being built all around the region. It was inevitable then that stagecoach lines would begin to pop up. The first stagecoach lines began to appear here around 1817. The stagecoaches were not initially received very well. In Ohio, when the Conneaut-to-Poland stage line came in, people were so leery of it that they protested. 

[Excerpt from Map of Pennsylvania, 1832, showing (in blue) stagecoach route. General Maps Collection, Library of Congress.]

Soon other lines sprang up. The Franklin & Warren (PA) stage line had three routes in the region. The route between Mercer and Warren, Ohio, ran right through the Shenango Valley. The stagecoach named “The President Jackson” left the Greentree Inn in Mercer at noon, then stopped in Sharon, then Charleston where the horses were switched out with a new team. This was done Nascar-style every 12 miles with teams switching out in under 10 minutes and passengers rarely even getting out. The route continued through Sharpsville, Sharon, Brookfield and Vienna, and ended up in Warren, Ohio. The miracle of the stagecoach: 31 miles in only 8 hours! Or at least that’s how long it was supposed to take.

The “dean of the Mercer-Warren stage line drivers” during the 1860s was the rough-riding, independent Mike Malhony. Even though it was his job to be prompt, Mike was one of those guys who wasn’t exactly tied down to any schedule. Sometimes the stage would leave at noon, sometimes closer to 1:00. Many passengers who were trying to get to the stage stop in Sharon (Tom Porter’s Tavern) often arrived an hour late. 

In the 1840s, Randall D. Wilmot opened up a stagecoach stop on the other side of Warren, Ohio. The complex had a bar, store and lunch stand. Randall, somewhat of an eccentric marketing genius, named the area “The Center of the World.” When the railroad made “The Center of the World” obsolete, Wilmot moved to Cortland, Ohio, and opened a grocery store called “The End of the World.” (If you travel Route 5 on the other side of Warren you’ll still see a road sign that reads “The Center of the World,” where an unincorporated community of a few houses still exists.)

As stagecoach lines grew, so did communication between towns. Travelers from bigger cities carried “gossip” and often newspapers with them that small-town folk could read. Villages that were once isolated now had a lifeline to the rest of the region. The post office, realizing horses were now antiquated, began using stage lines to send mail. (The number of post offices in Pennsylvania rose from only 3,000 in 1815 to 28,000 in 1860.)

The life span of the rough-and-tumble stagecoaches was relatively short. In the earlier years of the 1800s, they contended with the Erie Canal. In later years, railroads offered relatively luxurious travel accommodations and were faster and cheaper than the stage lines. In many places around the country, the stagecoach lines lasted until the automobile knocked them out, some even lasting until World War I.

[George Bancroft, John Wayne and Louise Platt in Stagecoach (1939). Source: “Stagecoach (1939 film),” Wikipedia.]

We all have some image of the stagecoach era in our psyche, something akin to Jimmy Stewart sauntering up to help a pretty pioneer girl off the stage or John Wayne in the classic Western movie, Stagecoach. But the next time you get into your SUV with heated seats and electronic stability control remember this quote from the 19th-century American author Washington Irving on stagecoach travel…

There is certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.

Source: www.quotehd.com
[The Old Stone House, Slippery Rock, PA. oldstonehousepa.org]

If you travel on the William Flynn Highway to Slippery Rock, PA, you can see an old stagecoach stop and tavern. The Old Stone House was constructed in 1822 by John Brown as a resting place for weary travelers on the busy Pittsburgh-to-Erie Pike. Go to oldstonehousepa.org for more information about this stagecoach inn and history museum of rural life.

— Eric Bombeck (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA.

Sources: 

Bombeck, Eric. The Way It Was Newspaper, Facebook, June 2019. 

“Center of the World, Ohio.” Wikipedia.

History of Rail Transportation in the United States.” Wikipedia

NCPEDIA, an online encyclopedia about all things North Carolina. www.ncpedia.org

“The Old Stone House” website. oldstonehousepa.org

“Tales of the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys.” Recordings made in the 1950s by The Industrial Information Institute, Inc., Youngstown, OH, 1951-10. 

For an eyewitness account of stagecoach travel, read Roughing It (American Publishing Company, 1872), a semi-autobiographical book by Mark Twain. With his rough-hewn humor, Twain tells of his jarring ride over potholes and ruts from Missouri to Nevada.


AN OLD-TIMER’S HISTORY of Sharon, Pennsylvania

by Eric Bombeck

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

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

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

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

THE HISTORY OF SHARON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jane:  Where did William Budd come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you think these early settlers believed this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


TOM THUMB WEDDING & THE PHC

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 – Ann Angel Eberhardt, SHS 1958, Phoenix, AZ


For more information, see:

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

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

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

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


JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

A whole new world awaited us once we completed sixth grade at Robison or Deeter Elementary School. Here are Irene Caldwell O’Neil’s memories of the next step in our education in 1950s-1960s Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

[A vintage postcard depicting Sharpsville High School in the 1940s can be seen here.]


Going to seventh grade meant leaving Robison and walking seven blocks along Ridge Avenue to the high school where one side of the building was reserved for junior high students. We had our own entrance and were fairly well isolated from the upper-grade students and teachers. It was an intense culture shock and difficult transition for me.

We were assigned a homeroom and from there traveled to several different classrooms for various classes, each with a different teacher. Classes included English, history, math, science, gym, and home economics for the girls, but shop or mechanical drawing for the boys.

Class of 1960, room 307 (of 5 home rooms).

Class of 1960, room 307 (of 5 homerooms). Irene Caldwell is second from left in the middle row. Source: 1958 “Devil’s Log,” Sharpsville High School Yearbook

Pants were still forbidden attire for female students and our skirts fell halfway to our ankles. Full skirts were more fashionable than straight and crinoline slips starched with sugar water made them stand out enough to please a southern belle. It was difficult to squeeze those skirts into the one-armed desk-chairs packed closely together in all the rooms, but vanity prevailed. Sweater sets, cinch belts, silk scarves around our necks or ponytails, white sox and black flat shoes were standard attire.

I remember buying those flats at Books Shoe Store in downtown Sharon and my first Tycora sweater set at the Sharon Store. Later t-strap flats and white bucks became must-haves and I pleaded with Mother to add the difference in price to my babysitting money so I could be “in.” The requisite poodle skirt was my birthday present during eighth grade.

Gym Classes

P.E. [physical education], or gym class as we called it, was the most difficult adjustment for me. I was dreadfully self-conscious and undressing in front of the other girls was humiliating. A mandatory one-piece gym uniform had to be ordered and worn, over great complaints by my mother at the price. It was an ugly yellow color, made of harsh cotton that always looked wrinkled even after ironing, and could only have flattered a figure like Marilyn Monroe’s.

sharpsville_image_gymsuit

[Typical one-piece gymsuit of the 1950s-1970s.]

Gym consisted mostly of silly exercises that ended with us all lying on the floor and stretching our legs. Occasionally we were allowed to play half-court basketball and that was the only time I enjoyed P.E. We were all supposed to shower after our workouts, but a certain ever-confident girl was the only one I remember doing so. Supposedly, points were deducted from your grade for not showering. Getting A’s was always very important to me except in gym. I hated it so much that I deliberately “forgot” my uniform enough to be failed for a whole semester and didn’t mind one bit. I could sit in the bleachers and get my homework done for the subjects I did like.

Read more on the Next Avenue website, a national public media journalism service for baby boomers and seniors:

Revisiting the 1970s Gym Uniform
The retro romper is chic, but this writer remembers when it was anything but.

High School Gym Class PTSD
I thought it was behind me, but a New York Times article on chin-ups brought it all back!

Home Economics

Home Economics, designed to make us into perfect housewives someday was second to P.E. in my least favorite subjects. I recall a whole class period being given to the proper peeling and sectioning of an orange! We learned to set a table perfectly and to this day I wouldn’t dare put a knife and spoon together on the left side of a dinner plate or place the water glass above a fork.

There were a few sewing machines that had to be shared, but three to four times as many students as machines made it difficult to get sewing assignments done on time unless you were lucky enough to have a machine at home. We did not and I wasn’t pushy enough to get the use of a classroom machine to ever finish a project on time. My grades in Home Economics varied, good in cooking, table setting and test taking but poor in sewing, except for a ditzy looking apron everyone was required to make and wear every day in class. Most of the students bought our fabric in downtown Sharon at less than a dollar a yard.

One project that I received the best grade in class on was a scrapbook of our dream home. My future home was a romantic Victorian, as large and with as many rooms as the former Buhl home in Sharon. I was a little unrealistic, but now wonder what the other students’ books looked like. Modern ranch houses with shiny appliances like the one Vice President Nixon showed to visiting Nikita Khrushchev?

Graduation

Our graduation from Junior High was held in the school auditorium and seemed a very uneventful occasion. I believe our little blue-covered diplomas were handed out when we returned to our homerooms.

The big event, however, was being bused to Conneaut Lake Amusement Park for an all-day celebration that was indeed tons of fun. I got the worst sunburn of my life that day from several hours of swimming and walking through the park in a sleeveless blouse.

Greetings From Conneaut Lake Park, PA

Greetings From Conneaut Lake Park, PA

My classmates and I finally made it through those two years of anxiety, clumsiness, and self-consciousness as Junior High students. Maybe our tribulations were just part of growing up, and dealing with them helped build our character. If that was the case then our Junior High experiences benefited us after all.

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

See Also:

Deeter Elementary School

Pebly & 13 Street Schools

Robison School I

Robison School Class of 1960 Part I

Senior High School Traditions

SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!


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.

IMMUNIZATIONS AND HOME CURES

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Speaking of immunizations, as Patrick Angel did in the previous blog, here is an article on the subject written by Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960). See “About” for more on Irene’s dream of creating a collection of Sharpsville memories.

[Please note: The new year brings a scheduling change to Small Town Memories. Instead of publishing the blogs weekly, I will do so monthly during the first week of each month. This will provide all of us more time to collect and write about our memories of Sharpsville in the 1950s-1970s.]


Smallpox

Some months after we [the Caldwell family] moved to Sharpsville, I needed to be vaccinated against smallpox for the coming school term. Mother kept telling me how nice the local Dr. Bailey was and how he would only scratch my arm a little and then give me a treat.

It hurt more than any scratch I’d yet received and I cried even after being given a completely inadequate lollipop. A Band-aid stayed on my arm for several days, until the time Mother was to remove it and look for signs of the inoculation “taking.” It had to “take” or need to be repeated, a prospect I was very concerned about, sucker or no.

I needn’t have worried. The huge red swelling on my upper arm felt as big as my head and proved that it had, indeed, “taken.” In a very short time, the big bump became an ugly pustule, that seeped and wept bright yellow ooze from its edges while a crusty scab formed over the center. As the swelling went down and the ooze dried up, a great itch inserted itself under the scab.

I had been told by both doctor and Mother not to scratch. Their dire warnings promised “spreading” or even worse, “scarring” as the certain outcome. Mother’s smallpox scar was big, the size of a half dollar and looked, I thought, horrible. If that’s what scratching did, I wasn’t about to go near my scab. However, this itch was bad, worse than the worst mosquito bite. I tried not to think about it, but how could I not, when it screamed, “Please Scratch Me,” with a voice loud enough to keep me awake at night and interrupt every daytime activity? Many times throughout a day, I pulled my arm close to my face and inspected the dreadful site.

One day I noticed that the scab edge was gradually separating from my skin. The scab eventually fell off with only a little help from me and my scar never did become as big as Mother’s. That was not my last shot from Dr. Bailey.

Vaccinations at School

Periodically that good doctor would show up at Robison Elementary School with the school district nurse and a folding table. Children lined up to have their arms swabbed and stabbed with the intent of preventing some potentially fatal childhood disease such as typhoid fever, diphtheria, whooping cough, or tetanus. When my parents were young, whole families of children often died from some such ailments. While we were to experience chicken pox, measles, mumps, and rather mild forms of influenza, nothing fatal struck the Caldwell children in the 1950s.

image_rx_polioPolio

I saw evidence of only one case of polio during my childhood (even though it was much discussed and fretted over) while attending a birthday party. A boy came wearing leg braces.

In 1957, the Jonas Salk polio vaccine came to Sharpsville and was administered free of charge to the town’s schoolchildren. Once a month, for three consecutive months we lined up to get a shot that, blessedly put an end to many parental fears and freed us to use the Buhl Park pool without worry. [My brother] Jack, hearing talk of three shots, thought all were to be administered at once and dutifully visited two of the three tables set up merely to move students through faster before he fainted.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) had been a huge killer in the U. S. until its origin and means of spreading were understood and addressed. The banning of public spitting alone worked miracles and with the development of streptomycin in 1943, soon followed by other antibiotics, a cure was found.

Although the disease was already rare in the 1950s we were still tested for it every year at school by the patch test. Aside from the occasional false positive due to a prior exposure, TB also dropped off the list of our mothers’ worries.


 

Home Cures

My family never had a prescription filled during my whole childhood. We used over-the-counter products including iodine, cod liver oil, hydrogen peroxide, witch hazel, calamine lotion, Fletcher’s Castoria, Vick’s VapoRub, milk of magnesia, Mercurochrome, aspirin, and carbolic drawing salve as home remedies for most illnesses, usually purchased at Uncle Clifford Caldwell’s drug store on State Street in nearby Sharon, Pennsylvania.

We didn’t own a thermometer and Mother guessed by touch at the severity of a fever, applying cold cloths to lower a temperature. Somehow we survived to adulthood as did most children in 1950s Sharpsville.

 

See Also Dr. Bailey’s Sharpsville 1920s, Part I and Part II.

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


AUTOMOBILE MEMORIES

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

This is the second installment about cars, focusing on the all-pervading car culture of the 1950s as I remember it. The photos are gathered from my family’s albums and just “happen” to include me in every one. Sorry about that! How about balancing it out by sending in your car stories and photos?


sharpsville_photo_chevy

Ann Angel, age 11, with family car, a 1950 Chevrolet DeLuxe Station Wagon.

The diaries of my youth are filled with references to cars, from the early days when our family would take the car out on the two-lane country roads or through Buhl Park just for the enjoyment of the ride and the scenery…to a very long family trip in our 1950 Chevy station wagon across the United States and into Mexico…to my teen years when each boy was primarily described by the make and year of the car he was driving. I recorded the many times our dates with guys were interrupted when the car – usually a junker – would break down and we girls spent part of the evening waiting while the guys poked and prodded the engine trying to get it going again. The cars then were much less complicated in design and most guys knew automotive basics.

Having “wheels,” usually family cars borrowed from our parents for the evening, enabled us to hang out at places in Sharon and Hickory (now Hermitage) and even travel across the border into Ohio (where the drinking age was lower). They were frequented hangouts where we could see who’s out and about and others could see us. They included Hickory Fine Foods for pizza, Deneen’s Dairy Store, Twin Kiss Drive-In or Dairy Queen for ice cream, Town & Country Drive-in Restaurant, Thornton Hall for bowling, roller-skating, and record hops. And of course, there was Reynolds Drive-In Theatre, which had an entry price of 50 cents a car and sometimes featured live musical entertainment during “intermission” on the roof of the refreshment stand.

Click on photo for larger image. Press Escape key to return.

Cars in those days had large windows, untinted of course, and high wide sofa-like seats (no bucket seats), so the drivers and passengers were clearly visible. Teens could easily spot, greet, and flirt with each other, particularly as they slowly “cruised” up and down Sharon’s State Street, the “main drag” on Saturday nights. An essential part of any of these scenarios was the background sound of rock ‘n’ roll music playing on car radios. Un-square teens that we were, we would listen to “Maybelline,” “Beep, Beep” and “Transfusion,” pop the clutch, burn rubber, and floor it! Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960) also remembers “going to Hickory House and ordering french fries and cokes which were brought out by car hops.”

Our high school did provide driver’s education, which I appreciated because I dreaded learning sessions with my dad, who had little patience if you made the wrong move. I remember that several of us students would alternate as passengers or drivers while the teacher sat in the right front seat with his own foot brake in case it was needed in an emergency. Meanwhile, the teacher would insist on playing what we considered “square” music on Sharon’s WPIC radio station when we would have preferred rock’n’ roll on Youngstown’s WKBN.

Cars meant a lot to us: Even though our cars were often borrowed or beat-up “buckets of bolts,” we savored the momentary feelings of freedom from routine life, rebellion against supervision and the importance as a distinct group that teenagers were seeking in the 1950s.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ – April 2012


See Also:
Ridin’ Along in My Automobile