Small Town Memories

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

Tag: Sharpsville Area Historical Society

THE WINDING DOWN of “Small Town Memories”

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

It’s time to slow down. I’m not referring to my life in general (although that’s happening, too) but to the frequency of Small Town Memories blogs. From now on, you may not see a new blog each month, but only when guest writers, co-editor Eric Bombeck or I have put together a new story to share. 

Sharpsville (PA) Service Club sign promoting the Santa Project, c. 2016.

This was bound to occur eventually, as my stay in Sharpsville amounted to only ten years, from the time I was nine years old until my college years. But what a very pleasant time it was, with enough memories to keep the site going for six years! Irene Caldwell O’Neill (1942-2013; SHS 1960) wouldn’t have been surprised. She had the original idea to gather Sharpsville memories, believing that there would be many entertaining stories worth recording. I’d like to think she would be very pleased with the results.

Winding Down: Acknowledgments

Crick’s Pharmacy on the corner of N. Mercer Avenue and E. Shenango Street, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1950. Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Many thanks to the readers of this blog site whose continued interest in and contributions to Small Town Memories were essential to its continuation. Several responded with stories of their own, each entertaining as well as chock-full of bits of Sharpsville history: Eric Bombeck, Gary Conti, Donna DeJulia, Gail Nitch Hanes, Judy McCracken, Ralph C. Mehler II, Judy Caldwell Nelson, Irene Caldwell O’Neill and Bill Parcetic — all Sharpsville High School graduates. Also, these and others made significant contributions to blogs that I wrote: Allegra Dungan Colapietro (SHS), Tom Hoovler, Jim Jovenall (SHS), Mary Clair Mahaney and DeVaux McLean III (SHS). (See “Author Index” for links to their stories.) As each writer and I worked together on his or her story, I felt as if I’d gained a new friend. 

Also, much credit goes to my brothers Mike and Pat Angel, who added to the Sharpsville stories from their own perspectives, and my father, August Angel, who left a treasure trove of information in his memoir, Trivia & Me.

This Canonsburg, PA, 1950 Isaly’s store-front looks very much like Sharpsville’s Isaly’s in the 1950s. Permission pending from Brian Butko, author of “The Story of Isaly’s: Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones,” Stackpole Books, 2001.

Quite a few others were inspired to send Comments, which have totaled 467 so far (including my replies) and have always been positive. Comments in which the readers enriched the story at hand by adding their own details or submitting corrections were much appreciated.

Also, a big thank-you goes to Ralph Mehler, a board member of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society, who has been supportive and helpful, even submitting two stories of his own. His excellence as a historian is evidenced by the newsletters he writes for SAHS. Mr. Mehler has agreed to accept a collection of printouts of all the Small Town Memories blogs, to be placed in the SAHS collections.


City Building, Sharpsville, PA.,” c. 1930s. Image courtesy of Mike and Fredi Angel.

Throughout the years of researching, creating and editing stories, I was not only reminded of old memories, but I also discovered new facts about the various businesses, people, sites, traditions, events, etc., that I took for granted in my youth. The Small Town Memories project has truly enhanced my understanding of where I lived and ultimately who I am today. 


Pierce Mansion, built in 1874 by James Pierce in Sharpsville, PA. Demolished in 1952.

NOTE: Feel free to browse the site as long as it exists and revisit stories of times past in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area. And if you’re inspired to do so (and wish to help this site carry on), please send us your own small town memories. You can attach your story (hopefully with photos) to an email or share a Google document with me at bissella9@hotmail.com.

–Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Editor,
Goodyear, Arizona

UPDATES

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE – revisions and additions.

WHEATLAND FLATS II – a new Comment.

PETE JOYCE, COMMUNITY LEADER & OWNER OF ISALYS – A recently added photo of the interior of Isaly’s.


THE TWO GEORGE MAHANEYS Part II

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

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

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

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


“Young” George F. Mahaney

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

George F. Mahaney: Memories of Early 1900s Sharpsville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GGeorge F. Mahaney (left) & Sid Owen

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

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

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

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

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

Santa Claus suits

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

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

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

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

George F. Mahaney: His Career As a Lawyer

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

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

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

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

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


Sources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ITALIANS IN SHARPSVILLE

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Ciao, amico mio! Those Italian words and others were well-known in our small town in the 1950s, whatever one’s heritage. First and second-generation Italians made up one of the largest ethnic groups at the time in Sharpsville and their language and traditions were by then part of our culture.

Between c. 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States, half of them between 1900 and 1910 alone. The majority were fleeing rural poverty in Southern Italy and Sicily and seeking work in America’s factories, steel mills and coal mines and help build this country’s roads, railroads, dams, tunnels, and other infrastructure. Today, the descendants of Italian immigrants who stayed in the U.S. are still a large part of Sharpsville’s population at 14.1%, second only to German ancestry at 16.2%.

Italians, like many foreign groups newly arriving in our country, were not always accepted graciously by those already living here. Ralph C. Mehler II of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society, writes in the Society’s March 2017 newsletter (page 1),

Then as now, economic anxiety over the supply and demand of labor mingled with irrational fears over the mores, customs, and religion of foreigners. Thus, we see a report from 1898 about “trouble at Sharpsville” on account of immigrants being employed for the construction of the new water works. “Six citizens have been arrested for interfering with them.” These workers, however, weren’t Mexicans or Muslims, but the first arrivals here from Italy.

The July 2018 newsletter of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society tells of the 1904 flood that washed away the bridge over the Shenango River near the feed-mill. Several of those who were standing on the collapsing bridge were plunged into the river and at least four drowned. Strangely, this disaster has faded from the town’s memory and merited just passing attention by the contemporary press. One newspaper at the time reported that “The four unfortunates were Italians whose names cannot be accurately identified.” Even follow-up reports did not attempt to find the names of the drowned. The article notes that while language barriers contributed, prejudice was certainly behind the indifference.

Italians in Sharpsville: 1950s

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, 311 West Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA. (Source: saintbartholomews.com)

By the 1950s, such “troubles” were a thing of the past for the Italian community. Instead, the Italians’ contributions of customs, food, language and entertainment became a welcomed part of everyday life for all. What 1950s resident can forget the savory pizza at Walder’s Tavern at 111 Main Street!

I remember my mother of Scots-Irish descent strictly following our Italian neighbors’ practices of foregoing meat on Fridays and refraining from hanging laundry on Sundays. We non-Catholics were curious about their genuflecting whenever Italian-Americans passed their church on foot or in a car, the mysterious sooty cross on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, and their worry over which pleasure to “give up” for Lent. I often felt left out of this special part of our society but I was glad I wasn’t restricted by the Pope’s list of forbidden movies that my playmate had to follow. Instead, I could watch any movie I wanted to at the neighborhood’s Ritz Theater (for better or worse)! 

Most impressive to me was the gaiety of the wedding receptions in Angel’s Casino, the building next door to my home. There the guests ate, drank, sang, danced the Tarantella and played the Italian betting game Morra under my bedroom window until long after the bride and groom left at midnight.

There were a few occasions when I accompanied friends to the St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, now over 141 years old, on Ridge Avenue. I remember attending Christmas Mass at midnight and experiencing the beauty and serenity inside the dimly-lit interior, with its vaulted ceiling, tall stained-glass windows and the smoky-sweet smell of burning incense. 

Italians in Sharpsville: The Italian Society

In many communities, early immigrants, like “birds of a feather,” created clubs and places where they could come together to enjoy and preserve their old traditions. Sharpsville had the Italian Society which eventually created the Italian Home. According to Ralph C. Mehler II of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society (SAHS), the group was founded in 1913 and officially known as the Societa Italiana di M[aria] S[anta] Generale Gustavo Fara. 

“General Fara Society on Firm Basis.” The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, 1924. Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Mehler provides a newspaper article about the Italian Society’s early days. It appeared in the 1924 Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to The Sharon Telegraph (page 5) and is transcribed as follows:

GENERAL FARA SOCIETY ON FIRM BASIS
The General Fara Society today is one of the leading fraternal organizations of Sharpsville, its membership including 75 of Sharpsville’s leading Italian citizens.

The society was organized June 2, 1913, by George Rosati, Maurice Stigliano, Carmelo Palazzio and Joseph Ciolto (Ciotolo?)

Since it was organized the society has undergone many hardships. Its membership at one time being reduced to eight men.

Members declare the society is on a sound financial basis today, largely due to the efforts of Thomas Muscarella, the president. During the last year, the membership has been doubled through the energetic work of Muscarella.

Italians in Sharpsville: The Italian Home

Also from Mehler:

The Italian Home we all know (now the Sharpsville American Legion, 617 Main Street) was built in 1950. Yet, earlier on that lot was a commercial building containing in 1912 a barber shop and a vacant store, and two stores by 1929. A newspaper notice from September 16, 1935, notes that land was transferred from Vic Palazzo to the club. This earlier building was smaller and up against the sidewalk, unlike the building from 1950 which was larger, more modern and set back from the street.

We (SAHS) have a funeral photo, with a large crowd of (Italian) mourners gathered around an open casket on the steps of St. Bartholomew’s. Many had sashes, which I assume were meant they were officers in the Italian Home. Also in our collection is an August 12, 1914, edition of The Sharpsville Advertiser. It reports that “Members of the Italian Beneficial Society of Sharpsville are preparing for a great doings on Sept. 8, when they will celebrate the day of St. Mary of Ancona with religious services, a big parade, general picnic outing, addresses and a grand blowout at night in the shape of fireworks.”

The Italian Home was Sharpsville’s only ethnic home, in contrast to the large number of them in Farrell. (Italian, Slovak, Greek, Serbian, two Croatian, two German, Hungarian.)

shps_american_legion

American Legion, 617 Main Street, August 2014. Source: Google Maps.

Non-Italians were evidently welcome at the Italian Home as well. Ralph Mehler remembers “going to a dance there in 8th grade (1975), but it was always somewhat of a mystery.” My diary of 1956 mentions attending record hops at the Italian Home, one of which took place in January, “a lively party” given for the kids of Westinghouse strikers.

In a narrative written in 2013, Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960) recalls visiting the Italian Home in her childhood: 

A large building in town available for parties and receptions was the Italian Home on Main Street.

My young brain assumed it had been built by a coalition of Italian immigrants as a place they could meet, socialize, and retain their sense of community in a foreign land. Now I wonder if it wasn’t privately owned and rented out to whoever paid the price.

A large percentage of the Shenango Valley’s population was first and second generation Italian, drawn to our town by employment in the steel mills. On most Friday and Saturday nights, the music of accordion bands and happy laughter poured from its open doors to the adjacent sidewalk.

No one could live in our town without having Italian friends or neighbors and sooner or later you’d be invited to a happening at the Italian Home. I was invited to more than one event by the family of my elementary school friend, Susan Dunder. I remember eating … fabulous homemade pasta as I wondered what everyone was saying in the unfamiliar language.


Do you have additional details about Italians in Sharpsville? If you would like to share your experiences of living as (or among) Italian-Americans or your memories of the Italian Home, please send us your story. (Also, photos would be great!) Click on “Leave a comment” at the end of this story or send an email to bissella9@hotmail.com.


See Also:

ANGEL’S CASINO: Here Came the Bride
THE CONTI FAMILY, Part I: From Pofi to Sharpsville
THE CONTI FAMILY, Part II: An Italian Christmas, A Golden Childhood
MOM & DAD DeJULIA
REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE of the 1950s for more about St. Bartholomew Church

Sources:

Cannato, Vincent J. “What Sets Italian Americans Off From Other Immigrants?” Humanities, January/February 2015, Vol. 36, No. 1.

“Italian Americans.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Americans (accessed 2018/9/24).

Mehler II, Ralph C. Sharpsville Historical Society Newsletter, March 2017 (page 1).

Mehler II, Ralph C. “Traces of Lost Sharpsville: Slackwater Dam.” Sharpsville Historical Society Newsletter, July 2018 (pages 3-4, 6).

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church. www.saintbartholomews.com (accessed 2018/9/24).

Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to the Sharon Telegraph (June 7, 1924) in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

“Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.” City-Data.com. http://www.city-data.com/city/Sharpsville-Pennsylvania.html (accessed 2018/9/24).

–Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, September 2018.
Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA.
– Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960), Escondido, CA, March 2013.


UPDATES: Additional information concerning Emma Robison and Emma Deeter has been entered in their biographies on ROBISON SCHOOL I and DEETER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL pages. Check it out!


 

 

MAIN STREET MEMORIES

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

After the Civil War, General James Pierce created a new business district in the area of Mercer Avenue and Shenango Street. However, the town of Sharpsville was growing so rapidly that Pierce found it necessary to lay out additional lots to accommodate the need for new housing. According to Gail Nitch Hane’s PowerPoint presentation, “Sharpsville – Then & Now:” “Since it was assumed that the street lying at the foot of the hill would replace Mercer Avenue as the town’s major thoroughfare, it became Main Street.” This promising outlook for Main Street may be why a request for the street’s first concrete sidewalk was granted in 1882.

Indeed, Main Street was a busy place in the early years. The Sanborn Map Company’s insurance maps of Sharpsville from 1895 through 1912 (found here on the Sharpsville Area Historical Society’s site) show a variety of businesses. Depending on which year you choose, just between Walnut and Second streets you can see buildings for a General Store, Grocery, Chine’ (Chinese?) Laundry, Dentist, Music & Millinery, Insurance Office, Meat, Notions, Drugs, Tailor and/or Bakery.

By the 1950s when I lived in Sharpsville, Walnut Street had become Sharpsville’s concentration of businesses but there were still a number of enterprises along Main Street, intermixed with homes. The following are a few of the services, businesses and people that I recall, some still around, some lost to the ages.


The businesses I visited most often were Ritz Theater on the corner of Main and First streets and Isaly’s Dairy at Main and Third. (They’ve been covered in several other posts on this blog, such as here for the Ritz and here for Isaly’s.)

Also, my dad frequently took our car or truck to the Snyder & Freeman car dealership, auto body shop and gas station at 12 Main Street and we often bought our groceries at Johnson’s Market(For a photo of Johnson’s Market, go to the May 2016 Newsletter of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

Dr. Nelson Bailey was our family doctor as well as the school doctor. My mother was good friends with Helen Belonax who owned Helen’s Beauty Shop in the same building as the theater. Also near the theater, at 111 Main Street, was Walder’s Tavern where we teenagers enjoyed pizza that we could purchase by the slice and my brother still recalls their delicious steak sandwiches here. None of these businesses nor their buildings exist today, except Dr. Bailey’s old residence at the northwest corner of N. Mercer and E. Main.

Click on image for enlarged view.

Sharpsville Municipal Building

“Hello, this is Mrs. Angel calling about a fire.” This telephone call greeted each of the Sharpsville firemen day or night in the 1950s, whenever there was a need for the volunteer firemen’s service. My mother’s voice, in her southern accent (she was born and raised in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky), was immediately recognizable by the firemen, who then drove themselves to the site of the conflagration, joining those whose turn it was to stay overnight at the station. My mother was a member of the “women’s auxiliary” of Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the civic organizations that my father belonged to. This phone duty was no doubt was one of the auxiliary’s services.

A fire siren blaring in 1950s Sharpsville was a big occasion in our normally quiet town. The loud wail of the siren atop the Sharpsville Municipal Building and on the fire truck brought us kids running to Main Street to catch a glimpse of that red truck speeding by with firemen hanging on the sides. Our next stop was the fire station to read the truck’s destination scrawled on a blackboard, then we’d scurry back to our neighborhood with the news.

The Sharpsville Municipal building, known in the past as the Town Hall and to us in the 1950s as the Fire Station, still stands at 244 West Main Street, across North Third Street from the now vacant lot where Isaly’s Dairy used to stand.

shps_city_bldg

“City Building, Sharpsville, PA.,” c. 1930s. Image on postcard, courtesy of Mike and Fredi Angel.

Built in 1904, the rectangular two-story brick structure that featured a gabled roof and a chimney served as the center of the town, housing not only a fire station but the police station, meeting rooms and even jail cells.

Most recently it was the location of the Sharpsville Floral and Gift Shop. Peggy Marriotti and her brother, Gary “Butch” Linzenbold bought the building from the borough about 30 years ago to continue operating a flower shop that was started by their father, Art Linzenbold, in 1963.

As the space was remodeled to accommodate the flower shop, the family thoughtfully retained some of the building’s original flavor, such as keeping the jail cells and the fire pole. They also set aside an area to display historic photos, maps and vintage items from past businesses which became a popular visitor attraction. One can still see the ghost of the original sign over the front door that reads “Sharpsville Municipal Building.”

Unfortunately, in June of 2017, a fire that originated in the basement badly scarred the building and shut down the floral shop, at least for the time being. The historical artifacts were salvaged and the shell of the building is intact, so there is hope that the building, at one time so important to Sharpsville’s civic operations, will be one day restored.

The Robinsons

Not far away, in fact next door, the current Sharpsville Volunteer Fire Department is located in a modern one-story brick building with an attached garage for the fire trucks. However, in earlier years this lot held the home of the Robinsons. In his memoir, my dad describes how he knew Mr. Robinson: 

…I was told of an empty garage building with a five-room apartment above. The building was at 29 North Second Street in Sharpsville, only two blocks away from the business area. The owner was Mr. Robinson, who was a 65-year-old retired auto mechanic who specialized mainly in brake repairs and lived with two older sisters in a house adjacent to the Fire Department. When I contacted the gentleman and explained my need [for my growing printing business now on Walnut Street], he offered me the garage space for $10 per month and I accepted… Early spring of 1946, I talked with Mr. Robinson about buying the building. He was pleased to hear what I proposed and offered it to me on a land contract. As long as I paid the same as rent, I would be handed a deed to the place in time…

Consequently, my brother and I would visit the Robinsons once a month on a Saturday to deliver our dad’s payment on the garage building, which Dad had begun renovating for his relocated print shop and for our family’s future home upstairs. Even at a young age, I could sense that crossing the Robinsons’ front porch and entering their home was like stepping back into another time, so antiquated were the furnishings. I particularly remember a large Tiffany-style stained glass lamp in their front window and a floor model radio that was always playing a baseball game. Even the three siblings seemed quite ancient to me. But they always heartily welcomed us kids and sent us home with not only a receipt but the previous month’s supply of the weekly Saturday Evening Post magazine. We would pull them home in our little red Radio Flyer wagon we brought for that purpose and I would happily leaf through them until the new supply the following month. At Christmas, the Robinsons would call us over to pick up our gifts, one for each of us three Angel children. I liked to think that maybe we were “adopted” by them because they missed having children around.

*In a November 11, 2019, email, my brother Mike Angel wrote to me about his memories of the Robinsons:

The print shop building was purchased from the Robinsons. I remember old car repair equipment still on the premises when we first occupied it.  The tents and other camping equipment used on our Pymatuming trips was either purchased or given to us from/by the Robinsons who used the equipment on a trip they took out west during the 1920s or 30s (?). I remember a home movie they showed us about their trip. Do you remember the plum tree in their backyard? It always had the sweetest plums each season. Never saw a tree like that since.

(Memories of that plum tree did come back to me as I wrote about the Robinsons. Those plums were indeed as juicy sweet as Mike remembers.)

The Sanborn Map Company’s insurance maps of Sharpsville may carry a clue to Robinson family’s earlier history. During the years of the maps, 1895-1912, a “Robinson Brothers’ Table Factory” was located in the Second Street block behind the building that my dad purchased from the Robinsons. *Ralph Mehler of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society wrote the following comment in a November 6, 2019, email, about the Robinsons’ connection to the Table Factory:

Regarding the Robinson family, your dad’s friend, the 65-year old retired auto mechanic, most likely belongs to the furniture factory Robinsons.  

The Robinsons’ home no longer stands, but part of it can be seen to the right of the Municipal Building in the vintage photo of the fire truck above. 

Other families who lived on Main Street were known to us because they included children who were our playmates. For example, there were the Wasleys, whose house was, and still is, directly across the street from the old Municipal Building. Joe Wasley was my brother Mike’s best buddy. The two joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation and continued to be friends ever since. There were the Lockes who lived on the corner of North Second and Main streets. Their daughter had the best birthday parties ever!

William Weldon Electric Shop

Former building for the William Weldon Electric Shop, early 2000s.

Across and down the street a bit from the Fire Station was a brick building, still standing, that holds a particular memory for me. An electrical supply business was located in a narrow two-story brick building at 213 West Main Street, probably constructed in the same era as the old Municipal Building. When the weather was good, a man in a wheelchair, possibly the owner, had a habit of sitting in front of the store watching the world of Sharpsville go by. We felt he was, in particular, watching us kids as we passed by, making sure we were behaving. This building later was the home of Saborsky TV & Electronics Sales and Service and, from 2012 until recently, Stitch & Dazzle Inc.

Donaldson’s Funeral Home

Donaldson’s Funeral Home, Main Street, Sharpsville, PA.

Moving east on West Main Street, the next building I remember is a large, handsome white home with a wrap-around porch, known as [Alexander P.] Donaldson’s Funeral Home in the 1950s. Those of us who lived nearby regularly saw cars parked end-to-end on the side streets when a funeral was in progress. Angel’s Casino created the same problem during the record hops and wedding receptions, often making this a very busy area. The congestion caused by the funeral home, now the Donaldson-Mohney Funeral Home, was eventually alleviated when parking lots replaced some of the surrounding old buildings. Established in 1880, the Donaldson-Mohney Funeral Home is the area’s oldest funeral service provider. You can read about its long history here.

A low concrete and cinder block wall still runs between the North Second Street sidewalk and the Home’s well-kept lawn. Many times we teenagers would sit on that wall waiting for our friends to arrive or for the bus to show up.

Piano Teacher

After many childhood years of piano lessons with Professor King, I changed to a teacher who lived in one of the houses close to the Ritz Theater. The interior of his house was another one that seemed frozen in an earlier decade. His wife had died some years before and it seemed that nothing had changed in his house since then. He was a quiet, serious teacher, often giving me one of his music magazines from earlier days titled “The Etude” that contained the pieces that he was teaching me to play. I was intrigued by the old-fashioned ads that filled the magazines. I stayed with him until I went away to college. I no longer remember his name, but his good teaching provided me the advancement I needed for piano classes in college. 


My recall abilities are not as keen as I wish they were, and resources, such as the Sharpsville Area Historical Society, Mercer County Historical Society and the Mercer County Office of the County Clerk, are far away from my current residence. If you would like to help out by contributing your memories of Main Street or any other Sharpsville subject, please feel free to send them as Comments. Or, even better, send a complete narrative to me at bissella9@hotmail.com and, if appropriate, I’ll see that it gets published.

See Also:
PYMATUNING: Camping in the 1950s
DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part I and Part II
Return of THE SHARPSVILLE ADVERTISER

– Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, December 2017,
with much appreciated help from “Sharpsville — Then & Now
by Gail Nitch Hanes (SHS 1964),
Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletters by Ralph C. Mehler (SHS 1980) and
“Trivia & Me” a memoir by August Angel.
*Updated November 11, 2019.