Small Town Memories

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

Tag: Sharpsville High School

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE of the 1950s

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Ridge Avenue was certainly a suitable name for the street. It was presumably named in Sharpsville’s early days for the section of the street that runs along the top of a hill from South First Street to South Seventh Street. (I personally know that at least part of Ridge Avenue is on a hilltop because I trekked up a very steep Second Street many times in rain, snow, sleet and hail in the 1950s to attend Sharpsville High School on Ridge Avenue!)

Over the decades, Ridge Avenue grew in length and now stretches from Eighteenth Street on its west side to South Mercer Avenue in the east. For the most part, the street runs parallel with Main Street to its north (until Fifteenth Street) and Pierce Avenue to its south. 

Ridge Avenue, with its many wood-framed houses interspersed with small businesses offering a variety of services, three churches offering peace and comfort, and a high school devoted to the education of the town’s young people, was a somewhat busier street in the 1950s than it is today.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Auto Service Stations

When I was growing up in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s, there were at least four car service shops: 

  • Ridgeway Auto Service, 1417 Ridge Avenue near Fourteenth Street, owned by T. L. Petricini.
  • McKean & Osborne, 965 Ridge Avenue at Tenth Street, owned by Joe McKean.
  • Marrie Pennz-Oil Station, corner Ridge and Walnut streets. “Get Your Car Greased While You Work — We will Call For & Deliver –”
  • D&S Atlantic Service, corner Ridge and Walnut streets.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Churches

The three Ridge Avenue churches that I recall are still, after many decades, in operation today: St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville and Church of the Nazarene.

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA. (Source: Church website)

In June of 1908, Rev. Michael A. Miller began overseeing the construction of a new St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church at 311 West Ridge Avenue. According to A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County Pennsylvania (Lewis Publishing 1909), the church “was built of native stone and Devonshire brick, with Cleveland stone trimmings, and [was] one of the finest and largest buildings in the city.” William Henry Adams was the contractor. It was more than 14 years before the church was entirely completed. (Go to “Italians in Sharpsville” for more about St. Bartholomew R. C. Church.)

The construction of the First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville, located at 603 West Ridge Avenue, began in 1928 using native stone (since darkened by soot from the Shenango Furnace) from the Blaney farm east of Sharpsville. The building’s site, selected for its central location in town, was purchased from the McCracken family whose house was then relocated. When many pledges remained unfulfilled due to the Depression, the congregation volunteered their labor to build their church. It took until 1935 before they could move into a still-unfinished building, and it wasn’t until 1950 that construction was finally completed.

Construction of First Presbyterian Church, Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1929.
Source: Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, July 2014 (Vol. III, No. 2).

Sharpsville (PA) Church of the Nazarene, c. 2019. Source: Church website.

On the corner of Ridge Avenue and Eighth Street stands the Sharpsville Church of the Nazarene, a Protestant Christian church. The building was formerly occupied by the United Brethren. The Church of the Nazarene congregation held its first service on Christmas Eve, 1938, in the old Presbyterian Church on First and Main streets. Approximately two months later the church used a storeroom at 28 Shenango Street for its then 20 charter members. In the spring of 1941, they moved to the church they occupy to this day, a building at 804 West Ridge that they purchased for $9,000. A new parsonage was purchased at 810 West Ridge Avenue in 1952, replacing the old one on Eighth Street, which was eventually replaced by a parking lot.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Sharpsville High School

The first graduation from Sharpsville High School took place in 1884, approximately 36 years before the construction of the school building in about 1920 on Ridge Avenue between First and Second streets. Where the graduates attended school before then is a mystery, but a clue may be seen in the c. 1910 class photo of Sharpsville High School students. They appear to be standing in front of the Robison School.

The high school was designed by Taylor and Hanna, Sharon architects, and constructed by Wallis and Corley, Sharon contractors. The cost of the building (consisting of 14 rooms, a gymnasium and basement) and furnishings was approximately $150,000, about $3 million in today’s dollars. By 1922 the school graduated 18 students, according to Pete Joyce’s speech celebrating Dr. Bailey’s life in Sharpsville.

I attended Sharpsville High School from grades seven through twelve in the 1950s (in 1958 103 of us graduated). My high school memories and those of others are described in the following blogs: “Junior High School,” “Senior High School Traditions” and “SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!” 

In the year after I graduated, a brand new high school building opened in 1959 on Blue Devil Way for junior and senior Sharpsville students. The old building became the “William P. Snyder Middle School,” named for the owner of Shenango Furnace Company, which operated blast furnaces in Sharpsville from the early 1900s until the 1970s. 

When a new space was created for Sharpsville Area Middle School next to the Sharpsville Area High School, schooldays at the Ridge Avenue building were at an end. Instead, the large red brick structure at 100 West Ridge Avenue was converted to a privately owned mixed-use complex and renamed the TrailBlazer Building, now holding about a dozen commercial tenants as well as 23 apartments. 

I feel a sense of loss and sadness when I think of the demolition of some of Sharpsville’s historic buildings, such as the Pierce Mansion and the Mahaney Building. But how comforting it is to know that a new life has been found for the Sharpsville High School building on Ridge Avenue! 

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Other Businesses

Among the ads in the 1956 Devil’s Log Yearbook was one for Dick’s TV Center at 211 Ridge Avenue. It read,

DICK’S T.V. CENTER
Sales–Installation–Service
Service & Distributors for Sylvania, G.E., Philco,
R.C.A., Admiral, Crosley, Emerson, Stewart Warner

In 1953 my father purchased our first television and it was most likely from this shop. (It was a big event when that black-and-white Philco with a 21-inch screen was placed in a featured spot in our living room, even though the only available TV stations in Sharpsville at that time were channels 73 [WFMJ-TV – NBC] and 27 [WKBN-TV – CBS], both from Youngstown, Ohio.) [Revisions and additions were made to this paragraph on February 10, 2020.]

And this shop was probably the one we regularly called for a repairman when our TV malfunctioned, often when one of the TV’s vacuum tubes burned out. Because a TV set in those days was like a large piece of furniture, repairmen usually made house calls. Today, with modern flat-screen sets being difficult to fix and often disposable, the TV repairman is a relic of the past. The building that held Dick’s TV Center, across Ridge Avenue from the high school, still exists today and is still in use by a small business.

Dick’s TV Center is featured in “A Christmas Kindness,” a blog about the owner’s very nice gesture to my brother and me when we wanted to buy a Christmas tree. I couldn’t recall the name of the store, but a reader reminded me it was Weber’s TV. Possibly the owner’s name was Dick Weber.

Stevenson Funeral Home at 1142 West Ridge Avenue is no longer in operation at this site. Neither is Stewart’s Grocery that occupied a little building on the corner of West Ridge and Seventh Street. In the 1950s we students from the Robison Elementary School would stop at Stewart’s after school with our pennies and nickels to buy candies.

Sandy’s, at 212 West Ridge Avenue, was another after-school stopping place in the 1950s, in this case by the high school students. Located a few doors from Second Street on the same side as Sharpsville High School, it was a popular venue for meeting with friends, listening to the latest rock ‘n roll 45 rpm records on the coin-operated jukebox, chatting on the pay phone or sipping soda from glass bottles. 

Sandy’s on West Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA, 1956. Source: 1956 Devil’s Log Yearbook.

Ridge Avenue served its townspeople well some 70 years ago. And as much as certain features have changed since then on this little street, some have stayed the same. For those things that have been consigned to the dusty bins of the past, all we have left are a few photographs, if any, and our memories.

Sources

1956 Devil’s Log Sharpsville (PA) High School Yearbook.

First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville website.

“First Presbyterian Church.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, July 2014, Vol. III, No. 2, page 4.

Sharpsville Church of the Nazarene website.

“Sharpsville High School Students abt 1910.” Class photo on Familyoldphotos.com.

“Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary, 1874-1924.” Supplement to the Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924, pp 10 & 14. Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. http://sharpsvillehistorical.com/documents/
GoldenJubilee.pdf

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church website.

White, John G. A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County Pennsylvania. Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1909. Pages 647 & 953.


DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part II

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

When I was a kid, our family didn’t see a doctor on a regular basis as most of us do today. In fact, we had to be in need of vaccination or really, really sick or injured before our parents called on the doctor’s services. One reason for avoiding a doctor’s visit was that private health insurance was unaffordable for many in those days and employer-sponsored health insurance plans were usually unavailable, including for my family.

In the 1940s when we lived in Wheatland, PA, the family doctor would come to our house with his black satchel full of medicines and instruments in hand.

By the time we moved to Sharpsville, the reverse was true and continues to this day: an appointment would be made to visit the doctor at his place of practice. If it becomes the norm that doctors visit us via computer, we will have come full circle in a way!

As we continue to follow Pete Joyce’s memory journey around 1920s Sharpsville in honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey’s arrival in town at that time, we learn who lived and worked in this small Pennsylvania town and how active it was in those early days. We also better understand the contributions its citizens, and particularly Dr. Bailey, have made to the community, some whose names still resonate today.


Reminiscences of Sharpsville
In Honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey
(continued)

A speech presented by Peter Joyce to the Sharpsville Service Club, 1979
(The text has been slightly edited for clarity.)

Around the corner from Mahaney’s was Abrams the cobbler, Engles Bakery, J.V. Minehan’s Dry Goods Store. Then the Racket Store and C.N. Oates for papers, magazines and confections with an outdoor popcorn machine.

Then Lou Burckhart’s Meat Market and O.B. Law’s Grocery Store. I never saw Mr. Law smile. He had a son who was a lawyer but seemed to spend most of his time reading spicy novels over at Reichards Drug Store. Now we are over to Norman Mertz restaurant where the railroaders ate.

Then over to the ballpark at Shenango and Walnut where the American Legion would hold carnivals to raise money for their home. Hear and see Ray Kane, Bill Hart, Joe Donohue, Ed Davies, Dr. [James] Biggins, [Harry] Pebly and Frank Callahan, the greatest barker of them all. Patriotism was strong and beautiful and inspiring and the Vets used to speak at the schools on Armistice Day, then there would be the parades. We all knew [the lyrics to] “Johnny Get Your Gun,” “Over There” and “How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree!” ….

Across the road from the ballpark was Mike Nathan’s coal and feed supply. Later it became Bill Lee’s then Parker & Lee. And, on down Walnut street was Andy Bombeck, the contractor.

shps_hanes_methodist_church

The people of Sharpsville were good churchgoers. Father Miller was at St. Bartholomew’s, Rev. Spink at the Grace Reformed, Rev. Cousins at the Methodist Church, Rev. Gossell at the Baptist, Rev. Hills at the United Brethren and Rev. Woods at the Presbyterian Church.

[Above right: First United Methodist Church, 148 E. Shenango St., Sharpsville, PA, c. 1940s. Courtesy of Gail Nitch Hanes.]

shps_car_DixieFlyer

Wade Mertz was doing some building and selling coal and feed, etc. Tim Holland had a new auto agency for a beautiful car called the Dixie Flyer. [Left: Dixie Flyer 1916-1923. Source: AllCarIndex.com]

Stiglianos were baking delicious Italian bread. Ben Jackson was running the Boiler Works making Sharmeters. [Clock-faced gas pumps. Click here for a photo and history of this Sharpsville Boiler Works product.]…  

and the Menkes were running three blast furnaces at Shenango Furnace

shps_SAHS_blast furnace

Shenango Blast Furnace, Sharpsville, PA. Source: Excerpt from “This Is Shenango,” 1954. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

The best baseball was played at Joyce Field, near Leona and Hazen now. The streetcars ran every 15 minutes to Sharon. Telephones had come to Sharpsville in the late 1880s and connected the Sharpsville Furnace to the Pierce Coal Co. The first public telephone was at Skip Reichard’s store. The first directory showed only eight subscribers in 1887 and 15 in 1890.

When I look back I think our greatest loss is that we no longer are producing characters. Where are the old Skin Troutman and young Skin, Reptile High Tree, the Turkey Murphys, Blair Boys, Pete Lyden, Squaw Long, Mike Tobin? If I had only written down their stories.

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Well, this is the Sharpsville that Dr. Bailey came into. Going as you did from Jamestown as the son of a doctor, to med school, to internship, then to Sharpsville.

You brought with you a lovely, gracious, kind and patient wife, an ideal partner for a young doctor. Youve lived on Locust Street, Ridge Avenue, corner of Main and Mercer, before settling where you are. 

[Above right: Residence of Dr. Bailey on the northwest corner of North Mercer and East Main, 1930s. Courtesy of Gail Nitch Hanes.]

Children came in Gods good time and blest your union. I don’t know whether to describe you as an old-time doctor or a new-time doctor. We all knew that at all times you were a wonderfully kind and generous man. During the Depression, you suffered with the people, but you gave of yourself and to the community. You were the Mercer County Medical Doctor, President of Buhl Hospital and the Mercer County Medical Society. You are a splendid father with a real dedication to the Hippocratic oath. Both your hands and your heart were involved in an act of love to heal—yet never was vanity on display. Your life revolved around your family, your profession and your golf. When you came here we had just dedicated a new High School. The Class of 1922 had 18 graduates, up ten students from 1918.

You have witnessed many, many improvements in this town. Your profession has changed enormously, and our great country has discovered its social responsibility. It’s a long time from Warren G. Harding and his “Return to Normalcy” to Jimmy Carter being “Born Again.” Its a “helluva long time,” is the way Dr. Bailey would say. You have witnessed two world wars, the Depression [and] the convulsion of the 60s, yet common sense prevailed.

The Sharpsville Service Club is proud of you, Dr. Bailey. You are everything that a citizen and doctor should be. You are a credit to your community and we are all so happy that you adopted us 56 years ago. And, we wish you many more years of health and happiness.

See complete narrative at:
http://www.sharpsvillehistorical.com/documents/Reminiscences.pdf

For a transcription of an interview with Dr. Bailey, go to:
 Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” The Herald, Sharon, PA: July 17, 1979, page 28. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

See more about Pete Joyce at:
http://www2.sharonherald.com/localnews/recentnews/0103/ln032201c.htm

— Permission to reprint Peter Joyce’s speech was granted by
The Sharpsville Area Historical Society.


Dr. Nelson John Bailey was born in Jamestown, PA, on March 24, 1892, to Winona E. Bailey and Myron D. Bailey, who was also a physician. Nelson was one of six children.

Bailey attended Grove City College and The University of Pittsburgh. He was graduated from Jefferson Medical College (now Jefferson University) in Philadelphia. When he was ready to enter practice in 1920, his father wasn’t well, so he took over his father’s practice until 1923.

When Dr. Bailey started practicing medicine in Sharpsville in 1923, he moved into the former office of Dr. Addison E. Cattron who had died in 1923. The office was built onto the side of Cattron’s house, in which Mrs. Cattron and their three daughters continued to reside.

As of 1940, Dr. Bailey was living on North Locust Street, Sharpsville, PA. By 1942, his home was located at 116 Mercer Avenue. His business was always at 61 East Main Street.

Dr. Bailey and his wife, Georgia J. (1893-1968), had two sons, Nelson C. and Hugh M., and two daughters, Harriet Jane and Margaret W.

Dr. Nelson Bailey died on October 24, 1988. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery located on the east side of South Mercer Avenue, Sharpsville, PA.


Sources:

 “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVVG-DKD7 : accessed 2018 July 16).]

“Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” The Herald, (Sharon, PA) July 17, 1979, page 28. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch.org
(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG32-H91 : accessed 16 July 2018).

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQCK-QCH : accessed 16 July 2018).

“United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VQFC-PF7 : accessed 16 July 2018).


For a wealth of information about Sharpsville in the 1920s, see
Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to the Sharon Telegraph (1924),
in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Click here (1901) and here (1912) for vintage maps of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

For additional references to Dr. Bailey, see:
Dr. Bailey’s Sharpsville 1920s, Part I
Main Street Memories
Immunizations & Home Cures