Small Town Memories

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

Tag: Sharpsville Service Club

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.


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.

img699

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


DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part I

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

There were two doctors in Sharpsville, PA, in the 1950s that I can remember: James A. Biggins, M.D., (born c. 1909) whose office was at 5 North Walnut Street, and Nelson J. Bailey, M.D., (born 1892) at 61 East Main Street. Some of the other doctors who practiced in Sharpsville in the early days were William Twitmeyer M.D., P.E. Biggins M.D., Addison E. Cattron, M.D. and Benjamin A. Frye, M.D.

When Dr. Bailey retired in 1979 after 56 years of practice, Peter Joyce gave a speech at the Sharpsville Service Club in which he honored Dr. Bailey’s many years of commitment to the health concerns of the community.

Joyce’s words paint a detailed picture of the borough in the 1920s when Dr. Bailey was just beginning his practice and when Joyce himself was a student at Sharpsville High School, graduating in 1929. “Pete” Joyce (1911-2006) lived a long life of dedication to Sharpsville government, church and community. He served as councilman and mayor of Sharpsville for numerous terms and was owner of Isaly’s Dairy on the corner of Main and Third streets.

Joyce describes a vibrant little town bustling with people and activities, where everyone knew your name. You may remember some of the businesses and family names as still around in later years. Or maybe you’ll recognize someone from your own family tree. 


Reminiscences of Sharpsville
In Honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey

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

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

Dr. Nelson J. Bailey, c. 1979. [Excerpt from an article in The Herald]

My Dear Friends:

How does one assess a lifetime of service? What does one say of a person who has spent 56 years in intimate dedication to healing bodies and sometimes giving peace to the mind of those grieving the loss of a loved one….. Let‘s wander back 56 years and look at the Sharpsville of that time [1923] and some of the people who have gone to their reward, whom Dr. Bailey first met.

Mercer Avenue

Dr. Bailey occupied Dr. Cattron‘s old office, so we’ll start down Mercer Avenue to Jackson Tin Shop where we‘ll see John Jackson and old Mr. McDowell making the famous Jackson oiler for locomotives. Then on down to the corner of Shenango and Mercer to Reichard‘s Drug StoreDr. Twitmeyer occupied the back office. He was tall and thin with white hair and a trim goatee. He drove a buggy pulled by a pure white horse. Then there was Skip himself, the inimitable Skip, short, partly bald, and quick-witted. He would never let the coffees stir long enough—Mike McNerney always did it better. That building was the original Odd Fellow TempleTom West, who started the Valley Mould, held the first convention of the American Anti-Accident Association, the parent of Safety First, meeting there in 1907.

sharpsville_oiler

The famous Jackson self-closing engine oiler.

The Pierce Mansion was across the street with old Jim Pierce who was Burgess. Then there was the very reserved Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Pierce‘s sister, Aunt Cissy. Their maiden name was Pomplitz, and they were from Baltimore. The family had manufactured organs.

Across the street at the First National Bank was brother Frank Pierce, the president. And, he was president of the Sharpsville School Board. There were five Pierce brothers. They all had six fingers and six toes, except Frank. Then there was Mr. Wickerham, also a new arrival as the cashier. There was also Lloyd Bartleson, Howard Merchant, Fred Bartleson, and Mrs. Lee. The bank was staid, sound, conservative—a bank was a bank then and not a hardware store with gimmicks.

Nearby was Barlett‘s Hardware and the Bloch Bros., Morris and Jake, in business since 1907. Karl Smith was the postmaster. Then Locke and Cattron for gasoline and auto repairs. Then Mehl‘s store with old John—tall, thin, reserved, deliberate. He said to me once, “Before you spend a dollar of the people’s taxes, just imagine that it is coming out of your pocketbook— because it truly is.” If only we could recapture those values today.

Across the alley was Shaner‘s Jewelry Store and then Charles Hites Hardware. Charlie was slow, patient, smoked a pipe and was a Socialist. He had everything, but only he could find it. Over the hill was Frye‘s Store, then the Valley Mould and Iron Co., the biggest manufacturer of ingots in the world. Flanked on all sides by company houses occupied by Slavs and Italians. The Irish had been there earlier and moved up on the hills. The Slavs and Italians [followed] them to the hills…. [and were replaced by the African Americans.] I guess that was the story of America then, as one moved up the economic ladder.

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

It was a raw American, bursting with energy and zeal, but Sharpsville was in a Depression. Most of our blast furnaces were not working and some of the people were moving off to Youngstown and others to Detroit where Henry Ford was starting blast furnaces and promising $5 a day to labor. The Depression lasted several years and was a forerunner of what was to happen in 1929 that precipitated the Great Depression.

Shenango Street

Then along Shenango Street was Perry‘s Shoe StoreElsmore‘s Store and Joe Moscowitz for children and ladies apparel. And then the Colonial Theatre owned by Charles Blatt with Jennie Davies as ticket seller. Nearby Steve Gates, the tailor. Then the Parkway Apartments, formerly the Pierce House when the country was wet. For that period they were luxurious apartments. There were 39 rooms.

The town park was cared for tenderly by Johnnie Keats. His tulips were just out of this world in beauty. Across the tracks was the Pennsylvania RR with Sam Morris and nearby the B & O with old Mr. Wert – Charles Miller as yardmaster and Mr. McElvaney as the big boss. The town park was home to Turkey Murphy, the Blair Boys, Mike Tobin, Pete Johnson and many others. …

First National Bank of Sharpsville, c. early 1950s.

The Stahls had a restaurant at the alley. Then Mehler‘s Barber Shop with Charlie Collins nearby in his corduroy suit. Then Davis Tailor Shop with Dave and John Gavin sitting with crossed legs on the counter. Next to them Muscarella‘s Fruit Stand and the Graber‘s Jewelry Store. His minutes of the Borough Meetings are an example of handwriting at its best. Then, Bob McFarland‘s house and McLaren‘s Drug StoreLaMont‘s Market, Roth‘s Market and Dick Patterson‘s sodas, candy and confections. Above him was old Whig Thompson‘s Print Shop and across the street Dickson‘s Furniture StoreShannon‘s Hardware, where Martha sat on the swing, and Homer Sheasley helped Clair Plum. Homer always had a chew of tobacco in and sometimes it used to escape down the corners of his mouth. Well, everybody chewed, at least all the kids in Irishtown carried J.T. Plug.

A section of the Parkway Apartments, formerly the Pierce House, Shenango St., Sharpsville, PA.

Then there was Pat Connelly‘s Bicycle Shop where he entertained the Robinson Brothers, Charlie Carney, Billy Young. Across the street, the Odd Fellows with a bulging membership, and on down the street Cora Fuller gave music lessons. Elmer Masterson managed the A & P Store with Bob McFarland‘s Drug Store nearby with Bill Seifert always there to run errands. One of Bill’s legs was shorter than the other and he had to have about a six-inch sole and heel on the short leg.

First and Main Street

Harry E. Pebly, Superintendent of, Sharpsville (PA) Schools. [Source: “Devil’s Log” Yearbook 1956]

Then there was Ralph Miller‘s Soda Shop, then Squire Turner as the Justice of the Peace dispensing justice. Then, on down to First Street to the new Ritz Theatre with Charles Gable and his diamond rings and a powerful hoarse voice which we heard later in his famous nephew, Clark Gable. Across the street was Love Funeral Home, the Presbyterian Church and then Al Warren‘s store. Once again the indoor swing with two old people who held hands in between selling groceries.

Mahaney’s, a men’s clothing store on the corner of Main and Walnut streets. Torn down in the early 1970s. Source: Donna DeJulia.

Then there was Sam Sing the Chinese launderer. We all believed Sam had designs on us as we collected our fathers‘ collars. We never knew how or why, but fear is inherent and can play tricks on little boys and girls.

Then there was J.R. Hum‘s Grocery Store and Mahaney‘s Clothing Store with Paul Buchanan, and Harry Pebly working there in the summertime. It might be said that Pebly put Sharpsville on the map athletically. He was a strong-willed man, probably the best teacher I ever had. In football, he could make you want to die to win. Those teams in the early 20s, in football and especially basketball, for the size of the school, were in my opinion, Sharpsville‘s greatest. If you had been a freshman in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924—the total enrollment was 101, yet the athletic record was of real champs. Harry had come recently as high school principal, football coach, basketball coach, faculty manager, athletic director, teacher of physics and chemistry. He would get in the scrimmage himself to show how it should be done.

During this period Dr. Bailey was a new kind of champ: He delivered the Welch triplets[To be continued….]

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

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:
Main Street Memories” (also includes the Robisons)
Immunizations & Home Cures

Many thanks to Gail Nitch Hanes, whose PowerPoint presentation of “Sharpsville, Our Home Town — Then & Now” provided the following photos: Jackson Oiler, Parkway Apartments, First National Bank and Pierce Mansion.

The photographs of Peter Joyce and Dr. Nelson Bailey originally appeared in these newspaper articles in The Herald (Sharon, PA): “Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” July 17, 1979, page 28 (courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society) and “New Sharpsville Council Elects Nelson President: Burgess Joyce Administers Oath…,” January 4, 1956.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, July 1, 2018.


WALL-TO-WALL SANTAS In Sharpsville

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Sharpsville’s unique Santa program is a favorite among our small town stories and for good reason. This annual event held by the Sharpsville Service Club since 1947 projects the sentiments of the season: kindness, generosity, and hope. It’s encouraging to know that, after approximately 70 years, this simple homegrown tradition continues. According to Ralph C. Mehler, board member of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society and a former Santa helper, “participation–both in terms of number of Santas as well as homes and kids visited–has been pretty steady over the last 15 or so years.”

The following account of the Santas’ pre-Christmas-Day visits comes from a PowerPoint presentation, “Sharpsville – Then & Now” by Gail Nitch Hanes. She researched, wrote and distributed CDs of the presentation as a gift to the Sharpsville High School Class of 1964 at their 50th reunion. (Gail was the Reunion Committee Chairperson for the SHS Class of 1964 for ten years, from 2004 to 2014).


A BELOVED MEMORY FROM OUR PAST…

By Gail Nitch Hanes

Source: "Sharpsville -- Then & Now" PowerPoint presentation

Sharpsville Service Club sign announcing the Santa project. Located at the entrance to Sharpsville, PA. c. 2014.

Who of us could ever forget how very special Christmas was during our youngest years growing up in Sharpsville? Our hometown was, and still is, the ONLY town around here where Santa Claus visits each child right before Christmas. He even knows their names and ages. He arrives with his pack full of popcorn balls and sometimes even an ”early” present, with a reminder –”don’t forget to go to bed early on Christmas Eve so I can deliver the rest of your presents.” How awestruck we were to think that Santa made a special visit to us. Little did we know then just how Santa came to make those visits.

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. And they are all volunteers!

Of course, all this does not just happen; it requires extensive organizational work behind the scenes well before the holiday season. Routes must be designated and mapped out with house numbers; a timetable must be established, and most importantly, Santas must be confirmed, with ”elves” assigned to help each one. The afternoon/early evening of the big day, the men gather inside ”Santa’s headquarters” to begin the transformation from citizen to Santa: sitting in the make-up chair while white cream is smudged into their eyebrows and blush is rolled onto their pink cheeks; putting on their ”Santa hair and beard” and, last but not least, donning the famous red and white suit with the big black belt and special black boots — black liners with fur around the top. [They have to keep their feet warm for all the walking they’ll be doing].

When everyone is suited up and the room is wall-to-wall Santas, it gets a little loud when they begin to belt out their ”Ho! Ho! Ho!” They swap stories of past Christmases and the children they’ve met, especially those little ones who ask Santa the tough questions. They have to be ready to answer unique and oftentimes surprising questions from the children without missing a beat; after all, Santa knows everything. They also must be prepared to run the full gamut of emotions depending on family circumstances — from the happiest to the very saddest and neediest.

Wall-to-Wall Santas! Photo courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society (SAHS) Newsletter, November 2017, page 3. This is one of 8 unpublished photos from the 1953 American Magazine article in SAHS’s collection.

As children, most of us were unaware of how the entire process worked. We were told that Santa might make a ”special visit” to make sure we’re being good and to remind us to go to bed early on Christmas Eve so he could deliver all our presents while we were asleep. What we didn’t know was that in order for ”Santa” to know which homes to visit, porch lights were turned on — to light his way. Then there would be a lot of whispering among the adults [about what we had no clue] in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Meanwhile, at some homes, a note would be taped to the front door with the names and ages of the children in the family, along with any early presents Santa was to give. Santa’s helper would quietly retrieve the note and put the gifts in Santa’s pack. Then, the sound of sleigh bells would fill the air as Santa approached with his hearty ”Ho! Ho! Ho!” What treasured times those were!
 
And the tradition continues every Christmas season from one generation to the next. Even families who don’t live in Sharpsville gather at a relative’s home so their children can experience that magical moment when Santa calls them by name and they sit on his lap one more time right before Christmas. Even as adults, we still look forward to Santa’s annual visit too. Now it’s extra special because we share it with not only our children but our grandchildren and perhaps even great-grandchildren.

Sharpsville is transformed into a truly magical place every Christmas, thanks to this extraordinary group of people whose dedication to the tradition of Santa visiting every home will continue far into the future.

Thank you, Sharpsville Service Club members and helpers! [Donations to their cause are always welcome.]

— Gail Nitch Hanes, Southington, OH – Sharpsville High School 1964


Read More Holiday Stories Here:

A CHRISTMAS KINDNESS

A SHARPSVILLE CHRISTMAS

SHARPSVILLE’S SANTAS

A STORY ABOUT SNOW

Uniquely Sharpsville; Sharpsville’s Santas.”
Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter,
November 2017, pages 3 & 5.


SHARPSVILLE’S SANTAS

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

‘Tis the special season, when houses and stores are decorated in lots of red and green, when yuletide music is in the air, and when I think of Christmas visits by a Sharpsville Santa Claus to our home in the 1950s. 

Now that I live in southern Arizona, where the weather is warm and sunny at Christmas, it takes the appearance of those decorations and music to remind me that it’s even December. Here, instead of hosting Santa visits, one of our family traditions is an evening at Las Noches de las Luminarias, presented annually by the Desert Botanical Garden. We stroll pathways lined with luminaria bags and towering cacti adorned with twinkle lights while serenaded by a wide variety of musical groups — from handbell ringers to jazz to mariachis — along the way. 

Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ, 2017
Photos by Adrian Bissell Major
Click on image to enlarge

On this blog site last year Judy McCracken (SHS 1960) wrote of her fond memories of visits by Sharpsville Santas in a narrative titled “A Sharpsville Christmas.” The following is another recollection of that beloved tradition.


'"Welcome" sign at entrance to Sharpsville on Sharon-Sharpsville Road. Photo taken during a 1993 visit.

“Welcome” sign at entrance to Sharpsville on Sharon-Sharpsville Road, 1993.

How can memories of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, not include Santa Claus visits to our homes on or around Christmas Eve! Is there any other town in the United States that has supported such a delightful program with such regularity for so many years as Sharpsville has for 66 years?!

This annual tradition began in late 1948 at a Sharpsville Service Club meeting when George F. Mahaney Jr., a local lawyer, told his fellow members about a Christmas custom in his own neighborhood. For several years on Christmas Eve, he and a friend donned Santa Claus costumes and paid calls to families with children. He suggested that this project be expanded to cover the entire borough of Sharpsville. The idea was adopted and implemented that very year when approximately 10 volunteer Santas hit the streets the night before Christmas.

Since then the project grew to involve 40 Santas by 2001. Not only have some members been Santas for over 20 years, succeeding generations of the same families have also been Santas to succeeding generations of children.

It works like this: Before the eventful night, dozens of volunteers spent hundreds of hours recruiting participants, providing supplies, planning routes, coordinating activities, making popcorn balls, and alerting residents to turn on their porch light if they wish to welcome a Santa into their home.

Early in the evening on a day or two before Christmas, the Santas-to-be met at a designated location, such as the borough’s fire station in the 1950s or at a base of operations provided by the Sharpsville Veterans of Foreign Wars in the 2000s. There they suited up, studied their routes and instructions, and threw their sacks of popcorn balls over their shoulders as they piled into their “sleighs” for a night on the town, sometimes accompanied by Mrs. Santa. According to the Indiana (PA) Gazette on February 4, 2001,

A door-to-door Santa visits Pat Angel at his home on Second Street, Christmas 1955.

A door-to-door Santa shares a popcorn ball with Pat Angel at his home on Second Street, 1955.

Helpers drive the cars and keep one house ahead of Santa to tell parents of the impending visit and learn names and Christmas wishes of the children. If parents want Santa to deliver a gift to their child, they leave it on the porch.

I warmly recall those stops at our house on Second Street during the 1950s, announced by the jingle of bells and a resounding “ho-ho-ho.” I was a teenager who felt too “grown up” to join the fun, but I took great pleasure in observing Santa’s cheerful interaction with my two younger brothers.

Even though the Service Club members knew they needed to be “ready for anything” when they entered a home as a Santa, they have described the experience as rewarding and uplifting when they saw the excitement and wonder on the faces of the children.

The visits must have indeed inspired happiness in the hearts of young and old alike and the hope that this simple but meaningful community tradition would be around for future generations to enjoy.


Besides recording my own memories of the Santa visits, I used information from the following sources. You are welcome to send in corrections, additions, or your own recollections.

“Jolly volunteers head out every Christmas Eve; Sharpsville kids guaranteed visit from Santa,” Feb 4, 2001 – Indiana (PA) Gazette, February 4, 2001.

“Santa really visits every home in Sharpsville,” Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA), December 2, 1981.

“Sharpsville: It takes more than eight tiny reindeer.” The Herald (Sharon, PA), Dec 26, 2000.

“What’s it like to be Santa?” by Joe Zentis, staff writer. The Herald (Sharon, PA), December 26, 2000.

“Where Faith Defies Reality.” In a December 2004 Herald essay, Mary Claire Mahaney shared memories of her uncle, George F. Mahaney, who inspired the idea of Sharpsville’s Santas and worked as one when she was a little girl.

Sharpsville Service Club Facebook page [no longer in operation].


Read More Wintertime Stories Here:

THE BIG SNOW OF 1950

A CHRISTMAS KINDNESS

A SHARPSVILLE CHRISTMAS

SNAPPING THE WHIP AT BUHL PARK

A STORY ABOUT SNOW

Uniquely Sharpsville; Sharpsville’s Santas.”
Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter,
November 2017, pages 3 & 5.


–Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, 2016

A SHARPSVILLE CHRISTMAS

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

CHRISTMAS EVE IN SHARPSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA
SHARPSVILLE SERVICE CLUB
1948
Judy McCracken

A Sharpsville ChristmasI was six years old, my sister Sandy was four. Our older sisters, Mary Lou (14) and Joyce (11), were partners with our parents in this wonderful Christmas season of church, gifts and lots of secrets from their little sisters. Party time!! This year of 1948 was the first year of the annual home visits by Santa Claus and his helper to every home in our little town on the night before Christmas, Christmas Eve. My memory of that magical night is still super clear, so first I’ll describe it to you from my six-year-old eyes. Then I’ll give you the factual background I learned years later about how this wonderful gift to the children of our town of 5000 people came about.

My mother began decorating the house for Christmas, inside and outside, weeks before December 25. Christmas was HER time, continued joy carried over from her own growing up years in the same town. The surrounding towns had a contest to reward the homes with the most novel, dramatic and exciting outdoor Christmas displays featuring lighting and decorations. This was a big deal. Winners with pictures of their winning homes were featured in the area newspaper and competition was keen. My parents and grandfather built a plywood sleigh with reindeer, Santa sitting in the sleigh, all painted pretty realistically and propped up on the roof of our house. My mother was the first, I think, to cover our front door with a cloth with shiny gold glitter she had glued to it. There were red wreaths in every window with red bulbs in them, turned on every evening at dark. All of this was lit up with huge spotlights in the yard connected to big, fat electric cords running all over the yard and into electric sockets IN the house through slightly open windows; no outside sockets those days. Our house won honorable mentions several years running, always disappointing but at least the efforts were recognized and our family’s name was in the paper.

A Sharpsville ChristmasInside the house, a real Christmas tree was set up by our dad but our mother decorated it all herself, no help, thank you. It was HER passion. She hated to cook but this was the season and many relatives and friends would descend on our home to spend their Christmas Eve with us. Thus we smelled delicious fudge, her famous pecan rolls, cookies, homemade eggnog, baked ham, all manner of treats prepared days ahead. Our dad was responsible to get the liquor and beer and lots of it for one of our Irish clan’s reasons for the season.

At about 4:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, our dad disappeared and we had no idea where to or why but the house was abuzz. As soon as it was dark, about 5:00, my aunt and uncle would appear and put Sandy and me in the back of the car and spirit us away to see all the houses in the Shenango Valley decorated for Christmas. They had no children of their own yet so we were the surrogates and they treated us to so much fun. I remember that for some reason we had to be back home at 8:00 p.m. but I didn’t know why at the time.

Back into the house!! Wow!! What had happened!! Piles of presents were under the Christmas tree, lots of adult relatives and family friends had arrived and the eating and drinking had already begun. It felt overwhelming but beyond exciting. Sandy and I were escorted into the living room and all the adults surrounded us, staring at us. We were clearly the entertainment.

sharpsville_clipart_popcorn_ballThen there was a knock on the front door and palpable excitement stirred among the adults. Enter Santa Claus in full red and white attire, beard, big boots, lots of jingling bells on his belt and carrying a huge sack on his back. We were in awe, mouths open. He put Sandy and me on his lap, one at a time, and knew exactly what we wanted for Christmas! He told us he had already placed quite a few of our gifts under the Christmas tree while we were out viewing the Christmas lights and that he would be back later tonight, after we had gone to bed, with the big stuff. Then he gave us each a popcorn ball out of his sack, a fabulous and unknown treat to us in those days! He was happy we had been such good girls. We were also very painfully shy and had little to say to him, just gave him big grins and certainly our thanks as we were reminded to do by all the adults. Then he teased some of the “big people” and there was lots of laughing. He was accompanied by another man we didn’t know, billed as his helper, who was dressed in a long winter coat and boots and a cap against the cold night. The helper kept whispering to Santa and then helped him out the door.

Once they left, the party began. Our dad was STILL not home and we were told that he would return at 10:00 p.m., at which time we could open some presents. While we waited, our mother went to the piano and began playing Christmas carols. I can still see those big uncles, my grandfather, the aunts and all the other adults standing around her, beer in hands, singing with gusto and surprisingly good harmonizing. My mother was an excellent pianist/organist (she had played the organ at Mass up the street in the Catholic Church from the time she was eleven years old—she would be heading up there soon to play for Midnight Mass). Finally, our dad came in the back door, hailed by all of us like a conquering hero. Little did I know till years later that he was one of the Sharpsville Service Club volunteers and had been driving his Santa partner around town to their assigned home visits.

So how did those glorious Christmas Eves come about? In 1948, the Sharpsville Service Club, a men’s group, acted on the idea of one of their members, George Mahaney, Jr., to begin a project of visiting every home in Sharpsville on Christmas Eve with members dressed as Santa Claus, giving gifts or treats to each child. Eighteen of these men volunteered to be Santas and eighteen more volunteered to be their partners, dressed in street clothes, escorting their Santa via car to each home. This then called for Santa suits, wigs and beards to be made along with sweet treats to give the children from Santa’s sack. Myrtle “Mert” Caracci quarterbacked the effort to produce all of this.

The headquarters were in the Sharpsville Borough Building on Main Street and that facility became the production area, launch area and storage area for the annual Christmas Eve activity which would continue for decades. The volunteers met there, climbed into their Santa costumes, picked up their street maps, schedules, home visit assignments, and instructions for dealing with the children. The citizenry was alerted to the project and parents wishing a visit to their children were instructed to leave the porch light on. The helper would knock on the front door, chat with a parent to get the children’s names, gift wishes and special instructions, then return to the car to share the information with Santa. The helper would “coach” Santa in the house to remember all the data. Some parents even had a gift ready for Santa to give the child or children, to be complicit at show time. Parents sometimes gave Santa and helper gifts of thanks or contributions to the Service Club in gratitude.

This wonderful event continues on an even grander scale to this day. It is now held on December 23 as finding enough volunteers willing to give up part of their own Christmas Eve became difficult.

Ask any child who grew up in Sharpsville if they remember anything special about Christmas Eve. Every one of them will tell you about those annual visits from Santa Claus. We believed all of it!! It was magical.

–Judy McCracken (SHS 1960), Mentor, OH, December 2014

Read More Wintertime Stories Here:

THE BIG SNOW OF 1950
THE BIG SNOW OF 1950: Saving the Trumps

A CHRISTMAS KINDNESS

SHARPSVILLE’S SANTAS

SNAPPING THE WHIP at Buhl Park

A STORY ABOUT SNOW

WALL-TO-WALL SANTAS In Sharpsville

Uniquely Sharpsville; Sharpsville’s Santas.”
Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter,
November 2017, pages 3 & 5.


ANGEL’S CASINO: A Place to Party

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

This is the last installment of my memories of the Casino. Next week, we’ll take a look at a new subject and author. Keep those comments and submissions coming! What events do you remember attending at “Angel’s”?


Record hops and wedding celebrations weren’t the only types of gatherings at Angel’s Casino. In his memoir, Dad wrote:

Utilization of the former livery stable under my ownership evolved slowly and unevenly…. Soon after purchase, the building was rented for roller-skating on the fine maple floor, mostly for kids’ private birthday parties – at first to give some semblance of occupancy. This activity lasted only a short while, because rentals by adult groups such as wedding parties, civic and fraternal groups, and clubs were more in demand.

…[E]very evening of the week, except Sunday, the hall was used for some function or other. There were only two activities promoted by yours truly – a regular weekly dinner for the Kiwanis Club serving 15 to 20 members and Friday night dances. The rest of the rentals were privately sponsored.

Besides birthday parties and Kiwanis Club dinners, the hall was used for many other functions, such as square dancing by the Masons, a style show by the Foster Shoppe, card parties by the Women’s Auxiliary, a fur coat show by the Women’s Club, and banquets for the Degree of Honor Society, Sharpsville Service Club, and the Sharpsville Patrol boys. There were also skating parties for a variety of groups, including the Sharon Herald newspaper employees, Girl Scouts, and Shenango Furnace Company employees. An entry in my 1954 diary describes the day when we kids watched wide-eyed as Paige Palmer, the hostess of one of the earliest televised fitness-oriented television shows, “The Paige Palmer Show,” stepped from a luxurious black car to speak before a Women’s Club meeting.

Click on image to enlarge.

My hard-working mother, Susie Hall Angel, was in charge of preparing the meals served at club meetings and was often praised by the guests for her tasty home-style cooking. A typical plate would consist of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable, such as baked chicken, creamed potatoes, and green beans. The dinner would end with a simple dessert, such as ice cream or fresh-baked cake or cookies.

Dad would recruit family members and friends to assist my mother in the kitchen and with the other chores required to run a community meeting place. Dad paid us something like 50 cents an hour to sell tickets and pop at record hops, wait on tables, and help clean up after these events. As I wrote in my 1956 diary, “There must have been a million dishes to wash.” But earning some spending money usually offset any reluctance I had to do these chores.

After leaving Sharpsville, I was distracted by college, marriage, and career, and lost track of the hall activities. After my parents retired and relocated to my mother’s home state of Kentucky, they sold the hall to Donaldson’s Funeral Home located on the corner of North Second and West Main streets.

In 1992, I returned to visit the hometown of my youth, only to find the Casino, having apparently run its course, was razed and replaced by a parking lot for the funeral home. What an inauspicious ending for “Angel’s Casino,” a place that enabled numerous community gatherings, and thus held so many fond memories for those of us who lived in the Sharpsville area in the 1950s and ’60s!

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, Arizona, April 2013.
— Excerpts are from “Trivia & Me,” (1996) by August D. Angel.


See Also:
ANGEL’S CASINO: The Early Years
ANGEL’S CASINO: Here Came the Bride
ANGEL’S CASINO: The Record Hops