Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sled Riding Nirvana

Wiki Images
by Robert Giles

Byersdale, like most towns in our valley, was built on a steep hillside. That made it an ideal place for winter sledding. We knew a number of good spots.

Just across our street was an old farm house – perhaps the oldest house in the village. The farm was gone but there was still a good sized lot in back. The lot stretched about 200 feet up a steep grade to McCabe Street. Close to the top was an apple tree. There may have been a small pine tree at the bottom of the slope, but besides that and the apple tree, the only vegetation was closely cropped grass.

Just behind the house was a brick retaining wall, then a two foot drop to a sidewalk along the back wall of the house.

To get a long ride, we pulled our sleds all the way up to McCabe Street - but it was just as fun to start at the apple tree. At the end of the slide, we would steer sharply and drag our legs to pull up short of the retaining wall.

Every winter, one or two amateurs would sail over the wall and into the back of the house. Mrs. Vann or her daughter would come out, alarmed; to see if anyone needed medical attention. I don’t remember any serious injuries. Mrs. Vann did have to nurse several knotted heads.

When we got older, we sought out more challenging slopes. Streets were inviting, but they were usually plowed bare and cindered. Or they would be congested with struggling cars, wheels spinning, engines whining, tail pipes sputtering.

Winter roads were too dangerous for a child on a sled.

Just at the corner of Anthony Wayne Drive and Essex Street, a steep winding path led down into Legionville Hollow. The path twisted its way through dense woods for perhaps a quarter mile, ending at a private road.

Those familiar with Byersdale may remember a property back over the ridge called “Uncle Bill’s Farm”. “Uncle Bill” wasn’t an uncle of anyone we knew and for that matter, his name may not have been “Bill”.

Anyway, the private road connected Legionville Hollow Road with Bill’s Farm. At regular intervals of 30 yards or so, Bill had posted professionally printed signs - “Keep out”, No trespassing”, “No Hunting” and like welcoming messages.  Local lore had it that Bill fired rock salt at trespassers with his 20-gauge, so the signs only completed the task of intimidation. We dared not venture too far up Bill’s drive.

We rode our sleds all the way from the corner at the top of Byersdale down to Bill’s drive, a distance as I have said, of about a quarter mile, over rough terrain and around large trees. It was a lot of fun if you made it to the bottom in one piece. But to start over, you had to walk all the way back, slipping and sliding and pulling a sled.

Fortunately, we had a third place nearby that wasn’t anyone’s back yard and didn’t involve a long trek back to Point A.

When we were kids a bridge carried Duss Avenue over Legionville Hollow (along about 1980, the bridge was replaced with culvert and fill). Legionville Hollow Road used to take a sharp left turn and descend to Legionville creek parallel with the bridge.

Well, along came Progress and a new road as straight as the crow flies replaced Old Legionville Road. The portion of the road that went down over the hill to the creek was bypassed entirely but fortunately found a new life as a place for neighborhood kids to sled.

We would build a big fire at the top of the hill, stay warm and sled way past sundown. The roadway was in good condition. We could create icy conditions within about 30 minutes after a snow by walking up and down the hill trailing our sleds.

Old Legionville Hill was smooth, straight, steep and fast. There was no traffic. Nobody complained if we built a roaring fire. Homeowners and reclusive landowners remained undisturbed.

Sled riding Nirvana – we had found it - under, of all places, the Legionville Bridge.

Christmas shopping at A&P, 1957

A&P ad,
Beaver Valley Times, December 11, 1957

In December 1957, when you shopped at A&P, along with Lux or Ivory Flakes, Blue Dot Duz, Camay Soap, Cott Pure Fruit Beverages, Clark Chewing Gum, and a large cherry pie for $0.45, you could also pick up Christmas gifts: HiFi Christmas L.P.'s, Rock'n Roll records for $1.00, a Lone Ranger Gun, Slinky Train, or large bride doll for $5.99.
_____

The Ambridge A&P was located between 11th Street and Sherman Street, now the location of the Trinity School for Ministry.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Northern Lights: The Farm & Garden Patch

Judy Reed addressed a comment to me on Facebook regarding an earlier post about the opening of the first stores in Northern Lights:
Nancy…we moved from Ambridge to Baden in 1953 and lived in the Kubia homes right above Northern Lights. Two of the stores that you have listed I have [never] heard of…Farm & Garden Patch & Fintex Clothes. In fact, I also worked at Northern Lights…can't imagine where those two stores were.
This post will be about The Farm. I will post about Fintex later.

This store seems to have gone by several names. In the October 31, 1956, Northern Lights Shoppers City ad in the Beaver Valley Times listing all the stores opening the next day (see previous post), it's listed as "The Farm."

An ad for the store in the same issue, calls the store The Farm, but also says it's "The Two Biggest Little Stores in Northern Lights Shopper's City" and mentions "The Garden Patch," which will feature fresh produce and "The Hen House," which will feature "Acronized chickens."



The Farm ad,
Beaver Valley Times, October 31, 1956

There's also an article about the store, "The Farm and Garden Patch Managed by Beaver Area Man" and a photo of the interior. [Update 12/21/13: a reader says that the photo below looks like the interior of Murphy's Meats. It is possible that the Beaver Valley Times misidentified the store in the photo. The paper also ran an article about Murphy's Meats next to the one about The Farm. I do not remember the interior of either store. Can a reader who does remember help?] [Update 6/11/14: After comparing the photo below with the one of Murphy's Meats in the June, 12, 1957 Beaver Valley Times, I agree that the photo below does appear to be of Murphy's Meats; however, both photos are of such low quality that I'm not able to say I'm 100 percent sure.] 



"This long row of meat cases is in The Farm at Northern Lights"
Beaver Valley Times, October 31, 1956

The Farm was still around for Northern Lights' June 1957, Grand Opening Celebration. The Beaver Valley Times' June 12 edition had an article about The Farm, "'The Farm' Has Fresh Produce," and a full page ad in which the store no longer advertised "two biggest little stores."


The Farm ad,
Beaver Valley Times, June 12, 1957

I don't know where The Farm was located in Northern Lights. Maybe another reader can remember.

As of now, I do not know when The Farm closed or what store took its place. If I ever find out, I will post that information.


Update 12/22/13: The Farm Christmas ad:


The Farm Christmas ad,
Beaver Valley Times, December 18, 1956

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ambridge Today: The American Bridge office is coming down, Part 2 - a neighborhood playground

I learned something new about the American Bridge office building since I first posted about its demolition. Adults not only worked there, but children also played there. Not in the building itself, of course (hopefully), but on the lawn, sidewalks, and parking lot.

Those who grew up in the neighborhood near the office remember the grounds as an informal playground, a place for playing games and sports, learning to ride bikes, roller skating, catching lightning bugs, and hunting for nightcrawlers on the lawn.


At least until the guards chased them away.

JP Dieter commented on a late-November photo of the office by Richard Mcfarland posted on the Facebook page "AMBRIDGE MEMORIES WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER" *:

Looking and remembering how much of a playground this property was for Park Road Kids growing up. The grounds in front of the wing to the left was our home football field while the area in front of the wing to the right was our alternate field. The parking lot and front entrance of the building was our Polo Grounds Wiffleball Stadium! Of course this was all dependent on the Plant Guards being busy somewhere else on the grounds or just looking the other way. Also a great place for War, Release the Peddler, fishin worms or just hangin out being a Park Road Kid! 
Al Travis, a blog reader, commented on the same photo: "A sad sight to see for those of us who grew up there. I remember the guards chasing us off when we played football in the yard there." 

Later, when I posted Part 1 of this blog series, Al asked, 
Nancy, did you notice if the large steel section from the Hell Gate Bridge is still there? It was on the side where the walkway to the footbridge used to be. As little kids, we used to climb on it until the guards chased us off. And I used to sit on it and wait for my Dad to come out after his shift.
The answer is "no," I didn't see the steel section that American Bridge fabricated for the Hell Gate Bridge, which American Bridge also helped erect.


Michael Travis standing in front of Hell Gate Bridge section,
American Bridge office grounds,
November, 1990,
Photo courtesy of Al Travis, used with permission

Al also sent me the above photo of his son Michael taken in front of the Hell Gate Bridge section in November, 1990, when Michael was 15. The steel section was on the south side of the walkway that led to the pedestrian bridge that allowed mill workers to cross over Ohio River Boulevard and the train tracks. Notice the plaque near the top.

Questions:

  • Did American Bridge make an extra section from the Hell Gate Bridge project to commemorate their achievement? If not, where did this piece come from?
  • When was the Hell Gate Bridge section placed on the office grounds?
  • What did the plaque say?
  • Where is the Hell Gate Bridge piece now?

Does anyone know?

[Update 12/17/13: Thanks to Kevin Butch O'Keefe, I was able to find information about the current whereabouts of the Hell Gate Bridge section. It's in the industrial artifacts collection of the Pittsburgh History & Landmark's Foundation and on display at Pittsburgh's Station Square. The bridge section gets a mention and photo in the PH&LF's Spring 1991 newsletter in the article "Artifacts Recall Industrial Past" on p. 6.]


Here are additional photos I took of the office building on November 20, 2013:



American Bridge office building,
4th Street side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
4th Street side roof-line,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley


American Bridge office building,
Park Road side,
entrance hall,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley


American Bridge office building
Park Road side,
 steps and entrance hall,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
south side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
south side door,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
fire escape,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley


American Bridge office building,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
windows to right of fire escape,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley


American Bridge office building,
central section,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley


American Bridge office building,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
steps and entrance,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley
 
American Bridge office building,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
right post and cap,
bottom of central entrance steps,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley
_____

* The Facebook page "AMBRIDGE MEMORIES WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER" is not affiliated with this blog, although I do post and read there. I not only find shared memories, but also information from other posters that I use on this blog.

The Facebook page for this blog is "Ambridge Memories 1950 - 1970 blog."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Royal Visit

Wiki Images
by Robert Giles

So you read about this lion had killed a man with his paws
But Samson got his hand in the lion's jaws
He rid that beast until he killed him dead
And the bees made honey in the lion's head


From the song “Samson and Delilah (If I Had My Way)”
Reverend Gary Davis

Friday, December 13, 2013

Chipped ham and square jumbo

I picked up two Pittsburgh area deli meat favorites on my November trip to Ambridge: Isaly's chipped ham and square jumbo.

Islay's chipped ham sign
I was delighted to find that even though the Isaly's stores closed years ago, the locally famous Isaly's chipped ham is still being made and is even sold beyond the Pittsburgh - Youngstown, Ohio, areas.








So I had to buy some. Of course I got it chipped! If you've moved away from the Pittsburgh area, you know that almost no one except another person who once lived in an area with an Isaly's knows what "chipped" ham is or how to properly "chip" it. The closest you can come at most delis is to ask for "ham shaved so thin it starts falling apart."

Isaly's ad,
chipped ham nostalgia
Pittsburgh Press,
November 27, 1977
A half pound of Isaly's chipped ham



  But alas, the deli no longer gently puts your Isaly's chipped ham in a cardboard boat before carefully wrapping it in white butcher paper.






"Jumbo" is another bit of Pittsburgese not in the deli vocabulary elsewhere. Once when I was a kid, my family and I visited Washington, D.C., and my mom went to a deli to buy jumbo to make sandwiches. "Jumbo?" the puzzled deli worker asked. Mom had no idea that outside of the Pittsburgh area, she needed to ask for "baloney" or "bologna."

While my family bought the large round--yes, the jumbo jumbo--rather than the square jumbo, I had to buy some of the square variety out of nostalgia for Western Pennsylvania. I've never seen it in Baltimore area delis.

Square jumbo always made sense to me. After all, the white bread we ate as kids was also square, not round.

Square jumbo
Square "bologna" sign










But as you can see, the deli sold it as "square bologna." Bologna?! Whoa! Fancy!

I'm sure that in the '50s and '60s, our parents and grandparents would have been shocked to see the current prices on lunch meat.

Isaly's deli ad
showing 1950 prices
Pittsburgh Press,
March 2, 1950

I don't remember "Chocolate Bubble Brick" ice cream, but it sounds wonderful! "A middle layer of chocolate syrup and toasted pecans in whipped cream, between two layers of rich vanilla ice cream."
____

I can't say if this current version of Isaly's chipped ham tastes the same as the Isaly's chipped ham my mom bought when I was a kid. The most that I can remember is that the ham from the '50s and '60s was delicious, and the current version of the ham was tasty, although it's much greasier than the zero percent fat ham I typically buy at the deli. Hmmm, according to the Isaly's website's nutritional information, 60 percent of the Islay's chipped ham's calories comes from fat. No wonder it tastes so good--and feels the way it does.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Buying a Christmas tree on Merchant Street in 1952

1952 Daily Citizen photo showing Margaret and Edward Barlow
buying a Christmas tree from Edward Carrera
 at a Merchant Street lot

This newspaper photo comes from my friend Marge Barlow Kosis, who I've known since kindergarten at Divine Redeemer School, which is a lot of years. It shows "Margaret Louise" and her dad, Edward Barlow, buying a Christmas tree at a Merchant Street lot.

The "DC" watermark in the lower right corner of the photo indicates that this is a photo from the Daily Citizen. Based on Margaret Louise being identified as being "age three," it was taken in 1952. I have yet to find an exact date.

The text under the photo says:
THREE WAYS IN DETERMINING THE PRICE of Christmas trees are its fullness, size and type state owners of the lot on 11th and Merchant St. Owners are Carrera Brothers and Frank Polce. Prices are from $1 and up. In the picture Edward Carrera right, aids Edward Barlow, left, 1002--10th St., in purchasing a tree while Margaret Louise Barlow, age three, looks on. Types of trees are red pine, Scotch pine, bank pine, Canadian balsam, Norway spruce and Canadian spruce. 
I wonder what a $1 tree looked like.
_____

Edward Barlow, who worked at American Bridge for 42 years, passed away at age 72 on March 26, 1994.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ambridge today: Old Economy Village holiday greenery

Old Economy Village fence decorated with greenery for Christmas
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

The greenery was just being hung from the picket fence on the Church Street side of Old Economy Village when I was in Ambridge in mid-November.

Old Economy Village Feast Hall door
with Christmas wreath
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

Old Economy Village
gate wreath
side of Feast Hall
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley


Old Economy Village
gate wreath
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ambridge Christmas Lights

Ambridge's Merchant Street lit up for Christmas,
Beaver County Times,
December 8, 1965

Oh, how I wish I had a color photo of Ambridge's Merchant Street at night during Christmastime in the '50s and '60s to post here, but, unfortunately, the best I can do is this black-and-white one from the December 8, 1965, Beaver County Times.

The strings of those large, bright, old-fashioned, multicolored lights from 3rd to 14th Streets formed a brilliant, colored canopy that took my breath away when I was a child, and still seemed pretty dazzling when I grew up. Seeing the lights strung across Merchant for blocks and blocks always put me in the Christmas spirit.

I don't know when Ambridge stopped stringing the lights across Merchant Street. Perhaps cost was the issue that forced an end to this long-standing holiday tradition. The electric bill for those big, old lights, and the cost to put the lights up and take them down every year, may have been too great a strain for the Chamber of Commerce to continue. But they are gone, and have been for a number of years.

I understand the current decorating along Merchant Streets is done by boy scouts who string those small, more modern lights in the trees along Merchant. Yay, for the boy scouts. But it just can't be the same magical spectacle.

[Update December 4, 2015: Now that I've spent over two years writing about Ambridge in the 1960s and before, I recognize this photo was taken in the 400 block of Merchant looking north towards 5th St. On the far right, you can see the Princess Shoppe sign at 454 Merchant. I believe that the sign with the "Mo..." and below it "furn..." is Modern Furniture, 432-434 Merchant.]

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ambridge Today: The American Bridge office is coming down, Part 1


American Bridge office building,
 uncredited photo,
1924 Centennial Souvenir Program
No one told me. Even though my family and friends who still live in the Ambridge area knew, no one thought to tell me that the American Bridge Company office building, abandoned and allowed to deteriorate since the mill closed in the early 1980s, was in the process of being demolished.

So I was shocked when, at the end of a mid-November visit to Ambridge, I drove down 4th Street, turned onto Park Road, and saw signs that demolition was in progress.

The first thing I couldn't help but notice was the bright yellow excavator in front of a gaping hole in the 4th Street wing with rubble at its base. "Oh my god! They're tearing down the office!"

American Bridge office building,
4th Street wing,
 Park Road side,
excavator, hole, and rubble,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

I parked the car and hopped out with my camera. Realizing that that afternoon might be the last time I'd ever see the sadly neglected building, which now had "Demo" spray-painted on its exterior walls, I took a series of photographs; the photos in this post are a sampling of those I took that day. I plan to post more later.


American Bridge office building,
central section,
Park Road side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

Since the office was simply part of the fabric of daily life in Ambridge when I was growing up there, I'd never given much thought to the building's history, except I'd guessed that it was old, older than most the the buildings in town, but not as old as the Harmony Society's buildings in and near Old Economy. Since the mill was built in the early 1900s, I'm assuming the office was also built about that time. [Update 12/02/13: reader Richard Rotondo alerted me that the journal The Iron Age, Vol. LXXIV, August 4, 1904, issue, has a history of the construction of the American Bridge Ambridge plant and states that the "handsome office building" was started in March, 1903, and occupied by the time the article was written in 1904.]

The office was never an elegant building. It was, as one of my friends said, "utilitarian." The large, three-story, H-shaped, red brick office housed the clerks, engineers, draftsmen, and other white collar and professional staff needed to keep the massive mill for which the town was named, and once the largest structural steel fabricating plant in the world, humming.

Although not architecturally showy, the building was "Ambridge." Like the men and women who worked in the Ambridge mills, it wasn't fancy; it was sturdy, practical, and unpretentious. And it was the first building people saw when they turned into town at the "Welcome to Ambridge" billboard at the intersection of Ohio River Boulevard and 4th Street.

I had no real connection with the office except that my dad worked in the American Bridge mill. But I had an emotional connection to it.

American Bridge office building,
Park Road entrance,
trash and debris on steps,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

To witness signs of the building's neglect and abuse for 30 years, and now, the beginning of its undignified demise, made me sad.

American Bridge office building,
deterioration of roof-line,
south side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
rusted fire escape,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
vine-covered exterior corner of central section and 4th St. wings,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
entrance,
mattress at bottom of steps,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
entrance,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

American Bridge office building,
left post and spherical cap,
bottom of steps to entrance,
Ohio River Boulevard side,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ambridge Today: American Bridge, train tracks, and football


Ambridge Football sign along Ohio River Blvd.
in front on the former American Bridge mill,
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley
Quintessentially "Ambridge": the former American Bridge mill, railroad tracks, and Ambridge High School football.

Turkey Time

Microsoft Word Illustration
by Robert Giles

Thanks to YouTube, everyone can enjoy the cluck and cackle (and gobble) of our favorite bird, the turkey. Listen to the haunting sounds of the woodlands - Turkey Sounds.

A long time ago, we were playing basketball on the court in Byers’ Field when our attention was arrested by a short, high squawk, or “putt”.

“That sounds like a turkey,” my brother said in hushed tones. We stopped dribbling and passing and shooting and listened. Sure enough, there it was again. “Putt.”

It came from the north towards Logan’s Lane. In those days, Logan’s Lane was just a narrow unpaved road that led from Duss Avenue down past Hill Cemetery* to the tracks of the Pennsy. It came to a dead end at the railroad tracks. Route 65 had not yet been cut through.

I’m not sure why Logan’s Lane was there. I suspect it provided access to a passenger depot on the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Line. There is a "Logan Station" in the right spot on an 1877 map of the Ohio Valley.

We liked to pick the blackberries that grew on either side of the lane and on the grounds of Hill Cemetery, which for decades until the 70s was neglected and covered with high grass and brush. Local legend had it that the canes were fertilized by the graves of the dead. To our unsophisticated minds, that accounted for the lushness of the berries.

The lane and cemetery were also great places to pick elderberries.

So you get the picture. Byers’ Field over to Logan’s Lane and beyond was a lot wilder then than it is today. It even harbored a few turkeys.

My friend had a Russian grandfather that he called “Deedee”. (When she was alive, he called his Russian grandmother “Baba”.)

Deedee foraged all over Legionville Hollow and Byers’ Field for mushrooms (he had learned in his native Carpathia to distinguish the safe ones from the poisonous - we cautious eaters contented ourselves with the canned variety).

One day Deedee brought home something marvelous. It was a large box trap made of wood painted forest green. On the trap was a metal plate engraved with the words “Property of State Game Commission, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”.

Of course, Deedee couldn’t read English (and maybe not Russian either), so he didn’t know he was stealing from the state. I presume he did know he was taking someone's property. I’m not sure what he wanted to do with the trap.

So what was the box trap doing out there by Logan’s Lane? Evidently, the State Game Commission had released a turkey or pheasant and had forgotten the trap (another shocking instance of government malfeasance).

We boys went in search of the turkey that had interrupted our basketball game but couldn’t spot it. Turkeys are wary of basketball players on the hunt and smart enough to elude them.

What is the point I am trying to make? Readers of my post “Small Game” were disbelieving that people actually hunted in Byers’ Field. After all, within gunshot range was a busy highway (old Route 88) and a populated village.

To those doubters, I say that not only did people hunt there; the State Game Commission stocked it for hunting. 

We heard but never saw turkeys. Pheasants we saw quite a bit. Once in a while we would flush one as we walked through high cover from the softball field up to Duss Avenue. It is astounding to see a ringneck go vertical in the air right in front of you. It has all the color and music of a rocket launch.

After a fire, we would sometimes spot the remains of a nest in the charred stubble of the field (anyone for a cooked pheasant egg?).

There were plenty of rabbits – it would have been superfluous for the Game Commission to stock rabbits. 

Every fall we could sit on our back porch and see hunters and hear the sound of gunfire from Byers’ Field. I hoped they didn’t get our turkey.
_____

*Go to Hill Cemetery for a fascinating account of the Legionville encampment, tippling Legionnaires, and General Wayne’s bombardment of Crow’s Island.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Strangers in Their Midst

by Robert  Giles

On the edge of Byers’ Field, 50 yards west of the Byersdale Isaly store, there was a basketball court. How it got there I can’t say. It was “always” there. I hope neighborhood kids are driving in for layups and sinking baskets there today.

The court was once covered with the heavy limestone slag that paved the roads in Byers’ Field. Someone had removed the heavy stones and replaced them with a much finer grade of slag, smooth enough for dribbling a ball. A pole, about 18 inches in circumference and about 12 feet high, had been erected on the north end of the court. A sheet of ¾ inch plywood had been bolted to the pole to serve as a backboard.

All in all, it was a pretty good basketball court, not as nice as the one at the playground on top of the hill in Byersdale, which had hoops on both ends. But the township had built that one with the help of contractors.

Our “bottom of the hill” basketball court didn’t require a long steep climb up Dearborn Street and it wasn’t a mud hole after a rain, even if we did have to play "half-court".

The site came ready-made for those who erected the pole. The government had bulldozed and “paved” the court and encircled it with trailers to create instant housing during World War II. There were more than a dozen such courts in Byers’ Field. During the war, men came to Byersdale from far and wide to work at jobs in the A.M. Byers plant, then the "world's largest" manufacturer of wrought iron.

The courts were laid out like suburban cul-de-sacs, minus the green lawns, concrete pavement, and split-level houses.

I don’t remember seeing trailers there when I was a boy. By then the housing and the people who lived there were long gone. There were just empty courts and empty streets.

Byers’ Field sure looked like an abandoned neighborhood. I asked what all the roads were for. People didn’t have a lot to say.

I came to understand that migrants, mostly "foreigners", lived there during the war. After the war, they had gone back home. End of story.

It seemed like everyone must have been working and playing so hard that they scarcely noticed the strangers in their midst.

I wonder what those strangers did in the evenings and weekends. Did they attend church, send and receive mail, patronize the stores, drink with their friends in local bars, dance, sing, have a life outside of Byers' Field?

Did some of the men bring or send for their wives and children?

Perhaps it was a group of those iron makers who erected our basketball court. They may have enjoyed a game of hoops in the evenings.

Some time ago I chanced across A History of A.M. Byers Company by a fellow former Byersdale resident, Wm. J. Bowan --


“The A.M. Byers Company owned extensive vacant acreage east and north of its plant. The company leased the north plot to the U.S. Government who then placed 450 trailer homes on wheels on this site to accommodate shortages of living space for the area's defense workers. The quarters were equipped with running water, electric power, butane tanks and underground sewage piping.


Most of these defense workers (migrants) were brought in from Mexico, Portugal, Cuba and American Appalachia. Immediately after the end of the war, these workers were laid off. They returned to their homelands loaded with American War Bonds and cash. It can well be assumed that a low, unknown, percentage stayed on in this area. They scattered here and there blending in to various communities.”

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ambridge today: the pool bathhouse once stood here

The entrance to the Ambridge pool bathhouse
once stood about here.
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

The girls' dressing room side would have been about
here.

November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley
I took these photos of the former location of the now demolished Ambridge swimming pool bathhouse on November 20, 2013.

The bathhouse site is now a vacant, weedy lot.



The boys' dressing room side would have been about
here.

November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley













Ambridge pool bathhouse, year unknown.
Photo courtesy of Alvin Rotolo.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ambridge today: Pool steps

Ambridge pool steps from the bottom
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley
I took these photos of what the Ambridge pool steps now look like during my last visit to Ambridge, November 20, 2013.

The bottom few steps just above the alley behind the houses on the 2100 block of Beaver Road are fairly well deteriorated.

For those not familiar with the steps, or have forgotten, the red wall at the top of the steps in this photo is not actually the top of the steps. The steps split at the wall, and there are 14 more steps to go when you reach the split.



Ambridge pool steps, top
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley
The photo from the top shows the first 14 steps curving down to the bottom of the wall where the steps split. I have no idea why the steps were built that way. To keep climbers from feeling too daunted when they looked up from the bottom? To keep kids too tired from swimming all day from tumbling straight down from the top? Esthetics?

The wall, steps, and railing here are in good condition.





The top of the wall is an observation point. There is a bench there looking towards the empty, weedy lot where the bathhouse once stood.

Ambridge pool steps looking down
November 20, 2013
copyright Nancy Knisley

And, finally, the view from the top of the wall, looking down. The section of the steps from the wall to the bottom of the railing looked to be in fairly good condition, although I did not walk down--or up--them to confirm that observation.