Thursday, December 31, 2015

Group photo: Ambridge Fire Department

Ambridge Fire Department
Ambridge Municipal Building
year unknown
Louis Vukovcan collection
courtesy of Jackie Vukovcan

The only firemen identified in this photo are Arch Fisher, first row center and Rusty Noland, third row right. If you know the identities of the other firemen or the year this was taken, please leave a comment.

Thanks to Maria Notarianni for scanning this for the blog.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sudia Meats

This photo of the Sudia Meats market, one of many small food markets that once could be found throughout Ambridge, came from his granddaughter, Maureen Krupa.

Matthew Juricich at Frank Sudia Meats
300 First St.
photo courtesy Maureen Krupa
used with permission

Maureen says that the dapper man standing in front on the market was her uncle, Matthew Juricich. The identities of the children are unknown.

According to Maureen, Frank Sudia came to the U.S. with no money and unable to speak English, yet put three sons through college. He lost his business during the 1930s Great Depression because he had extended credit to his regular customers so they could feed their children.

From the sign at the top of the market's left window, you'll see that it offered "City Dressed Meats." As I understand it, that term was used by markets in the Eastern U.S. to refer to meat that had been locally slaughtered and butchered, and not shipped from the large meatpacking houses that had been created in the Midwestern states.

The entire First St. neighborhood was razed for redevelopment in the early 1970s.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Ambridge Christmas toy ads, 1960

Where in Ambridge did you see the toys that you put on your Christmas wish list? And which ones did Santa bring you?

And remember when aluminum Christmas trees were trendy? So modern!

Here are some of the Ambridge stores that sold toys during the Christmas season.

Toyland ad
Ambridge American Hardware
536 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
December 20, 190

Christmas gifts ad
Big Bargain Barn
1025 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
November 24, 1960

Christmas gifts ad
Central Drug Store
607 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
December 8, 1960

Christmas gifts ad
G.C. Murphy
561 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
November 24, 1960

Toy sale ad
Peoples Drug Store
Beaver County Times
December 8, 1960

Christmas toy ad
653-655 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
December 1, 1960

Toyland ad
Sun Drug Store
625 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
November 26, 1960

Toy City ad
Tile City
801 Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
December 14, 1960

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Northern Lights, Christmas shopping season 1960

Northern Lights in Baden was packed with shoppers during 1960's Christmas shopping season. Even though the parking lot was huge, trying to find an open parking space could be hard.

A small part of the parking lot
Northern Lights Shoppers City
Beaver County Times
December 8, 1960.

Times caption:
BUSY PLACE AT CHRISTMAS -- Cars jam the big parking area at Northern Lights Shoppers City these days as Beaver County folks prepare for the Christmas season.

In December 1960, Northern Lights, which had opened its first stores just in time for Christmas shopping in 1956, had over 50 stores, many new to the area, including some that were part of popular chains. Stores, modern and bright, were open late every night. Parking was free, no meters to feed, and no parallel parking was required. Plus Santa arrived by helicopter! It's no surprise that Ambridge businesses were feeling the pressure.

Christmas shopping ad
Northern Lights Shoppers City
Beaver County Times
November 24, 1960

Now, the Northern Lights parking lot is mostly empty spaces and potholes. Many of the stores are vacant. The big Penney's building that was once its centerpiece is gone, and a road to a Walmart runs through where it used to be.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ambridge memorabilia: Ambridge Savings & Trust Christmas card

Christmas card
Ambridge Savings & Trust Co.

The Ambridge Savings & Trust Co. called itself "The Oldest Bank in Ambridge."  It was chartered in 1902 and started doing business in 1903, two years before Ambridge incorporated, on the northeast corner of 5th and Merchant Sts. in a three-story brick building said to be "the first building erected in Ambridge." In 1911, it built and moved into an elegant two-story limestone building next door.

Ambridge Savings & Trust Co. ad with 1911 building
Daily Times
August 28, 1916

According to notes left by the late Ambridge historian William (Bill) Bowan, Ambridge Savings & Trust later remodeled both the brick and limestone buildings into a single Ambridge Savings & Trust headquarters building.

At one time, Ambridge Savings & Trust reportedly had the largest deposits of any bank in Beaver County. Like many banks, it ran into financial trouble during the depression and reorganized in 1933. According to Bowan, it became The Economy Bank of Ambridge.

The beautiful stone building at the corner of 5th and Merchant Sts. that was home to Ambridge Savings & Trust and Economy Bank was razed in 1984; its location is now the drive-through of Wesbanco bank.

The above card is the same size as a typical postcard of that era, 3 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches. But it has a blank back. There's no stamp box, and no space designated for the mailing address, so I doubt if these cards were mailed as postcards.

I believe the double arcs in each corner may be marks from some kind of album mounting corners.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas lights, Merchant St. 1960

This is the 500 block of Merchant Street at night in December, 1960, looking north towards 6th St.: a canopy of big, colorful Christmas lights, lighted wreaths with bells, brightly lit stores open for evening shopping, and parking spaces crowded with shoppers' cars.

Christmas lights
500 block of Merchant St.
Beaver County Times
December 8, 1960

Times caption:
AMBRIDGE AT NIGHT -- The Christmas spirit prevades (sic) downtown Ambridge this holiday season with the colorful lights spreading a warm glow over the community's business section.

On the left hand side of the photo, you can see the lighted sign for Fashion Hosiery, 551 Merchant. Beyond that, the store with the huge lighted window was G. C. Murphy, 561-565 Merchant. Further north, there's the S & S Shoes sign, 599 Merchant.

On the right, the sign with "JE" was Krauss Jewelers, 546 Merchant.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

1950's big post-Thanksgiving snow: finally gone

The unexpected snow began in Ambridge on the morning of Friday, November 24, 1950, and by the time it stopped, 26 inches--much higher in drifts--had buried Ambridge. Much of the snow still covered the borough at month's end, despite days of cleanup efforts mounted by Ambridge Borough and individuals.

I'm pretty sure snow-weary Ambridge residents weren't happy to see the December 1 forecast of "more snow expected." Just what they needed. The snow had been more than inconvenient, it caused real hardship for some, and it was dangerous in more ways that one, although I didn't find any snow-related deaths reported in Ambridge, unlike other parts of the area.

Fallen borough building spouting
Daily Citizen
December 1, 1950

Daily Citizen caption:
AN ELDERLY WOMAN PEDESTRIAN narrowly escaped injury last night when spouting gave way from the roof of the borough building with a crash. The woman, whose name could not be learned, happened along at 11:30 o'clock and missed being hit by a few feet. The spouting was weakened by the heavy fall of snow. It will be removed today. In the meantime the area is roped off.

The Citizen reported that snow cleanup was continuing. Traffic had been jammed for hours the night before on Route 88 (later Route 65) in Freedom and Baden because of snow removal. The result was Ambridge plant workers being late for work. The jam lasted for so long that truck drivers fell asleep during their wait.

Alleys and three blocks of Merchant St. were finally cleared. And Ambridge's First Ward (the south end of Ambridge, a good portion of it razed in the early 1970s for redevelopment), the borough's often-neglected neighborhood, would finally get its first post-snow trash collection.

Still, travel on Merchant St. could be tricky. The photo below shows December 2 traffic on the 600 and 700 blocks of Merchant looking south. Clerc's Jewelry Store, 710 Merchant St., was at the sign you can see part of at the lower left. The only other business I can identify for certain in this photo is Young's Shoes, 701 Merchant, owned by Saul Young, but I believe the business with the white facade on the southwest corner of 6th St. was Gutowski's Bakery, 699 Merchant.

Ice and snow covered 600 and 700 blocks of Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
December 4, 1950

Citizen caption:
MERCHANT ST. JAM --There was plenty of trouble on Merchant St. Saturday due to ice and snow. Deep ruts caused transportation to proceed at a snail's pace at times.

The December 4 Citizen reported that snow removal by crews and equipment working around the clock had, by that point, cost Ambridge $12,000, equivalent to almost $120,000 in 2015. Snow was finally cleared along local highways, helped by two days of warm weather. For the first time since the day of the snow, buses were running on normal schedules.

Steam shovel removing snow in Ambridge
Daily Citizen
December 4, 1950

Citizen caption:
MOUNTAINS OF SNOW were removed from streets and alleys over the week end. As a result today there is no slowing of traffic. One week after the big storm the town is well cleared of nature's handiwork.

But, just when Ambridge thought snow had been cleared in time for the Christmas shopping rush, the December 11, 1950, Citizen reported another snowstorm was supposed to hit the area, with three inches predicted for that day, and five to seven inches more expected to fall that evening and the next day. Drivers were warned driving would be "extremely hazardous" and were advised to use snow chains on their tires. On December 13, the Citizen reported more snow was "likely" that night.

On December 20, the Citizen reported that the snow piles on First St., which had made parking difficult for shoppers there, had finally been removed, the last street to be cleared.

The first two posts with even more photos of Ambridge during the big snow were:

"1950's big post-Thanksgiving snowstorm," November 28, 2015

"The slow, difficult clean-up after 1950's big post-Thanksgiving snowstorm," December 5, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Class photo: Ambridge High School Class of 1928

Ambridge High School Class of 1928
25th Reunion Program
courtesy Judy Pugar
used with permission

This photo of the Ambridge High School Class of 1928 came to me from Judy Pugar, whose father graduated in this class. Andy Pugar is on the far left of the fourth row, unfortunately with a white mark on his face. I don't know the identity of anyone else in the photo.

In 1928, the high school was on Park Road. In 1938, the high school moved to the new Senior High annex to the already-existing Junior High School building on Duss Ave. The Park Road building then became an elementary school until 1972, when the building was used for Ambridge Area School District's administrative offices. The building is now the location of the Center for Hope.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ambridge memorabilia: Christmas music

I seem to recall that The Daily Citizen passed out these softcover books of Christmas music every year when I was growing up in the 1950s, and, for some reason, I really loved them. Same traditional Christmas carols every year, but I think they came with different colored covers. Did the Citizen change the color every year, or did they give out several different colors every year?

Christmas Music
The Daily Citizen
owned by Bob Mikush

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The slow, difficult clean-up after 1950's big post-Thanksgiving snowstorm

The early predictions about how long it would take to clean up Ambridge's 26 inches of snow were just about as accurate as the predictions about 1950's post-Thanksgiving weather had been. So, not at all.

(If you missed the post about the surprise, record-breaking snow, you can read my November 28 post by clicking here.)

Although, given that on Monday, November 27, Ambridge's Daily Citizen reported that the digging out was going well and "well advanced in most communities," that Ambridge's main and secondary streets were open, and that side streets were expected to be "accessible" soon, those who lived, worked, or shopped in Ambridge might have expected a swift return to life as usual in the area.

After Monday, it became apparent that digging Ambridge out would take longer than first expected.

On Tuesday, November 28, the Daily Citizen published the photo below showing the snow-covered 500 block of Merchant St. looking south. On the far left, you can see Gusky's Home Furnishings, 550 Merchant and Krauss Jewelers, 546 Merchant.

500 block of Merchant St.
after the big snow
Daily Citizen
November 28, 1950

The Citizen's original caption for the above photo read:

CONDITIONS ON MERCHANT ST. are far from normal as the above photo suggests. While traffic is livelier today, there are few vehicles. Roofs are being cleaned of the excess snow. More buses are operating and the situation is developing to the normal stage.

Tuesday's Citizen reported that more streets were "passable," and Ambridge Street Commissioner Joseph Matzzie said, "We ought to have everything well under control within a few days. We are over the hump but not yet out of the woods."

But some neighborhoods were still snowed-in. Contractors Sigmund Gavlik and Stefan Blanarik and Stefan's son Steve, had taken it upon themselves to clear Ridge Rd. Ext.

A.M. Byers announced that the payday scheduled for Wednesday, November 29, would be postponed until Friday, December 1, since banks were closed.

Buses were running, but not necessarily via their usual routes or schedules.

The snow presented economic opportunity to people willing to shovel, especially shoveling roofs.

Clearing roof of snow
Daily Citizen
November 28, 1950

The Citizen's caption for the above photo of men clearing snow from a roof read:

ROOFS BEING CLEANED OF DEAD WEIGHT of snow is giving employment to scores of persons charging $3 per hour, some owners of Merchant St. buildings have paid out $50 for removal. Still the work continues as many are fearful structures will collapse because of the pressure. Borough officials have requested prompt removal of the whiteness without delay from flat roof structures. 

Monday, Ambridge school officials had said they planned to open schools on Wednesday. But by Tuesday, they realized that they didn't know when school could or would resume. On Tuesday, the Citizen reported that public and parochial schools in Ambridge would remain closed "indefinitely." All school activities and special functions were canceled or postponed.

But no school meant playing in the snow, assuming kids could get out their doors, and the snow wasn't over their heads. Parents were reminded that children should not ride sleds on streets with busy intersections like 4th, 5th, and 14th Sts. at Duss Ave.

On Wednesday, November 29, Burgess Walter Panek reportedly said that "all possible measures" were being taken to clear the streets of the huge snow banks. Harmony Township reported that it was using bulldozers and graders and working "around the clock" to clear the snow there.

The Citizen reported that bus lines were jammed, and service was "far from normal."

But you know conditions might be improving in Pittsburgh, at least enough for essential activities, when it was announced that the twice-postponed Pitt - Penn State football game was going to be played on Saturday, December 2, although at Forbes Field, not Pitt Stadium, as Pitt had been unable to get the equipment needed to clear some 2,000 truck loads of snow from its stadium.

By Thursday, November 30, there was some good news: H. H. Robertson had resumed operations, and Laughlin Memorial Library, closed for six days, would reopen the next day, December 1, and no fines would be charged for November 24 through November 30.

By this time, the 400 block of Merchant had been cleared. The 500 block was supposed to be cleared next, but then Ambridge announced it might clean the 700 block first. One problem: Ambridge's snow removal had been hampered by the State Highway Department's commandeering of the Gavlik Co. equipment Ambridge had been using, and Ambridge was reduced to using only its own equipment.

A lot of snow remained, even on Merchant St. This photo shows the huge banks of snow piled up in front of Davidson's Department Store, 510 Merchant St. On the far right of the photo is the Economy Bank of Ambridge, 500 Merchant. Note that the parking meters have been cleared. Priorities!

Snow piled in front of Davidson's Department Store, Wed. Nov. 29,
510 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Original caption:
PLENTY OF SNOW REMAINS--This photo was taken in the 500 block yesterday in front of the Davidson store. It shows there is plenty of "back-breaking" work to be accomplished before Merchant St. is cleared of the whiteness.

The photo below was taken in front of the Sears store at 653 - 655 Merchant. I don't know what "Market" is behind Russell Peck the shoveler. Anyone recognize it?

Russell Peck shoveling snow
600 block Merchant
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Citizen caption:
RUSSELL PECK, Glenwillard, shoveling snow on a truck in front of the Sears & Roebuck store on Merchant St. 

The Prince Theatre, 638 Merchant, was "closed until further notice" according to the Tuesday, November 28 Citizen. I don't know if it was open at the time its marquee was being cleaned of snow.

Walter Addison cleaning Prince Theatre marquee
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Citizen caption for photo above:
WALTER ADDISON, 310 Park Rd., caught in the act of shoveling snow from the marquee of the Prince Theatre Building on Merchant St.

Shoveling snow on Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Citizen caption for photo above:
DICK CONANGE, 559 Merchant St., had a job on hand removing snow on Merchant St. Looking on is Bill Davis, 643 Glenwood Ave.

While buses were running on Merchant, getting on one could be a challenge as this photo taken in front of Krauss Jewelers, 546 Merchant, shows:

Waiting for a bus in front of Krauss Jewelers
546 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Citizen caption for the above photo:
WAITING FOR A BUS -- People in a narrow area on Merchant St., cut through the snow, stand patiently awaiting transportation to take them home.

Still, snowbanks could be useful:

Mary Kacharin and Joan Artista
snow seat
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Citizen caption for photo above:
MAKE USE OF SNOW -- Mary Kacharin, 104 Pine St., sitting on a snow bank of all places, on Merchant St. Standing is Joan Artista, 1027 Bernadine Ave. 

Not just the shovelers benefited from the snow:

Sol's Harry Neft
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Citizen's caption for photo above:
 LOOKS LIKE GOLD -- stated Harry Neft of Sol's Auto Store as he helped to unload a prize truck-load of tire chains. Assisting are Leonard Copus, wearing cap, 342 Pine St. and Milton Hertneky, 1018 Beaver Rd.

It should be no surprise that alleys behind businesses had sizable snow problems too:

Bobby Knause next to snowbank
alley behind Penney's
601 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Citizen's caption for photo above:
BOBBY KNAUSE, 12, 328 Park Rd., a DAILY CITIZEN carrier is pointing to the large pile of snow in the alley, rear of the J. C. Penney store.

I don't see any pointing by Bobby, but maybe the pointing was very subtle.

When you didn't have to shovel it or travel through it, the snow and icicles were beautiful.

Zion Lutheran Church parsonage covered with snow
Eighth St. and Maplewood Ave.
Daily Citizen
November 30, 1950

Citizen caption for above photo:
WINTER SCENE -- The icy finger of winter paid a visit to Zion Lutheran church parsonage at Eight and Maplewood Ave., when the old fellow made his rounds here.
As the photos show, Ambridge still had a way to go with its snow clearing efforts. More photos and an article about the final clean up efforts to come.