Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Memorial Day past

Memorial Day 1950
P.J. Caul Park
photo courtesy of Bob Mikush, used with permission

The above photo is from the Memorial Day 1950 ceremony at the dedication of the doughboy statue in Ambridge's P.J. Caul Park, located on the corner of Merchant and 11th Streets. While the back of the photo says "Memorial Day 1950," so far, I have found nothing that might support that identification except the inscription on the plate under the statue.

[Update May 30, 2016: Although at the time I wrote this post, I thought the ceremony might be the dedication of the doughboy statue, I was wrong. The doughboy statue was not new in 1950; it was dedicated on Memorial Day 1930 at its original location near the Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge. You can see a photo of it at its first location and read about the 1930 dedication ceremony in the May 30, 2016, blog post "Ambridge's doughboy statue dedication, Memorial Day 1930." The original base also had a plate. Perhaps the ceremony shown in the photo above was for the dedication of the new bronze plate on the statue's base? Or was the ceremony perhaps related to the statue's move to the park?]

Bronze plate under the statue in P.J. Caul Park,
March 22, 2014

The complete inscription says:
For God and county, we associate yourselves together for the following purposes: to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred per cent Americanism; to preserve the memories and incidents of our association in the Great War; to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation; to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; to make right the master of might; to promote peace and good will on earth; to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy; to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.
Dedicated in memory of the departed ones by Canady Hull Post No. 341, the American Legion of Ambridge, Penna.
May 30, 1950

The white building in the upper left of the black and white photo is the A&P that was located between 11th and Sherman Streets. Behind it, you can see the top of the H.J. Heinz building on Sherman Street. The old National Electric factory that once ran from 11th to 14th Streets can be seen on the right hand side.

The photo below shows the statue in March, 2014.

Doughboy statue,
P.J. Caul Park,
March 22, 2014

You can still see the side of the old A&P building, now the Trinity School for Ministry, in the photo, to the right of the statue.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Historic 462 Maplewood Avenue

When I stopped at the rather unremarkable looking building at 462 Maplewood Avenue during a visit to Ambridge, it was to take a photo of the faded painted Coca-Cola sign on its south side.

Coca-Cola sign,
462 Maplewood Avenue
March 22, 2014

I didn't realize until today that 462 Maplewood is of historic interest far beyond the sign.

I knew that Beth Samuel Congregation once not only had a synagogue at 463 Maplewood Avenue, now the location of the Maple Restaurant, but also that during the 1920s, the congregation had met in a building on the opposite side of Maplewood. But I didn't realize until working on the upcoming "Church/synagogue" list on my Ambridge List of Lists that it was in that building, 462 Maplewood.

462 Maplewood Avenue
Google Street view

And what's more, before Beth Samuel, the building was home to the Ambridge Library.

How many other ordinary looking Ambridge buildings have we walked or driven by, not realizing the importance of their history?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The debut of Ambridge Nationality Days, Part 2

The first Ambridge Nationality Days were a hit, a huge hit. Not only did the groups running booths make more money than they had expected, the event brought the Ambridge community together like nothing else in memory. Nationality Days were something for Ambridge to be proud of and other communities to envy.

TWO DOLLS - Christine Molchen, 3, of Ambridge, gazes longingly at a doll in the Polish Falcons booth at the Ambridge Nationality Days observance. It is one of the items for sale at the booth.
Beaver County Times, April 29, 1966

PRETTY QUARTET - These four girls from the Polish Falcons booth didn't let the weekend rains hamper their fun in the Nationality Days observance which ended Saturday in Ambridge. From left they are Patty Miloszewski, Ambridge; Linda Ferrence, Hopewell Township; Patty Swiatek, Ambridge; and Debbie Ferrence, Hopewell.
Beaver County Times, May 2, 1966

The enormous success of Nationality Days from its opening morning on took everyone involved by surprise. The April 29, 1966,  Beaver County Times explained the popularity: "Never before in this area were so many different foods available within an area of less than a block."

Theodore Gaydos, the executive secretary of the Greater Ambridge Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event, described the turnout for the first day as "fantastic." He said, "Many people have told me this is the greatest thing ever to hit Ambridge." And as an event, it probably was.

Thousands came the first day and bought food from the booths. In fact, by mid-day, the crowds had bought almost all the food from a number of booths, food that was supposed to last the entire three days of the event.

That caught the groups running the booths by surprise. One worker said, "We had what we thought was a three-day supply of food on hand, but most of it was gone by 1 p.m." All of the booths ran out of supplies.

According to the Times, "Many women spent most of last night baking in order to provide fresh stocks" for the second day, when charter buses and a shuttle service were about to bring many more people from out-of-town.

Over its three days, the first Ambridge Nationality Days attracted around 10,000 people, according to a Times article about its 1967 sequel. No one was quite prepared for the amazing 1967 turnout either when 10,000 people showed up the first day.

Here are more of the special Nationality Day ads from some fondly remembered, and some perhaps barely remembered, Ambridge businesses. What impresses me is the willingness of all of these businesses to support Nationality Days, even though some of them were rather unlikely to see an increase in business because of the event.

Want a new kitchen now that you've been inspired to cook all those ethnic dishes you sampled during Nationality Days?

Accent Kitchens ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Altmeyers ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

In case you felt the need to pick up some cement blocks during your Nationality Days visit:

Ambridge Cement Block Co. ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

If you have any money left after buying so much delicious food at Nationality Days, open a saving account!

Ambridge Savings and Loan Association ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Need a new bed or mattress to rest up after hours visiting the booths or dancing too many polkas?

Ben's Furniture ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Enelow Shoes ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Garvin's Paints ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

James Restaurant ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Penneys ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

If you don't need anything at Penneys, perhaps some meat from Penny?

Penny Cash Market ad,
Beaver County Times, April 28, 1966

Pittsburgh National ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Terner's Fine Men's Clothing ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Wall's Feed Store ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Singer ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Taylor's All Star Dairies ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 2966

Did you have a hard time hearing the Nationality Days music?

Professional Hearing Aid Center ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Saralee's Children's Store ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The debut of Ambridge Nationality Days, Part 1

Ambridge "Nationality Days" ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

This weekend, May 16-18, Ambridge will celebrate its 49th annual Nationality Days.

Ambridge held its first Nationality Days celebration April 28, 29, and 30, 1966 (not 1965).* The event was held Thursday though Saturday, not Friday through Sunday because--church! And blue laws meant stores couldn't open on Sundays.

I can't find any mention of a parade that year, but there was a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Ambridge Area High School band at 10 AM on April 28. The April 28, 1966, Beaver County Times reports that "[d]espite cool temperatures and the threat of rain, more than 600 people jammed the 500 block of Merchant Street" for the ribbon cutting. The Times also reported that the unofficial headquarters for the event was in the former Sol's storeroom in the 600 block of Merchant. 

NATIONALITY DAYS OPEN - Arthur W. Pettibon, second from left, Beaver County commissioner, and William D. McClelland, Chairman of the Allegheny County commissioners, clip ribbon officially opening the three-day Nationality Days observance in Ambridge this morning. Others are Mrs. John Kotula, left, representing the Carpatho-Russian group, and Mrs. Paul Karal, representing the Croatian group in the observance.
Beaver County Times, April 28, 1966.
Ten booths, mostly staffed by women from Ambridge's ethnic churches, served the following:

Didn't that make you oh so very hungry?

FOR HUNGRY VISITORS - Mrs. Ann Shema, Mrs. Helen Sovich and Mrs. John Kotula, left to right, dish out portions of holupki for hungry visitors to the Carpatho-Russian booth, one of 10 set up for Ambridge Nationality Days.
Beaver County Times, April 29, 1966

A SALE IS MADE - Mrs. James Fergadis, right dressed in native costume at the Greek booth, makes a sale during the opening day of Nationality Days in Ambridge, which started off with a bang Thursday. The observance continues through Saturday.
Beaver County Times, April 29, 1966

The event was a hit from the day it opened. Although the weather was cool with intermittent rain, Merchant Street was "jammed solid with people" between 5 and 7 PM on opening evening according to Theodore Gaydos, the executive secretary of the Greater Ambridge Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event.

NATIONALITY DAYS CROWD - Visitors to the National Days program in Ambridge survey some of the 10 booths featuring foods native to many lands. Thousands of persons visited the booths during the opening day of the observance Thursday. It continues through Saturday. The booths are on the 600 block of Merchant Street.
Beaver County Times, April 29, 1966

Most Ambridge stores planned to stay open until 9 PM all three days.

Notice that Ambridge stores would be open until 9 PM during Nationality Days,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

And a number of businesses took out special Nationality Day ads:

The David Shop ad,
Welcome to the first Nationality Days,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Estelle Millinery ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

G.C. Murphy ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

United Dairy Co. ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Sol's Sporting Goods ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Maybe you need a new refrigerator to keep all the ethnic food you brought home with you cold. Or a new stove to reheat it:

Mikush Applicance ad,
"Andy Mikush Welcomes You,"
"Stop In And Visit While You Are In Town"
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Sun Drug Store ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Maybe you wore out your shoes walking to all the different booths:

Jackson's Shoe Store ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Because you might need a new girdle after sampling the food at Nationality Days:

Fashion Hosiery ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Or decide that you need a new car to haul home all the food and ethnic handcrafts you bought:

Ambridge Automobile Dealers ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Although I don't think any of the booths took credit cards:

Mellon Bank ad,
Beaver County Times, April 27, 1966

Tomorrow: More first Ambridge Nationality Days news, photos, and ads.

* It's amazing how quickly history can become muddled.

All the information I found during a Google search to find information about the first Ambridge Nationality Days said that the event began in 1965. But when I searched the Beaver County Times from April through September, 1965, I couldn't find an article, photo, or ad about Nationality Days. That seemed odd. At that time the Times covered everything from Brownie flyup ceremonies to church festivals.

So I checked with the Ambridge Area Chamber of Commerce to find the date of the first Nationality Days and was told Nationality Days started in 1965 (based, I was led to believe, on the memory of someone who had been involved with Nationality Days for a long time rather than a check of records) and probably were always held in May. Then why couldn't I find anything?

At that point, I decided to check the 1966 Times. I started with May and found a photo saying the event had been held the previous week. Finally, a mention of Nationality Days. So back to April 1966. The more I read about the April 1966 event, the more it sounded as though it had been the first one. Then I checked 1967 and found this in an article about the opening of the 1967 Nationality Days: "Some 10,000 people attended last year's nationality days program, the first one ever held in the area." Ah-ha!

Eventually I noticed The David Shop ad above which welcomed everyone "to the first Ambridge Nationality Days!"

So I am as confident as I can be at this point that Nationality Days began in 1966, not 1965, despite all the (unsupported) information to the contrary. And Nationality Days obviously were not always held in May.

Besides, if Nationality Days began in 1965, wouldn't this year's be the 50th and not the 49th annual event?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Merchant Street: 800 block, circa 1948 - 1955. Plus the WRYO mystery

Merchant Street near intersection with 8th Street,
northwest corner,
circa 1949-1955
photo courtesy of Bob Mikush, used with permission

I really like this photo of the northwest corner of the intersection of Merchant and 8th Streets, even though I don't know the year or the occasion. But who doesn't like a parade?

I didn't realize until recently just how many parades Ambridge once had every year. There were parades for the big occasions like Veterans Day or Labor Day, local events like the soap box derby or Nationality Days, and to draw attention to causes like buying bonds or supporting the United Fund.

Now that I understand how much planning and effort goes into planning a single parade every year, I am amazed at Ambridge's managing to host a parade, some of them huge, several times a year.

But there is another reason I like this photo so much: it's just packed with bits of old Ambridge:
  • The Ambridge Hotel on the corner of 8th and Merchant Streets (now an empty lot) with a good view of the large black sign for "Sportsman's Bar and Grill" above the main entrance;
  • Martin Braun Quality Cleaner and Tailor, 813 Merchant Street (now DeWalt Health Food);
  • Fritz Jahn's store at 811 Merchant Street (now Mikush Maytag). Mr. Jahn, who died in 1975, was a long-time Ambridge florist and greenhouse owner. I believe the awning above his store says "Gift Baskets." [Update February 17, 2016: there indeed was a business called "The Gift Basket" at 811 Merchant.] On the "Fritz Jahn" sign it also says "Florist" and "Dress Goods - Patterns"; 
  • The Texaco sign from the station that once stood on the southwest corner (now a Subway);
  • Streetcar tracks on Merchant Street;
  • Vintage bus #419, not sure what company;
  • Billboards advertising: Morton Chevrolet (once at 1900 Duss Avenue); Tom Tucker "Southern Style" Ginger Ale (still sold) and below, Model Restaurant (763 Merchant Street); and Krauss Jewelers (at 546 Merchant at the time of this photo, later at 610 Merchant); 
  • The second story porch on the back of the building at 765 Merchant Street (currently Groomit Pet Boutique).

But, as far as I'm concerned, a most intriguing and puzzling item in the photo is the sign for "RADIO STATION WRYO 1050 ON YOUR DIAL" on the Fritz Jahn building. WRYO was an 250 Watts AM Rochester station which existed from 1948-1955 (which helps date the photo). Why was WRYO in an Ambridge building? Was it a studio? An office? Does anyone know?

Update May 26, 2015: Note the comment below dated September 18, 2014, which solves the WRYO mystery:
From "A History of Rochester in Words and Pictures, 1849-1999" ;
RADIO. STATION. W.R.Y.O.. 1949. Rochester, for a time, had a Radio Station. It began in 1949, with its transmitter tower located at Cleveland Avenue, North Rochester. It also maintained studios in Ambridge and Aliquippa.

Update February 17, 2016: Here are two 1949 WRYO ads listing an Ambridge studio:

Beaver Valley Times
May 26, 1949

Beaver Valley Times
October 27, 1949

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Merchant Street: 500 block, late 1960s?

500 block of Merchant Street, Ambridge
late 1960s?
photo courtesy of Betty Lazorisak, used with permission

The photo above shows the 500 block of Merchant Street looking north. The exact year of the photo is unknown, but the Mustang parked in front of Paul's Bakery puts it no earlier than the mid-1960s. The Christmas decorations on the light poles means the photo was taken before or just after Christmas.

The parking spaces are mostly filled, but there are only a few pedestrians in the photo, which seems odd for Ambridge at that time.

I couldn't see all of the businesses' signs in the photo, so I haven't been able to identify them all, but I see:

On the left, which is the west, odd numbered side of Merchant:

Paul's Bakery, 511 Merchant Street
Ambridge Army & Navy Store, 517 Merchant Street
Altmeyer's, 519-523 Merchant Street
Anderson's Candy, 529 Merchant Street
Georgann's Tots N' Teens, 537 Merchant Street
Fashion Hosiery, 551 Merchant Street
G.C. Murphy, 561-565 Merchant Streets

On the right, which is the east, even numbered side of Merchant:

Ambridge Savings and Loan, 506 Merchant Street
Davidson's, 510 Merchant Street
Town and Country Bar, 540 Merchant Street

For my ever-growing list of pre-1970 Ambridge businesses check my List of Lists.