Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer playground parade

Me and my sister in playground parade,
400 block of Merchant Street
credit: Agatha Bohinsky, used with permission

The above photo is not of a Halloween parade, despite the kids in costumes.

Back when Ambridge had a summer playground program, it would hold a parade featuring the kids who had participated. This is more evidence that Ambridge once used any possible excuse to have a parade.

As you can guess from the photo, the marchers were supposed to wear costumes. I do not know why. Maybe because having kids walk in street clothes wouldn't have been parade-worthy?

This is the first photo with me in it I've posted on the blog. I'm the dark haired girl closest to the camera, walking behind Raggedy Ann. My sister Paula is the little blond girl next to me. I think my sister and I were supposed to be dancers after taking a curtain call and receiving bouquets. I appear to be wearing my tap shoes. I wish my legs had remained proportionally that long as I grew.

I don't know where the parade started or ended, but I vaguely remember rounding the corner with the Taylor's Dairy building at the intersection of Duss Avenue and Merchant Street.

In the photo, we're marching on Merchant Street near the intersection with Fifth Street. Behind us you can see some of the businesses on the odd numbered (west) side of the 400 block: B & J Market, Saratoga Restaurant, Klein's Grocery, Ambridge Hand Laundry, and Economy Drug Store.

I don't know how many years the summer playground parade was held. Was it just one year, or was it [See update below.] It was a yearly tradition that ended in the late 1950s or 1960s. When I worked for the playground program in 1969 and 1970, no parade was held.

[Update August 21, 2014: Frequent contributor Maria Notarianni found two Beaver Valley Times articles about the playground parade. The July 8, 1953 article says that year's parade, with marchers from all six playgrounds: Anthony Wayne, Fourth Ward, Park Road, Liberty, High School, and First Ward, would start at the high school at 7 PM. The route was Duss Avenue to Third Street, turn onto Merchant Street, then on Merchant, up Eighth Street to the high school stadium.

That article mentions that prizes would be given for the most original costume as well as best: clown suits; decorated bicycles and tricycles; small autos (pedal cars?) and wagons; cowboy and cowgirl suits; dance costumes; couple; hobo; drum major and majorette; and nationality costume. Ambridge High School band director V. W. (Vetold) Sporny and his Summer Recreation Band would provide music, and the Ambridge police would lead the parade.

The June 28, 1958 article says that the Ambridge Recreation Department sponsored the annual parade for children ages 6 through 15. Children were expected to design and make their own costumes and floats under the supervision of playground directors. In addition to costumes and about a dozen floats, the parade would feature decorated (doll? baby? both?) carriages. The high school band would lead the march on a shorter route than that taken by the 1953 parade: Duss Avenue to Fifth Street, down Fifth to Merchant, on Merchant until turning up Eighth Street, then on Duss back to the high school.]


  1. Nancy: Great post, as always. I was in the Liberty School playground school in the mid-60's and I don't remember any parade. (I remember weaving potholders, painting plaster molds, and peeling Elmer's Glue (or something like it) off our hands. ;-) But I don't remember the parade. One song I associate with playground school one summer was "The Wah-Watusi" by the Orlons. If I recall correctly, they were having a "dance" one day. and that song was popular in 1962 (i was 9).

  2. jd aka john domansky

    economy drugs were like a chain, they owned at 14th & merchant & later on 14th & duss, where Dutch was pharmacist, he lived on 13th st just off church st name is al serak or close to that spelling. big guy, cigar in mouth all the time. he drove a 1940s desoto woody convert, i think, what a car. on some saturdays the 13 th st drug store would have dump day, when they put on side a pile of unused stuff, treasure throve for the kids. from drug store to downtown was a dairy store soda shop etc. once an arguement started inside , owner & a big mihovich guy, they fought on side of tavern (after closing 10pm) 14 & merchant, cops were called, shook hands & done, never knifes , guns, bats, always fists, AHS had a boxing team, 1 fight outside AH school in evening, a small boxer beat up up a larger guy, called zeke, the small one had red curley hair, & was out weighed by 25 lbs, what a boxing lesson.

    1. jd aka john domansky

      oops, economy drugs were 1st on 5th & 14th of merchant st then later opened on 14th & duss. i recall a tavern on 23rd & duss, east side where we watched friday nite fights, & had a few beers.