Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Ambridge Pool slide

Remember those hot summer days when you just couldn't wait to get to the Ambridge Borough Pool and zip down the metal water slide into the wonderfully cool water?

And on crowded days how awful it was to have to wait in a line that stretched along the pool deck where you stood on concrete that burned the soles of your feet?

And then you had to wait on the ladder before you could take your turn?

And how some kids would lose their nerve at the top, and everyone standing on the ladder would have to climb back down to let them off?

Slide at the Ambridge pool
"baby pool" in background
Daily Citizen
July 21, 1955

And then finally, how the speedy slide from the top to your big splash into sometimes really cold water was over in a slippy* second? And then you had to get in line again? And again. And again.

Text under the photo:
BEATING THE HEAT--The Ambridge Municipal swimming pool at Borough Park is doing a landslide business during these hot humid days as the youngsters along with many grownups take dips in order to cool off from the heat wave.

* Pittsburgese for "slippery."

You can read more about the Ambridge pool in these posts:

Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool, Part 1

Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool, Part 2: Getting there--the trek to the pool

Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool, Part 3: The bathhouse--the girls' dressing room

Pool, Part 3: The Bathhouse -- The Boys' Dressing Room

Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool expansion: the solons' inspection

Ambridge today: Pool steps

Ambridge today: the pool bathhouse once stood here

Ambridge Borough Swimming Pool, Part 4: hot summer fun in the three pools

The happy beginning and the sad end of the Ambridge Pool with the unfortunate series of events that led to its closing and razing

Sunday, June 21, 2015

American Bridge Duckpins Bowling Team 1952

If American Bridge once had a tennis team, you just know they would have had duckpin bowling teams.

In honor of Father's Day, I'm posting this photo of one of the American Bridge duckpin teams since my dad, Paul (Rusty) Bohinsky, is in it. It's from the May 7, 1952, Beaver Valley Times.

American Bridge Duckpin Bowling Team
Beaver Valley Times
May 7, 1952

Text below photo:
CHECKING DUX TOURNEY SCORES--Five Ambridge bowlers examine the score sheets after rolling in the TIMES-sponsored Beaver Valley Singles Elimination Tournament at the Beaver Valley Bowl Tuesday evening. They are: kneeling, Paul Bohinsky, standing (left to right), Bob Heaton, Roger Canonge, George Meehan, and Rudy Svegel. They were members of the first of two American Bridge Company squads to bowl last night.
We were a bowling family, duckpins and tenpins. My maternal grandparents, with whom I lived, bowled. My mom still bowls almost weekly at age 88 with one of my cousins! I joke that she bowls on a two person team in a one team league, as the rest of her former bowling buddies are no longer bowling...for one reason or another.

Most of my family were good bowlers. I remember the many trophies lined up on a variety of flat surfaces in our house.

I bowled tenpins at Economy Lanes in the Divine Redeemer CYO league. I was not good.

You can read about bowling dux at the Ambridge Alleys by clicking here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The girl in the tub in Marshall Alley

Residents of Marshall Alley
Photographer: Arthur Rothstein
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
July 1938

One of the more widely-known photos taken in the summer of 1938 for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) by acclaimed photojournalist Arthur Rothstein is of a girl sitting in a large galvanized tub in Ambridge's Marshall Alley. I know people have wondered who the girl is, and why she was sitting in the tub in an alley.

The girl in the tub is Rose DeGennaro who lived at 285 Marshall Alley. I think it's a good bet that Rose was sitting in the tub to try to cool off. It was summer, and it was hot. At best, the families who lived in Marshall Alley might have owned a fan. The only pool in the area was the short-lived Dead-End Pool the neighborhood kids had built in Big Sewickley Creek. So a tub in the alley was relief from the heat.

The woman behind Rose is her mother, Sylvia DeGennaro. The taller of the two children behind Rose is her brother John.

The girl in the plaid dress is Irene Mantzaris. Her family lived at 293 Marshall Alley.

So far, I haven't been able to confirm the identity of the man, although someone told me it might have been Rose's father, Anthony, or to identify the small children smaller child in the background.

Here are two more of Rothstein's photos featuring Rose that he took for the FSA during his Ambridge visit. These are unprinted "killed" negatives. The black circles in them are actually holes that were punched in negatives that the FSA considered unsuitable for publication.

Rose DeGennaro
Marshall Alley
Photographer: Arthur Rothstein
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
July 1938

Rose DeGennaro
Marshall Alley
Photographer: Arthur Rothstein
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
July 1938

Similar tubs also served as a bathtubs for Marshall Alley families, as the houses there didn't have one.

You can read more about Marshall Alley and the people who lived there here.

If you know who the unidentified people in the photos are, please leave a comment.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

American Bridge tennis courts, 4th Street and Park Road

American Bridge tennis courts
4th St. and Park Rd., looking north
Laughlin Memorial Library archives
used with permission

American Bridge Company once owned tennis courts at the southern end of the park that once ran from 4th St. to 8th St. Although Ambridge residents came to see the park as public space, it was owned by American Bridge. In the photo, 4th St. is at the bottom and Park Rd. on the right.

Basketball nets are shown north of the tennis courts.

American Bridge had a tennis club, and its players competed in the Beaver County League and the Beaver Valley Tennis Association against players from other local communities from at least 1912 to to 1938, maybe longer.

The Ambridge High School tennis team also played on the courts at one time.

I haven't found out yet when the courts were removed. Anyone know? An aerial of the area taken during the time Ohio River Blvd. was being built along the left side of the park in the mid-'40s appears to show the courts still there.

Park Rd. was once the westernmost street in that part of Ambridge until Ohio River Blvd. was extended into Ambridge as far as 8th St. in the mid-'40s. However, it looks as though there may be a paved area between the park and the railroad tracks to its left. Further left are American Bridge plant buildings and beyond them, the Ohio River.

The Ambridge Do It Best Home Center is now where the tennis courts once were located.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Daring daylight holdup, plucky girl clerk

Pittsburgh Press
March 10, 1929

"BANDITS SHOOT GAS OFFICIAL IN DARING AMBRIDGE HOLDUP" was the headline at the top of the March 10, 1929, Pittsburgh Press' front page. The information in this post is based on that Press account.

The story sounds like a scene from a crime novel: a brazen daylight heist by armed and dangerous bandits who are tricked into leaving without all the loot by a brave and resourceful young woman.

On Saturday, March 9, two bandits brandishing guns entered the Maplewood Ave. office of the Ambridge Gas Co., one of Ambridge's oldest businesses.*

Pittsburgh Press
March 10, 1929

"Hold up your hands," the robbers ordered the two people in the office at the time, Archibald D. Pew, General Manager, and Miss Beatrice Murray, "girl clerk," according to the newspaper. March 9 was the last day that customers could pay their February gas bill, so "the bandits apparently expected the receipts to be heavy." Murray had a roll of money on her desk so she could count it and stepped between the robbers and her desk, hiding the money from their view.

The robbers rifled drawers looking for loot, and one began stuffing bills and checks into his pocket. Unexpectedly, John Staley, a meter reader, came into the office, and the robbers turned to point their guns at him. While the robbers were distracted by Staley's entry, Pew tried to escape through a back door to call for help. One of the robbers then shot Pew in his arm.

The robbers asked Murray where more money was. Still standing between the robbers and the money on her desk, she told them there wasn't any more, they'd gotten it all. The robbers ended up with close to $3,000 from the drawers, which would be about $41,200 in 2015.

The robbers then ran out of the building, waving their guns, to a waiting getaway car which sped in the direction of "Freedom and Woodlawn." Woodlawn is present day Aliquippa, across the Ohio River from Freedom, so I'm guessing the car headed somewhere north.

Ambridge police set off in pursuit, helped by bystanders who gave the police the make and license plate number of the car. I don't know if the police ever caught the robbers. If I do find out more, I'll update this post.

Dr. A. N. Mellot and Dr. C. S. McGeorge treated Pew.

The scene of the robbery, 467 Maplewood Ave., still stands, next to the Maple Restaurant. It's currently the office of Michael P. Fecko Insurance.

467 Maplewood Ave.
September 27, 1915

Update June 5, 2015: I found an article in the March 11, 1929, issue of The Daily Times headlined "2 BANDITS FLEE NET OF POLICE. Wrong Number of Auto Given Posses Makes Easy Flight of Gas Office Robbers." According to the article "Despite the intensive man-hunt staged by state, county and borough police through the tri-state district during the past week end," the gas company robbers remained at large.

The article went on to say that the eyewitness who had given the police the fleeing car's licence plate number had made a mistake. The plate number belonged to a miner in Cambria County, and on the day of the robbery, the car was in the miner's garage all day while he was at work.

Were the bandits ever identified and apprehended? If I find any more information, I'll post another update.

Update May 23, 2018: The (alleged) robbers were arrested on the Monday after they robbed the gas company, thanks to a tip to police and an Ambridge cop's suspicions.

Maplewood resident, Mrs. J. J. Gross, had noticed an unfamiliar, unusual car parked in front of her home the day of the robbery. Mrs. Gross described it to police as an "ancient" brown Studebaker touring car with curtains that could be lowered like window shades. 

Ambridge police officer Cliff Harling suspected the robbery had been committed by local men, and he knew of only two cars in Ambridge that met Mrs. Gross' description. One of those cars was owned by James Howard, who not only lived a few blocks from the gas company, but also had a police record.

Hartling wanted to arrest Howard the day of the robbery, but his superiors decided to wait until Monday, when the police arrested Howard, as well as Harry Moose, at Howard's home "in the alley back of the regent theatre (sic)." (The Regent Theatre once was on the corner of 5th and Merchant Sts., later the location of the Penn Theatre in the 1940s and early '50s.)

Both men were taken to the gas company where they were identified by clerk Murray and the meter reader Staley.

Howard was described as "to have otherwise been what good citizens are not" with a "considerable police record" in an Ambridge News-Herald article (March 12, 1929). Among his other reported crimes: "shooting up a Beaver insurance collector's automobile on Eleventh street, one night last summer."

Hartling said he believed he could connect Howard's Studebaker with yet other robberies, including the January 12 holdup of the Butler store at 14th St. and Duss Ave.

According to the March 12, 1929, Daily Times article about the arrest, Howard's wife turned over $235 to police, said to be part of the money stolen from the gas company. Reportedly, Howard also sent three $100 money orders to Washington D.C. the day after the robbery.

One new detail of the robbery provided in the News-Herald article was that during the robbery, Murray had not just shielded money from the robbers, but had sat on some of it during the robbery!

I'll keep looking for information on what happened to Howard and Moose after they were arrested.

* The Ambridge  Gas Company, incorporated on November 20, 1903, predated the creation of the Borough of Ambridge, which incorporated in 1905. The company remained in business until 1963, when Columbia Gas took over Ambridge's gas service.

** The text with the Press photo says:
The little office of the Ambridge Gas Co., 467 Maplewood ave., that borough, was the scene of a daylight holdup yesterday when two bandits shot General Manager Archibald D. Pew in the arm and escaped with $3,000. Below is Miss Beatrice Murray, 23, of Merchant st., Ambridge, plucky girl clerk who safely concealed a roll of currency from the intruders.

Monday, June 1, 2015

John Domansky: memories of growing up in Ambridge, 1935 - 1954

John Domansky, Jr., John Domansky, Sr., and Jack Eppley
in front of John Domansky Tailor Shop
293 Fourteenth Street
photo courtesy of John Domansky, Jr.
used with permission

In the photo above, John Domansky, Jr., age 9, his father, and Jack Eppley, who was married to John Jr.'s sister Frances, are shown standing in front of the John Domansky Tailor Shop.

Here are some of John Jr.'s memories of growing up in Ambridge:
I went to Holy Redeemer, as Divine Redeemer was then called, kindergarten to 8th grade. In 1948 I left for Boys Town. I graduated in 1950 from a pottery trade school. 
Before I came out here to Chicago in December 1954 with my sister and brother-in-law, I lived at a number of places in Ambridge. The last place I lived before moving to Chicago was 10th and Melrose; from 1952 to '54 I lived at 1925 Duss Avenue; in 1951 I briefly lived on 17th just up from Lenz; and before that, 1938 though 1951, at 293 Fourteenth Street, most memories come from there. Earlier, from '35 to '37, I lived above D'Ambrosio's Shoe Shop at 12th and Merchant. My first home was next to the Ambridge Hotel which was at 8th and Merchant.
Dad had a tailor shop at 293 Fourteenth Street for a while, with painted windows and all, and a big steam presser. The tailor shop was there for about 15 years maybe. On the right side inside, was the big steam presser, and steam shot out of the right side of the building to a blind alley. On the left was his Singer pedal sewing machine, both of which I ran at age 12.
Dad did alterations and took in cleaning, etc. He worked in downtown Pittsburgh and worked week-ends in his shop. He made me a confirmation suit overnight. He went to suit buyers' homes to measure the men, with a piece of paper, pencil, and a thin chalk marker. He wrote it all down, then made the suits, no returns ever that I know of. He was very good at math, I was better, and my son is five times as good as me.
My dad took me to many taverns and the Sokol club on Duss and 4th St. for hot dogs with sauerkraut and mustard. Once I ran away from home and landed in the Pittsburgh juvenile home; he came and got me and bought me a hot dog off a cart. Never laid a hand on me nor did Mom.
The wine killed my dad in 1948 in the pathway to our house between the two big buildings on the short 14th St. block before Boyleston St.

Mom was gone a lot, working in Glen Osborne and home on weekends. I would visit Mom in Glen Osborne often. She died in 1981.
To make creamed chicken on Sundays we got live chickens from Slavik's Market on 12th Street. Slavik kept livestock behind the store, along the Lias' home. The Lias family were West Virginia people who lived right behind the bar on Wagner St. The Lias boy swam in the river with us. We were called river rats. One thing about the river from 11th to 15th, 16th Sts. was the big rocks on the shore, you could sunbathe on them.
Dorothy Domansky and John Domansky, Jr.
next to D'Ambrosio Shoe Repair Shop
12th and Merchant Sts.
photo courtesy of John Domansky, Jr.
used with permission

Frank Domansky (John Jr.'s uncle), Anne Domansky (John Jr.'s sister), Cousin Dorthy Domansky,
and Tom Varcheka, foreman at H.H. Robertson
14th and Merchant Sts., northwest corner
photo courtesy of John Domansky, Jr.
used with permission

My cousin Dorothy played the accordion when she came to visit, a block party started here. Polkas on 14th Street!
I roamed free on my own for a lot of years. Having no car until out here in Chicago, I walked all over, 14th St. to Divine Redeemer was daily.*
I walked to Fair Oaks to visit the Otrahalics on Ambridge Ave. I'd walk to the Fair Oaks Bowling Alley on Big Sewickley Creek Rd. and the gas station next to it, even down to Zassick's farm to ride a horse or to Firemen's Park for a picnic.* A big 50-foot electric tower was in Big Sewickley Creek, the water was about seven-feet deep and diveable, so I did it, I dove off the concrete pad, about eight-feet high. I fished many times too.
I also remember when the bridge over Big Sewickley Creek going down to Ambridge was walked over by using only boards. This was at Ambridge Ave. at the sharp curve to go through Fair Oaks. The bridge was the only entrance into the valley behind Ambridge Ave. towards the hills behind. They built a new bridge in the late '70s. **
The 291 Fourteenth Street tailor shop, Hacker's, somehow deep in my memory, I see that name. The son was Clayton Marquette, trainer of 1972 Olympian winner Cathy Rigby. I have a May 5, 1972, Life magazine with a four-page layout on Cathy, and it shows Bud, as he was known, a former AAU gymnastic champ himself. Many days we walked on our hands in front of both tailor shops. Oh yes, I see a Hacker, a short German guy there, but not Bud's name, maybe he was adopted. Bud worked at H. H. Robertson also, like me. He cut all the crating lumber to ship the skylights I made. Bud tried to get me into the Maennerchor gym on Sherman St. I was a natural athlete and diver, have eight stitches in my head from top rock diving at the Chicago Coast Guard Station at 95th St. in Chicago. I would go to the Beaver River and dive off bluffs, and dive off the Baden docks which were 10-feet high. I threatened to dive off the Ambridge - Aliquippa Bridge a few times.
I came here to Chicago for work. I was laid off from Robertson in early '54, ended up at Republic Steel, retired in 1995 after 40 years as a welder, furniture refinisher, meat cutter, and still yet, antique dealer and seller and buyer, on eBay since 1998.

John Domansky, Jr. is a frequent commenter on this blog. He's hoping to connect with people who knew him when he lived in Ambridge, or people who grew up in Ambridge when he did. If you fall into either category, please leave a comment below.

* At the time John Jr. was growing up, the Divine Redeemer School was located at 300 Merchant St., currently the location of Karnavas Vending Co.

** Zassick's farm and Firemen's Park were once on Big Sewickley Creek Road. The park was where the Economy Borough sewage plant and Hrinko Trucking are now located.

*** The new bridge was constructed in the late 1970s at the intersection of Ambridge Ave. and Main St. after the Ambridge end of Valley Rd. was cut off from the Harmony Township end because Big Sewickley Creek was causing the road to subside. Before then, both ends of Valley Rd. were connected.