Thursday, October 29, 2015

Class photo: First Grade, First Ward School, 1910

Ed Halleman, center
Miss Grey, teacher
First Grade
First Ward School
courtesy of Tim Halleman
used with permission

Back of photo

Ed Halleman is the first grader circled in the class photo, which came from Ed Halleman's grandson, Tim Halleman. Ed Halleman is the only student identified. If you know the identities of any of the other students, please leave a comment. It looks as though there were some students cut off on the right side of the photo.

First Ward School, 215 Merchant Street, opened in 1910 and was razed in 1964.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ambridge memorabilia: H.H. Robertson bag

Bill Orlowski sent me this bag. Thanks, Bill!

H. H. Robertson Company bag

The bag is made of a muslin-like material with a thin drawstring at the top. It's approximately 9 1/2 inches from top to bottom and 5 inches wide.

One side of the bag is printed with:

Robertson Protected Metal Roofing, Siding, Trim, Galbestos Roofing & Siding, Louvres, Ducts, Hoods and Sheet-Lites. Robertson "Q" Flooring, Steel Decks, Gravity Type Ventilators, Fan Ventilators, Structural Skylights and Sash, Robertson Asphaltic Coatings, Hubbellite Floors.

H. H. Robertson Company bag

On the reverse side is hand-printed "AIR GAUGES." Was this for employees to carry small parts in? And if so, why list all the company's products on the front?

H. H. Robertson was a 40 acre industrial plant once located in an area that stretched from the north side of 14th St. to 19th St, and from Oak Alley on the east to the old Belt Line Railroad tracks on the west, just east of Merchant St.

The Beaver County Emergency Services (911) building is now located on the 14th St. end of the company's former property.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

When Ambridge was "The Marvel City" and John Duss the musician was a selling point

On March 23, 2015, I posted "The selling of 'The Marvel City,'" about a May 23, 1904, Pittsburg Press* ad in which a real estate company touted to potential investors the wonders of the "grand central City of Economy" and then-embryonic Ambridge. If you haven't read that blog post, I urge you do to so, and click on the link there to the ad itself, which is astonishing in its aggrandizement of the Ambridge-Economy area, both as it was then, and as it was predicted to become.

That ad was followed the next day by a second, equally astonishing, I think, but for a different reason. This ad repeats some of the hyperbole of the previous day's ad, but features "the masterly musical triumphs" of John Duss in its sales pitch.

Praise of John Duss--one of the last trustees of, and when he died in 1951, the last surviving member of, The Harmony Society--the world's famous bandmaster," topped the ad, applauding the "music of prosperity" he brought to the "Marvelous New City of Economy" by selling off the Society's land. And behind a sketch of the new American Bridge plant, there's a huge one of Duss the conductor.

I suspect few people today remember Duss for his musical talents. I know how surprised I was when I first read about his career as conductor and composer shortly after I started this blog.

I've wondered if Duss, who surely thought very highly of his musical abilities, helped compose the ad.

Ad for "The Marvel City"
Pittsburg Press
May 24, 1904

You can read the ad much better in the online digitized edition of the Pittsburg Press by clicking here.

History has not been exactly kind to the reputation of Duss, accused of misappropriating the Society's money to support his lavish lifestyle, including taking "the New York City Metropolitan Opera Orchestra on a coast-to-coast tour as their 'guest conductor'–at the community's expense." His wife's decision to dissolve the Society and keep its assets led to an 11-year legal battle.

I've read some of the reviews written during Duss' musical career, and they range from raves, to pans of his performances and compositions as mere vanity projects. A good summary can be found at the Pittsburgh Music History site, which includes his dismissal by some critics as a "narcissistic buffoon."

Among Duss' contributions to Ambridge's music scene was the composition of a St. Veronica's mass that he conducted in the church in 1916. He conducted the music, much of it composed by him, during the Economy Centennial in 1924. Years after his "last public appearance as a conductor" at St. John's Lutheran Church in 1929, Duss exhibited his musical talents, whatever they may have been, at a 1947 concert at Old Economy.

* Using the spelling "Pittsburg" used by the newspaper at that time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hidden between the walls #2

Yesterday, I updated a post from February 2, 2015: Hidden between the walls. Then Jim Ernst mentioned that as Rooks Cantina 505 was being razed after that sport bar's July 2, 2014, fire, an ad on the wall of the building next door, Perri's Barber Shop, 280 Fourth St., was exposed, adding that the ad has since been covered over.

I think this photo shows the ad Jim is referring to:

Post-fire rubble
Rooks Cantina 505,
282 Fourth St.
September 28, 2014
credit: Nancy Knisley

The ad, on the dark brickwork on the right, is rather faint, but I believe that the larger letters say "WALLPAPER." Above that, among the smaller lettering, I think I see "OUSE" (house?) and very faintly, "PAINT."

Laman's Wallpaper & Paint was once at 294 Fourth St., but I don't know if the ad was for that store or not.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ambridge memorabilia: business card of Wm. C. Ott

Business card, Wm. C. Ott, front

Business card, Wm. C. Ott, back

I've been looking, without success, for information on Wm. C. Ott and Jacob Bros. Pianos ever since I acquired this card many months ago.

I'm not quite sure what the script on the front of the card says. Alma Conkle? Was that person a customer or potential customer? I have no idea.

As to year, maybe pre-1910? The Ambridge Borough once ended at what is now called 8th St., previously called Bryden Rd. Land north of Bryden was called Economy, even after the land had been sold by the Harmony Society. Old ads frequently give the location of a business north of Bryden as "Economy."

[Update October 20, 2015: Butch O'Keefe found some information about Jacob Bros. Pianos at Antique Piano Shop. According that website, the piano company started in 1878 in New York and Boston, selling pianos made by another company. In 1905, they started building pianos in Massachusetts, selling them at both retail and wholesale. "There is no mention of Jacob Brothers after about 1955."

While I now know more about Jacob Bros. Pianos, because that company existed for decades and wasn't local, I still know nothing about Wm. C. Ott, "Sole Agent" in Beaver County for the company.]

[Update October 25, 2015:
Relentless researcher Maria Notarianni has found some information on a Wm. C. Ott, and there's a connection to John S. Duss and his music career. I can't say for certain that this is the same Wm. C. Ott of the business card above. But it's nevertheless interesting:

The Wm. C. Ott Co. of Beaver Falls published some of Duss' music. You can see a scan of the 1895 sheet music for "Lifes Voyage: Waltz Song and Refrain" that's in the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection held by Johns Hopkins University.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh lists sheet music published by Wm. C. Ott of Beaver Falls in its Pittsburgh Sheet Music Collection, including some composed by Duss.

Good work, Maria!]

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The boys at the Greek coffee house

"Boys in the town in front of Greek coffee shop"
278 First St.?
Photographer: Arthur Rothstein
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
July 1938

Thanks to Tom Boudros, AHS '67, I now have names of some of the boys and men in one of the oft-seen Ambridge photos taken by photojournalist Arthur Rothstein in 1938:

Sitting in front of the window, left to right are: Steve Hopak; Mike "Junior" Tesnovich; unidentified; "Hepack."

Inside looking out of the window: left to right, Harry Bellas; unidentified; unidentified; Jimmy Pappas.

If you know the names of the unidentified boys and men in the photo, or "Hepack's" full name, or have memories of the coffee house, please leave a comment.

I believe this is the Greek Coffee Shop that was once at 278 First St.

You can read more about Arthur Rothstein's 1938 Ambridge photos in these blog posts:

The Dead-End Pool

The children of Marshall Alley 1938

The girl in the tub in Marshall Alley

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ambridge trivia: Did you know...? #7 Davidson's

Davidson's Department Store once had two locations in Ambridge.

Davidson's ad
Milady's Style Parade and Recipe Book for 1935

I don't know when the 1329 Merchant St. store closed, but the 510 Merchant St. store closed in 1976.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Golden Jubilee: "Frontiers of Freedom"

Ambridge's Golden Jubilee parade was quite spectacular, but that wasn't the only really big event planned for the celebration. The other was the original historical pageant extravaganza, "Frontiers of Freedom."

I wish I had more photos of the production, as it sounds very impressive. The three-level stage was was huge, built with lumber donated by Ohio Valley Lumber and volunteer labor. The largest stage was 40 feet by 10 feet and elevated four feet. The other two stages were each 10 feet by 10 feet, one elevated 10 feet, the second elevated 15 feet. The backdrops were 15 feet high.

The cast of actors, musicians, chorus, and dancers takes up three pages in the Golden Jubilee Program.

Construction of "Frontiers of Freedom" stage
Ambridge High School stadium field
Daily Citizen
June 22, 1955

The original caption for the above photo read:
Work has started for the mammoth stage for the "Frontiers of Freedom" pageant which will open next Wednesday at the Ambridge High School Stadium in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee. Elmer Blanarik is supervising the big project.
The pageant was presented at 9 P.M., Wednesday, June 29 through Monday, July 4, 1955. Before each performance, there was a preliminary program that ranged from The Accordion Band to ethnic dancers and musical groups. Fireworks capped each evening.

The Golden Jubilee Program's synopsis of the pageant describes the beginning as "a brilliant and colorful spectacle in which the Queen, 'Miss Golden Jubilee', and her Royal Highness, 'Miss Greater Ambridge', surrounded by the royal court, extend greetings to all visitors to the celebration."

Miss Golden Jubilee and Miss Greater Ambridge
Ambridge Golden Jubilee Program

The pageant, "A John B. Rogers Production," had 18 "Episodes" and a Finale. The episodes began with "The Saga of the Wilderness" with three scenes depicting the Indian village at Logstown, the coming of the French, and George Washington's visiting Logstown.

Several subsequent episodes were devoted to the Harmony Society and Old Economy, the beginning of Ambridge, and ending with "The Parade of Industry." *

Some of the episodes sounded quite dramatic:
Episode Fourteen: "World War I": 1914 and again the people of Ambridge hear the rumbling sounds of war in the making. This time the war is in Europe. Many were called and many were chosen, but there were those who never came back. Perhaps a Gold Star Mother knew and evaluated the loss.
While other episodes seemed quite lighthearted:
Episode Fifteen: "The Roaring Twenties": Days of the Flappers, Shieks (sic), bobbed hair, radio, flagpole sitters and marathon dancing! The Charleston! A satire on the hilarious days of the mad and merry twenties.
The finale reflected the political tone of the mid-1950s:
I am an American. . . Listen to my words, fascist, communist . . , I am an American, and I speak for Democracy!
Unfortunately, the weather wasn't ideal for an open-air production. Opening day was rained out. And the terrible heat may have kept spectators away, especially on July 2, after the long, long parade in which spectators and marchers passed out from the heat.

The Daily Citizen's July 1 review of the pageant was...polite: "'Frontiers' Get Audience Okay...It was reported to be somewhat slow moving and a bit ragged in places, but showed promise of becoming a fine production."

The paper also reported that the viewers' interest was "mostly in more lighthearted moments."

The Golden Jubilee wasn't over yet. Monday, July 4, was "Armed Forces" Day, featuring a "Mock Battle" in Borough Park. Eighty members of the National Guard would shoot 7,000 to 10,000 rounds of blank ammo, and dynamite charges were to be placed to simulate mine explosions and cannon fire. What could go wrong with that?

*A synopsis of "Frontiers of Freedom" describing the 18 episodes was published in the June 29, 1955, Beaver Valley Times. The ambition of the production is amazing.

Did anyone else's mind flash to Christopher Guest's mockumentary Waiting for Guffman, about a small town's musical historic pageant, when reading about "Frontiers of Freedom"?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ambridge memorabilia: Gutowski's Bakery

Here's a Gutowski's Bakery pastry bag, given to me by Ambridge memorabilia collector Bob Mikush.

Gutowski's Bakery pastry bag

Gutowski's Bakery, called Sanitary Bakery when it was opened in 1910 by John T. Gutowski and his uncle, Stanley Wroblewski, baked products and operated a retail store at 517 Eighth St., where the Beaver County Head Start building now stands. John Gutowski took over the business after his uncle died.

Sanitary Bakery ad
Pamiętnik Poświęcenia Nowego Kościoła
Św. Stanisława B. i M.

(Dedication of St. Stanislaus Church book)

Gutowski's brick building sat towards the back of the lot. I remember the most wonderful smells while walking up Gutowski's walk with my grandma who would speak Polish to the clerks who wore white uniforms and caps.

In 1939 Gutowski's opened another store at 699 Merchant St. Gutowski's also sold baked goods from their red truck which regularly visited Ambridge neighborhoods. Buying from the Gutowski's truck was special. When I was a kid, I normally wouldn't have eaten a slice of jelly roll, but I did when my grandma bought it from the Gutowski's truck.

Gutowski Bakery ad
The Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory

Gutowski's Bakery ad
1965 Bridger

I'm not sure of when Gutowski's closed, but I believe was sometime in the mid-1960s; the bakery still had an ad in the 1965 Bridger yearbook. And the Bridger photo shows those yummy jelly rolls in the display case.

[Update February 18, 2016: The December 31, 1966, Beaver County Times, reporting on a fire at the bakery, mentioned that the building had recently been sold by the Gutowski family to the U.S. General Services Administration, and the bakery building would be razed for a new Social Security office. Fire Chief Ercoli Dininno theorized that the fire was sparked by cutting torches being used by men removing bakery equipment from the bakery.

I still don't know exactly when the bakery closed, but it must have been in 1965 or '66. If you know, please let me know.]