Saturday, February 27, 2016

Group photo: Park Road School kindergarten, 1963 - 64

This photo of Park Road School kindergarten students from the 1963 - 64 school year, came from Bill Orlowski, who is in the second row from the bottom, second from left. Bill would like help remembering the names of his classmates. Can you help Bill? If you can identify anyone, please let me know.

You can enlarge the photo for better viewing by clicking on it if you're viewing this on a PC, or tapping on a mobile device.

Park Road School kindergarten students
1963 - 64
photo owned by Bill Orlowski

Students identified so far:

Bottom Row:
Alex Vasilakis

Second row from bottom, left to right:
Bill Orlowski
Josie Gagliardi
Cheryl Martin

Third Row from bottom:
Leila Gill
Tammie Stanasolovich

Top Row:
Stephanie Koukounaris
Tom Gulish

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Group photo: Ambridge High School's first basketball team, 1911

Ambridge High School's first basketball team
Laughlin Memorial Library archives
used with permission

Oh, look, they wore long shorts back in 1911. Who knew that current uniform shorts were retro?

Some of the players' names appear to originally have been typed below the photo, but they are faded. Local historian William (Bill) Bowan rewrote them on the back of the photo:

The back says: 1911- Ambr. H. School Basketball Team

1st Row L R

1 - Sid Parsons
2 - ?
3 - ?
4 - Bill Cooper
5 - Harry West

2nd Row

1 - ?
2 - Bert Bianchi
3 - Sid Cadmus
4 - Bill Hutchinson

If you know the names of the unidentified players or the coach, please let me know.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Aloe's Market and Frank's Pizzeria

Aloe's Market, 802 Duss Ave., owned by the late Salvatore and Giuseppina Aloe, was one of the many small markets that once could be found throughout Ambridge. The market sold fruit, vegetables, and groceries, specializing in Italian products. According to Salvatore and Giuseppina's grandson, Bobby Aloe, Aloe's Market was open from about 1945 through 1955.

Aloe's Market business card
circa 1945-55

The handsome couple standing in front of the market in the photo below are Costanza and Frank Aloe, the daughter-in-law and son of Salvatore and Giuseppina.

Costanza and Frank Aloe
Aloe's Market
802 Duss Ave.
circa 1950
photo courtesy of Bobby Aloe

According to Bobby Aloe, before coming to the U.S., Salvatore, his brother, and Frank were fishermen in Italy. After immigrating to the U.S., Salvatore and Frank worked in New York, operating a push-cart selling produce. From there they came to Ambridge, worked at Pressed Steel in McKees Rocks, and then for A. M. Byers in Harmony Township.

While Salvatore and Giuseppina owned the market, Frank often worked there.

Frank Aloe behind the counter of Aloe's Market
circa 1950
photo courtesy of Bobby Aloe 

Between strikes and layoffs, mill employment was unstable in the mid-1950s, so Frank decided to open his own business. Since he had been a fisherman in Italy, he opened a fish market in a storefront on the lower level of his home at 618 Duss Ave.

When the fish market turned out to be less profitable than Frank had hoped, he opened an Italian pastry shop in the same location. That too failed. And then came business #3.

In 1958, at a time when most pizza was made at home, Frank saw an ad placed by a New York pizza equipment company in an Italian newspaper, offering pizza-making training and equipment for $600. Frank went to New York, took the training, and used the equipment in his new business, Frank's Pizzeria. That business, and its cheese-under-the-sauce pizza, was a success. And how! After almost 60 years, the phone at Frank's rings almost constantly during business hours, and lines of people picking up pizzas can be long.

Frank Aloe tossing pizza
photo courtesy of  Frank's Pizzeria

Frank's Pizza became a family business, operated by Frank and Costanza, with children and grandchildren helping out.

"Bob and Sal Aloe check pizza orders."
Beaver County Times
December 26, 1988

Despite its success, and fame beyond the Ambridge area (so much so that Frank's offers "Pizza Packed for Travel"), Frank's never expanded beyond its original Ambridge location, and the only item on its menu besides pizzas and toppings are calzones--a perfect example of a business that does one thing and does it very well.

Frank died in May 2010 after a short illness. Bobby and his brother Sal now run the business.

802 Duss Ave.
May 2, 2015

Frank's Pizzeria
618 Duss Ave.
March 22, 2014

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Then and now: 600 block Park Road

600 block of Park Rd, looking north


600 block Park Rd.
circa 1910

The large tree on the right side of the postcard hides most of the apartment building on the corner. On the west side of the street, you can see a bit of the American Bridge park that once ran from 4th to 8th Sts.

I'm not sure how old the above postcard is as it's unmailed, so there's no postmark. But if you enlarge the card*, you'll see that there are horse-drawn carts next to the curb. This pre-linen card has a divided back, so it was printed by "H. C. George, 5 and 10 cent Store, Ambridge, Pa." after 1907, but probably before 1915.


600 block of Park Rd.
May 2, 2015

Unfortunately, I didn't have a lens with me that would allow me to take a photo wide enough to capture both sides of the street as the postcard does. The homes on this block are remarkably unchanged except for color.

The park has been reduced to a single block from 7th to 8th St. The west side of the 600 block of Park Rd. is now a parking lot for St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church.

* To enlarge photos: if you're using a computer, click; if using a mobile device, tap.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Harmony School

Harmony School
5th St. and Duss Ave.
Daily Citizen supplement, August 10, 1929
Louis Vukovcan collection
courtesy of Jackie Vukovcan

Harmony School, which once stood on the northeast corner of 5th St. and Duss Ave., wasn't built by Ambridge; it was built by the school district where it was located in 1912--Harmony Township. At that time, Ambridge's eastern boundary in that part of the borough was Duss Ave.

The school originally had four rooms, expanded to eight rooms in 1915.

The Ambridge Golden Jubilee Program says that Ambridge took over Harmony School in 1916 "by order of the Beaver County Court, Ambridge paid the outstanding indebtedness." I haven't been able to find anything that explains why Ambridge was ordered to take over Harmony School and pay Harmony Township's debt. However, based on an October 18, 1916, article in The Daily Times, I suspect that the school takeover was connected to Ambridge's March 16, 1916, annexation of some Harmony Township property. The brief Daily Times article says that an auditor had been appointed to adjust the indebtedness of Harmony Township and Ambridge after the annexation. Based on the auditor's report, apportioned right down to the penny, Ambridge was to pay $7,473.31, and Harmony Township was to pay $8,440.05.

After Liberty School was built in 1917-1918 on adjoining property to the east of Harmony School, Ambridge appears, for at least a number of years, to have administered the two schools as one, with one principal overseeing both schools. The 1937 photo I posted on February 2, 2016, shows the faculty of both schools. My mom said she went to Harmony School for grades 1-3, and to Liberty School for the upper elementary grades.

At some point which I haven't found yet, Ambridge stopped using Harmony School as a public school. While it remained Ambridge school property, the building was used by St. Veronica High School from 1945 through 1965. In 1968, the school was razed and is now part of the property of the Ambridge Tower Apartments for seniors.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Group photo: Women's Christian Circle 1913

Women's Christian Circle
Ambridge Methodist Episcopal Church
at Heinz plant
Sept. 16, 1913
courtesy of Beaver County Genealogy and History Center

Caption on the photo:
Womens (sic) Christian Circle. Ambridge M. E. Church Visit at Home of Heinz 57 Varieties, Pgh, Pa. Sept. 16, 1913.
And, yes, Heinz was giving out pickle pins back in 1913.  H. J. Heinz created them to draw attention to his display booth at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. I wonder if any pins that may have been given to the women and children in the photo are still around. Alas, the once very popular Heinz factory tours were discontinued in 1972.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was the forerunner of the First United Methodist Church of Ambridge, 7th St. and Maplewood Ave. The M. E. Church once was located at 6th St. and Melrose Ave., but was sold in 1906 to Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church and later razed to build the Ss. Peter and Paul Church that is still standing. That M. E. church was the first church to be built in the new borough of Ambridge. You can see a photo of that early church in my February 21, 2015, blog post, "Sixth Street and Melrose Avenue, 1904."

Ambridge once had a Heinz vinegar plant, located between Sherman and 11th Sts., behind what is now the Trinity School for Ministry, and before the school, an A & P. Later, the Heinz building became a company warehouse that the April 28, 1931, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported was "destroyed" in a fire. Some of the warehouse must have survived because you can see at least a part of it in post-1931 photos, like the photo in my May 25, 2014, blog post, "A Memorial Day past." Whatever part of the Heinz building remained was destroyed in the March 14, 1985, Larstone Corrugated Carton Co. fire.

I don't know who any of the women and children in the photo are. If you recognize someone, please let me know. As always, you can enlarge the photo by clicking on it if you're on a computer, or tapping on it if you are using a mobile device.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ambridge memorabilia: American Bridge Company safe

When an employer shuts down, employees may take a few mementos before the doors close forever. I've seen people end up with all sorts of things with the business' name on them, things like letterhead and envelopes, pens, matchbooks, ashtrays, coffee mugs, and memo holders.

Not too many employees go big and go home with a memento that's 38 inches wide, 30 inches deep, 75 inches tall and weighs somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds.

When American Bridge closed down its Ambridge office in 1983, Dawn Patrice Fisher Wilson took home the office safe that had been in the office's basement. What a beauty!

American Bridge Company safe
photo courtesy of Dawn Patrice Fisher Wilson

Here's Dawn's story:
My grandfather and my dad both worked at American Bridge from a young age until retirement. I got my love of history and preservation from my dad. He always loved that safe.
My grandfather was a blacksmith, and he started in 1917, retired in 1958. Dad was a draftsman for most of his career. He started in the plant in 1950. Sometime later, American Bridge asked for volunteers to attend drafting school at their expense. Dad was one of the volunteers and became a draftsman. He retired in 1983.

I started with USS in the financial management associate program in 1981. I was assigned to the Ambridge Plant first, then the Shiffler Plant in Lawrenceville for one year. I was transferred to the USS Chemicals Division and assigned to the LaPorte TX plant in 1984 when American Bridge was shutting down.
The safe wasn't always tucked away in the office's basement. But my dad never lost track of it. The basement door and stairs were facing, I think, 4th St. Grandfather and Dad lived on Park Road, so they would use that entrance often. 
The plant manager at the time the office was about to close stated that I could have the safe if I was able to get it out of the basement the next day. My dad hired a local company, Greens Moving, I seem to recall, and they were able to move it to his home located in Cranberry Twp. A two ton safe is not something a younger person living in an apartment while being transferred to different parts of the country can easily transport. Dad has kept it in his basement all of these years. Unfortunately now is the time that the safe must be relocated. It will be coming to Texas shortly.

You can see the sad end of the Ambridge American Bridge Company office building in my February 28, 2014, article, "The American Bridge office building: going...gone!"

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sinclair Station 16th and Duss

Sinclair Gas Station
1599 Duss Ave.
photo courtesy of Alvin Rotolo
circa 1940s - 1950s?

This Sinclair Station was once on the southwest corner of 16th St. and Duss Ave. The Circle K convenience store is currently located on that corner.

I don't know when the photo was taken--other than, I'm guessing, in winter.

In the 1950's, this was known as Wanchick's Service Station.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Group photo: faculty Liberty and Harmony Schools, 1927

Liberty and Harmony Schools 1927
Louis Vukovcan collection
courtesy of Jackie Vukovcan

This composite photo shows the faculty of two of Ambridge's public schools, Liberty and Harmony, in 1927. The schools once were next to each other on the north side of 5th St., east of Duss Ave., with Harmony being closer to Duss and Liberty further up the hill. Harmony was the older of the two schools, built in 1912. Liberty was built in 1917-18.

Harmony was used by St. Veronica's High School from 1945-65. Both schools were razed in 1968, and the Ambridge Towers Apartments for seniors were erected where the schools once stood.

The photo came from the late Louis Vukovcan's collection. The handwritten list of the faculty's names on the sides of the photo appears to be his. Unfortunately, while the list is numbered, the photos aren't, so I can't match the names to a particular photo.

I  had a bit of a hard time trying to read Mr. Vukovcan's list, so if you see a mistake, or if you can match a name with a photo, please let me know.

Left side:
1. (no first name) Willard
2. Mary Hartman
3. Ruth Brown
4. Jane Creese
5. Berta Powell
6. Mary Multon
7. Cyril Lewis
8. Mildred Leeper
9. Wilma Johnson
10. Ella Mae Lear
11. Isabel McCalmot
12. Celia J. Blake

Right side:
13. Mildred File
14. Violet Paice
15. Jessie Rountrec
16. Margaret Brinker
17. Irene Shea
18. Maybelle Seybert
19. Alfadine McClester
20. (no first name) Aldstadt
21. Ada Staub
22. Bertha Rice
23. Mildred White

You can see a photo of Harmony and Liberty schools in the February 4, 2014 blog post "Early Ambridge public schools: then and now."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Big explosion--fire, death, injuries, and flying fruit

As I do historical research about Ambridge, every once in while I stumble across something other than what I'm looking for that makes me go "whoa!" Like this front page photo and accompanying article with the headline, "Ambridge Block is Devastated by Blast--1 Killed, 44 Flee Explosion and Fire" from the May 6, 1930, Pittsburgh Press.

Rubble from explosion, 1300 block of Merchant St.
Pittsburgh Press
May 6, 1930

Press caption:
This is all that was left of a two-story building in the 1300 block Merchant St., Ambridge, after it was apparently bombed today. One man was killed. Fire following the explosion spread to the Hotel Grant (sic).
The 3:30 A.M. explosion, presumed to be a result of a bomb according to the Press, destroyed a building on the corner of 13th and Merchant Sts. which that paper said was occupied by George Scoursis'* fruit and vegetable market and Peter Ambrosio's** shoe repair shop, as well as a second floor "club room" operated by Joseph Martin.

The May 7, 1930, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the blast was on the southeast corner of 13th and Merchant and destroyed a 100 year-old Harmonist building--although the building now at that corner looks like a Harmonist building, so perhaps the destroyed building wasn't exactly on the corner or was on a different corner at that intersection.

[Update February 4, 2016: Thanks to a tip from John Domansky, I may now know the correct location of the building that was destroyed: 1301 Merchant St., so the northwest corner of 13th and Merchant St. See Economy Fruit Market ad below.]

The Post-Gazette also said the blast was "mysterious" and "of unknown origin," and reported that Fire Chief A. G. Fisher said he didn't think a bomb or gas had caused the explosion. Instead, Fisher believed that "at least 25 gallons of gasoline were used."

The body of Joseph Musitino, a roomer in a building across the street, was later found in the ruins beneath a door. He was clutching a .38 caliber revolver and part of a door handle. Ammunition was found in his pocket, and a flashlight was found near his body.

The Post-Gazette said that laborers were still searching the ruins, looking for a friend who had been seen with Musitino the day of the blast.

The fire following the blast spread to a two-story building behind the fruit market, home to several families. The Press reported that "Mr. and Mrs. Michael Moses, their three children, Mary, 4; Rose, 3, and Gladys, 1, fled to the street."

The shock from the explosion was felt for blocks. Houses shook and residents were thrown from their beds. Windows in homes and businesses in the surrounding block were blown out. According to the Press, the nearby Grand Hotel*** lost over 100 windows. And like a comedic touch after a huge explosion in an action movie, fruit and vegetables from the fruit market flew through the air and smashed through hotel windows. The Post-Gazette said fruit "literally rained through the nearby windows."

According to the Press, B. S. McDonald's hotel room was "filled with vegetables blown through the windows," and he was quoted saying, "I was pelted with vegetables and with fragments of plate glass. Some of those glass slivers buried themselves in the wall right near my head." An adjoining room occupied by Walter Knox was "filled with fruit." The Post-Gazette had a photo (unfortunately, not a good one, at least in the digitized version) of another hotel resident, Mike Demo, holding a pineapple that "was hurled through his window, and into a wardrobe."

The Press also reported that James Dillon arrived at his home across from the fruit market about 10 minutes after the explosion and found his two-year old daughter, Geraldine, asleep under a pane of glass which had blown out of the window, but remained intact. Amazingly, the toddler not injured--and still asleep.

When the two articles were written, police were looking for two men seen just before the explosion by a milkman, running from the building.

Damage from the explosion was estimated to be $30,000.

I don't know why Musitino was in or about to enter the destroyed building with a gun in his hand. I also don't know if Musitino's friend eventually was found in the rubble, if the cause of the bombing was ever conclusively determined, or if a bomber or arsonist was ever found. If I find any additional information, I'll update this article.

Another article I found in my meanderings through old newspapers that made me say "whoa!" led to my June 25, 2015, article, "Daring daylight holdup, plucky girl clerk."

* The Post-Gazette identified the fruit market as the Economy Fruit Store, owned by "George and John Crocous." If anyone can confirm the name(s) of the market's owners, please let me know.

[Update February 4, 2016:  John Domansky pointed me to this ad in the program for Ambridge's Canady-Hull Post American Legion's February 10 and 11, 1927, musical "The Bimbo," showing the address of the Economy Fruit Market was 1301 Merchant St., owned by Geo. Scourcos.

Economy Fruit Market ad
program for "The Bimbo"
Canady-Hull Post American Legion
February 10 and 11, 1927
program courtesy of John Domansky

** I believe the Press is referring to Peter D'Ambrosio, a long-time Ambridge shoe repair shop owner who owned a shop on the southwest corner of 13th and Merchant in the 1940s (and beyond?). [Update February 4, 2016: Given the other incorrect information in the Press and Post-Gazette's articles about the explosion, I'm now wondering if D'Ambrosio moved his shop across 13th St. to the southwest corner after the explosion. Or if his shop was always on the southwest corner, perhaps damaged, but not destroyed, by the explosion, and the newspapers got it wrong. Does anyone know for certain?]

*** The Press and Post-Gazette articles mistakenly refer to the Grand Hotel/Hotel Grand as the "Hotel Grant" in the articles. You can read more about the Grand Hotel in my February 24, 2014, article, "The Grand Hotel and the Moose."