Monday, May 30, 2016

Ambridge's doughboy statue dedication, Memorial Day 1930

Ambridge's doughboy statue currently stands in P. J. Caul Park, 11th and Merchant Sts., but it once stood further west on 11th St., at the entrance to the Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge, south corner. The doughboy was placed at the bridge about two-and-a-half years after the bridge was opened in December 1927.

Doughboy statue
11th St. at Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge
circa 1930s
courtesy Beaver County Genealogy & History Center

The statue was the result of a joint project of the Ambridge and Aliquippa American Legion posts.

Ambridge's Canady-Hull Post No. 341 and Aliquippa's Post No. 225 had two doughboy statues made, one for each side of the bridge. These World War I memorials were dedicated on Memorial Day 1930.

A platform was erected in the center of the bridge for the ceremony which included speakers from both boroughs, Beaver County commissioners, and representatives of district and local American Legion organizations. "Amplifiers" were placed at each end of the bridge so that even those not standing near the platform could hear the proceedings. The Ambridge High School and Aliquippa High School bands played at the ceremony.

The dedication ceremony followed parades by war veterans and "patriotic organizations" in Ambridge and Aliquippa.

The above information came from the Daily Times, April 19 and May 28, 1930.

I don't know when the doughboys were moved from their first locations near the bridge. But I do know that the original large bronze plate with the preamble of the American Legion Constitution that was on the base of each statue, was replaced on the Ambridge doughboy's base in 1950. You can see a photo of the Ambridge Memorial Day 1950 ceremony, plus read the inscription on the newer plate, in the May 25, 2014, blog post "A Memorial Day past." You will see that I originally thought that the ceremony shown in the 1950 photo might have been the dedication of the statue itself, but obviously, it was not. Maybe it was a ceremony dedicating the new bronze plate?

The Aliquippa doughboy statue is now at the borough's war memorial on Main St.

Some facts and figures:

  • The statues and bronze plates were made by the Matthews Company of Pittsburgh.
  • The original granite bases, four feet square and three feet high, were made by the New England Granite Company in Rhode Island. The price was $1,300.
  • Joseph F. Bontempo, Aliquippa, was the architect who designed the "canopies" behind each statue.
  • The cost for the complete construction of the memorials was approximately $10,000.
  • The photo shown above the caption "Statue of an American Soldier at Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge" is watermarked "E. Simantiras, Photo-Studio, Pittsburgh, PA."

Here's a photo from today's Memorial Day ceremony at P. J. Caul Park. It's nice to see that some traditions continue.

Doughboy salute
Memorial Day ceremony
P. J. Caul Park
May 30, 2016
photo credit: Alan Freed Photography / Ambridge Connection

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Decoration Day 1948 ad, Gray's Auto Store

Memorial Day was once called Decoration Day, since traditionally, that was the day the graves of military veterans were decorated in honor of their service.

So I had mixed feelings about posting this Gray's Auto Store ad, celebrating what should be a solemn day of remembrance with a sale of auto parts. But, I decided that the ad documents what the holiday has become for many Americans, a day to shop for bargains.

I'll post a more fitting photo on Memorial Day, but in the meantime, take a look back in time at auto supplies--and prices--in May 1948.

Decoration Day ad
Gray's Auto Store
453 Merchant St.
Beaver Valley Times
May 27, 1948

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Group photo: Divine Redeemer booth, Nationality Days 1966

The first Ambridge Nationality Days was in April 1966. The photo below belonged to the late Eddie Dzubak, Sr. His daughter, Lesabeth Trzcianka, says she believes the photo was taken during that first festival.

left to right in booth: Pat Halicek, Marie Dzubak, Virginia Ochman, Dorothy Roman
Divine Redeemer Church booth
600 block of Merchant St.
Nationality Days
April 1966?
courtesy of Lesabeth Trzcianka and Eddie Dzubak, Jr.

On the left side of Merchant St. you can see Perlman Jewelers, 609 Merchant St.; a business with a sign that looks like it says "Gil's" which I don't remember at all; Lee's Shoppe, 619 Merchant, which sold women's clothing; and Sun Drugs, 625 Merchant.

On the right side, you can make out a bit of the sign of Dr. Alter Steinberg's optometrist office, 608 Merchant; Krauss Jewelers, 610 Merchant; the white building to the left of Krauss was Timney's Appliances, 612 Merchant; and on the left of Timney's was the old Prince Theatre building.

Last year's 50th Annual Nationality Days probably was the last one to be held. There are no plans to hold one this year or in the future. I haven't been to Nationality Days for many years, but I heard it just wasn't the same now that there are fewer ethnic churches to staff the booths and make the food sold at them, fewer ethnic organizations to provide entertainment, and fewer businesses to help support the Chamber of Commerce which sponsored the event.

If you want to read more about Nationality Days:

The debut of Nationality Days, Part 1, May 14, 2014

The debut of Nationality Days, Part 2, May 15, 2014

Nationality Days 1983, May 15, 2015

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Miss America visits Ambridge, 1927

In 1927, Miss America visited Ambridge. In the photo below, taken at the Mackintosh-Craven Garage, Miss America is on the right. Her companion was Miss Ambridge, Stella Fallieras Bellas. The Maple Restaurant's Tom Pappas told me that Stella Bellas, his great-aunt, was the first Miss Ambridge.

Stella Fallieras Bellas and Miss America
in front of Mackintosh-Craven Garage
300 block of Merchant St.
 April 1927
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

The August 15, 1983, Beaver County Times had a "Looking Back" article about this photo. The article said that during a 1927 nationwide tour, Miss America stopped in Ambridge for the I.O.O.F. (Odd Fellows) follies and a merchants' promotion.

Although the Times article said the Miss America in the photo was either 1926's Norma Smallwood, Miss Tulsa, or 1927's Lois Delander (misspelled Delaner in the article), I believe it must be Miss Smallwood, since the Miss America Pageant was held in September, so the 1927 Miss America wouldn't have been crowned yet.

The Times article said that the photo was taken during the summer of 1927. However, another photo of the two women, obviously taken during the same visit, is marked April 1927:

Miss America and Stella Fallieras Bellas
Ambridge Country Club?
April 19?, 1927
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

I think the women's clothing is more appropriate for April than the summer, so I'm inclined to think the April date is accurate.

According to the Times article, the garage provided the Buick in the photo for Miss America to use during her visit.

Here's a better view of the car parked at the Ambridge Country Club. The sign in the window says "Miss America, I.O.O.F. Follies."

Miss America and Stella Fallieras Bellas (in car)
Ambridge County Club
April 1927
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

The garage building is still standing in Ambridge, but much altered. Many may remember it as the former Taylor's Dairy building. Currently, the building is the location of Creekside Springs bottled water company.

Taylor's Dairy
Intersection of Duss Ave. and Merchant St.
Beaver Valley Times
February 13, 1954

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Kindergarten May Altar and procession, Divine Redeemer School 1955

At Divine Redeemer School in the 1950s, classrooms always had a decorated May Altar honoring St. Mary during her special month of May. The kindergarten class of 1954 - 55 honored Mary not only with an elaborate altar, but also a procession with a May Queen, her court, and their classmates.

Here's a group photo in front of the altar. I don't know the names of all the students. If you can help fill in the blanks, please let me know.

Kindergarten class
Divine Redeemer
May 1955
photo courtesy of Margaret Barlow Kosis

Students, left to right:

Front row (floor): unknown *

Second row: Donna ?, Nancy Bohinsky, Margaret Mary Pavicic, Marlene Vukovcan, Margaret Barlow, unknown girl, Martha Farkasovsky

Third row: unknown girl, unknown girl, Antoinette Shorter, hidden/unidentifiable, Deborah Hlozek, unknown girl, unknown girl

Fourth row: unknown boy, unknown girl, Jane Presto, hidden/unidentifiable, unknown girl, Josetta Scisciani, Barbara Kutzko, unknown girl, unknown boy

Fifth row (left side boys): hidden/possibly Ronald Mazur, David Yanko, hidden/unidentifiable,

Back row (left side boys): Joseph Meshanko, Stephen Farkasovsky

Fifth row (right side boys: hidden/unidentifiable, unknown boy

Back row (right side boys): unknown boy, unknown boy


My mother, Agatha Bohinsky, helped decorate the altar. Some of the flowers came from our garden.

May Altar
Divine Redeemer Kindergarten
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

Below are some snapshots taken by my mom on the day of the procession and crowning:

The kindergarten room in the first Divine Redeemer School,** a former hotel, was the only classroom on the first floor. It had a entry door leading directly into the classroom. Upper grade students used another entrance a few feet to the right, which led into a large lobby with stairs to the upper two floors.

The kindergarten May procession wasn't a long one. It began with the students exiting through a door at the end of the kindergarten room furthest from the entrance door. That route allowed the procession to enter a hallway that led to the lobby used by the other students. The procession then left the building through the lobby door, turned left, proceeded a few steps in front of the building, then back into the kindergarten room through its entrance door.

Kindergarten boys exiting lobby doors during procession,
boy on right with rosary is David Yanko,
girl behind David is Mary Ann Shvach
Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

Marlene Vukovcan exiting lobby doors during procession
Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

May Queen
Margaret Mary Pavicic exiting lobby doors during procession

Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

Crowning St. Mary
May Queen Margaret Mary Pavicic
Marlene Vukovcan watching
Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

 May Queen Margaret Mary Pavicic
Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

Sister Alberta
Margaret Mary Pavicic, Marlene Vukovcan, David Yanko
Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

David Yanko and unidentified boy
Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

Jane Presto in front of May Altar
Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

Kindergarten students
Divine Redeemer School
May 1955
photo courtesy Agatha Bohinsky

The students I can identify in the above photo are:

Two girls seated in front left to right: Deborah Hlozek, Jane Presto

Girl holding pillow: Barbara Kutzko

back row, left to right: Joseph Meshanko, unidentified boy, David Yanko, Nancy Bohinsky (partially hidden by Barbara), Margaret Mary Pavicic, Marlene Vukovcan, Mary Ann Shvach


One thing I love about vintage small town papers is that they covered events such as a parochial school kindergarten May crowning.

May Queen and some court members
Divine Redeemer May Crowning
May 1955
Daily Citizen

Daily Citizen caption:
KINDERGARTEN MAY QUEEN CROWNED -- Margaret Pavicic, rear center, was crowned "Queen" at Divine Redeemer School kindergarten last week. Members of the court included, left to right, front -- Debra (sic) Hlozek and Jane Presto, and rear -- Nancy Bohinsky, Margaret and Marlene Vukovcan.

* The girl sitting on the floor in the group photo appears to be holding a copy of our Kindergarten "Certificate of Graduation." Here's mine:

Nancy Bohinsky'
Kindergarten Certificate of Graduation
Divine Redeemer School

** The first Divine Redeemer School was at 300 Merchant St. in a building now used by the Karnavas Vending Co. Here's what the building looked like in the 1956 Divine Redeemer Golden Anniversary book. The door on the left front of the building was the kindergarten room entrance. You can see how far the May Queen procession had to walk to return to the kindergarten room from the the main school door, to the right between two sets of windows.

Divine Redeemer School
Divine Redeemer Golden Anniversary book

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Grand Theatre

In my April 30 article about the Prince Theatre, I mentioned that its owner, Marcus (Ben) Nadler, also once owned the Grand Theatre.

I don't know exactly when the Grand opened. A 1911 Sanborn Insurance map shows an unnamed "Picture Theatre" in that location; however, the December 1, 1913, Daily Times mentioned that the Ambridge Elks would be holding their annual memorial service "in the new Grand theatre." The Grand closed around 1926 1923, and a G. C. Murphy store moved into the building at 561 Merchant St.

On a recent visit to the Beaver County Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation in Freedom, I found this gem, identified as Ambridge's Grand Theatre. You can see a bit of "Grand" above the entrance.

Grand Theatre
561 Merchant St.
circa 1914 - 1921
Beaver County Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation

I'm basing the date of this photo on the movie Brewster's Millions being advertised. While there are other versions of this movie, the 1914 and 1921 movies were the only ones which would have been playing during the years the Grand was open. I was surprised when I saw the movie's title, because I knew it only as a 1985 Richard Pryor movie.

At first, I had my doubts that this was the Ambridge Grand. Not only were there several Grand theaters the Pittsburgh area, but I also was concerned by what was written on the photo's back:

Reverse of above Grand Theatre photo

"Ambridge Between 6th and 8th on Market St, on west side of street - Grand Theater."

Not only did Ambridge never have a "Market St." to my knowledge, but also Ambridge's Grand was in the 500 block of Merchant, not the 600 or 700 block. *

However, when I compared the facade on the building in the photo to the postcard below, I felt reassured that the photo did show the Ambridge Grand, despite the mistaken street location on the back of the photo.

500 block Merchant St. looking south
circa late 1910-early 1920s **
Beaver County Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation

On the postcard's right side, the fourth building in, is the building that the late Louis Vukovcan identified as the Grand Theatre on the copy of this card that was in his collection. The facade and entryway of that building look like the building in the photo.

Grand Theatre ad
The Citizen
July 3, 1922

The photo below shows what 561 Merchant St. looked like in March 2014 after the Dollar General store, which had moved in after G. C. Murphy closed, moved to a new building in the 600 block of Merchant. According to Ambridge Connection, a new business, Just Jump, an "indoor inflatable bounce facility" will soon be opening in that building.

I've been hunting for a photo of Ambridge's G. C. Murphy for a long time without success. If you have one you're willing to share, or know where I can find one, please leave a comment.

Former Grand Theatre and G. C. Murphy's building
461 Merchant St.
March 30. 2014

Update June 16, 2016:

I've found some great new information on Ambridge's Grand Theatre!

Marcus (Ben) Nadler wasn't the first owner of the Grand. In 1914, it was owned by Nick Tragesser. The photo below is from the April 23, 1914, Pittsburgh Moving Picture Bulletin.

Grand Theatre
Pittsburgh Moving Picture Bulletin
April 23, 1914

Original caption:
Herewith is presented a picture of Nick Tragesser's fine house in Ambridge, which is a credit to the district. It has a seating capacity of 500, is equipped with everything new in the business and is enjoying a large and profitable patronage. Wieland's service is used. 

"Wieland's" appears to have been a Western Pennsylvania movie booking service.

Tragesser is named as the owner of the Colonial Theatre in Ambridge in a February 2, 1916, issue of the same publication. As far as I know, the Colonial was right next door to the Grand at 559 Merchant St.

I haven't been able to find any information yet on when Tragesser sold the Grand to Nadler, but I'll be on the hunt. Nadler owned the Grand by 1921.

Mike Winegrad, Ben Nadler, Sam Gould
Pittsburgh Moving Picture Bulletin
November 26, 1921

Original caption:
Here's a trio of exhibitors snapped at the Ninth Street film section. They are Mike Winegrad, of the Majestic, Rochester; Ben Nadler, of the Grand and Regent, Ambridge, and Sam Gould, of the Gold and Arcadia, North Side, and the Rivoli, East Pittsburgh. They are all progressive and aggressive and up-to-date showmen in every sens of the word.

Below is a full page ad for the Seltzer Music Co., Pittsburgh, which sold organs and pianos to theaters. The ad shows the interior of the company's customers, including the Grand Theatre in Ambridge at the bottom left.

Seltzer Music Co. ad
Pittsburgh Moving Picture Bulletin
December 10, 1921

I've tried to enlarge the Grand photo a bit:

Grand Theatre interior
Seltzer Music Co. ad
Pittsburgh Moving Picture Bulletin
December 10, 1921

The April 21, 1923, issue of the Pittsburgh Moving Picture Bulletin supplied an answer to some information that had puzzled me.

In my April 30, 2016 article about The Prince Theatre, also owned by Nadler, I linked to an article about Mike Kubek, Ambridge appliance store owner, and long-time movie projectionist, "Ambridge man is model worker." In the article, Kubek said the Prince closed in 1931, yet I knew it was open in the 1940s and early '50s. Had the Prince closed, and then reopened? Yes! Although I'm still confused about the years it was closed.

That 1923 Bulletin issue had a short article titled, "Ben Nadler Will Close One House and Open Another." The article said that Nadler was remodeling and enlarging the Prince which had been "closed for the past two years." The Prince, scheduled to reopen on September 1, would have 700 seats, increased from 450.

So did the Prince close in the early 1920s, reopen, and then close again in 1931? I don't know yet.

And how is the information about the Prince relevant to the Grand? Because the 1923 article concluded: "When the Prince theatre is re-opened, Ben will close and dismantle the Grand, as the building has been leased by other interests, and will be converted into a store-room."

End of update.]

Louis Vukovcan identified the first building on the left side of the above postcard as the "National Bank" building. I think it must have been the Ambridge National Bank building before that bank moved into its newly constructed building on the northeast corner of 6th and Merchant in September 1926. The only other "National Bank" I know of in Ambridge during that era was the Economy National Bank which reorganized as the Economy Bank in 1934, and that bank was on the corner of 5th and Merchant. You can see a postcard showing the Ambridge National building in the Prince Theatre article mentioned at the beginning of this post.

* [Update May 7, 2016: Barbara Carrodus suggested that the back of the card might say "Between 6th and 5th," which I can see is possible. That would be even better, because it would place the theater in the right block.]

** The reason I dated the postcard's scene as circa 1910 - 1920 is because of the double set of trolley tracks. At some point during those years, the double tracks were replaced by a single track. You can see the change from double to single tracks in my October 30, 2014, article "400 block of Merchant Street: vintage views."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Group photo: Bluebird Dramatic Club 1923

Bluebird Dramatic Club
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

I wish I knew something about this group or the people in the photo. It appears that the photo was taken on the American Bridge Company office steps, but I don't know if it was sponsored or otherwise affiliated with American Bridge. If you know anything about this group or recognize anyone in the photo, please leave a comment.

Update May 26, 2016:
It turns out that I already had some info about this photo that I'd forgotten about!

According to notes I took while visiting the Laughlin Memorial Archives in April 2016, Ambridge historian Bill Bowan made some notes on the reverse of this photo.

The notes said that the young people in this photo were Ambridge High School students. And confirms that the photo was taken at the American Bridge Company Office building.

Bowan also identified the students as follows:

First row: Earl Haskel, Edith Mytinger, Emma Opperman, Angela Foster

Second row: Margaret Hancher, Susan Manning, Virginia Hall, Virginia Grey

Rear: Ed Grey, Donald Schell, Regis Ging

Monday, May 2, 2016

Ambridge memorabilia: Ambridge Has It All!

Ambridge Has It All!
promotional pin
mid-to-late 1950s?

This "Ambridge Has It All!" pin belonged to the late Edward (Eddie) James Palsa, who grew up in Ambridge before moving out West. He attended Divine Redeemer Church and School and Ambridge High School (class of 1962). The pin was sent to me by his son, James Palsa, who lives in California.

I don't know for sure how old this pin is or what it was promoting. Bob Mikush, my go-to-guy for information about Ambridge memorabilia, says that he thinks the pin was given out by Ambridge merchants after Northern Lights opened in 1956, reminding shoppers that they didn't need to travel to Baden to shop for anything.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Junior Jaycees clean and beautify Ambridge, spring 1968

Yesterday, the Committee to Clean and Beautify Ambridge (CCBA) held its annual Spring Cleanup. In the spring of 1968, another group, the Ambridge Junior Jaycees, worked to clean and beautify the borough.

Ambridge Junior Jaycees clean in front of  the Veterans Honor Roll,
P. J. Caul Park
Beaver County Times
May 4, 1968

Times caption:
Steve Nelko and Margie Lambert take pride in their work--the community.

Ambridge Junior Jaycees clean doughboy statue
P. J. Caul Park
Beaver County Times
May 4, 1968

Times caption:
A warrior from an older age gets the spit and polish treatment from Tom Pisano, foreground, and Cliff Roehn and Darlene Alexa.
The Junior Jaycees were about 40 teens who volunteered to improve Ambridge's appearance in a number of ways, from buying flowers for P. J. Caul Park, to sweeping dirt and debris from Merchant St.--including sidewalks and the entryways to vacant stores--before that year's Nationality Days.

According to the article, the newly formed group, sponsored by the Ambridge Jaycees, was the only organization of its kind in Pennsylvania.