Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Romano's Market

You could smell Salvatore (Sam) Romano's market before you saw it, especially when the weather was warm and the door was open, as the odors wafted along Merchant St.

Romano's, which opened circa 1940, specialized in imported food, most prominently Italian and Greek, but you could find ethnic foods eaten by just about every nationality group in Ambridge. And if Sam didn't have the item or ingredient you wanted, he'd try to get it for you.

Sam Romano in Romano's Market
703 Merchant St.
Beaver Valley Times
February 13, 1954

Times caption:
'I CAN GET IT FOR YOU' -- That's the slogan of Salvatore (Sam) Romano, proprietor of Romano's Market in Merchant Street, Ambridge, where foods from all points of the globe can be purchased. The slogan explains how. Romano's Market grew from a small grocery [to] its present eminence and unique status as a food store catering to patrons of practically every nationality.

I wish I had a photo of Romano's storefront, with its baskets and open barrels of food piled high on the sidewalk, and the entryway hung with strings of garlic and dried mushrooms, and ropes of sausages. And always, the source of the most dominant and unforgettable odor, dried cod (baccala). Most fascinating to me as a child were the barrels of large live snails which I'd watch crawling over damp straw.

Sam Romano at Romano's Market
Beaver County Times
July 3, 1964

Times caption:
SUCCESS STORY -- Ambridge food store owner Samuel Romano dips into a barrel of olives outside his Merchant Street store. Romano, who came to America from Sicily over 50 years ago, has kept his tiny specialty market virtually unchanged in the 24 years he has operated it. He has met successfully the challenge of the larger, self-service supermarket chains.

Exotic aromas emanated from inside the store too: the pungent smell of ripe cheeses; the spicy smell of salami, pepperoni, and other dried sausages; a heady mixture of a variety of herbs.

Need some preserved eels? You could get them at Romano's. Have a yen for some pickled pigs feet? Romano's had those too. Back in the day, you usually couldn't buy feta cheese in the chain groceries. But you could get it at Romano's. And long before olive bars appeared in some chain supermarkets, you could find an astonishing selection of varieties of olives at Romano's.

My mom bought her first pizzelle iron from Romano's.

According to the 1954 Beaver Valley Times article, Romano started in the produce business in Braddock. Then he and a relative opened a small food store on 4th St. in Ambridge before Romano moved to his 703 Merchant St. location two years later. Over the years, Romano's went by a number of variations of its name: Romano's Market, Romano's Foreign and Domestic Food Store, Romano's International Market, but the variety of the merchandise --and the odors--remained the same.

Romano's Foreign and Domestic Food Store ad
Beaver Valley Times
February 13, 1954

Sam Romano died suddenly in November 1973. Ni's Wok Chinese Food Carryout is the current business at 703 Merchant St.

Ni's Wok
703 Merchant St.
June 23, 2013
credit: Nancy Knisley

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Liberty School

Liberty School
5th St.
dated Sept. 3, 1931

Liberty School once stood on the north side of the 5th St. hill between Duss Ave. and Pine St., just east of Ambridge's older Harmony School. Harmony School may be remembered by some as St. Veronica High School, which leased the building from the Ambridge School District after Harmony closed as a public school.

The section of map below shows the location of the two schools along 5th St. The street at the bottom is Duss Ave. Pine St. is at the top. Harmony School is the lower of the two larger pink shapes; Liberty is above.

Location of Liberty and Harmony Schools
Sanborn Insurance map

The 12-room Liberty School, designed by architect W. Ward Williams, was built as an elementary school in 1917-1918 for $60,000, the next-to-last public elementary school to be built in Ambridge. Only Anthony Wayne School was built after Liberty.

Like Ambridge's other elementary schools, Liberty had a playground, fondly remembered by those who grew up in the neighborhood.

Liberty School
5th St.
Daily Times supplement?
August 10,1929
Louis Vukovcan Collection

Liberty and Harmony apparently were operated as a single school, at least for a while.

I found two news clippings with photos taken at Liberty School.

Firefighters visit Liberty School
Beaver Valley Times
May 22, 1954

Times caption:
THRILL OF A LIFETIME -- Ambridge fireman Russell McCutcheon and Walter Jovanovich show first grade Liberty School children of Ellen Brown's class the workings of the new ladder fire truck. Several boys remarked they are going to be firemen when they grow up.

Sixth grade weather station
Liberty School
Beaver County Times
May 4, 1960

Times caption:
WEATHER STATION -- Bernard Di Paola, sixth grader at Liberty School, Ambridge, records the weather change on a chart as Sandra Aquino, left, and Carol Spec, both vice presidents of the sixth grade, watch him register the change. The weather station was constructed by the class and Bernard is in charge of recording the weather three times each day.

"Liberty Grade School, Ambridge"
5th St.
Daily Citizen
August 25, 1954

Both Liberty and Harmony Schools were razed in 1968, and the Ambridge Towers property is now located where the two schools once stood.

Ambridge Towers
500 Beaver Rd.
Google Street View

Thanks to Bobby Aloe for the Liberty School postcard.

I know some of you like to see the back of postcards:

Liberty School postcard

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Morton Chevrolet & KDKA election results ad, 1948

In 1948, the technology that provided election results wasn't as up-to-the-minute as it is today. Voters relied on radios, or their daily papers, to find out the election's outcome.

According to the November 2, 1948, Beaver Valley Times, that evening's KDKA election results radio broadcast would be the 28th anniversary of the first public radio election returns broadcast in Beaver County. Even reporting the election returns on the radio was quite the process back in 1920:
The returns were broadcast by KDKA, Pittsburgh, in its initial regularly-scheduled service and were received by the Daily Times, forerunner of the Beaver County Times, in Beaver.

Reception of the returns was made possible by Walter Barnhart, head of the Barnhart radio and electric store in Beaver, who built and operated the receiving equipment and amplifier used by the newspaper. No loud speakers were available, but Mr. Barnhart devised an amplifier by using a large megaphone loaned by Beaver high school.
A large crowd listened to the broadcast at the office of the Daily Times on Third street.
Morton Chevrolet, KDKA election results ad
Daily Citizen
November 1, 1948

1948, the year of the ad above, was also the year of the upset election in which the polls had predicted Republican Thomas E. Dewey would win the presidential election; but the polls were wrong, and Harry S. Truman became president. Truman was famously pictured gleefully holding up the erroneous November 3, 1948, Chicago Daily Tribune, with the large banner headline "Dewey Defeats Truman," and reportedly said, "That ain't the way I heard it."

Even though Dewey won Pennsylvania's presidential vote, the Daily Times reported that Ambridge had voted 2 - 1 for Truman.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Sacks Ladies Store

I always thought Sacks' Art Deco facade with its second floor display window was so wonderful. While I usually like the original facades of Ambridge's old Merchant St. buildings better than any updating, I am smitten with Art Deco.

533 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
August 25, 1954

According to the August 25, 1954, Daily Citizen, Sacks' owner, Charles Sachs, established the store in 1934. Before moving to 533 Merchant St., the business was at 517 Merchant.

Like a number of Ambridge stores of that era, Sacks had a signature tile entryway, not always appreciated and properly maintained by more recent owners.

Sacks' tile entry
533 Merchant Street
July 2009
credit: Bill Orlowski, used with permission

I don't know when Sacks closed. Charles Sachs' 1978 obituary said he'd operated Sacks for 35 years, so until 1969 if the 1954 Daily Citizen article is correct. However, the obituary also said he'd retired five years before he died, which would mean around 1973. And of course, Sacks could have stayed open even after Sachs retired. If you know when Sacks closed, please leave a comment.

While the tile entry and some of the Art Deco touches around the windows remained in July 2009, the front facade of the building was virtually unrecognizable as the former Sacks building when Bill Orlowski took the photo below. It's the building to the right of Anderson's Candy store.

529 and 533 Merchant St.
July 2009
credit: Bill Orlowski, used with permission

A new business was "coming soon" in March 2014.

533 Merchant St
March 30, 2014

Before that new business could open, the 533 Merchant building was heavily damaged by a July 6, 2014 fire.

533 Merchant St. fire
July 6, 2014
credit: Larissa Dudkiewicz/Ambridge Connection
used with permission

The October 2014 photo below shows the building in the process of being razed.

533 Merchant St.
October 3, 2014

The site is now a vacant lot.