Tuesday, October 31, 2017

400 block of Merchant St., 1904, 1909, 1910, and 1915

Merchant St. "Looking north from Charles St" (now 4th St.)
Vaughn Arnold collection
Laughlin Memorial Library archives

The 1904 date on this photo means it was taken the year before Ambridge was incorporated. The 400 block of Merchant was still unpaved. It appears that there were sidewalks of some kind, but dirt from the street and/or empty lot may have washed over it.

As best I can determine based on other early photos and vintage postcards, the building with the Coca-Cola sign still stands. I can't find an address on the building, but I think it would be 429 Merchant. It's the dark brick building between City Plumbing and the building at 435.

The huge painted Coca-Cola sign advertised Tingley's Pharmacy. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see "LEY'S," part of the Tingley's front sign jutting over the sidewalk. Currently, you can still see part of a faded painted sign near the top of the 429 Merchant building, but it doesn't match up with the lettering near the top of the Tingley's ad. If anyone gets down to that part of Merchant and can figure out what any visible letters might say, please let me know. Perhaps the last two letters are "UE" as they appear to be in the final two postcards below?

Note the small sign on the front corner of the Tingley's building showing that it had a Bell telephone.

I can't clearly make out what the sign says on the building to the north of Tingley's, but it may say "Laundry." There was a "Chinese laundry" near that part of the block, so that would fit.

On the opposite side of the street, the closer, three story building is no longer there. In the distance is the Ambridge Savings and Trust Company at 5th and Merchant Sts. It was later remodeled and became the beautiful Economy Bank of Ambridge, razed in 1984, and now the location of WesBanco's drive-through windows.

The 1909 postcard below gives a better look at the Tingley's ad.

400 block of Merchant St. looking north

You can still see the edge of the Coca-Cola sign in the postcard below. I can't make out the postmark year, but I'd say the card is circa 1910:

400 block of Merchant St. looking north
circa 1910

And another bit of the sign in a slightly later postcard. I wrote about the Briola Bros. grocery, shown on the right, in a June 20, 2017, blog post, "Briola Bros. store, Ambridge's first grocery":

400 block of Merchant St.
dated Sept. 9, 1915

You can see other early views of the 400 block of Merchant in the October 30, 2014, post, "400 block of Merchant Street: vintage views."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, 1948 - 1981

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses
1026 Melrose Ave.
Daily Citizen
August 25, 1954

Daily Citizen caption:
KINGDOM HALL -- Jehovah's Witnesses gather each Tuesday, Friday and Sunday evenings at Kingdom Hall, Melrose Ave., Ambridge to study and discuss the Bible. The congregation number approximately 150. To be a members (sic) of the congregation one must go forth and preach from the Bible unless one preaches he or she is considered a visitor of the congregation and not a member. The group meets each Sunday morning, at Kingdom Hall, at 9:30 a. m. and leaves at 10:00 a. m. on a round of Bible preaching--they also go forth on other mornings to perform similar instruction. All members of the congregation are preachers and a group of special servants direct the teachings, handle business matters and conduct the affairs of the group. Robert Marciniak is the congregation servant in Ambridge. The local group erected the Melrose Ave., edifice.
The congregation started in Ambridge in 1924, at first meeting in private homes, later in rented halls on 5th St. and at 1133 Merchant St. In 1948, the members of the congregation built the Kingdom Hall building at 1026 Melrose Ave. in 60 days. (Spang-Chalfant newsletter, Nov. 1957, "Featuring the Ambridge Churches.")

The Melrose Ave. building was a one-story, light red brick building. Built on a single narrow but deep lot, the design of Kingdom Hall made the most of the space available, covering almost the entire lot except for a little bit of a front yard. A woman who had gone there said that because the building wasn't very wide, but it was really deep, the interior made her think it looked like a bowling alley.

The congregation moved to its present building, constructed by volunteers, in the Fair Oaks section of Leet Township at 194 Ambridge Ave. in 1981.

I remembered the Melrose Ave. Kingdom Hall and wondered what had happened to it. I didn't see it when I visited Melrose on one of my trips back to Ambridge. The building now at 1026 Melrose Ave. didn't look at all like Kingdom Hall. Was it razed after the congregation moved to Leet Township?

It was only after I looked at a satellite view of the building at 1026 showing a narrow, but very deep building on the lot, that I realized that Kingdom Hall had been hiding in plain sight, disguised as a two-story apartment building with a modern facade and an extension towards the sidewalk on the left-hand side. The only feature visible from the front that gives a clue that it was once Kingdom Hall, is the original right-side front window.

1026 Melrose Ave.
March 27, 2014

Friday, October 6, 2017

Lions Boy Scout Troop circa 1938 - 1941

When I began visiting Laughlin Memorial Library's archives to look through the late Bill Bowan's photo albums, I never expected to find a photo with a relative in it. But in two old newspaper clippings of photos of a boy scout troop, I did. Maybe.

I don't know when the photos were taken or when and where these clippings were published. Bowan's hand-written notes about them say "1938" for both photos, but the one without "1938" in the publisher's caption has "1941" handwritten on the front of it. If you know anything about the origin of these photos, please let me know.

Bowan's notes identified some of the scouts in the photos. I was surprised when I saw "Leon Gaus" listed among the names. Leon Gaus was the name of my maternal grandfather's younger half-brother. Although my grandfather spelled his last name "Gause," his siblings spelled it "Gaus."

I am assuming the "Leon Gaus" in these photos is my Great-uncle Leon, but I don't have anything to confirm that. However, if there might have been another Leon Gaus in the area, my Great-uncle Leon was born in 1924, which puts him at the right age to be a boy scout in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Lion's Club Boy Scout Troop
newspaper clipping
courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Original caption:  THE LION'S CLUB Boy Scout Troop as they were in 1938. Members and leaders were attending an outdoor meeting.

Bowan's notes about this photo title it "1938 - Lake Lynn W. Virginia"

The list of identities as provided by Bowan:

1. Gaus Leon
2. Levy Rob
3. W. Chiappala
4. Frank Paulakovich
5. Eddie Hrico
6. Pete Sudar
7. James Pappas
8. Mike Lazorishak
11. Geo Salata

2 - Kneeling
1. Vince Sniady
2. Casmir Drugoz
3. Harry Kuntz
8. Bill Poutas

3. Standing
1. Benny Barsyz
7. Walter Joyce
9. Doc Hall
10. Frank Kloiber?

At the bottom right of the note "Mike Rusko" is printed.

Here's the second news clipping photo. Note "1941" written in the bottom right corner.

Leonard Rothermel and Boy Scout Troop
circa 1938 - 1941
newspaper clipping
courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library archives

Original caption:  LEONARD ROTHERMEL, Ambridge High School teacher, and Boy Scout Troop of long ago.

At the top of Bowan's notes about the photo above, he wrote something I can't decipher. It looks like"Economy Golden Rose" followed by what appear to be page numbers. Anyone know what that might mean?

He identified the scouts in the photo, which he titled "Rothermel Scout Troop 1938," as follows:

1st row:
1. Frank Kloeber
3. Steve Lubic
5. Chas. Grosdeck
6. Andy Shulick

2nd row:
1. Bill Tartar
2. Rich Powell
3. Jim Pappas
4. Ed Matzie
5. Leon Gaus
6. Paul Pawlack
7. Bernard Hrico

3rd row:
1. Mike Orend
2. Ed Hrico
3. Mike Rusko
4. Hugh Thom
5. Paul Mikesner
6. Eddie Beaman
7. Vincent Sniady
8. Herbert Hopkins
9. Leonard Rothermel

If you recognize any of the unidentified scouts in these photos, or know more about the Lion's Boy Scout troop, please let me know.

Leon Gaus died in November 2014.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Briola Bros. Ice Co.

The Briola brothers, Frank and Michael, not only owned and operated the first and largest grocery store on Merchant St., they also ran a successful ice-making company for many years.

The Briolas' ice-making business began in 1904 in the Ambridge-Economy Brewery Co. building, once located on 11th St., immediately east of where the Trinity School for Ministry* is now. The 1924 Economy Centennial book, Economy of Old, Ambridge of Today, said that while the Briolas' ice business was in the brewery building, it could make up to seven tons of ice per day. The brewery went bankrupt in 1913.

The Heinz Co. later bought the former brewery building for making malt vinegar, and perhaps that was the reason the Briolas built, and moved to, a new building for their ice business. Heinz started vinegar production in April 1920, a month after the Briola Bros. Ice Plant on 10th St. and Glenwood Ave. began selling ice.

The Briolas began making making ice for wholesale only in its own plant in March 1920. The Economy Centennial book says that the new ice plant, with seven employees, was "the best equipped ice plant in this section, the capacity being 45 tons daily."

Briola Bros. ice ad
Ambridge Citizen
March 27, 1925

The small print in the ad above says:
For prompt delivery and satisfaction, come to us. We aim to please our customers at all times. 
We handle ice for all occasions, including the cracked ice, which is used for glass refrigerators, ice cream manufacturing and for many other purposes.
Preparations have been made in our plant increasing the capacity which enables us to supply Ambridge, Fair Oaks and Leetsdale.
Ice books on sale at our office, also obtainable from our drivers.
I don't know what "Ice Books" were, other than they obviously let purchasers buy ice at a discount. Anyone know what they looked like and how they worked?

The Ambridge Supply Co. was once at 1st St. and Park Rd., opened by George A. Mytinger in 1910. (Genealogical and Personal History of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Volume 1, 1914).

Why am I mentioning the Ambridge Supply Co. and posting a photo showing its horse and wagon below? Because while that may be the Ambridge Supply Co.'s wagon, I believe that the building it's stopped at is the Briola Bros. Ice Plant building. Compare the door and window locations with the later photos of the Briola Ice Co. below.

Ambridge Supply Co. wagon at Briola Bros. Ice Plant
circa early 1920s
Courtesy Ambridge Borough

Thanks to the sign, there's no doubt about the identity of the building in the photo below. The "Belt-Line" mentioned in the information about the building's location was the spur rail line that once ran through Ambridge from French Point, across 14th and 11th Sts., behind the businesses on the east side of the 900 block of Glenwood Ave., and ended at 8th St. Some may remember it as the rail tracks that ran behind the west side of Ambridge High School's football stadium.

Briola Bros. Ice Plant
10th and Glenwood at Belt Line
Courtesy Ambridge Borough

At some point, the name of the business was changed to Briola Ice Co. I don't know when it closed, but the photo below is dated 1958. None of the people in the photo are identified. Do you know who they are?

The people in the photo have been identified by members of the Briola family:

Left to right: Mike Briola, Dick Briola, David Briola, Billy or Bobby Briola, Louise Briola, and Raymond Briola.

Briola Ice Co.
1010 Glenwood Ave.
Courtesy Ambridge Borough

While the Briola Ice Co. may be gone, the building is still there, although it now uses the address 421 10th St. As far as I could tell, it was occupied when I took the photo below in 2014. The current business advertising that it's in the building is Muscles' Gym.

Former Briola Ice Co. building
421 10th St.

Frank Briola was the victim of an attempted "Black Hand" extortion attempt in 1912. Usually, victims were told some harm would come to their businesses if they didn't pay the demanded amount. The May 28, 1912, Daily Times, said that the demand was for $6,000 and plans were arranged for police "to watch for the black-handers...but Biola (sic) failed to carry out his part of the agreement and the plans fell though."

However, there was apparently a second extortion attempt:  A November 16, 1912, Pennsylvania State Police report said:
At the request of U. S. Postal Inspector Craighead, of Pittsburgh, Sergeant McLaughlin and detail, of Troop "A" investigated "black hand" case in which the victim, one Frank Briola, of Ambridge, Pa., was requested to place $3,000 at a designated spot between Ambridge and Beaver Falls. By the use of a decoy package, the detail were successful in apprehending two Italians, Joseph Candilaro and Dominic Fiore.
Both men were tried, Fiore was found guilty, but Candilaro was acquitted.

* Many older Ambridge area residents may remember the main Trinity School building as the A & P, although much renovated.