Monday, May 27, 2019

Ambridge memorabilia: Slovenski Narodni Dom token

Slovenski Narodni Dom token
credit: Al Travis

Al Travis said he found several tokens like this among his late father's possessions. They're from Ambridge's Slovenski Narodni Dom (S.N.D.), also sometimes called the "Slovenian Auditorium," "The Slovenian Club," or "the triangle building."

If you lived in Ambridge from the late 1940s through the early '70s, you probably remember the triangular S.N.D. building at the intersection of Merchant St. and Beaver St.

Slovenian Auditorium
120 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen Trade Area Directory

Al said, "I think they were used when someone had bought you a drink, but you already had one. Not certain though." Does anyone know for sure of the tokens' purpose?

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The opening of the Ambridge Borough Pool

Pool side of bathhouse
Ambridge Borough Pool
Borough Park
Daily Citizen
May 29, 1942

Such a joyous and long-anticipated event. The newly constructed Ambridge Borough Pool was opening!

Opening day was Memorial Day, Saturday, May 30, 1942.*  The formal dedication of the pool would be later, on July 12, 1942.

The caption under the above photo says:
The new Ambridge Community pool, under construction for several years will be opened to the public tomorrow. Built at a large cost it is the most complete in this section of the state. Facilities are in keeping with the wide expanse of water. In other words the accommodations are ample. Another view of the pool can be seen on page 10.
Here's the other view:

New Ambridge Borough Pool
looking south from diving pool end
Ambridge Borough Park
Daily Citizen
May 29, 1942

The opening was announced in a full page ad in the May 29 Daily Citizen at a time when newspaper pages were huge! The ad featured the graphic at the top of this page, the pool photo immediately above, and the following:

The Daily Citizen of Monday, June 1, 1942, reported that the first person to enter the water had been John D. Davis, a borough painter, who had taken a swim ten minutes after midnight on "Friday" (but it's not clear whether this meant Friday or Saturday morning). He was followed by over 1,300 other people that first weekend--after the pool actually opened--the majority of them children.

The children of Ambridge, as well as some adults, had been waiting for so long for a public pool in Ambridge.

In the early 1920s, the Ambridge Playground Association had sponsored a pool on the 800 block of Duss Ave., near where the Junior High School was soon to be built. But that pool had been short-lived.

Frustrated waiting for another public pool to be built, in the summer of 1938, the children of the First St. neighborhood built the iconic Dead-End Pool in polluted Big Sewickley Creek. That pool was also short-lived, quickly closed and drained by health authorities. But that action led to a protest march by the children, leading to a bond issue for the purpose of building a new public pool being approved by voters in the November 1938 election.

Construction of the new public pool began in early 1939 by the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.), the federal program that provided jobs for the unemployed on public works projects across the U.S.  Built on property now known as Walter Panek Park, construction wasn't completed until 1942. (You can see photos of the very early days of the pool's construction by clicking on the link at the beginning of this paragraph.) The photo below shows how far construction had gotten by 1941.

Ambridge Borough Pool
circa May 1941
credit: Edmund Silla
photo courtesy of Jay Silla
 used with permission

Then finally...finally!...the new pool was finished and opened for swimming, despite the entry of the U.S. into WWII the previous December. Such an exciting day!

The July dedication ceremony featured the presentation of the pool to the Ambridge Borough by a W. P. A. representative, a Navy seaman speaking on the benefits of water sports, and a swim meet.

The Ambridge pool was the source of summer fun and fond memories for swimmers, and non-swimmers, from Ambridge and nearby communities, for several generations. But increasing maintenance costs needed by the aging building, combined with lack of funds to repair and upgrade the pool, eventually led to the pool's not opening in the summer of 1991. That year turned out to be beginning of the neglected pool's long, slow, ugly death, despite several proposals to reopen it.

The pool was demolished in 2009.

You can see more photos and read more memories of the pool by clicking on "Swimming pool" in the "labels" menu on the left.

* Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 for decades until it was moved to the last Monday in May in 1971.