About Ambridge Memories 1950 - 1970

It's rather surreal to go back to Ambridge, Pennsylvania, my hometown, and find so much that I remembered from my childhood in the '50s and '60s is no longer there.

Schools, gone. Churches, gone. Businesses, gone. Swimming pool and rec center, gone. And of course the mills, gone.

Some of the buildings I remember have vanished and only empty lots remain. Too many are vacant, even derelict with broken windows and sagging roofs. A few buildings have been re-purposed. (I was especially amused to see how many "beer gardens" appear to have been converted to homes or apartments.)

Eventually, those of us who lived in Ambridge during the baby boom years will also be gone. But before then, I'd like to capture some of the memories of those of us who remember Ambridge in the '50s and '60s.

Some of my memories of growing up in Ambridge are fond ones. Some are not so pleasant. Most are just memories, neither good nor bad, of a town and time that were, but are no more.

If you have memories about a topic to share, please add them to the comments. If you have photos of Ambridge or of Ambridge memorabilia from the era, I'd love to post them here. If you want to suggest a topic for me to write about, contact me via email (see my profile on this blog), Twitter, or the Facebook page for the Ambridge Memories 1950 - 1970 blog.

--Nancy Knisley


  1. jd aka john domansky
    since this area has nothing entered yet, i will put my 2 cents in starting 1950 june after graduating from boys town high school in omaha neb, went thre in jan 1949, as a junior, went thru a trade school for pottery, under an englishman, a noted potter that came here for father flanagan, put 1 1/2 yrs in the 12 to 4 pm class, they had 3 big walk in kilns, so much was poured cast cleaned painted & fired that sold at the sovenir shop in front of trade school, this pottery is very collectible now, the englishman knew his colors & did he put a great product out, the shop was about 200 ft long & 75ft wide, potters wheels were by foot, pouring tables etc. some very talented kids came out of there,

    back to ambridge, 1950 & 6 mos till i turned 18 so i had odd jobs written about elsewhere here. 1st winter was the big snow storm & no traffic was out, so i had ice skates & skated up & down merchant st. recall shoveling snow off two roofs by ambridge theater, stayed in ambridge til 1954, layoff from HH was a killer, no work anywhere.
    pre 1950 was a great time, played football in front of 293 14th st, a ball was rolled up paper & tied w/string, game lasted a s long as the thing held up. there were storm sewers in mid block, no grates to stop small dogs & cats from falling in sewer, next step was a pry bar to get cover off top of sewer & a big guy hold me by my ankles & lower me down to grab the poor animal, there were at least 3 i recall. in a heavy rain 14th st flooded about 12" high & we waded in that.sewer was in front of the janicki house, 13th st side. played marbles in a driveway next door, dirt w/2 cement runways to garage, , all this time old economy was in plain view, a good place to see old stuff the cellers were scary. big wine casks etc.another janicki family lived on 14 th st side in nice brick bungalow. close to hacker & domansky tailor shops.

  2. jd aka john domansky

    nancy, what is surreal is have been in contact, (going there) starting in 1935 or so & finally pulling up roots in dec 1954, but coming back often ever since then, to visit mom in glen osborne, thru to 1980s, after she died 1980s, we would come back 2 times a year to see ambridge & stop at the pa turnpike exit in cranberry & park our 14' covered cargo trailer & come down in large dodge van, window van, after the visit we went on to lancaster county to stay for 2 weeks sprimg & fall, to buy antiques at auctions in the area, until 2010 last time there, we knew the lanc area as good as locals & went to many sales, 5 & 6 on a saturday & most every day had 1 or 2 going, came home full up & sold at an outdoor antique mart west of chicago for 17 yrs & have sold at antique malls in area, most all in calumet area, since 1980s (still at the best one in indiana)& went to tx once to do a 5 day sale, rich texans bought well. we sold almost the full load we took down. have been selling also on ebay since 1998 & have met the husband of a fair oaks otrahalik buying ambridge postcards. i have much ambridge stuff PCs & pics my mom had of divine redeemer & elsewhere in ambridge, if nancy starts to post old ambridge again I will send her more to post so you can see old ambridge since the 1930s, so many memories & so little time to talk about them. every day i recall more about businesses & people, when you have had enuff tell me, i will stop.

  3. jd aka john domansky

    one area i have not seen here yet covered or mentioned. the ambridge carnivals, the one that sticks in my mind is the one that setup from the 1930s to the late 1950s or so. on the open field on 16th st east side,(where there also was a sandlot baseball field, other BB field was up north same side, that had a backstop & at times lime marked baselines too) carnival was big, charged admission to most, kids snuck in, they had it all, many rides & sideshows w/barkers house of mirrors, freaks, dancing girls, motorcycle wall of death, he started on a small flat area then ran up the side of a wall in a circle for about 5 minutes, what a thrill, rides were many, ferris wheel, tilt a whirl spinning wind mill type w/2 torpedo type cars, duck pond, mouse hole bet on. live mouse find a color & win, cotton candy, food . toss a ring around a coke bottle & win a cane, this was the big show & used up all of 16th st block, merchant east side. opened a hydrant for water, now adays its not safe to drink, those days, so what.

    another area i recall was on 9th & merchant east side across from church. not big but was fun too,

    another comes to mind, was an open area near byersdale or baden or legionville, not sure, it was big too, i recall that one in the 1950s, when i had money to spend, working at hh robertsons, started in december 1950 making $1.00 an hour. there may have been another carnival elsewhere too, not sure, maybe someone older than me recalls where??? over 80 gang???
    good thing about carnivals , it was a good chick magnet. like parades. or boro park weekend picnics.

    1. jd aka john domansky

      completly forgot, most times when 16th & merchant carnival setup, many local kids were hired in some kind of job, i worked the 5 milk bottle knock down & win a good prize, not too many prizes were given, because carnie guys were used to not losing much, the bottom 3 milk bottles were weighted, & not easy to knock down, only the best guys goy em all off the stools, i was told, Bsure heavy ones are on bottom, or else, got your butt kicked out for helping a friend win a prize, stand up kats were tough too, what ever game you tried you lost 9 out 10 times, have seen macho guys spend big bucks, basket basketball shoot was a nerve game, had to use the right english to make it stick in basket. while the guy talked to you. the coin toss on a plate was very tough, i was taught how by a carnie & won 8 out of 10 in ambridge & state fairs too, win once & you are banned, won 2 things at an Indiana state fair in indy & the guy almost had a fit, what you don't learn at a carnival.

  4. Thanks so much for taking the time to set up and maintain this site. I left Ambridge in 1967 for the Army and rarely get back there. When I did, I was sad to see how much has changed. The older I get the more nostalgic I get about the area in which I grew up and this site is wonderful to feed that need. Great job!

  5. I'm not sure if you have an account on Facebook, but here's a link to some photos my dad took in Ambridge in the late 1950s and early 1960s: https://www.facebook.com/Conan1982/media_set?set=a.10152566582558587.1073741884.692133586&type=3

    1. I was able to see the photos. They're wonderful. Thanks for sharing them with me.

      I just knew some people had to have photos taken at the pool. When I started the blog, I asked and asked, but no one said they had any.

      May I use the photos in the future if appropriate?

      What was your dad's name?

      The Ambridge Memories blog has its own Facebook page:


      If you enjoy this blog, please "like" the Facebook page.

  6. Walt Conti
    Graduated from Ambridge High in 63. Worked in the steel mills after that where employees would ask, "Why become a teacher when we make more money than they do?" Sadly all five mills are now gone. Occasionally go back but the town truly is part of the 'rust belt.' As a child I remember small circuses being set up near 'French Point' as well as the carnivals. My family in the 1950 snow storm (mentioned by another writer) took many pictures of the huge drifts that we played in. We lived on Park Road when there still was the park with tennis courts and areas to play ball in the park. Later it was paved over and became a parking lot for the customers going to Merchant Street. While in school, I was a stock boy at the Stork's Nest on Merchant Street owned by high school teacher Moe Rubenstein, the famous coach of many winning seasons for the Ambridge football team. Beaver Valley produced many pro-football stars such as Mike Lucci, Toni Dorsett, Joe Namath, Mike Ditka.
    The parades on the Fourth that started on Park Road and then turned up to travel down Merchant Street were 'awesome.' Several high school bands, tanks, soldiers, fire trucks, floats, the kind of parades we do not see anywhere now in our towns.