Mahanoy City at the Beginning of the Great Depression
Mahanoy City had reached it population peak sometime after the 1910 census recorded almost 16,000 persons living within the borough limits. The 1920 census showed a decline in population as did every census taken since then. The borough's population today is just over 4,000 or one- fourth of the peak in about 1915.
The stock market crash of October 1929 heralded the start of the Great Depression which would continue until the advent of the United State's entry into World War II in December of 1941.
The article below appeared in the Record American in 1931, but the statistics are for the year 1930, the first full year of the Depression. The 1930s began an out migration from Mahanoy City that has continued to the present time. This population decline coincided with the decline of deep mining and the closure of many of the dozens of collieries that rimmed the Mahanoy Valley. Thus the population decline not only affected Mahanoy City but many of the "patches" , where the residents were not only affected by mine closures, but also the onslought of strip mining operations which destroyed whole patches in some instances.
The greatest population decline occurred between 1930 and 1960. During those three decades the population declined 40 percent or over 6,000 persons from the peak population.These number reflect not only persons leaving the borough, but also fewer births because of the Depression and then World War II. Even the post WWII "baby boom",which began when soldiers returned in 1946, could not stem the tide of population decline in the borough.
Despite the Depression, the article below shows that the borough was an active economic community in 1930 with almost 500 businesses in operation- food stores totaled 200!!. This does not include many clandestine liquor establishments which were still in operation since Prohibition would not be repealed until December of 1933.
The picture below was taken in 1930, the same year as the census business report above.You can view a large pdf version by clicking on the picture.
In the larger view you can see clearly many of the businesses, churches and schools of the community in 1930.
The main focus is the West End Park. This is how the park looked when Babe Ruth visited seven yeras earlier. The large home bleachers had not yet been constructed by WPA workers.
The D Street school is clearly visible just east of the park. The Vulcan Colliery is visible on the mountainside three miles southeast of the west end of town.
Click on the image below to expand the view.
Youngsters of Today 1951-1952
The pictures below appeared in the Record American in December of 1951 and 1952. These kids would go on to be Mahanoy Area graduates of the 1960s. Take a look back in time as the Golden Bear graduates of the 1960s anticipate a grand reunion to be held at Lakeside in late September.
Monday, April 13th marked the 100th anniversary of my dad's birth. To help Mahanoy City residents and natives who have moved away remember Bill Coombe I've compiled a tribute which can be accessed at the link below.
I hope you'll take time to view the video. There are many pictures of Mahanoy City and surroundings taken during Bill Coombe's fifty-seven years in the area : the East End Park, Lakewood, Kaiers, St. Mary's Byzantine Church,the Elks, Marian High School and more. I've also included twenty music clips of my dad singing and playing his ukulele.
Happy Birthday, Dad
Note:The music was recorded shortly before Bill's sudden passing in 1972.
The audio portion of the Power Point presentation begins on the fourth slide.
Click on the link below.
Who Do You Recognize From the 1967 Easter Parade?
The Case of the Missing Windows
The historical society has been contacted recently by a number of persons who were interested in information about Beth Israel Synagogue at the southwest corner Catawissa and Mahanoy Streets.
Beth Israel's cornerstone was laid in 1923 and the synagogue opened in 1924. The synagogue served a vibrant Jewish community in Mahanoy City until it closed in 2003.
A few years ago someone entered the synagogue and removed the stained glass windows. The windows ended up in a newly constructed synagogue on Long Island. The story of this mystery was recently documented by Dickinson College professor Ted Merwin in the first article below.
The second link will take you to an article by Rabbi Akiva Males who visited Mahanoy City in 2012 to research the growth and decline of the Jewish community here- a pattern that he found was repeated in many small communities across the United States.
Click on the links below to access the stories
Printed below is a copy of the letter which was recently sent to all active historical society members. If we missed you in the mailing or if you wish to join the historical society, you can download a membership form below. Our main source of income is membership dues and donations.Thanks to all those who have supported the historical society in the past.
Please help is to continue to preserve the heritage of the Mahanoy area.
A Letter to Our Members
Greetings from the officers of the Mahanoy Area Historical Society.
Last year our 150th anniversary year was exceptionally busy. We launched a new Images of America book Mahanoy Area Revisited and began in earnest to collect original photographs from families and organizations. We’re even getting some from “newcomers” to town who are tearing out walls and finding treasured artifacts from the turn of the century. After being scanned and researched, many of these photographs are posted on our website. Our webmaster, Paul Coombe, has the full responsibility for the website. Be sure to check out the extensive collection of photographs from North Main Street. You need not type in the web address, just Google “mahanoy history”.
About two weeks before the anniversary week, we took over and now rent a second room in the Rhoades Center where we have set up our research room. We have four computers containing our searchable Record American newspapers, scanned copies of Maroon and Black and Corinthian yearbooks (completed 2014), copies of John Ambrosia’s cemetery records, the Nugget (Shirley Ryan’s project), directories of town (some from the late 1890s) and the latest one from 1948. Frank Selgrath’s lifetime work of recording the history of our area is contained in numerous binders in our bookcases. Some of the collections of photos and information that have been digitized and are now available are from: Elwood Young, Augusta Dillman Thomas, Bill O’Brien, Maurice Pedriani, Jim Shaup, the Victor Schertzinger family, the Kaier – Lieberman family, the Miles - Shock family, the Domson family, the Williams/Holman family, John Walashunas family, Luther Holt family, H.J. Heiser family, Charles Palulis, Francis Chesko family and many more.
We have expanded our “team” with new volunteers. Ed Conrad, retired news reporter, opens the Museum and Research room every Thursday. Never too old to learn, Ed can search our newspapers and our Board of Health records and turn them in to fascinating stories. One on the 1918 flu epidemic is particularly interesting.
Up until a week ago Tom Ward held down the Friday contingent, making sales, planning programs and doing publicity. Tom is now recovering from a recent stroke. Please remember him in your prayers. We look forward to his return to active participation in the workings of the historical society.
Virginia Motsko has joined our effort to record and file thousands of of photos, artifacts and newspaper clippings that we have in our boxes. Anne Marie Evans is also a meticulous sorter and arranger who is frequently in the room on Thursday.
Looking back at our goals for the year we are close to being on target. Don Coombe loaned us a clever scanner that records images from slides and movie film into individual, digital photos - many clear enough to print or post on the web. In this way we are saving 16mm film, too deteriorated to play, but still able to be copied. We are interested in acquiring more 16mm film to be scanned.
Now that the MCHS and MTHS yearbooks have been scanned with one or two exceptions, we will now begin to digitize the Areascope yearbooks. A particularly exciting find was five years of the Mahanoy City’s Tri Weekly Record from the 1890s on microfilm held in a facility in Hazleton. The microfilm has been digitized and we have added 3,200 newspaper pages to our electronic library. We are now pursuing other sources of microfilm to be digitized.
Our enclosed brochure is our attempt to spread the word on our organization and facility. Please share it with your neighbors. Also keep us in mind if you have old photographs of your family that may help us chronicle Mahanoy Area’s history. By searching through your old photos, slides and movie film you can help us in our mission to preserve images of the Mahanoy area for generations to come.
Peg Grigalonis, President Marylou Henninger, Vice President
Betty Ann Chescattie,Treasurer Peg Coombe, Secretary
Paul Coombe Webmaster Ron Andruscavage, Videographer/ media expert
Memorial Day 1952
The pictures below were scanned from a 16mm video using a Wolverine Slide Scanner. The historical society has a number of reels of 8mm and 16mm videos that are being previewed and prepared for eventual digitization. Part of the previewing process sometimes involves looking at individual frames of film using the slide scanner. I was able to identify the marchers in the picture below with the help of Marilyn Miller Evans ( MTHS-'53 ) and the 1952 Maroon yearbook.
Click on the pictures below to expand and/or view the slide show.
If you recognize anyone in the pictures below please let me know by using the CONTACT page of this web site.
McCann's School of Business Summer Program 1963
In the summer of 1963 students from McCann's School of Business Summer Program gathered at the Mansion Restaurant for the group photo pictured below. I can recognize many faces in the group which is made up mainly of students from Mahanoy Area and Immaculate Heart High Schools.My brother is pictured as well as a few of my classmates who were about to begin their fresman year at IHHS. How many do you recognize?
Click on the picture to enlarge.Then click the "X" on the upper right to enlarge further.
Seventy-seven Years Ago
Members of Mahanoy City’s Tyrian Club ( Masonic social club) enjoy an evening of “hausey” at Lakeside Grove on Tuesday, August 17, 1937. Hausey was played in many of the bars and clubs of Mahanoy City and the surrounding “patches” and a game of hausey was a common sight at picnics in any one of the many groves and parks that surrounded the town.
Pictured here from left to right are: shoe store owner Thomas Tregellas ( 1866-1966), Dwight G. McCann ( 1889-1956) president of McCann’s School of Business, druggist Phaon Snyder ( 1880-1976), barber Frank Oschman (( 1887-1963), Dr. Christian Gruhler , Shenandoah ( 1870-1950) and Dr. Fred Wagner ( 1876-1955), a well- known dentist who was burned out of his practice in the “Dipper Building” in the Memorial Day Fire of 1945.
Note: Hausey is played with a deck of twenty-four cards. The jack of trump is the high card ( e.g. Jack of Spades ) and the other jack of the same color is second high card ( e.g. Jack of Clubs ) followed in order by the A-K-Q-10-9. Hausey can be played individually or with a partner. In the picture above there are two games with four players each going on at the same table.
Forty-six Years Ago
Remembering Summers Past
To see a large version of the photo click the ling below.
1937 Memorial Day Parade
Killed In Action - Viet Nam War
38 Years Ago- 1976 - Mahanoy City Celebrates America's Bicentennial
Lassie League 1963
In the summer of 1963 the Mahanoy City Lassie League players gathered in the East End Park for a group picture that would appear in the Centennial Souvenir Book later that summer. Click on the picture to view an enlargement.
The First House in Mahanoy City
The Story of a Log Cabin by Joseph H. Davies (1943)
Three years after the Victoria Theatre opened and one year after the first "talking picture" - Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer opened in New York, movies with syncronized sound came to Mahanoy City when the John Ford movie Four Sons opened at the Vic on October 1, 1928.
Four Sons wasn't a "talkie". Instead it had sound effects and music which were part of the film. This spelled the end of the days of the accompanying pianist. During the silent film era movies were accompanied by an a piano or organ player .
In Mahanoy City Michael Slowitsky and Charlie Domson were employed in this capacity. Slowitsky later became famous with the publication of his tune Once in Awhile which was a number one hit in 1937 for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.
Charlie Domson worked his way up through the ranks at the Kaier Brewing Company and eventually became president.
"The Movietone sound system is an optical sound-on-film method of recording sound for motion pictures that guarantees synchronization between sound and picture. It achieves this by recording the sound as a variable-density optical track on the same strip of film that records the pictures. Although sound films today use variable-area tracks, any modern motion picture theater (excluding those that have transitioned to digital cinema) can play a Movietone film without modification to the projector. Movietone was one of four motion picture sound systems under development in the U.S. during the 1920s, the others being DeForest Phonofilm, Warner Brothers' Vitaphone, and RCA Photophone, though Phonofilm was primarily an early version of Movietone".Source: Wikipedia
Click below to view a short clip from Fours Sons and/or Michael Slowitsky's Number 1 Hit Once in Awhile played by Tommy Dorsey
Former Historical Society President Frank Selgrath has contributed thousands of hours of research in compiling hundreds of binders filled with historical and genealogical information. These binders are now located in the new historical society room annex in the Rhoades Building. Frank continues to research historical records and newspapers on a daily basis in the tenth decade of his life. He's a savvy computer user and today forwarded the collage of Record American New Year's banners seen below. Happy New Year, Frank
December 16, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the acceptance of the Petition for Charter for the Borough of Mahanoy City by the courts of Schuylkill County, thus establishing the legal existence of the borough. You can read the petition, view a list of the petitioners and a short biography of each person by going to the Mahanoy City Charter page.
75 Years Ago
1942 Fire on East Centre
Thanks to Janet Schock Kline for allowing the historical society to scan numerous pictures taken by her uncle , Bill Miles, in the 1930s and 1940s. Below are pictures from the Central Bowling Alleys fire in 1942 along with the Record American's coverage of the story. I'm amazed that some store fronts remain similar to the way they looked fifty or even one hundred years ago - even after a destructive fire.
100 Years Ago in Mahanoy City
During Sesquicentennial Week a time capsule which had been buried in 1988 for Mahanoy City's 125th year celebration was unearthed.The Mahanoy Area Histoical Society received permission from the Sesquicentennial Committee to scan pictures which had been placed in the capsule 25 years ago before they are buried again along with items collected for the 150th celebration. I scanned about 140 pictures and will put them on this site in three groups. The first two groups can be viewed by clicking on the link below.
Picture of East End Park Pool taken by Elwood M. Young in 1928
“This is the second swimming pool in the East End Park. It was larger than the first by one thousand square feet. It was built in 1924 and dedicated on August 1, 1924.( Note: The first pool was dedicated on July 4, 1915.) Length from east to west was 116 feet; width from north to south was 73 feet. The depth ranged from 3 to 9 feet going east to west.
This pool was very popular for many years, and convenient for everyone…making it unnecessary to travel to Lakeside or Lakewood for a swim. Hundreds of children learned to swim at this pool…with swimming instructors giving lessons each morning during the summer school vacation periods. Special swimming events were held, especially on 4th of July and Labor Day holidays, with expert swimmers of town and vicinity participating. At various occasions champion U.S. swimmers were a featured attraction. Thousands of people would witness these events…taking a picnic basket to spend the day “At the park”.
Unfortunately the usefulness of the East End Park Pool came to a close in the late 1930’s. The settlement of mine workings under the park caused an opening on the surface which ran through the pool, making cracks approximately 2-3 feet in width in places, and the wall heaving or sinking in other sections.
The bronze tablet monument on this East End park picture was unveiled on June 11, 1920. The tree on the left was one of the memorial trees planted for each of the dead WWI veterans whose names appear on the monument. The trees were planted and dedicated on May 30, 1919. The World War I Monument is now in the German Protestant Cemetery situated on the Civil War Plot.”
Elwood Young Collection- Mahanoy City Public Library
East End Park 1940s.
History of Mahanoy City
Written in 1933-34
Most of the early history of Mahanoy City was taken from the account written by Mrs. T. H. B. Lyon. A great deal of information was obtained
by Garfield Lewis, Jeanne Faust, John Malone, Josephine Unsinn, Jane Glaudel, Elsie Oliver, Robert Lowe, Bertha Tulin, Jane Maher and Anna Ryan, from interviews with Mrs. R. P. Swank, Mrs. T. L. Thomas and Mr. William H. Boyer.
The history was compiled by Theresa Lusckus,
Lillian Bonavage, Charles Welsh and Charles Doorley. The typists were Theresa Lusckus, LillianBonavage, Freida Tulin, Leodania Wysocki, Josephine Matalavage and Anna Gnall.
Click on the Link Below to go to the History Page
Mahanoy City Then and Now - 100 West Centre Street
Daniell Brothers hardware store at 100 West Centre Street in the early 1890s. From left to right are: Bill(?) Moyers, Charles M. Daniell and George M. Daniell.
The Daniell Brothers moved from the anthracite coal region of Mahanoy City to the bituminous coal fields of West Virginia sometime after this picture was taken.
The store later became the O'Connor hardware store. See the picture below. The digitized picture was sent by Hanna Maurice, a descendant of the Daniell Brothers
This picture of O'Connor's hardware store at 100 West Centre Street was taken from a film that was produced in 1916. The film was found in the Lincoln School Building when the building
and its contents were sold at auction a few years ago.
The film was donated to the historical society by Larry Levy and digitized. The digital copy, 1916 Movie Memories runs approximatelt eighteen minutes and shows scenes of
Lakewood Park and Mahanoy City. I "captured" the image above from the digital copy.
Daniell Brothers and O'Connor's more than 100 yeras later. The bottom floor has a brick face, but notice the cornice work around
the second floor windows, and compare it to the 1892 picture.
There is still evidence in downtown Mahanoy City of the town's historic past.
The Last Duel In Pennsylvania
The last duel in Pennsylvania was fought on March 26, 1931 on a mountainside north of the 8th Street bridge in the vicinity of Pleasant Hill.
To read the full newspaper account from the March 27, 1931 edition of the Record American click on the links below.
Some Recent Articles That are Now in the Archives
Here a the links to some recent articles.