In 1960, after St. John the Evangelist High School was severely damaged by fire, “hundreds of curious people” searched the ruins to find an object that was mysteriously missing. What was everyone searching for?
1950 – 66 Years Ago
A New Jersey man reported that he had been forced at gunpoint to drive three men from Trenton, New Jersey to the Avoca Bridge in Dupont. After reaching the destination, his captors let him go, unharmed. He gave a detailed description of the men to the Dupont and Pennsylvania State police after which a search of the area was conducted. Coming up empty, the state police contacted the New Jersey State Police, asking them to inquire about the man. Within a few days, they were informed by the New Jersey bureau that the supposed captive’s story was false. Apparently the Jersey fellow had concocted the scenario to hide a “bit of philandering” from his wife.
The Pittston Township School Board announced it had received a check for $10,000 from the State Department of Public Instruction for payment of six weeks’ worth of teachers’ salaries. It was hoped that payment of the month-and-a-half worth of salaries could be made by the following day, or perhaps even the next.
An official report of the Eagle Hose Company listed the Pittston Stove Works fire as the worst since Pittston’s Cash Store block fire in 1917. Battling bitter cold nighttime temperatures, firefighters from Niagara, Pittston, Pittston Township, West Pittston, Duryea, Hughestown and Jenkins Township joined Eagle in trying to contain the inferno. Homes located on Broad, Tunnell and William streets were ignited from the embers raining down on the neighborhood. Firemen were given hot coffee, sandwiches and doughnuts by local neighbors as they battled the blaze throughout the night.
1960 – 56 Years Ago
The West Pittston High School Rams basketball team captured their first league championship in the 83-year history of the school. Starting players on the team were Leon Obrzut, Ron Searfoss, Al Kaminskas, Mike Cefalo and Jim LaNunziata. Team coach was Jimmy Atherton.
Thomas F. Doyle of Pittston became the first person in Pittston to own a 50-star American flag. Doyle was a former commander of the John D. Stark Post, American Legion. The flag design was one of thousands submitted for consideration after Alaska and Hawaii were declared states in 1959. The selected design was created by 16-year-old Robert G. Heft, of Lancaster, Ohio, who was known as the “Betsy Ross” of the 50-star flag. in 1958, Heft submitted his design that included the proposed 49th and 50th states of Alaska and Hawaii represented as stars. Heft’s design was chosen by President Dwight D. Eisenhower because he actually stitched the flag together instead of submitting a drawing.
1970 – 46 Years Ago
Wyoming Area High School students Joanne Sidorowicz, Thomas Frew and Mary Portelli were selected to participate in the Region II State Chorus and Band. The students were selected through auditions held at Northeast District Band and Chorus festivals during the year.
Sgt. Michael Rakowski and Sgt. Paul W. Baclowski were childhood friends while growing up on Chittenden Street in Duryea. After graduating high school in 1968, they entered the service. Both serving in Vietnam, Rakowski was a member of the 1st Infantry Division and Baclowski was with the 9th Infantry Division. In 1970, Rakowski was given the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flights and the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in ground operations against hostile forces. Baclawski received the Silver Star for gallantry in action while on patrol near Vinh Conh. Although wounded Baclawski maintained his position and continued to fight along side his men.
1980 – 36 Years Ago
Wyoming Area High School senior Erin Evans took home a gold medal after breaking a previous Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District II swim meet record at the Wyoming Valley Conference District II diving championships. Evans not only took first place, but beat her nearest competitor by more than 30 points.
At the height of the St. John the Evangelist High School fire in 1960, the school’s bell tower crumbled and fell onto the already burgeoning amount of burning debris. After the flames were extinguished, those sifting through the rubble could not find the bell, that had been forged in 1887 in a foundry in Troy, New York. The Sunday Dispatch staff decided to investigate a little further and discovered the bell had fallen into the school landing at the westerly end of the second floor. It rested at the top of stairway.
This day in history:
1962 — The John Glenn for President club was formed by a group of Las Vegas republicans.
1953 — In a Cambridge University laboratory, scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA.
1979 — Mr. Ed, the talking horse from the TV show “Mr. Ed,” died.
1983 — “M*A*S*H” became the most watched television program in history when the final episode aired.
Reach Judy Minsavage at 570-991-6403 or on Twitter @JudithMinsavage