Peeking into the Past: Brakeman’s quick action at Coxton Yard saved lives

Peeking into the Past - Judy Minsavage | July 20th, 2016 10:50 am

In a recent “Peeking into the Past,” it was noted that at least 60,000 lives were saved due to an alert broadcasted by the WPTS radio station warning residents to evacuate during Hurricane Agnes. Despite losing everything along with countless other residents of the Wyoming Valley, Rick Shannon, traffic manager; Paul Grimes, chief announcer; and Milan Krupa, chief engineer, stayed at the helm keeping those inside and outside the flood zone informed. Other staff members who worked around the clock were Scott McAndrew, Tom Welby, Emery James, and Eleanor Castelli.

Joe Middleton, of Laflin, formerly of Pittston and WPTS newsman at the time of the flood, wanted to be sure we mentioned Mrs. Rose Florey Fiorani, co-founder/owner of Midway Broadcasting, Inc., licensee of WPTS radio; Fiorani’s son-in-law, Al Castelli, station manager; and Norman David Cohen, who put in countless hours to inform listeners with updated reports. Middleton also informed us that WPTS co-owner, Angelo W. Fiorani, was ill during the flood of ‘72. He passed away within a month of the flood on July 17, 1972 at the age of 71.

Question: In 1987, what symbolic object was to be transported across Pennsylvania on July 12 and to be received in Pittston on July 30?

1957 - 59 Years Ago

Robert Hoban of Pittston was brakeman on a 16-car train that was pulling into the Coxton Yards of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Suddenly he felt a tremendous vibration under the car in which he was riding. He peered into the early morning darkness and saw a wide hole open up just feet away from the forward moving train. He yelled to the rest of the crew to jump — they did, but just seconds before two forward cars were swallowed by the large hole that was estimated at 200 feet in diameter and more than 300 feet deep. It took 31 gondola cars and an estimated 30,000 cubic yards of material to fill the hole, which was determined to be caused by mine subsidence. Hoban was credited for saving the lives of Arnold Embleton, conductor; James Hughes, fireman; and William Sweeney, trainman.

1967 - 49 Years Ago

Lieutenant Commander William B. Rennie Jr., of Pittston, received the Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star from the Republic of Vietnam for extra ordinary gallantry in missions in combat. The citation read, “As a pilot of jet aircraft in Fighter Squadron 211 aboard USS Bon Homme Richard, Rennie demonstrated exceptional bravery and coolness on 150 combat missions against the enemy. Rennie was on his fourth combat tour in Vietnam.”

Volunteering for a dangerous mission near Bong Son, Vietnam, Captain Charles J. Lepore, son of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Lepore, West Pittston, found himself maneuvering his UH-ID helicopter into the center of a firefight between Vietcong and American troops. In complete darkness and guided only by tracer fire from the unit perimeter, Lepore landed the chopper filled with emergency ammunition and medical supplies to units engaged in heavy fighting. For this act of heroism, Lepore was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The Battle of Bong Son was the second major battle for the First Cavalry during Vietnam War.

This summer the new location-based tech game “Pokemon Go” is bringing youngsters and adults outside to track various Pokemon characters. In 1967, all age groups were participating in various outdoor competitions such as softball, volleyball and horseshoes. Playgrounds in Greater Pittston were offering boys and girls softball leagues, baton twirling, arts and crafts, outdoor checker tournaments, and inter-community athletic competitions. Playgrounds were supervised and open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. daily, except Saturday and Sunday.

1977 - 39 Years Ago

The Pittston Chapter 1206 Women of the Moose, held a College of Regents chapter night at which time Grace Dowd of Pittston received a red stole for three years as a regent and Mary Cosgrove of Pittston Township received a red tassel for one year. Other attending regents were Elizabeth Harmon, Beth Dankulich, Pauline Piazza, Edith Keim, Mary Bender, Mary Rosencrance, Iva Walsh, Caroline Guarnieri and Joan Pribula.

The first annual West Pittston jogging tournament was held with a total of 39 runners participating. Although the heat and humidity was not conducive to a four mile run, the participants, ranging in age from 13 to 52, prevailed. First place winners in their respective divisions were Sue Krum, Elaine Yurek, David Martin, Moe Jones, Tom O’Brien, Ethel Carvatta and Bob Cicon. Bill Vernosky of Pittston came in first overall with a record time of 20 minutes and 4 seconds. The youngest participant was Tommy Doran, 13, of Duryea; the oldest was David Martin, 52, of West Wyoming.

1987 - 29 Years Ago

Believing that nearly 2 million gallons of toxic oil was yet to be drained from the Butler Mine Tunnel, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the 7,500 foot tunnel to its Superfund list. Companies contracting with Hudson Oil Refining Corporation did not determine the manner in which Hudson was disposing of their hazardous waste. It was later discovered that over the years the company dumped the hazardous material it collected from its customers, into a bore hole that led to the Butler Mine tunnel. Half of the 33 companies involved agreed to pay for environmental studies at the tunnel. Spills from the tunnel into the Susquehanna River in 1979 and then again in 1985 led to the 30 million dollar clean up.


An Olympic-style torch was lit on July 12, 1987 in Erie and then carried through the streets of 50 Pennsylvania communities before arriving in Pittston on July 30, it was scheduled to arrive in Wilkes-Barre by August 6. The torch signaled the beginning of the Keystone State Games. Some of the participants in the torch run were Laurie Brogan, State Rep. Tomas Tigue, John “Ace” O’Malley, Kirby Shimp, George Fullmer and Carmen Falcone. Each community received a personalized ratification documenting its participation in the torch run.
WPTS radio personality Joe Middleton, left, and Paul Grimes, WPTS chief announcer, sorting through 45’s in circa 1970. Both men were instrumental in keeping the Wyoming Valley up-to-date during the Agnes flood of 1972. radio personality Joe Middleton, left, and Paul Grimes, WPTS chief announcer, sorting through 45’s in circa 1970. Both men were instrumental in keeping the Wyoming Valley up-to-date during the Agnes flood of 1972. Submitted photo

Peeking into the Past

Judy Minsavage

Reach Judy Minsavage at 570-991-6403 or on Twitter @JudithMinsavage.