Peeking into the Past: Person of the Year title up for grabs

Peeking into - the Past - Judy Minsavage | January 3rd, 2018 4:42 pm


In 1964, Lady Bird Johnson wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson flew in to Avoca Airport. Why were Pittston residents disappointed by the visit?

69 YEARS AGO — 1949

A total of 187,000 nickels were inserted into the approximately 200 Pittston city parking meters during the year, totaling $9,350. Although the goal was to reach $10,000 in collections for the year, the council members were happy with the increase of $639.50 over 1948 collections. Currently, the city of Pittston has implemented Pango, an app that can be downloaded to a phone or IPad. Benefits include the ability to pay for parking without the use of coins, receiving text alerts, paying only for the time used, and updating parking time allotment in real time.

65 YEARS AGO — 1953

Members of the Pittston Junior Chamber of Commerce were coming up empty when considering who should be named the 1952 Person of the Year. It was suggested by some members that the selection be eliminated because of the “many enemies” made after difficult past choices. Others reasoned a selection would not be made since no one in the region in the required age bracket of under 35 had performed anything outstanding during the year. It was suggested by one member that a returning veteran of the Korean War should take the honor. Prior Person of the Year honors went to George Bone, William Bonser, Erminio Cefalo and Peter Adonizio, all of Pittston, and Robert Morgan, of West Pittston.

Elizabeth Vitanovec, of West Pittston, had three sons serving in the armed forces. Albert served with the Navy in waters off the Korean coast on the U.S.S. Hammer, Edward served in Korea with the Air Force and a third son was serving at an Air Force base in Colorado.

The Borough of Avoca was expecting to have an exciting year choosing candidates to run for Burgess. The high school was expected to expand into a joint school housing students from Dupont, portions of Pittston Twp. and Duryea. A $300,000 addition to the existing high school was also expected. The borough, aided by a planned all out push from regional officials, looked forward to the addition of an Air Force supply depot at the Avoca airport.

54 YEARS AGO — 1964

Thrust into the limelight on Nov. 22, 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson watched as her husband Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States aboard Air Force One. In January 1964, she undertook several trips across the country campaigning for her husband for the Nov. 3, 1964 presidential election. An enthusiastic crowd of supporters greeted Lady Bird as she disembarked an American Airlines plane at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport in Avoca, made a brief speech. During the campaign, she also embarked on a whistle stop trip throughout the southern states, ignoring the warnings of many that each state could not promise her safety. On a train dubbed the Lady Bird Special, the First Lady traveled through eight southern states that were in such racial turmoil it had been deemed unsafe for President Johnson to go there himself due to the Civil Rights Act he had signed into law just a few months earlier. The legislation eliminated the so-called “Jim Crow” laws and guaranteed blacks access to all public accommodations and the right to equal employment opportunities. Responding to concerns about assassination attempts, Lady Bird said, “I don’t think assassination is part of my destiny.” Still, organizers arranged for a separate engine to precede the Lady Bird Special by 15 minutes to clear the track of potential bombs.

49 YEARS AGO — 1969

Paul Cadden, manager of the Bureau of Employment Security, announced that the economic picture was bright, citing only 3.3 percent unemployment in the Greater Pittston area. A significant increase in wages offered by local industries contributed to the positive outlook for 1969. John P. Corcoran, Employment Service Managers, stated a demand for workers was at an all-time high. Many businesses implemented on-the-job training to entice applicants. The bureau in cooperation with the Pittston Area School District offered vocational training. The project was financed under the Manpower Development Training Act of 1962. The act authorized a three-year program aimed at retraining workers displaced by new technology under which 200,000 people were recruited. Rather than renewing the Manpower Act, Congress passed The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which created the Job Corps and the Work Incentive Program.

39 YEARS AGO — 1979

Bill Pope had carried mail for the Pittston Post Office for 35 years and was training a substitute for his job. He didn’t mind, though,; the substitute was his daughter Cathy Pope who became the first female letter carrier at the Pittston Post Office. According to the, A Women’s Program instituted by the first woman Postmaster General Cecil Harden identified women with potential for advancement and provided training to succeed in management. When the program began in November 1974, women comprised 20.8 percent of the Postal Service, the number increased to 25.1 percent by 1980. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as of 2016, median pay for Postal Service Workers is $56,790 per year. There were 502,400 postal jobs available in 2016 but jobs are expected to decline by 13% through 2026.

29 YEARS AGO — 1989

Tretha Milkanin, of Plains, and 15 other students of Wyoming Seminary traveled to Russia for a two-week tour. Milkanin noted the people seemed “tense” and not very friendly in the capital city of Moscow. In Uzbecki, she found the Soviets more responsive to American tourists. Milkanin enjoyed the culture and warmth of Leningrad where she and a friend were invited unexpectedly to join a wedding reception held in their hotel. The cleanliness of the cities and the people’s curiosity of anything American impressed her the most. The Prime Bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church asked Milkanin to write an article of her experiences; she did and it was published in Straz, the Polish National Union weekly.

27 YEARS AGO — 1991

The newly formed Veterans of Vietnam War Post 66, Pittston held its first meeting. The first officers of the group were Joe Tavaglione, commander; Charles Infantino, political affairs officer; John Reedy, treasurer; Frank Donahue, vice commander; Rosemary Klemish, secretary; Joe Giannone, Adjutant; Jim Marrotto, chaplain; and Fred Sickler, sergeant at arms.


In 1964, while on a campaign tour in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson flew in to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport in Avoca, made a brief speech and went on to visit Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Many Pittstonians were disappointed that he City of Pittston was bypassed.

This day in history

1901 — New York stock exchange trading exceeds two million shares for the first time in history.

1934 — Six thousand pastors in Berlin defy the Nazis insisting that they will not be silenced.

1944 — The U.S. Air Force announces the production of the first jet-fighter, the Bell P-59 Airacomet.

1945 — U.S. air ace Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. is killed in the Pacific.

1955 — Marian Anderson becomes the first African American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House.

1975 — Vietnamese troops take Phuoc Binh in a new full-scale offensive.

1979 — Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge are overthrown when Vietnamese troops seize the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

1985 — Japan launches its first interplanetary spacecraft, Sakigake, the first deep space probe launched by any nation other than the United States or the USSR.

1990 — Safety concerns over structural problems force the Leaning Tower of Pisa to be closed to the public.

1993 — The Bosnian Army carries out a surprise attack on the village of Kravica in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War.

1999 — The impeachment trial of U.S. President Bill Clinton opens in the Senate.

Born on this day

1800 — Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the United States

1911 — Butterfly McQueen (Thelma McQueen), actress best known for her role as Scarlett O’Hara’s maid Prissy in “Gone with the Wind” (1939); won a Daytime Emmy portraying Aunt Thelma, a fairy godmother in “The Seven Wishes of Joanna Peabody,” an ABC afterschool special

1912 — Charles Addams, cartoonist, creator of “The Addams Family”

1948 — Kenny Loggins, singer, songwriter; half of the Loggins and Messina duo

1957 — Katie Couric, journalist, author; has hosted news and talk shows on all three major TV networks.
Pittston Area students enjoyed their annual winter formal dance in the high school cafeteria in 1972. Some of those in attendance from left, Matty Amico, VinceAnn Crecho, Sam Alba, Lorraine Norris, Lou Spiccioli, Mary Ellen Delaney, Donna Mesko, Bill Griffith, Fran Guilliano, Pat O’Boyle, Roxanne Greco, Frank Licata. Area students enjoyed their annual winter formal dance in the high school cafeteria in 1972. Some of those in attendance from left, Matty Amico, VinceAnn Crecho, Sam Alba, Lorraine Norris, Lou Spiccioli, Mary Ellen Delaney, Donna Mesko, Bill Griffith, Fran Guilliano, Pat O’Boyle, Roxanne Greco, Frank Licata.

Peeking into

the Past

Judy Minsavage

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at