Peeking into the Past: River adventure turns terrifying

Peeking into - the Past - Judy Minsavage


In 1964, Pittston city Police Chief Joseph Delaney promised a crackdown on what group of individuals, claiming they were engaged in questionable activities occurring on Main Street in the late night and early morning hours?

1952 – 66 YEARS AGO

Sgt. Merle Levey, of West Pittston, was chosen Airman of the Month at National Airport in Washington D.C. It was the second time Sgt. Levey was honored with the award. He was named Soldier of the Month at the same station in 1951. A graduate of west Pittston High School, Levey enlisted in the Air Force in 1950.

1960 – 58 YEARS AGO

Many times in Peeking into the Past, we like to focus on the Sunday Dispatch Inquiring Photographer, who would bravely walk the streets and ask residents to answer a weekly question readers would submit to the Dispatch. The photographer began to notice residents would cite various reasons why they would not care to answer the questions. One resident, in response to a question concerning Cuban President Fidel Castro stated, “I can’t say anything about that; my brother is collecting unemployment compensation.” Another question about state sales tax elicited this response from one resident: “My cousin is working for the state,. I don’t want to get involved about taxes, the government might get after me.”

1961 – 57 YEARS AGO

Pittston Kiwanis Club members Ronald Woods, Paul Riffle, Willard Hunter, Howard Fear Jr, Harry Schmaltz, Joseph Quinn, James Ayre, Dr. Charles Kuchel, Robert Barber, Robert Anderson, Dr. Joseph Miller, Frank Felice, Everett LaBarre, George Spohrer and Harold Traher held their annual Guidance Conference which was attended by an estimated 1,350 students from the Greater Pittston area. The conference was designed to advise students preparing for employment after graduation. Professor R.J. Templin, superintendent of West Pittston public schools began the conference in 1939. The club’s success in aiding thousands of students was so widely known and it had received inquiries from all parts of the country to set up similar conferences.

1962 – 56 YEARS AGO

It was determined that all of Duryea Borough was situated over water due to abandonment of pumping of local mines and mines in Lackawanna County. Water in the Chittenden Street area was rising at the rate of a half inch a day, and conditions were becoming critical to residents living in Old Forge. The Bureau of Mines responded with a plan to drill boreholes, one in the bed of the Lackawanna River 300 feet north of Union Street Bridge in Old Forge and one in the City of Pittston. According to the website, the Old Forge bore hole drilled by the Army Corps of Engineers drains 100-150 million gallons of abandoned mine water every day. In addition, it relieves a mine pool with a surface area of Lake Wallenpaupack.

1964 – 54 YEARS AGO

Two teenage boys, Myron Suchodolski and Joseph Moran, of Pittston, decided they were up for a Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn adventure that almost turned deadly. The boys, along with an unnamed companion hiked along the river to the Coxton Yards of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The boys came upon a boat and quickly boarded, leaving the third fellow on shore. As the boys stepped into the boat, it quickly came loose from its mooring and was carried by the swift current toward the main section of the swollen river. Hearing the cries of the friend on shore, railroaders converged at the scene and called police. Near the Pittston Junction, the little boat carrying the youngsters came to an abrupt halt as it hit a cluster of trees and sunk, leaving the teens holding on to tree limbs, their legs dangling in the rushing muddy waters. Their cries for help were heard by many and soon the shoreline was cluttered with police, railroad workers, firemen and residents. Fireman Al Tompkins, of Pittston, spied Jim Northrup and Richard Henning, of Mehoopany, in a motor boat a short distance away. Shouting to the men, Tompkins related the boys’ whereabouts. The boatmen immediately headed towards the lads and, within minutes, Suchodolski and Moran were rescued. Northrup and Henning, who used a 35 horsepower motor on their boat, said if the youths had been carried to midstream instead of the path they had taken, they would surely have been swept away by the swift current.

1974 – 44 YEARS AGO

Robert A. Fumanti, curriculum director at Wyoming Area High School, announced the success of a pilot program utilizing the Mini Elective Program for English students in their junior year. Students were permitted to choose nine-week focus courses such as Creative Writing, Journalism, Shakespeare and Drama among others rather than follow the traditional English program. Over 90 percent of the students responded favorably to the program and wished to continue it in their senior year. Teachers P.J. Melvin, department chairman; Lucille Colandra, Jerry Taroli, Ed Yarmel, Bob DiPasquale, Carol Rauh and Sandi Vici participated in the program. The school had plans to extend the mini elective courses to include seniors in the coming year.

1981 – 37 YEARS AGO

It was announced the Greater Pittston Area would lose 41 public service jobs in 1981, totaling $292,419 in salaries. The drop in employment was the result of the Reagan administration’s freeze on hiring of public service workers under the Nixon administration’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. The program offered work to those with low incomes and the long-term unemployed as well as summer jobs to low-income high school students. The intent was to impart a marketable skill that would allow participants to move to an unsubsidized job. It was an extension of the Works Progress Administration or WPA program from the 1930s. The U.S. was undergoing a deep economic recession; President Reagan felt CETA was rife with nepotism and corruption. Luzerne County would have to eliminate a total of 143 public service jobs by October 1981.

1994 – 24 YEARS AGO

Pittston podiatrist Dr. James Kane was named Irishman of the Year by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and was to be honored at the 80th annual dinner on March 17, 1994. Dr. Kane had operated his practice for 42 years in the Penn Park Building on Main Street. Dr. Kane and his wife, the former Ann Durkin, had raised five children. He was a World War II veteran and a member of the President John F. Kennedy Council #372 Knights of Columbus. The organization’s 104th annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner will be held on Saturday, March 17, at the Woodlands Inn and Resort. Recently, the Sons held their past presidents dinner honoring past presidents of the organization, including Kevin O’Brien, Bob Calpin, Terry McMahon, J.J. McFarland, P.J. Melvin, Bill Burke, Lee Moneforte, Paul Leonard, Patrick Gilligan, Bill Williams, John Gilligan, Joseph Heffers, Patrick Bilbow, James Rooney and Edward Hart. Organized in Philadelphia, PA in 1771, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick is in its fourth century and now celebrating its 247th anniversar. The society is the second oldest incorporated continuously meeting Irish organization in the United States.


Pittston Police Chief Joseph Delaney promised a crackdown on teen girls, who were caught loitering and participating in questionable activities in the city during late night and early morning hours. Several girls found on the street at various late hours were picked up and questioned, identified and reported to their parents. “This,” said Chef Delaney, “is going to be a real crack down on a situation that seems to be getting worse as the nice weather arrives.”

This day in history

1665 — A new legal code is approved for the Dutch and English towns in America, guaranteeing religious observances unhindered.

1824 — The U.S. War Department creates the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Seneca Indian Ely Parker becomes the first Indian to lead the Bureau.

1863 — Union troops under General Ulysess S. Grant give up their preparations to take Vicksburg after failing to pass Fort Pemberton, north of Vicksburg.

1865 — Union General William Sherman and his forces occupy Fayetteville, NC.

1888 — A disastrous blizzard hits the northeastern United States. Some 400 people die, mainly from exposure.

1907 — President Teddy Roosevelt induces California to revoke its anti-Japanese legislation.

1969 — Levi-Strauss starts to sell bell-bottomed jeans.

1990 — Lithuania declares its independence from the Soviet Union.

Born on this day

1731 — Robert Treat Paine, Declaration of Independence signer

1908 — Lawrence Welk, orchestra leader

1926 — Ralph David Abernathy, civil rights leader, an associate of Dr. King

Peeking into

the Past

Judy Minsavage

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

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