Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the Sunday Dispatch on April 8, 2012.
1961 – 51 YEARS AGO
Local historian Charles A. McCarthy, in his chronicle of the Civil War military history of Greater Pittston, cited the Pittston Rifle Company. The infantry unit commanded by Captain John Bradley, First Lieutenant Charles H. Flagg and Second Lieutenant Cyrus K. Campbell, left for Harrisburg on Aug. 22, 1862. Captain Bradley was promoted to Major in the 142 Pa. Vol Regiment and fought at Fredericksburg in December of that year. Three days after his promotion to Brigade Inspector of the 142nd, Captain Flagg was killed at the battle of Gettysburg.
The “ladies of Pittston” presented a hand-made silk flag to Company M, Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, also known as Schooley’s Battery. The unit left for battle in 1862 with 144 names on its roster. Battery M fought in defense of Washington DC and after that joined Grant’s Army at the Battle of Cold Harbor. The unit carried the flag throughout the war.
Vince Wasczak, George Dobilas, Joseph Keating, Chester Faleski, Jerry Bleyer, Jimmy Best, Ned Linnen, Angelo Liborio Marcino, William Granahan, Mike Curatilo and Patrick Aquilina, members of the Pittston High School Key Club, completed the painting of the high school gymnasium. The young men painted the sidewalls, floors and lines on the basketball court. The finishing touch was a large red “P” in a white circle at mid-court.
Joseph Sewatsky closed his barber shop on North Main Street in April 1, 1961, 60 years to the day on which he began his apprenticeship. Sewatsky remembered putting in 85 hours a week opening at 7:30 a.m. and closing around 10 p.m. He sometimes worked until midnight to accommodate those who worked different shifts. He owned shops in Pittston Junction, Tenderloin Section and the Flat Iron Building and remembered styles such as the pompadour, crew cut and ducktail. Born in Lithuania in 1885, Sewatsky came to America in 1893, married Mary Andruzis and had two sons, Albert and Joseph Jr.
1971 – 41 YEARS AGO
Edward Carroll, general chairman at the Centennial Headquarters in the Klimek Building, reported the Borough of Avoca was preparing to celebrate its 100th birthday celebration with street banners, a Jolly Boys Minstrel Show, an ecumenical service, block party and banquet.
The borough was incorporated in 1871 as Pleasant Valley. In 1887, borough officials changed the name to Avoca after a town in Ireland. The borough suffered tragedy in 1888 when 37 inhabitants were killed in a train wreck known as the Mud Run Disaster. A total of eight trains carried 10,000 members of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America who had spent the day at a rally in Hazleton. In all, 66 people were killed and 50 injured as the engine of the sixth passenger train hit the rear car of the fifth train containing members of the Drum and Bugle Corps of the Avoca Aloysius Society. A series of communication and procedural errors led to the disaster.
Captain Dino Lorenzini, a native of Exeter, made a major breakthrough in the testing of gyroscopes in inertial guidance systems. Captain Lorenzini’s approach made it possible to shorten the time needed to check the accuracy of the gyroscope which speeded up the correction process. Inertial guidance systems are used in submarines, aircraft and spaceships. The captain married Lucille Vincenti of West Pittston and had three sons, Edward, Dino Jr. and Michael.
Some prices in 1971 – Pomeroy’s Beauty Salon in Wyoming offered fashion cuts for $2. Barton’s Furniture in Pittston advertised full size mattress and box spring sets for $68. JC Penney sold women’s slacks for $4.99 and Luchetti Sales and Service in Pittston priced a 1971 Hornet for $2,279. In 1971, according to www.thepeoplehistory.com, consumers witnessed the average cost a of new home at $25,250, average income per year $10,600, monthly rent $150, cost of a gallon of gas 40 cents, Datsun 1200 Sports Coupe $1,866, postage stamp 8 cents, ladies 2-piece knit suit $9.98 and price of a movie ticket, $1.50.
1981 – 31 YEARS AGO
Jean Ann Linsky, Marilyn Montagna, Margaret Monk, Doris Corcoran, Nancy Burkel, Susan Benson, Mildred Volpetti, Georgeann Calabrese, Pamela Hanczyc, Peggy McHale, Susan Babos, Elaine Brodsky, Florence Brodosky and Sue Burgio were honored by the Penn’s Wood Girl Scout Council for their many years of service and dedication. According to girlscouts.org, in the 1980s, a Contemporary Issues self-help series was developed to assist girls and their families deal with serious social issues. The first Say No to Drugs Program was introduced in collaboration with a project initiated by First Lady Nancy Reagan. Issues such as child abuse, youth suicide, literacy, and pluralism were addressed. Project Safe Time was introduced for girls whose parents were not home to care for them after school. New badges included Computer Fun, Aerospace, and Business-Wise. Also introduced was a Daisy Girl Scout badge for girls 5 years old or in kindergarten.
The Geisinger group closed the doors of Pittston Hospital and opened the NPW Medical Center in Plains Township which left many residents concerned about emergency medical care. Ambulance organizations from Wyoming to Avoca formed a new organization called the North Region Joint Ambulance Service, providing 60,000 people with life support and transportation to hospitals. Due to the transport time to medical facilities, residents of Greater Pittston called upon the Emergency Medical Services of Northeastern Pennsylvania to consider staffing a local EMS unit to administer intravenous and drugs to patients in transport.
The attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan occurred on Monday, March 30, 1981, just 69 days into his presidency. While leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley, Jr. Reagan suffered a punctured lung, but prompt medical attention allowed him to recover quickly. The Sunday Dispatch Inquiring Photographer asked local residents, “What was your reaction to the attempted assassination.” Dena DeBiasi, of Duryea, answered, “There are too many nuts with guns running around,” Bernice Swenton, of Hughestown, stated, “It’s disgusting for someone to do something to a national leader trying to do some good for America.”
1991 – 20 YEARS AGO
More than 40 Wyoming Area students were preparing to present the Broadway musical “Oliver” to area residents. The play coincided with an art show featuring works created by students of the school. Those performing in the play were Renee McDonnell, Sharon McDonnell, Lynn Morrow, Tenille Argento, Christine Gashi, Mark Migiliore, Lisa Ragantesi, Maria Sharisky, Daryl Bowling, MaryJo Cunningham, Amy Novack, Michael Nocera, Chad Webb, Elisabeth Stevens, Dion Fernandez and Tim Webb. “Oliver” was the first musical adaptation of a Charles Dickens work to become a stage hit.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
1789 — The U.S. House of Representatives holds its first meeting.
1865 — General Robert E. Lee‘s retreat is cut off near Appomattox Court House.
1935 — The Works Progress Administration (WPA) is approved by Congress.
1952 — President Truman orders the seizure of U.S. steel mills to prevent a strike.
1962 — Bay of Pigs invaders get 30 years imprisonment in Cuba.
1974 — Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record.
1975 — Frank Robinson of the Cleveland Indians becomes the first black manager of a major league baseball team.
1726 — Lewis Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence
1893 — Mary Pickford (Gladys Smith), early film actress
1893 — Edgar “Yip” Harburg, lyricist (:Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and “Over the Rainbow”)
1920 — Carmen McRae, jazz vocalist and pianist
1921 — Betty Bloomer Ford, first lady to President Gerald Ford
1955 — Barbara Kingsolver, novelist (The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams)