Peeking into the Past: Yankees purchased valuable land for yearly delivery of fish

Peeking into - the Past - Judy Minsavage | April 12th, 2018 12:37 pm


In 1985, local people traveled to Harrisburg to dump something into Susquehanna River. What was it?

1947 – 71 YEARS AGO

Construction on the Avoca Airport, now the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, was under construction from 1945-1947. With huge fanfare, the airport was dedicated on June 1, 1947. Airline officials invited “selected area leaders” to fly from the airport to New York City and back. Avoca and Pittston Township Council members were not included in the invitation. They felt slighted specifically because the airport is partially located in Avoca and, in large part, Pittston Township. The situation was exacerbated when council members found out that Wilkes-Barre officials took their wives on the trip, leaving no room for those who enabled the project to be constructed on the site. Frank T. Horan, Pittston mayor, who did make the list of invitees, commented, “One of the passengers handed me a newspaper and, before I could finish half of the front page, I heard, “Tighten your belts; we are going to land.”

“Available in Pittston for the First Time” the Dixie Cream Donut Shop on South Main Street offered the Dixie Cream raised and cake donuts using “special Dixie Cream Donut Flour famous from coast to coast for the finest in donuts.” A search on the internet shows there was a Dixie Cream Donut Flour plant in St. Louis; however, the building is now an office or apartment building and there is only one American franchise open in West Frankfurt, Illinois. There are two franchises in Saudi Arabia and two in Egypt.

After a 15-year lapse, Duryea High School re-entered the high school basketball competition. Prior to 1932, Duryea was noted as having turned out some of the finest basketball players in the East, and its teams gained considerable fame in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Contests between Duryea and powerhouse teams like Nanticoke and other large schools were big drawing cards. The sport was cancelled in Duryea when Ostroski’s Hall, where games were played, was turned into a bowling alley and recreation center. Duryea also resurrected the high school’s baseball program, a team which had not been fielded since 1924.

An article in the Sunday Dispatch spotlights the “Number One Continuance Docket” on file at the Luzerne County Prothonotary’s office in the county’s courthouse. The docket records legal transactions as far back as the presidency of George Washington. It shows, in fact, that Timothy Pickering, Washington’s Secretary of State and one-time Ambassador to France was the first Luzerne County Prothonotary . The documents also show that, in the 1700s, a tract of land bordering the Susquehanna River just below Pittston was sold to Yankee investors for a pledge of delivering a barrel of fish each winter to the seller. Farther down the river were the farms of Orlando Pringle and Thaddeus Barney. Both farms came under forfeiture when Barney borrowed money to pay a $300 debt. Pringle endorsed the loan but, when the payment came due, Barney could not make payment. Coal companies moved in and took over the lands, mining the coal and making considerable profits. According to the Barney and Pringle families, at the time, more than $2 billion of profits were taken from the two farms.

1950 – 68 YEARS AGO

High school athletes Joan Davenport, of Hughestown, and Betty Ritzie, of Dupont, were invited by Fred K. Leo, president of the All American Girls Baseball League, to attend a baseball finishing school in South Bend, Indiana. After competing in tryouts in Scranton in 1949, they were considered outstanding prospects for positions on league teams and instructed to report to the school by April 13, 1950. By fall 1942, many minor league teams disbanded due to young men being drafted into the armed services during World War II. Major league baseball parks across the country were in danger of collapse, prompting Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing-gum mogul, to search for a possible solution to the dilemma. The league inspired the movie “A League of Their Own” released in 1992. Over 600 young women played on the teams from 1943-1954.

1955 – 63 YEARS AGO

More than 300 guests attended the 10th annual St. Rocco’s Church Holy Name Society Smoker. Officers of the society were Michael Fiume, president; Andrew Calabrese, first vice president; Joseph Sagliocolo, recording secretary; William DeAlba, financial secretary; Angelo DeSanto, treasurer; Louis DeGrose, second vice president; and Jasper Butera, president of the Junior HNS.

Pvt. Doris Mae Keeler, of Hughestown, received her first stripe, promoting her to Pvt. First Class U.S. Women’s Marine Corp

1965 – 53 YEARS AGO

Pocket watches have a long history that trace their use by the upper classes to their transition to a necessary item for the working class. Charles Ferrara, of Pittston, was in possession of a rare pocket watch said to be handcrafted during the reign of Henry VIII in England. Along with the date, the name J. Worke was inscribed on the silver timepiece. Described as “key winding,” the intricately designed watch had an unusual link-chain operation. Pocket watches were first mentioned in correspondence between craftsmen and members of the upper class in the 15th century. In the early 1500s, German inventor Peter Heinlein was able to create watches that did not require falling weights as the source of their power, making them portable. They were generally worn as a pendant on a chain around the neck.

1972 – 46 YEARS AGO

One highlight of the spring social season was the Women’s Society of Christian Services annual tea. Nearly 400 women enjoyed the event organized by committee members Mrs. Anthony Dente, Mrs. Edward Diehl, Mrs. Ray Bowersox, Mrs. Henry Rindgen, Doris Hale, Mrs. Jay Sykes, Mrs. Joseph Gilroy, Mrs. Russell Firestine, Mrs. Thomas Jones and Mrs. Phillip Harris.

West Pittston Junior Women’s Club was awarded two second-place prizes in the district press and log book contest held at Bushkill Falls. Mrs. Paul Prokop assembled the press book consisting of newspaper clippings and photos taken regarding club activities during the year. A cover made of wood “enhanced with a golden eagle and hinges, was themed United We Stand, Divided We Fall and became the property of Mrs. Anthony Rostock Jr., club president, upon her retirement from office.

1980 – 38 YEARS AGO

Bill Salus, of Wyoming, began his musical career in the 1930s when he taught himself how to play the washboard bass. In the 40s, he bought his first banjo. By the 1980s, Salus, an accomplished musician, had taught many area residents the art of playing the guitar and banjo. He also loved singing with his wife, the former Ann Yakobitas, of West Pittston. Known as the “King of the Banjo,” Salus played with The Smoothies and Joe Parker Groups. He also performed at various minstrel shows and parties as a single entertainer.


In 1985, six buses carrying local garment workers from Greater Pittston joined more than 5,000 others who dumped boxes of imported clothing into the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg in hopes of urging the government to place limits on imports. At the time, the garment industry employed two million workers in the U.S., including over 100,000 in Pennsylvania. Those representing Greater Pittston were ILGWU workers and retirees, workers from J.L. Inc., Port Blanchard and Corner Fashions, West Wyoming. To read more about the ILGWU and follow the path of the garment industry, read “Fighting for the Union Label” by Kenneth C. Wolensky, Nicole H. Wolensky and Robert P. Wolensky. According to, the book tells the story of how Wyoming Valley garment workers, led by Min Lurye Matheson and her husband Bill, conducted one of the largest and most influential movements of garment workers in the union. Despite their valiant efforts, the apparel industry faded in the 1970s and 1980s.

This day in history

1755 — English lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson publishes his Dictionary of the English Language.

1858 — At the Battle of Azimghur, the Mexicans defeat Spanish loyalists.

1871 — “Wild Bill” Hickok becomes the marshal of Abilene, Kansas.

1861 — President Lincoln mobilizes the Federal army.

1865 — Abraham Lincoln dies from John Wilkes Booth‘s assassination bullet.

1912 — With her band playing on the deck, the ocean liner Titanic sinks at 2:27 a.m. in the North Atlantic.

1945 — President Franklin D. Roosevelt is buried on the grounds of his Hyde Park home.

Born on this day

1452 — Leonardo da Vinci, Italian painter, sculptor, scientist and visionary

1800 — Sir James Clark Ross, Scottish explorer who located the Magnetic North Pole

1832 — Wilhelm Busch, German painter and poet, created the precursor to the comic strip

1898 — Bessie Smith, American blues singer
King’s College named the Pittston Area High School Press Club newspaper “The Patriot” the best all-around in Northeastern PA in 1972. From left, first row, Diane Joyce, Brenda James, Nancy McCarthy, Pam Pokorney. Second roy, Cindi Bussacco, Eleanor Massakowski, Karen Stanavage, John Sassi, advisor; Patricia Gross, editor; Teresa Namatka, Jean Waselinko. Third row, Thomas Grogan Jr., Peter Loiacono, Norbert Gilboy, Michael Voyack, Rick Berrettini, Diane Orlwoski, Carol Salvo.’s College named the Pittston Area High School Press Club newspaper “The Patriot” the best all-around in Northeastern PA in 1972. From left, first row, Diane Joyce, Brenda James, Nancy McCarthy, Pam Pokorney. Second roy, Cindi Bussacco, Eleanor Massakowski, Karen Stanavage, John Sassi, advisor; Patricia Gross, editor; Teresa Namatka, Jean Waselinko. Third row, Thomas Grogan Jr., Peter Loiacono, Norbert Gilboy, Michael Voyack, Rick Berrettini, Diane Orlwoski, Carol Salvo.

Peeking into

the Past

Judy Minsavage

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