70th Anniversary Edition: The West Side has seen many changes in 70 years

By Tony Callaio - For Sunday Dispatch
One of the biggest changes on the West Side in the past 70 years is the formation of the Wyoming Area School District. The district was created when West Pittston, Exeter, Wyoming, West Wyoming, Harding and Falls Twp. schools merged. -

The Greater Pittston area has gone through many changes since Jack Kehoe, founder of the Sunday Dispatch, printed the first edition in February 1947.

On the West Side of the river, the boroughs of Wyoming, West Wyoming, Exeter, West Pittston and Harding have evolved over the last seven decades.

For one thing, the population has dipped in all boroughs with the exception of Exeter. According to the U.S. Census, in 1950, Exeter had 5,130 residents but the estimated number in 2016 was 5,558.

West Pittston lost over 2,200 residents to 2016’s 4,741. West Wyoming also lost about 200 residents, standing at 2,675 in 2016. Wyoming had 4,511 residents in ’50, losing 1,700 inhabitants to 2016’s 3,011.

Harding’s population was unknown in 1950, but the latest numbers are 3,825 residents.

Many towns housed a movie theatre. Exeter had the Liberty Theatre on Wyoming Avenue, Wyoming had the Wyoming Theatre, also on Wyoming Avenue, and West Pittston had the Garden Theatre, located at the current site of Crest Cleaners, which opened its doors in 1916. Initially, The Garden was used for plays.

Let’s not forget the Moonlite Drive-In in West Wyoming. All the theatres mentioned are gone, but a comeback of the Moonlite is planned as new owners are in the process of developing the site.

The biggest auto dealership on the West Side was Roy Stauffer Chevrolet in West Pittston, located where the Insalaco Shopping Center currently stands. The entire shopping center that is now home to such businesses like Gerrity’s, Rite-Aid, Subway and the Post Office was occupied by the dealership. The existing parking lot was also a part of the dealership but was razed to make room for parking.

If you needed to purchase a car besides a Chevy from Roy Stauffer, a Plymouth dealership existed across the street from Stauffer’s, as well as Felice Buick on the other side of town. Barber Ford, Exeter, is still in existence today.

An A&P Grocery Store once occupied Driscoll’s Hardware Store off Wyoming Avenue and Firestine Bros. was located at the current Old Mill Pine on Exeter Avenue.

Modern Market was a staple in Exeter and still exits today. Gone are Morris Marks Store and Daileda’s Market. Morgantini’s was located at the intersection of Eighth Street and Shoemaker Avenue in West Wyoming while Mary’s was on Eighth Street near what is now the Diamond Manufacturing Company.

You could shop for groceries at Fetch’s Food Market in Wyoming years ago and today you can still find Fetch’s selling meats on the opposite side of the avenue. Gone are Pineno’s Market and R. Orlandini’s store. The former ACME supermarket is now Price Chopper at the Midway Shopping Center.

Neighborhood corner stores were plenty in a lot of boroughs but most have disappeared.

With the demolition of the defunct West Pittston Community Pool in 2017, an era of town pools came to a close.

Wyoming once housed the Butler Street Community Pool, now the John “Jude” Bolin Memorial Park and the location the West Pittston pool once pccupied will also be a park. Exeter had a pool on the property of St. Anthony of Padua Church but it was covered over many decades ago.

For many years, bowling was a recreation of choice and bowling alleys dotted all over Greater Pittston. The last remaining bowling alley on the west side is Modern Lanes, Exeter.

Pool halls were in abundance as well but you’d be hard pressed to find one today. Pittston native and one-time West Pittston resident the late “Machine Gun” Lou Butera was a world champion billiards player who owned a pool hall in West Pittston.

Exeter has not only one, but two golf courses: Fox Hill Country Club and Four Seasons have been around for decades and continue to flourish.

The Silver Coach that once stood where CVS currently stands in West Pittston was removed and relocated to Florida.

One hot spot for ice cream was Grablick’s Dairy Bar on Wyoming Avenue inWest Pittston. Grablick’s was a mainstay for many area residents, whether they lived on the east or west side. You couldn’t get a seat at the dairy bar after a football game, no matter how cold it was, or after a high school dance.

Grablick’s wasn’t the only game in town, though. You could grab a cone or sundae at Blue Ribbon Dairy (West Pittston), Carter’s Ice Cream (Exeter), Charlie’s (Exeter) or Green Acres Ice Cream near the corner of Wyoming Avenue and Eighth Street in Wyoming.

With the exception of Blue Ribbon and Carter’s, those places are gone. Several years ago, Abraham’s Ice Cream opened up on Shoemaker Avenue in West Wyoming.

Collieries were commonplace until 1959 when the Knox Mine Disaster shut down the coal industry in Wyoming Valley.

Breaker buildings like Clear Spring, Sullivan Trail and Mount Lookout once stood prominently on the west side.

Long before refuge was picked up by municipalities and private collectors, West Side residents took their garbage to the dump off Slocum Road in Exeter, better known as the “back road.” Garbage bags were not Hefty plastic bags used today, but rather brown grocery bags costing 25¢ each to toss. You simply drove your car or truck up a winding road on the mountainside where you were directed to the dumping site to rid your trash. That was usually a Saturday chore.

One of the biggest changes over the last 70 years on the West Side is the merger of schools.

On July 1, 1966, the jointure of Wyoming (Redskins), West Wyoming (Cowboys), Exeter (Panthers), West Pittston (Rams), Harding and Falls Twp. schools created the Wyoming Area School District. Members of the Warriors’ first graduating class received their diplomas in June 1967.

The West Pittston High School was deemed the new high school for the school district. In fall 1975, a new high school was constructed at the site of the former Exeter High School and football field.

Over the years, schools such as Sixth Street, Eighth Street and the Shoemaker Avenue School have been demolished. West Pittston’s Luzerne Avenue School has been transformed into apartments.

Exeter’s Schooley Avenue School was raised and senior living apartments were built.

The Sarah J. Dymond School in Harding has been decommissioned by Wyoming Area and is currently for sale.

Each summer, Wyoming Area hosted summer recreation programs at all schools, including the football stadium. Participants were taught how to make key chains and potholders as well as play dodge ball, kickball, basketball and baseball.

For other 70th Anniversary stories, click here.

One of the biggest changes on the West Side in the past 70 years is the formation of the Wyoming Area School District. The district was created when West Pittston, Exeter, Wyoming, West Wyoming, Harding and Falls Twp. schools merged.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_Wyoming-Area-School-District-1.jpgOne of the biggest changes on the West Side in the past 70 years is the formation of the Wyoming Area School District. The district was created when West Pittston, Exeter, Wyoming, West Wyoming, Harding and Falls Twp. schools merged.

By Tony Callaio

For Sunday Dispatch

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at sd@psdispatch.com.

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at sd@psdispatch.com.