Peeking into the Past: Honor America Days reaffirm patriotism

Peeking into - the Past - Judy Minsavage

(Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the Sunday Dispatch on July 4, 2010.)


Many people will be amazed by the colorful firework displays scheduled in the Greater Pittston Area. What chemicals added to the fireworks generate the vibrant colors?

1953 – 65 YEARS AGO

Fourth of July celebrations were planned for many communities. In the days leading to the holiday, Pittston had seen a fire and several injuries involving the mishandling of illegal fireworks. City officials warned residents against purchasing firecrackers, noting there were plenty of pyrotechnic displays planned in the Greater Pittston area families could enjoy safely.

The Upper Pittston Park Association playground was spotlighted in the July 5, issue of the Sunday Dispatch. Chartered in 1950 and located between Curry and Union Streets just off Main Street, the park was a gathering place for families to enjoy the summer days. The land was previously a dumping ground and, due to the hard work of James Clark, John Dziak, Joseph Milkanin, Al Amer, John Daley, Jack Valley, Michael Shobak, Andy Rebowicz, Michael Jakubco, Andy Mesaris, Walter Scoda, Peter Hazinski, Joseph Viscavage, Joseph and Paul Yonki, the park became a reality. George Bone donated a bulldozer to clear the land.

The Borough of Avoca had discovered a portion of Pittston Township called Houston City in reality belonged to Avoca. Council issued an ordinance to annex Houston City, but also looked into the possibility that land claimed by Duryea might also, in fact, belong to Avoca. The Duryea land in question was property adjacent to Avoca in the north end of the borough.

1963 – 55 YEARS AGO

David Schultz, of Pittston, a junior at St. John’s High School, was on his way to Carnegie Hall to perform an accordion solo as a student at the Joseph Biviano School of Music in New York City. The school sponsored an annual students’ concert. David traveled every two weeks to New York for private lessons. Joe Biviano played accordion on NBC and CBS radio shows and performed with the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic. Joe Biviano passed away in 1992.

WPTS, on Foote Avenue in Duryea, was celebrating its 10th year of broadcast radio at 1540 “On the right side of your dial.” Owners Angelo and Rose Fiorani celebrated with John McGoldrick, chief engineer; and Frank Silva, sports and news director. Members of the staff were Gerald Gilroy, Ellie Pagnotti, Eleanor Castelli, Rosemary Gallagher, Betty Schriver, Richard Kossuth, Dick French, Maria Elena Belli, Joseph Tipton, Martin Satkowski, Charles A. McCarthy, Al Castelli, and Joan Pace.

The Laurel Line roadbed, used to accommodate the line’s railroad tracks, was in the news. The rail line had sold the land to individuals; some residents suggested checking to see that the parcels, previously tax exempt, were placed on city tax rolls. The mayor and the city council were expected to look into the matter. The line offered trolley and commuter train service from 1903 to 1952.

1973 – 45 YEARS AGO

July 4, 1973 marked the 197th anniversary of the founding of the United States. Pittston Mayor Robert Loftus, along with Floyd Evans, president of the Greater Pittston Chamber; Richard Lyons, V.F.W. Wyoming; Commander Joseph Kolmansperger, Fort Pittston V.F.W.; and Vincent O’Hara, executive vice president of the Pittston Chamber, declared Honor America Day in dual observance with Independence Day. The proclamation stated, “We are aware that while many of the problems still confronting America may appear monumental, they are problems that are surmountable through the exercise of the American spirit. Communities throughout the nation are declaring this Independence Day as a day to Honor America, so that all freedom-loving Americans might demonstrate a reaffirmation of their patriotism and love and respect for America and Americans everywhere.” Through Congressional Declaration, Honor America Days extends from Flag Day to Independence Day, and declares that there be gatherings and celebrations in honor of the United States of America.

Question #2

What is a most unusual coincidence involving two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams?

Top 10 songs of July 1973

1. “Pillow Talk,” Sylvia

2. “My Love,” Paul McCartney

3. “Wildflower,” Skylark

4. “Big Bad Leroy Brown,” Jim Croce

5. “Hocus Pocus,” Focus

6. “Willie Go Round in Circles,” Billy Preston

7. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” Stevie Wonder

8. “Playground in My Mind,” Clint Holmes

9. “The Right Thing to Do,” Carly Simon

10. “Frankenstein” Edgar Winter Group

Grant City on the Pittston Bypass advertised Fourth of July specials: bikinis for $7.88, women’s shorts for $2.44, charcoal grills for $5.97 and a 5-speed 26” racing bike for $59. Leeds in Pittston offered culotte dresses from $9 to $16. Nocera’s Jewelry in Exeter advertised 1 1/2 ct diamond ring for $300, an emerald cocktail ring with 16 diamonds for $822 and a men’s 1/4 ct solitaire for $192.

1983 – 35 YEARS AGO

Members of the St. Cecilia’s Church in Exeter were planning their annual bazaar. Eleven women of the church worked diligently to produce over 150 handmade dolls, each with unique hats, colorful dresses and accessories, to sell at one of the 30 stands planned for the bazaar. The church expected to host over 60,000 people during its three-day event. Mildred and Connie Petrucci chaired the doll project.

Arnold Gordon, owner of a general store in Dupont, told Kevin McDonnell, writer for the Sunday Dispatch, how he amassed his baseball memorabilia, which included a brand new Louisville Slugger, numerous signed photographs and autographs of baseball greats like Steve Carlton, Stan Musial and Pete Rose. A baseball enthusiast, Arnold was on hand at Yankee Stadium for such history-making events as Lou Gehrig Day in 1941, at Veterans Stadium where he saw Pete Rose hit number 3,631 to break Stan Musial’s National League record. He also witnessed Yankee pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game versus the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. A signed baseball from Philadelphia Athletics’ Manager Connie Mack was Gordon’s most favored item in the collection. Mack traded the ball for a piece of coal Arnold had from the No. 9 Colliery in Pittston. In a story featured in Sports Illustrated, Connie Mack mentioned the piece of coal as one of his most cherished possessions. A quick check on the internet shows a Connie Mack signed ball from 1947 is valued at $750.

Answer #1

The chemicals added to fireworks produce the following colors: red – strontium or lithium; orange — carbon, yellow — sodium; green — barium; blue — copper; indigo — cesium/potassium; violet — mixture of strontium and copper; silver – aluminum, titanium or magnesium.

Answer #2

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration.


In 1779, July 4 fell on a Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5. In 1791, the first recorded use of the name “Independence Day” occurred.


1942 — Axis troops capture Sevastopol, Crimea, in the Soviet Union.

1945 — The New York State Commission against Discrimination is established — the first such agency in the United States.

1950 — American ground troops arrive in South Korea to halt the advancing North Korean arm

1963 — the U.S. postmaster introduces the ZIP code.


1892 — James M. Cain, author (“The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Mildred Pierce”)

1899 — Thomas Dorsey, American songwriter, singer and pianist, the “father of gospel music”

1915 — Sydney Pollack, film director (“Tootsie,” “Out of Africa”)

1961 — Diana Frances Spencer, Princess of Wales

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