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Monongahela's history lovingly recalled in pictures and text

| Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011

So, how do you tell the 242-year-old story of your hometown in a 128-page book?

"It wasn't easy, that's for sure," said Susan M. Bowers, president of the Monongahela Area Historical Society. "We had so many (pictures) to choose from in our archives, and people in the community and elsewhere were so generous and considerate in providing many, many more when we requested their input."

Bowers, a retired Ringgold School District teacher, and Laura M. Magone, a Monongahela native and independent documentary filmmaker, are the authors of Monongahela City (A Pictorial History), the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing's popular Images of America series. The book features more than 200 vintage images and memories and historical information of days gone by.

"As a lifelong resident of Monongahela, it is my privilege to serve as president of the Historical Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the past for its future generations," Bowers said. "Our museum is filled with archives of historical documents, pictures and other artifacts, some over 200 years old and dating back to the origins of our community in 1769.

"We felt that the history of the oldest settlement in the Monongahela Valley could be perpetuated even further with this new book from Arcadia. It complements the legacy in a manner that goes far beyond the idea that a picture tells a thousand words."

Among the classic pictures in the new book are those from the 42-volume history compiled by the late W.P. Taylor and others from the collection of the late Potente "Pot" Zanardelli. The cover of the book is a picture from Zanardelli's archives.

Magone, who has produced such acclaimed documentaries as The Umbrella Man about the late Angelo Pallini of Monessen and One Extraordinary Street about the people of Park Avenue in Monongahela, offered similar sentiments.

"I grew up in Monongahela and have always been fascinated by the people and history here and throughout the Mon Valley," Magone said. "I learned so much about our heritage while filming the stories about Mr. Pallini and Park Avenue and I continue to gain more knowledge each time I return home. When Susan and the Historical Society presented the idea of publishing the pictorial history book, I couldn't wait to get started. We feel it's something everyone will enjoy and appreciate."

Bowers and Magone said the many hours of reviewing, choosing and preparing pictures and copy to meet the publisher's specifications and deadlines were "well worth the effort."

"There were many nights when we literally burned the midnight oil and even worked into the week hours of the morning," Bowers said. "I don't know what I would have done without Laura's technical expertise, her experience and, perhaps most importantly, her keen eyes for photography. We complemented each other and were determined to see the project to its completion. It was a labor of love."

Magone agreed.

"Susan certainly has the writing background, a great way with words," she said. "Creating a book was something new for me because my experience lies in the visual area of communications - making films. But I found this project to be just as challenging, perhaps more so. It was such a pleasure working with her on a subject that we both love."

In selecting pictures for the book Magone and Bowers chose images no more recent than 1985. They then worked those photos into chapters that cover such topics as The Founding, Scenes About Town, Treasures, Entrepreneurs, Foundations, Gatherings, Water and Rail, Salt of the Earth and For the Good Times.

"The basic idea is to show people and places that truly depict the history of Monongahela," Magone said. "The focus is on activities and events involving civic, church and community organizations, business and industry, sports - all aspects of life over the years."

The authors dedicated the book to "the great people who built Monongahela City, to those who work each and every day to make it a better place, and to those who follow, hoping they will treasure the rich history as we do."

They extended poignant appreciation to their combined eight Italian-American grandparents, "who labored tirelessly and selflessly in preparing the path for our parents, for us, and for future generations." In doing so they offer a "Noi vi vogliamo bene" greeting to Guiseppe and Assunta (Ferriello) Albero, Francesco and Domenico (Belasi) Corbelli, John and Mary (Zanardelli) Previtali and Joseph and Caroline (Manderino) Magnone.

Aldo Bartolotta, a longtime area businessman and community benefactor, wrote the Introduction to the book.

"There are so many people to thank and it would be impossible to list them all," Bowers said. "But anyone and everyone who contributed pictures and information or helped in any way with the project must know that Laura and I are sincerely grateful to them."

Monongahela City, a soft-cover publication sells for $23 (tax included) and is available at area bookstores, independent and online retailers or through Arcadia Publishing at . The Historical Society also is accepting orders for the book and all proceeds will benefit the organization, which is headquartered at 230 W. Main St., Monongahela.

A book signing will take place Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the historical society's museum and books will be available for purchase during that event. Refreshments will be available.

Additional information is available on the MAHS website, , or by emailing or . Emails should include the words "Monongahela City Book Order" in the Subject line.

The museum is open Tuesday, 3 to 8 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 10 to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 to 2 p.m.

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