Bridgeville history: Focus on 1944, 1945 high school classes
Our “Second Tuesday” workshop at the Bridgeville Area Historical Society this month focused on the Bridgeville High School graduating classes of 1944 and 1945.
These were war years, when the impact of World War II dominated every aspect of our lives. The facilitator set the stage for the workshop by reviewing the war news of the time, culminating with Victory in Europe Day at about the time the 1945 class celebrated commencement.
A newspaper clipping reported a strike at the Universal Cyclops plant in the summer of 1943 and its adverse effect on fighter plane production.
Dale DeBlander remembered that his father worked at Universal at that time.
The high school football team won two games, tied two and lost four. Most embarrassing was a 6-0 loss to South Fayette featuring a blocked punt. The winners were treated to a spaghetti dinner at Fatigati's Restaurant.
A clipping reporting the memorial Mass for Seaman John Fabeck was the first of far too many notices of wartime fatalities of Bridgeville High alumni.
My brother filled in details on each of these sad stories, based on his research for his book, “Almost Forgotten.” John Shipe commented on the large number of Bridgeville boys who ended up in the Air Corps.
Despite the war, Bridgeville High School managed to function, sometimes with great difficulty. Mary Weise remembered having five different biology teachers in one year.
Stella Reed was May Queen in 1944, with Norma Collavo her Maid of Honor. The Class of '44 had 72 members. There were 86 students in the Class of 1945. Geraldine Harmuth was May Queen; Doris Boyer, Maid of Honor. Jim Hofrichter was their class president; Andy Papanek, vice president.
We are fortunate to have two copies of “The Bridger” from the '45 Class. The December edition is printed on newsprint so it could be mailed to the then 344 Bridgeville High alumni in the service.
The October edition included an eloquent editorial exhorting our students to excel. It ended with the charge, “Wake up America, and make this country far better than we have ever known!”
The football team won four, tied two, and lost four. Fortunately, one of the wins was a 20-6 trouncing of arch-enemy South Fayette.
The senior play that year was “Sixteen in August,” starring Gerre Harmuth, Bob DeGrosky and Marcia Munnell.
The 1945 Bridgeville High basketball team was probably the school's best ever. Led by Sammy David and Tom (Dreamer) Lytle, their successful run ended at Dormont with a heartbreaking 34-32 loss to Avalon, a game the facilitator remembered distinctly.
Our memories of those years are dominated by the contrast between the comfort of the home front and the horror of the war, with the much too frequent arrival of a telegram from the War Department connecting the two.
Our next workshop is scheduled for Feb. 13. We will meet at 7 p.m. in the history center, 441 Station St., and we'll discuss the Classes of 1946 and 1947.