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Fire that destroyed Rostraver landmark topped news in 1954

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Thursday, April 10, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The question was brief and to the point.

“Do you remember a fire that destroyed the Red Hangar in Rostraver Township?” a reader in Arnold City asked. “I think it was sometime in the 1950s.”

The costly blaze gutted the landmark structure on Route 981, near the Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, late Friday, April 2, 1954.

Coverage of the fire topped the headlines in The Monessen Daily Independent and The Charleroi Mail 60 years ago on Saturday, April 3.

Both newspapers reported more than $5,000 damage resulted from the fire at the structure owned by David H. Wells of Belle Vernon R.D. 2. Some estimates were placed at between $7,000 and $8,000.

Volunteer firefighters from Monessen, North Belle Vernon and Belle Vernon fought the fire, which was discovered around 11 p.m., for nearly two hours before bringing it under control.

When the fire was finally put out, The Independent reported, the walls and roof of the building were still standing but the entire interior was gutted.

Wells, who had only recently acquired the building, estimated damage at more than $5,000 and said replacing the structure at present-day building prices would cost about $10,000.

He told the newspaper he believed the fire was started “deliberately or accidentally” by vandals who recently broke several windows in the structure.

“I wouldn't say that someone deliberately set the fire,” he said. “But I think someone was in there last night and may have dropped a cigarette on the floor or something.”

He added that “wild kids” recently had thrown a brick through one of the windows, entered the structure, then threw a brick through another window before leaving.

The windows were boarded up but Wells said he “believes someone was still able to break in last night,” the newspaper said.

A favorite site for square dancing and picnics for many years, the Red Hangar formerly was a major part of the Monessen Municipal Airport, which ceased to function about 20 years earlier. The large building was located not far from busy Allen's Crossroads.

In Other News

• William J. Huston, retired works manager of the Monessen plant of Pittsburgh Steel Company, has been appointed as inspector for the State Armory Board, it was announced by Adjutant General A. Frank Weber in Harrisburg. Huston, a veteran National Guard officer, will have supervision of 36 armories in western Pennsylvania. Huston retired several years ago from the National Guard with the rank of lieutenant colonel after a long period of military service that dated back to World War I.

• United Press reported that the American Federation of Musicians lost a round yesterday in its nationwide legal fight against DJs who appear at “record hops” in place of musicians. Pittsburgh Local 60 was ordered to provide music for comedian Jackie Bright by Judge Walter P. Smart of Allegheny County.

The judge also issued a temporary injunction that restrains the local and its parent union on its “black list.” Bright, president of the American Guild of Variety Artists, petitioned for the injunction when musicians refused to play for him during his act at a local club when he was being interviewed by DJ Joe Deane.

• Television station WQED in Pittsburgh, the third non-commercial educational station in the nation, will make its first telecast tonight. Civic, government and industrial leaders will participate in the celebration.

• Annie Frezzell, a freshman at West Virginia State College at Institution, W.Va., will appear tomorrow evening at 8 o'clock on the Ed Sullivan Toast of the Town television show. She will be singing with the college's a cappella choir. Frezzell, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Frezzell, 683 Marguerite St., Monessen, is a 1953 graduate of Monessen High School, where she was a member of the Glee Club, and is a member of the choir of Union Baptist Church. She is studying to become a dietician.

• Margaret Jane Landymore, West Newton correspondent for The Monessen Daily Independent, reported that the West Newton High School Band and Glee Club Concert will be held April 8 under the direction of John C. Long. The instrumental portion of the program will feature soloists Allan Lander, trumpet, and Noreen Rupert, alto saxophonist, and the WNHS majorettes in “a spectacular twirling display.”

• John B. Affleck, son of Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Affleck of Ellsworth, will be heard as a contestant on the TCW Opera Workshop auditions on radio station WJAS at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Affleck will sing one operatic aria and a contrasting song in English.

On The Sports Front

• Pitchers Carl Aglio and Harold Lambert combined for a no-hitter as Charleroi defeated Perryopolis, 9-1, in an exhibition baseball game called because of darkness after six innings at Charleroi. Aglio tossed the first three innings, striking out five and walking two, and Lambert was on the hill the final three frames and struck out six while giving up only one walk. Tom Parks belted a three-run homer and had four RBI and Carmen Cappelli hit two doubles for coach Jim Fillingham's Cougars.

• Donora High's well-balanced track team won six of nine events and placed first in all six field competitions to swamp Washington, 90-37, in a dual meet at Legion Field in Donora.

• Daily Independent sports editor Allen Kline reported that Don Jones, who earned a basketball scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, is with the Panthers volleyball team now touring New York. Jones, “a hot-shot spiker,” was a standout with the Monessen High School squad that won the WPIAL and PIAA championships last year, Kline recalled.

• In a related story, coach Bud Giannini's volleyball team will open its bid for national honors today in the annual Turners Tournament in Indianapolis, Ind. Giannini's crew earned a spot in the national event by winning the Pittsburgh district championship for the eighth straight year. Comprising the local team are George Vlasic, Bob Parsons, Bruno Krusul, James Teska, Vern DeMillion, Nick Sowko, Joe Penich, Len Kazmarek, Joe Barcelona and Jim Hayes.

• Viaduct nipped Sports Shop, 56-54, in a thriller in the Monessen Ozarks Basketball Tournament. Tom Blackwood, a 6-7 standout from Baldwin-Wallace College, led the winners with 27 points and teammate Jerry Seuss added 19. Lloyd Gilmore (16), Dick Majernik (11) and J.D. Gorman (10) looked best for the Sportsmen.

Taking Care of Business

Among the advertisements in area newspapers on April 3, 1954:

• The Sons of Italy in Charleroi is ready for a busy weekend of entertainment. Saturday's lineup will feature Paul Koslow, TV singing star and MC, and Donna DuBarry, “Miss Exotic Herself.” Sharing the spotlight Sunday will be Buddy Horne, comedian and master of ceremonies, and dancing starlet Alice Moorhead, who “played two years in Europe's sharpest nightclubs.”

• Tom Berry will be the auctioneer Friday, April 9, at a Special Sportsmen's Auction at the Perryopolis Auction. Items being sought for the event include unused fishing equipment, guns and dogs (registered or eligible accepted). The auction will offer “thousands of dollars of hunting and fishing equipment on consignment.”

• Fishers department store – Cinderella Easter dresses, $1.98 to $5.98, sizes 8 to 14; Easter nylons, three pair for $1.99; Bolero suits, $5.95.

• Dance every Saturday, New Slovak Club, Roscoe featuring the Jazz Beau Trio.

Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

(If you have memories to share or story ideas, contact Ron Paglia at or c/o The Valley Independent, Eastgate 19, Monessen, PA 15062.)



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