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Readers continue to pose questions on many subjects

| Thursday, March 22, 2012

There's never a shortage of inquiries from readers of The Valley Independent regarding this weekly offering.

Several people asked about entertainment at a community meeting in the auditorium on the third floor of the Charleroi Municipal Building on Friday, Dec. 12, 1941.

That event, which drew a capacity crowd, was held to discuss emergency civil defense efforts in the wake of the U.S. being drawn into World War II after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor five days earlier.

Officials who organized the meeting determined that music would add an "appropriate balance" to the gravity of the subjects (air raids, sabotage, etc.) to be discussed.

Grace Elaine Sutherland, an acclaimed child prodigy, rendered violin selections of "Malaguena" and "Viennese Melody" as arranged by Fritz Kreisler, and vocal numbers were offered by Mrs. Thelma Lowstuter, well known soloist and a member of the Charleroi Defense Council.

Mrs. Lowstuter, accompanied by pianist Irene Wilson, sang "I Give My Thanks To America," "This Is My Country" and "This Land Is My Land."

The Charleroi High School Band directed by Professor C.W. Osborn played patriotic music as the crowd filled the hall, performed "America" to open the formal program and concluded the evening with a stirring version of "Star Spangled Banner."

Professor W.H. Clipman, high school principal, was the master of ceremonies, and the Rev. F.S. Montgomery, pastor of Charleroi Presbyterian Church, led the opening prayer.

Grand Opening Recalled

A man in Speers posed a question about a service station located at the intersection of Lincoln and McKean avenues in Charleroi. He recalls that it "may have opened sometime in the late 1940s."

According to The Charleroi Mail archives, Johnny Reeves' Texaco Station held its grand opening October 14-15-16, 1948. at that site. The business was touted in newspaper ads as "The Valley's newest,

largest and most modern complete one-stop super service station." Reeves offered Fire Chief and Sky Chief gasoline and Havoline and Texaso motor oil and also had a pickup and delivery service of customers' cars As part of the festivities, a grand prize of a set of four B.F. Goodrich Deluxe Tires was featured in a "no purchase necessary" drawing.

Other specials included a complete Marfak chassis lubrication and certified car wash for $1.75, winterizing at $3.95, and B.F. Goodrich tires and tubes for only $10.95 each. Free Texaco Fire Chief hats were made available for children with each purchase of five or more gallons of gasoline by their parents.

Offering congratulations to Reeves, who offered 24-hour service, in ads in The Mail were Guttman Oil Company, distributor of Texaco petroleum products; Joseph Lettrich and Sons, Contractors (Joseph Lettrich Sr., Joseph Lettrich Jr., Paul Lettrich); Charleroi Supply Company; Marshall's Plumbing and Heating, and Andrew Yuhasz, electrical contractor.

Curtain Up In Monessen

Another grand opening, this one of the sports variety, has the attention of a reader in Pricedale.

"When did the then-new gymnasium open at Monessen High School?" he (or she) asked. "I was just a kid, maybe 10 or 11, and went there with my grandfather. It was a beautiful facility."

The spacious gym was used for the first time on Friday, March 20, 1952 when the ninth annual Croatian Fraternal Union basketball tournament began its three-day run.

Undergraduate teams from Monessen and Duquesne high schools had the honor of playing the first game in the new gym in a preliminary to the CFU senior contests between Monessen and Johnstown and Duquesne and Warren, Ohio.

The Duquesne underclassmen, coached by Bill Lemmen, nipped coach Frank Janosik's Greyhounds 41-39 to become the first team to win a game at the gym. The Dukes were led by John Divik, who scored 11 points.

Gene Hall had 17 points for Monessen and Bob Cupper added seven. But according to The Monessen Daily Independent, it was "little Stanley (Smokey) Widiszewski who stole the show with seven points and his brilliant defensive play." Others listed in the post-game box score for Monessen were Jack Berry, Don Jones, John Pallini, Bill Marmie, Bill Radosh, Mike Tweardy and Jerry Lhota.

Alex Novakovich had 18 points to top Monessen's 60-52 win over Johnstown in the actual opening game of the CFU event. Ed Semon blistered the nets for 26 points for Johnstown. Duquesne throttled Warren 50-31 in the other senior affair.

The Cro-Ams honored four members of the 1951-52 Monessen High squad in ceremonies following the undergraduate game. President Karl Chulig presented 17-jewel wristwatches to senior players paul Kacik, Tom Kovach and Frank Sivek and senior manager Ed Forsberg.

V.I. Mandrich, supreme president of the Croatian Fraternal Union, tossed the ball for the first center jump of the game between Monessen and Johnstown. Dr. Michael Duda, superintendent of Monessen Schools, presented the ball to Mandrich.

The new gym was acclaimed as "the finest in the area ... one of the best in the WPIAL" The initial seating capacity was 2,000 but the addition of more bleachers was expected to expand it to 3,000. Some 1,500 fans attended the first night tripleheader.

Junior High Champions

This question comes from a "longtime basketball fan" in Fallowfield Township.

"You mentioned the 1953-54 Charleroi Junior High School team that won the Junior WPIAL championship. Can you tell me who was on that team?"

A team picture in the March 19, 1954 edition of The Charleroi Mail showed these young men with Coach George "Beans" Chacko: Co-captains Bob Boda and George Schoener, Carl Witmyer, John Lenhart, Don Baker, Ollie Payne, Joe Uhlman, Larry Pucci, Bill Pentz, Jim Chacko, John Hanchin, Joel Walenta, Tim Lee, Barry Nucci, Roger Lind, Jerry Wiltz, Manifred Sauritch, student managers Barry Vezzetti, Claude Jenkins and Jack Fero.

The Little Cougars posted a 26-1 record and capped the season by defeating New Castle Ben Franklin 47-34 on Friday, March 19 at the Dormont High School gym. Pucci scored 19 points to lead Charleroi to the seventh Junior WPIAL basketball title in the school's history. Schoener added 11 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, while Lenhart and Boda drew praise for their work as playmakers and on defense. Jerry Fitzpatrick paced the losing Quakers with 16 points.

The championship was the seventh in basketball for Charleroi Junior High. The Little Cougars coached by David L. "Chippy" Glunt also won the title in 1935, '37, '38, '39 and '42, and the 1948-49 team coached by Beans Chacko had the other one.

Significantly, the 53-54 team was the last to win a Junior WPIAL championship because the Junior WPIAL abandoned the tournament the following year. The committee said the post-season competition was "putting too much pressure" on the young players.

Other area teams that won the Junior WPIAL basketball crown from the time it originated in 1930 were north Belle Vernon, 1933; Monessen, 1936; Brownsville, 1940, and Donora, 1943.

Donora also won the football championship in 1949. The Little Dragons were 7-0-0 and compiled 125 Gardner Points to finish far ahead of Munhall, 117; Monaca, 112, and Mount Lebanon, 110.

Charleroi had another unbeaten-untied (7-0-0) football team in 1950 but had to settle for runnerup laurels behind Duquesne in the Gardner standings. The Little Dukes had 124 points to 115 for Charleroi.

(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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