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John Oyler: A look back at Bridgeville High School in 1942, 1943

| Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, 1:51 a.m.

The December Bridgeville Area Historical Society “Second Tuesday” workshop continued our review of the history of Bridgeville High School, picking up in the summer of 1941. As is our custom, we opened the session with a discussion of the times. The fall of 1941 was indeed unusual. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that we would soon enter World War II eventually; the attack on Pearl Harbor initiated the inevitable with a shock.

A rich source of information about the high school during the war years was the Bridger, a monthly eight-page pamphlet published by the students. The Historical Society has a copy of the March 1942 issue; it is number two of volume one of the Bridger.

There were 81 graduates in the Class of 1942, true members of the Greatest Generation. We are all grateful to them for the way they accepted the challenges of World War II, fought it to a successful conclusion, and came home to begin productive lives as civilians.

As we progressed through the evening, my brother identified far too many other BHS students who ultimately lost their lives in the war — Bob Baldini, Bob Bogdeweicz, Alex Asti, and Elmer Straka. It is quite sad to imagine these boys in high school with their whole lives ahead of them, knowing that their dreams would never be fulfilled.

An interesting item in the evening's presentation was a tongue-in-cheek look at the contributions of the Home Front to the war effort, as exemplified by the Junior Commandos, a promotional gimmick by one of the Pittsburgh daily papers. The Sept. 21, 1942, edition of the paper has an entire page devoted to the efforts of the Bridgeville unit.

BHS had back-to-back undefeated football seasons in 1941 and 1942. The 1941 team lacked sufficient Gardner points to make the Class B playoffs. Coach Neil Brown left for a new assignment at Har-Brack Union High School. His successor, Kass Kovalchek, led the '42 team to a trip to the playoffs, culminating in a 12-0 victory over Leetsdale and Bridgeville's first WPIAL Class B championship. Two weeks later, Kovalchek left for the Navy Pre-Flight School in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was replaced by BHS alumnus Jack Wight.

BHS won Class B track and field championships in 1942 (led by Sam Camp) and 1943 (Homer Duchess). Following the 1943 meet, coach John Graham left for the U.S. Navy and an assignment as a physical instructor.

The graduating class of 1943 was 85 strong, with most of the young men ticketed for induction into the various branches of the service, an experience many of them would not survive. They too are remembered as belonging to the Greatest Generation.

The next “Second Tuesday” workshop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 9 in the History Center. We will attempt to cover the Classes of 1944 and 1945.

John Oyler is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. Reach him at 412-343-1652 or Read more from him at

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