John Oyler: Lafayette Street in 1939
This column is a portrait of our Lafayette Street neighborhood in Bridgeville as it existed eight decades ago.
In 1939, I was 8. My brother, Joe, was 2. We had moved into our new house at 1053 Lafayette in 1937.
Lafayette Street runs in a general southerly direction from Elizabeth Street to Winfield. The house on the northeast corner of the Elizabeth Street intersection was occupied by the Chamberlains — I don’t remember anything about them but the name.
Leo and Freda Antion lived next door with their 2-year-old son, David. Mr. Antion was a mill worker. A vacant lot separated them from the Russells. Mr. Holland Russell was an employee of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. Our house came next, then one owned by Mrs. Florence Kinder, a nurse at Mayview.
The next two lots were vacant, then came the Hoppers’ house. Mr. Bill Hopper worked in an engineering supplies store in Pittsburgh. Their sons were Bill, 10, and Don, 5.
The DeBlanders lived next door to the Hoppers. Their son, Dale, was 4. Mr. DeBlander worked for Universal Cyclops. Dale is alive and well and a treasured member of our Octogenarian Brunch group. The Coxes were next. Mrs. Ann Cox was the sister of Mrs. Panizza, who lived catty-corner across the street.
Then came the Hellers. Mr. Kellen Heller managed a dry-cleaning establishment in Mt. Lebanon. They had two children, Nancy, 7, and Don, 4. The “Bud” Sims family lived next door, beyond which was a large vacant lot extending to Winfield. Mr. Sims was a steelworker. Buddy Sims was a 1-year-old in 1939.
Returning to the north end of Lafayette Street, the first house on the west side belonged to Dr. Peter Castelli (BHS, 1926) and his wife, Rosalie. He was heavily involved in the founding of St. Clair Hospital.
A vacant lot separated Castellis from the house owned by the Beall family. Bud Beall was a 1930 graduate of BHS; his wife was Elizabeth (Lib) Strain (BHS, 1933). Bud worked for Vanadium Corp. of America; he found me a summer job there in 1952.
Two vacant lots separated the Bealls from the Jones family. Amos and Thelma Jones had two sons, Amos, 6, and Gary, 2. Mr. Jones was a refrigeration repairman and a night watchman at one of the coal mines.
After a vacant lot came the Panizzas. Mr. Joe Panizza owned Bridgeville Bottling Works; he gave me a summer job in 1947. Their daughter, Genevieve, was 3 in 1939.
Their next-door neighbors were the Capozzolis, John and Eleanor. In 1939, Mary Ann Capozzoli was 1. Mr. Capozzoli managed Reliable Savings and Loan.
The final house, on the Winfield corner, belonged to the Gallaghers. Mr. Doyce Gallagher was another BHS graduate (1914). Their daughters were Lois, 9, and Carol, 4. At some point, Carol was stricken with polio, probably the only victim we knew.
To an 8-year-old, Lafayette Street was an attractive oasis in a world that was still difficult to comprehend. We were pioneers, establishing homesteads in a previously unpopulated area. Vacant lots were slowly being replaced by new houses every year.
This has been an enjoyable time travel trip. I will set the machine to 1949 next time and bring Dale DeBlander and Joe along with me.