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Monessen Junior C of C had an auspicious debut

| Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last week's reference to The Keystone magazine published by Pittsburgh Steel Co. rekindled memories of one of the most active civic groups in Monessen history - the Monessen Junior Chamber of Commerce.

That point was emphasized in the spring 1953 edition of The Keystone as George Hess, a reporter with The Monessen Daily Independent, recounted "one busy year" for the Jaycees in a story written for the steelmaker's magazine.

The Junior Chamber of Commerce "is only one year old, but already it has earned a place for itself in the civic scheme of things," Hess wrote.

The Jaycees' most recent project, painting several rooms at the Memorial Civic Center, "insured the new Jaycee organization a permanent spot on the roster of Monessen's service clubs," he added.

Moving in when the Civic Center, converted from the abandoned Iowa School Annex, was in dire need of repair, the young men of the Junior Chamber proceeded to "pump life into the project" by painting the gymnasium and three large classrooms, one of which will be used an office by the City Recreation Department, Hess said.

"In so doing, Jaycee dramatized the Civic Center and reawakened interest in it," he wrote.

He pointed out that until the Jaycees launched the painting program in which Cab Melissas, a professional painter who donated his services, was the prime mover, the Chamber of Commerce, which had conceived the idea of locating a Civic Center in the old school building, was unable to get its program rolling because of the "rundown condition of the structure."

"But when the gym and three rooms glistened with fresh paint, the Civic Center Management Board sat down and worked out a plan for completing the rehabilitation of the building, including the auditorium, while the Recreation Department prepared to initiate several recreation activities that had been hanging fire for months," Hess said.

It was estimated that the Jaycees volunteered some 150 clock hours with brushes and rollers to paint the Civic Center. Multiplied by the number of club members on the job at various times, the painting time amounted to more than 600 man hours.

"Such activity has been typical of the Monessen Jaycee since its formation in May 1952," Hess wrote.

During the first months of its history, the club was responsible for painting Monessen's park benches, staging a huge auction at which myriad items of merchandise were sold to the highest bidders for the financial profit of the Jaycees and the advertising advantage of participating merchants, and helping the Chamber of Commerce stage its annual picnic.

The biggest undertaking by the organization for young men between the ages of 21 and 35, Hess emphasized, was Jaycee Week in the fall of 1952.

Designed to introduce the new service club to Monessen residents, Jaycee Week offered a busy schedule of events that included a free concert by the Westinghouse Quartet, two nights of a local talent show, a pre-football game pep rally and dance for Monessen High School students, a Homecoming dance featuring Charlie Barnet and his orchestra at the high school gym, and the group's Charter Night dinner.

Pictures accompanying The Keystone story by Hess showcased the following individuals:

- Jaycees leaders Emil Spadafore, president; Emil Beck, internal vice president; Arthur McNabb, external vice president; William Bailey, treasurer; James Krasik, secretary, and trustees Lawrence Bellora Jr., Robert Farr and Hess.

- Club members Spadafore, Bellora, McNabb, Jack Weber, Bernard Reday, Tony Mandalakos and Cab Melissas volunteering their time during the painting job at the Civic Center.

- Mary Towson, who was crowned Jaycee Queen at the Homecoming festivities on October 31, 1952, and her elected maids, Gloria Salotti and Mary Ann Kuhar.

- The more than 60 young people who participated in the talent show. They were not identified.

In addition to Towson, Salotti and Kuhar, other contestants for the Jaycee Queen crown were Susan Hreno, Gail Hunter, Jerry Kerns and Vera Nestor. Featured in a picture in the Nov. 16, 1952, edition of The Monessen Daily Independent, the seven young women were chosen as finalists from an original field of nearly 30 entrants.

Spadafore, assistant wire mill superintendent at the Page Division of the American Chain and Cable Company, succeeded Attorney Frank P. Ezerski Jr. as president of the Junior Jaycees.

In addition to Ezerski, who declined to seek re-election, the Jaycees' original executive group in 1952 comprised John Weber, vice president; George Hess, secretary; Michael Skirpan, secretary; Fred Stockus, treasurer, and directors Leonard Stern, DuBoise Carter, James Span, Stephen Menzler and Spadafore.

In other business at their reorganization dinner meeting on Jan. 22, 1953, six Jaycees responded to a request by Andrew Kritsky, chairman of the local March of Dimes, to help post stickers advertising the upcoming Mothers March on Polio on doors and windows of businesses in Monessen. They were McNabb, Weber, Ezerski, Carter, Skirpan and Frank Vizza.

The group also welcomed its new members, Donald Zoni, manager of the S.A. Meyer Co. Store, and Claude Waite, a newcomer to The Daily Independent's advertising staff.

Hess concluded his story in The Keystone by saying, "With a record of achievement already in the books, the Jaycees confidently anticipate they will continue to serve Monessen well in the years ahead."

(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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