Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Snowstorm 1956 Headlines

Erie Daily Times Nov. 23, 1956.
When Erieites talk about the Thanksgiving Day Snowstorm, chances are they mean THE snow storm from 1956, when two feet of snow brought the City of Erie to a standstill.

Back then, life was a lot less complicated. The entire family got together for a home cooked Thanksgiving Dinner. There was no 24 hour marathon of "A Christmas Story" on TV. If your family had a television, it probably had a tablecloth draped over it and excess food sitting on top of it. 

There was no such thing as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. People did not miss Thanksgiving dinner because they had to work at a big box retail store. People did not camp out for three days in front of Best Buy waiting for a great sale on a big screen TV or a personal computer. 

Isn't it fun to reminisce about the good old days?

Click here to leave a comment on the 1956 snowstorm. 

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Enjoy more facts about the history of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ice Snaps Limbs on West 10th Street

This is the kind of winter day that kids love but parents hate. One of those winter storms where heavy wet snow blankets the trees, creating a picture-perfect moment. And then the temperature plummets, causing ice accumulate on the trees. The limbs start to sag under the weight of the mixture, until the pressure is too great and they snap off and crash to the ground, taking out power lines and cutting off telephone service. And the sidewalks become treacherous glossy paths where people take a header, sometimes breaking one of their own limbs in the process. 

The upside to a winter storm? No School! The little ones get to stay home all day and play on the Internet.

The postcard above of a winter street scene near downtown Erie, PA was taken on February 16, 1909. The old Central High School is on the left, and St. Peter Cathedral, at 230 West 10th St., is on the right. The photographer was standing on the north side of 10th Street between Peach and Sassafras, looking west on Tenth Street (probably near the current Verizon building). Central High School is now a parking lot. These neat old trees are gone, but others were planted in their places at various curbside spots near the church, the motel and the telephone company.

Enjoy more Erie, Pennsylvania history and photos at: Old Time Erie

Monday, November 25, 2013

Top 10 November Snowfall Totals Pt. 1

The Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1956 was one for the record books. The City of Erie was brought to its knees when  27" of snow fell from the sky.

I did some research and put together a chart showing the Top Ten November Snowfall Totals. Part 1, shown here, includes the years 1900 to 1950. The snowiest November, as it turns out, occurred in 1950, when Erie received a total of 46.9 inches of snow. That's just shy of four feet in thirty days, back when most people were clearing their sidewalk and driveway by hand, using a shovel instead of a snow blower. Talk about back-breaking work, especially after putting in a full day at the shop. Especially if he had to maneuver through the streets in one of those big old rear wheel drive cars with no chains on the wheels. 

Brutal storms whipped through the northeast on November 24, 1950. Pittsburgh was covered with 16 inches of snow. Meadville, PA got 18" and Erie received 15" and Buffalo was pelted with more than its share of heavy, wet snow. Cleveland was hit with one of its worst November blizzards to date.

Top 10 November Snowfall Totals, 1900-1950:
1.   1950  46.9"
2.   1947  35.1"
3.   1913  19.3"
4.   1927  16.6"
5.   1912  15.3"
6.   1910  14.4"
7.   1929  13.8"
8.   1936  13.4"
9.   1911  12.2" (tied with 1915)
10. 1930 11.2" (tied with 1933)

Enjoy more freezing factoids about Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Friday, November 22, 2013

Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie

The Pennsylvania Soldiers' and Sailors' Home was constructed to care for ailing veterans of the Civil War. The Grand Army of the Republic chose the site of the old Marine Hospital as the perfect spot to care for military veterans. The first inmate entered the Soldiers' and Sailors' Home at 560 East 3rd Street in Erie, PA on February 22, 1886. 

The facility sits on a beautiful sixty acre plot at the foot of Ash Street. Former residents are buried in a cemetery behind the home, which is visible from the Eastside Bayfront Connector near the railroad track crossing. The Wayne Blockhouse is on the northwest part of the property. 

The following is a description of the home written in 1888:

"The place is in no sense a charitable institution...The men gathered under the roof of the Home are worthy of its care and protection, and a careful study of its record-book shows that the services rendered to the government were such as ought to be rewarded in a fitting manner...Some of them were on the gunboats of the Mississippi and went through the fire and smoke when the fleet ran the gauntlet of the rebel batteries at Vicksburg; some of them...climbed the steep sides of Lookout Mountain, fought their way to Atlanta, marched with Sherman to the sea, were cooped up with Burnside at Knoxville...charged at the murderous cannon at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, or were with Grant when he received the sword of the leader of the Rebellion."-Souvenir of Erie, PA.

Enjoy more fun and fascinating facts about historic Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

All-Star Cast of 1874 Erie Play

Naiad Queen tintype courtesy of John Baker.
The Naiad Queen, under the direction of Arthur McKnight, opened at the Park Opera House in downtown Erie, PA on June 23, 1874. The all-star cast included notable members of several founding families of Erie. Mrs. T. M. Walker starred in the title role of Stalacta, the Naiad Queen. Mrs. J. P. Covert was Astrea, the Goddess of Justice, and Agnes Caughey was Clementia, the Goddess of Mercy.

"We have no hesitation in pronouncing it the best amateur entertainment ever witnessed in the city...The perfection to which Mr. McKnight has trained his 300-400 pupils is simply wonderful.:" -Erie Observer, June 25, 1874.

The production was quite elaborate, as witnessed by the costumes worn by two members of the cast in shown in this tintype. Pictured here are George Smart, a page to the Queen, and Jeannie Smart, an attendant of the Gypsy Queen. 

Arthur McKnight's students practiced the operetta for several months. The show cost $2,500 to produce, quite a large sum in 1874. There were five consecutive performances from June 23 through June 27, 1874 in the plush Opera House at 28 North Park Row. In addition to George and Jeannie Smart, the other performers included Sophia Warfel, Emma Mayo, Aggie Sterrett, Jessie Riblet, Jessie Thayer, Katie Kennedy, Lulu Sturznickle, Emily Foote, Maud Hoskinson, Clara Sherwood, Samuel Magill and Emil Jarecki.

Enjoy more fun facts and photos of historic Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy Days at the Home Drive In

The Home Drive In was a very busy place in the 50s and 60s," said Patty Hanes. "They were open pretty much all the time, and sometimes we would sleep on the beach and have breakfast there. Of course, most of the action was in the evenings and late at night. It was a place to 'See and be seen.' I remember seeing Spesh Servidio and his friends. They were sort of the original Erie 'Bikers.' He had a Harley with ape-hanger handlebars. He later had a furniture store called 'Especially Victorian' in the late 80s. Spesh passed away on December 13, 2011."

The Home Drive In was located at 2902 West Lake Road and was owned by Lamar and Edward Majeroni. It may have closed around 1968 or so. The restaurant had a prime location on the northwest triangle at West 8th and Peninsula Drive. It was close to the beach, Waldameer amusement park (and Trinity Cemetery). Cars parked under an awning which was heated in the winter and shady in the summer. Girls on roller-skates brought orders right to the car and attached a tray on the car door. Just like on Happy Days or American Graffiti. Another long gone piece of Erie history.

The Home Drive In attracted lots of tourists who visited Presque Isle State Park and lots of locals who hung out on the beach working on their tan.

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Monday, November 11, 2013

13 Year Old Waterford Boy Served in the Civil War

Horace Hovis could not wait to serve in the military and follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Horace enlisted in the 111th Pennsylvania Volunteers at Camp Reed in Erie, PA on November 1, 1861 at the ripe old age of 13. If he was not the youngest boy to serve in the Civil War, he must have been pretty close.

Horace was born in 1848 in Venango Co., PA. His father, Adam Hovis, served in the 14th Regiment Volunteer Cavalry from 1862 to 1865. Adam's father, Ernest Hovis, served in the War of 1812.

Horace served as a drummer boy in Company C of the 111th PA Volunteers. He saw action at Cedar Mountain, the Second Bull Run, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek and Sherman's March to the Sea. He was discharged on July 19, 1865. Following the Civil War, Horace lived on East 2nd Street in Waterford, PA. Horace Hovis died on February 15, 1917 and was buried in the Waterford Cemetery in Waterford, PA.

Enjoy more fun and fascinating facts about Erie County, PA at: Old Time Erie

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Naval Award Named For Erie Girl

Naval Award Named for Erie Girl

by Debbi Lyon

Once upon a time a little Erie girl's good deed inspired thousand of people across America to follow her lead. Sound familiar? Believe it or not, it's been nearly 100 years since Marjorie Sterrett sent her 10¢ allowance to the U.S. Navy to build a new battleship to fight in World War I.

Marjorie wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Tribune on February 2, 1916 which said:

"Dear Sir: I read in your paper every morning a great deal about preparedness. My grandpa and great-grandpa were soldiers. If I was a boy I would be a soldier, too. But I am not, so I want to do what I can to help. Mamma gives me a dime every week for helping her. I am sending you this week's dime to help build a battleship for Uncle Sam. I know a lot of other kids who would give their errand money if you would start a fund. I am 13 years old and go to Public School 9, Brooklyn. Truly yours, Marjorie Sterrett.
I am a true blue American and I want to see Uncle Sam prepared to lick all creation like John Paul Jones did. P.S.- Please call the battleship America."

The NY Tribune forwarded her letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. Daniels wrote a letter to Marjorie which stated, "Your patriotic action is indeed commendable, and I congratulate you on the motives which prompted your action, but I am returning the stamps herewith. The revenue required for such naval construction...will be obtained by taxation in the usual manner."

Marjorie's story was quickly picked up by the wire service and was published in thousands of newspapers across the country. It even caught the eye of former president Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote to Marjorie on Feb. 5, 1916. "Dear little Miss Marjorie...I enclose a dollar. Forty cents- a dime apiece- are for: Gracie Roosevelt, Richard Derby II, Theodore Roosevelt III, Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt...The other sixty cents is for my other six grandchildren. They are not born yet..."

Marjorie met Theodore Roosevelt on February 11, 1916. Her photo appears on the Library of Congress website, where she is identified as "Marjorie Sterretti." Close inspection of the George G. Bain photo reveals that the last name is actually Sterrett.

"Several motion picture concerns have offered inducements to Marjorie to take up a career with them, but the little girl has flatly refused them. She is more interested in her school work than acting in the movies, and I am glad it is so. Neither Marjorie's mother nor myself would consent to her appearing in any sort of performance- stage or motion pictures- that was not directly concerned with the Battleship Fund and for its sole benefit. We will gladly lend our little girl to the cause of Americanism and patriotism, but we will not consent to have her patriotism commercialized. Neither she nor we have received one cent either directly or indirectly through the Battleship Fund, and we do not expect to receive any. Marjorie is now just and ordinary American schoolgirl, and we mean to keep her so. 
March 14, 1916 (signed) Thomas G. Sterrett"- Poughkeepsie Eagle News.

The Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund, which is still in existence,  ultimately donated $20,000 to the U.S. Navy. Two ships are chosen each year, one from the Pacific Fleet and one from the Atlantic Fleet, to receive the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award.

Marjorie was born in Silver Creek, NY and was the daughter of Fred and Grace Rockwood Dean. Grace married Thomas G. Sterrett in 1912, following Fred's death. Marjorie then took the surname of her step-father. Thomas G. Sterrett was an actor and a military veteran. He was stationed at New York at the start of World War I and was in charge of the Marine Corps Publicity Bureau until the spring of 1919. The Sterretts moved back to Erie and Thomas served as Sheriff of Erie County from 1926 to 1930.

Marjorie Sterrett married Peter Raun in 1920 and had three children. Marjorie Raun died on March 2, 1927, in Wattsburg, Erie Co., PA. She was just 24 years old. The photo shown above is available on the Library of Congress website.

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside!

Brrrr! There was more than an icy chill in the air when this photo was taken in the winter of 1947. Can't you feel that wicked wind whipping across the Public Dock? You would expect to see that kind of action out on Lake Erie, but not in the protected bay between the Presque Isle State Park and the foot of State Street. It looks like the dock is about to be submerged into the bay.

The eastern seaboard was pummeled by a three-day snowstorm from Thursday, February 20 through Saturday, February 22, 1947, causing at least 53 deaths. Erie native Marie Olsen took this picture at the Public Steamboat Landing during that storm. It's lucky that she didn't get blown across the ice and into the water by one of those gusts, which were recorded at 55 miles per hour in Buffalo, NY. Seven hundred and forty-eight flights were cancelled at La Guardia Airport over the weekend. Ten inches of snow fell in Pittsburgh. New York City and Washington, D. C. each got seven inches of snow. Some areas of Pennsylvania had drifts that were almost four feet deep, bringing travel to a standstill.

Many things have changed since 1947. The Public Steamboat Landing is now called Dobbins Landing. And you can now check the weather from the warmth of your home by checking out the local news or the Weather Channel on TV or the Internet (or TV on the Internet). But one thing never changes. You still need a parka, gloves, boots and a shovel to survive an Erie winter.

Enjoy more photos of Erie, PA, the Winter Wonderland, at: Old Time Erie

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Vote For Joey Stevens

It's lovely weather for ducks, on many a day here in Erie, PA. If you lived in Northwestern PA, you've had to ride the storm out on plenty of times. And if you tuned in or turned on (your TV), you probably recognize this guy. 

Joey Kodba ran for Erie County Council in the 1977 primary election, hoping to represent the 4th District in Erie Co., PA. Joey who? Why, it's Joey Stevens, your fair weather friend, from WJET-TV. 

Before he worked as a weatherman, Joey was a DJ on WJET-AM. Before that he was Tom Terrific on WWYN. He made the jump from radio to television, first at WJET-TV 24 and then at WSEE-TV.

Joey wasn't so lucky in politics, but there were at least two other local broadcasters who won their election bids. John Evans, a sportscaster at WJET-TV, represented Pennsylvania's 5th District in the PA House of Representatives. Phil Fatica, an anchorman for WSEE-TV, currently represents the 1st District on Erie County Council. On the national level, Ronald Reagan made the leap from movies to the White House.

Enjoy more fascinating facts about Erie, PA at: Old Time Erie

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Kids in Alley at West 2nd and Walnut in 1955

Today I need your help identifying the nine unknown children in this photograph, which was taken in Erie, PA in 1955. Let's see how long it takes to attach a name to each person. Are you ready to accept this challenge? Here's what I know so far (which is not much):

Four of the children have been identified so far. They are: Cecil Horton, his sister Suzanne Horton, Sarah Amos and Alice Carson. Many thanks to Cynthia Wyatt for providing this information!

This picture was taken in the alley between West 2nd and West 3rd Streets, probably closer to Walnut Street than Cherry. This was around the block from Bayview Park, where the Erie Pontiacs, a well-known local team, played baseball. Lawrence Cleaning and Dyeing was nearby, at 402 West 3rd Street.

The man on the left is Stanley Wasielewski. He lived in the little brown house near the alley at 519 1/2 West 2nd. It seems like the kids really liked him because I have several pictures taken at different times and there are usually African-American children playing near his house.

Some neighbors in the 500 block of West 2nd Street included:
Clifford Taylor, Timothy Brown, Robert James, Rosa Hobson, Jeannette Evans, Howard Dunbar, William Nixon, Douglas Stokes, Ervin Amos, Thomas Diarse, Odell Pickings, Raymond Lado, John Matkovich, Bernard Brocious, Iquila King, Charles Nicholas, Theodore White, William Carson, Irma Terry, Houston Fiedler, Richard Davis, Pruitt Watson, William Wright, Frank Pakela, Mary Dundon, Felix Galleur and Leo Foley.

Now it's your turn. Click here to send me a message if you know the names of any of these kids and I will add them here.

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie