'Let them all die together'
By JOSIE ZAHORNEC
We who lived in Johnstown during the 1930s could be labeled “survivors.”
The Great Depression found us eating homemade soup each day with a big chunk of Mom's special homemade bread.
On March 17, 1936, the flood (you know, the one which was to be the last Johnstown flood) came and brought its own headaches. Mom and I were the only two at home when the water began to flow over the bank of the river behind our
house. With the help of many wonderful people, we went to the only available building. Today the structure is the St. Rochus activities building.
There were about 50 of us gathered there; many were children. The older ladies raced to their homes in the neighborhood and brought back blankets and “perinas.” They covered us youngsters with these soft feather ticks.
For a moment or two, I felt so warm and cuddly. Then I noticed that the ladies were sobbing as they spoke in tow tones in their Slav languages. My heart skipped as I listened because I was the only child who understood most of what they were saying. I'll never forget those words. One kind mother remarked, “Let's cover them also that they'll all die together when it does happen.” There's so much more to the “rest of the story” about the survivors of the '30s.
Josie Zahornec is a resident of Johnstown.
PHOTO BY RUSSELL HEFFLEY
Many service stations have come and gone in the city of Johnstown over the past 70 years, but this station is a true survivor. Although it is much larger today, it still serves customers at its location between Napeleon Street bridge and the War Memorial, where it opereated at the time of this 1930s photo.
Bread, gossip free
By GLEN WAGNER
Way back in the Depression days there were what was called bread lines. Once a week a member of your family was allowed to
go to a local garage or other distribution point and get delivery of a loaf or two of bread, two quarts of milk, a quarter of butter and maybe some cheese.
This was high-quality stuff. Not day-old bread, not sour milk. Butter and cheese were top notch -no oleomargarine.
It was fun. You got to be away from home and the chores for three or four hours while getting to know your peers. These were people who had more time than money.
All my life I have looked back and been proud to get to know my peers (people who had more time than money).
These were times when you could catch up on gossip and find out if the local neighborhood drunk had hurt his wife in his latest beating of her. The garage opened from 2 to 5 on Saturday afternoons and you had to be there before they closed the door at 5.
Fortunately, there were not very many football games on Saturday afternoon back then, and, anyway, who cares. It was more important to get your ration of bread, milk and other foods, and talk with our peers.
Sometimes we were lucky and got a can of roast beef It was the best meat that we had ever had, and we called it “not-to-be-sold” meat. Probably because on the label were printed the words “Not to Be Sold.”
By the time you got from the end of the line to the front, where you gathered your take, you had the opportunity to solve all the world's problems, curse the ruling political power, get all the gossip that you could handle and go home relatively happy that you did not spend all of Saturday afternoon in some country club sipping mint juleps or playing bridge.
It was quite an honor to be among the privileged families who were allowed to stand in line on Saturday afternoons between 2 and 5 to get quality bread, milk, cheese and meat.
Those people hanging out in the country clubs really missed something in life.
Glen Wagner a former Johnstown resident now resides in Indialantic, Fla.
No shoe polish? Chalk will do
By SHIRLEY (HORVATH) KILLEN
When I was growing up in the 1930s in Johnstown's Morrelvillie section, we lived on a small, unpaved street in houses that were close together. I can remember my mother having me stand on a chair while she polished my little white shoes with chalk, as we had no shoe polish.
We always had a cat - they were free.
My three brothers delivered newspapers. We always had the newspaper to read. Books were scarce at our house, but it was wonderful when school started and we had books to read. Going to the local library was cool - being able to borrow books. No money was needed for that.
We had a lot of fun in the summer because the city staffed the local playgrounds. We spent every weekday from 9 a.m. to noon playing games.
We never owned a car and didn't need one. The streetcar was a half-block away from our house.
Our good times were going to downtown to the Penn Traffic, Glosser Bros. and the five-and-dime stores.
On summer evenings, we would play hide-and-seek, outside, until it was too dark to see.
Dad and I went to the Rialto Theatre on Friday nights - admission was 25 cents for both of us.
Stackhouse Park was a great picnic area for Sunday afternoons.
Everyone looked forward to the carnival on D Street every summer.
We had fun when I was growing up. I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything in the world.
Despite hardships, all four of us “kids” grew up to have productive lives.
Shirley (Horvath) Killen is a resident of Armagh
8th Ward dances eased the tension
By D. RICHARD AKERS
In the mid-30s on a cool summer evening, sounds of great music floated in the evening breeze.
The Johnstown city fathers had arranged for a street dance in the Osborne section of the 8th Ward. The location was Rose Street between Confer and McKinley avenues. The purpose was to help relieve the tension of the Great Depression City workers built a temporary platform in the center of the street. Dozens of people; young and old alike, danced to the fine music provided by the City Reed Band.
The lighthearted group danced from 6:30 to 830. It helped morale and the dances were free. They were provided two or three times a year
A great communal festival.
D. Richard Akers is a resident of Southmont
Back to Page List