Peeking into the Past: Only 4.9 million pennies needed to build new Port Griffith church in 1959

Peeking into the Past - Judy Minsavage

1949 – 67 years ago

“Four city women poisoned from canned fish” was a headline in the Jan. 23, 1949 Sunday Dispatch. What started out as a pleasant luncheon at Pittston City Hall ended with four of the guests getting violently ill. Within a short time after eating food items prepared and supplied by those attending, Mrs. Thomas Newcomb, city health officer, along with Margaret Sheridan, clerk; Elizabeth Battle, superintendent of schools; Helen McQueen, clerk to the Pittston School Board; and Margaret Mancini, tax clerk, became extremely ill and had to go home. After some discussion, it was determined the canned kippered fish was the culprit. Of those attending the luncheon, the four sickened ladies were the only ones who ate the canned smoked fish purchased at a local store. The store owner was notified, the merchandise was taken from the shelves and returned to the distributor. According to, expiration dating of canned items wasn’t introduced until 1950 and then not fully implemented until 1970.

Fifteen men joined the Army at the recruiting station in Pittston. They were Henry A. Grabowski, Dupont; Albert Smith, Robert Wisnosky, George Uporsky, and Thomas Borosky, all of Exeter; William Hoban, Robert McArdle, John Murphy, John Morris, Hughestown; Anthony Grigalonis, Sebastopol;and Jerome LaSorda, Vincent Moughan, Donald McHale, Joseph Korick and Leonard Kridlo, all of Pittston.

According to United States history website, in 1949, the cost of a car was $1,650, gasoline was 26 cents per gallon, bread was 14 cents a loaf, milk was 84 cents a gallon, a postage stamp was 3 cents and the cost of a house was $14,500. But the average annual salary was $3,600 and the minimum wage only 40 cents per hour. That car looks pretty expensive now, doesn’t it?

1959 – 57 years ago

Gene Guarilia, of Duryea, a senior basketball player at George Washington University, was part of a college all-star team selected to tour the country with the famed Harlem Globetrotters. He was a top rebounder and point maker on the Colonials’ team. Guarilia was selected by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the 1959 NBA draft.

Admitting he could only carry $80 worth of pennies at a time, Father Skurski, of St. Joseph’s Parish in Port Griffith, knew he would have to make quite a few trips to the bank to deposit the rest of the 100,000 pennies he collected for the reconstruction of his church. In 1956, St. Joseph’s Parish sustained major damage from mine subsidence and Skurski’s Pennies From Heaven campaign was gathering momentum. Thousands of pennies were donated as reconstruction plans were discussed. Skurski was quick to add nothing would be done until he collected 5 million pennies. With $50,000, the work could begin and the rest financed through fundraisers.

The Duryea High School Band was invited to play at the inauguration of governor-elect David Lawrence. Two buses transported band members to Harrisburg. Accompanying the band members were Professor Chester Swantkowski, Rita Wroblewski and Ceil Waskiewicz.

Local drug stores started offering Sunday hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

1969 – 47 years ago

Tom and George Smith, of Dupont, won honors at the Elm Street Sportsmen’s Club trap shoot. Steve Latorre, Leo Mastucci and Elias Jenkins turned in some impressive scores, as well.

The Sunday Dispatch Inquiring Photographer asked Pittston residents, “What would your thoughts be if you were to assume the duties of the President of the United States today?” Mike Dziedzic answered, “My first thoughts would be about our boys in Vietnam. I don’t see how a president could think of anything else.” James Fearick said, “I would be thinking of the youth of our country, what can be done to channel their energy into beneficial projects.” Jimmy Kolmansberger added, “My thoughts would concern our domestic policy. It’s time to do a little cleaning up at home. We’ve been too concerned with foreign policy and have failed to see problems in our own country.”

Rancaqua, Chile was the destination for a medical mobile unit purchased and donated by Pittston Rotary Club as part of its World Community Service Project. John Kizis, director, and Robert Owens, president of the Pittston Rotary, with the help of various Rotary Clubs of District 741, arranged for the mobile unit to be shipped to Dr. Lavin of Chile who reported that, upon receipt, the unit would be on the road 16 hours a day helping people in and around Rancaqua.

1979 – 37 years ago

For 50 years of service with the Miners Savings Bank of Pittston, C. Evert Sharkey, of West Pittston , received a gift from S.C. Battisti, president of the bank. Sharkey began his employment with the bank in 1928 as a utility clerk and worked his way up to the proof department. He entered the U.S. Army Air Force and served in India and China. He resumed his employment with the bank after his discharge. By 1976, Sharkey was promoted to treasurer and trust officer.

Dupont Hose Company No. 1 seated new officers. They were Peter Carroll, chaplain; Bernard Babonis, secretary; Joseph Lokuta, vice president; Joseph Francis, president; Edward Gambino, fire chief; Bart Bryk, financial secretary; Alex Kubik, assistant fire chief; Joseph Kosik, executive board; Enrico Mancinelli, executive board; John Gambino, foreman; Frank Borysewicz, sergeant at arms; Ed Twardowski, executive board; Leonard Zielinski, executive board; Charles Rytzy, assistant fire chief.

Peeking into the Past

Judy Minsavage

Reach Judy Minsavage at 570-991-6403 or on Twitter @JudithMinsavage

Reach Judy Minsavage at 570-991-6403 or on Twitter @JudithMinsavage

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