Peeking into the Past: Three local men planned, then practiced for bank heist in 1960


Peeking into the Past - Judy Minsavage



Pittston Area High School students held their annual holiday dance in 1969. Members of the planning committee are, from left, first row, Linda Golden, Chris Miele, Judy Schaffer, Al Urban, class president; Justine Sokol, Pat Calabro and Jennifer Morgan. Second row, William Gross, Ann Marie Galushka, Joseph Davidson, Rita Gerosky, Paul Suscavage, Debbie Marranca and Joseph Bachkosky.


1950 – 66 years ago

Citing the fact no major crimes were committed, the Pittston City Police Department had an uneventful year. However, it did report 75 minor accidents, 102 calls for domestic problems and 138 drunk and disorderly. Several robberies were reported but the most stolen was from Frank Salvatore, who was talked into withdrawing $524 from his bank account by two very persuasive fellows. They grabbed the money from him and ran. Some of the other calls were: a stolen taxi, skunk on Pine Street, man “rolled” by woman loses pay, man accused of throwing water on waitress, swarm of bees upset neighborhood, man asked to be locked up, person wet by hose while watching fire, low flying plane over Searle Street.

The Dispatch reviewed the year’s news stories: January – Pittston was treated to “a brilliant display of fireworks at Bone Stadium” with the burning of 10,000 Christmas trees collected from area residents after the holiday. February – While enroute to a fire, an Eagle Hose Company hook and ladder truck crashed into McGray’s Tavern on Spring Street. June – Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the construction of a $125,000 St. Rocco’s Parochial School. November – a joint committee of the Jenkins Township Hose Company and American Legion dedicated a plaque in the memory of George Mangan, of Port Griffith. December – Mrs. Louis Fabrizio donated a $700 oxygen tent to Pittston Hospital.

1960 – 56 years ago

Pittston City Street Department workers looked forward to January 1960. An increase of 25 cents per hour was budgeted for them in the new year. However, upon approval of the final budget at the end of 1959, the planned increase was cancelled. This is what the Sunday Dispatch reported about the issue:

“Our sympathy this week to the workers of the street department of Pittston City. The 1960 tentative budget carried provisions for a boost of 25 cents an hour in their pay.

“The final budget adopted by the city of Pittston last Tuesday did not provide funds for the increase and as a result these hard workers of the street department will have to struggle with the old $1 an hour. Too bad, the lads on the street department really do a job for the lousy wage, yet they receive less pay than the lowest paid clerk in the municipal office, city or county.”

The Duryea VFW was waiting for the cold weather in 1960, as it had enlisted a bulldozer to create a depression next to the post home to create a skating rink for borough residents to enjoy. However, the weather was not cooperating. According to weatherspark.com, temperatures in January 1960 were 20 percent above average.

Using several local heists as “practice,” three young Pittston area thieves had plans to move on to larger targets. After committing smaller Pittston area robberies at Michael Angelo’s Grocery, Cocetti’s Drug Store, Miller’s Junkyard, Frank’s Lunchroom and at the Arcerness, Falcone and Ash Service Stations, the trio planned to use the experience gained for its next target, the East End Bank in Wilkes-Barre. Working with the State Police, Pittston police officer Joseph Delaney apprehended the three men after one of the perpetrator’s fingerprints were found on a tool used in the burglaries.

1970 – 46 years ago

Through the generosity of several people, 50 Christmas carolers from the Mt. Zion Methodist Church and St. Pius Chapel in Harding were able to bring holiday cheer throughout the area. On a bus donated by Leon Emmanuel, driven by Cornelius Hastie and escorted by a police car, the group traveled throughout the area singing holiday favorites. After two hours of being outdoors, group members were treated to hot cocoa, coffee and sandwiches at their respective churches.

The Avoca Lions Club judges had a tough time deciding who would get each of the 10 prizes set aside for winners of the borough’s best outdoor Christmas display, so they increased the amount of prizes to 12. The winners were Thomas McMullen, Stella Halagarde, Joseph Shemanski, Mary Mills, John Wrazien, Ronald Casper, Matthew Skoranski, Michael Snopkowski, Margaret Orlowski, Robert Dolan, Michael Brogan and Mary Wyworski.

Roy Stauffer, of Hughestown, was named a Time Magazine’s Quality Dealer Award Winner. He was one of only 50 national dealers selected for exceptional performance in operating their dealership and in community service. Stauffer was to be honored by the National Automobile Dealers Association in Miami Beach. Time picked up presenting the awards formerly given by the Saturday Evening Post after the magazine’s demise in 1969.

1980 – 36 years ago

History would be made in West Pittston as Judge Patrick Toole was scheduled to swear in Irene Campbell as the first woman to serve on the borough’s council.

Some of the better answers given in the prior decade to the Inquiring Photographer were the focus of an article published in the Sunday Dispatch. The question and answer piece, a favorite of the paper’s publisher, William A. Watson, had been a staple for 32 years and ran the gamut from world affairs to what item was most wanted for Christmas. Here are some of the questions and most amusing from 1970s:

What was the best day of your life? Bob Valvonis, of Pittston, answered, “I haven’t had a good one yet.”

Do you believe you are never to old to learn something? Tony Demark, of Dupont, answered, “Yes, I recently learned to keep my mouth shut.”

Do you feel men are more or less romantic on Valentine’s Day? Al Kridlo, of Pittston, returned the question, “What’s Valentine’s Day?”

After a disappointing 1979 season for the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, the question was asked, “Do you think a new stadium will help the Phillies play better?” Mike Burke, of Pittston, answered, “Putting the Phillies in a new stadium is like eating a hot dog in the most exclusive restaurant in the world.” Although a new stadium was not in the cards for that year and would not be realized until 2004, the 1980 Phillies defeated the Houston Astros in the NLCS, gaining the National League title. They won the World Series in game six by beating the Kansas City Royals, 4-1.

“Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man”.

— Quoted from Benjamin Franklin’s 1755 Poor Richard’s Almanac.

http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_Miss-Judy-2-1.jpg

Pittston Area High School students held their annual holiday dance in 1969. Members of the planning committee are, from left, first row, Linda Golden, Chris Miele, Judy Schaffer, Al Urban, class president; Justine Sokol, Pat Calabro and Jennifer Morgan. Second row, William Gross, Ann Marie Galushka, Joseph Davidson, Rita Gerosky, Paul Suscavage, Debbie Marranca and Joseph Bachkosky.
http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_PA-holiday-dance-1979.jpgPittston Area High School students held their annual holiday dance in 1969. Members of the planning committee are, from left, first row, Linda Golden, Chris Miele, Judy Schaffer, Al Urban, class president; Justine Sokol, Pat Calabro and Jennifer Morgan. Second row, William Gross, Ann Marie Galushka, Joseph Davidson, Rita Gerosky, Paul Suscavage, Debbie Marranca and Joseph Bachkosky.

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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