Copyright © 2017 John F. Oyler
November 30, 2017
Bridgeville High School, 1939 through 1941
This month the Bridgeville Area Historical Society “Second Tuesday” workshop returned to its review of the history of Bridgeville High School, this time focusing on the Classes of 1939, 1940, and 1941.
The discussion actually began in the middle of 1938. The football team was on the upswing that Fall and celebrated a thumping of Clark High 12 to 0. The Senior dramatists presented a comedy, “The Nut Farm”, with a cast that included Gloria Lutz. Too bad we didn’t have that knowledge to tease her about when she was our teacher ten years later.
The basketball team was quite successful, led by Clair “Tay” Malarkey. They topped Bethel 31 to 25 to win the championship of their section. The star center for Bethel in that game was Robert Hast, who would make history at BHS a decade later. Their run through the WPIAL playoffs ended with a decisive 41 to 32 loss to Springdale.
There were 74 graduates in the Class of 1939. They included Alex Asti, Bridgeville’s first fatal casualty of World War II; future coach and teacher Clyde “Tiny” Carson; and Bob Weise, elder brother of Society President Mary Weise. Their May Queen was Betty Crawford; the Maid of Honor was Mary True. Flower girl Sally Russell would reign as BHS May Queen ten years in the future.
BHS’ football team met a lot of success in the Fall of 1939. They were unbeaten in Class B with a clear path to the WPIAL championship when they met South Fayette in their annual rivalry game. Their opponents, winless in eight games, once again proved the old adage that past records are meaningless in rivalry games by pulling off the biggest upset in the history of this long series, 6 to 0. The result was a series of fights on the sidelines between fans of the two rivals, an event that was recorded for posterity in a newspaper photograph.
Two class presidents, Joe Halloran (Senior Class) and Arthur Spriggs (Junior Class) were honored by the Merit Parade, as was Faust Rosa. Mary Weise pointed out that Rosa had gone on to a distinguished career as a nuclear engineer. Sure enough, a search in newspapers.com turned up a series of articles in 1977 quoting Nuclear Regulatory Commission official Faust Rosa.
The Juniors presented a class play “New Fires” starring Anne Bowman and John Sigmann. We are inclined to forget how popular these plays were in an era when the high school was the social and cultural center of the community.
After a hiatus of several years BHS fielded a soccer team in 1940, one of six schools in WPIAL. There were lots of familiar soccer names on the team including Sypien, LaSota, and Pawlik.
The facilitator showed a lovely photograph of the 1940 Senior Ball which he found in a scrapbook in the Society’s archives. The gymnasium in the high school is lavishly decorated. The girls all look like May Queens; their escorts, like Lochinvars. Two years later they would be wrapped up in the horrors of war. The Class of 1940 included 108 graduates, by far the biggest group for the high school up to that time.
High School principal Martin Fowler left to become Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Industrial Training School at Morganza, a fancy name for a Reform School. Fowler was shocked at the way the students were treated, so he tore down the fences and initiated a “trusty” policy. Within a week the school’s inmates were scattered all over Western Pennsylvania. Fowler resigned shortly thereafter, citing “policy differences” as his reason for leaving.
The 1940 Fall football team was powerhouse featuring halfbacks “Smiles” Perkins and Perry Hackley. They capped an undefeated season with a 12 to 0 drubbing of South Fayette, avenging the previous year’s loss. BHS and Masontown ended in a tie for second place in WPIAL Class B and were forced to play an elimination game to earn the right to the playoff game, a game that the locals lost, 6 to 0.
The Historical Society is fortunate to have the original scrapbook that Coach Neil Brown kept while he was at Bridgeville. When his wife was a client at the Guild for the Blind, Coach Brown gave the scrapbook to Nancy LaSota, believing it belonged in Bridgeville. The facilitator was able to show a number of photos of individual players that were in it.
Roy Delaney and Peter Calabro were honored by the Merit Parade. According to the newspaper article Calabro was hoping to convert his hobby of recapping automobile tires into a vocation (which he eventually did quite successfully). Don Toney pointed out that Calabro was one of three Bridgeville airman shot down in separate incidents in World War II and ending up in the same Prisoner of War camp. The others were cousins George Shady and George Abood.
The BHS basketball team repeated as Section champions before losing to Sharpsburg in the playoffs 33 to 23. The track and field team fared much better, winning the Class B WPIAL title. John Pesavento won the 100 yard dash; Bill Camp, the 880. A relay team of Fillippi, Copeland, Adams, and Perkins won the Two Lap Relay: the team of Adams, Phillips, Hackley, and Fillippi took the Four Lap Relay title. In the Field events Smiles Perkins won the Shot Put and Jim Patter the High Jump. Coach John Graham turned out powerful track and field teams in those years.
Pattee Kelley provided a wealth of information on the Class of 1941 by bringing in programs from their Class Night and Commencement that her mother, Margaret “Pat” True, had lovingly saved. Class Night was a series of skits and musical productions performed by the Seniors. A highlight certainly must have been Guy Russell singing “He’s the Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”.
There were eighty six Seniors in the Class of 1941. Commencement featured valedictory addresses by Judith Rosa, James Knold, Helen Colton, Frank Rizak, and Nina Whitecap. Their subjects were the various aspects of “Our Part in the American Crisis”. I suspect their advice would still be relevant today.
The next “Second Tuesday” workshop is scheduled for 7:00 pm, December 12, 2017 in the History Center. We will attempt to cover the Classes of 1942, 1943, and 1944.