Local historian recalls Bridgeville in the Depression years

Published Nov 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm (Updated Nov 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm)

Following the format of the “Images of America – Bridgeville” book, author and local historian John Oyler talked about the 1930s in Bridgeville at a presentation titled “Bridgeville Remembered: The Depression Years.” The talk was held Nov. 14 at the Bridgeville Public Library.

Prior to the start of his talk, Oyler joked that talking about the depression years is hitting rather close to home with the state of the economy in America today.

However, he said back in the 1930s, people in Bridgeville may have been poor, but they were happy.

During the Depression, more than half of the families in Bridgeville lived below the poverty line.

“We were poor, but we still got along,” Oyler said, adding the first line of defense was that families stuck together.

“Families helped each other out a lot,” he said, including the Colussy family, which was prominent back then.

“Another line of defense were the neighbors,” Oyler said. He said whenever a neighbor was in need, families would pitch in to help, even if it meant just baking a casserole.

“When we were living here, we were poor,” Oyler said of his family, whom he lived with at 823 Bank Street. They called the house “the little stone bungalow.”

He said although his family was poor, it didn’t seem that way. He recalled his mother calling the local grocer and placing the family’s order.

“A couple hours later, a delivery truck came with the order,” Oyler said. The same went for the local butcher shop, which also delivered.

“That was when we were poor,” he said. He laughed, “Now that we are ‘rich’ we have to get in the car, drive 15 minutes to the store and fight for a space in the parking lot and push a cart around.”

He said back in the 1930s, families didn’t have to worry about food spoiling, because there were regular deliveries of ice for the families’ iceboxes.

Oyler remembered that when his family was in need of ice, his mom put a sign on the door designating what size block was needed, and then Elmer Colussy would deliver the ice.

Oyler shared photos of Bridgeville with the audience at the presentation, including the first Colussy-owned car dealership called E.A. Motors, which was located at the corner of Hickman Street and Washington Avenue. There was also a Colussy Chevrolet dealership on Baldwin Street.

Mayview State Hospital played a role in the Depression years in Bridgeville, as many residents worked at the former institution.

“Mayview Hospital was very prominent at the time,” Oyler said.

He said there were a lot of things going on there that people didn’t know about, including electroshock therapy and even frontal lobotomies. “I used to think it looked like a small college,” he said.

Photos of the Old Show, where people would go to watch old westerns and serials, were also shared by Oyler. He recalled shows like “Red Rider” and “Hopalong Cassidy” at the Old Show, which was located near the current Bridgeville Area Historical Society building on Station Street. The building still stands today.

The next presentation in the “Bridgeville Remembered” series will be on the topic of World War II. The presentation will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Bridgeville Public Library. It is free and open to the public.

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