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SWANSON | Keystoner A night to remember at the Ritz Sharpsville



Published: Sun, August 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Let's go back to the mid-1940s for a few minutes and dust off our brains a little.

Oh yes, I know a lot of you weren't even born yet. Still, it was a magnificent moment in the history of this great nation in which we live.

Sitting in the middle rows of the Ritz Theater in Sharpsville one evening (the Ritz was then owned by Andy Seaman), there was this tremendous noise outside. Everyone rushed outside to see just what was going on.

Cars were honking their horns as they sped down Main Street. People were dancing in the streets, church bells were ringing and Sharpsville, as the world, was celebrating. World War II had ended. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

A memorable night

It's one night I'll remember for the rest of my life. We all had fathers, uncles and aunts and brothers and sisters who had been involved in the war. And now, they were coming home, at least the ones who were most fortunate.

I was only about 11 years old at the time, but the memory remains instilled as if it were only yesterday.

The movie playing that evening was "Mrs. Miniver," starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.

Growing up in Sharpsville was not all that bad. We had a lot of role models to look up to, especially those who came before us on the athletic fields and basketball courts. Sharpsville, as it remains today, was highly patriotic and its athletes were some of the best to be found anywhere.

Guys like Jabby Ellison, Frank Erme, Ronnie Weber, Thurlo Gill, Paul Davidson, Dick Timmerman, Moe Campbell, Raymond Austin, among many others, who set some very high standards to follow. As one guy put it, "There's been a great many outstanding athletes come out of Sharpsville High School."

Hydrant, Hiryak's house

The reason I wanted to write this column reflects on a fire hydrant. That's right, a fire hydrant, the one that was situated behind the backstop at the baseball field that was adjacent to the high school football field.

It was a run-of-the-mill fire hydrant, except for one thing. It had a drinking spigot attached so that the ball players could wet their whistles during their half inning at-bats.

You had to be careful when turning on the water, however. Sometimes the blast would hit you in the face so hard it would take your breath away, or would send your ball hat flying into the front yard of the Hiryak family's, who lived across the street. Hiryak's house was always being bombarded by baseballs that would fly over the backstop.

Sun, ladder and house

One bad thing about the playing field itself. The afternoon sun would always set behind the house located in center field. That meant the rays of sun would be directly in the eyes of the batter. Most of our home games were played in late afternoon or early evening hours.

One of Sharpsville's greatest supporters was the late George Mahaney Sr., who attended just about every baseball game ever played in Sharpsville. He would sit at the end of the players bench in his lawn chair and root the Devils to victory. He sure loved his baseball.

Then, too, there was this ladder that was situated on the fence surrounding the football field. Any foul ball down the first base line would more than likely end up in the pine trees surrounding the football field. Somebody always manned the fence in order to find the ball and return it to play.

And then there was this home in right field, the one that Jabby Ellison supposedly hit a home run over.

Man, if that fire hydrant could talk, it sure would have had some tales to tell. If not, the ladder may have had a few choice words.




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