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This week in history

This week in history

125 years ago, 1895

Three men were injured when a boiler exploded at the Peter Deibel Sons’ Butcher Shop on West Federal Street. Immediately after the burst, an alarm was sent to the fire department, which arrived to find the men scalded and the boiler in pieces. Al Apple, a butcher at the shop, stated: “I cannot understand the cause of the accident. Only 20 pounds of steam was on at the time and the boiler contained plenty of water.” He was in the boiler room at the time and was knocked over by the explosion.

M. L. Cook, another employee, was doing carpentry work in the next room. His injuries were the most severe, as he was blinded by the steam and knocked over by debris. His left hand was badly cut and his head was bruised. John Cook, who was working with a group of chickens at the time, was also scalded but not seriously hurt. The shock startled those on the main floor of the building who ran to sound the fire alarm. The floor was caved in, but there was no other damage to the shop.

110 years ago, 1910

A fire threatened several downtown Youngstown buildings and caused more than $25,000 in damage (more than $655,000 in 2020). The fire was discovered by James McGraw who was passing by at the time and noticed flames shooting down into the Conway-Hannan store from the second floor. He sent out a fire alarm and the men from Central station were on the scene within a few minutes. After assessing the size of the fire and fearing that it might destroy the entire city block, they called in a general alarm and all of the city’s firefighters and apparatus rushed to the scene. It was stated by witnesses who watched the firefighters work that no better piece of firefighting had ever been done in the city.

The fire appeared to start in the picture framing store owned by R. T. Knorr as picture frames were left piled next to an open gas stove. Most of the huge stock of clothing and furnishings at the Conway-Hannan store was destroyed, along with the beautiful store fixtures. Knorr’s entire stock was also destroyed, including many valuable pictures.

The fire was believed to be fully extinguished when another fire was discovered in the University Club next door. The club room had been decorated with bunting and paper decorations when a pipe overheated and set fire to the paper. A significant hole was burned into the floor but the loss was not severe.

75 years ago, 1945

The Cirelli family had four sons and a son-in-law serving overseas. Sergeant Albert J Cirelli was a propeller specialist with the air corps in Italy. He had been in the service for three years and in Italy for one year. While there, he visited his grandmother, Philemena Cirella, and his aunt, both of whom he had never met before. Private First Class John Cirelli served in the infantry in the South Pacific. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Good Conduct Medal.

Sergeant Joseph Cirelli, a radio operator in India, had been in the service for four years. John and Joseph both worked for the Youngstown Foundry and Machine Company before enlisting. Private First Class Patsy Cirelli served with the field artillery in France. John Nastasi, the son-in-law, was with the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corp. in McDonald before enlisting in 1943.

45 years ago, 1975

A new project at Youngstown State University helped historians look to the future. Oral history is as old as speech itself, but the tape recorder offered historians an exciting new research tool. Professor Hugh G. Earnhart, director of the Oral History Department at YSU, noted “we’re collecting materials for the historian in the 22nd and 23rd centuries.” The new program began offering classes in 1974 and worked in earnest to gather as much of the rich local history as possible. Earnhart also noted that oral history is different from a man-on-the-street interview: “We don’t interview unless we know about the man, his time, and have a thesis we are working toward.”

After taping the interview, it is carefully checked for accuracy. “We are asking for candid interviews, telling it like it is. Otherwise there would be no integrity,” Earnhart added. He also noted the role that these interviews play as a teaching tool. He witnessed a student listening to a tape about life during the Great Depression. The student had thought all of that was “ancient history” when he suddenly realized that it had happened during the lifetime of the man speaking and it had new meaning for him. Earnhart hoped that the oral history tapes would help to restore what had been lost between generations.

• Compiled from the archives of the Youngstown Vindicator by Traci Manning, MVHS Curator of Education