Notable Nanty Glo native retires; news and updates
Letter No. 123 | June 27, 1999
A cover story appeared in a recent issue of the Johnstown daily newspaper about a Nanty Glo native retiring from his job. What's so unusual about this? It's a little different if a worker retires at the age of 89 after 62 years of service as was the case of Mr. Joe Casale who left Nanty Glo in 1937 to work for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Employment Security. He started as a clerk in Harrisburg for $100 a month and was transferred later that year to Johnstown where he has worked ever since. Mr. Casale recently ended his career as manager, since 1955, of the Cambria County Job Center in Johnstown. As reported, he's giving in to family pressure and is hanging it up. Mr. Casale oversaw the Johnstown office during good times when coal and steel were king, and depressing times when the 1977 Johnstown flood inundated the Bethlehem Steel mills and resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs. He called the flood his biggest challenge. He wishes the area could attract some sort of assembly plant that would create 400 to 500 semiskilled jobs. Mr. Casale was No. 2 in terms of service with the state. A 90-year-old female clerk/ typist exceeds him with 64 years of service. One fellow employee says, "He is a legend in his own time. There will never be another Joe Casale." (It must be that strong Nanty Glo character building!)
Here's a story about coincidences. I was remarking to an Alexandria, Virginia, neighbor who I just recently met that my wife and I were soon going to the Johnstown vicinity to visit. He asked if I had ever heard of a town with the strange name of Nanty Glo. The neighbor is presently retired after years of service with the Federal Aviation Administration, but his long time secretary was from Nanty Glo. She would relate to him colorful stories about hometown sites like Shoemaker Street, once referred to as the "Barbary Coast" with its hotels and bar rooms. He must have pictured a "Wild West" town.
The Nanty Glo Journal and Mainline newspapers have been publishing a series of weekly articles on the early history of the many towns in Cambria County like Nanty Glo, Colver, Revloc, and Ebensburg. The series also discusses the establishment at the turn of the twentieth century of the mines and railroads in the area. Mr. Charles Edwards, responsible for these articles, has researched the diary of a Mr. S.H. Jencks (Sterry Henry Jencks) who chronicled the history of this era. Mr. Jencks did a remarkable job of detailing this fascinating period, but who was he? He was born on March 25, 1867 in Argentina, but his family migrated to the state of Rhode Island. Mr. Jencks attended Lehigh University and began a long career as an industrial engineer. His work included the opening of coal mines, building of rail lines, and the laying out of new towns. He came into personal contact with men like Mr. Coleman and Mr. Weaver, the builders of towns like Revloc and Colver. His writings paint the history of Cambria County from 1885 to his retirement in 1936. Mr. Jencks, who served as president of Ebensburg Borough Council, died on January 12, 1948. He was buried at Mahaffey cemetery, leaving a few thousand dollars cash, some shares of stock and a 1940 Packard worth $800. It didn't look like much for a long time of hard work.
To Paul Simendinger...Shortly after questioning you about the whereabouts of Paul Batulis, your old theater partner, I saw in the paper that his sister had passed away and that Paul resided in Southfield, Michigan. On my most recent visit to Revloc, I encountered Larry Sedor, who recently suffered a heart ailment and will be taking a break from his constant chores of painting and house repairs. Larry is a friend and handyman who often helps me.
Again thanks, Jon, for providing this electronic platform to exchange stories about the old hometown "Glory Days." On a past topic about Mr. Abe Book, you are correct in recalling him being struck by a car. He passed away several days later from the injuries. I too recall the incident that occurred on Route 422 near Bethel, and it was strange to hear of his death in this fashion. Mr. Book either owned or leased a farm near Bethel where he had livestock and raised potatoes. Later in life, Mr. Book married a store employee who worked for him and had a child, Israel (Buddy) Book, who would be in his fifties now. On a recent visit to Nanty Glo, I asked my Uncle Mike Bzdyl what ever happened to Buddy. Mike stated that the son settled in the Johnstown vicinity.
Webmaster's note: It's my great pleasure, Frank. I always learn something from your posts. I knew Penn Traffic (the department store; the name lives on in a now-New York State-based grocery company) died (by bits and pieces) as a result of the 1977 flood, but didn't realize that that flood "did in" the last of the Bethlehem Steel mills in the "Flood-free City." I assumed they just faded away to the economic advantages of the new processes introduced about that time in mills far away (and the decline of "rust belt" industry in general).
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