Petey Semenick Sr. talks Manville History

Hey everyone. So I’m in the middle of digitally archiving lots of old “original manville residents” interviews. This one with Petery Semenick Sr. is absolutely incredible. Petey surely needs no introduction to Manville folks. For starters, he founded Petey’s bar & Casino, he was a fireman, founding member of the Rod & Gun Club, and original resident before Manville was even a real town. The interview was done by Stuart Crump, former Managing Editor of the Manville news back in March of 1979. Thanks to Petey Semenick Jr. for giving me his blessing on posting this, because it’s incredible.

Petey has a tremendous memory and his narrative of Manville history is amazing. I edited this a little bit, cutting out just the names, addresses, and really personal stuff thats really not anyones business. This interview is pretty long, but it’s a really great look at early Manville. He discusses early JM, Manville Farms, The Manville Gypsies (seriously!), the original Main St. buildings Elmcrest and Greaseheimer hotel (Chester House) Harmony Plains school, all of the Petey’s businesses, bootleg whiskey, the Rod and Gun Club, Fire Co. number 2, instructions on how to craft a baseball from scratch, the Manville Saw Mill (pictured in the video) and so many more random nuggets of great info. It’s totally worth a listen.

Manville A.A. baseball team

manville-aa-baseball-1930Manville A.A. Baseball Team • Click to Enlarge

When I first started trying to sort out Manville’s history it became very obvious very early that sports were a big deal in town. In fact there are so many different baseball teams that it’s hard to even make sense of them all. Recently I was digitally archiving some taped interviews and I came across this 1985 interview of Manville businessman, and former Manager of the Manville Yellow jackets football team, Marty Weiss.

Marty was an original Manville guy with an extremely vivid memory, and I’ll probably end up posting the whole interview up here. For now though I want to focus on the sports segment, and how Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige both played baseball in Manville! If you are unfamiliar with those guys, we are talking about two of the best black baseball players to ever play the game, and the first 2 black players to be inducted in to the hall of fame.

In the past I have heard the the Black Yankees used to play Manville A.A. in baseball and I know Satchel played for them in 1941. Being that they were based out of Paterson, N.J. at the time it all adds up. Again I’m a huge baseball geek so this is yet another claim to fame, at least as far as I’m concerned for my little hometown. And by the way, in case you missed my 2010 post on our Manville guy that made it to the Major Leagues please see my post on Johnny ‘legs’ Welaj.

In the meantime though take a listen to this clip of Marty Weiss’s interview with Edward Purzycki back on 8-23-1985. He goes on to talk about his time coaching the Yellow Jackets football team and how he couldn’t keep those guys out of Petey’s Bar… which if you are unfamiliar with later became Gatto’s. Thanks to the Manville Public Library for this Gem. Here you go…

Manville News, December 26th, 1941

BANNER-12-26-14Ok folks. Here is a digital version of the old Manville News. This one is great for several reasons. First of all, I have been eager to get to this one since it contains a train wreck in the Manville train yard… which is also known as Port Monmouth Junction (for all you fellow train nerds). Growing up over on Angle Ave. in lost valley, right across from the tracks, I had always heard about this one… it spilled tar everywhere.

Another reason this issue is great is that it concludes the entire year of 1941… so I get to feel like I actually accomplished something. In reality I’m only about a third or so through the stack. Still, it somewhat feels like a milestone.

One more reason this is great, is that it features a little blurb about Chester Trojanowski. Father of Tommy from the Chester House bar. The bar was named after Chester ala it’s name “The Chester House”

Allegedly he was quite a roller skater, and was performing in town in the following week. You can view and download the Issue via the following link. manville-news-12-26-1941-ocr

The “Old 1623” Johns-Manville plant switch engine

jm train crew niceThe Old 1623 • Click Photo to Enlarge

This post is for all my fellow train lovers and railfans. This photo is from the collection of Neal Ranauro, and was reprinted in The Manville News for the Manville’s 50th anniversary celebration issue. As stated in the above caption this photo was taken back in 1938 by Ranauro and features the John’s Manville work train and crew. Affectionately known about town as “the old 1623” this work horse and it’s crew manned the 12 miles of track within the JM yard moving the 1200 or so different types of products to the appropriate lines to be moved out across the country. This is a great and iconic photo. Another great one from Neal Ranauro… that guy was the best.

Just for good measure here is one more shot of “The Old 1623” about to take flight. She truly is handsome.

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Manville Sewage dedication Booklet / Timeline.

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So I know how boring this sounds, but I swear to god this little booklet is one of the most comprehensive Manville histories that had ever been compiled up to it’s printing in 1938. It includes some photos, some small town history, lots of info on the Manville sewer system, a very comprehensive timeline, and a complete list of Govt. officials right up to 1938. The typography is not too shabby either.

If you are doing any sort of research on Manville this is a great place to start. You can download and save the entire booklet, and you should. But if you don’t have the patience for that I am going to include preview photos of the timeline below since I feel like it’s amazing. OR you can just skip straight to looking at the whole thing… it’s worth it and you can view it right HERE.

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Manville Paving… Part 2

1st download 4504OK guys. So I have a bunch of more paving photos. This is sort of a companion post to the previous one. These seem to be geographically located all over the place. I know these huge photo streams are a lot to take in, but these all go together so I figured I’d just throw them out there. Any help I.D. ing the men would be appreciated. The photos will expand if you click them… This one below is the corner of Washington Ave. & South 8th!

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In this group you can see the water tower in the back. It’s funny how revealing that thing is for history. The fact that you can read the beginning of “Manville” tells us this is on the North side close to the tracks above North 11th or so. Maybe Brooks Blvd? What an awesome machine!
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This next photo is interesting. I’m wondering if that building back and to the left could be the old Manville Polish Home building that was formerly on North 4th. Manville will surely recognize the name Kupper from the Airport. I wonder what the relationship was here.1st download 4457

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Manville Memorial Day Parades

0005Well it’s Friday, and that means we should run with a celebratory post. And lets face it, what is more fun than a Parade? I’ll tell you what… 2 Parades! This is going to be a long photo heavy post, so just know that every photo will expand if you click on them. Enjoy!

It’s been an amazing 2 months of photo submissions and I want to thank Rich Hamernik for sending in this first batch of great photos from an early 50’s Manville Memorial Day parade.

Rich grew up across the street from Memorial Park where this flag raising ceremony took place.

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The parade marched from Memorial Park down Camplain Rd. and out to Main St. Unfortunately I cannot identify anyone in these so if you can add anything please do.

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This next bunch is from Anne Sullivans Manville photo collection. I believe this is a Memorial Day parade as well, but these are a lot earlier. Around 1939-1940

I think you will all recognize that these are mostly on Main St, which is just barely paved at this point. You can see the old Movie theater off in the background. Thanks again Anne. These are amazing.

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1960 Weston-Manville Station Train Schedule

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Weston-Manville Train Station • Click to enlarge

I always talk about the many Manville Train Stations. Awhile back I did a post about specifically about the Weston-Manville stop, which was the main passenger line serving Manville between Trenton and NYC. I recently lucked into an actual 1960 train schedule from the station. I am a bit of a railfan, so I hope this doesn’t bore the pants off of everyone else that comes to this site. Let’s face it though, if you are from Manville trains are a way of life. It’s the very thing that made the town so accesable to so many people in the beginning. Also, I had this gorgeous photo of a Reading Railroad passenger train passing through Manville…

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Mainly I guess it felt like finding this schedule was a personal victory, and another crucial entry into my personal Manville ephemera archive. When you went over to the Manville station the first thing you had to do was go see this guy… Michael Persinko.

100_3302He could definitely hook you up with one of these…

cover chartIf it was 1960 and you were headed from Manville to NYC your schedule would’ve looked like this… (It will expand if you click it)

chartAnd if you were interested in the reverse schedule, or just owning a digital copy of this I actually scanned the whole thing.

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ScanEven though I do enjoy the many freights still pulling through town, I think it’s still a disaster that there is no passenger lines servicing Manville. In a town full of tracks, it seems like a no brainer. Hopefully one day. But for now, here is a photo of some lonely train tracks to hold you over…

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Quigley’s Bike Shop

When I was a young boy of an age old enough to venture off my immediate Manville block, I quickly realized that it would be much to my advantage to procure myself a bike. I pleaded my case to my parents and grandparents, and much to my surprise my grandfather quickly responded “Sure we’ll go down to Quigley’s tomorrow”. I think what I was hoping for was one of those little 15″ versions of a BMX bike, but when I got down to Quigley’s that afternoon what I saw scarred the hell out of me. There was a pile of bikes in the middle of the floor 3 times as tall as me. They looked mangled, and most of them bore the name Schwinn. I didn’t understand. I thought we went to the wrong store. But my grandfather assured me that “how dare I question this place… this is QUIGLEY’S. This is THE bike store.” He was right. And quigley’s outlasted every bike store that ever came to Manville, especially in reputation.

Lets’ take a look at a short history of the Quigley family as poached from Carmonsandusky.com

When Lester Quigley came to town in 1927 to take on the job of postmaster, his son George came along with the family and opened up his bicycle shop here. Young George had already been in business for a couple of years in Neshanic. His father had let him convert a chicken coop into a shop and had helped him put up a sign along Amwell Road — how else was a boy of 16 going to be taken seriously as a businessman and be able to get credit and buy wholesale. In those days the Manville Post Office was at the Johns-Manville plant. At first it was in A Building, and later the Asbestos Hotel. Lester Quigley in time became J-M employment supervisor, but son George did not want to work there, he kept right on with his bicycles. 

For several years now I have been trying to nail down a timeline for Quigley’s. The store I remember was on Main Street and had been there forever. According to a newspaper article on the shop written in 1979 the store had been on Main Street for 39 years, which would mean he moved over there in ’40. I recently received a collection of photos from 1939, which depict the shop as being on the corner of Knopf and North 6th Ave, on the site which later became Al’s market. For a store that I actually physically remember I’m sad to say that I do not have any photos of the Main St. location. But these photos are great. The video above is from Petey’s Film made around the same time as these photos by the Semenick family. You will notice some characters in these photos are in the film, namely the adorable little girl, who has now been identified as Quigley’s daughter Antoinette! (thanks to the Mizerek family for the help!) Ok. Let’s get to some photos. They will expand if you click on them. Lets start with some shop photos…

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I believe is the man George Quigley himself…

1st download 3900Im not sure who this next guy is, but this photo is just great…

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and finally, Quigley’s daughter Antoinette… who I actually fell in love with after looking at these.

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1st download 4093If anyone can Identify these people please leave a comment. If anyone has any other Quigley’s (or any other Manville photos for that matter) photos, please submit them to Devildance@hotmail.com. These photos were submitted by Anne Sullivan. On behalf of everyone who views this blog, I thank her for these amazing photos.

First Manville Band in Action

Manville-Band-2First Manville Band • Click Photo to Enlarge

Well if you’ve been paying attention to this blog awhile you know that awhile back, I found a great old professional photo of The First Manville Band. You can click that link to see the old post, which is complete with names. This version though is pretty amazing, because THIS photo of the Manville Band is of an earlier incarnation. I know this for 2 reasons. The first being that  they don’t have a uniform yet… and second, the band is a lot smaller in this photo. This photo was submitted by Rich Hamernik, whos grandfather Pat was actually in the band. He gave me these along with a couple of old Manville Royals baseball photos, which date back to the mid20’s, so I imagine this photo is circa the same time, and  possibly on the same day.

I’m still trying to sort out the location of this… but on a side note, the typography on that bass drum is phenomenal.