Water Under the Bridge

By John F. Oyler
Copyright © 2017



Bridgeville High School History, Part Four
August 24, 2017



The August edition of the Bridgeville Area Historical Society’s “Second Tuesday” workshops covered the history of Bridgeville High School from 1927 through 1934. The facilitator began the program by reviewing the popular culture of 1927 – the first talking picture, Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer’; Lindbergh’s flight to Paris; and Gene Austin’s big record hit, ‘My Blue Heaven”.

He then showed an updated set of sketches of the floor plan of the new, at that time, Lincoln High School. We are still seeking input on that topic.

The first two classes covered overlapped our previous workshop, as these students had been discussed as underclassmen during our review of the Class of 1926.

The class of 1927 graduated thirty three students, including siblings Tressa and Walter (Bumpy) Petrick and Dewey David. An operetta, “Naughtical Knots”, starring Mary McCloy and Robert Hughan, was the highlight of the school year.

There were thirty seven graduates in the 1928 class, including Nelson Rothermond, Pete Cherry, Helen Cox, and George (Googie) Dresmich. Dresmich went on to have a long career as an educator in Scott and South Fayette Townships. The football team won four games and lost five, including an exciting 7 to 6 win over Carnegie. The class’ senior trip to Washington, D. C. was a fitting climax to an exciting year.

The twenty nine graduates in the Class of 1929 included Mary Capozzoli and Esther Petrick. The only highlight of a two wins, seven losses football season was a 12 to 0 win over South Fayette in the inaugural meeting of that hard fought series.

The Class of 1930 was the largest yet, with forty six seniors graduating. Familiar names included were Lucy Capozzoli, Samuel Fryer, Tola Poellot, and Alma Weise. The football team won three and lost six, but did manage to beat South Fayette 6 to 0. The superintendent of schools at this time was Mr. Liggett; his son William, who would be principal of BHS eighteen years later, was a student. A newspaper clipping of a 20 to 12 basketball loss to Carnegie has Alpheaus (Bud) Beall at forward. He was our neighbor on Lafayette Street in the late 1940s. A photograph of the 1930 high school band includes several faces that would be familiar to BHS students two decades later – Jane Patton and William Liggett.

Forty five seniors graduated in 1931. The football team again won three and lost six, despite the presence of Vic Vidoni. He went on to have an impressive career at Duquesne and then to play two years with the Pittsburgh Pirates (before they were renamed the Steelers). A newspaper clipping reported that Rooney had signed Vidoni to a healthy contract in 1936 for his final season; Vidoni’s employer had granted him a leave of absence to play football.

Also in this class were James Hoston, Charles (Buzz) Mayer, George Rittenhouse, and William Vosel.

Graduating classes continued to grow – in 1932 the class had grown to fifty five. It included William George, Ralph Host, Charles McCool, Arthur Partee, and Thomas Toney.

The senior play that year was “Honor Bright”, starring Dorothy McMillen and Frank Corey. The football team went two and six that year, including a galling 3 to 0 loss to South Fayette.

An interesting clipping from the Pittsburgh Courier in 1932 reported that Clarence (Grinny) Simpson had signed a contract to play baseball for the Cleveland Giants in the Negro National League. The Giants had been the Columbus Blue Birds before moving to Cleveland.

Forty three seniors made up the graduating class in 1933. One of them was James McMahon, a name that also showed up in the 1932 list. Was this a mistake? Or were they two different persons? We are sure about one of the members of the class – Helen Colussy. Her daughter, Patti Grossi Gratton, brought her mother’s 1933 class ring to the workshop and proudly passed it around for inspection.

Another member was Elizabeth Strain, whom we knew as Lib Beall when she and the aforementioned Bud Beall were our neighbors. It is quite a treat to come across names of folks whom we knew in later years in these classes. Makes us want to know more about them.

It is also interesting to read about sports that we didn’t know Bridgeville participated in. In May 1933 a BHS volleyball team made it to the WPIAL playoffs at the University of Pittsburgh. I wish I knew more about that team. The same year coach John Graham took “crack high jumper Pete Bennett” to an interscholastic meet in Chicago. Several other clippings report that Bennett was indeed the class of the local track and field high school athletes.

The football team continued its streak of losing seasons, this time winning two and losing five. Fortunately Leetsdale and Findlay were victims, both by a score of 7 to 0.

We were surprised to turn up a newspaper clipping reporting that BHS teacher Miss Speakman had just returned from a trip to Europe. One wonders how a school teacher was able to afford a trip abroad at the height of the Depression. She was met in Pittsburgh by her father and “brought out in a machine”.

The roster of graduates in 1934 consists of an astounding eighty names, nearly double the total of the previous year. Our source for these lists is information in the 1960 Yearbook; it would be interesting to determine where they obtained the lists they published.

The May Queen in 1934 was Mary Elizabeth Vidoni. When she died, earlier this year, at the age of 100, her daughter, Marie Smith, gave the Historical Society a copy of the program for the coronation of the May Queen, the first ever at Bridgeville High School. She and her brother came from Ohio for this specific workshop.

The program is quite impressive and suggests that the coronation ceremony was much more formal than it became in later years. It is written in “olde English”. For example, “Ye Plaice of Coronacion is Ye Greate Hawle of Lincoln”. She was crowned by “Alma Mater”, Jane Patton, supported by “Ye Spirituall Tutour”, Catharine Vidoni, who was the Queen’s twin sister.

One puzzling thing is the fact that Mary Elizabeth Vidoni is not included in the class roster published in the 1960 Yearbook. Catherine Vidoni is listed, as is Giovanni Vidoni, who Marie thinks was a cousin.

The football team beat Bethel and East Pike that year, and was held scoreless in six other games. The soccer team lost the inaugural WPIAL soccer championship game to South Fayette, 3 to 2. The BHS center forward in that game was Peter Pawlik; his son Ron was at the workshop, hoping to learn more about his father. I was surprised to learn that BHS fielded a wrestling team that year. They were shut out by Canonsburg. The Bridgeville heavyweight, Wight, was pinned in two minutes and eight seconds. Perhaps that is why we didn’t have a wrestling team in the mid 1940s when Jack Wight was our primary coach.

“Once in a Palace” was the class play that year. Among the cast were Audley McFarland, Alice Weise, and Jack Skelly. The high school band provided music for the production.

We had promised Marie Smith we would get as far as 1934 if she and her brother made the long trip here for the workshop. We made it, just barely.

Our next workshop will be at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. We will pick up with 1934 and try to finish off the 1930s. This will move us into the Neil Brown era, when BHS’ results on the football field took a turn upward.

Water Under the Bridge

  • "Water Under the Bridge" is a column written by historian John Oyler. It appears weekly in the Bridgeville Area News, a TribTotal Media publication, as well as in a more expanded form on his blog.

The Author

  • Aside from being Bridgeville's foremost historian, Dr. John F. Oyler is also an associate professor at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh, where he teaches classes in civil engineering.

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