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Thursday, January 1, 2015

When Johnstown Went "Up In The Air"


At the turn of the last century - Johnstowners were ready, willing and able to try almost anything. One of our early businessmen tried building an automobile. It worked but because of a lack of engineering skill the idea of this city becoming an auto industry town was forgotten. Another time a group of men built an airplane. They had to remove the roof of the building in order to get it out. It actually flew a short distance when tested on a field in Westmont, but like the attempt to build autos, the idea was dropped.
No one could say these pioneers were afraid to invest their money and time in an effort to develop something new that could be built here. Some things did develop into a paying industry, such as steel mills, brick making, radiator works...etc.
Johnstown once had a wall paper manufacturing plant, an enamelware plant, a large woolen mill, a large flour mill, a paint factory, a chair factory and a tire plant - and their products were sold over a wide area. One of America's leading ice cream makers got his start here. Later his ice cream was sold in many parts of the east, until the company was bought out by a larger firm.
As the above photo shows, we once had a group of men who got into the business of building a large lighter-than-air ship. They were brave men because they had no idea in the world how to control it once it got into the air, but they took the chance. Without a motor it couldn't be steered against cross winds but that didn't stop them from believing in their dream.
This photo shows such an air ship being tested at old Luna Park (now Roxbury Park). There wasn't even an enclosed catwalk on it; simply a few wooden rails to hold on to. The barns on the left were part of the racing stables at the park. To the left of the barns were the race track and the lake. In the background can be seen the first houses built on Hammer Avenue near Franklin Street. At the time this photo was taken around 1911 the park extended far to the right where houses are now located. As the lake dried-up due to being drained when an over-load of dynamite was used in a coal mine underneath the lake, the race track and other amusement were closed up and the lake filled in - now replaced with the playing fields and tennis courts.
How many of us today would be willing to take a chance on a ride - high in the sky on such a contraption as this old air ship built be local men who were dreamers and not afraid to take a chance on doing something they loved in the city they once called home. 
May the new year - 2015 bring out the dreamer in you my dear readers...get out of your comfort zone (which I know is not an easy thing to do) - go on an adventure (whether it's just down the road or half a world away) - do something you have always wanted to do - don't be afraid of what others may think (because they are going to think it anyway - no matter what you do - so the heck with them!). Just remember the older you get, the better you get. Unless you're a banana.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
 Mother Teresa

1 comment:

Anita said...

Happy New Year to you and love the sentiments in your post! Thank you for continuing this wonderful blog!