The 1920's

The decade began with high expectations and ended with Black Thursday and the Stock Market crash that began the Great Depression. Prohibition was the law of the land, enacted with the Volstead Act of 1920; nevertheless, “speakeasies” flourished, and even Geistown had its brush with Prohibition laws. The Orchard Hotel was owned by the Hoffman family, and an article in the Johnstown newspaper (November 4, 1925) reported: “C.A. Swasy, who claims to be the proprietor of ‘The Orchard,’ near Geistown, was held in $1,000 bail for court at a hearing before Alderman Eph. Wirick of the Seventeenth Ward last night, on a charge of violation of the liquor law.”

The ‘20s saw the mass production of automobiles at Henry Ford’s Detroit plant. One could purchase a new Ford for $290, which was a significant portion of the average American’s salary of $1,236. Early Geistown businessmen saw the automobile’s future and opened gasoline filling stations.

In the 1920s, more and more children were being educated, and illiteracy in the country fell to a new low of 6% of the population. At the same time, Geistown’s grammar schools (one public and one parochial) were expanding. Bob Ruth recalls St. Benedict’s early one-room schoolhouse on land donated by the Freidhoff family. A large pot belly stove stood in the middle of the room where Mrs. Weaver taught roughly twelve children in eight grades. Older children often helped the younger ones as the teacher circulated among the grades. The boys and girls played together at recess, shooting marbles or playing hopscotch and hide-and-seek. In the early ‘20s, St. Benedict’s School expanded to a new building with two rooms, four grades in each, and a teacher in each room. That building further expanded with a second floor and two rooms on each floor.

The public school—Geistown Public School—started in 1899, and its first teacher was Mr. Luther. The original school was located in what became the Grange Hall and later the first Fire Company on Lamberd Avenue (currently the site of Follow Charlie Carwash). In 1923, a new school was erected on the corner of Lamberd and Bedford Street. The building cost $80,000 and was known as one of the county’s most modern schools. Housing both the grade school and the high school, the new Richland Township School had approximately 75 high school students and 125 grade school students in the mid-twenties. The school had six large classrooms, a library, a well-equipped gymnasium, and an auditorium seating 500.

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