The 1950's

Life changed slightly in Geistown in 1950 when the four-lane highway was built, what the Johnstown Tribune called “the million-dollar project” in a headline on March 8, 1950. The news story, complete with photos, described the planned changes that would occur in Geistown with the road project: “The highway [Bedford Street beginning at city line] will be widened by adding one more concrete traffic lane and an eight-foot parking lane to the left side. Then the four lanes will be blacktopped.“The three-traffic-lane road—two for outbound traffic and one for inbound motorists—will continue east on Bedford Street from the city line to the curve just below Schrader’s greenhouse. The dangerous curve there will be eliminated by relocating the highway behind the greenhouse. . . .

“The relocated highway, running behind Schrader’s greenhouse, will rejoin the present road near the lower end of St. John Gualbert’s Cemetery. From this point eastward, or toward Windber, one lane will be added to each side of the present highway. Here as elsewhere along the residential sections of the road, it will mean condemnation of strips of front yards to obtain the right-of-way for the new traffic lanes.

“The new right-of-way for the major relocation in Geistown will cut right through where the Orchard Hotel stands. Besides the relocation of the main highway at this point to bypass the business center of Geistown, a spur road will cut off at the Orchard Hotel to Belmont Street—the road running from alongside Von Lunen’s toward Belmont and Moxham. Geistown Council sometime ago approved the proposed new alignment.

“Von Lunen’s Restaurant will be razed to make way for a big figure 8 traffic intersection. The top of the figure 8 will be where the restaurant now stands and the bottom will be near Bernard Street, where the Harry G. Wise and Sons buildings now stand. They also must be razed. The main four-lane highway will cut at an angle across the field behind Von Lunen’s. It will be constructed as an overpass across present Belmont Street.

“The Geistown relocation, behind Von Lunen’s, will rejoin the present Johnstown-Windber Road at Demuth Street. From this point to Jacoby’s Tavern there will be practically a new highway as plans call for eliminating the curves and some of the grades on the present road.

Although Geistown was still largely a rural community in 1950 with a population of 2,148, growth was swift after the war, and the seeds of certain changes were planted—here and all over the country. Televisions became more affordable, so families could stay in and watch “Wagon Train” or “Death Valley Days.” The color TV and wireless remote control were invented in the ‘50s along with pocket-size transistor radios, computer hard disks, and lasers. While Dr. Jonas Salk discovered the vaccine for polio, children were more concerned with Hula Hoops and watching “Howdy Doody” on television. Probably the most visible marker of the post-war era was the golden arches: MacDonald’s Hamburgers. Along with faster highways and more cars came fast food.

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