The 1960's and 1970's

Geistown’s central business area continued to expand in the ‘60s just as new homes continued to be built. Nevertheless, in the middle of all the growth, kids still played football in the heart of town—in the open field behind Lopresti’s (where The Meadows sits now), evidence that the community’s growth had not erased the small-town charm embraced by all residents.

Several major events define the 1960s for most Geistowners: the demolition of the old St. Benedict’s church in 1962, the installation of the sanitary sewers in the early ‘60s, and the building of the new fire hall and borough building in 1968.

The building of a new fire hall and a borough building in 1968-69 closed a decade of growth and modernization. The old Grange Hall had always housed the volunteer fire company since its chartering on March 15, 1932. The second floor of the Grange Hall had served as a meeting place of the Borough Council, but modern times called for more modern facilities.

The Geistown Volunteer Fire Company had begun as an ambulance business, responding to calls from all over Johnstown in an Army surplus ambulance.

Despite the political upheaval occurring across the country, with controversies over Viet Nam and the youth counter-culture, Geistown life remained stable yet progressive. Highway 219 and the Johnstown Bypass opened in 1965, so traffic increased in the borough as cars cut through en route to Walters Avenue and the new highways. With more traffic in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, children were less able to roam the borough and play in the streets and instead participated in more organized activities, such as Little League.

The 1977 flood hit Johnstown more disastrously than any place, but Geistown still felt its effects. Robert Lux recalls vividly the relentless rain. He was taking a flying lesson when the control tower required all planes to land, after which he went to check on the various bridges in the borough. Trees were uprooted, and debris swept down the road from Ashbridge Oil all the way down Walters Avenue, washing out the bridge on the lower end of Walters and flooding several houses along the way. Also, the bridge at Demuth and Belmont began to crumble, with nearby businesses on Belmont flooded, and still the rain kept falling. Even the Johnstown Bypass started to crumble and trapped a Volkswagon in the cracks.

In the heart of Geistown, the creek alongside the borough building overflowed, and water streamed in the back door of the fire hall and out the bay. Robert Lux also remembers that Highland Regional Park had just been graded before the flood, but the space was needed for an encampment of mobile homes for people displaced from their homes. Two or three years passed before the ball fields could be used for recreation again. Lou Wise recalls that his business slowed considerably after the flood because the mills and mines were damaged and shut down. But Geistown residents responded to the emergency as might be expected; they pitched in and helped with the clean-up all over the city. Lucille Janisko remembers that her husband Al volunteered to help remove debris over in Tanneryville, where the flood did considerable damage.

The 1977 flood resulted in more people from Johnstown wanting to move up the hill—into Richland and into Geistown. However, by the late ‘70s, few lots were still available in the borough, necessitating Geistown’s next and final residential expansion in the 1980s.

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