WEIRTON - It was an eventful day Saturday for John Pandelios of Weirton, as he celebrated both his 96th birthday and the recent publication of his book, "Memoirs of North Weirton, 1920 to the 1930s."
Pandelios spent part of his morning at the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, signing copies of his book and discussing some of his memories of growing up in the area.
"What was once a community with hundreds of homes is now filled with barren lots," Pandelios said, noting he wrote the book entirely from his own recollections of the town which built up around the early days of Weirton Steel.
John Pandelios, of Weirton, was at the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center Saturday celebrating both the recent publication of his book and his 96th birthday. Pandelios' book takes a look back at his life growing up in the area of North Weirton during the 1920s and 1930s. -- Craig Howell
Proceeds from all sales of the book, which are available for $10, will benefit the Weirton museum.
Pandelios explained the early days of Weirton Steel brought immigrants from many ethnic backgrounds to the area, with the greatest number being Italian, Polish and Greek. Among those early residents was his father.
The streets of the community were made of dirt, and sidewalks were wooden. There was little electricity and limited plumbing available. Much of the upkeep was performed by the Weirton Improvement Co., which was a division of Weirton Steel.
Pandelios' book discusses many of the town's early businesses, including the Washington Restaurant and Olympic Confectionary, as well as the eight or nine coffee houses and the Lincoln Theater.
Kids would go sled riding in the winter, and play street hockey in the summer, hitting a tin can around a portion of the roadway.
"This was one of our favorite games," he said Saturday.
Street vendors, such as Michael Starvaggi and the Swearingen brothers, would walk through town selling their produce and other goods, people would often have to pay someone to get a chance at a job at the mill and then earn $1 a day for their labor, Mondays were set aside for laundry and Saturdays saw families spending time together and walking through town.
Pandelios touched on a few memorable events from his book on Saturday, including police killing a man who was trying to scavenge materials from a mill train, the funeral of the King of the Gypsies who died while he was visiting Weirton, and the smell of moonshine in the streets during Prohibition.
Pandelios also recalled a time he played a game of pool against one of the nation's more infamous personalities, not knowing who it was at the time.
"The next day, there was a picture of him in the paper," Pandelios said. "It was Pretty Boy Floyd."
Pandelios explained the downfall of North Weirton actually began following World War II, as soldiers began returning home and wanted to get their families away from the steel mill.
On Saturday, Pandelios also encouraged residents to get more involved in the Weirton museum, noting its efforts to preserve the history of the area. Those in attendance also sang "Happy birthday" to him, in both English and Greek.
(Howell can be contacted at email@example.com and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)