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Growing up In Monaca

Written by Jack Wilson. Posted in Phoenix Glass Company

by Janet Stuehling Zoeller

In the small town of Monaca, PA, the Phoenix Glass Company stretched out in the middle of town. It was an important part of our lives as most families had someone employed there. I suppose we were an industrial town but we never felt like one. Monaca was a safe and tranquil community and I truly believe that we children were raised by the whole neighborhood. We knew they cared about us and that was important. We tried up live up to their expectations.

I'm sure my kids are tired of hearing tales of my wonderful childhood when nobobdy worried when we spent hours exploring the banks of the Ohio river. My mother taught in the elementary school and my dad was as town policeman. My friends knew and liked my parents and I felt very secure. My friend Peggy worked in the Phoenix office after we graduated in 1952. She bought here mother an umbrella vase for $10.00 She said the employees were able to purchase the glassware for one half of the regular price.

Another classmate, Mike, is extremely creative, intelligent and a gifted artist. He has told me many funny stories about his lack of ability to learn how to blow glass. He said he was totally incapable of learning how to blow glass and has a profound respect for those who learned the art.

When I was growing up, an appliance breakdown was no cause for alarm. Mr. Balumet, who owned the electric shop, either repaired or replaced it. In his store there was a high shelf along the left wall from the front to back, filled with Phoenix umbrella vases. I always looked with amazement at that shelf and wondered who would ever want all of those. (Editor's Note: See page 177 of the book for some history of what happened to the Phoenix vases from Balumet. The lot of 353 vases, in storage since 1938 was sold to Fritz Sturbeck of Havre de Grace, MD (a wholesale antiques dealer) in 1990 for $10,000.

In our home thre was always a large round blue Phoenix bowl and two matching candle holders on the dining room buffet. One day I found the bowl filled with fruit, bananas, apples, grapes and oranges. I invited the gang from the playground across the street to come over and admire and sample. I now realize that my mother's displeasure was probably caused by her concern for her precious glassware and not my generosity.

I remember holding the Phoenix nude plates and bowls up to the light to get a better look. I thought they were pretty racy and was shocked that my parents owned such things.

It seemed that everyone smoked in the forties. I never heard my mother complain but she kept a supply of ashtrays on every surface. I never saw any ashtrays in our house that were not Phoenix. There were small square ones and larger heavy ones. They were so well used that few of them have survived in the family.

A few months ago I unearthed a Phoenix ashtray and showed it to my husband Fred. He glanced at it and remarked that he never paid much attention to ashtrays. A week or so later, he rushed into the house waving a chipped milk glass ashtray with pink flowers on the bottom. He had been in Monaca and passed a trash barrel. He noticed a "shape" sticking out of the trash and kept thinking about why it caught his attention. Later he went back and dug it out. I hope nobody saw him.

As my mother aged, she said that we needed to go through the big old kitchen cupboard so that she could tell me where the different pieces of glassware had come from.

I wish we had done it. Why didn't we?