WWII Exhibit 2020

This Exhibit started February 1, 2020 and ended August 4, 2020
(updated 08/15/21)
The Donora Historical Society and Donora Public Library, in partnership with the Senator John Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh, will once again be hosting a traveling exhibit -- We Can Do It! WWII. Starting on Saturday, February 1, 2020, and running for nine and a half weeks thru Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the exhibit will be available to the general public, school groups, and social clubs.
This 500 square foot traveling exhibit started its journey in Pittsburgh during a preview at the Heinz History Center in April 2017, will travel throughout Western Pennsylvania including a stop in the West Virginia panhandle, and will finish with us in April 2020.
As a Heinz History Center Affiliate, the Donora Historical Society was one of only fifteen organizations selected to host the exhibit over a three-year period out of 125 possible affiliates. Donora was selected as the only Washington County representative and is one of only two historical societies. All other sites are either county-wide historical societies or regional libraries. To view the full schedule of other stops on the tour, look at the end of this page for a complete list.
Due to its size and just like we did with the travelling Civil War exhibit in 2015, the exhibit will be on display in the lower-level Community Room at the Donora Public Library. To give it some Mid-Mon Valley flavor, the exhibit will be supplemented with Donora-related artifacts and presentations, as well as artifacts and presentations from other historical societies from neighboring towns. During this time, special events, presentations, and living history demonstrations will be scheduled. An overflow exhibit of Donora-related military artifacts will also be on display on the first floor of the Donora Public Library and at the Smog Museum.
HOMETOWN HERO
Numerous men from Donora enlisted out of high school, college and the steel mill to fight in WWII, so many that women were employed to help fill their positions in the mill. A lot of these men returned after the war to resume their schooling or jobs in the mill, raise a family and spend the rest of their lives in Donora, while others did not. An example is Walter Glod who was born in Donora in 1919 and graduated from Donora High School in 1937.
In December 2018, as part of a California University of Pennsylvania English Honors class titled "Digital Storytelling" that was also sponsored by the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, three students (Maria Dovshek, Destiny Ortiz and Emily Sloan) created this video about Walter Glod as remembered by his younger sister Charlotte Glod Simmons. Click on their YouTube video titled "A Small Town Hero - Walter Glod" to view and to get a sense of the sacrifices these men and their families from Donora made during WWII.
We Can Do It! WWII
The We Can Do It! WWII traveling exhibit explores Western Pennsylvania's incredible impact on the home, industrial, and battle fronts during World War II.
Visitors to the exhibit will learn about the development of the jeep, a uniquely American invention produced by the American Bantam Car Company in Butler, Pa., and hear stories behind Rosie the Riveter and the local Tuskegee Airmen whose contributions helped to turn the tide of the war.
In 1942, Westinghouse artist J. Howard Miller created a poster depicting a Westinghouse Electric worker rolling up her sleeve to lend muscle to the Allied war effort during World War II. This image has come to symbolize the hard work and resolve of all Western Pennsylvanians, women and men, who contributed to our national defense both at home and on the battlefield.
She was not originally called "Rosie the Riveter." Real Westinghouse women were more likely to be welders or munitions inspectors. But over time, Miller's figure captured Rosie's "can do" appeal. His poster (see above) and the name became linked in public imagination. Today for most people, they are the same thing.
We Can Do It! WWII is dedicated to all who answered their country's call and devoted their time, their money, and their lives to the cause of freedom.
THE EXHIBIT
The one thing that makes the We Can Do It! WWII exhibit different than the Civil War exhibit is the addition of audio and video recordings that run as part of the exhibit. The exhibit will showcase four lifelike museum figures of local WW II heroes:
GENERAL GEORGE C. MARSHALL
The U.S. military expanded greatly in preparation for World War II. Pennsylvanians willingly stepped up to serve. From 1941 to 1945, more than 1.25 million state residents marched off to war, including 22,000 women. Most were drafted, but many volunteered, especially after Pearl Harbor. Uniontown's General George C. Marshall engineered the military's most dramatic transformation. Marshall became U.S. Army Chief of Staff on September 1, 1939 -- the day Hitler invaded Poland. He inherited an army of about 200,000 men that was far from battle-ready. Marshall modernized and expanded the U.S. Army into a global fighting force of 9 million by 1945. General Marshall held the position of Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army under both Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman. In 1944, he became the first American Army general promoted to the five-star rank. Today Marshall is also remembered for his statesmanship in connection with the post-war Marshall Plan, an economic initiative to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.
TUSKEGEE AIRMAN LT. CARL WOODS
Lieutenant Carl Woods of Mars and Homewood made history as one of nearly 100 men and woman from Western Pennsylvania who served with the U.S. Army Air Corps' legendary all-Black Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. Along with the other pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, Carl Woods flew a P-51 Mustang with a distinctively painted red tail assembly. This marking gave the Tuskegee pilots another name: "the Redtails." B-24 bomber pilots learned to watch for these guardians of the sky. Woods graduated from flight training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama in April 1944 and headed to Italy. There he piloted a P-51 Mustang over the Adriatic Sea with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. Woods flew dangerous missions escorting bombers and paid the ultimate price. He was shot down over the Adriatic in October 1944 while on a run to Austria. Only 19 years old, Woods became one of three Tuskegee Airmen from Western Pennsylvania to die overseas during the war.
IWO JIMO HERO SGT. MICHAEL STRANK
No image symbolized Americans in combat more than the photograph of flag raisers during the battle of Iwo Jima. Sergeant Michael Strank, Company E, 28th Division, 5th Marines, who grew up near Johnstown, is in the famous photograph although barely visible. But as the squad leader of Company E, he held his men together until he was killed just six days after the image was taken. Strank's presence in this iconic photograph represents the sacrifices of many men who gave their lives to secure victory in World War II.
ROSIE THE RIVETER
The character of "Rosie the Riveter" originated in early 1943 in a popular American song by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. In May 1943, Norman Rockwell depicted his version of Rosie on her lunch break for a cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Thousands of real-life "Rosies" filled a critical role in Pittsburgh during World War II. As the war progressed, Pittsburgh industries desperately needed workers. Carnegie-Illinois Steel alone lost 32,000 employees to the military in May 1943. Women answered the call. They inspected shell casings, welded ship hulls, operated machines, conducted scientific tests, and worked as airplane mechanics. By September 1943, more than 30,000 women worked in U. S. Steel's mills. Thousands more did crucial war work at companies such as Dravo, Westinghouse, and Curtiss-Wright.
THE EXHIBIT
The exhibit's modular displays will cover a variety of topics, all told from the Western Pennsylvania perspective, including:
World in Turmoil - (See photo to the right.) World War II ignited out of a tinderbox of rising tensions in the 1930's. Around the globe, nations seemed to be coming apart. In Europe, anger smoldered in the aftermath of World War I. In the United States, the stock market crash of 1929 triggered the Great Depression. As the economic crisis spread to other countries, social unrest and ethnic violence worsened. Nations such as Germany, Italy, and Japan sought to expand their territory. Politicians saw opportunity in fear and chaos. The world felt like a bomb waiting to explode. Then Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. World War II had officially begun. (Newsreel video footage from the 1930's is included.)
Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941 - This is a floor model radio with an audio recording of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's message to Congress requesting a declaration of war on the December 8, 1941. Two days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
Arsenal of America - (See photo to the right.) From Somerset to Erie, Western Pennsylvania communities watched as war dawned in Europe and Asia. Local industries started making war materials by 1940, at least a year before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. For five year, Pennsylvania factories worked nearly non-stop. Dravo in Pittsburgh engineered an assembly line for building ships. Curtiss-Wright built a huge new airplane propeller factory in Beaver County. Westinghouse made everything from helmet liners to electric torpedoes. General Electric in Erie made howitzers. Butler's American Bantam Car Company created the iconic Jeep. U. S. Steel, operating plants from McKeesport to Oil City, smashed production records while the region's mills poured 95 million tons of steel into the war effort. By 1945, Pennsylvania produced as much steel as all the Axis powers combined.
LST 750 Model - (See LST Model in photo above right.) Made in Dravo shipyards, Neville Island in 1944. Also called the "Pride of Pittsburgh," LST 750 was funded with war bonds raised by the citizens of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
Fighting On Two Fronts - The "Double V" Campaign played off the "V for Victory" symbol to call for two victories: one over the Axis powers overseas and another prejudice and discrimination at home. Even as African American military personnel battled for freedom around the world, they still faced inequality when they came home. But wartime service raised expectations for equal treatment that helped fuel the Civil Rights movement.
Home Front - Everyone's War - (See photo to the right.) Even after the school bell rang or the factory whistle blew, war work was never done. Children collected scrap metal and rubber. Mothers saved fat and grease. Fathers volunteered as Air Raid Wardens. Everyone mastered the use of ration books and tokens. Victory gardens sprang up in every available space across Western Pennsylvania. Schools sold defense stamps while stores, businesses, and civic groups organized war bond drives. (See poster below right.)
The Jewish Dilemma - As Hitler rose to power, many Jews tried to leave Germany. Others waited, unwilling to abandon their homes. The Nazis boycotted Jewish children's school attendance and made Jewish citizens wear badges. Hitler established concentration camps by March 1933.
World at War - More than any previous war, World War II scattered young men and women around the globe. Families tracked war news on the radio or in newspapers. The wondered where their loved ones were serving. Many studied maps provided by newspapers or local businesses.
War's End - World War II ended in phases. Germany's unconditional surrender in May 1945 prompted global celebrations for "Victory in Europe" or "V-E Day." Reality tempered elation: the war was not over. But the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki prompted Japan to surrender. The war was now over.
In Their Own Words - Oral History audio recordings from seven Western Pennsylvania military veterans.
Mitchell Paige - Many other Western Pennsylvania men also distinguished themselves on the battlefield. U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mitchell Paige of Charleroi became a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions holding off an entire Japanese regiment with machine guns at Guadalcanal. In addition to receiving the Medal of Honor, he also had a G.I. Joe action figure designed in his likeness.


To see what the actual We Can Do It! WWII exhibit looked like at the Heinz History Center, consider taking the full Virtual Exhibit Tour with Heinz History Center President, CEO and host Andy Masich.
DONORA EXHIBITSATURDAYS only 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The Donora Historical Society has an extensive military artifact collection from Donora residents who participated in all wars, but its richest group is from WWII. Unfortunately, not all of it will be on display at the Donora Public Library as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit due to lack of display cases and exhibition space.
To the left is a photo of Donora native and baseball great Stan "The Man" Musial during his service with the U.S. Navy during WWII.
However, the overflow of Donora-related WWII artifacts will be on display at the Smog Museum during the duration for all to see. The Smog Museum is located just a block away from the library at 595 McKean Avenue - corner of Sixth Street and McKean Avenue. It would be worth the stop to see more WWII memorabilia as well as other unrelated items that make the Smog Museum a popular spot for visitors from around the world.
(In the photo to the right is the Smog Museum decorated for the last Veterans Day Parade held in Donora in 2016. The Veterans Day Parade rotates among five municipalities and will arrive again in Donora in 2021.)
LOGISTICS
DATES: Saturday, February 1, 2020 thru Tuesday, April 7, 2020TIME: Sunday - CLOSED - except during special presentationsMonday - Library hours - 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.Tuesday - Library hours - 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.Wednesday - Library hours - 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.Thursday - Library hours - Library 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.Friday - Library hours - 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.Saturday - Library hours - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.plus additional evening hours for special events - see the schedule below.Or by appointment for groups - please schedule aheadNOTE: The Library's hours are also listed. If you check with them at their front desk, theycould let you in as well.NOTE: School groups will be given priority over the general public during the morning orearly afternoon. Please consult the Black Out Days and Times in the table belowfor those days that we're expecting school groups.VENUE: Donora Public Library - Community Room - lower level510 Meldon AvenueDonora, PA 15033ADMISSION: Suggested donation -Adults over 16 years old - $3.00Children and Teens from 6 to 16 years old - $2.00Children 5 years old and under - FREESchool groups and Teachers - FREEBoy Scout and Girl Scout Troops - FREEAll donations benefit the Donora Historical Society to defray the expenses incurred.NOTE: Specific events and presentations carry a different suggested donation of $5.00SPONSORSHIP: All sponsorship proceeds will be used to defray the expenses incurred for special presentations, used as donations or to pay stipends.PARKING: Parking is free on Meldon and McKean Avenue - handicapped parking is available in the library parking lot.RESTAURANTS: Anthony's Italiano - 557 McKean Avenue - 1.5 blocks away - lunch and dinnerEarly Bird Diner - 522 McKean Avenue - 1 block away - breakfast and lunchUnion Pharmacy Deli - 601 McKean Avenue - 1.5 blocks away - lunchThe Station - 750 Meldon Avenue - 2 blocks away - breakfast and lunchDuke's Cafe - 506 McKean Avenue - 1 block away - dinner - opens at 4:00 Thurs - SundayCindy's Deli - 744 McKean Avenue - CLOSED due to retirement - Good Luck Cindy!Anna Lee's - 501 Allen Avenue - 5-6 blocks away up on the hill - must drive - lunchMarty's Pizza - 642 Second Street - 9 blocks away up on the hill - must drive - lunchQUESTIONS: Please email or call with any additional questions or to schedule your group.CONTACTS: Email: donorahistoricalsociety@gmail.comPhone and Message Center: 724-823-0364 - Donora Historical Society
Email: donorapubliclibrary@comcast.netPhone and Message Center: 724-379-7940 - Donora Public Library
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
WWII
NOTE: In general, Saturday presentations will occur from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, and then again from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The noon hour will be available to get lunch. Four merchants are within walking distance: See RESTAURANTS above.
LARGE GROUP BLACK OUT DAYS and TIMES: Below is a schedule of when larger groups have reserved the exhibit for their own special events, meaning these times will be unavailable (BLACKED OUT) to the general public:
WWII -
NOTE: If you would like to hold your own special event or tour for a larger group, please RSVP your date and time ASAP
OUR EXHIBIT
For us to simply host the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit - We Can Do It! WWII wouldn't be enough in our eyes to call it a success. We wanted to also make sure we did other things to help our town of Donora and surrounding area. Our goals were extensive, but we felt we were up to the task. To call the WWII Exhibit a success, we could only do that if we:
  • partnered with other organizations in Donora like the Donora Public Library and Donora American Legion - Post 212
  • exposed student groups to history and living history, in this case WWII
  • helped veteran's groups with fellowship and fundraising
  • helped senior groups
  • involved our Donora merchants like our food service providers
  • held artistic and cultural events that involve music, food, guest speakers and history
  • involved the local community from the Mid-Mon Valley and beyond
  • raised money for veteran donations, for our general expenses to host our various events and for presenter stipends

To see if we were successful in our efforts, please readbelow and view the images from our 2020 WWII exhibit:
As you entered the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library, you were greeted by a table set up by the DONORA HISTORICAL SOCIETY to promote upcoming events related to the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit, as well as non-WWII Exhibit events. A guestbook was also on hand to log visitors.
The ROSIE THE RIVETER display greeted you next as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
The WWII exhibit had a distinctive clockwise flow that took the visitor through all major phases of the war from start to finish.
The Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941, display (floor model radio with an audio recording) signifying the start of WWII and the World in Turmoil display placard (includes Newsreel video footage from the 1930s) as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
The Jewish Dilemma display (end table, lamp and storybook on the left) and the LST 750 Model (display case on the right) as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
The Arsenal of America display kiosk (includes promotional video footage from the 1940s) as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
The Home Front - Everyone's War display kiosk as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
The TUSKEGEE AIRMAN LT. CARL WOODS display as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
The IWO JIMO HERO SGT. MICHAEL STRANK display kiosk as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
The GENERAL GEORGE C. MARSHALL display kiosk as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
The War's End display placard as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
All told, we had between 1,200 and 1,400 that visited the WWII Exhibit.
OUR LOCALLY COLLECTED ARTIFACTS
One of the largest collections at the Donora Historical Society is our military collection for most wars dating back to the Civil War and up until the Vietnam War. While this was primarily the Heinz History Center's traveling WWII Exhibit, we were able to supplement the exhibit with WWII artifacts from Donora veterans in three locations within two venues in Donora.
The Local Artifact display as part of the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit allowed us to make a local contribution from Donora. In the tall glass display case on the left sat the uniform of Donora High School Class of 1929 graduate Raymond "Lefty" Lytle. The Heinz History Center allowed us to also add an additional side table to display Lytle's medals that included a Purple Heart.
This display was part of the WWII Exhibit in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library.
Continuing upstairs on the main floor of the Donora Public Library were additional Donora WWII artifacts describing The Home Front, Donora, Pa. that showcased the men and women of Donora that went off to war or contributed to the Arsenal of Democracy.
And continuing still a block away at the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum was our more comprehensive WWII artifact collection from Donora veterans. This display sat in our rotating exhibit space and gave WWII history buffs a reason to visit the Smog Museum and to see those WWII items that couldn't fit at the Donora Public Library.
OPENING NIGHT RECEPTION
While the first day of the Heinz History Center travelling WWII Exhibit was actually on Saturday, February 1, 2020, the Opening Night Reception didn't occur until Friday, February 7, 2020. For the reception, representatives from the Heinz History Center were expected to attend, a unique opportunity for us and Donora.
After the arrival of WWII-era truck went on display on the front lawn of the Donora Public Library on Thursday, February 6, 2020, to greet visitors for the opening weekend, a snowstorm dumped five inches the next day on Friday morning. But we knew, We Could Do It! and the Opening Night Reception went on as planned.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Acai - Raleigh, NC
Starting at 7:00 p.m., opening remarks were made by representatives of the Donora Historical Society and Donora Public Library. Donora Mayor Jim McDonough then welcomed all to the exhibit and our town of Donora.
All of our generous sponsors were thanked. You can see our sponsors near the end of this page along with their company logos. Their donations enabled us to cover general expenses, pay stipends to our presenters, entertainers and food service providers, and give donations to the Donora Public Library and veterans groups.
We were able to do something different that hadn't been done before and that was our Taste of Donora as a way to not only have nice food for our reception, but to showcase our fine food service providers from Donora. All eight food service providers listed in the LOGISTICS section above under RESTAURANTS participated and they all went above and beyond the call and they did Donora proud. The food was outstanding!
Kylie Horrell, owner and director of the STRIVE Performing Arts Studio in Belle Vernon was our musical entertainer for the Opening Night Reception where she sang three WWII-era songs: Over the Rainbow, At Last and On the Sunny Side of the Street.
Kylie Horrell is shown in the photo to the left.
The BOSE sound system used by Kylie was generously donated by the Acai Family of Raleigh, NC. Their father and grandfather were Stephen Acai, a 1933 Donora High School graduate whose WWII uniform was on display at the Smog Museum.
As a way to recognize all the men from Donora that went off to serve in WWII, we decided to do that by recognizing just one who did not return: 1937 Donora High School graduate Walter Glod. We were able to honor Walter through his sister Charlotte Glod Simmons who now lives in Mt. Lebanon and said a few words about her family and brother.
Robert Stakeley of the Heinz History Center, sponsor of California University of Pennsylvania's Digital Storytelling class, and our Affiliate Director also said a few words.
We then showed the video mentioned above titled "A Small Town Hero - Walter Glod."
Simmons and Stakeley are shown in the photo to the right.
Heinz History Center President and CEO Andy Masich was our keynote speaker during the Opening Night Reception. Masich gave us insight into the WWII Exhibit and the role it played at the Heinz History Center. Masich was gracious enough to attend our event on his 65th birthday and also sing us his rendition of Rosie the Riveter.
You can see what the actual We Can Do It! WWII exhibit looked like at the Heinz History Center, by taking the Virtual Exhibit Tour with host Andy Masich.
Andy Masich is shown in the photo to the left.
In the photo to the right, some reception attendees got into the spirit and flexed their muscles by showing They Count Do it too with Rosie the Riveter.
Stephen Acai (far right) attended from Raleigh, NC.
HISTORICAL PRESENTATIONS
The one thing that we did with the traveling Civil War Exhibit back in 2015 that was extremely successful was to supplement the exhibit with additional events, namely historical presentations. We repeated that same idea with the traveling WWII Exhibit and were able to attract visitors to hear unique WWII topics about Donora, the Mon Valley, Western Pennsylvania and WWII battlefronts like Normandy and Pearl Harbor. Here was our lineup of historical presentations that started the day after the Opening Night Reception on Saturday, February 8, 2020.
On Saturday, February 8, 2020, our first presentation on The Home Front was given by Dr. David Lonich of the Donora Historical Society. Lonich described in detail how the Home Front contributed toward the war effort in Donora, the Mon Valley and across the United States.
Dr. David Lonich is shown giving his presentation in the photo to the left.
On Saturday, February 15, 2020, our second presentation on The German Soldier in WWII - Truth or Myth was given by Stuart Boyd of the Rostraver Historical Society. Boyd was able to describe in detail WWII from the German soldier's perspective. A very engaged crowd participated in a thorough Q&A.
Stuart Boyd is shown giving his presentation in the photo to the left.
On Saturday, February 22, 2020, our third presentation on Behind the Scenes - Putting Together the WWII Exhibit was given by Leslie Przybylek, the chief curator of the WWII Exhibit at the Heinz History Center. Przybylek described how they acquired various WWII artifacts and collections from around Western Pennsylvania and how they narrowed the focus for the We Can Do It! WWII! display at the Heinz History Center in 2015. Przybylek then followed up that discussion with The Steel City in WWII and the role that Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania played in the war effort during WWII. Leslie Przybylek is shown giving her presentation in the photo to the left.
On Saturday, February 29, 2020, our fourth presentation on WWII Light Infantry Weapons was given by Ron Maxson, USMC Retired and WWII collector from Greensburg. Maxson also presented WWII Trivia, Medal of Honor Recipients and discussed the Young Marines program for youth with future military aspirations. Ron Maxson is shown giving his presentation in the photo to the left.
On Saturday, March 7, 2020, our fifth presentation on The General, the Major and the Sargent about the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day was given by Glenn Flickinger, WWII Historian from Upper St. Clair. Flickinger then followed up that discussion with A Pearl Harbor Nurse's Aide, a presentation about his mother who is a Hawaiian native of Pearl Harbor.
Glenn Flickinger is shown giving his presentation in the photo to the left.
On Saturday, March 14, 2020, our sixth presentation on WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines was given by Monongahela native Debbie Popp Gilbert of the Elizabeth Township Historical Society.
Debbie Popp Gilbert is shown giving her presentation in the photo to the left.
More photos and descriptions can be found below in the Women's Fashion Tea section.
Due to social distancing, the remaining historical presentations on our WWII Schedule of Events were suspended after the March 14th event. We hope to continue where we left off on dates yet to be determined to finish what we started.
LIVING HISTORY DEMONSTRATIONS
There weren't as many opportunities for WWII Living History Demonstrations as there were for the Civil War, primarily due to the fact that there weren't many WWII veterans who could share their time for audiences due to their age. WWII reenactors also didn't seem to exist as readily as they did for the Civil War. With that said, we did have a few ways to share living history. Ron Maxson also shared authentic WWII weaponry in his presentation on February 29th - see above.
A day before the Opening Night Reception on February 7, 2020, this WWII-era truck was delivered for loan by the Lipchey Family from nearby Webster to greet visitors at the Donora Public Library for the Grand Opening weekend. This truck will return for the Veterans Breakfast Club breakfast.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Acai - Raleigh, NC
The Donora Historical Society is always looking for ways to attract younger historians. While making connections in 2019 in preparation for the WWII Exhibit in 2020, we stumbled on Aiden Ramsdell from nearby Charleroi. While only 12 years old, Aiden is an old soul with an appreciation for all things military. He is a collector of military memorabilia from all eras but would often show up at our events dressed in his authentic WWII uniform. As part of Ron Maxson's presentations on February 29th, we afforded Aiden the opportunity to show off and explain his WWII collection hopefully giving him confidence to do it again for other audiences in the future.
SCHOOL GROUPS
When the Donora Historical Society was awarded the opportunity to host the travelling WWII Exhibit back in 2017, the primary consideration for selecting a date slot were students. Having the exhibit in the summer meant we would not be able to host school field trips. Having the exhibit too early in the school year would mean that the teachers would not have ample time to plan their lessons and schedule buses accordingly. So, we chose the late winter/early spring date slot. The results were that buses were easily scheduled, and the teachers could plan their WWII lessons around their scheduled field trips.
As with the Civil War Exhibit in 2015, we invited a number of school districts to visit our WWII Exhibit in Donora. For students who don't have the opportunity to visit museums, we are bringing a museum directly to their backyard. When school districts do visit, we assume their teachers plan accordingly to give them the necessary background lessons to reinforce what they are about to see with our WWII Exhibit, a two-pronged educational approach.
For this exhibit, we had the opportunity to do something totally different. After Ringgold Middle School scheduled their field trips to bring their students to Donora, we were able to coordinate with History teacher Grace Denson and the Middle School administrators to add a third prong - a student assembly at their school to teach them about another facet of WWII, the Holocaust. Our plan was to hold a student assembly with a Holocaust survivor so the students could bear witness first-hand, a unique opportunity for all involved.
Ringgold Middle School teachers and students tour the Donora Historical Society's The Home Front, Donora, Pa. display on the first floor of the Donora Public library.
These students were some of over 250 students and teachers who would visit the exhibit during the fourth week of the exhibit.
Ringgold Middle School students tour the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library. The students were completing a scavenger hunt as part of their activities.
Ringgold Middle School students tour the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library. The students were completing a scavenger hunt as part of their activities.
Ringgold Middle School students tour the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit on display in the lower-level Community Room of the Donora Public library. The students were completing a scavenger hunt as part of their activities.
All told, we had around 250 students and teachers visit the WWII Exhibit in Donora.
So, after their classroom work and visiting the WWII Exhibit in Donora, the Ringgold Middle School students were now ready to reinforce their instruction even further with a student assembly at their school to teach them first-hand about WWII and the Holocaust. The Donora Historical Society sponsored the student assembly by chaperoning Holocaust Survivor Judah Samet from nearby Pittsburgh on Friday, March 6, 2020.
Five hundred Ringgold Middle School Students and teachers packed the school auditorium to hear Holocaust Survivor Judah Samet. Samet is sitting on the stage. One of just a few photos that he had is displayed on the screen and is of him shortly after being liberated from the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Holocaust Survivor Judah Samet discussed his life experiences for the students, most of which included being taken to the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany with his family at the age of six.
One of just a few photos that he had is displayed on the screen and is of him shortly after being liberated from the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Samet is shown in the photo to the right talking to Robert Stakeley of the Heinz History Center prior to the start of the student assembly.
Holocaust Survivor Judah Samet discussed his life experiences for the students, most of which included being taken to the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany with his family at the age of six.
One of the other photos that he had is of his mother who he credited with helping him survive in the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Ringgold Middle School History teacher Grace Denson summarized their experience:
"WWII and the Holocaust are part of the curriculum at Ringgold Middle School, both in Social Studies and English Language Arts. This year, the 8th grade students received an enhanced learning experience through the Heinz History Center, the Donora Historical Society, and the Donora Public Library. The traveling exhibit “We Can Do It! WWII” gave students a look into the role Pennsylvania played in WWII, as well as made local connections to people, places, and businesses. It really brought the broader concepts to a much more personal level that the students could connect with. The students then received what was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of them, when we had the privilege of hosting an assembly with Holocaust survivor, Mr. Judah Samet. The students were looking forward to his visit for weeks and were truly engaged in hearing his story. The students and staff of Ringgold Middle School are grateful for the opportunities provided by the Donora Historical Society and the Donora Public Library and look forward to more collaboration in the future.
I can’t thank you enough for everything! I know it is something I will never forget!"
SENIOR GROUPS
Sometimes the best audiences to give historical presentations to are the ones that lived it. The Donora Historical Society has had an ongoing relationship with The Residence At Hilltop Living Care Facility for the past five years or so. We've given various presentations at their location, and they've brought van loads down to Donora for others. The WWII Exhibit was no exception.
Three van loads of residents and their chaperones from The Residence At Hilltop visited the WWII Exhibit in February. There were three WWII veterans and two Rosies (women that worked in the steel mill) in attendance.
Dr. David Lonich of the Donora Historical Society repeated his The Home Front presentation that he did previously on February 8th for the residents.
WOMEN'S WII FASHION TEA
Hosting a war-related exhibit such as the WWII Exhibit or Civil War Exhibit (2015) tends to draw more men than women. With that in mind, we were looking for an opportunity to cater to women with an event they would find interesting and would enjoy. We think we accomplished that with our hosting of a Women's WWII Fashion Tea on Saturday, March 14, 2020, that was attended by 38 women. Admission was charged and gift baskets were raffled to offset our donation to the Elizabeth Township Historical Society. Monongahela native Debbie Popp Gilbert of the Elizabeth Township Historical Society would be our WWII Fashion presenter.
The afternoon started off with a tea where women sat six to a table adorned with antique teacups, saucers, plates, tea pots and linens. Finger sandwiches, cookies and tea were served, and relaxing conversation was had. The tea was organized, and food prepared by Donora Historical Society volunteers.
Debbie Popp Gilbert arrived the day before to start the preparation for her presentation WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines. Various WWII-era outfits were expertly arranged in a display in the presentation area of the lower level of the Donora Public Library that would be used to reinforce Gilbert's talking points.
The WWII-era outfit display continued and included both women's and men's fashions for Debbie Popp Gilbert's presentation WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines.
Debbie Popp Gilbert is shown above in the HISTORICAL PRESENTATIONS section. Gilbert's WWII Fashions on the Home Front and Frontlines was given to all those in attendance that included those from the general public that did not attend the tea.
The tea and presentation proved to be perfect compliments.
HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR
MORE TO COME
VETERANS GROUPS
One of the main goals of hosting the Heinz History Center's travelling WWII Exhibit was raising money in support of veterans' groups.
We Can Do It! WWII - PAYING IT FORWARD
The Donora Historical Society had a lot of goals with hosting the Heinz History Center’s travelling WWII Exhibit. Primarily, they were:
  • To promote history, especially Donora history – we did that with our Donora veteran artifacts upstairs and downstairs of the library as well as at the Smog Museum with our overflow WWII display. We also had presentations every weekend.
  • To bring arts and culture to Donora – we did that with the Opening Night Reception and Fashion Tea that included live music and great food including a “Taste of Donora.”
  • To help veterans' groups – our breakfast was cancelled, but we still intended to hand out donations (see below).
  • To help students – student groups visited the WWII Exhibit in Donora, and we coordinated the Middle School assembly with Holocaust survivor Judah Samet.
  • To help our senior population – Residence At Hilltop visited the exhibit, and we did a home front presentation for them.
  • To pay stipends to all of our presenters, something we couldn’t afford when we hosted the travelling Civil War Exhibit.
  • To give the Donora Library a donation for the use of the space – we did that too when we hosted the travelling Civil War Exhibit.
  • To cover all of our expenses – we did that.
  • To hopefully raise money for the Donora Historical Society – we did that.

To that end, while some of our events were postponed due to the virus, we proceeded as we initially intended by distributing donations to Donora veterans' groups, the Donora Public Library and the Donora Fire Department. Numerous corporate and foundation grants were written with the intention of not only raising money to host various events during the WWII Exhibit, but to also distribute donations to help our longstanding Donora institutions.
We were generously supported by the Sponsors listed below.
We were also generously supported by our Donora food service merchants for our “Taste of Donora” during our Opening Night Reception that included Anthony's Italiano, Early Bird Diner, Union Pharmacy Deli, The Station, Duke's Cafe, Cindy's Deli, Anna Lee's, and Marty's Pizza.
We feel fortunate that we were able to pay that generosity forward…
Most of the Donora organizations that we are supporting were also sidetracked due to the virus causing their fund-raising efforts to be hampered. We feel blessed that we can help them in their time of need. We think we were successful in accomplishing that mission.
Aside from foundation and corporate donations, we also had a raffle to raise additional money for veterans' groups:
With the help of two Donora natives who are employed by the Pittsburgh Steelers: Mark Gorscak - Scout and Blayre Holmes Davis - Director of Community Relations, we were able to acquire a donation of an authentic Pittsburgh Steelers autographed football signed by #78 Offensive Lineman Alejandro Villanueva who played in two Pro Bowls, is a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate, West Point Black Knights football player and team captain, United States Army Ranger, who participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. The football was raffled during the duration of the WWII Exhibit to help raise money to support Veterans groups.
With the money raised through foundation grants, corporate donations and raffles, on Friday, August 21, 2020, we distributed $2,800 in donations to six Donora organizations:
  • Ernest E. Jobes American Legion - Post 212
  • Ernest E. Jobes American Legion Auxiliary - Unit 212
  • Donora Veterans Council
  • AP Delsandro Veterans Memorial
  • Donora Public Library
  • Donora Fire Department

Representatives from each organization attended and are featured in the photos below.
(Front L-R) Tom Delsandro (AP Delsandro Veterans Memorial), Flora Gibasiewicz (American Legion Auxiliary Unit 212), Ron Janney (Donora Veterans Council), Rhys Taylor (Donora Fire Department). (Back L-R) Mark Boyer (Donora Public Library), Terry Gnora (American Legion Post 212)
Ernest E. Jobes American Legion - Post 212 - Commander Terry Gnora - $1,000
The Donora American Legion was chartered in 1921 and named after Donora’s first casualty of World War I - Ernest E. Jobes, a twenty-year-old sailor whose ship was torpedoed off the coast of France and was lost at sea in 1918. Jobes was an employee at the Donora Wire Works in the Rod Mill.
Post 212 eventually absorbed Donora’s African American American Legion – the William E. Owens Post 695 that was chartered in 1946, but closed years ago (visit the Smog Museum to see the Owens Post 695 flag.)
Working in partnership with the Donora Veterans Council, the Donora American Legion organizes and hosts the Veterans’ Day Parade when held in Donora every five years, holding the annual Memorial Day services that take place at three Donora cemeteries (St. Dominic’s, St, Michael’s and Mon Valley Memorial Park) and two memorial sites (Donora Veterans Memorial and AP Delsandro Veterans Memorial,) and the placing of military markers and flags at two Donora cemeteries and the same two memorial sites, as well as the grave of WWI veteran Andrew Posey in the industrial park.
Ernest E. Jobes American Legion Auxiliary - Unit 212 - member Flora Gibasiewicz - $400
Chartered in 1935, the American Legion Auxiliary - Unit 212 is the group that supports the Donora American Legion – Post 212.
Aside from supporting Post 212, the American Legion Auxiliary also supports organizations like the Veterans Administration Hospital, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, Washington City Mission - Patriot House for homeless veterans, Sharing and Caring – Veterans' river cruise on Gateway Clipper, and Gift to Veterans.
Donora Veterans Council – treasurer Ron Janney - $250
Years ago, the Donora Veterans Council was established by the late Ernest “Babe” Cerini, a WWII veteran and founder of Cerini’s Harley Davidson motorcycle shop in Donora. Working in partnership with the Donora American Legion, it organizes and hosts the Veterans’ Day Parade when held in Donora every five years, holding the annual Memorial Day services that take place at three Donora cemeteries and two memorial sites (Donora Veterans Memorial and AP Delsandro Veterans Memorial,) and the placing of military markers and flags at two Donora cemeteries and the same two memorial sites, as well as the grave of WWI veteran Andrew Posey in the industrial park.Also, if you are aware of the military banner program in Donora, then you know how beautiful they look. At the Historical Society, we often get comments from out-of-town visitors who like our banners and the whole concept of honoring our veterans. But with this program, what isn’t apparent, is the ongoing maintenance of these banners. The Borough of Donora takes on the responsibility of hanging and taking down the banners every year. The Donora Veterans Council assumes the responsibility with the expense and labor in maintaining the banner’s frames and brackets. A strong windstorm can easily compromise a few banners each time.
AP Delsandro Veterans Memorial – Tom Delsandro - $250
The son of Italian immigrants, Albert P. Delsandro was born in Donora in 1917. Having graduated from Donora High School in 1935, he was employed by US Steel in Donora when the United States entered WWII with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Al was the first from Donora to volunteer for the war effort when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and bravely served in Europe and Africa throughout the war. After the war, Al returned to Donora and his job at US Steel and married to Anne Igercich in 1948. A lifelong supporter of rights for working people and involved in the early development of the labor movement when he walked on his first picket line at the age of 15, Al accepted a position with the United Steel Workers of America as a staff representative and then later as Director of USWA District 15 where he had the opportunity to have meetings with President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson to further labor causes.
More than just a union rep, Al’s Donora political career spanned decades as he tirelessly served as Police Commissioner, Councilman, Burgess and finally, as Mayor of Donora for 22 years until he retired from politics in 1977. In addition, he served the community as a member of various boards including the Mon Valley Hospital and United Way and was elected Commander of the Donora American Legion – Post 212 for many years. Al died unexpectedly in 1983 at the age of 66.
Located near the intersection of Sixth Street and Meldon Avenue and to the left of the Donora Post Office, the AP Delsandro Veterans Memorial was built in the mid-1980s with funds contributed by friends, family, the Borough of Donora, and local veterans' groups to honor Al and those Donora veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice. That original memorial structure was dismantled in 2016 due to irreparable deterioration to its masonry features.
With an eye toward the future, the current goal of the AP Delsandro Memorial Committee is to create an attractive and reflective space for the use by Donora residents and visitors. The new design for the memorial has been developed to incorporate this vision by using this space to honor the wartime sacrifices of Donorans and their families and to illustrate Donora's contribution to military history. Through the generosity of participants in our annual golf tournament, volunteer efforts of many local companies and assistance from the Borough, basic elements of the new memorial are now in place. Upcoming plans include a fundraising drive that includes commemorative bricks, murals and park features, as well as a memorial re-dedication ceremony.
Donora Public Library – Library Director Mark Boyer - $800
We would not have been able to host the Heinz history Center's travelling WWII Exhibit without the Donora Public Library. Their exhibit space in the lower-level Community Room was once again ideal for displaying the exhibit with plenty of space for the exhibit, seating for historical presentations, and tables and chairs for social events like the Opening Night Reception and Fashions Tea. We also used a portion of the upper-level library stacks space to display a WWII Donora Home Front display that attracted visitors to both levels. The library staff was instrumental in powering on the exhibit's interactive audio and video daily and hosting visitors during their normal hours of operation.
Donora Fire Department – volunteer fireman Rhys Taylor - $100
The Donora Fire department is perhaps one of Donora’s oldest organizations since it was created shortly after the town was started in 1901. They were considered to be the “first responders” during the 1948 Smog rescue effort.
The Donora Fire Department wasn’t really involved in the Heinz History Center’s traveling “We Can Do It! WWII” exhibit and was not in the original scope of our donation distribution, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost sight of their importance in the community. With that said, we realize that their fundraising efforts were hampered due to the virus, including their summer car cruise, and we wanted to support them with a donation.
SPONSORS The following businesses and individuals helped fund the exhibit, additional presentations and events:
FirstEnergy - West Penn Power (Platinum level donor - business) - Washington, PA
equitrans Midstream Foundation (Platinum level donor - business) - Canonsburg, PA

PNC Charitable Trust - PNC Foundation (Platinum level donor - business) - Pittsburgh

Acai Family - Stephen and Avera (Platinum level donor - family) - Raleigh, NC
Elliott Group (Gold level donor - business) - Donora, PA
Mon Valley Alliance (Silver level donor - business) - Charleroi, PA
Pittsburgh Steelers (Silver level donor - business) - Pittsburgh, PA
Model Cleaners (Bronze level donor - business) - Charleroi, PA
El Grande Industries Inc. (Bronze level donor - business) - Donora, PA
Giant Eagle - Belle Vernon (Steel level donor - business) - Belle Vernon, PA
Gordon Food Service (Steel level donor - business) - Grand Rapids, MI

NOTE: All sponsorship proceeds benefit the Donora Historical Society for expenses and stipends incurred while hosting this exhibit.

This is where the Heinz History Center traveling exhibit has been and where it's going:

  • Beaver Area Heritage Museum, - April 22 - June 11, 2017

  • Butler County Historical Society - June 17 - August 8, 2017

  • Erie County Historical Society - August 12 - November 28, 2017

  • Heinz History Center (idle) - December 1 - January 23, 2018

  • McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center - January 27 - March 20, 2018

  • Fayette County Historical Society - March 24 - May 2, 2018

  • Heinz History Center (idle) - May 6 - May 22, 2018

  • Ohio County Public Library (Wheeling, WV) - May 26 - July 24, 2018

  • Jefferson County Historical Center - July 28 - October 2, 2018

  • Bedford County Historical Society - October 6 - November 27, 2018

  • The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon - December 1 - January 29, 2019

  • West Overton Village - February 2 - March 26, 2019

  • Lawrence County Historical Society - March 30 - May 21, 2019

  • Blair County Historical Society - May 25 - July 16, 2019

  • Somerset Historical Center - July 20 - September 17, 2019

  • Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls - September 21 - November 19, 2019

  • Heinz History Center (idle) - November 23 - January 27, 2019

  • Donora Historical Society & Smog Museum - February 1 - April 7, 2020

  • WW II traveling exhibit closes and returns to the Heinz History Center

  • Heinz History Center - redisplay in 2021


The Traveling WWII Exhibit actually lasted in Donora until August 2020 and was available off and on through the summer due to the virus.

In 2021, the Heinz History Center redisplayed the Traveling WWII Exhibit in Pittsburgh with additional signage of where it travelled and a mention of its visit to Donora:

To Donate to the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum, please use our PayPal option to the right.
If you would like to add a note along with your donation, please consider sending an email to:donorahistoricalsociety@gmail.com