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Thomas recalls 30 years of Tyrone history at Friendship night

The Tyrone Historical Society took a trip to 1972 last evening at its annual “Friendship Night” at the Bull Pen Restaurant. Guest speaker Ron Thomas presented “Floods, Fire and I-99,” showing the photos his father took of the Hurricane-Agnes-induced flood, the tragic fire that killed twelve that same January, as well as the initial construction of the “Tyrone Bypass” — what is now Interstate 99.
Historical Society President Nancy Smith introduced Thomas, a former mayor, borough councilmember, high school social studies and guidance counselor, and also announced the status of the Society’s display for the Bud Shuster Intermodal Transportation Center.
“For all those people who are wondering when anything is going to go in there, we’re really close,” she said. “We’re really getting close.”
Smith noted that the Johnstown Area Heritage Association has been very instrumental in helping the Society prepare the exhibits for the Railroad Station. She revealed that the recent reissue of the Wolfgang History of Tyrone helped the Society put together a timeline oriented display highlighting the history of Tyrone. A model of the upcoming display was available for guests and members to see and Smith thanked those who have worked tirelessly to bring the project to fruition.
Thomas began his presentation, which featured color slides of the events, by pointing out the significance of the year 1972.
“It is sort of fun to go back 30 years,” he said before joking that 30 years is quite a span of time to remember. “As we look back 30 years, it was a very interesting and important time in the history of Tyrone.” Thomas said that his father was diligent in documenting these events with his camera.
The presentation began with Sunday morning, January 16, 1972. “The borough communications sent out a fire alarm to the 1100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue at 5:30 a.m. Soon all of Tyrone’s fire equipment would be involved in fighting one of the worst fires ever to hit the borough of Tyrone.”
The Pennsylvania House Hotel was fully involved when fireman arrived, Thomas explained, and to make matters worse, the temperature that morning was in the single digits — around.
“Firefighters found that the hydrants were frozen, their hoses were subject to breaking in those particular temperatures and just the unusual process of keeping their footing was a very big challenge,” he said. The wind was also a problem that morning, he said, and only two of the 14 occupants of the building made it out alive.
Among those lost in the notorious blaze were Domenick Turiano, his wife and five children — ranging in ages seven months to 14 years. The Turiano family had been in the process of buying the hotel, which had 22 rooms and a restaurant on the first floor. The fire was sparked by a malfunctioning sump pump and over ninety people were involved in the arduous task of removing remains and cleaning up.
Pick up the Herald this Monday for part two of the Tyrone Area Historical Society’s Annual “Friendship Night.”