Mystery partially solved

May 25, 2014

This week’s Mystery Photo was nearly as puzzling to our readers as the previous week’s – the one with four girls at play in a park. But at least one of the men shown tabulating cartons of powdered milk was identified.

“The man on the left is my grandfather, Samuel J. Bondi,” wrote Andrea Martin in an email. Her brother, Sam Lauricia, called us and agreed. “My grandfather was very active in politics and was instrumental in bringing the swimming pool to Canonsburg.”

Bondi’s grandchildren are certain that their identification is correct, but Donna Kazarick disagrees. She called to say she is quite sure the man making notes is her father, Walter Smoyer, the executive director of the Washington YMCA who died in 1966. “If that’s not him, then it’s his identical twin,” Kazarick said.

The advantage, however goes to Bondi’s descendants. After all, Bondi served for 10 years as administrator for distribution of government surplus food to needy families in Washington County.

“He was a Canonsburg borough councilman, justice of the peace, Canonsburg postmaster, payroll employee for Canonsburg Standard Tin Plate Co., and one of the co-founders of Canonsburg Town Park,” wrote Martin.

“He was a very good individual,” Lauricia said of his grandfather, who died in 1970 at age 72. Lauricia thinks the photo might have been taken at the old men’s home in Arden, which may have been used for storage of surplus food. “For some reason, I recall him often going to that location,” he said.

Bondi was elected to Canonsburg council as a Republican in 1936. He later switched parties. On Aug. 20, 1953, a Pittsburgh newspaper reported that “Samuel J. Bondi, Democrat, was ousted as Canonsburg postmaster in what he termed ‘purely a political move.’” This was when the Postal Service was an arm of the government and jobs were filled through patronage. Walter Rhine, Canonsburg’s Republican chairman and a member of the Washington County GOP executive committee, replaced Bondi as postmaster. Rhine was sponsored by then Sen. Edward Martin.

As for the other man in the picture, your guess is as good as ours. No one was able to identify him.

Look for another Mystery Photo in next Monday’s Observer-Reporter.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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