THE ROCKIN' 50's
The era called the 1950's actually began after the end of World War II and ended on November 22, 1963 with the death of John F. Kennedy. The hula hoop made its appearance on the scene and immediately captivated the hearts of the baby boomers, who were listening to Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock," the number-one song that year. They were also watching "American Bandstand," which went "coast-to-coast" after being a Pennsylvania phenomenon since 1952. At the movies, Michael Landon starred in "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," and the crowds hungered for more of these B movies.
I remember going to the Capitol Theater on North Main Street in Shenandoah that year to see any horror or sci-fi movie that might be showing. I was probably wearing my "Davy Crocket" hat, which my grandfather, Joe Saldukas, a Lithuanian immigrant, had made for me; he made one, in fact, for all of his grandkids. You say you never heard of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania? You never heard of the "Vilnius of North America," as it has been referred to? Well, sit back and I will tell you a short story to introduce you to the Lithuanian-American colony that settled in this unusual metropolis, which has been referred to as the "wildest western town east of the Mississippi."
"Shenandoah" is a name of Indian origin. It supposedly means "sprucy stream." I have no idea what a sprucy stream is. There certainly was nothing resembling a sprucy stream in Shenandoah, PA, in the 1950's. it was incorporated as a town in 1866, and the Lithuanians moved to the anthracite coal community from Danville, Pa. The town's population density made it one of the most populated areas in the world at the beginning of the twentieth century.
By 1869 the Lithuanian community had grown rapidly; the immigrants, who were predominantly Catholic, worshipped at various locations - St. Fidelis German Church in Mahanoy City, Holy Family German Church in Shenandoah, and later St. Casimir's on North Jardin Street, Shenandoah. This Church was erected by Lithuanians, but due to the clergy's desire to unify the Polish and Lithuanian immigrants, St. Casimir's was listed as a Polish Church in the diocese records. A controversy ensued and on March 31, 1891, over 1,500 Lithuanians met at Robbin's Opera House and officially formulated plans to erect a strictly Lithuanian Parish. The Church would be named St. George.
On October 26, 1891, the cornerstone was laid after a large parade of over 5,000 people marched through the streets of Shenandoah. One of the most magnificent structures in the community, St. George's Church stands at the corner of South Jardin and Cherry Streets, where its two enormous towers can be seen from any point in town. Although many nationalities settled in Shenandoah, one-fourth of the population had Lithuanian roots.
Although the Cold War was in progress and our enemy, the U.S.S.R., had just launched its Sputnik, the Fifties in Shenandoah was a great time for a "baby boomer." Buddy Holly! Silly Putty! Howdy Doody! Now, without further delay, we proudly present the 1957 roll call of Parishioners of St. George's Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church.
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