After living on Lawrence Avenue in Ellwood City for a short time in 1944, Harvey Monroe Best and his wife, Vesta Marie nee Swick, decided to move out to Franklin Township, into a small apartment duplex located directly on the northeast corner of the intersection of Rt. 288 and Mercer Road, (today Giant Eagle plaza). Previous to becoming an apartment complex, this building was the original North Star two-room schoolhouse, also known as the old North Sewickley School.
Vesta shared that they had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a washroom. She also remembers that since the building had been an old school building, the ceilings were very high and it was cold, drafty, and hard to heat in the winter. She once recalled: “We had two stoves for heat, a pot bellied stove in the front room and the cooking stove. We always hated to use the pot bellied stove because you could see flames coming out of the chimney, so we used the cooking stove a lot to heat with.” Years later, Vesta also shared with her family: “When Linda came home, there was snow this high [holding her hand about two feet off of the floor], and Grandpap had to shovel the snow for us to get in the house. Oh man, was it cold!”
On January 19, 1945, Linda Marie Best, the first of two children to the Best family was born. The family still lived in the old school at that time, and Vesta has many pictures of Linda, her father Harvey, and many members of the family that were taken on the porch and in the yard of the old school during this period. Jessie Coblentz (in the photos) is the sister of Harvey Best, and Lena Crans is Vesta’s sister. The Best’s continued living at the old North Star schoolhouse until 1947 when they built a house on North Tower Road in Franklin Township.
While the Best family resided in one side of the duplex, Dale and Mary Jane Bonzo lived in the other side. Mr. Mike Mozier had lived in the school apartment building previously, but he had built a house out in Hardyville, leaving the apartment available for the Best’s to move into.
Many thanks go out to Mark R. Barnes of Crescent Avenue Ellwood City for providing this post and all pictures included. Mark is the grandson of Harvey Monroe & Vesta Marie Swick Best. If you would like to share any memories of the two-room North Star schoolhouse or the families mentioned above, please leave a comment below or email us at email@example.com
Picture #1 Left to right: Mae Coblentz (little girl in white); Jessie Coblentz (black clothes against pole); Bobby Crans (white shirt in yard); Cecil “Dick” Crans (white shirt on steps); Bill Coblentz (black clothes on chair); Harvey Best holding Linda Best (kneeling down in yard).
Picture #2 Left to right: Jessie Coblentz (black clothes against pole); Cecil “Dick” Crans (white shirt on steps); Mae Coblentz (little girl in white); Bobby Crans (white shirt on swing); Bill Coblentz (black clothes on chair); Lena Crans (woman in white dress); Harvey Best walking Linda Best (Harvey bending over).
Picture #3 Left to right: Jessie Coblentz (black clothes against pole); Lena and Bobby Crans (on swing); Cecil “Dick” Crans (white shirt on steps); June Coblentz (little girl on steps); Linda Best (little girl on chair behind June Coblentz); Bill Coblentz (black clothes on chair); Mae Coblentz (little girl in white dress); Harvey Best (white shirt leaning against pole).
Picture #4 Cal Swick sitting on porch.