In 1917, the National Tube Company (a subsidiary of United States Steel Corporation) opened a massive facility on the corner of Pittsburgh Circle and First Street that would bring recreational activities never even thought of in Ellwood City a reality. Designed as a clubhouse for the employees of National Tube, it became a recreational center for virtually all of the citizens of Ellwood City. The Shelby Social Club was home to an Olympic size swimming pool, a meeting room, a gymnasium, a six lane bowling alley, billiards, an auditorium, a soda grill, lounge room, cafeteria and a basketball court among other things.
It did not take long after construction that the basketball program became one of the finest in the area. The first team to play on the basketball court was the Shelby Social Club’s semi-pro team. In 1918, the court became home to the Ellwood City High School basketball team also. Ellwood City was without a high school team before that because the school did not have anywhere to play or practice. The high school played at the Shelby until they got a gym of their own in 1926 at the newly constructed Lincoln High School. Today that gym is known as the “old” gym or “little” gym.
Basketball continued to grow in popularity in the predominately baseball minded community but public interest truly gained at the start of the city wide church league in 1920. First Baptist dominated the church league with their only loss in the first two years was to Bell Memorial (First Baptist had to forfeit the game). The 1921-22 all-star team consisted of Merit Book, Chief Parillo, Dewey Cunningham, Ralph Adams, Sing MacDonald, Ray Johnston, Jimmy Guy, Cooper, Fike, & Dip McDaniel.
In 1925 the sport got another boost when National Tube started an Inter-Departmental League. Teams included Hot Mills, Mechanicals, Office, Specialty, Finishing, Cold Draw, Hot Finish, Inspection, and consisted of All-Stars Dip McDaniel, Sing MacDonald, Joe Latiano, Joe Reilly, and Earl McCandless). The league expanded in 1936 with the additions of Lincoln High Faculty and Italo Balbo. The Inter-Departmental League ended in 1940.
1930 marked the return of the Semi-Pro league at the Shelby Clubhouse. The Ellwood City Manhattans began play in the Allegheny County League playing the best teams in Western Pennsylvania and posting an 11-11 record. In the clubhouse’s last ten years other basketball leagues played at the Shelby including Junior & Intermediate leagues, an Industrial League, and a Municipal League. The Municipal League included teams such as Moose, Catholic Center, SOI, North Side, Eagles, Chippy’s, and Oasis.
The same year the Inter-Departmental league ended (1940), the Shelby Social Club put a team in the Beaver County Basketball League. The Socials lost its first two games against Slippery Rock University & the University of Pittsburgh, then the Socials went on to win their next nineteen games in a row finishing the season 30-4.
Basketball was not the only thing people remember about the Shelby Clubhouse. Beginning in 1918, the day school let out for Christmas vacation, the clubhouse was open to all children in grade school in Ellwood City & surrounding townships. Children not yet old enough to be in kindergarten were also invited but required a ticket that was available with a donation. The kids would climb the stairs to the third floor auditorium to see a huge decorated tree, view a Christmas themed film, sing carols, & see Santa come down the fake chimney. After Santa appeared, each kid got a brown bag treat which during the Great Depression may have been more than some of the children got for Christmas.
Then, during the summer of 1950 without any big announcements, a small article appeared stating that the Shelby Clubhouse facilities had been sold to Aetna-Standard for an engineering and office building. The small announcement was the end to the recreational center that meant a whole lot to Ellwood City.
After U.S. Steel closed the clubhouse, the club moved to the office space in the old hospital building on the mill grounds. The final Christmas party was Dec 23, 1960. It was estimated that 6,000 children gathered for their Christmas treat that year though in previous years the number reached as many as 8,000.
We are pretty sure that more than a couple of people have memories (good or bad) about the great clubhouse that was available to them for more than 33 years. If you would like to share yours, please leave a comment below or email us by CLICKING HERE.