Photo contest stirs Mooncrest memories


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Mooncrest was a wonderful community for children in the 1940s and '50s, say former residents who have shared old photographs of the housing complex in Moon that is going to be nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1943 by the federal government, Mooncrest initially housed the families of workers in the many defense industries along the Ohio River, including ship yards on Neville Island. It sits on 42 acres on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River, and contains 392 residential units in 104 buildings.

Three former Mooncrest residents already have won a photo contest. The Moon Township Historical Architectural Review Board is seeking more photographs for the second round of the contest.

Pictures of Mooncrest taken prior to 1968 can include people, buildings, streetscapes, cars or anything else. The old photos will be scanned and returned. Mooncrest photos will be published in a book; as of now, they are on the township website and will be displayed in the municipal building.

First place wins $100, second place is $50 and third place is $25. Fifty photographs were entered in the first contest.

Third-place winner Betty Werme, 80, lives in Crescent with her husband, Charles. She still works as a seamstress at Pressing Matters in Coraopolis. But from 1944 through 1955 she lived in Mooncrest.

"People came from all over the country and even other countries" to live in Mooncrest, Mrs. Werme said. Her father, George Barwell, had emigrated from Wales, working first as a coal miner in Library before moving to Mooncrest in 1944.

"He built LSTs on Neville Island," she said. Landing Ship Tanks were used in World War II to transport troops to beachheads in the Allied Invasion of Europe.

"We would get passes and watch the new boats launch," said Mrs. Werme, who said the ships went west on the Ohio River to the Mississippi River.

"Mooncrest was wonderful, and everybody was nice," Mrs. Werme said. Rent paid to the government was $32 a month, and after the war her parents bought their housing unit, as did many other residents.

There were so many children, Mrs. Werme said, and they could walk everywhere, including a recreation building on the site. The police station, municipal building and public schools were located in Mooncrest back then. "I went to school there from fourth grade until graduation."

The 1955 picture that Mrs. Werme submitted to the contest shows her neighbor, Ernie Burns, opening the back door to enter her residence. In the background is another Mooncrest building.

Mrs. Werme remembers Mrs. Burns with great fondness because "she used to fix breakfast for me many mornings -- ham and biscuits with red gravy, because she knew I loved it."

Vicky Ramsey spent the first 18 years of her life in Mooncrest -- from 1956 until 1974 -- when her family moved to Florida.

Her parents, Norman and Dennetta Ramsey, and her grandparents, Earl and Myrtl Hall, all lived in Mooncrest. Ms. Ramsey and her four siblings grew up there. Her father worked at Dravo on Neville Island. Her second-place 1962 photograph shows Ms. Ramsey and her sister, Shelby, and brother, Randall, standing in front of their red brick residence.

She's happy she had old pictures to share.

"One year for Christmas my mother gave each of us a Rubbermaid container" filled with childhood mementos, including "my ballet costume. And she gave each of us a photo album," Ms. Ramsey said. Her mother died 11 years ago, but the siblings still have their childhood photos and memories.

Ms. Ramsey fondly remembers taking swimming lessons at a pool on Neville Island which she thinks was owned by the company her father worked for. Many winters her dad created a backyard skating rink for his children.

She especially remembers that there were so many children to play with "and we hung out on the corner."

The family moved to Florida in 1974 "because, I think, my parents got tired of cold weather," Ms. Ramsey said. Her father is now 83 years old and "doing well." Ms. Ramsey has worked for 14 years for the municipal government in Ocala, currently doing marketing and social media in the Parks and Recreation Department.

The first-place photo from 1943 is a group shot submitted by Erma Meyers, who could not be reached for comment.

Details: The entry deadline for the second Mooncrest photo contest is 4 p.m. March 5 at the municipal building, 1000 Beaver Grade Road. Each entry should include a name, address, phone number and information about the photo. For more information call Cora Dombrowski at 412-262-1700.

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Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.


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