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Book depicts Ford City’s vibrant past
By Mitch Fryer   - 09/26/2008

Leader Times

FORD CITY -- Bill Oleksak never came across a picture, or a memory, of his hometown Ford City that he didn't want to keep. Better still, he never had one that he didn't want to share with others.

The local author of "Around Ford City" will get a chance to do just that when his new pictorial history book of Ford City is featured in a book signing at 5 p.m. Monday at the Ford City Library.

Oleksak hopes one look at any of the more than 200 vintage postcards in the collection will take the reader on a vivid journey to times past.

"I want it to bring up a memory of an old story and keep that story being told," said Oleksak, a retired teacher, lifelong Ford City resident and the son of a Ford City glassworker. "I hope there is a generation of people who will look at this book and say to their kids, 'I remember that, I remember where that was.' "

"The younger people don't realize how vibrant our community was when industry was big. There is a generation who all they know is run-down buildings. They don't realize that Ford City had the largest plateglass factory in the world."

Oleksak spent the last 25 years collecting memorabilia and post cards that depict Ford City's past. He has put his collection of post cards into a book with the purpose of showing that heritage.

The book is published by Arcadia Publishing, which publishes books about local and regional history. The book is in the publisher's postcard history series.

Oleksak's book of postcards starts out by going right to the roots of Ford City's history, showing views of the since-gone PPG glassmaking factory built by pioneer industrialist John B. Ford with its smokestacks billowing and thousands of immigrant workers making glass along the Allegheny River.

It follows the history of Ford City's businesses, buildings, streets, neighborhoods, homes, churches, schools, industries, transportation, parks, sports teams, people and events in such a way that allows future generations to remember and repeat the stories of a way of life gone by.

"Just looking at the photos of Ford Street, it's just incredible what we had," Oleksak said. "At one time or another we had eight hotels, 10 churches and many ethic clubs."

"The town had everything," he said. "My grandparents lived their entire lives in Ford City without a car. Everything that they wanted was right here. That was true of all mill towns."

The next postcard history done of Ford City in the future will most likely show the industrial transformation and riverfront development of the town, according to Oleksak.

"The postcards won't be postcards. There won't be postcards anymore," Oleksak said. "They'll be e-mails and YouTube."

Anyone who is passionate about Ford City will want a copy of the book.

"Every ethnic community has a magnetism that draws people back and gives people a pride that's hard to tear down," Oleksak said. "This book is a visualization and a realization of what we had here."

Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
Price: $19.99, 128 pages/softcover

Where to find it: Available in the Ford City Library at 5 p.m. Monday and at selected local retailers, online bookstores and at www.arcadiapublishing.com.

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