Thanks to the passion of Bernadette Sulzer Agreen, a former high school Spanish teacher and long-time systems analyst for Mellon Bank, the McKees Rocks Historical Society now has its history documented in a new book, “Images of America: McKees Rocks and Stowe Township.”
One of a series in the popular collection of history books published by Arcadia Publishing and written by local authors, the story of McKees Rocks and Stowe Township took root because of Bernadette’s interest in genealogy. She attended St. Mary’s School and lived in McKees Rocks until she was ten years old.
Having foreign-born grandparents, she grew up hearing German and Slovak at family gatherings. It was her interest in genealogy that motivated her decade-long research and visit to her ancestral German village in presentday Hungary in 2007.
Having her book published in 2009 is noteworthy to Bernadette for two reasons. First, it is the 100th anniversary of the pressed steel car strike, a landmark event in labor history in the United States. Second, it marks the 100th anniversary of her grandfather John Sulzer’s arrival in McKees Rocks from Austria-Hungary.
Highlights of the new book include the McKees Rocks Strike of 1909 between the Pressed Steel Car Company and its workers, the Rox Ice Arena and the Rox Rangers (later known as the Rooney Rangers), the largest Native American Mound in Western Pennsylvania, and why merchants and borough leaders raised the street level five to eight feet for a half-mile stretch of the main business thoroughfare.
When Bernadette started the process to compile the book, there was no organized collection of photos or historical items available. So, the McKees Rocks Historical Society was formed in December 2007, which allowed her to be put in contact with other local history enthusiasts and collectors from which she could draw information and photos for the book.
In return, Bernadette wishes that the proceeds of the book benefit the McKees Rocks Historical Society, which will enable the group to continue its efforts of collecting, preserving, and exhibiting its archival collection for the benefit of the community and its future generations.