The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 5, 2013

Scores turn out to revisit history

JOHNSTOWN — Greater Johnstown High School student Jeremy Updyke proudly wore a U.S. Navy uniform Thursday night.

It wasn’t his uniform.

“My grandfather died on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “I wanted to honor him by wearing his uniform.”

World War II veteran Stephen C. Mosorjak, 87, served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946.

“He never saw battle,” the 16-year-old said. “He was on a tanker ship that filled the big ships that went to war.”

Jeremy was one of more than a dozen student volunteers who participated in a living history lesson at the high school auditorium.

Hundreds of World War II artifacts were displayed.

The collection, owned by Jerry Bellak of Davidsville and Kurt Shorts of Hollsopple, drew more then 100 residents to see and touch history.

Uniforms; rifles and handguns; Nazi, Japanese and American flags; bayonets; a dummy hand grenade; field manuals; a German gas mask; military helmets; medals; and a letter written by a prisoner at the Auschwitz concentration camp covered the tables. Each item was explained in detail.

There was a single-shot 44- caliber pistol that looked no bigger than a cap gun.

“It was for one thing,” Bellak said. “Walk up to a German soldier, kill him and take his weapon.”

Several bayonets lined the tables.

“The bayonet was not sharp,” Bellak said. “It would go in and cause massive blood loss.”

There was a bazooka training round.

“It was what they used against military vehicles,” he said.

There were several field manuals explaining everything from dismantling a Sherman tank to military protocol.

“It tells you you better salute a senior officer,” Shorts said.

Shorts displayed a box with a telephone inside and a long phone line.

“There is a crank on the side which rang on the other end,” he said.

“If somebody cut your phone line, you were dead in the water.”

There was a German gas mask.

“These were the types of masks they would wear when they put people in the gas chamber,” Shorts said.

Bellak said he has been collecting World War II history since high school.

“I started out with a German Iron Cross and threw it into a shoebox,” he said. “The shoebox got full and I got a bigger box, then a bigger box to where I am today.”

Bellak and Shorts have been displaying World War II history for about four years. They have visited several school districts.

Bellak said when they began visiting schools they were concerned some might object to displaying fire arms and Nazi flags.

He said the concerns were unfounded.

“People understand this is history,” he said. “Students can look at a magazine or watch it on the History Channel, but to actually see the real thing is an exciting learning experience.”

Bellak balks at placing a price tag on the collection.

“The letter from Auschwitz,” he said. “How do you put a price tag on that?”

Any organization interested in hosting a living history demonstration can contact Bellak at 288-5368.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on twitter.com/PatBuchnowskiTD.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • District Deaths July 31, 2014

    July 30, 2014

  • Smaller payout to seniors urged

    State Lottery officials say less means more for seniors.

    July 29, 2014

  • Portage ambulance aid will add portable CPR device, other tools

    Federal funding awarded to Portage Area Ambulance Association will soon put “a third man” alongside their two-person crews when emergencies occur, ambulance operations manager Edward Nelson said.

    July 29, 2014

  • paint_twp building Paint Township considers offering part of building for rent

    Four years after Paint Township built an addition at the Basin Drive building to house its growing police department, much of the new space likely will be offered for rent this fall because the township supervisors say it's no longer needed.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Old Rockwood hotel will soon be history

    The historic – but dilapidated – Merchants Hotel in Rockwood is expected to be razed soon.
    On Tuesday, Somerset County’s three commissioners unanimously agreed to a demolition plan for the building, which was constructed in the 1880s. The arrangement calls for a private citizen, William Nair, to tear down the structure at 703 Main St. in exchange for being allowed to keep any salvageable materials.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tribune Treasure!

    July 30, 2014

  • ATV blast ready to roll at Rock Run

    Organizers are keeping the spirit of the Fisher’s ATV Reunion at Rock Run Recreation Area alive despite losing the support of the award-winning Outdoor Channel TV show “Fisher’s ATV World.” Now called the Rock Run ATV Summer Blast, the event will continue to offer demonstration rides, motor competitions, product vendors, live music, camping and trail riding.

    July 29, 2014

  • Culvert 1 Preservationists use age-old method at historic site

    Preservation work on two historic culverts associated with the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site has been completed. The culverts were reconstructed using a variety of techniques, including dry stone masonry, which was used to build the culverts more than 180 years ago.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local briefs 7/30/2014

    July 29, 2014

  • Officer, civilian motorist injured in crash

    A Johnstown police officer who was responding to an emergency and one other driver were taken to the hospital after they were injured in a three-vehicle accident around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday on Railroad Street at the intersection with Clinton Street and Church Avenue.
    The Johnstown Fire Department said that the three occupants of the third vehicle were not injured.
     

    July 29, 2014

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
House Ads