GAINESVILLE, Fla. – National Newspaper Week, scheduled for October 2-8, is a time to recognize the service of newspapers and their staff.
Former Steubenville resident Jack Davison Sharp draws on both sides of that coin, even though it’s been a long time since he was a newsman for the Herald-Star.
Sharp, who celebrated his 100th birthday on September 8, grew up at 216 North St. in Steubenville and delivering newspapers was one of his first jobs in the 1930s. He’s had sweeping and mopping duties at a barber shop and paper street that brought in a whopping $15 Christmas bonus.
He considered himself rich.
As one who helped break the news in his youth, Sharp remains true to reading, and while the Sunshine State has been his home for decades, what’s going on in his hometown remains important even though it’s far away is from Florida.
Sharp follows what’s happening there and reads the online version of the Herald-Star.
Born in 1922, the only child of William and Willella Davison Sharp, Sharp has fond memories of Steubenville as passed down with the help of his 51-year-old grandson, Kelly Sharp. The two live next door, explained Kelly, who said his grandfather was “very hard of hearing” since serving in the Marines during World War II.
One of his best Steubenville memories and stories he loves to tell happened on May 24, 1935 at the first night game in Major League Baseball history. The Phillies played the Reds at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. The home team won 2-1.
Sharp remembers hanging out with his buddy Shelton “Peel” Goodman’s father’s cigar shop while the game was being played.
“The store had a board about 4ft by 8ft that displayed baseball scores,” explained Kelly. “Score updates came in on a ticker tape and Jack and Shelly updated the scores on the guest board that was hanging out there.”
There was standing room only that night as baseball enthusiasts filled the plaza for updates on the outcome of this historic premiere game.
“I love this story” said Kelly.
Sharp grew up across the street “from a huge house where the Zanes lived. They had one daughter, Betty, who became a school teacher.” remarked Kelly. There was an ice cream parlor nearby that hired boys to wrap popsicles in the summer.
The family’s milk was delivered to the front door early in the morning, horse-drawn carriage style. Empty bottles that were in front of the door the night before were exchanged for full ones.
On cold mornings, the cream rose from the milk and froze. Jack broke it off and ate it like a frozen treat, a practice that would not endear him to his mother.
On May 16, 1937, Jack’s father died in an accident at a tar factory. Just 14 years old, Jack earned money for the family with the newspaper route and the barbershop job. From 1938 to 1940, during his sophomore, junior, and senior years at Steubenville High School, he worked a 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift at the same tar plant. He started out painting pipes and then got a job in the lab.
“By the time he graduated from high school, he had married men who worked under him.” Kelly said about his grandfather working on chemical titrations. “Jack often stopped by Delatore’s (Naple’s) for a bite to eat on his way to work. As soon as he walked in, they yelled “Meatball sandwich for Jack” to the kitchen, as was his habit. If they were understaffed, they would tell him to go back to the kitchen and cook something himself. If he got home from work a little early, he would go to Seltzers for ice cream.”
After graduating from high school in 1940, Jack joined the Marines in 1943 and made his way to boot camp on Parris Island, SC. He attended Aircraft Mechanic School in Jacksonville, Florida, graduating on October 16, 1943. He went down the river to Hernando, Miss., on June 8, 1944 and married Nancy Jane Elliott, a girl he met in high school school had met.
From Memphis we went to California, then on to the Roi-Namur-Marshall Islands. “Back then there was no grass, no trees. Now it’s a resort. He loaded planes to ship to Japan.” remarked Kelly.
On April 1, 1945, Easter Sunday, Jack loaded ammunition into planes, but the war ended. In June he was in the main island of Japan waiting to return to Cherry Point, NC and be discharged from the military.
“Jack and Nancy vacationed in Indian Lake, Ohio and loved it. Nancy’s brother Will lived in nearby Bellefontaine, Ohio.” Kelly continued his grandfather’s story. “Jack worked at a tar factory in Follansbee. He did an apprenticeship as a stove builder. This is where he started sheet metal working.”
After the birth of their first child, Margaret Ann Sharp, in 1946, the family moved to Akron. Jack worked with his father-in-law at Carlson Construction Co. in Cleveland and worked 40 feet in the air on his first day on the job.
In 1951 their second child, William Elliott Sharp – Kelly’s father – was born.
Jack served in the U.S. in the Korean War from October 22, 1951 to April 28, 1953.
Sometime between then and 1955, Jack got “Tired of the Damn Cold” and moved to Fort Lauderdale, where he lived with Nancy’s sister and husband Barb and Al Teague for a few weeks. Nancy and the children soon followed.
Jack worked as a sheet metal worker, mostly in Miami, enjoying life surrounded by a great group of friends and coaching little league baseball.
They moved to Alachua in 1973, inspired by a colleague who had recently purchased 40 acres in north-central Florida.
The couple chose a property in Alachua because of a beautiful oak tree. “The landowner was in the hospital and grandpa brought him $50 and a gentleman’s handshake to save the land for him until he could go to the bank.” explained Kelly, who grew up alongside his grandparents and would live with them after his parents divorced.
The property would house a farm with chickens, cows, pigs, goats and kittens, and a garden growing everything from corn, green beans and cucumbers to zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes.
Nancy died of cancer on July 17, 1979. The couple was married for 35 years.
Jack remarried and married Margaret Ann Elizabeth Leonard on March 28, 1980. She died in 2017.
After retiring at the age of 64 in 1986, Jack worked on electrical transformers and traveled the country with his son Bill and grandson Kelly.
Jack is survived by his sister, two wives and both children. He has five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
The 100th birthday celebration “it worked great”, According to Kelly, who said about 36 friends and family members had gathered for a party. It contained some surprising presentations. “I was able to get a letter from the Marines thanking him for his service.” said Kelly. There was also a congratulatory letter and t-shirt from Big Red.
“He still drinks a beer or two a day,” Kelly said of his grandfather’s staples, which include bacon and also ice cream at least a couple times a week.
And his interest in his hometown never wanes. Jack’s heart still beats in Steubenville, agrees his grandson.
And the newspaper keeps him in touch with her.