A small group of Ford City residents are making sure the cannon that was a fixture at the former Ford City High School continues its legacy.
Bill Oleksak said the cannon will be sent this Spring to be sandblasted, repaired as needed, and then put back to its current location in the Ford City Park.
“We’re going to have a memorial plaque explaining about it,” Oleksak told members of Ford City Borough Council last month. “I understand there is another group that wants to do some things. It would be nice if we could coordinate. We don’t want to do anything that would be in conflict.”
Mayor Jeff Cogley said he has spoken with the other group and felt there would not be a conflict.
“They seem like they will go along with whatever plan is set in place.”
Oleksak said his group has raised money, mainly through former students of the high school.
“The alumni have been very generous to us.
“We’re waiting for the Spring thaw so we can get a flatbed in there and get the cannon out. That section (of the Park where the cannon currently is located) seems to be a good area for it.”
When the Ford City High School was closed in 2015, the push began to preserve the cannon as part of Ford City’s heritage. The Armstrong School District agreed in December 2014 to donate the cannon to the Ford City Memorial Park. However, it would be another year before volunteers could decide how to move it and where to put it.
Oleksak had mixed emotions about moving the iconic cannon, saying the relocation was “tough.”
“When I was in school, the Kittanning kids would come down and paint it red-and-white, but the school district would re-paint it olive drab, the army colors,” Oleksak recalled. “We didn’t paint it purple and gold when I was in school – I don’t know when that started.”
Some residents wanted the cannon to be restored and painted purple and gold again. However, with the consolidation of the Kittanning and Ford City into Armstrong High School, many businesses have moved away from the purple and gold motif.
Borough Parks and Recreation Committee Member Stacy Klukan said cannons in Brackenridge are the original color, not brown and gold for Highlands High School She suggested in 2016 that the local cannon also be restored to its natural color.
Council Vice-President Tyson Klukan (a 2010 Ford City graduate) isn’t on the cannon committee, but is just glad the cannon will remain in Ford City.
“It’ll be nice to see a small part of history stay in town,” Klukan said.
For 65 years, the Ford City Junior-Senior High cannon guarded the entrance to the 7-12th grade school. The cannon came from Germany but no one could remember exactly how it ended up in Ford City, although multiple versions of the story abounds.
Mike’s Towing Owner Mike Toy assisted in moving the cannon in July 2016 to the Park. He estimated the cannon weighed 3,500 pounds – about the weight of a pick-up truck.
“That’s the first time I ever moved a cannon,” Toy said. “It wasn’t too bad of a task at all.
Final restoration is to be completed in time for the annual July celebration in the Park.