by Jonathan Weaver
For 65 years, the Ford City Junior-Senior High cannon guarded the entrance to the 7-12th grade school.
During its last school year, students made sure the iconic cannon forever exuded Saber pride with purple and gold paint regardless of its final destination.
Yesterday morning, that final battleground was set – near the statue of the town’s founder in Ford City Park.
Starting about 8AM, Committee Members such as Councilwoman Kathy Bartuccio, local Historian Bill Oleksak and former VFW Post #4843 Commander Karl Swigart were among the crew tasked for the past year with preparing the cannon’s new home.
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.”
He predicted more alumni will visit the park to see it. Oleksak even noticed some children playing on it yesterday afternoon.
Councilwoman Kathy Bartuccio said the cannon had “layers and layers” of paint on it by Ford City graduates.
“It’s just nice to keep it in Ford City – it’s part of our town,” Bartuccio said in the past.
Ford City Council members held a brief debate on the final colors for the cannon in April.
A 1976 Ford City High graduate, Bartuccio said the cannon was also the school colors before red and white paint was thrown over top to signify the local rivalry.
“Between the two (schools) it was a lot of fun,” Bartuccio said.
In April, 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 the local cannon also be restored and placed near the War Memorial.
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 in April.
In June 2015, Ford City Council members voted unanimously for restorations to be performed by Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post #4843 personnel.
Swigart said restorations are still pending while they gauge public opinion on the final paint scheme.
Swigart, of North Buffalo Township, first talked with School Board Director Paul Lobby about giving the cannon to the Post years ago. His first recommendation was for it to be donated to the borough to be placed in Memorial Park.
School district officials officially agreed to donate the cannon to Ford City Borough in December 2014.
Facilities and Property Director Bill Henley reminded Ford City Borough officials that school board directors approved the donation of the German cannon, but Ford City officials needed to find a copy of that letter.
Schaub went on to say after that special meeting that the rivalry with Kittanning during the past century.
“It’s been a landmark here, and the kids that grew up in town have played on it, taken pictures by it – the citizens feel it’s important to keep it in the community,” Schaub said.
Then-Mayor (and now Councilman) Marc Mantini hoped to find out some more historical information about the cannon.
Committee members thanked Bowser Crane and Mike’s Towing for donating equipment to move the cannon.
Officials hope to put cement pads under the wheels.
Mike’s Towing Owner Mike Toy 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.
“Anything to help the community out.”
Before yesterday’s rain, tire tracks from the cannon were shown leaving the school grounds. Officials had to drag the cannon since wheels were locked for so long along 11th Street.