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Isaly’s Ice Cream Shop Street Scene – Penn Avenue Pittsburgh

Today’s featured image appears to be a view of a grand opening at an Isaly’s Ice Cream and Deli Shoppe in an unknown location on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA. The photo was taken by Paul Slantis a photographer who worked for the City and was active from 1946 to ’56. All of the vehicles in the picture apparently were manufactured in the pre-war period which would date this picture to the early post-war period.

William Isaly founded his Ice Creme and Deli Shoppe chain in Mansfield, Ohio in 1902. The Company Headquarters were later moved to Pittsburgh and at its peak had over three-hundred stores. Following a long period of a decline in sales, the last outlet closed in 1995.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh Library.

28 responses to “Isaly’s Ice Cream Shop Street Scene – Penn Avenue Pittsburgh

  1. Second from the far end on the right is a ’40 Dodge, the Buick immediately in front of Isaly’s appears to be a ’41 Special Sedanet…with radio. The Ford in the street is a ’41.

    • Correction: the Buick is a Sedan…4 doors.

      The address on the building to the right of Isaly’s appears to be 526 Penn Ave. In a current view it’s a 10-story building with an 8-level parking ramp on the remainder of the block to the left.
      In the next block is a theatre showing Barbara Stanwyck in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” with Van Heflin…released September 13, 1946 outside of NYC

    • How about the first car on the right in front of the Buick got any ideas? The first car on the left looks like its a 1940 Chevrolet, and the fifth car on the right I believe is a rare 1938 Hudson Terraplane. Don’t see too many of those on the road. I noticed that the unidentified car right in front of it has a single pane front windshield at a time when virtually all cars back then had split pane front windshields. An idea that yet to catch on.

      • I think most early to mid 30s cars had one piece windshields. That may be a 36 or older Ford. Wasn’t it the mid 30s when laminated “safety glass” was first required by law? I’m puzzled by a lack of 1942 models. You would think there would be one or two.

  2. Two ’36 Chevies flank the Buick in front of Isaly’s. The one in front a Standard 2-door. The one in the rear a Master. Barbara Stanwyck in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” is playing down the street. Released in late summer 1946.

  3. Everything is covered with the soot from the pre-EPA days. The only car with any shine at all is the 1941 Ford in the street. Ice cream or no it is a depressing photo. Look at the dirt on the awning at the lower left. I grew up in an industrial town, not Pittsburgh, and I well remember the constant odor and soot from all of the coal powered homes and industries.

    I am reminded of a visit to St. Petersburg, Russia about 15 years ago. The same depressing odors and soot. I remarked then that there must be a law against washing cars. The only clean cars were the new ones.

    • Growing up near Cleveland’s Industrial Flats, (Standard Oil, steel mills, breweries, salt mine under Lake Erie, and stock yards) I can relate. Nothing was clean.

  4. These people are not lined up for ice cream. Look at the signs on the second story. U.S. Department of Labor . Another sign says unemployment compensation. Everyone is entering a door on the right of Isaly’s. Although it’s 1941 these were still tough financial times. Either that or the country is gearing up for war production and the job market is booming.

  5. This photo was most likely taken in 1946. The theater marquee in the background advertises a Barbara Stanwyck flick, “Strange Love of Martha Ivers”, which was released in that year. The ’41 Buick is bracketed by two 1935 or 36 Chevrolets. There’s another ’35-’36 GM product 2 cars behind the Buick, and a Hudson in front of the ’40 Dodge. Across the street, behind the ’40 Chevy is a ’36 Ford Fordor. I wonder if one of the motorcycles belonged to the white-shirted cop who was in the middle of the street?

    Ahh, Isaly’s. A Pittsburgh institution beloved for “chipped-chopped” ham, as well as for their ice cream cones and Klondike bars. (Right now, I could really go for an Isaly’s “skyscraper” cone, with Maricopa ice cream.)

  6. As much as I’d like to attribute the crowds to the good food at Isaly’s, it looks like the lines are actually headed toward the building next door, at 526 Penn Avenue. The second floor windows indicate that the Unemployment Compensation office was at that location. A quick surf of the Internet finds that there was a nationwide bituminous coal strike in April, 1946, which resulted the layoff of more than 23,000 (in both Pittsburgh and Chicago) by Carnegie-Illinois Steel.

    • After looking at the street view, I think the building at 526 has survived with the first 2 floors redone. What appears to be #526 next door is really the entrance to that building which includes Isaly’s in the first floor retail space. My evidence is the pattern of the windows on the second floor (2 square – 1 longer – 2 square) is the same, the entrance is in the same location on the right end, and the brickwork in the upper floors looks untouched and prewar style.

      • I an initially thought that the first building on that block was a downtown railway or subway station until I saw the word Rosenbaum printed on the large metal awning. Turns out that it was the name of a well known Pittsburgh department store. They had several locations in that city but the company went out of business in the year 1960, at which time all their stores were subsequently closed and sold off. No idea what’s standing there now.

  7. I agree, those folks aren’t there for the ice cream, in fact, I couldn’t imagine a worse location for a business, next to the unemployment office. I don’t think it’s a war employment line, far too many men, and if it was war production, I think there would be more women. Depending on the year, if after the war, it could be GI’s looking for work, and the police presence, just in case. I believe that is a police motorcycle, probably a Harley, that plate on the fender usually said “Police”, and what appears to be a front tire driven siren. You can see the shaft touching the tire and the scuff on the sidewall. There are letters on the tank, but can’t make them out.

    • And, perhaps, what looks like some degree of tension in the photo.

      Pittsburgh had a Westinghouse strike and a beer war ’46 as well.

      exhibit.library.pitt.edu/labor_legacy/Strike1946.html

      newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/thedigs/2017/07/27/pittsburgh-forgotten-union-beer-war/

  8. All the cars of my youth. Particularly relate to the 1940 Chevrolet. Family bought one new in 1940 but it was a long way from new when finally traded it in about 1948. Replacement was a Plymouth, one of only two non-Chevrolets that my dad ever purchased (the other was his first car, a 1931 Model A Sport Roadster). It was replaced two years later with a 1950 Chevrolet and over the years following it was one Chevrolet after another, eight or ten of them up to 1970.

  9. ISALY = I Shall Always Love You.
    That info came from an episode of “House Hunters” where the buyers were related to the ice cream shop founders (Schultz) It never ceases to amaze me what tidbits come up and where they come from.

  10. I don’t think the line isn’t for the unemployment office next door, though that seems pretty busy as well. It’s clear that the line is waiting for customers to leave Isalys so they can go in. That’s why the sidewalk in front of the store is empty and everyone is facing it. I don’t think I’d be at the end of that line for either place.

  11. Ah, sweet memories from my childhood in the small town of Geneva, Ohio. Should I spend my allowance on some ice cream at the local Isaly’s or cherry bombs and M80s at the fireworks stand? Ice cream usually won out, fortunately, as I am still blessed with all 10 digits…

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