George Kollar grew up in Coopersdale, a neighborhood in Johnstown’s western corner. After completing his schooling at St. Casimir’s, Garfield, and Johnstown High, Kollar worked in the Axel Department of Bethlehem Steel until he was drafted into the military in 1969. After completing 22 months in the service and earning a degree at the Ivy School of Arts, Kollar moved to Pittsburgh and started his career as a professional photographer.
When Kollar and his wife Deborah (Dragovich) heard reports of the flood on July 20, they were stunned. Having grown up beside the Conemaugh River, Kollar could not imagine how the Army Corps of Engineers’ river walls had been overcome with water.
On the evening of July 21, Kollar and his wife arrived in Johnstown via Benshoff Hill and walked a half mile to Mrs. Kollar’s parent’s home Laura St. in Tanneryville, which received only basement flooding. Kollar’s childhood home on Cooper Ave. was inundated with seven feet of water, ruining the interior floors, walls, furniture, appliances, and cherished family photo albums.
Kollar and his wife returned the next day with supplies, food, a camera, and three rolls of Tri-X 36-exposure film to document the disaster, the results of which are included in this exhibition. Kollar developed the film himself. The majority of the prints in this exhibition were produced in 1977.
Inspired by the British Museum’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, this exhibition was designed to showcase artifacts from several themes in Johnstown’s history including: industrial and business, domestic and working life, the built environment, ethnic and religious, individuals and events, education and art. All of the artifacts in this exhibition are from JAHA’s collections. The exhibition includes: mining and steel working tools and products, the household iron of Anna Wagner Ritter, the meat grinder from the family grocery that once stood next to the Germania Brewery (the processor to the Heritage Discovery Center), Ukrainian Dance Costumes, a trophy and shoes from Yankee Shoe Repair, a 1980s Johnstown Monopoly Board Game, WWII Flying Ace Buzz Wagner’s Tobacco Pipe, a Thunder in the Valley Program, a Folk Fest T-shirt, a set of Tefilins (Orthodox Jewish religious objects for prayer), and much more.