In this second column, we are speaking to Mr. Martin Fella in his photography studio at 1465 Main St. in Northampton. We are tracing the history of Fella Studios, a business that has provided photography service to the area for 77 years. 

His grandfather emigrated from Austria to New York, where he was a partner in a Brooklyn studio. Mr. Fella moved to Bethlehem and opened a studio on Buchanan Street. Oscar, the patriarch, died in 1931. Elizabeth, his wife, and four sons, Martin Sr., Bernard, Rudolph and Edward, had to determine the future of the business. 

The oldest son, Bernie, was 16 years of age and a student at Liberty High School. He quit school to help run the studio with his mother and brothers. The studio became a family enterprise. 

Their first Bethlehem studio was sold to Bethlehem Steel for a parking lot. They found a new location on Fourth Street. 

Martin’s grandmother assumed the leadership of the studio and, through dedication, hard work and the cooperation of her family, became a successful businesswoman. 

Mr. Fella’s father, Martin Sr., was born in Bethlehem in 1920. He was delivered at home by a midwife. While attending Liberty High School, he worked in the school print shop and also at The Globe-Times. 

During World War II, the studio was very busy. Families had photos sent to sons and daughters who were serving in our military. Photographs were sent around the world to the battlefields of Europe and Asia. When veterans were on furlough, they stopped at the studio for a photograph. Brothers Rudolph and Edward worked at Bethlehem Steel. 

Martin Fella Sr. and his wife, Caroline (Kovalchik) Fella, photo courtesy of the Fella family

Mr. Fella’s father enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force, stationed in Delaware at the Dover Air Base. The skills he learned from his father and work at The Globe-Times qualified him to be an Air Force photographer, attaining the rank of sergeant. 

His future wife, Ms. Caroline Kovalchik, joined the U.S. military and was part of WAVES, or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. She was stationed with the U.S. Department of the Navy with a security clearance. 

She never spoke about the scope of her work when she returned to civilian life. A patriotic family, all of her brothers served in the military. 

Sgt. Fella met a number of celebrities during his military service. 

Some of our older readers will remember Gene Autry, former country singer and film star. His theme song was “Back in the Saddle Again.” He was thrilled taking a photograph. 

When Mr. Fella returned home, he married the former Navy WAVE, Ms. Caroline Kovalchik, and resumed his photography career at the Fourth Street studio. 

While in the service, his mother received a letter from Mrs. Lenhart, who owned a photography studio in Northampton, and offered to sell the business to Mrs. Fella. 

Could the family afford to purchase the studio in 1946? 

We’ll have the answer in two weeks. 


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