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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  June, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know the recent conversion from analogue to digital TV signals across the country, wasn’t the first time that some local television viewers were a bit confused by a switch of sorts?

On May 8th, 1955 the Uniontown Evening Standard carried the front page story that people in Uniontown had tuned to KDKA-TV the previous evening, and they were surprised at what they encountered.

“Set owners reported receiving programs from Cuba, Canada, Wichita Falls, Tex., Chicago, Indianapolis, Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati and other cities outside the normal receiving area,” the story read.

There was no explanation for the mixed-up signals.

Did you know that back in those days, something may have been even more mysterious than watching a television program emanating from Cuba? It was Rayon.

“INFLAMMABLE SWEATERS MAKING FIRST APPEARANCE IN THE DISTRICT,” read the front page Evening Standard article about the newly marketed fabric that was published on January 18th, 1952.

The sub-headline was even scarier: “Flare Up at Touch of Flame and Burn to Ashes,” it said.

Rayon, which was initially marketed under several brand names, was increasing in popularity at the time. But there were serious fears that you could be burned to a crisp if you wore clothes made out of the semi-synthetic fabric and then made contact with open flames. “Many district people may be wearing sweaters that could turn them into human torches in an instant,” the article warned.

However, Rayon has been marketed in a variety of forms ever since, with no apparent outbreak of people being turned into human torches.

Did you know there were even more fears regarding something I considered “a must have” when I was in 5th grade – the hula hoop?

The hula hoop was, perhaps, the greatest fad in the history of the United States.

In 1958, 100 million of them were sold. By the end of that year, the hula hoop was, according to some reports, dead.

A report in the Nov. 19th, 1958 declared that, “the hula hoop has joined the Davey Crockett hat and the yo-yo in that big toy box in the sky.”

But before that (and for some time after), Fayette County Pennsylvania was awash in hula hoops.

The State Theatre’s Saturday morning movies were accompanied by an “On Stage Hula Hoop Contest” in early September.

It was one of many that were held throughout the country. There were daily reports of upcoming church bazaars and all manner of public gatherings with the added lure of hula hoop contests.

But at the same time, there were warnings about the possibilities of severe physical conditions that could’ve resulted from too much “hula hooping.”

On September 18th, a wire story in the Evening Standard chronicled the dislocated vertebrae suffered by a 25 year-old Mount Clemons, Mi. man who was teaching his six year-old daughter how to swing a hula hoop. He had to be taken to the hospital.

The fears about widespread parental injuries were even contained in an editorial in the Evening Standard, on September 27th. “The hula hoop fad remains in full twirl. But it has been followed by a painful crawl to the doctors in many cases. The grownups end up with back aches with many hula hooped out of alignment,” it said.

And besides, Fayette County’s adults had their own forms of entertainment at the time. The Del-Vikings (Come Go with Me), the Ink Spots (If I Didn’t Care) and the Skyliners (Since I Don’t Have You) were the rising stars making appearances at local night clubs that fall.

For the kids, though, it was only the hula hoop. So, it was front page news on October 6th, when 11 year-old Patricia Wilson of Nemacolin twirled her way to high hula hoop honors in a contest put on by the Masontown Chamber of Commerce.

She’d won a “completely equipped English-make bicycle” for twirling her hoop for nearly three straight hours.

And members of Herald-Standard’s Junior Reporter Club showed great journalistic enthusiasm regarding all things hula hoop. Under the headline: “My Sister’s Hula Hoop,” Junior Reporter Club member Lorraine Danowski showed her obvious pride for her sister and her hula hoop abilities, when she wrote, “My little sister’s name is Toni and she has a hula hoop. Of course it is a little one because she is only two. She does the hula real good.”

Delores Pride, for instance, wrote on September 20th, “Just about every store in town is selling hula hoops. The hula hoops come in different shapes and colors. I have a red hula hoop.”

Personally, I’d thought red hula hoops were pretty common. (For the record, mine was red) But it seems red hula hoops were more rare than I’d imagined in those days.

Fifth grader Helen Mlinarcik, another member of the Junior Reporter Club (and my 1966 Uniontown Joint Senior High School classmate), wrote as the hula hoop fad was fading in November of 1958, “I have a red hula hoop. It is the only one in my neighborhood. I can bring it up from my knees to my waist, from my waist to my neck, and from my knees to my neck,” she wrote.