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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  September, 2009

Did You Know?

As I reported previously, a 56 year-old Modesto, Ca. vegetarian – Dr. Barbara Moore - passed through Uniontown on her celebrated cross country walk in June of 1960.

Did you know that she wasn’t the first person to make a cross country trek that included Fayette County?

“BUNION DERBY HERE TODAY,” read the Uniontown Daily News Standard’s banner headline on April 9th, 1929.

Runners had arrived in Uniontown as part of a 3,500 mile run that started in New York City, and would eventually end in Los Angeles on June 16th. (The winner crossed the finish line in 526 hours, 57 minutes and 30 seconds)

It was the second year the Bunion Derby had been held. The first started in Los Angeles and ended in New York City, although it didn’t wind through Fayette County.

C.C. (“Cash and Carry”) Pyle was the sole promoter of the event. He would have his runners go from town-to-town and while each community celebrated the arrivals of the runners, there would be a bit of vaudeville (Pyle’s Cross Country Follies), which was designed to help finance the transcontinental event.

Unfortunately, at the end of the 1929 race, Pyle didn’t have enough money to pay any of the cash prizes for the top ten finishers – including the promised $25,000 grand prize.

Sports fans may remember Rosie Ruiz, the woman who’d been caught cheating after she’d supposedly won the Boston Marathon in 1980.

Well, Uniontown had its own version of Rosie Ruiz – Neils P. Neilson of Chicago. As the runners for the Bunion Derby were crossing the mountains “patrols caught the runner perched on the back of a truck.” He was disqualified.

Did you know that during the local attention that was being given to the Bunion Derby, some people may not have been aware that an American musical icon was about to perform in Uniontown?

His real name was Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe. But America’s growing fans of jazz and ragtime knew him as “Jelly Roll” Morton.

The man, who claims he actually invented jazz, took his Red Hot Pepper band to Uniontown’s Gallatin Gardens on April 11th.

One notice claimed his band had already played at Shady Grove during a previous performance.

Did you know at the same time “Jelly Roll” Morton and the Bunion Derby were scheduled to visit Fayette County, the hint of a planned closing on Route 40 set-off a fierce public outcry and few choice words aimed at the State Department of Highways – if only for a few days.

On April 8th, 1929, the day before the Bunion Derby, the Daily News Standard’s top headline was, “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THE PIKE?”

It seems that there was a rumor that Route 40 would be closed for the summer from Brownsville to the Summit.

There were plans to pave it. “This plan will put into effect very shortly and will effectively bottle up Uniontown from East-West travel for at least a year,” the story said.

With the story, there was a call for local merchants to register their complaints about the hinted plan.

“The projected detour from Brownsville to Farmington via Connellsville is a joke,” the writer added.

But just four days later there – on April 12th – the Daily News Standard took a completely different perspective. That’s because the rumored closure wouldn’t be the in the plans.

“One-way traffic over the mountains, sure: PIKE PLANS PRESENTED, Fine 36-Foot Concrete Highway to be Built,” were the headlines for the story that outlined the real plans for Route 40.

The first line of the story said it all, “No detour will be used for the National Pike this summer while it is being rebuilt as a ‘wonder road’ over the mountains.”

Did you know that a controversy between Uniontown and Connellsville broke out in March of 1921 over, of all things, a telephone book?

A few Connellsville residents and business owners were said to have been “up in arms” because the latest edition of Bell Telephone Co.’s semiannual phone directory was titled “Uniontown and Vicinity.”

Those people were upset because they believed they deserved a higher billing than to have been considered the “Vicinity” part of that title.

Some people even said they were going to file a formal complaint at the “outrageous” second billing.

Did you know that the demand for glass floors was apparently so great that at one time a Brownsville window glass company decided to stop making windows and devote its entire production to glass floors?

That story appeared in the August 21st, 1889 edition of the Pittsburgh Post.

It must have a rather quick decision. The production on the new glass floors was supposed to have started on September 1st.

Did you know that more than a century ago newspaper advertisements for the sale of cocaine appeared frequently in local newspapers?

And did you know that a few years later, some of the people who were arrested for pushing cocaine were among Fayette County’s most respected citizens?

I’ll explain next week.