Did You Know?
Last week in this space, (being the dawn of a new decade) I took a look back at
some of the developments that took place in the decade of the 2000’s.
This week, I’m looking back at many of the “turns-of-the-decades” of the 20th
A hundred years ago, on December 30th, 1909, just about every story on the front
page of the Connellsville Weekly Courier was about the booming coal and coke
industries in Fayette and Greene Counties.
That day, an editorial was published that declared, “A controversy is raging
between Connellsville, Uniontown and Brownsville as to which is the coking
center of the universe.”
Of course the editorial writer made sure to cast his lot for Connellsville’s
coke supremacy. “Over and above all, Connellsville has a public spirit,
aggressive enterprise and a firm faith in the future destiny,” he said.
Through the 1910’s, the area’s coal and coke fortunes continued to grow, as “The
War to End All Wars,” (WWI) raged between 1914 and 1918.
But there were certainly periods of diminished productivity. Shortly after the
turn-of-that decade took place (on January 8th, 1920), the Connellsville Courier
published a sobering banner headline: “1919 SHOWED (THE) SMALLEST OUTPUT IN TONS
AND GREAT SHRINKAGE IN GROSS REVENUE DURING PAST 19 YEARS.”
There were obviously no fears of a long term industrial dry spell in Fayette
County at the same time.
A few days before the mediocre coke production numbers (on January 1st) it was
announced that the Paragon Motor Car Company was coming to Connellsville to
manufacture its four-cylinder cars.
The $3 million plant was going to be built in a 20 acre tract along the
However, as with many businesses during that decade, the Paragon Motor Car
Company went into demise. It only built cars from 1921 until 1922 before going
out of business.
Yet the earliest days of the decade of the 1920’s were highlighted by something
that would have a lasting effect across the country for nearly 14 years –
Prohibition (The Volstead Act) was enacted over a presidential veto in October
It went into effect on January 16th, 1920. What a way to start a decade. On that
day, the production and sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited.
According to the Associated Press, 1,092 breweries, 236 distilleries and 177,790
bars were put out of business.
Initially, though, there were few resources to enforce the new law. By 1925, in
New York City alone there were estimates of as many as 100,000 “speakeasies.”
That was one of the reasons they called the decade “The Roaring Twenties.”
Just 63 days before the end of the decade (on October 29th, 1929), however,
there were far more serious national (and even international) concerns, with
what was called Black Tuesday.
The entire U.S. economy collapsed and set in motion what would later be called
the Great Depression.
Yet, in Connellsville, there was still optimism.
“It has been an important twelve month(s) in the history of the community and is
regarded as having been the starting point of a new era of prosperity for the
whole region,” said a story on the front page of the January 1st, 1930 edition
of the Connellsville Courier.
The prosperity, as it turned out, took many years to arrive.
But there was some relief coming to the nation’s older workers at the beginning
of the decade of the 1940’s – Social Security.
A December, 1939 report claimed that nearly a million people (aged 65 or older)
would be getting the very first Social Security payments under a new law that
was passed in 1935.
On February 1st, 1940, it was reported in the Indiana (PA) Evening Gazette that
the first monthly payments (a maximum of $42 for a married couple) had been sent
out to the first 3,700 recipients.
With the 1940’s ending after America’s victorious role in WWII, the citizens of
Uniontown witnessed another kind of war. Uniontown’s mayor, Edward L. Sittler,
Jr., and a Councilman, A.C. Morss, were causing what was being called a
“tempest in a teapot.”
It seems Mayor Sittler had two fluorescent lights installed at the city’s police
station, and that managed to “miff” Councilman Morss.
The entire episode made the front page of the Uniontown Evening Standard on
December 28th, 1949.
The following day, however, there was an item on the front page of the Evening
Standard that didn’t quite manage to make Uniontown’s citizens shake their heads
incredulously. Life magazine was about to feature a picture that had been shot
near the Summit Hotel in its special edition marking the first half of the 20th
According to the story, the picture had been taken in 1918, when Thomas Edison,
Henry Ford, naturalist John Burroughs and tire-maker Harvey Firestone visited
Fayette County on their tour of six states. They’d stayed the night at the
The decade of the 1950’s was a time of economic growth across Fayette County.
Three pictures on the front page of the January 16th, 1950 edition of the
Evening Standard were a harbinger of things to come.
They appeared under a banner headline that read: “CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY BOOMING
THROUGHOUT THE CITY.”
The pictures were of two supermarkets under construction (on Beeson Avenue and
on Connellsville Street) and three new apartment buildings being built on
The 1960’s were ushered in by the high-stepping Uniontown Joint Senior High
Under the direction of their legendary band director, Orville Conn, they marched
in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on January 1st, 1960.
It would the beginning of a long list of honors for Fayette County’s school
While the rest of the country was struggling with civil rights, voting rights
and the ever-growing war in Southeast Asia, Fayette County’s athletes would
enjoy their “Golden Era” of athletic triumphs.
Uniontown, Laurel Highlands and St. John High Schools each won WPIAL and State
Championships (and in a variety of sports) during an athletic period unlike in
the County’s history.