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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  January, 2010

Did You Know?

Did you know there were local warnings about the dangers of marijuana as early as 1937?

While there had been an outbreak of the illicit sale and use of cocaine in Fayette County during the earliest days of the 20th Century, marijuana apparently wasn’t considered a serious problem until March of 1937.

The banner headline on the front page of the March 30th, 1937 edition of the Uniontown Daily News Standard read: “MARIJUANA DRIVE TO STRIKE FAYETTE.”

That story claimed that Liquor Control Board agents, motor police and federal operatives were heading to the county as part of a state-wide effort to head off the “widespread sale and use of the repulsive narcotic or ‘reefer’ in several districts of the county.”

The marijuana sweep obviously didn’t work.

The August 7th, 1937 edition of Uniontown Morning Herald contained an item headlined: “YOUTHS WARNED AGAINST USE OF DOPE CIGARETS.”

It was reported that the use of marijuana had become so widespread that “G-men” were being called into Fayette County to keep a lid on it, because new supply lines into the county had been recently discovered.

“Young boys and girls in Uniontown and Fayette County are warned against the cigarettes which create such a craving for the dope that it undermines health and morals of those addicted to its use,” it claimed.

But even while there was an effort to rid Fayette County of marijuana, and at least to get it out of the hands of young people, there was another problem that generated headlines.

Just five days after the latest marijuana warning (on August 12th), it was reported that a local Junior High School student had been busted for being a “moonshiner.”

The Morning Herald carried an account of the so-called “Pritts gang,” which was said to have been caught operating a still by State Liquor Enforcement officers in the “mountain wilds back of Ohiopyle.”

Although the Pritts’ were said to “have the reputation throughout the mountains of having the best moonshine,” 38 year-old Homer Pritts and 18 year-old Kenneth Pritts were taken to the police station in Uniontown, then later transferred to Pittsburgh.

Yet, the most troubling part of that story was that a seventh grader was the alleged third participant in the moonshine operation.

That day, however, there was a bit of good news for local entertainment seekers.

Jackie Coogan, who’d been a child movie star (most notably as Charlie Chaplin’s young co-star in the classic movie, The Kid) was about to appear at the Lucky Star Inn in Hopwood that night.

He brought his Movieland Dance Orchestra and his Hollywood Hit Parade Revue, for a single performance.

Just three months later, Coogan would marry another Hollywood legend – Betty Grable.

Of course, if you still aren’t sure who Coogan was, he played Uncle Fester on the 1960’s TV show The Addams Family.

Did you know that in 1979, and with the help of a reported $500,000 grant, Fayette County was about to have the first-ever community powered completely by solar power.

The Clearfield (Curwensville, Phillipsburg, Moshannon Valley) Pa. Progress reported in its December 29th, 1979 edition that a 180 acre Fayette County tract of land (called New Village) was being built with an eye toward it being sustained by solar energy.

The project was being built out of what the participants were calling “disgust with the cost of high energy bills.”

Did you know that a young Uniontown child once made national news because his legs kept breaking?

The March 2nd, 1938 edition of the Oakland (CA) Tribune carried the story of a two and a half year-old who’d just been admitted to Uniontown Hospital after he’d suffered his fifth broken leg.

The report carried the rather tepid pun, “Sammy Lee Moore gets all the breaks in his family.”

Did you know that in 1901, a trio of Masontown residents got a bit of news for the rather unusual use of their legs?

The November 23rd, edition of the Daily News Standard carried the mention of Ira L. Smith, Amadee Johnson and Ray Anderson of Masontown, who’d walked all the way to the opera house in Uniontown and back on the same night.

That could have been a combined distance of 25 miles.

Did you know that an 1889 home invasion robbery in McClellandtown once made national news?

It also figured in one of the most notorious crime waves in Western Pennsylvania history.

I’ll have the details next week.