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Category:  General History
Published:  October, 2006

The Monaghan Case, Before the Monaghan Case!

By Al Owens
I confess! Sometimes when I get bored standing online at the supermarket, I catch myself trying to gain insight about a person based on what they have in their shopping cart.

If I discover an overabundance of Ramen Noodles, I’ve also discovered a student! A shopping cart brimming with microwave TV dinners? A working mom. A cart runneth over with potato chips, pretzels, moon pies and cookies? A latchkey kid!

It’s simple. Try it sometime. I’ve gotten so good at determining the character of a person, by the content of the carts (with apologies to Dr. King), I’ve decided to conduct my very own anthropological study. I’ve gone back in time to find out the true nature of our ancesters, based on the stuff they bought back in the 1920’s. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t do time travel. I use microfilm.

I dropped down to the Uniontown Public Library a few days ago, randomly picked out a roll of microfilm, and I examined the “shopping carts” of Uniontown’s shoppers based on the newspaper ads I saw. I am now ready to publish my findings.

In July of 1926, Silverman’s (a clothing story) had a half price sale on coats. People bought theirs for $9.88. Rayon “frocks” could be had for a mere $1.95. An automobile dealership named Graham Brothers was unloading their trucks for $885. No! They weren’t literally unloading their trucks. They were selling them for that price.

When’s the last time you could buy a refrigerator for less than a couple hundred dollars? Well in July of 1926, People’s Furniture Company was selling “Alaska cork insulated” refrigerators for as low as $18.34. I have no idea what advantage cork may have had inside a refrigerator. But I’d wager corkless refrigerators weren’t as valuable.

Cohen’s Furniture on Broadway (which was later renamed Beeson Boulevard) had a great deal on bedroom furniture. A four piece suite for a whopping $249. I know people who’d pay more for a pillow case these days.

Wright-Metzler, which would later be called Metzler’s, sold their suits with two pair of pants. $35. I wonder if Mr. Wright got so mad at Mr. Metzler for selling his suits so cheaply - he left town?

Can you imagine a time when you could buy a pair of tennis shoes for 99 cents? Sedicoff’s down there on West Main Street did. But Books Shoe Store, also on West Main Street, outdid Sedicoff’s. They sold men’s dress shoes for as low as $5. I would have bought a shopping cart of them myself.

The funniest ad I found in the Daily News Standard in July of 1926, was for The Fayette Drug Company located in the long demolished West Penn Terminal.

Fayette Drug was selling Thatcher’s Liver Syrup, Limestone Phosphate, Nuxated Liver Tonic and the delicious sounding Beef, Wine and Iron Tonic – all for less than a dollar. I have no idea what any of those things were for. But I’d be willing to bet that the people who ingested them got drunk!

I know, I know! The headline for this said something about the Monaghan Case. So I’d better deliver.

The notorious Monaghan Case, as you may remember is Uniontown’s greatest mystery. A local businessman, Frank Monaghan had reportedly been beaten to death by local and state authorities after getting arrested. But nobody ever went to jail because of it. That took place in 1936.

Well, while I was scouring through the newspaper ads of 1926, I came across an interesting news item. It seems that a certain Uniontown businessman named Frank Monaghan had been freed on “bail bond” after he’d driven a Connellsville police officer to Uniontown, engaged in a “violent disagreement” with him, got out a revolver and “started the officer home with a fusillade of bullets. He’d then been arrested, and then been beaten to a pulp by the local police. Monaghan sustained a serious eye injury for what was termed a “smash in the eye”. The injury was so severe he was unable to talk to the Daily News reporter who was covering the story. Now keep in mind that incident was decade before the one that resulted in his death. But it was remarkably similar.

To me, it adds to the intrigue surrounding Monaghan’s death. But one thing I do know, if he had gone down to Fayette Drug, bought him some of that Limestone Phosphate, or Beef, Wine and Iron Tonic – his eye might have been healed enough to have told that reporter what really happened!