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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  January, 2008

Did You Know?

Did you know that in 1960 a burglar made headlines all over the country, because of his unsuccessful robbery in Uniontown? According to the April 21st edition of the Long Beach (Ca.) Press-Telegram that year, the would-be bandit hadn’t eaten in some time. So while he broke into a Uniontown restaurant with the intention of making off with money from its juke box, he took a little detour to the kitchen.

The 28 year-old resident of Zelienople feasted on three steaks, four pork chops, three chicken legs, four eggs, a half a head of lettuce and a half a loaf of bread – before he decided to take a meat cleaver to that juke box and the cash register. His hasty meal cost him valuable time, and after police caught him with that meat cleaver in his hand – it also cost him his freedom.

Did you know that with the inauguration of a new president tomorrow, I was curious about what happened on inauguration days in Fayette County’s history?

Of course, you probably already knew that local interest in many American presidents resulted from them visiting the area before, during and after their terms in office. James Polk, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Howard Taft - and of course George Washington were those who passed through town.

A few, mostly notably, Polk and Harrison stopped through Fayette County on their way to their inaugurations.

Years later, on March 3rd, 1893 the Connellsville Daily Courier reported that members of the “Cleveland Democratic Club of Uniontown” were headed to Washington for the inauguration of Grover Cleveland. That was among the first of many inaugural trips to the nation’s capital by eager groups of Fayette County well-wishers. Twelve years later the inaugural train excursions gained front page coverage on the 3rd of March, 1905. “They are following the merry crowd,” the headline read in the Connellsville Courier that day.

There had to be two extra coaches added to the B&O No. 6 to accommodate the eager local celebrants of the new presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

“The crowd from here was cosmopolitan. Black and white, rich and poor – went to the assemblage that will greet President Roosevelt with cheer after cheer as he assumes the office to which he has been elected,” the writer proclaimed. It’s no small wonder that with such admiration for him among Fayette County residents, that Roosevelt would later pay the county two visits. Warren G. Harding apparently didn’t earn as much affection in the county. The reviews of his inaugural address in the Uniontown Daily News Standard that day were, well, “disappointing.”

On March 4th, 1921 the words disappointing and disappoint were used in four headlines to describe Harding’s apparent lack or oratorical skills.
The fifth mention simply described his speech as “grievously disappointing.” But that probably didn’t matter to a few local devotees of wireless radio. According to the News Standard, “a group of two score radio sharks” gathered at the American Legion home in Uniontown to hear the speech in the “wireless” room.

Four years later, by the way, Calvin Coolidge would become the first president to take the oath of office on nationwide radio. Coolidge’s inaugural address wasn’t considered disappointing. But it still may have gotten a lot more attention on front page of the Uniontown Morning Herald, if it hadn’t been for a visit to town by the reigning Miss America – Ruth Malcomson the day before. In March of 1933, the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt gain more interest because the Lafayette American Legion Post’s drum and bugle corps took part in the inaugural parade.

Not only did the troupe march, though, it gained the attention of the president when they stopped playing at his reviewing stand, according to the report in the Uniontown News Standard, and FDR he bowed his head in approval. On NBC, one of the broadcasters beamed nationwide that the Uniontown group was, “just about the best bugle corps I ever heard.”

In January of 1953, the Uniontown Evening Standard reported that members of the Rotary Club in Uniontown took in the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in a newfangled way. They watched it on a newly installed television set. Meanwhile, in Washington, tickets to the grandstand for the inaugural parade cost between $5 and $15.

In 2009, those same seats cost between $400 and $1,595. That is, if you’re lucky enough to get one.