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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  March, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know that when I chronicled the visits to Fayette County by presidents and presidential candidates last April, I made a few notable omissions? I did.

I wrote that presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln (numerous visits), Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, William Henry Harrison (who gave the longest inaugural speech - two hours, but who served the shortest time shortest presidency - 32 days) Herbert Hoover, Warren G. Harding (he stayed at the Summit Inn), Zachary Taylor, James Buchanan, John Quincy Adams and Harry Truman passed through Uniontown at one time before, during or after their terms in office.

Truman’s 1952 stop at the train station in Connellsville was part of his whistle-stop tour in support of the Democratic presidential nominee – Adlai Stevenson.
That visit, you may remember, was marked by Truman telling a 17 year-old from Uniontown to, “Go home and kiss your mother,” in response to a sign the student was holding that read, “H.S.T. (Harry S. Truman) makes waste.”

Well, I’ve found an earlier Fayette County visit Truman made to that went a lot smoother. The Uniontown Morning Herald reported on April 27th, 1935 that Truman gave the principle address at the 10th annual banquet and meeting of the Uniontown Chamber of Commerce at the White Swan Hotel.

Truman was the junior U.S. Senator from Missouri at the time, but he had also been the president of the Old Trails Association. That organization had advocated improvements along the National Road. Harry didn’t exactly “givem’ hell” that night. His speech was simply titled, "The National Old Trails Highway and its Connection with the Public Works Program."

During that speech he said that “the phenomenal growth of this Republic has been due to the development of fast transportation and quick communication.” He claimed that by expanding and improving the National Road from coast-to-coast it could become the “Main Street of America.” Did you know that the man who preceded Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, also made two visits to Fayette County?

“President Ignores Crowd at Local Station to Greet Him” said the front page headline in the Morning Herald on October 2nd, 1936. Well, that was only true of those who 3,500 people who gathered to greet the president in Uniontown. Between 500 and 1,000 people had gathered in Point Marion to get a glimpse of him. Those people got just that – a glimpse.

When his train passed by the B&O station in Point Marion, Roosevelt could be seen in the rear car “waving his hand and smiling.” But the crowd in Connellsville (estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000 – or between 12,000 and 15,000 depending on which newspaper was estimating) got a lot more than just smiles and waves. Roosevelt gave a stirring speech.

He was accompanied by Democratic State Chairman David L. Lawrence, and he was introduced by local congressman J. Buell Snyder who said: “Friends and neighbors, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States, will now address you.” That visit came just days before the 1936 presidential election. Roosevelt was making his strongest campaign argument for his New Deal when he told the crowd, “A short while ago I received a telegram announcing that for the first time in 55 years we have gone through one full year without a single national bank failure in the United States.”

Yet, the first thing he told the crowd that day – the words that had nothing to do with presidential politics – were quite interesting. “I am very happy to come back here,” Roosevelt proclaimed. Then he explained how he’d come to Connellsville to welcome veterans home from WWI. In fact, he noted the exact date of that visit was July 7th, 1919.

So I found the front page of the Connellsville Daily Courier for July 7th, 1919. “WELCOME WEEK FOR SERVICE MEN HAD AUSPCIOUS OPENING,” the headline read. Who was among the main speakers for the four day event? The Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Later that week 3,800 Fayette County women who had served with the American Red Cross marched to high praise in a procession through the streets of Connellsville. But on July 7th, a vibrant young future President of the United States helped honor those who had fallen – and those who had returned from the “World War.”

It had been a day that gave Roosevelt vivid memories worthy of recalling 17 years later.

Did you know that before radio and television news, the only “broadcasts” of local news stories could be found in local movie theatres?

That’s true, and I’ll give you a few examples next week.