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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  March, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know that before television, the only way to “see” local news events was at Uniontown’s movie theatres? During Thanksgiving week in 1926, the movie “The Ace of Cads,” starring Pittsburgh’s Adolphe Menjou, opened at the State Theater in Uniontown. That was only part of the bill.

The State also featured “complete pictures” of the Uniontown versus Connellsville football game that was played that year. The following year, on October 24th, 1927, Adolphe Menjou had to share his top billing when his movie “A Gentleman in Paris” was shown along with the local movies of the “Laying of (the) Cornerstone at (the) new County Building.”

Movie audiences were frequently treated to local and national news of the day at movie theatres back then. Usually, the timeliness of the news wasn’t nearly as important as the mere showing of the events. However, on April 1st, 1931 the State Theater announced a real “scoop,” if only by coincidence.

Legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne had died the previous day in an airplane crash outside of Kansas City. The following day, the Uniontown Daily News Standard carried the front page story of how, on that day, the State Theater was going to show “a complete, all-talking subject showing KNUTE ROCKNE, famous football coach, in sound and action training the renowned Notre Dame football team. The pictures made shortly before his fatal accident yesterday, are probably the most graphic record of the most beloved coach ever made.”

Did you know that if you take a close look at any period in Fayette County’s history, you can discover a remarkable wealth of interesting information? Allow me to take you back to the summer and fall of 1939. On July 5th of that year, 20 thousand Fayette County residents watched as Jack Zack took home the winning trophy in the annual Soap Box Derby.

Elizabeth Spiker was there to see it all. That may not have been noteworthy, if it were not for the fact that Mrs. Spiker was 104 years-old. That day, and also on the front page of the Daily News Standard there was a letter from the newly named U.S. Army Chief, Gen. George C. Marshall.

Gen. Marshall had received many letters of congratulations from his friends in Uniontown after he’d been given his new post. He personally thanked one man, Register of Wills George F. Sterling, for his letter of acknowledgement. It seems as a small child Marshall used to watch Sterling play baseball, and he’d looked up to him. “I am quite certain at the time that I would have considered your position as catcher much more important (than his as Army Chief of Staff),” Marshall wrote.

Did you know that Gen. Marshall wasn’t the only U.S. Military Chief of Staff with a Uniontown connection? On August 1st, of that year, Admiral Harold “Betty” Stark of Wilkes-Barre, was named Chief of U.S. Naval Operations. His daughter was married to Edwin Semans of Berkley Street in Uniontown.

Did you know that on the day Marshall officially took over as U.S. Army Chief of Staff, his new duty assignment was overshadowed by something of world wide importance?

On September 1st, 1939 the huge headline on the front page said it all: WAR! England had officially entered World War II. Yet, even with the ominous events taking place in Europe, Marshall still decided to honor a pledge he’d made a few months earlier.

On September 9th, he came to Uniontown to visit old friends and to renew old friendships. Another notable Uniontown native, during that same period, had to cut short his visit to the city.

One of the greatest mystery writers of all time, John Dickson Carr, had to return to England on the day Gen. Marshall came for his visit. Carr, who would eventually write 60 novels had planned visit to Uniontown for several weeks. He still lived in England, so when war broke out, he could only spend a few days in the city, before he felt he and his wife needed to return to Europe to look after their young daughter.

He did manage to take a tour of the News Standard facilities and to write an article in which he said, “The old town looks fine to me.”

Did you know that Carr, who’d lived on Ben Lomond Street, wasn’t the only writer of note who’d grown up on that street? Dr. Weston LaBarre, a noted anthropologist at Duke University, was considered a pioneer in the area of the applications of the plant known as peyote also grew up on that street.

His 1950 book titled “The Human Animal” became a global best seller. From the Long Beach (Ca.) Independent, on October 10th, 1966: "With the knowledge now at hand a person would have to be crazy even to contemplate the use of LSD under any but the most controlled medical conditions," he wrote.

Did you know that LaBarre’s son David, who visited Uniontown with him in July of 1951, was once mentioned as a replacement for the notorious District Attorney Mike Nifong, who’d been removed from office as a result of his involvement in what was called the Duke Lacrosse rape case? Judge LaBarre tells me he respectfully declined.

However, did you also know that, Judge David LaBarre and I have a rather unusual connection? In 1882, LaBarre’s great grandfather, the Rev. Francis B. LaBarre of Great Bethel Baptist Church, helped a young minister organize Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. That young minister happened to be my great grandfather – Rev. Thomas H. Ford.