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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  March, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know that recording artist Neil Sedaka (Calendar Girl, Breaking Up is Hard to Do and Laughter in the Rain) once performed in Uniontown? Sedaka was at the peak of his success in the summer of 1960 when he appeared live for a show at V.F.W. Post 47 in Uniontown. The ticket price for the show was only 85 cents.

Did you know that an alleged kickback of only $50.51 once led to three Uniontown police officers losing their jobs? The cops (an Assistant Police Chief, a Sergeant and a Patrolman) had taken part in a raid on an illicit crap game. The November 11th, 1920 edition of the Uniontown Morning Herald chronicled how they’d apparently made two arrests, confiscated the gambling money and then split it.

The following week they were called before city council and after a unanimous vote, they were publically fired.

Did you know that the following month, two South Brownsville residents suspected of being leaders of a “terrorist gang” were arrested? Agents from the U.S. Justice Department made the arrests of the two natives of Austria, who were under suspicion for setting as many as 30 fires throughout the county.

The December 7th, 1920 edition of the Morning Herald carried the front page story about how one of the men, an alleged “Communist leader,” had been found with “Socialist literature and Red pamphlets.” He’d already been charged previously with distributing “seditious” literature. It was later discovered that a 19 year-old confessed pyromaniac, who had no relationship to the two Austrians, had actually been responsible for setting those fires.

Did you know that arrests for being suspected Communists were apparently commonplace during the 1920’s in Fayette County? Two months after those two Brownsville men were arrested - in January of 1921 - a Bulgarian living in Republic was the subject of another front page story.
What crime did he commit? He’d allegedly made “bitter remarks against the government and its officials.”

The man freely admitted he was a member of the Communist-Labor Party, but he also claimed he was not opposed to the American government.

A county detective and a State Police trooper arrested him, threw him into the county jail and charged him with sedition, after he admitted to possessing and reading from the Communist Red Book.

Did you know that Connellsville’s Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack was an all around athlete in high school? Lujack’s success as a college and professional football player are common knowledge.

Yet, his athletic exploits at Connellsville High School were equally as impressive. During his senior year, he helped lead his Connellsville Coker basketball team to a section title.

Lujack was accorded second string All WPIAL honors for his play in the annual WPIAL tournament. Lujack’s athletic career was far from over. In the spring, he led the Coker track and field team to a WPIAL championship. He won the WPIAL high jump competition, with a leap of 5’ 10,” placed third in the javelin throw and fifth in the pole vault.

On May 26th, 1942, the Connellsville Daily Courier reported the results of the Pennsylvania State Track and Field Championships. Lujack finished second in the high jump that year.

Did you know that sometimes you can find the most bizarre bits of local history in faraway newspapers?

The Burlington (Kansas) Weekly Hawk-eye carried one of those stories in its January 7th, 1875 edition. It seems that a westbound train on the Connellsville route, had a passenger who’d brought a “gum” (inflatable, one would suppose) bed with her on her trip.

She’d pulled it out, inflated it and then placed it on the bed in her berth. Being that it was during the coldest days of winter, during the night the porter fired up the stove in the berth “pretty lively.”

You might imagine that heat and a “gum” bed wouldn’t make a good mix. They didn’t. The hotter the bed’s material got, the more it expanded. The resultant pressure caused an explosion that shocked her fellow passengers and, as the article says, “the force of the collapse threw the lady against the ceiling of the berth.”

The woman was only slightly bruised, but I’d wager she was more than slightly embarrassed. She vowed never to take a “gum” bed with her on any future trips.

Did you know that a few years later, an act of heroism on the same train also made national news?

I’ll give you the details next week.