Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bustling Trip to the Bullskin Fair

  Alright, first of all I have to get this out of the way. You'll notice that unlike the quality post I put up on the Braddock Crossing Festival at Yough Park in late June, this post DOES NOT have many photos captured at the time I visited! I do apologize folks, bear with me, as a blog post may seem slightly more boring without many of those precious distractions. Wait, I'll do what I can to make up for it!

  The reason for this apparent lack of oversight is that I simply forgot to take a camera, or more correctly, wasn't really too sure what I would do with it, anyway, and had barely given it a lot of thought. You see, I did agree to help work a booth for the Bullskin Township Historical Society on the 14th of August in the building outside the bandstand, so I didn't know if there would be many opportunities for pictures, (there were), and was reluctant in that I might sit the blasted thing down and maybe forget about it. Poof, no more camera! Yet the photos would of been fairly interesting as it was a stint from 7:30-9:30 p. m. and the place looked great on a nice, clear Thursday evening. That's not to say it doesn't look like fun in the daytime, just different. As everyone knows, you feel a more magical aura at a fairgrounds at night. To make up for this I did get back on Saturday early for a few photos below.

   Enough about my misgivings here. Let's get on to an outline of some of the Grange history.

   The township was formed in 1784 and included Connellsville, Springfield, a piece of Stewart and all of Saltlick. Some of my own ancestors were Justice of the Peace, supervisor of Roads, Auditors and what have you. The Braddock Road ran through thw township not far from here at the Greenlick Dam site. So, how could I not love this dear old region, I ask you? Bullskin Grange on Rt. 982, the Pleasant Valley Road, has an interesting history of it's own. It was first known to be organized in 1928 and they decided, sensibly enough to build a grange for the idea of a township fair. The early ones lasted three days and the parcel of land was donated by the Winebrenners, a local family. The first President was Norman Hemminger, probably connected to the area on Keefer Rd. last known as the Spaugy Mill, and first as Cathcart's, and the latest President is James Hoover. Until then, they held the first ones at the Pennsville Baptist Church. They use to have he grains and vegetables in the basement and then the poultry too.

courtesy of the Bullskin Township Historical Society

By 1937 they formed up the Pleasant Valley Grange Fair Association of Woodale with early associations of the Mudd School area. As the event expanded they added more acreage and horses and eventually a touch of circus atmosphere, lights and pinions and the truck contests we all have come to be so familiar with here and at other fairs, including the larger Westmoreland and Fayette County Fairs. Now remember, this fair is special, being the oldest in the county. Yep. And a little history was sneaked in here without anyone being put to sleep...(hey, wake up!)

  Having given a round about explanation for this seemingly drab article, I still wanted to draw some attention to the experience. 

  As I was arriving, I found myself trying to duck in to the closer parking lot, sort of hoping that those of us working a booth, (though I was not one of those that helped set it up and bring in the items, tables and various displays), hoping to be able to get better parking. Waved off frantically, by a fireman, I ended up having to go way down, and I mean Way Down in a field without any gravel, just grass, maybe a spare cow and anything they would accidentally leave behind them, so step lightly. But, the point needs made, the parking is free!

  To be honest, this isn't something I do very often. More so when I was much younger. By the time we were teenagers we would tend to walk around acting cool for twenty minutes and then sit on the wall outside the Grange hall and 'people watch' for maybe an hour or two. Believe it or not, this basically doing nothing, or spacing out, as it was sometimes termed, was considered a kind of fun and decent way to pass the time back then. Yes, that's right, in those antique days there were no cell phones, I Pads, smart phones, laptops, um...color TV's... money, or even, the last few things did actually exist in one form or other. And there were 8 tracks!

  I do hope she doesn't mind me mentioning it, but I was lucky to have Connie Rhodes on the interior of the vendor tables with me as she is a zesty and communicative lady, full of humor and a good personality to boot. I'm also not use to doing this either and Connie was quite helpful in explaining my role and what to charge. We talked about the old days with the Laurel Art Club of which she is still a member. Bev and Budd Quinn also stopped by. Well she is the Treasurer, for those outsiders that wouldn't know it and has to do her count ups later to keep track of the amount of money gained and the total of merchandise sold. 'Ching'ching.' That's not meant to imitate a Chinese person or anything, just the sound of cash, though most of it was in bills. Her daughter also was there and her granddaughter, (I think it was!), came a while to help and all. Real cute and just about to enter the first grade. 

Bullskin Fair Saturday

  So there I was, trying to sell a few calendars and tickets for a nice Amish type chest and a Lancaster porch swing, along with candles and jars and stuff. It was a fairly busy place with lots of families, kids and, yes, those teenagers passing through and checking things out. Not to say, the Lions Club or the township and other set ups looked poorly or anything like that, yet I admit to a feeling of pride in the Historical Society, (not that other Society's, say, like Dunbar, aren't capable of this as well). Enough apologizing-our booth looked 'good,' you know? It really did. And the items were interesting and there was some history involved there. We caught many peoples' eyes and there was much to gander at. There were a fair amount of calendars sold too. Did this make me feel my worth, you ask? Ah, yes, certainly. Well, maybe it doesn't take a whole lot for me to feel that way, I don't know. And there were some pretty girls there too. Hey, I'm a single guy, don't think for one minute this wouldn't be something I'd clearly observe.

  We each took a break and I went out and looked for baked good, which I really wanted desperately. It was something on my list, whether a cherry or apple pie, cakes, turnovers, whatever. I did eat before leaving for the fair, but I do have a sweet tooth about three inches long by now! Well, they were just out of...everything. Nope, nothing left. Come by tomorrow. Uh-huh. So while roaming around watching the band play some polkas, and I couldn't help noticed the huge crowd sitting in attendance and heartily enjoying it. I did see an old friend with their kids. That was nice. I won't go into it. Maybe some things should be private, right? Especially if it gets on the boring side. 

   So, I picked up a Bullskin Rodeo t-shirt, even though I didn't get to see it, or a tractor pull either, (my fault), and grabbed an Orange Crush. By the way, the traditional product and livestock judging was scheduled for Tuesday and the Garden tractor pull and demolition derby are on Saturday. There was a feeling of something missing. Mainly, the barrel roll 'ride' that use to make so many sick and the Ferris wheel were nowhere to be found. A real shame they ditched it. Not too much attempt at the games for me and being alone, no rides either, and wasn't there early enough, and didn't really stay long enough for that. I also had a long day before I came, too. So, I then wandered back to work. OK, we did do really nicely with those coupons. I was a bit paranoid, (not too much), about the cash box. I kept a close eye on it, like it needed serious protecting and I was standing guard. I don't believe I saw one soul notice it! Still, you can never be too careful.

  This was just my way of letting everyone know that I do have a rather normal life. It occasionally involves something else that's useful besides the blog. Though kind of a shy person underneath this exuberant exterior, I genuinely do like people of all kinds; it's the rows of hundreds and hundreds all over the place I'm not so sure of. Oh, and I did manage to take my t-shirt home with me, so remembering to bring the camera might of been a good idea. To be fair to myself, it is worth a bit more, though. I also didn't forget my new 'business' cards for my website, and those were passed out freely and frequently.

One of the daytime photos

   The community fair really does bring us busy human beings closer together for a week every summer. Indeed, this is where we get out a while and re-learn to cooperate and enjoy a part of our lives that is often neglected. We also are more careful driving through the little mazes, especially noticeable at night. Really, this is an experience not to be taken too much for granted and, in a real way, of some importance. To take the time to join in, socialize with rarely seen neighbors and curious visitors and celebrate a piece of what we were and still are, and hopefully, will always be; a vibrant bunch of rural and semi-rural folks from all avenues of work and play. We have a deep seated need to share some time and place, like good farmers and merchants, miners and laborers, many were our ancestors. They did so normally and much more frequently, many intriguing years ago.

Bullskin Grange building 2014

  Parting Note:
  *** Good time had by all ***

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fred Rodgers and Arnold Palmer of Latrobe

 Mr. Fred Rodgers

 Frederick McFeely Rodgers, 1928-2003, a quiet talking, well-mannered and humble individual, who was also a perfectionist, found a rare path to fame on television that few others with more ambition could copycat or remotely imitate. He was an educator and a Presbyterian minister; a creator and host of the old television show,

'Mr Rodger's Neighborhood'.

    A recipient of the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, and a (George Foster), Peabody Award in 1987, he was also inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. One of his sweaters is even in the Smithsonian! OK, how many of us admit to growing up and siting on the floor of the living room watching him when we were little kids? I know I did, and wouldn't miss it, along with Sesame Street and maybe Zoom. Ah, the golden age of PBS.

   Fred Rodgers was a native of Latrobe, PA, graduating from High School there in 1946. He began playing the piano at five. Fred earned a BA in music at Rollins College and married in 1952. In 1953 he graduated from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Rodgers then dividing his time between New York and Massachusetts. He worked for NBC by 1951, but found the commercialism limited his creativity, and quit. So, by 1954 was hired for the Children's Corner and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where with Josie Carey of Butler PA, he wrote songs, then later in 1963 with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and for WQED as a puppeteer in 1966. That is when the show went to half hour installments. He started with Curious X the Owl, King Friday the XIII, Henrietta Pussycat and Daniel the Striped Tiger. He began wearing the sneakers to keep down any scuffling noises on the live sets. The red and yellow trolley was famous for the break segmenting from the 'house' to the 'neighborhood' and back again. There in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he found a home and an outlet for himself that he was happy with and brought much joy to kids over quite a few years.

   The show began locally in 1963 and went national by 1968. He advocated for public funding before the United States Senate. He received four, count them!, four Emmy's and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 when he was Pittsburgher of the Year and has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
   He accomplished this cultural influence and affectionate appeal for all of thirty eight years of fantasy and...his 'neighborhood of make-believe' which in childhood, was also ours.

    Mr. Fred Rodger's passed on in 2003 and is buried at Unity Cemetery in his hometown of Latrobe.

 Arnold Palmer


  Another Latrobe, Pennsylvania native, modestly born on September 10, 1929 was a charismatic and friendly professional golfer. He became one of the greatest golfers the world has ever seen, in the days of Gary Player and Jack Nicolaus. He is well known as an affable person and a chancy and exciting player. Nicknamed 'the King', Arnold Daniel Palmer was the very first to win the prestigious Masters Tourney four times and had won scholarships as well. He was the early practicing son of a golfer who started out as a greens keeper, Milfred Deacon Palmer, whose ancestors were supposedly from Scotland, (at least according to a classy little old lady who claimed her family were related to him, whom I remember talking to years ago. Anyone that has further info, please contact me by e-mail). It was said he grew up with Fred Rodger's, now imagine that. You have to wonder if they ever played golf together? Well, he certainly played at the Latrobe Country Club, which he bought and redesigned in 1971.

  He quit golfing for years and joined the US Coast Guard in the 1950's when close friend, Bud Worsham died suddenly, but he returned in 1954 and turned pro himself. In 1955 he won the Canadian Open. For Arnie, there was no going back, with his popularity and skill. He was known as the world's best golfer from 1960-63 and was personal friends and golf buddy with none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower, a five star general and the 34th President of these United States, from1953-1961. Arnold also did quite well on the Senior circuit. In 1979, a good year, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall Of Fame, a proud moment.

 Here he is while in the Coast Guard:

   Over the years he became an amazingly successful businessman with automobiles and airplane companies and a great pitch man of commercials for many products as well. Arnold was probably the most famous golfer of all time, even beyond the par 5 heights of old veterans like Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. He also owns the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida, and hosts the Arnold Palmer Invitational every year since 1979. There is a drink named after him too, the 'Arnold Palmer', a mix of ice tea and lemonade.

   Arnold was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004. Since 1999 the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport was named in his honor.

   Some Unique Information About Latrobe

   Latrobe has interesting roots for its heritage and is named after the B & O's chief engineer Benjamin Latrobe II, designer of the unique Thomas Viaduct near Elkridge, Maryland. It was built in the mid-1830's and was the largest bridge in the U. S. Many people probably aren't aware that his famous father, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 'the father of American Architecture', was a friend of Thomas Jefferson and he visited Mt. Vernon as a personal friend of Bushrod Washington, George Washington's nephew of Westmoreland County, Virginia, who also inherited the estate. Latrobe Sr. who designed the Bank of Pennsylvania, and the White House portico's, was one of the main architects of the United States Capitol on the National Mall in Washington, D. C, especially as to the rebuilding in 1815. Latrobe in Westmoreland County is the home of the Latrobe Brewing Company, founded in 1893 which made the Rolling Rock beer label and purchased by LaBatt in 1987 and eventually becoming a subsidiary of Aneuser-Busch and InBev. In 2009 it began bottling for Iron City. They are also brewing Duquesne Beer.

   The city which was laid out by Oliver Barnes of the PA Railroad and incorporated as a Borough in 1854, was also home to international trumpeter Dennis Ferry and Boniface Wimmer, the founder of Saint Vincent's Archabbey and College in 1846, the oldest Benedictine monastery in the United States. By the way the Archabbey Gristmill has a Facebook page. Yes, St Vincent's hosts the Chuck Noll Field and since 1966 is the training camp of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As well as the home of the Banana Split, invented by David Strickler in 1904. This was the location of the Ligonier Valley Railroad going back to 1853 on Loyalhanna Creek and owned by the Mellon banking family.

   There are claims, which are disputed, that the first professional football games were played here. The Latrobe Athletic Association was considered to be the first organization to field a team with professional players from the late 1890's to 1909 and one of the first pro teams of the heyday. A fascinating story from 1907 is repeated here from a Wikipedia article:
 "In a bizarre story during that final season, the "California (Pennsylvania) YMCA team" came to Latrobe for a game, and was ejected from its rooms at the Parker House for "chasing and frightening a chambermaid," jumping on beds and breaking two of them, and for language "far from what might be asked for from YMCA boys." Latrobe would go on to win the game, 38–0, in front of a small crowd. However, it was later discovered that there wasn't a YMCA located in California. Who Latrobe played in that game remains a mystery". For those wanting more details of the games, here's a link to an in-depth PDF article by Robert B. Van Atta.

A future post with extra material is a possibility, though more history will be included in an upcoming post on Fort Ligonier.

 Here's to Fred Rodger's and Arnold Palmer, two wonderful Americans, Pennsylvanians and natives of our local region!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Upcoming Posts

    HI ALL,

     I hope you history buffers are having a good summer!

     Rarely do I upload this kind of thing, though a Progress Report might well be due and I'm really in between posts. I figured it might be enlightening to include viewers in the process of what I'm doing, so here's a quick update for upcoming regional and historical articles, starting in a few days.

     Please, read on:

     Firstly, it is rather difficult to believe the website is approaching a year since it's initial inception. I feel it a nice surprise we have seen a steady and healthy growth and this sure means plenty for my expectations. I know, too, there is certainly room for improvement here and there. On that, I could go on and on, (BUT, I won't!). Frankly, this just isn't the type of blog that gets little emotional tidbit entries every couple of days, so I try to incorporate a more factual glut of material and less of the every day side of things on each upload. You probably agree it is, mercifully, absent. Another perception is to be admitted some of the technical areas envisioned in the past are still to be achieved.

     Secondly, I do hope to again get with the Indian artifact collector from Mount Pleasant, Duaine Fuoss, for another and maybe more in depth interview soon. It was also a great experience collaborating on Iron Bridge with the author Lannie Dietle, who helpfully initialized the discussion by sending me information on the area. Something he occasionally does. I feel there has been progress made with more meaningful stuff to pass along as I face challenges through the learning curve.

    I speculated a little foolishly back in February and March  that I may run out of quality ideas for the blog. It could just be the gloom of the cold, cloudy season gave pause for a somewhat hazy period and that can happen to anybody that writes, from time to time. Yet, the feeling was probably related to the first winter I spent without the presence of my parents. We all have to be able to let our cherished loved ones pass on and adjust ourselves to some tragic happenings, and deal with that intense grief, but this was the worst from my side, at least. They meant so much to me and with only a few months separating their deaths, felt devastating. My Dad really meant the world to me. We may of not always seen quite eye to eye, but I respected his war service and many of his religious and practical attitudes. In a world that continually is changing, he was a real man. They both cared for me and my family so much. I was especially close to my Mom too. As I look back, I couldn't say enough about how classy a lady she was and how dutiful and selfless, so deeply concerned with every faucet of my life. As an example, she even traveled a few times with yours truly on trips to Europe and the Bahamas. What vacations those were! So, you can understand the tough situation it was, and is, the adjustment to not having their earthly influence. I do feel they watch, and sometimes guide me from Heaven. Well, as was almost bound to take place sooner or later, somewhere in late spring I became more inspired and had a real brainstorm, (no negative aftereffects, I'm happy to report!), and between doing research and talking to a few distant relatives and acquaintances, it became a prerogative to expand the scope here.

    Of course, if you've been paying attention to recent posts, the Connellsville article is STILL in the computer boardroom, but close to completion. I am also working on the one in front of me which, I'm afraid, may come off to some as a bit of a 'fluff piece' on Latrobe. That is basically finished. It really does have some substantial interest, especially to those of a particular sporting persuasion.

    Eventually, a good coverage concerning World War Two, and possibly other wars and some of the veterans of them would be something to consider. What do YOU think? Let me know if that sounds meaningful enough to many of you for future attention. My Dad spent many years on the railroad before retirement and that is something else that could be used as the nexus of upcoming interest. We'll see.

   The up side to doing your own website is the freedom inherent in making decisions. When to publish and what the subject will contain.

   Yes, you have also probably noted my attempt toward branching out more in the late spring and early summer months, including more information on surrounding townships and counties. Now there are plans to get back to areas closer to home soon, as well, with some good stuff on Everson and West Overton in Upper Tyrone and East Huntington townships, respectively, yet I do enjoy broadening the scope of historical material while gathering more afield in as expansive an erudition as I can manage!

    I also submit articles for a newsletter monthly, (there are those of you that are well aware of that), with limited viewership. Sorry, but it is best to keep it at that level. The main reason to mention this here is the spike in number of hits received on the site are a nice compliment and greatly appreciated. I am in the process of hesitantly and cautiously, doing a few speaking engagements.

   Tackling the important history of Fort Ligonier is a real priority of mine, so that will be coming your way, in time.

    Hopefully, everyone enjoyed the post on the Braddock Crossing at the Yough River Park area. That was an experience that was particularly fun for me too, so it's good the event was covered here with some details on what went on.

    It has been exciting from my stand point to improve my skills as I learn more details about our local history, with a larger knowledge base and meeting like minded people. It is with a wiser dedication to a more efficient mode of writing. in keeping a few articles in the pocket, so to speak, just in case.

    Finally, there's actually much in the early planning stages and, for your sake and mine, this would be unfair to pin myself down to describe anything closer or definite than already stated above. Many concepts haven't been decided on yet, so any explanations that far ahead will have to wait.


     So that's it for now. Keep checking back folks and I'll see you here 'down the road' and 'around the bend' !

     ~ Histbuffer




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