We Need One
Off the Wall, July 27, 2017

Really folks, when it comes down to it, the city of Latrobe is lacking something – no, it’s not businesses, parking spaces or a movie theater. I’m talking about that which would draw outsiders’ attention and would put it on the map.

When the Latrobe Historical Society announced it had an idea to promote Latrobe as the “City of Firsts,” I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to do my thing – pass the word around and see if we can make it a go.

After all, we have plenty of firsts located in our municipality, some people may not even realize.

We know that Latrobe is famous for the luscious banana split. Combine the cherry with a bit of the ice cream and one has a mouth-watering dessert. Thanks to David A. Strickler, his concoction, invented in 1904, is now sold worldwide.

Television children’s entertainer, Mr. Rogers was born and raised in our community. A Protestant minister, he taught the basics of Christian principles – forgiveness, kindness, compassion, respect, making those real for youth across the United States of America and beyond.

“Monks of the Benedictine Society of Saint Vincent Abbey were the first brew masters in the Latrobe area,” so stated Joseph A. Comm in his book Legendary Locals of Latrobe.

The first professional American football game was held in Latrobe. Along those lines, John Braillier became the first football player to admit playing for money. He was part of the first football team that sprung from the Latrobe Athletic Association. Latrobe is also home to the training camp of the six-time Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh Steeler.

Rolling Rock Beer was originally brewed here in Latrobe. It moved on, but the Latrobe Brewery still produces bottled beverages.

Arnold Palmer, golfing legend was from this wonderful tourist community. According to Comm, “He was named “Athlete of the Decade” in the 60’s.” Talk about other professional athletes that were born in Latrobe, there were Charles F. Shirey, Walter M. Corey, Andrew R. Stynchuia, and Mark Markovich, all football players who achieved tremendous recognition.

And the list goes on…

Latrobe is noted for its first non-stop airmail pickup May 12, 1939.

Edward J. Abbaticchio, Latrobe born, was the first American professional baseball player. “He was on the Pittsburgh Pirates 1909 World Series championship team with the great Honus Wagner,” said Comm. Another sports great born in Latrobe included Zach Jackson. He played for the Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers.

Latrobe seemed to be the birthplace of many other well-known residents.

Take, for example, Gregory S. Forbes. He’s a meteorologist and severe weather expert for The Weather Channel. Daniel Lentz, a classical electronic music composer, achieved notability awarded various fellowships and grants in his field. In 1972, he won the Gaudearmus International Composers Award among other recognitions. Both Harold Stover and Chris Lightcap, also accomplished much in the field of music.

Jackie Mason, actor and comedian is a native of our fair city. He often made frequent appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Standout Joe Page played a greater than average role as the Yankees relief pitcher when there was no generally acknowledged “closing pitcher” role in baseball, and when starting pitchers were more often expected to finish complete games.

Boniface Wimmer, Benedictine monk, founded St. Vincent Archabbey in 1845.

And to think those are just a certain number of the many firsts or individuals born in Latrobe.

When you consider we’ve got more firsts here in Latrobe than many other cities throughout our nation, why not adapt “City of Firsts” to Latrobe. I not only like that slogan, but we need one to boot.

Take Boston, for example. It has two firsts – the public park and the American Public Library. Camden, New Jersey has bragging rights for the first drive-in theater, and at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia; the first Mother’s Day celebration took place. Detroit Michigan, built the first urban freeway. And in 1865, the first ambulance service was established.

Hey folks. These are all big cities and they have one or two firsts recognizing one thing or another. But Latrobe has everything over any of them. We have more famous people that are/were native to our municipality. History speaks for itself. And like I said, I didn’t even name everyone. But I think the idea has been conveyed.

What do you say citizens of Latrobe? Make your voices heard loud and clear. Let’s make our slogan “City of Firsts."

- Paul J. Volkmann
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To buy my book, Off the Wall Favorites, call me at 724-539-1951.