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Latrobe to go bananas over split

If you go:


• 11 a.m. — State historic marker will be dedicated on the 800 block of Ligonier Street, site of the original Tassel Pharmacy.

• 6 p.m. — Dole Banana Daiquiri Cocktail Hour will begin at Quatrini-Rafferty Building, 816 Ligonier St.

• 7 to 9 p.m. — Yellow Tie Gala. Guests dressed in banana-colored finery will walk the yellow carpet before dinner — featuring banana splits, bananas Foster and banana-themed cocktails — and dancing on Ligonier Street. Exhibit opens at Latrobe Art Center to display 93 artworks created in homage to the sundae. No tickets will be sold at the door.


• 10 a.m. to noon — Dole Family Stroll will begin at the entrance of the Spring Street parking garage in Latrobe. Stops are planned at downtown retail stores offering gifts to participants with special punch cards. First 300 participants will receive an official Great American Banana Split Festival T-shirt. Everyone will receive a banana at the finish line.

— Baking contest, with entries featuring bananas, hosted by Latrobe Business and Professional Women's Association at Quatrini-Rafferty Building.

• 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Medicine Shoppe Kids Activities, corner of Ligonier and Depot streets.

• 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Classic and antique car show, sponsored by Latrobe Lions Club, 300 block of Depot Street. Sidewalk sales at downtown businesses.

• Noon to 4 p.m. — Old-fashioned street fair in the Main and Weldon streets lots.

• 6 to 9 p.m. — Malt shop sock hop at Latrobe Art Center with disc jockey playing oldies outside on Ligonier Street. Roller-skating servers will supply participants dressed in 1950s garb with sliders, french fries and other treats, including banana split smoothies, chocolate-covered bananas and a banana split bar. Hula hoop contest at 6:30 p.m., limbo contest at 7:30, and bubble gum blowing contest at 8:30. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children.


• 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. — Banana-peeling flash mob at Chuck Noll Field at St. Vincent College in Unity. Participating students and members of the public are encouraged to bring their own banana, but Dole will provide bunches. After a countdown, the fruit — raised in torch-like fashion — will be peeled in unison.

• 4:30 to 6 p.m. — Banana split bars on campus welcome returning students.

Information: 724-537-7011, 724-805-0112, or

Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Barb Machen, 78, remembers standing behind the soda fountain decades ago at Strickler's Pharmacy in Latrobe and hearing “Dr. Dave” call down from his optometrist office upstairs.

“He'd yell down, ‘I'm coming down for my cherry Coke!' And we'd say, ‘That's OK, we'll bring it up to you,' ” she said.

At the time, David Evans Strickler was in his 70s.

Part of that soda fountain where Strickler created a world-famous sundae will be on display this weekend during the Great American Banana Split Festival. Strickler's Drug Store original soda fountain and a banana split mural — made with 30 pounds of jelly beans — will be on display in the Latrobe Art Center.

Machen salvaged it from the trash 13 years ago, when the Latrobe pharmacy closed for good.

She remembers cleaning the machine on Sundays, before it was removed in 1972. She worked in the store from 1951 to 1954 and again from 1965 to 1995.

“When you worked on Sunday, you took the fountain completely apart and cleaned every solitary thing,” Machen said.

The fountain needed a good cleaning after a stream of people had come in for chocolate sodas, milkshakes or freshly brewed homemade root beer.

“Banana splits were a little more expensive, but you could get a root beer float for less than a quarter,” said Mary Lou Townsend, president of the Latrobe Area Historical Society.

She pulled out a file labeled “Strickler,” filled with clippings and other information the society has collected about the esteemed name interwoven with the history of Latrobe.

A ‘Dr. Dave' sundae

Born July 12, 1881, David Evans Strickler grew up in the Cooperstown neighborhood, now Latrobe's 5th Ward. His family paid his tuition to the “city school” in Latrobe. He graduated in 1901 and enrolled at the Western University of Pennsylvania, now the University of Pittsburgh.

While a college student working at Tassel Pharmacy, he created the famous sundae with the three scoops of ice cream.

“It warms my heart to look back and remember that I made the first banana split in a little drug store in a little town,” Strickler wrote in a 1959 letter to the television show “I've Got A Secret.”

He wanted to appear on the show as panelists guessed the occupation of each guest, but “Dr. Dave” was not selected.

Strickler later bought the pharmacy. He maintained the optometry office above the store, even after he sold the building to Tom Lazarchik in 1966.

Lazarchik “kept the Strickler name on the store because it was a well-known name,” said Toni Lazarchik, 71, of Latrobe, whose husband passed away in November 2012.

On display alongside the original fountain will be items from the store, including ice cream scoops, signs and a piece of paneling from a basement wall, signed by the 50 delivery boys who worked in the store until it closed in 2000.

The soda fountain was removed because the pharmacy was shifting its focus to film and cameras, Lazarchik said.

“It was in need of repair, and he (Tom Lazarchik) wasn't doing that much fountain business at the time,” she said. “Knowing now how big the banana split has got to be, maybe he would've kept it.”

Personal connections

In the early years, when her three sons were delivery boys and her husband ran the store, there were personal connections that customers made with the family and longtime employees like Machen, Toni Lazarchik said.

When it was lunchtime and the Kennametal offices were located near the Ligonier Street store, Machen remembers preparing for the after-lunch rush.

“They all had to come up there to get their double scoops of ice cream,” she said. She recalls when a pint sold for 37 cents.

Machen said she enjoyed all the years working alongside other employees like Matilda “Til” Krinock, Toni Ray and Peggy Olecki, all now in their mid-80s, and Tom Lazarchik.

“I enjoyed working for him. If I didn't, I wouldn't have stayed for as long as I did,” Machen said.

Lazarchik said her husband would have enjoyed the festival, especially the placement of the marker where he toiled so many hours.

“He would've been very happy for Dr. Strickler and for the town, for all his old employees,” she said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or




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