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The good and bad in Connellsville during the 1970s

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By Daily Courier
Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 6:39 p.m.

• In 1971, Amtrak replaces the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's Capitol Limited passenger trains, which had provided service between Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The B&O now provides only freight service.

• The same year, Connellsville State General Hospital relaxes its nurse uniform rules; nurses now can wear white slacks instead of skirts, if desired.

• People line up in 1972 to bet a buck or two on the brand new Pennsylvania State Lottery.

• Connellsville's Riverview Apartment highrise along Peach Street is dedicated in 1972 — the same year that city Police Chief Anthony Cataldi's office at city hall is firebombed.

• Also in 1972, ground is broken for Greenlick Dam in Bullskin. Project costs $500,000.

• 1973 is a big year for Connellsville Falcon sports. For the first time in 20 years, the basketball team beats the Uniontown Red Raiders, 71-61. The high school baseball team nails Shaler High School, 3-2, to take the WPIAL title.

• The big news at The Daily Courier building in 1973 is the changeover of its press, from “hot metal type” to “cold type,” also called photo-comp printing.

Police scandal

• In August 1975, five Connellsville policemen and five civilians are indicted after a three-year span of burglaries and robberies in town. Trials follow, with convictions; several men serve time in prison for the crimes.

• In positive 1975 news, Connellsville Area Historical Society announces that a replica of Col. William Crawford's log cabin will be built along the Youghiogheny River on the West Side — close to the location where the Connellsville pioneer built it in the 1700s.

• In 1976, Volkswagen signs an agreement to construct a factory new New Stanton, in East Huntingdon Township, where VW trucks and VW Rabbits will be built. The first auto rolls off the line in 1978; by 1979, a second shift of workers is added.

• Also in 1976, Anchor Hocking's Closure Division in South Connellsville expands. That same year, Immaculate Conception RC Church is heavily damaged by fire, and so are five greenhouses at Oglevee Floral in Dunbar Township. 1936 Olympic gold medalist John Woodruff of Connellsville donates the prize he won in the 800-meter run to his alma mater, Connellsville High School.

• Connellsville Little League goes on a winning streak, carrying away the state championship three years straight: 1976, 1977 and 1978!

• In good 1979 news, the Southmoreland Scotties football team wins its first Keystone Conference championship, defeating the Mount Pleasant Vikings, 20-15.

Fire kills nine

• Tragedy strikes Connellsville on April Fool's Day 1979 when nine residents of the Foster Home for the Aged die in a fire — the city's worst fire ever, in terms of life. Faulty wiring is believed to have caused the inferno.

• The same year, local independent truckers strike and violence breaks out at the former Blue Ridge Truck Stop on Route 119 North (today there is a Sunoco gas station there). Three truckers are charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct and jailed.

• Speaking of gas stations, 1979 is a year of gas shortages – and long lines. Members of the Pennsylvania Service Station Dealers Association – including those in the Fay-West area – shut down temporarily in protest.

Compiled by contributing writer Laura Szepesi.

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