The road to success is always under construction. ~Arnold Palmer
Being a Latrobe native doesn’t just mean that I have a specific location I can point to on the map and declare, ‘I’m from here!’ Nope! Stating this fact holds a lot more, the history, the traditions, those who have paved the way for others and also the pride of the people and surrounding areas.
Many can claim the same about their area, but we, Latrobeans are truly a special breed. I’m not saying my broad stroke, ideal perception is consistent across the board one hundred percent true for everyone, but from my observations and where my heart stands, it is.
Latrobe is one of those typical small towns. You know the kind, most everyone knows each other and in my case because I’m a Piper, somehow I’m related to everyone. Latrobe is also large enough to give a little elbow room when desired. Originally it was a borough and then made into a city. Latrobe was named after Benjamin Latrobe. It’s true, it’s not suppose to be pronounced with a long “a” sound. However, if you are from Latrobe, you use the incorrect pronunciation, that’s our badge of honor and proof that we are true Latrobeans. Yes I know, we also have the typical Western Pennsylvania slang, and distinct accent criticized by all, but there is so much more.
What else makes Wildcat Country truly special? Well, lets start with the accomplishments surfacing from this area and the people. Even though it’s not official because it was never really proven, Latrobe is home to the first professional football game ever played. At least, that’s how I always understood it. Incidentally, Latrobe is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp, held at Saint Vincent College every year. Latrobe, mirroring our neighbor Pittsburgh has very much the same die hard type of personality. “Pittsburghers” are known world wide for their dedication to the city, especially the Steelers. I mean, we have Steelernation! Latrobe projects the same pride and love of the city, for both Pittsburgh and Latrobe.
Saint Vincent College, Latrobe’s very own, unbeknownst to many has a history that impacted many around the world for different reasons. Long before the college was the Steelers training home base, Saint Vincent Church was the first Benedictine monastery in the United States, founded by Boniface Wimmer, a monk from Bavaria Germany. The monks not only started the Catholic tradition and built a beautiful church that turned into the college, but they also held the recipe for Rolling Rock Beer, home grown form the fields of good old Latrobe Pennsylvania.
Growing up around the Rolling Rock Brewery, I never realized how famous the beer really was, until one trip changed all that. During one of my senior high band field trips, we went to New York City. A small town Latrobe girl in the big apple. Naturally, we did all the touristy things, but on our final day, we participated in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. On a side note, up until that point, that was the most I’ve ever walked in one trip, ever! My feet and legs were so sore from marching miles on the New York streets I thought I would collapse. Anyway, as we marched along, and the crowds took note of our banner, ‘Greater Latrobe Marching Band’, they began to yell. It wasn’t making fun, or ridiculing us in any way, it was praise and excitement! They were yelling, “Latrobe! #33 Rolling Rock!” I’m not talking a small group of drunken individuals. I’m talking pretty much the entire city of New York! We were famous! Living in my own corner of the world being oblivious to outsiders, I had no idea that anyone knew who we were! Let alone loved us! People, cheered for our group of Latrobe natives and truly loved recognizing us. It was great! It was at that moment, I didn’t take it for granted that I was a Latrobean, a Wildcat!
Beer is not only our claim to fame and neither are our black and yellow footfall fans. Latrobe has birthed some inspiring people. One being Mr. Fred Rogers who graduated from Latrobe High School. Actually, my grandpap Chester went to school with him and I believe Mr. Rogers was the class president. Graduating from the freshly built Latrobe Senior High School, my mom and brother and sister all walked down the same halls and graduated from the same alma mater. Mr. Rogers lived not far from my parents house in Edgewater. Some may not know or remember the TV personality, but he had a show for children on PBS, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968–2001). One of his sweaters is actually on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. He had many more accomplishments, but he was made famous from his show and calming personality.
A friend of Mr. Rogers, and matching or perhaps exceeding in popularity would be our very own golf professional, Arnold Palmer. Yep the inducted World Golf Hall of Fame Latrobean was born and breed in the area. He too doesn’t live far from my parents house, right down the road from the Greater Latrobe High School. Every once in a while, I would see him pulling out of his driveway and I heard he still flies his plane in and out of the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe. Personally, I’ve never met the man, but I’ve known many who have and have commented on what a great guy he is. He was not only known in the golf world but to presidents too. I remember when Mr. Palmer’s wife, Winny (Winifred) passed away, former president George Herbert Walker Bush came to town to pay his respects.
More recently, Latrobe made their mark again with proving they are the home of the original banana split. Yes, invented by Latrobean David Strickler came the banana split. He didn’t just stop there, he also created the banana split boat to hold the ice-cream dessert.
This past weekend was the Banana Split Festival in Latrobe. Great time by all! I represented Thrill of the Hunt as part of the local vendors. We had a perfect sunny day and I loved running into old friends and meeting some new ones. Everyone was very encouraging and supportive about our start-up company. It was inspiring!
Latrobe has produced greatness, yet remains humble and true to our roots. I love this city and what it stands for. Thrill of the Hunt is home grown in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and I hope my company will continue to bring the pride back to Latrobe like many before me.
There is a lot more to Latrobe and I just touched on a few. Everyone should take some time and visit this lovely area, nestled in at the base of the Laurel Highlands. And those who have since moved away, should stop back. It’s a great place to live and do business. I am proud to be a Latrobean through and through. Even Kyle has taken on the title of Latrobe native, well after all he was born and partially raised here. He considers himself a Wildcat and I agree, he is!