Latrobe Goes Bananas Over Split

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

Forget about the pension crisis, crumbling roads and bridges, liquor privatization and all those other issues that have been occupying Pennsylvania politicos for the past few months. It is time to engage in a fight over something really important – banana splits.

Many residents of Penn’s Woods might not know that the banana split was invented right here in the commonwealth, Latrobe to be exact. For a little town Latrobe has a lot of claims to fame. Golfing legend Arnold Palmer and everyone’s favorite neighbor Mr. Rogers hail from the Latrobe area. The Pittsburgh Steelers, of course, train at Latrobe’s St. Vincent College.

Less well known is the fact that the first banana split was concocted at the Tassell Pharmacy on Ligonier Street in Latrobe. State officials and local dignitaries gathered recently to unveil a historical marker recognizing Dr. David Strickler as the inventor of the banana split. Legend has it as a young apprentice at the pharmacy back in 1904 he was trying to impress the girls. At this he succeeded as his new confection caught on.

Having worked at WCNS Radio in Latrobe many years ago I was well aware of the town’s claim to banana split fame. But, it appears others are attempting to dip their spoons into the bowl. The town of Wilmington, Ohio (who knew Ohio had a Wilmington?) claims the first banana split was dished out there. In an effort to bolster their obviously errant claim they hold an annual banana split festival.

Latrobe, unfortunately, is no stranger to having Ohio pilfer that which is rightly theirs. The first ever professional football game was played in Latrobe. Therefore, you would think that the Pro Football Hall of Fame would be located in that community at the foothills of the Laurel Highlands. But along came the flat-landers from Canton, Ohio and stole away the hall.

Now, a bunch of buckeyes want to take Latrobe’s rightful title as home of the first banana split. This cannot be tolerated. It is time to fight back! I’m not sure who gets to make the final call on this issue, but surely there must be some governing body that decides disputes among creameries. If not, Pennsylvania must seize the initiative and solidify its claim before those festival-loving Ohioans make off with the banana split title.

Pennsylvania has some heavyweights to engage in the battle. According to published reports Arnold Palmer himself attended the dedication of the historical marker. So did Congressman Tim Murphy and State Senator Kim Ward. Latrobe should have the firepower to make this claim stick. Governor Tom Corbett is looking for a way to improve his job performance rating, so he should come out strongly in support of Latrobe as the birthplace of the banana split and rally Pennsylvanians around the one cause on which we can all agree!

And so, as we enjoy the few remaining days of summer let us not rest until we do two things: go out and enjoy a banana split in honor of Dr. David Strickler and push our elected officials to stop fighting over all those other pesky issues and do something really important by getting Latrobe designated as the official home of the first banana split!

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)

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