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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Miss West Virginia at Rock Springs Park

I feel I would be remiss in my recent posting of the Lincoln Highway ribbon cutting ceremony at Imperial, PA, if I did not mention little "Miss West Virginia".

(Pictured left to right, back row, are Henry Tranter, chairman of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and Bridge Committee, whose neice, Mary Eleanor Hershberger, is wielding the scissors; Governor Conley, West Virginia; Governor Fisher, Pennsylvania, and Governor Cooper, Ohio; Front row, left to right, are "Miss Ohio," Frances Jacobs, 11, of Steubenville, "Miss Pennsylvania," Mary Eleanor Hershberger of Pittsburgh and "Miss West Virginia" Annette Wehner, 6, of Chester.)

Prior to the ceremony celebrating the completion of the Lincoln Highway (Route 30) and the William Penn Highway (Route 22) at Imperial Junction, PA, a luncheon was served in the Green Lantern Restaurant in Rock Springs Park to then Governor of West Virginia, Governor William G. Conley, of Charleston. At that lunch was also a little girl wearing a “Miss West Virginia” ribbon.

Route 30 Under Construction in 1918, just outside the city of Chester, WV.

Each of the three states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia chose a young girl for the ribbon cutting event. Two girls held the ribbon and one child "snipped the slender ribbon stretched across the concrete road, where the Lincoln and William Penn highways join, and the roads were officially opened,” reported the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on October 18, 1930.

The three Governors spoke in turn to the crowd of 5,000 people gathered on a cold and drizzling fall day. Immediately following the speeches, Annette Wehner 6, of Chester, representing West Virginia, and Francis Jacobs, 11, of Steubenville, representing Ohio, held a ribbon across the point where the two highways met, while Little Mary Hershberger, 5, of Pittsburgh, wielded the scissors and snipped the ribbon "as the trio of governors and other notables looked on." Thus, the roads were declared officially opened.

Annette Wehner’s family owned one of several mom and pop groceries in Chester. Wehner’s Grocery was just a few doors down from Rock Springs Park on Carolina Avenue, adjacent to Buckeye Firearms today.

According to her obituary, Annette Wehner, 80, of Coraopolis, PA passed away on September 23, 2004. She was interred at Grandview Cemetery in Salem, Ohio.

Miss Wehner was born March 15, 1924, in Chester, W.V., to the late Elmer Vincent and Elma (Votaw) Wehner.

She was the beloved sister of Charles Vincent Wehner of Kingwood, W.V.

She was preceded in death by sisters, Mary Katherine Wehner, Edith Newman, Lillian Ingram; and brother, George Elmer Wehner.

Miss Wehner was a retired associate professor at Robert Morris University in the administrative management and business education department, retiring in 1985 after 20 years of service.

She was a former secretary at T-K Roofing in Chester, W.V., and teacher at Chester High School.

She was a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon, Tri-State Business Education Association, Third Order of St. Francis, Metropolitan Fraternity, Faculty Federation Local 3412 AFL-CIO.

She was a graduate of Chester High School, where she was a member of the Honor Society and 4H Club, and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor of Science degree and a master's degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh.

The obituary does not include the fact that Miss Wehner was also Miss West Virginia 74 years earlier. A fact I feel it is important to mention today.

Note: Brian Butko, author of Greetings From The Lincoln Highway: America's First Coast-to Coast Road and the blog News Along the Lincoln Highway, has a great article and photo about the ribbon cutting ceremony in the latest edition of Heinz History Center's quarterly Western Pennsylvania History magazine, which Brian also edits.

Historical Note: In Roy C. Cashdollar's History of Chester: The Gateway to the West, Roy gives the history of the building that contained Wehner Grocery. "The second building (from Dunn to Sixth Street on the right side heading east) was the original "Butcher" Bill Allison Meat Market. This building was built by his father William Allison. The meat market was on the left side and James Ewing opened a grocery store on the right side. It was next the E.V. Wehner Grocery. Mr. Wehner was one of the leaders of the community and the fire department until his death. The business is now operated by his son, George Wehner. It is reported that the store will close in 1976."

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