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Uniontown native looks back at 90


LONGTIME UNIONTOWN resident Miriam West will turn 90 Sunday.

Unlike many residents of this small community, West was born here. And except for brief times in Baltimore and Washington, West has remained a Uniontown resident.

She was born Sept. 8, 1912, at the Lutheran church parsonage where her parents, Mary and Harry Fogle, had been living. Her grandfather, George Baughman, was the minister there.

Home births were more common then than they are today, West said.

"I don't even know where the nearest hospital would have been," she said.

West grew up in Uniontown, attending Uniontown Elementary School, now closed.

In elementary school, pupils from different grades were in the same room. First, second and third grades were in one room, and fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh were in another.

"I had my mother for first, second and third grades," she said with a laugh. "That was something."

She graduated from New Windsor High School in 1929. The school also housed a college, and the basement and first floors were boys' dorms. The school building is now the site of the Brethren Service Center.

West has fond memories of growing up in Uniontown.

"There were a lot of children my age, and we'd play hide and go seek," she said. "During the winter we would go sledding down Uniontown Road. They didn't clear the roads then."

Her best friend, Mable Myers, still lives here.

She also remembers three stores in Uniontown when she grew up. There was the Englar Store, which was a general store; the Devilbiss Store; and the Formalt Store. The Devilbiss Store stands out in her memory.

"The Devilbiss Store made homemade ice cream," she recalled. None of the three stores is still in business.

Trips to Westminster were rare because Uniontown Road was not paved. And, of course, horse and buggies were more common than cars.

"We had an old Model T," West said. "I think my grandmother was the only one who drove it. That was quite a trip into Westminster. It would be like going to Baltimore today."

And complicating the trip was a tollgate that stood on Uniontown Road by the Methodist church cemetery. People heading into and out of Uniontown had to pay a toll.

"I don't remember how much it was, maybe 5 cents," she said.

West attended Western Maryland College after high school and earned a teaching degree in 1933.

But that was at the height of the Depression, and teaching jobs were hard to come by, West said.

So she went to a business school in Washington and learned how to operate a pentameter, the forerunner of today's calculator. After business school, she went to work for a company in Baltimore, where she met her husband, Howard West. They married in 1941 and eventually resettled in her parents' home in Uniontown.

She later taught at Union Bridge and Taneytown elementary schools for a total of 25 years.

West said she loves living in Uniontown.

"People are friendly and neighborly," she said. "The people here are always ready and willing to help each other."

West's husband died last year a month before their 60th anniversary. Their son, Barton West, lives in Frederick.

Kick up your heels

The Taneytown Senior Center will be offering a 12-week class in tai chi, a form of exercise that originated in the Orient, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Thursdays beginning Sept. 12. The cost is $25.

Information: 410-756-4557.

Town appreciation

Sherri Coeburn, Janet Joy and Cheryl Keeney are at it again. In May, the ladies of Farmers and Mechanics National Bank in Uniontown organized the Memorial Day parade in town, complete with fire trucks and floats.

On Friday, they organized a luau in appreciation of their customers and Uniontown residents. Joy showed videos of conversations with town residents that were taped in 1994, as well.

"We try to do this once a year," Coeburn said.

Coeburn said residents often stop at the bank to catch up on local news. They used to gather at the Devilbiss general store (and community post office) until it closed three years ago.

Some residents will just stop by to check on the "gals," as they are known.

"Cheryl had a relative die recently, and one customer came in just to ask how she was," Coeburn said. "And I got a card from a customer after my father-in-law died. I was just shocked."

On hand to help out with the luau were other bank employees from Frederick. "There's a real sense of community here," said David A. Hemler, a financial adviser who grew up in Taneytown.

Also there were Ric Buchanan of Keller Stonebraker Insurance Group and Monique Pirrung of the bank's Walkersville office.

Tennis league

Taneytown is organizing an adult tennis league. The league will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesdays, beginning Sept. 17.

Information: 410-751-1100.

Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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