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Bright & Brief

September 5, 1986

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) _ Folks at St. Vincent College in this western Pennsylvania town of 11,000 were calling it Splitsville on Friday.

But love and marriage weren’t going out of style; it was merely a celebration of the banana split, which is believed to have been invented at a Latrobe pharmacy.

″No other college in the country can claim that (its) students tasted the world’s first banana split,″ said Mary Beth Courtright, director of admissions and financial aid at the small Roman Catholic school.

Four-foot banana balloons were on hand and the campus radio station stocked up on records by the group Bananarama for the fifth annual Banana Split Bash.

Banana splits were introduced at a 1905 druggists’ convention in Boston, and Latrobe was designated as the birthplace of the treat.

″Until other documentation is found, Latrobe will continue to be officially recognized,″ said Bryce Thomson, editor of the Sundae School Newsletter, a confection trade publication.

The newsletter theorizes that a salesman spread the word after discovering the banana split during a business call at a pharmacy and soda fountain operated by Dr. David Strickler.

Strickler is believed to have been the first, in 1904, to split a banana and fill it with ice cream, marshmallow sauce, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and nuts and top it all with a cherry. He served the sweet concoction in a boat-shaped glass dish and sold it for a dime.

Alas, times have changed. Tom Lazarchik, who bought the drug store in 1965, said he removed the six-stool soda fountain from the drug store in 1972 because it was in poor condition.

″It would be great to have a fountain again,″ he said. ″But we didn’t have enough business to justify spending $2,000 to $3,000 for a new one.″


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - When it comes to paying his lawyer, Byron Helgeson is no penny pincher.

The St. Louis Park businessman ordered more than $11,000 in pennies - upwards of 1.1 million of them - from the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis and had armed guards pile them in a mound outside the office door of St. Paul attorney Warren Peterson.

″I didn’t have any problem with my bill,″ Helgeson said. ″I just figured when the bill gets into five figures you should make the lawyers work a little bit. It will give them something to remember me by.″

″Fifty dollars to a bag, and each bag weighs 20 pounds, maybe more,″ Peterson said, jokingly threatening to pay his staff in pennies.

The shipment of 221 bags of 5,000 pennies each went to pay Helgeson’s bill of $11,032.15 at the law firm of Peterson Franke Gray and Riach. Helgeson said he owed the money for legal services connected to a real estate deal.

But at least the law firm got a bit of a tip for its trouble. Because the Federal Reserve Bank would send out the pennies only in full bags of 5,000, the payment came to $11,050.

″I was on the telephone a half day to pull it off,″ said Helgeson, 48, of Paragon Enterprises. ″The Brink’s people told me that they had never delivered that many pennies before.″

Helgeson said he was happy with the law firm’s work and would use it again.

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