BIG RUN — Big Run Mayor Joe Buterbaugh recalls growing up hearing “the oldtimers” talk about the town’s history.
The “centerpiece of town” can be found on East Main Street at the Big Run War Memorial building, Buterbaugh says, where the town gathers for various activities all year.
Buterbaugh, who has been mayor for just shy of 40 years, can recall listening to the stories of those older than he, where he learned the most about his hometown.
“I used to sit with the oldtimers and listen to the stories,” Buterbaugh said, adding the best way to learn about a town is to listen to its people.
Ground for the East Main Street brick building was broken June 8, 1947, when beloved Big Run resident Rachel Miller turned over “the first shovel of dirt,” said Buterbaugh.
Rev. Ralph Brooks, pastor of the Methodist Church, had said “We dedicate this memorial in honor and remembrance of the veterans of all wars.”
In November 1945, a Big Run Chamber of Commerce was organized, Buterbaugh said, replacing the Big Run Coal Memorial Committee. With a goal of raising $20,000, the Chamber took over the fundraising efforts to construct a community building with a gymnasium, council room, and the town’s fire department.
“I’ve learned a lot of things about the town,” he said. “People still write me letters to learn things about the town itself.”
Buterbaugh can recall on July 20, 1977, when the flood hit Big Run, and families were evacuated to the War Memorial building, or when the town was evacuated twice in 1979, due to the train derailment resulting in the release of poisonous gases.
Following the completion of the War Memorial, Big Run School utilized the gymnasium for basketball and other sports in which the high school competed before the school was merged with Punxsutawney’s in the fall of 1951. The Memorial served as a place for school activities such as sports and plays until the Big Run school closed in 2003.
In July of 1956, the granite monument located in front of the War Memorial was created by the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9044.
One of the biggest things for which Big Run is known, “Spring Peepers,” led to the town holding its first “Spring Peepers Banquet” in March of 1993. The banquet has become an annual tradition.
The town is rumored to watch for the tiny little frogs that are the first sign of spring. These “peeper” frogs are known to hibernate in swamps and ponds, not popping up until temperatures are warmer.