J.S. "Bus" Albright* (2015)
John Samuel “Bus” Albright Jr. cast a giant shadow over Uniontown High School athletics, as a player, a coach, a teacher and an administrator.
Albright at 6-foot-4 was a big man for his era of basketball. He was the sixth man on Uniontown High School’s famed 1925 squad. That team won WPIAL and PIAA championships.
During the 1924-25 season the Red Raiders went into the national scholastic tournament in Chicago. The “Five Horseman” as the Raiders were known defeated Greeley, CO in the first round 26-11.
In the quarterfinals the Raiders downed Lake View, IL 29-11. In the semifinals against a much taller team from Wichita, KS the horsemen were defeated 42-21.
In 33 games played that season the horsemen were 31-2. In addition to the loss to Wichita they lost to the Pitt Freshman team earlier in the year.
Albright was a notable basketball player in Uniontown and was part of a famous win for city athletes. On January 10, 1927 Jim Thorpe and his World Famous Indian basketball team dropped a game at Gallatin Gardens in Uniontown, to the local basketball team known as the 5 Horsemen. The 5 Horsemen were led by Albright, and beat Thorpe and his team by a 51-34 score.
Albright went on to play college basketball for Doc Carlson at the University of Pittsburgh. Albright became the starting center for the Panthers on teams that posted records of 20-4 in 1930-31 and 14-16 in 1931-32.
Albright was forced to leave the squad because of ill health. He underwent appendicitis and tonsil operations, but returned to the team in January of 1932. He received his degree in Education in 1932.
Albright became a physical education instructor in the Uniontown Area School district at Lafayette Junior High School. He took over the Head Coaching duties for Uniontown High School basketball as an emergency coach for the 1942-43 season.
In his first season Uniontown won the Section 9 championship. The following year the Raiders finished second in section play and in 1945 they finished third. In 1946 they posted a record of 11-1 and captured the section title.
On December 19,1947 Albright resigned as head coach to concentrate on other duties. The Red Raiders were 1-2 at the time of his resignation.
Albright was the founder of the Uniontown Receation Department in 1945. He established the various playground sites, the renovating of properties in many cases with his own labor and selling “playgrounds” to Uniontown generally.
The Recreation Commission was the result of Mr. Albright’s early work. Particularly effective, the playgrounds had an attendance of 45,000 the first year they were opened in 1945. The figure increased steadily and totaled approximately 203,000 in 1959.
At the height of it’s popularity in 1964, the Uniontown playground system had nine active play sites: Lafayette, East End, Bailey Park, Craig, Benjamin Franklin, Berkeley, Boyle, Gallatin and Lincoln View.
Albright was the sole founder of the popular Golden Age Club. Activities were under the direction of his wife Frances. He was instrumental in organization of the youth baseball program here in which hundreds of boys participated during the summer months.
“He was the backbone of the Recreation Department,” Former Uniontown Recreation Department Director Ken Misiak said. “He had sewing classes for adults and the “Golden Age Club.
“The secret was kids had a place to go and play and to learn to get along with other kids. The other fact was they were playing sports day in and day out all year long.
“He had programs on Saturdays with morning basketball and teenage clubs at Lafayette and Ben Franklin, tennis lessons at Bailey Park. He even had the fireman freeze those tennis courts when they were cement in the winter for skating. I don’t think people realize the effect he had on our community.”
“The supervised playground program in Uniontown is regarded as one of the finest in southwesternPennsylvania and the entire country.” That was what C.P. “Neenie” Campbell the former Head Basketball Coach at McKeesport had to say about the Uniontown City Recreation Dept.
“The playgrounds were the backbone of not only the high school kids, but the little kids who were watching them and trying to do some of the things that they did,” Misiak stated.
“It was an incubator for great athletic success. Kids came from surrounding areas to play.”
It’s unfortunate that the playground culture is a thing of the past.
“I don’t think the kids play ball like that at Uniontown and Laurel Highlands and McKeesport. Kids used to play ball all summer long. Guys came there to get into the action.
“I feel we’re missing that in Western Pennsylvania,” said the late former Midland Coach Hank Kuzma.
Albright retired from teaching on September 1, 1969 after 36 years, all spent in the Uniontown School System. Misiak took over Albright’s post as head of the Uniontown Recreation Department. Albright listed poor health as his reason for retirement at that time.
Abright was preceded in death by his wife Frances in 1985. Bus Albright passed away in March of 1987 and his son John died in 1998.