|By Bob Weaver |
The world's tallest man came to Grantsville in the 1930s.
Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918-1940) came to one of Grantsville's several department stores, promoting a brand of shoes on a national goodwill tour.
Born and educated in Alton, Illinois, he was 8' 11.1" - qualifying him as the tallest person in history as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records.
My mom, Myrtle McCoy Weaver, loaded up her brothers and sisters in a truck, using what little cash the family must have had during the Great Depression, and drove the nine miles to town to meet the "gentle giant."
The McCoy's would turn the engine off, allowing the vehicle to coast downhill to save gas.
Uncle Eddie was so proficient at saving energy, he would use the system on every downhill bank.
She recalled Wadlow was riding in a car with the front-seat removed, needing all the leg room he could get. "The street was filled with people waiting to go into the store and meet him," she said.
His shoe size was 37, costing $100 a pair (a lot of money back in the 30's). International Shoe Company provided his shoes free while he traveled over 300,000 miles on an 800 town tour.
Trying to maintain a normal life, Wadlow enjoyed collecting stamps, photography, and become the world's tallest Boy Scout at seven feet, four inches, when he was 13 years of age. Later he became a member of DeMolay and the Masons.
Wadlow's unique size was attributed to an over active pituitary gland, a problem that could not be corrected in the 1920s.
After a massive infection, he died in 1940, his 490 pound body was brought back home to Alton for burial. The 1,000-pound casket required a dozen pallbearers, assisted by eight other men. All city businesses closed for the funeral and 40,000 people signed the guest register.
Longtime Grantsville Police Chief Dudley Lutz was said to have photographed the occasion, but most of his large photo collection has been lost.
Read more and view photos at www.altonweb.com