Friday, February 03, 2006


Boy, I've agonized long and hard over this one. I was a Seahawks fan before and during the ten years we lived in Seattle. But then I was an Oiler's fan during the "Luv Ya Blue" years when living in Houston and a Denver fan during the" Orange Crush" years while living there. If the Seahawks win I won't be devastated, yet underneath it all...

Push came to shove yesterday morning when I read Bert Caldwell's column about former Spokanite Mike Edward's effort to forge a new image for Pittsburgh. Finding the "right beauty spot" is so un-Pittsburgh I nearly fell on the floor laughing. Especially when it comes to faking the flow of water over the lower falls of the Spokane River.

I grew up in Pittsburgh you see. We moved there in 1945 when my Dad was transferred from Chicago to the East Pittsburgh Westinghouse plant. My soul is in that city - and my heart. We lived in the sticks - what is now Penn Hills. We didn't have a car but the bus service even then was superb. We'd walk a half mile to the bus stop, up hill, and disembark three different times just to do the grocery shopping. I remember well those pitch black mornings from the air pollution from the steel mills and the white dust that covered the black from the local cement plant.

Ah, the memories. We had a sled track that began at the top of our driveway and proceeded at least a quarter mile to the valley floor and the pond where we skated. The creek running from the pond had more bridges built across it over the years than the city itself had. Stoner's dairy farm was the landmark on the horizon as we walked home from the bus stop. The homes were on acre lots and at the beginning there were lots upon lots between homes. How many tunnels to China were begun are beyond counting.

Trips into the city were a big treat. Mom and I would take the bus, go to the movies in one of those wonderfully opulent theaters that were in vogue at the time, have lunch at the B&G; usually cheese rarebit and a cherry coke, then any shopping and back home. Sometimes we'd stop at Isley's for an ice cream bar.

Christmas was always a big treat. Kaufmann's, with it's wonderful Broadman Robinson murals, Gimbel's and Horne's always outdid themselves with their animated Christmas windows. I can't imagine Pittsburgh without them. Times change and not always for the better.

I went to four grade schools before we all merged into one junior high. Having missed an accordion salesman (thank goodness) while on vacation I turned to my Mom's favorite instrument the tenor sax. Junior high was the beginning of my big band era. On to highschool where we had band championships as a steady diet and I started the only all girls dance band the school ever had. My first memory of the Steelers was when the band would play at half time. I remember thinking about how huge those guys were up close. Now that I'm old and shrinking I'd probably still think the same.

After college I worked at Kaufmann's for a time then moved on to U.S.Steel for the money. The skies had been cleaned up by that time. Point Park became the hub of the downtown festival scene with outdoor art shows and concerts. Recreational boating on the rivers thrived.

I moved on to a public relations firm that produced the Variety Club and March of Dimes telethons and handled the publicity for the road shows that came through. Everything from Sinatra to the circus. Those were heady times. I had an apartment in Shadyside, the hip area for singles. Jazz at the Encore with Harold Betters was a must on week ends. For fine dining or ambiance for cocktails there was Tambellini's on the south hill, Ben Gross's in Irwin, The Tin Angel and La Mont on Mt. Washington overlooking the Golden Triangle, both a short walk from the inclines. I stood in the viewing areas more than once thinking about how this was my city, how vibrant it was and how much I loved being a part of it.

The city didn't have to fake anything, even then. There was Point Park at the confluence of the three rivers, Phipps Conservatory in Schenley Park that hosted the most magnificent flower shows, the Highland Park Zoo, Kennywood and Westview - the amusement parks. The museums and universities in Oakland to the jazz clubs in the Hill District all contributed to the mix of the city. The symphony under William Steinberg was world class, the opera, the ballet.

The institutions that contributed to the flavor of the city were no more impressive than many of it's native sons. There was Stephen Foster and Gertrude Stein; George S. Kaufman and William Powell and Rachel Carson, Perry Como, Martha Graham, Erroll Garner and Gene Kelly. And right along with them were the Irish and the Polish and the Germans and so many more whose work ethic was the muscle that made the city work.

And all the while Pittsburgh kept growing; she budded and she blossomed. I know a lot has changed since I left my city by the rivers but she doesn't need a new beauty spot. Just look around you Mr. Edwards. You don't have to fake a thing. Smash mouth football, the Steelers and the Pirates were as prominant as Bill Cowher's jaw. We all drank Iron City or Duquesne Pilsner along with the steel workers. We all listened to KDKA's play by play. We all remember the legacy of Forbe's Field. And we all, always, will cheer for the Steelers.

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