1928: The second floor of The Pittsburgh Press building. (Press photo) May 1963: Artist Glenn Heydt and a copy boy among the air conditioning pipes. (The Pittsburgh Press) May 1963: From left, business editor Bill Allan, chief photographer Ray Gallivan and copy editor Julian Whitener oversee the chaos of the former features department during a renovation. (Press photo) September 1963: Looking from the  newsroom into the advertising department. (The Pittsburgh Press) Sept. 22, 1981: Workers install new office equipment in the newsroom. (Andy Starnes/The Pittsburgh Press) December 1982: A tour group takes a look at a Press computer. (Tony Kaminski/The Pittsburgh Press) July 30, 1981: The classified advertising department of The Pittsburgh Press. (Kent Badger/The Pittsburgh Press) 2014: A look at the former Pittsburgh Press and current Post-Gazette newsroom. (Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette)

A newsroom in transition

The Post-Gazette’s newsroom on the second floor of 34 Boulevard of the Allies has gone through quite a transformation since the building first opened for The Pittsburgh Press in 1927. We combed through our archives and traced its evolution, from the days when a suit and vest were expected newsroom attire to major renovations of the space in the 1960s and ’80s.

One of the oldest photos we found depicts a different era (a staff member actually wrote “old” on the back of the print some years ago). A group of men, all dressed in vests and ties, sit reading and making calls, newspapers and scissors littering the desks. It’s the same floor that Post-Gazette reporters work on today, but the scene couldn’t be more different. Technology, for one, has come along way, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a reporter who walks into work in 2014 wearing such a formal getup.

 

Press reporters worked around air conditioning pipes in the early 1960s, when updates to the editorial department’s space made it appear a construction site. One photo from May 1963 depicts an artist busy at work with stacks of the metal pipes behind him as the copy boy looked on. In another, the Press’s business editor, its chief photographer and a member of the copy desk stand between stacks of pipes, chatting in what was once the features department.

In one more from the era, a staff member leans in his chair alongside the aisle that connected the editorial and advertising rooms. As the photo shows, it was a mix of the traditional desk set up with curtains blocking sight of the construction: a newsroom in transition.

Fast forward to the 1980s, and more changes attracted locals to tour the newsroom and the building’s presses. Press staffers in 1982 showed off their computer monitors, which look bulky now; that technology crowded the desk of the Press’s classified advertising department in this shot from July 1981. 

Since then, we’ve rearranged some furniture and replaced terminals and keyboards, but it’s not so hard to recognize the Post-Gazette newsroom today in those photos.

Take a look at a more recent shot and see for yourself.

—Madeline Conway

1901: "Pennsylvania Railroad Station"

These walls witnessed many hellos and goodbyes, many arrivals and departures, many iterations of train designs and quite a few dramatic twists and turns in evolution of rail-based travel in America.

Pennsylvania Railroad Station, also known among Pittsburghers as The Pennsylvanian, Union Station and more frequently as Penn Station, was conceived as a train station by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Construction started in 1898 and was completed five years later.

The station at 10th Street and Liberty Avenue began its operation on October 12, 1901.

As America’s railroad industry shrunk so did the number of carriages and passengers in the glamorous waiting hall beneath Penn Station’s rotunda.  Although the building still hosts an active Amtrak station, the rail services occupy only a small portion of the Liberty Avenue site. 

Nowadays, it’s more of a pantheon — a monument, if you will — to the glamorous promises and glorious days of railroads in America. 

Today Amtrak offers only two trains departing from Pittsburgh, The Capitol Ltd. and the Pennsylvanian. According to reviews posted on Yelp, the train station itself "could use a facelift.” Last renovation dates to 1988. Annual ridership of Pittsburgh’s Penn Station is estimated at 135,137 (2013).

The extravagant building with the famous rotunda in Downtown Pittsburgh was never meant to become a place for weddings or a luxury apartment complex. But, hey, it could have been more unusual — in the 1970s, the Council of Allegheny County proposed the building to be the site of the then-planned David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Yep.

In our archive, among photos we found in a folder marked “Penn Station” one in particular says it all: “Looking through the broken window of the boarding gate onto a vacant platform (Al Hermann, December 1971).”

— Mila Sanina

At Primanti Bros. in the Strip, 1979, Morris Berman/Post-Gazette Primanti Bros., 1996, Associated Press Rondey Oliviero of Primanti Bros. serves up famous cheesesteak sandwiches complete with fries and coleslaw at Three Rivers Stadium, 1994, Martha Rial/Post-Gazette

1933: Primanti Bros.

It started as a sandwich place for hungry truckers and became a signature diner where you are guaranteed to learn what a quintessential Pittsburgh sammich stands for. 

Call it a belly bomb. Primanti’s Bros. sandwich is a Pittsburgh institution. You say it’s bad for you? With coleslaw, fresh grilled meat and tomatoes? C’mon… And as far as many Pittsburghers are concerned, fries are made of potatoes, and potatoes are vegetables. So there. 

Not convinced? Well, then you must have missed the news that Primanti’s sandwich once earned a title of the best sandwich in America AND in 2010, ESPN.com ranked PNC Park as the best ballpark in the country largely because they offer Primanti’s sandwiches complete with “generous servings of roast beef, cheese, coleslaw and — this is the key — French fries all between two buns.” The reviewer wrote, “I bet Willie Stargell ate them for breakfast.”  

One more? Primanti Brothers made the list of “1,000 Places to See Before You Die in the USA.” Just do not die there due to cholesterol overdose. 

It all began in the Strip District in 1933 at 18th and Smallman as a small family business founded by one of the brothers named Joe Primanti, a Pennsylvania native. His brothers Dick and Stanley and their nephew John DePriter joined the business right away.

The signature sandwich was a Depression-era invention and this is how the composition or, as some would probably call it — the concoction, came about, according to a story allegedly told by John DePriter himself: “One winter, a fella drove in with a load of potatoes. He brought a few of ‘em over to the restaurant to see if they were frozen. I fried the potatoes on our grill and they looked pretty good. A few of our customers asked for them, so I put the potatoes on their sandwiches.” The rest, as they say, is history.”  

The Primanti Bros. chain has been feeding Pittsburghers and visitors to the city for more than 80 years. When it opened, it served primarily the late-night crowd. First, the customers were workers who unloaded produce in the Strip; in the 1970s, the Post-Gazette called Primanti’s customers “night hawks from all walks of life.” Today, there are 17 Primanti Brothers diners in the Pittsburgh area and three locations in Florida.

For a few years, the Post-Gazette had a tradition of running “readers’ choice for the best sandwiches in Pittsburgh.” We determined that several years in a row, Primanti’s sandwiches won and our guess is that the newspaper stopped the contest due to readers’ choices, which would predictably come from Primanti Brothers’ menu.  

— Mila Sanina

(Top image: Pittsburgh policeman, Wayne Wilson, of Morningside, bites into his favorite Primanti’s Brothers sandwich, pastrami, egg, with the slaw and fries, lettuce and tomato, our readers’ choice for the best sandwich in Pittsburgh, 1993, John Heller/Post-Gazette)

1930: The Cathedral of Learning construction. (University of Pittsburgh archives) 1935: The Cathedral of Learning nearly completed. (The Pittsburgh Press) Edward B. Lee, an architect who lived where the Cathedral of Learning was built, sent a 1929 Christmas Card lamenting the new structure. (Credit: University of Pittsburgh Press) (Credit: University of Pittsburgh Press) 1983: The official Spirit of Achievement for children who gave 10 cents to help fund the Cathedral's construction. (Thomas Ondrey/The Pittsburgh Press)

1926-1935: Cathedral of Learning construction

Where today towers one of Pittsburgh’s most recognizable landmarks once stood a little house.

In our archive, we found a copy of a 1929 Christmas card from Edward B. Lee, whose home once sat squarely where the University of Pittsburgh built the Cathedral of Learning in the 1920s and ’30s. Mr. Lee lost his property when the Cathedral went up, and he didn’t hesitate to express his dissatisfaction with the construction.

The card features a sketch of a two-story home with a smoking chimney. It would be pleasant if it weren’t superimposed over a photograph of the towering Cathedral, then mostly scaffolding, under construction. The card bids the house adieu.

“Our first Xmas card was made in this little house in nineteen-nineteen,” it reads. “Good-bye, little happy house, good-bye.”

Today, the Cathedral stands at 42 stories and 535 feet tall. As you can imagine, putting the building together wasn’t easy, and Press photographs from the 1920s and ’30s show us the evolution of the now-famed building.

The building process was pretty drawn out. As Pitt administrators faced budgetary hurdles in the midst of the Great Depression, the Cathedral’s construction stopped and started. Although Pitt’s chancellor commissioned the project in 1921, the project didn’t conclude for another 13 years.

Construction began in 1926, thanks in part to the 97,000 local school children who each donated 10 cents to the effort (see our copy of the certificate one student received in exchange for her help). The steel part of the structure rose in 1929, but a shortage of funding meant that construction would have to pause before its 1937 dedication.

For years, scaffolding towered over Oakland. In this June 1930 photo, about half of the building looks familiar, but the rest is less pretty. Another Press photo, this time from 1935, shows us that workers finished the middle floors of the building’s exterior first. And although Pitt had polished most of the Cathedral, weeds and dirt scattered the ground around it, a far cry from what the campus looks like today.

With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that the years of construction evoked a negative response from residents like Mr. Lee.

Still, there were optimists. James C. Boudreau, the art director of Pittsburgh schools, proclaimed in a February 1928 issue of The Press that the Cathedral, then still under construction, would “express in tangible beauty the real spirit of Pittsburgh, the city that stands for steel and iron plus.”

“Do not spend your thoughts trying to seek out undesirable features that may come with this creative venture,” he warned. “Some few of them may even become realities yet we can be confident that they will be so thoroughly engulfed by myriads of desirable features that they will soon be as nothing.”

—Madeline Conway

And now for something completely different…

Updated, Aug. 25: We received a bevy of responses on Friday and over the weekend in response to one of these two mysteries.

That phrase on the back of the first image is indeed “Celebration 9 ft channel.” It refers to the completion of the series of Ohio River canals that would ensure at least a 9-foot depth for river passage from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill.

One of many reader responses came from Richard Schutte, who provided a detailed description of the project and its purpose. He wrote:

Remember at this time the rivers did not have significant locks and dams for navigable waterways. My father born in 1922 told me how as a child he could walk across portions of the Ohio River. Flood control for Pittsburgh did not occur until after the Great St. Patrick’s Day Flood in 1936.This event was a huge improvement in river transportation for the time.

Mr. Schutte also noted the time of year (October) and chilly morning during which the photograph was made. He even found an alternative angle of the celebration.

Our image was likely taken from one of the decks of that riverboat.

Perhaps the most interesting item here is the photograph’s date: just one week before “Black Thursday” and the onset of the Great Depression. One can also see — in the full resolution version — two or three young boys waving at the camera near the river’s shore.

They were part of a crowd of 100,000 in Pittsburgh that day, according to The Pittsburgh Press, and President Herbert Hoover marked the engineering achievement the following week with a speech in Louisville.

Back to the shelf this goes. (In addition to Mr. Schutte, thanks to William Baldauf, Glenn Heberle, Audrey Iacone, Justin Reese, Jon Schmitz, Al Slowik, Justin Wotus and Rank & Filed for handwriting deciphering and storytelling assistance.)

As for the other image, no one has yet found an answer. We’ll keep looking, too.

Original story, Aug. 22: After our office flood last month, we decided to take a step back and reevaluate our archive digitizing.

It didn’t affect the mission of “The Digs,” except to perhaps increase our ambition and pace.

Still, the water spill did require plenty of cleaning and reorganizing. During recovery, we came across about 4,000 photos in a box that had not been refiled into folders for about a decade.

You can’t digitize what you don’t know exists, and so it took about six weeks, but the last image will be put back in its place next week.

The thousands of miscellaneous photos contained caption details on the back.

Two, however, did not.

And so we present to you these images in hope of you helping us find their story and their proper home in our archive.

The first photo is, we believe, of the Mon Wharf. Thousands of Depression-era Pittsburghers gathered for… something. The reverse side is visible in the second image.

Celebration of channel? Abraham of Channel? Elilsabra after Channel?

The date is legible: 1929. The rest: not so much. Here’s a full resolution version of the gathering.

The second image contained more intelligible writing. Its caption: “Frank Peekes (the cursive leads one to also think his name could be Peckes?) coming up out of old well in back of garage.”

There’s a police constable. A ladder. A few men in overalls. And it’s clearly a scene of relief. The man has been saved.

But who is the man? Why was he in the old well? When did this happen? Internet searches are of no help for “Pittsburgh” and either “Frank Peckes” or “Frank Peekes.”

Do you know the story behind either image? Leave us a note here or send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com.

Ethan Magoc

PG coverage of the announcement. This Tim Menees cartoon was published in the PG on Sept. 9. Rob Rogers, then with The Pittsburgh Press, published this piece on Sept. 8. A few of the critical letters.

September 1991: Mayor Masloff’s brutal month

Mayor Sophie Masloff once offered Pittsburgh a grand idea. People hated it. Their rage flared in letters to the city’s newspapers.

“Where did she get this hare-brained idea?” asked a man from the South Side.  “… if she thinks we should spend our hard-earned tax money on this, she’s senile.”

"I’m so angry I can barely see the paper I’m writing on," wrote a woman from Bethel Park.

Masloff proposed an old-fashioned baseball stadium on the North Shore. The idea of an “old fashioned” park was shocking at the time. Baltimore’s throwback ballpark, Camden Yards, wouldn’t open for another six months.

“Didn’t we used to have an old-fashioned baseball stadium?” wrote an Aspinwall resident. “In Oakland, wasn’t it? Oh, gee, that’s right; we tore it down.”

The ballpark’s price tag, estimated at $100 million to $130 million, miffed a lot of folks. Pittsburgh faced a projected $35 million deficit and was preparing to hand out pink slips to a number of city employees.

It was, in fact, a difficult time throughout much of Western Pennsylvania.

“How can the mayor make such a proposal when the Mon Valley needs help ..?” wrote a man from Duquesne. That town’s steel mill closed  several years earlier, but a few rusted sheds remained as reminders of what had been lost.

“I had a good laugh the other day,” wrote a guy from the North Hills. “… Masloff wants to build a new stadium. What a joke that is … Does she think it’s as easy as going out and buying a new dress?”

Newspaper editorials were somewhat gentler. The PG, while wondering where the money would come from, urged folks not to dismiss the idea “out of hand.”

The Press couldn’t figure out where it stood. “We cannot at this point say that the mayor’s idea is a bad one. But neither can we say it’s a good one.”

Masloff endured the ridicule and jokes for two weeks. That was enough.

“I’ve been in public life 40 years,” she said. “Nothing I’ve ever taken on … has ever concerned and confused people as much as this has. I’m amazed by it.”

On Sept. 16, 1991, she announced she’d abandoned the plan.

“Every once in a while I get carried away with an idea,” she explained.

Officials broke ground for PNC Park 8½ years later.

Steve Mellon

Top picture: Michael Lamb, then an aide to Pittsburgh City Councilman Michael Coyne, looked over a rendering of the proposed ballpark. (John Beale/Post-Gazette)

Clean cut Bradshaw when he first came to Pittsburgh in 1970. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Bradshaw clowned with first wife Melissa in 1972. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Bradshaw clowning with a Bengal mascot in 1972. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Boys from the local press and Bradshaw in a snowball fight in 1976. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Mercury Records released this image of Bradshaw as a country music singer in the mid 1970s. Bradshaw and wife JoJo Starbuck celebrated victory in Super Bowl XIII in 1979. (Associated Press photo)

1970: Terry Bradshaw — Pittsburgh’s biggest star

One day in 1970 Terry Bradshaw walked into the LaMont LeMont Restaurant on Mt. Washington with Miss Teenage America on his arm.

Everyone in the place yelped and applauded.

Bradshaw was amused.

Later someone suggested the applause was for the beautiful young woman in his company. “Hey,” Bradshaw said. “I never thought of that.”

That was Bradshaw. Cocky, but in a manner that was endearing instead of annoying. It was his schtick.

Bradshaw came to us with a twinkle in his blue eyes and a sort of goofy “aw, shucks” innocence. Didn’t smoke, didn’t drink. At the Roosevelt Hotel, he ordered grits and scrambled eggs for his pre-game meals. He was a southern boy, you know.

And he was photogenic. His yellow hair, square face and dimpled chin drew the attention of a Harper’s Bazaar magazine editor, who flew him to New York for a fashion shoot. He wore his new Steelers jersey, delivered in person by an executive from the team’s front office.

“Boy, that’s pretty, that really is,” Bradshaw said when he held up what was, at the time, considered one of the NFL’s ugliest uniforms.

It seemed he was a star everywhere but back home in Louisiana. A car dealer there paid him $400 to make an appearance at a dealership to sign autographs. Four people showed up.

In Pittsburgh, he got 20 to 30 pieces of fan mail each day. He replied to each by sending a signed 6x9 picture of himself poised to throw a football.

Someone wrote to him, “You’re as cocky as Joe Namath” and that drew a reaction from Bradshaw. “I musta said something along the line that people associated with cockiness,” he told a sports writer. “I hate for them to get such ideas.”

Surely he winked when he said it.

Pictures in the PG archives reveal Bradshaw as a guy who loved to have a good time — and be photographed. He clowned with mascots, got into snowball fights with boys from the local newspapers, struck silly poses in the locker room.

In 1975, he told music agent Tilleman Franks he liked to sing. Sang solos in church, sang along to country records at home. “And you ain’t heard nothing, boy, till you’ve heard me.” His cover of the Hank Williams classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” was released in 1976 and became a Top 20 hit on the country charts. On Youtube, you can view his lip-synching gigs on those awful ‘70s TV variety shows.

TV producers asked him to sing the tune during a special “All Star Salute” the night before Super Bowl XIII in 1979. His then-wife Jo Jo Starbuck would skate while Bradshaw crooned. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Then, beginning in the late 1970s, came the movies — among them the Burt Reynolds comedies “Hooper,”  “The Cannonball Run,” and “Smokey and the Bandit II.” On television, he mostly played himself on shows like “Married … with Children” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

His football skills landed him in the sport’s Hall of Fame. His antics before a camera got him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Bradshaw has got to be laughing at that last honor. We can laugh, too. We’re all in on the joke.

(Watch Bob Dvorchak’s take on the Bradshaw years in this week’s edition of Sports ‘n ‘at.)

Steve Mellon

Top picture: Bradshaw waves goodbye to fans in 1975. (Robert Pavuchak/Pittsburgh Press)

Nov. 11, 1949: Gibsonia patrolman James. W. Homison and Chief Ed Sherwood raided a four-man, 13-still bootleg factory. (The Pittsburgh Press) Sept. 9, 1955: Allegheny County police dump out moonshine they found in the thick woods of Richland Township. (The Pittsburgh Press) Oct. 23, 1955: An Alcohol Tax Unit agent uses an axe to dump moonshine whisky, which sold for about $1 a pint with no tax. (The Pittsburgh Press) May 7, 1958: Authorities spill gallons of moonshine off the porch of a Pittsburgh home. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) May 22, 1958: Authorities dump a barrel out the window of an abandoned building used as a moonshine distillery. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) June 7, 1958: Authorities dump a giant moonshine cocktail out the window of the former Cinderella Gardens in Millvale. (The Pittsburgh Press) Feb. 21, 1963: The aftermath of a Hill District moonshine raid. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) June 14, 1964: How does this relate to moonshine? Brady, a friendly Great Dane was to watch out for revenue agents. Instead, she greeted agent Harold Silber with a pawshake. (The Pittsburgh Press) Sept. 25, 1968: Robert R. Ridley of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division displays automatic weapons used in a moonshine operation. (Anthony Kaminski/The Pittsburgh Press)

1940s-1970s: Moonshine waterfalls near Pittsburgh

When a moonshine bust was to be made in the mid-20th century, distillers could be certain of two things.

First, the investigating law enforcement agency would make an example of them, flipping or hacking apart barrels and creating glorious waterfalls of mash.

Second, any and all media members — especially newspaper photographers — were guaranteed to be in tow.

Decades later, the mutual excitement surrounding one of these busts is obvious on policemen’s faces and in a published photograph’s angle or caption.

Moonshine was illegal then and remains so today because its makers don’t pay state taxes. Moreover, health departments cannot inspect their operations, an obvious health hazard.

As George Swetnam of The Pittsburgh Press wrote in the 1970s, “…beginning in 1862, during Civil War days, came the Department of Revenue, and moonshiners have been in business ever since.”

In Pittsburgh, the brews were generally made in rural areas around or outside Allegheny County, “where the smell doesn’t bother anyone,” as city police inspector William Moore said in 1975.

They were then brought into city speakeasies and other illegal drinking locales; this was still the case long after the end of prohibition. The busts gradually declined in number in the second half of the 20th century — perhaps because of the negative press examples, but more likely because there were just better jobs to be had then.

By the early 1980s, only a dozen Pittsburgh-area moonshine busts had been made in five years. Drugs like cocaine and eventually methamphetamine, considered under state and federal law to be more dangerous than alcohol, became the more common source of illegal income and thus a cause for more arrests than was moonshine.

And at the end of the 1980s, according to the Associated Press, moonshine-making seemed more a problem inside Pennsylvania prisons than outside.

Ethan Magoc

1790s: The old courthouse and market, which opened in 1794 and were taken down in 1852. (Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania) September 1946: Pittsburgh's Diamond Market House. (Pittsburgh Press) October 7, 1961: Pittsburgh's Diamond Market House. (Pittsburgh Press) February 21, 1961: A proposed model for a shopping and entertainment area designed for Market Square. (George Bower/Post-Gazette) October 29, 1977: The Hartzell Memorial Fountain, which was removed in 1990. (Ed Morgan/Pittsburgh Press) September 9, 1980: Overhead view of Market Square. (Andy Starnes/Pittsburgh Press) April 9, 1990: Market Square as it stood in 1990 with Forbes Avenue running left to right through the center of the photo. (Susie Post/Pittsburgh Press)

Market Square: Pittsburgh’s original gathering space

You might think of Pittsburgh’s Market Square as a gathering place for businessmen and women navigating the daily lunchtime rush, as a home to cooing pigeons snacking on crumbs or even as an unintentional ice skating rink in winter.

While Market Square might not look the same as when it was first constructed, one thing stayed the same: it has remained Pittsburgh’s restless epicenter.

The conception of Market Square dates back to 1784 when Philadelphia surveyors George Woods and Thomas Vickroy sought to create a central location for the city of Pittsburgh. It was originally known as the “Diamond,” a name typical for 18th and 19th century Pennsylvania town centers. Within the Diamond, the original Market House was built around 1794.

According to a 1982 edition of the Pittsburgh Press, the Market was replaced in 1853 by a building that “served as Pittsburgh’s City Hall, as an armory for the 17th Pennsylvania Regiment and briefly as a hospice for Civil War Soldiers.”

Moving into the early 20th century, the Diamond Market was constructed to take up all four quadrants of the Diamond Street-Market Street intersection. The Market House, as it was known, provided Pittsburghers with a lively grocer, florist and baker scene.

The building stood until October 1961, when it was razed to make room for grass, benches, and walkways. Four large grass quadrants were carved from Forbes and Market Street, which ran through the square.

Market Square gained another addition in 1977 — the granite Hartzell Memorial Fountain, constructed in 1909. Inscribed with the words, “For Man, Beast and Bird,” it stood in the square until 1990 and was used as a birdbath, public water fountain and sometimes a place for the homeless to wash up.

Much of what we see today in Market Square was constructed throughout the 1980s. Most notably, Pittsburgh’s iconic PPG tower was built with five surrounding buildings in 1984.

Today, the grass quadrants are paved over and seating accommodations fill what Pittsburghers think of as a reliable Downtown hangout spot.

Emily Kaplan

May 24, 1953: Rev. Paul Ubinger returns to Pittsburgh after two years in Chinese captivity.

Stories of emotional returns to Pittsburgh are abundant in the Post-Gazette archives. So are images capturing those moments of reunion and the faces that once lost hope of seeing one another. The pictures depict embraces, which before seemed so unlikely, and expressions that glow with a newfound belief that miracles happen and that the worst fears are past. These photographs inspire a response: a smile, a quiet cheer or maybe even a tear.

A story and images of The Rev. Paul Ubinger’s return are examples.

Father Ubinger was a Pittsburgh priest who, for almost 30 years, served as a missionary in China. In 1950, the Iron Curtain rang down and the Chinese government captured and jailed him in Uanling, Honan Province, where he was stationed. Father Ubinger’s arrest was a deliberate step by Chinese Communists to discredit priesthood and show their stance against U.S. missionaries in their country.

Very little was known about The Rev. Ubinger’s condition in jail at the time. Two years later, when he was finally released, he described his time in captivity as “two years in he-l-l” and detailed the torture and unfair trials he had been subjected to.

Father Ubinger was not the only one who suffered through those days, although he may have suffered the most. He did live to see the day of his release. One of his closest relatives and a soulmate, Miss Magdalene Ubinger, did not. She had never gotten a chance to witness her nephew’s return.”Last word Miss Magdalene Ubinger heard from her missionary-nephew in China was an Easter greeting,” her obituary read a year before Rev. Ubinger’s release,”among her last prayers was a plea for the safe-keeping of the captive priest.”

Miss Ubinger helped her nephew through when he made his career choice. A prominent educator for almost 50 years, she served as his mentor and followed with pride Father Ubinger’s work in China. He helped operate a Christian school there and, according to one of the relatives, “the correspondence between the pair read like a schoolmaster’s holiday.”

There is a photo in the Ubinger file in the PG archives showing Father Ubinger with his aunt Magdalene — the one before the tragic imprisonment. Magdalene was not there with the family greeting with enthusiasm Rev. Ubinger upon arrival in Pittsburgh. Being there was her only wish that was not meant to come true.

— Mila Sanina

(Photo by Morris Berman/Post-Gazette) (Photo by Morris Berman/Post-Gazette) Oct. 24, 1975: Pittsburgh Symphony chief flutist Bernard Goldberg plays on the picket line outside Heinz Hall. (Morris Berman/Post-Gazette) (Photo by Morris Berman/Post-Gazette) (Photo by Morris Berman/Post-Gazette)

September 1975: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra strike

Labor strife has plagued orchestras and opera companies across the country in recent years, but a Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians’ strike in 1975 illustrates that such issues have long affected classical music organizations.

On Sept. 29, 1975, the 104 orchestra members went on strike for 46 days after an extension on their contract had expired.

They’d passed on a proposed $90 weekly salary increase over three years, claiming that additional work would account for almost half of that raise.

Local 60-471 of the American Federation of Musicians picketed outside Heinz Hall. The work stoppage affected not only PSO concerts, but also Pittsburgh Ballet Theater shows and Pittsburgh Opera performances in which the musicians also performed. The negotiations required the intervention of a state mediator, The Pittsburgh Press reported.

“It’s too bad we had to go out (and strike),” said union president Herbert Osgood, “but we want to make Pittsburgh the absolute tops in the symphony world.”

Eventually, the musicians and the Pittsburgh Symphony Society agreed to a new contract, which included a gradual, three-year increase in weekly base salary, from $305 to $400 (between $1,350 and $1,800 in 2014 dollars).

It remains the only strike in PSO history.

Liz Bloom

Anonymous asked: How can we get in contact with you?

You may email socialmedia@post-gazette.com with questions about “The Digs.”

Undated photo: A first aid class at the Pittsburgh Experiment Station training for mine rescue operations. (Handout/U.S. Bureau of Mines) February 1948: An overhead view of the $3.5 million Bureau of Mines plant that attempted to turn coal into synthetic gasoline. (The Pittsburgh Press) 1924: A Bureau of Mines rescue team prepares to drive 60 miles to Bellaire, Ohio, to assist in a mine disaster that killed 119. (The Pittsburgh Press) Undated: A gallery assembles to watch explosives testing. The Bureau of Mines wanted to determine safe usage for explosives in mines. (Handout/Bureau of Mines) Oct. 10, 1954: Mine safety inspectors enter the experimental facility at the Bureau of Mines. (The Pittsburgh Press) Undated: And on another occasion, a training group exits the experimental mine. (Handout/U.S. Bureau of Mines) 1985: At the 75-year anniversary of the Bureau of Mines, employees Kenneth Sacks and Nick Melucci talk about its progress in national mine safety. (Ross Catanza/The Pittsburgh Press) 1987: Bureau of Mines employees Jack Shubilla and Wayne Duerr model new and old (left to right) mine respirators. Shubilla's model held an hour of oxygen. (Robert J. Pavuchak/The Pittsburgh Press)

Glimpses from the Bureau of Mines’ history

Western Pennsylvania and surrounding Appalachia will forever be linked with a legacy of mining.

It has historically been one of the region’s most dangerous occupations, and also one of the most necessary to modern society.

Coal made industrial development possible, and it also likely powers the computer on which you’re reading this story. Today, mining tragedies have decreased from the period in the early 1900s when nine men per day were dying in mines.

That improvement is due to technological advances, some of which were developed at a facility in Bruceton, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh.

The Bureau of Mines made the suburb and a 38-acre site its headquarters in 1910, and it built an experimental underground facility to try to learn more about the science of mining. Ultimately, the employees there needed to devise new ways to stop mining deaths.

"The Experimental Mine was designed to serve the combined purposes of real world field test station, and theoretical science laboratory," wrote Tom Imerito, president of Science Communications.

There was also a Pittsburgh Experiment Station of the Bureau of Mines on Forbes Avenue. That’s the setting for the first aid drill in the first image.

As for why that gentleman is on a stationary bike, your guess is as good as ours.

Ethan Magoc

February 8, 1978: A 1978 map shows corridors in North Hills where UFO sightings are most frequent. October 11, 1980: Jane Allyson - the woman who claims to have had communication with a man from the sun - at a UFO Convention at the YMCA in Downtown Pittsburgh. October 7, 1980: Elgar Brom shows scroll and blue dust she claims she received during a close encounter with aliens from outer space. June 30, 1987: Paul Johnson, the director of the PA Center for UFO Research, holds solution used in machine to test soil from UFO landing site.

1978: UFO sightings

Photographs aren’t the only items enclosed in the Post-Gazette’s archived folder labeled “Unidentified Flying Objects.”

Hundreds of tiny rocks lay at the bottom of this manilla folder, their origins unknown.

Maybe they’re space rocks. After all, Pittsburgh has a history of supposed “out of this world” encounters.

While all of the encounters produced different descriptions of aliens, spacecrafts, and even kidnappings, each reporter had one thing in common: all were positive that what they saw was real and (truly) out of this world.

Some reports remain more believable than others. Take Jane Allyson - a visiting New York UFO lecturer - for example, who claimed that she kept in contact with Cytron, a leather-skinned man who lives on the sun. Cytron, she reported in the 1980, could predict future events for planet earth such as global warming and warned about the dangers of nuclear devices. Allyson claimed that Cytron was right in his predictions “about 90 percent of the time.”

And then there were those with tangible proof of outer space visits. Elgar Brom of McKeesport reported in 1980 that “very tall, cinnamon-skinned humanoids from beyond Jupiter” made contact with her 42 times in the span of six years and left behind “blue dust” and undecipherable scroll.

Even “down-to-earth” types were questioned and absolutely swore by their stories. In 1968 a World War II veteran described a spacecraft swooping over a parking area in the middle of the night near his home in Carnegie. In response, he was mocked with questions such as, “Did the little green men wave back at you?” and “Where can I get some of that LSD?”

Both Allyson and Brom shared their stories at the First North American UFO & Space Expo at the Downtown YMCA. Pittsburgh was host to several major UFO conferences, lectures, and organizations in the 1970s and 1980s aimed at better understanding outer space encounters happening in both in the area and throughout the country.

Local scientist Stanton T. Friedman founded the downtown-based UFO Research Institute of Pittsburgh in 1968. The institute, which had more than 120 members in its inaugural year, served the purpose of researching any UFO sightings in the area, and challenged claims against studies that questioned the reality of UFOs.

Another Pittsburgh-based organization was the Westmoreland UFO Study Group, founded in 1970. It later expanded to the Pennsylvania Center for UFO Research, but was best known in the Pittsburgh area for its investigation surrounding both UFO and Bigfoot sightings around 1973.

Looking at the National UFO Reporting Center index (http://bit.ly/Xlis9h), UFOs continue to be reported on a daily basis in and around Pittsburgh to this day. In fact, there have been 65 reported UFO sightings in July 2014 in Western Pennsylvania.

However, just as reporting remains constant, speculation does as well.

—Emily Kaplan

Post-Gazette photo Mary Pat Donegan, president of Wild Sisters, a bar and bistro on the South Side, does some carpentry for the stage in July of 1982. (Mark Murphy/Post-Gazette) Lee Grice, left and Eileen Hall talked while plastering the ceiling at Wild Sisters, a bar and restaurant that opened on the South Side in 1982. (Mark Murphy/Post-Gazette) On Nov. 17, 1985, women gathered for a meeting at Wild Sisters, where they learned that a decision had been made to close the bar and restaurant. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette) Cindi Carbine, treasurer of a South Side bar and bistro called Wild Sisters, outside the building located at 27th and Jane streets. (Post-Gazette photo)

1982: Pittsburgh’s first feminist bar, bistro and cabaret

Pittsburgh residents have always had a thirst for ale, good coffee and strong spirits.

James O’Hara, one of the city’s early settlers, was a successful businessman and real estate investor who, by 1803, was operating the Point Brewery on land now occupied by Point State Park.

In 1969, gay men and lesbians rioted outside the Stonewall inn in New York’s Greenwich Village. The women’s rights movement was in full flower and by the spring of 1975, local feminists wanted a place where women’s art could be seen and their voices heard.

So, they organized the Wild Sisters Coffeehouse to provide a performance venue that would showcase women artists, poets and musicians. Among the 15 founders were Dana Ventriglia, a trained carpenter, local lawyer Ann Begler and Felice Newman, then a University of Pittsburgh student and published poet. The coffeehouses were staged in various locations, including the Chatham College Chapel.

By July of 1982, the dedicated, determined women had raised nearly $55,000, enough to buy a liquor license and a South Side building located at 2700 Jane Street. The women invested lots of sweat equity by painting, sanding and plastering their new property.  Interior designer Janice Lott did the floor plan for the new establishment. Wild Sisters,  the first feminist bar, cabaret and restaurant in Pittsburgh, opened in 1982 .

Mary Pat Donegan, a psychotherapist, was president.

"When we first started, we put one ad in the newspapers — ‘Women Artists Wanted’ — and since that time we’ve been flooded by requests," Ms. Donegan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a 1982 interview.

Wild Sisters welcomed women and men. Patrons could get a drink, a bowl of soup, a piece of quiche or a sandwich and listen to music. The venue opened long before the letters LGBT entered the daily vernacular of American language.

John G. Craig Jr., the late editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, mentioned Wild Sisters in a column he wrote on July 27, 1985.

He called it “a South Side bistro with a sympathy for a liberated clientele.”

Wild Sisters closed in 1985 and became Bloomer’s, a bar, music venue and space for women’s art.  Next, the building hosted two Italian restaurants and a Mexican taqueria. Today, it is home to the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community.

— Marylynne Pitz

Top picture: Interior of Wild Sisters, a restaurant and bar for women located on the South Side at 27th and Jane streets. (Post-Gazette photo)