And now for something completely different…

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

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 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 (, 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)

The victim: Julia Fesko, 22. (Photo credit unknown) Relatives of Julia Fesko wept after identifying the body. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Mary Yocobet was stunned to learn her daughter was still alive. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Murder suspect Frank Ringler in a police mug shot. Frank Ringler recreated the murder for a police camera, then recanted his confession (Pittsburgh Press photo) Betty Jane Yocobet. She was alive, after all. (Photo credit unknown)

August 1947: One murder, one body, two identities

Members of the Yocobet family were attending a wake for their murdered 14-year-old daughter when reporters burst in and told them there had been a terrible mistake. The body lying on a cold slab at the Allegheny County Morgue was not their beloved Betty Jane, but a 22-year-old woman named Julia Fesko.

Mr. and Mrs. Yocobet immediately rejoiced and offered prayers of thanks. Suddenly there was hope for their daughter, missing 10 days.

Meanwhile, the Fesko family huddled together in mourning at the morgue and wondered how poor Julia, who went to church every Sunday and “didn’t go out much with boys” ended up with a .32 caliber bullet in her head. Her nude, battered body had been found five feet from a lonely “Lover’s Lane” in Versailles Township.

Julia was a factory girl who lived in McKeesport. After her shift at the Westinghouse Airbrake on Friday night, Aug. 29, 1947, she bought a train ticket to Johnstown so she could visit her sister the next day.

She never showed up in Johnstown and her family became concerned — especially after reading newspaper descriptions of the body found in Versailles Township. It was that of a “chunky” young lady with dark hair, weighing 160 pounds.

Julia’s family arrived at the morgue minutes before the body was to be removed for burial. Members of the Yocobet family had earlier signed statements swearing that the corpse belonged to their daughter, but authorities figured it wouldn’t hurt to allow Julia’s family to take a peek.

Recognizing the disfigured face proved difficult. Then the coroner displayed rings found on the body’s fingers and the family members burst into tears. To make certain of the identity, investigators summoned Julia’s dentist, who recognized his dental work.

Julia’s murder and the subsequent mix-up were front-page news. Detectives scrambled to solve the now high-profile case and, in the next several months, interviewed more than 150 people. They investigated Julia’s private life and were surprised to learn of her “amazing trail of romantic interludes,” reported The Pittsburgh Press. Shockingly, the newspaper wrote in gasping tones, Julia had “at least 10 male friends. Several were married.”

Police questioned several suspects: a truck driver, a Westmoreland County farmer, a few of her co-workers at Westinghouse. Nothing panned out.

In June 1948, detectives got a big break. An Army deserter and car thief named Frank Ringler confessed to the killing.

Ringler agreed to travel to the crime scene and recreate the murder for a police photographer’s movie camera. A secretary from the district attorney’s office played the role of Julia.

Police gave Ringler a .32 revolver. The suspect then mugged for the camera and put his arm around the secretary. “Apparently enjoying his antics,” a newspaper reported, Ringler then climbed into the back seat with the secretary and described how he pawed his victim, shot her behind the left ear, stripped her and dumped the body.

Near the bizarre re-creation’s end, however, Ringler suddenly recanted. He didn’t kill Julia after all.

Why’d you confess, then? police asked.

“Because I wanted to,” Ringler replied.

He was promptly sent to Western Penitentiary to serve time for armed robbery, auto theft and morals violations.

Months passed, then years. Each Labor Day, Pittsburgh newspapers published short stories reminding readers that the case remained unsolved. Those stories disappeared in the early 1950s.

And what happened to Betty Jane Yocobet? In early October, more than a month after the murder, she wrote to her family that she was alive and happy and living in Hood River, Ore. She planned to marry a merchant seaman named Al — as soon as he returned from a voyage to Rio.

“Mom, I seen all the clippings about me,” she wrote. “I think it is silly of them to think of me as shot.”

Steve Mellon

Top photo: Family members identify the body of Julia Fesko. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

Feb. 1, 1971: Susan OLeary and Charlie the swan went dancing at the Pittsburgh Zoo when it was four below zero. Why? Your guess is as good as ours. (Edwin Morgan/The Pittsburgh Press) Sept. 12, 1976: Alexander Filipov and Kaleria Fedicheva preparing for Maria Sabinaon on a Downtown street. (Kent Badger/The Pittsburgh Press) Aug. 23, 1977: Jo Ann McCarthy and Dennis Poole as Romeo and Juliet on a balcony in Downtown Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Aug. 23, 1990: PBT members were invited to Three Rivers Stadium for batting practice. While there, they worked on an unorthodox pitching leg kick delivery. (Melissa Farlow/The Pittsburgh Press) July 31, 1985: PBT performing Raymonda Variations in PPG Place. (Dave Breen/The Pittsburgh Press)

1970s: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre takes to the streets

Not much to say about these photos, except that we’re glad they exist.

The first — Andy Starnes’ 1975 Pittsburgh Press capture of a Grandview Park performance against the skyline — is simply magnificent.

In digitizing the Post-Gazette’s photo library, we came across the massive (nearly a foot thick) file of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre images. A majority are all too bland and similar: indoor theater performances or rehearsals in studios lined with railings.

Not all that exciting when you realize there are upwards of 500 of these.

But these six stood out because of the settings.

Unfortunately, the outdoor ventures seemed to tail off after the 1970s.

Ethan Magoc

(Editor’s note: The goose in the second image was enhanced during a time when photojournalists did not have as strong a code of ethics as today. Charlie’s feathers were painted on a little too thick.)

1974: Many moons later, Harris’ autograph remains in tact

At age 7, Mike Thuransky had the pleasure of meeting and getting the signature of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris. 

“I still have the autograph,” he said.

The picture was taken 40 years ago. Plenty has changed since Harris propped his brief case up on his knee and took a pen to paper for a young fan back in December 1974.

The 1970s Steelers, the NFL’s powerhouse team of that decade, were on their way back to the Steel City after claiming their second AFC Central Division title in three years. They downed the New England Patriots, 21-17, and Harris scored the game’s first touchdown en route to running for 136 yards.

“I knew the Steelers were going to be there [in the airport],” he said. “I was also there because my mother was getting off a flight, so our grandmother had us there.”

Thuransky is a life-long Steelers’ fan. His birthday, Jan. 21, arrived each year just as the dominant ’70s Steelers seemed to be contending for a Super Bowl. In fact, the franchise claimed its third Super Bowl on Jan. 21, 1979, Thuransky’s 12th birthday.

With an image of a helmeted Harris catching the Immaculate Reception in most fans’ minds, seeing him in street clothes seemed so bizarre to a young Thuransky.

“You know I always saw him as a football player,” he said. “I saw him with a brief case and I was awe struck, I was like, ‘What’s he doing in those clothes?”

Thuransky said Harris was more than willing to sign an autograph for him and his brother. Mike, however, was the one captured by Pittsburgh Press photographer Anthony Kaminski.
He still has that autograph, but he’s been trying for several years to get another from Harris.
“I have multiple pictures of the picture from the article,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get Franco to sign the picture of him signing the autograph for me.”
— Ryan Petrovich

1974: Many moons later, Harris’ autograph remains in tact

At age 7, Mike Thuransky had the pleasure of meeting and getting the signature of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris. 

“I still have the autograph,” he said.

The picture was taken 40 years ago. Plenty has changed since Harris propped his brief case up on his knee and took a pen to paper for a young fan back in December 1974.

The 1970s Steelers, the NFL’s powerhouse team of that decade, were on their way back to the Steel City after claiming their second AFC Central Division title in three years. They downed the New England Patriots, 21-17, and Harris scored the game’s first touchdown en route to running for 136 yards.

“I knew the Steelers were going to be there [in the airport],” he said. “I was also there because my mother was getting off a flight, so our grandmother had us there.”

Thuransky is a life-long Steelers’ fan. His birthday, Jan. 21, arrived each year just as the dominant ’70s Steelers seemed to be contending for a Super Bowl. In fact, the franchise claimed its third Super Bowl on Jan. 21, 1979, Thuransky’s 12th birthday.

With an image of a helmeted Harris catching the Immaculate Reception in most fans’ minds, seeing him in street clothes seemed so bizarre to a young Thuransky.

“You know I always saw him as a football player,” he said. “I saw him with a brief case and I was awe struck, I was like, ‘What’s he doing in those clothes?”

Thuransky said Harris was more than willing to sign an autograph for him and his brother. Mike, however, was the one captured by Pittsburgh Press photographer Anthony Kaminski.

He still has that autograph, but he’s been trying for several years to get another from Harris.

“I have multiple pictures of the picture from the article,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get Franco to sign the picture of him signing the autograph for me.

Ryan Petrovich

July 14, 1940: A Public Works Administration project in the Lincoln Ave. District. (The Pittsburgh Press) Sept. 12, 1953: A new water tank in West Mifflin, filled with 7.5 million gallons. (The Pittsburgh Press) Sept. 26, 1962: This Florence, Ky., tower was fabricated and erected by Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co. and was the first of its kind — a 100-foot-high Hydro Pillar. (The Pittsburgh Press) Aug. 31, 1969: A 20-story water tower used to serve a Westinghouse nuclear reactor in Westmoreland County became expendable after just 11 years. (The Pittsburgh Press) And so... came... ...down. (The Pittsburgh Press) Jan. 27, 1966: Industrial designers Peter Muller-Munk Associates drew this concept of the elevated steel water tank of the future. (Credit: Handout)

1940: Water towers of all shapes and sizes

After our unexpected and tedious aquatic encounter last week at “The Digs,” you might think we would never want to write about water again.

You would be wrong.

We stumbled across a folder in the archive labeled “Water tanks & towers,” which contains about a century of Pittsburgh water storage history.

Not interesting on its face, perhaps, but the variations do tell a few stories.

There was, for example, the Public Works Administration storage tank in the Lincoln Avenue District — near Bellevue — that The Pittsburgh Press featured in 1940. The newspaper decided to check in that year on PWA projects in Pennsylvania, which totaled $309 million — $61.6 of which were in Allegheny County.

That shiny tank, which looks something like a kitchen flour container, cost $3 million to build in the 1930s.

A similar-looking tank was built in West Mifflin on Session Street. The view captured by an uncredited newspaper photographer is not dissimilar to one seen today in Google Street View. It would give residents there, The Pittsburgh Press wrote, “stronger pressure and a steadier flow from their taps.” Such infrastructure improvements were key to that era’s postwar growth.

And in addition to the tumbling sequence of a Westinghouse tower tank that was just 11 years old at the time of its demise, another picture that ran in The Press was perhaps most striking.

In the 1960s, a Pittsburgh-based industrial design firm created the water tower of the future. It looks straight out of “The Jetsons.”

Take an elevator up above the water and enjoy the view, those tiny people would seem to be saying.

For some reason, the idea never caught on.

Ethan Magoc