1950: North Catholic High School (Photo credit: unknown) Nov. 9, 1942: Priests take part in dedication of new Troy Hill Road annex. (Ben/Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph) March 7, 1973: Catholic School Supt. John T. Cicco, right, talking with student protest leaders Mark Madia, NC senior, and Colleen Dugan, junior. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Sept. 4, 1973: Susan Zack and Barbara Purse wait outside North Catholic High School for their first day of school after the school went coeducational. (Andy Starnes/Post-Gazette) An undated photo we found, though the car out front provides the era. (Photo credit: unknown) Jan. 23, 1978: North Catholic got a new floor, eliminating part of the auditorium/theater seating. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Jan. 5, 1988: The North Catholic gym also serves as its auditorium. (Mark Murphy/Post-Gazette)

1950: "Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School on Troy Hill"

In four months, Troy Hill will no longer be home to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School.

This fall, the school will begin a new era in a location 20 miles north, inside a $72 million facility in Cranberry. The building will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 students — almost five times the current enrollment — and it’s located to help attract students from the city’s northern suburbs.

The Troy Hill building opened in 1939. Three years later an annex was added. A 1942 photo captured several dozen priests overseeing its dedication.

The building and the school are notable because of the big names that studied there — or students who later became big names. Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney graduated from the school in 1950. Other notable alumni include former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl — a quarterback, free safety, kicker, punter and infielder for the Trojans in football and baseball.

In 1973, North Catholic High School (as it was known until May 2012) became coeducational.

But it might have remained for boys only, since the reform was met with opposition that year. Students protested outside the Pittsburgh Diocese’s office on March 7. Inside, two students met with John T. Cicco, Catholic schools superintendent, to argue for a merger. Cicco was resistant, saying coeducation would come “eventually.”

In the end, students’ determination and the closing of the all-female St. Domenec helped force the change, which the diocese announced 20 days after the protest. Female students were allowed to attend that fall, though gym classes remained separate.

There were architectural changes that took place in the 1970s, including the 1978 expansion of the gymnasium floor to WPIAL standards. Male and female gym classes could then take place simultaneously, according to a story  in The Pittsburgh Press, but with a curtain in the middle to separate genders.

Right before the school became co-ed, approximately 820 boys were enrolled there. Today, the school’s enrollment is down to 200 students, a number administrators say they want to increase.

The Troy Hill property has been on the market for months, according to the school’s Director of Operations, Chuck Goetz, but a sale has not been finalized.

— Ethan Magoc

Kuhlman at Syria Mosque in 1953. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Kuhlman in an undated photograph. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Kuhlman signed copies of her book in 1962. (Deakin Studio) Kuhlman at age 16. (Photo credit: Unknown)

Aug. 17, 1953:  Thousands gather to see Pittsburgh’s ‘revved-up human dynamo’

Kathryn Kuhlman grew up in Concordia, Missouri and dropped out of high school at age 16 to preach to farmers in Boise, Idaho.

Between the late 1940s and 1970s, her popularity as a Christian evangelist grew because of weekly radio and television programs plus public appearances that drew thousands of people, many of whom hoped to be healed of various afflictions.

Her passion for preaching led her to Oregon, Colorado and Iowa before she was invited to appear at a church in Franklin, Pa. She then settled in Pittsburgh.

Slim, long-legged and often dressed in white chiffon gowns, the evangelist with the throaty alto voice and Shirley Temple curls held audiences spellbound. Ann Butler, a writer for The Pittsburgh Press called her, “a strange mix of spunky Rosalind Russell and salesgirl Josephine, the lady plumber” and described her as “a revved-up human dynamo, supercharged with electric confidence.”

Kuhlman studied the Bible for two years and and was ordained by the Evangelical Church Alliance. While she considered herself non-denominational, she had a special rapport with Roman Catholics. Starting in 1947, she ran a nationwide radio, television and revival meeting ministry from the sixth floor of the Carlton House, a hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. In 1948, she began holding services at Carnegie Hall on the North Side.

To celebrate five years of preaching in Western Pennsylvania, she appeared at the Syria Mosque in Oakland in August 1953. More than 6,000 people jammed the auditorium and some of them waited all night to get a seat.

In 1962, she published a book titled “I Believe in Miracles,” which sold more than a million copies. By the 1970s, the Kathryn Kuhlman Foundation was receiving annual contributions totaling $2 million.  The funds were used to build 20 missionary churches and mission centers in Argentina, China, Costa Rica, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Macau, Nicaragua and South Africa. In Vietnam, the foundation built a $50,000 hospital and a center for paraplegics.

On Monday evenings, the lady preacher led a Bible study in Downtown Pittsburgh’s First Presbyterian Church. On Fridays, she  led healing services at Carnegie Hall on the North Side. Her Sunday services were often at Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown, Ohio. Her weekly television show, “I Believe in Miracles,” was broadcast on more than 60 stations. About 50 radio stations carried her half-hour programs. She also led a revival in Stockholm, Sweden for 16,000 people and traveled to Rome where she had an audience with Pope Paul VI.

Kuhlman died in 1976 after suffering complications from open heart surgery in Tulsa, Okla. She was 68 and buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif.

During a memorial service, mourners filled Downtown Pittsburgh’s First Presbyterian Church, 320 Sixth Ave.   Ushers from the Kathryn Kuhlman Foundation passed red velvet pouches down the aisles to collect contributions. A 95-member choir sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Her estate, valued at $732,543, included a one-story ranch home at 350 Fox Chapel Road in Fox Chapel, an apartment in Newport Beach, Calif. and a summer cottage on 35 acres in Alberta, Canada. She also owned two fur coats, valuable antiques, paintings and jewelry.

Her will bequeathed about $314,00 to Dana Barton “Tink” Wilkerson, a 44-year-old car dealer and his wife, Sue. Mr. Wilkerson was a regent at Oral Roberts University. The estate paid out $267,500 to three of her family members and 20 employees.

The foundation that bears her name maintains a website that offers videos, prayers, photographs and audio clips of her sermons.

Top picture: Sidewalks outside the Syria Mosque were packed hours before an appearance by Kathryn Kuhlman. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

— Marylynne Pitz

Police gathered outside the school. (Albert Herrmann Jr./The Pittsburgh Press) Angry groups of students toss rocks and bottles at each other. (Albert Herrmann Jr./The Pittsburgh Press) One student was struck by a thrown object. (Albert Herrmann Jr./The Pittsburgh Press) Students walk down Hazelwood Avenue. (Albert Herrmann Jr./The Post-Gazette) The school building is now for sale. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Feb. 18, 1969: Turmoil at Gladstone High School

Students flowing into Hazelwood’s Gladstone High School on a chilly Tuesday morning in February 1969 knew this would be no normal day.

On Monday, fights in the hallway had created what police called a “panic situation.” Classes resumed after school officials and police calmed things down, but teachers stood before rooms of empty desks. Approximately 75 percent of students in attendance had fled the school. Uniformed police continued to roam the hallways and grounds.

First period on Tuesday was relatively calm. Near its end, however, knives flashed in a stairway near the school entrance. Two teenage boys who lived a half-mile apart dueled with blades. Blood spattered on the tile floor. Both students were hauled away to local hospitals.  Overwhelmed, one female student fainted.

Once again, police armed with billy clubs arrived at the school. This time, they made arrests. Students were told to stay in their classrooms. Officials hoped to prevent a mass exodus.

At one point, police escorting two girls from the building were pelted with bottles and other debris hurled from a second-floor window.

Outside, things were heating up. Police received calls that gangs of students were roaming Hazelwood’s streets. Fights broke out. By 10:45, two groups of teens had gathered at opposite corners of the intersection at Hazelwood and Sylvan avenues. One group was white; the other black. The groups shouted racial insults and cursed at each other.  Bottles, bricks and stones were hurled in anger.

It’s easy to forget how shocked and enraged we were in 1969. The previous year had been a nightmare. We’d gasped at the bloody, prostrate forms of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. We watched riots rock Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and our own Hill District. The Tet Offensive shattered the optimistic lies we’d been told about Vietnam. Where was the hope? The Democratic National Convention in Chicago blossomed into a bloody disaster. Republicans emerged from Miami with Richard Nixon leading the law-and-order charge.

Violence erupted at a number of Pittsburgh area schools. Trouble came to Oliver and Gladstone in 1969. In 1970, racial unrest in Aliquippa moved officials to close schools. Events then moved to the streets, where sniper fire echoed through the city’s streets. Fights were reported at Clairton, North Braddock, East Allegheny, Carrick and McKeesport.

“Outbreaks Carry Racial Overtones,” blared a headline in The Pittsburgh Press.

In the Post-Gazette archives, a file labeled “School Riots, 1969-73” overflows with stories of two Pittsburghs, each lurching toward a future that seemed at once frightening and bewildering and desperately in need of change. We all seemed lost, and perhaps we were.

Top picture: One female student fainted during violence at Gladstone High School. (Albert Herrmann Jr/The Pittsburgh Press)

— Steve Mellon 

1992: Newspaper clipping, Bill Murray loses control of the groundhog (AP photo) Charlie Erhard at the regal rodent's heated haunt in Gobbler's Knob, 1979 (James Klingensmith/Post-Gazette) A Punxsutawney Phil fan goes shirtless in the near zero degree temperatures at Gobbler's Knot (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

1993: “Groundhog Day

This story keeps on living and there’s nothing we can do about it. Every Feb. 2, it develops in the small Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney like a never-ending replay of movie character Phil Connors’ days. There can be only two outcomes: shadow or no shadow. And you never really know whether the dream of spring is going to arrive on time. But it is another year and “Groundhog Day” keeps coming back.

If you tend to rely on your rational abilities, you surely have suspicions about the forecasting talent of a critter widely known as Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog weatherman. Most people, though, recognize Groundhog Day for what it is — a tradition and, as it is with many traditions, it’s really hard to explain. Loyal fans don’t even try; they simply invent new traditions for Groundhog Day such as watching the beloved film with Bill Murray called… well, you know it.

There are a lot of ironic things that could be said about the film and one of the biggest ironies of all is that the film about the quintessentially Punxsutawney tradition was not even filmed in Punxsutawney. Certainly, the Bill Murray movie increased Punxsutawney’s fame, but Woodstock, Ill., gets all the movie credits, including a plaque on the square where Phil Connors, Bill Murray’s character, stepped into a puddle. Good thing information travels fast these days. Before Wikipedia and Google, there were more disappointed visitors in Punxsutawney. They came there to see the town where the movie was shot just to be turned away and sent to a different state.

This is not to say that the famous Bill Murray hasn’t been to Punxsutawney. In 1992, he joined a sizable crowd to observe the ceremony. The actor flew in from California to witness Groundhog Day with his own eyes before the filming began. The newspapers at that time didn’t cover it extensively. In fact, we didn’t even have staff photographs from the event, documenting Bill Murray’s visit to the land of the groundhog. The Pittsburgh newspapers — neither the Post-Gazette nor The Pittsburgh Press — assigned a staff writer or photographer to that story, instead they chose to rely on reports and art from the Associated Press.

The AP story said that on the day Bill Murray was in Punxsutawney, “the reluctant critter was pulled from his burrow at 7:20 a.m. and a representative from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club told a crowd of about 3,000 people that the groundhog had ‘whispered’ to him that he has seen his shadow. The crowd cheered and then booed at the news of more cold weather.” The photo for the story ran with a caption, “Actor Bill Murray loses control of the groundhog.” Later that day, it was announced that in the upcoming movie, Bill Murray is going to play a TV reporter assigned to cover Groundhog Day.

We know how Bill Murray’s character hated it. And the same can be said of reporters across Pennsylvania. They dread to be assigned to cover Groundhog Day. As one of our librarians put it, “It’s absolutely the worst story to be assigned to … “

"OK, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ‘cause it’s coooold out there today."

Let’s see what Phil says in a few days.

— Mila Sanina

Here is the Wagner statue behind Forbes Field in 1971. (Photo credit: Morris Berman/Post-Gazette) Wagner Day at Forbes Field, June 1, 1933. (Photo credit: unknown) Brooklyn baseball fans turned out en masse for Wagner Day at Ebbets Field on May 5, 1933. A street parade preceded the game. (Photo credit: International News Photograph Service) Five years into his coaching career, here’s Wagner with infielder Lee Handley. (Photo credit: unknown) In March 1945, Wagner stood inside the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station en route to Muncie, Ind., for Pirates training camp with a group of players. (Photo credit: unknown) Wagner was fond of teasing adulating children with often made-up tales. Here he is at his Carnegie home with neighborhood children in January 1947. (Photo credit: unknown) The Wagner statue today at PNC Park. (Photo credit: Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette)

The twilight years of Pittsburgh’s first baseball superstar, Honus Wagner

The upcoming baseball season marks the 105th anniversary of 1909 World Series, when Honus Wagner’s Pirates took on rival Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers. That year, Pittsburgh’s slogan was “You might Ty Cobb – but you can’t Tie Wagner.”

All baseball geeks know the rest of the story: The Pirates prevailed in seven games. Despite Wagner’s somewhat advanced age for a baseball player, the 35-year-old shortstop batted .333 with 8 RBI.

Known as “The Flying Dutchman” due to his impressive speed, Wagner had a remarkable, stocky build. As part of a 1955 obituary series, Les Biederman of The Pittsburgh Press wrote, “In his prime he was a strong man. He weighed 200 pounds and his legs took off at the ankles in an outward and upward direction…”

“The bowed legs were his trademark, looking like this (    ).”

His name, Honus, wasn’t really his name. In the same obituary series, Biederman wrote, “Wagner’s full name was John Peter Wagner. The nickname ‘Honus’ came because John in German means ‘Johannes’ and by the time his friends began pronouncing ‘Johannes,’ it came out ‘Honus.’”

A Carnegie native, Wagner retired from playing in 1917 – opening one of Carnegie’s first automobile garages – but returned to coach Pittsburgh’s hitters at Bill Benswanger’s request in 1933. He was a hitting coach for more than 15 years.

Wagner died in Carnegie on Dec. 6, 1955 at age 81.

But the statue of Wagner, “The Flying Dutchman,” standing tall, bat raised, still greets Pirates fans arriving at PNC Park. The inscription on the Frank Vittor statue reads: “So that future Pirate fans will be reminded of Honus Wagner’s contributions to baseball in Pittsburgh.”

— Ethan Magoc

Be sure to check out Bob Dvorchak’s “Sports ‘n’at” on Honus Wagner

Koerner in 1964. (Photo credit: Unknown) Koerner in his living room  in 1983. (Mark Murphy/Post-Gazette) Koerner with students on the Sixth Street Bridge on Nov. 8, 1977. (Andy Starnes/Post-Gazette) Koerner's widow Joan with his last painting in 1991. (Andy Starnes/Post-Gazette) Henry Koerner It Isn’t the Heat, It’s the Humidity, 1947–1948, Oil on Masonite, Purchase: Gift of the Judith Rothschild Foundation The Family, 1949, Gouache on illustration board Purchase: Gift of Milton Porter Oh Fearful Wonder of Man, 1962, Oil on Canvas, The Henry L. Hillman Fund

August 24, 1954: Artist Henry Koerner

Henry Koerner was in his 20s when he fled Vienna in 1938 to escape the Nazis, who seized control of Austria.

The artist’s memories of that era were vivid partly because he saw Nazi Luftwaffe chief, Hermann Göring, coming into Vienna with Adolf Hitler. Years later, while working as a court artist at the Nuremberg trials, Koerner sketched Goring and Rudolf Hess.

After leaving his native Austria, he eventually landed in New York City. By 1939, he was employed as a graphic artist in Manhattan, designing book covers for mysteries and detective stories. In the 1940s, he received widespread recognition for poster designs. The U.S. Army drafted him in 1943 and he served in Washington, D.C. and London.

After the war, LIFE magazine called a 1947 exhibition of Koerner’s artwork in Berlin “the most important paintings to come out of the war.” One of the pictures, titled “My Parents,” brought him international acclaim. Mr. Koerner’s parents and his brother died in Nazi-run concentration camps.

In 1952, Koerner arrived in Pittsburgh and became an artist in residence at the Pennsylvania College for Women, now Chatham University. A year later, he married Joan Frasher. They met while he was painting a series of portraits showing students playing musical instruments.

Intelligent, imaginative and uncompromising, Koerner loved the Pittsburgh landscape and painted it often. He carried his easels and paints on his bicycle. His artistic influences were Paul Cezanne and Peter Breughel. While he said that he saw his work as a bridge between the baroque and the surreal, he was an exemplar of magic realism, a form of fantasy with elements of the real and surreal.

From 1955 to 1967, he painted 41 covers for Time magazine. The celebrities who sat for him included Nelson and David Rockefeller, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert, opera singers Maria Callas and Leontyne Price, actress Julie Harris and singer Barbra Streisand.

In 1962, he began creating multi-panel paintings. In 1983, he had a one-man retrospective at Carnegie Museum of Art. A year later, while mountain climbing in Austria, he fell 30 feet and managed to grab a ledge. His son, Joseph, ran two hours to get help and his father was rescued by a helicopter.

The artist rented an apartment in Vienna nearly every summer and painted. He was bicycling near that city during the summer of 1991 when he was struck by a car. He died a month later at age 75.

One of Koerner’s paintings, “It Isn’t the Heat, It’s the Humidity,” is on view at Carnegie Museum of Art. It’s among the artworks that were acquired during past Carnegie Internationals. Many of those paintings were reinstalled for the current Carnegie International, which remains on view through March 16.

— Marylynne Pitz

Top photo: Henry Koerner with his wife and daughter Stephanie Beth Koerner in the family’s apartment/art studio on Murrayhill Ave. ( Photo by Allan C. Shane/Sun-Telegraph)

Mayor Pete Flaherty keeps warm a barrel fire at the incinerator, January 21, 1970 (Pittsburgh Press photo) Pittsburgh mayor Peter F. Flaherty carries some garbage into the freight elevator of the City-county building, January 12, 1970 (UPI photo) The recycling bin with Luke Ravenstahl's name on it (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette)

"Pittsburgh’s trash history"

Pittsburgh’s relationship with garbage has been complicated and colorful as far as slogans go. But only a few times it reached a point deserving of Shel Silverstein’s verses from “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out.”

Mostly, Pittsburgh did take the garbage out, and it kept appearing in the wrong places.

Mayors of Pittsburgh throughout the years used all means to clean up the city, launching all sorts of anti-littering campaigns, organizing volunteer groups and even resorting to family friendly trash talk.

Former Mayor Pete Flaherty called on residents to clean up the city “For Pete’s Sake.” City trash cans bore that slogan.

Sophie Masloff launched an anti-garbage campaign under a catch phrase: “Sophie’s Choice — A Clean City.” She was criticized for the slogan that seemed to be an inappropriate takeoff on the name of a famous movie and book depicting the plight of a Polish woman forced by the Nazis to choose which of her two children should die and which one should live. Some thought it was “good public relations,” others said it was in bad taste. Mrs. Masloff said, “It’s just a catch phrase. That’s why I chose it, not for any significance at all.” It was just a slogan, for Pete’s sake.

Tom Murphy wanted to “de-bug Pittsburgh” and make Pittsburghers aware of the effects of scattering paper cups, plastic bottles and cigarette butts.

"Do you know what the biggest complaint I get about the city?" he asked the Pittsburgh crowd in 2001.

"Taxes!" shouted one man.

"People say the city is dirty," Murphy continued. "I ask you to pledge not to litter. Don’t throw that candy wrapper or potato chip bag into the street. Pledge not to be a litterbug."

There were more catchy slogans: Mayor Bob O’Connor, for example, was for “Redding up the ‘Burgh.’”

Although Luke Ravenstahl was not the first Pittsburgh mayor to put his name on city garbage cans for publicity, his “Taking Care of Business” program stirred a controversy. Mayor Ravenstahl was criticized for spending $252,000 of state grant money for 252 trash steel bins adorned with his name.

William Peduto will not put his name on trash cans in any form — William or Bill — last week he issued an executive order banning elected officials’ names from city property. Mr. Ravenstahl’s name on the steel garbage bins will be no more.

But litter cannot be banned with an executive order. Pittsburgh is waiting for Peduto’s slogan, in line with the city’s traditions.

When is Kenny Chesney visiting the ‘Burgh again?

— Mila Sanina

Undated picture of Staton. (Photo credit: Unknown) Staton last appearance in Pittsburgh in 1996, when she performed at the Hill House Auditorium as part of the Mellon Jazz Festival. (Photo credit: Unknown) Staton recorded more than 30 jazz albums. (Photo illustration by Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Circa 1955:  Jazz legend Dakota Staton

Dakota Staton’s strong, sultry, soulful voice will transport you back to the 1950s, an era when people flocked to nightclubs to hear live music, especially jazz or rhythm and blues.

Jazz critic Leonard Feather called Staton “a dynamic song stylist.” The New York Times said she influenced a generation of singers and called her “a stylistic link between the earthiness of Dinah Washington and Big Maybelle and Chaka Khan’s note-bending pop-fund iconoclasm.”

Born in 1930 in Pittsburgh, Staton attended Westinghouse High School in Homewood. At that high school, she joined Carl McVicker’s Kadets, a swing band in which future jazz legend Ahmad Jamal played the piano.

In 1954, she moved to New York City and recorded “What Do You Know About Love?/You’re My Heart’s Desire: for Capitol Records.

In 1957, Capitol released her album, “The Late, Late Show,” which became a classic. The title track rose to the fourth spot on the Billboard Top 100 because it crossed over to pop radio stations after frequent air play on jazz radio stations.

Staton went on to perform with such jazz superstars as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa, George Shearing, Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins. Glamour was her middle name. She wore bouffant hair styles, sheathed her voluptuous figure in beaded gowns and topped her ensembles with a mink stole.

Along with vocalists Etta Jones, Abbey Lincoln and Annie Ross, Staton’s career was chronicled in a 2000 documentary called “Jazz Women.”

In 2001, Pittsburgh honored Staton by inducting her into the Gallery of Stars at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty and gave her a star on the walk of fame in front of the theater.

In 2007, she died at age 76 in New York City, leaving a legacy of more than 30 jazz recordings.

Top photo: A signed image of Staton, from the Ernest Tucker Photograph Collection, Detre Library and Archives, Sen. John Heinz History Center.

— Marylynne Pitz


Undated photo of the school. (Pittsburgh Public Schools Photographs, Detre Library and Archives, Sen. John Heinz History Center) Map showing the school in 1900. (G.M. Hopkins, Map of the Cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny, and the Adjoining Boroughs, courtesy the Historic Pittsburgh website) The auditorium/gymnasium had been condemned by 1966. (Post-Gazette photo) The library in 1966. (Post-Gazette photo) Demolition of the school in January 1974. (Albert M. Herrmann Jr./The Pittsburgh Press) A parking garage now dominates the corner once occupied by Forbes School. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

November 1960: Bells ring at Forbes School

Life was rough for the 350 patients at Mercy Hospital in October 1902. They suffered from any number of turn-of-the-century maladies — influenza, abdominal pains, “congested lungs,” irritated bowels; surely some had been burned, sliced or mashed in industrial accidents, rolled under carriage wheels or clobbered by “traction cars.” One poor woman was admitted with acute back pains, swollen legs, “scanty and high colored urine” and a “very disagreeable odor,” according to one newspaper.

But then things got worse.

An electrical clock system was installed at the nearby Forbes School, one of Pittsburgh’s largest educational facilities. The system was put in place by a “wonderfully successful young electrician,” one newspaper reported, and was quite clever: It allowed every clock in the school to be controlled by a central clock. At the top of each hour, all clocks chimed out the time.

This included the clock placed in the school’s bell tower, which rose more than three stories over a crowded Uptown neighborhood. Wires connected to the central clock triggered a hammer that struck a massive school bell and pealed out the hours.

Hour after hour. Day after day.

This was simply too much for Mercy’s patients to endure.

“Nerve-racked, tortured persons say their condition is made worse because they are unable to get any sleep,” read a Pittsburgh Press article from Oct. 27, 1902. The hourly pounding of the bell was at least a discomfort, if not a “positive danger” to the sick folks just one block away.

Some patients said they didn’t even try to sleep — they simply laid in bed and waited for the irritating gong. For them, no slumber was preferable to sleep rudely interrupted.

The sounding bell was one of many ways in which the Forbes School, a solidly built three-story brick structure, dominated the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Stevenson Street. The school was  completed in 1885 and, judging from news stories we found, played a prominent role in the life of the Hill District for several decades.

In 1911, a chorus of school children sang “Santa Lucia” and the Forbes School Orchestra played a march titled “Yankee Luck” for the dedication of a new annex, which included a swimming pool, an auditorium that could seat more than 600 and a “manual training department.”

The school served children and foreign-born adults who attended “Americanization” courses. As World War II began, 877 students filled the school’s halls. They were a patriotic bunch. A newspaper story from Dec. 8, 1942, noted that students at Forbes purchased $4,500 in bonds in an effort to “remember Pearl Harbor.”

Some of the largest purchases were made by adult students struggling to learn English. Many of the children, sons and daughters of immigrants, made surprisingly generous contributions. One child made his purchase with 1,800 pennies. “He is of Russian parentage,” according to the story. “His father is dead.”

Ten Chinese children bought bonds, “one boy taking $100 worth, the money coming from his school savings fund.”

By the early 1970s, officials decided the antiquated structure had outlived its usefulness. By mid-January of 1974, a heavy iron shovel began pulling apart the structure.

It had been purchased by Mercy Hospital. The Forbes School bell would toll no more.

Top picture: By 1960, officials were concerned about the “combustible” woodwork inside Forbes School. (Harry Coughanour/Post-Gazette)

— Steve Mellon 

1980s: "Pittsburgh’s ardent feminist Molly Yard"

Molly Yard had two sides to her: one was of a competitive political activist with a brilliant ability to give stirring speeches, the other was of a warm hostess, famous for her memorable parties and delicious homemade dinners. 

"Born feminist," that’s how Molly Yard described herself. Her passion led to arrests on several occasions, but that never deterred her from her work or determination to fight for things she believed were right. 

Her blue eyes gave out the passion on issues she cared about: Yard worked for President Lyndon Johnson on the War on Poverty, advocated for the legalized abortion and affirmative action and fought leaders of the Democratic Party to ensure equal numbers of men and women delegates at its national conventions. 

Molly Yard was a demanding mentor, but not only of the people she mentored. “Molly was hard-driving and vigorous,” said Jeanne Clark, who was her press secretary at NOW in 1985 and was once arrested with Yard during  a protest outside the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C.”Most of her staff was much younger but she was always the first one up and the last to bed. She never rode cabs when she could walk…” Eleanor Roosevelt was her close friend and a role model, Yard called Eleanor Roosevelt her “second mother.”

Molly Yard was not a native of Pittsburgh, she was born in Shanghai, China, the third of four daughters, in a  family of Methodist missionaries. She moved to Pittsburgh in 1953, worked on gubernatorial campaign of David L. Lawrence and later led the the Western Pennsylvania presidential campaigns for John F. Kennedy and George McGovern. 

Yard was elected the president of the National Organization of Women (NOW) in 1987  after having been part of it while a resident of Squirrel Hill. She was part of the core group advocating for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Yard raised more than a million in six months. 

Molly Yard died in 2005 in Pittsburgh. She was 93.

 — Mila Sanina  

Stautner circa 1960. (Laughead Photographers) With help from his family, Stautner recovered from knee surgery in 1960. (UPI photo) Steelers vice president Dan Rooney holds the retired jersey of Stautner, right, during a ceremony in 1964. (Post-Gazette photo) After leaving Pittsburgh, Stautner worked in Dallas as an assistant coach and then defensive coordinator. (Photo credit unknown)

November 1961: Shocking reaction to the wrath of Ernie Stautner

One chilly November day in 1961, Ernie Stautner and Bobby Layne and a few other Steelers were knocking back beers at a Brentwood watering hole called Dante’s.

Practice had finished and most players were relaxing, but Stautner was miffed. A few days earlier, fans at Forbes Field had booed his pal Layne during a 30-27 victory over St. Louis. How could the fans jeer Layne? Stautner wondered. By golly, Layne was the league’s toughest quarterback.

Stautner’s audience was a sportswriter named Pat Livingston. Livingston was familiar with football players and not easily intimidated, but you have to wonder how he felt once Stautner began to unload. Stautner was a solid, square-jawed man with a bashed-in nose. His smile was a bit crooked. In pictures, he looks like a pleasant-enough guy who, if crossed, could rip your arms off. A lot of guys who began their playing days before facemasks had that look.

Stautner exploded. “This is a lousy sports town,” he roared. “And if Art Rooney had any sense, he’d get out of it.”

Heck, he said, he’d gone to a Pirates game and the fans booed Elroy Face. Elroy Face! Of all people! “The guy gives you great baseball for six years, wins a pennant for this town and they boo him. What’s wrong with these people? Do they have an inferiority complex or something?”

Perhaps most shocking was this: “I’m not happy playing in Pittsburgh. I never have been happy here and I wouldn’t have been here in the first place if I had any choice about it.”

Print that, Stautner demanded of Livingston, if you have the guts.

Livingston wasn’t sure he should quote the angry musings of a player who’d had a few beers.

Sitting nearby was Layne. Layne drank so much he sweated Cutty Sark. Players hated going into huddles with him because of the deadly fumes from his breath. But on this day he offered sober advice.

Don’t do it, he warned Stautner. “They’ll kill you in this town.”

But Stautner was adamant. “I said it, you write it,” he told Livingston.

So Livingston wrote it.

After more than a decade with the Steelers, Stautner had become one of the city’s most admired athletes, ranking with Billy Conn, the Waner brothers and maybe even Honus Wagner. And so, to a number of fans, his comments seemed a betrayal.

“Will someone please tell Ernie Stautner … that us ‘lousy’ sports fans pay him upwards of $12,000 for a position lasting a little over four months,” one fan wrote in a letter to The Pittsburgh Press.

“Ernie owes this city an apology,” wrote another.

Layne, apparently recovered from his sobriety, figured the next Sunday at Forbes Field would present an excellent opportunity for a monumental practical joke. He was not about to let it pass. On the sly, he told his teammates to hang back while Stautner, as team captain, led the charge onto the field before kickoff. Surely his friend, trotting alone across the gridiron, would catch hell from the fans.

Years later, Livingston recalled the scene in his Press column:

“I can still see Stautner, in that rigid-hipped stride of his, in calf-hugging shoes, waddling through the mud behind first base. And then it started, a whisper along the third base line, almost inaudible at first, but reverberating into a deafening roar.

"As the solitary figure in the black jersey crossed the field to the Steeler bench, the crowd had risen in a standing ovation to the outspoken star."

Stautner retired in 1963 and began an extensive coaching career. In Dallas he developed some of the game’s best defensive linemen, including Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White. Stautner died of complications from Alzheimer’s in 2006. He was 80.

He remains the only Steelers player to have his number retired.

See Bob Dvorchak’s take on Ernie Stautner in the PG’s weekly sports video feature "Sports ‘n ‘at."

Top photo: Stautner watches from the sideline during a game at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1961. At right is head coach Buddy Parker. (Photo credit unknown)

— Steve Mellon 

New signs urging proper speed were installed in 1960. (Post-Gazette photo) A 1954 traffic jam. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Newspaper coverage of the proposal to create a third lane.

November 1961: The trouble with those tunnels

Shortly after the Squirrel Hill Tunnels opened in 1953, leaders at the state’s highway department proudly proclaimed they’d discovered a solution to one anticipated problem — keeping the gleam on the tunnel’s sparkling white tiles. Officials showed off two custom-built trucks that sprayed the tunnel walls with soap and water.

“Hooey,” said the folks in charge of cleaning the Liberty Tubes. The Tubes had been in operation for a quarter of a century. The crew there knew something about filthy tiles. Most problematic were tobacco chewing drivers who befouled the Tubes with streams of brown spit.

“You just try to get that off these tile walls without using a brush,” said one Tube attendant. “Tobacco juice won’t come off it you don’t rub.”

In the life of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, it was an optimistic time, when a battle against grime was worthy of a press conference. Soon, a more vexing problem would arise. And if you’ve lived in Pittsburgh for more than a day, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

Originally, the posted speed limit on the Penn-Lincoln Parkway (now known as the Parkway East) was 50 mph. In the tunnel the limit was reduced to 35 mph.

The result? Traffic snarled at the tunnel entrances. So authorities raised the tunnel speed limit to 50 mph.

The jams persisted.

State police were urged to stand at tunnel entrances to try to “whip motorists through the tunnels with gestures, scowls, shouts or whatever it takes” to keep traffic moving at a proper speed. Signs were posted inside the tunnels, urging drivers to maintain a 55 mph pace.

Still, drivers slowed to 35 or even 25 mph.

Part of the problem, officials said, was the structure’s design. The tunnels were barely six years old in 1959, yet they were inadequate for the amount of traffic carried by the Parkway.

So the state highway department decided to convert one of the tunnel’s outbound lanes to an inbound lane during the morning rush hour. Highway workers on the east side of the tunnel set out traffic cones that allowed drivers to cross over the median and enter a “fast” inbound lane. “Desperation Plan in Desperation Situation,” blared one newspaper headline.

Allowing two-way traffic inside the narrow tunnel was “suicidal,” warned a county police officer named David Wallace. “It’s virtually an invitation for sideswiping and head-on collisions.”

The plan didn’t last.

Overcapacity wasn’t the only issue. In 1960 an engineer named Robert Klucher summed up a study on the jams: Motorists entering the tunnels slowed down and didn’t pick up speed until their incarceration ended and they once again saw daylight. Thus enlightened, the Pittsburgh Press blared, “Slow Pokes Cause Jams in Tunnels.”

“Tunnel driving tends to cause a recognizable psychological restraint on many drivers,” said Klucher, a master of understatement.  

Declared one motorist, “It’s just one of those quirks of human nature that we can’t do anything about.”

Or maybe drivers are just slowing down to admire those sparkling white tiles. If so, a little tobacco juice would solve the problem.

Top photo: Officials experimented with allowing two-way traffic in one of the tunnels in the early 1960s. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

— Steve Mellon  

Margaret Bankowski was 15 when she was murdered. (Photo credit: Unknown) The body of Margaret was found in an isolated section of Hopewell Township. (Pittsburgh Press photo) At a preliminary hearing in January 1953, Sophia and Zigmund Bankowski sat behind Katherine Smutko, the woman accused of killing their daughter. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Assistant district attorney displayed shoes of the victim. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Spectators packed the Chippewa Township Municipal Building for a preliminary hearing in the Bankowski case in January 1953. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Katherine Smutko was congratulated after the acquital. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

February 1949: The tragic case of Margaret Bankowski

Sophia Bankowski endured countless cruelties once her 15-year-old daughter Margaret walked out of the family’s Ambridge home to visit friends on a foggy January afternoon in 1949. Margaret wanted to show off her birthday present — a portable radio. She never returned.

The worst of the cruelties began several days later, when a steelworker walking his dogs along an isolated lane in Hopewell Township noticed something odd in a nearby briar patch. It appeared to be an arm sticking out of the snow. As he moved closer, the steelworker discovered the body of a girl. She was lying face up. Her skull was bashed in. One of her ears was nearly severed.

Authorities identified the body as that of Margaret.

News of the murder was devastating for Sophia and proved emotionally trying for many in Ambridge. Margaret was a freshman at Ambridge High School. She wore bobby socks, saddle shoes and what were then called “pedal pushers.” Today we call them blue jeans.

An estimated 20,000 people filed through the funeral home to pay their respects to Margaret and her grieving family. Classmates served as pallbearers. One collapsed as the casket was lowered into a cold grave at Economy Cemetery

Police arrested more than 50 suspects, then released them all. The investigation dragged on and on. It appeared Margaret would have no justice.

Then, four years later, authorities made a shocking announcement — they’d arrested a 41-year-old housewife named Katherine Smutko and charged her with the murder.

Spectators jammed into a Beaver County courtroom for what promised to be a spectacular trial. On the fourth day, Sophia took the stand. Pale and thin, she burst into tears when shown pictures of her daughter’s body.

Margaret bore a close resemblance to her mother. Both were slender and sported the same short haircut. They could even wear each other’s clothes, though Margaret thought her mother’s were too old fashioned. Margaret “even walked pigeon-toed, like I do,” Sophia said.

Such testimony was key for prosecutors, who were making the case that Margaret’s murder was a case of mistaken identity. Smutko, they argued, had intended to kill Sophia.

Why? Because, at the time of the murder, Smutko and Sophia’s husband Zigmund were engaged in an illicit affair. Smutko, prosecutors claimed, wanted Sophia out of the way.

At one point during her testimony, Sophia was asked to try on Margaret’s heavy, blood-stained coat.

“That’s a cruel thing to do,” objected the defense attorney.

“There are a lot more cruel things about this case,” replied the prosecutor.

The jacket fit, and so the cruelties continued.

Sophia listened stoically to details of the affair — on the stand, Zigmund referred to it as “dating.”

(Interestingly, Smutko’s husband Nicholas sat through the proceedings with his hearing aids unplugged.)

After two weeks of testimony, Judge Robert E. McCreary delivered what he called “the most important decision of my life.” He granted a motion clearing Smutko of the slaying.

“This is not a case of circumstantial evidence, but inference upon inference,” he said. The case against Smutko was so flimsy, he ruled, it should not go to a jury. His decision left no room for an appeal.

McCreary ordered Smutko and Zigmund Bankowski held on adultery charges. A grand jury, however, failed to indict the two. The murder, the Post-Gazette predicted accurately, would most likely remain unsolved.

Sophia Bankowski died July 1997 in Ashville, NY, where she resided with her son Phillip and his family. She was 88. Zigmund died in 1996.

 Top photo: Jurors visit an Ambridge embankment prosecutors hinted might be the murder site. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

— Steve Mellon 

Bly, prepared to travel around the world. (Photo credit: Unknown) Bly in an undated picture. (Photo credit: Unknown) Bly in an undated picture. (Photo credit: Unknown) Bly in her later years. (Photo credit: Unknown)

Circa 1889: Nellie Bly, investigative reporter

Relentless. Curious. Direct. Nellie Bly’s character was fitting for a woman who introduced to America the idea of a female reporter. Bly’s life story reads like a novel; at times it’s so good it’s difficult to believe.

Born Elizabeth Cochran in May 1867 in Cochran Mills, Armstrong County, Bly crammed a lot into her short life: She wrote for a Pittsburgh newspaper, became one of the nation’s first female investigative reporters, wrote for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and traveled around the world in record time.

Nellie Bly started as a reporter at the Daily Pittsburgh Dispatch. She was 18 at the time and supporting her mother and two brothers in Pittsburgh. After reading a Dispatch article suggesting women should stay at home and confine themselves to housework, Bly wrote a fiery rebuttal and sent it to the paper. Dispatch managing editor George A. Madden was impressed. He hired the writer and gave her the pen name “Nelly Bly,” from a popular Stephen Foster song. A typesetter misspelled the name and  ’Nellie Bly’ was born.

Frustrated by being assigned to write about fashion and flower shows, Bly moved to New York in 1887 and landed a job at the the New York World. She quickly made a name for herself by pretending to be an insane beggar and being admitted to New York’s Hospital for the Insane. She spent 10 days there, then wrote a story detailing barbaric conditions and care at the facility. Her work triggered the state of New York to spend an additional $1 million for the care of the mentally ill.

Bly’s most famous accomplishment came in 1889. Here’s how Bly told the story to The Pittsburgh Press:

"My editor said, ‘Have you any ideas today?’ ‘One,’ I answered slowly, fearing he would laugh at me. ‘I want to go around the world in 80 days or less!’ I was informed that if there was such a trip I would be the one to go. One stormy evening I was called into the office. ‘Can you start around the world day after tomorrow?’ I was asked. ‘I can start this moment if necessary,’ I answered.”

And so the journey began. Nellie Bly wore a heavy dress “which would stand constant wear for three months” and packed a light gown for the tropics — only those two dresses plus a small bag, no umbrella. She boarded the Augusta Victoria on Nov. 14, 1889. After 72 days, six hours and 11 minutes, Bly returned by train to a cheering crowd of 10,000 in Jersey City.

Nellie Bly left journalism when she was 28 and married wealthy industrialist Robert L. Seaman, who was 72. After Seaman’s death in 1904, Bly ran his estate and unsuccessfully managed his business. Lonely and nearly broke, Bly returned to journalism. Arthur Brisbane gave her a job at the New York Journal and she was at it again — this time on behalf of neglected children, making a difference one story at a time.

While on one of her reporting assignments, Bly caught a cold and died of pneumonia on Jan. 27, 1922. She was 57.

 — Mila Sanina  

Judge Soffel with Skippy. (Photo credit: Unknown) Judge Soffel receives an award from Bishop John J. Wright and Fr. Adam Maida. (Kent Badger/Post-Gazette) Newspaper coverage of the shooting that occurred on the day Judge Soffel was sworn in.

Aug. 29, 1930: Pioneer judge Sara Soffel

Sara Mathilde Soffel was the first woman to be a county judge in Pennsylvania.

The day she was sworn in and donned a black robe — Aug. 27, 1930 — proved to be memorable for two reasons.

While Miss Soffel was making history and greeting well-wishers in the fifth floor assignment room of the Allegheny County Courthouse, shots rang out in the fifth floor probation office, located diagonally opposite from the assignment room.

The shooter was Clara Palschak, a 21-year-old woman who claimed that her 24-year-old husband, Steve, had deserted her for three weeks and refused to return. Using her husband’s gun, she fired three bullets into his abdomen and he died soon afterward. A front page headline in The Pittsburgh Press read, “Gunfire Startles Attendants While Miss Soffel Is Sworn as Judge.”

Judge Soffel’s successful legal career was spurred partly by her German immigrant father, Jacob, a realtor and court tipstaff who expected his children to excel and whose accounts of courtroom dramas fascinated his daughter. Miss Soffel attended Wellesley, where she earned a “W” as left wing on the field hockey team and graduated in 1908.

When she told her father she wanted to study law, he handed her a legal text called Blackstone’s “Commentaries.” She found work teaching at Crafton High School and Schenley High School.

She was the first woman to complete her entire legal education at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1916, Miss Soffel graduated at the top of her law school class, a distinction that normally carried with it a cash prize and a job on the faculty as an assistant instructor. But she only received the cash prize.

Despite her achievements, no local law firm would hire her. In 1917, she set up a law practice and learned how to type and write shorthand so she could do her own clerical work. From 1922 to 1925, she was the first woman to serve as an assistant city solicitor.

Pennsylvania Gov. John Fisher appointed her to the local county court in 1930. A year later, she ran for a 10-year term and was elected. She won re-election again in 1941 and 1951, then retired from the bench in 1962.

Judge Soffel, who died in 1976 at the age of 89, loved the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, fishing, music and roses. The rambling, Victorian-era home where she grew up still stands at 16 Greenbush Street atop Mount Washington.

Here at The Digs, we think a state historical marker should be installed near that property so more people learn the inspiring story of one of Pennsylvania’s honorable legal pioneers.

Top photo: Judge Sara Soffel in 1939. (Photo by Parry Pgh.)

— Marylynne Pitz