Snow forced the postponement of the Pitt-Penn State football game. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Stranded travels at Pennsylvania Station. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Drivers showed passes that allowed them on the roads. (Post-Gazette photo) Residents of Seitz Street dug themselves out. (Sun-Telegraph photo) A Sherman tank pulled stalled trucks from the street. (Post-Gazette photo)

Nov. 25, 1950: Pittsburgh’s Thanksgiving snowstorm

Although a half-dozen of its musicians were snowbound, the Pittsburgh Symphony went ahead with its Friday night subscription concert in Oakland’s Syria Mosque.

The Thanksgiving weekend performance on Nov. 24, 1950, started late because of a winter storm, according to a review in the next day’s edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Critic Donald Steinfirst wrote that, nevertheless, about “1,200 hardy music lovers” made it to the concert, which featured works by Ravel, Haydn and Smetana.

As the musicians played, snow continued to cover Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania. The white blanket eventually totaled a record 31 inches, closing down the city and much of the region for the next five days.

The Nov. 25th edition of the newspaper featured several pictures of stalled and stuck vehicles and one photo of “happy Brookline youngsters … who took to their sleds early in the day.” Children who got extended Thanksgiving vacations may have been happy with the snow, but their mothers and fathers probably were not.

By Monday, Nov. 27, the newspaper reported that many industrial plants and most Downtown stores had closed.

Pregnant women had to use ingenuity and courage to get to local hospitals. “Some made a lap of their trip [to the hospital] by sled, stretcher and even shank’s mare,” P-G reporter Edith Rosenblatt wrote on Nov. 28. “One woman walked with her husband from Holt Street, Southside, through the Armstrong tubes to Passavant Hospital at Reed and Roberts Streets,” her story said.

That day’s paper featured a photo of soldiers from the National Guard’s 304th Tank Battalion “helping to clear streets and keep order.”

Some critical deliveries made it through. The newspaper reported on Nov. 28 that a coal truck, bringing fuel for the furnace at the Jewish Home for the Aged in Squirrel Hill, had to be preceded by a bulldozer to clear the way.

Only a few services were unaffected. “With all other transportation buried to a halt, the inclines roll on, never missing a trip,” the newspaper said. Superintendent W. Homer Ackard claimed the only time the Monongahela Incline had stopped operating since 1870 was during the St. Patrick’ Day flood of 1936, when it lost power.

The city’s car pound on Duquesne Way was filled up with 265 vehicles towed in since the storm began. “But the city told owners not to worry about fines or towing fees,” the newspaper story said. “They are being waived due to ‘circumstances beyond control.’ ”

By Wednesday, Nov. 29, conditions had begun to ease. A front-page headline said “City and District Nearly Back to Normal”

“Along with store-reopening plans came announcements that industrial firms are slowly increasing their operations and that some schools and institutions will reopen today or tomorrow,” one news story said. As more streets were plowed and trolley lines resumed operations, transportation was “improving hour by hour.

The best summary of the region’s experience probably came in the form of a P-G headline that appeared Nov. 28: “Big Snow of 1950 Proves Nature Still Is King in District.”

— Len Barcousky

Top picture: Boulevard of the Allies was deserted after the snowstorm. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

Allison Sciullo and Sissy, circa 1978

Before the 1980s"Thanksgiving from our readers"

And now for something completely different… 

For this year’s Thanksgiving, instead of digging into our archives for Turkey-day related images, we asked our readers to check their old photo albums, dig out the shoeboxes with pictures stashed under their beds a few decades ago, and share with us Thanksgiving photographs taken before 1985. 

Here is what we received.

Corinne Bowers sent us a photograph from 1958 showing her mother, Dorothy Bowers, on Thanksgiving Day in Shadyside Hospital. “She had just given birth to me,” Dorothy Bowers’ daughter wrote. “She’s shown with a turkey drumstick in her hand and a smile on her face.”

That must have been one Happy Thanksgiving…. AND a Happy Birthday!

The second photograph came from Allison Sciullo who grew up in Shaler. It was taken approximately in 1978. In this photo, we see Allison Sciullo herself with a live turkey named Sissy. Here is a fascinating background:

My dad won the live bird at some sort of a local turkey shoot and he brought her home. I guess the plan was that she would be ‘Thanksgiving.’ In the meantime, he named her Sissy and used to drive around with her in his Jeep. (Our family often had pets that were out of the ordinary, so I never thought anything was odd about it.) He got pretty attached to Sissy. We still ate her for Thanksgiving, but I think my pap ended up having to take her out. Don’t think Dad could do it.”

"Not many people outside of this area have ever heard of a turkey shoot,” Ms. Sciullo said, “but it’s a marksman-type event around the holidays, often held at sportsmen’s clubs. The prizes are usually frozen or live turkeys.”

We thank our readers for the submissions accompanied by the great stories and wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!

 — Mila Sanina  

Blackout works its way down Fifth Avenue. (Pittsburgh Press photo) One motorist forgot to turn off his headlights. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Pittsburghers lined up to get supplies to create blackout rooms in their homes. (Post-Gazette photo) Ann Bradford of Castle Shannon reads during a dimout in 1942. (Photo credit: Unknown)

April 18, 1941: Pittsburgh goes dark, prepares for war

War was a distant rumble when Pittsburgh conducted what was labeled a “blackout rehearsal” in April 1941. The event was treated as a grand spectacle, a sort of a light-up night in reverse. “The greatest audience ever in Western Pennsylvania” jammed the surrounding hillsides to see the city go dark at 10:10 p.m., reported The Pittsburgh Press.

Only Pittsburgh didn’t quite go dark. Several bridge lights continued to twinkle. Streetlights burned. The beacon atop the Grant Building never ceased flashing the city’s name in Morse code. A reporter flying in an airplane at 3,500 feet wrote that the Golden Triangle was dim but very recognizable.

Pittsburgh tried again on June 25, 1942. This time, folks got serious about the business of making the city invisible to enemy aircraft at night. Maybe it was the memory of all those American ships burning in Pearl Harbor.

On the day of the planned blackout The Pittsburgh Press warned, “If and when we do get bombed, we’ll get perfection in our blackout or it will cost us dearly in lives and property damage.”

Sirens and church bells signaled the “lights-out” moment at 9:45 p.m. At Sixth and Penn, a handful of people and four police officers watched the street lights blink off. “The complete darkness was a physical shock,” wrote Post-Gazette reporter Anna Jane Phillips. “For the first time we felt war close to us.”

Street cars stopped in their tracks. Motorists pulled their automobiles to curbs and switched off headlights. Bessemer converters at the National Tube Works in McKeesport were blown out. Air raid wardens patrolled the streets. Those who violated the blackout were subject to a $100 fine.

Downtown, Phillips encountered a number of people huddled in the entrance of a darkened restaurant on Fifth Avenue. It was a somber crowd. Everyone spoke in whispered tones. “Nowhere did we hear laughter or shouts or hilarity,” Phillips wrote. The stillness was so great she could hear the quiet footsteps of police officers patrolling the street.

At one point, the silence was eerily broken when bells at a Hill District church tolled, “like a dirge for peace,” Phillips wrote.

Not all was perfect. Someone forgot to shut off bulbs in the Liberty Tubes, which were “like the barrels of a huge shotgun” blasting light at the city, according to the Press.

After 30 minutes, sirens sounded the blackout’s end.

As the city once again illuminated itself and returned to life, a young man in a chef’s hat stood downtown and proclaimed, “Those lights, gee, I never knew they were so wonderful.”

Top picture: A crowd gathers on Mt. Washington to watch Pittsburgh’s “blackout rehearsal.” (Pittsburgh Press photo)

— Steve Mellon 

Nov. 25 edition of the Post-Gazette. Full-page announcement by Pittsburgh department stores. The Pittsburgh Press on the day of the assassination.

Nov. 22, 1963: Assassination of a president

Newspaper headlines announcing John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination and state funeral also heralded a years-long wave of violence targeting American leaders.

The grim list of dead includes Malcolm X (gunned down in a Manhattan ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965), the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (slain April 4, 1968, on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tenn.) and, of course, the late President Kennedy’s younger brother, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (shot to death on June 6, 1968, as he left a California hotel during his campaign for president).

John F. Kennedy’s youthful vigor, optimism and call to public service had raised the nation’s hopes for the future and prompted millions of Americans to vote for him in 1960. So, when the 44-year-old leader died, a nation mourned.

In its final afternoon edition for Nov. 22, 1963, the front page of The Pittsburgh Press showed President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally in the motorcade as it headed toward Downtown Dallas. “President Kennedy Slain By Assassin” was the headline.

In a story about local reaction that carried no byline, The Pittsburgh Press noted that,  “Word traveled on those invisible lines of communication that make individuals listening posts and transmitters.”

Due partly to deadlines for morning newspapers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wound up treating the president’s death as a second-day news story on the front page of its Nov. 23 editions. “Kennedy Is Slain, Johnson Sworn In,” it announced. The newspaper published a large picture of the late president edged in black.

Inside the newspaper was a stark one-page announcement from local department stores Gimbels, Horne’s and Kaufmann’s. It read: “With a shocked and grieving nation, we mourn the tragic loss of John F. Kennedy …”

The now famous photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald’s killing dominated the front page of the Nov. 25 Post-Gazette. Above the picture were two headlines: “Kennedy’s Body Is Taken To Capitol” and “Oswald Slain In Jail Shift.”

On its Monday, Nov. 25 edition, The Pittsburgh Press headline read, “Nation Lays Kennedy to Rest.”

While that statement was true, many Americans remain fascinated by events of that era despite the passage of a half-century. Many of us will pause, on this 50th anniversary, to remember JFK, a leader whose promise was unfulfilled because of violence.

— Marylynne Pitz

Construction of Hornbostel-designed Soldiers & Sailors Hall in 1908. (Photo courtesy Soldiers & Sailors Hall) The College of Fine Arts is one of the original campus buildings at CMU designed by Hornbostel. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette) Guastavino tile in Hornbostel-designed Baker Hall at CMU. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette) Henry Hornborstel in the 1930s. (Post-Gazette photo)

Circa 1938: Architect Henry Hornbostel

Henry Hornbostel was a gifted architect and one of Pittsburgh’s most flamboyant figures.

He also had a flair for attracting publicity. A good example is this photo of Hornbostel with Chief Strong Fox of the Cayuga tribe of Native Americans from a reservation in Salamanca, N.Y. The picture was taken during the 1930s while Chief Strong Fox visited the fifth annual free county fair in South Park.

Hornbostel had a white Van Dyke beard, dressed in suits with red ribbon ties and carried a cane. He often drove a Packard convertible with his beloved collie as a passenger.

After he won the commission to design the original buildings for the Carnegie Institute of Technology, construction began in 1905. Today, the school is Carnegie Mellon University.

Hornbostel designed the School of Applied Design, now the College of Fine Arts, and served as the architecture school’s first dean. He also started a popular annual costume party called the Beaux Arts Ball.

His drafting abilities were legendary and he had a knack for finding the perfect spot to locate buildings on hilly land. Of the 70 buildings he designed in Pittsburgh, some of the notable landmarks are Smithfield United Church, Rodef Shalom synagogue, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, the City-County Building and the Grant building. Some  architects and historians consider the College of Fine Arts at CMU to be some of his best work.  The building’s vaulted ceilings feature murals painted by James Hewlett.

After the Depression began in 1929, work for architects dried up. During the 1930s, Hornbostel became Allegheny County’s parks director, a job that allowed him to expand the Allegheny County Airport and design the South Park Golf Club.

In 1939, he retired and moved to Harwinton, Conn., where he restored a historic home called The Elms and grew acres of vegetables. Every year, he threw a large party on Aug. 15 to celebrate his birthday and some Pittsburgh residents joined in the celebration.

Hornbostel was 94 when he died in 1961. To see the stunningly beautiful buildings this architect created in our city, tune in on Friday at 10 p.m. when WQED airs a locally produced documentary about his life and legacy.

The film will be repeated on Sunday at noon.

— Marylynne Pitz

Soldiers stationed at South Park collect records. (Sun-Telegraph photo) Couples with donated records for the War Records Dance at the William Penn Hotel. (Sun-Telegraph photo) Carol Mansfield of Wilkinsburg with donated records. (Sun-Telegraph photo) One-year-old Phillip Cutrara with a donated record called Baby Me. (Sun-Telegraph photo)

July 29, 1942: Breaking records for the war effort

Since its invention more than a century ago, the phonograph disc has been abused, broken, burned and demolished for a number of reasons. We remember when several people got ticked off at a statement made by John Lennon in 1966 and decided to burn Beatles records. Then there was the infamous “Disco Demolition” in 1979, when a mountain of disco records was blown up at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

A much more sensible destruction of musical recordings took place here in Pittsburgh in 1942, when two young women broke discs for the benefit of a Sun-Telegraph photographer. Published under the picture was a caption urging people to donate their cracked, broken and worn out dance records so the materials in the discs could be recycled.

During the early years of World War II, the War Production Board ordered a 70 percent cut in the production of new phonograph records. Record production consumed about 30 percent of the nation’s supply of shellac, a resin desperately needed by the armed forces. Shellac was used in the making of signal flares and explosives, and it was applied as a coating on artillery shells.

Ancient discs of out-of-date melodies like “Remember the Days Long Ago, Maggie” and “Keep the Home Fires Burning” piled up at collections points.

Newer discs containing more contemporary tunes like “Jersey Bounce,” by Benny Goodman and Kay Kyser’s “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” were sent to military camps where they were played for the entertainment of soldiers.

Pittsburghers did their part. Women brought discs to a “War Records Dance” at the William Penn Hotel in 1942 — the price of admission was five records. Service personnel got in free. The next year, an American Legion collection post counted 25,000 donated discs.

— Steve Mellon 

1912: Kaufmann's on Smithfield between Diamond and Fifth 1968: Kaufmann's clock get decorated 1960: Christmas shopping at Kaufmann's

1912: "The Downtown Kaufmann’s"

It may be called Macy’s now. And even Macy’s is quite an old chain. 

But Pittsburghers still remember and at times even refer to the big department store with the iconic clock at the corner of Smithfield and Fifth as the Downtown Kaufmann’s. That was the store — no, the institution — that kept its doors open for more than a century and whose name has been associated with many significant moments and personalities in Pittsburgh’s history. There was the Tic Toc restaurant, the ornate clock, holiday parades, the Secret Santa and the Kaufmann family.   

Kaufmann’s first emerged in 1871 as a small men’s store in South Side founded by Jacob and Isaac Kaufmann. Six years later, the brothers moved their store location Downtown and it became known as The Big Store. The building has been remodeled multiple times, acquiring Neoclassical and Renaissance features over the years. It expanded and at one point became the largest department store in Pittsburgh with 12 retail floors that hugged the entire city block.

Kaufmann’s was more than just a store, though. It laid a foundation for many traditions, symbols and truly became a part of the Pittsburgh community. Its Christmas animated windows were the talk of the town. Its original brass plaques of the flagship department stores still decorate the building. Kaufmann’s clock this year has tick-tocked for a century.

Although the Kaufmann’s was acquired by the California-based May Company in 1946, the Kaufmann’s chain still operated under the leadership of Edgar J. Kaufmann. The loss of Kaufmann’s headquarters in 2006 after the acquisition by Federated Department Goods Inc., hurt Downtown Pittsburgh economically and emotionally.

The Big Store became a Macy’s. But people to this day still say they’ll meet under Kaufmann’s clock.

— Mila Sanina  

A large chunk of the gas tank landed on Wolfendale Street, one block from the Cancelliere, home. (Pittsburgh Press photo) An insurance maps shows the location of the Cancelliere home at 1129 Ridge Avenue. Pittsburgh Press coverage of the gast tank explosion that killed Mary Cancelliere. Clippings from the PG files.

Nov. 14, 1927: About those motherless children …

A year ago we posted a photograph of five children left motherless after a deadly explosion on the North Side in 1927. We knew very little about the children and wondered, “What happened to them?” We asked for your help.

We received a number of emails, most asking if we had learned anything about the sad siblings.

Well, we have learned a few things, from information provided by some of our readers and from our own newspaper files. What emerges is a complex story of a Pittsburgh family that spans more than eight decades.

The picture appeared in the Pittsburgh Press a few days after the explosion of a gas storage tank on Reedsdale Street. The blast killed 28 people, including a young mother, Mary Cancelliere (the name sometimes appears as Congelier, Cangalier or Cangellire). Her children are, from left, Lena, 11; John, 9; Angelo, 7; Rose, 4; and Frances, 13.

Frances “loved people and loved food,” wrote the PG’s Linda Wilson Fuoco in Frances’ obituary in February 2007. Frances married Michael Laquatra and worked nearly her entire adult life at the Rosa Villa restaurant, which her father Giacamo established in 1932. You may remember the Rosa Villa — it was located on General Robinson Boulevard and Sandusky Street on the North Side.

Regular customers were Steelers owner Art Rooney and “Mean” Joe Green. Michael Keaton and Dennis Hopper stopped there when they were in town. The Rosa Villa closed in 2004

Frances died at age 92 and was survived by a son, two daughters, 11 grandchildren and 88 great-grandchildren.

Lena married Joseph Restivo and was listed along with brother John as co-owner of the Rosa Villa. She died at age 70 in 1990 and was survived by three daughters, a son and 12 grandchildren.

John died in 1987. He was 69. His obituary listed no children.

Angelo graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1943 and served two terms as president of the North Side Lions Club. He died at age 71 in 1992. We discovered little about Rose other than the month and year of her death, January 1981.

In the PG files, we found an envelope of newspaper stories with headlines like “Numbers Suspect Held for Court” and “Tax Liens slapped on Cangeliers.” Some members of the Cancelliere family, the stories tell us, were arrested in the late 1940s and charged with operating lotteries. John Cancelliere, uncle of the children, was named in a few of those stories.

For years the Cancellieres remained in the house where Mary died. A number of extended family members joined them there. In fact, one news story about the Cancellieres’ tax problems attempted to sort out who was who in the three-story brick home at 1129 Ridge Ave.

The writer figured out the first two family members named in a suit, but “the third Cangalier is named only as John, which the Bureau of Internal Revenue may find confusing,” the article complains. “There are at least three Johns and the whole family uses the same address…”

Census records from 1930 show that the Cancelliere children lived at that address with their father and uncles John, Sam and Luigi, all barbers, and Charles, a carpenter.

We realize this is but a partial history of a family rocked by one of the city’s great tragedies. So much remains untold. We thank the readers who helped us peel a bit of the mystery from a poignant picture buried deep in our files.

Steve Mellon

Undated picture of Williams. Williams in 1972. (Ed Morgan/Post-Gazette) At a funeral for Williams are, from left, musicians Walt Harper, Nathan Davis, Joe Negri, Saxi Williams and Bobby Davis. (Ross Catanza/Pittsburgh Press)

Circa 1960s: Jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams

Mary Lou Williams was a self-taught pianist, composer and arranger who grew up in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Born in Atlanta, Ga. in 1910, her family moved here when she was 4. By the age of 7, she entertained prominent Pittsburgh families.

In a career that spanned decades, Williams performed with Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Andy Kirk, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. Mr. Ellington once described her as “soul on soul.”

Williams wrote 350 compositions, made more than 100 records and was instrumental in developing the “Kansas City Swing.” Among her influences were Pittsburgh jazz pianists Earl Hines, Errol Garner and Charles Bell.

By the time she was a teen-ager, she was touring with the black vaudeville Syncopators band, which included saxophone player John Williams, who was from Memphis, Tenn.

They married in the late 1920s but later divorced.

From 1929 to 1941, she played with Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy band. Hits she composed for the band included “Walking and Swinging,” “Froggy Bottom,” “Lotta Sax Appeal,” “Steppin’ Pretty,” and “Little Joe from Chicago.”

In 1936, she wrote “Camel Hop” for swing clarinetist Benny Goodman and he used it as the theme song for his radio show, “Camel Caravan of the Air,” sponsored by Camel cigarettes.

In the 1940s, she moved to New York City, where she had a four-year engagement at New York’s Cafe Society Uptown and Downtown. Also during that decade, Williams composed “The Zodiac Suite,” which was inspired by the twelve astrological signs. She scored three sections of it for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and appeared as a soloist with the musicians in Carnegie Hall.

Williams became a Catholic in 1956, and for about three years, she did not perform. In 1957, a priest wooed her back to the piano and she performed with Dizzy Gillespie at the Newport Jazz Festival.

A deeply spiritual woman, she also wrote three jazz masses and once told an interviewer: “There’s not enough prayer any more. That’s why we need jazz. It’s something from the mind, to the heart, to the fingertips.”

In the late 1950s, she opened her New York home to such well-known jazz musicians as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Tadd Dameron, Art Blakey and Kenny Dorham.

In 1962, she became the first jazz artist to form her own record company. Two years later, with the help of jazz impresario George Wein, Williams launched Pittsburgh’s first jazz festival, which was held at the Civic Arena. From 1977 to 1981, she was an artist in residence at Duke University’s music department.

Despite  her death in 1981 at the age of 71, Williams’ music has continued to influence a new generation of composers and musicians. Since 1996, the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival has been held at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in our nation’s capital.

— Marylynne Pitz

At ‘The Digs’ we’re looking for photographs of Pittsburghers celebrating Thanksgiving prior to 1985. And we are asking for submissions from our readers. So please check your old photo albums. Dig out the shoebox you stuffed with pictures and stashed under the bed two decades ago.

We want to see photos of your family in Pittsburgh on turkey day. Images can be black-and-white or color prints, or scanned versions. Did you ever wear bell bottom pants and a “Franco’s Italian Army” T-shirt to Thanksgiving dinner? If so, we’d like to see the picture.

Send your pictures — and the stories behind the pictures — to us at socialmedia@post-gazette.com or 34 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222 (Attn: Mila Sanina). We’ll share them online at post-gazette.com and on ‘The Digs.’

1933: "The last Republican mayor of Pittsburgh"

The outcome of Pittsburgh’s mayoral election last night was not a surprise. Residents elected Democrat Bill Peduto as the city’s next mayor. Josh Wander, the Republican candidate, who received 5,012 votes, some say, didn’t stand a chance. But could Josh Wander have won if he made a genuine effort to stick around, didn’t sell his Squirrel Hill house and didn’t leave to Israel for a consulting job? Most people would say no.

At the end of the day, the last time Pittsburgh had a Republican mayor was in 1933 and he served for only one year.

His name was John S. Herron. To this day, he holds the distinction of having been the last GOP mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. Herron didn’t even come to power through a popular vote. As president of City Council, he assumed the mayor’s seat on March 31, 1933, to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Charles H. Kline, the last Republican Pittsburghers actually elected. Mayor Kline turned out to be a crook. He was forced to resign by City Council after being convicted of malfeasance in connection with irregularities in the purchase of municipal supplies. That’s how John S. Herron became Pittsburgh’s mayor. 

Herron’s administration was remarkable for … being uneventful. The most notable event that happened during his times was the repeal of “Sunday Blue Laws,” which banned sports for 24 hours for the observance of a day of worship or rest. Given how sports are worshipped in Pittsburgh and are part of the weekend routine, those Blue Laws clearly didn’t make sense.  

John S. Herron lost the mayoral race in November 1933 to William N. McNair, who became the first Democrat to win the mayoral seat since 1905. Approximately 172,000 people cast their ballots in the election, McNair defeated Herron by 23,419 votes (McNair received 83,278; Herron had 59,859).

After leaving the mayor’s office, John S. Herron served as an Allegheny County commissioner until his death in 1947.

— Mila Sanina  

Vinton at age 4. Vinton in an undated photo with his father. Vinton with Guy Lombardo.

March 13, 1960: Bobby Vinton Orchestra at a Wilkinsburg sock hop

The picture that leads this blog post was taken in the third month of what would prove to be a very turbulent decade. Within ten years we would become familiar with assassinations, wars and riots. We’d witness the British Invasion and the Hippie movement. But in March 1960, teenagers in Wilkinsburg were still wearing bobby socks, putting grease in their hair and acting like the 50s would never end.

Like wow, daddy-o.

And the music? The kids were bopping to the Bobby Vinton Orchestra. That’s right. Vinton and his crew can be seen in the back of the image, behind the shy boys watching everybody else have all the fun.

Vinton at the time was 24 and two years away from his first hit single, “Roses are Red.” When that record was released in 1962, Vinton bought 1,000 copies and got a young woman to deliver a disc and a dozen roses to every record spinner in town. By July of ‘62, “Roses are Red” topped the charts. The “Polish Prince” had arrived.

A year later came Vinton’s most famous song, “Blue Velvet,” which topped the charts in September 1963. It was still popular on the airwaves when news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was broadcast in November of that year.

Beatlemania came to America in 1964. Then came Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, and countless other British bands. Many of Vinton’s contemporaries — Connie Francis, for example, and Ricky Nelson — fell from the charts. Vinton, though, continued to produce hits like “Please Love Me Forever” (1967) and “I Love How You Love Me” (1968).

But before all of that, before the hits and the fame, Vinton was a kid from Canonsburg, the son of band leader Stan Vinton and his wife Dorothy Studzinski Vinton. Vinton was the kid who formed a band at age 15 and went on to play gigs around town to help finance his education at Duquesne University. And he was the band leader who provided the musical backdrop to bunch of teenagers from Wilkinsburg who simply wanted to dance on a March evening in 1960.

Steve Mellon

Halloween Parade, 1985, photo by Henry Coughanour, Post-Gazette Ghostbusters save a haunted house, 1985, photo by Harry Coughanour, Post-Gazette Halloween parade, 1986, photo by Bill Levis, Post-Gazette Barbara Plotz said they got carried away preparing for Halloween, 1985, photo by Bill Levis, Post-Gazette.

1980s: "Halloweens of the past"

Zombies, the Rubber Duck and Miley Cyrus may have dominated costume choices in Pittsburgh this year. But those might not have been the spookiest costumes in the city’s history. Well, the duck was cute and brought lots of smiles to Pittsburgh in October. And Miley Cyrus… well, OK. That one IS creepy. 

The Post-Gazette photographic archive reveals not only pop culture trends Halloween costumes embodied but the past spirit of the holiday that tested the limits of people’s fears. There were lots of Ghostbusters in 1985. There were Madonnas and Jesse Jacksons, Big Bird, Kermit the Frog … and lots of photos of Pittsburghers getting carried away with their yard decorations. 

In mid 1980s zombies became a Halloween classic in Pittsburgh. That’s when the first George Romero fest took place. An article in the 1986 Post-Gazette reported, “Not every city can boast its own world-class monster maker. Not outside Transylvania anyway.” But Pittsburgh had Romero, who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and started his career in Pittsburgh. He earned his fame for gruesome and satirical horror films about a zombie apocalypse, starting with “Night of the Living Dead.” 

— Mila Sanina  

Investigators found blood-stained papers and bags inside the boxcars. (Pittsburgh Press photos) Identity of one victim is revealed. Amputated foot of an earlier victim is examined by Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. S. R. Gerber. (ACME photo) Police released this image hoping tattoos would help identify a victim found in 1936. (ACME photo)

May 3, 1940: Possible ‘Mad Butcher’ victims in McKees Rocks

An odd stench caught the attention of a worker in the sprawling yards of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad near McKees Rocks one Friday morning in early May. He notified his supervisor who, along with another worker, climbed into an aging boxcar scheduled to be demolished.

In the dark corners of the car, the two men made a gruesome discovery — a body carved into seven pieces. Wrapped in burlap or stuffed under newspapers were a torso, two arms, two legs and two thighs. The head was missing.

A search of other cars in the yard turned up two more bodies, also headless. One had been carved, like the first, into seven pieces. The other was intact, except for the missing head. The word “NAZI” had been crudely carved in 5-inch letters into the chest. Oddly, the letter “z” was backward.

Investigators quickly determined the bodies were most likely the work of what newspapers called the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run” or the  “Cleveland torso murderer.”

The killer is officially credited with twelve murders, though some experts believe the number to be much higher. Bodies — or parts of bodies — began turning up in Cleveland in 1935. Victims were drifters and the working poor who lived in shanty towns near what’s known as Cleveland’s Flats. Most were never identified.

Victims were decapitated and dismembered— sometimes even the torso was cut in half. Many died as a result of the decapitation itself.

In Cleveland, a sort of unease became a public outcry as the body count increased. Police raided shanty towns and searched every building in a 10-square-mile area. Leading the investigation was newly appointed Cleveland Public Safety Director Eliot Ness, who’d made a name for himself by heading a small group of law-enforcement agents called “The Untouchables.”

Investigators said the murderer was skilled with a knife and had some knowledge of human anatomy. Perhaps he was a physician, a butcher or a hunter.

Detectives in Pittsburgh determined the victims found in the boxcars were between 30 to 40 years old. Only one was identified. A fingerprint match revealed the victim with “Nazi” carved into his chest to be David Nicholson, a 30-year-old convicted burglar from Illinois.

Though officials in Pittsburgh and elsewhere believed the bodies found in McKees Rocks were the work of the “crazed butcher,” an official link was never made. The killer’s identity remains a mystery.

(Top picture: Headless bodies were found in separate boxcars in a railroad yard in McKees Rocks. Pittsburgh Press photo)

— Steve Mellon

Cullen with Steve Allen (top), Henry Morgan (middle row), Betsy Palmer (front left) and Bess Myerson. Cullen with his wife Ann (front left), her sister Mary Lou Narz, and Jack Narz, husband of Mary Lou. Cullen as host of Pass the Buck in 1978. Cullen as host of Chain Reaction in 1980.

Jan. 29, 1957: Bill Cullen, “a broadcaster’s broadcaster”

With his boyish face, horn-rimmed spectacles and engaging personality, Pittsburgh native Bill Cullen became the the dean of game show hosts.

Born in 1920, he was stricken with infantile paralysis, which gave him a permanent limp. In 1939, he was 19 and working at his father’s South Side garage when the Pittsburgh radio station WWSW-FM hired him as an unpaid announcer and disc jockey.

In 1944, he moved to New York and benefited from the shortage of network personnel caused by World War II. A week after he arrived, Columbia Broadcasting hired him as a staff radio announcer.

That marked the start of a 40-year career in which Mr. Cullen hosted more than a dozen game shows, some of which became definitive staples of American popular culture. He appeared on “Give and Take,” “The Price is Right,” “Place the Face,” “Name That Tune,” “$25,000 Pyramid” and “The Joker’s Wild.”

In 1952, he became a glib panelist on “I’ve Got a Secret,” remaining on the program for its entire 15-year run through 1967 and often serving as a host. His down-to-earth, witty style proved popular with American viewers.

Mr. Cullen also hosted the original version of “Price is Right” from 1957 to 1964 on NBC and later on ABC.

Groucho Marx, who hosted “You Bet Your Life,” called Mr. Cullen “the second wittiest man in the business.”    

In the late 1950s, Mr. Cullen was on the air 25 hours and 30 minutes each week, exceeding the amount of air time logged by famed broadcaster Arthur Godfrey at the peak of his career.

When he died from lung cancer at age 70 in 1990, game show host Pat Sajak called him “a broadcaster’s broadcaster.”

(Top picture: Cullen with myna bird Charley in 1957. Charley whistled the NBC chimes for a program called “Radio Roadshow.”)

— Marylynne Pitz