1962: ”Heat wave in Pittsburgh”
Forget these cooling centers and splash parks or hitting the pool to beat the inescapable heat and humidity we’ve been enveloped in lately. During a similarly unpleasant Pittsburgh heat wave in August 1962, Clarence Loy really knew how to cool off – with a beer almost as big as the portly brewer himself.
He quaffs with gusto in a United Press photo captioned: “With no end in sight for the Pittsburgh heat wave, Clarence Loy cools off in a local brewery with a huge stein of beer.”
According to the 1962 issue of the Post-Gazette published on August 7, the sizzling heat wave which, in its third day brought a high Downtown temperature of 93, was expected to continue in Pittsburgh for two more days. Henry Rockwood, meteorologist in charge of the Pittsburgh Weather Bureau, said the thundershowers would not drop enough rain to alleviate to any great degree the near-drought conditions in the district.
The day was hot, but not nearly as bad as the 103 recorded on the same date in 1916, the all-time high temperature for the city. The record high of 101 for Aug. 7 was also set in 1918.
The five-day forecast indicated that there was little chance of anything other than token relief before the end of the weekend, Rockwood said. Sounds a lot like the week we’ve just had. Of course, enduring a heat wave can be a relative thing, depending on where you are.
In that same edition of the Post-Gazette, staff writer Herbert G. Stein tells of Bob Cocuzzi and Carl Gatto and the 2,852 degrees Fahrenheit that separated them on that hot and sticky day.
Where Cocuzzi was it was 2,880 degress above zero. He was preparing to tap No. 50 open hearth at Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation’s Southside Works.
Where Gatto was it was 28 degrees above zero. He was making 25-pound blocks of ice out of 300-pound blocks of ice at the Federal City Products Corp. plant, 1502 Penn Ave., Strip District.
Outside everybody in Pittsburgh was talking about the 93-degree temperature and they thought it was unbearable.
“You don’t need no Metrecal around here,” Steelworker Cocuzzi, of 1973 Federal St. Extension, Northside, was saying. Then he put on an aluminized overcoat and a helmet to match, grabbed a metal bar and walked off to tap No. 50. After a moment there was a cannon-like blast. No. 50 burst open and the fiery soup shot out, accompanied by a cloud of sparks. Ideally the tapping takes six to 11 minutes and then Cocuzzi retreats to gulp one of half a dozen salt pills he takes during an eight-hour shift. He also sips hot tea.
"Anything hot you drink cools you off,” he said, “no matter what anybody says. One thing about this job is it’s good for your arthritis. One day I had a cold in my back but five minutes after I got down here it was gone.”
On the other side of No. 50 Martin Flaherty of 2002 Dellrose St., Carrick, was saying he’s been at the job for 30 years and thinks he’s used to it – but he still doesn’t like it when it’s hot outside.
“You can’t get away from the heat even for a minute on a hot day,” Flaherty said. “At least when it’s cold outside, you can step back for a minute and cool off – but not today.”