1928: The morgue at its original Diamond Street location. (Post-Gazette photo) Aug. 11, 1929: The morgue in transit across Fourth Avenue. (Photo credit: unknown) Aug. 11, 1929: The morgue in transit across Fourth Avenue. (Photo credit: unknown) 1975: Allegheny County morgue employees Patty Sopkowiak and Floyd Coles with a Jane Doe. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Dec. 28, 1960: The Pittsburgh Press caption on this, sparing no heavy-handedness, read: Drink and drive and you could end up here in the morgue. (Alan Reiland/Pittsburgh Press)

1929: Allegheny County Morgue on the move

A few months before the October 1929 stock market crash, the Allegheny County Morgue finished rolling.

The 450 tons of steel, stone and lumber needed to be moved from Forbes Avenue (then called Diamond Street) to Fourth Avenue. It was much cheaper that way, the county said, than to build a new morgue.

And inside the morgue that summer, work continued as usual.

“People were killing and dying every day,” one of the men involved in the undertaking (no pun intended) told the Post-Gazette in 1987. “The coroner’s functions couldn’t be stopped.”

One hundred years before that story, there was no county morgue system here. Local undertakers raced to recover reported dead bodies and the accompanying $12 in fees from the county (about $300 today).

In this story, Heber McDowell played an important role.

McDowell was coroner from 1887 to 1899. During his tenure, he helped draft and push through legislation to help counties statewide fund and standardize morgue duties.

At the time, Philadelphia had the only morgue in the state. In 1893, McDowell’s effort passed, and Allegheny County began to subsist in a makeshift facility on Eighth Avenue.

That wasn’t good enough for McDowell in a time when taller building construction and steel mill work were not safe at all. “With progress, you always have fatalities,” he told The Pittsburgh Press in 1929, on the occasion of the morgue’s move.

The new morgue took two years to build and was completed on April Fool’s Day in 1903. Less than 25 years later, 60 men and two teams of horses moved it 235 feet to its current resting place.

The entire operation took about three months.

—Ethan Magoc

View this story on our map of “The Digs.”

Newspaper coverage of Carrie Nation visit to Pittsburgh. Allegheny City in 1904. (Photo credit: Unknown) North Side, circa 1940. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

Circa 1900: Jimmy McKay’s ‘capital of crookdom’

Carrie Nation stormed into Pittsburgh one day in 1908, took a look at the city’s taverns and declared, “This is the worst place I’ve ever seen and the saloons are in terrible condition.”

You can insult Pittsburgh’s air and rant about its roads but, as Nation soon learned, the city doesn’t take kindly to those who denigrate its taverns. The fiery temperance crusader was arrested.

At the police station, she continued to roar: “All the young men in this city are going to hell. The young women, too, are awful, and all this is caused by the saloon.”

During her tirade, a spry man entered the station. This was Jimmie McKay, owner of a North Side tavern. McKay listened attentively while Nation ranted. She was looking for a fight. She wouldn’t get one from McKay.

In fact, McKay told her he’d learned a few things from her diatribe. “This seemed to gratify the little woman very much,” one newspaper reported.

It was classic McKay. He judged no one. “About the only thing I ever did was to take pretty literally that business about ‘live and let live,’” he once said.

His saloon reflected this attitude. It was a haven for safe crackers, thieves, mill workers, newspaper reporters and crooked politicians — people with names like the Albany Kid, Big Swede and English John.

Before annexation by Pittsburgh in 1907, the North Side was known as Allegheny City. Folks called it “Little Canada” because extradition treaties didn’t extend there. Parts of Allegheny City were quite raucous.

McKay’s tavern in Allegheny City was the “capital of crookdom,” the PG’s Ray Sprigle wrote in a 1948 remembrance of the man. Sprigle described McKay as “one of the most lovable people on the face of the earth.” McKay’s obituary in The Pittsburgh Press on Jan. 4, 1944, indicates he was an Irish immigrant whose family settled on the North Side in the 1870s. McKay worked in a steel mill before opening his tavern.

We searched the PG archives for photos of McKay and unearthed none. Sprigle’s story, found on microfilm, was accompanied by a faded image of an aging man with tousled hair. It is McKay, casually holding a pipe to his lips. His eyes are at once playful and sad. 

The PG holds no file of newspaper clippings mentioning McKay. He remains one of those legendary Pittsburgh characters that seem just out of reach for those of us trying to pin facts to tales.

One of the more interesting McKay stories concerns an organization called “The Piano Mover’s Association,” headquartered in McKay’s saloon.

The organization sprung into action each time the Allegheny River overflowed its banks and flooded portions of the lower North Side. This, coincidentally, was home to Allegheny City’s red light district.

When waters rose, madams and “working girls” quickly moved their establishments’ gaudy furniture to safety on upper floors. But they needed help with their unwieldy pianos. That’s when McKay’s piano movers stepped in.

The association gathered together newspapermen, cops and businessmen for the difficult job of hauling the heavy, ornate instruments up brothel stairways. Membership to the association came with an official card and was considered a privilege, costing as much as $100, according to one report.

We at the Digs have given these facts considerable thought and we’re certain our forebears in the newspaper business considered piano moving a vital public service.

— Steve Mellon 

Rinehart with husband Stanley and their three sons in the family’s Beech Street home in 1909. (Photo credit: Unknown) Rinehart graduated from a Pittsburgh nursing school in 1896. (Photo credit: Unknown) Blas Reyes is the chef who attempted to murder Rinehart. (Photo credit: Unknown) Reinhart’s Beech Street home on Pittsburgh’s North Side has been restored. (Annie O’Neill/Post-Gazette)

1920s: Mary Roberts Rinehart, Pittsburgh novelist and mystery writer

With the publication of  “The Circular Staircase” in 1908, Mary Roberts Rinehart established a national reputation as an author of mysteries when her book sold more than a million copies.

A charming, dark-haired storyteller, the Pittsburgh native was prolific, producing a total of 60 books and seven plays. During World War I, she was a war correspondent based in Belgium for The Saturday Evening Post. When the armistice was signed in 1919, she was in Paris.

Success made her a celebrity and her wealth paid for an elegant home in Sewickley, a 24-room seaside retreat in Bar Harbor, Maine, and a posh New York apartment on Park Avenue. Kenneth Parker of The Parker Pen Company created a snub-nosed fountain pen for the author after she complained that she could not find a writing instrument to capture her thoughts on paper as quickly as they spilled from her mind. (She wrote in longhand.)

In a Victorian era when most women aspired to be wives and mothers, Mrs. Rinehart began studying nursing at age 17. Many of her patients were factory workers who were mangled by machinery. What she saw imbued her with compassion for human suffering and a strong distaste for social injustice.

At Pittsburgh’s Homeopathic Hospital, she met Dr. Stanley Rinehart. While the hospital prohibited friendships, let alone romances, between doctors and staff, the couple became secretly engaged in 1894 and married in 1896. It was a fresh start for Mrs. Rinehart, whose father, a frustrated inventor, had committed suicide in 1895.

The young couple gambled in the stock market, lost all their savings in a 1903 crash and wound up $12,000 in debt. While Dr. Rinehart continued to make house calls, Mrs. Rinehart began writing verse, short stories and articles.

By 1907, the Rineharts had three young sons — Stan Jr., Alan and Ted — and had moved to a larger home in the 900 block of Beech Street on the North Side.

A year later, publication of “The Circular Staircase” launched Mrs. Rineharts’ career as a novelist and mystery writer.

In 1920, “The Bat,” a play she wrote with Avery Hopwood, was a smash hit on Broadway. Touring productions featuring a costumed criminal were staged throughout the country. In 1946, Life Magazine reported that more than 10 million people saw the play and that it grossed more than $9 million.

Mrs. Rinehart loved to climb mountains, fish and ride horses.  She also smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Her day typically started with breakfast in bed. She then wrote from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and took tea at 5 p.m.

Dr. Rinehart died in 1932. In his absence, his widow traveled often and worked obsessively.

In 1947, Mrs. Rinehart’s life became a melodrama when Plas Reyes, a chef she had employed for 25 years, tried to kill her at her summer home in Maine. The gun he used misfired. Mrs. Rinehart fled and was rescued by her chauffeur, who threw Reyes to the floor. The chef later hung himself in jail.

In 1954, the author published “A Light in the Window.” That same year, the Mystery Writers of America gave her a special award. By then, she was too ill to attend the dinner staged in her honor. At age 82, she died in New York City in 1958.

— Marylynne Pitz

Sept. 20, 1984: An interior view of The Pittsburgh Public Theater in this North Side venue (now the New Hazlett Theater), its home until 1999. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette) Oct. 23, 1975: A first-season production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” with Tom Atkins, Tony Alward and Carol Mayo-Jenkins. Mr. Atkins is a Pittsburgher with an active Hollywood career. 1988-89: “The Glass Menagerie,” with Steve Simpson and Amy Wright. The Tennessee Williams play also was the first Public production and will open the 40th season in October 2014. 1984: A trademark of Pittsburgh Public Theater is giving classic works their due on the design afront, such as this production of “Life With Father.” (Photo credit: Ric Evans) April 1975: This was the theater layout for 24 years before moving to its current home, the O’Reilly Theater in the Downtown Cultural District.

1974: "The Pittsburgh Public Theater"

Everything old is new again. Take, for example, Pittsburgh Public Theater’s 2014-15 season, which celebrates four decades by opening with the production that started it all, Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” 

“I wanted to find a way to honor the accomplishment of reaching 40 years, and what better way than to put on a play?” said current producing artistic director Ted Pappas. “Well, the play is eternally beautiful, and ‘The Glass Menagerie had a very successful revival in New York, we’ve never produced it in the O’Reilly. It’s the perfect way to acknowledge the past for those who are seeing it again, and it’s ready for a new generation.”

Forty years ago, the climate for top-notch professional theater in the city appeared to be changing, and to counteract their concern, three lovers of theater — Joan Apt, Margaret Rieck and Ben Shaktman — founded Pittsburgh Public Theater. That first season, which commenced in September 1975,  also included Pittsburgh’s Tom Atkins in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” — a year before the film version — and Leonard Nimoy as Malvolio in “Twelfth Night.”

With Pittsburghers embracing the programming mix of classics and premieres, the seasons quickly grew from three productions to the current six.

The Public claimed the North Side as its home back then, in a high-ceilinged space with a flexible thrust stage, The landmark building in Allegheny Square had been erected in 1889  and rescued from demolition in the 1960s, when  the community renovated the theater space to include movable scaffold seating. It became the New Hazlett Theater in 1980, named for Theodore L. Hazlett, a civic leader and supporter of the arts.

The Public enjoyed 24 years in the building and brought the thrust-stage style with it when it moved to the brand-new O’Reilly Theater in December 1999. The venue was created just for the company on Penn Avenue in the heart of the Downtown Cultural District and opened with the world premiere of “King Hedley II” by Pittsburgh’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, August Wilson.

Audiences followed the Public from the North Side to Downtown, as the company continued to revitalize classics by the like of Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare and champion works by contemporary writers. Two-time Tony winner Mark Rylance brought the much-ballyhooed “Twelfth Night” to Broadway last year — a production he first brought to the States and the Public stage a decade ago. The company also is known for producing new works, including the pre-Broadway run of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn’s “By Jeeves” and the upcoming “L’Hotel,” a world premiere by Ed Dixon. 

In the mean time, season No. 39 is still under way. Next up, a work that combines several themes that have emerged over the past 40 years. The play “An Iliad” is a modern retelling of Homer’s tale from Ancient Greece. It’s the Trojan War with Achilles, Hector, Agammemnon and Helen of Troy, all rolled into a solo tour-de-force.

—Sharon Eberson

Mayor David Lawrence inspects the new Yellow cab with the head of Yellow Cab Co. (Nov., 1948) Yellow Cabs wait their turn for a fare in the taxi holding area of the Pittsburgh International Airport as a USAir flight takes off (Oct, 1994).

John Beale/Post-Gazette Picket George Shanafelt surveys strike idled Yellow Cab (May 18, 1961).

"Yellow Cab, Pittsburgh’s oldest taxi service"

Almost every Pittsburgher has a Yellow Cab story. Usually it’s not a story with a happy end… or, as a matter of fact, a happy beginning. 

You know how these stories go: My cab never showed up. 

I had to wait three hours for my cab. 

Yellow Cab is a joke, I missed my doctor’s appointment and had to reschedule. If you don’t have the cabbie’s cell phone you will wait all day.

My cab showed up after I already reached my destination by bus… after giving up on waiting and getting any sort of response from the Yellow Cab dispatcher. 

It was so expensive and my cabbie actually showed up late with another passenger still in the car — I was just shaking my head in disbelief. 

In the past few weeks following the announcement about ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft entering the Pittsburgh market, we have heard many enthusiastic comments from Pittsburghers about how the city needs a better cab service and how the new alternatives could solve a problem of inadequate supply and poor customer service.

Yellow Cab is not the city’s only taxicab company but it is the biggest and the oldest one, thus, it gets all the blame. But we heard from Yellow Cab drivers too. They tell us  it’s hard to support a large fleet and make profit, do small trips and make profit, rely on Pittsburgh’s traffic and provide impeccable customer service. 

We get it. It’s never easy. Change is hard but Yellow Cab lived through some hard times. Let’s take a look in the rearview mirror on the history of Yellow Cab in the city. 

Yellow Cab began its operations in Pittsburgh more than a century ago and initially was  known as Pullman Taxi.  It was the first cab company in Pennsylvania, and to this day it remains the largest taxi company in the state. The Pittsburgh newspapers documented the company’s progress, interviewed the cabbies about security and dress code, witnessed the introduction of a cell phone into operations, studied taxi routes and how the meters worked and reported on the companies during major strikes.

Ironically, in its early days, the company faced resistance from the Public Utility Commission for trying to establish and maintain a monopoly. In 1947, according to the Post-Gazette, “Yellow Cab offered to put 425 new cabs on the street if the PUC turned down an application from Peoples Cab Co. to operate in Pittsburgh. The PUC denied Yellow Cab’s request, and Peoples Cab later became part of Pittsburgh Transportation Group.”

Yellow Cab had never faced fierce competition, it grew by purchasing several competing companies such as Owl Cab Co. and Airlines Transportation Co. These days, Yellow Cab has about 335 sedans, shuttle vans and wheelchair-accessible cabs in service.

Things used to be worse on several fronts for Yellow Cab. The company was on the verge of collapse in 1980, having a pretax loss of $213,000. Its fleet was made up of rickety old Checker cabs and its telephone system was antiquated. The negative image was at its peak. Yes, it was worse. Then the company changed hands and things got better, the fleet and equipment were renovated, some of the security concerns have been addressed and the image of Yellow Cab was “headed in the right direction,” as the Post-Gazette put it in 1991. 

And here we are, 23 years later debating the fate of the company that just last year celebrated its 100th anniversary and became Pittsburgh’s institution. History is an unpredictable and rarely smooth ride, isn’t it? 

In 1991, the Post-Gazette quoted a cabbie working for Yellow Cab and using cellular phone (a new gadget back then) to supplement the company’s radio dispatch, “When I pick you up, I’ll listen to any horror story about the service you had before and say, ‘That’s all behind you now. Call this number…’”

… or, maybe, as we would say these days, use an app? Not if you choose Yellow Cab. Not yet… at least. Update: In May 2014, the PUC approved Yellow Cab’s request to launch Yellow X.

In any case, we hope you enjoy your cab rides. And have a story with the happy end.

— Mila Sanina

Jan. 17, 1967: While the view of the city coming out of the tunnel has changed with new buildings, the nighttime glow remains. (Post-Gazette photo) Late 1950s: Fort Pitt Bridge under construction over the Monongahela. (Post-Gazette photo) May 25, 1958: This is a photo composite found in the Post-Gazette archive. A photo of the rocks and edge of the tunnel was combined with an image of the city and bridge construction. January 1961: The view of Mount Washington, a new Fort Pitt Tunnel, and an under-construction Civic Arena in the background. (Photo credit: unknown) Aug. 6, 1960: Eight television screens hooked to cameras were responsible for helping to monitor traffic in the tunnels. (Post-Gazette photo) Aug. 6, 1960: These camera models have, presumably, been replaced in the years since. (Post-Gazette photo) Dec. 10, 1961: The original view one saw emerging from the tunnel into the city. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

The day before Fort Pitt Tunnel opened in August 1960, The Pittsburgh Press editorial page suggested that it will help the city “get rid of some traffic headaches…” Yep. You read that correctly.

In all fairness though, the editorial’s author maintained a grounding in reality by finishing his piece with “… and perhaps acquire some new ones.”

For those involved these days in a daily morning traffic snarl on the Parkway West through the tunnel and into the city, the state’s effort toward a passage under Mount Washington in the late 1950s might now seem a folly.

The tunnel cost $10 million and was part of a larger $32 million state-funded highway program announced in October 1956.

At the time, it was the most expensive project in Pittsburgh history.

The idea of making the tunnel a toll passage garnered support from the Automobile Club of Pittsburgh and city residents. The notion was ultimately scrapped when state funding came through. Pennsylvania politicians such as Sen. Frank Kopriver Jr. said charging tolls was not fair since Squirrel Hill Tunnel drivers paid no tolls.

Construction of Fort Pitt Tunnel began in spring 1957. Just before Thanksgiving that year, Fred Jones of The Pittsburgh Press explored the construction site. The job of the drillers was made more difficult by the fact that when you exit the tunnel in the city, you’re 20 feet higher than when you enter.

It took workers six months to drill the 3,600-foot tunnel at an average of about 46 feet a day, Jones wrote.

A year later, when the tunnel was completed, David Kelly of The Pittsburgh Press characterized the view coming out of the tunnel as “a canyon-barrel view of Pittsburgh’s steel and cement canyons.”

That much, at least, has not changed.

—Ethan Magoc

Bits of a broken moon bombard Pittsburgh. A new glacial age settles over Oakland. The sun explodes, cooks everyone. Atomic explosions light up North America.

June 30, 1946: Pittsburgh’s violent demise

Last week we made a wrong turn while exploring a far corner of the vast PG photo archive. Hopelessly lost, we dug our way out through the W, X and Y files. There, we discovered a folder labeled, “World Ends.”

We scratched our mulleted heads. Pittsburgh has always existed in its own time warp. Pop culture, music, fashion — we’re always a decade or two behind. So the Earth was destroyed? And we missed it? No big deal, we decided. Sooner or later we’d hear the news on our transistor radio. That’s how we learned last month about the cancellation of “WKRP in Cincinnati.”

We opened the folder and found a surprise: Five illustrations depicting the demise of Pittsburgh by various (and mostly violent) means. The spectacular illustrations, by staff artist Ralph Reichhold, were published in The Pittsburgh Press “Roto” magazine in the summer of 1946 under the inspired headline, “End of the World.”

A brief story explained that the world “as we know it” was bound to have an end — probably not for a while, the Press assured its readers. But then again, “it could conceivably happen today or tomorrow.”

The feature, inspired by an “end of the world” show at the Buhl Planetarium, offered up five possible methods of destruction:

1) Comet attack. Well, the optimistic writer admitted, this probably wouldn’t end the entire world, just one locality — “Pittsburgh, for example.” Yikes! But don’t spend too much time worrying about an attack by malicious comets. “The chances of it happening in the near future are infinitesimal,” read the Press.

2) The sun grows cold and we become human popsicles. “There could be no escape from this frozen death,” the article noted. Then we glanced at the weather forecast and thought, “Hey, wait a minute.”

3) The sun explodes and fries us all. This method would have the added effect of reducing our entire planet to a cinder. We’re thinking the traffic jam at the Squirrel Hill Tunnel would survive. It survives all.

4) Break-up of the moon. We consider this the most creative idea: The moon decides to get a bit closer to the earth. Earth’s gravity tears the moon apart. Chunks of the moon crash down on the ‘Burg. Quite possibly several hundred of us could survive by seeking shelter in that monstrous pothole on Ft. Pitt Boulevard near Market Street.

5) Atomic warfare. This scenario certainly was the most terrifying — and probable. One day after publication of Reichhold’s illustrations, the United States detonated its first atomic weapon since the bombing of Nagasaki. Readers of the Press on July 1 were presented with a front-page picture of a mushroom cloud over Bikini Atoll.

Top illustration: A comet attack levels the Wabash Bridge. (Illustration by Ralph Reichhold/The Pittsburgh Press)

— Steve Mellon 

Gill, with box on head, was escorted from court by attorney Shelly Friedman  in 1979. (Harry Coughanour/Post-Gazette) Gill, flanked by masked Frank Cocchiara, left, and Donna Potts at Public Safety Building in 1979. (Kent Badger/The Pittsburgh Press) Gill and wife Cynthia Bruno Gill in 1984. (Ross A. Catanza/The Pittsburgh Press) Police mug shot of Gill in 1977. The Roman V at 801 Liberty Avenue in 1985. (Jim Fetters/The Pittsburgh Press) The Aardvark on Liberty Avenue in 1978. (Paul Slantis/Post-Gazette)

Dec. 16, 1984:  The complex and tough Dante “Tex” Gill

George Lee had just dined at his favorite Italian restaurant when he was shot to death in a Downtown parking lot.

Lee’s murder — on Feb. 12, 1977 — set off a battle for control of his lucrative empire of massage parlors, thinly disguised fronts for prostitution.

Nick DeLucia, a former city fireman who was with Lee when he was gunned down, took over operation of three massage parlors — Maya in Market Square, Gemini on Liberty Avenue and Scandinavian.

For awhile, DeLucia’s business partner was Dante “Tex” Gill, an overweight  Brentwood woman who dressed like a man in suits and ties, wore short hair and sideburns and preferred to be called “Mr. Gill.”  A lesbian, Gill married Cynthia Bruno of Dallas, Texas, in Hawaii and lived with her in Pittsburgh before the couple eventually split.

Gill ran a string of businesses, including the Spartacus Massage Parlor in McKees Rocks, the Japanese Meditation Temple and the Taurean Models massage parlor, located at Penn Avenue and Ninth Street, Downtown. When authorities raided Spartacus in 1978, Gill threw a birthday cake at undercover Pennsylvania State Trooper Gerald Fielder.

During Gill’s trial in 1984 on income tax fraud in federal court, former employees testified that she lived well, traveled extensively and owned several rare and expensive pets. Gill could be generous with gifts of mink stoles and diamond rings to women she employed but could also insist they take lie detector tests if she suspected them of stealing.

An expert horsewoman who had worked as a blacksmith and taught riding at Schenley Park’s stables, Gill was born Lois Jean Gill. Her rap sheet for providing prostitutes to men dated as far back as 1964.  

Somehow, Gill managed to stay alive during 1977. That year, Joanna “Sasha” Scott, an employee at Gemini, was killed as she opened a letter bomb that also destroyed the massage parlor. That same year, Anthony “Bobby” Pugh, who had worked for Nick DeLucia, was murdered in his suburban apartment.

In 1980, a fire authorities believed was deliberately set destroyed a building at Penn Avenue and Ninth Street that housed the Taurean Models massage parlor, restaurant and bar. Three men who were sleeping on the top floor of the four-story building died in the blaze.

The law caught up to Gill in 1984 when a federal jury convicted her of under reporting her personal income by more than $60,000. That was walking around money compared to the more than $1 million raked in by just two of the massage parlors she controlled.

That same year, The Pittsburgh Press awarded Gill the “Dubious man of the year” and “Dubious woman of the year” title.

"In Tex we see the perfect symbol for the upscale androgyny of the 1980s,” read the Press. “She embodies business savvy, sexual confusion and an eye for fashion like no one since Michael Jackson."

In 1985, Gill was sentenced to a 13-year prison term. But U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond promised to reduce that sentence by three years if Gill would close three massage parlors within 24 hours. So, the Roman V and Aardvark, both on Downtown’s Liberty Avenue, and the Airport Executive Swim and Bath Club in Moon, closed for business.

Gill was released from prison in November of 1987 and died at age 72.

Her attorney, Carl “Max” Janavitz, recalled his former client this way:

“She was a very good businesswoman, but she just had a different lifestyle. You’re talking about a person who was very complex. She was very tough. A lot of fun. She drank a lot. She partied a lot. She could recite poetry endlessly. Irish poetry.”

Top picture: Dante “Tex” Gill was chosen by The Pittsburgh Press as both Dubious Man and Dubious Woman of 1984. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

— Marylynne Pitz

March 1, 1972: John J. Sullivan, 68, of Oakland, watched from the left field bleachers as the rest of Forbes Field vanished. (Albert M. Herrmann Jr./Pittsburgh Press) July 3, 1909: The first game at Forbes Field, which the Chicago Cubs won, 3-2. (Photo credit: The Index) Sept. 9, 1938: Pirates management opted to tear down the old press box and build a new one that would accommodate more writers — up to 550 — as the team made the playoffs. (Photo credit: ACME) An undated photo of Forbes Field and Oakland during batting practice. (Photo credit: unknown) Oct. 15, 1958: Forbes Field employees found a garbage truck in the box seats one morning. Tire tracks indicated a vandal driving it from left field then around the bases. (Photo credit: unknown) Nov. 20, 1968: The Forbes Field outfield needed to be resodded before its penultimate season. (Ross Catanza/Pittsburgh Press) June 27, 1970: Tree climbers at Schenley Park try to get a better view of center field during one of the final games at Forbes Field. (Howard R. Moyer/Pittsburgh Press) Dec. 24, 1970: Clemente Corner caught fire on Christmas Eve. It became a five-alarm fire after firefighters could not get into the locked field quickly enough. (Bill Levis/Post-Gazette) Dec. 24, 1970: The team had already played its last game at Forbes six months prior to the fire. (Bill Levis/Post-Gazette) Oct. 15, 1971: Workmen helped to demolish Forbes Field in autumn 1971 use portable radios to listen to the World Series at Three Rivers Stadium between the Pirates and Orioles. (Photo credit: unknown)

1970-72: “Final moments of Forbes Field”

Imagine a playground in place of Posvar Hall on Pitt campus. Yes, indeed, a place for kids to play ball in the heart of Oakland. It could have happened after the demolition of Forbes Field in 1970.

Jane Allon and Paul Boas, two Oakland residents in their 20s, proposed the idea to the University of Pittsburgh, which owned the ballpark after the Pittsburgh Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium that year.

“South Oakland, in particular, had very little in the way of open spaces for the kids to play in,” Mr. Boas, who is now a criminal defense lawyer working in Pittsburgh, said recently in a phone interview. “The idea that this historic, wonderful place would be there for a year or more and not used at all seemed to me to be a real waste.”

“Why not open it up for kids to play ball?” a 23-year-old Boas thought back then. Today, he realizes that even in 1970, officials were likely concerned about accidents inside the concrete and metal structure.

The plan collapsed when the state told Allon and Boas they needed $3.75 million in liability insurance.

On Christmas Eve that year, the right-field grandstands of “Clemente Corner” caught fire. It became a five-alarm fire when Pitt security guards couldn’t find the keys to the center-field padlocks, a fire chief told the Post-Gazette that night.

“This fire would only have been a two-alarmer if they could have opened those gates,” chief William Maurer said. The guards arrived within 10 minutes after the emergency call.

After the fire, a group called Peoples’ Oakland cooked up their own battle plan for the space. The group hoped to convert the stadium into part of the nearby community, instead of only a Pitt academic space. Peoples’ Oakland lost, and Pitt ended up building Posvar Hall.

Demolition began quickly, aided by another fire in July 1971. Arson, inspectors concluded. Several youths had been living inside the structure, they said, and the fire damaged a locker room and storage area.

Even though the Pirates won a World Series a year after moving to Three Rivers Stadium (a demolition crew at what used to be Forbes Field was listening on the radio to that October victory over the Baltimore Orioles) buyer’s remorse followed. Compared to Forbes Field, wrote Pittsburgh Press sports editor Roy McHugh, Three Rivers Stadium was bland.

Forbes “had character. It had grass. It had a view beyond the ivy-covered walls, where shade trees grew and Sunday afternoon sun worshippers camped on a hill,” he wrote in June 1975.

Never again would Pittsburgh baseball fans like Paul Boas — who grew up in Squirrel Hill and took many five-minute street car rides to the park — pay $1 to watch a game from the bleachers.

— Ethan Magoc

1980s: Michael Seibert and Judy Blumberg

Michael Seibert won five United States ice-dancing championships with partner Judy Blumberg before stepping away to become an Emmy-winning choreographer of “Stars on Ice.” He had kept his distance from the world of amateur skating in recent years, when a friend sent him a link to a Canadian TV series that followed ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as they prepared for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

That’s when he saw it — a clip of the United States’ Meryl Davis and Charlie White performing to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.” 

“They were talking about the rivalry and I was watching this on my computer, and I thought, ‘Whaaat?!’ ” said Seibert, who grew up skating in Shaler and then Washington, Pa., and won one of his national titles in the 1983 competition at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena. 

The Olympics were a different matter. 

USA’s Davis and White will gamble that time equals progress and skate to “Scheherazade” — the same choice of music that proved costly to Seibert and Blumberg 30 years ago.

Seibert had suffered injuries and illness leading up to the 1984 Winter Games, but he and Blumberg were riding high in Sarajevo when an Italian judge who deemed their choice of music inappropriate for ice dancing. Her score of 5.5 dropped the team into fourth place and out of medal contention. 

“Unfortunately, they chose music which didn’t conform to the rules of dance,” Italian judge Cia Bordogna told The New York Times back then. “The music must also be able to be danced to on earth. I approved of the couple technically. Technically, they were at a very high level. Their skating was really almost perfect.

Seibert and Blumberg were voted to the U.S. National Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1996, and he has had little nostalgia when it comes to the Olympics. But after watching that clip, he tuned in to the most recent American championships.

“I was so excited and I was a little tentative — [1984] was not a good experience,” said Mr. Seibert, 54. But I will always believe in it, and I’m still proud of the choice and what we did. I still feel a little proprietary toward ‘Scheherazade,’ and that’s why I was so happy and thrilled because I thought they were great. [David and White’s routine] is a real pleasure.”

The former skater spoke as February was coming in like a lion, when he was just moving back to New York in the midst of a snowstorm after several years on the West Coast. 

After watching Davis and White, he is especially keen on their opening lift, that starts with White swinging Davis parallel to the ice and then in the same motion bringing her up over his back and then onto his knee. The team won their unprecedented sixth U.S. title with the routine and Davis and White dominated the team ice dancing event last weekend at Sochi, winning the free dance category by nearly 7 points while skating to “Scheherazade.”

“The world of ice dancing has changed so dramatically, I don’t even recognize it. That’s just been an evolutionary thing,” Mr. Seibert said. “To me, our music wasn’t illegal back then and certainly the rule changes have  caught up with it. The bottom line is that Davis and White are uniquely entertaining, super physical and super technical. It seems from everything that I gather, they could be the first gold medalists in ice dancing from the U.S., and that’s really special.”

Seibert didn’t begin working with a professional coach until he was tween and considered too old for individual competition. Displaying talent and passion for the sport, he made the leap into ice dancing and moved around the country with his mother in search of top coaching and partners. When he met Californian Blumberg at the National Figure Skating Championships in Hartford in 1977, they both had other partners. They teamed a year and a half later and the Blumberg-Seibert juggernaut went on to win those five U.S. titles and took bronze three times at the World Figure Skating Championships.

In competition, their signature move that dazzled audiences had Blumberg parallel to the ice while holding Seibert’s leg as he lifted his other leg over her. They memorably ended the “Scheherazade” program with Blumberg forming a human ring, wrapped around Seibert, back to back, holding her skates and dropping to the ice.

Watching the favorites of the 2014 Olympics skate to the same music comes, Seibert can’t help but feel a twinge of what might have been. 

“We all have our egos,” he said, “but I love it because it says we were just 30 years ahead of our time.” 

Read more about Michael Seibert and his role in the CBC’s “Battle of the Blades” in Sunday’s Magazine section. 

-- Sharon Eberson

Cornered at the corner of Mossfield Boulevard & Mathilda Street in Garfield Meadville, Pa. (UPI photo)

1960s: "Goofy signs seen in Pittsburgh area"

No wonder Pittsburghers fail so miserably at following instructions. It’s not our fault. All around the city there are so many confusing signs that just don’t make sense, like an upside-down sign saying TRAFFIC MUST TURN RIGHT, KEEP MOVING ends with STOP AHEAD. 

Decisions, decisions. You know how it is. It’s been that way for a long time in Pittsburgh. We have photographs to prove it.

There are a lot of goofy signs, too. If there were a tournament for the best snarky, funny, ridiculous signs, Pittsburgh would be ahead of the pack. It’s as if they’re the ultimate expression of free speech for local retailers, drivers, construction workers and even corporate types.

After spending a few days raking through three thick folders marked “SIGNS” in our photo archive, we reached a unanimous conclusion: One could write a book about extraordinary signs seen in the most ordinary places in and around our town.

And for some people, collecting those jewels used to be a passion. Just as Jim Romenesko loves highlighting newspaper typos, photographer Ross Catanza of The Pittsburgh Press  used to collect — on film — unusual signs he came across. In 1973, Catanza shared his collection with his colleagues. The Pittsburgh Press ran a series of his favorites.

Funny warning signs? You got it. DANGER: MEN WORKING. That, indeed, sounds dangerous, especially considering the photo shows the men NOT working.

There was a photo of a truck carrying a squelch designed to further frustrate an already fuming motorist bringing up the rear: “I may be slow BUT I’m ahead of YOU!”

How about incongruous signs? We’ve seen those, too: A used-cow dealer who sells new antiques.

One photo of a sign posted on a drive-in theater in Meadville could be re-used today: “Closed — Too Cold for Kissin.” 

It’s indeed too cold. And a tad sad there aren’t many drive-in theaters around town anymore.

— Mila Sanina

March 16, 1941: Kiner (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph photo) March 4, 1949: Ralph Kiner and Pittsburgh Mayor David Lawrence at spring training camp in San Bernandino, Calif. (Photo credit: Associated Press) May 9, 1950: Ralph Kiner and Jackie Robinson at Forbes Field on a day when Robinson batted in all three Brooklyn runs in its 3-2 win. (Photo credit: Associated Press) July 29, 1951: Thousands of little leaguers from across Pittsburgh spent a day at Forbes Field. These four got to meet Kiner before the game. (Photo credit: unknown) March 20, 1953: Ralph Kiner and Pittsburgh GM Branch Rickey shaking hands at camp in Havana, Cuba, after the two agreed on a new contract. (Photo credit: Associated Press) May 29, 1980: Ralph Kiner went on to a career in broadcasting for the New York Mets. (Harry Coughanour/Post-Gazette) April 6, 1970: Willie Stargell and Ralph Kiner at Forbes Field during its final season. (James Klingensmith/Post-Gazette) June 26, 1987: Ralph Kiner taking batting practice at a Pirates old-timers game at Three Rivers Stadium. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)

1941: “Ralph Kiner, Pirates’ legendary slugger and Voice of the Mets.”

Ralph Kiner had a rare talent. He knew how to hold his crowds captive. As a baseball player, Kiner fascinated them in the visual and physical sense of the game. The Pittsburgh Pirates could be trailing 8-1 in the ninth inning and a Forbes Field crowd would stay until the final out. They didn’t want to miss a chance of seeing slugger Ralph Kiner stepping to the plate.

As an announcer for the New York Mets — although some would argue that in the traditional sense he wasn’t just an announcer — Kiner captivated the audience by his nuanced explanations of hitting and his great storytelling.

Kiner died Thursday, Feb. 6, at age 91.

He was a champion who left quite a legacy behind. “He was a great teammate,” former Pirates right-hander Bob Friend, 83, said, “All the players liked him. He was just a great guy. … Two players I saw hit the biggest power home runs ever? One was Ralph Kiner and the other was Willie Stargell. They hit those towering home runs. Just pure, home run hitters”.

Home runs? Kiner had 369 of them. The Hall-of-Famer tied or led the league in home runs during all seven seasons with the Pirates — including 54 in 1949 — even while playing half his games at spacious Forbes Field. Kiner averaged a home run every 7.1 at bats, second-highest all-time behind Babe Ruth.

By 1952, his output made him $90,000 in annual salary, the highest in the league then. Pirates General Manager Branch Rickey decided the figure should be cut by 25 percent. Kiner, after a three-week holdout in spring training, ended up taking a 15 percent pay cut and played for $76,500.

That spring, Kiner wrote, “A baseball player on the trading block is like a prize steer waiting to be sold to the highest bidder.” Three months after the Pirates resigned him, they traded him to the Chicago Cubs in a 10-player deal that included $100,000 in cash coming to Pittsburgh. The deal was made and fans were heartbroken.

He played two more full seasons and retired after he’d played 10 years because of his back injury.

Kiner’s short career meant he had to wait nearly 20 years to earn Hall of Fame induction. He got into the Hall during his final year of eligibility on the baseball writers’ ballot.

In 1975, he was inducted into Hall of Fame. “Inside, I’m emotionally high,” he told UPI. “But outside, I probably seem calm. That’s because I guess I’ve faced a lot of 3-2 counts with bases loaded.”

For more photos of Ralph Kiner as a Pirate and beyond, visit the Post-Gazette’s photo gallery.

— Ethan Magoc

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