Where I Come From

Jerry Fuchs, a good friend – and former Pittsburgher – sent me a link to a video about Pittsburgh.

I tried to link it to this blog entry, but couldn’t get it to work. So, if you really want to see it, click on the highlighted – link to a video – words in that first sentence.

I’m sure the song could be played along with pictures of any city or town, but to a former Pittsburgher, the pictures say it all. Any song could be playing in the background, but the memories stirred up by the images would still be there.

For example, the pictures of the steel mills bring back memories of mid-day darkness when my mother couldn’t hang the clean laundry outside if she wanted it to stay clean. And that thought immediately reminds me of how the city worked so hard to kill the image and nickname of “Old Smokey”. In 1958, when the city celebrated its 200th birthday, the air was clear. Notice I didn’t say clean. There were still pollutants floating around, you just couldn’t see them.

The Fort Pitt Bridge and tunnel opened around that time along with the Hilton Hotel. The Gateway Center buildings were still relatively new… and the steel mills were still one of the major employers in the area.

Seeing a picture of Forbes Field reminded me that one of my first jobs was as a hot-dog vendor at Pittsburgh Pirate baseball games. I believe that was 1959 when I was fourteen – although I turned fifteen before the end of the season.

Kennywood Park holds many special memories for me. The one most folks would least expect is the lesson it taught me about tolerance toward minorities.

One early summer day I decided to take a young lady to Kennywood Park. It was the first time I’d ever gone there on a day other than our ‘community school picnic’ day. A thought that never entered my mind is that other schools and communities also held picnics at the amusement park.

On that particular day the park was welcoming the folks from the Homewood/Brushton area of Pittsburgh – the predominately black neighborhoods. Suddenly my date and I were the minority – overwhelmingly so. She was extremely nervous about the situation and insisted that we leave. Fortunately for my wallet, Kennywood still had free admission to the park; you bought tickets if you wanted to ride on something. So I didn’t lose any money on the deal.

But the experience certainly gave me a better understanding of anyone who is ‘different.’ There were lots of people staring at us as if to say, “What are you doing here? You don’t belong.”

The truth is, those words may never have entered anyone’s mind but ours. I’m sure we read lots of things into the situation, but one’s perspective is what he or she sees as the truth.

At any rate, many things have changed since those days… even the Steelers. I’ve been following the Steelers since before Jimmy Finks became the quarterback. Prior to the hiring of Chuck Noll in 1969, we referred to the Steelers as SOS… Same Old S… But even then, we fans loved our professional football team.

Based on the picture displayed below, I’d say we still love them!

Capital of the Steeler Nation

Capital of the Steeler Nation

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