On This Day in Pittsburgh History: May 1, 1969
Fred Rogers, host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” appeared before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications to oppose significant proposed cuts to funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. [Youtube]
Sen. Pastore: All right, Rogers, you’ve got the floor.
Mr. Rogers: Sen. Pastore, this is a philosophical statement and would take about ten minutes to read, so I’ll not do that. One of the first things that a child learns in a healthy family is trust, and I trust what you have said that you will read this. It’s very important to me. I care deeply about children.
Sen. Pastore: Will it make you happy if you read it?
Mr. Rogers: I’d just like to talk about it, if it’s alright. My first children’s program was on WQED fifteen years ago, and its budget was $30. Now, with the help of the Sears-Roebuck Foundation and National Educational Television, as well as all of the affiliated stations — each station pays to show our program. It’s a unique kind of funding in educational television. With this help, now our program has a budget of $6000. It may sound like quite a difference, but $6000 pays for less than two minutes of cartoons. Two minutes of animated, what I sometimes say, bombardment. I’m very much concerned, as I know you are, about what’s being delivered to our children in this country. And I’ve worked in the field of child development for six years now, trying to understand the inner needs of children. We deal with such things as — as the inner drama of childhood. We don’t have to bop somebody over the head to…make drama on the screen. We deal with such things as getting a haircut, or the feelings about brothers and sisters, and the kind of anger that arises in simple family situations. And we speak to it constructively. (more)
Heinz headquarters in Pittsburgh; 1968 ad for Heinz Ketchup.
Circa 1955: “Pittsburgh at Night”
Pittsburgh hasn’t always been beautiful in the harsh light of day. In her industrial years she was described as smoky, dirty, gritty and filthy. In fact, our lovely city once endured the reputation of being “hell with the lid off.”
But by night, Pittsburgh has always been spectacular. The industrial fires that sent smoke into our air and blackened our stone buildings also created stunning displays of light. Darkness provided a stark backdrop while concealing the city’s less appealing characteristics.
And of course Pittsburgh’s abundant hills served as fantastic viewing platforms.
The city’s business district, with its buildings clustered into a small triangle of land, has always gleamed in the night. Even in our dirtiest days, rivers poisoned with waste appeared as shimmering plates of glass and potholed streets emerged as ribbons of light. Above it all rose the Gulf Building, regal in its glowing crown.
Photographers took notice. The ugly city they knew by day magically transformed itself every night into a beautiful metropolis. Many set out to capture that beauty with their bulky cameras. Here are a few of the results.
The earliest picture was taken in 1939, as the country was climbing its way out of an economic depression. It shows what appears to be a church steeple silhouetted by the light of an unidentified steel mill. The optimistic caption in The Pittsburgh Press read, “A sure sign of better times in Pittsburgh is this nighttime scene on the industrial front, the sky lighted by belching furnaces.”
In an image made in 1946, the J&L steel mill on the South Side is so ablaze with light that it appears to harbor something angelic.
And at the official opening of the Civic Arena’s dome on July 4, 1962, Press photographer Dale Gleason was moved to shoot a time exposure of the event. As the great roof made its “epic journey,” Gleason opened his shutter a number of times, thereby “x-raying the Civic Arena,” declared the caption.
Much has changed since these pictures were made. The mills are gone, the Civic Arena is gone. We still have the Gulf Building, though, and the lights. And Pittsburgh has emerged as a city that looks great even on the brightest of days.
Yasuhide Kobashi Installation at the 1961 Carnegie International
In 1961, Carnegie Museum of Art director Gordon Bailey Washburn (who organized the exhibition from 1952 to 1961) placed a special focus on Japanese art. Kobashi’s sculpture Plumbob XXVII was hung over the museum’s Grand Staircase and measured nearly 40 feet tall.- Archive of the Carnegie Museum of Art