Tube City Online

Filed Under: default || By jt3y

September 30, 2006 | Link to this story

Rick Santorum: Super-Cop

Category: default || By jt3y

People laughed at Rick Santorum when he said that gay marriage would lead to rampant "man-on-boy" action. Well, now that a U.S. congressman has been accused of sending indecent proposals to teen-aged boys via the Internet tubes, the joke is on us!

Frankly, no one would have been surprised if a member of the Democrat Party had been exposed as a deviated prevert, but egad --- it was a Republican! Obviously, the corrupting influence of terrorist-coddling liberal wackos like Ned Lamont, Michael Moore and Bobby Casey has gotten to the poor man.

Luckily, we can count on Sen. Torquemada's vigilance. Here, he's seen in an ofishul White House photo (taken just this past summer) keeping a steely eye on the suspected perp. Even back in July, he knew what kind of person he was dealing with!

Sleep soundly tonight --- Rick Santorum is on the job!

(P.S.: Pay no attention to reports that the Republican leadership has been hearing complaints about Rep. Foley for more than a year, and covered them up. Those reports are being spread by people who forgot the lessons of 9/11, and would prefer if Saddam Hussein was still in power.)

(P.P.S.: “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton)

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September 29, 2006 | Link to this story

We Get Letters

Category: default || By jt3y

Before we begin the usual stupidity today, Tube City Almanac would like to congratulate Sheriff Pete DeFazio on his impending retirement.

We believe Sheriff DeFazio entirely when he says that his retirement has absolutely nothing, nothing, to do with the fact that his office is under federal investigation, his former chief deputy is serving a five-year prison sentence, two other employees have been convicted on various charges, and that an audit found that he had overcharged taxpayers $2.5 million in sheriff's sale fees.

Therefore, we wish Laverne's dad all of the best as he returns to Milwaukee to take over the Pizza Bowl, and we hope that whomever the governor appoints, that person is just as qualified to be Allegheny County Sheriff as Pete DeFazio. That rules out Lenny, but perhaps Squiggy is available.

And now it's time to open the ol' Tube City Almanac mailbag and see what crawls out. Alert Reader Alex H. writes from Chicago (which is near Milwaukee) to say:

I am a native of the Pittsburgh area (born in McKeesport), and a descendant of parents and grandparents from McKeesport. My father was an executive with Westinghouse Electric, and although we lived other places as well while I was growing up, I still think of Pittsburgh as home.

My fondest memories of the area revolve around visits to both sets of grandparents and a favorite aunt and uncle. My maternal grandparents lived on Roslyn Street in Boston, while my father's parents lived on Cleveland St., west of Renziehausen Park.

My aunt and uncle lived on James Street in Haler Heights. At any rate, I left the area in 1975 after college to go on active duty in the Navy, and although I have returned very occasionally, I still become rather nostalgic at times. I now live in Chicago, and although the time I spent in the Pittsburgh area is actually a relatively small portion of my life, I still think of myself as being "from" there, a separate notion entirely from where I reside.

While browsing the online Post-Gazette today, I came across the story about the new grocery store opening in the Olympia Shopping Center, and through Google and/or links happened across the Tube City Almanac and Tube City Online.

I just wanted to contact you and express my appreciation for your efforts to document the considerable history and unfortunate present circumstances of a place which has meant a great deal to so many of us.

McKeesport is a prime example of the crushing blow dealt to many once thriving communities nationwide as we shift from a manufacturing Colossus to a service-based economy. We can hope for better times ahead, but I am not optimistic that we will herald their arrival any time soon. Keep up the fine work!

Alex: I don't fish for compliments, but I will take what I can get, and thanks for your kind words.

I'd like to think that McKeesport's best days are ahead of it, though that might not always be obvious right now. Tube City Online started out 10 years ago with mostly nostalgia items, and there's still a heavy component of local history on the site, of course.

But the Almanac tries to focus on the present and the future, and I especially look for positive things going on that impact Our Fair City and its suburbs.

My biggest worry is about the next generation --- will they stick around and try to build up the region, or will they flee for greener pastures? I'm a little bit pessimistic about that, but I try to stay hopeful.

. . .

Speaking of nostalgia, Alert Reader John K. writes:

Haven't been in the immediate McKeesport area for 45 or 50 years, but was doing a web search to see if I could come up with the name of a club / nightspot that was in the area. Operated during the mid to late '50s and attracted a lot of teens. Of course, after all this time, a "lot" is rather indefinite. No clue on the actual numbers, but do recall that it always seemed crowded. Mix of a record hop type thing, with live music some nights --- weekends mostly. Drew people from all around the area --- even some from as far away as Greensburg.

Anyway, found your site, and really did enjoy reading the witty comments. And a few of the other feature items on the site, mainly the history pages. Brought back a certain number of memories, along with awarenesses that weren't possible back then.

Good site --- keep it going.

John: I'm going to sic Tube City Online's crack research team on the problem, but there were so many clubs around the area, it's hard to nail down just one.

There were a lot of clubs in the area in the late 1950s. Off of the top of my head, I can think of the White Elephant in White Oak (formerly the Hotel Belvedere), the Twin Coaches on Route 51, Bill Green's out near the County Airport, Ben Gross' on Route 30, the Vogue Terrace in North Versailles ... any of those sound familiar?

So --- anyone out there remember a nightclub that had a lot of record hops?

. . .

Just a short hop, skip and jump down the Monongahela River --- careful not to step on any tugboats --- takes us to Clairton, where Alert Reader Rebecca asks:

Not long ago we bought the "big house" (the former Clairton Works superintendents house) in the fair city of Clairton. It's at the end of the block on Mitchell Street at Sixth.

It was built by the steel works for the superintendent around 1900 or 1903. It was lived in by a succession of mill supers from then until the mid '50s. It sat unoccupied for several years until sold to the family that we purchased it from.

We know the names of the supers that lived here and have bits of info on them and their families, but no info on the staff (we are told a cook, a maid and a least one male (groundsman, driver, handyman etc.) who apparently lived on site a least part time.

We are attempting to find the names of those who worked here or relatives of those who worked here who might be of help in putting a face to this big house. Perhaps early photos of the neighborhood or the house itself. Stuff like that.

We have spoken to several people from various historical organizations without success.

This place is a part of the Mon Valley and its history, we have invested a lot of work and time in attempting to make it the grand home it once was.

The point of all this is; Can you help? I realize you're in McKeesport and we're in Clairton but long ago people knew one another. Many thanks for your time in reading this too long missive.

Rebecca, the award-seeking Tube City Online research department welcomes anyone from across the highly esteemed Mon-Yough area, so Clairton inquiries are always invited.

If you thought your missive was "too long," wait until you see my answer.

I've had some luck researching this type of information through the census records at the Carnegie Library in Oakland. After 75 years, U.S. Census details become public record, so you should be able to get the names of the people who lived at that address in 1910, 1920 and 1930. The census will tell you even the names of the servants.

Also, the McKeesport Heritage Center in Renzie Park has some information about Clairton. They might have some reports from the Clairton mill or newspaper clippings. If you can find any books that might have been put out by the Clairton Chamber of Commerce --- like for the 50th anniversary of Clairton --- they might have some information. Check the Clairton Public Library or the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's main branch in Oakland.

Carnegie Library also has a "clip" file in the Pennsylvania Department that is pretty through. You might see what their folder on Clairton says.

You might also want to check and see what the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania has on U.S. Steel in Clairton, along with the Archives of Industrial Society at Pitt.

. . .

Finally, Alert Reader Nancy writes from Arizona:

I really enjoyed your article about Cynthia (Neish). She really was something --- a real force behind the progress of the Heritage Center! And the Heritage Center is a true gem for the community.

Amen to that, Nancy, and thanks for your kind words.

Incidentally, the Heritage Center is an integral part of two great ongoing projects. First, a documentary maker from Westmoreland County is producing a film about aviation pioneer Helen Richey, the first female commercial airline pilot and a McKeesport native.

(Your humble correspondent has seen a few minutes of the early footage, and as an airplane buff myself, I found it highly entertaining and rewarding.)

After being forced to quit her airline position under pressure from the all-male pilots union, Richey set several flight records and competed in a transcontinental air race with contemporary Amelia Earhart. Richey ended her life in relative obscurity --- suffering from a serious depression and the ravages of alcoholism, she committed suicide in New York City in 1947.

If this film tells Richey's story to a new generation, it's a wonderful achievement.

Second, the Heritage Center is collaborating with Arcadia Publishing to produce an inexpensive picture book of McKeesport history along the lines of the small, black-and-white paperbacks about Homestead, Duquesne and other local communities.

This will be a great keepsake for many current and former residents, and I'm looking forward to it.

. . .

And so ends another visit to the Tube City Online and Almanac mailbag. Keep those cards and letters coming, along with obscene movies, murals, postcards, neckties, samplers, stained-glass windows, tattoos ...

Oops ... sorry, I was channelling Tom Lehrer for a second.

. . .

To Do This Weekend: Carnegie Library of Homestead presents the "Taste of the Valley" fundraiser tomorrow in the beautiful restored music hall in Munhall, starting at 6 p.m. "Come and sample the signature dishes from the best restaurants in the valley!" says the library. There will be live music and special guests David Conrad, star of CBS' "The Ghost Whisperer," along with PBS and WQED-TV filmmaker Rick Sebak. Tickets are $40. Call (412) 462-3444, ext. 227. ... Bootsie's, 699 O'Neil Blvd., presents Dallas Marks, 10 p.m. tomorrow. Call (412) 672-1120.

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Posted at 07:40 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
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September 28, 2006 | Link to this story

Cluttered Thoughts From an Empty Mind

Category: default || By jt3y

You may have seen the headlines over the weekend: A maglev train in Germany crashed into a maintenance truck, killing 23 people and injuring 10.

I find it curious that none of our hard-working Pittsburgh reporters have asked the folks at Maglev Inc., located in Our Fair City, for some local perspective on this accident, or perhaps one of the local universities that are supplying brain power for some analysis.

The P-G story that ran on Saturday --- most of which came from Associated Press --- did note that Maglev Inc. is a partner with the German company that was operating the train that crashed.

I am not implying that magnetic-levitation trains are unsafe. This is the first recorded fatality in more than 20 years of testing maglev trains.

But the same AP story noted that the train that crashed was on a 20-mile demonstration loop that was built in 1985. It's not in commercial service. In fact, after about three decades of maglev train experimentation, there is only one maglev line in commercial service anywhere in the world, in China.

I still say that all of the federal, state and local tax money that has been poured into maglev in Western Pennsylvania has been a waste of money. Not one single piece of maglev equipment has ever been demonstrated in Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh agencies have been dinking around with maglev since 1987.

Hell, even Skybus got a demonstration track around the South Park fairgrounds.

I am not anti-progress. I am not anti-technology. In fact, maglev combines some of my favorite things --- things that are shiny and go fast.

But considering the complete lack of return on investment that maglev technology has provided to Western Pennsylvania, I wish all of the effort we are expending on maglev had been routed toward improving existing surface transportation in the Mon-Yough area.

. . .

Has anyone else noticed that there's a fitness club/gym in the old fire station up on Grandview Avenue? It's called (appropriately enough) "Firehouse Fitness," and the last two times I've been past, I've seen lots of people working out on those stair-climbing machines.

Now, my idea of exercise is flying off of the handle and shooting off my mouth, and I only run when someone is chasing me, but that's pretty cool. I hope they succeed.

The demographics of most of the city wouldn't lend itself necessarily to a fitness club (a bingo parlor, maybe) but that neighborhood is really close to the new development around Renzie Park and in Haler Heights. Presumably some of the younger families and couples over there, and in White Oak, might want to check out "Firehouse Fitness."

I'd link to a website, but I can't seem to find one. Time permitting, I'll dig up more information.

. . .

By the way, I made someone from out of town laugh the other day by referring to Haler Heights as "Pill Hill." It got the nickname when all of the doctors in McKeesport began moving there.

There's another, not-nice nickname that I don't intend to repeat here, but I seem to recall that John Hoerr mentions it in his book, And The Wolf Finally Came.

Are there any other city nicknames that confuse outsiders? The person I was talking to was mystified by one of them --- a number of people kept telling her about "Lowertenth." Lower 10th Ward, I said. That's the part below West Fifth Avenue and the old P&LE tracks.

I always just thought of it as "10th Ward," but people who live there call it "Lower 10th" to distinguish it from "Upper 10th" --- the part that borders Port Vue. Real, real old-timers call it "Reynoldton," because it was once a separate borough that was annexed by the city.

There's Christy Park (the part of the city along Walnut Street, south of the 15th Avenue Bridge) and the 12th Ward, which consists of the old Eden Park Borough. I don't know who Christy was, but I suppose I could look it up.

Myer Park is along Myer Avenue, and I presume it's named for prominent attorney and real estate developer Gilbert Myer. Grandview is up by the old firehouse, and I know I'm missing others.

If some enterprising fellow has a website about McKeesport, he should look up that kind of information and put it in the Internet tubes.

Oh, wait, that's me. Rats.

. . .

Finally today, Jonathan Barnes has a Barnestormin' commentary about one of my favorite pet peeves. He whacks Pittsburgh's Mayor Opie for telling David Letterman that there's no steelmaking in the region any more.

"U.S. Steel employs 4,000 people locally and 45,000 globally, and the company’s growing," Barnes writes. "The 105-year-old company produces 4 million tons of coke annually at the Clairton works, and 2.9 million tons of raw steel each year in Braddock."

Seriously. What does Opie think they make at Edgar Thomson Works --- Jell-o?

And we still make tubes in the Tube City, too. Put that in your electric-resistance-welded pipe and smoke it.

Correction, Not Perfection: Alert Reader Dennis notes that the former Eden Park Borough now comprises the 12th Ward of McKeesport, not the 11th, as this Almanac originally said. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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September 27, 2006 | Link to this story

A Mishmash Potpourri

Category: default || By jt3y

Today's Almanac is kind of a grab-bag of items I've stumbled over, with no real connecting theme. Maybe you should pretend this is the noon news ... perhaps on the mythical TV station that was supposed to be built in Irwin, but never was ... yet with fewer political ads and no happy talk.

And with less hair, too.

. . .

Our top story: You might see some odd-looking speed limit signs in North Huntingdon Township. Township police are experimenting with unusual color schemes and numbers in an attempt to catch motorists' attention, according to Patti Dobranski in the Tribune-Review Greensburg Astonisher.

Sgt. Duane Kucera came up with the idea after seeing a "13 MPH" speed limit in a North Hills housing development: "I kept thinking about it, and thought that, if I noticed it, something like that may work to slow down drivers in the township. People get so accustomed to seeing 'Watch Children' signs, they don't always pay attention to them."

Dobranski reports that a 19-mph speed limit has now been set on Biddle Avenue in Westmoreland City, and a second will soon be placed in Hahntown. In addition, a white-on-green 20-mph speed limit sign has been placed on Mockingbird Hill to slow drivers near the elementary and middle schools there.

It's a novel idea, and it just might work.

Maybe they could go one step further, though. They could put the speed limits in formulas, and force drivers to solve for "x."

Given the average American's math literacy, that would slow traffic way down. Some people might have to pull to the side of the road and get out calculators.

I understand that other speed limits that were considered and rejected include “i,” “x/0” and “6.0221415 times 10 to the 23rd power.”

On the other hand, I think I saw someone on Route 30 recently who appeared to be trying to reach that last speed.

. . .

In sports: The nation's only truly honest newspaper, The Onion, is running a fantasy football contest this season. Unlike other contests, however, the object is to pick the worst players in the league.

"Think that only Fortune 500 CEOs get rewarded for their incompetence and failure?" asks the Onion. "No more! Now you can field a winning fantasy roster of underachievers." Top prize is $5,000.

Among the top three "busts" of the week? Hines Ward ("who wouldn't have loved to have Ward's 17-yard performance?") and Ben Roethlisberger ("this year's 'Snakes on a Plane'").

Oooh, that smarts!

. . .

And finally, with today's "Speak Out," filling in for Al Julius, it's Anthony, one-half of Tunesmith and Anthony, with a commentary about the Port Authority's plans to extend the Downtown subway line to the stadiums (stadia?) on the North Shore ... and on the Post-Gazette for endorsing those plans:

The cost of this asinine project has ballooned to $435 million, or $68,655.30 per foot. The Federal Transit Administration has committed to pick up 80% of that tab. To quote Don Vito Corleone, “How did things ever get so far? I don’t know. It was so — unfortunate — so unnecessary.” ...

How about maximizing existing capacity ... before you go and expand capacity? Every day it seems that PAT is whining that it’s going to have to increase fares because ridership is down. Capacity seems to be the least of their problems.

And as far as establishing a beachhead that may extend the T north and west, perhaps this $435 million pill would be easier to swallow if this project was one step in one bigger master public transportation plan, but it is not. This sort of piecemeal urban planning that the P-G is endorsing with that argument is a big reason why it’s so difficult to get around this city.

Anthony points out several other things that $435 million could pay for, including:

  • four-year degrees for 8,900 kids at Pitt or 3,200 at CMU

  • at least 250 City of Pittsburgh police officers for 20 years

  • all real estate taxes in the city of Pittsburgh for three years for all taxpayers

Or 87 million pounds of Romano cheese, according to his headline.

I'll add that it would also pay for 1,035,714 "cookie-grams" to politicians in Harrisburg, which according to WTAE-TV, the Port Authority has purchased in the past.

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September 26, 2006 | Link to this story

Analyze This

Category: default || By jt3y

Terry Madonna
On the morning news
Giving just the first of this day's interviews

He's got opinions
On most every race
Helping hack reporters to save face

Monday quoted in the Trib-Review
Tuesday morning in the Post-Gazette
Wednesday lunchtime he's on Channel 2
And the week's not done yet

Terry Madonna
Giving it his best
Can't Pennsylvania media just let him rest?

. . .

Terry Madonna, professor of public affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, was just on the radio, analyzing the race between Bob "Bob" Casey Jr. and Sen. Rick Torquemada, R-Penn Hills, Va.

Says Dr. Madonna, Pennsylvania's most ubiquitous political pundit:

  • The race between Tricky Ricky and The Real Bob Casey Pt. 2 is negative and has the potential to become more negative.

  • The Santorum commercial that depicts Casey's "campaign team" in jail is untruthful. On the other hand, some of Casey's ads also have inaccuracies.

  • President Bush's approval ratings are low. Those low approval ratings may hurt Santorum.

  • On the other hand, Bush's approval ratings have gone up slightly. That may be in part due to the lower gas prices. But it's unclear whether that will help Santorum at all.

Thank you for that insightful analysis. But with all due respect to Dr. Madonna, he forgot to mention that the sun is going to rise in the east tomorrow, and that fluffy bunnies are cute.

I confess that during my undistinguished tenure as a reporter, I, too, called Terry Madonna for a quote on at least one occasion. Possibly more, but I don't think so.

All reporters in Pennsylvania love Terry Madonna, who also conducts the Keystone Poll, because he's remarkably well-informed on many, many aspects of state politics, and he's easy to reach. He's also a very nice guy.

You could wake Terry Madonna out of a sound sleep, with a 101-degree fever, and ask him to analyze the race for Recorder of Deeds in Potter County, and he'd give you a usable quote.

And that's the problem. Too many reporters don't want to dig for any information. Tracking down some other professor of public policy to comment on local politics would require work. They might even have to leave the office.

It's much easier to flip through the Rolodex, grab Madonna's phone number (though I'd be shocked if many reporters didn't have it memorized) and ask him the standard questions.

But if you're giving the same interviews, on the same topics, day after day, week after week, month after month, it obviously becomes more and more difficult to find something new and interesting to say.

Plus, since he's doing polling research for many different media organizations (among them the Philadelphia Daily News, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, the Tribune-Review, and several TV stations, including WTAE), he's got to be careful not to offend anyone.

. . .

The combination of over-exposure and well-placed caution would reduce even Winston Churchill to mouthing platitudes --- and that's what the media has Terry Madonna doing these days.

Thus begging the question: Why interview him at all?

Because it's easy. And it gives the impression that the local radio and TV stations and newspapers are covering politics, when what they're really doing is just dragging out the same old dead horses and beating them, one more time.

Surveys indicate that the American public finds politics "boring" and are uninterested with government news. The same surveys are used by newspapers and especially TV to justify reducing their coverage of politics and government.

Here's a thought. Maybe Americans aren't bored by politics. Maybe they're just bored by the hackneyed coverage being churned out daily by KDKA, WTAE, WPXI, the P-G, the Trib, the Associated Press, et. al.

Like, for example, constantly interviewing Terry Madonna.

. . .

Speaking of hackneyed: I notice that the distinguished editorialists at the Tribune-Review have adopted Tricky Ricky's belittling nickname for his opponent. Like Sen. Torquemada, they're now calling him "Bobby Casey Junior."

That's quite droll, you know, but of course, editorials in the Trib have always been the height of subtlety and incisive wit.

Since the Trib has adopted Santorum's nickname for Casey, I have decided to adopt a nickname for the Trib.

My friend, the late Larry Slaugh, always referred to it as "the Greensburg Astonisher" (because he was regularly "astonished" at the way certain news stories were reported) ... and until Election Day, I will, too.


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September 22, 2006 | Link to this story

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette ... in Cranberry

Category: default || By jt3y

If I were a tavern owner in North Huntingdon, Penn Township or Murrysville, I'd be salivating right now.

Not over the Friday night fish sandwich specials, though those are pretty good. No, I'd be salivating over the thought of Allegheny County banning smoking in bars and restaurants.

If I were a tavern owner in McKeesport, White Oak, Monroeville or any other border community, however, I think I'd be beside myself in white-hot fury.

As I may have mentioned in the Almanac, I have asthma and I'm allergic to dust, pollen, animal dander, chemical fumes, smoke and pretty much everything else, I think, including rainbows, sunny days and gentle ocean breezes.

OK, maybe not that bad, but they're pretty miserable. Suffice it to say that cigarette smoke isn't one of my favorite things, though I have plenty of friends and relatives who do smoke, and I don't begrudge them. Worry about them, yes. Begrudge them, no.

Anyway, when I visit a bar or tavern, as I have been rumored to do from time to time, I'm fully aware that someone's going to be smoking. Years ago, I interviewed a specialist who treated drug addicts. Many of them had kicked addictions to heroin, cocaine or meth, but couldn't give up cigarettes --- and they most wanted a cigarette when they were at a bar with their friends.

From talking with other smokers over the years --- especially people who smoke only occasionally --- almost all told me that if they're at a bar, enjoying a colortini, they reach for their Pall Malls or Virginia Slims.

So, if I'm going to be at a place where people are smoking, I make sure to pack my allergy medicine. I understand that not everyone's allergies can be controlled with medication, or that some people choose not to use medication. Obviously, that option won't work for them, and those people can't go into a bar or tavern if there are smokers present.

But frankly, there's no constitutional right to be able to enter a bar or tavern.

Also, frankly, I have never, ever seen a bar or tavern that was "no smoking." They may exist in some swanky suburb like Fox Chapel or Sewickley or Bunola, but I haven't seen them.

That tells me a couple of things. First, that there's little public demand for "no smoking" in bars and restaurants, and second, that restaurant owners are afraid of losing a large portion of their trade if they forbid smoking.

To get back to my opening sentences: If I were a tavern owner in any of the communities that border Allegheny County --- say, McMurray in Washington County, or Cranberry in Butler County --- I'd be rubbing my hands with glee. When they ban smoking in bars and restaurants in Allegheny County, my strong suspicion is that smokers and their friends will find new places to hang out.

Or else they'll spend a lot less time in their existing hangouts in Allegheny County, because they'll be going home or someplace else to smoke.

Either option will mean they're spending less money in Allegheny County's bars and taverns and restaurants.

Is there some reason that Allegheny County Council works so hard, each and every day, to drive people out of Allegheny County?

. . .

And on a related note, here's something else that bugs me. The same Post-Gazette story that talks about the proposal to ban smoking in bars and restaurants notes that the Allegheny County Health Department is operating in crisis mode.

Frankly, that isn't news. If you've ever visited any of the ACHD's facilities, you know that "dilapidated" doesn't begin describing them. "Disgrace" comes close, as does "embarrassing" and "condemnable." This county hasn't invested a nickel into the Health Department in years.

Over the years, however, ACHD has attracted and retained some pretty talented scientists and physicians and conservationists who are obviously working there because they love their work, not their disgusting and deteriorating facilities.

The news is that one-third of those people will be able to retire within five years, and the starvation wages that the county pays Health Department employees will not allow them to attract the same quality of people.

Nobody asked me, but in an era where we're constantly being warned about things like E.coli, avian flu and bioterrorism, I sure wish Allegheny County Council was working on finding more funding for the Health Department, and not on banning smoking in bars and restaurants.

Secondhand smoke is bad, but given a choice between breathing some smoke or spending two days in the bathroom with food poisoning, I say go ahead and light up a Lucky.

. . .

To Do This Weekend: The sun'll come out tomorrow. On the other hand, this is Western Pennsylvania, so I wouldn't bet on it. Go see "Annie" tonight, tomorrow and Sunday at the McKeesport Little Theater, 1614 Coursin St., near the library. Times are 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Call (412) 673-1100.

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September 21, 2006 | Link to this story

By The Way: Housekeeping Notes

Category: default || By jt3y

Sharp-eyed Almanac readers (are there any other kind?) may have noticed that the "Mon-Yough Gas Gauge" has been stuck in mid-July for several weeks.

I have continued to chart gas prices, but it's a bit of a pain to sit there and type up the names and locations of the gas stations each week, and I've had more important things to worry about.

So, starting this week (with prices logged the weekend of Sept. 16-17), I will only be posting the highest price, the lowest price and the mean.

Also, I'll be going back and in-filling previous statistics in the "Gas Gauge" as time permits.

How did you ever live your life without knowing this vital piece of information?

Second, there's a big email backlog at Tube City Omnimedia World Headquarters, located in the verdant mountains overlooking Our Fair City.

I'll be answering your letters soon, so if you've got a question or a comment for Mr. Answer Man or for Almanac readers, get 'em in now at jt three y at dementia dot o r g.

Finally, the daily deluge of spam has forced me to start bulk deleting a lot of email, and I've turned the spam filters up to "11." If I don't respond to your email, there's a good chance I accidentally deleted it, or that the filters snagged your message by accident.

If you don't hear from me, and you need a response to some query, feel free to post comments on any relevant topic in the Almanac.

And by "relevant," I mean "relevant" to the Mon-Yough area --- roughly defined, for our purposes, as the region bordered by the Parkway East, Route 51, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Route 136.

I add that caveat because a Pittsburgh politician, or one of his supporters, recently "spammed" an Almanac entry with one of his position papers. That stuff will be deleted at the editor's whim.

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September 21, 2006 | Link to this story

Better Never Than Late

Category: default || By jt3y

Geez, after a couple of days off, you'd think that I might have a lot to say.

Eh ... apparently, not so much.

Actually, I had a bunch of things to write about, but they're almost a week old, and writing about them now is something like buying an "AFC Champions" T-shirt a week after the Steelers win the Super Bowl. Technically, it's still true, but what's the point?

Still, I feel compelled to pen a few squibs on two important local stories. I'll leave it up to you to decide if someone can actually "pen" anything on a website.

. . .

In case you missed it, Tanya Kach has filed a federal lawsuit against the former school security guard accused of keeping her prisoner in his home for 10 years, along the security company that employed him, the city and the McKeesport Area School District, accusing them, according to Jill King Greenwood in the Trib, of "failing to protect her or properly investigate her disappearance."

Not much to add here, except that we all kind of knew this was coming, right?

Kach's attorney says that her client is still working through the grieving process and is finding it difficult to function normally. That's certainly understandable.

And nothing will promote the healing process like a long, complicated federal lawsuit that will require months of depositions and invite intense media scrutiny.

I had predicted back in April that this was going to wind up as a "Lifetime" original movie event, but now I'm convinced that "Law and Order" is going to rip it off.

. . .

As expected, Penn State trustees voted to change the name of Penn State McKeesport Campus to "Penn State Allegheny Campus." A little birdie tells the Almanac that, in protest, Mayor Jim Brewster has resigned from the advisory board to the local campus. (If anyone from the mayor's office can confirm that, I'd like to know. I'd be glad to print Mayor Brewster's comments here, too.)

I've said all I can say on the matter, except for this footnote: I adapted some of the Almanac commentary about the name change into a business letter and sent it to Penn State University President Graham Spanier. On Thursday, I received a response from Spanier. I very much appreciate the fact that he took the time to respond.

I am willing to accept what I was told last week --- that this is not meant as any kind of a slam toward McKeesport. Still, I think --- with all due respect --- that this entire matter could have been handled with more sensitivity toward the community's feelings. It was presented as a "fait accompli," and that stung.

However --- I also think that Penn State by any name (well, except for, maybe, "WVU") remains a tremendous asset to the Mon-Yough area, and I hope that any ruffled feathers (or is that tiger fur?) will eventually be smoothed down, for the good of everyone involved.

But particularly for the good of these valleys --- which can use the infusion of brainpower Penn State offers --- and the students, present and future.

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September 20, 2006 | Link to this story

Please Pardon The Interruption

Category: default || By jt3y

By Etaoin Shrdlu
Chief Crime Correspondent
Tube City Almanac

SPECIAL REPORT: North Bittyburg police are investigating an apparent fire-bombing at Tube City Omnimedia's worldwide headquarters.

The suspected arson forced Tube City Almanac to temporarily suspend publication and also shut down Tube City Online --- the Mon-Yough area's leading source of Internet misinformation.

According to a police spokesman, witnesses saw a car fleeing the scene shortly before the building went up in flames. A sketch of the driver (at left), created from witness statements, was released yesterday by the North Bittyburg police department.

Police refused to speculate on possible motives, but a source close to the investigation said the fire-bombing might be retaliation for recent Almanac stories about Penn State McKeesport's plans --- approved by Penn State trustees on Friday --- to change its name to "Penn State Allegheny."

The editor of Tube City Almanac, shown at right in an undated photograph, said he is "mystified" by the attack.

"I have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for my friends at Penn State McKee ... er, Allegheny," he said. "I'm sure that they would not be involved in any such skullduggery. In fact, I own the official biography of Joe Paterno, No Ordinary Joe, as well as a color photograph of the legendary coach.

"Such a heinous crime could only have been committed by Islamofascist terrorists, or barring that, people from Cranberry or Mt. Lebanon who are jealous of Our Fair City," he added.

North Bittyburg police are vowing to "spare no expense" in finding the perpetrators responsible for shutting down the Almanac, "so long as it's less than five bucks."

. . .

And if you believe all of that crap, I've got another one for you.

Except for the stuff about Joe Paterno. I do have his book. And a picture of him.

Sorry about the interruption of the past few days. As some of you know, Tube City Online has been hosted for free since the late paleozoic era (OK, since 1996) by Derrick Brashear.

Derrick reports that the Dementia server's power supply died sometime Thursday, and that the hard disk was also having problems. He's put in some hard hours in between doing several other important tasks in Real Life (tm), and things are back to normal. I am very grateful, and owe him several frosted beverages.

There's lots to talk about, so regular Almanac entries will resume now.

. . .

(Fire picture from "Bunsen Honeydew" copyright Jim Henson Productions. "Joe Paterno" copyright Florence and Angelo Paterno.)

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September 15, 2006 | Link to this story

Earning His Stripes

Category: default || By jt3y

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September 14, 2006 | Link to this story

Allegheny Agony

Category: default || By jt3y

I wrote Tuesday that I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who was in favor of changing the name of Penn State McKeesport Campus.

Well, I had a lengthy conversation yesterday with a longtime prominent McKeesporter who was actively involved in the discussions about changing the name.

This person does not want to be identified in any way because of the controversy. This person is not employed by Penn State in any way. But I can personally vouch for this person's credentials, and they are impeccable. (You can take a personal endorsement from me for whatever it's worth, of course.)

My source has "mixed emotions" about the name change. This McKeesporter was consulted by Penn State officials, and in the end, reluctantly told the university the change was probably for the best.

On the other hand, my source fully understands why Mayor Brewster and city council object --- in fact, this McKeesporter says that city officials would be derelict in their duties if they didn't fight to preserve the name "Penn State McKeesport."

I also learned some of the background of the discussions which led to the change, which I was told have been going on for "at least 10 or 15 years." My source asked if I remembered when Penn State considered closing the McKeesport Campus in the late 1980s, and I do.

Direct appeals to University Park officials led them to reconsider, my source says, and instead they replaced the local administration and began investing in the campus. Several four-year degree programs were created, and enrollment went up.

According to my source, however, Penn State McKeesport hit a serious recruitment stumbling block, particularly (and this surprised me) in Allegheny County. Maybe this says something about modern education, but this McKeesporter tells me that prospective Penn State students from Pittsburgh have told admissions personnel they weren't sure where McKeesport was. They didn't even know it was in Allegheny County. They were more likely to attend Penn State Beaver, because at least they knew where Beaver County was.


I asked my source why the campus just wouldn't be renamed "Penn State Pittsburgh" or "Penn State Greater Pittsburgh." This McKeesporter told me that Penn State officials were very sensitive to local feelings, and felt that calling the McKeesport Campus "Pittsburgh" would send a terrible message.

The intent behind calling the McKeesport Campus the "Allegheny Campus," I am told, is to emphasize that PSM is part of Allegheny County, and thus enhance its value. Penn State is not trying to slight or minimize McKeesport, my source says.

I asked this McKeesporter about rumors that people from Pittsburgh affiliated with the university wanted to erase the "stigma" of McKeesport from the name. My source says yes, there has been some of that, but those people are a minority, they are not driving these discussions, and there is not a feeling by anyone in leadership that the name "McKeesport" carries any kind of a stigma.

In fact, my source claims that a number of faculty members from the McKeesport area are not at all happy about the change. They are proud to be working at "Penn State McKeesport," this McKeesporter tells me.

Several PSM alumni have asked me a name change is a prelude to moving the campus --- say, to Findlay Township or the South Hills. Emphatically, "no," my source says. The university would not have built a new student union if that was the case, I am told.

I hope this adds light, rather than heat, to the discussion. As I've pointed out before, I have several conflicts of interest around this issue, and opinions expressed in the Almanac are mine alone, not necessarily those of my employers.

According to Pat Cloonan in last night's News (subscribers only), Penn State trustees are meeting in University Park tomorrow, and although the name of Penn State McKeesport is not on the official agenda, it is expected to be added.

Exact details of what transpires in the meeting will not be released until Monday, the News reports.

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September 12, 2006 | Link to this story

Stories We're Following

Category: default || By jt3y

City officials voted last week to pass a resolution condemning Penn State McKeesport's proposal to change its name to "Penn State Allegheny."

According to a story by Pat Cloonan in the Daily News (subscribers only), council voted 6-0, with one member absent, to voice the city's displeasure.

Cloonan's story also reports that Mayor Jim Brewster, who sits on the advisory board to the McKeesport Campus, was one of only two members of that panel to vote against the name change. The story doesn't say who cast the other negative vote.

However, a complete list of the advisory board members is available on the PSM website.

I found the names interesting, in part because of the wide variety of people who have ties to the Mon-Yough area.

They include some names you'd expect to see, like state Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Baldwin, who lives in White Oak; Linda Croushore of the Mon Valley Education Consortium; D. James Heatherington, longtime city businessman and funeral director; Joe Hohman, a former county official and local municipal consultant; Ron Ott, president of UPMC McKeesport hospital; and Chris Miles, publisher of the News.

But clergy are represented as well, like Rev. Earlene Coleman, pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church, as well as several less well-known local citizens.

And guess who else is on Penn State McKeesport's advisory board?

U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

Well! How do you like them apples?

If you haven't already written Penn State to voice your opinion (please be respectful) either pro or con, then please do. Cloonan reports that a decision could be made as early as this week.

(Personally, I'd like to hear from any readers of the Almanac who would support such a change, especially if they live in the city or attended Penn State McKeesport.)

Also, you might want to drop a copy of your letter to U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, 100 West Station Square Drive, Landmarks Building, Suite 250, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

After all, he is running for office --- and I'd hate to see Rick lose votes in the McKeesport area because of this issue.

(It goes without saying that opinions expressed at Tube City Almanac are those of the editor and do not represent those of the staff or management of anything.)

. . .

Last week, I wrote about the Interfaith Hospitality Network's plans to open an office in Pleasant Hills --- and particularly, what the managing editor of the Observer-Reporter had to say about one of the people involved. (He said she has "cement between her ears.")

Well, the Tribune-Review was on the story Thursday.

The network wants to use a house presently owned by Pleasant Hills Community Presbyterian Church as a office (not a "halfway house" or "homeless shelter," as opponents are claiming) and has asked the planning commission for a variance to change the property from "residential" to "public use."

(The house is on Audrey Drive, and I think the Trib story has the house number wrong. County tax records indicate that Pleasant Hills Presbyterian owns houses at 15, 36, 41, 49 and 53 Audrey Drive, but not "136." I have a feeling the house in question is at 36 Audrey Drive.)

The planning commission meets again on Sept. 19 at the Pleasant Hills borough building. Want to bet there will be fireworks?

. . .

Correction, Not Perfection: Kevin G. Barkes, editor of KGB (motto: "no, not that one") would like to note that I spelled his name wrong last week. (I called him "Barnes.")

I apologize for the error, and I am duly chastened, and I'm also glad that Kevin's Bark is worse than his ... aw, I can't even finish that.

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September 08, 2006 | Link to this story

To Do This Weekend

Category: default || By jt3y

Celebrate the history of one of Pennsylvania's busiest airfields as Allegheny County Airport marks its 75th anniversary tomorrow. Opening ceremonies begin at 9:30 a.m. at the terminal on Lebanon Church Road in West Mifflin with remarks by county and airport officials. Steelers chairman (and licensed pilot) Dan Rooney will also be on hand.

Vintage and military aircraft will be on display both Saturday and Sunday, and rides will also be provided for fees starting at $70, depending on the aircraft and the pilot. Food will be available and parking and admission are free.

Paper airplane making contests will be held in front of the terminal for all students in kindergarten through high school.

Allegheny County Airport opened on Sept. 11, 1931, as Pittsburgh's main commercial airfield, with three runways on 432 acres. In its first year, AGC hosted nearly 8,000 passengers. By 1952, when commercial air traffic shifted to Greater Pittsburgh Airport in Moon Township, more than a million people were flying out of Allegheny County Airport each year.

At various times, AGC served as the headquarters for Pennsylvania Central Airlines (a predecessor to Capital and United) and the Pittsburgh terminal for Allegheny and TWA, as well as an important base of operations for the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Military Air Transport Service during World War II.

Visit for details.

. . .

Are you ready for some football? It's a Route 837 rivalry, sorta, kinda, as Steel Valley (1-0) takes on South Allegheny (0-1) in a conference game at Gladiator Stadium in Glassport tonight. Kickoff is 7:30 ... My alma mater, Serra Catholic High School, plays its first game its new lights at 7 p.m. Saturday at the stadium, 200 Hershey Drive, as it hosts Bishop Canevin in a game that will be televised on Fox Sports Pittsburgh. Serra is 1-0 after beating up on North Catholic last weekend. ... The McKeesport Tigers (1-0) are at Gateway in Monroeville tonight for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff ... Duquesne (1-0) hosts Monaca tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

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September 08, 2006 | Link to this story

Thank You, Cynthia

Category: default || By jt3y

About 15 years ago, a pimply-faced teen-ager who wasn't half as clever as he thought he was started doing some research about McKeesport. Much of what he thought he "knew" turned out to be folklore at best.

After pestering his neighbors and family with one time-consuming question after another (What color was "The Famous"? When did Menzie Dairy go out of business? Who was the "Lysle" that they named the boulevard for?), it became obvious that he was going to have to go do some actual work.

Since there was no World Wide Web back in those primitive days, his first stop was the high school librarian, who sent him to the Carnegie Free Library, where he learned that most of the city's historical documents, along with copies of The Daily News on microfilm, weren't there. They were at a place called the McKeesport Heritage Center.

The what in the where? The Heritage Center. In Renzie Park. Next to the "Little Red Schoolhouse."

So one day, after school, he walked down the hill, in the rain, to the old schoolhouse. Next door was a new brick building he hadn't noticed before. The door was locked. He rang the bell.

. . .

The stern-looking woman who answered was shorter than the drenched kid standing outside, but she still seemed to tower above him.


"I need to look up some information about some buildings in McKeesport."

She peered over her glasses. "What kind of information?" she said.

"Well, um ... everything, I guess. I don't know."

"Hmm," she said, sizing him up. She looked like an elementary school teacher, straight out of Central Casting, and suddenly he felt like he was about to be sent to the principal. His mom wasn't coming for another two hours. What if she refused to let him inside?

"Come in and get out of the rain, already," she said, finally, holding open the door. She gave him a quick tour of the building --- pictures were in these binders, the microfilm readers were over there, and maps and charts were back in this room.

He unknotted his tongue long enough to ask some questions. She patiently answered them that day, as she would patiently answer them for years --- even though, eventually, she trusted him enough to go look things up on his own.

. . .

That was Cynthia McLane Neish. She wasn't rude, and she wasn't unfriendly, and she wasn't mean, but she knew what she wanted, and once she had set her mind to something, it was going to happen. The phrase "tough cookie" was invented to describe people like her.

Cynthia set extremely high standards for herself, and she expected the same behavior out of everyone else --- and woe betide those who failed to live up to her expectations.

Once, about a year ago, she called and left a message on my answering machine. I fully intended to call her back the next day, but one thing led to another. She left another message. Call Cynthia tomorrow, I thought, but, well, sometimes the hamster falls out of the little wheel in my brain --- and I forgot.

Her third message was a perfect sound portrait of exasperation, and when I immediately drove over to pay a personal visit and make amends, she just peered at me and shook her head.

When the McKeesport Heritage Center was first formed (largely at Cynthia's instigation) as a museum, genealogy resource and repository for city documents, it was shoved over in a corner of the J. Clarence Kelly Library at Penn State McKeesport. By the time I discovered it a few years later, it had moved into its own building, but everything was still sort of disorganized, and it was difficult to see how it would amount to much.

Difficult, I guess, if you didn't know Cynthia McLane. (She hadn't yet married --- late in life --- longtime McKeesport advertising executive Frank Neish, a man every bit as jolly as Cynthia could be stern. Some how, they made a good match.)

With unswerving devotion and relentless drive, Cynthia brought order to the chaos. New collections were formed. Exhibits began to appear.

. . .

Pretty soon the original building had filled up, and plans for an addition had to be drawn up. In the meantime, the Heritage Center set about restoring the old "Little Red Schoolhouse." A brick shelter was erected to protect the 1832 log cabin from the elements. The addition went up a few years later.

It wouldn't be fair to credit Cynthia McLane Neish with all of the growth at the Heritage Center --- there were a lot of volunteer hours expended by many, many dedicated people --- but it's fair to say that no one dared abandon their posts until their tasks were completed. You wouldn't dare disappoint Cynthia.

Was she tough to deal with? Sometimes. I can think of a few people who held her in disdain. No one who sets high goals, and demands that others keep their promises, is beloved by everyone.

Her health hadn't been good of late, although until recently, she was still putting in regular hours at the Heritage Center. I have been spending a fair number of Saturdays this year at the Heritage Center doing research, and it was unusual not to see Cynthia at some point during the day.

And when she spotted me, she'd want to know what I was working on, and whether I was making any progress. Instantly, my posture became a little bit straighter and my diction became a little bit clearer. Cynthia had that effect on people: You shaped up when she was around, and you'd better be ready to answer her questions.

I won't be seeing her this Saturday, or any Saturdays, any more. Cynthia died last weekend in UPMC McKeesport hospital. She was 81 years old.

. . .

I'm not going to try to give a real, professional eulogy for Cynthia McLane Neish. Carol Waterloo Frazer did a fine job of that in Wednesday's Daily News, and city council members and Mayor Brewster eulogized her that night. You can also download (PDF) the resolution that city council passed last year, when Cynthia marked 20 years as director of the Heritage Center.

All I can write about is her impact on the life of one kid --- now, a slightly bigger kid.

It's tough for me to write this, because I had never really thought about Cynthia McLane Neish, or what she meant to me. I guess I assumed that she was just a force of nature that would always be there, though I know better.

Maybe I just didn't want to accept the fact that someone who commanded such respect from me --- and, I guess, intimidated me, too -- was just a mortal.

Yet she secured a piece of immortality for herself. No one would have much thought that the history of McKeesport and the surrounding communities was worth saving --- could even be saved --- if the Heritage Center hadn't become such a useful resource, and it's hard to say the Heritage Center would have become such a useful resource without Cynthia on the job for all of these years.

Her legacy will be felt for years to come, whenever families try to discover their roots, whenever students need to research local history for school projects, or whenever people try to make sense of the history of these valleys.

Just seeing her example made me a better person. And whenever I need some motivation, I'm going to pretend that Cynthia is behind me, watching me, waiting: "Well? Now what?"

God bless you, Cynthia, and thank you.

. . .

Funeral services and interment for Cynthia McLane Neish were private. In lieu of flowers, her family has suggested that people memorialize her by visiting a shut-in. With all due respect, I will go further: Please also consider a contribution in her name to McKeesport Heritage Center, 1832 Arboretum Drive, McKeesport, 15132, or to the Memorial Archives of the Western College for Women, her alma mater at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

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September 06, 2006 | Link to this story

I'll Take ‘Potpourri’ for $100, Art

Category: default || By jt3y

If you get today's headline, you're older than you look. Unlike me, who looks older than I am. Feh! It's just the receding hairline. And the plaid pants and horn-rimmed glasses, along with my propensity to get the "Early Bird Special" at Denny's, and to yell at the neighbor kids.

You want your ball back? Well, you're not getting it back! Ha!

Ahem. But it is a "potpourri" Almanac today, with a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.

. . .

Tell Us What You Really Think: One of my old bosses, Park Burroughs, the managing editor of the Washington Observer-Reporter, recently teed off on a local woman.

You may have heard, but a group called the Interfaith Hospitality Network is trying to open an office in Pleasant Hills. IHN has a similar center in "Little Worshington." Although it doesn't offer shelter to homeless families itself, it does connect families and individuals with resources for people who have lost their houses.

The woman, who Park identifies as Bonnie Veraldi of Pleasant Hills, emailed Park looking for information on the IHN home in Washington. I'll let Park pick up the story from there:

She was looking for information about the IHN here, the trouble it's caused, the declining property values, the hobos and derelicts urinating out the windows, I dunno.

I got angry. I wrote her back about the facts of Interfaith Hospitality Network: that is is NOT a homeless shelter rather an organization that assists families who are in economic trouble and have lost their homes. The IHN house on Beau Street is not a shelter but a resource center for these people, a place where they can get assistance in finding jobs and places to live, and where their kids can be looked after while they're at job interviews. Local churches host these families --- feed them and bed them down for the night, and when that's not possible, IHN puts them up in motels with donations from its supporters.

The writer was looking for some fuel for the group that she's forming to keep this organization out of her neighborhood. I told her that Washington --- and all the participating churches --- are proud to have such an organization here.

I hope this woman never finds herself in a situation where, after a couple of bad breaks, she finds herself and her family out on the street with no one to offer them help.

According to Park, she didn't appreciate his response:

"Mr. Burroughs, while I appreciate your explanation for the GLOWING opinion of IHN, unfortunately, we can't use it, we need something more unbiased. But again, thank you for responding, Bonnie Veraldi

Park says she has "concrete between (her) ears," adding, "obviously, she's not interested in the facts, just some more fuel for her prejudice."

One of my enduring problems with Park was that he was so shy about saying what he thought.

. . .

Trust Him, He Knows What He's Doing: Over at KGB, the leading online chronicle for the Library-Snowden-Bruceton Metroplex, Kevin Barkes excerpted a lengthy article from the Wall Street Journal about James Horner, the man who was asked to write the theme song for the new "CBS Evening News With Chipper Chipmunk" ... er, I mean, Katie Couric.

Among other theme songs, Horner composed the scores for Titanic and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, "which, along with his previous score for Battle Beyond the Stars, contains virtually all the themes and signature phrases he's used in his career," Barnes says.

Barnes says he was "voting for the theme from Sledge Hammer, which is actually a pre-Batman/Beetlejuice/Simpsons Danny Elfman piece. Might as well start the show off with a bang."

Heck, why not go all the way and make David Rasche the co-anchor? He's been in everything else lately.

. . .

I Can Almost Smell The Floor Wax: Inspired by our recent exhaustive (exhausting?) discussion of local supermarkets at the Almanac, reader Bob Schneider scanned in a page from an old Thorofare Markets annual report showing the store at Eastland Shopping Center in North Versailles as it appeared for its grand opening on July 30, 1963.

I've taken the photos and put them on the Eastland Mall, 1964 page of the History section.

. . .

Wasting Time: Well, I took a look through the rest of the History section, and it was a mess --- some pages didn't have any photos, others weren't showing up in the main navigation, and some were still in the circa 1999 old design of Tube City Online. One thing led to another, and I ended up updating all of the pages of the History section.

It's still ugly as a mud fence (I'm using frames and "font" tags in 2006!), but at least it's consistently ugly. Feel free to let your mouse do the clicking; there are now 16 different articles of varying quality available, plus U.S. Census figures for McKeesport from 1910 to 2000 and other ephemera.

Aren't I supposed to be writing a damned book instead of doing that? Yes. I am. I know, mom! Get off my back!

. . .

In Memoriam: I didn't know this, but old colleague and cow-orker Dave Copeland worked as a part-time consultant on the late Bob O'Connor's election campaign last year. His remembrances of O'Connor are well worth reading.

. . .

(P.S. Still stumped by the name "Art," are you? "Who is the original host of 'Jeopardy'?")

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September 05, 2006 | Link to this story

The Name Game

Category: default || By jt3y

As originally reported by the Almanac back in May, officials at Penn State McKeesport Campus have proposed changing its name to "Penn State Allegheny." A Daily News story by David Whipkey (subscribers only) has more details.

The Penn State board of trustees will consider the name change at a meeting Sept. 15. The advisory board to the local campus has endorsed the move.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that Penn State McKeesport Chancellor Curtiss Porter recently did me an extraordinary kindness, and while I can't talk about what he did yet, I will, if and when the time is right.

Also, as an employee of another university, I have an obvious conflict of interest in talking what another local college is doing.

So: Suffice it to say that my opinions are not those of anyone but me.

Anyway, I'm walking a delicate line here, and if I sound like I'm pulling my punches --- well, I am.

Instead of shooting off my own mouth, I'll let a strongly worded editorial from Wednesday's News do most of the talking. It's not online, but I think it's worth quoting at length, because I think it probably captures the feelings of a lot of Penn State alumni in the McKeesport area:

Porter ... denied that a change is prompted by all the weird news generated recently in this area. We are skeptical about that.

However, if he and his advisors want to slap the faces of alumni who have supported PSM for decades, they will succeed.

He also noted how Carnegie Tech became Carnegie Mellon University --- however, that came as the result of a merger of Carnegie and Mellon institutes. So should we start asking questions about a merger with Community College of "Allegheny" County?

The News is urging readers to contact PSU trustees, including state Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Baldwin of White Oak and Eat'n Park CEO James S. Broadhurst, along with Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Dr. Porter told the News that PSM wants to "broaden the scope of the campus from the Mon Valley to all of Southwestern Pennsylvania," and that a name change will help.

Let me state up front that besides my most recent dealings with Dr. Porter, I've met him in the past, and I've heard a lot about him. I believe that his heart is in the right place, and that he's not making this decision based on some idle whim --- he's also a Mon Valley native (Braddock, if I recall correctly), so he's sensitive to the issue of community pride.

If this change were part of a change at all Penn State campuses --- let's say Penn State New Kensington was going to become "Penn State Westmoreland," and Penn State Altoona was going to become "Penn State Blair" --- then I think McKeesporters would grumble and move on.

This change, however, only seems to be targeting Our Fair City, and I suspect that's why it's leaving a bad taste in the mouths of McKeesporters. Their offense is understandable.

While I'm not knocking the cities of Dubois, New Kensington or Altoona, I have a hard time believing that those names care more "prestige" than "McKeesport" --- which is, after all, the home of an Olympic gold medalist (Swin Cash), a Pulitzer Prize winner (Marc Connelly), an internationally-known photographer (Duane Michals) and one of the most influential rock'n roll record producers of the 20th century (Art Rupe).

I also don't understand how this is going to help recruit students to the local campus. As previously stated in the Almanac, once students visit "Penn State Allegheny," they're going to notice it's in McKeesport. (OK, some of it is in White Oak, but who's counting?)

And does "Allegheny" really mean anything more to a high school student from Scranton or Philadelphia than "McKeesport" does? I doubt they could find "Allegheny County" on a map. Why not just call it "Penn State Greater Pittsburgh" and be done with it?

If Penn State McKeesport is at some recruiting disadvantage --- perhaps there's not enough on- and off-campus activities for prospective students, for instance --- then I would hope that the university and the community could work together to resolve that.

Penn State McKeesport is an enormous asset to the entire community, but I believe that McKeesport and the people of the McKeesport area have been a tremendous asset to Penn State --- and can continue to be in the future.

Driving a wedge between the university and the City of McKeesport is not going to help make that happen.

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September 02, 2006 | Link to this story

In Memoriam: Bob O’Connor

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