Tube City Almanac

March 12, 2008

Sunday Politics Story

Category: Mon Valley Miscellany, Pointless Digressions, Politics || By

Oh, boy! Six weeks of Clinton versus Obama! And Pennsylvania is the battleground!

National political writers are already pouring into our area. Don't be surprised if you're getting into your car at the Waterfront and you're accosted by a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, or any of the other newspapers.

Here are some helpful tips to follow if a national political reporter wants to talk to you:

  • Make sure to seem "colorful." It will help if you say "yinz" a lot.

  • If you worked in a steel mill, know someone who worked in a steel mill, or just saw a steel mill, the reporter will want to know.

  • Mention Ben Roethlisberger, Myron Cope or "Iron City Beer."

. . .

In the meantime, the Tube City Almanac has gotten a "sneak peek" at the political feature that will run in a certain large, national newspaper this Sunday. I can't say which big newspaper is running this story, but it could be any of them:

. . .

(ADVISORY: Editor's Note: Updated to include "hardscrabble")

McKEESPORT, Pa. --- Boarded-up storefronts line the main street of this once-bustling milltown in the Monongahela River Valley.

Proud, defiant steelworkers once carried lunch-pails to the hulking steel mills that lined both sides of the river, belching smoke and flame into the air.

The population of this hardscrabble mill town soared to more than 55,000 during the World War II era of the "greatest generation."

Elderly local resident (insert name here) points with pride to the mill, whose smoke once blackened the skies.

"We were proud and defiant," says the lifelong resident of McKeesport, Pa., a once-bustling steel mill town south of Pittsburgh, who worked for 30 years in the local mill, making steel.

The skies have surprisingly cleared, and the mills are now silent, and in the shadows of their rusty hulks, the proud, defiant children and grandchildren of steelworkers go to work in the new high-tech industries around Pittsburgh.

Sitting on a bar stool in a typical tavern amidst the boarded-up storefronts in this hardscrabble, once-bustling steel mill town, south of Pittsburgh, the descendants of steelworkers remain proud and defiant.

They cheer the Pittsburgh Steelers and talk about the fortunes of other local sports teams.

But collectively these sons and daughters of steelworkers wonder whether the two Democratic presidential candidates, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, understand the problems facing this once-bustling steel mill town, where once more than 55,000 people lived.

"The steel mills are closed," says (insert name here), an economics professor at (university name here). "But in the once-bustling steel towns south of Pittsburgh, there's a real question whether Obama and Clinton understand the challenges facing the descendants of the once-proud, defiant steelworkers."

To the surprise of a visitor, the smoky skies around Pittsburgh are finally clear. Downtown Pittsburgh is filled with dazzling skyscrapers and a new convention center.

But many of the proud, defiant descendants of steelworkers have found it difficult to adjust to their new jobs in the high-tech industries around Pittsburgh.

A new shopping complex called the Waterfront has sprung up to replace one of the big steel mills along the river, south of Pittsburgh, that once employed generations of proud, defiant steelworkers.

Yet many say the prosperity of the new high-tech industries around Pittsburgh has passed by the sons and daughters of the steelworkers in this once-bustling mill town, whose population has fallen from its World War II high of 55,000 people, and whose main streets are lined with boarded-up storefronts.

They are troubled by the loss of so many jobs --- good paying jobs that were once easy to find in the hulking steel mills that once lined both sides of the hardscrabble river valleys.

And while the smoke has cleared from the skies above the rusty steel towns south of Pittsburgh ...

(Editor's Note: Story should continue for another 2,000 words. Make sure to include references to Primanti Brothers, Heinz, and the Terrible Towel.)

Your Comments are Welcome!

I hope one of those remaining 2,000 words is “hardscrabble.” A Joe Gruscheky quote or lyric would fit in nicely as well.
Hardscrabble Harry (URL) - March 12, 2008

Oooh. Yeah, you’re right.
Webmaster - March 12, 2008

“Hardscrabble” should describe how a child feels as his parents and grandparents play a crossword-type board game on a Sunday night. I’m thinking “hardscrapple” might be more appropriate, but then someone might confuse that with a week-old dish of really gross food.
Eric (URL) - March 12, 2008

Thank you for advising us on how to respond to the “ink stained wretches” that will soon swarm on our “hardscrapple” valley. You may want to add that we should point to where JFK stood on Lysle Blvd. and lament on how much Obama reminds us of him. Also point to the former Sam’s Resturant and mention you ate one of the thousands of hot dogs sold that day. Keep up the good work !
Donn Nemchick - March 13, 2008

Hardscrabble Harry is correct. The word is “hardscrabble”:

hardscrabble \HARD-skrab-uhl\, adjective:
1. Yielding a bare or meager living with great labor or difficulty.
2. Marked by poverty.

Hardscrabble is formed from hard (from Old English heard) + scrabble (from Dutch schrabbelen, “to scratch”).
Webmaster - March 13, 2008

Don’t forget to include that everyone who worked in the mill was an immgrant or child of an immigrant(Polish, Hungarian, Italian, Croation or Serbian mill hunk),who were illerate and uneducated and lucky to be working> And even though there are gleaming skycrapers a closer look shows boarded up store fronts on the Pittsburgh streets!
Glenn - March 13, 2008

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