Pittsburgh Oral Histories
Thanks to the generosity of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, the Pennsylvania Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was enabled to conduct the following 42 oral history interviews. A rather remarkable cross-section of Western Pennsylvanians-Black and white, female and male, ranging in age from their 30s to well-into their 90s-these individuals graciously shared their lives, their careers, their sorrows and their joys. These anecdotes, full of the hearty, good-humored, and resilient qualities that make Western Pennsylvania what it is, are here presented to suggest or to re-awaken your own memories of growing up and living in this unique and colorful region.
(Please note that these oral histories are PDF files, requiring the free Adobe Reader.)
A student at Pitt's Library School in its inaugural class; Harold Lancour, Margaret Hodges, Elizabeth Nesbitt, Allen Kent.
A volunteer par excellence; and, at one point in her work career, a real-life switchboard operator!
Her fabric sculptures transcend embroidery: three-dimensional tours-de-force that need to be seen to be believed!
In WW2 "Rosie the Riveter," a homemaker, and a caregiver; and all with God's help.
The fountain pen, a classy technology reflecting perhaps a more relaxed, less frantic time-her family business.
Tireless in her community activities, a real live wire with great stories of the melting pot that was the Lower Hill and Uptown in the early years of the 20th Century.
LR Dreams of trains that became real in 1941 until he retired in 1980-carrying freight during World War II with many trips around the "Horseshoe Curve" and all topped by a dramatic wreck in Wilkinsburg that was a classic.
Self-published, the story of a lifetime; and its 828 pages! with photographs! And possessed of a deep and abiding Faith.
- DP (2)
A tough man, a bona-fide survivor; his blessings are thanks to the Lord.
Riding roller-coasters well into her mid-eighties; selling buttons and thread at Gimbel's. In those days people would charge ten cents! and put it on their bill!
Devoted veteran of Elderhostel programs, has traveled here and there and nearly everywhere. Father delivered coal to families in the Great Depression who proved unable to pay.
A cultured upbringing: she says: "My vocabulary was three-miles-long." A life grounded in Education, a life in Teaching.
A mechanical design engineer and an inventor; a man brimming with self-confidence.
A sports writer, a "learned laborer," unashamedly a blue-collar writer with over 100 articles to his credit published in the Post-Gazette.
Riveting War stories. In more peaceful times the family bought themselves a race car and raced for a number of years-close calls? "Oh yeah, we had plenty."
An educator, first and foremost, a man who knows people, knows kids, knows "the system" who knows the world.
A Veteran, a globe-trotting trouble-shooter whose expertise and know-how with power boilers, still put him in demand by companies throughout the world.
Escaped Holland, one step ahead of the Nazis, a very quiet but very strong lady.
One week during the Great Depression his father brought home a paycheck of $2.50! Tales of slim living, the much-beloved North Side Market House and of crossing the Atlantic in wartime.
- JS (2)
In the '30s, Pitt was $75 a semester. At Union Switch and Signal he recommended the elimination of the department that he himself supervised!
Deploying barrage balloons in England during WW2 to forestall dive-bombing German planes; she also served as a radio telephonist, receiving and sending codes.
War stories of peril and injury, trumped only by his really really sensitive guitar playing.
Founder of "Your House of Beauty," a world traveler, her life a struggle against the inequities experienced by African Americans in Pittsburgh; and she's self-published too.
Carpatho-Rusyn traditions, her father's tales of the 1936 St. Patrick's Day flood, but most especially-growing up in Beechview.
- LA (2)
He grew up in Munhall, but the whole world has been his home-from the Serengetti to Mount Fuji, from Kilimanjaro to the Andes, from Timbuktu to the Alhambra. A true American good-will ambassador.
Ushering at the family-owned movie theater in Ellwood City, picking wild raspberries in the woods off Perrysville Avenue, the cultural glories of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
Past Executive Director of Pittsburgh's American Civil Liberties Union and prominent member of the National Council of Jewish Women, she continues to be an activist and a volunteer nonpareil.
Local historian with an encyclopedic knowledge of Troy Hill, the old City of Allegheny, the North Side, and Pittsburgh; and someone who loves them all.
She narrates the adventures of her father which, every step of the way, have the flourishes of a silent film star like Keaton, Chaplin or Harry Langdon. What a guy!
She and her husband and child zig-zagged across Eastern Europe to the steppes of Asia always just escaping the Nazis: what courage, what wit, what humor.
A poet, this young woman faces the world with strength and transforms all it hands her to the good.
She is the person who works "behind the scenes" and makes things happen, makes the machine run.
A North Sider, a man comfortable working with and respecting kids, a man with a good sense of humor, a man who has worked hard all his life.
Childhood rhymes and jump-rope rhymes; the call of the man who would mend your broken umbrellas. Street vendors, door-to-door salesmen, horse-drawn wagons, the Fuller Brush man: a less suspicious, a more open time.
In the WAVES intercepting the radio messages of German U-boats off the Atlantic coastline and transcribing them. Eight hours a day they listened-and mostly to static!
"I've been an artist since I was a kid."
- RS (2)
Memories of Beechview back when there were three or four doctors' offices and doctors still made housecalls. Back when John's drugstore was the hub of community life-"I worked at John's as a teenager. Practically everybody worked at John's drugstore!"
Tender moments and family in a world where everybody knew everybody else and you grew up and lived in the same neighborhood all your life.
A small child in the Holocaust, an earnestly professional Social Worker, she is absolutely committed to fighting prejudice in all its forms beneath her banner: "education, education, "education."
From America to Syria to America. A kind of an adventure story.
After high school, she worked at Gimbel's Downtown in the music department where they sold sheet music. Customers would come in and ask, "What does this sound like?" and she would play it on the store's piano!
Great stories of growing up on Pittsburgh's North Side in the Croatian community; stories of the Allied landings in Normandy; working at the stockyards on Herr's Island; the great St. Patrick's Day flood of 1936.