a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, July 30, 2007

Redding up sacred ground

Pittsburgh church and Indian's grave getting a scrubbing

When a Shawnee high chief took ill and died of natural causes in the winter of 1797 in Pittsburgh, leaders of the young metropolis were afraid the Indian Nation would immediately suspect foul play.
The hero known as Red Pole, or Mio-qua-coo-na-caw, had signed the Treaty of Greenville two years earlier, bringing peace to the fighting between the United States and the Northwest tribes. The Indians had fallen to U.S. troops at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and they were still a bit edgy when Red Pole’s travels were halted by icy rivers in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
As a sign of goodwill, the chief was buried in a cemetery among fallen British and French soldiers, some of whom had established a new Episcopalian congregation at the site. The funeral was officially mourned by the U.S. government in another effort to keep peace with the Indians.
“You want to make sure you are really sorry ... to ensure to the tribes that he wasn’t killed under mysterious circumstances,” said the Rev. Rob Dorow, an associate priest at the present-day Trinity Cathedral, where people continue to pay their respects to Red Pole.
The historic cemetery and impressive English Gothic building at 325 Oliver Ave. are undergoing extensive restorations timed to mark the 250th anniversary of the church and city next year.
The congregation had wrestled over whether to remove the thick coating of black soot that stained the church during the days when Pittsburgh’s air was heavily polluted and the city was known the world steel capital.
But, an engineering study determined that every time it rained, water reacted with the black coating and created an acidic bath that sped the deterioration of the church built in 1872 with Massillon sandstone.
“Points on the spire and ornamentation have been obliterated because of the acid rain,” Dorow said. Something had to be done, he said, if the congregation wanted to keep the building around for another century or two.
Scaffolding went up this summer to enclose the facade and allow workers to gently scrub off the grime. They are slowly turning the building into a clean, tan replica of itself. Graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, are piecing together the cemetery’s tombstones. When the workers are finished, the graveyard will have new walkways shaded by dogwood trees and winding along other plants that are native to the region.
“It’s a dramatic difference,” Dorow said. “We will miss the black.”

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Periodic postcard


Raphael Tuck and Sons
Art Publishers to their Majesties the King and Queen

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Metrosexual cowboy

This googly-eyed cowpoke has undergone a makeover from the tips of his big boots to the crown of his ten-gallon hat. The dude’s cheeks are aglow with a fresh coat of brown paint that also puts a sheen to his hulking frame.
The 30-year-old roadside attraction known as “Big Jim” received his new look before being relocated from outside an old welding shop near Charleroi, Pa., to a hotel at the Interstate 70 interchange in Bentleyville. His wardrobe was definitely in need of someone with the style of Calvin Klein.
The 20-foot, 3-ton steel sculpture created by welder Jim Krutz was a rusting mess by the time his descendants decided to sell it after the artist’s death. Their attempt to sell this hunk of primitive art on eBay didn't pan out. The owners of a Best Western came to its rescue, and perched Jim this spring fashion season on a new concrete base beside their establishment. GQ magazine has yet to send a photographer to the scene.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Black bear sports body art

TAYLORSTOWN – Anytime a black bear is trapped in Pennsylvania, it’s returned to the wild sporting a new tattoo.
Wildlife conservation officers with the state’s Game Commission use India ink and a series of tiny needles to brand identification numbers into a drugged bear’s upper lip, just in case the animal loses the metal tags they clamp to its ears.
"Now, he has earrings," said Rich Joyce, shown below, a commission officer in Washington County, who processed this bear caught Monday night on a farm in Taylorstown.
The commission keeps files of the markings to track how far these animals roam after they are caught a second time or taken down by hunters.
“They usually have a territory,” Joyce said.
It’s rare that these animals attack humans or even farm animals, he said.
The aggressive strain of this breed was weeded out many years ago by farmers who just shot and killed pesky bears to protect their livestocks, Joyce added.
This bear was searching for a new home after it was sent packing by its mother and it began hanging out near a garage in North Franklin Township, waiting to steal the family’s trash for dinner.
The Game Commission tranquilized the animal after unidentified rednecks in a van chased it through a field and up a tree. The 1 1/2-year-old, 180-pound bear will be looking for near digs in remote Fayette or Somerset counties, near their borders with West Virginia.

(Photos by Greg Tarr, Observer-Reporter)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Montana sytle pass

This super highway has bridges named after a football superstar.
The Joe Montana Bridges along the Mon-Fayette Expressway cross a deep valley near the high school that he attended in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Tourists actually stop their cars on the tallest spans along the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s sprawling network of highways to take photographs and gaze at the scenery.
The four-time Super Bowl championship quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers even stopped here in 2002 on one of his rare returns to his nearby hometown of Monongahela.
The 1974 graduate of Ringgold High School smiled for photographs with politicians, signed a few autographs and said he was honored to have his name attached to the giant bridges before he drove off to a fundraiser.
Nearly 6,000 tons of steel went into building the $35 million structures whose decks rise 250 feet above Route 88 near Finleyville.
If only Montana could work his magic to build team support and raise the money to complete this “highway to nowhere.” Construction is about to come to a halt because the Turnpike Commission is billions of dollars short of the money it needs to finish the toll road into the city of Pittsburgh. Right now, the road pours onto the already congested Route 51, far short of its intended destination.
If Googling around the Internet means anything in the name of research, it seems that it’s a lot more common for NFL players to see their names attached to playing fields than pavement.
But, restaurants in the Pittsburgh area have been selling Ben RoethlisBurgers as a gimmick that honors Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who led his team to a Super Bowl championship in 2006 against the Seattle Seahawks. One version of the burger comes topped with sausage, scrambled eggs, onions and American cheese. Big Ben would need to sprint from Heinz Field to Finleyville to burn off calories after chowing done on one of those suckers.

(Joe Montana photo: Observer-Reporter}

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Vietnam vet makes peace

Roger J. Costello went to Vietnam when he was 18 years old, unaware that the country had been through an “eternity of suffering” because of its long history of war. At the time, he was serving his homeland of Australia, which backed up U.S. troops during the conflict.
“I saw my share of horror and destruction,” Costello, who now lives in Pittsburgh, wrote in the introduction to his new coffee table book, “Places and Faces: Vietnam.”
The professional photographer included more than 200 beautiful images in the book that he captured during his return trips to Vietnam three decades after the war.
The woman shown in his photo, above, is from Sa Pa, an area in Northwestern Vietnam that is home to ethnic cultures without modern implements to grow and harvest rice.
Costello is also a devoted member of the Friends of Danang, a group of Pittsburgh-area Vietnam War veterans who raise money to help poverty-stricken children living on their former battlefields. The group has funded construction of schools and medical clinics, as well as surgeries to make life easier for many children who have trouble walking.
The proceeds from the sale of the book will help these veterans continue their cause. It was printed in Vietnam, too, as a small effort to help rebuild the country’s economy. But, it’s only available by giving Costello at telephone call at 412-760-9033, or sending him an e-mail: rjcostello@grandviewphotos.com

This is a shot Costello took in Hoi An, which was a bustling seaport until silt washed down from the mountains in the 1800s and closed it off to the South China Sea.

Vixens of the Valley

The Monongahela “Calendar Girls” have been turning their hometown in Southwestern Pennsylvania on its ear. The dozen women who posed semi-nude in a calendar for charity drew a huge crowd Wednesday to the Monongahela fireman's parade, where they showed up in sexy convertibles.
Dot Krol, 74, a fitness technician, shown at left in the photo, and Peggy Savadeck, 82, a Senior Olympics national gold medalist in the high jump, greeted their fans while riding along Main Street in a Volkswagen. They were Miss March and Miss November, respectively, in the calendar that has been selling like hot cakes and raising money for the Monongahela Area Historical Society.
The women have become a media sensation since the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa., broke the story in June. A big city newspaper photographer from Pittsburgh followed them through the parade route last night, as did Channel 4’s spot news cameraman, Tommy Sypula. Riding their gravy train, this was the fourth time these “pinup girls” have appeared on this blog. Bad clich├ęs aside, they always give a big boost to the number of hits “Travel with a Beveridge” sees in a day. Rock on ladies.

Lois Phillips, 80, an artsy type, left, and Kathleen Bordini, 74, a nutrition adviser, take their places in the parade.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Prepared for flight

BURGETTSTOWN, Pa. – Flying at an altitude of just 650 feet, eight supply planes rumbled over a Hanover Township hillside in a matter of minutes during a practice run Saturday.
The trip, while brief, required many hours of planning. The mission, the first of its kind in this area, tested the skills of the 911th U.S. Air Force Reserve at Pittsburgh International Airport.
“This is very rare for us to have all eight of our aircraft flying out of Pittsburgh at one time,” said Lt. Col. Dan Gabler, the unit’s chief of safety.
On any given day at its landing strip, some of the unit’s C-130 cargo planes could be in Georgia undergoing maintenance, or called to action in Iraq.
So having the team of planes together created a perfect opportunity to practice a large supply drop over property the 911th leases for training in Washington County.
As the planes dipped closer to the ground, seven of them unleashed palates holding 3,380 pounds of railroad ties. Parachutes than followed them to their destinations without a hitch.
“Hundreds of people were involved for just a few minutes’ worth of drops,” said Gabler, of Burgettstown.
Members of this unit also have served in Iraq supplying ground troops with the things they need.
“Because of what we do here, I think we were prepared. We all came home,” said Maj. Conrad Witalis of Beaver County.

(Photos courtesy 911th U.S. Air Force Reserve; story, Observer-Reporter)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

One famous corpse

Baron Joseph Henry Louis Charles De Palm created a big stink in more ways than one in “Little Washington," Pa., in 1876.
The Austrian immigrant who died penniless in New York made national headlines that year when he became the first person to be cremated in a crematory in the United States in the small town named after the nation’s first president.
He had stated in his will that he wanted to be cremated in a style that would blend Eastern and Western traditions, but, it took his estate six months to carry out his wishes.
New York refused to burn his body at a time when the moral majority thought it would be a slap in Christianity’s face to do anything other than place the dead six feet underground in a cemetery.
De Palm was part of the early Theosophical movement that wanted to create an equal opportunity brotherhood of humanity to investigate the mysteries of nature. His friends made arrangements to make the long trip to Washington by boat, train and wagon after they heard about Dr. Francis Julius LeMoyne, and his crematory project.
LeMoyne was a physician, humanitarian, farmer, scientist and inventor who had earlier opened his home to the Underground Railroad. The over-achiever was among the first people to link death and illness to the pollution of groundwater from decomposing bodies at cemeteries.
So he built a 30-by-20-foot red brick building with two rooms for cremations at his property on Gallows Hill, where executions by hanging had once been carried out.
Journalists and onlookers gathered in Washington from around the world to witness De Palm's body turn to ashes. Strange-colored smoke rose from the chimneys, creating a putrid smell that later turned sweet because of the flowers, herbs and pine branches that had been placed around his body.
LeMoyne would become the third person to be turned to dust at the facility that closed in 1900 after 42 cremations.

Located on South Main Street at the edge of Washington, the building still stands, and is open for tours between 2 and 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month between May and September. It’s operated by the Washington County Historical Society, which uses LeMoyne’s stately stone house as its headquarters.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hot parade

Kathleen Bordini, 74, appears a bit ghostly as Miss October in the "Ladies of the Mon Calender." (Photo: Chris Grilli, Grilli's Studio)

MONONGAHELA – The dozen older women who are showing some skin in a fund-raising calendar are about to set their hometown on fire.
The “Ladies of the Mon” will ride in hot convertibles or period cars Wednesday and make their first local appearance at the Monongahela Fire Department parade.
“The girls might not be bare, but they’re gonna be cute,” said Lorys Crisafulli, 80, who organized the calendar for charity.
Taking a cue from the 2003 movie of the same nature, “Calendar Girls,” the Monongahela woman have produced a 2008 calendar containing pictures of them staged to look as if they are nude. The income from sales will benefit the Monongahela Area Historical Society.
Within days after their story broke in June, the women – the youngest of whom is 68 – became a media sensation. They are expected to appear soon on TV’s “Inside Edition” and “Good Morning America.”
They initially planned to print 500 calendars, but quickly had to order another 1,500 to keep up with the demand for them.
“They’re just counting the money,” said Crisafulli, a former schoolteacher and owner of an antiques store.
Esther Cox, 75, whose family runs a local market, will lead off the parade in a pink Cadillac convertible. She is Miss April in a photograph of her partially hidden behind a pink umbrella.
Lois Phillips, 80, will ride the parade route in a rumble seat in a reproduction of a 1920s white automobile.
“Lois used to date her husband in a rumble seat,” Crisafulli said. “She had her hip replaced, but she said, ‘I’m going to get in that rumble seat.’”
The parade will begin a 7 p.m. at Chess Park and continue south along Main Street.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Doo Dah with the departed

This Jeanie was a bleached blonde.
But, she still portrayed the wife of Stephen C. Foster; the woman who inspired the godfather of pop music in 1854 to write the song, "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair."
The impersonator, Mary Kraszczak, was among the entertainment Saturday during a Doo Dah Days festival beside Foster’s grave at the historic Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville section.
The event coincided with the songwriter’s arrival to this world on July 4, 1826, in this part of the city - its oldest neighborhood.
It’s not every day that a birthday party was held in a cemetery and more than 1,000 people showed up to celebrate. Bands performed, while vendors sold burgers and fries.
Foster would write at least 286 songs before he died at age 34 in New York with 35 cents in his pocket. Little did he know that high school and college marching bands would be performing his music to this day. The Northerner's “My Old Kentucky Home” even became that Southern state’s official song.
Foster's body has been keeping good company in the cemetery, where members of such local big-money families as the Scaifes and Mellons have been laid to rest.
Established in 1844, the 300-acre burial grounds became Pittsburgh’s first public park and the sixth rural cemetery built in the United States. It was modeled after the “fashionable romantic landscapes of English parks,” the cemetery Web site indicates.
Also buried there under an impressive grave marker was the lesser-known George Hogg, a successful businessman who lived in an area of Pittsburgh that was once known as Allegheny City. So was Alfred L Pearson, who earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.
Foster, however, was the star last weekend, especially in the eyes of the woman who pretended to be his mother, Eliza Clayland Tomlinson Foster.
Mrs. Foster missed the fireworks when she went into labor on the 50th anniversary of our nation’s birth.
“But little Stevie was worth it,” said the actress, Rose Gitzen.

(Hogg's grave)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

One freaky calf and a Frick

Well sufferin' catfish, will you look at the heads on that.
They're what remain of Jasper, a two-headed calf that was born in 1922 on the Oscar Keener farm in Lamber, Fayette County, Pa.
“It’s not a joke. It’s an anomaly,” said Sally D’Alessandro, a guide at West Overton Village in nearby Scottdale, where the stuffed animal is among the prized possessions of an eclectic museum.
If you go, ask to see a basket made entirely from the carcass of an armadillo that they keep hidden in a closet because it freaks out the staff.
There are many other cool things to see here that speak to the early farming and industrial revolution eras in the United States, such as fancy pianos, antique furniture, sewing machines, quilts and tramp art.
Tucked among the rolling green hills of Southwestern Pennsylvania, West Overton is the only surviving pre-Civil War site of its kind. Dating to 1800, it has 18 original buildings, including several worker houses, a six-story whiskey distillery, a stately mansion and the largest brick barn in this neck of the woods.

The estate is most famous, however, for being the Dec. 19, 1849, birthplace of Henry Clay Frick, who would establish himself as a ruthless steel and coke baron by 1889. He made his debut in a modest stone cottage over the spring house, a son of John W. and Elizabeth Overholt Frick.
By all indications, the couple had been banished from the big house by Elizabeth’s father, Abraham, because she was three months pregnant with her oldest daughter at the time of her scandalous marriage.

But, Henry Clay Frick would polish his business skills after the Overholts, wealthy Mennonites whose influence Frick used to borrow the money to get into the business of baking coal into coke to forge steel.

The office furniture where he managed his fortune at the Frick Building in Pittsburgh is on display at this museum, including the black horsehair chair where he was sitting when an anarchist tried to assassinate him. The ill-fated plot was carried out in revenge for seven steelworkers who were killed during an historic strike in Homestead.

The West Overton property has survived, largely due to the generosity of the Frick family.
It’s an Overholt, though, who still looks over the place. They say the grounds are haunted by the ghost of Clyde Overholt, who killed himself with a shotgun in 1919 in a bedroom in the mansion. He was the last Overholt to live in the house, and he took his life after an older brother claimed all of the family possessions upon the death of their mother. The body was not discovered for a month.
“I’m sure Clyde had other problems, too,” said Mary Ann Mogus, president of the museum board. “We blame all the strange happenings on Clyde.”
Everything, of course, except for the calf and armadillo.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mourn for these graves

This controversy started over a tombstone. It began when California University of Pennsylvania went looking for the grave of its "founder," Job Johnson, a surveyor and builder in the mid 1800s. Administrators were mortified to learn that the cemetery where Johnson was buried had suffered a terrible fate about 50 years ago when officials in California, Pa., had all of the headstones pushed over its hillside.

The official explanation today blamed borough workers who had grown tired of cutting the grass around the markers so they opted to create a field that would be easy to mow. Academic research, however, revealed murky evidence that Italian immigrants, angry at how they had suffered discrimination, retaliated against all of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the burial grounds after Italians, for the first time, had taken control of the local government.

Regardless, shortly after Cal U. President Angelo Armenti Jr. arrived on campus in 1992, an archeology dig was authorized to find Johnson’s tombstone to decorate a new founder’s garden on campus. To everyone’s surprise, the graduate student assigned to the dig discovered the stone, along with a bunch of others.

The local historical society stepped in and said something similar to this: “Hold on to your britches. That tombstone belongs with the cemetery.” So Cal U. compromised, and made a molded replica of the thing and returned the original to the pile at the cemetery. Low and behold, some professors then argued that there wasn't any evidence to support Johnson's involvement in laying the cornerstone for the school. A carefully worded plaque was created to work around that dilemma, one that applauded unnamed founders credit, too, for building Old Main.

Well, the California Area Historical Society was then met with a bigger problem over what to do with the embarrassing heap of marble over at the gravesites. The cemetery map had long disappeared that could have connected the stones with the graves, some of which held the bodies of local boys who served in the War of 1812 and Civil War.

In the end, enough money was raised to embed the gravestones in concrete and create this unusual, yet clever, cemetery garden: