a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Steelers Fans never really die, they just watch the game from another angle.

Only in Pittsburgh.......

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Retiring with style

By Christie Campbell

One of the classiest ways to walk out of your place of employment for the last time was accomplished here Tuesday, thanks to the family of Mario Mullig.

Mario, who is 81 years old and has never looked his age, retired Tuesday after working 29 years at the Observer-Reporter as an editor.

As Mario said his good-byes in the third floor newsroom, his family pulled up outside the office in Washington, Pa., in a white, stretch limousine.

Mario walked out the employee entrance to see his three granddaughters, Sydney, age 3, Livia, 5, and Maria, 2, hanging out the limo’s back window, yelling “Hi Pappy!” His daughters, Suzanne Scott and Amy Antonio, took photographs as a chauffeur from Southpointe Limousine held the door for Mario to join his wife, Virginia. The family, including son-in-law Craig Antonio, then departed for dinner at Monterey Bay Fish Grotto on Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh.

Quite a sight! The newsroom was watching out the front windows and heard Mario say, “I think I’m going to cry!”

We’ll miss Mario.

As we were reminiscing with him yesterday over lunch, editor Liz Rogers recalled she hated coming to work when he was on the night desk because he was such a stickler for details he made her work extra hard. But as much as she resented it then, it made her a good reporter and that translated to her being a good editor.

He was that way at home too, Suzanne said. Her dad would whip out his pencil and correct her papers for school and if one of her siblings brought up a word at the dinner table and was unsure of its meaning, Mario would make him or her look it up in the dictionary.

(Caption: Mario Mullig waives goodbye to his coworkers. Photo: Christie Campbell)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hail the lazy man's pierogies

This is an easy recipe for those relocated Pittsburghers who might be looking for a taste of home during this Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Local Steelers fans may want to try this black and gold pierogi casserole, too, especially those who honor the Polish dumplings and didn’t learn how to make them from a studda bubba.

But, be warned, this variation of the national dish of Pittsburgh is not for those who have turned to Weight Watchers to shed a few post-holiday pounds.


1/2 box of lasagna noodles
1 1lb., 8 oz bag of Ore-Ida Steam and Mash Potatoes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 stick salted butter
salt and pepper to taste


Boil noodles, drain and set aside. Sauté onion until it is translucent. Heat the potatoes in microwave per the instructions on the back of the bag, but don’t use milk and butter to prepare them. Fold the cheddar and ricotta cheeses, onion, salt, pepper and sour cream into the potatoes in a large bowl.

Layer the noodles and potato mixture in a 9 1/2- inch-by-11 inch casserole dish after placing several pats of butter on the bottom, and then on top of each layer of noodles.

Cover with aluminum foil and cook in a 350 degree oven for about a half hour. Remove foil, spread some more butter on the top and continue heating for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle some more cheddar cheese and ground pepper on top before serving.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My first 'Monster' million

An open letter by Amanda Gillooly

Dear Producers of the “Monster” CD collections,

I’ve been a faithful viewer of your program-length infomercials for years, although the collections you’ve peddled so far aren’t really my style. “Monster Ballads” was just a little too mature for me. I was too young to consider any of the musicians in Extreme hotties, and I couldn’t name one love song Mr. Big ever crooned.

As for “Monsters of Rock?” I’ll admit, I dig Living Colour a bit and there are some Alice Cooper songs that are pretty bitchin'. But I never thought the likes of Winger, Warrant and Ratt were “rock” as much.

So I thought about it, and I consulted my pal Sam Adams, and I think I have an idea that will help you sell records. My goal is much more humble: I’m just trying to make my first million.

Picture it: “Monster Cowbell.” I’ve long been a fan of the instrument, but I won’t deny that Will Farrell’s portrayal of the cowbell player in the infamous Saturday Night Live skit that reminisced about the making of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” lended it national appreciation.

The befro’d comedian, wearing a too-tight V-neck sweater rocked out with the thing, gyrating maniacally as the other members of Blue Oyster Cult tried in earnest to cut the track.

The skit, while it made me collapse a lung laughing like a fool, also made me think of the beauty that is inherent to the under-utilized instrument – and how it has brought so much unbridled joy to the world through the plethora of songs that feature it.

So I hereby present to you, dear producers, with a sampling of proposed track list.

Here goes:
“Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” BTO
“Breaking the Law” Judas Preist
“Life’s Been Good” Joe Walsh
“Honky Tonk Woman" The Rolling Stones

Is that too old school? Gotcha. Here are some newer hits:
“Welcome to the Jungle” Guns ‘n Roses
“Pets” Porno for Pyros
“The Distance” Cake
“My Sharona” The Knack

Need something to grove to? I got you for that, too. How about something like:
“Groove is in the Heart” Dee Lite
“Funky Cold Medina” Ton Loc
“Play that Funky Music” Wild Cherry
“Baby’s Got Back” Sir Mix a Lot

Personally, I believe that “Monster Cowbell” will have us both blowing our noses with C-notes we’ll be so filthy rich. Let me know what you think, and if a corporate jet might come with any record deal.

Thank you for your time.

Warmest Regards,

Amanda “I’d like an oversized check, please” Gillooly

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Will the other Scott Beveridge please step forward

A sweet, mysterious letter arrived on my desk in the newsroom two weeks ago.

It was sent from a California, Pa., woman who was attempting to reunite me with more than a half-dozen photos of one Scott Beveridge as a boy posing for his next-door neighbor.

The problems are, the boy bears no resemblance to this Scott Beveridge, who has never lived in that town.

It’s strange because my name is not common, one that typically draws laughter from those who jot it down while I leave them with telephone messages to deliver.

Odder yet are the facts that California Borough is just a 10-minute drive from my house, this other Scott appears to be my age and I have never met nor heard from that dude.

There is no need to embarrass the 82-year-old author of the letter in public by naming her here because her intentions are admirable.

“I hope you are the one I’m looking for,” she stated in the letter. “I used to baby sit you for your mother Libby. I thought the world of her.”

She went on to instruct me to pitch the photos if she found the wrong Scott Beveridge.

Well the photos are too cute to just toss in the can, especially the one of farmer Scott wearing overalls. So if anyone knows where to find this cowboy, drop me an e-mail and I will pass them along.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The right eye for the job

We at the Observer-Reporter were faced with an interesting challenge for the cover of this issue of Living In Washington County.

Editor Maureen Stead wanted to use a photograph of what a viewer sees when he or she looks into the eyepiece of one of local artist Marcia Clark’s high-end kaleidoscopes. But none of our photographers is experienced in pinhole photography that, Clark said, is the best technique to use to capture the inside of her creations.

So we turned to Scott Manko, a freelance photographer in Washington, Pa., who has used the photography style quite effectively to shoot some of the county’s historic wooden covered bridges.

While we typically use photos of people on this magazine cover, Manko’s shot of what's inside one of these tubes of mirrors gives us something unusual for the January/February 2009 issue.

“It is an eye-catching image that is rarely captured,” Stead said.

The cover story follows:

Marcia Clark happened past a cardboard kaleidoscope kit in a store and thought it would make a great gift for her daughter and granddaughter.

Little did she know at the time during the late 1990s that her quirky purchase would lead her down a new career path.

“Then I said, ‘I’m going to get one of these things for myself,’” said Clark, of Peters Township, Pa., who now designs high-end metal kaleidoscopes that capture images of beautiful symmetrical patterns.

As a single parent, Clark worked in surgical staple sales while earning college degrees.

“I was this little Polish kid without college teaching doctors,” she said. “I loved it.”

Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management and founded the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“This is the 25th anniversary of the first wish. This is still one of the strongest chapters.”

Yet, when she gave the kaleidoscope kit to her daughter, her daughter had “a look of wonder in her eyes, as if to say, ‘What was going on in your head that day?’” Clark said.

Later, she went online to search about kaleidoscopes and found the Laughing Eye Studios, a company in North Carolina that sells scope supplies. She placed a call to R. Scott Cole, the laughing eye himself, who came to the telephone and invited Clark to a class.

“One simple click changed my life,” she said. “I thought I should get out of this rat race.”

Clark said she has had a lifelong fascination with the way kaleidoscopes work by reflecting light against such common objects as beads and then magnifying them against a tube of mirrors.

“I’ve just always loved them. It’s as simple as that.”

The craft has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks, but it was a Scottish scientist, Sir David Brewster, who was credited with reinventing the art in 1816. Brewster came up with the name by forming the Greek words for “beautiful form to see.”

Some of Clark’s designs are so intricate that they take on an Asian or Indian style.

She begins by picking such tiny objects as gold watch gears, vintage cloisonné, filigree and beads that relate to a certain color palate.

Then, she seals them in silicon gel in a clear plastic container as large as a hockey puck. The object case fits into the end of a metal scope opposite from the eyepiece. Inside the tube are mirrors running its entire length and set at a precise angle to reflect light off the sealed objects and create the multiple patterns.

“Getting a good mirror system, for me, it’s the most important thing as an artist,” Clark said.

Her mirrors are set to create 12-point stars, and it took her five years to get the angles just right. She since has made and sold nearly 1,000 kaleidoscopes and won an international award for one of her designs in copper named Dance.

There currently are about 60 working kaleidoscope artists in the United States. Hers are considered unusual because most of these artists work with stained glass.

“Most of them were already working in stained glass, so it was an easy transition.”

Now, Clark is working on a series of mixed-media scopes, using trendy metal lunch boxes to disguise the scopes. Some of them have vintage glass drawer pulls for feet.

An interesting thing about kaleidoscopes, she said, is that they are known for their calming effect.

Physicians have prescribed them to the seriously ill for relaxation and meditation.

“Kaleidoscopes are a good metaphor for life. It’s sort of like all the pieces are there, but sometimes we just can’t see all of them.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's inaugural address promises new era for stale politics in America

Danielle King walked away from watching Barack Obama’s televised presidential inauguration with a large crowd of college coeds Tuesday, speechless and amazed.

The 21-year-old California University of Pennsylvania student reacted in similar fashion as millions of Americans did to an unprecedented inauguration in Washington, D.C.

“It gave me goose bumps,” said King, of Pittsburgh, Pa.

It was awe inspiring to look over a sea of nearly 1.5 million cheering people from across the nation gathered before the U.S. Capitol Building for the swearing in of the nation’s first black president.

Obama arrives at a time of great concern for the economy and hope that he will bring about the right change to incredibly divisive American politics. The expectations could not be higher for a brand new face whose lack of experience has come into question.

Among the rhetoric in his nearly 20-minute address, this passage seemed to best express the moment:

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

It wasn’t a sound bite from an inaugural address that people will remember generations down the road, such as this unforgettable line, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” that Franklin D. Roosevelt gave history during World War II.

Obama seemed to be saying the all-American image of a lily white, wealthy Republican man with perfectly parted hair bangs is no longer all about America. The stereotype of the tax-and-spend liberal Democrat who courts the poor without regard to government waste is old school, as well. Those colliding political worlds changed while neither party appeared to be noticing a dramatic shift in demographics.

There is something to be said for youthful idealism. But this is a nation with a string of political leaders who have preached bipartisanship since at least the Antebellum era when Daniel Webster rose to fame in his fruitless attempts to stave off the Civil War.

Regardless, there is no question that Obama will redefine the presidency when he simply steps foot for the first time into the Oval Office.

(Caption: Cal U. student Danielle King, left, wipes away a tear after Barack Obama is sworn in as president while watching the inauguration at her campus with a friend, Iscah Perry.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dude, There's a Steelers Game on Your Car

Whether grilling kielbasa in Pheonix, Ariz., or frying pierogies in Tampa Bay, Fla., with snowbirds who love black and gold, the Observer-Reporter is interested in hearing your plans for celebrating the Steelers appearance in Super Bowl XLIII. We’re seeking the best stories from fanatics in Steelers Nation in the weeks leading up to the big game on February 1. Please E-mail Scott about your outrageous party idea.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The humiliated black men of Hoover Dam

The last time Washington D.C. promised great hope for workers amid a devastating economic crisis came in the form of a federal contract to construct Boulder Dam, a monumental goal in Nevada.

But black workers couldn't apply for those jobs during the Great Depression, according to the requirements of Six Companies, a coalition of general contractors that built what was later renamed Hoover Dam.

The company came up with the excuse that it would cost too much money to build a separate dormitory to house black workers after construction began in 1930, ironically, in the steep hills known as Black Canyon.

The government stayed out of the dispute, claiming it had no authority to dictate hiring practices to the company that limited work to white Americans.

It wasn’t until two years later that 10 black men were hired on the heels of complaints lodged by the NAACP, according to an exhibit at the tiny Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum. It’s tucked in the rear of the Colonial-style Boulder Dam Hotel in the small town founded in 1931 to house the thousands of men who built the impressive concrete structure along the Colorado River.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was doubly upset because Six Companies had just hired a number of Indians, as it believed members of that race had the right balancing skills to handle jobs high in the air.

Another 14 black men would be hired, but their crew was forced to live 30 miles from the construction site, come to work in their own buses and drink from segregated water sources. Worse yet, they were assigned jobs in the Arizona gravel pits to endure the hottest temperatures anywhere on the job site.

A PBS story, “Hiring African Americans,” summed it up in these terms, “The construction of Hoover Dam was proof of human progress on many levels. Progress on civil rights and race relations, however, could not be counted among them.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dinosaurs actually walked here

The arena spectacular “Walking with Dinosaurs” featuring robotically controlled Jurassic-period puppets roaring under strobe lighting has nothing on a tiny museum in Utah.

Visitors to the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm in can walk alongside prehistoric fossilized dinosaur tracks exactly where they were left 200 million years ago.

Sheldon Johnson, a retired optometrist, stumbled on them in 2000 while using heavy equipment to level a hill on his family farm. After removing 20 feet of topsoil, Johnson encountered an unusual rock formation and he decided to break it apart. A large rock fell out of the vehicle’s bucket, broke apart when it hit the ground and revealed unusual track patterns.

This discovery immediately attracted paleontologists from across the world and became labeled as the most significant track site of its kind in North America.

They catagorized them as Eubrontes, or dating to the late Triassic period when the first dinosaurs and mammals appeared on the Earth. The larger tracks have three toes, evidence of a heel and are believed to have been left by an unknown meat-eating dinosaur.

This mountainous region of southwestern Utah was once a lake with varying tides in a region that was closer to the Equator and sea level. When prehistoric creatures fed at the lake, they left tracks in the sand that were quickly covered over with water and preserved in silt that eventually turned to mud and then rock.

Many of the tracks originated from creatures that have not been identified, while others were left behind from skin, bones, raindrops, fish or cracked and dried mud. The investigation also revealed “abundant upright-walking crocodilian tracks called Batrachopus,” the museum’s Web site indications.

The museum was actually built on top of the exact exposed spot of rock where the discovery was made. On any given day, volunteers hack away at the rock, following precise instructions from professionals, because there are at least another 25 layers of sandstone impressions to discover.

While the BBC spectacular stage performance of real-looking dinosaurs is amazing to watch, nothing puts you any closer to the real McCoy than this working exhibit.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Talk about glitter in Vegas

The flamboyant Las Vegas pianist known simply by his first name, Liberace, typically performed in a black tuxedo until he landed a gig in 1952 to play at the Hollywood Bowl.

To nearly everyone’s surprise, he walked on stage under bright lights at the packed California stadium wearing a custom-made white tux with long tails.

“He lit up like a Christmas tree,” said a guide named Barbara at a museum in Las Vegas, Nev., dedicated solely to the late showman.

The critics and others reacted after that Hollywood show by asking Liberace what he planned to wear at his next concert.

“That started the whole thing,” Barbara said of the outrageous sequin suits and fur capes he would later wear on stage, outfits that were not even outdone by the likes of Elton John.

In the center of the costume exhibit stands a mannequin donned in one of Liberace’s craziest, a flowing hot pink ensemble that includes a floor-length cape made out of turkey feathers died the same color.

Circling the room are more than a dozen of his other hand-sewn outfits crafted from such things as gold lame, chinchilla or platinum azurene mink.

Barbara is wearing an all-black pants suit contrasted by a silver rhinestone necktie and similarly studded over-sized ring on her right index finger. And she talks nonstop about Liberace as if she is his number one fan more that two decades after his death.

“He was one of the world’s greatest entertainers. He was a nice man. He cared deeply about his audience. It was secondary only to his family. He …,” she rattled on about the classically-trained pianist who was best known for playing the "Beer Belly Polka."

A trip to Sin City would be incomplete without a tour of this quirky museum at 1775 E. Tropicana Ave. It also holds some of his fancy pianos and fleet of Rolls Royces. One is painted red white and blue while another is covered in a mosaic made with mirrors the size of small squares.

The son of an Italian immigrant father and Police American mother died Feb. 4, 1987, at age 67 from complications of AIDs. But 11 years earlier, he created a foundation to preserve his memory in the city that helped to earn him enough money to own 17 houses that were each filled with over-the-top antiques and occupied by housekeepers and at least three dogs.

(That's the pianist in the early 1920s when he was known as Walter Liberace photographed with his brother and sister, George and Angelina)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bottle House still glitters in Nevada ghost town

Tom Kelly had a clever idea to build a house with beer bottles in 1905 in a then-new bustling gold rush town near a stretch of Death Valley, Nev.

The part-time prospector didn’t have any problem finding his building materials because there were 50 saloons then in Rhyolite, just one year after gold was discovered within its boundaries.

“He just got drunk a built crazy stuff,” said a Nevada Bureau of Land Management ranger who would only identify himself today as Fred.

Kelly quickly raffled of his three-room Victorian cottage by selling 400 tickets a $5 apiece, said Fred, a friendly older man dressed in cowboy attire.

The quirky home builder was fortunate to turn a profit because the city of 10,000 people was about to become a ghost town almost overnight. Before a nearby two-story brick and stone schoolhouse could be constructed, there weren’t any more children living there to attend classes in the building.

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire had wiped out California’s booming financial district, leaving Nevada without the money to continue financing its mines. By 1910, there were only about 675 Rhyolite residents left, and that number would dwindle to 20 within another decade.

Today, a few crumbling buildings and a weird art installation outside a restored shack sit among rusting metal roofing scraps, glass shards and other building parts that have blown or fallen off the structures. The Goldwell Open Air Museum's strangest piece is a giant pink block statute of a nude female that seems entirely out of place among the ruins.

The Spanish-influenced Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad Depot dating to 1908 is the most intact building on the site a few miles west of Beatty, a speck of a town a two-hour’s drive north from Sin City along a lonely Interstate 95.

The facade and concrete ground floor along with a couple of walls with missing windows are all that remain of the school. The thicker walls of two vaults still have their roofs at the shells of two former banks next door. There also is a desolate cemetery with withered wooded grave markers inside plots lined by either rusting metal fences or rickety pickets that are turning to earth.

Kelly’s house that was built with an estimated 50,000 glass bottles, meanwhile, was restored decades ago for a silent Hollywood movie, “Wanderers in Wasteland,” said the guide/guard named Fred.

Outside that house circled with a barbed wire fence sits two rows of miniature glass-mosaic buildings that Kelly constructed when he worked up a good drunk, Fred said.

This is a great destination for someone visiting southwestern Nevada for a few days and seeking an adventure that doesn’t involve placing bets at the casinos. It's one that should be taken the sooner the better because it won't be long before the rest of this city turns to dust behind the bottle house.

After walking around Rhyolite for an hour, head further west, take the next left and follow the routes through Death Valley back to Las Vegas. You won’t regret taking this day trip into the harshest climate in North America.

(Captions: That's Fred between yawns outside the bottle house, top, and what's left of the John S. Cook & Bank Co., bottom.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Showing our Steelers colors

So you think you’re a big part of the Steelers Nation, right?

You've washed the kielbasa stains off your "Big" Ben Roethlisberger game jersey?


The fridge is stocked with pierogies and three cases of Iron City beer for gameday.


And you didn't forget to buy that black and gold poinsettia plant, either.


Oh, snap! Then you’re a smaller piece of the yinzer fan pie than we thought.

Yes, a local grower has been black spray-painting and gold glitter-dusting the pretty petals of the otherwise red seasonal plants for the past four years to sell to the most discriminating Steelers fans.

And people have been buying them in batches from The Hothouse nursery in Eighty Four, Pa. For real: One dude ordered 150 of them last year.

When our perky coworker at the Observer-Reporter, Christie Campbell, brought us one of these Steelers black-tinged posies two weeks ago, blogger Amanda mistakenly thought Christie had rescued the poor thing from a house fire. But after Amanda figured out the football connection, she was totally into the unusual creation.

Actually, we all dig the plant. Needless to say, it has helped to heat up the Steelers fever in our newsroom in a big way.

The red and green decorations have been packed away from our bony Christmas tree. The little Festivus tree has since been decorated with an eclectic array of Steelers relics that include a kitschy set of black and gold Asian figurines that Scotty found at a local thrift shop.

Like it our not, that's how we are saying: Here we go Steelers!

Amanda and Scott

Monday, January 5, 2009

The gamble on Donora steel

Part III: The mill is sued over sickening smoke

Mamie C. Burkhardt didn’t immediately link the onset of her debilitating health problems to a zinc mill that fired up for the first time in 1915
across the street from her house.

It wasn’t until her painful headaches, troubled breathing and lethargy disappeared entirely during a trip the following year to visit relatives in New York that she suspected the air back home in Donora, Pa., was poisoning her.

She and her husband, Frank, reacted by becoming the first of many local people to sue the powerful American Steel and Wire Co. for damages its mill inflicted to their health and property.

“It was something awful what I suffered there with the headaches,” Mamie Burkhardt testified during the trial in Washington County Court in 1919.

The Burkhardts and their neighbors then described environmental damages that, unknown to them at the time, would someday be blamed for America's deadliest air pollution disaster.

When the winds whipped west and carried the copper-colored fumes from the row of nine smokestacks toward the Burkhardt house on Gilmore St., the acidic air disintegrated the curtains and blinds in its windows.

“They would just fall to pieces,” Mrs. Burkhardt testified in court.

The foul air pitted the nickel plating on their piano, as well as the coal stoves they used for warmth and cooking, the court record shows.

“It just seemed to eat it off,” Mrs. Burkardt told the court.

The Burkhardts built their two story frame house in 1904 and took pride in their green lawn, the five maple and Carolina poplar trees they planted on their property and the vine of roses growing up the front porch. But on August 1916 night, the leaves fell off the trees as if they were hit by a sudden, hard frost. The leaves never grew back after spring turned the corner in 1918.

Frank Burkardt, a coal miner, said on the witness stand that varnish on the wood facing the mill turned white and silver and “rough like sandpaper.”

Hans Spence, a lumberman and bookkeeper who lived a half-mile away from the Burkhardts, described the smoke in harsher detail when he testified for the plaintiffs.

“If a particle fell on your lips, you would think your lips were pinched by – well, I don’t know - just like the prick of a pin or needle; and then you feel a choking sensation almost (as soon as) you get the fumes in your throat or into your nose,” Spence said.

When the mill’s smelters flared, Mamie Burkhardt claimed she was sickened to the extent that she needed to stay in bed for as long as three days, the court record indicates.

She said she suffered “horseness and roughness in the throat” to where she “could hardly speak above a whisper.” She also described soreness in her chest, a rattling in her lungs, a hacking cough and weight loss.

“The doctors told me to get out of (Donora), not live there in those fumes,” she said.

Another neighbor, Mary Datsko, testified that she suffered similar health problems, and felt at times that she had a stone in her breast.

“You can’t stand nothing, you feel like dead,” she told the court.

At one point, the mill’s attorney, Samuel McCay, approached the bench and suggested those breathing problems were the result smoke from trains and Donora being prone to foggy weather.

He further argued that the trees likely died because the ground was covered with “rubbish and tops of beer bottles, all kinds of stuff.”

He presented just one witness, zinc mill foreman R.G. Johnston, who did little more than confirm the existence of the zinc smelters. Meanwhile, there is no evidence in the record that the plaintiff’s attorney asked Johnston any questions, or presented any motions before the court seeking a chemical analysis of what the mill was discharging into the air.

The jury found the mill guilty and awarded $500 in damages to the Burkhardts, who had already moved nearly 15 miles north to cleaner air in Elizabeth Borough. That sum would amount to nearly $10,000 today.

The mill appealed the verdict all the way to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which upheld the verdict because the company never presented any evidence to dispute the Burkhardt’s allegations.

And nothing would be done to curtail the smoke for another four decades.

Click here to return to Part I, A borough rises from hell's bottoms.

Friday, January 2, 2009

At it turns out, Nixon wasn't a patsy

It's easy to regain some respect of Richard Nixon after watching Ron Howard's Oscar-likely flick, "Frost/Nixon," because it reveals the former president as a real man.

Nixon takes ownership of his failures when his legacy becomes the focus of a kooky David Frost's 1977 interview of him, at a time when the traditional media had turned its back on the disgraced Republican president.

In the end, Nixon doesn't blame his crisis on the Democrats, uneducated, middle class, minorities or liberal reporters in this compelling semi-fictional movie. He credits himself for screwing his country and then moves on toward the sunset of his life in a golf cart.

The former prez, meanwhile, touches the ivories beautifully in that film, much like he did in this old appearance on "The Jack Paar Tonight Show:"

(Photo: Alastair Muir)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Hillary Clinton New Year

Hillary Clinton, the incoming madame secretary of state, looks especially glamorous tonight as she and hubby Bill drop the ball in New York to welcome 2009.

Somehow, though, I wish the Clintons would have dropped that ball in Times Square on lighted signs advertising an American-owned corporation rather than one promoting Toshiba. Nothing personal Japan, but this is an unstable America.