This is Pittsburgh is an 80-page, large-format, softcover book that was published by Pickwick-Morcraft Inc., a now-defunct printing company on Baum Boulevard, at the behest of the Regional Industrial Development Corp.
Partly an illustrated encyclopedia of the region and partly an advertisement for relocating to Pittsburgh, the book’s subtitle (“We Live Here … We Like It!”) hints that its aim was to dispel the 1950s “Smoky City” stereotype that plagues southwestern Pennsylvania to this day.
The book credits Carey with the text and Wolfson with the illustrations.
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Carey, a native of Butler County best known for her role in originating “The Children’s Corner” with the late Fred Rogers, was 23 when she began working for Pittsburgh’s then brand-new educational television station, WQED-TV, in 1953.
The station wouldn’t actually sign on the air for another six months, according to a 2004 profile of Carey written by the Post-Gazette‘s Rob Owen.
When she wrote This is Pittsburgh in 1963, Carey was working for KDKA-TV and radio, where she would host several long-running programs for kids and adults, including “Josie’s Storyland.”
She later hosted a show called “Whee!” for South Carolina’s educational television network and returned to WQED in the 1990s.
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Naturally, one page of This is Pittsburgh celebrates WQED. Notes Carey:
It is impossible to write about WQED without becoming personal. Fred Rogers and I created the ‘Children’s Corner’ and explored it for six happy years. Marty Wolfson was one of our favorite guest artists …
WQED is the first and finest community television station in the country. Its two channels broadcast In-School programs employing the best teachers and reaching the largest possible number of students, closed-circuit instructions to special groups, summer make-up classes, kindergarten, do-it-yourself workshops, languages … new ideas, new achievements, a new dimension in television, WQED!
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Like Carey, Wolfson was a Pittsburgh TV pioneer. A native of the Hill District who studied art at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Wolfson had hosted a show called “Musical Sketch Pad” on DuMont’s WDTV-TV (3), the city’s first television station and a predecessor of KDKA-TV.
According to a 2005 obituary by Adrian McCoy, on “Sketch Pad” Wolfson told stories and drew pictures at an easel while music played in the background.
He later went into advertising illustration and publishing, creating a memorable series of books about Pittsburgh sports with the late Chet Smith and Jim O’Brien.
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This is Pittsburgh combines stories of the region’s history and folklore with sections that brag about Pittsburgh’s cultural attractions and the development of the Golden Triangle.
The authors invite visitors to make a game of counting arrivals and departures at the old Greater Pittsburgh Airport (“Who wins? Everyone!”) and celebrates institutions like churches, Oakland’s universities and the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Some of the sections seem quaint today — Wolfson and Carey predict that a rapid-transit system like the ill-fated “Skybus” will ring Allegheny County by 1970, and they write glowingly of the urban-planning schemes that brought nightmares like the Penn Circle complex in East Liberty and Allegheny Center on the North Side.
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Other pages provoke nostalgia; remember the Allegheny County Fair and White Swan and West View amusement parks?
The almost-new Pittsburgh Civic Arena is celebrated as a remarkable engineering achievement:
Who can believe, who can conceive
All the excitement you hold up your sleeve …
You’ve got to be SEEN to know what we MEAN.
You’re almost too good to be true.
‘Civic Arena’??? (I guess it’ll do.)
But, to me, you’re the BIG IGLOO.
The Civic Arena was pretty special in 1963, and is still pretty neat today (and joint has been rocking during the Stanley Cup finals).
It makes me wonder why no one has come up with any practical idea for saving and reusing the old building after the Penguins’ new arena is built.
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The city’s newspapers and broadcast stations are lauded as “Eyes and Ears and Heart of the Community”: “Civil rights, freezing nights, farmers’ plights, fancy’s flights, ‘Rites of Spring’ … We’re kept abreast of EVERYTHING!”
On the local media landscape, This is Pittsburgh captures the relatively brief moment when 1250 was known as “WRYT” and McKeesport’s 1360 was “WPQR.” Other sets of call letters no longer gracing the air locally include WHJB (620 Greensburg), WKJF (93.7 Pittsburgh), WTRA (1480 Latrobe), WLOA (1550 and 96.9 Braddock), WEEP (Pittsburgh’s 1080), WYDD (104.7 New Kensington), and WARO (540 Canonsburg)
Some of the now-defunct newspapers listed include the Pittsburgh Press, Jeannette News-Dispatch, Beaver Falls News-Tribune, the Homestead Daily Messenger and the Waynesburg Democrat Messenger. Others have disappeared into mergers (the Washington Observer and Reporter, the Tarentum Valley Daily News and New Kensington Daily Dispatch, the Uniontown Herald and Standard, etc.).
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Like some of the institutions in the book, Carey and Wolfson have now both left us. She died in 2004; he passed away a few months later.
This is Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania: We Live Here … We Like It is hardly the most important work that either Wolfson or Carey completed, but it does make a nice time capsule of the 1960s in the Pittsburgh area.
And as for the Pittsburgh area? Well, fewer people live here than in 1963, but I still like it!
For pure unbridled Kennedy-era optimism about the Pittsburgh region and its first “renaissance,” it’s hard to beat This is Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania: We Live Here … We Like It, a book published 45 years ago this year.
“But,” I hear you say, “this is Pittsburgh Radio & TV Online. What does a book have to do with radio and TV?”
I’m glad you asked that, hypothetical straw man who I made up just for the purpose of this article. You see, the author of This is Pittsburgh was none other than WQED-TV and KDKA radio/TV personality Josie Carey.
And as you can see after the jump, she and illustrator Marty Wolfson (who hosted a drawing program for kids on WDTV-TV and KDKA-TV) probably should also get credit for coining the name “Igloo” for the Mellon Arena.
Plus, there is a healthy dose of broadcasting and media nostalgia on page 75, which lists the names of many periodicals that no longer exist, along with several sets of call letters now absent.