By Al Lowe
Published: November 18, 2008
A new book about Pittsburgh written by Mount Washington resident Charles McCollester has a happy ending – Bill Mazeroski’s home run to win the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees.
"Pittsburgh was at the height of its happiness then. Its industries were strong and vital. Its people were generally strong and optimistic," said Mr. McCollester, who is a professor in the department of Industrial and Labor Relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The book written by Mr. McCollester, a former Union Switch and Signal machinist and chief steward for a labor union there, is titled "The Point of Pittsburgh: Production and Struggle at the Forks of the Ohio."
The book focuses on the lesser known Pittsburgh personalities, the little people, those who tended the furnaces and built the homes, highways and bridges, the ones who really made everything happen. Some of those types of personalities will be coming together for a special event, a celebration of Pittsburgh’s birthday featuring readings from the book and music.
It will be held at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland. Participants and the audience will sing "Happy Birthday" to Pittsburgh.
"The city has incredible stories," said Mount Washington resident Lynne Squilla, who is promoting the event and Mr. McCollester’s book. "You can stand on Grandview and see many of the sites talked about in Charlie’s book."
"From 1945 to 1960, when Mazeroski hit the homer, the wages of Pittsburgh workers doubled. In 1945 there were Pittsburghers with no cars, refrigerators or TVs. In 1960 they not only had them, but a camp in Pymatuming besides. It was because of the labor unions and the G.I. Bill," Mr. McCollester said. He noted that Mazeroski was a coal miner’s son.
"We lost three games to the Yankees by huge margins. We barely won three games. And we won the seventh the hard way. That sort of sounds like Pittsburgh.
"Then we were prosperous, hopeful and on top of the world."
He said he could argue that for 50 years Pittsburgh "was one of the most productive places in the world."
He wrote the book because he found no adequate history of the town.
"Nobody is telling the story to America."
One of the people featured in the book is John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple trees across the country. He arrived in Pittsburgh during the Whiskey Rebellion. He preferred the company of children and Indians and liked to spend his nights outdoors.
He also writes about Crystal Eastman, a graduate of Vassar with a master’s degree from Columbia University and a law degree from New York University. She was 26 when she came to Pittsburgh in 1907. She investigated recent industrial accidents that occurred in Allegheny County and through her writing exposed the low compensation paid to workers for injury and death.
Also featured is Martin Delany, who came to Pittsburgh in 1831 and founded The Mystery, the first Black newspaper west of the Alleghenies.
"I don’t think natives know how special Pittsburgh really is," Mr. McCollester said.
The event on Nov. 21 is called "Blue Collar/Black Tie Affair." The $35 cost buys admission, plus the book, CD and poster; proceeds benefit Just Harvest and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Readings will be performed by State Senator Jim Ferlo, activists and media personalities. For more information call 412 460-3663, ext. 205.