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Community Voices: January | The Homepage

Recalling “Hell with the lid off”

By Jim McCue

An elderly light-skinned man with thick glasses, a beige bucket hat and a bushy white beard holds a microphone. He is wearing a tan, red and blue windbreaker and stands in front of a leafy background. A sunflower in full bloom is visible over his shoulder.
Jim McCue. Screengrab from 2017 video about Everybody’s Gardens.

I have, from my dad, a copy of Stephan Lorant's book, “Pittsburgh: An American City.” It shows a picture of downtown Pittsburgh at noon in which you could hardly see across the street. When the LTV coke works was running here in Hazelwood, you could barely see across the Mon river.

Dust fell constantly. When I was in Saint Rosalia grade school, we had to dust every day. My mother worked downtown at Duquesne Light and at Fairmont Creamery in the Strip. Her blouse would get so dirty she would have to change it when she got to work.

Pittsburgh before pollution laws was described as, "Hell with the lid off." My friend Richard LeGrande told me he only saw his father cry twice: once when his mother died and once when he told his dad he was going to work at J&L, which later became LTV.

Steelworkers' boots would melt. People were injured and killed right and left. People would fall into vats of molten slag or get crushed between coal cars. At Hussey Electroplating, which was near the Tenth Street bridge, conditions were so bad only one employee lived long enough to retire.

My mom told me young people liked to take their dates up to the hill above South Side to watch the red-hot, glowing molten slag flowing over the hillside. Workers talked about how beautiful the process was despite the danger.

Steelworkers were well paid, but when the steel industry declined, people lost their livelihoods and homes. Some died by suicide.

Just Harvest and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank were formed to help deal with the wave of sudden poverty.

New technologies can be put to constructive as well as destructive uses. Drones, for instance, are not only being used for war but also replanting forests destroyed by climate change, global warming, wars, and ecosystem destruction.

Everybody's Garden update

I've retired from taking care of Everybody's Garden. I can't do the work anymore, but I'd like to see more pawpaw trees planted. They used to grow all around here, but you don't much see them in stores because they go bad too quickly. There are still a few hazelnut trees. Matt Peters and my friend Sandy Putorek grow them, and they can sometimes be bought at Dylamato's grocery store on Second Avenue near the Glenwood Bridge.

Read more from Jim McCue at

2023: Another Year of Blessings

By Vicar David L. Wenndt

Happy New Year! At the start of every new year, hope abounds for what the future holds, and 2023 is no different. This is why New Year's resolutions are so popular. Everyone has hope that as the calendar turns to a new year, there’s an opportunity to have a fresh start of the year. To try to make the new year better than the old, even if the year before was a good year.

For Holy Cross, 2022 was a wonderful year. The Lord has richly blessed us for another year, and has provided us with the means to continue to be a blessing to the community. We distributed food to about 150 families every month. We distributed clothing for all four seasons to people from all over Pittsburgh. Our community day was a great opportunity for people to come together and spend the day with friends and neighbors.

Vicar Janssen and I served the community spiritually. Dinners were served and hot meals were given twice a month. Our Christmas toy drive was again successful as we distributed toys and coats to families who need them.

As we look forward to 2023, we will continue these food and clothing programs. We will continue to have community dinners on the first and third Sundays of each month. Services will still be every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Bible class will still be Sunday at 11 a.m. and Wednesday at noon. Matins will still be prayed Tuesday-Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Stations of the Cross are still going to be Fridays at noon. We will again have our community day festival, and our toy drive next Christmas.

We would love to see you. If you’re in need of clothing or nourishment for your body or soul, companionship or a way to serve, we’re here for you. Please feel welcome to come to any service or stop in any time we’re open. We’d love to see you, talk to you, share what we have with you, and tell you why we do all the things that we do.

May the almighty and merciful Lord, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless and keep you in 2023 and beyond!

David Wenndt is vicar at Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Chapel in Hazelwood.

The Community Voices section of The Homepage showcases readers’ diverse perspectives and experiences. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone and do not reflect the views or policies of The Homepage or its publisher, Hazelwood Initiative, Inc.


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