For Easter, Pittsburgh reporters used to go “hopping down Bunny Trail” in Downtown Pittsburgh, dressed as Easter bunnies. We kid you not! There is evidence in our archives from 1979.
What do people say when they see the Easter Bunny? Well, Joe Bellmont, a traveling salesman, called out: “Hey, Easter Bunny, come over here and I’ll give you a big smoocher.” And he did.
“Everybody in Pittsburgh loves The Easter Bunny,” wrote Pittsburgh Press reporter Ann Butler, who dressed as The Easter Bunny that year.
“I was walking down the Boulevard of the Allies, and people started beeping their horns and waving — especially the bus drivers,” Ms. Butler reported in her personal narrative.
“Some people are kidders,” Ms. Butler wrote. “One guy kept asking, ‘Are you the Playboy Bunny?’”
“Sal Slyman of Downtown was on her way to work at Westinghouse when she called out, ‘Happy New Year!’ Because it’s so cold — it feels like New Year’s Day.”
Some things don’t change, including a chance of spotting an Easter Bunny in Pittsburgh on Easter, though it may not be a reporter.
Other things that have not changed, as we realized browsing through photographs in a folder labeled “Easter,” are traditions, Easter traditions have traveled to Pittsburgh through generations, from other continents.
There was a 1978 photograph of Filipino women putting together an Easter feast. The Pittsburgh Press article said, “On Easter Sunday, the approximately 200 Filipino families living in the Greater Pittsburgh area help celebrate Christ’s resurrection with banquet tables befitting a prince.” One family, the Palileos, came to the United States in the late 1960s when former President Lyndon B. Johnson eased immigration quotas. In Pittsburgh, they established the Samahang Pilipino Sa of Pittsburgh, a social club through which they hoped to preserve the customs they brought to their adopted homeland. Most of club members were Roman Catholics. They raised money for social causes by cooking and baking. And for Easter, they served their traditional dishes, although they expressed regret in the article, saying that their children had become so Americanized that it was a challenge to make them eat traditional Filipino cooking.
Easter customs of Pittsburgh’s Polish community also had been captured in our photographs from the 1970s. There was The Rev. Walter S. Mroz performing the old Polish tradition of blessing food for Easter breakfast at a century-old St. Stanislaus Church at the Strip District. Parishioners took the baskets to the church, placing them in the center aisle. The food covered by a white linen or lace napkin was then sprinkled with holy water. The tradition dates to the seventh century and emphasizes the place of faith in the family. It is called “Święconka,” the blessing of food on Holy Saturday for Easter morning.
Here at The Digs, we wish all of you a Happy Easter!