May 21, 1981: Three-year-old Amanda Palmer and Ethel, a broken statue on Mount Washington. (Andy Starnes/The Pittsburgh Press)
April 23, 1972: The Pittsburgh Press in its published photo cutline remarked about the effort it took to climb down the hill to reach the top of the Liberty Tunnel and paint a fraternity affiliation.
April 23, 1972: Apparently scrawled by boaters, read the Pittsburgh Press cutline, this river graffiti is not even interesting — unless roll calls turn you on.
June 29, 1974: A vandalized classroom at Philip Murray School on Rectenwald Street in the South Side. (Edwin Morgan/The Pittsburgh Press)
Sept. 3, 1975: Four boys, ages 9 to 12, drove 30 cars, trucks and vans into each other in the Duquesne Light Company Manchester parking lot, resulting in $30,000 in damages. (Anthony Kaminski/Press)
Aug. 9, 1979: A war memorial was defaced in Beaver when vandals knocked the hands off this statue in Ft. McIntosh Square. (Ray Thompson/Post-Gazette)
Sept. 9, 1988: Officers guard the Steen vault at Chartiers Cemetery in East Carnegie. The vault was broken into and family member remains strewn about inside. (Marlene Karas/The Pittsburgh Press)
Sept. 24, 1990: Dick Garrity, a Woodland Hills School District worker, cleans glass out of the pool after vandals broke windows in the school — $40,000 in repairs. (John Heller/The Pittsburgh Press)
Dec. 31, 1990: What a way to end the year in Penn Hills and Verona. Sixty cars were spray-painted and had tires slashed, mostly on Fourth Avenue. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette photo)
These images comprise a collection of obvious targets for Pittsburgh’s vandalizing youth in the city’s not-so-distant past.
It seems every year or two from the 1970s through the 1990s, some brazen act of public vandalism would draw newspaper photographers to points across the city. Camera in hand, they documented the latest destruction that was evidence perhaps not so much of pure maliciousness or criminality so much as a lack of things to do.
Children and teenagers (usually males) evidently require more constructive pursuits, and in a time before video games provided a comparatively innocuous outlet, their energy went toward the destruction of public landmarks.
Permanently or momentarily stationary objects made the best targets: schools, statues and cars. Walls were good sport, as, unfortunately, were cemeteries.
The more visible the better. That would be you, Liberty Tunnels.
And as for the folder marked “Vandalism” we found in the archives? What does it say about the journalistic ethics of shooting and publishing these photographs? Did it lead to copycat acts and beget even more destruction? Or was it a warning to the public to keep an eye out for such vandals in an effort to aid their capture?
Hard to say in retrospect, but there’s something almost artistic in the records of the destruction, particularly with poor old Ethel.
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