Old News: Ringing in the last 10 decades

Old News is a bi-weekly blog dragging up ancient Pitt history. Here, we’ll retell some of the weird, interesting or relevant stories we find in The Pitt News’s archives at Documenting Pitt.


The Pitt News is writing about changes to the Honors College, making the case against diet talk and investigating a new history class about sports and gender at the start of this decade. Here’s what TPN marked in the first issue of each of the last 10 decades.


“The beginning of the social season of 1920” was marked by a January “Leap Year Dance.” Organizers began a fundraising campaign to build Alumni Hall. A student spent the break recovering from scarlet fever and her dormitory was briefly placed under quarantine. An economics instructor invented an artillery device that the U.S. military accepted and planned to use in the instruction of artillery officers. Other headlines: “A Little Dope,” “Pitt Girls Entertain Many Persons With Christmas Carols,” “‘Poppy’ Wadsworth — He’s Not Forgotten,” “‘Get Best Girl,’ Urges Dance Committee.”


Construction began on four elevators in the Cathedral of Learning, which was still a year away from hosting its first class session. Students voiced their hope that the campus library should extend its hours to Sunday afternoons. University officials started the search to replace a dean who departed to lead the new Falk Foundation, which wouldn’t close its doors until 2014. Other headlines: “Pitt Man Dines With Amelia Earhart,” “Druids Revise Rituals,” “Torn Ligament May Keep Baker Out Of Irish Tilt,” “Pre-Dents Inaugurate Professional Soph Hop.”


Chancellor John Bowman proposed a $6 million expenditure plan for the University, including $350,000 to be allocated to build a skating rink for students. A student film critic listed the “Only 7 Good Pictures of 1939,” including “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “The Wizard of Oz.” The Druids raised their initiation fee to $20 to “keep out the hoi polloi.” Pitt undergraduate enrollment reached an all-time high of 12,041 recorded students. Other headlines: “Floundering Cage Team Enters Stadium Season,” “Students Expect Large Wage, Want No Pension,” “Arts Department Shows Miniatures.”


Pitt’s Phi Kappa fraternity was cleared of charges of excessive noise and offensive language — accusations which had brought against it by neighbors who claimed frat members were using the Phi Kappa house’s parking lot for loud “necking” and “petting” in their cars at late hours of the night. Trees Gym was ruled once again safe for student use after closing due to concerns about plaster falling from the ceiling. For the first time, thanks to new printing techniques, The Pitt News printed a story about a basketball game the day after it took place — the Panthers lost, 49-38. Other headlines: “New Device To Record Earthquakes Acquired,” “Economist Talks Here.”


A McKees Rocks dentist was charged with attempting to fix basketball games by offering bribes to multiple Pitt players to “shave points” during play. In a Pitt News poll, students said they wanted John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon to be the major party nominees for president in 1960. Other headlines: “Cats Return Home After Three Losses,” “Registration Lines Remain Consistent.”


A group of “non-professionals” in the fields of health care, education and welfare marched on the chancellor’s office to demand Pitt offer them the education they needed to move forward in their professions. The University prepared to observe its first January holiday in memory of Martin Luther King Jr., a holiday that wouldn’t be officially observed nationally until 1986. The newly formed Group Against Smoke and Pollution advertised for members — GASP celebrated its 50th birthday in 2019, though the “S” in its name now stands for “Smog.” Other headlines: “DJs Spin Black Side Discs,” “British Play Next,” “Pennsylvania Ballet To Make Appearance.”


Pitt’s Student Government Board prepared to vote on whether or not to raise the student activities fee to $24. The newspaper ran a message to students from Chancellor Wesley Posvar headlined “Pitt’s Progressive Past Readies University For The 1980s.” Other headlines: “Pa. Farmers Feel Effects of Grain Embargo,” “SGB President Abraham States Teamwork Will Be Key To Great Year,” “Panthers Chop Down George Washington, 82-61.”


The University moved the date of graduation from an April Sunday to a Saturday, prompting pushback from Jewish students in the class of 1990 who said they wouldn’t be able to participate because of religious observances. When polled, students expressed hope about new football coach Paul Hackett, hired to replace the recently-fired Mike Gottfried. Other headlines: “Arm implant may be new contraceptive,” and a column — “Lock up the criminals, not the guns.”


Pitt celebrated the opening of the Indian Nationality Room. SGB started looking for a replacement for a member who resigned, saying he didn’t “have the heart to give SGB what it deserves.” In the police blotter, two people reported being stuck in elevators at separate times. Other headlines: “Computer users often hampered by hoaxes,” “Slumping economy predicted for 2000,” “Editorial: Process for replacing SGB members is faulty.”


A report found that Pitt students used Twitter “far less frequently” than students at most major American universities. After weeks of protest, Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl cancelled plans for a tax on tuition. A Pitt News columnist defended the ’00s, saying they weren’t actually the “Decade from Hell.” Other headlines: “Pogo sticks come out of the toy chest,” “Pole dancing twists way to flat abs.”