What is noticeably better is the air quality. Pittsburgh "back then" was a dirty city. I use quotes advisedly, because even in my lifetime I can remember trips into the city along the Parkway East in the 1970s when the descent into town through the Squirrel Hill tunnels was shrouded by smoke rising from the riverside steel mills still in operation. Even by the time of Smith's then-modern pictures, still early in the clean air legislation era, the air was noticeably clearer and distant details discernible.
The quality of the streets themselves is much better now, too, notwithstanding Western PA's reputation as a pothole paradise. Many of the old streets were deeply rutted dirt, buckled cobblestone, or crisscrossed with freight railroad and trolley tracks.
Of course you may have detected a possible source of criticism of this book--now more than 20 years out of date, it too has been bypassed by unmarked time. Three Rivers Stadium, which figures prominently in a couple of Smith's pictures is long gone, replaced by PNC Park and Heinz Field. I'll bet many of the other scenes Smith has documented have also since changed beyond recognition except to those few longstanding residents and denizens who still "remember when" because those pieces of the now-missing past were central parts of their lives. Time moves so fast that we can't bring things back, and we probably wouldn't even if we could (who wants the potholes and pollution we left back there?). But we can at last take a minute to look backward and honor the time and times and places and people past.
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