Take a trip back in time: Life on the Bluff 50 years ago

Courtesy of Gumberg Digital Archives
On the Bluff, 1968 saw the dedication of the now-beloved Student Union. According to the original article, the cost of construction for the new building was estimated around $3 million.


By Jamie Crow | Staff Writer

In United States history, 1968 stands as one of the most eventful years to date. As the U.S. made its attempt to get a man on the moon, the country erupted in protests, both about the raging Vietnam War and civil rights issues. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated, and Richard Nixon was elected the nation’s 37th president. As all of this was going on, Duquesne had an historic year, too. Here’s a glimpse of life on the Bluff 50 years ago, courtesy of The Duquesne Duke.

The Feb. 16, 1968, issue of The Duke advertised something called Pittsburgh Free University on page two, saying the university was gearing up for its spring semester. Informal registration was held over two days in the Union, where students could sign up for courses (or, what the university preferred to call them: study groups). At the Free University, there was no difference between the students and the teachers, rather seeing learning as a “cooperative venture.” There were no lectures in these classes, instead focusing on group participation. Ranging from topics such as civil liberties to filmmaking, Pittsburgh Free University offered anyone, whether they were in school or not, the chance to learn in a more independent and unique way.

Courtesy of Gumberg Digital Archives
Love was in the air, with Valentine’s Day happening two days prior to this issue’s publication.

Among many of the spirited columns featured in this issue was one titled “Purge White Supremacy,” written by William R. Maloni. In his column, Maloni calls the college students of 1968 “the most promising generation America has spawned.” He uses that promise to argue his points about racial tensions in America at that time, pointing to the deaths of black college students at the hands of white policemen in South Carolina. He discusses the history of white America in creating an oppressive society created by the generations before his, and he suggests that his generation should purge the idea that white America is in any way superior to any race.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this issue is the advertisements it boasted. One appears to be a personal ad (pictured right), offering readers the chance to “Come away with me! I’ll show you how to live! (Be my valentine).” The ad doesn’t give any contact information, though, so that part remains a mystery.

Two poster ads were featured in this issue, but one gave readers a unique opportunity, saying, “Blow yourself up,” to poster size. The college community at the time apparently had a pressing need for personal posters; the reason, however, is simply unclear.

If any Duquesne students needed a job, an ad on page two boasted a tempting employment offer, saying, “Admittedly, this is NOT a career opportunity. BUT WHAT’S WRONG WITH MONEY?”

Ad placement was on-point, however, because next to this non-career offer was one that asked students, “Are you interested in a career with a future?” Thankfully, students had both option to choose from.

The Union as we know it today houses our beloved Starbucks, several food options and the popular NiteSpot, among other things. In 1968, however, the Union was just getting its start, and a dedication ceremony was held for the building that year.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, students were invited to participate in free activities held in the Recreation Room and Arts and Crafts Room. While we may not have rooms dedicated to these activities, our union has been renovated several times since its inception; once in the 1990s and again in 2008, according to the university’s website.

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