It’s with a hybrid of longing and loathing that we look back at Bethlehem Steel.
By itself, a title like “Torn-down Tuesday” might inspire a sense of loss and memories of once-wonderful places that vanished after a misguided date with a steam shovel or a backhoe.
Sometimes, it’s a bit more complicated. Many of us fondly remember the days when 20,000 of our Western New York neighbors worked for Bethlehem Steel. It was dangerous, back-breaking, really terrible work — but the good pay and benefits from Bethlehem and other manufacturing giants provided the means for hundreds of thousands of men to offer the next generation a life better than their own.
The burning of coal to smelt iron, and the slag and smoke that process created, left our ground, water, and air heavily polluted. It contributed to irreversible environmental damage and very likely played some role in the sickness and disease of thousands of people who never stepped foot in the plant.
But still, smoke stacks meant jobs.
The smoke stacks were still there when this photo was taken in 1984, but most of the jobs left in 1982 when the main plant closed.