A curious, grainy black-and-white photo appeared on the cover of the Heinz History Center magazine last fall. A row of solemn yet eager boys and girls, wearing short pants, laced-up boots, thick pea coats, and page boy hats, waved a flurry of American flags.
The precious photo captured a moment in time in 1912, where these school children and their families came to the Quentin Roosevelt Elementary School in Carrick Borough to celebrate a grand event: Bird Day. A Western Pennsylvania tradition in May 4,
1894 was started as an initiative of Charles Almanzo Babcock, superintendent of schools in Oil City, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Babock began Bird Day as a way for an increasingly urbanized population to get closer to nature and advance bird conservation as a moral issue. Children were encouraged to build birdhouses and observe the magic and growth within them. By 1910, Bird Day was widely celebrated, often in conjunction with Arbor Day.
We may never know why, but at some point in the 20th century, the celebration of Bird Day as a holiday fell out of fashion, but bird day is still an event among bird enthusiasts. Thanks to the efforts of the community-based Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society and dedicated Pittsburgh Public School faculty, this tradition has been rediscovered and rekindled, and after 100 years, Bird Day will be celebrated at Pittsburgh Concord Elementary School in Carrick.
On May 4 the students and faculty of Pittsburgh Concord Elementary School will welcome an appearance by Robert Mulvihill, director of education of the National Aviary of Pittsburgh. Rich Okraszewsk of the Greater Pennsylvania Carpenters Union and carpenter trainees have volunteered to make 75 bird house kits and City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak has also given time and effort in support of the event.
"In our modern and fast-paced society, our children need to connect with the outside world – and our proud roots -- more than ever," said Melissa Del Rio, Carrick resident and educator at Pittsburgh Concord.
Ms. Del Rio's interest peaked after reading about Bird Day on the web site of The Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society, and the event would not be possible without her leadership.
Ms. Del Rio is hoping by renewing Bird Day they will educate people on the importance of birds and an stir an interest in making homes for them out of wood and natural items. She wants to begin a gourd garden at the school so when dried, they can be made into natural bird houses just like the ones John M. Phillips gave to children 100 years ago.
For more information on Bird Day visit The Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society at http://wiki.carrick-overbrook.org/Bird_Day.