Hug for Pittsburgh’s now-gone Rubber Duckie
RUBBER DUCKIE MANIA:
SEPTEMBER 27 to OCTOBER 20, 2013
What is that thing I see in the picture on my computer screen? That bright yellow spot in the distance, beyond the “Bridge to Nowhere?” That yellow thing docked on the Allegheny River at Point State Park…
- Is it a docked yacht?
- Is it a stalled barge?
- Perhaps it’s an alien.
- What the heck…it’s the smooth round backside of…a Rubber Ducky!
I heard about it through a media blitz.
Lyrics to a Sesame Street song I never paid attention to, a song I now understand is deep within the soul of many of the program’s fans, is spinning through the coils of my brain:
Rubber Ducky, you’re the one,
You make bathtime lots of fun,..
Rubber Ducky, joy of joys,
When I squeeze you, you make noise!
My mind runs wild with its own creativity:
Bring along your soap
Your shampoo and your hope
Allegheny water awaits you
Dive in, dive in if you dare
Rubber Ducky relieves your care
Rubber Ducky, joy of joys.
On October 7, 2013, my husband Monte, my daughter Sandy, my son-in-law Michael, and our friend Lois drove to Pittsburgh (PA) to attend a baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Is this getting into a bird conversation? Duck. Penguins. Cardinals. But I digress.
Back on track after noting that I don’t do sports (except occasionally for surfing competitions). I’m what every family needs—an ultimate anti-sports person. So I remained at home puttering about.
A DUCKIE DAY
The playoff battle was Game 4 of the second round of the National League Division Series, the second game held at PNC Park, located near the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio River.
It wasn’t until about October 22 that I downloaded the pictures Monte took. To my surprise I discovered a number of photographs of a mysterious yellow Pittsburgh guest, docked from September 27 to October 20, 2013, along the Allegheny River between the Bridge to Nowhere and the Point where the rivers merged.
All Rubber Duckie views were of his back end, the only side visible from the outside River Terrace where Monte snapped the photos. The duck’s beak was pointed toward the Point a couple thousand feet upriver, beyond the Duquesne Bridge, colloquially known as the “Bridge to Nowhere.”
LUCKY DUCK Seen Beyond the Bridge to Nowhere—The Fort Duquesne Bridge
Allow me to purposely digress here. Bridge to Nowhere?
The main span of the steel tied arched yellowish bridge spanning the Allegheny River was completed in 1963. Due to (typical) delays in acquiring rights of ways for ramps to the north side of the river these ramps weren’t completed at that time.. Thus, the bridge ended in midair, rendering it useless. When the two off ramps were finally completed in 1986 the bridge touched down halfway between the current Heinz Field and PNC Park Baseball Stadium.
Not wanting to be crude and rude, I decided to seek a front-on picture of the Rubber Duck. I posted a request for one on Ligonier Living and Casey Bevin sent me the following:
Thank you, Casey.
Back to Monte standing on the River Terrace at PNC, his pointer finger mimicking my trigger finger—using my camera with its surprising zoom.
“I never saw the front of the duck. It faced toward the Point further up the Allegheny River. I was never near the Point. To me it looked like a big rubber thing.”
He snapped pictures of the 40-foot tall Rubber Duckie because Lois was among those who considered the fowl just duckie.
“…it was a big deal, especially for Lois. She had big plans to go see it last weekend…”
Lois planned her visit Pittsburgh on October 21, the day before the Rubber Duckie’s planned exit. However, she didn’t go because she felt somewhat under the weather for the journey into the city.
Then Monte told me that the Rev. John Flowers (Heritage United Methodist Church pastor) had spoken about the Rubber Duckie in his sermon. We listened to the Internet audio version of that sermon.
SOMEDUCKY LOVES ME
The Rev. Flower, like many other persons, heard about the Rubber Duckie through the media, which hyped up (my two words) the fact that one must run down into Pittsburgh to visit the creature—today—because it will be deflated tomorrow.
His wife suggested traveling to Pittsburgh. He fought the traffic from the hockey game and the football game. Most of all, however, he fought traffic going to the Point, going to meet the Rubber Duckie.
The Rev. Flowers said that when the head of VisitPittsburgh filled in the application to use the Rubber Duckie he wrote that the potential impact of the Rubber Duckie on the community might be to bring 200 people a day to the city. Their visits would be economically good for Pittsburgh. The estimate erred. The Rubber Duckie attracted 200 persons an hour, over a million persons during its short sojourn on the Allegheny River.
While the Rev. Flowers remained in his car he watched his wife and children caught up in a throng of people with bubbly spirits. His one child returned happily asking Did you know that floating at the base of the duck is a bunch of little ducks?
The Rev pondered: Did it make us think of our childhood, thus making us happy? How many persons once had a rubber duck…
Monte said the bathtub toy art “was a phenomenon, that’s for sure. Kind of hard to figure. There’s so much to do…it was competing with lots of sports, harvest festivals, corn mazes. Yet you had this huge outpouring for the duck.
“People always seem to focus on one thing. It’s a phenomenon. It’s hard to know what will get people’s appeal.”
The universal appeal of the Rubber Duckie is apparent as it visits various countries: Sao Paulo, Brazil; Hong Kong; Osaka, Japan; Baku, Azerbaijan, and elsewhere.
Its first time in the United States it quickly became a part of Pittsburgh.
KEEP ON DUCKIN’
The Rubber Duck project began when Paul Organisak of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust saw pictures of other duck events. He sought Hofman’s approval for the first U.S. duckie. Each city builds its own duck from the plans of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. It kicked off the month long Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts (featuring theater, dance, music and visual arts from around the world).
QUESTION TO PONDER: Why did the artist choose a rubber duck to spread his message?