Memories of such things make up a life
By Michael O'Hare
Published: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Pittsburgh runs through my memories as its three rivers run through it.
Last Saturday, as the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs, Mary Ellen and I watched the win from seats above the third base line thanks to tickets from our son Ryan.
The game was the drama of the moment and there is no better stage for it than PNC Park.
Yet, at the same time, there was subtler play going on within my head as I looked at the backdrop provided by the view over the outfield wall of the central downtown, known to many as the Golden Triangle.
Cities – if we live in or near one – can become a part of our psyche, affecting our lives as much as the love of one's parents or a formal education.
I grew up just a few miles down the Ohio River from the Point and Pittsburgh was always in my awareness. My favorite places included the (then) Buhl Planetarium, the Carnegie Library branches on the North Side and Oakland, the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, eventually Point State Park and the streets throughout the center city.
Here is a random sampling of thoughts on this city:
• I remember when there were two bridges at the Point that aren't there anymore, one over to Carson Street and one known as the Manchester Bridge over to that area of the North Side. And there was a big ramp from that intersection down toward the center of town. A lot of folks said downtown, but many just said town, as in “I am going into town.“
• Mom told me how when she was a girl the downtown city lights would come on at mid-afternoon because of the sooty air, and how woodwork in many homes was stained brown because it was easier to keep clean in such air.
• Mom and I would travel by street car to the downtown to shop and lunch in the restaurant in Kaufmann's. Seeing through the glass doors of the elevators in the department stores intimidated me and for years I had a slight fear when getting in them.
• Department stores were amazing places, especially at Christmas with storybook windows, great decorations and the knowing that somewhere within Santa Claus sat. Mary Ellen's favorite site for Christmas being near was the tree on the corner of the Horne's building.
• I went to Point Park College (now university) and during my breaks between classes I would walk the streets all around. It was a course in being a professional observer.
• We took two street cars or a YMCA Knothole Club bus to Forbes Field in Oakland when I was a kid. Pitt Stadium was where the Steelers played then. I remember sitting in the right field seats watching Clemente.
• Street cars rocked and would make a friend of mine feel sick. But they were a great mode of travel unless a car was blocking the tracks. And the rails were a challenge for a young driver to navigate in a car.
• Rainy Fridays in Pittsburgh brought homebound traffic to a halt. I once at for at least an hour street in one block of Penn Avenue as traffic crept toward the bridges to folks to leave the less-than “Golden” triangle.
• Parking on the North Side and walking across one of the bridges over the Allegheny River in the winter was an experience to test the most committed commuter.
• There was a time when the place where one went to see the first runs of new movies was the theaters downtown. I also remember on one of those walk-abouts from school strolling into the Penn movie theater on Sixth Street and learning it was being renovated into what would be Heinz Hall.
• There was a waitress in the Brass Rail Restaurant on Wood Street who could take an order at a table of six, not write it down, and return to the table later with the correct order placed in front of the diners.
• My grandmother owned a row of houses along Chateau Street on the North Side that she rented out. That community was a good place to live in those days, before the four-lane of Route 65 was built atop it, wiping out a whole community. It had even had a movie theater, the Hypodrome, that my dad managed for awhile.
• As I looked out of the back of PNC Park at the houses and a church on the North Side I remembered a farmers market held each summer in the lot along the train trestle, and live chickens being sold by one of the farmers. I had a sprained ankle one time and hobbled about the stand on a crutch.
Such memories are “funny little things now,” but it just such things that make up a life. Remember that your children and grandchildren are working on such things now.
Meandering appears Fridays. To share your thoughts on this column (or on most anything) with News Editor Mike O'Hare, write to the Leader Times, P.O. Box 978, Kittanning, PA 16201 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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