Trolley presentation puts North Hills residents on track for memories
Ed and Marianne Yanosko have a special fondness for trolleys — almost as much as Bruce Wells, manager of restoration at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington County.
The Yanoskos and 50-plus others — many who remembered riding trolleys — packed the meeting room at the Northland Public Library in McCandless earlier this month to hear Wells' presentation, “Touring North Pittsburgh by Trolley.” For Wells, 62, of Ross, talking about trolleys is talking about his life, and he always is eager to share.
Those in attendance also had stories to share.
It was 61 years ago that Ed Yanosko, 18, and Marianne Hoffman, 16, met on a streetcar — Feb. 4, 1951, to be exact. He was going to Hite's Friendly Drug Store on Federal Street on Pittsburgh's North Side for a bite to eat; she was on her way home from a Sunday night-dance at St. Boniface Catholic Church, also on the North Side.
“She got on after 11 p.m., and I started talking to her,” he said.
They rode and talked, standing at the back near the center doors. They took the trolley to Brighton Heights. He walked her home and asked for her telephone number. Two trolleys brought him back to the City View area in the East Street Valley.
“I thought he was pretty cute,” she said. “He was tall and had white teeth. He was nice and not smart-alecky.”
A friend, another student at St. Benedict Academy in Ross Township had begged her to attend the dance, but she was reluctant, she said, because it would take two streetcars to get her there.
“I gave in and met her there,” she said. “And the rest is history.
“I guess it was meant to be.”
Now, after three children, the Yanoskos, of Reserve Township, have been married for 57 years.
In the 1950s, riding trolleys still was a way of life. It wouldn't be until the mid-1960s that automobiles and buses would overtake the streetcars' success. Wells spent his childhood in Mt. Lebanon.
“I was always interested in where things were,” he said. “I rode my bike on every street in Mt. Lebanon.”
In no time, he and his brother discovered the Sunday/holiday streetcar passes. In 1965, $1.25 could take him everywhere — even to West View Park for a day of fun. In 1925, his father and oldest brother had taken citywide tours for just 25 cents.
Wells' slides come from many sources. Some show the double-ended cars that had no need for turnarounds and “dinkys” for the short runs. In the early 1900s, brick streets were laced with rails, and overhead electric lines were strung when Pittsburgh Railways established the Harmony Line to connect Pittsburgh to New Castle.
Up north, passenger and freight stations were constructed at Ingomar, Wexford, Bradford Wood and Warrendale. The Warrendale station, he said, now is a home. The Butler Short Line later connected Pittsburgh with Butler through Etna, Shaler, Hampton, Valencia and Mars.
Wells, a tech-education teacher for 30-plus years in the North Allegheny School District, explained the streetcar lines weren't always just about transportation.
“Bradford Woods made the car line money,” he said, as company executives sold home sites near stations and lines. Suburbia swelled.
As city-dwellers opted for year-round country living, the line became the company's most successful.
Forever a trolley aficionado, Wells was on board, camera in hand, with 152 others when the Fineview trolley made its last run in 1966.
Participants said the presentation stirred up memories for them.
“It took us back in time,” said Karen Jackson, a Ross Township resident.
Having grown up across from Danceland in West View Park, she remembered trips across the Center Avenue Bridge.
Jo Anne Suwalski recalled using a monthly pass to take trolleys to St. Benedict Academy every day from her North Side home near St. Boniface Catholic Church.
“I loved the click-click sound and the movement,” Donna McCartan of Ross Township said.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.