Nancy Made Me Do It!

I’ve looked all over for a photograph of either Pittsburgh, or the Crafton Heights movie theater. The photos I’ve found of Pittsburgh are all copyrighted and I could find no photos of the movie theater in question. I wanted to include some eye-catching photo to add a bit of color to this post; we’ll just have to do without.

After I published a trip down Memory Lane detailing some of the things we did when we were young, Nancy Nelson Hadly (a class mate from the first grade on) reminded me that there was a movie theater in our neighborhood… within two or three blocks of our grade school. I’d forgotten about that theater… perhaps because I never remember watching a movie there.

What I do remember are Halloween parades that started near my home. We lived on one end of Stratmore Avenue; the theater was on the other end. We would gather in our costumes and walk the length of the street and enter the old movie theater. Somewhere along the path we were handed bags of goodies donated by the local merchants. The bags contained candy and some sort of noise makers.

Inside the theater, we all took seats while the judges compiled their score cards. Eventually, the winners of the best or most original costumes would be announced. I don’t recall what the prizes were, but shortly thereafter we were allowed to leave and begin going door-to-door begging for additional treats.

Back in those days it was not unusual to receive home made cookies, fudge, and candy or caramel apples. There was never a thought that someone might try to poison or harm us with tainted treats.

That local movie theater also held a community event during the annual lighting of the community Christmas Tree. After the singing of carols, a speech or two, and the lighting ceremony, we all went to the theater. There we were allowed to march across the stage and receive a small box of chocolates from Santa. Although I never saw a movie in the place, you’d thing the free candy would’ve helped me remember that theater!

Another visitor to my blog, Darlene Gordon who grew up in a similar neighborhood in Baltimore, reminded me of the teenage dances. Our high school held a dance on most Friday nights and the American Legion post nearby also held weekly dances. The Legion dances continued throughout the summer months.

It seems to me that the adults – especially the local merchants – in the forties, fifties, and sixties went out of their way to provide clean wholesome fun for youngsters. But, looking back, I don’t find it at all surprising.

As I recall, the local merchants in Crafton Heights were: Mr. Reed who owned the drug store, Mr Vater who owned the hardware store (he later sold it to an employee, Mr, Lauth), Mr. Porter who owned one dairy store, Mrs. McWilliams who owned another dairy store, Mr. Swartz who owned the dry cleaning business, Mr. Simpson who owned one grocery store, Mr. Bartlett who owned the other grocery store, Mr. O’Toole who owned the car dealership, Mr. Conley who owned the beer distributor, Frank (I don’t know if I ever knew his last name) who owned the barbershop, the guy who owned the tavern (I was too young to go in there, so I never met the man… although I believe one of my relatives ran it for a time), the Czechoslovakian shoe maker (whose name I couldn’t pronounce), and Mr. Rote, Mr. Swartz’s son-in-law who opened a TV repair shop when Mr. Porter closed his store.

I think I got them all, but I might have missed a doctor or dentist who had an office over one of the stores.

My point is that all the businesses were locally owned and operated. It behooved those business owners to keep us occupied so we didn’t have time to vandalize their stores. Of course, it would’ve been hard to get into any mischief; it seemed like everyone in the neighborhood knew everyone else, and without air conditioning and television, people spent a good part of their time sitting on their front porches watching the world go by. Had we done anything we shouldn’t have done, word would have gotten back home before we did. The telephone may have still been based on party lines, but it provided fast communications none the less.

I trust Nancy will read this and remind me of anything else I may have forgotten. Don’t tell her, but I appreciate the input.

Finally, I’m making another change. The single “?” seems lost on that page heading. So I’m changing it to “???”. Take another look at that photo and see if you can guess where it was taken.


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