A Visit to Steelers Country

Crafton-Ingram... from Pittsburgh

Crafton-Ingram... from Pittsburgh

Believe it or not, the above photo was taken from the window of my brother’s kitchen. His home is very similar to the house in which I grew up in Pittsburgh; the city limits are within easy walking distance. Thus, the areas shown in the photo are, in truth, Crafton Borough and Ingram Borough.

Growing up in this area meant we spent lots of time in both Crafton and Ingram. In fact, many of my high school classmates lived in Ingram. Ingram didn’t have a high school, so the borough worked out a deal with the Pittsburgh Public Schools so their teens could attend Langley High. As for Crafton, they had their own school and graduated people like Bill Cowher – former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Crafton also had a community swimming pool, and they allowed us “city” kids to use it with the same rules as the Crafton residents. We could swim for free in the morning and early afternoon. Then they cleared the pool. If we had the fifty cents, we could re-enter the pool and spend the afternoon. We seldom had the fifty cents.

I’ve come to Pittsburgh to attend a dinner for former Pittsburgh IBM employees. An ‘alumni’ group started meeting once a year and I was made aware of the event about three years ago. As much as I enjoy coming back to my old hometown, it doesn’t always fit into my schedule or budget. Last year I decided I would make the effort in 2008 and here I am.

The unfortunate part of this story is that since I made my reservations for this trip a few months ago, three of the IBM alumni members have passed away. None of them were that old – sixty or seventy is really not that old… especially when the person making the observation is in his sixties.

I went through a similar shock a couple of years back when I helped organize a high school reunion. We had a class of about two hundred seventy-five students. Learning that a dozen or more of my classmates had died was tough enough, but learning that a man I’d known since we were toddlers had passed on was especially hard to accept. Joe Geagin was one of the boys I went with to the Crafton swimming pool. In fact, we were such good friends that at one point my mom told me I was no longer allowed to play with him because he was a bad influence on me.

While this was happening to me, his mom was telling him something similar. Only the names were changed… and it wasn’t to protect the innocent!

I flew in yesterday morning and didn’t have a lot of time to do much. I had coffee and a pastry with Gary Smith – an old school chum I met in the first grade – and spent the rest of the day with my eighty-year-old brother. Tomorrow I’ll have breakfast with a group of high school classmates. After that, I’m going to roam around some of my old haunts and take some photographs.

Before I head back to Georgia, I hope to meet up with a fraternity brother and some nephews and nieces. Look for some more posts recalling my childhood and early adulthood.

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