The picture above was taken from what we used to call the “Bluff.” When I was a young man, the bluff was reached by driving on a dirt road while taking great care not to get too close to the edge. The entire area was bare dirt… and driving over the edge was certain to cause a great deal of damage to one’s car.
That was forty some years ago. Now the area has a fancier name – the West End Overlook – and has a parking lot that makes it impossible to get too close to the edge. One has to park nearby, and walk along the landscaped paths to finally reach the area that is completely enclosed by the railings.
I haven’t been in downtown Pittsburgh in more than fifteen years. I plan to take a walking tour with an old college friend during my visit, but have already been warned to expect more than a few changes.
For instance, all the Rhea’s Bakery stores are gone as are the Brass Rail restaurants. McIntyre’s Bakery is gone along with the Woolworth store, Murphy’s, the Flame Steak House, and the Atlantic Grill.
When I was a child, my mom would drag me from one department store to another until she figured which store had the best price for each item she wanted to buy. Then, we’d repeat the circuit while she made her purchases. Those stores included Frank and Seder’s, Gimbel’s, Horne’s, Kaufman’s, and Rosenbaum’s. Naturally, none of the stores were close to each other, so my little legs got a royal workout.
Today, all of those department stores are gone from downtown; some are gone totally. Like many other cities, retailers were forced to open branches at shopping malls in the suburbs.
I’m told there are a number of projects underway in an attempt to get people to move into condos and apartments in the downtown area. I’d guess if those projects succeed, some retailers will return. In the meantime, there should be lots of restaurants and specialty shops to cater to the people who still work in the city.
One of my favorite places from the old days was Isaly’s Dairy stores. At one time, there was an Isaly’s store in every neighborhood. Now, unfortunately, they’re all gone the way of the dodo bird. Anyone from Pittsburgh – young and old – has probably eaten many sandwiches made with Isaly’s chipped-chopped ham. They, along with many people from all across our country, have also enjoyed an Isaly’s Klondike ice cream bar.
However, only the older citizens from Pittsburgh would remember the Skyscraper ice cream cones. They’re the folks who would also remember Bimbo’s restaurant right across the street from Forbes Field, and Pitt Stadium sitting atop Cardiac Hill. They’d also remember where they were and what they were doing when “Maz” hit the ninth inning home run to win the 1960 World Series.
Watching the 2008 edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates convinces me that some things never stay the same. I want a Clark Bar.