For the most part, this scene has changed little since I was a lad in the 1940s. The major difference is the lack of plate glass windows. When I was growing up, most of the store fronts had large glass windows so people could see the merchandise. Today, brick walls are used to protect the merchandise.
I moved away from Crafton Heights around 1970. I left the Pittsburgh area in 1977. I’ve driven through the old neighborhood countless times, but I’ve seldom stopped. (The day I got out of the car to snap the picture was a rare exception.)
I have no idea who is living in the houses on Stratmore Avenue. There was a time when I could rattle off the names of most of the families living on the street. I have no idea what sort of people are now living in Crafton Heights. Thus, I cannot say they are a bunch of evil crooks who forced the shopkeepers to replace the glass with bricks. Perhaps the troublemakers came from the West End, or Westwood.
All I can say is that it is a shame that this scene has played itself out in so many parts of America.
Talk to any old-timer and you’ll hear stories about leaving car keys in the car, leaving the doors on houses unlocked… even when no one was home. You’ll hear that there were thieves and troublemakers, but not many. And there was no need for special “Neighborhood Watch” groups. Neighbors who watched out for other neighbors were the norm.
I count two items responsible for the change: television and air-conditioning.
When I was child, – NO! Wait! – When I left Pittsburgh in 1977, we still did not have air-conditioning in our home. During the hot summer months, we opened the doors and windows and ran fans. We also spent a lot of time outdoors. We had a very nice patio with a roof.
As for television, our family bought one in the early 1950’s. At that time, there was one channel and much of the schedule was devoted to the test pattern.
Because we didn’t have those things that caused us to spend most of our time indoors, people sat on their porches and watched the world go by. This deterred many would-be crooks.
Perhaps we need to go back to that aspect of the old days. Turn off the TV, turn off the A/C (and save a lot of money), and take up a position in the yard or on your front porch. Armed with a modern cell phone, you won’t even need to go into the house to call the police when you see something or someone strange.
In case you’re wondering… Once again I couldn’t come up with an idea to write about. So I went to my picture files and picked one.