Memories Stalk Carnegie Streets
By Larry Ciptak
February 4, 1998
Walking over the bridge on Carothers Avenue heading toward Main Street near the Scott-Carnegie border, I feel the dark rain slapping against my face and try to capture some cathartic effect.
In those Hollywood movies where the problems of existence are identified, fought and conquered in 120 minutes, rain always means a turning point, an emotional purification.
Tonight, all I feel is wetness.
Down in the East Mall Plaza, I stop in front of the Historical Society of Carnegie, PA., where withered photos of stoic people long gone from this gentrified neighborhood litter the window.
The gray figures taunt me, as if to proudly say: "We had community. We knew who we were."
Up on the hill the antiquated Andrew Carnegie Free Library holds silent vigil for the masses while the few remaining South Hills bourgeois empty out of Papa J's Restaurante below.
The 97-year-old library epitomizes this town: old proud, wounded. The murky rainwater streaming down the hill appears to be coming from the library itself.
The gaiety seeping from Sullivan's Pour House on Main Street beckons me. A little intemperance might solve this ritual drama I burden myself with. But I keep walking.
I stop in front of the A-Plus convenience store on Washington Road in Scott. Tonight it seems like a beacon in the surrounding darkness. I wonder what was here when Superior Steel was in full-swing a couple miles away.
There are some older folks who still hose down their sidewalks, as if Superiors's stacks continued to churn out tons of black carbon.
Old habits die hard, and Carnegie is an old habit.
But the mill's been gone almost four decades, along with its tireless, composed generations who worked 12-hour shifts and courageously supported their striking brethren 105 years ago in Homestead.
These images in mind, I walk into A-Plus to make a generous $1 donation to Pennsylvania's Senior Citizens, with the hope of instantly transforming my fortunes.
At the intersection of Washington and Hope Hollow, I look left to the railroad trestle where my mother's cousin fell to his young death while painting more than a half-century ago.
As a kid in Scott, I walked miles of track — from Bridgeville through Scott to Carnegie — and crossed numerous trestles. But this particular one was always sacrosanct. It still is.
Up around the corner, the old, beautiful, other-worldly St. Ignatius complex appears unusually complex tonight.
Like those faded photos in the Historical Society window, the bells of St. Ignatius sound daily — at noon and 6 p.m. — to remind all who care to listen that there still is such a thing as historical continuity, though we're left to search a little harder for it.
At this hour, of night, the neighborhood doesn't appear to be sleeping. It seems stuck in time. St. Ignatius is the timekeeper. The day its bells go silent will be the day the soul of this aged community dies.
Back home on Locust Street in the house where my late grandfather Benjamen Narbuth once ran a barber shop. I grab a cigar out of the marvelous old wooden cabinet turned humidor, hand-crafted by my great-grandfather. I don't know his name.
Larry Ciptak is a free-lance writer.