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Memories Stalk Carnegie Streets

Memories Stalk Carnegie Streets


By Larry Ciptak

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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.