Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Trip Back in Time Makes So Much Seem Small or Lost

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Trip Back in Time Makes So Much Seem Small or Lost

Article excerpt

You can't go home again, according to famous author Thomas Wolfe, but I disagree ... sort of.

You can go home again, but first you must be willing to accept today's realities when they're out of sync with yesterday's memories.

I learned this sobering lesson when, after an absence of some 38 years, I revisited Pittsburgh's Beltzhoover-Allentown neighborhood. The trip back to where I grew up was on my bucket list of things to do before age and health dictated otherwise.

I got my first taste of reality as I drove through the Liberty Tunnels. Where was the pedestrian walkway? Gone. Back then, it was a major adventure for kids to walk the length of the inbound tunnel toward Downtown, then cross over and return through the outbound walkway. Drivers would honk, we'd wave back, and nobody ever searched or stopped us.

Turning onto Warrington Avenue, I remembered it being a much wider roadway, affording ample room in the old days for roller skating, bike riding and tag football. A complex of buildings and bus ramps has replaced the open fields along lower Warrington as part of the Port Authority's South Hills Junction operations.

My memory harkened back to weed-covered fields where we played ball, picked berries, ran like hell when a stranger or snake appeared, and threw rocks at overgrown rats that lived in piles of discarded railroad ties at the bottom of a ravine.

The ball field at the Warrington Recreation Center was still there. It, too, had seemed to shrink in size. As a center fielder on our local softball team, the outfield had seemed as spacious and deep as old Forbes Field.

I parked the car and walked to the fencing that surrounded the outdoor swimming pool behind the center. Two lifeguard chairs stood silent guard over the apparently neglected community treasure where I learned to swim. The pool's bottom was covered with drifts of leaves; weeds poked through upended and broken slabs of concrete.

An equipment company now occupied the site where the Capital movie theater once stood at the corner of Warrington and Beltzhoover avenues. How many "Flash Gordon" episodes had I seen there on countless Saturday afternoons! …

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