Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Neighborly Character Made New City Feel like Home

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Neighborly Character Made New City Feel like Home

Article excerpt

The big bank on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill was different from the one-story, red brick building where I'd made my deposits and withdrawals in Lynchburg, Va., the little town I'd just left.

Here the marble of the counters and floors magnified the sounds of footsteps and ringing phones and seemed to call for hushed voices. I stood in line waiting for the teller, talking quietly and holding the hand of my 4-year-old son.

Other things were different, too. The September days in Lynchburg that early autumn of 1980 had been warm and sunny, but here in my new home, I'd yet to see a full day of sun. I puzzled over traffic signals that flashed yellow just as the signal changed to red or green. What were you supposed to do when both yellow and green lights were on?

I had been lost almost every time I'd ventured out in the car. I was confused by traffic signs - what exactly did it mean when a sign said STOP and then a smaller sign underneath it said "except right turn"? How could one obey instructions to merge into traffic on the highway (I didn't yet know it was called the Parkway) when the sign at its Squirrel Hill entrance ramp said to stop completely?

And where did Seventh Street Downtown become Seventh Avenue - or did it?

I welcomed the "Big Buck" - a ticket to ride the bus all weekend. I'd never encountered such a deal before, although I was an old hand on New York City subways and Washington, D.C.'s Metro. But the bus, too, could be confusing, such as figuring out whether you paid getting on the bus, or off it.

I hadn't yet heard about Pittsburghese but was already finding something distinctive about the way Pittsburghers spoke. Standing at a deli counter, I heard a woman order what sounded to me like "two pond chipped ham."

When I'd moved to Lynchburg I'd had to get used to a number of expressions, such as, "Don't ask him for money - he's tighter than Dick's hatband" and "She has a bad temper - likely to throw a dying duck fit right here. …

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