Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Back to the Burgh

Hi Bill

My letter to you last week described our life in Philadelphia where Pat and l lived on Chester Avenue. Today I thought I’d write about when we moved back to Pittsburgh in the mid-1970s.

In the early ‘70s I was already thinking that a graduate degree would increase my income potential. However, I couldn’t quite decide what discipline I should pursue. When I was still working on my Bachelor’s degree at Pitt, I had been friends with Janice and Betty, who were both working on Master’s degrees in Library Science. They were very enthusiastic about pursuing library careers and they got me interested. However, I wasn’t ready to make that decision then.

After finishing my Bachelor’s degree in psychology, which prepared me for a whole-lot-of-nothing career, I worked at DPA (Welfare) in Philadelphia. That got me thinking about pursuing a Social Work graduate degree at Temple and I took a couple of undergraduate SW courses just to learn more about that profession. However, I decided that social work was too depressing as a long-time career for me.

During our time in the Philadelphia area, Pat and I became good friends with Walter, who was a librarian at The Philadelphia Free Library. Once again, I had a friend who displayed enthusiasm for librarianship. To make a long story short, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Library Science, and I wanted to earn that degree at my beloved University of Pittsburgh.

I got accepted into the Master’s degree program in the School of Library and Information Sciences at Pitt and Pat and I moved back to the Pittsburgh area in late summer of 1975. We moved in with Pat’s parents for a couple of weeks. Pat quickly landed a job at a Carnegie Mellon University research lab near Monroeville. We only had one car, so I drove her to work in Monroeville in the morning and searched for an apartment in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh, my old undergraduate stomping grounds, during the afternoons. Then I drove back to Monroeville to pick up Pat at 5pm.

Once again, Pat trusted me to find an acceptable apartment, even after struggling to live in the first apartment I rented for us in Philadelphia. Surprise! Surprise! I found another way-less-than-elegant apartment on Parkview Avenue near the Pitt campus, and Pat was tolerant enough to endure it. We did not waste any time moving out of her parents’ house.

The apartment was on the second floor of an old three-story row house that had been converted to three apartments. It was not elegant, but it had a fairly large kitchen, a small living room, and a fairly large bedroom in the front of the building. Oh…, and the bathroom was located outside the apartment door on the hallway landing. Yep…, I had found another quirky place to live. We had to go out of our apartment to get to our bathroom. It didn’t bother me much, but I seem to remember that Pat was not pleased by the situation. It was our bathroom and as far I was could determine no one else used it, but they could have. There were only two other tenants in the building, i.e., a woman upstairs and a woman downstairs. They were not particularly sociable but they were nice enough.

The parents of our upstairs neighbor lived in the single-family row house next door, and they had lived there for a long time. Therefore, their family seemed to feel like our apartment building was an extension of their house. Our bedroom window was over a porch roof and their porch roof was very close to ours. They had a young son, maybe 13-14 years old who didn’t have a key for the front door to our building. However, he would crawl out on their porch roof and then onto our porch roof and tap on our bedroom window asking us to let him come through our apartment and go upstairs to visit his sister’s apartment. Needless to say, we were not delighted by him scrambling around at our bedroom window. Eventually, he took the hint and realized he shouldn’t do that anymore.

Our neighborhood was convenient for me to walk to and from the Pitt campus. However, Pat’s commute to Monroeville for her job through congested traffic was not a drive in the country. It was stressful and dangerous, especially during the winter when there were snow storms. At that time we had an Opel Manta Luxus, a very small car that was not good on ice and snow. Pat had to ascend a very steep and long hill to get from the highway to the lab where she worked. The road up the hill often got very icy and sometimes she (and other employees) had trouble getting up that hill. Sometimes the car would completely loose traction three-quarters of the way up the hill and then it would begin sliding backwards down the hill. Sometimes the car would spin in circles as it left the road and became stuck. Meanwhile, many of her colleagues would not even attempt to drive up the hill, and they would often sit in the restaurant at the bottom of the hill watching Pat (and rating her performance) spinning her way down the hill or off the road. Luckily, some of the lab employees had big trucks and they would pull their colleagues’ vehicles back onto the road when necessary. Stalwart as always, she persevered and made it to and from work almost every day. Some days, but very few, I was able to drive her to work and then pick her up after work.

Meanwhile, I walked to campus every day for classes, and spent much time in Hillman Library writing papers and studying for tests. I also got a part-time job doing research for one of my professors. I quickly discovered that I liked the field of librarianship and my professors very much. It was another grueling time in our lives, but it was well worth enduring. It prepared me for a 33-year career in librarianship in three different university library systems.

Bill - As I wrote this, I thought again about how both of us had very successful long-time careers in education. I also thought about how proud our parents were of us. I’m so grateful for what they gave us.

Please take care.

Sincerely Clark

3715 Park Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
Our apartment was on the second floor of the building on the corner.
The photo was taken in June 1977 the day we moved out.

1 comment:

  1. I can totally see Pat refusing defeat on driving up that hill! I would have loved to have been one of those people in the restaurant rating her performance. Very funny :)