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Preamble by Jim A. (1934-2013)

In April 2004 an unplanned frenzy of geriatric nostalgia erupted spontaneously in the form of an email eReunion by people who were born and raised in the late 1920s and 30s in Brookline (a section of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania). Most of us lived in a house on Birtley Avenue, Berwin Avenue or Beaufort Avenue, meaning our primary concern about what was happening was centered in the area that encompassed those three streets, the major attraction of which was The Big Woods.


They say that just before you go senile, you begin to remember all kinds of minor details from your childhood. Usually, these episodes aren't connected in chronological order, but instead they exist as isolated memories, inside a kind of mental frame with blurred edges, like the photographic print called a vignette where the background fades into blankness. People who recall them usually begin their recitation by saying "I'll never forget the time when….".

My grandparents, Charles and Fannie Frey, bought a house at 506 Berwin Avenue, in June 1919, almost 15 years to the day before my mother Helen Fannie Sayenga gave birth to me inside that same house. Genealogically, this has caused my childhood to be deeply rooted in a rectangle of Pittsburgh geography bounded by specific avenues; Pioneer and Beaufort on the west, Birtley and Wolford on the east, Gallion and Rossmore southward. On the north, there was no boundary. The Big Woods represented the edge of a great unknown universe, formidable and slightly frightening.

During my formative years the center of civilization was Brookline Boulevard. As soon as I was old enough to walk a reasonable distance unaided, I was shown the level route from home to the Boulevard via Berwin and Pioneer. After I began to mix with the neighborhood kids (that is: those who lived on Beaufort, Berwin, Birtley and to some extent Gallion) I was shown a different route involving fewer paces via the steep hill of Wedgemere. Distance-wise, it was a better way if you like steep hills.

Birtley was a dirt road in the mid-1930s, as was Berwin beyond the intersection with the southern end of Birtley. The shortest way to get to the foot of Wedgemere hill at the intersection with Gallion, was a pathway I learned to call The Short Cut. It had three sets of steps connected by walkways. Originally, I feel certain it was made of wood planks, but not many others seem to recall that. At some point prior to 1940 it became paved with concrete. Near Gallion it was divided into circular form with a small tree in the middle and a wooden bench around the tree.

Learning to use The Short Cut was a lesson in a much larger body of knowledge I acquired from kids in the neighborhood, specifically the older ones, who were called The Big Kids. Everyone knew who the Big Kids were because of a hierarchy in street games. The two highest-ranking Big Kids would chose sides. The other Big Kids always were chosen first and The Little Kids last. Later, the Big Kids showed me and my peers that The Short Cut was not the only short cut. There were many other complicated pathways to the Boulevard, and elsewhere. You used alleys and trespassed on private property, a process we called "cutting through". There was a kind of obligation to pass on this special knowledge.

In retrospect, I see now that as a child my entire learning process was divided concisely into three differing sectors. I'd guess this is true for all children everywhere in the world. First, there is a body of knowledge instilled by parents: fundamental concepts of religion and family relationships, and of social order and behavior including modes of dress, styles of speech, types of food, etc. Next there is that stuff we learn in schools: reading, writing, arithmetic, and all that follows as we progress in varying stages toward a series of plateaus of higher education. The third category of knowledge, however, is vital for children and is almost never taught to any child by any of the adults. It is a category represented by The Short Cut and the other short cuts, and by a long list of techniques and tools essential for pre-puberty survival: Which wild fruits and berries are edible and which are not. Basic games. How to shinny up a pole and how to whistle very loud. The ritual of calling dibs. The trails in the Big Woods. Etc. Etc. Etc.

It is appropriate, maybe even useful, to call our website The Short Cut.

---Don S July 2004

from Ron M. (January 2015)
    -About Brookline, the thing that I remember the most is the cultural diversity, I mean on our street we had families whose origins could be traced to all of Europe and or the Middle East...the neighborhood was in essence very much a true melting pot. From that I learned a good lesson early in life.
BBB map
big woods
little store

BBB map  The girls  The kids  The dogs  The parents  The Big Woods  Brookline Boulevard  Brookline School 
Hoy Story  The Little Store  Entertainment  WW II  obituaries 

Birtley Berwin Beaufort Map
0984 Anderson
0985 Wills
0986 Shannon
0992 Hayes
0994 Moore
0996 Norrish
0997 Mitchell
0998 Swartz

1015 Godina
1014 Frey/Sayenga
1013 Mueller
S1 Gaston
S2 Lynch
S4 Janeway/Heiftje
S5 Janeway
1032 Coward
1029 Lawrence
1026 McKinley
1022 Schumann
1019 Wagner
1018 Roden
1017 Dahlinger
1016 Wisdom

1038 Covato
1040 Galbreath
1042 Hoellein
1045 Davidson
1046 Cooksey
1048 LeVine
1049 Norris
1050 Anderson
1051 Brazil
1068 Hodgson
1067 Guest
1065 Stoudt
1063 Addis
1062 Lynn
1061 Bailey
1060 Selvig
1059 Deming
1058 Baker
1057 Graham
1056 LeVine/Grieco
1055 Dorn
1054 Frazier
1053 Over

BBB extension map: GALLION and BEAUFORT south of BERWIN

1006 Field
1007 Teil
1008 Whittington    
1009 Wells
0918 Schwaninger              
0919 Stuhlfire
0920 St. Clair
0921 Lowen
0922 Seigler
0923 Wilson
0924 Rieger
0925 Means
0926 Nurse
0999 Schmaus      
1000 Inrig
1001 Kubiak
1002 Rosfeld
1003 Healy
1004 Brunot
1005 Brunot

More about the houses and the folks who lived in them...

Addis: 2331 Birtley (lot 1063)
    Jim A: One day when I was 9 years old, I was putzing around in our side yard by myself. Julianne stood at an open window on the second floor of our house. She called to me to come into the house. I said "What for?"

She said she had a question. I said "What is it?" She told me to come into the house. I said "Why?" There were repeated iterations of her asking me to come into the house so she could ask me a queston, followed by my refusal to do it. What could possibly be so important and yet too private to allow her to simply ask me from the window? She said "Did you wet the bed?"

I went into house. It was my first lesson in "Be careful what you ask for."

Jim A: Another "when I was 9" story. I had recently seen a Tarzan movie that made a stimulating impact on my imagination. The bad guys set a trap for some good guy (don't remember whether it was Tarzan himself). They dug a hole in the ground, put a vine loop around the hole, a straight piece of the vine across the hole and tied one end of the vine to a branch of a tree above the hole. Then they covered the trap with foilage.

In the movie, the good guy stepped into the camouflaged hole, on the straight piece of vine. The loop tightened around his ankles and he was lifted up. He ended up hanging upside down from the branch to which the vine was tied. It was wonderful! I HAD to make such a trap at home.

I chose the uphill end of the Rose Bush (?) at the front of our side yard, parallel to Birtley. I dug the hole and used string, instead of a vine, for the loop and the "trigger." To disguise the hole I used several handfuls of very long blades of grass, which were always available. I had no implementation of the part that left the victim hanging upside down but that didn't really matter. I anticipated that the victim would be Don or Phil or some other peer.

The trap worked! I did not see it happen but I heard about it later.

The victim was Mrs Selvig! Apparently she brought a pie (or a cake, or some kind dessert) to our house. On the way she stepped into the trap. That possibility had never occurred to me.

Tom, Tim and the fish pond (June 2008)
Nancy email:
I was married to Frank in 1950, he was in the Army and we lived on the base in VA. We came home to Pittsburgh when Frank was done with the Army, and we lived at the Brazil's house (Brookline) when Tom was born in 1954 and moved again in 1957. Yes, I had another boy, Tim, in 1955.
Don S email:
I have almost zero memory of that fish pond because my normal route was to go straight up the alley over the top of the hill to the Covato house. But it seems to me the family name was Dorn. I recall a family named Norrish (they had a kid named Harold Norrish) but they lived on Beaufort next to Prof. Moore. Wasn't it Dorn? Don
Carol L email:
Dorns lived the house above Frazier. Mr. Dorn had a little Boston Terrier that he used to walk. He would call me silly hello names when he walked near me. I think now that he knew I was "neighborhood" but he couldn't remember my name (now I'm old enough to understand). The Norrish family (my friend Harold Norrish who had two older brothers) lived in the 3rd house up on Beaufort, between the Mitchell house and Prof Moore. Marian and Bill Norris lived on Birtley, the house above Carl and Mrs. Anderson. They had no children and they played cards with mom and dad. It was their back yard that had a small goldfish pond. (Editor's note: It was Mr Dorn who called Carol silly names and did not know her name, not the Boston Terrier. Actually neither one of them knew her name.)
Julianne email:
Hi all,
I am including Nancy in on this since she lived in the Anderson's house when both Tom and Tim were born. She will know. By the way today is her oldest son Tom's birthday. I have little recollection of the goldfish pond. I don't think I used that route for traveling around our neighborhood. We each had our own little "shortcuts" across property of folks that we knew would not mind.
Love, Julianne
PS Aunt Mary and Uncle Harry were in that couple card group.
Tom and Tim
********put an explanation of why Tom & Time qualify and their picture here********


The girls

Julianne and Nancy taught Billy S to to play "Mother May I."

Julianne: I remember "Statues", during which one person twirled all the others around and they froze into weird positions. The leader chose the "best one" and then that person twirled the rest around. That game was my favorite. I also recall playing Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians and tagging along after the boys in our neighborhood (once again running around in bare feet). It felt good unless one got into a doggie yard and squished something other than mud between the toes. There were always more boys than girls in our neighborhood and I thought they had the most exciting games. In fact Aunt Mary LeVine would give our mother old jeans. I think I was probably one of the earliest "girl wearers" of the jeans, a fad which bloomed in later decades.

Nancy and Julianne used their little brother Jimmie pretty much as a toy. They dressed him up and put makeup on him and then watched him walk around the living room floor. Sometimes they undressed him and watched him parade around the living room floor. Jimmie was probably about 4, meaning the girls were about 6 and 9.

Milk was delivered to the Addis front porch and empty milk bottles were left there to be picked up. Nancy remembers that one day Jimmie peed into an empty milk bottle. It may be that Jimmie wanted to minimize the length time required to take care of an interruption from whatever fascinating thing he was doing or he thought it would just be fun. He doesn't remember (but suspects it was the latter).

Julianne: None of us has mentioned Margie and Ruthie Fatkin so far. They were both beautiful girls. Margie was the athlete while Ruthie was sweetest girl in the neighborhood, with a smile for all.

Carol Sayenga's 3rd birthday party (1939)

Top row, left to right: Norma Young, Carol Sayenga, Ida May Hoover
Front row, left to right: June Frazier, Janet ?, Patsy Coward, Margie Means, Donny Sayenga

The Big Woods

Bill S:   There were several ways into The Big Woods. One was the alley behind Lamarido Street which was the easiest way in, but had the disadvantage that those tough guys from Lamarido would see you going into the woods.

Don S:   One of my oldest memories involves an attempt to enter The Big Woods by way of that alley. We were confronted by Lamarido kids, led by an aggressive girl who was very intimidating. She ordered us out of there!

Elmer S:   I was never one of the "Lamarido tough guys" However, there were some really tough guys who lived on the street. Still, I was glad that Shirley Brannon lived near us and circulated with us. She, Ada and Dolly Eltringham protected us (including the tough guys) when anyone from out of the neighborhood appeared to be threatening.

Don S:   Those woods were used by different tribes of kids that entered from different directions, and we had vague boundaries. There was one main path into the woods that began at the intersection of Gallion and Wolford which crossed over Berwin at the bottom of the hill. We could have gone in via that path but we never did. Other kids entered from the opposite side of Edgebrook.

Bill S:   There were also two paths from the dirt road now known as Beaufort but was then Metz Way. One path went down the hill from Metz Way to a small clearing that was used by the Schmidt family for picnics. They would have German picnics in the clearing on summer weekends, drink beer and play the accordion singing German songs. I would slip into the woods and hide while watching the German Beer Party. It looked like fun to a small boy. They probably stopped those picnics during the war or at least sang American songs. The other path was closer to Wolford Street, not far from the alley behind our house. The alley was called Mascot Way, a name we did not use. I used that alley going to The Big Woods because the neighbors could not see where you were going. A great advantage for a small boy who did not want the neighbors telling Mother that he was going to the Big Woods.

Elmer S:   I do not remember a Schmidt family, so I am wondering if there is some confusion and the name could be Steiner. The Steiners lived in the last house on the lower end of Birtley, on the corner of Birtley and Wolford. They did hold German-style parties and had beautiful gardens.

Don S:   I recalled once that I had been told as a child (by Bill S I think) that The Big Woods extended all the way to Philadelphia. It was definitely a boy place.

Julianne   Of course girls were not allowed to venture deep into its mysteries.

Don S:   It was criss-crossed with well-worn paths. When we went there we mostly stayed on the paths. There were lots of blackberry vines and other kinds of underbrush (mostly elderberry and dense ragweed thickets) in the areas off the paths, so the normal practice was to remain on the paths. It was very important to learn the paths and be able to find your way in and out. For me at least The Big Woods provided an alternate pastime that was super-attractive and eternally appealing. Once I knew the paths I spent a lot of time there. It seems like Jim and Phil Covato and I learned the paths all about the same time. I have a specific question about The Big Woods relating to one of the folkloric Big Kids that figured into my earliest perceptions of Birtley and Wolford. Does the name "Fish" Meade ring any bells? In 1939 I met Joanne Meade who remained in my class all the way through SHHS. I've got this vague idea that she had a much older brother known as "Fish" Meade who was the leader of a very threatening gang that ranged through The Big Woods.

Walt S:   I have no memory of a "Fish" Meade. The only guy that I knew that roamed The Big Woods and was a problem was Clyde Speicher. He was in my class all through grade school. He stabbed me in the leg one day in class, in the cloak room. I bled a lot but I never told Mom or Dad about it. The teacher put bandages on it and never reported it to Professor Moore. Clyde became a good friend and never bothered me again as he was afraid I would tell about the stabbing! Clyde never made it to high school. The Big Woods were a good hideout and I spent a lot of time there.

Julianne   I think I have a mental picture of "Fish" Meade. Was he not a little kid with a roundish face which always had the look of a smirk on it?

Ed S:   "Fish" Meade and his older brothers lived on Edgebrook below Wolford Street at the bottom before it went back up the hill.

Don S:   Joanne Meade (recently deceased) was my age, short and dark complexion. I have the very fuzziest image of "Fishie" Meade looking something like his sister and projecting that tough guy image. My fix on the Meade gang was down at the bottom of the hill on Eathan. It was really scary turf at the bottom of Eathan. I found myself there once or twice and I kept moving. One time I recall I took the wrong path out of The Big Woods and ended up down there.

Ed S:   You are right. The street I referred to as Edgebrook was really Eathan and the Meades lived at the bottom in a two story house on the left side. The Carlisle's lived on Gallion on the right hand side of the street at the corner of an alley that went up to the street that my aunt and uncle lived on. Burt and I were great friends and I even dated his sister Patty once or twice. Their father was a motorman on the streetcars. Never knew they were part of a gang. The Wolford Eathan gang was the tough one I remembered.

Don S:   The principal physical features of The Big Woods included Donkey Field, a field at the end of the dirt road that began as the alley behind Lamarido Street.

Julianne   Does anyone know why Donkey Field was called Donkey Field? Ever see a donkey?

Jim A:   Not in The Big Woods.

Bill S:   It was a crude mushball field (now called softball). We would play ball there occasionally, but more often at the field on Metz Way just below The Little Store on Pioneer. There was also a field across Pioneer from The Little Store where we flew kites.

Ed S:   I remember that it was not wise to go past Donkey Field without a buddy or two. We had many great times in The Big Woods. Unfortunately it's all gone now. Those truly were the good old days.

Don S:   Other featureS: The Cabin, a one room structure down by the creek not far from the end of Birtley; The Crater, a depression maybe 8 feet deep and maybe 50 feet square on top of a kind of hill, purpose unknown. May have been a mine shaft filled in or maybe a cellar? The Old House, a deteriorating wooden house near the intersection of Edgebrook and Bellaire. Boys were chased by the owner and the challenge was to sneak in and prowl around without being detected; Junk Hill, a rubbish dump off Edgebrook; The Oak Trees, a pair (maybe three) of really big oak trees off to one side of Donkey Field. One of the trees had railroad spikes driven into it. A test of boyhood was to become big enough and strong enough to climb the spikes up to a platform, maybe 30 feet up.

Bill S:   The big oak trees were a great place to climb away from danger. The railroad spikes were too high for small boys, but within reach when you were taller. The platform was a good place to watch for anyone following you.

Don S:   Then there was The Mine, the scariest of all. I never had the courage to get closer than maybe 5 feet from the opening.

Bill S:   The coal mine was scary. A stream of yellow sulfur water ran out of the mine. We ventured into the mine but not very far. My Dad told me that we had coal mines under the homes on Birtley.

Walt S:   We did soak cat-o-nine-tails in kerosene and go into the abandoned mine. Never told Dad about that though. There was a pond near the mine that we called the Duck Pond. It was deep enough to get in and get wet but not deep enough to swim. Cold water. A farm up the hill from the valley where the mine and pond were grew great watermelons. Farmer shot rock salt in his shotgun. The woods and the neighborhood were a great place to grow up. Funny isn't it that none of the kids today do anything like that.

Carol:   I think we all had exceptional families. I know that I felt safe no matter where I roamed in the area because I always knew a house nearby that had a good mother inside! Neighborhoods like that seldom exist anymore. We all knew who to trust and who to stay away from.

Bill S:   Beyond Donkey Field was a path leading to the valley and the coal mine. All along that hillside were wild grapevines, which we would use to swing out over the valley. They were thick vines and I do not remember any of them breaking. I had a hideaway in the thick vine cover and would often snitch a potato and a can of bake beans from home for lunch in the woods.

Don S:   They would cut it off about four feet above the ground and clear the brush below it, allowing a youth to swing on it.

Bob L.:   The swinging vines were called Monkey Vines.

Elmer S:   I do remember the Monkey vines on which I swung numerous times. We were always looking for new vines to make into more exciting swings. The older boys did most of the work in preparing the swings and the clearings. Those days were truly enjoyable for us of elementary school age. We seemed to have our own private woods.

Bob L: You didn't mention the spring to the left of the main path. It was always so clear and refreshing except when Dick Brannon's older sister (Lamarido toughs) ran ahead of the crowd and roiled it with a stick. Previously I had a bit of a crush on her but no more after such meanesss. I never got big enough or strong enough to climb the big oak railroad spikes, but I did once go into the abandoned mine. I was all alone, went into the ingress about five feet, wheeled and tore out of the egress. Tore in my case was probably an exaggeration. And we always - or at least frequently - played Rogers Rangers, Northwest Passage, or Last of the Mohicans.

Elmer S:   The terror - Shirley Brannon (at least she was a terror when young). She and Dick lived on Fernhill, the next street toward Pioneer from Lamarido. However, Shirley spent much time with the Eltringham girls at their house on Lamarido; their houses were almost in alignment. She was about two years older than I was. As you know, even a year between girl and boy under the age of fifteen means that there could be considerable difference in size and mental make-up. Dick Brannon was a few months younger than I. To my knowledge he did not attend SHHS long but transferred to a prep or military school. I learned about Shirley's ferocity from first-hand experience! One day when I was about ten years old and visiting Dick, I said something (which I do not remember) and Shirley grabbed me by the hair and dragged me (by the hair) around the room for about a minute. When she let go of me, I vowed that I would get even with her when I was older and larger. However, I never did! When I was older and larger, I thought that she was a good-looking girl and actually liked her. She had changed from the earlier girl-of-terror into a real nice person; at least on the surface.

Don S:   There were at least two ponds where someone had dammed the little creek. One pond was near the end of Wolford. The creek began as a trickle near the tennis courts.

Bill S:   There were several small springs in the hillsides and they were dammed. I believe these were the ponds Don described. Occasionally you could find a crawdad in the pond or small creek. Remember George Heitzman? He was the fastest guy in the neighborhood. Whenever he chased me I headed for The Big Woods because I knew every path and log in the woods. Once in the woods he never caught me. In the springtime the woods were covered with May Apple plants that grew about one foot high. They were perfect to fall into and hide when chased. Another way to dodge "Heitzie". When Walt went into the Navy I would take his homemade bow and arrows to The Big Woods and pretend that I was an indian. Never did bring any meat to camp. Those were great days for a young boy. Now parents are afraid to let them walk to school.

Don S:   In addition we also had The Blue Hood. This phantom haunted the woods. If you saw him you were supposed to run like crazy. In addition there were "gangs" haunting the woods. Once we were captured by a gang.

Jim A:   I have vivid memories of that one. I remember the log we had to carry. And the knife.

Julianne   I showed Frank Kiel two of the early Big Woods letters. He mentioned that Snake Hill was left out. Anyone know where that was? Frank lived on Pioneer second house from Berwin on right. I also recall playing Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians and tagging along after the boys in our neighborhood once again running around in bare feet. It felt good unless one got into a doggie yard and squished other-than-mud between toes. Of course, girls never did wrong, right Nancy?

Don S:   I remember Snake Hill vaguely. It was a very large heap of stones somewhere near the main path. It was the home of many garter (?) snakes.


Brookline Boulevard

While we were most concerned with what happened near the Big Woods, we eventually discovered Brookline Boulevard (Brookline's main street) and learned that new and different things happened there, things that did not happen on Berwin, Birtley or Beaufort. When a kid's mom told him to get a pound of ground round (pronounced "pahnda grahnd rahnd"), his only option was to walk (later ride his bicycle) to the boulevard since it was the only street in Brookline that had any commercial establishments (with very few exceptions).

None of us would have recognized the name Earl Ebersole, but we all knew him either as "Cowboy" or "Indian." He never appeared in public except in costume. Few of us knew he lived on Dunster with his family, but he walked everywhere in Brookline and was instantly recognized on the street. There was something intimidating about his costumes, particularly the pair of high boots that laced up to the calf. As a child Don S was truly afraid of him and would hide in a alley when Indian encountered him on Pioneer.

Indian often directed traffic at the corner of Pioneer and the Boulevard, sometimes down at Moore Field, and he was really good at it. We never understood how he worked that part out with the police. Underneath it all he was a very nice guy. It was said that he had been gassed in WW I and had lost part of his identity which fused into the characters he showed us. This was a unique part of growing up in Brookline: to have a resident character in costume always on the scene.

Brookline School


Jim A: One day Miss Ramsey said to me "Go to the library and tell Miss Keebler that I want Mike Halkias." I walked down the hall to the library and told Miss Keebler that Miss Ramsey wants her kalkias.

With a quizzical look on her face, Miss Keebler asked me what Miss Ramsey had said. I said that she said "I want my kalkias." She laughed and told Mike to go see Miss Ramsey.


Jim A: Tony Halkias and I were really good friends although I don't remember ever even seeing him in the Berwin-Birtley area. I guess what we did together happened at, going to, or coming from Brookilne School. He taught me an expression that sounded like "Et tun ga da ta." I gathered it was definitely not a nice thing to say but I never learned whether it was Greek or Armenian. At that time, I was much taller than Tony. I would guess the ratio to be maybe 4' 10" vs 4' 7".

One day we were walking along the Boulevard, up near the Pioneer end. Tony looked up at me and said "Have you ever been in a fight?" I said "No." So we had a fight, just to see what it was like (I'm sure Tony already knew). He beat the livin' - it was no contest. If there had been a referee, he'd have stopped it.

A few years ago I saw Tony in Brookline. He's taller than me now. I talked about the fight. He did not remember it. Of course he doesn't remember it. He won.

School boys

Top row l-r: Steve Vonderach, Eddie Raymond, Dave Grogan, Gary Stepp, Vernon Forgey,
Ronnie Shorts,Tony Klappas, Chuck Conway, Bill Ruano
Bottom row l-r: Don "Moose" Wagner, Ervie Herald, Ronnie Gray

School girls

Top row l-r: Susie Treon, Callie Henry, Peggy Smith, Barbara Stock
Bottom row l-r: Lois Lander, Carole Bantley, little Patty? Shorts, Joanne Meade, Bernie Shorts


Hoy Story

Inter-kid communication was definitely a requirement but we preferred an adult-free implementation. The reason was that to involve an adult in the process might lead to a Q and A session, which could potentially delay the realization of our objective; i.e., to summon another kid to join us in some activity. (The telephones were still black and tall and furthermore throughout our childhood no one ever uttered the word "cellphone.")

This requirement was satisfied by a procedure we called "hoying." We stood outside a house some distance from the front door (in the street or in the yard or on the sidewalk or even on the porch) and yelled "Hoy Phil" or "Hoy Don" or "Hoy Bill", whatever.

This photo, although taken in the twilight of the big kid / little kid era (1949), demonstates the proper posture for the delivery of a successful hoy (the other kid comes out of the house). Notice the placement of the hands.

One day Jack Gombert came up Birtley toward the LeVine house and said to Bob's mother, "I came to hoy Bob; HOY BOB!"

The Little Store

The Little Store was popular because walking to it took much less time than walking to the boulevard, which was the only other option. It was (and still is) at the corner of Pioneer and (then unpaved) Metz Way, which was then a dirt road leading down to the foot of Birtley past the tennis courts. They had a large selection of penny candy, which included things called "rootbeer barrels."

There was a fad in the late 30s for boys to wear hats made by cutting the crown out of a discarded man's felt fedora hat, scalloping the edge, turning it up, and then festooning the whole thing with bottle caps from pop bottles which were attached to the hat by prying out the cork seal, then forcing it back into the bottle cap from inside the hat (with the bottlecap on the outside). We called these hats "beanies."

They were the same chapeau depicted on the cartoon character Jughead (in the Archie comics) but they went out of fashion around 1941 when army and navy hats came into vogue. 

We acquired bottlecaps for the hats by diving our hand down into the cap catcher mounted below the cap remover on a huge red cooler which sat outside The Little Store. (The bottlecaps were forever falling off the beanie and required replacements). At one point ownership of the store changed and the new owner chastized us for taking those caps. jughead

Some historical information by George E. Scharp...
"When we moved to Brookline in 1924, the "little store" was owned by a family named Fyke. A few years later it was taken over by the Nefts. Mr. Neft turned it into a full-fledged grocery store, with a fresh meat counter, and delivery service. He had a number of young people as part-time help, including Bud and Ruth Morehead, who lived on Pioneer Avenue just past Ray Avenue, and Tom Hillgrove, who drove the delivery truck and lived near us. he and I were buddies for many years. Mr. Neft was a member of the tennis club down the alley behind the store. He dropped dead on the court. I also remember Mr. McKinley the fireman. He played all the time."

Contributed by Harry Nestler June 21, 2005 letter to Don Sayenga:
"I grew up on Plainview and could walk up through the woods to the only store on Pioneer Avenue. When we moved to Brookline in 1936 I recall the store was owned by Neff and then Serbin and later on by Richards and then Williams."

From Don W. (January 2015):
I didn't see very much mention of the couple who ran The Little Store.  Gladys and Russell Williams ran the store during 1945-1950.  Russell Williams was a butcher and Gladys was the cashier.  In the summer I always stopped there on the way back from the Moore pool and bought a Tom Tucker Grape Soda for six cents and Licorice Whips for two cents.


Entertainment      Songs we heard   Songs we sang   Movies  

Radio Shows

The mothers listened to "Portia Faces Life", "Stella Dallas" and "Pepper Young's Family" while performing some household duty. The kids noticed this activity but didn't pay much attention to it.

The kids listened to:

"Allen's Alley"
"Duffy's Tavern"
"Fibber McGee and Molly"
"I Love a Mystery"
"Inner Sanctum"
"Jack Benny" (Phil Harris was on the show)
"Let's Pretend"
"Lights Out"
"Our Miss Brooks"
"Ozzie and Harriet"
"The Great Gildersleeve"
"The Green Hornet"
"The Shadow"
  Gene Autry singing "Back in the Saddle Again"
  Roy Rogers singing "Happy Trails"
Julianne: After school I listened to Jack Armstrong the All American Boy on the radio but I didn't sit there long. I sometimes listened to Little Orphan Annie but she didn't hold my interest. We did save serial box tops for neat prizes. I think I had some kind of Jack Armstrong decoder at one time. I preferred to be drawing to listening to the radio.

Here's an abridged version of the opening of a Jack Armstrong episode:

VOICE1: Jack Armstrong!
VOICE2: Jack Armstrong!
VOICE3: Jack Armstrong!

ANNCR: Jack Armstrong! The All-American Boy!

QUARTET: Wave the flag for Hudson high, boys. Show them how we stand. Ever shall our team be champions known throughout the land (keep humming)

ANNCR: Wheaties, Breakfast of Champions, bring you the thrilling adventures of Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy! Listen fellows and girls! You know what I'd like to do right now? Well, I'll tell you. I'd like to ring bells and blow whistles ...

SOUND: A series of bells and whistles drown him out

ANNCR: Thanks, Mr. Sound Effects Man. Yes, today is really good news day. Here's the story: In the first place, Jack Armstrong starts on a brand new radio adventure. One of the most exciting and dangerous he's ever had! I know you won't want to miss a single episode of this thrilling Jack Armstrong adventure.

In the second place, we're welcoming back a lot of Jack Armstrong's old friends. We're mighty glad to have you back with us. And there's a very special welcome for the fellows and girls who are hearing this program for the very first time today. We hope that you'll get a lot of thrills and real pleasure out of Jack Armstrong's newest adventure, and that you'll make the acquaintance of those extra good Wheaties flakes right away.

You know, right now, at the very beginning of a new school year, and at the start of a brand new Jack Armstrong series, is a mighty fine time to start making Wheaties your regular year round breakfast dish. So, would you do this for me?

Would you eat a Breakfast of Champions the next four mornings in a row. Then ask yourself if you've ever found any other breakfast dish that gives you as much real pleasure and satisfaction as this combination of Wheaties, milk, and fruit. Chances are you'll want to climb right on the Wheaties bandwagon with the rest of Jack Armstrong's friends. And it's my bet that you'll say Wheaties have a flavor that's absolutely different and better than any other breakfast dish you've ever tasted.

And now, Jack Armstrong--The All-American Boy!
(end of Jack Armstrong opening)

Mother listened to the soap operas. I remember Pepper Young's Family was a favorite. Also every day at noon she listened to some cowboy singers on the radio. She really liked that music. Were they called Riders of the Western Plains? Maybe someone else knows.
entertainment  top

Songs we heard on the radio/records (and sometimes sang)

Some of us took piano lessons. We got a quarter from Mom, put it in a pocket and walked several blocks downhill and uphill (to go anywhere we had to walk downhill and uphill, which no doubt delayed the addition of the word "horizon" to our vocabulary) to Mrs Dougherty's house, hand her the quarter and perform for her. Because taking piano lessons was a scheduled event, which had to be done on a certain day at a certain time, it was tolerable. On the other hand, we were assigned the duty to practice at less predictable times and we ALWAYS wanted to do something else, usually go outside to do something with the other kids.

Some of the songs we listened to (and some played on the piano):

"Accentuate the Positive (eliminate the negative)" 
listen to the song
"Don't Fence Me In"
"Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree (with anyone else but me)"  listen to the song
"Easter Parade"
"Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats" (mares eat oats and does eat oats)
"Sunny" (the 1925 version) listen to the song
"Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning"  listen to the song
"White Christmas"
"Who (stole my heart away)"
We played monaural records on a Victrola (stereo and high-fi were not yet available). The RCA records had a picture of Nipper, a dog born in Bristol, England in 1884.
Nipper had been adopted by artist Francis Barraud, who was amused that the dog would put his "ear to the horn" of the phonograph every time it was played (during the early years of the development of the phonograph). In 1901 the image (from a Barraud painting entitled "His Master's Voice") became the trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company and in 1929 it became the trademark of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), sometimes referred to as RCA Victor.

Songs we sang (but never heard on the radio/records)

Don S: My sister Carol and I had a cousin, Ida Mae Hoover, who lived on Vodeli St in Beechview just across West Liberty Ave from the foot of Bodkin and the Boulie. One day in early summer 1939 my mother asked her to be an all-day babysitter for me (she must have had to take 3-year old Carol somewhere). The year 1939 is quite memorable for me because that was the famous year I met James McKim Addis under the apple tree in his backyard. I was five.

It was a beautiful day. Ida Mae and I walked up to the Boulie. On the journey, she taught me the words to a very popular song that the teenagers were singing. I seem to think that the event also is indelible for me because of the clothing Ida Mae was wearing - she had on very short white socks as I recall - which she called Bobby Sox. She was the first person I ever saw wearing Bobbie Sox (I do not know what else was being worn at the time) and there is a chance it wasn't the same day that I first saw them, but I do know that when I think of Ida Mae I think of three things: the socks, the name of a boy she dated (Slipsky - my grandmother Frey called him "Slippy" - she disliked him), and the song she taught me that day in 1939 which she had me sing to my mother as soon as we all got home.

The Number One song of 1939 was "Over The Rainbow" - still played and sung - but the other song Ida Mae taught me was soon being sung by all the kids, as I recall, and then it disappeared, never to return. The words and music of the other song were written by Horace Kirby Dowell of Raleigh NC and copyrighted by him in 1939. (I'd guess that solid fact will not mean much of anything to the rest of us B-B-B Shortcutters, but you never can tell about the effect of clues.)

What I will do next is quote one line of the song. Bill Selvig (who admits he cannot carry a tune) is excused from this quiz. When you read Mr. Dowell's words, please tell me if they bring a tune into your mind - can anyone else sing the rest of the song Ida Mae taught me? I can still do it after 65 years:

Quote: Boop boop, dittem dattem, wattem, choo.

Ed S: Interesting! What a great memory you have! However, as I recall it went Boop boop, dittem dattem, wattem wattem, choo Who else remembers the words to this song? No fair using the internet to look it up. Just use your memory. I slept in this morning, went to a great concert last night and heard all my favorite classical music and just got on to check my mail.

Don S: I think you are right. The line was repeated three times. When I typed it out in the e-mail I must have dropped a "wattem" - that's the first wattem I've ropped in many years - maybe first ever. And they swam and they swam all over the dam. You are the first to respond. Bill is the one who told me that he did not have a sense of "tune" - he said Miss Scholl was furious with him because of it. For me, an interesting subject in general - I mean the concept of being "tone deaf" and/or "color blind" impacts on one's sense of "art" and "music" which in turn affects how we relate to other people. I mean, you cannot appreciate it when someone loves this or that piece of music if you cannot hear with comprehension what they hear. Once Jimmy Addis and I philosophized about what it is that constitutes "a tune". Very difficult to explain with words.



It cost 10 cents to see a movie. There were two theaters in Brookline: the Brookline and the Boulevard.The German American Bund Hall was under the Brookline Theater and the Brookline Lanes were under the apartment building next to the theater. Ed S set pins at the bowling alley.

The Boulevard Theater was newer and fancier. Under this theater was a printing company whose entrance was on the alley. Ed and Bill S both had jobs at this printing company making match books. Some Saturdays the theater gave away Spur Cola samples free! There was a billboard next to it which you could climb up and jump over to the second-floor rest room. Only Tom L got caught.

The kids watched serials:

"The Mark of Zorro"
Tom Mix, Gene Autry (and Champion) and Roy Rogers (and Trigger) serials
We watched cartoons:

Bugs Bunny
Woody Woodpecker
We watched movies:

Frankenstein movies (Boris Karloff)
Tarzan movies (Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Johnny Scheffield and Cheetah)
Wolfman movies (Lon Chaney Jr)
"Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman"
"Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein"
"The Beast with Five Fingers" (Peter Lorre)
After December 7, 1941, we watched newsreels.

World War II

The big kids went into the military to fight in World War II.

Tommy Cullison

Thomas J Cullison (Tommy) was born in 1918 and lived at 2336 Birtley Avenue (across the street from the Bailey house). This picture was taken in 1941.

We all knew about the Cullison boys, who lived on Birtley near the top of the hill that was much more thrilling to sled-ride down than the hill on the other side of Birtley, but we thought they were much older than us.

Indeed, Bill was born in 1915, Tommy was born in 1918 and Dick was born in 1925. We were right. That's why they never played "Release" or "Kick the Can" with us.

During World War II Tommy became missing in action in France on 10 September 1944. He belonged to the Eleventh Infantry Regiment, Fifth Infantry Division.

Excerpt from "CROSSING OF THE MOSELLE by the Second Battalion of the 11th Infantry Plus K Company."

"Riflemen in E Company voluntarily gave up their foxholes to machine gunners who came to reinforce them, and dug new ones for themselves. Officer leadership was not lacking. So many officers were wounded and killed because they would not stay in foxholes but had to be up and moving around, checking on positions. In addition to L. Drake, Lt. Matthew Wirtz of F Company, Lt. Stephen Lowry CO. K, and Lt. John Hillyard, executive officer of K Company were killed.

All the other rifle company officers were wounded. Men of E and F Companies reported that their platoon leaders apologized to their company commanders and first sergeant for being wounded.

The men appreciated such things in leadership as occurred when the 536 radio operator of 2nd Lt. Thomas J. Cullison, E Company, was fatally wounded by close sniper fire. Instead of ordering one of his men to recover the radio, Cullison said, 'Goddamit, now I've got to crawl out and get that radio back.'

He did that safely, keeping in communication and maintaining control from company to platoon. He was reported drowned during evacuation."

He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry in this action and also the Bronze Star.

Bronze Star Medal...

Bronze Star Text:

"Second Lieutenant THOMAS J. CULLISON, 0318765, 11th Infantry Regiment, United States Army. For meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy from 7 August 1944 to 10 August 1944 in the vicinity of ANGERS, France. Lieutenant CULLISON as a platoon leader during an assault on an enemy held city led the platoon with unusual ability and fearlessness. Due to his aggressive action and excellent execution of command the enemy was forced to abandon prepared anti-tank and bridge positions thereby enabling our forces to enter the city. Lieutenant CULLISON's intrepid leadership and devotion to duty reflects great credit on himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces. Entered military service from Pennsylvania."

Silver Star Medal...

Silver Star Text:

"First Lieutenant THOMAS J. CULLISON, 0318765, 11th Infantry Regiment, United States Army. For gallantry in action from 8 to 10 September 1944 near DORNOT, France. Lieutenant CULLISON was a platoon leader with a forward element of our bridgehead forces that successfully repulsed numerous counterattacks upon their position. When it became vitally necessary for Lieutenant CULLISON to withdraw his platoon across the Moselle River for the purpose of reorganization due to numerical superiority of the enemy forces he labored uncessingly with untiring energy to effectuate and organize an orderly evacuation of his forces. Lieutenant CULLISON then directed the evacuation of our personnel to the west bank of the Moselle River with the use of assault boats. Lieutenant CULLISON himself completely fatigued by his efforts and the strenuous ordeal elected to swim across the river in order that more enlisted men could make use of the available assault boats and thereby enable them to cross to the friendly banks of the Moselle River. Lieutenant CULLISON by his courageous act and every thought and deep concern for his men failed to negotiate the opposite bank of the river. Lieutenant CULLISON's intrepid leadership, his bravery and deep devotion to duty, his gallant conduct reflects the greatest of credit on himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service. Entered military service from Pennsylvania."

Although Tommy's body was never found (MIA), he was honored in the Lorraine American Cemetery in Lorraine, France. When you get to the link below you will see a column of links on the left side of the screen to help you see the rest of the website (American Battle Monuments Commission). For example, click Burial Listings, then World War II, then search for "Cullison". Two records will be found.
Lorraine American Cemetery

The big kids went into the military to fight in World War II.

Blue stars and gold stars began to appear in neighborhood windows. The little kids knew what they meant. However, they did not fully grasp what the war really meant. The areas of concern for the little kids included learning to identify American, German and Japanese fighter planes and bombers, participating in scrap metal drives, drawing patriotic posters in school...

One little kid couldn't imagine what the newspaper headlines would be AFTER the war was over.

Oleomargerine and War Ration Stamps

Don S...
During WWII, butter production was diverted toward the military causing a butter shortage for civilians. In its place we all used oleomargarine, a white vegetable substance. It did not taste like butter at all. To make the oleo more palatable a capsule of yellow dye was inside each package. By kneading the package the capsule could be broken so the dye could be mixed throughout the oleo making it "look" more like butter - but most of us kids said it still tasted pretty icky. Something like lard.

The story behind that dye capsule is fascinating: oleomargerine was invented in 1869 by a French chemist when a prize was offered by the French government for a cheap butter substitute. Everywhere, the dairy industry responded by lobbying for laws to be passed that prevented the oleomargarine industry from mixing in a yellow dye at the factory. In the USA we had lots of state laws and plus a federal law in 1886. There was even a lawsuit argued in 1904 in the Supreme Court (McCray v. US -195 US 27 - No. 301) about adding the dye. Most of those laws are now off the books and many brands of yellow oleomargarine can be seen in the supermarkets. It is thriving because of the low cholesterol diet fad.

By the way, on 10-8-07 at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec I had a croissant for breakfast that was spread with white oleomargerine called Becel. I think Quebec is perhaps the last place where it continues to be illegal to add any yellow dye. PS - It tasted great!!

Don S...
You asked for comments in The Short Cut about ration stamps. Julianne or Ed perhaps could make a comment about the use of ration stamps (surviving examples attached) I remember the books but I was never allowed to touch them. I'm startled to see the name of E J Mazeski as Registrar of Local Board 2-59 He was one of our coaches at SHHS. Don S.

Don's little sister Carol added this...

I remember red and blue tokens that were kept in a small coin purse in the dining room server. I remember my mother counting them because I needed something. It may have been a new pair of shoes. It was a way of life that she dealt with rather casually.

I remember kneading that food coloring into the oleo to make it look more edible. It was a sickly greasy white color. Yuk.

Bill S...

Don, nice addition to the Short Cut.    I worked part time during the war at Bisi Market near the corner of Pioneer and Brookline Blvd. Emptied, cleaned and refilled the pop cooler and stocked shelves. Sis was nice to me and a friend of my Mother's. She managed to let me occasionally take home some butter or bacon without the use of food stamps. Dad had an A gas ration sticker during the war and frequently car pooled with George Jones, or took the bus to Oakland where he worked for the US Bureau of Mines on Forbes Street---next to Carnegie Institute.

We spent time at home kneading the dye capsules in the oleo margarine bag. Without the color it looked like lard. I was told that the PA Diary Assn was responsible for white oleo to protect the Diary Assn yellow butter project.

Ed Mazeski was SHHS football coach during WW2---my brother Walt played for Mazeski. He later became baseball coach when J Reed Wehrle came from Carrick as head football coach. Do you remember when JRW was called into the army during the Korean War? I corresponded with him while at Penn State and visited him frequently when I came back to Pittsburgh. He had a sincere interest in his student-athletes. He was tough and a good man. He put Ed Valentine on suspension for rebelling against his water discipline rules during football practice. Ed "questioned authority" in those days.

Ed Majeski was a good friend of Don LeVine. He used to visit him in Ocean city when Don was a life guard at the Flanders Hotel. Also his son was president of our high school class (I think mainly because of his Dad). At our reunion Ed spoke. He had not come to a reunion before and what came out of him was a lot of BS (excuse the term) he spoke a lot and didn't say anything. A lot of his memories about the high school concerned the graduation dance. His info was all wrong and made up. To our minds he was just another pretty face. He has nice neat grey hair and a moustachio. Pretty but a typical high school officer of limited mind power.

The Ration Stamps...

It was serious business (10 years?)...



Iron Horse To Pasture   from Art Rosfeld September 18, 2008

"Bob (Lefty) Rosfeld, 82, while surrounded by family, passed away peacefully in his home at Treasure Island, Florida the afternoon of September 16.2008. He earned letters in baseball and football at South Hills High School and enlisted in the Navy before his formal graduation ceremony, just as his older brother Norm had done to join the Air Force two years earlier. Both saw extensive action in the Pacific.

After VJ Day he returned home and entered the University of Pittsburgh. He captained Pitt's baseball team his senior year. After graduation he joined the Pittsburgh sales office of Proctor and Gamble Corporation and married Skippy Kearney who lived on Gallion Avenue, only one block away from the Rosfeld home on Beaufort.The next year P&G transferred him to Detroit, Michigan and eventually pulled him into their headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio where he served for many years as a top Proctor & Gamble executive.

He and his beloved Skippy had 5 children. His 80th birthday celebration at Treasure Island two years ago was attended by 56 direct "reflections" of their happy union. (There have been four additional births since!) Like the famed Yankee legend Lou Gehrig, who was his boyhood idol, Bob was one whale of a left handed first baseman when he was a young man. The day before he passed on, he told two of his children that he wished Gehrig hadn't said it first because he truly felt that "he was the luckiest man in the world" because of the full and satisfying life it had been his privilege to live."