April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Remembering the Happy Buses of Squirrel Hill

I was born in Squirrel Hill. In Pittsburgh.

Lived on Forbes.

My late sister, Enid, attended the Taylor Allderdice High School. I attended the John Minadeo Elementary School. My dad, Morton, worked for a furniture store in Braddock Heights. My mother, Bernice, was a stay-at-home mom.

Our home rested on a small hill overlooking Forbes. It was the main road leading to Forbes Field where the Pirates used to play.

Busloads of Pirates fans would pass our house on the way to the ballpark and on the way home. When the Pirates won, the buses were noisy and energetic. My mom called those “happy” buses. When the home team lost, the buses were quiet. Mom called those “sad” buses.

I was only 4 or 5, but I remember feeling so pleased when the buses were happy, and so sullen when the buses were, well, sad.

We lived a quiet life there. My mother took my sister and me many times to the Carnegie Museum. I remember the dinosaur bones on display to this day. I also remember looking up at the many beautifully carved statues and feeling so small.

All of us as children have stories we remember from our early childhood. I remember the old, German woman who babysat for us only because she drank her coffee out of a glass instead of a cup. I remember wandering off to a nearby toy store in my pajamas with a red cowboy hat and toy holster around my waist. My mother did not know where I was. The police found me because they saw my hat bobbing up and down between the aisles of the store. My mom was so angry at me that she hugged and kissed me and then put me in the corner to think about it.

These are Pittsburgh memories for me.

When my wife, Lisa, and I lived in Detroit, Pittsburgh was the halfway point when driving back east. We would stop at a hotel, stay overnight in Squirrel Hill, and I would take my wife and two daughters to see the Carnegie dinosaurs and then the statues. So much about Squirrel Hill was almost exactly the way it was when I was a child.

We would then go park outside of the house where I had lived.

A bus would drive by, and on its front electric sign it would say “Go Pirates” or “Go Steelers.”

There were still happy buses.

I try to remember that feeling I had as a little boy. I searched desperately for it last Motzei Shabbat when I opened my phone only to read with horror the unthinkable news coming out of Pittsburgh.

In my days as a reporter, I have covered community vigils after mass shootings and terrorist events that happened in distant places like Mumbai or even Israel. But Pittsburgh?

In my Jewish history classroom I teach about pogroms and other sad indicators of harm against the Jewish people. The places I talk about have names like Babi Yar and Kishinev.

Not Pittsburgh.

Not Squirrel Hill.

By Phil Jacobs


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