Back when I was growing up in Pittsburgh, we lived on Gettysburg Street. Our next door neighbors to the left (as you faced the street) were my Uncle Irv, my Aunt Bernice, and my cousins, Maira, Ronna, Richard and Mitchell. (Later on my cousins moved a mile or two away, and they were replaced by the Rosens). To our right was the Schultz family; Dr. Eddie, his wife, Gertie, and their boys, Leonard, Gerry, and Chucky. Just past the monastery driveway (just left of Uncle Irv and Aunt Bernice) were the Ziskinds, Joe, Mildred, Nancy, and the twins, Judy and Joyce. Next to the Ziskinds were the Kann family, Rhodie, Jeanie, Mona and Lisa. Across the street was a family I’ll call the Snoot family – Mrs. Snoot didn’t like us because we were Jewish. Just to Mrs. Snoot’s right a few doors down were the Mulvahills and their daughter, Marilyn – and so on. Maybe this is more information than you ever wanted about Gettysburg Street, but I’m sharing this information to make a point. These were people I last saw (excluding my aunt and uncle and cousins) maybe forty-five years ago – and yet they remain strong in my memory.

For years, all of the neighborhood kids used to play in our back yard because we shared a back yard with our cousins, so we had one great big place to play, bordered by woods. There were snow forts and sledding in the winter and softball games and lightning bugs in the summer. There were barbecues. Neighbors would show up on a regular basis to borrow a cup of sugar. There were coffee klatsches from time to time in our kitchen. My younger sister was best friends with Nancy down the street and they would have sleep-overs and were regular guests at one another’s homes for dinner. Marilyn Mulvahill and I used to walk down to the corner store together to cash in our soda bottles and buy penny candy with the loot.

I don’t know what happened between 1960 and 2004, but just ask yourself – How many of your neighbors can you name? How many times have you struck up a conversation with someone next door, let alone down the street? I myself began to notice that I had very little contact with my neighbors in my adult life. I would be hard pressed to name a single neighbor I had between the ages of 20 and 40. I wondered if it was just the phase of life I was in, but then I remembered the camaraderie of the grown-ups in my neighborhood early on.

The advantage to that kind of living was that it gave you a warm fuzzy feeling to know that there were people nearby who knew you, knew who you were, and would notice if anything was wrong. Most likely, they would call the police if they noticed a burglar trying to break in while you were away. There were no “Neighborhood Watch” associations, because there was no need for them. Neighbors watched out for each other without having to be assigned rotating shifts.

Perhaps the disadvantage was that you lost a little of your privacy, and all of your anonymity. We as Americans tend to value our privacy and anonymity very highly, and with good reason. We don’t really want anyone giving us the third degree about why we were out late last night or when we intend to mow the lawn, since it’s getting a tad out of hand. Maybe that’s why the sit-com “Everybody Loves Raymond” is so hilarious. We can all sympathize with Raymond and Robbie who are under the microscope of their parents (the ultimate in intrusive neighbors) 24/7 . On the other hand, I find myself thinking how nice it would be to have your parents right across the street, especially when you need a nice hot bowl of soup or a shoulder to cry on. That’s what makes that show so appealing.

All of this began to percolate in my brain last night. We have recently become friends with one of our neighbors down the street, Judith, a lovely woman with whom I share a lot of common interests. On a whim, we invited her over for dinner last night, and we all had such a good time. It was not a fancy dinner. It wasn’t even planned. But we heated up a frozen Trader Joe’s Eggplant Parmesan and made a salad. I heated up some soup and put bread on the table. Judith brought a nice bottle of wine, and we all toasted our health. We talked at the table until about eight o’clock, and then we walked her the hundred yards or so to her house so she wouldn’t have to walk alone in the dark. I have to tell you that this was a far superior way to spend the evening than watching the Gloom and Doom News on television.

Art and I have begun to really get to know many of our neighbors. There are so many interesting people on our street and around the block! They’re all different, and yet we all have so much in common. It’s that warm and fuzzy feeling coming back, after all these years. And yes, I could recite a litany of the names of our neighbor friends in Hollywood Manor, but for now, I’ll spare you. I’ll just say that I highly recommend saying hello, or even just waving or smiling next time you see your neighbor. It feels really good.

 Category: Robin's Nest

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    I’m 31 years old woman and I notice that in my neighborhood the times have changed. There are a couple of neighbors that we say hi to but no real conversation as in knowing someone well emough to have dinner with.
    Growing up, I played with other children in the ‘hood and we went to each others homes for dinner. There were families on the street. Now a lot of them have moved away and most of the people are single or couples without children. No one sits outside anymore. And only a couple of people say hello and chat- the people we’ve know for over 20 years. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for about 30 years.

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