Doris McBeth moved from Dormont to 220 Morrison Drive, in 1928 at age 3 with her parents, Archie and Fae McCormick, and grew up there with an older brother, Jim, and younger sister, Nancy. Today, she lives in nearby on Neulon Avenue, where she and her then husband Paul, raised their children, Ford, Laird and Stacie. Doris was a busy real estate agent and was active with the PTA, the Women’s Fortnightly Review, The Woman’s Club of Mt. Lebanon, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks and Neville House. She was a standout golfer and savvy antiques collector. Doris recently returned from a 90th birthday celebration that took her to Las Vegas and Hawaii. She is pictured with her granddaughter, Kristie Fae, left, a University of Georgia student who is living with her this summer while doing an internship, and Kristie Fae’s mother, Stacie.
What are your early Mt. Lebanon Memories?
Playing in Kennedy’s Woods off Newburn the violets, the pheasants. Playing Indian ball on the street, croquet on the court, paper dolls. Mother didn’t drive, so we walked everywhere to Isaly’s, Dickler’s Market, the dentist, the cleaner, the drugstores and to the South Hills Theater. I walked with my mother and brother to Lincoln School, opening day, September 1930. I was 4 and not able to attend kindergarten until 5. I was playing in the kindergarten when Mother came to take me home, and the teacher, Miss Stebbins, said “Oh, just let her stay.” So began my educational journey into the Mt. Lebanon schools.
What was your family like?
I had security. I was raised in a non-smoking family. We went to the Methodist Church. My dad, who was a World War I veteran and owned his own business, GUNITE, always had an answer for everything. We ate at 6 in the dining room and had a maid, Freda, a farm girl who lived on the third floor, and made $2 a week. Sometimes I would go with her to the farm. Back then when someone heard you lived in Mt. Lebanon, they called it “Mortgage Hill” that probably would be considered bullying today. But my dad always said, “You get what you pay for. Just enjoy it and be here.” I got a great education. For fun, we had an old Ford with a rumble seat, and we would roller coaster off Bower Hill down Mapleton all the way to Academy. The police would block off Meadowcroft at Morrison so we could sled ride to Shadowlawn.
Tell us about your school years.
Well, (laughing) I remember a girl who drove to school in sixth grade! In high school we had rules and we obeyed them. When Ella B. Ion (vice principal in charge of discipline) would walk down the halls I would cringe. I was never an A student and didn’t want to go to college but my dad said I had to, so I went one year to Penn Hall finishing school and got a good education and came home having learned to pour demitasse. Then I went to Penn State and graduated in 1947. Our class was the first to attend Mellon Junior High, which opened in 1938.
What kind of work did you do before you got married and quit work, as most ladies did back then?
I took a volunteer job with Red Cross at Allegheny General Hospital after the war they had us doing everything but giving medication, but I didn’t become a nurse. I worked at J & L Southside Works for the head of labor relations and then went to Reed Smith as a legal secretary, but I had to work evenings and Saturdays and that interfered with my social life. So I got a 9-5 job at Gulf Oil as an international secretary. Eventually, I went to graduate school got a teaching degree at Pitt. I taught at Sewickley Academy. I wanted to teach underprivileged children, but Sewickley’s longtime headmaster Cliff Nichols said “Most of our students are going to be leaders. They need a teacher like you.”
Tell us a funny story about Mt. Lebanon.
When I first got married, we lived in the (now gone) Washingtonian Apartments and Dr. Haines, the founder of the brand new St. Clair Hospital, and his wife, Ramona, lived across the hall. He said, “You’re pregnant; you have to have your baby at St. Clair.” But my doctor said,” You’re going to Magee.” The Haineses invited us for sausage and waffles, and I could not tell him. Eventually, I had to ‘fess up, and they actually came to see me at Magee, which was very nice. Now when I see his portrait hanging at St. Clair, I think how visionary he was.
“Photo by Martha Rial