Just today, I left one room with the TV blaring and went to another room to immerse myself in the internet, when the cell phone rang, and I wound up deep in a conversation. Later, I was remembering how different it was growing up—no TV or computer, and the phone, a party line, was mostly for emergencies. (For the younger readers, a “party line” was a single phone line used by a number of strangers. It wasn’t polite to tie it up with long or frivolous conversation.)
But spending most of our time in our own company wasn’t as boring as you might imagine. In, fact I think we got to know ourselves better, and it created the need to be a little more creative. When I was in high school, in Mt. Lebanon’s Class of ’47, we might meet for a while after school—we hung around Bards or Mandles Drug store, both on Washington Road. Shuffling back and forth, the refrain heard a lot was, “What do you want to do?” followed usually with the response,” I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
One day, this exchange generated a creative surge. I went to Dr. Horsman, our principal, and told him that the young people needed a place to gather after school. He was sympathetic, so he arranged for a stage in Washington School to be available to us after class. We got together and scrounged for furniture and fixtures, and thus Mt. Lebanon’s first rec center was born.
After a few months, he called me in to his office and said that they made a couple of large rooms available to us, which opened onto the playground. They were great—roomy and easy to get to. We scrubbed, cleaned and painted, and again went looking for furnishings. We got a great break when the YMCA of Mt. Lebanon and Dormont became involved. They provided a jukebox, a soft drink machine and tables and chairs. We even got wax to make a dance floor.
The “rec” was very popular. It kept growing until the township took notice and became involved. They eventually moved it to facilities at the pool, and it was active for years, though I, of course, was gone—off to college and service in the Korean War. Probably none of this would have happened if we had all lived in the abundance of electronic marvels available today. Some days I am not sure which life I liked best, but I wouldn’t have traded the old days with those people in Mt. Lebanon High School for anything.