We all know that Pittsburghers like to give directions based on landmarks. We especially enjoy using old references to places that no longer exist. For example:
Typical direction giver: “To get to Primanti’s by The Galleria, you go down 19 towards town. Pass the bowling alley on the right. And you remember where the Ground Round was? They had good popcorn! It used to be on your left … go past that through the light. After the light you’ll be passing by the old BP.”
Typical direction recipient: “The BP? Are you talking about where Dunkin Donuts is now?”
Typical direction giver: “Yes. Right across from where the Roth Carpet used to be. There’s a Fresh Market there now.”
And the directions continue …
Thinking of this takes me back to all of the South Hills “Used-to-Be’s.” Time is a professional ninja … slipping by like phantom sand in a fine crystal hourglass. We don’t even realize how much has changed until we look back.
Let’s rewind to my high school years … 25 years ago. The time I’m mentally lodged in, pretending I’m not a middle aged-woman. (My daughter may disagree but I still think I’m pretty cool cruising the mall in my flannel shirt and ripped-up jeans.)
I spent my weekends going to Village Square Mall. One weekend, I scored a brilliant blue tie-dye shirt at that mall. (Is it bad that I still have that shirt?) Now I drive by and see Kohl’s, Burlington and Home Depot there. Back then, there was no need for a Home Depot. Busy Beaver was across from Sears at South Hills Village Mall; ready to sell whatever lumber someone needed for their weekend project.
Walgreens wasn’t a destination at the time. Instead, people flocked to Phar-Mor and would shop around for random stuff regardless if they had a prescription to fill. That Phar-Mor was adjacent to what we now know as the Market District Giant Eagle.
I remember going there homecoming night with my party. We perused Phar-Mor’s aisles, giggling at the random trinkets displayed on the end caps. I scored a black-haired troll doll sporting a Penguins T-shirt there once. I haven’t seen that little troll guy since 1998. His plastic potbelly protruding from the shrunken tee always cracked me up.
That same night we ate at Houlihan’s for our fancy homecoming dinner. This was before the restaurant settled in at The Galleria. It was located where the Walgreens now resides on Fort Couch Road. I recall that we upgraded from Friday’s that night because Houlihan’s staff wore dark clothing instead of oversized pins tacked to red suspenders.
Bringing all these memories to the surface paints a smile on my face. To me, it’s as clear as when I was 16. These memories summon up vivid recollections of the sights, smells and feelings of those not-forgotten places.
I bet I’ve barely scratched the surface of what was vs. what is around here. I wonder what memories everyone has of when they’d frequent places in the South Hills. Did you buy a critter at the Woolworth’s in the mall? Was it following a quick meal in their diner? Who scored a fancy fur coat at the Gimbels back in the day? I’d love to hear of the other ‘once were’s’ you’ve experienced the South Hills, so please comment below!