37-The Towns of Turtle Creek Valley: Pitcairn

Introduction

Uncle Sammy and I decided to include brief entries whenever possible about the towns near Wilmerding. During our visits to Pennsylvania we sometimes went to visit these towns because relatives lived there. The towns were very close and at times it seemed like one flowed into another. This was because of the closeness the relatives maintained and the frequency of their visits.

The towns of Turtle Creek Valley: Pitcairn

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Pitcairn Street Scene, circa 1910.
Public Domain. Image courtesy of Monroeville Historical Society.

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 Map of Pitcairn, circa 1901

Pitcairn started as a village where a railyard was constructed near Turtle Creek.   It was incorporated as a village in 1894. The town had a major switching yard for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Population peaked between 1910 through 1940. After this time there was a decline in the ability of the railroad yards and shops to provide employment.

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Close-up from the 1901 map of Pitcairn.

In the bird’s eye view map, Turtle Creek flows in the foreground. The Pennsylvania railroad ran right alongside the creek.

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Pitcairn, circa 1909.

A trip from Wilmerding to Pitcairn is less than 3 miles by car. Driving along Broadway Boulevard will make the trip about 7 minutes long.

My Memories of Pitcairn, Summer 1968

In the Summer of 1968 my Dad and I joined Grandma Josie and Grandpa Sam on a trip to Wilmerding. Mom was working part-time at First National City Bank’s back offices on Water Street in Manhattan. She operated one of the early systems used to process checks in a shift that spanned the hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. When my parents asked me to attend the wedding of Bob and Claudia Muro in Mom’s place I was happy to go. Since Mom’s week began on Sunday night she wasn’t able to attend.

It had been a stressful year all during 8th grade. Although I was happy to make the Honors Class for 9th grade starting in September I wanted to get away from the neighborhood. Some of the changes of the 1960s youth rebellion were filtering in very slowly and not all the changes agreed with me. I’d already started distancing myself from kids I knew who were dabbling in marijuana or cutting classes to attend music/dance events called “happenings” in Central Park or Washington Square Park.

Whenever we visited Wilmerding there were always relatives in the immediate and extended family who graciously opened their homes to us. For some reason I wasn’t able to stay with Aunt Angie and Uncle Peter. John and Josie Fasano agreed to host my stay and I was taken by car to Pitcairn. As we went through the quiet streets the first thing I noticed were the old fashioned houses. Everything was so different from the homes in Dyker Heights where a boom in home renovation and interior decoration was in progress. The popular trend at that time was for large bay windows. The houses were often old, square and small so the modern bay windows were not always in keeping with the architecture but that didn’t matter. The homeowners in Dyker Heights loved their bay windows and installed fancy drapes and shades when the work was completed. In contrast the homes in Pitcairn were modest and much more approachable. To my adolescent point of view the homes made sense. Everything blended together and offered a sense of continuity with the past.

John’s daughter Donna was very friendly and shared her room with me during the stay. She was shocked by the amount of make-up and hair styling tools I’d brought with me for just a weekend stay. In turn I was surprised that she was comfortable with being so natural and unaffected. She didn’t feel a need to use a hair rinse or wear the Yardley of London make-up all my classmates were in a hurry to buy. I felt almost like I was too old for my 14 years and that Donna was living a more authentic life than I. She was very relaxed with herself and her surroundings. She even tolerated the hot weather much better than either I or my Brooklyn friends did. A fan was enough for her when it got hot. In contrast my friends and I wanted the A/C on 24/7 so that our hair and make-up would look just so.

During the weekend I did not have much time to walk around Pitcairn but as I was driven from one relative’s house to another, and then to the reception hall, I realized that Pitcairn and Wilmerding were still not impacted by what was happening in the cities. I thought about how long would it take before kids here starting rebelling and doing the kinds of things my schoolmates were doing. I realized that the way of life in these small towns would eventually change and that some changes would be good and some would not be so good.

It took a long time for changes to diffuse into the mainstream culture back in the 1960s. Information and influence travelled at a slower pace. But it eventually did come. I’ve had updates that Wilmerding has experienced all the problems other towns and cities have experienced since then such as unemployment, drugs and shady real estate developers. If George Westinghouse was to return and visit Wilmerding and the surrounding towns of Turtle Creek he would wonder where his vision for the working and middle classes had gone off track.

Through the family history project I now understand how the Fasano and Serrapede families were linked. John Fasano was the son of Concetta Scotti Fasano. Concetta was the sororal twin of my Great Grandmother Letizia Scotti Muro. The common relative was my Grandma Josie who was Concetta’s niece. If only I’d known then what I know now, I would have been more engaged in the conversations at the breakfast table and I’d have been asking Donna, John and Josie anything and everything in an attempt to know more about Letizia. But I didn’t and the opportunity to learn more about my Great Grandmother passed me by.

Resources

Pittcairn Street Scene
Circa 1910
Historic Pittsburgh
http://digital.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh/
Credit: Public domain. Courtesy of the Monroeville Historical Society.
http://tinyurl.com/pmx2jve

Pitcairn-A Brief History

The Official Website of Pitcairn Borough
http://pitcairnborough.us/

Pitcairn, Pennsylvania
Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitcairn,_Pennsylvania

Bird’s eye View of Pitcairn, Pennsylvania 1901
by T.M. Fowler
Big Map Blog
http://www.bigmapblog.com/2011/bird’s eye-view-of-pitcairn-pennsylvania/

Bird’s Eye View of Pitcairn, circa 1909
Public Domain
Wikimedia
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/PostcardPitcairnPABird’s eyeViewCirca1909.jpg

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9 thoughts on “37-The Towns of Turtle Creek Valley: Pitcairn

  1. I also remember having a hard time adjusting to what my childhood friends were doing as we became teens around the same time as you (I was 16 in 1968). I grew up outside of NYC, so probably the same things were happening as were going on in Brooklyn. I escaped to camp just as you escaped to PA. Being a teenager is even harder today, I think, and with no place really to escape with Facebook and texting and Instagram, etc., following you everywhere.

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    • Interesting angle, Amy. Social network is dangerous for teens who want to follow the beat of a different drummer. If they feel isolated they might be attracted to the wrong kind of contact online. If they’re being bullied there is 24/7 harassment. And you can’t be sure if something you post won’t go viral and get twisted. My memoir will deal with these issues and you’re on the invite list for the upload. Probably mid to late 2017.

      Yet with the high tech kids also have a chance to capture photos and videos of the bullying and harassment wherever it is happening. Back in the day there wasn’t any defense like that.

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