Our Family Apartment in Castle Shannon, PA, from late December, 1949 to May 1950
by James K. Sayre
In late 1949, my father's work as a mechanical engineer at a corporation in New York City had petered out. In a short time, he managed to get a new job at Westinghouse Electric Corporation at a research and development center in West Mifflin, just south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He rented a small apartment in Castle Shannon, which was virtually next door to the prime living area of Mount Lebanon, which had some of the best public schools in the Pittsburgh area. (In senior high school, the guidance counselors used to tell us that Mt. Lebanon was one of the top thirty-eight public high schools in the country. I never was quite how that assertion was supposed to make me feel? Stuck up? That would be a typical Mt. Lebo attitude back then...).
Our second-floor apartment, which we moved into around Christmas, 1949, was located on Vermont Avenue, most of the way up a steep hill from the river, railroad and Library Road in the local valley. It was two stories high and was built of red brick. It must have been newly built, because I distinctly remember there being a lot of muddy clay around the building.
One pugnacious neighbor kid, about my age, told me one afternoon, that he "could beat me up!" I said, oh, do you mean in a race up from the bottom of the apartment building? He said no, and indicated that he meant a in a physical confrontation... I said "Oh..." or some such and gradually drifted away from him. I was always quite tall for my age, and so, I seemed to attract school bullies who wanted to prove how tough they were by confronting with me. I almost always could talk my way out of these impending fights.
Once in high school, I had to carefully explain to a couple of tough kids, that no I did not make straight As, I didn't even make a B average... They assumed that since I asked lots of questions in class that I made excellent grades... No. But I knew that I was very smart, but I didn't have to tell them that...
I have one other long-term menory of living in Castle Shannon: I had a small push-scooter with a rear brakc that was operated by putting your heel down on it. One day, I decided to scoot down the very long and very steep hill that ran below our apartment building. The scooter and I were going much too fast in just a few seconds, and in my panic I forgot about using the foot brake. I finally dumped over in some dirt. After that bit of recklessness, I was much more cautious in riding my scooter.
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