• James Eichenlaub

Remembering Mr. Pittman (Altoona, PD c1965)

It was the 1960's, and one of Altoona's most beautiful and peaceful memories is the fact that, in the spring and summer, we slept with our front door open and a hook on the screed door to keep burglars out. We also had one or two windows open, so if the front doorway was somehow blocked, a burglar had another escape route. Sadly, we had no burglars, so it was totally unnecessary to keep everything so open, that is, unless you just did it to have the cool summer breezes pass through the house.

11th Avenue Altoona, PA Gable's Department Store
Downtown Altoona in the '60s, looking at Gable's

During the summer months, my nephew, Rick, or Richard, if you prefer, who is six months my junior, would more often than not stay over at my house, and we would run the streets late at night while the world was at peace, and most importantly, while there were no cars on the roads. Unlike the 'big city' where there were scads of nightclubs and all-night activities, Altoona would, as they say, 'fold up the streets.' Especially downtown.

We nearly illiterate boys from the wrong side of the tracks would sleep during the day and ride our bikes at night. Our favorite ride was to circle 11th and 12th Avenues, often at three and four in the morning, where we sometimes stopped to talk to Mr. Pittman, who many of you may recall often walked that beat for the Altoona, PD. He became so accustomed to seeing us in those early morning hours that he would just wave and say, "You boys stay outta trouble now!"

Mr. Pittman knew my mother, Emma, who waitressed at Crist's restaurant, and he was kind and always happy when Rick and I stopped to talk to him. Occasionally showing up at the restaurant's back door for a sandwich and a drink, I remember mom standing and chatting with him as he ate. Walter and Joe, and all the waitresses staff knew him well, I believe.

Together, Richard and I were not the trouble-making type, and there was no law against our enjoying the quiet of the sunrise while we rode. Our adventures took us a few times up Mill Run road just as daylight was filling the sky, and we turned at the top of Red Hill, where we would burn as fast as we could down onto 18th Street, and then turn up the hill toward our house on 14th Avenue and 17th Street. (see pic) a ride that always took us full circle.

Life, it seems, will do the same; take you through your career and right back to where you plow up those old memories of where it all began so that you can both mentally and emotionally relive them!

It seems I should have waited until later to write this! This one calls for a sip of Old No.7...

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