• James Eichenlaub

Remembering Mr. Pittman (Altoona, PD c1965)

One of Altoona's more peaceful and sweet memories is the spring and summer evenings we slept with our front door open and a hook on the screen door.

The hook, of course, was to stop burglars from entering the house. Should, however, a burglar strain himself through the screen door but then suddenly find the doorway blocked, we also kept a few screenless windows open to ease his escape. With the lack of burglars in those days, neither of these things happened.

Although, due to the hooked screen door and the open windows, we did have the cool evening breezes pass through the house that made sleeping more peaceful.

11th Avenue Altoona, PA Gable's Department Store
Downtown Altoona looking east at Gable's Department store on 11th Avenue (c1965 -67)

During the summer months, my nephew, Richard (six months younger than I), stayed at our house for days at a time, and we would run the streets (as my mother would say) all hours of the night while the world was at peace, and more importantly, while there were no cars on the streets to encumbered our riding bicycles.

Unlike the 'big city' where there were scads of nightclubs and all-night activities, Altoona would, as they say, 'fold up the streets' downtown, early in the evening. During the "Summer of Love," Rick and I were in our early teens; boys from the wrong side of the tracks who would sleep during the day and ride our bikes at night (among other adolescent nocturnal activities that we won't mention).

Our favorite ride in the early morning hours was to circle 11th and 12th Avenues, where we sometimes stopped to talk to Officer Pittman. Over the years since, I often wondered what happened to him, so I looked for him among those pages where the knowledge of 'everything' exists, and sure enough, there he was.

He gave the PD a good name in our eyes. Mr. Pittman walked that beat for the Altoona, PD for as many years as I could recall and became so accustomed to seeing my nephew Rick and me riding in those early morning hours that he would wave and say,

"You boys stay outta trouble now!"

Mr. Pittman knew my mother, Emma, who waitressed at Crist's restaurant for many years. Richard and I found him amiable, kind, and happy whenever we stopped to chat or ask how he was getting on.

Another memory is helping out in the kitchen at Crist's when Mr. Pittman would pop in at the restaurant's back door. My mother or another waitress would bring him a drink and a sandwich, and they would chat a bit as he ate. If he saw me, he would say something like,

"How you doin young man? Still ridin that bicycle?"

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 bicycles. Our adventures took us a few times up Mill Run road just as daylight was filling the sky. From the top of Red Hill, we would burn as fast as we could down onto 18th Street and then turn up the hill toward our house on 14th Avenue; the ride always took us full circle from the house and back again.

Like that early morning ride, life will do the same; take you through your career and right back to the beginning. A place where you plow up those old memories of where it all began so that you can both mentally and emotionally relive them!

Newspaper Posting-Altoona Mirror:

"S/O Robert D. & Florence (Smith) Pittman. Married 5/27/1936, Cumberland, MD, Bertha Virginia Johnson. Resided at 1901 15th ave. Retired Corporal, Altoona Police dept., 7/1973, 29+ yrs. service. Member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Mountain City Lodge 8, Fraternal Order of Police. Surv. by wife; children: Nancy Estelle Pittman, at home; Mrs. Florence Brenda Frazier, Steelton; Milford M., Jr., Carlisle & Daisy Louise, Altoona; 5 grandchildren & brother, William B. Pittman, York. Carn Funeral Home, Altoona.Corp Milford Maurice Pittman Sr."
BIRTH4 Nov 1912, Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania, USA
DEATH19 May 1982 (aged 69), Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania, USA

This one calls for a sip of Old No.7...

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