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Pittsburgh Before Mean Joe Greene!

Watching the Super Bowl from Israel

Growing up in Pittsburgh was fun, even though I was one of the few Jewish kids in those times that didn't grow up in Squirrel Hill. I was so blessed that we lived in Oakland near Shady Side and in Point Breeze, in the days when Shady Side was world known for its famous jazz clubs, chic restaurants, and fashion boutiques. I could romp in Frick and Schenley Parks, and even walk to Downtown Pittsburgh on an energetic day. My friends and I cheated the law by drinking beer at the Frick Park Memorial where Mr. Heinz reportedly invented modern processed Ketchup. Those were the days when Downtown was composed of large General Stores that ranged from the very basic Woolworth to upscale Gimbles. I did commute to Taylor Allderdice High School to get the best education in the area. Mom also wanted me to meet nice Jewish girls.

I had access within a walking distance to all the major sports activities of that era. I am dating myself by admitting that I fondly remember the days of Forbes Field, Original Hotdog Shop, and the years when Pittsburgh's sports were actually the goats of professional sports. I even remember Forbes Field when it was the home of both the Pirates and the Steelers. My parents also remembered the days when the Pirates and Steelers were both named the Pirates.

In those days, Pittsburgh really was the "Steel City", as the United States Steel was still dominating the industry. Yes, we really left for school in the morning with clean white shirts that were a faded grey by the time we came home in the afternoon. Air pollution was a problem then as it is today. My two sisters and I still have the occasional sinus problems decades after we left the region.

One of the major reasons that H. J. Heinz holds a fond memory for me is that in those days students toured the Heinz Factory where we received free spaghetti with pickles and ketchup. Sports tickets in those days were fifty cents a person. Hotdogs, peanuts, and cotton candy were the main tastes of the diet in the stadium.

Dad was an executive for Foodland Supermarkets. That was the main reason that I developed my life-long love for food. Mom was a housewife- in the days when most women did not work. My grandfather, Sam and our black dog- Archie were my two best friends. I might also add my parrot Homer. Grandpa and I used to take Archie on walks in Schenley Park with Homer riding contently on Archie's back. Needless to say, the scene o f Homer riding Archie's back produced a lot of mirth in the community and made us rather well known.

My Grandfather managed a shoe-store. He was always chewing a stogie. In those days they actually believed that tobacco was good for the health. As grandpa stood by this belief he also was convinced that alcohol was good for the body and the soul- therefore I had my first whisky sour at the age of 12. Not to worry, this was limited to Friday evening supper. Like many people in Pittsburgh he was an immigrant from Eastern Europe. Polish was widely spoken in those days and people took great pride in their ethnic heritage. There was also a tragic side to ethnic issues of the days, as people of color were indeed second class citizens.

One of the things I developed growing up in Pittsburgh is the strong commitment to social issues. I spent the rest of my career/personal life promoting programs for people with disabilities. Even though discrimination was rampant in Pittsburgh, there were a lot of leaders in Pittsburgh that stood up - like Mr. Heinz who believed in equal rights for all. Later, his son- John Heinz went into politics to bring about the positive change. He helped promote legislation for equal rights for women, reforms in banking, and in expanding Medicare insurance. He was also active in promoting rights for senior citizens, and legislation toward protecting the environment.

I still follow my beloved Steelers during the Super-bowl from 6,000 miles away in Israel. Last year's Super Bowl was broadcast on several networks in the Middle East. I watched it through the MeTV while sipping a beer at a local pub. I was stunned to listen to the game both in English and in Hebrew simultaneously. All the other patrons were non-Americans, but many of them understood the rules of the game and helped me cheer for my favorite team. Still, there were tears in my beer when the game was over.

The national sport of Israel is soccer. In Hebrew it is called football. My friends and I joke a lot as to which country has a right to call its national sport football. I enjoyed a certain glow from the sense of solidarity from sharing my football ardor with my new Israeli neighbors. It has indeed become a small world since my days growing up in the steel city. One of my toughest challenges in life is adjusting to the world of modern mass communications. However, when it comes to the Super Bowl- thank goodness for satellite television.

Posted by eshugerman 09:56 Tagged football soccer israel side super pittsburgh heinz bowl oakland steelers shady gimbles Comments (0)

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