Crestvue Manor Redux
Updated: Apr 13, 2019
My German shepherd, Navajo, and I take a half-hour walk most days along the same route I walked 25 years ago with two girlfriends. Back then, our trio was so absorbed in chit-chat, we paid little attention to the surroundings. Today, with only Navajo to yank when he lunges at squirrels, the hills seem steeper and the walk longer, but I do look around.
Mt. Lebanon is known for its distinctive, eclectic architecture, and the streets in Lebanon Hills where I walk are bordered by beautiful houses. But as a lifelong resident, my focus often drifts from the landscape to the families who live or once lived in those homes. On Crestvue Manor, I can time travel through three generations.
Just beyond Beverly Heights Church is the red brick colonial I trudged to after school twice a week from Mellon Jr. High to babysit three hellions for 50 cents an hour while their mom, the wife of a prominent executive, played bridge. Years later, in different houses, we became good backyard neighbors. Next door is a white brick colonial where my good friend lived with his parents and two brothers. After a rebellious phase—he majored in drama and quit college to enlist in Vietnam—he became a doctor like his father. That is one of two houses (the other is a mid-century modern across the street) where my husband, who grew up as one of nine and got a mini-box of cereal for breakfast, headed for a second breakfast, where the bowls were deep and the Wheaties unlimited, before heading to school with his buddies .
Below left is a large colonial, once red brick but now white, that was home to a girl who competed for my high school boyfriend. When she invited me to swim at St. Clair Country Club, I knew it was a ploy to elicit information, but it still was fun, since my family did not belong to a club. (The boyfriend did not dump me for her, but he did marry a pixie-ish brown-eyed girl who looked a lot like her—must have been his type!) Also on that side of the street is: a contemporary home, below right, where a high school friend who was a committed Christian hosted Young Life meetings in his rec room; the house of the nice boy who 25 years later escorted our “Dutch daughter,” Carla, an AFS exchange student, to the senior prom; and the home of our paperboy, a classmate of my daughter’s whose dad once called to complain about a party at our house when my husband and I were away—as if there was no partying at his house when they were away!
The Asian-inspired house, below left, at the top of the circle was famous in its day as home to Joe L. Brown, the Pirates general manager and son of old-time comedian Joe E. Brown. Joe L.’s son—who went to boarding school either because they were rich or because he was a scoundrel or both—remained my friend through college, but I have no idea what happened to him. Two doors down is a charming ranch, below right, where my grade school friend’s father lived when he remarried after her mother, my Girl Scout leader, died. I yearned to eventually downsize and buy that sweet house, but a work colleague of mine who retired a few years before me had the same idea and thwarted my plan. She loves it.
On other side of the circle are five houses that belonged to two families, friends of mine still. Two couples, each with four kids, built houses there in the late 1950s, to accommodate their active families. When they became empty nesters, the couples both built easy-living houses nearby, with the original family homes going to one of the kids, who still live there. On the corner of Washington Road is a Brady Bunch home, probably the first on the street, where the patriarch of one of the two families lived—he was a builder. Later, the owner of the body shop I relied upon to fix the dings I constantly made in our cars lived there with his family. His wife, who as I recall had multiple sclerosis and sometimes used a wheel chair, had an admirably cheerful attitude.
Today, I don’t know many people on the street where I once knew just about everyone. Still, the culture doesn’t seem to have changed. Crestvue Manor folks always say hello, and their dogs are friendly. My husband does not need second helpings these days, but I’ll bet if we asked them, they’d share their breakfast.