My little home in Dooker's Hollow
It was in this creeky old house at #708 O'Connell Blvd in Pittsburgh's North Braddock section that I spent many growing up years. It was a youth of intersting times, of the death of my dad Theodore when I was age seven and of my own health issues...It was here that I developed my intense interest in buses and trolleys...and the fact that a local mass transit route--the ole' #65E bus--stopped right at our gate was an added plus. The 65E was my way to and from grade school. On the massive bridge above---ran the 61A bus from East Pittsburgh to Downtown Pittsburgh via Wilkinsburg and Oakland. More often than not, we used the nearby #56B which followed Braddock Avenue in the shadow of the mighty steel mill.
Now at the bottom of our little street---which was O'Connell Blvd---was a small tunnel which led to Braddock Avenue and the mill wall. To me, the steel mill was almost God Like---that is, it seemed mighty and forever as it never shut down...It was--Awsome!!! It was on top of this small tunnel that the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad were located ever since the mainline was built in the early 1850's.
Growing up down in the hollow, pretty much kept me away from the many school kids who lived way up on the hills of North Braddock...So I kind of grew up isolated and independent in my thoughts and interest.
There was a young blonde girl who was my play mate for years...Her name was Kristine Krul. For years we were almost always found together...I attended grade school at Hartman El School which was way up on Brition Avenue---there were no school buses sent down into the hollow so I thankfully used the #65E--paying my 15-cents into the metal and glass farebox. Many times I did walk to and from school. Going home was all down hill through isloated Ravine Street.
It was on these trips that bus drivers like Henry Markowski, Bob Burrelli and "Burkie" would teach me things about the buses--like how to open the fold back doors or beep the horn. I soon got to know peope working on the trolleys...and got to actually "guest operate" a real trolley car on the actual system when I was age seven.
After my 6th grade year at Hartman, my mother had a job in Eastern [external link] we moved to New Jersey that summer leaving behind the little house down in Dooker's Hollow. My years in Southern NJ turned out to be sad and troubled. Many years later, I revisted the old hollow...By then, little Kristine Krul was a busy teenager who had pretty much forgotten me while the little home I grew up in--after it's abandonment--had been set on fire and then fully torn down. Only a grassy lot with the old back wall...remained.
It was at that home, that my dad passed away on a March night and that I started to come of age...With the major reductions in the J Edger Thomson Steel Mill employment levels conbined with the passing of many of the older folks--Dooker's Hollow and the nearby town of Braddock, PA fell into decay. So many of the oldtimers and their homes which once lined the hollow--were all gone. It was as if I were walking through a Ghost Town Hollow. Even the ole' #65E bus run through the hollow was abandon.
Among my childhood memories was walking with my mom Clara and grandma Verna--up the winding old road that took us up to Bell Avenue. Sometimes we'd watch a passing Penn Central train wiz by...or go up to catch a #61A bus. The 61A's routing--like that of the original trolley #64--took it over the Dooker's Hollow Bridge high above the home I grew up in. Many times I stood there with my mom as a 61A came wizzing down the bridge ramp and hissed to a stop for us...
So much so was this personal memory, that in 2010--when I learned that the ole #61A bus was being cut back to Wilkinsburg & Swissvale and would no longer cross the bridge to Bessemer Terrace....that I took my cameras up to the spots on Bell Avenue where as a child I used to [external link] as to capture on film (digital) the images of the 61A coming down that ramp. Several shots now preserve this memory for history.
FOR more about all of this and Schmude History--contact BRYANT SCHMUDE c/o
PA TROLLEY RAILWAY, #1 Museum Road, Washington, PA 15301