They met under the Kaufmann's clock

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A cherished memory doesn't begin to describe the joy I feel when I think of the Kaufmann's clock. It was the summer of 1958. My father was dying of cancer. I was 8 years old and my sister was 19 and worked at Kaufmann's. My mom wanted to shield me from the sadness in our home that summer.

One day we boarded the Gradison bus from Findlay Township to Pittsburgh. My mom's cousin regularly drove that route. Our destination was none other than the Kaufmann's clock, where my sister stood with open arms to meet us. My mom told me that this was the safest place in the whole wide world. That entire summer I would ride the Gradison bus to Pittsburgh, seated behind my mom's cousin. I don't have any tangible pictures, but I have the indelible image imprinted on my heart of the bus doors opening and seeing my beautiful sister, smiling with open arms, as she stood underneath the Kaufmann's clock. My sister died at the age of 43 from leukemia. I will be eternally grateful for that childhood memory of meeting my sister under the Kaufmann's clock, "the safest place in the world."

Anna Kathleen Lucchino

"Meet me under the Kaufmann's clock" are words very dear to my heart. My mother and I had always met under the clock for either after-school shopping, after-work shopping, or for lunch at the Tic Toc Restaurant. In keeping with tradition, on Nov. 30, 1979, I called my mom from work and asked her to meet me under the Kaufmann's clock at 6 p.m.. I had some important news to tell her, and I wanted to really make the moment memorable. Around 4 p.m., my boss gave me permission to leave work early. I finally had gotten up enough nerve to pursue a dream that had been in my heart since fourth grade, so I practically ran from the Union Trust Building down to the Federal Building and right into the Navy recruiting station. My heart was pounding with excitement as I proudly took the oath at exactly 1700 hours. (5 o'clock to you civilians!) What a privilege it was to be a part of the United States Navy! No turning back, just moving forward and fulfilling my dream!

As I walked back toward Kaufmann's, I could see my mom anxiously waiting under the clock, looking for me. As soon as I got there, I stood directly under the clock and announced with tears in my eyes, "Hey, Mom, I just joined the Navy!" There I was, all 4 foot, 11 inches of me, standing so proudly as if I was 10 feet tall! I was about to carry on a family tradition. My dad was a sailor in WWII and a Pearl Harbor survivor, and unbeknownst to me, that is where I would be stationed until 1984. For my mom and dad's 50th anniversary, I bought them a lovely Linda Barnicott painting of Kaufmann's corner and the beautiful clock that is absolutely timeless.

Ruth Ann Rhue
West View

"I'll meet you under the Kaufmann's clock tomorrow at noon." Those were the precious words my grandmother, Bella Rubin ("Momo," as she was affectionately called by her grandchildren), would say to me each week. Every Friday night when I was 10 years old, she would utter those famous words. I lived in Mt. Lebanon. She lived in East Liberty. I looked forward to Saturdays. I would dress up in my prettiest dress and shoes, and my mother would put me on the bus every Saturday. She instructed me to get off the bus at the corner of Smithfield and Fifth Avenue directly under the Kaufmann's clock.

As the bus approached the clock, my heart skipped a beat. My grandmother would be there with her smiling face and outstretched arms. My Momo took a trolley streetcar Downtown and probably got there very early ... maybe even 10 a.m. There was no such thing in her world as to be late. I never remember my mother giving me instructions on what to do if Momo wasn't there. Momo would always be there.

After we met under the clock, we would immediately go and wait in line to be seated at the Tic Toc for lunch. My favorite lunch was a hamburger, french fries and a warm pickle. We would finish off lunch with a dessert called the Toasted Pecan Ball. It was a vanilla ice cream ball rolled in nuts and served over hot caramel sauce. The pecan ball was65 cents. The price went up to 95 cents a few years later, so at that time we had to limit the dessert for just special occasions such as a birthday. I suppose it made the pecan ball even more special.

My Momo and I would walk over to Gimbel's department store when we finished eating lunch. My grandfather, Joseph Rubin, worked in the men's suit department. He would always greet me with a big hug, and from his pockets he would bring out Charms or Lifesaver candy, which he always carried for his grandchildren.

When our time together came to a close, it was back to the Kaufmann's clock so I could catch the bus to return home. I do not have a photograph of the two of us under that famous clock. We lived in a simpler time. I didn't even think to bring my Brownie Kodak camera with me. I do have a vivid and clear picture in my mind. No Kodak moment could ever capture the love my "Momo" and I shared. The memories are like a handprint on my heart. I wish to give thanks and pay tribute to the beautiful Kaufmann's clock on the corner of Smithfield and Fifth Avenue.

Marlene Rubin Kessler
Boca Raton, Fla.

I had been out of the service for about two years when I met this girl from the South Hills. I lived on the other side of town. When I dated her, I'd catch a streetcar into town, get off, walk up to Kaufmann's and under the clock I'd catch a South Hills streetcar. I would meet her at home, and we would catch a streetcar ride into town and get off at Kaufmann's clock. Then one day my girl said, "Mike, why don't you walk up to Kaufmann's clock and stay there and I'll catch a streetcar and meet you there."

This worked out good any time we would spend the evening in town or go to a ballgame or West View Park. I'd just say, "Honey, Saturday at 8 o'clock I'll meet you under Kaufmann's clock." She would say, "OK, honey, I'll be there." That's the way it was for us. We saved a lot of time, no hassle, and even a couple of streetcar checks.

After a while, we got married and settled down in South Hills. We would still have a date night. The one evening when we got off at Kaufmann's, I took her by the hand and we stood under Kaufmann's clock and I gave her a big hug and kiss and said, "Honey, do you remember?" "I sure do," she replied. You know, all this happened over 60 years ago. I am now 88, but those lovely memories are with me. When you're in love, you never forget.

Michael J. Stypula
Mount Washington

Frank Grejda worked at the Pittsburgh Press/Post-Gazette in 1945 when he met Mary O'Connell, who worked Downtown at Kaufmann's. They met at a bar in Lawrenceville through mutual friends. Cars were still scarce right after the war, and a luxury at that, so for their first date, Frank and Mary agreed to meet "under the clock" Saturday night, at 6 p.m. After she got off work, Mary waited under the Kaufmann's clock on the corner of Fifth and Smithfield, and waited and waited. Frank never met Mary that evening so Mary took the streetcar home to Dormont very sad and disappointed.

In the meantime, Frank took the streetcar Downtown from Lawrenceville that same evening and waited under the Rosenbaum's clock, which at the time was located at Sixth [Street] and Liberty Avenue. He too, took the streetcar back home and was disappointed.

About three months later, Mary was at a wedding when she saw Frank standing up against the bar with friends. Frank glared at her, and not be to outdone, Mary glared back. Frank then walked over to the table Mary was sitting at and asked, "Why did you stand me up?" Mary denied the accusation and then asked Frank why he stood her up as she waited over a half-hour under the Kaufmann's clock and he never bothered to show. Well, at that point, Frank started to laugh and told Mary that he was standing under the clock - on the other side of town! They both laughed and agreed to meet again - under the Kaufmann's clock!

Frank Grejda and Mary O'Connell were married on April 24, 1948, 65 years ago. Though both are in heaven together, as their daughter I am happy to share their story.

Margaret Grejda Smith

For our class yearbook, 1952 -- St. Paul's Cathedral High School, we chose the theme of time, and this photo [of us] under the Kaufmann's clock was used. [See photo at top of page.]

Bernadette Leppold

I enjoy a lifetime of Kaufmann's clock memories from the time of my birth in 1929 in a small red brick row house on Shiloh Street at Grandview Avenue until today. My keenest interests have always been my family first, and movies. I credit that in no small part to Kaufmann's clock.

Back in the early 1930s, going to "town" to the movies was very special. My earliest memories of the clock begin with going into town to the movies with my dad from when I was about 5 years old. My mother would dress me up in my Easter clothes - patent leather shoes polished with Vaseline, my white Communion gloves, my Sunday dress and Easter hat. Then she would take my hand and we would walk from our house (heated by a coal stove in the kitchen) on Lelia Street down the steep Belgian block street and wooden steps to South Hills Junction. There she would put me on the #40 Mt. Washington yellow streetcar for my ride into Downtown, after dropping an 8 cent car check into the fare box and handing the conductor a note telling him to let me off at "Kaufmann's under the clock."

I sat just behind the conductor on the cane seats. It was a short ride but a very exciting one for me. We traveled through the dark streetcar tunnel and on over the Smithfield Street Bridge. I eagerly watched for Kaufmann's clock, and in a few short blocks it appeared. The streetcar stopped at Fifth and Smithfield and the conductor would turn to me and say, "This is your stop, honey." The doors would open and there would be my dad waiting for me under Kaufmann's clock. He would take my hand and help me down the streetcar steps, and we would walk hand-in-hand down Fifth Avenue to the movies at any one of the grand Downtown theaters: Lowe's Penn, the Stanley, the Warner, the State, the Fulton, the Harris, the Ritz, the Art Cinema, etc.

If Kaufmann's clock could talk, it would tell so much more than the time! It would tell of the wonderful role it played in the bonding of love between my dad, mother and me ... and the movies! Memories are made of this!

Beverly Stuebgen Kerr

Meet me under the Kaufmann's clock means more to me than just a well-known meeting spot. How about marry me under the clock? That is exactly what happened to me on Saturday, Aug. 31, 1996, at 8 p.m. I was searching for someplace simple and unique for my wedding. Being that my fiance and I were both Kaufmann's employees and we met there, I thought it would be very sentimental to tie the knot under the clock. After doing some research, I found that no one ever did that before, at least on record. I pursued my wish to get married under the clock.

The biggest challenge was to have the groom show up since he was not going for it. Needless to say, the night of the wedding all of the guests were gathered under the clock. At 7:45 p.m. when the groom arrived, it was time to get in place for the ceremony, which was being performed by a minister who was also a Kaufmann's employee. At 8 p.m. the ceremony began and ended with "Now I pronounce you man and wife." We kissed and turned to greet our family and friends while pictures were being taken and spectators stood by and observed.

Karen Karl-Rauscher

Oh, yes, we met with thousands of other people under the clock on Aug. 14, 1945, the original V-J Day. Most of the other people were spilling over into the Fifth and Smithfield intersection and the surrounding streets. The Japanese had surrendered, the war was over and everyone wanted to gather together to hug and kiss everyone in sight to welcome with joy and relief such wonderful news. One of my brothers, Pfc. Wade E. Sankey, 20 years old and home on leave after having been wounded earlier in the year in Europe, and a friend from Dormont High School, Bill Knoll, also home on leave, readily convinced me (then 18 years old) that we must go Downtown to join all of Pittsburgh to celebrate the conclusion to such a long and horrendous war.

I don't know how we did it, but we worked our way through the crowds until we were directly under the clock. In fact, some very excited individual, who was more agile than wise, actually climbed up on the clock and sat there for quite a while. I am not sure who he was, but he certainly received a great round of applause. Everything was acceptable and A-OK that evening!

The "meeting" that happened that evening under the clock lasted all night. At least I think it lasted all night. This 86-year-old brain can't remember all the details, but I do know for sure it was a night to remember.

The above occasion was overshadowed by the fact that my other brother, 1st Lt. Sylvester W. Sankey, 22 years old, could not accompany us that evening. He was a Marine pilot, and after a year of flying missions in the South Pacific, he had been shot down over the Philippines in January 1945 and was on the missing list on that day. Within that year, he was declared dead. Even so, I am sure he celebrated with us, because he certainly had done his share to bring an end to WWII.

Bette Sankey Sahar
Mt. Lebanon

For generations, Pittsburghers have met under the clock. While friends, loved ones and colleagues often use the clock as a convenient landmark, it also serves as a familiar reference point for persons meeting for the first time. Some of the strangers who have met one another for the first time under the clock no doubt fall in love and get married. Count me among this fortunate group of folks whose lives took flight as a result of meeting on the corner of Fifth and Smithfield under the clock.

Little did I know when I chose the clock as the place to meet Debbie Davies, then a second-year law student at Duquesne, back in December 1991 on a blind lunch date that I would be meeting the love of my life. My calendar entry for Dec. 10, 1991, simply states:

Lunch with Debbie Davies

12:30 p.m. under the clock.

Back in 1991, I was a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh Law School and a young associate working day and night to become a partner at a large local law firm. On the morning of Dec.10, 1991, I had just been given an important assignment with a tight deadline and considered canceling the lunch date but could not get in touch with Deb in this pre-cellphone era. If I had canceled, we may never have met.

I had been told that Debbie (who was a friend of my cousins) had much in common with me. Like me, she was already a CPA, loved the Pirates, Penguins and Steelers, and was looking for a career in law. We were both native Pittsburghers and grew up in blue-collar families in the South Hills. With everything we had in common, I would like to say that our first lunch after meeting under the clock was magical, but that would not be true. To begin with, I initially mistook another woman for Deb and was rebuffed when I asked, "Are you Debbie?" It was only then that a voice behind me said, "Are you Bill?"

Looking back at our first lunch, Deb recalls that I was quiet and she thought that I was an introvert. I remember being preoccupied by the assignment I was given that morning. As first dates go, this one did not go particularly well. Still, a spark was ignited, and Deb accepted my request for another date. Many others followed. Even with both of our schedules being jammed, we made time for each other and romance bloomed.

On Dec. 10, 1994, three years to the day I almost canceled our first lunch date, I arranged to meet Deb under the clock once again. This time, without hesitation, I dropped to one knee in the December slush and proposed to her under the clock. Fortunately, for me, Deb accepted. We were married in 1996 in the Duquesne Chapel and have two wonderful children (Chloe, 11, and Ryan, 9). Debbie is now assistant treasurer at Carnegie Mellon University. I have spent the last 18 years at Rothman Gordon. Our home in Brookline has several paintings and mementos featuring the clock which, as time passes, only makes our memories of meeting there and getting engaged under its face that much more cherished.

Bill Lestitian


First Published May 17, 2013 4:00 AM


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