Local Dispatch: At Kaufmann's clock, time stands still for memorable meetings
May 17, 2013 8:00 AM
The Kaufmann's clock Downtown.
Ten individuals have been named winners of a contest sponsored by Macy's and the Post-Gazette to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Kaufmann's clock. A story about the contest is in today's Magazine section. The following are two of the winning essays, all of which can be read here:
For generations, Pittsburghers have met under the clock. While friends, loved ones and colleagues often use the clock as a convenient landmark when meeting, 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, 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 w/ Debbie Davies
12:30 p.m. under the Clock.
I was a recent graduate of Pitt Law School and a young associate working day and night to become a partner at a large Pittsburgh law firm. On the morning of Dec. 10, 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-cell phone era. If I had canceled, we may never have met.
I had been told that Debbie 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 with 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 and have two wonderful children. Our home in Brookline has several paintings and mementos featuring the clock which, as time passes, only make our memories of meeting there and getting engaged under its face that much more cherished.
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 her 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 awhile, we got married and settled down in the South Hills. We would still have a date night.
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.
The PG Portfolio welcomes "Local Dispatch" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255. First Published May 17, 2013 4:00 AM