The Morning File / The Kaufmann's Clock: a great place to meet (yourself)

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To mark the 100th anniversary of installation of the landmark Kaufmann's Clock, Downtown, Macy's and the Post-Gazette have invited Pittsburghers to tell their stories of meeting under it.

Contestants hoping to win a $100 Macy's gift card as a prize can submit stories of up to 1,000 words at, or mail them to Clock Contest, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, P.O. Box 590, Pittsburgh, PA 15230.

At least one submission might go like this:

I will never forget the first time I arranged to meet someone under the Kaufmann's Clock. It was June 8, 1974. Susie Chapman and I were to rendezvous on our first date as 10th-graders, after taking buses Downtown from different directions.

We would saunter together down to the Three Rivers Arts Festival -- hand in hand, if she would let me. I'd been studying up in the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the Florentine school of early Renaissance painters in order to impress Susie with my knowledge of art once we saw it. Perhaps it's obvious I'd never been to the Three Rivers Arts Fest before?

We were to meet at 2 p.m. under the clock. I'd suggested the location -- I imagined her parents or grandparents might have used it for a meeting, and if she knew that to be the case, the idea might spark a romantic notion on her part. With a nightmarish teen menagerie of zits, braces and eyeglasses jockeying to serve as this male's dominant facial feature, romance needed all the help it could get.

I took a bus that would get me Downtown by 1:30 so as not to risk being late. The magnificent clock let me know that plan had worked perfectly as I reached the busy intersection and leaned against a Kaufmann's display window featuring the finest assemblage of bell bottoms I'd ever viewed. Man, bell bottoms -- I really miss those.

Time would have seemed to stand still as I waited, except that every time I looked up the minute hand had pushed along like clockwork: 1:40, 1:45, 1:50, 1:59.

Clearly, Susie's plan, unlike some people's, had not been to worry about getting there late.

I craned my head in every direction, hoping to catch sight of her and wave. Was that her coming from the direction of Gimbels? No. Did I see her headed toward the clock from Palmer's? No. From Klein's? Uh-uh. But it felt good to know those other Downtown landmarks were there and would never leave, in case I ever needed them.

Now it was 2:15. Hmm, what could be wrong? Had the Port Authority shut down operations and stranded her? Not likely, since a start-and-stop parade of the 71A, 71B, 71C and 71D had been belching fumes in my face from the moment I arrived.

Maybe the clock was running fast? I'd seen that happen before on clocks at home. I stopped a man with a watch and asked for the correct time.

"What's a matter, kid? Can't you look above and tell the time yourself -- are you stoned?"

"Well, no, it's just that I'm meeting Susie and she seems late but --"

"Your whole generation is nothing but a giant waste," he interrupted. "I feel sorry for your parents."

And then he was gone, and I still didn't know if the clock was right, though my suspicions now tended to favor it. Then came 2:25 ... 2:35 ... 2:45 ... I considered using a nearby pay phone to call her home, but if Susie answered, that would imply something even worse than tardiness about her interest in our date.

I remember thinking just then that it was a shame that America could land men on the moon but couldn't produce a mobile device that would both tell time and provide a way to communicate directly with another person. I silently vowed that by age 21 I would be the one to invent that and become rich -- perhaps even earn $5,000 or more to get a cool car.

As 3 o'clock and then 3:30 came and went and it began to rain, I tried to position myself under the clock so as not to get too wet, but it wasn't wide enough to shelter even someone as skinny as I was. That is when I realized I hated that stupid clock and everything it symbolized, especially when another couple under it began kissing and told me to move.

That day, when Susie never arrived and I went home damp and sniffling at 5:30, was the first and only time I ever arranged to meet anyone under the Kaufmann's clock. It will always be memorable for me.


Gary Rotstein: or 412-263-1255. First Published April 29, 2013 3:30 PM


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