Under the clock: Kaufmann's clock anecdotes

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Macy's and the Post-Gazette co-sponsored an essay contest this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landmark Kaufmann's clock. These are two of the winning submissions.

Saturday meetings with Momo are fixed in time for her forever

I'll meet you under the Kaufmann's clock tomorrow at noon." Those were the precious words my grandmother, Bella Rubin (or "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 the suburb of Mt. Lebanon. She lived in East Liberty.

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 Street 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. 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 restaurant for lunch. My favorite was a hamburger, french fries and a warm pickle.

We would finish with a dessert called the "Toasted Pecan Ball,"a vanilla ice cream ball rolled in nuts and served with hot caramel sauce.

The pecan ball cost 65 cents. The price went up to 95 cents a few years later, which meant we then had to limit the dessert for special occasions such as birthdays. I suppose it made the pecan ball even more special!

Momo and I would walk over to Gimbels department store when we finished eating lunch. My grandfather, Joseph Rubin, ("Papa") worked in the men's suits department.

He would always greet me with a big hug and dig into his pockets for a 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.

Marlene Rubin Kessler

Boca Raton, Fla.

Clock confusion got relationship off to rocky start they overcame

Frank Grejda worked for The Pittsburgh Press and 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" Downtown at 6 p.m. on a Saturday.

After she got off of 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 under the Kaufmann's clock, 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 at 6 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 also 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 married April 24, 1948, 65 years ago. They are together in heaven now.

Margaret Grejda Smith


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