Ruth Ayers. "Half-pint street: Forty-third and Half unique thoroughfare in Lawrenceville: Though small in size and only half there, miniature avenue teems with excitement, life of other places." Pittsburgh Press, June 25, 1934, p. 21. Newspapers.com 146679419.
A metropolis springs up about them, but secluded in their own little nooks, they go about their life in a calm, peaceful way, unbothered by the hustle and bustle of it all. These unusual places, located in the heart of the city, are described in a series of stories of which this is the first.
Lawrenceville has a little street with a unique name.
It is Forty-third and a Half Street, inserted between Forty-third and Forty-fourth.
Half-pint in size, it has about everything a full-time street in a busy industrial section could ask.
Laughs and tears, lucky breaks and unlucky ones, drabness and color. Reaching three blocks from Eden down to the railroad tracks on the banks of the Allegheny River, it is a little world unto itself. Yet when any residents are called upon to give their address, they are usually misunderstood. They are asked, "Did you say 'Forty-third and a Half'? Is that a joke or a fact?"
Name Was Changed
It is a fact and has been so since a long time ago when one of the last wooden bridges in this part of the country was spanning the river at the foot of the street. Then the cobbled thoroughfare was known as Snowden Way. Because another street on the North Side had the same name, a Lawrenceville group petitioned for a new name. Forty-third and a Half was chosen.
There are a few old-timers on the street but changing economic conditions make the population shifting. Hucksters, laborers, bakers, a paperhanger and a watch repairer—these are some of the trades represented.
Although closely crowded, a few back yards have frequently been utilized for gardens and even livestock.
One family, for instance, where the youngest son bought a raffle ticket at a corner street carnival, went into the livestock business unexpectedly. For the lad won the raffle and the prize was a pig. It was small enough then to be taken home in his arms. Imagine the squeelings [sic] the young porker let out when he found himself in a postage-stamp plot in a back yard! And what the neighbors must have said! But the lucky boy refused to part with his prize.
Pigs and Pigeons
The pig stayed, growing fat despite the crowded quarters, smoke and soot, and noise of humming mills.
On the day it was slaughtered and its meat cut in quarters and hung in the yard to dry, there was an impromptu neighborhood celebration.
The pig had grown from a fat, squealing handful to a pompous animal weighing 500 pounds—providing plenty of pork chops and roasts for the family.
If there are many Pittsburghers who are unacquainted with Forty-third and a Half Street, there is a flock of pigeons familiar with it. For the Willow Loft coops are on this street, owned by Anthony Cygnarowicz, 21.
Gardens There, Too
Ever since he was a small boy, Anthony Cygnarowicz has been raising and training pigeons. "Blue Checkerbird" one of his best carriers, has won several prizes in the West Penn Club's flights. In training them, the Lawrenceville young man usually takes his birds to West Virginia by auto and then lets them find their way back by the river. They take the course of the river and are usually home ahead of him.
Forty-Third and a Half Street has other pigeons, although not so much on the wing. On occasions neighbors have had chicken coops and even tried to keep ducks.
Others favor horticulture—on a small scale, of course. The Mostowa family lives on Forty-Fourth Street but their back yard comes down to the half-size street so it can be credited on the catalogue of achievements. The garden is dollhouse size, with neat white-washed fences and trim patches. In good weather, it has yielded enough for the family's table during the summer.
There's excitement occasionally—like the time a bull from a nearby slaughter house got loose on the streets and children went scattering like so much confetti before the wind. They gave much credit that day to the young worker who finally swung a lasso over it and brought it back to the pen.
The residents on the street have known the depression but they have been co-operative in sharing what they had with less fortunates.
Free Hair Cuts
An unemployed truck driver developed quite a penchant for hair cutting so he opened a "barber shop." Not a white-tiled place with movable chairs and shining mirrors—but a plainly furnished room in one of his relative's [sic] home. Here with a sheet, a pair of scissors and a kitchen chair, he trimmed the straggling locks of the boys in the neighborhood or made the men appear more presentable when they went to look for jobs. He didn't charge anything. It was his way of lending a hand in difficult days.
At the foot of the street, facing the tracks, the back yard of the Runco's house comes into Forty-third and a Half Street—so even if the family's address is on Forty-fourth Street, they can still be included in the Half Street side.
Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Runco claim the distinction of having the largest family—10 sons and four daughters, a family of 14 to gather around the table of an evening.
Do Things in Full-Size Way
It is difficult in winter to keep the younger ones supplied with shoes and stockings, mittens and warm coats on the limited wages which the father earns, the mother said. In the summer it is not so bad, when the boys and girls can go barefooted. There's a swimming pool on the river not far away and the problem of keeping cool takes care of itself—both for the Runco children and the others in the neighborhood.
So there's nothing half-way about this cobbled strip of a street in Lawrenceville, either in size of families or scope of interests—and there's not one who lives there who would want to change its provocative name.Tomorrow—The Town Under the Bridge.