The first place where I used to live is the apartment house I nicknamed "China Beach," after my favorite television show in those days. The real China Beach in Vietnam was a "Rest and Relaxation" (R-and R) area for our troops there, and the house and grounds were my R-and-R area from work. Royersford in the late 1980s was a quiet backwater in Limerick Township, Montgomery County, a little under fifty miles from Philadelphia. There was a lot of farm land nearby and the Lakeview Amusement Park about three miles away. I had great landladies, or "landpersons" as I called them. Jackie, a computer tech, I called "Jackson." Sue had a career as a high school physical education teacher and coach of girls' teams like field hockey, so I called Sue "Coach." The neighbors were all great, too.
When I first got to Oil City in 1989, I lived in another location not too far away from the Crestview Apartments. We'll visit that interesting place next, but this is where I haved lived for the past 15 years, but for the past two years I've lived here mostly on parts of weekends. I say parts of weekends because I split time at my late mother's place while she was in assisted living, and now until the Estate is settled. I am there, in Parker, Pennsylvania, as I type this. Moving into Crestview was the fulfillment of an ambition, as I wanted to move in here the first time I saw the place after moving to Oil City, but had to improve my financial situation before it could be possible. "Ambition! Who among us is without flaw?" (Master Po in Kung Fu).
Crestview is actually built on two terraces carved out of the side of a steep ridge that runs along the south bank of the Allegheny River. That ridge, and a flat section below it, comprise the South Side of Oil City. The first terrace holds the apartment building. The terrace behind the apartment building accomodates parking, both open and in car ports. To get into the building from the parking terrace, tenants have to cross concrete walking bridges as the ground floor is lower than the parking area terrace. This looks strange from an aerial photograph, and there are a couple on the Terraserver Web site. Just put 716 Innis Street, Oil City, Pennsylvania in the search engine at Terraserver. This is the residence from which Mary Stu's Tavern was planned, designed, and frequently updated.
The nickname "AARP Terrace" came from the fact that most of the residents were retired couples, widows, or widowers, the first 12 years I was here. They were great neighbors, especially Tom and Geri Moynihan, who lived across the hall from me the first five years I was here. Geri, who was like a second Mom to me, passed away in 1999. I have lost most of these nice people in the past three years. With the declining real estate market, there are younger people moving in now. Times change, I guess.
As you can see in the photo, there is a blue colored beam jutting out from the upper floors of the house, just above the top floor front windows. This beam was used in the 19th Century and early 20th Century to haul bales of hay up into what was once the hayloft of the horse stable belonging to rich people who lived in the mansion on the street just below this one. Hence the nickname, "The Seabiscuit Hilton." Just like with Crestview Apartments, people built on the side of this long, steep ridge by digging out "terraces" into the side of the ridge. The mansion was on the lower terrace facing the street below. The stable was in back of the mansion, on the street above. Sometime a few decades into the 20th Century, someone converted this stable into a rental property. One big apartment upstairs, and two smaller ones below. Mine was through the ground floor door closest to the camera, Apartment 44 on Lee's Lane. Mine was very spacious, with the bedroom and bath one step up from the huge living room. The place was a fortress. My living room window was so far above the ground that a burglar would need a cherry picker to get in, one of the effects of the terraces. Coming in the front door was no good. The thing was so thick and solid, it would be hard to get in with anything short of a chain saw. All the trees around the place provided air conditioning in the summers. It was comfortable for my first five years in Oil City, and in a lot better shape than these photos taken in 2009. The owner has relocated to Florida, and doesn't come back too often. Selling the place wouldn't be a good move right now as there are many unsold homes in this area, and foreclosures are on the rise.
What was really good about living here was my best friend worked in Deemer's Store at the end of the street, and just up Central Avenue. I could stroll over there to pick up a lunch while working at home on a report, or taking a little leave. My friend, Clytie, made a really good broccoli salad. A little conversation with Clytie about how her six kids and husband were doing, what was happening around town during the week I was gone were among the highlights of those days. In the early fall, I could snag pears from a tree that was growing right alongside the street. Deemer's Store got sold shortly after Clytie and her family moved away in 1996. The move has worked out for them as there were more opportunities for both Clytie and her husband to build a better life for their family. Clytie keeps in touch with old friends through Facebook, and I recently found her there and joined the social networking site to keep up with her and the family more often. A lot has happened since they moved away. Deemer's Store went through several owners, then gave in to the heavy competition from convenience store chains that expanded into the area. It has been closed for several years now.
One look at the photograph of my living room window in the Willowbrook Apartments gives you the impression of why I called the place "The Hobbit Hole." It was a studio, one large room with a bath. I saved space by storing everything, such as books and records, vertically on shelves. The owners were renovating in 2009, which is why the big dumpster was outside when the photograph was taken. There are earlier pictures, but I can't find the negatives to have them printed to disk. Since I was a commuter in those days, and got to come back every night after work in nearby Mount Pleasant, I even had a plant for awhile, and a stray cat that would come by every so often to score some milk or tuna fish. I named the cat "Rooney," but it only came around once in awhile. My pets have always been like that, if you call them pets, like the grey squirrel I used to feed on my window sill in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They drop by for a snack, take a nap, and leave, low maintenance animals.
The Hobbit Hole was a good place for someone in their mid-twenties. It was easy to maintain, and just enough room to stretch out. Something was making the TV cable line "leak" its transmissions, so I found cable was possible by keeping the rabbit ear of my television touching the wall. My neighbors were nice, especially the Trigonmetry teacher who lived across the hall. She taught me a lot about apartment living. Now, I am good friends with one of her former students. She still teaches today, but not in Pennsylvania.
It was in this apartment that I became a fan of Big Band music, which I remain today, but also like most of the modern stuff, too. I was forced to move out of Willowbrook when a flash flood hit the area in 1979, and moved to Mount Pleasant for a brief period before taking another job and moving away from Greensburg, taking mostly good memories with me.
When my mother moved into assisted living in October 2007, I had to split every weekend and vacation between Crestview Apartments and the home my parents lived in starting in 1978. It was my job to supply security, keep the place clean, maintained, and the bills paid. I also visited my mother every weekend at the assisted living residence, which was about 70 miles away from this location. This meant lots of time logged behind the wheel between work during the week and every weekend. As the huge oak trees indicate, the fall was a demanding time as there was always a bumper crop of leaves to clean up into December. If one of those branches ever fell, it would bash the place open like a raw egg. The next door neighbor keeps the grass cut as long as I keep the gas can full. That's a good deal. Friends and the neighbors help maintain security during the week. I probably spent more time here than at Crestview the past two years, which the management there noted more than once, but I kept the rent bill paid. It was like paying for storage for all my "stuff."
I'm still on duty here part-time every weekend and during vacations. I've managed to get reacquainted with some of my high school classmates who are still living in the area.