New Kensington,  Western Pennsylvania

Why Places Matter

I will always remember our Halloween this past Friday in Parnassus. Why? Two reasons:

1.)    We got over 200 trick-or-treaters at our house, just like last year and the year before that.

2.)    This was our newest nephew’s first Halloween. This boy might be the youngest resident of Parnassus.

You thought that I was going to list two negative things, didn’t you? After all, I live in Parnassus. Some bad things happened here in the last few months. People are scared right now. Even with the progress of the past month, I have some nervous neighbors. Also, it rained all night.

With all this, people still took their kids trick-or-treating here. In the cold rain. My in-laws only get a handful of trick-or-treaters each year at their own house on the hill, so they came down to visit. We had a little party while we handed out candy, waiting for our guys as they did a safety patrol for the fire department. My sister-in-law Marissa showed off her baby to the neighbors. Later, her father rocked the little boy to sleep in the room where Marissa got engaged to her husband two years ago on Christmas Eve.

While brings me to Good Thing No. 2: Our nephew just started his life here. The future of Parnassus already lives here.

Last year, I blogged about Jeffrey Simpson’s Parnassus memoir, “American Elegy: A Family Memoir.” Simpson wrote about his memories of spending time in Parnassus as a young child, and his memories from his last trip here.  He wrote in the last chapter:

Parnassus was gone, finally. Its name having been taken away sixty years before when it was consolidated with New Kensington, it had now decayed into a slum, the big old wooden houses partly veneered in garish sidings of purple, sky blue, and dirty pink, when I made the pilgrimage up the river one afternoon and drove through town under a lurid, thundery sky.

I disagreed, and still disagree.

Parnassus exists very much for some of us. For instance, my sister-in-law Marissa and I both spent much time here when we dated our husbands. We both posed for photos here on our wedding days. We both set up the first homes of our married lives here.  Now, Marissa’s son begins his childhood here. He will have his own memories of the neighborhood and the people in it.  He will see the way that these people treat each other. What if he eventually writes his own Parnassus memoir? What will he say?

Places matter because people matter.


  • Lou Ann Burford

    We lived in the 300 block on 5th Ave. when I was about nine years old. I went to Ft. Crawford, attended Girl Scouts in the beautiful Victorian Style Presbyterian Church and would walk up to Silverman’s Pharmacy, which was very classy at the time. It was a great little community then . The homes were one family, not apts. It is a shame that it has deteriorated so badly, but many very nice families still live there, my daughter being one. She loves her home and has put a great deal of money into it and doesn’t plan on moving.
    You and Jonathon are to be commended for your interest in the area……so much history to explore.

  • Jenny

    Thanks for commenting, guys! I apologize that I just saw these. To be honest, I think that I enjoy living in an older neighborhood because I am a history buff. I understand that living in a neighborhood such as ours isn’t for everybody. However, I really like the people here. All of my neighbors are what really makes this place a home.