McColloch’s Leap

In East Wheeling in the mid 1960’s there was a ‘bar’ on almost every corner.

But the word ‘bar’ isn’t all they were, they were also community centers. Places that glued the small neighborhoods together. Places where we got to know our neighbors, where we became a community.

Our bar was called ‘The Leap’.

The Leap sat on McColloch Street just at the top of a long hill that ran down to Eoff Street. In the other direction McColloch Street was flat. Across from the Leap was the local grocery store, ‘Henry’s’ and up the street, about five houses, was ‘Leo’s’ the barber (but those are other stories).

Seated on the left is the author’s father.

There were small apartments above the Leap, and one larger family apartment underneath. Cub and his two kids lived there. We all liked Cub, he was soft spoken, smart, and he cared. It showed in his kids.

Inside was was an old wooden bar. In the back were tables for gatherings or for playing euchre. The Pirates ball game was normally playing on the radio and a chalk board for recording the game R/H/Errors was behind the bar. Bob Prince giving the play by play.

Back before air conditioning, the doors were open on hot summer days. Kids running in and out every late afternoon, perhaps to buy a cold RC cola, or talk to a parent.

Helen, Jack, and their ugly pug dog ran the place. Helen and the dog sat all the way in the back. The dog looked like a small overinflated tan football with asthma. If Helen gave the word it would run over and try to bite you. Not that big of a worry though, all you had to do was lift your foot and that little wheezing football couldn’t get you.

Mr. & Mrs. W. sat on two stools near the middle. Mrs. W. always claiming she was only there so she wouldn’t smell the beer on her husbands breath.

‘Pickles,’ a small Italian man in his sixties was sometimes there. He walked everywhere, and fast! Even the kids couldn’t keep up with Pickles. ‘Where ya going Pickles?’ we would yell, and Pickles always would yell back. A trip of five or ten miles was nothing to him, he had the energy and legs of an athlete.

‘Whimpy,’ a very thin guy, lived above the Leap. He always wore a sailor’s hat. He looked like ‘Poopdeck Pappy’.

George and Dottie sat near the back with my dad. George drove a bus for a living and was a good friend of my dad.

They were all good people.

There were many others that time has erased. Looking back it’s surprising how much ‘us kids’ just ignored so many of the adults. We were too wrapped up in our own adventures and the grown-ups were just things to run around or avoid as we played our games and waited for the ice cream truck.

Some memories and some conversations, however, stuck. Outside of the Leap was a long bench built into the sidewalk. This wooden bench was under a shady sycamore and everyone liked to sit out there on hot days.

Once a very old fellow, I never knew his name, was sitting on the bench. He started to talk about McColloch Street when he was a lad. He had grown up on McColloch and now lived above the Leap. He sat on the bench and talked of a time that was still alive inside him. An important time, a time he wanted someone else to also see. He described how the street had been cobblestone and a slaughterhouse had been at the bottom of the hill. He talked of the ice wagons and meat carts rumbling up the long hill at dawn. The horses puffing clouds of steam like locomotives, the slow clopping noise of horseshoes on cobblestones as they pulled up the hill.

It’s been some fifty years since.

Keeping it alive, just a little longer, seems important.

7 Responses

  1. Patty Ciripompa

    Jack, once again you brought a long ago memory to life! Love the image of the horses and the ‘horseshoes on cobblestones.’ I can close my eyes and see them! Thanks for writing this – write more!

  2. Bruce Roxby

    Pickles was my step-grandfather. He was NOT Italian. His real name is Charles Lester Bickerton. He mother (my grandma Nana) Ella Bickerton lived in the last house on the left on E-11th st, just before the Duquesne Club Parking lot. She passed in 1958 (she was 88). I was born at 107 E-11th st in 1947. We moved from 127 E-11th st in 1953, when I was 6. Have many fond memories of the “Leap” and Tunnel Green. “Pickles” as I understand it lived at the Leap after Rt-2 destroyed what was left of Goosetown. He is buried beside his mother and father in the Peninsula Cemetery. He died in 1990 at the ripe old age of 96. All that walking did him good!!! And yes, he could pick them up and put ’em down. LOL

  3. Lynn (Jacovetty) Hetzel

    I have such wonderful memories of the LEAP.
    I spent a lot of time there with my buds, Patty W and Debby W.

  4. Shelly

    Thank you for the trip back in time. My great grandparent’s homestead was on the flat portion of McColloch St. They purchased the four room two story house with a basement and a cellar below that from the Reymond Brewery Co. in 1878. A kitchen was separate along side of the house. The cellar was not accessible at some point after the landfill raise the backyard leading down to Wheeling Creek. Before that Great Grandpa farmed land on the peminsula just across the creek. He eventually found work in the foundary there as a millwright and died in an accident crushed by a crane up against a wall.
    At one time the trolley ran past the house. Grandma would ride it to Wheeling Park where she met my grandfather at the dances held there.
    Thanks again for the peek into their past.

    • Anonymous

      I lived on McColloch St, just down from the Leap and remember running up to the Leap to get my Dad and Uncle Tom for dinner

Leave a Reply