Coal Dust Memory

Gumshoe awakened at “0-dark thirty” last night with this old adage on his sleepy mind, “Yesterday’s tomorrow’s are today’s past”. Hmmm? Sort of an earworm echo that took root inside of Gumshoe’s brain housing group.

No, my friends, Gumshoe had not been under the influence of any natural herb nor brewed hop nor of crushed grape or of distilled grain. No late-night cold pizza either. Maybe Gumshoe conked his noggin on the headboard during his dream adventures? Nope, no goose eggs evident and the bed frame was secure. Being two years embarked on the seventh decade on Gumshoe’s personal life travel log, Gumshoe was unconsciously just waxing upon days past.

The boatload of individual memories is chronically stored and neatly placed within the holds labeled nostalgia.

Gumshoe’s first memory at around age three or four was running around on the old varnished wooden floors on an old semi-Victorian and semi-Craftsman style home of my maternal grandmother Anna. This long passed razed edifice was at 41 Ruth Street. The house was situated within the old neighborhood of Mount Washington that overlooked the Golden Triangle (where the Allegheny River met the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River) of downtown Pittsburgh.

At the end of the block, there was (and still is) an operating incline that still draws tourists to this day. Gumshoe still has the memory of pedaling his bicycle down to the red-colored incline and getting a free round ride on the incline with its clanging all aboard bell and the smell of stale cigarette smoke from the enclosed glass passenger booth.

Grandma was of German descent and she arrived from what she called “the old country” as a young maiden of sixteen in an arranged marriage to her husband, August, who was in his early forties. No scandal folks. Sort of a family chapter taken from the example of European royalty progeny from the Middle Ages I suppose with lineages based on inter-family ties between city-states and countries. Long live the King, or Queen! Long-lived Grandma Anna!

Grandpa August died off after siring several kids with Granny Anna. Uncles Augie, Frank, Leo, Robert, and Eugene along with Aunt Anna Mae and my mom Rita Deloris. Whew! That was definitely a gang of crumb snatchers during the worst of the Depression. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Grandma Anna kept the house with the help of her sons and daughter. Housecleaning for Anna Mae and sent home money from my Uncles who went off to war. Hard times for sure.

When Gumshoe’s parents Dominic and Rita wed right after WWII. They were dirt poor and it was customary to move in with one’s in-laws. By this time only my Uncles Robert and Eugene and my Aunt Ana Mae along with my Uncle Frank’s daughter, who was called “Ducky” for some unknown reason lived at what was termed “The Big House”. Sort of the Walton Family in real life. My mother and father along with me and my brother Mike and sister Deloris all shared two upstairs rooms within the “Big House”.

Mike and I looked forward to “coal day” when the gigantic (to us wee ones) dump truck would back up to the large front porch. The two soot-colored workmen would pull out a long metal chute from beneath the truck that went directly to a basement portal. Then magically to our young eyes, the truck bed would rise up and the chute was full of coal that pored into the basement adjacent to the monster furnace. Mike and I were stationed on either side of the chute with the task of picking up errant coals that escaped the black cascade. We loved putting these refugees back onto the chute.

By the time the load was unloaded, Mike and I were both “black-faced” before it was ever considered an insult. Grandma would just laugh at our transformation to our mother’s chagrin.

My parents eventually moved out to a suburb and they had five more kids to join our tribe.

That my friends is just a memory snapshot from Gumshoe. More to be told in future’s tomorrows.

Always remember to love the ones who love you and even try to love the ones who don’t.

Coram Deo!


Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

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  1. Good memories, one’s that over time as each of pass, fade. But it is good to go back in time through storytelling and you did it quite well. I am certain there will be more. I love how you seem to have a special place in your heart for your grandma!

    • Thanks Linnie. My grandma graced me with many stories as she cooked and prepared authentic German cuisine. Her stories of being a young girl on a working farm in the old country were just captivating. She loved being an immigrant American. She always asked me to sing the Star Spangled Banner for her. She also taught me her Catholic faith and had hoped that I would have entered the priesthood, but God had other plans for Gumshoe.

    • It is too sad that many American’s no longer feel this way. Our country has fallen, but there is still hope for those who hold on to memories that brought about freedom and especially a love of family