In a previous column I remember writing that “Ed Weise was the best ‘best friend’ a teen-aged boy could ever have”. And indeed he was; his passing has triggered an avalanche of memories for me. Despite being saddened by his death, it is easy for me to celebrate his life and the portion of it that he shared with me.
Ed was less than nine months older than me, but his big-brotherly wisdom and counsel would have been appropriate for someone with far more years. He was the accepted leader of the kids in our neighborhood and a major influence on all of us.
At some point a group of us were recruited by Eddie Croft to join Boy Scout Troop 245. Ed, his cousin Paul Rankin, Bob Harris, and I formed the nucleus of the Owl Patrol. Ed’s family donated a vacant room in their basement to serve as our Patrol headquarters.
Scouting was a natural activity for us. We had grown up spending lots of time in the natural paradise “down over the hill”. The hillside beyond Chartiers Street, the meadows at its bottom, the valley leading up to the “Indian Tunnel”, and the Blue Ponds served as our very own Yellowstone Park.
We established a campsite on the end of the ridge south of the Indian Tunnel and regularly “slept out” there. We built a small lean-to shelter and used it as a base for feeding wildlife during the winter. One year we decided to establish a trap-line and earn money trapping muskrats. We scraped together enough money to buy three traps (unfortunately the wrong size) and locate them along Chartiers Creek, under the roots of sycamore trees. After months of checking them each morning and finding no muskrats, we gave up.
Easily the most memorable experience that Ed and I shared was hiking on the Appalachian Trail two successive summers. In 1946 we spent four days hiking south from Pine Grove Furnace to Pen Mar, on the Maryland border. A year later we returned to Pen Mar and hiked another four days south to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, traversing Maryland from north to south.
This was long before the days of backpacking and the availability of lightweight equipment and food; our sixty pound packs were quite a load for a couple of skinny kids. We each carried half of a pup tent, a change of clothing, and enough food for four days. Our larder consisted of noodle soup, bacon, cereal, ham, Vienna sausages, and potatoes.
Both years my father drove us down to our starting point. The first year we rode a Blue Ridge Lines bus back to Pittsburgh where Ed’s dad met us. The second year we moved up a level and rode back home on a B & O passenger train.
Ed’s family lived in the original Weise homestead at 1200 Bank Street. Built in 1924, it was as close to being a mansion as one could find in Bridgeville. A lovely house, I was particularly impressed with the fact it had a wine cellar and a billiards room. It was eventually razed and replaced by an apartment complex.
There was a large field between the Weise house and Chartiers Street where all the neighborhood children played softball. Long before the days of “inclusion” these games were open to all ages and both genders. Often we would play “Rounders”, a special version of softball that gave everyone the chance to play every position. Whenever a batter or runner made an out, he/she moved to right field, the right fielder moved to center, etc., with the catcher then becoming a batter.
Ed was an extremely positive person; his glass was always half-full, never half-empty. When one of us would complain bitterly if we had to wait twenty minutes for a show to start; Ed would reply. “Twenty minutes? I could stand on my head that long!”
It was a fortunate day in 1913 for Bridgeville when Ed’s grandparents, Edmund and Alma Weise, decided to settle here. Their nine children and twenty grand-children quickly became one of Bridgeville’s most influential families. When we were teenagers, Ed had seventeen cousins living within six blocks of his home, six of them within one block.
Nearly everyone in Bridgeville had a large number of cousins in those days. Mary Weise once remarked, “Be careful what you say about anyone in Bridgeville; the person you are talking to is probably his cousin”.
Sadly, one of Ed’s close neighbor cousins, Ralph Weise, also passed away very recently. Like Ed, Ralph was a credit to the Weise name. A Civil Engineering graduate from Carnegie Tech, he had two commendable careers. He married high school classmate Carol Green and devoted sixty-one years to being an exemplary husband, father, and grandfather. In addition, he compiled an impressive record working for the Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District, eventually being responsible for operation and maintenance of their thirty-nine dams.
Ed went into the service in 1952 and was stationed at Fort Meade, where he met Margaret, a lovely young lady who would become his wife and life partner for the next sixty-seven years. The miracle of their marriage and life together is a good argument for folks who believe in predestination, or guardian angels, or even fairy godmothers; they certainly were meant for each other.
Ed and Margaret lived near Canonsburg for many years, rearing two children. Ed worked as a procurement engineer for US Steel and several prominent engineering firms in Pittsburgh before retiring. In his spare time, he was an expert handyman, an excellent gardener, and an avid hunter. A few years ago they moved into a retirement community in Martinsburg, Pa., close to their daughter Claudia.
Everyone who knew Ed at any stage of his life cherished his friendship. I was fortunate to have him as a best friend in my difficult teen-age years.
This series of columns is archived on the Bridgeville Area Historical Society Website under the masthead title “Water Under the Bridge” and also is available on the “Bridgeville.org” website. Readers wishing to receive individual digital copies each Thursday should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.