PITTSBURG — A married couple walked through the door at Root Coffeehouse with cameras strapped around their neck Tuesday. They purchased two cups of joe and a bagel with cream cheese and sat down at a small table near the windows.
Steve Piper and his wife Julie Gelfand — freelance photographers — were visiting Pittsburg to see family for a brief time before going to their next destination.
Their trip, which began at their home in Rochester, New York, is part of a month long journey to see friends and travel. They just so happened to both have an entire month of free time in their schedule.
So, they packed up their car and drove toward Toronto, driving on through Canada, which was a shortcut to Detroit where their friend lives nearby.
They stopped here and there along the way to Pittsburg. In fact, they are no strangers to the area. Steve grew up in Pittsburg, went to school at Pittsburg State University, where he studied English, and played with bands around town. His wife lived here briefly after the couple met in St. Louis.
But that was 48 years ago, give or take, Steve said.
They still visited with family in the area periodically, however the Downtown area has rapidly changed over the past several years.
As they sat in the coffee shop the couple tried to remember what store used to be where and what’s still around.
“Harry’s is still here, Otto’s is still here,” Steve and Julie started listing off.
“It’s cool that they are redoing the Fox,” Steve added. “When I was a kid there was a movie theater on the other side of the street but I can’t remember which building.”
Steve said he remembers watching “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” in the theatre and being scared.
At one point, Steve lived in an apartment near Block22, he said, then peeked out the window to see where it was. Steve remembers the days when the city put outdoor speakers up and down Broadway and they played “happy music 24 hours a day,” he said.
“Right outside my apartment — as a musician back then getting home at 3 a.m. — and around 5 o’clock in the morning I would hear happy music,” he said chiming the words “happy music.”
Well he “took care of” the speaker outside his apartment, and 20 years later it still has not been reconnected.
“We don’t hear that music anymore, they must have realized that guy was correct, we don’t need it,” Steve said.
Steve also shared memories about the Tower Ballroom where he played on Friday nights and at times nearly 300 or more people showed up to be entertained.
He got his start in photography, hence the camera, working at the Collegio at PSU. Steve and Julia later both completed a masters degree program where they studied at Rochester Institute of Technology, in New York state, where they also raised their two daughters and became photography partners.
Next stop, Texas.