The Pittsburgh region is rich in memorable characters. With so many folks returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday and remembering all over again why they love this place, I thought I’d give video props (see below) to one of my favorites: Cathy Gamble, crossing guard at the corner of 44th and Butler Streets in Lawrenceville.
A few years ago, I happened to be sitting behind the wheel of my car at the interminably long traffic light there, growing increasingly cranky as the seconds hung in the air. I was late (as always) for some appointment (early morning — worse and worse) in Oakland. The chirpy “good mornings” brought my attention from the drizzly horizon to the figure of a woman clad in an ankle-length bright yellow raincoat, flitting from corner to corner, white-gloved hands locomoting to some joyous, transportation-driven rhythm that was lost on me.
“What’s she got to be so damned happy about?” I thought. The red light beamed on, and my irritation gave way to wonderment: this lady is over the top. An unknown name is no barrier to a cheery greeting: “Hi, Honey-on-the-Bike!” ” ‘Morning, Honey-with-the-Dog!” Kisses blown to the grizzled occupants of a racketing Department of Public Works pickup truck.
Cathy’s good cheer breaks down defenses and is contagious. In falling under her spell, I’m hardly alone; parents go out of their way to bring their kids to Cathy’s corner. We caught up with her a few weeks ago to find out why she’s so chipper, heedless of wind and weather.
Cathy also tends bar a few nights a week at Nied’s Hotel in Upper Lawrenceville. That place is a whole ‘nother story that we’ll share with you at a later date.