Depression Era Brookline Boulevard - 1936

Brookline Boulevard, 1936.
Brookline Boulevard looking west from Chelton Avenue and the Brookline Monument.

Click on images for larger photos.

Here is a fascinating look at Brookline Boulevard in 1936. The country is mired in the Great Depression, and President Roosevelt would soon be entering his second term. Due to the strength of the steel industry, Pittsburgh was spared the worst economic hardship of the depression years, but things were still difficult.

The Boulevard itself was the center of the community at this time in history. Brookline was considered suburbia, being separated from the city by the hilly terrain of Coal Hill. Like most neighborhoods of the time, Brookline was self-sufficient, and a stroll along the Boulevard was like a walk through the suburban malls of today.

Brookline Boulevard, 1936.  Brookline Boulevard, June 1936
Brookline Boulevard looking west towards the intersection with Pioneer Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard, 1936.
Brookline Boulevard looking east towards the
intersection with Castlegate Avenue.

Brookline Boulevard, 1936.  Brookline Boulevard, June 1936
Brookline Boulevard looking east from near Pioneer Avenue (left) and looking west
from near the firehouse towards Pioneer Avenue (right).

Melman's Market - 1936
Triangle Grocers, at 924 Brookline Boulevard. The store would later become Melman's Super Market.

Elementary Schools were within walking distance. You never really had to leave the community. Most families did not own automobiles. Many would only travel on the occasional trip to downtown or to attractions like Forbes Field or Kennywood Park, easily accessible via the trolley network.

There were shops to cater to the various needs of the local population. There were grocery stores, soda shops, pharmacies, hardware stores, clothing retailers, cobblers, tailors, record stores, barber shops, five and dime stores, newsstands, auto mechanics, repair stores, a movie theatre, dentists, doctors, cigar stores, bars, nightclubs and much more.

Myer's Service Station - 1936

Myer's Service Station stood at the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Brookline Boulevard for several decades. Shown here in 1936, the station had ten underground tanks and sold five different brands of gasoline, which was a common practice in the 1930s.

The property was sold in 1976 and converted into a pizza shop, known as Giorgio's. The building stood until 1999, when construction on the CVS Pharmacy began.

Note: The home next to the gas station along Pioneer Avenue was originally located on the same ground as the station. In 1929 it was moved to the new location. That home was also demolished in 1999.

Brookline Pharmacy - 1936

This is Brookline Pharmacy at 502 Brookline Boulevard in 1936. After World War II, the pharmacy was taken over by Charles and Lois Haley. Chuck's uncle had owned the drug store and trained him as a pharmacist. Mr. and Mrs. Haley ran the Brookline Pharmacy together for forty years, until 1986, when the store was closed.

The Haley's outgoing and caring personalities were what made the Brookline Pharmacy a favorite among their patrons. Mrs. Haley recalls, "Our customers were like our family, and just like you help family whenever they need it, Chuck would get up at all hours to fill a prescription."

The business was expanded to incorporate the adjacent cafe at 504 Brookline Boulevard, and extensively remodeled, in the 1950s. The facade featured a pale gray ceramic clock in one corner and a large thermometer in the other corner. Brookline Pharmacy's clock and thermometer became Boulevard icons, easily visible to passing motorists and pedestrians.

Mr. Charles Haley  Mrs. Lois Haley - 2012.
Charles and Lois Haley, long-time owners of Brookline Pharmacy, located at 502-504 Brookline Boulevard, where
the present CVS Pharmacy stands. The Haley's ran the drug store for forty years, from 1946 to 1986.

The 504 side of the building was the pharmacy was located, operated by Mr. Haley. The 502 side was where a customer could find Mrs. Haley, tending to the needs of her little store. Together, the husband and wife team managed the family enterprise like a well-oiled machine.

At one time the pharmacy included a soda fountain, with booths and counter seating. Ice cream cones were five cents while sodas and milkshakes could be purchased for fifteen. An ice cream sundae would set you back twenty pennies (up from ten cents in 1936). For several years there was also a doctor's office and a dentist occupying the second floor of the structure.

Brookline Pharmacy Medicine Box

By 1960, the soda fountain had been removed, but there was still plenty of penny candy and other treats, like Whitman's chocolates. The candy and variety store remained a favorite place for the local children for the next three decades. Also, from 1972 through 1980, Brookline Pharmacy was the sponsor of a Brookline Little League team.

After nearly sixty years as the western bookend of the Brookline Boulevard commercial district, the Brookline Pharmacy closed it's doors in 1986.

Brookline Pharmacy building in 1999.
The old Brookline Pharmacy at 502-504 Brookline Boulevard before being razed in 1999.

In 1999, the building was razed to make room for a new CVS Pharmacy at the corner of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue. The modern commercial drug store chain may be more in keeping with the times, but it can never replace the charm and personal touch that the Haley family and Brookline Pharmacy brought to the community for over half a century.

Since retirement, and the passing of her beloved husband Charles, Lois Haley has remained active in community affairs. From working the polls on Election Day to helping with the many events at Resurrection Church, she remains a vibrant, spirited and caring individual.

Note: Mr. Charles Haley served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He was involved in five Pacific island invasions, including the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Brookline Boulevard, June 1936
A Sunoco station at the corner of West Liberty Avenue and Brookline Boulevard.

Life was truly different in yesteryear, but in many ways still the same. The Boulevard, through the decades, has still retained it's character and value to the citizens of Brookline. You can still browse the shops and find many of the amenities offered in the past. Although large malls have forced changes in the types of services available, you can still find much of what you need on Brookline Boulevard.

Like the days of old, if you are without transportation, the Port Authority bus service can still get you just about anywhere in the city that you want to go. It may lack the nostalgia and romance of riding the rails, but travelers can benefit from an air conditioned ride!

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