Selections from the Teenie Harris Archive are sometimes shared with the public in unexpected ways. This week we highlight the photos currently displayed in the recently opened SHOP ‘n SAVE market, in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Seeing Teenie Harris images as you gather your groceries along the aisles of the new structure ties the past to the present in comfortable style. For those of us who grew up in the Hill District during Teenie’s prime, it was an all too common occurrence to bump into him taking photos on assignment for the Pittsburgh Courier, capturing newsworthy moments, entertainment, sports, social events, or personal portraits. And quite often, while you were shopping, as well.
When I was a youngster in the early 1960s, milk was delivered daily to your doorstep by the milkman, dressed all in white clothing. In addition, your local huckster stopped by your block several times a week with fresh produce and meat. To my delight, while browsing through the Archive several years ago, I happened to find a photo Teenie captured of the huckster (Phil Argento) I anxiously waited for several times a week as a little girl. This curbside shopping was accompanied by the small grocery stores that occupied many street corners in the neighborhood. But we also would take a trip to the big grocery chain store, which was at that time considered a far drive—about a mile or so away. At the big market we could indulge in fancy cheeses, unique produce like pineapples flown in from Florida, or California oranges. And my personal favorite—red Faygo soda pop—it was my treat if I behaved properly while on the shopping excursion. In those days, you wore nice clothes and perhaps even white gloves, and gentlemen helped you push your cart out of the store, even placing the bags in your car.
Times have obviously changed, and the Hill District, like all the other neighborhoods, lost their hucksters and milkmen long ago. But sadly even the large grocery chain lying within a close distance had disappeared for way too long. With the opening of the new SHOP ‘n SAVE, it offers easier access to the Hill residents, especially for those who must tote their packages on public transportation or pay for jitneys or other cab services. How appropriate that some of its native son’s photos are now hanging in this particular store. I think about how often Teenie was seen shooting photos in the very spot where the store sits today, and all along Centre Avenue where his studio once existed. And how awesome it is that his photos of a streetcar on Herron Avenue, jazz musicians, children crossing the street from school or eating a humble meal, and a former store of the 15219 area code were selected to tie two centuries together. Having known Teenie, I would venture to say he would be proud, not particularly because of how artistically (in fact) he captured such scenes, but more so that the Hill District now had a place to call its own, once again.