The McKeesport Kid
I had always been fascinated by birds but never thought about owning pigeons until Fred Zoerb and I began palling around together. We were neighborhood teenagers in McKeesport when one of Fred’s uncles, who raised homing pigeons, gave him a pair.
We acquired a few more, and soon Fred and I lost interest in anything other than pigeons. We prowled the alleys scouting backyard lofts where fanciers raised such winged racers. Sometimes owners invited us to come see their handsome birds close-up. Exciting!
Residential neighborhoods of the 1940s made such contacts easier. We lived in a close and quiet world of streets, alleys and square blocks where everyone knew everyone.
My father, perhaps believing my obsession was a good way to teach responsibility, built a small loft for me in the garage. Then, in an unexpected burst of good luck, Dad also became interested in the sport.
Suddenly, we were a team! We purchased some breeding stock and began studying pedigrees, matching the right hen with the right cock bird to produce the winners we thought would surely follow.
By now, I had a driver’s license and was allowed to occasionally use the family car for pigeon training. Fred and I would place several young birds in a travel crate, drive 10 miles away and release them one at a time to accelerate their natural homing instincts. When one of two failed to return we learned how to deal with despair.
On Sunday morning race days, Dad and I would sit in the sun on the back porch watching for the first sign of a pigeon arriving from some distant point in Ohio or Indiana. The club to which we belonged had shipped many entries out the night before. At sunup several hundred were released to begin heading to various home lofts. While waiting, we talked of many things, and I basked in the warmth of our special time together. Happily, my world then revolved around very little other than race birds and who would win the modest first place prize.