Forest Hills' Pair Documents Community's History
Joel Bloom and Jody Shapiro published a book in the Arcadia series, "Images of America," focusing on their beloved neighborhood.
When Joel Bloom stumbled upon the Greensburg volume of "Images of America," a book series dedicated to neighborhoods across the country, he had mixed emotions.
He was thrilled his hometown was recognized in the collection, however he was disappointed that Forest Hills, where he currently lives, was not. So he and his wife, Jody Shapiro, decided to compile their own volume dedicated to Forest Hills.
Most of the books in the series published by Arcadia are a collection of local photographs accompanied with captions compiled by the town's historic society.
Since Forest Hills has no such organization, Bloom and Shapiro decided to become the unofficial historic society of the neighborhood. Over a period of about six months, they collected photographs from the borough's archives and from community members.
"Everyone we spoke with was eager to help," Bloom said.
People all over the area, including the late Peter Kliment, Jr., former owner of the famous Kliment Brothers Garage, contributed photographs and stories to the Forest Hills collection.
In May 2006, Bloom and Shapiro contacted Arcadia, sending them sample photographs and captions. Some iconic images in the book include the Westinghouse Atom Smasher, the Kliment Brothers Garage and Forest Hills Park, a photograph that Shapiro took as a little girl.
Bloom moved to Forest Hills in 2003 after meeting Shapiro, whose family had been in the neighborhood since 1958. Shapiro, a lifelong resident of the borough, was excited for the opportunity to share the history of her neighborhood.
Now they both strive to preserve the memories of Forest Hills and advocate their passion for personal history.
They attended a book fair Dec. 4 for Pittsburgh authors at the Heinz History Center and had the opportunity to speak with people about their enthusiasm for historical preservation. In addition, they spoke at the Wilkinsburg High School reunion about the importance of maintaining the people's history of a community.
The book contains pictures dating back to the early 1800s, images that defined the town as it was decades before. The Ford Dealership, now a Taco Bell, dons the cover of the book. There are photographs of the town's 50th anniversary Jubilee in 1969 at the Ardmore Shopping Center.
"It was a walk down memory lane for me," said Shapiro. "I had the opportunity to see things the way I remembered them from my childhood."
When the book was first released, Bloom and Shapiro held a book signing at the Forest Hills Coffee Company and sold 52 copies in just 90 minutes.
"With the recent passing of Pete Kliment, we realize we're really lucky with the timing of the book," Shapiro said. "With each death, a particular story dies too and that's why this documentation is so important to us."
In eight years, Forest Hills, incorporated as a borough in 1919, will be 100 years old. Bloom and Shapiro intend to compile a second volume for the occasion.
In addition, they've contemplated publishing volumes for other areas around them, including Churchill. The plans are not finalized, but they are determined to continue supporting local heritage.
Shapiro continues to collect artifacts from her childhood and Bloom often finds memorabilia on different websites.
They are constantly finding things to add to the borough's people's history, sharing the town's origins with the community.