By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Evelyn Shoop is a Sharpsburger if ever there was one. At 82, she’s lived nearly eight consecutive decades in Sharpsburg, and has watched the borough grow through World War II, women’s liberation and the neighborhood’s modern revival.
Shoop and her husband James raised two daughters in Sharpsburg in the 1950s and ’60s. After her daughters grew up, Shoop decided she wanted to have a career and went to the Floral Academy in Downtown Pittsburgh to become a certified florist. She would go on to open and run a flower shop independently for more than 20 years. She continues to be active in the community today, volunteering with St. Mary’s Church in Sharpsburg regularly.
What was your early life in Sharpsburg like?
Oh, it was wonderful. [The fire department] would block the streets so we could sled ride, and then they would hose the streets down and we would jump in the puddles. You had your neighborhood gang, and we always played out at night. There was a brewery up the street, Fort Pitt Brewery, and when the brewery whistle would blow at nine o’clock, that meant ‘Everyone get home!’
We were Second World War children, so we had drives where we collected any junk we could find. We would put it all in this one kid’s yard—my God, we wrecked his yard!—and a truck would come and take it away for the war effort. I actually wore a dog tag to school…because they were concerned that we could be invaded or bombed. So we wore them to school in case anything happened, they could identify us. It didn’t really scare us too much…we sort of accepted it, we were all like, “Get Hitler!”
What was it like to own a business as a woman in the 1970s?
I was 40 years old at the time, and I wanted to get a career, because I was always a housewife. I decided I wanted to work in a flower shop. So I went downtown and went to the Floral Academy, took the full course, then jumped in with two partners and opened a flower shop in Sharpsburg. That was The Flower Gallery.
When I was in my shop, I couldn’t get a Visa card without my husband’s name. In those days, you had to use your husband’s job and his references. And I retaliated, I said, ‘I want it in my name.’ So, the Floral Society of America offered me a Visa card, and I signed up for it and I got it. Wonderful! Well, my mother was a widow, and all the old ladies at church that were widows, they said, ‘Can you get us signed up? We want to order out of catalogues.’ So we got them all signed up!
Right now Sharpsburg seems to be in transition, if you will. Is there anything you’d like to see change?
The thing I miss about Sharpsburg is that, if you look at the storefronts, they’re so retro. It has that quaintness, we had hardware stores, grocers. I wish we could get a lot more of the little shops in that would be interesting. A phone shop, that’s nice, that’s good for the borough; a beer store, but how about some cute little shops, too?