In Memory

Allan Haffner

Allan Haffner

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07/14/17 05:51 PM #1    

Jim Docherty

Al and I were friends throughout high school. Every morning my dad dropped us off at school and after school we walked home together. We spent time at each other's houses; I knew his family and he knew mine.

His parents were lenient and mine were strict. He was heavy and I was skinny. He was Jewish and I was Methodist. He was confrontational and I was compromising. We rarely had any classes together. But we were at the same station in life,  and we had common interests in music, cars, and sports. We had common interests in girls too, but at the time, they weren't very interested in us.

Al had an excellent sence of humor and a high-pitched laugh that was contagious. He did a great impersonation of Coach Fullum. We often made each other laugh.

We had almost identical taste in pop music, which was important to us at the time. At age 13 we were big Elton John fans. We recorded Ben Fong-Torre's interview with Elton and listened to it over and over - the we laughed at each other as we attempted our Elton John impersonations. We moved on to the Doors, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Tull, Allman Brothers, etc. as we grew older. We became Jim Morrison fans. We recorded each other's music and had extensive record collections. We both bought heavy duty stereo systems.

Al loved to play football. We'd play pick-up games in our neighborhood and also with classmates at Mellon and Frick parks. Dave Odle set up most of those games. Al was a calming influence on some of the hotheads that pplayed with us. I appreciated that. Al would sometimes play street hockey with us at Colfax school as well.

Al confided some very personal things to me; not bad things, but things that I don't feel comfortable writing about here. He trusted me.

What I remember most about Al is that he loved to do things that would create lasting memories, particularly if it involved risk. At first, I argued against these delinquent adventures, then eventually succumbed to the pressure.This included sneaking out in his mother's '64 Dodge Dart at age 15 and hot rodding around Squirrel Hill (except that this car was no hot rod). Later, with a driver's license, in his '68 Impala complete with fat tires and Thrush mufflers - we were loud if not fast. But the lack of horsepower did not deter Al. We would race against faster cars, but Al would hang in until the opponent was unwilling to run at the speed that Al was willing to go. I remember barreling down West Street in Homestead which has a similar contour to Kennywood's Jackrabbit , trying to catch some air. We were lucky that the car survived the punishment and that we weren't killed in the process. Lots of other kids did that too. We called it "maniacing" (driving like a maniac). "He went maniacing down Beechwood Boulevard" we would say.

One day we cut school and drove to Deep Creek Lake and played a round of miniature golf. I won a free game that day. I thought that was cool. On the way home, we lost a race to a red '66 Chevelle SS - the driver just wouldn't chicken out. Flying down Summit hill in Uniontown at 95 mph, where, according to the sign, four people were killed in previous truck accidents, Al gave up. I understand that all of this was reckless, but that's what we did in those days.

When we were 16 Al heard that there was a beer distributor in Homewood that didn't check ID, so we became regular customers. I expected the police to be right around the corner every time. They weren't.

We set up a pub in the woods behind my house and furnished it with old lawn chairs. We named it the "Hard Rock Cafe" (we used this name BEFORE the restaurant chain - it comes from a Door's album). The local kids frequented this place. There were cameo appearances by Jon Garret, Stu Stephen, Ron Tepper, and Kenny Bell, and I'm sure there were others that I can't remember.

After graduation, I went to Pitt and Al went to work. We didn't keep in touch. Both of us had finally figured out how to talk to girls, and our friendship became less important.

I wish we had remained close. I'd like to know what kind of music he listened to over the years, to share favorite YouTube videos the same way we used to share records, to hear some stories about his wife and kids, and to laugh with him about the stupid things we did. I wonder if he ever talked to his kids about our adventures. I know I didn't.

It was difficult to go to his funeral. I spoke with his brother Dave for a while. All I could say to his mother was "I'm sorry"

Now, at age 57, many of these stories are somewhat embarrassing to me, and I'm not sure that Al would want me to write about all of this today. Back then, he loved it. That's the Al Haffner that I grew up with. Relative to me, Al was fearless. Being his friend was dangerous, and fun.

Whatever our differences were, he made it easier for me to get through my teenage years. He was a good friend when I really needed one. If he were still around today, I'd thank him for his humor, his laughter, his trust, and above all, his friendship.

Rest in peace, Al.










07/15/17 11:29 AM #2    

Susan Hohman (DeSanzo)


So nice to hear a fleshed out version about Alan.  He sat next to me in Mr. Buterbaugh's physics class, and we had a great time snickering about various things that went on in "Boot's" class.  I knew Ronnie Tepper a little bit also, through a boyfriend at the time. Thanks for your lovely background on a dear high school buddy.

07/15/17 03:01 PM #3    

Michael Goldstein

Thanks for sharing the stories about Al! He lives on through these stories. 

07/15/17 05:07 PM #4    

Tina Napolitano

I love that Jim Docherty shared this with us.  I never knew Al well -- and I would never have supposed that he had "maniacing" in him, and he always struck me as shy.  My most distinct memory of him was his beautiful smile and his infectious laughter. So sorry he won't be with us this weekend.

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