A Life in the Highlands

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by Louise Ulinski (as told to Anne Cornell)

In April of 1955, Louise Ulinski, a 25-year-old mom with a toddler and a baby on the way, moved with her family into a new three-bedroom, one-story, brick home on the corner of South Garner Street and McCormick Avenue. The family included husband Ray, 34, and 2-year-old son Gary. A baby daughter, Ann Marie, soon joined the family. Louise still lives in that house today.

Louise Callahan graduated from State College High School in 1948 and went to work in retail. She was hired by Temple Market on Beaver Avenue in 1950. Ray Ulinski first arrived in State College in 1941 on a Penn State football scholarship. After his freshman year, young Ray went off to serve in WWII. In 1946, he returned to Penn State to play football and finish his degree. Ray played on Penn State’s storied unbeaten 1947 team that went on to tie SMU in the Cotton Bowl. He was recruited by the Pittsburgh Steelers, went to training camp, but did not make the final cut. Ray returned again to Penn State, got his degree (Phys. Ed. ’50), and began his career as a Penn State swimming instructor and varsity athletic trainer. Ray rented an apartment on Beaver Avenue and bought his groceries at Temple Market, where he met and started dating Louise Callahan. After Louise and Ray married in 1952, they also lived on Beaver Avenue.

Ray’s boss at Penn State was Chuck Medlar (of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park fame). In 1953, Chuck Medlar and his wife Polly built a house at the corner of South Garner Street and Waring Avenue, an area then known as the “Highlands Extension.” In 1954, Medlar convinced Ray that buying the lot next to his and having a house built by the Amish builder who was doing some additional work on Chuck’s house would be a good deal for both Chuck and Ray. The Ulinskis bought their lot for $2,000 from Anne Hamilton Henszey (heir to the remainder of the original Hamilton farm – “The Highlands”). S. E. Peachey Builders from Belleville finished the house in the spring of 1955. When the Ulinski family moved in, Medlar’s house was the only other home on their block; McCormick and Waring Avenues were unpaved; there was no University Drive; and the unfinished section of Easterly Parkway was a ditch that filled with water when it rained. Easterly Parkway Elementary School and the new State College Area High School on Westerly Parkway had just been completed.

As the Ulinski children grew, more homes were built in the Highlands Extension, more children moved into the neighborhood, and the Ulinski’s backyard swing set and sandbox were a popular gathering place. As the years went on, neighborhood kids walked the path together that led over to Easterly Parkway school, and in time the newly-paved sidewalks that led to State College Area High School, and eventually many walked to Penn State.
Louise and Ray made many friends during their years in the Highlands. Early friends have moved away and many have died. Louise, widowed since 2008, still enjoys living in the house she moved into as a young mom sixty-two years ago, making improvements to her home, caring for her cat, tending her flower beds, spending time with her children, driving to lunch with friends, and doing good deeds for her “new” neighbors.

Anne Cornell is Louise Ulinski’s long-time neighbor. She lives in the house that Chuck Medlar built and is a member of the “Hearts in the Highlands” editorial board.