....with a stop-over in Philadelphia to attend my 50th high school reunion.
My 1969 high school year book, The Rose. Note the psychedelic color scheme, which was in vogue at that time.
Tom and I arrived in Philly on Friday evening, picked up our rental car and drove across town to our hotel, The Radisson on the Roosevelt Boulevard in Far Northeast Philadelphia.
We chose a hotel in this location because we’d decided to spend a day visiting the old Northeast neighborhoods where I grew up, and from which I drew the inspiration for my novel, “Equal and Opposite Reactions.”
In fact our hotel was located across the Boulevard from the old Lincoln Hotel, where Tom and I had our rehearsal dinner the night before we were married.
Though, in truth, The Lincoln was looking a bit more down-at-the-heels than I recalled it looking the night of our rehearsal dinner 42 years ago.
The following morning, Saturday morning, while driving down the Boulevard looking for a breakfast eatery we soon came upon an IHOP, where we found the food and service to be exceptionally good.
After breakfast we headed out to our first destination, The Old House on Barnett Street.
I grew up in two houses, The Old House on Barnett Street and The New House, though after a while The New House was no longer referred to by us as The New House, and became just our house.
The Old House on Barnett Street was located in Lower Northeast Philly - Lower referring to the most southern areas closer to downtown - in the neighborhood known as Mayfair.
Far Northeast Philly, on the other hand, refers to the most northern areas of the Northeast. The New House was located in the Somerton neighborhood of the Far Northeast.
So we drove south along the Roosevelt Boulevard, "...the great artery that pumped twelve lanes of traffic through the heart of Northeast Philadelphia," (That's a quote from my book, page 11).
...until we arrived in Mayfair, at which time we turned off the Boulevard and cruised some of the streets of my childhood, marveling now, as I never did when I was young, at the great number and variety of row houses.
We decided to park next to St. Timothy's Catholic Church at the corner of Levick and Battersby Streets, which is next to St. Timothy's school, my old elementary school, then walk from there back to the house on Barnett, re-tracing the route I used to walk to school.
I was likewise never aware when I was young of what a magnificent structure my parish church was,
...including the rectory,
...and the grade school,
In the dreams I still have about St. Tim's it's an enormous building in which I'm very small and lost among the hallways and stairwells.
But in revisiting the place 57 years later, I can see that it's not just a matter of its size having been amplified by my childhood memories: St. Timothy's- now Blessed Trinity - really is a big school.
And yet, for all its size, when I was growing up St. Tim's accommodated only the Catholic portion of the neighborhood children.
Directly across the street from St. Timothy's was the even bigger public school, Ethan Allen, Northeast Philadelphia being a teeming East Coast population center when I was young, as it still is today.
After we'd looked over St. Tim's we crossed Hawthorne and walked down Levick towards Barnett Street,
...crossed Frankfort avenue,
...on the other side of which began Barnett Street, our block of which was six row houses bounded by the Devon at Frankfort Avenue,
When I was 6 years old the Devon switched from being a conventional movie theater to a porn house. The nuns at St. Timothy's told us the Devon had turned into a bad place and to cover our eyes if we ever had to pass by it. As I had to pass by the Devon every day on my way home from school and whenever I walked around the block, which was probably every day as well, I always covered my eyes, at least until I got tired of always having to cover my eyes, after which I just tried not to look at the display posters as I passed by. Sometimes I looked at the dirty posters anyway, just because it was too hard not to. However I don't recall learning anything in particular from the posters.
One time when I was strolling around the block by myself as I often did, I caught two boys lighting matches that they had wedged into the doorway. I figured they were trying to burn the Devon down because it was such a bad place. After they ran away I hurried over to the door of the Devon and, my heart pounding in fear of the building exploding into fire, quickly blew out all the matches.
And what used to be a row of businesses along Frankfort Avenue, a shoe store, a pizzeria, an appliance store and a couple other small commercial establishments, is now part of the Kingdom Life Christian Center.
...is now a Republican Party office.
However the view of the other side of Frankfort Avenue looked surprisingly the same as I remembered it from 60 years ago, though I expect the businesses have changed since then.
We walked around the corner to the alley that ran behind the rows of houses where all the neighborhood children used to play when we were young.
View of the alley across the street from our alley.
In the back yard of my old house hung laundry on lines that appeared to be strung between the same laundry poles that were there when I was young.
My father's medical practice was located in our basement, and his patients would enter his office through the partially visible white door next to the garage. The garage door now appears to be missing, replaced with plastic sheeting.
While Tom and I were standing in the alley the owner of the old house came outside. He was from Kazakhstan and spoke little English but I was able to convey to him the I used to live in his house and he was able to convey that he'd lived there for six years, and that he'd built the deck on the side of the house.
I was a little taken aback by the sight of the deck because in my recurring dreams about this house the house usually has a side door that it didn't have when I lived in it. But now in fact it does have a side door.
I would love to have seen what the old house looks like on the inside but the owner did not invite us in.
So we instead said good-bye to him and took a walk around the block,
...then crossed Charles Street and con-tinued up the next block of Barnett,
...to see if Haegele's, the bakery shop where my mother used to occasionally buy a square custardy cheesecake for our dessert, was still at the end of the block, at Barnett and Robbins Street.
Turned out Haegele's was still there,
...and quite crowded on this Saturday morning with folks buying goodies,
...among which can still be found the square custardy cheese cakes, pieces of which my mother used to occasionally buy for us,
...and of which Tom and I bought a piece,
...that the sales clerk boxed and tied up with string, just as they used to do when I was young.
Then, our Haegele's cheesecake in tow,
...we walked back, passing the Old House on Barnett Street one last time on our way back to St. Tim's,
...where we retrieved out car and headed back to the Roosevelt Boulevard, by which route we left the Lower Northeast and Mayfair and headed towards the Far Northeast and Somerton to the New House.
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTPN7NYY
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
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of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.