Revisiting Logan in My Mind

Now through the social intelligence of a Facebook group, as pointed out to me by my colleague Dr. Dennis Lyons, one can re-visit the old Philadelphia neighborhood of Logan, where we were raised, through photo galleries and snapshot memories.  If nostalgia’s not your cup of tea, move on.

I was born in Logan in 1952, five years after my sister, Arlene, in a Philly neighborhood named after the statesman and scientist James Logan, who was a mentor to Benjamin Franklin.  Our house was at 4800 North 10th Street, at the corner of 10th and Loudon.  My father, an optometrist, had his professional shingle hanging from a signpost in the front lawn, where the “C” bus stopped as it wound its way from the Fern Rock subway yard southward.  When I was old enough I could easily walk with friends westward on Loudon to Broad Street to take in a movie either at the Broad Theater to the North or the Logan Theater to the South. The Logan was always the better deal, with double features for a quarter.

The Northern reaches of Logan were bounded by the Esquire movie theater, down the block from Esquire drugs, a bit more upscale than its sister theaters to the South, and witness to great flicks of the ’60s such as the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, James Bond thrillers and Peter Sellers classics such as The Pink Panther. You could ride your bike safely there, as anywhere in those days, then pedal over Old York Road to the Logan branch of the Public Library, its card as liberating as my first scotch plaid bankbook from PSFS – the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society.

Here, among the pastiche of old photos, resides the kinds of memories triggered when revisiting the neighborhoods of our youth.  Indulge me in pasting select ones from the Logan Facebook Group here, and stay with me on the far side for more narrative.

Alleyways and driveways were ubiquitous in the neighborhood, the gorgeous narrow backside demarcation bylines of semi-detached row homes.  There were  the singular gents traversing the alleyways, offering to sharpen knives for a fee or procuring previously worn items: “I’m buying men’s clothing; I’m buying men’s clothing” one would announce in sing-song fashion.  My father, now 90 years old, still hasn’t forgotten that his mother-in-law practically gave away his suits to the mobile haberdasher for nothing.  Dogs would bark if a stranger made his way through the alley, and for little boys it would pose an adventurous short-cut serving as a rite of passage.

Driveways were wider than alleyways of course, but Logan was built on a downhill sloping North to South, so many of these driveways had quite a dip.  Years later we learned that the neighborhood was built on marshland with the foundation of the 4700 block and South unable to withstand the homes slowly settling below ground level over time.  Eventually the city would condemn and raze the houses between Loudon and Hunting Park Avenue, but when we were kids the downward slop provided some great sledding in the winter.  Of course adults didn’t appreciate the dip of the driveways as much for their cars, which is why many of the garages were simply used for storage or as the man of the house’s workshop.

Such was the case for Bud Levine, father to two of my friends, Jerry (“Jersey”) and Matt – whose mother, Lil, was a teacher and insisted that he call himself Matthew, and their sister Ruth who was a contemporary of my sister.  Bud was a big man who smoked a pipe and was good with this hands.  Occasionally he would venture out to the driveway, seeing us playing ball, and invited us to catch his pitches.  I suspect Bud must have played some hardball in his day, because I can still feel the pop of his fastball in my mitt.

I spent countless hours in the driveway, occupying the backspace of the homes that bounded the block-long area of Loudon and Wyoming North/South and 10th and Warnock running East/West.  Most kids in Logan had his or her territorial square block driveway, with an array of games suited to the narrow width of the concrete strip.  The boys played wireball or halfball, more so than the girls who would usually play hopscotch, with bottlecaps and bike riding as unisex ventures.  The big brother I never had was Butchie Sokoloff on Warnock Street, but my driveway contemporaries were principally the Levine Boys, Barry Finkelstein, Michael Poster, and Billy Walto.  I haven’t kept track of any of them, so don’t ask me Where’s Walto?, though I do recall my first discussion on existentialism with Poster, he of Central High.

The retail part:  diagonally across from my father’s office was Ettinger’s Shoe Store and down the block on that side was Benny the Barber, who to the best of my recollection organized pinochle card games back in the day when my father smoked a cigar or pipe.  Time passed Benny by, so we gravitated toward Al’s Barber Shop a couple of blocks eastward.  Opposite Ettinger’s, across the block from us, were two small stores in succession with food products, one more of a dairy and the other more of a grocery place.  Next in line was “The Hutch”, which cornered Hutchinson Street and Loudon, between 10th and 9th.  It was as close to a hangout as we had in the neighborhood, with soda fountain, ice cream case, pinball machine and juke box belting out hits like She’s Not There by The Zombies.

Turn right out of my front door instead of left, and you’ll find Malmud’s pharmacy a half block down on the corner of Warnock & Loudon, neighboring Ackerman’s Hardware.  Across the street from us, caddy corner from Malmud’s, was Marlene Shepard whose father had a detective agency (and you didn’t mess with Marlene because she lived atop a butcher shop).  Across from Malmud’s on the south corner of Warnock and Loudon was Benny’s fruit store, then a string of stores in succession: a shoe repair shop, a button place, and a small clothing store where I got my first pair of clamdiggers with a rope cord for a belt that had me sashaying around like nobody’s business.

To conserve space and time, let’s head over to 11th Street, the block-long centerpiece of commerce nestled into the residential area between Wyoming and Loudon, and give honorable mention to: Dr. Siegel the Dentist; Rosen’s and New Logan Bakeries; George’s Candy Store (though he’s still pissed off that I browsed more comic books than I bought); Newman’s clothing store (nothing dressy).  There were several Delicatessens, my favorite being Rube’s, who had the best Nova Scotia Lox in town.  Located across the street from Rube’s on Loudon was Phillips’ Fish Store, where I still cringe thinking of the sight of the gentleman clubbing live fish to death, though I didn’t shed as many tears as the woman grinding the fresh horse radish in what looked like a miniature version of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin.  That horse radish was enough to set your mouth on fire, perhaps no coincidence, then, that it was across the street from the fire engine station.

Well, that’s quite enough for a single blog piece.  Looks like I’ll have to carry on with a Part 2.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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25 Responses to Revisiting Logan in My Mind

  1. Elliot Press says:

    Great walk down memory lane. I too can recall somewhat similar experiences, although with technology and society the way they are, I don’t think future generations will benefit the same way. I’d love to jump on Google Earth and see what those Logan areas look like now – side by side! We’ll have to do that some time –

  2. Dan L. Fortenbacher says:

    The Zombies! Now that brings back the memories! Nice touch with the video clip, Len!
    Dan

  3. DAVID GORSEN says:

    WAS A DELIVERY BOY AT RINGERS (GOLDBERG)PHARMACY IN 1954-55 LOCATED AT 11 & LOUDEN

    • I was only a couple of years old then, David. I’m trying to picture the corner of 11th and Louden in my mind in around 1960, and can’t see a pharmacy on any of the four. The SW corner was Sayler’s (sp?) which sold mostly milk and other dairy stuff; then another food market on the SE corner. The NE corner had this woman’s accessories store (cheap jewelry and the like). Was the Pharmacy on the NW corner, or wasn’t it a corner store? The only pharmacy I recall there was Malmud’s on the corner of Warnock and Louden. I also remember a very large delicatessen/market in the middle of the block on 11th, opposite Rosen’s bakery, that had the most delicious barrel of sour pickles in center of the store.

      • Paul goldsmith says:

        Gosh, talk about memories. I live in Arizona now and I would give almost anything to have a loaf of rye bread like we use to get at Rosen’s bakery. I remember the Passover cookies too. That was the best time of year. The only time you could get them.

  4. rjwalto says:

    Everything you’ve written is true, except it was Barry Finkel, and my big brother Billy Walto (not Waldo) and I shared the driveway with you! We moved out of Logan in June 1970 but to this day we still reminisce about growing up in that wonderful neighborhood. So many memories, like when the Levines would make their house kosher for Passover and bring their foodstuffs over to us, the Gentile family!

    • Len Press says:

      Great to hear from you, RJ! Though I don’t recall you as your big brother and I were the contemporaries, I do recall how warm your household was. Sorry I conflated “Where’s Waldo” with Walto – our exchanges in the driveway were all verbal – never saw Walto in print and Philadelphians tend to exchange the “t” with the “d” (e.g. “addaboy”). Please give my best to your family and in particular big brother Billy.

      • rjwalto says:

        Len – no problem! I was only 7 when we moved to the suburbs, but I remember your Dad’s office on the corner of 10th and Louden, and my mom was one of his patients. As kids we used to play on your front steps. I’d forgotten about Bing! Thanks for the kinds words – Mom passed away this past January, but I see Billy and my sister Pat pretty often as we take care of my parents’ house in Levittown. I will definitely pass along your regards. Glad you are well – I get up to Glen Rock every now and then to visit my wife’s uncle (I am in North Plainfield) so we’ll have to drive by your practice in Fair Lawn one day!

        -Bob Walto (Go Phils!)

  5. Jerry says:

    I really enjoyed this even though I moved to 4758 N. 10th St. In 1970 and grew up in the best neighborhood until the sinking houses forced us out. Sent to Penn State in the 80’s and never returned to Philly. Been in Jacksonville Florida but I really loved Birney Elementary, walking to Cooke Jr. High then Olney – My dad was block captain and a Chemist at old Scott Paper thanks again, I’m Jerry at jbwarnock1@gmail.com

  6. oh. i forgot about Al the barber until now…he groped all the women… pretty creepy.

  7. Larry Somers (1104 W. Wyoming AVe) says:

    Ultisky’s was the large deli on 11th street across from Rosen’s bakery. Morris was the grim guy who reached into the barrel for pickles or sour tomatoes.

  8. J Walker says:

    Great walk through memory lane, unfortunately the only safe way to walk through that area today.

  9. Jerry Box says:

    Thank you very much, we moved to 4758 N. 10th Street in 1969. We stayed until we were forced to move because our entire block was demolished due to the sinking in 1990. I really miss everyone I grew up with and it’s so hard to go back with no block reminiscent of my youth left standing.

  10. Jason Howard says:

    I’m a little younger than you gentlemen. I was born in Logan in 1984. My father purchased our home at 5127 N. 12th St. In the 60’s, he often spoke about the great families that lived in the area, I enjoyed growing up there in my youth as well.

    • marc polish says:

      JASON:

      Enjoyed reading the post on this page. My memories go back much further to the days of Half Ball, The Pimple Ball and The Logan Movies.

      As a matter of fact I had so much passion about the pimple balls, half balls and the games we played that we actually found a supplier and sell them on line.

      Still have contact with many of the people and talk about the dances and hanging out in Birney\
      School Yard, Places like Gene’s/Milts and Scotty’s at 9th a Wyoming.

      marcpolish@gmail.com

  11. Kathy Wright says:

    I lived at 4824 N.10th Street and it was great reading this and remembering what a fun and safe childhood I had. I was born in 1958 so this was brought fond memories

  12. Mark Goodman says:

    Some great flashbacks. My first “go cart” and sledding down the driveway between 10th and Warnock south of Louden (and crashing) are still clear memories. I grew up at 4843 N 10th and was back in town for my wife’s 50 high school reunion from Girls High. I stopped by the old homestead and talked with the lady who purchased the house from my folks in 1975. She remembered the family name. My father was the cake baker at “The White Palace” bakery on 11th St. I’m closer to your sister’s age (born 1948). Ah, The Logan theater with an annual cracker eating whistle contest to win a Swinn bike. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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