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.