The 4700 block of Hutchinson Street, circa 2004, fell victim to the same fate as so many other houses south of Loudon. When I went back to visit the old neighborhood about 15 years ago, the last time I had the heart to drive through, the dilapidation wasn’t the only overt change. The thriving commerce on 11th street had vanished, replaced by shadowy exchanges of a different kind. Memories cling to the images of our youth, holding tight even when rocked with the rubble of reality.
Ryan Caviglia, while a graduate student at Temple U., went to an open house at 1217 Wagner recently and fantasized about buying a place in Logan:
“How proud I would be to show people where I had chosen to make my home–someplace different, someplace original. A community of families that worked, a community that had to face serious problems from time to time, and a place that was established and important to the city’s history in myriad ways. “
From your mouth to the Urban Planning Gods’ ears, Ryan.
Speaking of God, this is the former Beth Judah Synagogue, on 11th Street between Loudon and Rockland, it’s Jewish Star resilient in the center of the Church, a symbol of its former Jewish congregants long-since-migrated to the suburbs. Beth Judah, spiritually led by Rabbi Wohlgelernter and Cantor Mandel, was the only synagogue in Logan built as a synagogue. And wouldn’t you know it — they have a Facebook Page! My family attended B’nai Israel at 10th & Rockland, considered to be modern orthodox by the standards of the day. People didn’t convert in Logan; buildings did. Our synagogue was formerly a church, as was the reform temple at 10th & Ruscomb, Rodeph Zedek, and when our Congregation migrated to the Northeast, our building reverted to a church again.
I don’t know if the best boys really are from Logan, but we had alot of good ones in my age range come Bar Mitzvah time. Maurice Bach, George Sokolowski, Daniel Wohlgelernter and me, attending Beth Jacob Elementary School, wracked up some serious IQ points between us. I had nice acquaintances and great experiences in Cub Scout Pack 409, but didn’t stay on to join Boy Scouts Troop 440, choosing to spend time with my religiously observant friends who simply didn’t frequent the scouts. It wasn’t elitism, it was a comfort zone borne of habit. I regretted that, in a way – not picking up the manual skills to put things together like the Grossman Boys up the block on 10th who could seemingly do everything from woodworking to assembling short wave radios.
When dating time came I seemed to gravitate toward girls from the Northeast, and before driving privileges liberated me I would hop the 75 trolley bus on Wyoming Avenue, transferring to the 59. Public transportation was very much a part of my life during high school, taking the bus every morning that ran on Lindley Avenue over to Germantown and Chelten for transfer to City Line Avenue.
My sister, ironically more observant than me at this juncture, is the one who was more the product of the public school system in town, starting at Birney Elementary, dipping into private school for two years at Akiba Hebrew Academy, then back into the local schools first at Girls High then finishing at Olney. S he had stellar academic experiences in Logan’s educational systems, supplementing her secular knowledge as a teen with Judaic studies through Gratz College. Logan was an incredibly diverse neighborhood in the 1950s and 60s, and I didn’t fully grasp its significance until reflecting on it as an adult perhaps in part because much of my day was insular in private schools and weekends structured around observances of the Sabbath.
We were raised in rows of homes that constituted tight linear grids, but we all left Logan to follow long and winding roads.