Ye Li, with his Ph.D. in Decision Science at the University of Chicago, was an undergrad at CalTech when he used Flash video to create a terrific version of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire that you can watch here. Though I can’t compress the social history of Logan in its heyday nearly as well, I would like to mention a few items that may have significance to some people.
Times are different today, and diversity is in vogue, but not all of Logan’s inhabitants were broad-minded in the 50s and 60s. I can tell you firsthand that growing up as an observant male Jew in Logan was not simple. As my good friend Dan Wohlgelernter described it, this is nostalgia borne of both joy and pain. The painful piece is that one could not wear a “yarmulke” or skullcap in public. It invited getting beaten up by the neighborhood’s less-than-enlightened youth, so we wore our Phillies baseball hat when in the streets instead. Today baseball hats are commonplace, even stylish, but that was far from the case in the 50s and 60s.
I loved the Logan branch of the library to which I could ride my bike, adjacent to the trolley tracks on Old York Road. But if the neighborhood thugs had their eye out for my neon red Phillies hat, I could count on my bike being vandalized in the rack outside the library. My principal tormentors were a family of boys on Warnock Street, between 10th and 11th, who would taunt me as the kike-on-the-bike without provocation. When I was about 12 years old, one of the boys (who shall remain nameless) sucker-punched me in the face with a blow I can still feel to this day. When I came home visibly shaken, my mother insisted on knowing what happened. She went around the corner and up to the boys’ house to read them the riot act which, as you can imagine, only made matters worse. Now labelled a “Mama’s Boy”, I had to toughen up. The rule of the neighborhood was that you’d have to take crap until you learned to give crap back.
Like Archie Bell and the Drells, I tightened up. Grew 6 inches the following year, which complemented weightlifting that I did with my father’s anvil of a rotating stool in his office. So when I was ready, I walked down the block one sunny day past where the Wall boys were playing (oops, it was too hard to leave them nameless), and returned the favor of a sucker punch. Never had an ounce of trouble after that, and they moved out of the neighborhood though I can’t take full credit for that.
Don’t cry for me, Argentina. Toughening up stood me in good stead for when I took the “G” bus back from high school on City Line Avenue at Drexel Road that made a stop at Overbrook High, then continued on to connect with either the 44 express that ran along Hunting Park Avenue, or when too late to make that, a connection to the Broad Street subway. I’d get off at Wyoming Avenue and walk home, usually in the dark. Thanks to surviving the Wall boys, and to my workout regimen, I had no fear.
Bonnie Emas Mussallem posted on the Logan Facebook wall that my father was her family’s eye doctor in those days, and that she knew my sister. They were born a year apart, almost to the day. That prompted me to think of other healthcare providers that I recalled from that time period, and how much things have changed since the days when doctors stil made house call with their iconic black bags.
The doctors’ offices that I frequented as a kid were located in houses just like my dad’s — Dr. J.J. Cohen on 9th Street, Dr. Benjamin Nimoityn on Wyoming Avenue – or perhaps he was closer to Cumberland, and Dr. Siegel on 11th Street. Dr. Cohen was a gentlemanly scholar who worked with a nurse in his office, and had the relativley more sophisticated practice. Dr. Nimoityn was ruddy and more rugged, devoid of assistance and bedside manner, but he mastered the art of the physical which, in case you hadn’t heard, died in clinical medicine but is making a comback. Dr. Siegel was a dentist who worked by himself, back in the day when a dental hygienist was someone who helped keep the reception area tidy as compared to the highly skilled paraprofessional that no one would work without these days.
Well, it’s largely been fun taking a tour down memory lane, and again my thanks to Dr. Dennis Lyons for the encouragement and the Logan Facebook Group of the 50s and 60s for the incredible photos and discussion groups.