Wednesday, March 09, 2011
7613 Gilbert St, Philadelphia, PA
Bill Crider told us about the tragic loss of his childhood home recently. And two weeks ago was also my brother, Jeff's, 60th birthday. That brought this house and my childhood to mind.
This house in Philadelphia (second door from left shown here) was bought by my parents in 1947 for less than $8,000. Probably a lot less. It was maybe 750 square feet. It claims to have 1000 on a website today, but that would have to include the unfinished (in our time) basement. It had three bedrooms, one bath, a living, dining room and kitchen.
Our block had not a single tree on it. When I asked my father why, he said it came that way! How unlucky to chose a block with no trees, I grew up thinking.
This was not a section of the city you lived in because you liked city life. When people speak of an urban childhood--well this was not really one. This area lacked the amenities of city, suburb or country in many ways. It was on the far reaches of Philly (an area called West Oak Lane) and it took an hour to get downtown. The stores within walking distance were shoe repair stores, drug stores, grocery stores. No book store that I can remember. Nothing remotely glamorous. There was a run-down movie theater (Renel) within walking distance. In early childhood, the only library was a mobile one but later came a a very nice facility.
My brother's room was the size of a closet and yet some families on this block had four children! Life on this street took place in the alley behind the houses where perhaps fifty or sixty children tore across the cement and mostly mud lawns in good weather. We played until dark--games like dodge ball, capture the flag, baby in the air, stick ball. We built tents, rode bikes up and down, pushed doll buggies. played jacks, hopscotch and jump rope.
The children had their own little village beneath the flapping clotheslines.
We shared the alley with Thouron Street, which was mostly Jewish families. Gilbert Street was mostly Catholic and Gentiles. Our elementary school was Samuel Pennypacker and I was one of the very few gentiles attending. It was an excellent school. The Catholic kids went to St. Raymond's. Everyone was lower middle-class. Some people moved into the more affluent suburbs over the years, but most finished high school here. It was a safe place to grow up.
My parents lived there until around 1973 when they sold the house little more than they paid for it. I have driven by that house once or twice since. It looks much the same. I can't remember if anyone planted a tree or not
How about your childhood home?
Thanks to Jeff for sending our beloved alley.
Also-I think I am going to blog about my mother on mother's day. Sort of a meditation more than something reverential. If anyone would like to do the same, let me know and I will post links. Many of our mothers never (or don't now) have an Internet presence or voice. I'd like to change that a bit.