Jail 2 8/31 Year of the plague

The Big Bust will have to wait for Jail 3. First “Back story” on how I got to the Big Bust….

So first, as promised, how I went from the Right to the Left….
A brief bio – History of Understanding My privilege. From both sides.

Philadelphia where I started elementary school (1949). Even back then, Center City reeked of a city in transition – white flight. We rented a floor of a four story Revolutionary War “townhouse” on Wallace Street. High ceilings, chandeliers, retired shuffleboard table in the basement, water pump in the dusty backyard. Foot scraper on the front steps. Brick sidewalks.

We ended up here as my father had wrapped up his War A-bomb work and now followed post-war lucrative engineering consulting jobs. My parents (perhaps just my father?) had a “depression mentality” – he/they couldn’t (didn’t know how to) spend money they could well afford to spend. Living thru the depression years so effected them. And so I grew up in a Philly getto.

In Philly we rented just a few blocks from the Art Museum (Rocky – he would run up the steps) at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. As a revolutionary family house a hundred years before probably a patriot lived there, but not in 1950. The rent for our floor (perhaps there were 2 apartments on each floor – I’ll ask my sister), the rent each month was what my father earned consulting in an hour – $50. Yes…. And mother worked also – a bookkeeper. Probably the average weekly salary on our block was what Dad earned in an hour. It wasn’t a rich neighborhood. Philadelphia went thru white flight into beautiful old suburbs before we moved in. And new suburbs also were being developed.

At age 7, I would sit on the front steps and play my ¾ size violin as the trolley went by. If we lived/grew-up in a Bryn Mawrish neighborhood we might have gone to Friends School – annual tuition about 4 hours of Dad’s income. Instead we went public, to Bache Elementary, a few blocks away from Wallace street. In the northern shadow of the high stone wall of the Eastern State Penitentiary. Willie Sutton was a prisoner there.

After few years on Wallace Street, in forth grade we moved a few blocks north of Bache to a row house built on a filled in city reservoir. You wouldn’t believe the size of the water bugs. There was serious “red lining” of housing even in our poor neighborhood. But the whites were losing. DPs fleeing the Soviet Union – Post-war Deported Persons made up about ½ the neighborhood. Parents hardly speaking English with marginal jobs. The rest were Irish & Americanized Others and (Italians choosing not to live in South Philly – like us). A few white families slow on the white flight train out of North Philly. North of our house on 22nd Street, Girard College ran along Girard Avenue for many blocks forming an “iffy” wall between the last of the red lined center-north white neighborhood. I remember conversations with a local Democratic Ward leader telling my father he couldn’t sell to blacks if we moved.

In 1950, downtown Philly’s Rittenhouse Square, 10 blocks from us into center city across Benjamin Parkway was still a Gramercy Parkish “old money” neighborhood. Upscale brownstones. The Parkway gave Center City a second red line for a few decades after our neighborhood near the Penitentiary was “unred lined”. It was a tough neighborhood for a kid who carried a violin case.

At Bache Elementary in fifth and sixth grade I was the principal’s “outside messenger”. I delivered and fetched office work from Bache to the Board of Ed – 20 blocks away in Center City. And delivered truancy notices to kid’s apartments. I still remember the smells.