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The Truth About Philadelphia
"Once Home"

Glenn Holsten Lead-in:
There's the home that we live in now and for many, there's a home we remember. In my Philadelphia interviews, people spoke lovingly of place that was once home, but which is now no longer. And in many cases, these once homes are in neighborhoods that are now hurting, neighborhoods that are changing, neighborhoods that are no more. I talked with three women at home in Philadelphia, three women who have different ideas about the place each one's called home. Juanita Hatton lives in Nicetown, she grew up in West Philadelphia. Thelma Young lives in Frankford in the home in which she was born. Kathy Tamasky who lives in the hills of Manayunk mourns the loss of her Victorian Home on Parkside Avenue.

Jaunita Hatton :
I go back and my house is the only house that's standing in that neighborhood, 3620 Aspen Street, it's still standing high up on a hill. And I walked up the hill one day, cause it's a long flight of steps, and I stood there and a man came out and looked at me and he said, "What is the matter?", cause I was crying. Cause I could recall the laughter, the joy, and everything that was in that house.

I was born and raised in West Philadelphia, what they call the "black bottom." I came up in a time when my mother had 14 children, uh, Ms Pew had 21. Umm, Ms. Macan had 20. And my mother was like the sitter of all these children. Everybody knew to bring the children to Mom Pearl, they will turn out right. That's what they would say. Johnny Macan, all of them, we ate over their house, we stole peaches together from the peach tree, we cut the lilies in, in the flower gardens (Laughs). But it was the best neighborhood, the big, uh, Victorian homes that was there, high up on the hill. Oh man, the stable across the street and oh God, and then the people in general. Mr. Grant and his store, oh God, with the bags of candy. and you got all these memories and rose bushes in the garden, and everything. And, and you look around and you said, "Wow, I grew up here", and he took my house and cut it up into apartments? It's hard to believe, and the tears just, like I wasn't crying from being sad, I was crying for all the joy and the memories that we had in that house. Just a gorgeous time.

Benes Lawrence:
My father purchased a house out in West Philadelphia on Wilton Street. And I pretty much grew up all of my, uh, my young and middle years up Uh, in many cases I cry because it lost that old type of flavor we had back in the, back in those days and I'm talking about the, uh, 40s, 50s, uh, those years. It was a good structured life we had. We were well protected. And our needs were met right in our own community.

There was an ice cream truck that was brought around by a, by a man who was from Hungaria. And he had an ice cream truck, he made his own ice cones. I don't know if you've, you've ever had the ice cone where you just get the shavings of ice and then they put, put some sort of syrup on it. Oh, it was the most fas..., the, the simplest things; they were the most fascinating, the most enjoyable things in our lives, I mean, we thought that we were rich. We knew we were rich. We didn't know that there was real ice cream made from milk and cream, you know, that's, this, but these were fabulous.

Frank Sodano :
Well, I don't know about all the City, but I know where I came from in South Philly. I could travel three, four, five blocks and know somebody, and they'd say, Hi Frank, I'd say, "Hey, Hi Tony, how you doing, you know?" And uh, this is South Philadelphia, and we got -- I -- I -- I bet you we got a couple 100,000 people living there, and uh, and you could go from one end of South Philly to the other, and uh, now, maybe that's cause I was an athlete -- I don't know, but I don't think so.

Melvin Floyd :
I was born here; in North Philadelphia 1935. Whether anyone believes it or not, North Philadelphia was completely integrated. We played together, we laughed, went to school together ______. Fight? Why you want to fight for? Why? My God, if you, you, you hit, you hit neighbors kids who just might be white. You hit him? Not only your mother tried to beat the black of a you, I mean everybody. I mean they condemned you for that. You, God in heaven only knew the next time you got out to play, cause nobody else could tell you the next time you got out. Why? You, you, no, you like to hit, right? So, we're gonna, we're gonna fix your red wagon. You'll be, you'll be ninety years old before you get out to play again.

Angelo Menefee :
Everybody had a Ms. Williams or Mrs. Jones in the neighborhood who came off the step and got in the middle of the fight and said, "You guys go back around your way and you boys go back around here." And she may even call your name and say, "Well, you know, Angel, I know your patients," you know what I mean? And I'm, "Yes, ma'am," you know. Even the opposite corner would respect that lady, you know. And it was a lot of respect between then and now, there's just none, there's none.

Yvonne Barry :
But back in the day when you'se, when we had an argument, we used to fight it out in the middle of the street. And whoever won won.. My mother never fought with another parent. Why? She would go to the parent and say, let 'em duke it out and get it over with. Whoever wins wins. Okay? But know, when the kids have a fight, they go back for a gun, they go back for a knife. That's the difference.

Kathy Tomosky :
But I never wanted to leave West Philadelphia. It made me very sad. Yeah, I wanted to hang in there till I died. That was my, that's where I was born. And I always wanted to stay. But my children were in danger. You know, they were in danger. So I had to, I had to get out.

It was my house. It was the first house that I actually bought, and I had an attachment to that place, you know? It suited me fine. I had a nice driveway, rose garden. I had peaches. They were so big you couldn't even hold them in your hand.

But then the terrorists came. And when they were done with the white people, they started on their own. And I actually witnessed a poor guy get shot right in the face of a wonderful black neighbor shot. They went right up to his house and shot him in the face.

And when my son was nine years old, they shot him. Maybe I could have tolerated it. But I couldn't put my children in jeopardy anymore. I waited too long. Then I had to give the house away, my beautiful house. To look at, at my street now, you, you would think it's bombed out Beirut. So, uh, and then I think what the revitalization of Parkside, I'm, I'm really waiting to see it. You know, they put $10 million in one block on Parkside Avenue. Why didn't they do that before? Why did they wait till the bitter end and then go in and. Why didn't they do it while people were still there. You know, what the hell were they thinking? There's plenty of money around. You know what I'm saying? Why didn't they revive Parkside Avenue when I was a young girl? You know, why now?

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