Philadelphia Diary Home About Philadelphia Interviews Interactive Script Artist Biographies Director's Diary
Philadelphia Diary Logo and Navigation


Program 1
Program 2
Program 3
Program 4
Program 5
Program 6
Program 7
Program 8
Program 9
Program 10

Back to main

The Truth About Philadelphia

Glenn Holsten Lead-in:
I live in a block in the South Street neighborhood whenever I try to describe it to people I say the little block with lots of trees. Trees play a huge role in the health of our neighborhoods. Mary Cousar of Logan, Darling Rosario of Norris Square, and Germantown's Ken White explore the relationship of trees to the health of their communities.

Mary :
Umm, one of the most depressing neighborhoods I think is the neighborhood that I live in here in Logan. I'm telling you how this neighborhood went. The trees in this neighborhood got a disease. When we moved to this block there was a tree in front of every house; that's a lot of trees. But it, you couldn't grow grass because the trees met in the middle of the street. But it was always cool, you could leave your door open at night.

And it was this kind of a relaxed neighborhood, you know. Everybody had a nice back yard with roses in them. And our neighbors that lived on this side they didn't have little children so they had a thing about clotheslines. After you took your clothes in they wanted you to take your clotheslines down and take them in too. I mean these people, they had gardeners and it, I mean it was just, it was really kind of funny to me cause, so I insisted that I get a dryer cause I wasn't about to take no stupid clothesline in every week. But it made these people happy if they saw you taking down the clothes line.

But it was really a neighborhood that you thought about raising your children and being able to do a lot of things. We were able to take vacations because our house didn't cost a lot of money. We were able to go to Florida every summer for a two weeks vacation cause he's from Florida and I'm from North Carolina you know, it was really a kind of good life.

And, umm, then, uh, the trees got this disease and the trees started dying. And a couple people got their car stolen, you know, just things just started happening that you see it's falling apart all around you. And then the stores on 11th Street started closing, a couple stores on Louden had fires. On Broad Street a few stores got robbed and then they started opening up like the beer places and that kind of stuff. So, you know, just the whole neighborhood just you, you see a big turmoil thing happening in the neighborhood.

And, it was a mess. And then we, uh, got hit with the issue that, how some houses in our area had been built on unstable land, and, and they had been sold over and over again and then all of a sudden these houses all had to be vacated.

And so the whole neighborhood just kind of lost and now there's no plan for the neighborhood. We don't have a five year plan, a ten year plan, a fifteen year plan, there's nothing.

When I first came to live there was in '84, I must have been 17/ 18 years old. Because when first moved on that block it was a really beautiful block. And that -- that block had three beautiful trees.

The first tree, some gentleman, overnight, you know, just stood in front of, I guess my mother's house, and just took off the bark off the tree, and killed it, you know. By the next summer, it just didn't come back. The one down the street in the middle of the block, someone bought a chainsaw, and figured hey, let me test it, and just cut the tree down. And then the one down at the corner, umm, I think someone was making a -- a -- a oil change and poured the oil on the roots of the tree, and killed it.

Greening, you know, it symbolizes, you know, growth, and -- and -- and hope, and that's what I want for that block. I want -- I don't want that block just to happen to, like, any other block that hope is lost and then the block just, you know, basically, you know, goes to hell. And I didn't want that to happen, so I -- I looked around and, you know, I had already ties with the Horticultural Society, and I talked to them, and I wanted to really hook up with them and see if, you know, we could get trees for the area.

So we got experimental trees, those are, umm, Prayer Blossoms, which umm, they're not used in City for greening. Most -- most of, uh, the greening in the City is done with Crab Apple. So uh, we used those, and uh, I was able to plant on one of the neighbors, and they're surviving, they're you know, they've grown I think, uh, three years, and they're really, really, doing good.

Ken :
I was a Kansas boy and initially I was not fond of Philadelphia, uh, because it was just so challenging. And I've grown to really love it. I see Philadelphia as a collection of cities, not one City, a collection of neighborhoods. . Kansas is not beautiful in the way that the City of Philadelphia, with all the azaleas, and the dogwoods. I feel a sense of newness and life just by being in Germantown in May. And it reminds me of that constant renewal. And you know, and the sense of hopefulness. Okay it hasn't happened today, but still, you know, nature has come back, we have another new shot, the dogwoods are out. (LAUGH) And you know, and I realized that that's a unique beauty to Philadelphia, azaleas won't grow in Kansas, they will not grow in Kansas.

I think it symbolizes quite a few things: umm, one, that people really care in that -- in that block, because in order for a tree to continue to live, you know, you have to maintain it. You know, it's not like, you know, you plant a tree and you just leave it. No, you have to maintain that tree, you have to make sure it gets pruned,and it gets watered.

But I think it symbolizes hope. In the neighborhood where, you know, originally, you know, William Penn had this great vision of, of green, you know, of a green country, you know, a City, but, you know, greened.
As humans we need that connection to -- to -- to the Earth, you know. Umm, it just can not be just buildings, bricks, you know, and -- and mortar. Trees really do that for us, you know, because they give us the shade, you know, they're -- they're like -- they're giving so much to us, you know, and they're asking for so little.

About | Interactive Script | Philadelphia Interviews
Artist Biographies | Director's Diary