New Year’s Eve and Day

The time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day was the gold standard (Summer was the Diamond standard) for time off of school. You had the toys you received for Christmas and there were always leftover pies, cakes and candy that had to be eaten. The day after our Christmas bounty.

The first time I remember feeling sorry for someone happened during this time when I was about eight years old. My friends and I were playing Tin Can Eddy and a kid from a few blocks away asked if you could join in. We had seen him around, but he wasn’t one of our regular gang. Still we let him play. Somehow, the conversation got around to each of use telling what treasures we had received for Christmas. Remember, I mentioned that my Mom saved all year just to be sure her children got many cool presents. When it came to Joe to tell us what he received from Santa (I’ll call him Joe because I don’t remember his name), he lifted his hands and said, “Gloves.” We quickly asked what else he got and he said, “Just these gloves. They’re cool right?” Joe said. I said, “Yeah, they are cool,” but in my heart I felt sorry for him and more appreciative of what I had. That feeling passed quickly and “Joe” joined in and had a great time. Afterwards he went home and we never saw him again. Maybe Joe was really an angel come to teach me a lesson. Nah?

In the mid-1950s my sister and brother-in-law moved into my grandmother’s house and my Grandfather and Grandmother moved in with us. My sister (ten years older than me) started having New Year’s Eve parties in her new house, which was around the corner from us. She invited our family and family friends and it was always a great time. The adults drank beer and highballs, and kids got to drink sodas (soda in Philadelphia is any carbonated soft drink). It was a fun time and I wonder now how so many people fit into such a small home. At ten o’clock or so, the chips and pretzels were replaced with hot dogs and sauerkraut and roast beef on Kaiser roll sandwiches. It was torture for us kids as we had to smell the food cooking all night before we could get some. It was always worth the wait.

At midnight, all the kids and some of the adults got pots and pans and large spoons and made as much noise as we could. The entire neighborhood did the same and for the first fifteen minutes of the New Year, it was bedlam.

After the noise making I always went back around to my house to say Happy New Year to my Grandmother. She didn’t like parties and instead at midnight simply heated up a coffee cake she bought at the German bakery. I can see her now sitting at the front of our small kitchen table drinking her coffee and eating her cake. I would kiss her on the cheek and she would give me a piece of cake. My father normally didn’t go to these parties either. He worked at the poolroom late, came home, and was in bed before the midnight.

On New Year’s Day we would wake up, have a good breakfast and get ready to see the Mummers Parade on TV. Several times my Dad did take us to see them in person, but I think that may have been before we had a television set. To be honest it was much easier and you saw at lot more on TV than in person. One thing I do remember about being at the New Year’s Day Parade was the men selling roasted chestnuts. They smelled great and anything hot on a cold January day was welcomed.

Soon the house would fill with the aroma of baked ham with cloves. This was our traditional New Year’s Day meal. Come to think of it, that was our traditional Easter meal as well. There were pies again and all the fixings that went with baked ham. Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving after the meal, everyone laid around half-comatose from eating too much. When my head cleared, I would remember that I had school the next day. The thought would hit me like a ton of bricks. We would have to wait until February to get another day off from school.

December 23rd

December 23rd

It’s December 23rd and I have been trying to think about all those December 23rds I experienced as a child. Funny thing is I can’t remember them. I know it was the last day of school until January 2nd (depending which day the holidays fell on). We probably spent the school day eating cookies with nuts in them the teacher brought in and finishing our handmade CHRISTMAS cards for the family. I’m sure we sang a few Christmas songs, some religious some not. The teacher probably explained what Christmas was all about and I assume we started the morning out by saying a prayer and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as we did every morning.

At dinner we most likely had a normal non holiday meal, probably pot pie, meat cakes and potatoes, meatloaf or spaghetti and meatballs. Since we didn’t have school the next day I’m pretty sure we could stay up late, but I really can’t remember anything that happened on December 23rd.

And the reason is I was 1000% focused on December 24th and 25th. So focused was I and every other kid in the neighborhood that we had amnesia starting at least a week before the holiday of holidays. I am pretty sure we were wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year that whole week, but don’t ask me who I said it to because I simple do not remember. I know they were Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Jewish, atheists, maybe even Buddhists and Muslims. No one ever got mad at us for wishing them well at Christmas. At least that I remember and I don’t remember much.

That all changed on the morning of December 24th. Somehow I snapped out of the holiday trance and began a day long trip to anticipation land. The excitement started with a good breakfast that included baked goods from the German Bakery. That was every morning pretty much, but on Christmas Eve morning my Grandmother would buy some special cakes. This I remember like it was yesterday.

All day my Mom, Grandmother, and my Sister, who was ten years older than me, would prep for the big day. December 24th was the day to bake the Christmas pies and cake. It smelled heavenly. Pumpkin pie, Mince Pie and Apple pie were the most common. I remember my Grandmother rolling out the lard infused pie crust with her rolling pin, making the pie filling and putting them one at a time in the small oven.

By lunch my brother and I could have eaten a whole pie each, but if we touched them we would get the legendary Floss Hallman (Mom) smack in the face. Instead we would have a potato chip sandwich or something similar and a glass of milk that came from a bottle you had to shake up to blend the cream that tended to rise to the top of the bottle. After lunch we were ushered out of the house into the cold winter weather that we loved and never really felt since we were well clothed and always active.

December 24th was the one day of the year that we didn’t mind coming home for dinner. Christmas Eve meals were generally baked macaroni and cheese and canned tuna fish. My dad was raised Catholic and he held to the meat free days even though he didn’t go to church. Later my mother and I became Catholic and did the same. After diner my Grandfather and my brother Bill would get the tree from the yard, shake out any stray cats that were in it and set it on the train platform in the living room. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the tree had a unique odor of mixed pine and cat pee. My mother would supervise as they decorated the tree.

I really like Christmas Eve night because my mother bought Ginger Ale soda in case any of her friends came to visited and needed a highball. That meant we could sneak some of the Ginger Ale. Of course, there were plenty of Christmas cookies and candies. Did you know that Gingersnap Cookies and Ginger Ale go well together?

Finally it was time for bed. If we didn’t go to sleep Santa wouldn’t come and our stockings that were “hung by the chimney with care” would be empty. It was strange and wonderful time. We really didn’t want to go to sleep but we also wanted presents in the morning, so off to bed we went, wide eyed and excited.

Some Christmas Eves stand out more than others. Like the time my Grandfather was trying to put an Angel on the top of the tree and fell taking the tree with him. Also, my first Christmas home after being discharged after four years in the Air Force stationed in the tropics when it snowed two feet and I had to help my mother take gifts around the block to my sister’s house. The snow drifts were up to my chest. Come to think of it all of our Christmas Eves were special, because our family made them special.

So no matter what religion you are or are not I wish you a Very, Very Happy Christmas Eve and a Merry Christmas day.

The Day I Saw a Flying Saucer- Growing Up North Philly.

flashgordonspaceship

It was the early 1950s and everything in our young lives was about two things- The Russians dropping an Atomic Bomb on us or flying saucers. At school we often had air raid drills, We would hide under our desks and were told to keep our eyes closed so the flash of the Atomic bomb wouldn’t blind us. “Stay away from the windows so glass doesn’t cut you,” was a typical refrain.

Meanwhile we were watching movies and news casts that showed people melting or being blown apart from an Atomic explosion. And if that wasn’t bad enough, every monster in the movies was a mutation caused by radiation.

Given these scenarios I often wondered why even hide under our desks. If we didn’t melt we would become some kind of crazy looking mutant monster. I like what one of my friends told me, no doubt something he heard his father say, “If there’s an Atomic explosion first put you head between your legs and then kiss your ass goodbye”.

Far more interesting was the idea of flying saucers. Seems like every day there was a story about someone seeing a spaceship or being kidnapped by aliens. Personally, I thought it might be fun to meet something from another planet. In our young and impressionable minds this was all plausible. Of course, there were people from other planets. Of course, they were smarter than we were and they had invented space ships that could reach the earth.  All we could do was hope we met the nice aliens, not the one Flash Gordon came across.

So, with this as a background, imagine our delight when one early evening while we were sitting on the African Violet Lady’s doorstep –  Let me pause for a second. Our mother called the lady that owned the house the African Violet Lady because she grew that flower in her yard. We had no idea what her real name was. – Anyhow, we were sitting on her step and a large silver spaceship slowly crossed over our neighborhood. It was beautiful and graceful. As it slowly floated by we marveled at size and technology of the craft.  They were, without a doubt superior beings.

We talked about that spaceship for days. Even though the aliens didn’t land and greet us, we still felt privileged to have experienced the grandeur of their intelligence.

Newest Book Cover- Mercy Row Retribution. November 2015

 

Newest Book Cover- Mercy Row Retribution. November 2015.

Newest Book Cover- Mercy Row Retribution. November 2015.

Two weeks till Mercy Row Retribution

Looking a two week or so for new book to be on Amazon. Here is the promotional blurb.
Mercy Row Retribution
While serving as a pilot during the Vietnam War, Gerry Amato—the grandson of Jacob Byrne, the head of a powerful North Philadelphia Irish crime family—seizes the opportunity to create a lucrative marijuana smuggling operation. It’s 1967, and under the secrecy of a classified military operation, and with the assistance of a Marseille mob that owns plantations in Cambodia, he is able to send tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana to Philadelphia every month. His grandfather’s criminal enterprise distributes the drug to a population that has developed an insatiable appetite for the marijuana.
A rival Paris gang tries to force Amato to buy their product, which triggers war between the Byrne family and the Paris mob. From the steamy jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia to the streets of Saigon, Paris and Philadelphia, the ruthless actions of the Paris mob threaten to destroy the Byrne family. Gerry Amato orchestrates a merciless campaign of retribution against his foes in order to save himself and his family.
In part two of Mercy Row Retribution—the third book in the Byrne family saga—it is April 1975 and South Vietnam is about to fall to the North Vietnamese communists. Gerry Amato fears that the communists will take revenge on the population, especially the children—many of whom are Amerasian—at an orphanage he supported and volunteered at during his time as a pilot. He orchestrates a rescue mission to retrieve the children and bring them to the United States. This takes him and his team into harm’s way in Thailand, across Cambodia and into war-torn Vietnam and back. The fates of 75 children and 30 adults rest squarely on Gerry’s shoulders.
Bonus Section
Mercy Row Retribution includes a bonus section of short, true stories of the author and his friends’ experiences growing up in North Philly in the 1940s and 50s. This is a true reflection of what life was like for working-class kids growing up on the streets of Philadelphia.

Thank You Thanksgiving Day – Growing Up North Philly

 

 

I have decided to add my Growing up North Philly stories as an addendum for by third Mercy row book. Because I of that I’m going to add a few post here early about Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know it’s early but I need to get the book edited and produced before December. So here goes:

Thank You Thanksgiving Day

Thank you for all the wonderful memories of feasting with the family at my grandparent’s house, then my parent’s house in Kensington, North Philly.

Thank you for telling the teachers to have me draw turkeys, pilgrims and autumn leaves so my parents could put on the refrigerator. And thank for got the trees near school that shed their acorns so we could throw them at each other.

Thank you Thanksgiving for being in late November when the weather was cold and my mother could stuff us into the snowsuits so we could run or hardly walk. And, thank you for the Turkey sweater that made me look more dorky than I already was.

Thank you for the Gimbel’s Thanksgiving Day parade with all the local stars, floats and the school bands playing music. And, thank you for having the crowd be so loud we couldn’t hear the school bands. No really, thank you.

Thank you for the El and the trolley cars that took us to downtown with all the families that were stuffed like sardines in a can. I was hoping to see Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob, Dilly Dally, Carabell the Clown and especially Princess Summerfallwinterspring, but I was usually disappointed because they were busy at the Macy’s New York Parade. That disappointment, however, quickly faded, when I spied Sally Star, Wee Willy Weber, Pixanne, and Bertie the Bunyip.

Thank you for the crowds of people that battled the cold and sometimes snow and lined the streets every year to get a glimpse of Santa. And, thank you for the small children who were perched on their Dad’s shoulders so they could see the parade and blocked my view.

Thank you for having Santa climb up the fire truck ladder to the fourth floor of Gimbel’s. Thank you also for having Santa scare the hell out of me when I was very small.
Thank you for having those Santa’s helpers that dressed just like him on every street corner in downtown Philly and Kensington Avenue the day after Thanksgiving. And, thank you for being sure they were much taller than me, so I didn’t have to smell the whisky on their breath.
Thank you Thanksgiving for making merchants wait until your holiday was over to start the Christmas Season. Maybe you could talk to them now about going back to that tradition.

Thank you for the wonderful smell of roasting turkey that permeated our 16 x 40 foot two-story row home. And thank you for allowing us to drink and eat until we would burst, and for us having only one bathroom in the house when we had 15 guests.

Thank you for the mash potatoes, the stuffing, cranberry sauce and the wonderful pies. I loved the Apple pie, Minced Meat Pie and of course, Pumpkin pie. And double thank you for the time the bar of soap fell in the mash potatoes and I learned about it the hard way.

Most of all, thank you for grandparents and parents that understood the value of holiday family gatherings. It was a time when all the cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, especially those who were living like a million miles away in South New Jersey, got together and enjoyed each other’s company. I never have understood when people say they have to endure another Thanksgiving dinner with family. I feel sorry for them. I wouldn’t change a thing about my memories.

So again, thank you Thanksgiving. See you next year. I would give anything to have just one more Thanksgiving dinner with my Grandparents and Parents. Maybe, someday I will.

 

A Long Walk to “Nowheresville” – Growing Up North Philly

Where is Nowheresville you ask? I can tell you that it’s not near “Clarksville” and there are no “Last Trains” going there. Sorry I had to fit in a connection to the Monkee’s song of 1966. Like the meaning of the Monkee’s song, Nowheresville is a place you might not come back from if you ever get there in the first place.
When you grow up in the blue collar area of North Philly the expectations are that you will aspire to get a job in a factory or, if you’re lucky, learn a trade such as plumbing. You could also get a job in construction or become a roofer. Lots of roofers in the 1950-60s North Philly. Now that’s fine if that’s what you want. All are respectable jobs and some of them can provide a very good living.
 
For me, I wanted something else. Maybe being a Pool Shark like my dad would have been fun, but I wasn’t good enough player for that. Problem was I didn’t know what I wanted. I hadn’t found myself yet. Go to college, you say. Nice thought but back then there was no expectation that a guy or girl from our neighborhood would go to college. Most parents didn’t have the money to pay for college. I don’t remember any government sponsored high interest college loans either.
 
So at 17 I took a job as an apprentice Plumber. Hey plumbers were making 5 bucks an hour back then. I started off making $1 an hour and often worked 50 -60 hours with no overtime pay. It was a good job but, a hard job. I dug ditches in 100 degree weather, helped plug outdoor leaks in 5 degree weather, carried bathtubs up 4 floors and a lot more. It was okay and some day, after 4 years or so, I could make that $5 an hour. But, something was missing, but I had no idea what. I felt as if I was on A Long Walk to Nowheresville.
 
So I did the only thing I thought I could do. I quit my job, joined the Air Force and hoped I would find a career I loved that would carry with me my whole life. The Air Force had another idea. They enrolled me in a school to learn how to handle and load bombs on air planes. Yikes!!!
 
I finished basic training and was put on a train to Denver Colorado. Lowery Airbase was a school base. They taught lots of different skill, many of which translated to good careers when you left the military. Loading bombs on planes was not one of them. Again the nagging feeling came over me. I felt as if I was still on A Long Walk to Nowheresville.
 
Sometimes, crap happens and puts you back on course without you even knowing it. After a month of kitchen duty and shoveling coal me and several others were pulled out of line and told to see the Master Sergeant. He asked me if I had studied Physics in high school.
 
I said, “No, Mastbaum was a trade school.”
 
He said, “If you didn’t study Physics then you can’t load bombs on airplanes.
 
I asked, “Then what can I do?”
 
He handed me a book and said, “Pick anyone, expect Intelligence school. That’s for brainiacs.”
 
I looked and I didn’t see anything that interested me. Fortunately, I had met a guy at the local beer hangout who said he was going to Photo School. That stayed with me and I asked the Sergeant about it.
 
He said, “Yeah, they teach that on the other side of the base.”
 
I didn’t know it then, but I guessed later it was as far away from the “normal” schools as they could get it. You know how those creative types are? Wouldn’t want them contaminating regular military types.
 
Anyway I asked how long the school was. He told me it was 17 weeks. I thought about it for a second, realizing the other schools were mostly 6 months or longer.
 
I said, “I’ll take it.”
 
I hated the first week in photo school. Why did I do this? I thought. But, that passed and I soon started to love it. What I didn’t realize was then was it wasn’t Photography in general that I loved, it was being a communicator. And, so this led me on a path from being a photographer, to being a marketing executive to now being a writer. How funny life can be.
 
The moral of the story is -yes for Christ sake there is a moral- don’t settle for what is expected of you. Experience things until you find something you love.
One last thing. I was in my late forties when my mother finally stopped telling me she wished I had stayed a plumber.

Growing Up North Philly- Circle Billiards Parlor

I’ve already mentioned that my father was a champion pool player, a pool hustler and a gambler of sorts. During the 1950s he opened a poolroom with a partner. As I remember it had 8 to 10 tables. A couple of tables were tournament size and the rest were regular size.

Circle Billiards was located at Allegheny Ave and Lee Street in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. At some point in the buildings history someone had combined three or four standard row homes and opened a bar on the lower level. Maybe it was even a speakeasy. Anyway the pool room was on the second floor of this bar. When I was a kid the bar became Nino’s Nightclub and we all thought it might be “connected” to the mob. I went to school with the owner’s kid and when he was sixteen he was driving a new car. An unheard of thing in our neighborhood.

Anyway, to get to the poolroom you had to walk up a long, dark and dank stairway. You could smell the cigarette smoke mixed with hot dog odor from the rotary cooker as soon as you opened the door. As you walked into the main area the noise of pool balls hitting other balls, men cursing at missed shots and having fun assailed your ears. There were lots of dollars on the tables as the men gambled to see who the best player was.

From age 8 to about 12, I frequented the poolroom, almost every day after school. So did my brother. If it was slow, Dad would teach us how to play pool or even play a game with us. That was always boring because we would break the rack of balls and he would then sink two or three racks until he finally took pity on us and miss a ball.

If you have read my Mercy Row books you would have experienced some of the influence the poolroom had on me. The new book Mercy Row Retribution has a scene that takes place in the poolroom. My father was very good at trick pool as well as regular pool. He showed us many tricks. The one I remember most I have put in the new book. Let me tell you about that trip shot.

I’ll share with you an excerpt from the book. Of course, my novels are fiction but I assure you that the trick I describe is the actual trick my dad could do.

-“Put another twenty down and I’ll prove it isn’t bullshit,” Harry said

The man took a twenty from his pocket and threw it on the table. Harry pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket, peeled off two twenties and said, “Here’s what I’ll do. Shooting from the end of the table here, I’ll hit all four cushions, and then the ball will go into the left side pocket.”

“How the hell can he do that?” Callahan whispered to Gerry. “After it hits the rail in front of him the ball would have to bounce back, twist to the left and to go in the pocket. It’s impossible.”

“Wait and see,” Gerry whispered back.

The man pulled another twenty from his pocket, threw it on the table and said, “Can’t f’ing be done. I’ll be happy to take your money.”

Harry placed a twenty on top of the pile and said, “Gerry, you hold the money.”             Gerry picked the money up.

Harry picked up the chalk, twisted against the cue tip of his custom made cue stick and then said, “Ready?”

The man replied, “Go at it old timer,” and laughed.

Harry hit the ball; the ball hit the right rail, then the back rail, then the left rail. Then it hit the rail in front of Harry, flipped up and off the table. At the same time, Harry held his left coat pocket open and the ball landed in it.

“Callahan laughed and said, “Holly shit. How the hell did he do that?”

The man wasn’t laughing and said, “I win. It didn’t go in the pocket. Give me my money.”

Harry picked ball out of his left coat pocket and said,” Here it is. It went into my left pocket. Sorry you lose.” –

 

 

Growing Up North Philly- Jail Bird

“I’m not really a juvenile delinquent. I just play one on the Internet.”

Truth be told, I never actually broke any laws when I was a kid (or after), but still I was taken to the 25th Precinct Police Station by police officers at least three times.

First Time
My friends and I used to hang out at a luncheonette that was located directly across the street from the 25th District police station. We were told to move on a number of times before one fateful night. A group and when I say group I mean quite a few boys and girls were hanging outside the luncheonette. For a change, we were not drinking (we weren’t that stupid). We were having fun as teenagers will, especially when girls were around. Hey if you can’t try to show off what good is it to have girls hanging with you.

All of the sudden several officers came to the corner and had all of us stand against the wall. Then they marched the whole lot of us across the street and put us in two small rooms. One for girls, one for boys (they’re also not that stupid). One smartass boy asked if we could smoke and the officer laughed and said yes.

We all lit up and in minutes we were chocking on the smoke. There was no ventilation in the room. Ha Ha. They took each of us, one at a time to the desk and got our home phone numbers. They were set on making us sweat by calling our parents. What they forgot was these were North Philly parents. The luncheonette owner was the first to arrive, and she was one of the mothers as well. She read the riot act to the police.

One by one the parents started to show up and they were angry at us at first, until they asked what we did. The police said loitering. Then they were mad at the police. I thought some of the parents were going to get arrested. It all worked out after a couple of hours they let us out.

Second Time- Scary
It was the dead of winter and we were all in my 1950 Ford that I paid 30 dollars for. We had the car running and the heater on. Mind you now, we were parked. All of the sudden the police flashers go off in my rearview mirror. Two police cars and several officers including a very rare (at the time) police woman got us out of the car. They got our IDs and said that we should follow them to the 25th District Police Station. Of course, we knew where it was. It was just around the corner.

When we got there they lined up all the boys, there was one girl with us, in the small court room. We had no idea why and what for. We saw the woman police officer bring a small girl to the hallway and had her look at us through the glass door. Finally the little girl shook her head no. They let us go but told us that the reason they were picking up teenagers was that the girl was molested. We all said no problem and we hope you find the bastard.

Time Three
Okay I was 17 and my friend was also 17. It had snowed a lot and we no school or work so we went to our luncheonette across from the police station. We were the only ones there and the owner was happy to see us. At least she might make a buck or two. After a sandwich and a Pepsi (oh get over it Atlanta) we went outside. Three ten year old boys started chugging snowballs at us. So we did the only thing we could do, we chased after them while trying to hit them with our snowballs.

Of course, we all ran through the police parking lot several times. Then a couple of officers came out and took us into custody. Now keep in mind they were probably bored as crime tends to go down when it’s cold and snowy. They took the ten year olds and threaten them with jail time. They tried that on us, be we were veterans of police intervention and we knew better. So they told us to stay in our own neighborhood, which was two blocks south.

Our innocent run-ins were just that, but the police did have their hands full with kids in the 25th. No one in our crowd ever got arrested for real, but I would have to use all my fingers, all my toes and those of two other people’s to count those that I knew of that went to prison for one thing or another

Growing Up North Philly – The Night We Invaded South Philly.

Even in the 50s, when I was a teenager, Philadelphia was a city of gangs. Stories abounded about what this gang did or what another gang did to them. One story was that a North Philly gang had a machine gun mounted in a van. Farfetched, were most of these stories, but not all.

Our “gang” was mostly peaceful. We were just a small group of guys (some girls) wanting only smoke, drink, make fun of each other, and, of course, meet girls. We hung out, mostly, between two factories where there were few neighbors to complain. Later we moved to a sandwich shop across the street from the 25th district police station. Probably not the best choice as we ended up in that station a number of times for doing nothing more than hanging out. But that’s another story.

The gang at 10th and Ontario had a reputation for being the toughest gang in North Philly. That is other than the K&A Gang which was a real criminal gang. The 10th and O guys were mostly Italian. Somehow they got into a beef with some South Philly Italian gangs. One week guys from the 10th and O gang came to other gangs and groups like us and told us that we were to be at 10th and Ontario on Saturday night. If we weren’t then we would be considered an enemy and we all know what that meant or at least we thought we did.

So Saturday night we got in our car, with several pipes and one chain and drove to the specified streets. Sure enough there were many cars full of kids waiting. I have to tell you I was very uneasy about this. Fighting was not my forte. Anyway, at a certain time (can’t remember exactly) we got the word that we would convoy to South Philly and seek out and destroy (beat up) any gang members (and how we were to know who was a gang member I don’t know) we saw.

Our car was towards the back of a pretty long line of vehicles (nobody f***s with North Philly Yo!). I sensed apprehension from the others in our “gang” even though a couple of the guys were pretty tough. By the way, I have vague memories of searching for pieces of pipe and putting lead into them. I should say that back then it was rare that anyone would have a gun. I’m not sure if that was because we wanted to be fair and only use pipes and knives or more likely no one could afford a gun.

As we drove through the streets of North Philly the cars in front of us started turning down side streets. We stayed straight until we learned why. We ran smack into a road block of Philly’s finest. The police asked us what we were doing and where we were going. We told them we were just driving around and hanging out. They asked if we had any weapons and we, of course said no. I’m sure they were busy (lots of cars behind us) because they didn’t search the car. They asked us where we were from. We told them Front and Allegheny. They said we didn’t belong in this neighborhood and we were to go back to Front and Allegheny.

I was never so relieved and I am sure the others were as well, not that anyone would admit it. We couldn’t find the convoy and so we went home. A couple days later stories of how some gangs from North Philly came to South Philly and beat up some guy started making the rounds.

I used adaptations of this story in my first Mercy Row novel. Of course, the outcome in the book is much more violent then the actual event it is based on.