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101 things I did Growing up In Kensington, Philadelphia- 1944-1972

By Harry Hallman

After 78 years, you have a mixed bag of memories, and I try to draw on the one from my happy years of growing up in Philly. The other day, I tasked myself to write down 101 things I remember from my days in Kensington, Philadelphia. I was surprised at how fast they came to me. 

I thought I would share them with you, and maybe it would be helpful for you to make your list. My list is in no chronological order but instead is presented as they popped into my mind. Please don’t judge me because some of these memories make me appear to be a real a-hole. 😊 Keep in mind most of them were from when I was very young, and I was an a-hole in training.

  • I kissed a girl in William Cramp Elementary schoolyard when I was 13 years old. And I liked it.
  • I got kicked out of kindergarten for picking up a girl’s dress. Hey, I was curious.
  • I went to Sunday school to get candy and accidentally learned about the bible.
  • Seeing the light, I converted to Catholicism at age 12 and took the confirmation name of William. Really, it was because all my friends were Catholic.
  • When I was 16, I got drunk and went to church for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Forgive me, father, for I have sinned worse than that.
  • I ate Scrapple before I knew what was in it. And I liked it.
  • I watched Howdy Doody on a 14 Inch 1949 RCA TV.
  • I bought beer on a Sunday when I was underage, and it was illegal to sell it on Sunday.
  • I once drank a full bottle of Thunderbird wine and got so sick I have disliked wine ever since.
  • Shot peas at pigeons using a plastic pea shooter. No pigeons were hurt, or at least they didn’t tell if they were.
  • Occasionally, I made cap bombs and dropped them from my mom and dad’s bedroom in an attempt to scare people.
  • Created a 30-foot slingshot and tried to shoot construction staples to hit factory windows three blocks away. It didn’t work
  • I often bribed an Urban outdoorsman (bum) to buy me liquor.
  • I cut my arm fighting with my brother. I still have the scar.
  • I said the Pledge of Allegiance every school day, and I meant it.
  • I loved picnics with my family and friends at Cheltenham Park.
  • I hung out with Billy Pullman and Gilly Satterfield when I was four.
  • My friends and I played handball at the intersection of Wishart and Howard Streets. Wire ball also.
  • Stickball was played between the two factories at Howard and Clearfield Streets.
  • I swam with the family in New Jersey’s cedar lakes.
  • Once, I ate so much of Laura’s Fudge in Wildwood that I got sick.
  • Pat Morris and I sang a duet on the Boardwalk in Wildwood. We thought we were good. We were not.
  • Sledded down the hills of McPherson Square and Howard Street.
  • I had a sword fight while playing with Larry Santucci that ended with me having a nail through my cheek. I did it to myself.
  • I soaped windows on the stores on Allegheny Avenue on soap night.
  • Shined shoes in front of my dad’s poolroom.
  • The gang hung out on various corners and included Phil and Bob Gormley, Billy Pullman, Harry Elliot, Harry Eckhart, George McIver, and many others.
  • I was Captain of the safety patrol at Cramp Elementary and got suspended for a few days for talking too much in class.
  • Sent a photo to compete in the Howdy Doody lookalike contest. I lost.
  • Took a job as an apprentice plumber, left it to join the Air Force.
  • I was a civilian when I walked into 401 Broad Streetlian. When I left, I was an Airman.
  • I often fetched my Aunt and Uncle for dinner while they were drinking at the Lippincott and Front streets bar.
  • I got drunk at my sister’s wedding while sipping drinks I was serving to my two uncles highballs. I was nine years old.
  • Sat in line with my wagon at the A&P at Front and Westmoreland, hoping to get picked to take someone’s order home for them. You could make 15 cents and maybe a quarter.
  • Saw the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and hundreds of other movies at the Wishart movie theater. It scared me so much that I got a nosebleed.
  • I took my son Billy out for his first Halloween trick-or-treat in Kensington.
  • I nervously waited in Northeast Hospital’s waiting room until the doctor came out and told me my daughter Nancy had been born and was healthy.
  • I went to beer distributors and bought cases of beer when I was underage.
  • Went to the stores for neighborhood women and received a nickel or less as a tip.
  • I ate so many TastyKakes I can’t count them. My favorite was Kandy Kakes. Chocolate with peanut butter.
  • Drove around Big Boy’s, on the Boulevard, parking lot, in an old beater car trying to impress girls. It didn’t work.
  • I took the air filter off of the carburetor of my 1956 Pontiac to make it sound cool. It caught on fire, and I burned the paint on the hood.
  • Took the number 60 trolley to the end of the line to go fishing in the Schuylkill River.
  • We played tackle football in the field located at 5th and Allegheny without protective equipment. I hurt my back when I was 13 and have had a sore back ever since.
  • I drove around in my automatic transmission car pretending it was a stick shift, trying to impress girls. That didn’t work either.
  • I made my favorite potato chip, kosher pickle, Lebanon Baloney, and American cheese sandwich every chance I could. Always
  • Drank enough Pepsi, Yahoo, Birley soda, and Hires Root beer to fill the pool at the Swimo. If I added the beer, it would fill the old Milk Bottle on top of the Harbison’s Dairy. Always
  • I saw many movies at every top theater in downtown Philly. My dad took my brother and me every Sunday.
  • I touched the Liberty Bell, walked through the giant heart at the Franklin Museum, walked up the Art Museum steps, and visited every cultural venue in the city. That was part of my father’s Sunday ritual with my brother and me.
  • Saw a movie, Hey Let’s Twist, about the Peppermint Lounge at the Kent movie theater as kids were dancing in the aisles.
  • I visited the 25th district police station inside at least three times for hanging out on corners.
  • Swam at a place we called Humesville. The bank of a creek or river had a boardwalk, and the water was about ten feet deep when you jumped off. I can’t remember the name of the place.
  • My friends and I appropriated fresh corn from farms outside the city. One time we filled the back seat of another friend’s car with corn. 1960
  • I saw my brother race at Langhorne Motor Speedway.
  • I worked at Siefert Plumbing for a year. I started at $1 and worked up to $1.50 an hour.
  • Often ate ice cream at Greenwood Dairies. Loved it.
  • Wore a Coonskin hat that would make Davey Crockett envious.
  • Dug up worms at the dump with my grandfather and brother to take fishing.
  • We all cooled down under the fireplug on hot summer days.
  • I tossed my old sneakers over the wires at Howard and Wishart Street. Many times, I am sure. Sneakers back then were for gym class, not to wear outside.
  • Got crew cuts at the barbershop at Howard and Allegheny.
  • My class watched a student at Stetson Jr. High School get beat by a teacher on the first day. That was the best-behaved class that year.
  • Shoveled snow for a quarter if we were lucky. Whenever it snowed.
  • I got my ass beat up during a party at a house near 20th and Clearfield. My nose is still bent.
  • Played step ball on my steps when my friends were not around.
  • I bought a 1950 Ford for $50.
  • I played pinochle and hearts with the guys sitting on the steps late into the night.
  • Took a pee in an alley. I did not get a stye in the eye. Every day in the summer 😊
  • I played hooky to go fishing on the opening day of trout season with my brother and grandfather. A photographer from the Bulletin took my brother’s and my photo, and it was in the newspaper the next day. My teachers didn’t say anything.
  • Played bottle caps in the middle of the street.
  • I got hit by a car on Wishart Street when I ran out between two cars to get sodas from the corner store.
  • I took a beautiful girl on a trip to wildwood on Easter using my grandfather’s old car. My dad never let me drive his car after I passed the driver’s test. I guess he knew better.
  • I ate a truckload of Taylor’s Ham on Kaiser roll sandwiches.
  • I sweated through 18 years of hot summer nights sleeping in the middle bedroom room of my mom and dad’s red brick house. No one had air-conditioners then.
  • Saw a piece of the Art Loom roof get blown off during hurricane Hazel.
  • Worked at a store on Front Street when I was 12, organizing and taking out the trash.
  • I and many other people and I watched TV for the first time in the window of an appliance store on Front Street.
  • Swam at the Boys Club on Lehigh Avenue.
  • Went to the circus and sideshow at Lighthouse Field every year.
  • Rode the Merry Go Round at Hunting Park and tried to grab the brass ring.
  • I rode the El to Frankfort Highschool until they kicked me out, and I ended up in Mastbaum High School.
  • I told my friends I had to study when they decided to go to the railroad and shoot slingshots. I had a bad feeling about that. They ended up in juvenile court for shooting staples at a railroad police officer.
  • I hung out with my friends across the street from the 25th district police station. Not the smartest place to hang out.
  • I often talked with my best friends Phil and his girlfriend Emily the night away. They married, and to my sadness, both have passed now. They had a good life together.
  • I carried my grandfather up the stairs when he couldn’t walk.
  • I rode with my grandfather in the ambulance on his final trip to the hospital. As we drove, he remarked how pretty the white clouds and blue sky were.
  • I saw my sister (10 years older than me) beat up a guy her age who was picking on my brother. Kensington girls are tough.
  • Once, I sat with Ernie Santucci (Larry’s dad) in front of his house, playing the harmonica. I was about six years old then and what I played sounded horrible. Mr. Santucci told me I was very talented. I never forgot that.
  • I found a dollar bill under the American store’s cash register and gave it to the old guy who ran the store. A friend told me I was stupid, but I felt good about being honest.
  • If Philly soft pretzels were bricks, they could build a row of “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” houses with the ones I ate.
  • I had a crush on Lois in second grade, Mary when I was 12, Rosemary when I was 14, and Josie when I was 17. I married Duoc 56 years ago.
  • I took an automatic transmission out of an old Buick and replaced it with a stick shift. How and why I did that, I cannot remember.
  • After coming home from Vietnam, I spent many hours talking about photography at Jack’s photo Shop on Front Street. 1
  • My first job after the Airforce was at Aero Services’ photo lab. One day they closed early because it had snowed at least 12 inches. A fellow worker and I walked from Hunting Park Ave. to Wishart street in the freezing snow. On the way, we stopped at every bar we passed to get a shot to warm us. After a few stops, we didn’t feel the cold.
  • I saw my first 3D movie at the Wishart Movie theater.
  • More than once, my friends and I used the backdoor to sneak into the Wishart Movie theater.
  • The best hamburger I ever had was from the Olympia Restaurant at Howard and Allegheny Avenue. It was greasy as usual, but my dad had picked up a bag of them on his way home from the poolroom, which made it special.
  • My friends and I had bow and arrow fights in my basement. Thankfully we never hit each other.
  • I listened to Harry Elliott’s dad’s Moms Mabley and Red Fox bawdy record albums while drinking Rolling Rock beer. We were 16 years old or so. In those days, you had to ask the clerk if they had these albums. They were not allowed to be displayed.
  • Met some of the most fascinating and genuine people living in Kensington.

101- I had the best family a boy could wish to have. A family that instilled a Kensington work ethic and a Philadelphia mindset has served me well.  

 

 

4 comments

  • What talarico fun read. Thank you for sharing.

    Pattie
  • Harry, such a delight reading your memories from Philly. They bring me back to my sweet memories growing up in Onley in the 60’s.

    JoAnn
  • Bob Dauber- Thank you, Bob. I agree with you 100%. We did not always appreciate what we had. It wasn’t much, but it was mostly filled with love and great fun.

    harry Hallman
  • First of all, Thank You for your service. Secondly, I love the quirky details that you share. They take me back to a time in my own childhood when all of those same feelings you share were an everyday part of my life. Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, those were the best days of my life. Thanks for sharing.

    Bob Dauber

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