A Fantastic Journey

I just returned from a fantastic journey, a journey so far away. I can’t explain it in terms of miles or kilometers. It was strange, very strange, but also exciting and so enjoyable. The thing is I didn’t have to travel at the speed of light, invent a nuclear-powered machine, or dig a hole to the center of the earth to get to this wonderful place. All I had to do was lay back on the overpriced chase lounge my wife had just bought and close my eyes. 

When I opened my eyes, I was eight years old, and it was 1952. I was on Wishart Street in the Kensington section of my old hometown Philadelphia. At first, I wanted to run away because there were so many ghosts, witches, monsters, and especially hobos walking back and forth visiting the brick row homes. And when a ghost grabbed me from behind knocking my hobo hat off my head, I thought I would faint. But then the ghost said, “Come on Buddy, the Smiths are giving out pennies.”

Harry Hallman

The Ghost dragged me to the Smiths, where our friends Billy, Gilly, and Georgie were lining up for their second attempt to get pennies the Smiths were giving out. We spent the next five hours visiting every house on Wishart, Howard, Mascher, Lippincott, Front, Hope Street, and Allegheny Ave.

By 10:30 PM, the pillowcases we used as bags were full. I bid my friends goodbye and promised I would see them in the morning. We planned to play half ball between the factories on Clearfield Street.

Look, I admit that the older I get, the more sentimental I become. I even tear up at some thoughts, but walking into my childhood home once more was beyond sentimental. I have no words for how I felt when my mother greeted me. “How did you make out, Buddy?”

I couldn’t speak. All I could do was stare at my mom in disbelief. Finally, I said, Good.” And poured the contents of my pillowcase on the kitchen table. There were two candied Apples,  at least ten Grade A chocolates, several bags of popcorn, candy corns, regular apples, lots of other candy, and even a couple of full-size candy bars. The special treat was the ten pennies and two nickels. There were also five pieces of Double Bubble bubblegum. I took one piece and gave the rest to my Mom. She loved bubblegum.

Just as I was putting my haul back in the bag, my big brother Bill came banging through the front door. As he passed by me, I cringed, expecting to get a slap on the back of my head, but he was in a hurry and left me alone. He emptied his overfilled pillowcase on the table and said to me “If you take even one candy, you’re dead.”

Bill started to leave, and my mother asked him “Where are you going?”

Bill, now 12 years old, said “Out to get more candy. I’ll be home at 12.” Then he slapped me on the back of the head and rushed out the door.

As soon as he was gone, I took two of his Grade As, out of spite, and ate them fast. There must have been something in them because, like magic, my Sister Roberta, My dad, my grandmother, and grandfather joined my mother in the small kitchen. It was as happy as I have been for a very long time.

After a while, my eyes started to droop, and I lay my head on the table. An instant later, someone was shaking me and saying “Bud, wake up. The kids are here for dinner.” It was my wife, and I was back on the chaise lounge.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming,” I said. ”I wasn’t sleeping. I was just resting my eyes.”

Then I sat down at the big table where my Son, his daughter and his girlfriend, my daughter, her fiancée and my wife were sitting. I thought how lucky I was to have had the family I had while growing up living on Wishart Street in Kensington section of Philly. And how very lucky I am to have had the family I now have.

After everyone left, I went back to the chaise lounge in hopes that maybe I could take another trip. As I began to sit down I saw ten pennies, all dated before 1952 and one piece of Double Bubble bubblegum lying on the chair.

Smiling, I  gathered the pennies and put them in my pocket and placed the Double Bubble in front of a photo of my mother, Floss.

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