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The Kensington Influence

I loved growing up in Philadelphia. My childhood street, West Wishart in Kensington, was packed with interesting people. People who still kept the best traditions from their ancestral homes in far-a-way lands.  Of course, I didn’t know it then, but these people had an incredible influence on the future me.

Your family generally has the most significant influence on how you will turn out as an adult, and I had some excellent teachers. My father taught me independence, my mom how to love, my grandmother how to be kind, and my grandfather how to have fun in life. My sister Roberta instilled in me a particular strength of mind, and my brother taught me that hard work generates results. My brother-in-law, Dave Carr, was and still is an example of honesty and character.

Even though your family probably has the most effect on your personality and character, neighbors also contribute to the person you will become. Ernie Santucci, my friend Larry’s dad, was from my earliest years a beacon of patients. He often sat on a chair outside his house, and I would visit him when I was 5 or 6 years old. Ernie never dismissed my childhood babel or made fun of my squeaking harmonica playing. He made me feel like I was important.

Agnes, my mom’s best friend, was like an aunt to me. She always had an air of control, even though aspects of her own life were often challenging. Joe, the pretzel man, had Cerebral Palsy, but everyday snow, rain, or shine he was at his corner selling his pretzels. It must have been painful and challenging, but it did not deter Joe, who I believe was the most tenacious person I knew. Mrs. Murphy was out cleaning her sidewalk every day even when she was older, and clearly, it was difficult. She had pride in her home and surroundings.

Mickey, the Milkman, was up before light to ready his horse to deliver milk to us and our neighbors. To say he was steadfast is an understatement. Nan Scott, who owned a store on the NW Corner of Front and Wishart Street, never had a bad word for anyone.

These are just a few of the people that had at least some small influence on my life. There hundreds of others who lived and loved in my neighborhood. We are all part of our environments.

Aristotle said (note to my history teachers. “See I was listening”):

“The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts.” I ‘m glad my parts grew up in Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Originally posted on The Kensington Neighborhood Alumni Group on Facebook.


Florence Hallman, my mother.

Harry Hallman Sr., my dad.

Ethel Hird (Nanny), my grandmother.

Harry Hird (Pop), my grandfather.

Roberta and Dave Carr, my sister, and brother-in-law.

Bill Hallman, my brother.


Agnes, my mother's BFF.

Not Mrs. Murphy, but it was like this.

Not Mickey the Milkman, but this what it looked like.

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