Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gray's Ferry Grade School Reunion

Hi everyone, this is really an announcement blog for a Saint Gabriel Reunion.
Pass it on to anyone that fits into these years and get them to come out to the bash.

Years 66, 67 & 68





- Forming lines (boys in front, girls in back)
- Collecting Mallo Cup Cards
- Opening windows with long poles
- Getting under the desks for Air Raid Drills
- Writing the Act of Contrition 25 times for Father Murphy


If interested, call Joanne Kopaczewski (Noreik) – 215-336-3729
Or email jjokop826@aol.com or Kathy Kaitz (Keough) – 215-465-8249

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ghetto Flowers, a book by Francis Oliver Lynn

Congratulations to Francis Oliver Lynn on the publication of the book, Ghetto Flowers.
Lynn is a Saint Aloysius School graduate and a Bishop Neumann High School Graduate.
The book description is below and may be downloaded at lulu.com.
It looks like another interesting story about growing up in Gray's Ferry.
I am looking forward to reading the book.

Download: $12.50

Hardcover Print: $24.99

Ghetto Flowers is the story of multi-ethnic inner city youth coming of age in the red brick row home asphalt concrete jungle of South Philadelphia. The narrow streets, homes, and alleys form a complex culturally diverse maze of neighborhoods for kids to utilize every available opportunity to thrive in their struggle to survive. The book is semi-autobiographical, using actual and fictionalized events from the author’s life to illustrate the challenges young people face in their attempt to grow beyond cultural circumstances that hinder the discovery and unfolding of their innate potential. Ghetto Flowers is a collection of realistic stories woven into a novel and written so that young people can appreciate and understand the challenge of growing up with unusual educational and cultural influences in what many would consider a world of deprivation. The Ghetto Flowers will amaze you with their ingenious resourcefulness and their insatiable hunger for adventure.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Religion and cultural tolerance in Gray's Ferry!

Gray's Ferry was years ahead of its time. Over the past few weeks there has been alot of attention given to Ave Maria, Florida and it's attempt to integrate a Catholic identity into its new town. Well, Gray's Ferry has been working on the premise of religious inclusion ever since its development.
Growing up in Gray's Ferry had just about every denomination of Christians you could imagine. Catholic Churches lived in harmonywith Episcopalian, and Calvinist and Evangelist and just about everyone else. There has always been communal integration of religion and ethnic diversity in Saint Gabriel Parish. Catholics, non-Catholics, Jewish,and Islamic believers find Gray's Ferry as religious home in this ethnically diverse neighborhood.
We used to call it a parish and a neighborhood. Just about any type of cultural experience could be found when growing up in Gray's Ferry. I don't remember any particular animosity against anyone group of individuals either. Religious groups of individuals mutually co-existed in Gray's Ferry and lived out their lives.
The Ave Maria, Florida project is an attempt at building a community of diversity based upon Catholic moral and social teachings. Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's pizza has been the brainchild of this town, which reflects his Catholic roots and heritage.
Well, I guess Gray's Ferry was the result of the Catholic community as an American parish in the 19th and 20th century. Nearly all of us lived within walking distance to our Catholic Church, most of us went to Catholic schools, and most of the local residents worked in local factories and jobs. That was our neighborhood.
Ave Maria, Florida is the same type of Catholic neighborhood, except on a more updated and modern scale.
It is really refreshing to see a city's downtown developed with proximity to a Catholic Church. Gray's Ferry is a great example of how a neighborhood either thrives or deteriorates according to the success or failure of the local Catholic Parish. When the Catholic Parish is strong, there is a strong community that loves and worships together. That is the goal of Ave Maria, Florida...a community that lives, prays , worships and is educated together in the precepts of Catholic moral and social teaching. Well that really has always been the results of growing up in Gray's Ferry as well. A lifestyle that is defined by family, faith and local community. Gray's Ferry exemplifies a neighborhood that has always permitted the freedom of religious expression, the inclusion of racial and ethnic diversity and the social success of its residents regardless of faith or ethnic background.
It is especially significant to note that even after difficult periods of racial and ethnic violence in Gray's Ferry the goal has always been towards healing and restoration of a harmonious family and faith filled life.
Ave Maria, Florida is a nascent city in developing a neighborhood and religious based lifestyle. Gray's Ferry has developed this mix of cultural and racial diversity for years and should be applauded for its complex growth.
The American concept of religious freedom of worship is rooted in Gray's Ferry, so too is the understanding of cultural and social diversity in the neighborhood.
While there have been many successes and failures in cultural assimilation in Gray's Ferry it should always be applauded for its continued attempts towards diversity and equality.
Hopefully the new city of Ave Maria, will use Gray's Ferry and it's neighborhood identity to develop and perfect the concept of Catholic cultural inclusion among its developing group of faithful Catholic residents.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Night Blooming Cereus

This is not really a Gray's Ferry Grapevine entry, but rather a plug for the preservation of botanical species. Gray's Ferry had of course the Bartram family and their extensive collections of botanical species collected by the always curious Dr. Franklin and his buddies.
In a similar manner, I guess the Bartram influence has rubbed off to me as well. The photo shown is a flower from my in bloom night blooming cereus. The botanical name is hylocereus undatus. While it doesn't live in Gray's Ferry the species was known to have been collected by John Bartram at his Gray's Ferry estate.
Anyhow...as with everything I seem to accumulate and collect there is a story associated with this plant.
Around the summer of 1984 I had the chance to visit with the local Elkins Park potter...Bill Daley. After a great evening listening to him explain his techniques for pot making ( the pottery kind...nothing illicit), he gave me a plant which he described as having a truly magnificent white flower.
Well this plant and it's subsequent cuttings have been with me ever since. The plant has resided at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, in Avalon,New Jersey, in Naples,Florida and finally here in suburban Wilmington, Delaware. For most of the journey the thing never came into bloom.
For the last 8 years or so I have been fortunate to see the plant finally flower. It has become pot-bound and difficult to deal with when there is only a green foliage. However, when it blooms...all of the wait is well worth the time and pampering I give this plant throughout the year.
Anyhow, Bill told me that the plant was from a cutting taken and grown by one of his colleagues at the Philadelphia University of the Arts.
The fellow artist, whose name eludes my mind, was a Holocaust survivor and has had a piece of this plant growing since after the Second World War.
I will call Bill and once again ask him for the name of his fellow artist and plant lover.
So de facto, this plant and its descendants has been around for quite some time. It is very interesting how it has come to symbolize summers of great anticipation as I wait for the yearly blooms. It also reminds me allot about the short and precious time every living thing has during their lives. You see, the plant blooms during the night, and by 800 am the next morning the bloom closes and dies...then falls off the plant.
During the summer, I have been very blessed to have a few dozen flowers that come and go on this plant.
Perhaps that is the point of the story...we all come and go to different places and directions in life, but we share a common neighborhood (Gray's Ferry), a common faith (Catholicism) and a common desire to be happy in our lives.
While my personal plan is not to go the way of the night blooming cereus flower anytime soon...it really is out of my control. So...story short...we need to be thankful for all of the people that in the past, present and future that will bloom in our lives.
Initially, I thought the plant was a dud! It never flowered, never did quite anything but grow green leaves.
I guess the plant is like us...we sometimes take a long time to grow, develop and flourish...once we do however the blooms never stop.
Salutations to all of the night bloomers our there....:)

It also reminds me of the fig tree that always grew at 28th and Morris Streets...across from John Chambers Church. In the spring the hard and unripe figs made great projectiles for all types of city games and purposes. I don't think I ever ate any of the figs, which even now are one of my gustatory favorites. But I do remember the fig tree in the front yard of that house on the corner, directly across from the dry cleaners. Over the years I have had alot of fig trees,
but I always fondly remember the one that was like a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree....growing inbetween a concrete wall and an asphalt curb in the heart of urban Gray's Ferry.
I guess we are all like that fig tree...urban figs now growing everywhere in contempory suburbia.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Wyeth and Wilmington?

Whenever we think of certain things around the world, there is an immediate connection between the object and its place. For example, when one thinks of the Great Pyramids, Egypt immediately comes to mind. When you think of Paris, the Louvre pops into popular attention, Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell, Simon and Garfunkel , the Philly cheese steak and so on.
That connection is the same with the Barnes Foundation and Lower Merion. Anything else other than this combination would be quite misunderstood and foreign to our Delaware Valley ears. I cannot imagine Hershey, Pennsylvania without chocolate; it is the same as with the Barnes Foundation and Lower Merion. Their seemingly love-hate relationship has come to epitomize the eccentric relationship Dr.Barnes would have relished…just like a hot dog with mustard, or New York with the Empire State Building! For years now there have been multiple attempts to move the beloved collection from its Lower Merion home to a new place on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The completion of such a move would wreak havoc on not only popular public legend and lure, but it would be terribly devastating to the enduring sour relationship provided by Dr. Barnes in the establishment of his peculiar artistic legacy.
Imagine, an art community that no longer has an issue to discuss about the state of the Barnes Foundation. Such an intellectual pursuit of perpetual discussion would be the demise as catastrophic as the blissful relationship between Mickey and Minnie Mouse. It would be right up there with the exploits of Tom and Jerry if the perennially mischievous cat would ever get his way! I must confess however, I am still not quite certain which is Tom and which is Jerry! But that is part of the allure…the perpetual struggle to achieve feline domination over the rodent world!
What would we do if the legacy and image of Dr.Barnes were transformed into a cheery happy faced humanitarian individual that wanted the entire world to experience the magnificence of his art collection? Such an image would be akin to Joseph Stalin having a huge smile or Hitler sans moustache! Freud without the id, ego and superego...it would really mess things up!
Besides offering a quirky and often misunderstood legacy the Barnes Foundation is the quintessential peanut butter and jelly sandwich entrĂ©e that goes perfectly hand-in-hand with a Delaware Valley rags to riches story, just like Chadds Ford and the Wyeth legacy belongs together. Or was that Wyeth and Wilmington….i can’t remember!
Or was that ham and cheese, Boston and the tepid tea party, Valley Forge and the Continental Army, Lord Nelson and the Spanish Armada, Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, Benny and the Jets, Peter, Paul and Mary and so on. I think you get my message...just like Romeo and Juliet!

Goretti lambs an endangered species!

Hi everyone. Today is the celebration of the feast of Saint Maria Goretti. It is especially important as a celebration day for all of those females that went to the venerable institution of that name in South Philadelphia.
The powder blue uniform of a Saint Maria Goretti student is really a seminal image in Philadelphia. Armed with their cord festooned locker key, Goretti girls have quite honestly gone all around the world as successful mothers, journalists, businesswomen and so on.
Even my own mother is a graduate of Saint Maria Goretti High School. I often think about all of the women that have benefited from all of the experiences at 10th and Moore Streets and recall fond memories. I participated as a student in Goretti's proms, dances and other events. Equally I had the pleasure of knowing well two of the high schools late principals, Rev.Msgr.James Wamsley, and Rev. Peter J.Slane. Both of these men were exceptional examples of the great priests that ministered at that school.
I suppose the statue of St.Maria Goretti that resides at the school entrance is often overlooked. Considering the new name of the school is Saint John Neumann-Saint Maria Goretti High School the school's illustrious past should never be forgotten. All of the girls in Gray's Ferry gave a particular flavour to the schools personality as they took the bus to school over many years. Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Kathy Gandolfo about the sadness of the school's merger with its male counterpart. She agreed, she will always be a true Goretti girl.
The powder blue uniforms might be a thing of the past, and the halls at 10th and Moore are now integrated with males from the former Saint John Neumann High School, but there will always be a special memory of Saint Maria Goretti High School and its female graduates.
If it weren't for those female students, the Saturday night dances, the Turkey Trot and the Ring Dance at Neumann's gym would have never taken place, nor would they have been a quintessential milestone in the healthy development of both school's graduates.
Happy Feast Day Saint Maria Goretti!
Your graduates truly reflect the virtuous life your patron saint inspired!