Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Murder, Mayhem & Bombing on the Homefront; Out of Gas in the War Zone


On May 4, 1970, I found full time employment again.  I began working in the Operations Center of a new Philadelphia Financial Institution called Lincoln Bank.  It was located at 33rd & Cherry Streets underneath a parking lot. The photo to the left is how that location looks today and only the parking lot is still there; everything around it has changed, for the better I might add. 
At one time that parking lot looked like the photo on the right before University City began expanding beyond its original boundaries and today 33rd & Cherry is just another part of the Drexel Institute's campus.  It was not such a pretty an area in 1970,  but it had the advantage that I could walk to work. I lived then on Chester Avenue between 42nd and 41st Street. I would walk over to 41st and go north to Chestnut Street, walk down Chestnut to 33rd Street and then go North again to Cherry.

On the left was the entrance on Cherry Street into the Lincoln Bank Operations Center when I started working there. Not exactly high finance appearing, is it? I'm glad I survived because exhaust from the cars on the lot above would seep down into our offices. Fortunately, it was a rather small lot.

It was approximately a two-mile hike from our apartment and it took me along a corner of the Village as I neared work. The area was named for early Welsh colonists, who owned a number of estates in the area.  The Village was founded in the late 1800 after trolly lines were extended and it quickly became a popular residential area for Philadelphia's wealthy industrial tycoons, but by the 1960s that had long changed and it was inhabited by lower economic classes, with a number of the Victoria twin houses subdivided into apartments. It had a large multiethnic population. In fact, it had become a center for many in the counterculture and was a hot bed of political activity and anarchy.   

During the '70s Powelton would become infamous as a radical Black Liberation group called MOVE established its headquarters at 311 North 33rd Street, about two blocks from where I worked (Pictured left). This was the home of their founder, Vincent Leaphart, who changed his name to John Africa. All the MOVE member adopted the last name of Africa.
By the end of the decade the group became embroiled in a long standoff with the Philadelphia  Police under the direction on then-commissioner, Frank Rizzo. This culminated in a shootout in which one cop was killed, followed by an all out assault on the home with battering rams and water cannons. 
Nine members of Move were sentenced to 100 years in prison for the murder of the police officer; the rest of the group set up a new headquarters and commune at 6221 Osage Avenue. This was to lead to the infamous bombing of that house ordered by Mayor Wilson Goode in 1985, which resulted in the destruction of the whole neighborhood. 

MOVE continues to exist behind their spokesperson, Ramona Africa and they maintain a website.

Only a couple blocks east of where I then worked another home would become infamous.3411 Race Street was the house where Ira Einhorn, who would become known as the Unicorn Killer, lived with the mummified body of his girlfriend Holly Maddux (right), who had disappeared in September 1977.
Her partially mummified body was discovered in the spring of 1979 when neighbors complained of a stench coming from Einhorn's  home. Police found her remains in a closet, stuffed into a trunk. (The pictures below are rather graphic, be warned.) Ira had killed her in 1977, stuffed her naked body in a truck and kept the remains in a closet of his home

You may remember Einhorn”s name appeared earlier in my story because it was rumored he owned the first peep show that had appeared on Walnut Street. In April of 1970, not very much before I landed the job along the Powelton Village border, Einhorn had been hosting the first Earth Day event and claiming he was the founder of Earth Day. (Right)

Anyway, you can see I walked through and to a rather eclectic and colorful neighborhood.

Here is what I wrote Joe Rubio on May 7, 1970:
I’m working steady again. I am in the accounting department of the Lincoln National Bank (SIC – National was never part of its name, it was just Lincoln Bank). I take care of the General ledger and issue the statement of accounts daily. I started Monday (May 4). The hours are 8 to 4, 37 3/4 hours a week. I think I get twelve holidays. Let’s see…they give free life insurance, hospitalization and a low cost pay continuance insurance, and a share plan, which is something like Atlantic’s thrift plan. You buy shares in the bank and the bank matches every dollar you put in. For every ninety days without being sick I can have either a day’s pay or a day off. We get a Christmas bonus; 2 ½% of our yearly salary the first year, 5% the second year and up 1% each year afterward until it reaches 8%. We also get free banking services.  Not too bad, eh?
I will be up for a raise after six months. I am sort of a management trainee. They gave me seven hours of tests to get the job, a special management testing consultant firm gave the tests. They said I did very well in all aspects, as happened at Atlantic. I am being asked to help get another guy’s desk caught up. I have been working four days and have in 39 hours and I am working Saturday.

My VW still was not working. On June 10 I apparently rented a car and Lois and I took a little trip. I do not remember where we went or for how long. I searched through my files and could not find any more information on this journey. A week prior, however, I rented a truck in order to get our refrigerator, which we had put in storage. The one in our apartment had had it.
You know something, it is not east moving a refrigerator about the countryside alone. I had a hand truck supplied by U-Haul, but a full sized refrigerator is a heavy and awkward thing. I had no problem rolling it out of the storage bin and up the ramp into the truck, where I secured it in the middle of the bed with ropes. I had no problem rolling it off the truck and up the street to the apartment building, but I was stymied trying to lug it up the steps in front. Fortunately, that group of Black Panthers that met in our lobby was there. They saw me struggling and some of them came down and helped pull my refrigerator up into the lobby. From there to the apartment was no problem for me.

About this time my mother had to go into the Phoenixville Hospital for tests. She had found a lump on her breast. She seems to have received treatment for breast cancer, but I never knew this at the time. I only found out from going through papers after she died in 2012. I really don’t know how extensive her cancer was. The treatments were obviously successful and she never had anything as radical as a mastectomy. (Left, my mom and dad, 1970)

At work I was being trained on my Supervisor’s job so I could take over if she went on vacation or was out for any reason.

Joe Rubio came home on leave July 6. We had a few days together, playing Chip ‘n’ Putt near West Chester and hitting Jimmie John’s for hot dogs and fries before he had to return to Army duty. He was done with Vietnam, but still had several months remaining of his hitch. He flew out to Fort Lewis, Washington for the remainder. As far as I knew he had come through the war unscathed and without seeing much action, for this was the impression his letters gave. I didn’t fully learn of his wounding and close calls until he was fully discharged.

On August 20 we got a ride to my parent’s home and stayed with my grandmother. My folks were away on a vacation trip and she was alone in the house and she was scared to death. The night before somebody had been throwing stones at the windows. Whoever did this did not return Saturday night nor anytime again, so we never found out who was responsible.

We were back on the 22nd in a U-Haul Truck. We went to Lois’ father’s house and got our bedroom suite. We were preparing to a move form out studio apartment to a two-bedroom. Our current lease was up on August 31.

Mid-way through August one evening there was a knock on our door. I opened the door and two young men were standing there.
“Ah, you must be Mr. Meredith,” one said, both of them smiling broadly.
At that time Lois stepped out of the kitchen behind me. The smiles left their faces and the speaker’s voice fell to a minor key as he said, “And you must be Mrs. Meredith?”

(Mrs. Meredith in 1970.)
They quickly introduced themselves. They were two Gay guys (although they really didn’t introduce themselves as such) that had purchased The Commodore from the elderly lady we had rented from. They had big plans to completely renovate the place, put in all modern kitchens and bathrooms, etc. They were calling on us to tell us who they were, but also to offer us a two-bedroom apartment at the end of the hall. It was currently being upgraded and would be ready by September 1 for occupancy, if we were interested. I think the rent was $110 a month, twenty dollars more than our $90 studio.
We said yes.

In early September I had my three-month review at Lincoln Bank. It was my best so far and I was getting a raise early. I wasn’t told how much, but my boss said it would be at least $5.00; although he was going to try to get me more.
I went back up to Temple and registered for the Fall Semester. What a mess that was! The line was two blocks long and five abreast. It took me all of three hours to get through. I went up to the campus at 3:00 and got back home at some time after 7:30 that evening. I guess it really took four hours. What an unholy menagerie! There were students from pillar to post and absolutely nobody knew what they were doing. You had to argue and fight for every class, but I got through it. The only problem with waiting until the last night of the process is too many courses were filled. I am hoping next time I can receive pre-registration forms so I don’t have to battle the crowds again.

I had to go back on Thursday night to pay my first tuition installment. That visit was a snap, in and out, hardly anyone milling about. There was no big line outside at all and only short ones inside. It took me three minutes.
My classes began the next Wednesday, less than a week after registration. I started with English 9e that night, which was Intermediate Composition. Thursdays I had History 51e or American History from the Colonial Days to 1877 as my early class and then Sociology 11e, whih is American Society, as my late class. Beginning the following Monday was my last choice from 4:30 to 6:30, Music Appreciation 61e. This is supposed to be an easy course to ace.
On the first weekend of the semester the Black Panthers held a convention at Temple. We had some trouble in Philly all week, it even made the network news. Being trapped between Rizzo’s cops and the Panthers is scary and I could have done without either; although the Black Panthers had helped me with that refrigerator. Rizzo never did that for me.

Joe wrote that he was busy as well:
You see we have to get 75% of all our vehicles ready for storage since we can’t use them. It seems the 3rd Cav has run out of money and this is causing a fuel shortage because there is no money to buy fuel. So now we have to get all our tracks into overall condition before they can be put in storage.

No wonder we lost that war. How do you fight an enemy if you can’t afford to fuel up your fighting vehicles? You see we have to get 75% of all our vehicles ready for storage since we can’t use them. It seems the 3rd Cav has rub out of money and this is causing a fuel shortage because there is no money to buy fuel. So now we have to get all our tracks into overall condition before they can be put in storage.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Lies and Poetry and Blood on Campus


President Nixon announced he was ordering troop withdrawals from Vietnam. Soon the media was reporting that the Army First Infantry Division was coming home. This was the Division Joe Rubio served in and our expectations grew he might be deactivated from that war sooner rather than later.
He wrote me on January 24 concerning this rumor.
“I better tell you a little about this supposed to be pullout of the 1st Division. The latest word we heard was if you weren’t about to go home anyway you wouldn’t be going. What they are doing is taking people from other divisions who are just about finished their tour and putting them in the 1st division for the pull out. The amount of first division people going is about 2%. The rest of us will be transferred to new divisions. I know for the people back home this will be very disappointing, many of us feel the same way. The thing that gets me is how they can tell all the people back home these things knowing they aren’t true. Oh, some of the 1st Division is leaving, but all of its men are staying and being put in new units. So now all I can do is resume my old count down and hope the time goes fast. By the way I am down to 163 days now.”
In February, Eugene McCarthy appeared on the “Today Show”. “Clean Gene” was the first person I heard that verified what Joe had written, that the withdraw was not a true withdraw because the troops who came home were coming home anyway because their tour was up.

Joe noted on the plus side he had been promoted to E-5 Sergeant. His brother John arrived in Germany on January 10.

At this point in my life I had become very left wing politically. I was frankly almost an anarchist and Joe’s reveals about what was going on in the Army only made me feel more antigovernment. Adding to my distrust and disgust with our leaders was the trash crisis then going on in Philadelphia. The collectors had gone on strike when the Mayor named a new Commissioner without consulting the union. Trash and garbage was piling up about the city and spilling over the pavements. Meanwhile, there was no decent school system in the city, no smooth transportation and no entertainment to speak of, and a policeman named Rizzo was becoming far too powerful. I viewed Rizzo as a threat to freedom and justice and that he was wrong in thinking his heavy handed tactics would cure crime.

Becoming ever more radicalized, Lois and I became active with the Social Action Council through the First Unitarian Church in Center City. The first Sunday we walked into this institution we found ourselves not in a usual Sunday service of hymns and homilies, but in a rehearsal for a planned Vietnam protest in Rittenhouse Square. It was a die-in, where we participants would lay scattered about the park representing the dead killed in the war. It was still the waning days of winter and the grounds and pavements of the park were icy cold to lie upon as if a casualty.
Lois and I got very enthusiastic about a program to buy Black Action Bonds in support of Black Capital. We viewed it as one of the best ways possible to aid the African-American community since we believed their plight was mostly economic. It was the program's idea that if we Whites and the church participated with this bond objective we would help the Black community to reach economic equality with society as a whole.
As far as I know that program faded into failure, but that particular church is still actively leading social protest and holding fast to the philosophy of the late 1960s. More recently they have taken up the cause of Black Lives Matter.

Many people today think the country is about to explode; In 1970 it did explode; in fact, there were a number of bombing as Sping was blooming: two in Maryland, one in Pittsburgh, one in Wisconsin, three in California and four in New York all within later weeks March. On the 13th alone there had been 400 bomb scares in New York.

 It snowed Easter morning at the rate of 2 inches an hour before changing over briefly to rain and hail, then back to snow that dropped another 5 inches of the white stuff. I still had no job and a car that would not start. My dad came into Philly and picked us up and we stayed at my parents through dinner. Dad took us home around 8:00 PM.
It was an unpredictable stormy March in mores way than one.

It was a month later, on April 14, that I attended the premier at Quince Pie (I believe they actually spelled it Pye). My article on it was published a week later in "Philadelphia After Dark".  It was around this same time I received a letter from Young Publications requesting I send them some poems to be published in an anthology they were planning. My poetry had been published here and there, including readings on a weekly radio show called Personal Poetry. Hosted by David Allen. It was broadcast on WEFG-Stereo out of Winchester, Virginia. It was my guess the editors had learned of my poems from that.

The Anthology was published later in the year, a 301 page hardbound book sampling a number of American poets. It was called Dance of the Muse: A Treasury of Modern Poetry. It was published by Young Publications, Appalachia, Virginia and edited by Jeanne Hollyfield. Two of my poems were included in the volume, “Touching” and “Song in the Graveyard”.

In early May I received a letter from Joe Rubio asking what I thought of Nixon sending troops into Cambodia. I didn’t write him back immediately because I couldn’t afford stamps.

Meanwhile, the violence in the states continued to percolate. On May 4, students at Kent State in Ohio held a protest against the U.S. incursion into Cambodia. Several members of the National Guard, who were there to keep order, opened fire, most shooting into the ground, but some fired into the crowd and four students were killed and nine additional were wounded, one of whom was left paralyzed. This garnered much media coverage and became something of a symbol of the times, especially the image of a female student on her knees wailing over a fallen body lying on the pavement.
Less than two weeks later, on May 14, students at Jackson State in Mississippi, a predominately Black College were also protesting the war's spread into Cambodia. When a rumor was circulated that Medger Evers' brother, Charles Evers and his wife had been killed, the students rioted, setting fires and throwing rocks at passing cars. Fireman trying to control the fires called for police backup. The Jackson police, Mississippi State Troopers and the National Guard descended on the campus. Chaos apparently resulted and the police opened fire, killing two and injuring 11. The Jackson State Massacre didn’t get the media attention that Kent State received and is sort of forgotten today, but it was one more indication of the tensions and violence of those times.

From my letter to Joe dated May 17:  We’re used to getting casually figures from Vietnam, now we get them from the home front as well. Four students at Kent State in Ohio, 11 at Jackson State in Mississippi, instances of confrontation, colleges closed down, construction workers attacking student demonstrators on Wall Street, etc, and so forth. Our country is losing its cool; going out of its collective head, who is talking sense anymore? Hardly anyone. And there isn’t a soul listening.”

On May 11 Joe Rubio became one of the troops sent into Cambodia, where he remained until the 14th.
Have we really progressed much today?