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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

End of Days

 How did it end, this period of living and working in Philly? For that we must back up a few years.

The living there ended first.

Remember we had moved into an interesting, to say the least, cheap one-room apartment in West Philly, the area called University City.

At the time I had no steady job. I had begun to write freelance My wife took a job as a secretary at the University of Pennsylvania. We had very little money and several times I would go out and walk along the trolley stops of Chester and Baltimore Avenues looking for dropped change to provide some extra food. My lunches were quite often a bag of Philly Soft Pretzels.

We lived like that for several months before I took a job as a Circulation Manager and Book Reviewer for a magazine publisher downtown. Amazingly, I started at a higher salary than I had been making at ARCo. I was also beginning to get writing assignments from a local tabloid, being published in the "Underground" (cover of an Underground Magazine I wrote for on left, one of the few pages I could show here without gaining an X-rating.) and selling my short stories to an international publication. With our combined income, we certainly could afford something better than the small, rundown place we were living.

As good story fodder as our often exotic neighbors were it was bothersome late at night when the prostitute down the hall put her young boy out in the hall to play while she served her client. It was especially so when he began to ride his tricycle with the squeaky wheel up and down at one o'clock in the morning. It became something of a last straw when I came home one afternoon and he came running by almost knocking into me screaming, "Mommy, mommy, the cops took daddy away again!"

Once more, you can read semi-fictional autobiographical stories from my life at that time  by clicking this link:
( Six Stories of the Sixties from Keep All the Animals Warm).


However, we still had months left on the lease. Then one evening there was a rap on our door. The elderly lady who owned the apartment house had sold it to two young gay men and they had come to call. They assured us they were going to renovate the entire building and asked us to consider staying. Thus, we signed on for another year and moved down the hall to a recently refurbished one-bedroom apartment.

In fact, do you recall the crash pad apartment with the wall-to-wall mattresses across its floor? This was where the girl who would run half-naked into the hall in drug-induced nightmares lived with her boyfriend. The new owners had begun evicting the less desirable tenants, which included this couple and the prostitute down the hall and the high-heel wearing one above us.

Here are some before and after photos. On the left are photos of our one-room apartment. (It looked worse when we moved in, but we painted it ourselves, which improved it some.)  On the right is the one-bedroom apartment we moved into after the renovation.



Left: The doors are to the closet and the most erotic bathroom in Philly where you could hear all the doings of the High-heel prostitute upstairs.

The sofa is a fold-away bed, where we slept at night.

Right: Portion of our new living room.






Left: The one room was not large and doubled as bedroom-living room. The photos do it more justice than it deserves.

Right:You can see the living room of the One-bedroom was quite a bit larger. I could expand the bookcases for my growing library.



We also now had a separate bedroom.

There were windows in each room. The scene that opened this Post was the view from these windows to the back of the building. The parking lot was for the students of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. You can just see the back of the Dormitory to the right of that photo.

The other buildings face Baltimore Pike.





Left: Our cramped and crowded lone window. The fan was our air conditioning, heat came from the radiator beneath. That is Ian's cage by the fan. He died here during that winter because we had no heat for a week. My writing desk is just visible.

Right: Again you see the expansion of space we had with the new apartment.


Perhaps you see the most dramatic change with the kitchen, our old on the left, the new on the right.

However, the kitchen became the center of the determinator for us leaving when our second lease was up.

For one, as nice a job the owners did in the renovation of this building, they overlooked one thing. They did not fumigate.

The rebuilding must have stirred up the roaches, for now they came in swarms at night. You could hear the click of them against the surface of the kitchen sink after the lights went out, holding their dances. I had never seen a roach in my life before we moved to Philadelphia and if I never see another it will be just fine with me. We had a few in the first apartment, but we had masses in the new. I couldn't stand them.




The clincher came one evening when I went out to the kitchen for something. I heard a strange noise. If you look at the bottom right of the photo, you will see a panel in the wall. Something was clawing the panel from the other side. I stood there staring and whatever was doing it began pushing the panel out. It was bulging.

I pushed the kitchen table against it, walked into the living room and told my wife, "That's it, we're getting out of here."

That was when we moved to a very nice apartment in Aldan in Delaware County.





To give you some idea of the upgrade in our living arrangements, one of the stars of the "Broad Street Bullies", the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Team that would win the Stanley Cup a couple years later was our neighbor down the hall. My wife would have conversations with his wife in the Laundry Room.  I was still writing and still going to college evenings in Philly, but I had left that publishing company for a bank, where I became Supervisor of Operations Accounting. (I don't know if you can read it, but that is me, third name up from the bottom under Circulation, on the masthead of one of the two magazines I managed at the publishing company.



So, I still worked in the city. I had started at the bank while we still lived in University City and the operations center at the time was in West Philly beneath a parking garage. I use to walk there through what is called the Powelton Village area, a historic, sometimes notorious (as in the 1940s when gangsters terrorized the area), sometimes infamous (as in the late 1970s when then Mayor Frank Rizzo had the police lay siege to the homes of MOVE, an activist cult of the times, the page on the right came from an "Underground" magazine i was writing for at the time). This was also home to Ira Einhorn, where he had the corpse of his murdered girlfriend in a trunk. (It was the Rizzo campaign politicians who tried to take away my right to vote - see "Toward Last November" in the "Six Stories of the Sixties" for details of that incident.) The bank later moved its operations center to Sansom Street downtown, oddly enough under another parking garage. The first thing I discovered when I came in to my new desk was this place was full of the biggest roaches I had even seen. Ugh!



When we moved from University City we left our Hippy days behind. It was at the apartment in Aldan we became hedonists entertaining either our sex-addicted friends or our drinking buddies. (Our drinking buddies are pictured to the right of us in this photo from New Year's Eve of 1974. That was in their apartment, for my wife and I had moved to New Jersey two years prior.) Does anyone look like they may have had a drink or two in this photo?

How had we ended up in New Jersey when I was still working in Philadelphia? Well, I had left the bank and went to work with a food processor (an egg breaker) in North Philadelphia. I was the Office Manager and Cost Accountant (and briefly Assistant General Manager). The company had big plans to move to Blue Anchor, New Jersey and so my wife and I moved to a high rise in Cherry Hill, NJ at the beginning of 1972. Big mistake, but I'll tell the story of the why of various business moves some other time.  (Left: View of Cherry Hill from out 12th Floor apartment balcony.)

The apartment proved a mistake, too, absentee landlord in New York who didn't care. We stayed a year and moved to a nice apartment at Ski Mountain in Pine Hill near Clementon, where my old IBM School friend had once lived across from the amusement park.  By this time, I had left the egg breaker and was Assistant Controller in a steel fabricator in South Philly, destined to be my last stop in the city. (Right: Our Ski Mountain Home.)

We lived at Ski Mountain and I worked for the steel fabricator for the next five years, becoming also their Computer Systems Manager. In late 1978 the CEO of the steel fabricator decided to close the Philadelphia Operation and move all functions to its Chicago Plant. My wife and I did not want to relocate to the Windy City and so my next stop was with a large medical center as Budget Director.  Although one of its major hospitals was in West Philadelphia, I mostly worked in the headquarters across from their other major hospital in Darby, Pa., ironically about a mile from where we had lived in Aldan. (Photo to left is me in the mid-1970s. Do I not look like a "Beat" Poet?)

But in those last years of working in Philadelphia and living in New Jersey a lot of life changing events happened. We lost our seventh child. I became a Christian. And the first of the impossible miracles occurred.

Next time: Miracles Come in Threes.

4 comments:

Larry, aka The Kid & The Old Goat said...

Here is an email comment I received from Greg who has the “Jesus is Wonderful” Blog at http://www.jesusiswonderful.com/

Hey, Larry! Thanks for e-mailing out your posts, as I'm too busy right now to keep up otherwise. "Psychedelphia", huh? You know, I hope this comes out sounding the right way, but I think the Lord knew you two were not ready for children, yet. I am so glad you found Jesus and raised your kids in His light. Your friend is right: you NEED to write a book. Might want to provide a warning about that bathroom, though! Yikes!! And I'll try to not have nightmares about the bulging wall panel. We had cute little mice in my parents' appartment one year, and that's more than enough for me! :)

Greg

Ron Tipton said...

Larry,

I read with great interest your latest installment of your early years in Philadelphia. As you know Bill and I were in Philadelphia around the same time. Interesting isn't it, how much our lives paralleled?

One small correction in your story of Powelltown and MOVE. I believe Wilson Goode was the mayor who made the move against MOVE. Frank Rizzo wasn't responsible for that disaster (the first bombing of am American city.)

I am eagerly looking forward to the next chapter of your very interesting life!.

Ron

Larry, aka The Kid & The Old Goat said...

Ron,

Questioning me on history? Tsk tsk.

You are partially right, Mayor Wilson Goode ordered the attack which resulted in the bombing of MOVE. It was a four pound mixture of C-4 Plastic explosive and Tovex, by the way. This occurred in May of 1985 after police had responded to neighborhood complaints of constant bullhorn harangues and filthy litter around the house.

However, this was after MOVE had relocated out of Powelton Village to 6221 Osage Avenue.

John Africa, MOVE's founder and 10 others, five adults and five children , were killed in the bombing and the resulting fire destroyed the whole city block. The bombing occurred after a standoff in which police lobbed in tear gas while the fire department blasted the house with two water cannons. There was a 90 minute shootout before the bomb was used involving the police emptying thousands of rounds into the house.

So the bombing by Wilson Goode is correct.

However, prior to that when MOVE was founded in 1972 it established a commune in Powelton. They staged the same type of prolonged bullhorn harangues there as they did later on Osage. They filled the backyard of the Powelton Compound with garbage and human waste, which attracted rats and armies of cockroaches, and MOVE protected these vermin because they considered it wrong to kill them.

Obviously neighbors weren't happy with the situation and eventually the Police began to watch the Compound closely.

The Police under the command of then Mayor Rizzo basically engaged in a year-long standoff with MOVE after a vacate order had been issued and MOVE refused to relocate from Powelton. When police finally attempted to enter the Compound and physically evacuate the cult, Officer James Ramp was killed in the ensuing shootout. In all seven policemen, five firefighters, three MOVE members and three neighborhood people were killed and nine MOVE members went to prison.

(It was rumored during the 1970s that Rizzo had bought a tank and planned to use it to blast down the Powelton Village compound.)

As a result of the 1978 shootout, MOVE did move out of Powelton to the Osage Avenue house and then Goode got into the act in his reckless, foolish way.

I was walking regularly through Powelton in that 1970s period.

Lar

Larry, aka The Kid & The Old Goat said...

Ron,

So I am clear. The rumor of Rizzo's tank began in the late 1960s and was allegedly for purposes of putting down the Civil Rights movement. It was continued into the early seventies that he had such a tank and would order it used in Powelton.

My ventures through there were in the early seventies, not at the time of the police siege or shootout in 1978. The bank moved downtown before MOVE became a problem in Powelton, but it was already a hot bed of controversy before MOVE really made things bad.

I had begun writing in the "Underground Press" in 1968, (under a pen name), which is when the "Rizzo Tank" page I showed in the post was appearing.

I was introduced to the editor of Psychedelphia Period by a close friend named Jane. Her boyfriend was a photographer for the Underground and both were Black Activists. Her boyfriend eventually renounced his U. S. citizenship and went to Cuba.

These were the kind of associations I had in those days. I didn't vote for Nixon or Humphrey (and certainly not Wallace) in the 1968 Presidential election. I did a write-in for Dick Gregory of the Peace and Freedom Party.

In 1972, I voted for Benjamin Spock of the People's Party.

(I was registered Democratic in those days, but I was voting third party in the Presidential races.)

Lar