Saturday, May 31, 2008

Growing up in Philadelphia

Nostalgia makes everything look a little better. As a young boy growing up with modest means (to put it mildly), there wasn't a lot of money available for entertainment. And growing up in the city, I don;t have any stories about hunting or fishing or exploring underground caves.

Luckily, when I was really little, I could, for 50 cents, go the Benner movie theater, pay 25 cents to get in and have 15 cents left for a bag of popcorn and 10 cents for a box of candy (both much smaller then they would be today). Of course the day of those neighborhood theaters has long gone, with the closing last year of what was a new movie when I was young.

When I got old enough to leave the neighborhood myself, the city of Philadelphia was a source of lots of adventures. And if you were creative it didn't cost a whole lot. In fact , a pretty good day could cost less then $1.50

In those days you got a transfer at that would allow you to change buses for free. Every time you got on a bus you asked, and you received. You could then use that to get on another bus, and with proper planning, you could take travel around the entire city for one fare.

In my case I would take the 59 trackless trolley (this is actually a photo of the place where I got on - with the Bushrod Library in the background) down to the Frankford El . For a snack you could buy a soft pretzel for 5 cents (or 6 for a quarter) and then you boarded the train and you were on your way to Center City . In Philadelphia, we don't talk about downtown, we talk about Center City - downtown was what people in South Philly called their neighborhood when they didn't call it South Philly.

I got off at 5th Street, and had choice of places to visit. I could go to Independence Hall National Park , and from there it was short walk to Betsy Ross's House, or Ben Franklin's House, or down to 13th Street to buy 13 coverless paperback book's from Robin's Bookstore . And City Hall, the Free Library, or the Art Museum were always worth a trip. In any case, Center City Philly was a terrific place to wander around, filled with sights and smells that dazzled the young mind.

Still holding a transfer, when it was time to go home, I would get on the Broad Street Subway and take it north to the Fern Rock Station where I took the "Y" Bus (no longer in service) to Castor and Cottman and caught the 59 going south to go back home.

All in all a pretty good day - and all those paperbacks - not a bad way to build your library when you're young.