Eastwick Oral History Project: John L. Hemphill III

"And as a kid, I rode my bike, and everywhere that me and my friends would ride we would actually map out, on paper. So we mapped out whole sections of the city. Every little street on pencil and paper, some of which I still have, interestingly enough, even though the paper is very old looking—looks like the Declaration of Independence almost."

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MC: Mary Cerulli
JH: John Hemphill ______________________________________________________________________________

MC: Alright, so, my name is Mary Cerulli, and I’m here with the Eastwick Oral History Project. It is August 23rd, and will you introduce yourself for the record, and then spell out your name for me as well?

JH: Yes, my name is John L. Hemphill, III. My last name is H-E-M-P-H-I-L-L, and I live in University City, technically, now, but I grew up in that area, and I actually went to school at Bartram High School.

MC: Okay, great. Okay, thank you so much. So can you tell me a little bit about growing up and how you ended up at high school in Eastwick?

JH: Oh, wow. Well, growing up was pretty unique because I grew up in a pretty multicultural setting—my father’s Native American; my mother’s black and Chinese. So, I got to see some pretty interesting things. And plus, growing up in the area that I did—it’s a big city, so you get to ride around on your bike, or you get to play football, and things like that. And, as a kid, I rode my bike, and everywhere that me and my friends would ride we would actually map out, on paper. So we mapped out whole sections of the city. Every little street on pencil and paper, some of which I still have, interestingly enough, even though the paper is very old looking—looks like the Declaration of Independence almost. And we would ride down into Eastwick, some of it, at that time, being late ‘70s or early ‘80s. Some of it was somewhat different, and the reason why was because my father did construction work; he had a construction company; so he actually worked on homes that were being managed by a guy by the name of Mr. Korman. I actually met him as a child. So, many of the houses that are out on Lindbergh Boulevard were the ones that my father worked on. The interesting thing is that, prior to that, there was a neighborhood that existed. Much of that neighborhood was taken away; many people were displaced; and I found this out later on. But as a kid I didn’t know. So we’re riding our bikes, and one minute you could be riding through a new neighborhood, and the next minute you see older homes that are sometimes 50, 60, 70 years older. And then there were areas, especially when you went into southern Eastwick, where you would have the older homes sitting out in the middle of nowhere, almost as if they were a separate town. And we would go out there and play in the fields and throw rocks, and shoot slingshots, and things like that. And that was a really interesting neighborhood in those days because, you could kind of see how things were, how things were changed, the new ideas that came up, and how a lot of the new ideas weren’t even finished. Like, a lot of the homes that are out there now, were part of a complex that was never complete. Lindbergh Boulevard was supposed to keep going, beyond where it went. I believe it ends around 86th Street, now. Because it actually goes across 84th, and it starts to bend to the east. And now it just stops. But I remember when, you know, there were plans to expand it, and you actually had plots of land, and it looks like basements that were being arranged to be set up. And I remember when Mario Lanza used to go past 86th as well. If you drive out Mario Lanza now, there’s a concrete barrier. You can actually look over the concrete barrier and just see how it just keeps going on for maybe a block or two. And then you have Bartram Avenue. And Bartram Avenue is so different, then the way it looks now, ‘cause right now, if you’re driving down Bartram Avenue, when you get to 84th Street you have what’s now the Wawa. And then if you go south towards the airport, you have a few homes—85th, 86th, and there are the older homes, some of the older homes. But, on the left side near where the Wawa was, there used to be St. Paul’s Church, which I believe has moved onto Lindbergh. But the old church was there. And you had homes on the other side of Bartram Avenue as well. Because Bartram Avenue really doesn’t follow the contours that it used to follow. It was more straight. It was more of a straight street back then, and now it kind of curves. And, they actually had streets numbered into the 90s—I think it was like 92nd, 93rd, 95th, 96th, as far as I remember, back then. I know it went above 92nd. I think it went up to 96 or 97th. And, as a kid we used to have so much fun because, [laughs] when you went past that, you had the marshes, and you had railroad tracks. And then it ran right into I-95, and then right into what was Scott’s Paper and the airport. In some of my earlier days, I-95 wasn’t even there. See, there were homes that were under what’s now I-95 as well. Like Tinicum Avenue. Tinicum—basically you have Mario Lanza; you have the railroad tracks, which is the Regional Rail; you have Bartram; you have Tinicum—I’m not sure if it was Holstein and Tinicum or… well, I know Tinicum was next to it. Tinicum was like a block or two from Bartram. And none of that is there now—none of it. It’s the highway. So…

MC: And do you remember when the highway was built? Like, do you remember when that change happened?

JH: It had to be in the ‘70s. It had to be in the ‘70s, because, you had—there was time when you had to get off at the airport. You know, if you were on 85, you had to get off there. And, you also had industrial highway, which, technically, is there, but it’s not really in use. It’s like a back road, now, that’s on the airport. Like, matter of fact, I’ll tell you exactly how you can see industrial highway. There are two places—if you ride straight down Island Avenue, and you cross Bartram Avenue, you go under I-95, there’s going to be a hotel—I think it’s called Loft, or Aloft—on the left. Like you’re going to Fort Mifflin or UPS. You’re driving down I-95, and then right past there, on the other side of 95, that’s where the industrial highway used to go in. And it cuts behind the airport. And then you would keep on driving down I-95—I mean down Island Avenue, and then you have the old international terminal of the airport, which is no longer there. It used to be this huge blue-looking building, almost looks like a huge warehouse, and you would—if you were taking an international flight, the taxi would pull right up, let you off, you walk right in, and you walk out right onto the tarmac, and up the steps and out. Onto the plane and there you go. And then you go past it, and then of course you have to make the left, and then you go to Fort Mifflin and UPS. But another place you could see what’s left of industrial highway is if you actually get on I-95—you could either take the departure or the arrival exits when you’re going to Philly International. When you get on the other side of that garage—‘cause they’re all high-rise garages at the airport—you have the option to either go south on I-95 toward Delaware, towards Philadelphia, or you can go back to the airport. And the reason why is because you may have missed something, or you may have been going by to pick someone up, and you don’t want to go all the way back around on the highway. When you go back, to get back into the airport, a lot of times I think there’s a rent-a-car place there, too, like an Enterprise. That road you take to go on the other side, or the west side of the garages, that’s the old industrial highway. And when you drive it, you can tell—I mean, it looks like a highway. It’s just not very heavily travelled now. They didn’t rip up the road. They just left the road there. And they just worked all the way around. That was for trucks—years ago they used to, if you were driving a tractor-trailer truck, that was the way you brought it into the city, because the roads weren’t enforced.

MC: So about how old were you when your father was building the homes in Eastwick?

JH: Oh wow, it had to be—I was about six. I was about six. I know I was younger than nine. I know that. And yeah, I was about six or seven, because he used to take me to work, and sometimes he would give me a little hammer and a toolbelt, and Timberlands, before they were in style. You know, construction workers used to wear Timberlands back then. And I would go there and play in the dirt and jump around and throw things, and then every once in a while I’d grab a piece of drywall, and actually try to do the work myself, to try and save him the time. And of course I didn’t do it right—you know, I couldn’t pick up a huge piece of drywall, so I was taking scraps, and nailing the scraps to the studs, totally messing up the studs, and totally messing up the scraps. They were wooden studs back then, too. They weren’t metal. Now they use screwguns, but at the time, it was nails.

MC: And so, was your father doing that work for a while? Like…

JH: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

MC: So, do you remember what—did he talk at all about Korman or work in the neighborhood? Did you have a sense of what the change that was happening in the neighborhood?

JH: I didn’t have a sense as a child. I didn’t have a sense of it. I probably didn’t have a sense of it ‘til I was about fourteen.

MC: Okay.

JH: I met Mr. Korman once. It may have been about—I was about five. Didn’t—when you’re five, it has no impression on you. “Okay, you’re the guy that my dad works for. Great.” You know, and that’s pretty much all I knew at the time. I do remember as a kid—and this was mostly because of my mother, making a big deal of it. She made a huge deal of it, to the point where I didn’t really quite understand it. There was a sense, to some degree, of optimism, if you didn’t live in the areas that were what we now call lower Eastwick—the older homes, where people were actually living, trying to hold on to their properties, you know. If you lived in South Philly, or North Philly, or further north in West Philly, it was a pretty exciting thing. Because, you’re thinking, Okay, you don’t have to move into the suburbs to get a new home, you know. These are really new homes and nice parks for the kids to play in, and playgrounds, and recreation centers, and libraries. Actually, the Eastwick library was built later—I think like around 1980. So there was an excitement, because you still had people moving to the suburbs, and the thinking was, Well, you can have a nice home, in the city, near mass transit, near the highways, and that’s how it struck me, you know. They, at they time—they’re new homes, they looked nice. It was pretty—it seemed pretty exciting. And my father, being Native American, had a little bit of a different angle on it than my mother. My mother was, you know—it makes me laugh, because times have changed quite a bit. My mother didn’t work. She was a stay-at-home mom. And, in those days, you could still have one parent working and providing for the family. So my mother was nagging my dad—oh, she him nagged so bad. “We need to move down there. We need to get one of these newer homes.” And, my father, who was working in the homes, had a different take on it, because he kind of understood that it had the potential to flood. He knew the history of the area very well. I mean—I actually learned a lot about the colonial history of the area from him. He’s now deceased, but he told me a lot of it, when I was in my teens. And he kept telling my mom, “Well, let’s see how this turns out. Let’s see how this turns out. They’re nice homes, and if people—if the area really thrives, maybe we’ll move. But let’s see how things turn out, because I don’t really know yet.” It was uncharted territory. He was much more skeptical. How much he knew, other than the history of it, I’m not sure. But he was very skeptical. He was very restrained on the whole idea of up and moving from University City. And when I became a teenager, riding my bike down there, it was fun, but it didn’t look right. Seeing the older homes and seeing the newer homes was very, very, very unusual. And I remember that so well. I remember it so well—1986. We would ride down—we never rode down Island Avenue, because the traffic was too bad. What we would do was, we would ride down Elmwood Avenue, to about 76th Street or so, 77th, and we would make a left, and we would ride it up to Buist. And, then when you get to Buist, you make a right. And, those homes were older—circa 1920, you know. And then, even back then, it was so strange, because, when you crossed 78th Street, or if you went left down 78th, going towards Lindbergh, maybe a block, maybe half a block, the houses totally were different. They were totally newer! And that wasn’t the problem. The general thinking of me and my friends was that, Okay, the city was growing out to this point. And now they’re adding on to it. But what struck us so strange was when we began to ride our bikes beyond that. Going down Mario Lanza until it curves, and going towards 81st, 82nd, 83rd, 84th, and seeing the older homes beyond 78th. Then, things really seemed to be kind of odd, because we—what I remember so well, we kept wondering, Was this another town that the city of Philadelphia just connected to? Why are these old homes in the middle of nowhere? And eventually I found out that—let’s see, we were riding our bikes down there August of ‘86. I remember it very well. And we rode down there around September ‘86. September the 4th, September the 5th. Then school started. And when I went to Bartram, I wanted to go in the Bartram Freshman Center, which was at 78th and Buist. I’m sorry—I wanted to go to Bartram Motivation, which was at 78th and Buist. But they stuck me in Bartram Freshman Center, which used to be Wolfe—I think it was Wolfe Elementary. That was another weird thing, ‘cause they were projects out there—Larchwood Homes. We’re like, Why are there projects here? What’s going on here? Why do we have these projects here in the midst of all these new homes? So, I ended up going to Bartram Freshman Center, and meeting people my age. One of my friends, that was my age, was a guy named Adam. And his parents lived in one of the older homes. And, over the course of the year befriended him, and he was the one who told me, “Well, there was a previous neighborhood here, and many other people moved out—they were moved out. They were mistreated. The city was dumping in their neighborhood, causing all types of vermin to come out there. And my parents are staying out here and, they’re not leaving.” And that’s when it struck me, Oh my goodness, you know, this is really, really strange. And, when he told me that, it clicked on something my father told me. He said, “Yeah, we’re building these new homes out there in what used to be the city dump.” And, it was so—even when my father said it, he was not thrilled. I remember when he used to always say it. He would always put his hands up and do the quotation marks to “city dump.” And, I remember a few times when he said, “What they’re doing out there isn’t right.” And I’m thinking, Wow, this is really, really crazy you know. It’s really, really crazy. But, I don’t know—you know, now that I think about it, my father never worked on the homes below the 70s. He did all of the homes going down to about 76th Street. The ones that were on the south side of Island Avenue he never did. And the ones to the north side of Island Avenue to about what’s now the post office—the post office wasn’t there at the time, but what’s now the post office—he didn’t do those if they were south of that. He only did them from about 70th Street down to about where the post office is, near Lindbergh. And after that, he started doing homes in North Philly near Fairmount and in Old City, because it was around that same time that you still had some people trying to refurbish South Street, and New Market was being built, which was basically an idea—I think Patti LaBelle may have even had—where they were trying to make it an inner-city mall that attracted people. And, Old City, many decades ago was a slum. And, they were fixing up Old City. So, a lot of the work that he started to do after that ended up being down there around 5th and Pine—along 5th Street. 5th and Pine, 5th and Spruce. There was that one guy who was a newscaster—I don’t even know if this guy is even alive—I can’t think of his name, either, but he [my father] did his [the newscaster’s] home. And that was around the time he stopped. MC: So what was it like to start at Bartram High School? Just in general? JH: Ooh, wow. It was rough [laughs]! It was so rough! Because I went to private school. I went to Christian school. I went to Spruce Hill, went to Delaware County Christian School, and I was used to a much different level of education. I wasn’t used to people—students—yelling and acting crazy. I learned how to fence, you know, in gym class. All we did was play rugby, soccer, fencing. And then, I went from that to Bartram. And it was like, What in the world is this? It was so… different. Quite different. Public school and private school are nothing alike. Yeah, nothing alike at all. MC: And so were you—you were still living in University City, right? And then went to Bartram... JH: Mm-hmm. MC: So did you—did that feel different? JH: Not really. Nah, not really. We just—I’d just ride the 36th trolley out. And my father, he told me a lot about what the area was like prior to that. Because, by him being Native American, he knew it. It’s kind of—I don’t know how much of the history of Eastwick you’re familiar with, but, prior to William Penn coming here, there was quite a bit of… I guess you would call it an arms race of sorts, that took place. What happened was that the Lenape—my father was Seminole, and he knew a lot of people who were Cherokee. Some of my cousins are Cherokee. He knew some Lenape. And what’s now Eastwick was mostly forest and marshland. To give you an idea, basically, what’s Heinz Wildlife Reserve looks like—it pretty much looked like that. You had Cobbs Creek, which used to be called Karakung Creek; Darby Creek, which was T— Creek; then you had what’s now Mingo Creek, which was M—. And, Mingo Creek is still there, but it’s kind of hard to access, ‘cause there’re not too many streets. Going north, you have Eagle Creek and Perch Creek, going towards, like, Bartram Village and all the malls, because the eastern part of Eastwick is all the mall. And, prior to all the malls being there, there were plans to build houses there, too. And they were just never done. So, you have those creeks, and what’s lower Eastwick were mostly islands. Tinicum Island is basically the more well-known island. There were usually islands with trees and tall weeds. And what’s now the Delaware River was called the L—, which was the river of the Lenape. Some people used to call it P—. P— is really the bay. It’s really Delaware Bay. But, if you don’t make a difference between the river and the bay, you call it P—. Schuylkill was then sometimes called G—. Some people call it Manayunk. Manayunk, now, we think of as a neighborhood, but Manayunk was actually the name of the river. And, it was basically, place where you drink—that’s what it means. One of the reasons why some people called it G— was, because prior to the Water Works being built by the art museum, the water level in the northern part of the river was low. Since it was lower—see, the dam that’s now the Schuylkill Dam caused the river to back up. It causes it to flood. When the river floods, it has a higher level, and then when they built the Water Works, in order to get runoff, it would go through the Water Works and turn the turbines. Whatever was left went over the fall. But, without the Water Works, you didn’t have it. So, since you had a lower water level, and since you had more rocks, you have more rapids. And you could actually hear the Schuylkill in those days. It basically was the sound of rushing water. That’s basically how the typography was. And then you had different villages in the area. Most of these villages still have names—you know, they’re the names of neighborhoods: S— was a village; M— was a village; Tinicum was a village—and an island. And, so, you had that. You have these islands, and these villages, and a very heavily forested area. You couldn’t see the mouth of the Schuylkill from the Delaware. And the reason why was because the islands obscured it. And to some degree, lower Eastwick—you really… it’s kind of hard to picture. But my father used to actually—he knew about, and he visualized it, and he explained it to me. So I can visualize it. If you’re coming up the Delaware River, the navy yard—was eventually League Island. So that’s an island. You had what’s the channel—what’s now the navy yard channel, which was the mouth of Hollander Creek, eventually. There’s a Native American name for Hollander Creek, but I don’t really remember it. And then you have the channel where the Schuylkill flows into the river now. Then you have the island to the west of that, which was eventually Province Island. Then you have M— Creek; Bow Creek; Shingsessing Creek, which is Kingsessing; Church Creek, which is further south; and you have Tinicum Island, Hog Island, Province Island, League Island. And those are the islands that obscured the Schuylkill. So, it was kind of hard to tell where it was, and that’s probably why the Dutch named the Schuylkill what they named it. It basically means “hidden river,” because you couldn’t see it. The Native Americans never called it that. But they [the Dutch] did. What the Native Americans also did was—they used to bring trade via foot over the footpaths. One of the trade routes that they used that eventually became a road, and now it’s really a road, is Island Avenue. You—the way that you could come out… what happens is that you come out of Delaware County; you cross Cobbs Creek, which is very, very shallow, about a block north of Woodland Avenue, okay? Then you’re crossing down onto, what I guess, technically, would be Cobbs Creek Parkway. You come up Island Avenue ‘til you got to M— Creek, which is about… in those days, the creek actually ran, from what they told me—it ran as far inland as Lindbergh. Now, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. And, you could always go that way to trade. Or, you could take Darby Road, which was Woodland Avenue, out into Darby, PA, and then take what’s now—there were two paths that you could take south. One’s now Chester Pike. But, basically, that’s the path you took to—what did they call it back then? They called it… I can’t think of the Native American name for Chester now. But the Swedes called it Upland, but it had a Native American name. You could take that to that village, or you could take McDade. And, when you take MacDade straight out, it leads you towards what’s now the P— House, which is really Upland, but it’s really north of that. You cross the creek, and then you go straight down into Delaware until you get into—not Wilmington, but… Newcastle. And then from there you can go south, and you can trade to—deal with Algonquin, Cherokee, Seminole, Catawba… you name it. And you just go back and forth that road. And, all of that of course changed when the colonists came, because their differing—there were differing… The way it was explained to me was that no one really knows who came first. ‘Cause, when I went to Spruce Hill, we had assignments. We learned it in history books—‘bout the colonization. And sometimes I would ask my dad. And, he always said that no one really knows who came first. Because, the English had claimed to come, and they set up blockhouses in what’s now lower Eastwick, which used to be Province Island. And that’s the part of Eastwick where—that’s the part of Eastwick where I-95 and the Platt Bridge cross into South Philly. That’s Province Island. It used to be, also, Tinicum Avenue. Because, the Platt Bridge used to be called the Penrose Bridge, and prior to that it was the Tinicum Ferry. But it’s the same road. That used to be Province Island. The English claimed to have come there as far back as 1610. I know the Dutch came in 1623. They set up, I think, either a fort on that side, or it may have been in South Philly. I don’t really remember. And I know the Swedes came to Wilmington, and then I know they eventually came to Tinicum, and then eventually settled in what’s now Queen Village. But, you had some of them coming through Eastwick as well, because you had towns like M—, Torn—well, Kingsessing was actually Shingsessing, which was a Native American village. But you had Swedes came there and live there, ‘cause it had a mixed population, from what my father told me. And that was pretty much all I knew. He mentioned they built dikes. I’ve never seen the dykes. I don’t know if the dykes are still—that would be something archaeologically fun, to see, if they’re still there. But, I know he mentioned that there were dikes that were built, either by the Dutch or the Swedes. My father told me that. And that’s pretty much all he mentioned, that you won’t find in history books, for the most part. Like, you’ll hear about Fort Mifflin; you’ll hear about the Revolution; of course you’ll hear about the airport. But all of that stuff that he told me, you don’t really find it in many books, because it doesn’t seem to interest people.

MC: What was it like to learn about this history from him? What were those conversations like?

JH: Oh, wow [laughs]. We used to have some fun! We—sometimes my father was a guy who used to ride around. He would tell me, “Oh, come on, let’s jump in the car.” So I’d jump in the car, he’d get me something to eat, and we would just talk. And, he would explain it almost a matter-of-factish. It wasn’t really a teaching session or a lecture—he would just talk about it. And I’d be like, “Oh, yeah.” And then I would tell him what I learned in school. And we would go back and forth, back and forth, you know. And he tended to add on to what I learned. Because, in school, like I said, I never learnt that. That aspect—you never learned Native American history, you know, in school. At least back then you didn’t. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even really learn much about the Swedes… back then. All we learned about Pennsylvania was that William Penn came here in 1693. And that was it! And everything from 1683 to 1776 was not covered. Nothing before 1683 was ever mentioned, hardly. Maybe one sentence on Swedes—the Swedes came first and then Penn showed up. When we heard about the Dutch, we always heard about New York City. He [my father] broadened my horizons because he talked about the Native Americans, he talked about the Dutch, he talked about the Swedes, he talked about the English, he talked about the African-Americans, and he talked about how cosmopolitan the region was… prior to 1683. And, I think he even told me that—and I’m not sure what year he told me—but he told me that one point West Philly and Southwest Philly belonged to the Swedes. South Philly and North Philly belonged to the Dutch. And something happened, and the Swedes took it up to Trenton. And I didn’t know about that. I don’t know what year that was. One of these days I want to look that up. ‘Cause he did mention it. He just talked—kind of like the way I’m talking to you. We just had fun talking about it. He loved Fort Mifflin—loved that fort. We used to go out there all the time. I still go out there a lot.

MC: Did he ever talk about where he learned this history?

JH: You know, he didn’t. Some of it, further south. But then again, he was kind of odd that way. Because, my father—he grew up in South Carolina. There’s a reservation not far from Charlotte. He grew up down there, they moved off the reservation when he was a kid, moved to Fayetteville. And then he went and fought World War II. When he came back, he wasn’t the same, because, in those days, the South was very segregated. When he was off the reservation, he was considered black. When he was on the reservation, he was Native American. He was not used to that—not after being in Italy and France and Germany. So he left there. He came to Boston [laughs], and he was there from 1951 to ’53, and then he came to Philly. Actually, he came through Philly in ’51, and then went to Boston, and then came back to Philly. And he stayed here. Some of it, I know, he probably learned from his friends that were Lenape. Because he knew people that were Lenape, Cherokee, some Seminole, some Algonquin, some Iroquois. A lot of them were in the construction business. And some of them I remember. I guess they’re all gone now, ‘cause my dad would have been 90—well in his nineties, mid-nineties. So, if they’re around, they’re very old. But, yeah, they would talk a lot, even on the—and I never knew what they talked about when they were working. But I suppose that’s where he learned it from.

MC: Do you know what is was like for him to—or why he decided to stay in Philly? Were there things that he liked about Philly, or…

JH: He always said Philly was good to him. Yeah, he said that Philly was good to him. He got—he always stayed with a job here. There was always something to do. And, it’s kind of funny, too, because, at that time, Philly had such a negative history—or a negative… what’s the right word? Negative demeanor. Most people who could get out of Philly back then went to New York or went to L.A. Now Philly is such a place to come to, and people love it, and now, I mean, you could go downtown and see tourists coming from Germany and France, you know. Back in the ‘70s, you didn’t really have that. It was a very blue-collar town, very gritty town. It was a city where there really wasn’t any, I guess, pizazz. Because, you think of cities having energy, and downtown didn’t have that. All the buildings could not be over 40 stories tall. Many of the buildings were brown-looking—you know, brick and stone. Had a very drab look to it. Market Street, wow—you’re making me think about a lot of memories. Market Street had a lot of theaters. There were no office buildings, really—a few, but not many. You had the bus terminal, which was around where the Mellon Bank building is now. You had a bowling alley. And you had mostly theaters. And then on the east side of City Hall you had steak shops. And, you know, if you wanted to shop, you went to Wanamaker’s, or Gimbels, or Strawbridge’s, or Lerner’s. And, of course, when the Gallery opened in, I think, the mid-Seventies, you had the Gallery. But the Gallery wasn’t nowhere near as big as it is. It was only, I think, one block, one and a half blocks. And then they added on to it another block. ‘Cause at that time it only went to 10th Street. And it was just a very different—very different place than it is now. Now it’s so cosmopolitan, and there’s so much energy, you know, that it’s very different. Very different.

MC: So, taking it back to Bartram High School again—so beginning was rough, was a big change for you. Can you just tell me more about going to school there and things—‘cause you mentioned that when you were about 14 was when you started to understand… had a broader understanding of the changes in the neighborhood, and your friend Adam. Can you tell me what else you were learning or figuring out while you were there?

JH: Well, I figured out that a lot of people that go to public school don’t have opportunities that people that went to private school did. It was not... I grew up in—it was so weird ‘cause I grew up in a multicultural household, went to school in a multicultural setting, and when I went to Bartram [laughs]—it wasn’t multicultural at all! It was very inner-city, very—fights broke out a lot. And then there was Freshman Day. And, well, before I even go to Freshman Day, the thing about Bartram, at that time, was you did have students who really took their work serious, you know. And you had students that were really good people, and wanted to do good. And it’s very, very easy to come away with a negative attitude of an inner-city school. But the thing to remember, and the thing that I can think about, thinking back, was that the trouble-makers were not the majority—not even half of the kids were trouble-makers. Maybe one in 10, you know. Maybe 10, 20 percent were trouble-makers. But the vast majority were people that just went to school, got out of school, wanted to get good grades, and of course, you know, you saw a lady that you wanted to talk to if you’re a guy. And you did your best to get her attention, you know. And, if you were successful, then, you know, of course people found out about it. And vice versa for the ladies. It was a pretty happy time to some degree, because you had time to be a kid, you know. If you weren’t really caught up into the problems of a troublesome lifestyle, you could still be a pretty decent teenage kid, you know. And at that time that I was in Bartram, you also had the drug epidemic sweeping through the city, which is why some of the people who were trouble-makers were trouble-makers. Some people were trouble-makers ‘cause they were just bullies—all schools had that. But then you had trouble-makers who, you know, were dealing drugs. And they caused problems. And you pretty much knew who they were. And if you weren’t—didn’t want to be a part of it, you knew to stay away from them. You had people who would cut class for various reasons—sometimes you cut class to be with the one you want to be with. Sometimes you cut class ‘cause you were trying to do something, you know, wrong, or illicit, if you were into that. You had that—it was kind of fun, though, ‘cause you had the hall monitors, who were always making sure you weren’t doing something in the bathroom, you know. And things like that. And it had its fun moments—it really did. I kind of look back now with some pretty fond memories. But it was a culture shock when I started. Because, going from a private school to a public school is a different country—it’s a totally different country, totally different society, nothing like it in the world. And then we had Freshman Day. Freshman Day was—since I went to Bartram Freshman Center, Freshman Day was, like, [laughs] extremely bad, because you had Bartram Main Building, which was at 65th and Elmwood; you had Bartram Motivation, which was at 78th and Buist; and then you had Bartram Freshman Center, which was at 81st and Lyons. And, what they basically do—or did back then—is, if you were a freshman, they would pick with you. They would rough you up in the bathroom; they would put your head in the toilet; they would throw eggs at you—hundreds and hundreds of eggs. Enough to make an omelet off of your clothes. And, what was so bad about being at the Freshman Center, was that all of the seniors left the Main Building early to get to the Freshman Center before we got out. So—it makes me laugh, ‘cause I can picture it so well, even though it was a good while ago. We would—the normal routine was, you would get out of class. And, the way my roster was—was, I had lunch, gym class, history, and then algebra. Algebra was my last class. It was in the front of the school. Everybody would go to the front of the school, go out the front, go down these steps, which were like a hundred steps—real, a real lot of steps. And the buses were waiting in the front of the school—52 bus, the G bus, the U bus. And, if you were going to get on the bus to go home, you got on the bus, and it took you to the normal route. And then I guess the bus drivers would just continue to go to work after they dropped off the kids—unless you were like me and were trying to go to some girl’s house [laughs]. And sometimes you wouldn’t always get on the 52. Most of the time I got on the 52—90 percent of the time. And that Freshman Day—it had to be a good hour before it was time for us to get out. We heard, “They’re outside! They’re outside!” And I’m like, No! This can’t be happening. So, going to algebra class, I looked out the front door, and you could just see ‘em all lined up, you know. Some of them were bouncing balls. Some of them—I mean, had cartons of eggs in their hands. And I’m like, Aw, this is going to be a bad situation—very, very bad situation. And I’m thinking, Do I stay in this school ‘til everybody runs away, or do I go out, knowing I can’t outrun them, because you can’t run down the steps. You know, I don’t care how fast you run the steps, they’re at the bottom of the steps, and they’re going to get you. So, I went to algebra class, didn’t pay attention to a single thing the man said—Mr. Eddy. I think he was, like, Korean, or Chinese, or Japanese. But Mr. Clark was my history teacher. Mr. Eddy was my algebra teacher. Didn’t pay attention to a single word he said! And all I could think about was, I gotta to get out of here. And, remember, I had found out that there were some older homes, and then there were some new homes, but you had a lot of fields. Lot of fields where there was nothing. And, to this day, you have that—whole city blocks where there used to be homes, now just trees and weeds. Like Pontiac Street—good chunk of that’s weeds; 83rd Street’s weeds; 84th Street—what’s now 84th Street, was different from the old 84th Street, because they built it to the south, and then built the bridge; and then, of course, you had Lyons, which is where the school was. Then you had the playground to the back of it. At the back—and you still have the playground, which really wasn’t a playground, just basically a huge concrete plaza with a metal gate. Behind that was Pontiac Street, which is where Pepper Middle School really is. Pepper Middle School—the back of Pepper Middle School, or the east side of it, sits on Pontiac. And then across Pontiac there’s… what’s that street? There’s another street on the other side of Pontiac, and then you have Eastwick Avenue. Then you have Mario Lanza. Eastwick Avenue used to be like Woodland Avenue. It was a huge street with trolley tracks, and, to this day—I don’t know, have you ever been out there? Yeah. Have you seen the trolley tracks? Yeah, they’re still there, right! So, I remember when they were there. It wasn’t so overgrown, because those trees weren’t as tall. But, there were trolley tracks, and I’m like, What’s this here for? What’s going on out here, right? And there’s trolley tracks run right under the 84th Street bridge, and they keep going. And, the other part of Eastwick Avenue, which is 84th, 85th, 86, it’s blacktop, but the trolley tracks are right underneath it. So I’m thinking, Man! These guys are outside [laughs], you know. I could see it now. I could just see it now! And, Adam, who lived out there, said, “Yo, let’s go out the back door. That’s the way I go when I go home, ‘cause I live right over here, near Pontiac Street.” Or whatever street he lived on. So, I go out the back door. I’m like, Okay, great. So, I run out the back door. They’re on the side of the school, and, I’m like, No! [laughs] I go out the plaza. I don’t know how many guys are chasing me. We cut through the field. The weeds were about six feet tall. And there was a path we used to take to get to Island Avenue. Man, I never—it was like being in the middle of Vietnam or something. You’re running down this dirt path; you know they’re chasing you; they’re throwing eggs at you; they can’t see you, you know, ‘cause the weeds are six feet tall. But the eggs are hitting the trees, and they’re splattering all in the air, and you’re like, Man, you know, this is coming a little too close. So I run through the field, go across Mario Lanza, go through the shopping plaza, and the trolley turns right there. The trolley used to right down Eastwick Avenue, and I remember one time a trolley got stuck, ‘cause he—at that time you could turn, but you could also go straight. And I guess he didn’t turn. He went straight, started to go down the old path, where there was nothing but the tracks. But we ran—we ran to the trolley, and then jumped on the trolley, and sped off. And I mean just sped off. But, when I got on the 36, I had enough sense to know, I need to get off at 71st, which is near Elmwood Skate Rink— and that was like the hangout. If you’re a teenager, that was where you hang out, you know. Elmwood Skate Rink was the neighborhood place. So, I’m thinking, I need to go to Elmwood because this trolley is gonna go by the Main Building, and those guys are gonna know I’m a freshman, and whoever I evaded, they’re going to head me off at the pass. So I got off at 71st Street, went into Elmwood, stayed in Elmwood—man, probably for about two hours, ‘cause I knew the owner really, really well. My dad and the owner were really good friends. And then I left Elmwood—start walking up past Paschall Avenue. And, in those days, you know, people would pick with you if you weren’t from that neighborhood, you know. That neighborhood—and, understand Philly is a very different place now. Certain neighborhoods had certain ethnicities, and if you went through the wrong neighborhood, people would chase you. So, me, looking like I do—I don’t look Irish or anything: “What are you doing here?” I’m like, “What do you mean, What am I doing here?” “Get out of here!” And then they start siccing the dog on me. So I’m like, Great, you know. They’re probably in the races or whatever. So I’m running! I ran down to 62nd and Woodland, and then I finally said, Okay, I gotta get on the trolley. So I get back on the trolley and eventually get home. I don’t get home until, like, 3:30, 3:45, something like that. And, fortunately, my dad and mom weren’t there, ‘cause they would have been, like—well, my father wouldn’t have been there anyway, ‘cause he got off of work late. But, they would’ve been like, “Where’ve you been?” And then I would have had to make some excuse—“Oh, I was over such-and-such’s house studying.” But, no, it was Freshman Day. Elmwood was a good memory too, though. Elmwood was a very good memory.

MC: Can you tell me a little bit about the places in Eastwick or Southwest Philly in general that were important to you, growing up, going to school there? Like neighborhood places that felt—like, important neighborhood places.

JH: Well, other than Bartram—well, Elmwood was important. ‘Cause most of it was houses. Well, Bartram Motivation—I went to Bartram Freshman Center, but Bartram Motivation was definitely important, because, if you were in the Freshman Center, you didn’t want to go to the Main Building. You wanted to go to Motivation—smaller school… If you had good grades, you had better opportunities. The women looked nicer [laughs]. That was the place you wanted to go, you know. So, Motivation was always nice. As a matter of fact, if you got out of school and could get up to Motivation to find somebody to talk to, that was, like, the goal, you know. Elmwood Skating Rink was very, very, very important. Because, that was the place where you hung out on the weekends, you know—Friday night was gospel night, Saturday night, Sunday night. I think Saturday night was, like, 8:00 until 11:00. Sunday night was, like, 4:00 or 4:30 to 10:30. And, you could meet everybody there, from Bartram and from other schools—University City, Overbrook, Bok. I mean, if you were going to… It was almost like—it didn’t have the feel of a nightclub, but you met people like it was a nightclub, you know. It was really, like, the spot to be. And then, being that this is the city, everything—if you hung out in Eastwick, you pretty much would ride your bike. ‘Cause I rode my bike a lot, a whole lot, in Fort Mifflin. I loved Fort—to this day I still go to Fort Mifflin. Probably every year, around the Fourth of July. You—some people go there for different things. It was supposed to be haunted. I’ve never seen anything. You could see airplanes landing there. That—it was pretty cool. You could see ships coming up the river, which was pretty cool. And, plus, you know, if you were going to be someone that was going to play GI Joe, you know, when you’re a younger kid, the Fort’s the natural place, you know. This big old brick fort that’s 200 years old—with a moat! What could be better? I mean, it’s the closest thing to a castle Philadelphia has. So, I really, really loved Fort Mifflin. I enjoyed Fort Mifflin so much. And, there were areas to the fort—well, now there’re areas that we know about, but, when I was a teenager, we didn’t. Like, there’s an area that they discovered that was the old cannonball arsenal. They used to store cannonballs, the British. And, when I was a teenager, we knew there was a secret room, we didn’t know where it was. So we were always looking around, seeing if we could find the secret room. You had the dungeons, the bomb-barracks. There was an area south of the fort that wasn’t really a part of the actual fortifications, but, it was kind of like an artillery mount, for the later period, I guess the Civil War. And, we would walk through the woods and see it. And, it’s still there. It’s still there. They haven’t changed it. It’s been there for 150 years. It’s not gonna change. It was a lot of fun. It was really a lot of fun. It really was [laughs].

MC: So, what came next for you after Bartram High School?

JH: Well, I didn’t graduate from Bartram. I ended up going to Bok. My father said, “You need to learn a trade, son.” I wanted to go into business. He had other ideas. So, they sent me to Bok, and I ended up taking architecture. ‘Cause I was good at drawing, and I was always drawing maps of the neighborhood! So, they sent me to Bok, I graduated from Bok, then I went in the military. I was in the Air Force during the Gulf War. And, when I came out, I started working for the government. Been working for the government ever since.

MC: Did—well, okay… Do you feel like you have a connection to Eastwick now?

JH: Yeah, ‘cause I still go out there a lot. Yeah, my sister used to live at 74th and Elmwood. She just moved—just moved, ‘cause she got married. I’m always going to Fort Mifflin. I go out there shopping, in the plaza on Lindbergh and Island Avenue. It mostly—I drive that way just because I’m always going that direction, you know. And, one thing that—and I do remember this, because it kind of fits into what I’m talking about now, because one of the places that I probably go more than anything in Eastwick is… Wawa [laughs], you know. And I remember old Saint Paul’s Church that used to be there. And then there was a Catholic church called St. Clement’s, too, that’s no longer there. And there was a school out there and everything. And that’s all gone now. It’s all gone. But, I remember often wondering if they would ever rebuild that neighborhood, lay out the—‘cause the streets are there. The power lines are there. I’ve even seen old fire hydrants on some of the abandoned streets that are still there, and it’s like, If the infrastructure’s there, are the people ever going to come back to those areas? And even as a teenager, being 16, 17 years old, I remember riding out there, riding straight out Lindbergh Boulevard, or riding down Bartram Avenue, which was nowhere near as busy as it is now; and, riding towards, I guess, Essington, because if you take Bartram Avenue straight out, you end up getting on what eventually becomes Governor Printz; and it takes you right through Essington, and that whole area—Lester, basically. We used to call it Lester. And, I used to always wonder, Are they ever going to build out until the streets connect to Lester, you know? I don’t know. To this day I don’t know. And, in some cases, too, there was some—I do remember this. In some cases there was… As teenagers who used to ride our bikes—there was some confusion, too, because, in those days, you had the Yellow Pages. And usually in the first pages of the Yellow Pages they describe what makes your city important, and what projects you’re going to see in the city. And they have the zip codes, and the government phone numbers, and all of that. And, if you could ever find the 1986 or ’87 Yellow Pages, it would be kind of cool to look through. Because they actually talk about Liberty Place and many of those building, and there was a very early computer-generated graphic of what they were going to make Market Street look like, which was really exciting. But we never understood, as teenagers, if Lester should be a part of Eastwick, and should be a part of the city, or if it’s a separate town. And the reason why was because at that time—and I don’t know about if it’s still like this—but their zip code was a Philadelphia zip code. It was 19113, where Eastwick was 19153, and Paschall was 19142, and Kingsessing 19143. So, we weren’t sure if they were a part of the city or not, and it’s also funny because, even later on… after I got out of the military and ended up working where in Eastiwck? At the airport terminal! For the post office, for a short period. So that’s a whole other side—a whole other discussion about Eastwick too, because, when you think of Eastwick, it’s very easy to think about it from Bartram Avenue to the west. But if you look at it a map of it, half of the neighborhood… isn’t even inhabited. You have the junkyards; you have what’s now the post office terminal; you have the auto mall where they’re selling cars; you have the sewage treatment plant, which is over there by the Platt Bridge; you have, of course, the airport, UPS, Fort Mifflin; and then you have the airport terminal, which—the airport terminal was part of the post office, but it was strictly for mail that was going out the city via the airport. Because at that time, the main branch of the airport was right over here at 30th Street. So—there’s just so much land that isn’t really used. And I know that, as I got older, when I’ve looked into some things, some of those areas they planned to build neighborhoods in, and they just never did it, you know. Like the auto mall. That was never—that was not always supposed to be there as an auto mall. So I don’t know what the future of Eastiwck holds. I know its potential’s huge—I mean, huge. But…

MC: And so when you say potential, what does that mean to you? What does that—what do you think that could be?

JH: You could use it for virtually anything. I mean, you could use it—there’s so much space east of Bartram Avenue and east of Lindbergh. You could use it to—for houses, you could use it for… companies, you could use it to bring jobs. I mean, it’s land that’s underdeveloped, you know, that can be used for anything. If you wanted to build—you could literally double the size of the residential area of Eastwick if you build houses and streets, just because the land is there. Or you could turn it into—doing what they did over there at the old DuPont site, which, is now, you know, for startup companies and things like that. You could always make it for light industry, high-tech industry, and what have you. I don’t think, now that I think about it— ‘cause you have Jerry’s Corner, which is on Passyunk. That’s land, you know. The refineries don’t really do much when it comes to the west side of the river. They’re mostly on the east side. So, you could build huge amounts. And, of course, there used to be the shipyard—‘cause, you know, there used to be a big shipyard south of Fort Mifflin and Hog Island that they used during World War I. You could build ships there. You could—everything you do at the navy yard and in South Philly, you could do, literally, right near the airport, you know. Or you could expand the airport if you wanted to, or you could build ships. I mean, there’s just so much that you can do with that land, and we’re fortunate because a lot of cities don’t have that option. [In] New York City, land is a premium, you know. They can’t expand port facilities, can’t expand the airport, can’t do none of that. They’re cramped in. We have so much land there that it’s just amazing. Oh, and that’s another thing we used to love to do: Jerry’s Corner. Aw man, as a kid—‘cause that’s really Eastwick, but it’s to the northeast, because Eastwick kind of bends around to the northeast. That’s another place we used to love, even when I was really, really, really, really small. My dad used to take me to Jerry’s Corner on Saturday night. And, it’s still there, but it’s not the same [laughs]. It’s so different now. It was basically a bazaar. You could go there, you could buy things, you could sell things, you could pick up things. They used to have the best pizza! Aw man! The pizza was to die for. They had a pizza and a chicken wing place out there. When you walked into Jerry’s Corner, that was the best, and then you could go and get all kinds of different things from different salespeople that were selling in different carts. And, if you turned to the left, and you went to the end, they had an arcade. Pinball machines—aw! There were so many pinball machines! I used to love to spend my Saturday nights there. And then when they finally came out—and I’m really dating myself, ‘cause, you know [laughs]… I’m really dating myself. But, when they came out with the video games Atari, Space Invaders, Asteroid, Donkey Kong—they started to bring those in, and it was so different from the pinball machines. It’s, like, Wow! And at the time, you also had a supermarket, ‘cause they added a supermarket there. And then they added a bingo area, which I never went into, ‘cause my parents would’ve killed me. And then there were other areas that they were not even going to let me pronounce… that were a part of Jerry’s Corner. ‘Cause they used to have peep shows, you know, so—so you had that. And I remember, as a child, sometimes we would go to Jerry’s Corner on a Friday or Saturday night, and, man, it’s amazing—the memories come back so well. And you—one funny thing about memory is… it doesn’t have a date. It stays fresh. Like, I remember my mom and my father driving down Lindbergh Boulevard until they got to 61st Street or 62nd. It might’ve been 60—it might’ve been 61st. And, we would make a left, we would cross Eastwick Avenue, ‘cause that part of Eastwick Avenue is still the same, and then you go over a railroad bridge. And there used to be railroad that used to go underneath. Now it’s the Airport Line. But, at that time I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t the Airport Line at the time. It might’ve been a freight line or something like that. And you would drive down this long strip, and you had, like, Jimmy Jim’s Auto Parts—mostly auto parts places… on the right. And on the left there was a big field full of mounds of dirt. And if it was the daytime, my father would take me and my friends there, and we would just play in the dirt. All day long—shooting slingshots; throwing rocks at each other, you know; playing soldier, basically; charging each other with sticks, twigs, like we’re bayonetting people. I mean, we used to have so much fun in that field. And then, next to the field, was a drive-in movie theatre. It’s the only drive-in movie theatre I remember being in Philadelphia. And, I remember, on Saturday nights, we would see the people drive—we would always go to Jerry’s Corners, so we would go past it. But we would see the people drive up into the drive-in, and you could see the huge screen sitting off—‘cause it sat up off the street, like, on a hill. And, you could see the huge screen in the distance. And, it was so much fun, even seeing the drive-in theatre, not even going there to hear a movie. And, I remember, a few times we did go. My parents did take us there. But, that I remember very well, and the red metal that held the screen up, and things like that. And then we would drive down to where Passyunk Avenue—or, if you’re Native American, Pass-a-yunk Avenue—runs into 61st. And then you go into Jerry’s Corner, and get the pizza, get the wings, play pinball. And then sometimes we would go to my godmother’s house, who lived in the Tasker Homes, which is in South Philly. So we would go over the Passyunk Bridge. Now, the Passyunk Bridge that’s there now isn’t the same bridge. I remember as a teenager going over the bridge that’s there now. But, they built that bridge, like, in ’83. There was a bridge just next to it that was the old Passyunk Bridge. And what they did was, when they built the new one, they slightly changed the route of the street, and they built it up, and built the bridge over it. But, if you’re really, really careful, if you’re on 61st or whatever the street is, if you cross Passyunk, there’s a turnabout. If you look down that turnabout, you can actually see the ramp going to the old bridge. Another place you can see it is—they have this… a tour boat that leaves from Schuylkill, like, from Walnut Street.

MC: Yeah, I’ve seen it when I’m walking over the South Street Bridge. I’ve seen it going.

JH: If you take that, there’s a tour—sometimes they offer this tour, where you can leave there and go to Penn’s Landing. And it goes all the way down the Schuylkill River ‘til you get to the Delaware River, and then it comes up. When you get to Passyunk Avenue Bridge and you go under it, you can still see the old stone piers of the old bridge. Now, I remember when that old bridge was there. It was a gray metal cantilever bridge—really, really intricate, with all kinds of bars going across the top of it and on the sides of it. And, there was this big, big metal crest that sat over the road, and you drove under it. And, I don’t know what the crest said, but it looked like something, like, from the British Museum [laughs]. It was a really official looking crest! And, I remember that bridge so well, because it was so old and rickety, and, when a boat would come up, you would see the bridge lift up, and open up, ‘cause it actually lifted up like that. And you saw this big metal—I mean, you’re in the car, and you see this big metal thing sticking up that looks as old as the Titanic. And, when,—if you were on that bridge when it closed, you would see the bridge close, and then the bars would go up, and the red lights would stop, and you could drive over it. And you could feel the bridge shake as you drove over. And I remember being so terrified because, I’m thinking, like, I hope this thing doesn’t fall down when we’re driving across it. ‘Cause you could feel the whole thing shaking. But, it was—the bridge was kind of an affectionate thing to me, ‘cause I loved architecture, and I loved that bridge. And when they tore it down, I was like, They shouldn’t tear it down, they should just keep it up and leave it there. But, when they built the new one, it was much better. You know, you didn’t have to worry about falling in the river. And I had a—my father had a friend that drowned. He actually—he was driving across the bridge, somehow lost control, went off the bridge, and went into the river. And he had his seatbelt on. He couldn’t get his seatbelt off. So, my father, for the rest of his life, never wore a seatbelt. Because they weren’t reliable in those days. It was a lot of fun, though. Man. Jerry’s Corner was so much fun—so much fun. That chicken—those chicken wings.

MC: Okay, so sort of the last, like, theme that I want to ask about is—we talked a bunch about the, like, built environment of the neighborhood, and the development, and the lack of development. But, I want to ask about the green environment, and the fields, and if you have—if you remember the John Heinz Refuge or had any connection to the Heinz Refuge at all.

JH: I—we used to ride our bike out there too. It wasn’t originally—I can’t remember what it was originally called. It wasn’t originally called John Heinz. Not when I was growing up. I cannot remember the original name. The first time I went out there was when I was in private school. And we were in the fifth grade, and we took a field trip there. And it was so—it was pretty cool, because, we got to see birds and turtles, and you don’t see that in the city. Or, well, you didn’t then. Now you do, over by the Water Works in Manayunk, but back then you didn’t. And, it was in the city but so different. I loved it. And then, when I became a teenager, we used to ride our bikes out there. And, I mean, we would go all over the place on those gravel fields. They were like—it’s like gravel and dirt, and things of that nature. And, we didn’t know at the time—it’s kind of funny, ‘cause we used to map everything out, and we didn’t—we knew we were in the city, but we couldn’t figure out why this part of the city is so nice and natural. And I do remember telling my father about it, and he mentioned, Well, that’s how the whole area looked at one time. He said that, one time, you know, when the Native Americans were all over the place, that’s how it looked. And it pretty much looked that way, he said, up until very recently, you know. Even after we became a country, he mentioned, that whole area basically looks the way the Wildlife Reserve looks now. So, keep on riding out there, you’ll get a feel for what things are like. He encouraged it. It’s the one time that my father would encourage me to ride into another neighborhood, or ride into an area that I knew or went to school at, because he was afraid that I was going to meet up with somebody. So, we used to go out there as teenagers. And, there was some concern, I guess, when I was about 16 or 17, because Lindbergh Boulevard went out, and it turned. And we weren’t sure, as teenagers, Well, are they going to build out here into the Wildlife Reserve, or are they going to build at the end of this, or how is this going to play out? We didn’t know, as teenager, what they planned for. I do know this, though: I went out there, probably, for the first time since I was a teenager. I went out there about two years ago. Looks the same, but aw, I love it. And, I should go out there Friday, or some day when I get off on the weekend. But, one of the things I discovered—and, it’s funny, because, when you go back out there when you’re older, so much more makes sense. When I was a kid, I just looked at the nature, loved the nature of it. And even as a teenager, I said, Oh, I like this, this is a nice area. I get to ride in the s—you know, without worrying about cars. And, it was so different from the time I went out there about two years ago. Actually, it was not this summer, the summer before—so, the summer of 2016 when I went out there. When I went out there this time—that was the first time I realized that the water that was out there was Darby Creek. Because as a teenager it never dawned on me that it was the same… I guess you would call it the same as the water environment. I thought it was a separate pond, a separate creek. I didn’t know it. Another thing that kind of shocked me was that—well, there’re nice turtles out there, nice turtles. But, there’s a long, long… strip in the Wildlife Reserve—really, really long gravel path. And, unlike years ago, when I rode my bike, I walked it this time. And, I realized, this is the causeway. And, to give some idea of what—do you know what the causeway is? Okay. You know what Eastwick Avenue is? Okay. Eastwick—the trolley that went down Eastwick Avenue was the 37. And, since Eastwick Avenue, at some point, runs into the marsh—when you get to the end (I guess 96th Street or whatever that street was… 92nd Street?), when you get to the end, the trolley kept going on the causeway. And then, when you get to the end of the causeway, you’re on the other side, but you’re basically near where Scott’s—you’re not where Scott’s… I’m tryin’ to explain. It’s dry ground, but it’s between the lake and I-95. And, then you could go under what’s now I-95, to where Scott’s is, and then you—the 37 would go out, into Lester, into Essington, into Ridley Park, and into Chester. So that trolley line actually went way past Eastwick, and I didn’t know this as a kid. I remember the trolley tracks as a kid from—especially from—Freshman Day, but I didn’t know how far that trolley line went. And, when I went out there this time, it kinda clicked: Oh, this is how the trolley got down here! But I didn’t know that… then. But I loved that. I love that Wildlife Reserve… I really do. There’s so much of it that I haven’t explored… there’s so much. As a kid—when I was really small, in fifth grade, we didn’t go very far into it. When I was a teenager, we rode all over, ‘cause we were on bikes. But, I don’t know how far out of the city it goes, ‘cause it actually goes outside the city, but I don’t know how far. It probably goes out to, like, Folcroft or Sharon Hill, now that I think about it.

MC: Alright. Is there anything about the green environment that you would want to add, or anything at all?

JH: Well…

MC: … That you think is important to your story or to Eastwick in your story?

JH: Well, I do—I do believe that, at some point, there may be a problem with Eastwick to a degree, because… The Heinz Wildlife Reserve is to the west, that airport is huge, you have I-95, and, of course, you have the residential area. But, at some point, they’re going probably have to do a similar thing on the east side of Eastwick. ‘Cause if there’s global warming, if the oceans are going to rise, one thing that will mitigate the rising of the river will be wetlands. It’s a very important barrier. And, since there are older creeks that are now on the east side, that are in what’s now the auto mall, or the junk areas—if they ever do develop that area, it would be nice to see them make that into a wetland area as well. All along M— Creek, Perch Creek, Eagle Creek—with whatever they do to develop that area, if they make it wetland friendly… I mean, it doesn’t have to be as large as Heinz Wildlife, but if they make it wetland friendly, it may actually help that neighborhood, because its water tables are very low. It’s pretty low. But when you look at—when you go to Fort Mifflin, there’re some days when Fort Mifflin can flood. And, I remember a few times, in my early twenties, when Fort Mifflin did flood, you know. And, I don’t know what they’re going to do about that part of the neighborhood, but if Fort Mifflin can flood, what’s to keep the airport from flooding? Or Island Avenue from flooding? Or Bartram Avenue from flooding? It’s all possible, because it has a very low water table. Everything—when you’re at Elmwood Avenue, or Buist Avenue, you can see that that part of Eastwick sits up. And, from Buist down to Lindbergh, there’s a natural slope. At the bottom of that slope, you can have flooding. There was one time, within the last 10 years, where we had a hurricane, and some of those houses out in Eastwick flooded. A buddy of mine—her house flooded. And, it really bothered me, ‘cause I’m thinking, This is a good neighborhood, these are good people. But, if this water keeps rising, this is going to be a problem, you know, and we’ll have a modern-day Atlantis. So, as far as wetlands are concerned, I do think they need to make some east, on the east coast of Eastwick as well. There is one fascinating part, though. Well, actually, two. South of the Platt Bridge, there’s a lot of dirt that’s piled up there. I don’t know why it’s there. I don’t know what caused them to pile the dirt there. But it’s, like—it’s right here. ‘Cause this is M— Creek. It’s right in this area. And even down south of I-95. I don’t know if they’re ever going to build anything there, or if they’re ever going to make that into wetlands, or residential, or whatever the case may be. But, right here, where the Platt Bridge crosses the Schuylkill—that used to be a place that was very important to Philadelphia history. And it—some people used to call it the pest house. Originally, like—I’ll give you an example: New York City has Ellis Island. Everybody comes through Ellis Island. They used to quarantine people. Prior to Ellis Island, Philadelphia had it’s own version of Ellis Island, going back to the 1740s. And it used to be called L—, old L—. There was a fort at that location. I’m not sure if it was the Dutch or the Swedes, but they did build L— there, originally. And, if you could—if you were okay, you could just go along Passyunk Avenue, and you were into the city. Eventually, that was not deemed to be sufficient, and they moved it out to what’s now Tinicum. The Tinicum location, I think, they built that in the 1790s, or something like that. But, if they ever do develop that area, they may find the remains of the original L—. It would be something—it would be very… I would love to see what they find along that river, archeologically. Because, you had the Swedes that built forts there, the Dutch that built forts there, and, of course, the English had blockhouses further around here. And, I’m pretty sure that there are remains that are there underground somewhere. If they ever used ground-penetrating radar, it would be really, really nice. So, if they ever do make a green environment, they could also mix it in with some history, too. There’s no telling what they’ll find. There’s no telling what they’ll find. And, of course, Passyunk actually means that there’s a valley, that’s, like, a dip in the topography of the land. So, there was a dip that went right along that part of South Philly, right toward this area. But there’s no telling what they’ll find. So, have you been out to Eastwick? MC: Yeah, I spent a bunch of time out there this summer. JH: What have you found? MC: What have I found? Well, I haven’t been looking for forts [laughs]. I’ve been looking for people to talk to. But I did—I’ve done a couple of tours with a couple of different residents, and talked a lot about the—well, the history of the development, the history of Korman, and also the new plans for the new development of that area. And, then, I’ve spent a couple of days out at Heinz, talked with the director out there, really trying to get a feel for all the different—yeah, the different perspectives on the neighborhood. Talked to the EPA a little bit, its dealing with the landfill… Yeah, so trying to get to know the neighborhood, and hear people’s stories. JH: It’s amazing, too, because so much—I mean, it’s really incredible. So much was planned. Some—so much was planned, and then so much was displaced. And then there were new plans, and then the plans were not finished. And, some of the plans never even got off the ground. I mean, there are a lot of things—a lot of plans that a lot of people don’t know about. If you ever want to have an idea of what the original 84th Street looks like—if you’re going over that bridge, over the Airport Line bridge, on 84th Street, just to the right of that. And it’s—have you been out there in the wintertime?

MC: Not yet. Only the summer.

JH: Oh, man. If you go out there in the wintertime, you will see the layout of some of the streets. The foliage won’t be there. Eastwick Avenue will be very clear. Pontiac Avenue will be very clear. When you go over that bridge—even if you go over in the summertime, you’ll see it. There’s, like, a Jehovah Witness place, okay? And there’s an area where you can drive off on 84th Street, and go there, and then go toward Pepper, and then you have the main drag. The old 84th Street was that part—that part that you drive off. But, when the foliage is gone, you can see how the street comes back. It’s covered with grass, but you can see by how flat it is. You can also tell by the power lines, you can also see Pontiac, and you can see that street that cuts between Pontiac and Eastwick. Because the street that’s between Pontiac and Eastwick is right before—if you’re coming from the Wawa, it’s right before that Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall place. You’ll go right over the bridge, you’ll see Eastwick Avenue—if you’re driving you won’t really see it, but if you’re in the passenger seat, you’ll see it. Then you’ll still be on the bridge, you’ll see that other street, then you’ll see the Jehovah Witness Hall then you’ll see Pontiac, which is really, like, full of garbage now, which bothers me. Then you have Pepper, then you have Lyons, then I think you have Grover, then you have Lindbergh. But, one—it frustrates me, too, because when you see, like, Pontiac, which is on the back side of Pepper, it’s full of garbage. I—you’re a lady. I would not go back there, because I want you to be safe. But if you’re with a bunch of people, and you go back there, you’ll see the garbage piled up. But if you go straight through that—I remember before that garbage was there. If you go straight through that garbage, it will take you all the way to 81st. And there’re houses—if you go all the way through, there’re houses on the left side. And you could also see it if you’re coming from 81st, if you’re coming up Pontiac. The houses, of course, would be on your right, and then they’ll keep on going toward 84th. But it kind of irritates me, ‘cause I can kind of have—I’m old enough to feel how it used to look. ‘Cause I remember when the streets were straight and pretty clear. ‘Cause we used to play out there. But then, there—see, that’s another thing: There’re a lot of plans that were never done, too, because—one plan that was talked about, was that 84th Street would be… I’m tryin’ to think what street was that. It might be Route 422, or one of those state routes. It now goes through… It now goes across—it goes through Sharon Hill, ‘cross I-95, into Essington. But there was a time when they had planned for it to go straight through Sharon Hill and straight down 84th Street. And there were plans to make a tunnel under the Delaware River. But the airport was nowhere near—back then the airport was nowhere near as big as it is. It was basically a landing strip. And, that was never done, ‘cause—thank goodness that was never done. ‘Cause, if that was done, none of that would be anywhere near what it looks like now. I mean, you think it’s obliterated now. It really would’ve been obliterated if they built that tunnel. But, there were plans to build, I think, a four-lane tunnel, you know. And, if you ever see that book at the library, that I’m telling you about—this is the only other place that I’ve actually seen it. I’ve heard older people talk about it, though. And then when I found that book, I actually saw it: Wow, they were really going do this! But, yeah, it’s really wild. It’s so wild. And then of course the Passyunk Avenue subway never came out. The Woodland Avenue subway never came out. They were two subways that would’ve helped with the development. And, Passyunk—well, the spur was started. They did start the spur. I don’t think they ever went past it. I don’t know if they ever dug the tunnel and just sealed it off with a concrete wall, or what. But if you’re on the Broad Street Line going south, from Walnut-Locust—when you get between Ellsworth-Federal and Tasker-Morris, you will feel the Broad Street Line shift to your left, if you’re going south. If you’re on the right side of the train, you’ll not only feel it shift left, you’ll see the tunnel… for the Passyunk Avenue subway. And they put a concrete barrier there. But I don’t know if there’s anything on the other side of it. But you could see it. MC: I’ll look for it next time. JH: Okay. MC: Alright, any last comments? Anything you want to add? JH: Nah, not really. Nothing that I could think of. It’s just so much that I heard people talk about—especially my dad. My dad talked a lot about the Native American history of it—lots about it. So much about it. And it’s—it seems like the only neighborhood where you have so many good people living in it. And, it’s changed so much without anyone ever—I don’t know… having much of a say. I mean, it’s odd. It’s really odd. The Lenape never had a say, you know. The Swedes came in; the Dutch came in. The Swedes never had a say; the Dutch conquered them. The Dutch never had a say; the English conquered them. Now we’re the United States, and that’s the area of Philadelphia where a lot of the older families never had a say. And it’s very, very odd, you know. Tinicum—and that’s another thing. Really, that whole strip—from a Native American standpoint, everything between Darby Creek and the Schuylkill is called Shingsessing. Kingsessing gets the name from Shingsessing. And then, over time, it was divided up into areas. Tinicum, which was a part of Shingsessing, was somewhat separate ‘cause it was an island. And, of course, when the city took that whole area, under William Penn, and it’s 1683, it was Philadelphia County, but the city of Philadelphia was only most of downtown—Delaware, the Schuylkill, Vine Street, to Cedar Street, which is South Street. Cedar Street—Cedar Street, South Street, same thing. So, if you ever go West Philly and see Cedar Avenue, that’s basically South Street. And you had different townships, kind of like in the suburbs. Eastwick, if I’m not mistaken, may have been Blockley Township. But, you have various townships, and as the city grew out, they eventually consolidated it in 1853. But, they didn’t develop a lot of that area until far later—until far, far later. Because, from what I remember, most of your houses were built between 1890 to 1920, okay? So, you’re talking about basically a generation after it was consolidated. And, of course, Fort Mifflin was there, which was to guard the city. And then, after they built Fort Delaware, and then Fort Saulsbury, it took a secondary role to gather the munitions for the navy yard, and there was a flak battery. So, it mostly handled that. Now, the Larchwood Homes, from what one of the older people told me—the Larchwood Homes was actually the barracks for the troops that manned the flak battery. And that’s—they eventually turned it into the projects. But that’s originally its intent. And, even—this is another… this is one of those things that often gets lost in the weeds. ‘Cause my father fought in World War II, I kind of understand the mindset of the city. We’re so far removed from World War I and World War II, but a lot of it has to do with Eastwick, too. Because, in World War I especially, there was a very high threat of zeppelin raids from the Kaiser’s Germany. He flew zeppelins as far from Germany as Khartoum, in Sudan, to that. So, one of the things they were doing was the blackout. And, they would shut off all the lights to City Hall, and they would shut off all the lights to the library, and then Broad Street Station, and Reading Terminal, because they didn’t want the city to be targeted. Because it was a major railroad hub. At that time—and to this day it still is—the railroad hub of the country. And, when you didn’t have that many automobiles, all of your transportation moved through railroad and came through Philly. In World War II, it was the same threat, but remember—World War II started in 1939. We got attacked in Hawaii, in Pearl Harbor, from the Japanese. Well, what’s to keep the Germans from attacking the East Coast? Or the Italian, under Mussolini? There was nothing… stopping them from attacking the East Coast. And, of the cities they would’ve hit, they would’ve hit New York and they would’ve hit Philly. So, what happened—and I know this is going way off track—but, it gives you an idea of what happened with Eastwick when it came to Fort Mifflin and when it came to Hog Island. One of the things that the government did was, in order to defend the refineries, and in order to defend the quartermaster facilities over there on Grays Ferry Avenue, which is now the power plant; or, another quartermaster facility on Oregon Avenue, which is still there—they sell Christmas lights there now; and, the tank production factory, which was at South Street. You know where they just built—Children’s Hospital just built that new building? That used to be the tank production for Sherman’s. They used to build Sherman tanks there. And they would sail them down to B—, the navy yard, and load them up. One of the ways to defend that infrastructure was, you had to defend the navy yard… with flak batteries. Fort Mifflin was a flak battery. And you also had some at Cape May, L— Delaware. And you even had these huge—what looked like lighthouses on most—huge concrete towers where you had people posted sentry looking for possible planes coming in. Because they were afraid of a Pearl Harbor situation. As far as Eastwick was concerned with that, it was actually part of the national defense, of the East Coast. And, mind you, that was 75 years ago. Most people don’t remember it now. But, my father talked about it. He was in Europe, but he knew people who talked about it. I even knew a person who grew up—who I worked with, who was a kid who grew up and whose parents were manning that flak battery—his father was. And he still lives out there. Yeah. He still lives out there. But he remembers when the soldiers were actually living in what’s now the Larchwood Homes. But there’s so much history that comes from that area, and it’ll get lost, if we don’t talk about it. This generation coming up won’t know, you know. They won’t know about the flak batteries, or soldiers leaving the—what’s now the Larchwood Homes, and driving down Hog Island Road, which is Island Avenue, to get to their work assignment. They won’t know nothing about that. But, yeah, that’s pretty much all I have to talk about.

MC: Well, it’s a good thing that we’re doing interviews [laughs].

JH: Yeah [laughs].

MC: Alright. Well, thank you so much.

JH: Yeah. Sure. No problem.

MC: I’m going to turn this off now.



Eastwick Oral History Project
The Eastwick Oral History Project documents the rich history and complex cultural life of Eastwick — a vibrant community in Southwest Philadelphia in the midst of a public land planning process. The oral history project is a close collaboration...
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  • The Eastwick Oral History Project documents the rich history and complex cultural life of Eastwick — a vibrant community in Southwest Philadelphia. The neighborhood’s history is marked by deep connections to the landscape and waterways, as well as experiences of displacement and environmental injustice.The Eastwick Oral History Project, operated by the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, documents the legacies and changes of the neighborhood through interviews with lifelong residents, long-time residents, and others who are engaged in community advocacy around Eastwick’s future.
  • Eastwick Oral History Project