Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Our first assignment, city transportation, gave us our first real look into the lives of the people who live and work in and around Strawberry Mansion. With apprehension still shrouding my consciousness, we parked a few blocks from our decided destination- the SEPTA hub at 33rd and Ridge Avenue.
Equipment in hand, we walked just a few feet from the car and stopped to talk to a woman waiting for a bus. Denise, an elementary school counselor who worked for the Philadelphia School District was more than willing to talk to us. She was actually a former Temple Hospital employee.
With newly reinvigorated confidence, we continued on to the SEPTA stop and talked to a few more locals. Across the street was a newsstand where Mr. Lou, as he introduced himself and his wife have been established for the last 14 years. Though they didn’t want to talk on camera, he was full of neighborhood news and definitely ended up being a great local business owner with insight that was definitely helpful.
The corner of 33rd and Ridge Avenue, where Mr. Lou’s newsstand is located also has some South Philly ties. He pointed out the inlaid letters on the ground in front of the step. The word read ‘PAT’S’. It was Pat’s Steaks original location. Sounded good, but really? Yes- Johnny, a Pat’s employee confirmed the history. The King of Steaks we know today laid its roots down in Strawberry Mansion, only moving to the Italian Market after 1930. Good to know. A follow up may be in order.
Also sitting on the step was Felix Cobb. He was kind enough to talk to us and is pictured above. At this point, the photographers from The Chronicle met us on location. This made our job just a little bit trickier. While trying to get strangers to talk to us, and get the shots we wanted, we had the added complications of another shooters needs.
It ended up keeping us talking long enough to get an interview with Ronald Kirkland, another local fountain of knowledge. Though full of interesting views of gentrification and even some usable transportation quotes he began to ramble on about conspiracy theories, which were thought provoking, if not amusing.
Our first taste of Strawberry Mansion calmed some fears and even supplied a little comic relief. With a network of contacts beginning to build, hopefully our next trip out will be just as successful.
Kevin Cook and Marilyn S. D'Angelo