No matter where I go, Philadelphia will always go with me. I’ve taken the old neighborhood to combat in Vietnam as well as to the wailing wall in Jerusalem. I let it shine in the courthouses of Philadelphia and the one and only house of pleasure I visited in Panama.
Yeah, I’m from Brewerytown, an old German-based section of Philadelphia that families of beer-makers settled in a small enclave of the City of Brotherly Love. Brewerytown is near the Philadelphia Zoo on Girard Avenue and not too far from the Eastern State Penitentiary where Al Capone once lived in a section called Fairmount.
Brewerytown was a thriving community once upon a time, but it quickly went down hill as Prohibition set in and the neighborhood lost its livelihood but not its unique nature. There are no more breweries there despite the appeal of the 21st Amendment that was based on something historians called the Volstead Act. (I think a bunch of do-gooders got together to do away with “rum and Romanism” and the “righteous” way of life places like my hometown provided its people and their culture. We had more breweries and delivery beer facilities in our small patch of land then any other in Pennsylvania and maybe the entire East Coast.)
I learned to sing and dance in old Brewerytown. My African-American brothers taught me that in the school yard of a Catholic Church grounds called St. Ludwig’s. (What would you expect from a German parish at the turn of the 20th century? We fondly called it “Dutch Louie’s!”)
My Irish Catholic girlfriend showed me everything I would ever want to know about love while across the street from one of the old breweries. (She agreed to go steady with me at age 14, and I’ve gone steady with no one since giving her my high school ring back then.)
You see, I am the same fellow today that I was back then and it just goes to prove the old saying:
“You can take the kid out of the old neighborhood, but you’ll never take the old neighborhood out of the kid.”
(*Technically in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia at 29th Street below Poplar, this brewery — the Bergdahl Brewery –was one of many that helped contribute to the once thriving business of Brewerytown. The building now houses condominiums.)
(This is one of three stories I wrote today for a writing group meeting weekly in Collegeville, PA)