Home where I grew up still haunts my mind

I grew up in a two-story row house in North Philadelphia in a mixed neighborhood where we played in front of the fire-plug and got ice from old ice-trucks that made their way up the tiny one-way street.

I remember the small, concrete-covered  back yard where my oldest brother had me pitch him a ball and he hit it with a broken tree branch. The branch cracked and flew toward me barely missing my eye by a fraction of an inch. I still carry the scar and relish the story.

I also remember teaching a kid younger than me how to read on our front steps. He was a black boy named Washington. I didn’t know I had made such an impact on him until I bumped into him some 40 years later. I was representing a criminal defendant in court and Washington was a police officer in full uniform. When he started to question my background, I thought I was going to be arrested. Instead, he thanked me for helping him enjoy reading. I felt a karmic touch that day.

It was tough growing up in the 1950’s, particularity with bigots living on your block. One kid made me cry when he called me a “DP.” That stood for “Displaced Person,” a term for many Europeans who were being relocated from their countries following the Nazi occupation of their homeland. My father came from Greece and the smart-alack kid targeted him and a German-speaking woman across the street with venom. (I kicked the kid’s ass the next time he tried to make fun of me. Sometimes you gotta stick up for yourself and get a little respect. My old neighborhood taught me how to do just that.)


Memories of the house I grew up still haunt me and the Greeks in my family

Home was where my great uncle resided until his death. He was a mean son-of-a-bitch, always yelling and cursing in Greek. He was called Uncle Mike, but may have just been a distant relative that my father took in from his homelenad.

Years later, I learned our house had been occupied by a family who suddenly moved out after seeing the mean old white guy roaming with bushy white hair and a bushy beard roaming the hallways upstairs. He had haunted the house, they claimed. No one lived in it since then.

The building no longer stands on Marston Street near 29th Street and Girard Avenue. It was torn down like so many low-income houses that went up when Brewerytown was a thriving section of Philadelphia before Prohibition.

The memories of the old neighborhood and  first house I grew up in still haunt me today. But mostly in a nice way, if you know what I mean.

4 comments on “Home where I grew up still haunts my mind

  1. Those memories are part of who you are, the makeup of your shadow self – by knowing how we became, we can keep the good stuff and discard the rest …


  2. nursebelva says:

    I loved your recollection of the old neighborhood and fondly remember my recent visit. Did George visit often? My friend met her lost illegitimate sister and it was awkward but friendly. Did George pay child support for his daughter or ever see her again?

    Sent from Windows Mail


    • contoveros says:

      I remember my mother sending money on a monthly basis to a woman in Panama. I guess it was to help her illegitimate granddaughter.

      I never heard George talk about the woman or the child.


      I wonder if I’ll bump into a few Contos boys and girls when I go to Korea in April? Who knows.

      He was a scoundrel like most guys in the service, including myself. It was tough on us, but a lot tougher on you and other spouses we left behind.

      I may just contact Joey Contos in Michigan and see if he could put some of George’s old photos on line so that I could see them before my trip to Korea. I hope to go to the US Army base when I visit there.

      Love you Belva!


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