Halloween in South Philadelphia

Some pictures from my neighborhood.

The End of Summer in Bob’s Garden

It’s the end of summer in my neighbor Bob’s sidewalk garden, which now takes up the front of four row houses in South Philadelphia. Bob takes care of the garden and koi pond. The only thing he asks is permission to place a beautiful flowering plant in front of your house, which adds badly needed curb appeal in an urban environment. There’s a new addition to the koi pond this year: A big, sleepy turtle. He just appeared one day. Do you think he’s a magic turtle? Bob thinks he’s blind. All I know is that he’s very lazy. Once I saw him on a Lilly pad and thought he might have died. Then I realized that if Turtle had gone to the great hereafter, it is likely he would have fallen off the Lilly pad. But he bobbed up and down on that Lilly pad for quite some time. Turtle is lazier than a house cat. If you don’t believe me, try to sit through this video.

The Garden

Do you think Turtle is really blind?

Enjoy the slideshow.

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Happy New Year from Philadelphia

 

For more than one hundred years, the City of Philadelphia has sponsored the Mummers Parade on New Years day.  I thought it would be fun to do some research into the history of this Philadelphia tradition and share the results with you.  The Mumming tradition started  in Europe.  It came to these shores  with  the wave of immigrants that started arriving in Philadelphia in the 1600’s- first the Swedes, then English and then the Irish.  According to Murray Dubin in his book South Philadelphia, Mummers, Memories and the Melrose Diner, the Philadelphia Mummers have been strutting since 1790!  These parades were probably informal at first but became more organized with the passage of time.  As other ethnic groups like the Italians poured into South Philadelphia, they embraced the Mummers tradition.  The Mummers gradually started to form clubs which became an important part of the social fabric of the South Philadelphia working class.

The back of the above photograph says “Chas. Forbes Commercial Photographer  1006 W. Girard Ave.” When was it taken?  There’s no date, but I see a pipe that appears to be for an oil tank for a furnace on the front of the brick row house.  I don’t think oil heat came into wide use until after World War One, so this picture could be from the 1920’s.  For some beautiful photographs of Mummers in modern costumes,  check out the Philadelpha Mummer Flickr site. For an outstanding album of old pictures you’re not likely to see elsewhere on line, go to the Rare Mummers Archives.

Until the late 19th Century, Christmas and New Years celebrations were more like  Halloween or Mardi Gras festivals with people in masks and costumes going from house to house, offering to entertain the occupants with plays, skits or other antics.   People fired guns in the air (illegal in Philadelphia today) and public intoxication was the norm.  No wonder the Puritans banned Christmas!The   Philadelphia New Years Mummers parade has its roots in those raucous winter holiday celebrations of  the past. The first “official” parade was in 1901  when the City decided to sponsor it. There were so many Mummer’s clubs by that time that the City had to  do something to  protect the public safety and cut down on the revelry and  vandalism that accompanied the parades.  The Mummers have marched up Broad Street on New Years day every year since then, with a few exceptions.

There is a lot more to the history of the Mummers in Philadelphia than I could write here.  Click on the links for more information.  Remember, when you watch a Mummers parade,  you are part of an historical tradition you won’t see many other places in the U.S.  You are really looking into a portal to history.

Here are some parades from over the years.

I estimate from the dress that the undated newsreel below is from the 1930’s or 1940’s.  The parade passes a business called “University Motors.” Anyone know when they were in business on Broad Street?  I think it might have been a Studebaker Dealership.

 

 

 

 

When you are in Philadelphia, be sure to stop by the Mummers Museum.

 

Spring Flowers in Philadelphia

The Plum Blossoms and Cherry Blossoms don’t last too long, but the Hydrangeas and Pansies will bloom all summer.  Here are some pictures from a recent walk around  Philadelphia.

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My Name is MC Fuzzy Fuzz

MC Fuzzy Fuzz is a sock puppet I made for my Step Grandson (AKA DJ Spud) so his parents would have another way to interact with him and make him laugh.   I started out with a wool sock and added felt, pom poms and googly eyes (not baby safe.) Then I got some childrens  gloves at a dollar store, cut off the fingers and stuffed them with batting, and sewed them on his head for hair.  I had the top of the sock left over and made a hat.  Then I got pom poms and took the puppet to visit my mother.  She picked out the pom poms and I sewed them on.  “You get to name him,” I told her.  “Fuzzy,” she replied.

I came home and my husband said, “No, he’s MC Fuzzy Fuzz.”  (My husband, who is a 62 year old Jewish man with a Ph.D. is heavily into Hip Hop. ” It took me a year to understand Biggie Smalls,” he tells me, “but now I get it and I think he’s a genius.”)  The hair became dreadlocks and the hat became a Rasta hat.  Then my husband said Fuzzy should be a rapper, so I sewed on the arms and gave him some bling.  Then we decided he should be a dawg, and I sewed on ears.  (Thank you Le Mutt for modeling.)  I also gave him a lower fang (his grill).

Like some stars in the sock puppet hip hop industry,  MC Fuzzy Fuzz has a back story.  He did not grow up in the dog pound. He went to the best obedience schools and his father held a high post in the national branch of the ASPCSP (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sock Puppets).  MC Fuzzy (whose real name is S. (for Sock) Pupwell Baskin dropped out of obedience school to try his luck in the music biz, much to his father’s dismay.  But he hit it big.  To read an except from one of his songs,  press here. And remember to kiss a sock puppet today!

 

Bob’s Urban Garden at the End of Summer.

Happy Holidays South Philly Style

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People live in rowhouses in South Philadelphia and they decorate their front windows and doors when someone has a baby, someone gets married, someone graduates, someone gets paroled or the Flyers win the Stanley Cup.  In other words,  people here don’t need much of an excuse to decorate.  You can keep your fancy suburbs with your large expanse of lawns, triple car garages and gabled roofs.  We’re just fine with our flat roofs, front stoops and double parking.  The constraints just make for more creativity, as you can see from the pictures I took on one frozen night. Heathen’s Greetings.

Dear Fleisher

Dear Fleisher, 4 X 6 Inches of Art is the Fleisher Art Memorial’s biennial exhibition and sale of original artwork. The invitational exhibit features postcard sized (4″x6″) art in a wide range of media. Each piece is signed on the back to preserve the artist’s anonymity and sold for $50.00. I heard Fleisher raised almost $55,000 this year.

Some of the more than 150 contributing artists this year were Jill Bonovitz, Burnell Yow!, Signe Wilkinson, David Brewster, Isaiah Zagar, and Eliza Auth.

I was asked to participate in the last two exhibits and have chosen to work in polymer clay. Here are my pieces from 2006 (left) and 2008 (right). The Fleisher Art Memorial is a neighborhood and City treasure to which I am glad to contribute.

Isaiah Zagar’s Walls

One of the things I love about Philadelphia are its tiny streets and lanes located off the main avenues. These thoroughfares date from long ago when servant’s quarters and horse barns (now desirable and expensive living quarters) were situated in the back alleys, and houses had boot scrapers near their doors so people could clean mud off their shoes before entering.

I didn’t discover these little streets until I stopped taking the bus everywhere and started walking. One of the most attractive features of the little byways in the Bella Vista neighborhood of Philadelphia are Isaiah Zagar’s tile and glass mosaics. They cover the facades of selected buildings waiting to surprise you as you turn a corner.

Here’s a slideshow of pictures I took on a walk through the neighborhood.

The End of Summer

I know that summer is at an end when I start seeing pumpkins at the supermarket and I have to start thinking about pulling out warmer clothes. Things change and we have to readjust.  Fall never fails to remind me of the passage of time.

Bob’s garden has taken over the the front of his house and is starting on mine. Soon the fish and turtles will come inside and the  plants will whither away.  I hope the garden returns next year.  In the meantime, here’s an end of summer look at the garden.  Hasn’t it grown since June?