Unlike in most other interviews in this project, Society Hill forms the backdrop—rather than the focus—to the narrative of his life that Daniel F. (Danny) Dodd (b. relates. He was about five when he moved with his parents and younger sister to 117-119 Pine Street. He attended three different schools. Although he dropped out before graduating, he learned things about his suburban contemporaries, had schoolmates from across Philadelphia, became an avid cyclist, developed an interest in pharmacology, enlisted in the army, and learned to cook. After three years in the army, he returned to Philadelphia, worked in several restaurants around the city, and in 1996 got a job in food service at Princeton University. He was still working there at the time of his interview.
In the summers, growing up, he hung out with his friends, swam in a neighbor’s pool, and went to the Jersey shore. He and his friends rode their bikes on the unfinished I-95, going as far as the middle of the Girard Point Bridge. In the winter, when it snowed, Danny’s job was to shovel the walk from the front door to the front gate. His fondest memory, before I-95 was completed, was sledding down the embankment at Front Street around Pine Street. South Street was a draw for all the neighborhood kids. His description of South Street in the 1970s is a fascinating contrast with Marvin Cohen’s of the ‘30s and early ‘40s.
For Danny, Society Hill was a good place to grow up. As a young child, he did not understand the risks his parents and his friends’ parents took when they moved into the neighborhood. But he knew his parents knew something and had found an area that they thought would be a good place to raise children at the time, in the ‘70s and late ‘60s. “We became our own little community,” he says.
DS: This is an interview with Danny Dodd. The date is May 24, 2010, the location is 116 Delancey Street in Philadelphia, PA. And the interviewer is Dorothy Stevens.
[Tape is turned off, then on again]
DS: Danny, tell me when were you born?
DD: I was born in August of 1965. I tell you it was at Booth Maternity Hospital out on City Line Avenue.
DS: Did your parents live in Society Hill at the time?
DD: At the time of my birth, my parents lived, I believe, on the 2500 block of Pine Street, the other end of where they eventually lived and I grew up.
DS: When did they move down here? Do you remember?
DD: I remember moving in – my younger sister was still pretty much an infant – (1:00) so it was about 1970, maybe 1969. Exact dates I’m not exactly sure.
DS: And where did they move to?
DD: We moved to what we called 119 Pine Street, but the actual address was 117, which was the garden, and 119 which was the main house, large house.
DS: You said you had a sister.
DD: I have a younger, adopted sister by the name of Shelley Ann Dodd, now back to her maiden name, born in January of 1968, and is presently living in Wilmington, Delaware.
DS: And she was a younger sister.
DD: My younger, adopted sister.
DS: Any other siblings?
DD: Oh, that’s where it gets interesting. None directly growing up as a child, (2:00) but later in life, when I was about 15, father remarried; so I automatically got three stepsisters, who originally all grew up in Rhode Island, who lived across the street from us at 116 Pine, I believe. There was Liz Seebold the oldest, Rosie Atwater the middle, and Audrey Atwater the youngest, who was about two years older than myself.
DS: And your mother had died, right?
DD: My mother, Dorothy Ann Dodd, passed away in April of 1980, from life-long battle with diabetes.
DS: And your father remarried.
DD: My father remarried Nina Atwater. Yes, Nina Atwater. Maybe less than a (3:00) year later, exact dates I don’t remember.
DS: Danny, where did you attend school?
DD: Well, even when we lived in 2500 block of Pine Street, I went to St. Peter’s at Third and Lombard, from nursery school through Sixth grade. Yes, Sixth grade. Very small intimate school. Very small, to this day, very small.
DS: Was it a good experience? Tell me about it.
DD: I look back on my time at St. Peter’s as a good time of my life. The classes were small, I have vague memories of nursery and kindergarten, but I do remember (4:00) that all six of us – I think it was six people, mostly from the neighborhood—were the initial inaugural, transition class between kindergarten and First grade, just because our birthdays didn’t jibe with whatever their prerequisites were. I believe – I know Andy Putney was in that class; I can’t remember who else. Possibly the Denworths, but I could be wrong.
DS: You would walk back and forth to school?
DD: When we moved down here to the 100 block of Pine Street I was only a block away. I believe for the early part of my school year, my Mom would walk me to school. Then after a while, when I was old enough, Shelley Ann and I both went, but after I (5:00) got old enough, I would walk Shelley with me to school, with Mom probably about a half block behind us just to make sure. It was the ‘70s. It was a lot different then. It was a good experience. I liked the school. Like I said, it was small classes. You look at other schools, public or otherwise, where you have 20 or 30 or 40 people in a class. We had eight. Maybe twelve at most. I know this day the graduating class every year is about twelve if that. So it was a very good ratio of students to teacher. It was a good learning environment. I enjoyed it.
DS: That took you to Sixth grade. (6:00)
DD: To Sixth grade. And after that it was discussion, because St. Peter’s only went up to Eighth grade, and at that point a lot of my friends – well, actually, the Stevenses went out to Friends Central. Greg did, Chris –
DD: Friends Central?
DD: I wanted to follow. They were my buddies. I figured it was time for a change, wanted a change. It was 1979, 1980. It was an interesting time in my life, but it – it opened up the city to me. Growing up in Society Hill, I always thought this was it. (7:00) I knew there was other stuff, but I wasn’t exposed to the suburbs or other schools. The only other school I knew was McCall, which was the public school at Sixth Street. That was it. I thought there were only two schools.
DS: So you went out to Friends Central.
DD: I went out to Friends Central, which was a big change.
DS: How did you get there?
DD: At first I took the school bus, which was an interesting ride. We picked it up at Second and Spruce, and they had a route to follow through the city. I remember one or two stops in West Philly, then out to City Line Avenue. So it was an interesting mix of people going out to this suburban Quaker school. That was another aspect that (8:00) was a big change. Quakers versus what we did at St. Peter’s, which was not really a mass in school, in the church, versus the Quakers, where you go into a room and sit there quietly for an hour.
DS: At that point St. Peter’s School was still considered pretty Episcopalian?
DD: Oh, yes. As far as I knew they still pretty much are. I think it was once, maybe twice a week we would have something in the church, which was right there on the same block.
DS: Was Miss Seamans there then?
DD: Oh, God, yes. Oh, yes, and her Vice Principal. I can’t even remember her name. But, no, Miss Seamans was there. Oh, boy.
DS: Was she a disciplinarian?
DD: Yes, I had a book miss my head by that much. Third grade, maybe. (9:00) Third grade.
DS: She threw the book at you?
DD: Yes, she swung a book at me. She missed. I was too quick. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but maybe I was talking out of line. I was still a good kid.
DS: So now we’re out at Friends Central. For how long?
DD: I was there Seventh and Eighth grade. At that time, my Mom had passed away; so it was kind of hard to study. My mind was elsewhere, watching her slowly deteriorate and eventually pass away. It was taking a toll on myself, my sister, my father. My grades kind of dropped, because I wasn’t paying attention. I just really lost total interest. (10:00) I’d lost one of my best friends. A lady who’d raised me from a child, not my biological mother, but the lady I consider my mother for all intents and purposes. It was tough, losing interest. But talking with my father, and he said, “We got it [indecipherable] maybe a little closer.” My sister was at Friends Select, up on 17 th and the Parkway, and she seemed to be doing very well, despite everything that was happening to me. So Ninth grade I enrolled in Friends Select, and it was OK, but it was still tough. That was a big change from the way Friends Central conducted homeroom and all this other stuff. Home-room at Friends Central were people in your class, where at Friends Select (11:00) homeroom consisted of a couple of Ninth, a couple of Tenth, a couple from the Eleventh; so it was totally strange to my concept of ways, from St. Peter’s. It was different. To me it was kind of drastic and trying to grasp everything that was going on. Amazingly one of the classes I took to was Latin, out of all the classes. Yes, go figure. It actually helped me out later in life, working in a pharmacy for numerous years. So I got a jump on that.
DS: You took public transportation there?
DD: Well, we took – back to Friends Central, we took the school bus. I ran into somebody that has turned into a lifelong friend, shortly after I got kicked out (12:00) of French class in under five minutes and got sent to photography class. I met a friend of mine and your son, Chris, and Andy Fineman, who grew up on Eleventh Street, Eleventh and Pine. We got to be really good friends. He always took the subway in. So that was my first experience with taking the subway to school.
DS: To Friends Central?
DD: To Friends Central. So I would go up to Second Street. We could time it out. He’d get on the same car at Eleventh Street. We’d take it out to 69 th Street, get on the 105, and everybody from Friends Central owned the back of the bus.
DS: The 105 bus.
DD: The 105 dropped you off. It was – that kind of opened up. Wow, there’s more than – but Friends Select – that was, I honestly can’t remember how I got to school. (13:00) Most likely a bus, a SEPTA bus. But I believe I took my bike. From a young age I was an avid cyclist. Even from Friends Central, Andy Fineman and I decided, “Let’s ride our bikes out to school.” which was uphill one way. You know the old story, uphill both ways. It felt like it. It was good exercise. My father found it funny. “I can’t believe you’re getting up this early to go to school.” “We’re taking our bikes, Dad.” It was a good bonding experience and you’d get to see other stuff you don’t get to see driving in the car or in the bus. So I got familiar with East and West River Drives, part of Fairmount Park, it was an interesting ride to school. I was opening up my eyes while going to school. I may not have learned much at school, but it opened my eyes. (14:00)
DS: When you were going to Friends Central, and you were encountering children that had grown up in the suburbs, tell me about that. Was that –?
DD: It was interesting. I found not to be like the kids I was used to growing up in the city.
DS: In what way?
DD: Well, in the city, if you want to go to a friend’s house, whatever, you just walk around the corner. Everybody’s kind of within walking distance for the most part, or you could ride your bike to get there a little quicker. But in the suburbs, if you want to go to somebody’s house, for the most part you need to get your parents to drive you there, or you had to know which bus to take. Boy, that’s a lot of work to just hang out. Or it turns out, you take the bus – you wanted to go hang out with somebody at their (15:00) house, you might get on their bus after school and ride out there, and your parents might come out to pick you up later. You had to get back, because you took the school bus to their house. So I thought it was pretty – I found it strange. Even when I was at Friends Central I played Seventh and Eighth grade football, and I was asking my father to come out and watch a game. We were horrible. I wouldn’t blame him for not coming out. It was a lot for him to get out there, to know where he was. He learned how to drive late in life; so that was always an interesting aspect, to get on the Schuylkill [Expressway]. “You sure there’s not another way?”
DS: Your Dad worked in the city, too, so –
DD: Yes, he worked in the city as long as I can remember. David worked for (16:00) Smith Kline and French up on Spring Garden Street, and later – what was the name? – Ted Thomas, Inc., whatever, medical advertising, which was originally in the Medical Arts Building on 17 th off of Lombard, I think, or Spruce, and then down to Washington Square later.
DS: He never had to have a car.
DD: He never really needed a car except for when my Mom said, “We gotta go up to your parents.” His parents lived outside of Boston, and her Mom lived outside of New York City. So if you wanted to go up there in the summer, you needed a car.
DS: Before we get on to that, let’s go back to the difference between the city kids and the suburban kids. Did you feel uncomfortable with them?
DD: At first I did. (17:00)
DS: You did. Did that come from you or did that come from them?
DD: I think it was me, just being nervous in a new environment and knowing only at that time Greg Stevens and Chris [Stevens] who was a grade above me, I believe. So I only knew two people here, so it was kind of like, OK – . At St. Peter’s I was the shy, little redhead. You know I was little, being a redhead I stood out in a crowd. I was very quiet. And there I was – these guys have been in this school for, what, eight, nine years together, from kindergarten. So they’d grown up with each other, they knew each other, and here’s the new guy. I was the new guy in school. It was a new experience. (18:00) But I made some friends. I think most of it was just wanting to fit in. And I had an opportunity that I didn’t have at St. Peter’s, was to play organized sports. Scholastically, such as soccer, football, and ran track. I really don’t remember. I wasn’t into baseball that much at the time. But I got to meet and interact with all these kids from different backgrounds.
DS: In organized sports.
DD: In organized sports there. It was interesting, because I didn’t have that here, growing up as a kid. At St. Peter’s all you did was soccer, but it was mainly the guys. (19:00) You’d take whatever kids you got, basically the whole school or the same age groups had gym at the same time so you’d at least get two squads together. You know, when you have a class where there’s like five guys, not much you could do other than play basketball. I definitely didn’t play basketball. This white man can’t jump.
DS: So then you went to Friends Select, and that was back into the city.
DD: Back into the city.
DS: Did they have organized sports?
DD: Oh, yes, they had everything except football, which I found depressing. I like football. But I played soccer, and I played baseball with them, which I rather enjoyed, because you got to go out. You know, here’s a school within the hub of the city, two blocks from city hall that had soccer fields on the roof, which I found pretty cool. I did a little wrestling, which was in the basement. Baseball and soccer for the most part we went out in Fairmount Park and played there. We played and practiced. We had mostly road games. Friends Select was short-lived. It helps if you go to class. [Laughs] It was a time in my life where I probably didn’t – I know I didn’t do things I should have done, and I did things I shouldn’t have done. But looking back at it, there are some things I would have changed and some things I wouldn’t. They were all learning experiences, and I think I wouldn’t be where I am at today or learned what I did if I’d done the straight and narrow, which I probably should have, but I woke up to that a (21:00) few years later, realizing how important an education is.
DS: At Friends Select were there suburban kids there, or were they mostly city kids?
DD: They were mostly – as far as I remember – city kids, but a very diverse group of city kids.
DD: Diverse, from all over the city, as opposed to a public school you pretty much have all the kids from within the nearby neighborhoods. Here you have kids from all points in the city. I remember one kid who was in my homeroom, who grew up in (22:00) South Philly. He actually – now he owns Pat’s Steaks, Frank Olivieri. Here’s a kid who was – he was two grades above me; he was old enough to be driving. He’s driving up from South Philly in his brand-new Camaro. And we went, “Must be nice.” And I get a ride home.
Ds: [Laughs] You fit in with this diverse group.
DD: I fit in. I made some friends. I made some interesting friends who lived not in this neighborhood but within walking distance; so you could hang out with them. At that time there were a couple of girls that I knew. I actually ran into one maybe twelve years – (23:00) no, it was about fifteen years ago – at a place I went somewhere for lunch and she just came up to me and goes, “Dan?” And I go, “Yeah?” She told me who she was, and I was like, “Wow!”
DS: Then just to finish out that scene, you go from Friends Select to –
DD: After dropping out – actually, I was sort of forced out of Friends Select due to bad grades and not showing up. My father’s only recourse was tough love, as they say, and they put me into Franklin Learning Center, north of Spring Garden right off Broad, and now is a totally shell-shocked public school. That did not last very long.
DS: Because it was so different? (24:00)
DD: It was – the total change was so off the chart. Total shell shock. That was the end of my high school career. Things got bad personally, and thankfully not long after that, I got a job working in a pharmacy for four plus years, and that kind of opened up my eyes.
DS: And that was Tancredi’s?
DD: No, Tancredi’s, I actually had that job when I was eleven. That was my first job. No, I worked for Pastor’s Pharmacy on Eleventh Street between Market and Chestnut. When I applied there, I had gotten home and got a phone call from Ernie DelCante, who was a former pharmacist at Tancredi’s, and he recognized the name, gave me a call, and the next thing you know I had a job that I had for four years. He recognized the name, because I’d put it on my little application. He was a good friend growing up as (25:00) a kid, you know, the nice neighborhood pharmacist. Everybody loved him. He was a sweetheart. My wife knew him. At the time we hadn’t met, but she was working with him at their other store on Seventeenth Street. So that job, eventually in a roundabout way, got me to meet my future wife. And the rest is history. He was always a good friend.
DS: You went from Select to work?
DD: Pretty much. That was 1982, somewhere there. I was there until, like, 1985-86.
DS: Then what did you do?
DD: After Friends Select, I woke up and realized if I wanted a chance to do (26:00) something, I might need a college education, and I kind of woke up. I took my SATs, got pretty good scores, I got into Temple, but I went somewhere else, for those who remember the commercial. I ended up going to East Stroudsburg University in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. They enrolled me in the summer session. Probably not the brightest thing to do, but it was more fun. That didn’t work out, because I was going to go for pharmacology; if I had stuck it out four years at East Stroudsburg, the final two years at Temple. I figured I’m going to end up at Temple, let’s not start at (27:00) Temple. Let’s get away from the city, and that would have helped. I was in East Stroudsburg for two months.
Then I came back here and was living at 1000 block of Pine Street, working at Pastor’s Pharmacy for a few years, and surviving. Surviving, hanging out with old friends, doing things you shouldn’t be doing, but still getting on my bike and riding 30-40 miles on my day off. I’m getting into shape and beating up on myself on the other. It was early 1987, I kind of woke up. It was after – believe it or not it was after an Army-Navy game, in December 1986 – hanging out in a bar at Thirteenth and Pine, (28:00) having fun carding all the Naval guys coming in, saying, “You can’t come in.” And letting all the army guys in, because my father was in the army, and I was pro-army. Kind of woke up and realized, “You know what? That’s not a bad idea.” So in 1987 I enlisted in the army. And you know what? It was the best thing I ever did. Dumbest thing I ever did was get out.
DS: Didn’t you at one point go to cooking school?
DD: That was after.
DS: That was after the army?
DD: I joined the army in May of 1987, spent four months total in Columbia, (29:00) SC, which was two months for boot camp and two months for advanced individual training to become, in the army’s words, a Food Service Specialist, which is a big word for a cook. I enjoyed it. I always watched my father cook. I enjoyed it. I loved hanging out with you and the kids and everything that was going on here. And “How about those caramel apples.” I found something that was interesting. My grandmother, my father’s mom, was a very good cook. I found something that really interested me. I did really well in the class. If it wasn’t for the God-awful pushups, I probably would have finished first in my class.
DD: Oh, yes, physical training. The army is big on that. Boy, they’re big on (30:00) that. The only thing that saved my backside is I wasn’t doing too good on – I never had the upper body strength to do a pushup the way they want you to do it, and after my twenty-second birthday I fell into another age category, and the older you get, the less you have to do. I was enjoying that. But I did three years active duty as a cook, in Scofield Barracks, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Loved every last minute of it. It was a great experience. Because of that I got deployed to Japan for 30 days, which was one of the greatest experiences I ever had. I say it’s one of those countries, if I ever had the chance (31:00) to go back, I’d go back. Beautiful, beautiful place.
Before I got out, I had applied to the Restaurant School in Philadelphia, trying to use my G.I. Bill going there. I was enrolled – let’s see, I got out in May of 1990, enrolled in September, I believe it was of 1990 – and right around January I found out they had messed up my paperwork for my G.I. Bill, and they’re like, “We need X amount of thousands of dollars if you’re going to continue.” “I didn’t mess up the paperwork, and by the way, you haven’t taught me anything I didn’t already know; so why am I wasting my time?” And I went out into the real world, got a job on South Street working in a restaurant there, which was an OK experience.
DS: This was in the 100 block?
DD: No, no, it was Monserrat Restaurant, which was on the 600 block of (32:00) South Street, named after the island of Monserrat, but we just called it Monster Rat. It was a good experience, but at the time, in February of 1991 my father passed away following, to this day, I don’t know what surgery. But he died suddenly, and it was another big blow.
But the thing that always kept me going was cooking, as opposed to when my mother passed away I let it eat at me, and I let my academics go down the toilet, for lack of a better word. I just diverted my energy into my cooking, no matter where I was working. Cooking business – for the most part a person doesn’t stay in the same place for too long. So I worked in Monserrat, I worked at the Wyndham Hotel, which was (33:00) just across the street from Friends Select; I found that ironic. I worked banquets there. I worked at Frog Catering, which is in the Fairmount area. I worked at Chef’s Market, on the 200 block of South Street. At that time it was the longest stint, two and one-half years. They had me doing everything. That place got to a point where in an hour I could tell you exactly what I was doing at that time. It got to be so cookie-cutter, and that’s when it got to be mundane.
Then my old friend Andy Fineman and an associate of his bought out the Continental Diner at Second and Market, and they were looking for a cook. So I went in there and tried to help them out, but his associate was a little frugal with the (34:00) funds, and it ended up by being bought out by Stephen Starr. Now it’s an outstanding restaurant. but that led me to West Chester University, working there for a year. In that time, which was 1994-95, after my sister, Shelley, found her birth mother, I decided to do the same thing, and I found my birth mother. Her husband worked at Princeton University, and after getting to know her and know him, I applied —
DS: He did what there?
DD: He was what they call a production manager, do scheduling but also (35:00) ordered food.
DS: In the food service.
DD: In the food service. He worked for dining services, just recently retired this past January after 36, 37 years.
DS: So he got you a job there?
DD: I got myself a job.
DS: You got yourself a job. Excuse me.
DD: I got myself a job. Even though the interview was rather funny, because the only question he asked me was, “How do you make a Reuben?” And I said, “You’re kidding me, right?” He said, “No, really, how do you make a Reuben?” I said, “You’ve got rye bread, you’ve got sauerkraut, you’ve got Thousand Island dressing, you’ve got corned beef. What else?” He said, “No, that’s good.” Then I got a call back, and it was actually on my birthday saying they wanted to offer me a job. That was 1996, August (36:00) 1996. And I’m still there.
DS: You’re a sous chef, now, right?
DD: I came up through the ranks from a grill cook to a cook, made management nine years ago, right after my son was born, and been working my fanny off for almost 14 years, and loving it.
DS: That sort of sets the career. Let’s go back to a bit about the car.
DD: Boy, did we!
DS: Your father didn’t like to drive, but your mother did, and you would visit grandparents outside of town.
DD: Yes. Let’s see, my father’s parents lived in a sleepy little borough, Bedford, Massachusetts. It was outside of Boston. My mother’s mother – her father (37:00) had passed away years before I was born – she lived in New Rochelle, New York, right outside New York City.
DS: Then you went to camp. Didn’t you go to camp?
DD: Oh, yes!
DS: That was up in Maine?
DD: That was Camp Winona.
DS: Did you drive up there?
DD: I don’t remember. Oh, we had to, because – I’m glad you remember this. Yes, we drove up, stopped at my grandparents in Bedford. Back then it was a seven- to eight-hour drive. Me and my sister in the back seat. You stay on your side and I stay on my side. Then, yes, my parents drove me up to Winona, and I believe that’s when they went to Bar Harbor for a while. (38:00)
DS: Having a car really was helpful in having to leave the city.
DD: Oh, yes. Old Red, was how we referred to it. Old red Chevy station wagon.
DS: That opened up your world, too.
DD: It did. Summer camp was a great experience. It was a lot of fun, because there was a lot of kids from the neighborhood went there. Greg [Stevens] went there. Andy Putney went there. Chris [Stevens] went there. That was a lot of fun. I made some good friends. I haven’t seen them since, but it – Lydia Denworth went there.
DS: Michael [Denworth].
DD: Michael, I think, went there. I think a couple of – Molly Lloyd, Becky Lloyd I think might have gone there.
DS: It was a girls’ counterpart. (39:00)
DD: Yes, I can’t remember. That was fun, because you got to canoe over there once and have a big old party, and it was like you’re seeing other friends from the neighborhood. That was real fun. That got me interested in the outdoors a lot, because, back in ’81, the one thing that did help me – probably forgot about, not totally, the time frame, my father learned about something called Wilderness Adventures, a more subtle version of Outward Bound. They didn’t throw you out with a pack of matches and a fishing hook. But that was a great experience. Went out west, to Denver, up through Wyoming and Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Washington state, doing everything from hiking through the (40:00) Cascades mountain range to white watering down the Columbia River.
DS: How old would you have been?
DD: I was sixteen going on seventeen. Right before my seventeenth birthday. That was a good time to do something like that. Initially I was a little bit rebellious, but I ended up making some good friends. It was a good experience. Climbed Mt. Rainier, the highest point in the lower 48, in August. Froze my butt off. Sweated all the way up, sat down for an hour and froze.
DS: What would you do here in the summers?
DD: Well, a lot of the time during the summer, we’d be here hanging out, occasionally going down to the shore.
DS: Playing with your friends?
DD: Playing with the neighborhood friends. Jumping in the pool. Taking (41:00) advantage of the pool. But when we could we’d go down to Avalon. My parents, my sister and I – but there was points later when my mother was still alive, there was more than one occasion, you’d pick up the keys to the rental house, they’d have a message saying, since she had diabetes and kidney failure, “Oh, we’ve got a kidney. Gotta go back to Philly.” So we didn’t even get out of the car and we’re already heading back. So that kind of was a bit of a damper. But more often than not, my sister and I would spend a good chunk of the summer at my grandparents, in Boston, outside Boston.
DS: When you were young.
DD: When we were young, a good chunk. I know when I was at Camp Winona (42:00) I was eleven, so that was ’76. I don’t remember the years my grandmother passed away, but there were times – I think I was there when I was twelve, thirteen, and my sister was two years younger. One thing sticks out: my grandmother did all the driving, because my grandfather couldn’t drive. We’d drive up to New Hampshire so we could buy beer that much cheaper. He said, “Oh, let’s get the kid something. He’s old enough. What do you want?” I’m like, “Uhhh.” He figured I wouldn’t steal his Genese Cream Ale. So I figured get him his own.
DS: Getting back to the neighborhood: how about wintertime? Snow days.
DD: Snow days. In the neighborhood, first in our house with a large yard, it (43:00) was my responsibility to shovel out to get to the front door. From the front door to the front gate. That was a lot of work. That was a lot of fun. My sister and I would play in the yard, depending on how much snow you had.
Then you’d be outside. Then you’d be like, “OK, where are the guys at? Let’s go.” I remember being at St. Peter’s, and there was enough snow to close the school, and the old baseball backstop, and we built a little snow fort wall in the backstop, and everybody’s building the snowballs behind there. But my greatest memory bar none when it snowed, since I-95 wasn’t completed yet, was sledding down the embankment right off of Front Street, right around Pine, going up a (44:00) ramp, and probably the greatest joy some of us had ever had, even though once you hit the ramp and you went up and you came down, it knocked the wind out of you. You’d be like, “Yeah, let’s do that again.” That was a lot of fun. I-95 actually led to a lot of exploration for some of us.
DS: By bike, you mean?
DD: By everything. You got older, myself, Chris, you’d ride around 95 – there was no traffic. Now you’d get run over. Up around Walnut Street, I remember when they were putting in the sound barriers or whatever it was, working on building that little tunnel, they uncovered what we thought was like the old I. Goldberg’s warehouse, because we’re finding old helmets and military paraphernalia. We just thought it was cool. (45:00) “Oh, check it out!” “We’re excavators.”
Later, having to do with bikes, there was one little bike ride we took to the Girard Point Bridge. Going from here south, on 95. I don’t remember if you were with us, but your husband was, and me, Greg, Chris, Jason, I believe, went all the way up to the sports complexes, up to the midpoint of the Girard Point Bridge and turn around and just cruised – I think we cruised to the Walt Whitman [Bridge] without even pedaling. There was, like, “This is cool!” It was different. I’d like to see the suburbs kids try that. So a lot of times it was major fun, because growing up in the city, it was one thing. My father, what he would always do when he couldn’t think of something to do, “Let’s go to the zoo.” “Dad, we went last week.” Didn’t have (46:00) an aquarium to go to. What I remember there was one at one point, at South Broad Street – but that was before my time.
DS: Would you go to the Franklin?
DD: Went to the Franklin Institute, went to the Academy of Natural Sciences, Independence Hall. One of the best places was Ben Franklin’s house, where is that, below Fourth Street, Chestnut, Market. The fun of this was that you’d pick up a phone and, like, “Oh, I’m talking to Thomas Jefferson.” That was kind of cool. If it’s still there, I want to take my son there.
DS: You did do that.
DD: Oh, yes. We did do all that little stuff. But I was like growing up, “You can get that done in a week.” Kind of doing this, doing that.
DS: Did you go down to the Delaware River? (47:00)
DD: Oh, yes, when Penn’s Landing opened. I still remember – I look at it today and you see the movie “Rocky,” and opening sequences, and they show Penn’s Landing, and I am like, “I remember when it was like that. I remember that very vividly” You know, the little pier, the Becuna, the submarine, the Olympia. We did that, too.
DS: Did you ever – was your family involved in the babysitting coop?
DD: Not that I know of. Not that I remember.
DS: Did you have pets?
DD: Oh, boy. Yes, we had pets. We had a lot of them. All at once. We had – growing up, when we moved in, we had two Basset Hounds, Daisy and her puppy, Irma was her daughter. Nice Basset Hounds—big droopy ears. Daisy ended up dying basically (48:00) of old age. Irma unfortunately—whatever that church was down at the corner of Front and Delancey—
DS: The Mariner Church.
DD: The Mariner Church, she happened to find a rat poisoning. That’s what happened to her. She had to be put down. Later, I think we tried to get another – we did have another Basset Hound, the Basset Hound from Hell, Maggie, Magnolia. The only little dog that could get both front paws on the front counter and somehow could get what was in the back. Tore that kitchen up. We had to give her away. She just was a holy terror. (49:00)
We did have a Golden Retriever, Jasmine, who I loved dearly, but that dog was too big for the city. We found her a good home somewhere in the suburbs. We had the obligatory gerbils and hamsters. Shelley’s hamster committed suicide, gnawed its way through the habitat, those little plastic things, and somehow found its way into the toilet and drowned. I don’t know how it got into the toilet, but it did. I actually had mice at one time, and we went away somewhere, and I asked my stepsister Audrey, who worked at the Academy of Natural Sciences, so she had her own little zoo at her house. And I asked her to watch my three mice. She ended up feeding them to her snake. I don’t (50:00) know if I’ve ever let her live that one down. I had my own cat at one point, who I named Kitty. Real genius, thinking of names. Shelley actually got a cat from a neighbor.
[End of first side of tape. Beginning of second side of tape.]
DS: Danny, talk to me a bit about, did you realize that you were growing up in a special, different neighborhood when you were young, and what was good about it for you and what was not so good about it for you?
DD: Growing up in Society Hill was, I think, a very good experience for me. Back when we grew up, first years, there wasn’t that many families, or there were families all moving in, redevelop the area. So it was like, maybe we didn’t realize it at the time, but we knew there was something special. Granted, later, “Oh, you’re from Society Hill.” La de da. Well, it was not all la de da. We knew our parents knew something and found an area where they thought it was good to raise kids at the time, in the ‘70s, late (1:00) ‘60s. We became our own little community. The kids, or the guys I knew, we knew everybody. They may not live on our block, but right around the corner, Andy Roberts. From knowing this one you got to know the others, like the Glockners. You may not go to school with them, you know them around.
To this day, I may run into somebody, what, 30, 40 years later. “Hey, how you been?” We may not keep in touch, but we were at the beginning of something special, because before we got here, it was pretty – (2:00) from what I’ve seen, the pictures – it was pretty run down. Our parents were smart enough, wise enough to see an opportunity and develop this into probably one of the prettiest neighborhoods, historic neighborhoods. I don’t see anything bad about it.
DS: As far as growing up, did you have any negatives that you remember?
DD: No, not really. It felt like a safe neighborhood.
DS: From your perspective.
DD: From my perspective.
DS: Did you get your bicycle stolen?
DD: Not that I remember.
Ds: [Laughs] Good for you!
DD: The nice thing with our house and our back yard, we had a little shed with a lock, and all the bikes got shoved in there, and it was – if somebody that didn’t (3:00) belong there was trying to get into that little shed where the bikes were, the neighbors behind us might be able to see it.
We always were looking out for each other, to a point where, I remember, we were on vacation somewhere, I think with my mother, I think in New York. She got a phone call that someone had just robbed the house and the person got stopped by another neighbor while he was carrying out a television. The funny thing about the whole thing, the guy’s name, last name, was the same as the Mayor, not related. He was a Rizzo; so we found that funny. Then we found out he was related, because he took a broken television, a broken camera. Everything he took was broken. So it (4:00) was like, “OK, go ahead. Have it.” It was funny.
There was a point – my sister knows this story a lot better than I do. The car, Old Red, got stolen. They didn’t know where it was or what happened to it, and she evidently was on a school bus going to camp somewhere, and she saw it in South Philly somewhere. She still tells you that story rather well. I don’t remember the particulars about it.
DS: Did you get the car back?
DD: I think we did. I don’t think we wanted it back. We were due for a new one.
DD: But you know, the crime growing up around here, I know I didn’t (5:00) really pay that much attention to it. There was one time when I was older, I went over to the pharmacy. I think it was Green’s Pharmacy at Fifth and South, because they had a Ticketron, and I got two tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters with my Dad. I bought the tickets. I was heading back, and I was right in front of St. Peter’s, and these two young African-American kids tried jumping me, to take the tickets or whatever, and I just basically sprinted a little faster than they did. That was weird. That was my first and pretty much – one of my only up close and personal experiences like that.
I did later, when I was taking the subway – I think we were coming home from Friends Central. I was on the subway. It was myself and Andy Fineman. There might have (6:00) been someone else. I don’t remember. We were still in West Philly, where the subway is still elevated, and we were coming along towards 45 th Street, and two much older gentlemen, African American, stood up to get off, and one guy was drinking a soda, took a gulp, and as the doors opened – I just happened to be the guy sitting next to the door – he just basically spit all over me with the grape soda.
DD: Yes, it was pretty gross. That was kind of an enlightening. I think I was carrying my bag with all my football gear. We were kind of like, hey, we’re two white kids going through West Philly, not thinking anything of it. This was 1979, 1980, whatever it was. So it was like, “Oooh, that’s a little weird.” But growing up, even in St. Peter’s, you had a mixed class. You had white, you had black, you might have had one Asian. I don’t remember. There might, at one point. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, for us, we didn’t really see black and white. Everybody grew up together. We were classmates. Whereas some public and private school, it was like the blacks over here – the color differential. I like to think I grew up color blind. I say that mainly because growing up, through the years, joining the military, you better be color blind. (7:00)
DS: So that helped you.
DD: It really did. And even to this day, and I don’t look at the people I work with now as, “Well, they’re under me and I’m better than them.” I have a great rapport with my workforce. I have Jamaicans, I have Haitians, African Americans. People that grew up here, people that came from other countries. So that is a real learning experience, especially with the Haitians, after their devastation this past year with the earthquake. I had a lot of them coming to me, now that I’m in the Air Force Reserve, asking, “Are you going down?” And I was willing to go help out for a couple of weeks and give humanitarian aid, but they didn’t need me. A couple of people went, but they (8:00) weren’t there that long. They were all appreciative that I even considered going to help these people in a country I’ve never been to. I have a great rapport with most of them.
It’s taken some time. There is a language difference. They speak French Creole. As I said, I got kicked out of French class in under five minutes. But we have fun. They try to teach me. I picked up some stuff. Not much. I see people. I don’t see color. In the military you have people above you. You can’t be racist. You may have somebody above you of a different nationality or whatever, and you have to look up to them. Or you may have somebody below them, and if you’re berating somebody because of their skin color or ethnicity, you’re not going anywhere. (9:00)
DS: You credit this, do you, to your –?
DD: I do, because I think if I had grown up in a different neighborhood –
DS: A suburban?
DD: Either a suburban or – I’m not knocking any other neighborhood – but if I’d grown up in South Philly, West Philly, it’s about where you grow up, the people you know and the people that make up the neighborhood. Knowing years later, my birth mother and where she grew up, and where I could have grown up, which is Bucks County, Newtown, suburbia, you look at it, and I can look at her, I look at her husband, I have a half-sister, I look at the way they grow up, the way they conduct themselves. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s the way they grew up. I look at the way I grew up, and a lot of (10:00) people to this day see me, they can’t imagine what I was like as a kid, whereas you know what I was like as a kid. The shy little – you know? I have grown up, opened up. My eyes have been opened, my world has opened, and I find humor in some things. I take a lot of things extremely seriously. I think that’s all credited to the way I grew up and where I grew up, and the people I grew up with. It was – I wouldn’t change it for the world. There are incidences I would like to do over, but where everything came together, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
DS: You had, earlier in our interview, you had talked about beating up (11:00) on yourself, when you were going through a really difficult time. Was it – talking about South Street, talking about drugs, talking about alcohol, talking about bars that would serve under age – tell me about South Street and that part of it. Were the kids of this neighborhood more exposed to that than other neighborhoods at a younger age?
DD: I would say, not as much as some people may think. I can’t say for certain, and I’m just going off my own personal experiences. Some people you’d see down on South Street all the time. South Street, when I started hanging out down there –
DS: What age would that have been?
DD: Eleven, twelve. But I didn’t really hang out. Your son and I would just (12:00) walk the street. We thought it was cool, had a little boom box radio, thought it was cool. Back then you could walk the street and not bump into anybody, and as years progressed, it started to become a busier, more popular place to go. Back in the early ‘70s it was real artsy-fartsy kind of stuff. Artisans moved in down there. It was their SoHo, so to speak. You had the Theater of the Living Arts, TLA. It was a great place to see movies. My father and I went down there to see a Three Stooges film festival and saw Mo Howard before he passed away. So that was one of my greatest – I could say I saw Mo Howard. But as a kid growing up down here, that was – on a Friday or a Saturday (13:00) night, what else are you going to do down here? My father was, “Go outside and do something. It’s a nice day,” or whatever. Come summertime or spring or whatever, I can remember Chris and I, Friday nights, watching “The Dukes of Hazard” then going to South Street. We didn’t do anything until after “The Dukes of Hazard.” Then we’d go down to South Street. You know, people watching. We didn’t do anything – we were innocent, pretty much, at that time. I know I was. South Street didn’t corrupt me. It was my stepsister. Believe me, I saw things. I didn’t get into a lot of things. We would hang out at Franco’s Pizza. That was a job I held one summer, later on, because they had the best pizzas – one of the best pizzas. (14:00)
DS: Where were they?
DD: Franco’s was right at Second and South. Franco and his brother, Lorenzo, gave me one of my first food-service jobs, working from 5 ‘til 3 o’clock in the morning, just for the crowd from the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Which was where I was going, because later at night you would see these people waiting to line up for the midnight show of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” all dressed up. It was like Halloween, every night. They would have large tanks of nitrous oxide where they would fill up balloons and sell balloons. I couldn’t figure that one out to save my life. It was just [inaudible]. But we just walked up and down the streets.
DS: So explain that balloon thing.
DD: It was basically nitrous oxide, is, you inhale it and it basically gives (15:00) you a massive head rush and it also kills a ton of brain cells. So that’s how they get brain dead.
DS: They take it out of the balloon.
DD: Yes, they just inhale it. They would use those big balloons that most kids get at the circus. They’d sit on the string and hit it and punch it, because it was really durable, not the regular birthday balloons that pop. Back then the cops didn’t do anything about it, because there was nothing illegal about it. A few years later, because of that, they found a way to make it illegal. Also, those people, waiting to go in, would slip off South Street, into the side streets and smoke joints and do whatever they did.
DS: Could they buy that down there?
DD: Not unless they knew people. I didn’t know anybody down there. Back then, it was not as prevalent as some people may think. Like, there’s a guy standing on (16:00) the corner selling dime, nickel bags, something like that. Anything that was ever done was off the beaten path, out of the line of sight. It was like, “Meet me over here at, you know, X amount of minutes.” When we were younger, we didn’t know anything about it. Granted, everybody grows up. Yes, we all – not all – but some people experimented. Like I said, my stepsister is the one that corrupted me, at sixteen, when I was in Colorado.
DS: A different story.
DD: A whole ‘nother story, and I’m not going into that. But when we got older, you know, we’re seeing different avenues. We’d go to concerts like, down at the Spectrum. Other stuff. It’s like we’re growing up like any other kid, it’s just that this is our generation. Kids the age we were at that time, had it been – you know, you’re (17:00) looking at between ’76, ’77, especially ’76, this was the place to be, Philadelphia, birthplace of the nation. We seen all these people coming in. Seventy-seven I was twelve, thirteen, and you get older, only ten years higher, you’re looking at Woodstock. So kids of our age, ten years earlier, they’d experienced their own little world. Granted, we were not as radical as them, but the times were changing, the music was changing. What we listened to – granted, yes, I was a big fan of the music of the ‘60s, because that’s what I grew up listening to. Then the music started changing. People’s perspective on things (18:00) was changing. You’re starting to go from the real peaceful rock of Crosby, Stills and Nash and all that to the British Punk kind of invasion of Billy Idol and Adam Ant and all these other people, things, attitudes, the way people partied, so to speak. You’re going to clubs now, which I never did.
DS: Did they have clubs on South Street?
DD: Yes, Grendel’s Lair I think was still there, I think.
DS: Where was that?
DD: Sixth and South, I think. Right on the corner. That was where they did, “Let My People Come,” the nude musical, or whatever it was. But I don’t know if that was so much of a club. I don’t remember too many clubs, only because it wasn’t – I would rather be outside having fun. Granted, there was nights you’d run into friends. Half (19:00) the time we’d go over to St. Peter’s Church, into the graveyard, because we knew where to get in, you didn’t have to worry about the gates being locked and whatever. I didn’t tell you that.
DD: There was a million and one ways in there.
DS: What would you do in the graveyard?
DD: We’d just sit there and hang out.
DS: Oh. Just a place to hang out.
DD: Yes, we didn’t do any damage. That’s where I went to school. I wasn’t one for church services, but I respected – I wouldn’t disrespect the grounds. I mean, you look at some of the people buried there.
DS: You and your family didn’t go to church.
DD: Not really, even though my mother’s father was a Lutheran minister. But, no, my father, his excuse for any religious services, “I can’t go. My allergies. Too many flowers.”
DD: Then I started using it years later. Any church-type service usually (20:00) involved my mother’s sister, my Aunt Helen, who lived up in Milford, NJ. We’d go to the Little Church by the Bridge, is what they called it. That’s where I really used that excuse. “Sorry, too many flowers. I’ll be sneezing all day.” It’s not like I’m not a religious person. Religion was there, but it was not really shoved down my throat.
DS: You think that, as a child, hanging out on South Street – you weren’t exposed to anything that you really didn’t understand. It went above you, if it was there?
DD: At first, I didn’t go seeking anything out. But it was an experience to learn from, so to speak.
DS: You were curious.
DD: I was curious.
DS: And these people were quite different with their costumes.
DD: God, yes. Then I had to go see the movie, and I’ve seen it more than once. (21:00) But I put South Street down to that’s where I got my street-smarts from. I learned and saw and kind of learned how to carry myself a little bit.
DS: Protect yourself?
DD: Protect myself, not be so – I won’t say gullible – but susceptible to things. You know, you’re not going to go walking, “OK, let’s eat.” I’m crazy, not stupid.
DS: [Laughs] So did your parents ever try to –
DS: – or talk to you about it, or teach you about it?
DD: My father tried. My stepmother thought she could. I never really listened to her. [laughs] I said, “OK, go ahead and try, but how are you going to stop me?” I’ve been on South Street a few times in the last few years – not many –. Like, “OK, what’s new down here?” (22:00)
DS: Oh, recently. OK.
DD: In the last two years, maybe. I might, even after we’re finished here, just take a walk just to see what it’s like. But I wouldn’t go down there just to hang out now. I’ve seen stories of what’s going on, flash mobs and whatever you want to call it, other stupid –. I remember a few years back, where big post-Greek Picnic kind of deals – I was like –
DS: Mardi Gras.
DD: Mardi Gras. Oh, yes, forgot about Mardi Gras. It’s not the same place. When I lived on South Sixth Street, after I got out of the army, for a little while, when I was (23:00) working at Monserrat. I would go hang out after work at a place called Manny Brown’s. But that was like a neighborhood –
DS: Where was that?
DD: That was on the 600 block of South Street. Manny was there, his wife, very personable. It was a nice, neighborhood bar. It wasn’t one of these commercialized bars, cookie-cutter, like TGI Friday’s or Bennigan’s. It is now. It’s funny. Believe it or not, I sat there watching the OJ Simpson car chase on the television, and all the regulars, we all hung out there. It kind of reminded you of the TV show “Cheers.” Everybody knew each other. They actually painted on the wall a western scene, because it was western, Tex-Mex food. Painted on the wall portraits of the people that hung out there. I had (24:00) myself sitting backwards on a horse with a shotgun. It was funny. Then Manny sold the business. And now there’s that Manny Brown’s. There’s one up in Neshaminy Mall. And you look at their menu, and it gives you a brief on who Manny Brown was. I knew Manny Brown. He was a really, really nice guy. He offered me advice in the restaurant business, because at that time I was trying with the Continental Diner. It was flopping. He was trying to give us advice. He was a very, very nice guy. It was probably the last links to me growing up down here. From Franco’s Pizza, my father knew Franco very well. I got to know Franco and his brother. They owned the place. The two owners (25:00) there, they knew my stepmother, who had done stuff for them. Working there, I got to see people in the neighborhood, you know. At that time I considered myself an original Society Hill kid, South Street kid, but I’m now slowly peeling myself away from the city.
DS: Do you think that’s more your age and your stage in life, or do you think that the neighborhood has changed so much that it doesn’t –
DD: I think the neighborhood – if you look at it for face value, you know, the commercialization of the place, that has changed. Just personally, I think (26:00) maybe if yourself, my parents and other people who had bought property back here in the ‘60s and said, “Here’s a flash forward 45 years. Tell me what you think?” I would love to know what your reaction would have been. If you saw what this place – you have pictures on your walls. We all have pictures at home somewhere of what it was like growing up here. It was very nice. Not so commercialized.
The bar that was on the corner of Second and Pine, that Pat Tancredi owned, my father played on their softball team. That was a real fun experience, going to watch him play, pitch, actually. Not that bad. And knowing that your neighbor owns the bar and the pharmacy, and the (27:00) pharmacist was very, you know, mid America. He knew everybody and was very down-to-earth and was pretty mellow. You didn’t have to worry about sensors, carrying metal objects in and out, like, let’s say, the Rite Aids or whatever, you know the little thing, beep beep. You didn’t have to worry about that. It was very comfortable. Granted, we’re here, dead smack in the city, one of the biggest cities in America. But it had one of those down-home, country bumpkin neighborhoods. Everybody knew everybody kind of deal. If you didn’t know everybody personally, you know your Mom or your Dad did. There was always a connection.
DS: Just one other story, Danny, that I’d like you to tell me about. You told me previously where you and my son and other neighborhood boys were (28:00) playing on the ground where I-95 is now.
DD: Well, we played on the grounds of 95, I believe. Looking out this window, when they were building these condos, we were playing on that, too.
DS: Penn’s Landing Condominiums.
DD: Penn’s Landing.
DS: You would dig on these places?
DD: Yes, there was dirt. There was machinery. Not the smartest thing anyone ever did, but thankfully nobody ever got hurt.
DS: Construction machines.
DD: Construction equipment. Big mounds of dirt, you know, trying to ride your bike, trying to see how far you could get up the hill on your bike. I remember where the hotel – the Sheraton – is, back when it used to be a parking lot. Your son and I – I had roller skates on; he had a bike. The parking lot had a slope to it. It wasn’t flat. It (29:00) wasn’t level. It had a slope. He’s trying to ride, and I’m holding on with a rope, like we were water skiing. I wiped out and ripped my knee apart. It was not fun. But I’ve got to tell you – me and the guys, and my sister used to come along a lot; she was kind of a Tomboy – even Society Hill Towers, we used to go sledding off of there. She tried doing it on roller skates one year, and dislocated her elbow. That was not fun. We like my sister, and I can only speak of what I remember. I won’t speak for her. Her being two years younger than me and this family of yours that we were so close. (30:00) Shelley would always come along for the ride and try and hang with the boys, no matter what.
DS: There weren’t any little girls –
DD: There wasn’t that many little girls. Shelley had – I ran into not that long ago one of Shelley’s classmates at a little reunion at St. Peter’s that they did. It was probably around Christmas ’08. They had something over at the Artful Dodger or whatever the name of that bar is, across from Headhouse. I ran into some of her old friends, and one of her best friends was the sister of a girl in my class, Becky Lloyd. There was a bunch. She kept in touch with a few. The girls stuck together. (31:00)
DS: Shelley was more often running around with – or tagging along with you?
DD: Running with us. She had her girlfriends, but early on this is what she knew. She hung over with us. Any mutual friends we had, like Joanna Putney, was much older than she was, because she was older than me. But she got her own group just from going to St. Peter’s School.
DS: That’s how she found her neighborhood girlfriends.
DD: Yes, Liz Saltonstall, Becky Lloyd, Jenny Eiman, just a few that come to mind. There’s one, she had a goofy name. I can’t – She had her own set of friends. She grew up in her world, in our world here. (32:00)
DS: Danny, this has been wonderful. Thank you so very much.
DD: Yes, this has been a good little reminder of where you came from.
[End of interview]
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