Philly War Zone: Growing Up in a Racial Battleground Paperback – Illustrated, January 19, 2012
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- Item Weight : 9.3 ounces
- Paperback : 172 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1465350787
- Product Dimensions : 6 x 0.39 x 9 inches
- ISBN-10 : 1465350780
- Publisher : Xlibris, Corp.; Illustrated Edition (January 19, 2012)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,486,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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As a young kid I remember playing at Myers Playground with many of my friends. During this time the neighborhood was just about all white. I remember hearing my parents talk about the Realtors block breaking.
From 1969-1970 the neighborhood got so bad me and my brother would have to cut thru the allys as we were being chased by groups of blacks. The breaking point was when my father and mother took us out to dinner on a Sunday and hanging out on our front steps was a group of about 10 blacks in their late teens (maybe early 20's). My father went up the steps first but the blacks wouldn't move so my father said to make room so we could all go up the steps to get to our front door. I remember one punk was the leader and he got up and told my father he had to say please or he wouldn't move. My father was a former boxer and was 40 years old at the time so he could still handle himself BUT my mother interceded and said please let us get by. That was the day my father swallowed his pride for the safety of his family.
Later that evening I remember my mother and father talking and my father saying that was it we were moving. Soon after we put our house up for sale. Eventually my father bought another house by Finnegan Playground and continued to pay the mortgage on the first house as well as the new house.
The last story I will mention is when I was 9 or 10. Our next door neighbors were black and my parents and them were great friends. Me and the one son Eddie were best of friends for the couple years we lived next door to each other. That all changed one day when me and my brother were playing at Cobbs Creek and Eddie was with a group of his friends who were all black. I remember like it was yesterday that I said hi to him and his friends told him to fight me. I'm sure it was peer pressure but he came at me and we fought. I remember the other kids pushing my brother and them calling me a hunkie. That is a day etched in my mind FOREVER.
In trying to sell our house the neighborhood was so bad my dad kept dropping the price on the house until he could no longer afford to pay 2 mortgages. It was then he sold our house for $1 just to transfer the mortgage over to the new owners name who took over the remaining mortgage. My father lost 10 years of equity on that house.
These are but a few stories of how a tight knit working class neighborhood was transformed into a Racial War Zone with whites having to band together just to go school or the corner store or to play at the playground or shop on Woodland Ave.
These are just a few of my memories that at that time shaped my life whether right, wrong or indifferent. I'm sure many of the blacks growing up looked at it in the opposite light - that's human nature.
A day doesn't go by that I don't think about both of the neighborhoods I grew up in SWP!
Philly War Zone is filled with memorable anecdotes that made me smile and laugh out loud. Who doesn't remember playing wall ball, Woodland avenue shopping, how good a water ice tasted in the summer? There are details that only those of us who grew up there would appreciate, but when Purcell gets to the violence, it strikes a more universal chord. Many kids in the city knew to avoid SWP.
I also liked how Purcell tried to answer some of the nagging questions about the violence: Why did it happen? Who was to blame? What were the economic patterns that led to racism? When did the shift from bucolic childhood to deadly adolescence occur? No easy answers, but at least someone has asked the questions.
Great book, highly recommended.
Thanks for writing this and for sharing your life with us.