Did you ever hear of Swampoodle? Even if you haven’t, but you are interested in learning from the beauty of a Philadelphia neighborhood in the 1940’s/50’s…keep reading!
Recently, my brother and I found ourselves in a time warp. It was like walking into a neighborhood from the 1940’s or 1950’s.
On a Sunday afternoon, we walked into the Union Hall of the Elevator Constructors in the outskirts of Northeast Philadelphia. We were there to represent my father, who passed away in 2004. We were there for a Swampoodle reunion.
We were the youngest people by several decades. I couldn’t believe how much I learned from my father’s old friends, and from his old stomping grounds
A Generation and Neighborhood Leaving Behind a True Legacy
Swampoodle was a neighborhood in Philadelphia. The nickname came from the Irish immigrants in the area, who apparently thought combining “swamp” and “puddle” was a fine name for a neighborhood. About five decades after its christening, my father grew up there. Friendship and community abounded. It struck me that the same spirit was lacking in neighborhoods today. We’re used to going to reunions, but neighborhood reunions?
Fifty years after they grew up in Swampoodle, these people still saw each other as family. We heard stories about Dad we had never heard, saw pictures we had never seen and even learned his nickname: Sharky. Apparently, he was the best card player Swampoodle had ever seen.
Many Swampoodlians went out of their way to connect with us, encourage us about our father and impart heartfelt insights and stories. They wanted to make us young bucks feel welcomed, and did a good job of it. As I watched them jitterbug, I could only smile about the sweet happiness that filled the room. To them, life was fresh and new, and, although in reality my father’s old neighbors might now be considered elderly, they were still children.
Swampoodle was a special neighborhood from a special time. Children played games kids wouldn’t even know how to play today, like stick ball, wire ball and pinochle. They would spend countless hours each day at “their special neighborhood corner”. It was the hang out. Period. Furthermore, young kids could walk into center city Philadelphia at any time and parent’s would not worry. They just needed to be home by dinner to avoid a spanking from Pops.
A Different Time
My father’s generation from Swampoodle grew up before every house had a television. They got married before living together. For them, time-sharing meant togetherness, not computers or condominiums.
They were born before before penicillin, before polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, plastic, contact lenses, and Frisbees and birth control pills. They were before radar guns, credit cards, atom splitting, laser beams, and ballpoint pens. They were before pantyhose, dishwashers, clothes dryers, electric blankets, air conditioners, drip-dry clothes, and before man walked on the moon.
They got married first and then lived together (as we should to bring God honor and glory). In their time, closets were for clothes, not something to “come out of”. Bunnies were small rabbits, and rabbits were not Volkswagons. They were before gay rights, computer dating, dual family careers, and commuter marriages. They were before day-care centers, group therapy and nursing homes. They never heard of FM radio, tape decks, electronic typewriters, artificial hearts, word processors, yogurt, and guys wearing earrings. For them, time-sharing meant togetherness, not computers or condominiums. A chip meant a piece of wood. Hardware meant hardware, literally. Software was not even a word yet.
Back then, the term “making out” referred to how well you did on your school exams. McDonald’s and instant coffees were unheard of. They hit the scene at the five and ten cent stores. For a nickel you could ride a street car, make a phone call, buy a Pepsi or enough stamps to mail one letter and two postcards! You could buy a new Chevy coupe for $600…but who could afford one? A pity too, because gas was 11 cents a gallon!
In their day, grass was moved, Coke was a cold drink, and pot was something you used to cook in. Aids were helpers in the principal’s office. They made do with what they had, and they were survivors to the core!
What Can We Learn
I was able to see my late father in a way I never had before, but more importantly I was challenged to be a part of living out a modern day Swampoodle; to retain the innocence and integrity that were expected from people back then. So what can you learn from them today that could change how you live and love? Perhaps you had parents who grew up at the same time? Feel free to contact me and share your stories or insights with me.
*I help my coaching clients focus on important life lessons like these so they can achieve better balance both personally and professionally. If you’d like to find out more about my life coaching company, Live With Purpose Coaching, feel free to contact me at (717) 283-2377.