Thursday, September 18, 2014

99 Years Ago in Philadelphia: Second half of September, 1915

School District of Philadelphia Begins Its Long Tradition of Nasty School Lunches

Eerie-looking Philadelphia schoolchildren, school lunch pioneers
            A great moment in history, nearly equivalent to man walking on the moon, occurred in the second half of September, 1915. For the first time, the infamously nasty Philadelphia public school lunch was offered to students during the school day. Though the practice had been in place at some early community centers, children's homes, and settlement houses in the city, this was the first time that the toxic waste that all Philadelphia schoolchildren fear was offered at a Philadelphia public school.
          The "penny lunch", as it was called, consisted of two choices: a pack of "quality biscuits" or a cup of coffee. Yeah, because giving coffee to schoolchildren is such a good idea. Some believed that providing lunch at schools had a two pronged effect: not only would it make kids learn better later in the day, it would also introduce immigrant children to American foods.
         Shortly after this, another breakthrough was made when the lunchlady was invented.

"Watch the potty-mouth, honey"
 Charles Reinhardt: Families Man

            In the second half of September, 1915, Charles Reinnhardt of 3919 Aspen Street was standing trial, accused of being married to two women at once. When Wife #1, Florence Reinhardt, took the stand to testify against her husband, she revealed that Mr. Reinhardt wasn't married to two women at once, but THREE!
           It seems Reinhardt would leave his wives but never officially divorce. He married Florence first, living with her at 1510 Womrath Street until dipping out. He then shacked up with a young widow named Anna Preston, staying with her for only two months after their wedding in an apartment above his own grandfather's saloon. He then married on Helen Lutz, whose house on the 3900 block of Aspen Street he was living in when Florence finally caught up with Charles and had him arrested for bigamy.
            This dude apparently never figured that his ex-wives would ever be able to catch up with him. He's fucked now.

Only Reinhardt's Womrath St. residence still stands, image from Google Streetview

Philadelphian Wanted For Giving His Son Cigarettes

              Twelve-year-old John Storer Jr, juvenile delinquent from Kensington, sat in front of the Juvenile Branch of the Municipal Court for the umpteenth time. This time he was accused of running away from home, a much lesser crime than his previous antics. When Judge Raymond McNeill asked his mother how it is than little John became such a miscreant, she stated that his "worthless" father was to blame. Why? He gives Junior cigarettes, of which he smokes a pack a day.
             Judge McNeill became pissed off about this, ordering a warrant for the arrest of John Storer Sr, whose residence was unknown. The judge then went on a tirade, claiming that a father giving his son cigarettes was no different than a store owner selling them to a minor and that he would prosecute the fuck out of him as soon as he was found.

Dead Man Returns To Piss Off His Family

            In the second half of September, 1915, Mrs. Laura Redmond got a knock on her door at 1745 North 31st Street and got served with a Writ of Habeas Corpus from her dead husband. They had split 14 years earlier and he arranged to have their daughter, Louise, be put under the care of a convent in Baltimore. Mr. Redmond was then believed to have died en route to California.
           When she turned 18, Louise escaped the convent, where she claimed her living conditions were "practically [like] a slave", and made it all the way to Philadelphia, where she re-united with her mother and lived with her. It only took two weeks for the deceased Mr. Redmond to make his re-appearance and demand through the courts that she be returned to the convent. When asked why this man would go through all this trouble to come back from the grave and bring court proceedings against his ex wife and daughter he had not seen for well over a decade, Mrs. Redmond said "To annoy us."

Birth of a Nation Hits Philadelphia Like a Bag of Hammers

"It will make a better American of you"
          Though the film Birth of a Nation premiered in February of 1915, it wasn't until August of that year that the film made it up to Philadelphia, where it played exclusively at the old Forrest Theater on Broad Street. By the second half of September, the film was so popular that tickets had to be reserved 2 weeks in advanced.
        People were enthralled with the film, which was endorsed by President Woodrow Wilson himself. It had the first posthumous depiction of Abraham Lincoln on screen and displayed the latest in lighting and makeup technology. Other people were extremely offended by the film, since it glorifies the Ku Klux Klan and is rife with racist depictions and stereotypes.
        In Philly, the protest of this film turned into a riot. In the second half of September, 1,500 black men, lead by "a tall negro clergyman" marched up Broad Street singing Onward Christian Soldiers until they reached the theater. The clergyman then waved his cane around and a brick was thrown. At this point, all the cops that were standing around the crowd were directed to shut the protest the fuck down.
      They responded by charging into the crowd and cracking every skull within reach with their billy clubs. The crowd panicked and dispersed quickly, some protesters getting trampled in the fray. Others hid in building lobbies and interstitial alleys nearby. Many were severely injured.
        The next day, a group of black men lead by lawyer G. Edward Dickerson and Dr. W.A. Sinclair limped their bandaged-up selves into Mayor Blankenburg's office and demanded that the City Solicitor bring suit against the Forrest Theater and prevent any further screenings of the film. They were unsuccessful. The same group later vowed that they would make their own version of Birth of a Nation, but it is unknown if they ever did.
         In case you never heard of this Oscar-winning racist film or have never seen it, here's the film in all its glory-- all 3 hours 12 minutes of it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fill This Front: Stereo City

1410 Chestnut Street

                What the fuck is going on here? After a year or so of emptiness, this storefront was announced to be filled with a new occupant--- then, nothing happened. Therefore, I think its time we bring this motherfucker back to all of our attentions. Maybe this will light a fire under the asses of the dudes who say their gonna move in here.
                 This storefront is ancient as fuck. Its a 1924 alteration of a 1830/50s row-mansion. The first user of this retail space was Llewellyn's Drug Store, which started here in the mid-19th Century and lasted all the way up to 1917 before moving to 1518 Chestnut.

The interior in 1898. The outside just looked like a dirty rowhouse with a display window on it. Image form the PAB
           After Llewellyn's moved out, a bank was proposed for the space and a design was even drawn by the badass architect Edgar V. Seeler, but it was never built. After that, the A.H. Geuting Company Store moved in, selling shoes and establishing the place as a shoe store. The new facade design was by David Bassett.
           I say Geuting's established this place as a shoe store because after they moved out, a whole series of shoe stores came in and out of this place for the next 6 decades. I don't know the names of all of them but some included French Shriner Shoes, Commonwealth Shoes, and Bostonian Shoes.

As Bostonian Shoes in 1982 rocking a 1967 sign by David Cutler. Tron!! Image from the PAB
                In more recent years, the space became a comic book store called Out of Time and then, in about 2009, became Stereo City, which was neither a City nor in Stereo.

Nice sign. 2009 view from the Google Streetview Time Machine
                The place went back up for lease in January of 2013 and by January 2014, it was announced that this location would be the Center City outpost of Brewerytown's Shifty's Taco. One of my old fraternity brothers was named Shifty.
Last known photo of Shifty, 1999.
                     Ok, so it's gonna be a Shifty's Taco. Where the fuck is it? That metal gate hasn't moved in nearly 2 years! Sure, the announcement stated not to expect the place in "the next six months", so I held out until this, the ninth month, to write this shit. C'mon Shifty, what are you waiting for?
                    This is a 1,500 square foot space on the 1400 block of Chestnut Street, which not only has nearly endless buttloads of foot traffic, but is about to have a big-ass luxury double-hotel be built across the street. No less than four bus lines pass it on Chestnut Street alone, while its proximity to Broad Street gives it access to a whole other bunch of bus lines. It's near the transit nexus under City Hall, where both SEPTA subways and all the subway-surface trolley lines converge. Its also right near the brand-spanking new Dilworth Park. Lots and lots of monied citizens both live and work (or both) nearby. You could sell soiled celebrity underwear here and strike it rich!
               The place is managed by Sierra U.S. Commercial Real Estate. If Shifty's never happens, I'm depending on y'all to FILL THIS FRONT!!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Old-Ass Building: Front and Thompson Public Bath House

1241-1245 North Front Street

Photo by Michael Bixler
               This old piece of shit is one of two remaining public pools from the municipal bath house building spree of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Learn all about it at the Hidden City Daily!