On New Year’s Day, we welcomed in 2018 with the usual pomp and celebration here in the United States and around the world.
In my hometown of Philadelphia, PA welcoming in the New Year means one thing above all others. That would be the annual Mummers Parade.
For the uninitiated, the Mummers Parade is one of the greatest spectacles of color, music, dancing, and merriment that you could ever enjoy. The vast majority of it, and the most fun, takes place right out on the streets of Philadelphia.
Mumming, a form of colorful costumed performance, is a tradition that dates at least back to England in the 13th century. In both England and Ireland in the mid-1700’s, costumed Mummer’s plays were put on, and this custom spread to America when we were still just a colony.
The following is from an article for the old Riverfront Mummers written by John Francis Marion back in 2007:
“Local tradition has it that as early as the 1620s the Swedes and Finns in Tinicum – now a southwestern section of the city – celebrated the New Year by shooting off guns (they were often called “the shooters”), banging pots and pans, and making a clamor as they visited neighbors after Christmas.”
By the 18th century, Mummery had come to Philadelphia in the form of street parties and parading around Christmas time. These would merge with other working class celebrations over the next century or so, becoming a celebration of the arrival of the new year.
By the 19th century, city leaders were looking to organize the rowdy New Year’s Day street celebrations. The city pushed for the marchers to organize into groups, each with leaders who would be held responsible for the actions of their individual group.
The first official Mummer’s Parade was held on January 1, 1901. Over the next few decades the costuming and musical presentations became much more elaborate and sophisticated. For the longest time it was racially and sexually segregated, but those traditions (prejudices?) were dropped decades ago.
The parade has grown into an annual signature New Year’s Day celebration on the streets of downtown and South Philly. Part of the celebration, the Fancy Brigades, have even been moved indoors. This allows more intricate and artistic presentations, and also guarantees a show for tourists on January 1, just in case poor weather postpones the rest of the day-long parading.
Many who marched in the Mummer’s Parade passed down the marching tradition to their children. Those traditions have many times resulted in generations of a particular family not only taking part in the parade, but also remaining as staples within a particular organization.
Into this backdrop stepped Jake Kudrick on New Year’s Day. In many ways, Jake is a typical 6th grader. Family, friends, school, video games, TV, music – you know the lifestyle.
His family story is also one that is familiar to many Philly Mummer families. Jake’s dad, Teddy Kudrick, was Captain of the Duffy String Band for the last 32 years. Before that, it was Teddy’s dad, Henry Kunzig, who had captained Duffy for 26 years. Jake has been marching alongside his dad since his first parade, when he was just 11 months old.
On October 19, tragedy struck Duffy and the Kudrick clan when Teddy died suddenly of a massive heart attack at home in Nether Providence Township, Delaware County. He was just 52 years old. You can imagine the emotional devastation that this brought to young Jake and his family.
There was a funeral, and the many arrangements that requires. And then perhaps the hardest thing of all, an attempt to return to life. To get back into school and activities and friends, all while dealing with the sudden hole in your family and your life.
As a practical matter, Duffy had a sudden problem as well. Their leader was gone, and the Mummer’s Parade was right around the corner. As with every Mummer’s club, there is an officer hierarchy. A decision had to be made as to whether they would march at all. And if so, who, if anyone, would captain the club in Teddy’s place?
“Teddy was always going to have Jake be the successor, I guess you can say, to the throne,” club president Charlie Kochensky told Rick Kauffman of the Delaware County Daily Times. “But we expected two or three more years when Jakey was a little taller.“
Duffy made the decision to march. Not only that, but the club also decided to continue the tradition and pass the captaincy down to Jake, who was serving an apprenticeship as co-captain. He would step into his Dad’s role, and thus become the youngest string band Captain in Mummer’s Parade history.
“I know he would rather still be co-captain, and still have his dad with him, but I think he’s going to surprise some people with how he’s able to pull this off,” Jake’s mother, Colleen Kudrick, told Kauffman.
Not only did Jake pull it off, he wowed the crowd at City Hall, as well as everyone watching Duffy’s performance on television. He truly led the club during their “Wiz Wit” presentation, exhibiting the showmanship and leadership required of every good captain.
As the performance ended, Jake threw his hands into the air in celebration, a wide smile bursting across his face. The crowd roared in appreciation, and the band marched proudly off, knowing they had done Teddy’s memory well.
But Jake wasn’t finished. He took a bouquet of flowers over to a box painted onto the street, and laid it down in a final touching memorial to his father.
The realization of what just happened began to wash over him, and as Jake turned to walk off the staging area he began to break down in tears, overwhelmed by the moment. Anyone who was watching and who knew the circumstances was sharing in those tears. It was genuinely incredible and emotional.
Back at the Duffy clubhouse, word was received that they had finished in 9th place. This marked the first Top 10 finish for the club in anyone’s memory. And young Jake? He tied for 4th place Captain in a category populated with veterans having decades of parading experience.
“If you want to see someone his age with the moxie he has, you’re going to have to go a long way to find another one like him,” said Kochensky per Kauffman.
And even though we’re just a couple of days in, the year 2018 is going to have to go a long ways to find a bittersweet tear-jerker to match the moment provided by Jake Kudrick and the Duffy String Band on New Year’s Day.
|Working the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia|
To say that the 2017 NFL Draft, held in my hometown of Philadelphia over the last three days, was a major success would be an understatement.
I got to experience this signature event of the National Football League up close and in person as a Sergeant with the Philadelphia Police Department. It was just the latest in a number of high profile events that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy while on-duty during my career.
Assigned to take charge of a group of police officers, we spent both days on the south side of the 2400 block of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
It was a slight surprise to me when my group actually took that position and found that we were at the very front lines of the stage and seating arena area. It turned out to be an exciting and rewarding assignment.
The crowd was massive, but Philly-friendly and cooperative. As far as their interactions with myself and my officers, I couldn’t have asked for a more positive reception. Everyone was friendly to us and appreciative of our efforts, and quite a few let us know that fact.
One thing that none of us knew, from the top brass on down to rookie police officers, was exactly what kind of crowd we would be met with. It was the first time that the NFL had put on their annual Draft of college players in that big of a show.
Philly can be notorious at times for our fan reactions, especially where Eagles fans are concerned. You also had to add in the factor that this was a free event. Would the crowd turn surly at any point? Sometimes it only takes a few bad apples to spoil things for the whole bunch. If any officials held any concerns of a worst-case scenario, those never materialized. In fact, just the opposite.
Even when faced with moments involving the hated, rival Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, or Washington Redskins, the Philly faithful responded with spirited but controlled reactions.
The biggest target of the ‘Boo Birds’ over the first couple of days was easily the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell. Yet even with the Commish, I witnessed first-hand a somewhat different reaction from the crowds.
On Thursday, before the actual player selection process got underway, Goodell came out and greeted fans along the very front of the crowd at the sturdy barricades which separated the street from the arena section. As he emerged, there were boisterous boos.
Goodell approached and then walked down the entirety of that front line. He reached across the barricades to shake hands, fist-bump, and even take selfies with those in front, all of whom looked star-struck. The crowd returned his outreach with smiles and handshakes. There were no boos at that point.
As the Commissioner made his way back towards the actual arena, he walked straight at me and shook my hand. I took the opportunity to ask if he minded a quick photo, and in a friendly tone he responded: “For you? Absolutely!” He then thanked me for the work we were doing. Great stuff!
As all cops do, I’ve worked many of these high profile details over the years. I’ve been within interaction distance of numerous famous folks including U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and South African President Nelson Mandela. I certainly could have tried to insinuate myself with any of them at some point, but always held off.
I’ve gotten to shake hands and exchange quick pleasantries with folks such as Flyers legend Bernie Parent and numerous other musicians, athletes, politicians, and celebrities. Goodell was the first time that I asked for a photo. Strange choice, no?
As the time came for the Draft ceremonies to begin, the event was kicked off with a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner“, by Chloe and Hallie Bailey.
Standing at attention, facing the stage and flag, I threw up the customary respectful salute. As I held my salute through the anthem and the girls wound towards the end, two cameramen suddenly charged me. Next thing I knew, there I was, flashing a salute (1:39 into below video) on national television for the NFL Network audience.
As the Draft itself unfolded, the crowd grew massive at the front of the stage area. They roared with approval whenever a local favorite such as Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski appeared, and booed lustily when some rival legend showed up. The best was former Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson, whose boisterous pro-Dallas rant was met by an equally vibrant reaction from Birds’ fans.
Early on Thursday, prior to starting my work assignment, I had visited the 2100 block of the Parkway. There I got to view some of the other attractions which I would end up missing while working up at the arena area.
I also ran into my cousin, Philly police officer Bob Veasey, who was working the daywork shift in that 2100 block of the Parkway. Bob told me that he had a great day, even getting a picture with the Vince Lombardi Trophy awarded to the Super Bowl winners.
Philadelphia looked fantastic. The mid-spring green colors in the trees were highlighted by unseasonably warm temperatures. It was as though three early-summer days had decided to invade the springtime, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time for the city.
A chilly rain had fallen for days prior to the start of the NFL Draft. With the event over now, Sunday is cloudy with a chance of rain. So it turned out that even Mother Nature was on Philadelphia’s side this week.
The Parkway itself was fully decorated in NFL Draft paraphernalia. Numerous tents and attractions drew fan participation and photo opportunities.
There was plenty of opportunity to purchase food and beverages. If you bought a bottle of water, you could refill it for free at a handful of kiosks scattered around the event. Porta Potty’s were aplenty.
From a concession stand set up next to the famed “Rocky” statue, I got to enjoy a delicious hot sausage on day one, a jumbo hotdog on day two, both washed down by a nice, cold bottle of H2O. The sausage, I waited in a short line and purchased by myself. The hotdog was a treat from a couple of my officers.
Speaking of those police officers, I couldn’t have asked for a better crew. I had the same group of cops under me on both days. Only one of the officers had any time on the job, the others were all rookies.
All of the officers comported themselves with professionalism. They basically held to my directives: “I need to see you around regularly, keep an eye out for problems while enjoying the event and the people, and don’t do anything to get yourselves on TV.” I was ribbed by a couple of them on that last one after my salute appearance.
While visiting with that Rocky statue, waiting on my first-day hot sausage, I ran into an old classmate from my Police Academy class 289. Newly minted Philly PD Deputy Commissioner Dennis Wilson has always been a great guy, and hasn’t let the new rank change him at all. My only problem with him? The man looks like he hasn’t aged a day in 27 years.
People in the area where I was assigned from outside of the Philadelphia Police Department were extremely cooperative and friendly. Fire Department paramedics on their Segways were everywhere. The event security personnel, federal law enforcement, the NFL staff, and employees of the various networks providing TV coverage all worked together well.
One member of that NFL staff gets particular thanks from me, and I’m sorry that I never got his name. The situation went like this: on Thursday night, after taking a few opportunities to capture some of the pageantry by taking a few pictures and videos, my cellphone died.
Still having a few hours to go on the work detail, I realized that I had left my portable charger back in my car. Overhearing me mention this in a conversation with my officers, a member of the NFL Network technical crew offered to charge my phone. I took him up on the offer, and a half hour later had a half-charge and was back in business.
Near the end of Thursday night’s first round, I got to meet and speak for a few minutes with the woman who was in charge of the actual arena structure. If you didn’t get to see it in person or on TV, the NFL Draft arena was an amazing piece of temporary architecture.
She said that her company goes from town to town, event to event, pulling off similar amazing feats. For instance, this summer they will be handling the huge Lollapalooza concert in Chicago in August. Her folks did a phenomenal job putting that structure in place.
On Friday, newly-promoted Philly PD Deputy Commissioner Joe Sullivan stopped through my area and mentioned that “we haven’t even had to handle a fight.” We both knocked wood, hoping it would stay that way.
Stay that way it would. No fights, no major disputes. I saw one protest sign the entire time (“Investigate Pizzagate – it’s real!“) which garnered zero attention for the guy trying hard to get some. He left the front after about two minutes and no crowd response.
There were a couple of lost children, ultimately returned to their families. And there was one other incident that was handled by myself and my crew with the help of Chief Inspector Frank Vanore and the PPD Bomb Squad.
A non-thinking member of the stage crew had left a backpack leaning unattended against a tree for a length of time near a side stage entrance. The bag was reported to us as a concern by the NFL Network folks.
This was ultimately great work performed by the brave Bomb Squaders, who thankfully got to deal with a bag full of clothing this time. After the 2013 Boston Marathon attack, unattended backpacks are a no-no at major public events, people. Something to keep in mind.
It was this spirit of cooperation and friendship that was on display everywhere you looked this week which truly stood out. Whether it was with internal PPD ranks, or with security staff.
Especially with the crowds. Philly fans were outstanding, even from or towards rival Cowboys and Giants fans. A couple of Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders humored me with the above photo. Everyone was in it together, and in it for the right reasons – a peaceful good time.
Congratulations to everyone associated with bringing this showcase to Philly, and with organizing, managing, and running the event itself. The 2017 NFL Draft was a major success story, one of the nicest events that I’ve had the pleasure to work over a law enforcement career that is now in the middle of its 28th and final year.
(Originally published here on 10.10.09)
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the other day that two of its long time iconic high schools, North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty, would be closing at the end of the current school year.
The reaction from students and their families at the two schools, which were each once the largest Catholic high schools for boys by attendance in the world, as well as from alumni of the two schools, came swift and strong.
Many of the students had dreamed of graduating from North and Dougherty, some of these students as ‘legacies’ who were the sons and grandsons of alumni. The loss of the schools would break family traditions going back for generations. There would also be issues for the students such as new travel arrangements to new schools and trying to fit in socially in a new environment.
For alumni the issues included the loss of tradition and a perceived elimination of a large slice of their own teenage memories. These former students and graduates had walked the ‘hallowed halls’ at North and Dougherty, competed for the sports teams, participated in the clubs, attended the religious services, and got their groove on at the dances and proms.
When North Catholic opened in 1926 it enrolled approximately 450 students. By the post-World War II years the school enrollment had swelled to more than 4,000 young men. By 1953 the enrollment was over 4,700 students, and North Catholic was recognized as the largest Catholic high school for boys in the entire world. It was all downhill from there as far as attendance figures.
By the late-1970’s with the school celebrating its 50th anniversary, total attendance fell to about 2,700 students, and then dropped below the 2,000 mark by the early 1980’s. Though there are now approximately 40,000 alumni of North Catholic high school, the actual 2008 attendance had plummeted to 750 total students.
The story is similar at Cardinal Dougherty which opened in 1956. By the 1960’s, Dougherty enrollment had swelled past the 6,000 mark as the school took over the title of largest Catholic boys school in the world. But attendance plunged in the same way it did at North, and by 2008 there were just 784 total students at Dougherty.
When you consider these figures, it is really not that hard to figure out why buildings and facilities that were originally created to hold between 4,000-6,000 students and now hold a little more than 700 each can not continue.
But many students and alumni are placing the blame with other things, including the rise in tuition costs and the cost of legal defense for Catholic priests accused and convicted in the sex abuse scandals. These Catholics are completely missing the real reasons why enrollment has plunged to the point that schools need to be closed.
For the America of the ‘Baby Boomer’ years, in particular the two decades immediately after World War II, the Catholic Church was a major institution and a concrete part of family life. Families were still together, large, and thriving as well. Divorce was almost unheard of, and a typical Catholic family would have 4-5 children or more. These kids grew up to attend the neighborhood Catholic elementary and high schools as a matter of course.
Tuition in the 1960’s was approximately $200-250 per student at most Catholic high schools in Philadelphia. Today those figures have risen into the thousands, in some cases to more than $10,000 per year. But of course, people who earned a salary of $5,000 per year back in the 1960’s are now making $50,000 in those same jobs today. Few people ever consider this fact when harping on tuition rises.
The fact of the matter is that costs have soared for most of the same inflationary reasons that salaries have soared over the past five decades. Catholic schools have an additional burden in that they continue to provide the best educational opportunities in teachers, facilities, programs, and overall learning environment. The cost of providing that quality is, however, now spread out over hundreds of students rather than the thousands of students attending in earlier generations.
There is one major reason for all of the problems that have led to not only the anticipated closings of North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty high schools here in Philadelphia, but also to closings and mergers of other Catholic elementary and high schools in recent years. This one major reason applies to the merger of my own alma mater, St. John Neumann boys high school in South Philly, with St. Marie Goretti girls high school in 2004.
The one major reason is that Catholic families have fallen down on the job.
Catholic families began to have fewer and fewer children, to the point now where most Catholic families have approximately two children rather than the half dozen or more kids that was common a half century ago. Reproductive demographics is only a part of the problem, just a symptom of the bigger problem that I personally believe is spiritual in nature.
Catholic families have not drifted away from the Church over the decades, they have sprinted away. According to the results of a Gallup Poll released in April of 2009, attendance at Catholic churches has leveled off at approximately 45% after falling slightly below that figure in the immediate aftermath of the priest abuse scandals. In 1955 that figure was a full 75% attendance for weekly Mass services.
The fact was, if you were a Catholic in our grandparents day, you went to Mass on Sunday – it was obligatory. The sad fact today seems to be that people take Mass attendance far too casually. Where in those previous decades the idea of divorce was almost unheard of, today approximately 21% of Catholic Americans have been through a divorce according to religioustolerance.org figures.
The combination of the deterioration of Catholic family size, structure, and practice is at its core a spiritual problem. Many Catholics have become more self-centered, more materialistic, more cynical and more willing to surrender to or flee from the problems posed by evil in the world rather than standing by their faith and fighting back. They have fled to other Christian denominations, or to no religious practice whatsoever, and have taken their smaller families along with them.
It is easy for people who want to assign blame, whether it be in the current struggles of the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia or in any other area of life, to point at others. There may even be some validity to such accusations. But those same people need to sincerely look themselves in the mirror and ask some hard questions of the person looking back at them.
Do you go to Mass every week, or at least most weeks? Do you make it a priority for you and your family? Do you receive the Sacraments, especially Communion, but also including Confession/Penance? Are you committed to your family, and especially if a young Catholic, are you committed to growing that family in number and raising your children as strong Catholics? Did you, do you, or will you send your children to Catholic schools? Do you find a way to support the Church outwardly and proudly despite the shortcomings of some of its leadership?
If you can look yourself in the mirror and answer all of these questions positively, then congratulations, you are not really a part of the problem. But unfortunately you are also not in the majority of American Catholic families over the past few decades.
The answer to the problems which are now requiring the closings of North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty, that required the merger of Neumann and Goretti, and that have required the closings and mergers of other Catholic elementary and high schools can be found within ourselves, not in protest or in demonstrations. We the people who make up the body of the Church need to return to our basic fundamentals of faith, prayer, and support for the Catholic Church.
If we are not willing to do that, then more and more Catholic schools will meet the same fate in future years. The official school motto at North Catholic is “Tenui Nec Dimittam” which translates to “What I have, I will not lose” which should be taken on as the new motto of all Catholics in Philadelphia and all across the United States of America.
It was just after 1:00 AM in the freezing cold early morning hours of Friday, January 30th, 1970. To put in perspective how long ago it was, just three weeks earlier the Beatles had performed together in the studio for the final time, and it was just 3 weeks since a new soap opera ‘All My Children’ had made its debut on television.
The remnant of a previous snowfall still coated the ground as rookie Philadelphia police officer Fred Cione pushed his red patrol car around the corner and into the 1700 block of west Oxford Street in the city’s 23rd district.
My wife, the former Debbie Marshall Howe, grew up just two doors from Fred’s family on Huntingdon Street in the city’s Kensington section. As a 14-year old budding adolescent at that time, she already recognized that Freddie, a single Vietnam vet, was ‘really handsome’ and ‘built’.
As this handsome 25-year old rookie cop drove onto Oxford Street that night he came upon three men and found something suspicious about them, or their behavior, or just the fact of them being on the streets in that location on that kind of night.
What we do know for sure is that Freddie got out and approached the three, and that one of them opened fire on him with three gunshots, one of which went into this chest and another into his gut. The men ran off, and Freddie was left to die like a dog in a North Philly gutter. That was almost three full decades ago.
Just last week, in my role as an instructor with the Philadelphia Police Department’s Advanced Training Unit, I was teaching a CPR class. One of the cops in attendance wore the name tag ‘Cione’, and I asked if he was a relative of Fred. The young man responded that he was Fred Cione’s nephew.
I am quite sure that he has heard the story a number of times already in his life. His own father, Fred’s brother Nick, became a Philly cop following his brother’s death. Two of Nick’s own sons subsequently have become Philly cops as well.
The murder of Fred Cione on that cold January night came back to me in the past couple of days as we here in Philly suffered the murder of yet another of our young officers, Pat McDonald. Pat is the fifth Philly cop to be murdered in the last 2 1/2 years.
But there is one big difference between the murders of Fred Cione and that of Pat McDonald and other Philadelphia officers murdered in the line of duty such as Chuck Cassidy, Gary Skerski, Steve Liczbinski, Izzy Nazario, Danny Faulkner, Lauretha Vaird, Steve Dmytryk, Danny Boyle, and Leddie Brown.
The big difference is that the murder of Fred Cione remains the only murder of a Philadelphia police officer that has never been solved.
Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo and his top investigators were never able to find anything to solve the case: no real suspects, no murder weapon, no motive.
The police Homicide Unit has never let the case die, assigning top detectives to take a new look at it every so often, but no one has ever come up with any substantive leads. The only reliable witness, a female, was brought in to look at thousands of photos over the years, but was never able to identify anyone.
The case remains the ultimate frustration for all of us as Philadelphia police officers. When one of us goes down on the job at the hands of a bad guy, the very least that we expect is that our brothers and sisters will hunt our killer down to the ends of the earth, and bring that killer to justice, one way or another.
The three evil specters whom it was the unfortunate fate of Freddie Cione to run into on that cold, dark, wintry January night so long ago remain demons that we have never been able to exorcise.
Think about and remember Freddie Cione as you drive past his mural. It is painted on the Aramingo Avenue side of his neighborhood recreation center, just south of Lehigh Avenue. He shares the mural with Joey Friel, another neighborhood native killed in the line-of-duty.
We not only must never forget Fred Cione, but we must specifically remember him and his case, and never allow justice to elude us again.