Tag Archives: South Philly

Duffy String Band opens 2018 with bittersweet Mummers tear-jerker

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.

No Savesies?

As I write this, the sun is glistening off the snow pack that has covered my street for the better part of the past six weeks. Temps are forecast to keep rising and, mercifully, the snow should be gone by the weekend.

But for weeks now, Philadelphia and surrounding areas have had to deal with mountains of snow in a continuous barrage, the likes of which I cannot remember seeing in my lifetime.

Sure, we’ve had large snowfalls in the past, but they seemed to last on the ground a few days, and then temps would rise, rain would come, and the piles of snow would be gone. This year we never seemed to get a break. It was one measurable snowfall on top of another. Again, hopefully that is all coming to an end now.

With the snow have come a number of practical issues that we have all had to deal with, from altered transportation schedules to cancelled school and work days, and, of course, physical labor. The need to continually dig out from the storms. In Philly under Code 10-720, residents have to clear a 3-foot wide path in front of their homes within six hours of the end of a storm.

But that clearing of “a path” only takes care of enabling folks to use a walkway. There is another issue, one that has become extremely heated and controversial over the years and been particularly highlighted this year due to the regularity of the situation: the saving of a parking space from which you dug out your private vehicle.

Over the years we have come up with a number of colorful ways to save the spaces. Some have placed elaborate, creative, humorous artworks in the space. Others have put household objects such as old toilets out there to save a spot. For most, the tried and true method is the placing of lawn or beach chairs in the spot.

These saved parking spaces have caused problems over the years, both here in Philly and elsewhere.
People have argued over them, physically fought one another over them, and people have even been severely assaulted, even shot and killed over them. What makes the idea of a saved parking space during an extreme weather situation push people to such lengths?

There are two sides to every story, or so it is said. For a man who has experienced the good, bad, and ugly of both sides, I think that I can speak on the issue as well as anyone. In winding down what will in the end have been a 28-year career in law enforcement, and having grown up in the tough, close-knit, and difficult parking 2nd Street neighborhood of South Philly, I have seen it all.

On the one side you have the position as formally taken up and aggressively advertised in news interviews and on social media during this recent difficult stretch by the Philadelphia Police Department. That position has become characterized by the simple, catchy slogan of “No Savesies” – that there is no private parking on public streets, and that it is unlawful to block access to such spots, no matter the circumstances.

On the other side you have the position as passionately taken up by a large number of hard-working, blue collar, everyday Philadelphians of all races, sexes, and across all neighborhoods. I know this simply by reading voluminous exchanges on social media and at news outlets: this other side is indeed diverse, vocal, and insistent. Their view: I worked hard to dig it out, then for a short period of time, I deserve access to that spot.

Frankly, I completely empathize with the latter group. I have been digging out cars from parking spaces constantly for over a month now. I know what it is like to get bundled up, sometimes early in the morning, get out in the freezing cold, and manually dig a vehicle out from under and behind a foot or more of snow.

It is hard work, it takes time, and at 52 years of age it is a little tougher now than it used to be for me personally. You do the hard work, straining your muscles, thankful if a neighbor with a snowblower comes along to provide some blessed assistance. Remember, you are usually digging out not just a vehicle, but also a walkway, possibly a driveway, a fire hydrant path, and more.

And in the types of conditions in which we have been faced with lately, you often have to be creative. There is an aspect of engineering and carpentry involved in carving out a parking space that both frees the vehicle now, and that will be reusable later, all while not creating hazards and inconveniences for surrounding neighbors and motorists.

So you do it. You get out there, you do all the hard work. You open up and clear your home walkway, clean a path to the fire hydrant on your street, and free your trapped vehicle so that you can get to the store, to work, to school while also making the space clear enough to reuse later when you inevitably return.

You have done a great job, and you are tired. But now you have to actually go to work, or drive your kids to school, or go to a doctor appointment, or get to the grocery store, or to checkup on a family member. You ease your vehicle out of the parking spot, leave for the doctor office, or school, or store.

And then you return an hour or so later. There is still a foot or more of snow on the ground. There are mountains of snow, both from Mother Nature’s original dump, and from the movement around of the piles by you and your neighbors. The usual limited number of street parking spaces is even further restricted by these conditions.

But you’re not worried, because you did a nice job of working hard to dig your car out, and will simply put the car back into that hard-earned, well-crafted parking space from which you left just a little while earlier. As you return, your mind finds it almost incomprehensible: someone has parked in the space that you dug out.

Now you can be a well-seasoned, even-tempered, professional law enforcement officer who thinks up pleasant slogans like “No Savesies”, or you can be a hot-blooded, mean-streak, quick-tempered “whatever” profession you want to insert here. I don’t care who or what you are, I guarantee you that the emotion sweeping over you at that moment will at the very least be described as frustration. Frankly, many get downright angry.

Here is where the truly important part of all this begins to develop. The answer to a simple question will say a lot about you: what do you do now? You really have two choices. You can get out of your car, rage, seek out the interloper, and demand they move, creating a confrontation or worse if they don’t. Or you can sigh, move along, and try to find or create somewhere else to park your car, even though that may end up being a block or more away from home.

In those cases, you really have no choice. No matter what, you cannot create a public nuisance or start a fight about a parking space over which you legitimately have no ownership stake. When you purchased your home, it did not come with public, on-street parking spaces. That is a simple fact. You cannot get self-righteous over parking, no matter the circumstances.

In many cases, the person now taking up the parking space may be a neighbor, and you may recognize the car. You may decide to go up to their home, or call them on the phone, and let them know that you are back, politely asking if they will be long. But you had best be prepared before doing so to handle the situation maturely if the response you get is that they have parked and do not plan on leaving.

The bottom line is that, other than the concepts of formally designated handicapped parking spaces and private, clearly marked driveways, you do not own a parking space on a public street. You cannot park in a handicapped space, and you cannot block someones driveway. Otherwise, on a public street, no one owns parking spaces.

There is no formal “law” against the act of reserving parking spaces in the ways that Philadelphians have been trying to do for generations during snowstorms. You are not going to get arrested for putting a lawn chair in a dug out space. However, there are a number of local and state codes, including littering and obstructing the highway, which have fines attached and which can be applied by law enforecement in such situations.

You cannot reserve parking spaces by placing trash bags, a lawn chair, an old toilet in them, by having your kids build a snowman in them, whatever. But perhaps even more importantly, if you do so, and you return later to find that someone has moved them aside and parked there, even that your items are completely missing, you cannot create drama.

We have to be mature and responsible in dealing with any situation, including under the types of difficulties created by nature over the last month. We even have to be mature and patient when dealing with our fellow man during these times, no matter how wrong or ignorant we feel they may have acted.

And also, consider this. If you are young enough, fit enough, and have enough respect and consideration for your hard-working neighbors, maybe you can even use that spot that you just stumbled upon on your own return home, the one someone so carefully carved out, as a temporary refuge for your vehicle while you go and find and dig out another spot on your block.

Not only will this save some hard feelings, it will also give you and your fellow neighbors yet one more place to put their vehicles over the coming days, when parking is likely to remain at a premium. Working together, having respect and consideration for one another, and treating one another with patience and maturity, this is how we will best get through these temporary tough times.

So yes, there are “No Savesies”, and you need to wrap your mind around that concept and embrace it. You cannot save a private spot on a public street by placing an object there, no matter the circumstances. It should go without saying that you cannot assault one another or create a public nuisance. But also, you should try to be considerate of your neighbors, the difficulties that they are under, and their hard work.

The Good Old Days

Do you know that weird sensation of connection to your roots that you often feel when you see an old family member, friend, lover, teammate, or co-worker for the first time in years, maybe even decades?

Depending on the circumstances of your meet, it sometimes doesn’t hit you until later. But almost always we go through that exercise in mental nostalgia which carries us back to those younger days and the experiences that we shared with this individual.

The innocent memories of childhood. The fun times of high school or college. The struggles and amusement involved in our early work years. The thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat on sporting fields.

The life, death, and love of family. Sometimes that person is linked to another person, or a group of others, and our memories will branch off towards those folks.

Well these types of memories and feelings have been happening to me more and more lately thanks to the social networking website called Facebook. I have stumbled across more family members and old friends on the internet thanks to this popular behemoth than I could ever have imagined.

People who I worked with years ago. Those who I hung out with on the corners of South Philly as a youth. Some who I played ball with as an adult. And being a police officer for the past 19 years there are cops, both old and new acquaintances. Lots of cops. The site allows you to mentally catch-up with these people.

We share small biographies of what we’ve been up to, photos of our family members and friends, videos of some of our life experiences, music and other media that we enjoy, and conversations with one another and each other.

These meetings of late have also driven home another point to me as well. My own memories of what is classically referred to as ‘the good old days’ are truly long gone.

For me those days would take me back to my childhood and teenage years growing up in the 2nd Street neighborhood of South Philly during the 1960’s and particularly the 1970’s.

‘Two Street’, as some know it, is a stretch of south 2nd Street beginning around Washington Avenue and continuing south to Oregon Avenue. This is approximately a twenty block stretch bordered on the east by the homes on and around Front Street and on the west arguably by somewhere around 4th or 5th Street, depending on how far south you are.

The area is a Mummers kingdom, the home to these merry men and women who star in Philly’s iconic New Year’s Day parade. Many of the clubs have their headquarters on 2nd Street or just off it, and you can’t walk a half block without tripping over any number of residents who participate in the parade in some way.

The times when I grew up there were the days of Vietnam, Woodstock, Watergate, Apollo, SNL, Nixon, Ford, Carter, disco, gasoline rationing, and the ever-looming threat of a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia that was known as ‘The Cold War’.

But when your age is still in the single digits, and even into your pre-teen and early teen years, most of these big stories are simply not affecting your life as you know it. Your life at those ages is filled with things like family and school, sports teams and friends, movies and music. Eventually as we emerge into puberty we become preoccupied with the opposite sex.

In my life, family was big, and there was a simple reason for it: geography. My grandparents were all raised in South Philly, and in those days you pretty much settled and raised your families in the same neighborhood where you started. Thus my parents and their siblings, my aunts and uncles, were all raised there as well.

Most of that living and raising took place in a small stretch of no more than a half mile. Within those five blocks or so lived my own little family of myself, my younger brother Mike, my mom Marie, and my dad Matthew.

We lived on the tiny 2300 block of south American Street, which would serve decades later as the backdrop for a scene in the film ‘Invincible’ about former Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale.

Those scenes where Papale plays a rough version of schoolyard lot football? They were real. I can’t tell you how many dozens if not hundreds of such football games that I participated in over the years on the school yards, playgrounds and rec centers around Two Street. From ‘touch’ football to ‘rough touch’ and even tackle football on grass or when it snowed heavily.

My dad had two sisters, and my mom had one brother, and they and their families also lived in South Philly. The LoBiondo family of my Aunt Bobbie lived just two blocks away. The Piernock family of my Aunt Pat lived about five blocks away.

The Gilmore family of my Uncle Ray lived a bit further away but still in South Philly. My Uncle Ray Gilmore, my mom’s brother, was a DJ with the old AM radio king WIBG which was known in those days as simply ‘Wibbage’.

His career opportunities in radio eventually saw him become one of the first to leave the old neighborhood, first for the New York area, and then eventually on to Boston. But my mom stilled had many other family members, aunts, uncles and cousins, living all along 2nd Street.

One of the regular joys in those days was on New Years Day, when most of the parade groups returned to their clubhouses along Two Street and would parade down the length, serenading their fans and family members.

The tradition remains today as a mini version of the full-scale parade that took place along Broad Street, and has a ‘Mardi Gras’ feel with costumed revelers jamming the streets.

In my own good old days we had two family spots along the parade route that gave us a front row seat to these festivities. My mom’s Uncle Bill and Aunt Helen lived right on 3rd Street at Cantrell, where the parade came right past their front door, and my dad’s sister Bobbie lived just off 3rd & Jackson.

Both families always had open house parties on those days, and we got to enjoy the parade, family reunions, and good food and drink. These gatherings were like familial glue in my youth, allowing my dad’s family at Jackson Street and my mom’s family at Cantrell Street to be together in a fun setting year after year.

My brother Mike and I would jockey back and forth between the two houses, saying the requisite hello’s to our aunts and uncles and then hanging out with our cousins. This was the essence of Two Street: sitting on the front porches and stoops, hanging on the corners, family, friends, Mummers, and all of it made possible, or at least far easier, by the simple geography of proximity.

47

 

Yours truly turned 47 this year

 

Happy Birthday to me!

Well, to me and everyone else celebrating today. I share this birthday with baseball’s J.D. Drew, football stars Mark Gastineau and Joey Galloway, comedians Richard Dawson and Dick Smothers, musician Joe Walsh, and a trio of gorgeous actresses: Bo Derek, Sean Young and Veronica Hamel.

This was also Bobby Kennedy’s birthday.

I woke up a little over an hour ago after a pretty good night sleeping, and my 47th birthday started out about as good as I could ever hope. My wife Debbie Veasey was already awake and nearly ready to leave for work, but before she left she greeted me with a big smile, a hug and kiss, and a sincere “Happy birthday, honey!

She had a birthday card for me too. One of those with a real nice message and signed off with her love. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Now here I sit alone at my dining room table just like many other mornings. A fresh, hot cup of Wawa coffee beside me, loaded up with their Irish cream, which I understand that they are discontinuing.

Wawa is one of life’s pleasures, the local chain store for food, cigarettes, newspapers, and other essentials of American daily living. Here at the Veasey Ranch, we buy bags of their coffee so that we enjoy the brew not just on the run, but right here at home.

The Irish coffee creamer product that Wawa produces at their dairy is my personal favorite add-in. It’s creamy and tasty, and along with a couple of packets of Equal, helps make the perfect pick-me-up beverage in my world. I hope the rumors turn out false about the Irish cream. Don’t you just hate it when some store discontinues some product that you have enjoyed for a long time?

So it is with me and birthday cakes. As a boy growing up in South Philly, my local corner bakery shop was a little place called Hier’s Bakery at 3rd & Wolf Streets.

You could live and die right there at that intersection, which was just around the corner from our little house at 2321 S. American Street. The four corners at the intersection of south 3rd Street and Wolf Street featured Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on the southeast, the Murphy-Ruffenach funeral home on the northeast, a doctor’s office on the northwest, and Hier’s on the southwest.

Those institutions are still on those same corners today, though the actual doctor practice has changed, the funeral home gone through a merger, and the bakery ownership has also changed a number of times.

When it was Hier’s back in those ‘Wonder Years’ days for me of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, they always featured a cake which would become my birthday cake every year.

This delicious object of my annual desire came with a chocolate cake layer on top of a yellow cake layer. Running between the two cakes was a delicious, thin strip of white cream. Surrounding the whole creation was the most incredible, full, sweet, dark-colored chocolate icing. And then at the top was another layer of that same white icing which ran through the middle.

I would always take a slice and eat the yellow layer first, making sure that my fork took the thin vanilla icing layer with it. This was only the opening act though. Then I would move on to the upper chocolatey world.

There was something about the interplay between this particular chocolate cake, chocolate edge icing, and white top icing that exploded in your mouth. I can taste it still this morning, even though I have not had a piece of that cake in about 25 years.

At some point during the 1980’s, whomever owned the old Hier’s business sold out. I did go in a couple of times and inquired about the cake, but the new owners didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. I never saw my birthday cake again.

My guess is that the recipe is likely laying around somewhere, maybe in some drawer at the home of a former bakery owner. Maybe the recipe has been passed along, and the cake is being made today in some bakery out there that I have no idea even exists.

It is one of those little things in life that was a regular feature of my childhood that is now gone. It is something that was here, is gone seemingly forever, and that I do miss.

To find that same cake again one day would be a miracle akin to a Christian explorer locating the Holy Grail itself. Well, okay maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. I hope that little slice of heaven from my childhood is not repeating itself here in my middle-aged adult life with the Wawa Irish cream.

But one thing that I have learned over these 47 years that I celebrate the anniversary of today is that things change. But as to those things large and small that we have come to welcome and enjoy in our lives, the little things that make life just a wee bit more enjoyable, they will stay with us forever, at least in our memories.

I thank God for that childhood birthday cake. I thank God for Wawa Irish cream. I thank God for the woman that I woke up to this morning. And I thank God for these past 47 years. Happy birthday to me!

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in South Philadelphia.

I was born and raised in the 2nd Street section of South Philadelphia, and during the late 1960’s and into the mid-1970’s my parents sent my brother and I to school at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a Catholic elementary school.

The home parish church for that school was located directly across from our little South Philly rowhouse. It was a matter of feet from our front door to the side entrance of the church itself.

OLMC provided me with a tremendous education, and my experiences there were some of the most memorable and valuable of my life. I’ll get to some of them in a future post.

But one thing that I can say for sure is that never during the entire eight years that I spent at what was known to us simply as ‘Mount Carmel’ do I recall being told just who or what was our namesake.

So it’s well past time to take a little trip to the web libraries and find out just what and whom the namesake of my original and still thriving parish is all about.

Per Wikipedia, Mount Carmel is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel and the West Bank, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. It is characterized by a ‘richly fertile hillside’, thus its name which means ‘plantation of high quality trees’ and its tradition of being known as ‘the vineyards of God.’ Israel’s 3rd largest city of Haifa is located in its northern slopes.

What is regarded as ‘one of the most important human fossils every found’ was located in one of Mount Carmel’s caves during excavations there in the early part of the 20th century, in the form of the skeleton of a female neanderthal now named Tabun I.

These excavations were able to trace human developments passage from hunter-gatherer groups to more complex agrigultural societies over what has been estimated as a span of roughly one million years of human evolution.

In a key battle of World War I, General Allenby led the British in the Battle of Megiddo, which took place at the head of a pass through the Carmel Ridge, and which led ultimately to victory over the Ottoman Empire.

The mountains have long been considerd sacred, with the great prophet Elijah being most associated there, and with a legendary altar to God having been built there as well.

The Carmelites were a Catholic religious order founded on Mount Carmel in the 12th century at the site of what was believed to have been Elijah’s own cave. A community of Jewish hermits was said to have lived at the site of the cave continuously since the time of Elijah, and the cave was situated at the highest natural point of the entire mountain range.

The Carmelites founded a monastery there, and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary in her ‘Star of the Sea’ (Stella Maris, another South Philly parish) aspect, which was an ancient manifestation of Mary as a guide and protector to those who work and travel on the seas.

The monastery changed hands many times during the Crusades, even spending time as a Muslim mosque, and Napolean even turned it into a hospital in 1799. The original monastery was destroyed in 1821 by the Ottomans, but a new one was later built by the Carmelites on the same site.

The scapular, a religious artifact or collar consisting of a length of cloth having two pieces of material at either end, often with religious images, is the object most associated with the Carmelites and their relationship with Our Lady.

It is said that the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Simon Stock, an English Carmelite, in Cambridge, England in July of 1251 and conferred the first scapular on him asking him to take “this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant.”

It is said that if one faithfully wears the scapular constantly until death, they will receive eternal salvation, assuming that you receive penance for grievous sins committed.

So the Virgin Mary in her manifestation to Simon Stock, and thus specially related to the Carmelite order, is the answer to the question ‘who’, and the scapular is the answer to the question ‘what’, in regards to the background of the namesake for my childhood parish.

Founded in 1896, the church and school for Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish are still alive and well at 3rd and Wolf Streets in South Philadelphia. I was raised and lived most of my life until a little over a decade ago, over three decades in total, on American Street, a small street that looked out over the church, and I heard its comforting bells chime every Sunday morning.

My maternal grandfather, Ray Gilmore, was active with the church for a long time, and my own mother, Marie Veasey, was a regular worshiper through her adult life battling illness.

Thanks both to these direct examples and my schooling there, I will forever carry wonderful memories of a Catholic education and community. An education that gave me the foundational skills to be able today to create, write, and maintain this blog, and to research the very origins of the parish namesake, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.