South Street — then and now
Believe it or not, Philadelphia was at one point the epicenter of hipness in the USA:
'Where do all the hippies meet?
South Street, South Street
Where the dancin' is elite
South Street, South Street
Side by side we're loose and neat
When we're stomping' down the street
Hurry on Down.
Come on now,
Meet me on South Street
The hippest street in town…
—The Orlons, 1963
With its storied past, South Street in Philadelphia is a multigenerational icon. ("Hippies" is not a reference to the grubby West Coast crowd, but instead referred to the well-dressed white kids of Philly's K&A neighborhood.)
In the 1750s, conservative Quakers deemed theater immoral. Since the south side of South Street was then considered outside the city limits, and outside the legal reach of the governing Quakers, theaters were established there.
In the early 1900s, during the great African-American migration from South to North, the area around 6th and South Street became a desired destination. The famed African-American church, Mother Bethel, was established there and is still healthily functioning.
For decades after, South Street was a bit seedy and down on her heels. The Zoot Suiters were there in the '40s. But by the '60s, it became famous for the "hip" generation of anti-establishment youths, beat music, and the scent of pot emanating from storefronts.
Suddenly, its fortune changed: South Street became a mix of "it" restaurants, upscale quirky establishments selling handmade furniture, interesting ethnic restaurants, and boutique fashions. "Swells," after an opera gala or theater production, would stroll among the locals, sometimes gawked at, sometimes engaged, but never threatened.
Kids old enough to drive would swarm to the area for costumes and prom decorations and would return post-prom for a "see and be seen stroll."
That was then.
Now, as in most other parts of Democrat-governed Philadelphia, South Street has become just another killing field. A shootout before midnight on a Saturday night on the once-iconic street resulted in three dead and over fourteen wounded.
Another Democrat-controlled city is rapidly committing suicide.
Americans must realize that we are living in anarchic times. That translates to if you find yourself in trouble, you are probably going to have to deal with the trouble yourself.
The juxtaposition of this reality with the emphasis on gun control is ludicrous. As the school invasions and random acts of violence have proven, we each are going to be our own hero.
Sadly, nothing good is happening right now on the once hippest street in town: South Street, South Street.
Image: Wally Gobetz.