Apr 19, 2014

The Fighting Ramos Brothers

On Friday night I caught up with Steven Ramos at a local hotel. Steven was there to support his brother Robert, who was making his fourth showing as a professional fighter. It was a tough fight, with Robert and his opponent battling to a draw. Before the fighters had even exited the ring, the promoter hinted at a rematch. As tough as that fight was, Steven has a tougher one coming up this November. He will battle the winner of the Democratic primary, either Tatiana Tooley or Peter Schweyer, for the new 22nd State House seat. Steven Ramos is a Republican Hispanic running in a Democratic stronghold. If Steven loses, look for rematches down the road, the Ramos brothers are tough.

The Main Event, a photo by molovinsky

Apr 18, 2014

A History Lesson from Ukraine

The famous photograph above is called The Last Jew in Vinnitsa. It was taken in Ukraine in September of 1941, when the Nazis shot every Jew in that city within five days. The flyers ordering Jews to register, distributed in Donetsk the other day, harken back to the Holocaust. All together, over 750,000 Jewish men, women and children, were shot to death in Ukraine during the war. Out of a population of 4.3 million, Donetsk currently only has 17,000 Jews. The flyers were a provocation of unknown origin, as opposed to a real threat, but they did make world news.

In Jerusalem, The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, a small order of Protestant nuns formed after the war in Germany, is closing it's retreat for Holocaust survivors. The order originally had come to Israel to work in hospitals as repentance for the Nazi crimes against the Jews.  Although the last of the  survivors is passing away, hatred is alive and well.

Apr 17, 2014

Jeopardizing Your House for Ocean Spray

Unknown to Lehigh County residents, one of the reasons Ocean Spray moved here was to avoid costly upgrades to their pre-sewer treatment plant. When you're in violation of New Jersey environmental standards, what do you do, you turn to Donny Cunningham. Here in Sap Valley, we invited Ocean Spray with incentives and called it progress. They, along with the other new bottling industries attracted by Cunningham and LCA, will now jeopardize your home. Rather than expand the sewer treatment plant, homeowners are being forced to block their plumbing safety net, their floor drains. Up to a decade ago, floor drains were mandated by code so that if a pipe broke, your home was protected against flooding. Although nothing has ever gone down my floor drain, I must now block it to comply with new regulations. The thinking is that a drop saved here, and a drop saved there from thousands and thousands of homes, can spare the LCA the expense of enlarging the sewer plant, or building an additional one, and still meet EPA standards. Hell, there's even enough capacity left to invite Ocean Spray. Now, if your hot water heater springs a leak, it's tough sh*t for you.

Apr 15, 2014

Sitting Down with Bennett

                                                                           photo by K Mary Hess 
Subscribers of this blog may recall that recently I profiled two people who hope to succeed Ed Pawlowski as mayor, Siobhan Sam Bennett and Charlie Thiel. Yesterday, I sat down with Bennett at The Benner Mansion, her bed and breakfast, and she elaborated on her thoughts about Allentown. Although she benefits from being the first and only bed and breakfast in Allentown, she knows that distinction signifies a stagnate tax base.  She recognizes the NIZ for the boost that it will provide, but she believes that it will not be a silver bullet by itself, and that many more small businesses need to be cultivated. She has no doubt that the perception of the school district and the city's future go arm in arm. While the perceptions of both are currently negative, she knows that there are many positive assets, which can be branded for success. She cites the many cultural institutions, such as Symphony Hall,  the art museum, the historical society and the Allentown Band, which are unique for a city this size. The school district's gifted and honor programs, along with it's rich music and art tradition, must be featured. The demographics must be viewed as an opportunity for preparing for the diversity in our changing country. Recognizing these assets, and branding them to middle class home buyers, is part of her formula for revitalizing Allentown.

Photography by K Mary Hess

When Kahane Came to Allentown

He told the Jews gathered in Allentown that their leaders were worms, that's how the controversial rabbi spoke. When Meir Kahane came to town in the summer of 1990, none of the Jewish institutions would give him space to speak. Before emigrating to Israel, he had formed the Jewish Defense League in NYC in 1968. He lectured that turning the other cheek was a Christian concept, and that the minimum take away from the Holocaust was that American Jews should own a gun, and know how to use it. His views in Israel about nationalism on the West Bank were much more controversial, and he was jailed there for incitement. As of yesterday, the authorities in Kansas City were not prepared to call the shootings there a hate crime. Kahane would have no doubts about that. His speech in Allentown was one of his last. He was assassinated later that year during a speech in NYC.

Apr 14, 2014

Passover Libel

German Nobel Literature Laureate and former SS officer Gunter Grass, has been banned from Israel, not that he wants to go there anyway. In a new poem published last week , he wrote "the nuclear power Israel is endangering an already fragile world peace." Israel and world Jewry no longer suffer this sort of distortion well. "The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz." The sentence is attributed to Israeli psychoanalyst Zvi Rex. He believes that Germans are filled with pathological guilt and shame about the Holocaust, and turn Israel " into a punching bag to purge their guilt complexes. " Grass believes that Israel is a threat to Iran, and Germany could be a “supplier to a crime” in connection with it's decision to supply Israel with a sixth Super Dolphin-class submarine. Emmanuel Nahshon, deputy chief of mission for the Israeli Embassy in Germany, said, “what must be said is that it belongs to the European tradition to accuse the Jews of ritual murder before the Passover celebration.”

reprinted from April 2012

UPDATE: Yesterday's Kansas City attack against Jewish institutions show how much anti-semitism is alive and kicking in United States. While Israel's enemies are known and confronted by a strong national defense, American Jews will depend upon municipal police forces for protection. Although the municipalities will cooperate for the next several weeks, American Jewish liberal attitudes toward gun control will contribute to their vulnerability.

Apr 13, 2014

Pawlowski's CaddyShack

Spinning as hard as they could, neither Pawlowski or city spokesman Mike Moore could make the golf course restaurant debacle sound credible. Emily Opilo, The Morning Call reporter, clearly pointed out that Pawlowski's recent chosen tenant, the Noti family, had either paid late, or not at all. Pawlowski had chased out a good paying tenant, the Fegley Brewpub,  to supposedly  increase the annual rent by 10k. He will now ask 10k less than even the Fegley's were paying, for a third tenant in three years. Truth is, he has used that golf course restaurant as a political plum and football since taking office. In 2009, he gave a responsible tenant the boot to accommodate the Fegleys. Although they did a excellent job, in time they too lost favor with the mayor-for-life, and got the boot. Right now you can get a hot dog and a pretzel stick from a temporary vendor.

Apr 11, 2014

When 6th Street Was West Allentown

In 1903, the 600 block of 2nd Street housed one Russian Jewish family after another. They built a small synagogue there, which was kept open till about ten years ago. My grandfather, who then worked at a cigar factory, had just saved enough to bring his parents over from the old country. They lived in an old house at 617 N. 2nd. The current house at that location was built in 1920. By the time my father was born in 1917, the youngest of five children, they had moved to the suburbs just across the Jordan Creek.

My grandfather lived on the corner of Chew and Jordan Streets. He butchered in a barn behind the house. The house is still there, 301 Jordan, the barn is gone. He would deliver the meat with a horse and wagon. On the weekends, when the family wanted to visit friends, the horse insisted on doing the meat market route first. Only after he stopped in front of the last market on the route, would he permit my grandfather to direct him. excerpt from My grandfather's Horse, May 13, 2008

Allentown has just designated the neighborhood west of the Jordan to 7th Street, and between Linden and Tilghman Streets, as Jordan Heights. The area encompasses the Old Fairgrounds Historic District. Allentown's old fairground, in the years between 1852-1888, was in the vicinity of 6th and Liberty. It was an open space, as is the current fairground at 17th and Chew Streets. When my grandparents moved to Jordan Street it was a modern house, just built in 1895. Many of the Jewish families moved to the suburbs between Jordan and 7th. The Jewish Community Center was built on the corner of 6th and Chew, today known as Alliance Hall.
I wish the Jordan Heights initiative well. There's a lot of history in those 24 square blocks, and hopefully much future.

reprinted and retitled from 2010

The photograph above, from the early 1900's, shows the circus coming to town. It would arrive by train at a siding on Front Street, then proceed up Linden Street toward the fairgrounds.

Apr 10, 2014

Child Abuse in Allentown

Like the adults who run with the bulls once a year in Spain, every afternoon children run with cars across the 15th Street Bridge. When Governor Pawlowski dedicated the bridge with pomp last December, southsiders assumed that the contractor would proceed to finish the pedestrian walkways.It's four months later, and our children are still playing dodge car. Allentown's $billion dollar arena transformation started after the bridge construction began, and will apparently be completed before children can safely walk home. We all understand that the arena is Pawlowski's priority, but are we not a city which needs to do more than one project at a time? Where is the protest from Peter Schweyer, southside City Councilman, hoping to be State Representative. Where are the questions from The Morning Call, after writing one arena promotion after another. It isn't very pretty, what a town without proper priorities, can do.

photocredit:Chris Knight/The Morning Call

Apr 9, 2014

The Barbarians of Progress

Those empowered to bestow so called progress upon the dirty masses often lack historical and aesthetic appreciation, casting aside cultural treasures. This blog is proud to have documented the treasures of the former arena block, before the bulldozer arrived. Sometimes, because of curmudgeons such as myself, treasures find their way back home. The current cast iron water fountain in West Park is a reproduction of the original, after it was replaced by a modern monstrosity during a park improvement. Members of the Rose Garden Neighborhood Association inquired about the beautiful metal girl fountain, removed from the garden during an improvement. Through their diligence that fountain was relocated and returned. John Marquette is now on a quest to locate the Harry Bertoia sculpture that was removed from the airport,  when it was recently remodeled. Unfortunately, this city has lost numerous treasures over the decades, perhaps we need more curmudgeons.

Apr 8, 2014

The Litter of Allentown

On Monday mornings, from the amount of litter on 6th and 7th Street, you would think that there was a parade over the weekend. Back in the day, Allentown was known for it's cleanliness. Women in babushkas would compulsively hunt out any errant scrap of paper, and remove that offense to their pride. Allentown has changed. In 2006, the SWEEP program was put into place to milk center city property owners, fining them for tenants putting the wrong color container on the porch, at the wrong time. In 2011, the program burped $228,000.00 from the hapless owners. Now, with Allentown's Transformational arena coming, Allentown passed an ordinance quadrupling the littering fine from $25 to $100. "It's really difficult to see someone littering and actually catch them in the act," said Ann Saurman, director of recycling. "You see litter on the street, but you don't often see people littering." Actually, you can see them littering. Park near any center city market, and watch the wrappers drop like leaves off a tree in the fall.

photo:Denise Sanchez/The Morning Call

reprinted from June 2012

UPDATE:  Mayor Ed Pawlowski's 8th Annual Cleanup Day will occur this coming April 26th.  He once again asks that Allentown's conscientious volunteer to clean up after those who could care less.  Bless the eager beavers, but considering the progress in the last eight years, perhaps a better strategy is in order. The Parking Authority should give tickets for littering.  Although it's more confrontational to ticket a person,  than to sneak away after ticketing an empty car,  it would give the city a more positive result than we now achieve from that agency.

Apr 6, 2014

Allentown's Hapless Meter Users

It was a rough winter for Allentown meter users, who are mostly the urban poor, concentrated in center city. Although the Parking Authority charges to park, little amenities like removing the snow, are not part of the package. The city has turned into a one trick pony, with every thought only focused on the arena. As part of that obsession, residents will now be pugging the meters till 9:00p.m., pending approval by the Council of Rubberstamps. We are being told that the intention is to potty train the projected arena patrons into using the parking decks, leaving the metered spaces available for other businesses. The Fegley brothers, who are trying their best to get with the city's program, have a few doubts. Ce Ce Gerhart, who lives on metered Walnut Street, knows that she's being penalized. Actually, so are the Fegleys. The arena, which will be used less than half the nights of the year, is making free parking for restaurant patrons a thing of the past. Easton now charges a buck an hour for evening parking, remind me not to eat there.

Apr 4, 2014

Flash From Past

Occasionally, some of the older boys in Lehigh Parkway would get saddled with taking me along to a Saturday matinee in downtown Allentown. We would get the trolley, in later years a bus, from in front of the basement church on Jefferson Street. It would take that congregation many years to afford completing the church building there today. The trolley or bus would go across the 8th Street Bridge, which was built to accommodate the trolleys operated by Lehigh Valley Transit Company. Downtown then sported no less than five movie theaters at any one time. Particularly matinee friendly was the Midway, in the 600 Block of Hamilton. Three cartoons and episode or two of Flash Gordon entertained our entourage, which ranged in age from five to eleven years old. We younger kids, although delighted by the likes of Bugs Bunny, were confused how the Clay People would emerge from the walls in the caves on Mars to capture Captain Gordon, but our chaperones couldn't wait till the next week to learn Flash's fate. Next on the itinerary was usually a banana split at Woolworth's. Hamilton Street had three 5 and 10's, with a million things for boys to marvel at. The price of the sundae was a game of chance, with the customer picking a balloon. Inside the balloon was your price, anywhere from a penny to the full price of fifty cents. The store had a full selection of Allentown souvenirs. Pictures of West Park on a plate, the Center Square Monument on a glass, pennants to hang on your wall, and picture postcards of all the attractions. Hamilton Street was mobbed, and even the side streets were crowded with busy stores. Taking younger kids along was a responsibility for the older brothers, the streets and stores were crowded, but predators were limited to the Clay People on the silver screen.

reprinted from January 2013

Apr 3, 2014

Jewish Republicans, Two For One Special

As a group, it's hard for the Democrats to find one that they can count on more than the Jews. In 2008, Obama received 78% of their vote, and still received 75% of their support in 2012, after bashing Israel for four years. Last week, the Republican Jewish Coalition held their meeting in Las Vegas, at Sheldon Adelson's Venetian Hotel. They certainly didn't need such a large facility, Jewish Republicans could barely fill the small banquet room at a local Holiday Inn. Jews are less than 2% of the population. Allowing for independents, Republican Jews are less than 20% of that small number. Never the less, the press was climbing over each other to cover the event. Two of their favorite targets were in one room, Israel supporters and Republicans.

Apr 2, 2014

Big Brother Is Watching You

In 1949, when George Orwell published his sci fi classic 1984, the ideal of surveillance cameras were considered as oppressive as a society could get. Here in Allentown, in 2014, they are being touted as our guardian angels. The Morning Calls reports that City Center, the private development company owned by J.B. Reilly, will outfit all their new buildings with both cameras and private security personnel. These cameras will be supposedly monitored 24/7, providing the arena area with it's own de facto police force. Apparently, Allentown's reputation precedes it.

Mar 31, 2014

Allentown Student Victimized By Bullying

Good evening Mr. Molovinsky,
      I have read some of your blogs and am reaching out to you that maybe you would be able to write a blog on how bullying is handled in the Allentown School District. I have a 7th grade daughter who attends (redacted) Middle School. She was a Honor Roll student until she started getting bullied in October. Not only has she been bullied, but the Assistant Principal claims to have lost all of the incident reports that she and her witnesses have turned in, with no kind of explanation of how this could happen. Then instead of dealing with the two children who were bullying her in class, and out of class, they moved her in the middle of the semester from basic classes to Advanced Honors classes. In this move they gave her no support at all to learn the lessons. Well of course her grades went from Straight A's to 2 D's, 2 B's and a C. I have had meetings with the old and new principal, and even sent emails to Mr. (redacted) at the district office. My daughter has worked so hard to make sure she had honor roll 6 marking periods so she could make National Jr.Honor Society and to keep a promise that she made to a teacher from last year. And this was taken from her. The school has not even given her any type of Restorative Justice. My daughter is now saying that if it was to happen now, she knows the children will have other students come after her. I can't afford to put her in private school, and shouldn't have to. The District has a policy 249 that they didn't follow at all in this case. It is time for someone to stand up and advocate for the children of the ASD. If this could happen to my child, with me being involved and going to Board Meetings, PGA meeting, and school programs, then I can only imagine what is happening to other students?

I wish the above note was a hypothetical situation, but it's very real. I spoke to the woman this evening, both she and her daughter are very distraught by the school's inaction on this situation. She would like her daughter to have the opportunity for scholastic credit recovery, and most importantly, to feel safe at school.

The Morning Call's Asian Premise

Morning Call readers were just treated to an epic two day, two part, nine page story on what may well be a false premise. That premise is that somehow, Asians from New York City are being victimized into riding the bus endlessly, between the big apple and Bethlehem, to make about $20 a day selling their free $45 slot machine pass for $40. The article painted them as modern day coolies, who must wander around south Bethlehem for hours, waiting for the bus to return them to Chinatown. Now, as you can tell by coolies, I'm not as encumbered by political correctness as our daily paper. A Facebook friend, who I never met, as is typical with Facebook, is offended that the paper used the word Asians. In his progressive circle, ethnicities are no longer mentioned. In my world, the bus passengers should have been called Chinese, since they are Chinese. The paper's headline said that Asians ride the bus to live. Actually, these Chinese live to gamble. Most people who live in NYC, especially Chinatown, do not have a car. The casino is crowded with Chinese gambling, most of whom came on those buses. The Sands Casino in the Macao district of China is the most lucrative casino in the world.

photocredit:April Bartholomew/The Morning Call/March 11, 2014

UPDATE: As little as I thought of The Morning Call story on the Asian bus riders, I apparently gave it too much credit. It's a rewrite of a story that appeared last year in The New York Times.

Changes In The Allentown School District

In a comment submitted to the previous post, somebody referred to the change in the student demographics. In that respect, the district certainly has changed. When I graduated Allen in the mid 1960's, I do not recall one minority student. The quickness of this change is somewhat of a sociological phenomenon, but beyond that observation, such discussion does not benefit our current students. There certainly has been some white flight because of these changes, but then again, that's just another frank observation. Although Allentown's total numerical population hasn't changed much in the last 100 years, it now has the same problems of much larger urban centers. As the previous post reveals, there's quite a difference of opinion on the school board on how to process the tight school budget. I applaud all nine members for their dedication.

photo courtesy of Sandy Paul

Mar 28, 2014

Emotion vs. Reason at School Board

Last night the school district went through it's annual gnashing of teeth. One again the budget realities dictated that there be layoffs. Once again the teacher's union president filled the chamber with distraught teachers and students. Once again those school directors who accept the reality of numbers were vilified by those playing for acceptance and popularity. Come June, the system will once again allow one of our elected officials from Harrisburg to be a white knight, and announce that he has secured so many more $millions for the Allentown School District.

UPDATE: Allentown School District Launches ASD Virtual Academy The Allentown School District has launched their new ASD Virtual Academy offering students online academic opportunities with a personal touch – the support of our high school guidance teams, face-to-face time with their teachers, and technical support and assistance. ASD Virtual Academy students residing in the Allentown School District in grades 9-12 may enroll in these online program options and receive high-quality online courses through three cyber or virtual educational experiences: · Full-Time Virtual High School Program · Credit Recovery Program · Virtual Supplemental Courses This is an exciting for the Allentown School District. It allows the district to compete with cyber schools, and keep both students and student financial allotments within the district. Hopefully, even the obstructionists will voted against the budget last night can appreciate this development.

The Last Fight

When Abe Simon stepped into the ring at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 1942, it would be his last fight. He had been recently married, and promised his wife that he would stop fighting. One year earlier he had fought Joe Louis the first time, and endured a tremendous beating for thirteen rounds. Fighting since 1935, ranked 6th by Ring Magazine, a shot at the title was something a fighter cannot pass up. Many fight historians consider Louis the hardest hitting heavyweight of all time. Because of the publicity Simon gained from these Louis fights, he was offered a lucrative cross country boxing tour, which he declined. It was also Louis's last title defense for four years, until fighting Billy Conn in June of 1946. After the Simon fight he joined the U.S. Army, where he would fight 96 exhibition bouts at bases throughout the country. Shown above, Simon got knocked out in the sixth round.

reprinted from December 2012

Mar 27, 2014

March 27, 1942

Guest Post by Mike Casey
Before 18,220 fans at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 1942, big Abe Simon stepped into the ring for the final fight of his career. Scaling 255 1/4lbs, he was a massive, bear of a man who had once used his considerable size and muscle on the gridiron. Abe outweighed Joe Louis by nearly 48 pounds, but already knew the dangers of duelling with the Brown Bomber. Just a year before at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit, Joe had decked Simon four times and stopped him in thirteen rounds.Coming back for seconds was never a good idea against the prime Louis. But Abe had heart, pluck and a big punch and everyone knew that anything could happen in heavyweight boxing. Simon had knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott in six rounds, beaten Roscoe Toles and drawn with Turkey Thompson. Abe had also waged a thrilling battle of the giants with Buddy Baer, in which he had beaten Buddy severely in the opening round before being stopped in the third.......Louis finished the fight quickly in the sixth round, sending Abe down and out with a final left-right blast. Perhaps Joe had been riled after first snapping Simon to attention with a quick-fire combination in the second round. Big Abe had laughed at him....
copy courtesy of Mike Casey Archives
photograph(added by molovinsky): Abe Simon in corner after fight, with manager Jimmy Johnston

reprinted from December 2012

Heavyweight Championship of the World

On March 21, 1941, my mother's cousin Abe Simon, son a of Jewish egg and butter salesman, fought Joe Louis for the title in Detroit. Lasting 13 rounds, he earned another title shot against the Brown Bomber a year later in Madison Square Garden. After retiring he acted in several movies, including On The Waterfront and Requiem For A Heavyweight.

Administrator's note: I'm reprinting these photo's and captions in a much tighter time frame then originally posted, to give the viewers more of a feel of the Louis era.

reprinted from December 2012

Arena Food Vendor Headlines Paper

A picture of french fries and an article about the chosen food vendor for the arena is the headline today in The Morning Call. The latest arena promotion was again written by Matt Kraus. Actually, there are two seasoned reporters writing these puff pieces, Scott Kraus and Matt Assad. Since the editors of the paper have allowed them to combine their work load, I have decided to combine their names. This way they can better share the fame, or shame, depending on your point of view. In the entire feature story there was one relevant observation, in the last sentence of the article. Albert Abdouche, owner of the Americus property, observed that the arena wants to capture as many of the food dollars as possible, spend on an evening in Allentown by their fans. No surprise there.

The Weigh-In

                                            Madison Square Garden, March 27, 1942
When they met for the first time the previous March, Abe Simon battled Joe Louis for 13 rounds. The Detroit crowd went wild that the Jewish giant from New York could absorb Louis's punches. Louis had the power of Mike Tyson and the finesse of Muhammad Ali. When it was revealed that Simon had fought with a broken hand, the Madison Garden rematch became a big ticket. Louis knocked Simon out in the sixth round. It would be Simon's last fight.
click on photo to enlarge

reprinted from December 2012

Mar 26, 2014

Environmental Tokenism Depreciated Bethlehem

Once upon a time the fortunes of Bethlehem were tied to the Steel, now they reside on it's historical appeal. The current flavor of the month with the green crowd is demolishing dams. Regular readers of this blog know how would be governor Pawlowski allowed the Wildlands Conservancy to destroy the Parkway's Robin Hood Dam, and deposit it's rubble around the bridge piers. The dam on the Monocacy creek suffered the same fate last year. While the dam destruction cost Allentown park goers both beauty and sound, Bethlehem lost it most valuable commodity, history. The top photo shows the original Broad Street Bridge, before it was replaced with the current one,  about 100 years ago. The bottom photo shows the same vista, but minus the historic dam. In addition to the lost history, the loss of visual impact is staggering. Bethlehem has suffered a permanent loss from former boy mayor Callahan's poor decision. Three cheers for Easton's Mayor Panto, who told the Wildlands Conservancy to look elsewhere with their dam removal and grant seeking agenda.

the top photo appeared in a Karen Samuels Facebook page. the bottom photo by John Marquette is from the same page. neither one intended the photos as used here.

Allentown, What a Revolting Development

The guy across the top of the post is William Bendix, who played Chester Riley on The Life of Riley. He ended each episode by saying, What a revolting development this turned out to be. That was a television series in the 1950's, but the phrase is appropriate to Allentown today. molovinsky on allentown spends much of it's space on the past, because it was so much better than the present. The Pawlowski Administration and The Morning Call are so focused on the future, because they hope that it's so much better than the present. On Monday afternoon, two teens were apprehended near the high school, waiting for trouble with machetes. Elsewhere, a suspect punched a cop. Our new police chief is driving around getting to know Allentown. Our mayor wanted to use hopeful expectations for this new arena as his ticket out of town. In Chester Riley's world he worked in a booming factory, and his commotions had to do with a neighbor not inviting him to a Sunday picnic. In Allentown, we have never employed people,  smashing your door in. Although this blog shies away from crime stories, we will not sugar coat the revolting development that has become Allentown.

Mar 25, 2014

The Second Louis-Simon Fight

$12.50 was pricey in 1942, but it got you ringside at Madison Square Garden for the Heavyweight Championship. Louis was defending his title against Simon, who had gone 13 rounds with the Bomber a year earlier in Detroit. It was the hot ticket that night in New York City.

The Great White Hope

Seventy two years ago this Thursday evening, March 27, 1942, Abe Simon got his rematch with Joe Louis for The Heavyweight Championship of the World. In 1942 that was a big sporting event, on par with the World Series. Millions of people across the country would be listening to the fight on the radio. Jack Johnson was the first black man to hold the World Heavyweight Championship, in an era which did not celebrate such an accomplishment. A former champ, James Jefferies, was induced by $100,000 in 1910 to come out of retirement to challenge Johnson. Jefferies was called The Great White Hope. The story became a movie in 1970, starring James Earl Jones. By the time Joe Louis became champion three decades later, although the resentment was gone, he was still referred to as the Negro Champion and the Brown Bomber. A promo for Abe Simon's first Louis fight even refers to Simon as The White Heavyweight. Simon certainly was no bigot, his trainer for the fight was none other than the great Jack Johnson himself.
reprinted from July 2012

Mar 24, 2014

A Lesser Prescription

When the arena office building was first announced about 18 months ago, Lehigh Valley Health Network was going to be opening a Sports Medicine Center in the arena complex. A recent article in the Morning Call now states that the hospital will operate a fitness center and training facilities for their computer network, utilized by the hospital on various campuses. Although the Morning Call reporters have been on board selling the Transformation, they didn't write one sentence on the shift in the hospital's commitment. It's no surprise that they decided against using the 7th and Hamilton location for patients, that would be adding pain to the injury. Although St. Lukes and Lehigh Valley go toe to toe, and side by side, in locations throughout the valley, St. Lukes has decided to let Lehigh Valley have the 7th and Hamilton location without their competition. That was an easy decision.

molovinsky Blog Posts, A Work in Progress

An associate spends hours writing his blog posts. When he's done he has produced an edited, finished piece. Not here at molovinsky on allentown; The posts are usually written very quickly, very early in the morning. Although they have been described as succinct, sometimes the conciseness leads to misinterpretation. Readers who revisit the post later in the day often find slight word changes, and additions, that clarify the meaning. Likewise, our daytime editor may alter the original photograph chosen to illustrate the post. It's with great pride that we announce that we have hired Beatrice to coordinate all aspects of the production. As always, your readership is appreciated.

An UPDATE on the post about updates: With the hiring of Beatrice, nobody will accuse molovinsky on allentown of age discrimination. Beatrice will handle all comment moderation. Although she retires very early in the evening, be assured that your comment will receive every consideration the following morning.

Mar 23, 2014

De Eagles, De Eagles

Like our height challenged friend seeing the plane approach Fantasy Island, our local newspaper couldn't contain themselves about the Eagles playing the arena's first date. Let's discuss what this choice was really all about. Michael Donovan, who garnered 40% of the mayoral vote this past November against would be Governor Pawlowski, speculated that it was a strategic choice to attract an older, upscale patron to Allentown. He is correct, that demographic needs to be reintroduced to center city, where they haven't been in decades, if the center city Transformation is to be the success touted by the administration and newspaper. The Eagle audience fits their bill,  it is mostly white and over fifty. Almost all the tickets will sell for over $175 each. Pawlowski and Company are hoping that these suburban ticket buyers have a good first experience in Allentown's new center city. Although they won't enjoy convenient line of sight parking, and for the Little Apple, there will be some traffic congestion after the concert, the hope is that the experience will be positive enough for a return visit. East and south-siders needing police assistance that evening will experience a delay; Every policeman in Allentown will be on display near the arena.

Mar 21, 2014

A Voice and Style is Silenced

Patrice Sidoione passed away suddenly earlier this week. When Allentown began the property acquisition program several years ago for the arena, the methods were not nice. Straw buyers were sent into the properties, making offers with threats of eminent domain to those who would not cooperate. Although these tactics were ignored by The Morning Call, this blog reported the process, threat by threat. Patrice, who owned a hair salon on 8th Street, keep me updated on this process and invited me, as did other merchants, to attend their meetings with city officials. Although the administration was hoping that the merchants would go quietly, they didn't know Patrice Sidoione. She championed for her rights, and encouraged the other merchants to stand up for theirs. Those who knew her are saddened by her untimely death. An obituary notice appears in today's paper.

photo of Patrice by Ramy Song

Pre-fight Hype

In the early 40's, during the War, boxing was a big sport. Pre-Television, fans would rather around the radio, and hear blow by blow commentary. Visuals were mostly restricted to newspaper photographs the following day. Not unlike the hype for the SuperBowl, the papers would also run photos prior to a big fight. Shown here are photos of contender Abe Simon, who was challenging Joe Louis for the Heavyweight Championship on March 27, 1942, at Madison Square Garden. These AP syndicated photos appeared in newspapers across the country on March 6th. Above, shows Abe and his wife in their kitchen. Below, he squares off with a neighborhood boy.

Simon's Record

reprinted from December 2012

Mar 20, 2014

The School District, Politics and Media

Readers to yesterday's Morning Call were treated to Paul Carpenter's column on the reduction of school librarians. Although many of my blog posts offend the writers at the Call, Paul won't be offended because he doesn't read the blogs, or much on the web at all, for that matter. So, although the paper had a quarter page for Paul's opinion, it couldn't find room for a letter by an actual school director on the same subject. Here's Scott Armstrong's unpublished letter.
To the editor, Sunday’s front page (March 16th) gave to Allentown with one hand then took away with the other. The paper proclaimed above the fold a “New Attitude” about the future of the city due to a controversial arena project, then underneath gave the back of its hand to the financially strapped Allentown School District because our libraries are “understaffed and underused”. Curious that the lengthy report neither mentioned the cause of the shortage of staff nor that the shortage is due to financial factors beyond the district or board’s ability to control. Thus, readers might conclude from this reporting that mismanagement, callousness, or indifference to the importance of libraries led to the current situation. How opposite is the truth, and The Morning Call and its reporter know better. That article did a disservice to quality journalism, the readers, and the Allentown School District. Scott Armstrong
Meanwhile, back in today's world of Facebook, school policy is often unofficially discussed by school directors, and the directors identified as Republican or conservative become irrational targets. A proposed resolution by Ce Ce Gerlach will be discussed at this evening's school board meeting. It seeks to involve the County Commissioners with the drop out rate at Dieruff and William Allen. Gerlach's proposal was reported by the Express Times, but The Morning Call, by policy, only has room for done deals. As an informed citizen, I think that the drop out rate is a reflection of the poverty culture dominating center city Allentown, more than a failure of the school district, and certainly isn't a reflection on the school board. Enter political operatives like Ed DeGrace, who writes, Identify the obstructionists and ask the voting community to hold them accountable and vote them all out! In reality we're fortunate to have a school board representing both the interests of the teachers and taxpayers. I believe that all the members put the interests of the children first.

UPDATE: The board voted 6-2 to table Cece's resolution requesting the County Commissioners to institute a task force on drop-outs. Although Cece expressed some bewilderment of that decision on Facebook, this blog obtained a note by member D. Zimmerman expressing his and the majority opinion; I think the administration has been working to address this issue over the past number of years and has made progress. The job is not over and it remains , I believe, a top priority of everyone involved with ASD. If some folks feel that progress is not sufficient, that is an issue they need to address separately. There is not one single solution to this problem. It is a multifaceted one and so necessarily is any solution to it. I fail to see how a county investigation will add anything to this mix or of what benefit it will be other than to reaffirm the obvious. I will not be supporting this resolution however I will strongly support any efforts by ASD to lower the dropout rates of our students.

Mar 19, 2014

Allentown's West End Train

The Lehigh Valley Railroad operated a train branch line which served Allentown's commercial west end. It ran along Sumner Avenue servicing the scrap metal yards, warehouses and numerous coal dealers located there. The line then crossed Tilghman Street on a diagonal at 17th, before looping back east by Liberty Street at the Fairgrounds. The line ended at a rail yard now housing the small shopping center at 12th and Liberty. Although many of former commercial buildings still exist, all now house more retail type businesses. The B'nai Brith Apartments occupy the site of the former Trexler Lumber Yard. These historical shorts are difficult to write. Most current residents have no frame of reference to our former commercial past. True historians, such as the local railroad buffs, cringe at the lack of detail and specific location of the tracks. Suffice to say, that once upon a time, the mid-section of Allentown had much more commerce.

photo of train crossing Tilghman at 17th Street taken by Kermit E. Geary in 1974, from the Mark Rabenold Collection.

reprinted from December 2012

Mar 18, 2014

Simon Gets Brother's Verdict

Louis F. Simon(Right) tell his heavyweight brother that he is proud that he lasted into the thirteenth round of his fight with Joe Louis last night. Mike Jacobs announced after the bout that the two would be rematched in New York on May 16th.

Blogger's Notes: The above is an Associated Press "Wirephoto" that appeared in newspapers across the country on March 22, 1941. The title and caption is the actual Associated Press copy. Mike Jacobs was Joe Louis's manager. Abe Simon actually ended up fighting four more opponents and waiting over a year before the rematch; they met for second time and the title in Madison Square Garden on March 27, 1942. Simon was knocked out in the 6th round, he never fought again. His career record was 36 wins, 25 by knockout, 10 loses, 1 draw.

reprinted from December 2012

Mar 17, 2014

Simon Fearless Against Bomber

The 1941 June edition of Ring Magazine featured the Abe Simon vs Joe Louis fight in March. Editor-writer Nat Fleischer was in awe of Simon's courage against the unbeatable Brown Bomber. Fleischer wrote "They (fans) saw Abe Simon give the Bomber the greatest battle he has had since he won the crown..." Although Simon Lost by TKO in the 13th, this image of Simon grinning at Louis while taking the 8 count in round 7, is one of my favorite photographs of that fight.

reprinted from December 2012

On this evening 73 years ago, March 17, 1941, Abe Simon got in the ring with Joe Louis in Detroit, for the Heavyweight Championship. Louis was in his prime, with the finesse of Muhammad Ali and the punching power of Mike Tyson. When it was revealed several days later that Simon had fought with a broken right hand, a rematch was guaranteed.

Mar 16, 2014

Another Morning Call Infomercial

For the second weekend in a row, The Morning Call has featured an advertisement posing as news. This week's infomercial heralds that there is a new attitude about the downtown revival. They commissioned Muhlenberg's Chris Borick to conduct another one of his polls, showing that 10% more people feel more positive about Allentown. It just goes to show you what you can do with a $billion dollars of state taxes. I won't discuss the reporters; If their employer is satisfied with two seasoned reporters wasting a week or more on these puff pieces, all the power to them. I do have a call in to Chris Borick, wondering how a political science professor can justify his participation in these soft news stories. His reply, if and when received, will appear as an update on this post. Should there be a firewall between news and advertising? Should the Morning Call disclose that they were added to NIZ, even though their property is an arbitrary tangent to the district? Why are they treating the success of the arena as a fait accompli?

UPDATE:  To his credit, Borick returned my call, even after reading this post and the comments.  He considers the poll he conducted as part of an on going quality of life survey that he conducts in the Lehigh Valley, in conjunction with the paper.  He feels that this point in time will be a valid benchmark to compare with public opinion after the arena is up and running.  I explained my objection to the article, especially referring to the previous activity on the 700 block as a dead zone.  In reality there was  a lot of business done on that block,  even if it involved a low income clientele. It was one of the most successful Family Dollar stores in the country.  Although he considers himself an optimist about the changes in center city and the NIZ, he finds the questions raised by this blog legitimate.

Mar 15, 2014

$100 A Week

In 1935, a Jewish boy earning $35 a week carrying 300 pound blocks of ice, was offered three times more to fight; win, lose or draw. For one hundred dollars a week, Jock Whitney, British aristocrat and sportsman, owned Abe Simon. Abe won his first 14 fights, 12 by knockout. On his climb to fight Louis in 1941 he would knock out 27 opponents, including Jersey Joe Walcott.
reprinted from December 2012 

This blog has produced numerous posts chronicling the Joe Louis boxing era, many featuring Abe Simon, a Jewish heavyweight of the era; Simon and my mother were cousins. Lately, Allentown political shenanigans have allowed me little time and space to visit Madison Square Garden in the early 1940's. During the next couple of weeks I will reprint some of the Simon posts, while still assigning staff to City Hall. One of my attractions to the boxing world is the black and white photography produced during that era. The public would listen to the fights on the radio, and then see the photographs in the newspapers the following day.  I refer fight fans to December of 2012,  which can be found on the archive list on the right sidebar. 

Mar 14, 2014

Parkway Spared Another Indignation, For Now

With the decision by Health Network Laboratories to relocate to Hanover Township, Lehigh Parkway has been spared another indignation, for now. Mayor Pawlowski had planned on moving the fire training facility into the park, next to the current police facility and shooting range. This would have created a public safety campus, and significantly increased the traffic into the park. The facility would have been available to outside fire departments and their large equipment. Although Pawlowski was motivated to retain the Lab's 400 jobs on Lehigh Street, he has no feel for the park's grander and history. Shown above is the Robin Hood Bridge. The former adjoining small dam was demolished last fall, and it's rubble piled around the stone piers, turning a former beautiful vista into visual garbage. Although I was asked to conduct another park tour this summer, I declined in protest to this desecration. I have since reconsidered, and the time and place will be announced later this spring by Allentown Friends of the Parks.

Destruction of the beautiful dam, shown in the previous post, and the desecration of the bridge piers shown above, was done by The Wildlands Conservancy, with permission from Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

Mar 13, 2014

Wildlands Conservancy Duped Public With Farr Road Purchase

For several months readers of the Morning Call have read articles and have been submitted to advertisements soliciting funds to purchase for preservation acreage "adjacent" to the Pool Wildlife Sanctuary. In reality this effort is an disingenuous attempt by several influential people to maintain the view from their houses. The land in question does not abut the Sanctuary or the Little Lehigh Creek, but is separated and isolated by Farr Road, from both these entities. The land in question fronts on Cedar Crest Blvd., and is an island created by Farr Road both entering and exiting Cedar Crest in two spots about 1/2 mile apart, about two miles south of the hospital. The fakers claim "This land is a high-priority conservation area due to its location as part of the Little Lehigh corridor,its proximity to a high-quality cold-water fishery....." Ironically, the big-shots who have organized this effort, do live on the creek and adjoin the Sanctuary, perhaps they should protect the sensitive area and tear down their houses. Shame on both the newspaper and the Wildlands Conservancy for promoting this myth. reprinted from 2007 

UPDATE:   I have learned since I wrote the above piece in 2007 that the Wildlands Conservancy has no shame and few principles.   If the beautiful Robin Hood Dam had been located upstream, behind these properties, it would have been preserved.

Photograph by molovinsky of the former Robin Hood Dam, demolished by The Wildland's Conservancy

Mar 12, 2014

Bernie and Wayne

Bernie O'Hare is running a story that says that Wayne Woodman pushed Wanda Mercado-Arroyo off the bus to the Republican State Committee, to give the seat to his wife, Lisa Scheller. Although Bernie writes that he isn't calling Woodman a bigot, he points out a couple times that Mercado-Arroyo is Hispanic, and questions how inclusive Woodman really is toward that group? That story was pitched to this blog several weeks ago, and I rejected it. It came from somebody who doesn't have much use for Wayne Woodman. When it landed on Bernie's desk, it found fertile ground. Although Bernie will argue differently, and cite facts, certain people are consistently treated well by him, and others, not so well; Me, I don't like anybody.
While we're on the subject on Hispanics, I like to announce that Steven Ramos collected the required amount of signatures in his run for Allentown's new 22nd State House District, mandated because of the surge in the Hispanic population. His candidacy is supported by Wayne Woodman, who had hired Steven several years ago to direct the local party office.

Mar 11, 2014

Chump Change in Allentown

Recently, Mayor Ed Pawlowski said that the community would share in the benefits of Allentown's transformation, and that he was directing $2.5million towards that end. As the riverfront and the Neuweiler Brewery projects come on line, we are fast approaching the $1 billion dollar mark with the NIZ state tax rape. Advocates for community benefit should not despair that their share is less than one quarter of one percent, because the mayor has indicated that more may come their way, if they behave themselves.

Mar 10, 2014

When Neon Was King

During the glory days of Hamilton Street, when it came to neon, bigger was better. No store had a bigger sign than Hess's, and that was appropriate. When the city planners decided to built the canopy, that was the end of the great neon age for Allentown. That structure bisected the building's facades, and the vertical signs had to go. Since then we have progressed into sign regulations. Shopping is not a primary part of the new Hamilton Street transformation. Let's move this discussion around the corner to Allentown's new Hispanic shopping district on 7th Street. Hispanic Shopping District is my designation, not the city's. I call it that, because that's what it is. The street is being managed by Peter Lewnes, who is doing a good job. He's giving facade grants and sign guidance. The buildings end up with a historic look, and a professional hand lettered sign. Although it's neat, clean and presentable, it's not too exciting. Of course the City Fathers don't want too much excitement, as the people from Catasauqua drive in to the new arena. These new subsidized merchants are on a short leash. City inspectors remind them that besides for OPEN signs, no neon is permitted, and it must be inside the store. Now I know that I'm not a paid consultant,  and there's no grant involved with this idea, but how about letting our new merchants put up some neon?How about letting them pursue the same dreams as the merchants once did on Hamilton Street. How about lengthening that leash?

Mar 9, 2014

The Morning Call's Unbashful Cheerleading

The special section in this weekend's Morning Call is called Great Expectations, The Story of Allentown's Renaissance. In this 36-page special section, The Morning Call will take a closer look at the urban renaissance underway in Allentown, the projects that will bring thousands of workers and hundreds of new residents to the city's downtown... Less than 48 hours ago this blogger wrote that molovinsky on allentown was turning the corner on the arena, but I didn't mean that I would condone unfettered cheerleading by the press. In the first of four sections each Morning Call reporter writes an essay referencing Allentown's past, although none of them have any actual memory or experience of that era, beyond the paper's archives. The second section promotes the new businesses arriving and refers to center city as a boomtown. The article omits the reality that taxpayers across the state are subsidizing Allentown's transformation. Section C is about The People Behind the Transformation. Although the paper writes that they are the engine of change, it can also be said that they are the private beneficiaries of public money. The last section may be the worst. It is supposedly essays by civic leaders. Some of them are bystanders, and some of them had absolutely nothing to do with any of it. All four sections are packed with paid advertisements, with the biggest ads coming from those benefitting the most. Yesterday, I reached out to several current and former members of our political establishment, for their opinion of the paper's special edition. They all agreed that it ranged from unbalanced to outright promotion, dressed up as journalism.