Jun 14, 2008

Allentown on my Mind


I'm a baby boomer. I was born December 21, 1946. As soon as my mother climbed out of the hospital bed, another woman climbed in. I grew up in Lehigh Parkway. Not Lehigh Parkway North where the cyclists were last week, but the other side of the park, where the Mack and Steel workers lived. That's me on our lawn at the intersection of Catalina and Liberator Avenues, named after airplanes made by Vultee Corporation for the War. We had our own elementary school, or own grocery store, and the park to play in. On Saturdays my older brother would take me on the trolley, and later the bus, over the 8TH Street Bridge to Hamilton Street. There were far too many stores to see everything. After a matinee of cartoons or Flash Gordon, a banana split at one of the five and dimes, we would take the bus back over the bridge to Lehigh Street.

As I drive through town at night I'm constantly fearful of a small child darting out between parked cars. Their parents must be constantly afraid of gunshots and random violence. I wish these children, and their parents could enjoy a bit of serenity, they deserve it.

21 comments:

Katie Bee said...

When I drive around Allentown I wish I could have a time machine, just so I could see what it looked like.

This is my favorite post of yours.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It'sd very good, Katie Bee, I agree.

Bill Villa said...

Great photo too ...

Trent Sear said...

Mike: My wife grew up on Catalina Avenue in the 1970s and 1980's. Her Dad would walk to work at Mack. This neighborhood, was a very special place to grow up in.

Anonymous said...

nope. not constantly afraid of gunshots and violence. millions of children the world over have meaningful childhoods outside of 1950's suburban middle class culture. I'm fortunate to have friends on many continents, of many cultures, of many socioeconomic classes raising children who will have unique, positive experiences. I'm glad to hear you had a treasured upbringing, but don't assume anything different deserves your pity.

michael molovinsky said...

the parkway was "suburban", but even the quality of urban life in rowhouse area's was much, much better. nobody would have recommended surveillance camera's or shot spotter sound systems, even in the area's of lowest income. you may taint my observations as elitist, but the pity is your defending this current culture of crime and violence

Anonymous said...

Please name one instance of a child being harmed by random violence in Allentown within the last 5 years. I think you will have to did pretty hard to find one.

michael molovinsky said...

dear anon 5:15, about three years ago a high school girl was shot and killed behind jackson elementary school, by accident, by a trigger happy gangbanger. being an apologist is one thing, being a revisionist is another.

gsbrace said...

who cares if the violence is random or not. Violence is violence and we have a reasonable expectation as a community to see violence squashed by city and county law enforcement (or any other law enforcement tool that might be available for that matter).

I wish I had memories of my early years in Allentown. My mom (also a boomer...I'm Generation Y)was born/raised here, but my parents were unable to afford my deceased grandparents' West End home (it was huge...my grandfather had a dentist's office at the home on Allen Street)prompting them to move to what was then the more affordable country in Laurys Station (1982). It's now all suburbs.

Personally, I'm happy to now be a homeowner in the city, though I do recognize that crime is crime, violence is violence and that, as a community, we need to be working to eliminate it for the next generation. There is so much opportunity in the city.

I'm glad to hear your boomer roots MM. I think my generational perspective coupled with the boredom of living in the suburbs makes my living in center city a very different experience from the one that you see. We look at the situation very differently b/c we are so very different (age and experiences). Where you see decline, I see opportunity. Where I see an exciting future, you see a wonderful past. We can certainly agree that the status quo (which I see as a steady decline that began 30 or more years ago) is not what we want for the city.

If I were a gambling man, I would bet that in 30 years, Allentown will be known as a place for families.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 5:15, Sondra Yohe was killed in crossfire three years ago, in june of 2005
http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/mcall/access/1064964471.html?dids=1064964471:1064964471&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Jun+22%2C+2006&author=Manuel+Gamiz+Jr.+Of+The+Morning+Call&pub=Morning+Call&edition=&startpage=A.1&desc=%22Wrong+street+at+wrong+time%27+**+A+year+after+Allentown+teen+was+caught+in+gunfire+in+an+alley%2C+3+men+are+charged+in+her+death.

gs brace, allentown is fortunate that we have people such as yourself living in center city by choice. years ago, even the poorest section of the city, were safe. I suppose this new relationship between poverty and crime is a consequence of drug dealing and the media's glorification of crime.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Any parent who raises a child in downtown Allentown and who is NOT concerned about the violence and many other dangers to children, is a very irresponsible person. In fact, throughout the LV, we all have to be concerned.

Sarina said...

I would agree with MM that violence seems to have peaked here in the last couple decades. It is wise to be attentive and to know your neighbors.

I like the romantic idea of taking a trolley around Allentown and stopping at a 5&10 for ice cream. I wish that was possible now.

Anonymous said...

GS -

Whether you want to call it decline or "opportunity", the problem is that either way there is too much of it, and it is growing.

Too many formerly good neighborhoods are now lost or heading in the wrong direction. Too many people that have long been involved with improving their neighborhoods are giving up and leaving.

Unfortunately, those people are not being replaced by people who are either willing or able to put a similar effort into making their neighborhoods better.

Whether this is "opportunity" or not depends on your perspective. I suppose that if a bomb leveled the city, some would call that "opportunity" as well.

As a resident who has been here for over 40 years, I can tell you the decline has accelerated over the past six years. I don't really care about placing blame as to who is responsible, I'd simply prefer to see things truly improving - NOW!

Anonymous said...

I think there is a huge difference between being concerned about violence in the neighborhood and being in "constant fear."
Personally, I think people raising children in isolation in the suburbs, in 4000 Sq ft. houses in the middle of converted farmland are irresponsible. There are dangers and threats to children in every environment, people can only do their best to be vigilant guides.

michael molovinsky said...

anon, i used the phrase "constant fear" in regard to children darting out between cars. unfortunately, i could quickly document a random act of violence resulting in a innocent losing her life. i must assume there are numerous gunshots if the mayor is spending our money on shot spotters and camera's. your mentality of denial, encourages both the administration and newspaper to under-report the reality, actually putting people in harm's way. While you may live in center city with no fear, many parents do not enjoy your freedom from anxiety.

Anonymous said...

MM,
You said:
"Their parents must be CONSTANTLY AFRAID of gunshots and random violence" (my capitalization)

I am not saying there is not significant violence in Allentown, nor that parents should not be concerned or vigilant. I AM saying that there are hundreds of kids in Allentown enjoying a childhood very different from your own, that the human experience is unique and we should not paint over it with broad brushstrokes. I am saying that there are hundreds of Allentown citizens that are concerned with violence, but do not live in constant fear.

Anonymous said...

Huh, what about the pregnant woman who was shot by a stray bullet from a hunter a couple years ago? Were her parents irresponsible? Do Whitehall residents live in fear?

Anonymous said...

"Please name one instance of a child being harmed by random violence in Allentown within the last 5 years. I think you will have to did pretty hard to find one."

Wow! Where do you live? I live downtown; I can name you plenty that I saw with my own eyes. The rest I can remember from the police blotter.


Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

gsbrace said... “Where you see decline, I see opportunity.”

What I see here is eight years of squandered opportunity, and more to come if something isn’t done to change our current city government.



Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

I wish I could take a trolley around the Valley too ... Ever wonder what happened to the great transit system the Valley had in the early 1950's? The one that connected population centers with the cities and provided high speed access to Norristown and connections to Philadelphia?

It was replaced by the automobile. Or isn't anyone aware of that?

The removal of the trolleys in the mid-1950's was hailed by The Morning Call (whose publisher was one of the owners of the private for-profit parking lot system in Allentown) as 'progress.'

There were patriotic cheers as the last trolley ran down Hamilton Street and was sent to the junk yard. The tracks were ripped up and sold for scrap soon after so city streets could be smooth for auto tires forever after.

For the last 50 odd years the Valley has been developed on the basis that everyone would drive themselves in cars and not around transit. And there is wonder where the extensive public transit system is today?

I wish I could take a trolley somewhere but would it take me where I want to go? Would it take me North? South? East and West? To the Malls and shopping centers I now drive to?

It sure wouldn't go downtown because that is no longer where people want to travel or commute. The jobs went everywhere else and as far as center city commerce goes: it went everywhere else too.

Who among you does their Christmas or grocery shopping in downtown Allentown?

Where will all those tracks be installed to get people where they want to travel now? Everywhere?

Today it will cost $25 million dollars a mile or more to restore such a transit system and passenger fares will never cover the full cost of operations so it will need subsidy every year.

Who is willing to vote for a local tax to pay for the replacement of this 19th century mode of transportation? The feds won't pay more than 50% of the cost of such an investment.

Who wants to be first to urge our elected officials to raise taxes?

michael molovinsky said...

anon 7:09, it annoys me also when they take up a rail-bed to make a hiking or bike path as they did a couple years ago in south bethlehem. as you say this infrastructure would be financially impossible to replace.