Jul 1, 2016

Growing Up Allentown


Life in Allentown during the 1950's was pretty easy, compared to now a days. Whether you were white or blue collar, there were plenty of jobs. Whether you lived in the West End or center city, all the neighborhoods were clean, well maintained and relatively crime free. The school system was the envy of the county, and people finagled to get their children enrolled in it. Allentown High School had championship teams in multiple sports, and the football stadium was one of the most lavish high school stadiums in the country. The park system was the subject of numerous picture postcards. Likewise, downtown was widely known, with Hess's being a destination. All the above characterists would stay in place throughout the 1960's, into the early 70's.

I bill this blog as the intersection of politics and history in Allentown, and the greater Lehigh Valley. Although, I will continue to speak out on current events of concern, I suspect that this page will turn more and more to history. Perhaps nostalgia is so appealing because the current reality is so disillusioning. 

Although, my archive of older Allentown pictures is extensive, I invited Ozzie and Harriet Nelson to illustrate this post.

6 comments:

doug_b said...

As an long time Ex-Allentownian it saddens me to see the loss of identity / culture of Allentown and the surrounding Lehigh Valley.

Yes, I know things change, everywhere. But when a whole town (the 3rd largest in PA) is completely decimated - it's a crime. Conditions are ripe for carpet baggers / opportunists to waltz in and gain control. After all - there's not many people left who remember how wonderful it was - so they can 'carve it up' to impress the no-nothing, call it progress, and get reelected.

It's ironic how out of touch is the MCall Newspaper. They have pictures of the "Previous Allentown". Pictures of Hess's / Leh's / Walp's / Village Inn / Colonial Movie Theater .. etc. IMO this is nothing to reminisce about - it's about a tragedy. Allentown losing all that defined Allentown. They don't get it.

George Ruth said...

Those of us who remember the post-war years in the outer boroughs of New York City can empathize with you. How lucky am I to have moved to Allentown in the early 70s to get more than a glimpse of the glory and traditions this city once enjoyed.
We watched the decay of New York just a decade or so before it hit Allentown. What they had in common is liberalism and permissiveness.
While I don't agree with the 'ends justify the means' methodology of the NIZ I do hope it leads to the middleclassation (my word, obviously) of Allentown. What a treat it will be to watch a reversal of the 60s and 70s.

michael molovinsky said...

george @6:41, on today's front page of the Morning Call is a picture of the construction of Strata 2. The caption states that Strata 1 is fully occupied with a waiting list. even the apologists for the NIZ concede that the building is no where near full with living tenants, but claim that the people-less apartments are leased by corporate clients. why or who at the Morning Call keeps insisting on these misrepresentations of the facts is perplexing. i do not believe that the "middleclassation" of the NIZ will come about. the endless demand for living space in large urban areas such as NYC fosters mixed income living. here in allentown there is no reason for the middle class to worry about crime, real or perceived, by living in center city.

Dave said...

Other medium and large cities have not lost their Central Buisness Districts and still have large numbers of retail stores in them. It's been said that the Whitehall Mall and Lehigh Valley Mall caused the decline of shopping on Hamilton Street, although Philadelphia, in particular, has a vibrant downtown shopping district along with several major malls both in Southeast PA as well as on the New Jersey side of the Delaware.

michael molovinsky said...

dave@10:53, i'll give allentown credit for renovating hamilton street into hamilton mall with the canopies. it was an attempt to keep the business district viable.

George Ruth said...

Suburban malls were an natural outgrowth of the post-WWII American desire to spread our wings...to no longer be trapped by the proximity of living in a close distance to the downtowns. By the 70s nearly every mom had her own car. The newly found prosperity of the times also lead to low costs of power which made air conditioning those malls an affordable proposition. There was nothing sinister about the movement to the suburbs...and nothing forced about it. Contrast that with the darn-near shaming of people who now dare to live in the 'burbs, and the sanctification of the new inhabitants of the inner city.