Jan 28, 2020

The Demolition of Allentown

In addition to three major local department stores, Allentown also sported three national chain five and dimes. Two of these emporiums stood side by side on the 700 block of Hamilton Street; F.W. Woolworth and McCrory. Those discount stores of their day sold everything, including souvenirs of Allentown and even Hamilton Street. The large buildings remained intact all these decades, still hosting national chains. Although Family Dollar and Rite Aid have other locations in Allentown, their demolition closes the chapter on Allentown's retail history. The two photographs were taken from the same location, sixty years apart. Click on images to enlarge.

reprinted from February of 2012

Jan 27, 2020

No Damn Molovinsky Letters

Early last week I submitted the following letter to the Morning Call.
I read with great amusement South Whitehall Commissioner Tori Morgan's statement that placing an Open Space referendum on the ballot is a "fantastic idea". Ms. Morgan permitted the Wildlands Conservancy to contest the condition of Wehr's Dam with the state. That inappropriate interaction has complicated fulfilling the 2016 referendum that was meant to preserve that iconic structure. A referendum doesn't mean much if the elected officials are not sincere about following through with the voter's wishes.                      Michael Molovinsky 
The last letter of mine published by The Morning Call was in October of 2016, prior to the Wehr's Dam referendum. At the time, it took me two weeks to persuade the paper to publish the letter. The letters' editor refused, but I went over his head to the newly appointed publisher assigned by the Tribune Corporation. While the paper solicits self serving public relations patter by our elected and appointed officials, it censures citizen protest.

Jan 24, 2020

J. Molovinsky, Part 3, Wenz Company

This past weekend there was an auction at the former Wenz Company monument factory in the 1900 block of Hamilton Street. This facility has played several parts in Allentown's history, besides having produced thousands of tombstones. Enormous blocks of granite still remain from when it was the last stop on the Quarry Barber railroad branch line. Sculptures remain from the Phil Berman era, when artists used the Wenz equipment for monumental art. lastly, there are hundreds and hundreds of old tombstones, which were replaced over the decades, in local cemeteries with replacement markers. As mentioned in Part 1 of this post series, part of an old tombstone led me to discover my great grandmother's grave on Fountain Hill. That sculpture was made at Wenz, and Jennie Molovinsky's original stone also lies at Wenz's.

My grandfather came to Allentown as a young man in 1891. After working and saving for a number of years, he brought his parents over from the Old Country. The former synagogue on 2nd. Street had just acquired their cemetery off Fullerton Avenue when his mother died. Jewish tradition dictated that a man was the first burial in a new cemetery, so she was buried in an old Jewish Cemetery, on Fountain Hill. Several years later her husband, my great grandfather, was killed while being robbed on Basin Street. He is buried on Fullerton Avenue.

reprinted from June of 2014

Jan 23, 2020

Jennie Molovinsky Was A Quiet Neighbor

For nearly a hundred years the Wenz Memorial Company had a tombstone factory at 20th and Hamilton.  Their parcel extended from Hamilton Street back to Walnut Street, across from the home of former mayor Joe Daddona.   Years ago, large granite slabs would be delivered by railroad, using the the Barber Quarry spur route.  During the Phil Berman era,  the facilities were also used to produce large stone sculptures.  Behind the office and production building, most of the property was used for storage of tombstones.  Some of the stones were samples of their handiwork, and others were old stones that had been replaced with new ones, by family members.  Such was the case with my great grandmother's first stone, which has laid at wenz's for several decades.  The row houses and their front porches on S. Lafayette Street faced this portion of Wenz's, and it was very quiet, indeed.

Some readers may have noticed that Wenz's has been demolished, and the parcel will now contain a bank,  Dunkin Donut, and Woody's Sport Bar.  The residents of Lafayette Street,  experiencing complete quietness for all these years, attended the zoning hearing as objectors.  Their previous view, a dark, quiet lot, would now be replaced with a lit parking lot, with bar patrons coming and going.  Although I will not comment on the zoning issues,  residents were supposedly told by the zoners that the development would improve their quality of life.  It's one thing to have the quality of your life degraded,  it's another to have your intelligence insulted, to boot.  Perhaps the zoners need some training in sensitivity.

reprinted from May of 2016

Jan 22, 2020

Mt. Sinai Cemetery

Jews have been buried in a small section of Fairview Cemetery, called Mt. Sinai, for over 138 years. Although the markings on several stones have worn away, Hannah Dreifuss was buried there in 1868. The September 10th Chronicle in 1875 reported that two members of the Jewish faith, prominent Hamilton Street merchants, Joshua Schnurman and Simon Feldman, purchased a section from Fairview Cemetery and applied for a charter for Mt. Sinai Cemetery, thus creating the first Jewish Institution in Allentown.
Fairview Cemetery itself was not formally laid-out until 1870, when the renowned architectural firm Lathan of Buffalo was hired to create the premiere resting place in the Lehigh Valley. The giants of Allentown would be buried there, among them Harry Trexler, the Lehs, and the Macks of truck fame.
The History Lehigh County, published in 1914, notes Mt. Sinai contained 29 graves. Among them was Julia Wolf, who died in 1907. Her husband Morris served with the local regiment in the Civil War, and lived to be 98 years old. Feldman and Schnurman were among the earliest Jews in Allentown, immigrants from Germany who practiced the modern "Reformed" Judaism. These gentlemen and their extended family members would go on to form the "Young Ladies and Men's Hebrew Society" in 1883, a predecessor to the Keneseth Israel Congregation organized in 1903. Mt. Sinai remained the resting place for Reformed Jews till 1928, when Keneseth Israel established its own cemetery. Burials continued at Mt. Sinai through the 1940's as spouses and passing family members joined those previously departed in family plots. Today there are 78 graves. In July of 2006, thirty years after the previous burial in 1976, Joseph Levine was laid to rest at the age of 103.

Blogger's Notes: Mt. Sinai Cemetery is not affiliated with any synagogue, and with few exceptions, has been unused for 60 years.

The photo does not show the Mt. Sinai section of Fairview Cemetery.


Jan 21, 2020

Wave In The NIZ Tide

The Reverend Gregory Edwards contends that his appointment to the NIZ board was blocked by our Harrisburg elected officials, with threats of withholding funds to our fair city. After making the incendiary allegation, he portrays himself as a harmonizer for the city, by withdrawing his nomination. With no evidence for his extortion contention,  his claim is actually corrosive to the city's harmony.

My larger purpose for this post is my amusement at the wokeness of local appointments. Years ago I rented an apartment to someone who had just purchased the former Brass Rail on Hamilton Street. Mayor Pawlowski immediately appointed him to some Hamilton Street board, although this fellow knew absolutely nothing about Hamilton Street or Allentown. Likewise, the new director of the art museum, and the president of Muhlenberg College, who were also newcomers,  were appointed to the NIZ. The artsy one went so far as to say his main criterion for additional appointments was diversity.

Getting back to Edwards, among the qualifications he cited for the NIZ is being on the board of Promise Neighborhood....now that appointment did seem appropriate.

Jan 20, 2020

A Family Story

This post is unusually personal for this blog.  My grandfather came to Allentown from Russian Lithuania  in 1891.  In the next few years he was joined by his parents, and five siblings.   The family settled on 2nd Street, along with many other Jewish immigrants of that period.  He worked in various jobs, including a cigar factory, until he could establish himself as a butcher, as in the old country.  Because we were here for over a hundred years,  I consider myself somewhat of a local historian.

As a boy growing up in Lehigh Lehigh Manor, on the ridge above Lehigh Parkway, I explored the WPA structures when they were still comparatively new.  Because of that background, I was able to uncover the Boat Landing, and advocate for our  traditional park system.  One of my father's uncles worked for the park system, caring for Lehigh Parkway.

What brought me to this post is my great grandmother's tombstone in Fountain Hill, which I recently visited.  She is buried in an old Jewish cemetery that is no longer in use. Although, her tombstone is very old, it replaced an even older one , that then laid behind the former Wentz's tombstone factory at 20th and Hamilton, for many decades.  I am the last Molovinsky in Allentown.

photo taken behind Wentz's before recent demolition of that facility.

reprinted from previous years

Jan 17, 2020

The Corner Market

Although I doubt that there will ever be a show at the Historical Society, or brochures at the Visitors Bureau, perhaps nothing encapsulates the history of Allentown more than the corner grocery stores. Allentown proper, is mostly comprised of rowhouses built between 1870 and 1920, long before the era of automobiles and suburban supermarkets. Most of the corner markets were built as stores, and over the years many were converted into apartments. Up until the late 1940's, there may have been well over a hundred operating in Allentown. Some specialized in ethnic food. The bodega at 9th and Liberty was formally an Italian market. Live and fresh killed chickens were sold at 8th and Linden, currently H & R Block Tax Service. A kosher meat market is now a hair salon on 19th Street. The original era for these markets died with the advent of the supermarket. In the early 50's some corner stores attempted to "brand" themselves as a "chain", as shown in the Economy Store sign above. That market is at 4th and Turner, and has been continually operating since the turn of the last century. Ironically, as the social-economic level of center city has decreased, the corner stores have seen a revival. Most of these new merchants, many Hispanic and some Asian, know little of the former history of their stores, but like their predecessors, work long, hard hours.

ADDENDUM: The above post is reprinted from 2012.  The sign shown above has been removed or sold. When my parents were first married they lived next door and would patronize the same store.  My grandparents lived nearby on the corner of Chew and Jordan Streets.

ADDENDUM 2: the Economy Stores sign shown, apparently came from an early A&P format in 1912 when they leased small stores. If this particular store was such an A&P, or just dressed later with a reused sign, I have yet to determine.

Jan 16, 2020

The Sunday Ride

My family wasn't much for recreation.  My father worked six days a week, from early morning until early evening.  We did go for a long car ride on Sundays.  Back then gasoline was cheap, and having no destination wasn't thought of as wasteful.  Children were more content to sit in the back seat and look out the window, now they want a video screen in the vehicle.

Even children's play then involved more imagination and interaction.  Howdy Doody was just a puppet on strings,who spend most of his time talking to an adult, Buffalo Bob, can you imagine?

 Sitting in that back seat in the mid fifties, I might well had

my "coonskin" hat with me.  Fess Parker was a genuine American hero.  It mattered little if he played both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, both were king of the wild frontier.  The ride probably lasted for two hours and then we would go to a restaurant to eat dinner.  Compared to now, there were very few restaurants.

My mother would cook all the other meals that week, and we probably ate out more than most.  Supermarkets were the new rage in food shopping, but the butcher, baker and candle stick maker were still going strong.  If my father headed west or south, chances are we ended up at Shankweiler's Hotel, famous for chicken and waffles.   They were at the intersection of Old 22 and Route 100.  The building still exists and currently is a bank.  The family also owned another hotel on Route 309.  Both locations also operated adjoining Drive-In movies.

If my father headed north or east,  we would end up at Walp's, which was on the corner of Union Blvd. and Airport Road.  Walp's was a much more urban place.   While Shankweiler's was an old country inn,  Walp's was built as a modern restaurant.  I enjoyed those rides, they were a learning experience.

reprinted from previous years

Jan 15, 2020

The Island Of Lehigh Parkway

The scene above shows part of the Boat Landing, with the island in the background. Please note the bridge leading to the island. The island, bridge and landing were created by the WPA. Although the island still remains, as does its stone piers, the bridge is long gone. The boat landing, although buried, was partially recovered in 2010 by myself and a number of volunteers. The island, as remaining, has lost its shape and has been enlarged from deposits carried by the Little Lehigh. The island was created by the WPA in the mid 1930's, by excavating a channel on its south side. It is the intention of the park department to eventually allow mother nature to fill in the channel. Park philosophy has changed from manicured to al natural. It is my hope that the excavated portion of the boatlanding will be retained.

As a boy I played on the island and especially remember the concrete benches inlaid with tile. It was indeed a special place.  Although the island will never be restored, it is my mission that the remaining WPA structures be maintained.   In the photo above, note the path overlooking the stream and island,  with no weed wall in the way of the view.

Jan 14, 2020

Saving The Spring Pond

As a small boy growing up in the twin homes above Lehigh Parkway, I would go down the steep wooded ravine and cross the Robin Hood Bridge. The stone lined spring pond and miniature bridge was just the first in a series of wonderful WPA constructions to explore. Last year, when I organized the reclamation of the Boat Landing, my memory turned to the pond. Although overgrown with several inches of sod, I knew the treasure was still savable.

In the spring of 2010 I met Mike Gilbert of the Park Department, and pitched the idea of a partial restoration. On May 26th, I posted A Modest Proposal, which outlined my hopes for the pond. By July, Gilbert had the Park Department clear off the remaining stones, and clean up around the miniature bridge.

Park Director Greg Weitzel  indicated to me that the pond features uncovered will be maintained. Any further clearing would be at the discretion of Mike Gilbert. In our conversation he also stated that there are virtually no funds available for the preservation of the WPA icons.

I will attempt to organize a group and contributions for this most worthy cause. Between the Spring Pond and The Boat Landing there was once a bridge to the island. Wouldn't it be nice if a small boy could go exploring.

above reprinted from previous posts

UPDATE August 2013Mike Gilbert has retired, and the Park Department has a new director. Although grass and sod are starting to again cover the remaining stones that surround the pond, the miniature bridge is still visible. I will make it my mission to again pitch the new personnel.

UPDATE June 18, 2014. The grass and sod has reclaimed the stones that surround the pond. Only the very top of the miniature bridge is still visible to those who know that it's there. Unless there is an immediate intervention, it's days are numbered.

UPDATE February 2017:In 2015, in cooperation with Friends of Allentown Parks, I supervised college volunteers to clear the new sod off the pond stones, and the new bush off the miniature bridge. Allentown is on its third park director since this post was first written, and has acquired two large parcels to create new parks. To be planning additional parks, when our existing park features are left to abandonment, is incredibility poor management.

UPDATE May 1, 2018:  This past weekend the pond, miniature bridge and spring channel to the creek were once again cleared.  The work was done by volunteers from Faith Church, Asbury Church, Igesia De Fe and Salem Bible Church,  through Karen El-Chaar, director of Friends Of The Parks. Although the park department provided assistance in the two clean ups over the past several years,  they have  not provided ongoing maintenance to the site.  Understand that in the past few years they have constructed the exercise area at Jordan Park, the cement disc golf pads in the parkway and other recreational features. It is long overdue that the WPA structures be returned to the regular park budget and schedule.

UPDATE JANUARY 14, 2020:  Karen El-Chaar is now Director Of Parks. Hopefully she will have a soft spot for this particular WPA structure. I continue trying through this blog and facebook to keep these structures on the public agenda.

Jan 13, 2020

The Boat Landing

Getting to the Boat Landing, for six year old boys who lived above the park in 1953, was quite an adventure. There were three other wonderful WPA structures to navigate on the journey. Unfortunately,  poor foresight by a previous park director has erased some of the WPA's monuments in Lehigh Parkway. As the postcard from the mid-50's above shows, the Boat Landing (my name for the structure) was a source of pride for the city and park system. It is located at the end of the park,  near Regency Apartments. I use the present tense because remnants of this edifice still exist,  buried under dirt and debris. Other attractions lost in that section of the park include the Spring Pond near the Robin Hood parking lot, and the bridge to the "Island", plus the mosaic inlaid benches which were on the island. ( Island halfway between parking lot and boat landing). Neither the Mayor or the Park Director knows that these centerpieces ever existed. These are irreplaceable architectural treasures well worth restoring.

UPDATE: The above post was written in May of 2009. Later that year I organized a small group of volunteers, and we unearthed a portion of the boat landing. The next year I prevailed on the Allentown Water Shed Foreman, Michael Gilbert, to expose the remaining stones around the Spring Pond and remove the growth hiding the Miniature Bridge.

Trexler Smiles, Landing Revealed
I believe that today, for the first time in decades, General Trexler had something to smile about. Most people never understood why three steps were near the lower entrance of Lehigh Parkway; they seemed to lead nowhere. This morning eight people joined a grass root effort to unveil, for the first time in decades, the structure I called the Boat Landing.
Buried under the dirt and grass were several more steps leading to a landing. Chris Casey was the first to arrive and cleared these steps and the first landing himself. A second set of steps led from the landing to the main landing on the creek. These second steps had a foot or so of ground and plants.
The quality and condition of the stonework is excellent, as was all our WPA icons. I will be polite and say only that it was a crime to have let this neglect occur. On the main landing the accumulated earth was two and half feet thick. The crew dug out the curving retaining wall several yards in each direction, and cleared off the top of the wall.
Eight people working four hours managed to reveal about one third of the landing at the bottom of the steps. It was a thrill to realize we were standing at creek's edge as the WPA architects had envisioned. I stood there often as a boy. There still remains a large portion of dirt to remove at the steps base, but you can now experience the Boat Landing.
The retaining wall and the landing continue for fifty feet or so in both directions. Unfortunately a huge tree has grown on the landing to the right, but the left appears reclaimable.
We who worked there today, hope to return and clear off the remainder of the dirt at the bottom of the steps.

Perhaps others will be motivated to clear off the remaining portion of the landing to the left. Now that might even be an idea for the City; imagine restoring an irreplaceable icon instead of buying something from a catalogue. I'm most grateful to all those who helped today, and will reveal their names with their permission.

ADDENDUM:Michael –

I just wanted to thank you for organizing today’s cleanup at the “Boat Landing” in the Lehigh Parkway. It’s not often that one gets to help unearth a treasure while barely leaving home, but that’s exactly what happened today.

It was truly impressive what big difference a small group of people can make. I can’t even estimate the amount of dirt that was moved with nothing more than a few shovels and a lot of hard work.
We can only hope that the City and the Trexler Trust will become aware of this location and start giving all the great structures in the Parkway the care they deserve.
However, the best part of the story for me came after we all left. I got home and my daughter Lucy (age 7) wanted to know how things went. We hopped in the car and soon we were walking up to the stairs leading to the landing. The sun was shining, and the sunlight trickled through the trees and onto the freshly-exposed stairway.
Lucy asked if she could go down to the landing by the water and next thing I knew we were both there at the waters edge, standing on what had been buried only a few hours earlier and marveling at the beauty of the location.
We spent a few moments there - a father and daughter both enjoying something completely “new” to us (even though the landing is over 70 years old). We talked briefly about what was – and more importantly what could be again.

Thank you for making that moment possible, and I hope many others take the opportunity to visit the landing in the near future.

Mike Schware
P.S. – After visiting the landing, Lucy and I walked further upstream and saw the remnants of the bridge to the island (near the water fountain). The remaining supports of the bridge confirmed what you had told me earlier about the island being much smaller years ago.

I organized the excavation shown above in 2009. We did return and remove the remaining dirt at the bottom of the steps.
reprinted from two separate posts combined

The above post is a reprint

Jan 10, 2020

Newspaper Still Glorifying Pawlowski

I was intending to finish the blog week with a nostalgic post about growing up in Allentown in the 1950's, a good decade for both the city, the newspaper and most residents. Instead, once again, I'm compelled to wonder about the newspaper and the mayor.

Over a month ago, the FBI agent who investigated Pawlowski's misdeeds was interviewed in Bethlehem. His revelations were covered by both WFMZ, Lehigh Valley Live and this blogger.  Although the Morning Call reporter was there taking notes, no article ever appeared.  However, yesterday the reporter did a feel good piece about Pawlowski, contributing to the life of his fellow prisoners while he studies for his appeal.
It’s kind of like being mayor but for a lot less money’: Ed Pawlowski reveals what he’s doing in prison
We read about Ed teaching civics and bible, studying law, and staying productive despite his challenging circumstances. what an inspiration.  The Morning Call endorsed Ed Pawlowski for  mayor in 2005. Until the FBI raid in July of 2015,  their support of him never waned.  A newspaper was blind to a mayor cheating the public for a decade... that is what they should write about.

the Morning Call has a flattering picture of Pawlowski, I'd rather show the crook with his Philly lawyer

Jan 9, 2020

The Wagon Trail

Most of Lehigh Parkway lies in a deep ravine. The slope up to Lehigh Parkway South, across the creek from Robin Hood, is very steep, about 60 degrees. Unknown to many people, there is a diagonal trail on part of the slope, which comes out halfway up the hill behind the Stone and Log House.

We kids, who grew up in the Parkway, called it the Wagon Trail. I believe it was part of the Kemmerer Farm (Stone and Log House), which dates back to the late 1770's. In the 1950's, the foundation of a small kiln was still visible on the trail. The subsequent years had not been kind to the old trail,  and it is no longer maintained by the Park Department. About halfway between it's entrance and exit on the hill, the trail has been blocked by a large fallen tree. People had dumped debris on the trail, and it remained there for years.

In April of 2010, I organized a cleanup.  The park director at the time cooperated on the project. I agreed that no power tools would be used, and he arranged for the city to pick up the rubbish.

It is my hope that the new administration will realize that our parks are more than just space to cram more recreational gimmicks.  They are steeped in history, and places where children can explore.

reprinted from previous years

Jan 8, 2020

Kids Of The Parkway

There were hundreds of us, we were the baby boomers. The neighborhood was built for returning GI's, and the streets were named after the planes of WW2; Liberator, Catalina, and Coronado. The twin homes were wedged between Jefferson Street and the southern ridge above Lehigh Parkway. Now called Little Lehigh Manor, we knew it simply as Lehigh Parkway, and we had our own school.

Historical Fact:
The original part of the school building contained four classrooms, a teacher's room, and a health room. It replaced the Catalina Avenue School which existed in a home near the present site. Lehigh Parkway received national publicity because it was being build as a result of the new neighborhood. Thus, the "Neighborhood School Concept" was born.

Because of the school and the park, the neighborhood was really self contained. The Lehigh SuperMarket on Lehigh Street was within walking distance. Soon, FoodFair would build their first large Supermarket, also on Lehigh Street, which was even closer. Today it has developed into The Parkway Shopping Center. We kids enjoyed our own Halloween Parade and Easter Egg hunt.

Because there were so many of us, Parkway Elementary only went through 2nd. grade. We would take the bus to Jefferson Elementary for grades 3 through 6.

Historical Fact:
Jefferson Elementary used to be a high school, and for years, it had separate girls' and boys' entrances. These entrances were turned into windows at some point, but the exterior of the building still has the two entrances marked.

These were some of my friends from 3th grade. They all lived in the Parkway. Not only were they all boys, only yesterday, 56 years later, I learned the name of the girl I'm holding hands with in the May Day picture above.

Historical Facts from Allentown School District Website

ADDENDUM: other Parkway Neighborhood Posts,
Time Capsule
Allentown On My Mind

reprinted from October of 2018

Jan 7, 2020

New City Hall, Old Blogger

From an article in today's Morning Call, one might think that there is a brand new day at Allentown City Hall, just blossoming with integrity and good intentions. Compared to Pawlowski's reign, to the new city beat reporter, it might seem that way... I know better... While there are two newer faces on council, everyone else, including the mayor, were part of the old establishment.

When Ray O'Connell was appointed mayor last term, he invited me in to his office at city hall, to hear my recommendations for the park system. Here we are two years later, and my last phone call was never returned, and he dropped me as a facebook friend. My blog posts about an east side woman being harassed by code, as a personal favor to a supervisor's friend, offended O'Connell. While O'Connell is ethically miles above the former mayor, he never dismantled the goon squad that Pawlowski spend years weaponizing.

As an old political blogger, I know everyone on council. There is nobody I haven't sat down with, or had a one on one conversation with over the years. Although I like them all as people,  Allentown doesn't need another complimenter.  This old blogger will continue scrutinizing city hall as always,  I don't need facebook friends anyway.

Jan 6, 2020

Coasting With The Morning Call

On Friday I took Ray O'Connell to task for taking any credit for the NIZ. I deny Allentown or anybody taking credit for the Browne/Reilly arrangement, besides those two beneficiaries. Now, let me turn my good cheer once again to The Morning Call. After giving O'Connell an editorial to crow on, they then gave Easton's Sal Panto the same privilege. Sal naturally also wrote about current and future development in Easton. Next for the limelight is Hasshan Batts from Promise Neighborhoods. I predict that Hasshan will claim that with proper funding (meaning more of our tax dollars), he could put a real dent in Allentown's crime problem.

 I understand bureaucrats preaching their gospel, I just find it sad that the Morning Call allocates their space in such an uninspired way. I have been denied an editorial on how the voter's referendum on Wehr's Dam is being subverted by South Whitehall Township to accommodate the Wildlands Conservancy. I strongly suspect that likewise, many letters with controversial views, or issues about protected sacred cows, are also filed by the paper in the waste can.

 It appears as if the paper is doggy paddling or just coasting along, hoping that the next yellow slip from corporate America doesn't have their name on it.  In recent forums on social media, the paper is being taken to task for several issues, among them delivery and content.  While we dinosaurs want a very early hard copy delivery,  those available for such tasks in today's world are not early risers.  Our complaints go somewhere overseas, where English is a third language. For the end of this bitching session, let me say that I appreciate that we still have a paper... It is something which we can no longer take for granted in this world of fast changing media.

Jan 3, 2020

O'Connell Sells The Myth

O'Connell's editorial in the paper starts out with usual political patter. He credits himself with increasing public safety by hiring more policemen and fireman, fair enough. However, as his sermon drones on, it becomes less credible. He associates his mayorship with Reilly's construction. He concludes by completely buying into the deception that the Allentown Myth is reality.
To quote City Center President and CEO J.B Reilly from a story in this newspaper, over the past five years, no other city in the nation has “experienced this amount of development or seen this kind of transformation.”
What Reilly, The Morning Call and now O'Connell don't reveal is the reason for all this development; The construction is being financed by diverted state tax dollars, in a one of a kind state program called the NIZ. It allows a developer (J.B. Reilly) to use all the state taxes generated by payroll, sales or whatever, to pay the debt service on the new buildings. With this unique arrangement, of course he continues to build.

Unfortunately for every other community in the valley and the state, all these new businesses are simply poached from surrounding communities...There has not been one actual new employer brought into this mix. With no new employers, and the taxes from the relocated ones being used for Reilly's new construction, the citizens of Pennsylvania are on the hook for the diverted taxes.

Jan 2, 2020

Pawlowski's Popularity

My recent post about the Morning Call and Ed Pawlowski, while not receiving comments here on the blog,* had a large response on facebook. Several group members expressed sympathy for the former mayor. They each thought that his sentence was too harsh, and some even believed that he was a great mayor. In each case they cited personal favors that he had done for them or their family. While they appreciated those favors, they ignored the fact that Pawlowski cheated the taxpayers by choosing vendors by their contribution to him, rather than on the merit of their bids and proposals.

When Pawlowski was reelected for the fourth time in November of 2017, after being indicted on 47 counts of corruption, I attributed his victory mostly to Hispanics, the demographic he aggressively courted during the campaign. None of the Pawlowski supporters referred to in the above paragraph are Hispanic. In 2017 I attributed his victory to low information voters. It seems he was also elected by low expectation voters. If you combine these two subgroups, Allentown's political future is discouraging. 

The glitter of the new buildings, and a few concerts at the arena are apparently enough for current Allentown. The time may be approaching when molovinsky on allentown may need to find a new primary topic....Even a cynic like me needs to see some future to write about.

* most people seem to prefer commenting anonymously,  an option not offered on this blog.

photocredit:The Morning Call/Pawlowski, lawyer and supporters.

Jan 1, 2020

The Barbershops of Allentown's Past

I was never a frequent patron, but one of my reoccurring photographic interests was barbershops. Although Allentown now has more barbershops than ever, mine are from a different era. Some of the shops still exist, although the name and clientele has changed. Shown above is the former K&K, on S. 6th Street.*

All photos on this blog will enlarge when clicked.

ADDENDUM: This post first appeared on this blog in 2013. With the proliferation of many local history facebook groups, including my own Allentown Chronicles, I see much subject matter I covered years ago now being repeated by others.  So, even at the risk of seeming less than original, I still repost older images for the benefit of new readers. Best Wishes for the new year.
* my photograph is from 1996.  The building no longer exists.

Dec 31, 2019

Myths From The Morning Call

For a few years I was a regular contributor to the Morning Call editorial page. People often tell me that they miss readings my pieces. I reply that they will only see my name now when I die, or if I get arrested. Beyond the loss to my ego, my banning from the paper has some consequence to the public knowing the full story on several topics.

The public is certainly never told about the sacred cows that the paper protects. They're not told about the Wildlands Conservancy subverting the Wehr's Dam Referendum. They're not told about the relationship between Reilly, the hospital and the NIZ. And they continue the myth that Pawlowski had something to do with the Hamilton Street revitalization.

Ed Pawlowksi’s story was, by the dictionary definition, a Greek tragedy. The essential element was there: A protagonist reaches for the heights but is undone by a fatal flaw. In the former Allentown mayor’s case, the flaw, by all accounts, was hubris. Having ruled city hall as the long-struggling city finally mounted a comeback, Pawlowski wanted to move on to bigger things — a U.S. Senate seat or the governor’s office. The necessity of paying for those ambitions led him into crooked dealings that ended with conviction on scores of corruption charges and a 15-year federal prison sentence. The Morning Call

Pawlowski had nothing, what so ever, to do with Allentown's comeback. The new construction is a result of the NIZ, a very special state law which only applied to Allentown, which allows a developer to use state taxes for his mortgage debt service. The law was crafted by local powerful state senator Pat Browne, and has benefitted his life-long friend J.B. Reilly. Pawlowski, knowing that he no involvement with the NIZ, but realizing that the paper wasn't spelling out the story, decided to ride the misconception out of Allentown, to either Harrisburg or Washington.

Reilly now owns the Morning Call building. The paper is written by a skeleton staff and printed in Jersey City. An aging blogger tells the true story to a select internet audience, hoping that his name in the paper's obituary column isn't forthcoming too soon.

Dec 30, 2019

A Supremo Christmas

While I've never shown much enthusiasm for J.B. Reilly's attempt to revitalize downtown through his high end shops, neither has the marketplace. Christmas day, I visited the new Supremo Market on 7th Street, occupying the former Levine's Fabric store. The market was attractive, large, well stocked and mobbed.

There is an old saying that there are more nickels than quarters. I suppose that it should be no surprise that in a city populated by a large percentage of low income people, a well run store geared for that demographic can prosper. What's interesting is that while the taxpayer ponied up a $Billion dollars, so far, for the NIZ, the thriving Supremo costs us nothing. While the Morning Call writes one promotion after another for Reilly's portfolio, there is nothing said about this real success story in Allentown.

Let me provide some history.  Once upon a time,  that was the busiest block on 7th Street. The building was built as a Sears and Roebucks in the early 1950's, using a plan duplicated in other cities. The store did well competing with the three local department stores, and was first to go suburban.

Talking of history, some may notice a new item on this blog's sidebar. It's a picture of a Mack Truck Magazine cover, which was printed each month. I have titled the new insertion, LOCAL HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE.  Hopefully, the local political shenanigans will slow down, so I can devote more posts to our rich history.

stock photo from Supremo website

above post reprinted every December since 2015 

Dec 27, 2019

Faith Baptist Church (Allentown)

There is a small church on the 200 block of N. 12th Street, which is served by a humble man, Pastor Robert Hargrove. Pastor Hargrove has been ministering to his flock at Faith Baptist Church for over 40 years. Years ago, when I managed buildings in the neighborhood, I had the privilege of meeting the pastor and seeing his concern for others. While his congregation was small, his outreach in the neighborhood was large. In addition to running a summer program for local kids, his church door was always open for those in distress.

While his formal congregation was mostly black, it seemed that most of his outreach helped the poorer whites in the surrounding blocks.

Over the years he kindly allowed me to conduct a few community meetings at the church, on topics such as Fairview Cemetery and the removal of bus stops.

While the large churches with the politically astute leaders get most our attention,  many people in need often turn to the small neighborhood churches, such as Faith Baptist.

Dec 26, 2019

The Coptic Church Of Alexandria

The Church and Theology School in Alexandria was established by the Apostle Mark in 60AD. Most of the early converts were common Egyptians who spoke Coptic. Although Christians became the majority before the Arab invasion in 636, by the 12th century they were the minority. The concept of monasteries in Christianity was started by the Coptics in the deserts of Egypt. Currently, the Coptics are threatened by transitions in Egypt, let us pray for their safety.

photograph of St. Marks Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt.

reprinted from previous years

Dec 25, 2019

A Jewish Christmas Card

Many Jews experience some conflict during the Christmas Season. This is essentially a Christian nation, and to totally ignore that reality could be perceived as rude. Although Abe Simon proudly wore the Star of David on his boxing trunks in NYC, he also sent out Christmas cards to his non-Jewish associates. Simon, in 1942, was the last Jew to fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

reprinted from previous years

molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday, year-round.

Dec 24, 2019

Sledding In Allentown

The photograph shown above is from 1958. It was taken in Little Lehigh Manor, the 1940's era housing development located above Lehigh Parkway's south ridge. I had the pleasure of growing up in that neighborhood. In yesterday's post, the hill favored by the kids of that neighborhood was featured.

Other popular sledding hills were in Allentown's west end,  behind Cedar Crest College, and Ott Street, between Livingston and Greenleaf Streets.  Years ago, a bridge crossed the creek by the park office at 30th and Parkway Blvd., with a parking area for sledders by the Cedar Crest hill. The Ott Street hill was closed to cars by the city, as an accommodation for sledders.  None of these hills are now accessible to a kid with a sled.

photo courtesy of S. Williams
molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday, year-round.

Dec 23, 2019

A Park Protester From The Past

`Green' Curtain Blocks Sledding And The View
January 09, 1992|The Morning Call
To the Editor:
Hold your sleds girls and boys! Others, too, on the alert! With the planting of a dense cluster of 60 evergreen trees and the erection of a "No Sledding" sign, creating a veritable iron curtain, the park and watershed people have once again undertaken their repetitive effort of the past 45 years to eliminate a most popular sledding slope in Lehigh Parkway. The motive -- crass self-interest in defiance of public good. The effect -- an impassable barrier and concealment of a magnificent vista of "one of the finest valleys in Eastern Pennsylvania."
Children and adults from the 400 homes with longtime and easy access to the slope and others arriving in cars have enjoyed sledding here after school and into the night and throughout the day and night on weekends. Yet sledding is but one of the attractions of this enduring slope. In summer children and teachers from Lehigh Parkway Elementary School have enjoyed a walk down the slope and into the park for a break from book and blackboard. Birders, joggers, hikers and others on a leisurely stroll engrossed in their particular interest have found the slope irresistible.
For a host of others, this opening into the park after a long stretch of woods presents a charming vista and urge to descend. Interest is immediately evoked by the sight of a mid-19th century log house (now tenanted by a city employee whose privacy is further enhanced by the closure of the slope) and a historic wagon trail leading past the site of a lime kiln to tillable lands of earlier times.
The view takes in an expanse of meadowlands, now groomed, to the Little Lehigh River and up the western slope to Lehigh Parkway North. Indeed, a pleasant view to be esteemed and preserved for generations to come. It was distressing on New Year's Day to see a family and their guests intent upon a walk down the slope suddenly stop in amazement and shock as the closure became evident.
The cost in dollars through the years of the park peoples' fixation on destroying the Parkway slope must be staggering indeed without dwelling on other deliberate depletions. Typically, the placement of the 1991 "No Sledding" sign employed a team of four men with three vehicles -- a backhoe, a panel truck, and a super cab pickup truck, the latter furnishing radio music.
ALLENTOWN The Morning Call, January 9, 1992

I grew up in the same neighborhood and spent my childhood winters sledding on the same hill. Mr. Luckenbach would also be saddened that the historic Wagon Trail is now also blocked off, near it's exit halfway on the hill. I suppose children, mittens and sledding is too passive a recreation for current park department taste.

reprinted from January of 2015 and earlier

molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday, year-round.

Dec 20, 2019

O'Connell Needs To Define Integrity

When former mayor Ed Pawlowski was found guilty, Ray O'Connell told the media "Tomorrow is a new day with integrity, honesty and trustworthiness back in city hall." I'm sorry to report that despite that encouraging proclamation,  city hall in some sense may be worse than ever.

I have no reason to believe that campaign donations or money exchanges of any kind are continuing at city hall,  but otherwise, I must question what O'Connell meant about integrity?

Earlier in the fall I posted about a homeowner on the east side who was being improperly harassed by code to accommodate a neighbor.  I have photographic documentation showing the head of code, Robert Sandt, socializing with the neighbor, and the neighbor allowing code thru his rental property, to photograph their targeted victim's adjoining property, up to the day of the hearing.  At the hearing, in addition to the field inspector, Donald Reed, Sandt himself appeared.  At the hearing the city changed the initial charges, conceding that there was no defect with the homeowner's railings.  The magistrate allowed them to change their focus to a superfluous upright, and claimed that the deck was built without a permit.  Although the judge seemed eager to accommodate the city with a guilty verdict, he was forced to reverse himself, when the homeowner produced the permit from 2002.

The city code department has again filed the same violation against the homeowner, again submitting her to the same harassment.  The field inspector told the homeowner that Leonard Lightner, Community Development Director, ordered the refiling, because he is concerned for her safety in regard to the deck.  While the deck could support a Sherman Tank,  it is apparent that Lightner and O'Connell cannot control their code officers.  Neither Lightner or O'Connell returned my calls on this topic earlier in the fall.

For the first hearing, the code department actually fabricated a printout of permits, showing that the homeowner didn't have a permit for the deck.  If O'Connell thinks that dozens of man hours and falsifying documents to harass a homeowner is integrity,  Allentown is not much better off now than it was before, under Pawlowski.

molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday, year-round.

Dec 19, 2019

Allentown Still Needs Lessons On Favoritism

Although Allentown city council has decided to slow down its deliberation of an Entertainment District, Candida Affa still is pushing for the Maingate... "we should have designated areas in the third largest city in the state where people can go to enjoy louder entertainment.”  We actually have an entertainment district, down by the former train stations, in the lower section of Hamilton Street. Unfortunately that district turned into the Gunfire District, giving Allentown national embarrassment for the shootings.

While that district at 2nd and Hamilton has no houses, the new proposed district in the west end is packed with residents. In addition to the senior towers at 16th and Liberty, there are hundreds of residents in the proposed district. This past summer there were already shootings at the Maingate. 

Affa was Pawlowski's biggest and longest standing supporter on City Council. She should consider that her mentor is incarcerated because of favoritism. If she wants to support the Maingate at the expense of Allentown residents, perhaps she could rent the facility for polka dances, and other lower impact events.

molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday, year-round.

Dec 18, 2019

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 too bad for you.

reprinted from April of 2014

ADDENDUM DECEMBER 18, 2019: While the commercial rates paid by the bottling companies remain attractive to them, homeowners in Allentown and other local municipalities are now seeing their residential water rates double.

molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday, year-round.

Dec 17, 2019

City Takes Cronyism To New Noise Level

There is a proposal in front of city council to shelter the Maingate fairgrounds nightclub from noise violations by the LCB. The city would establish a new noise level in what it would deem an entertainment district. The bill is being promoted by Candida Affa, who previously created legislation to effectively shut down what she considered nuisance clubs. Also supporting her effort in regard to the Maingate is councilman MacLean and mayor O'Connell. They are all very wrong.

City spokesman Mike Moore stated that he has heard no objections to the Maingate proposal. I will email a copy of this post to his attention.

I would remind Affa, MacLean and O'Connell that the previous administration felt justified in deciding who were the winners and losers in regard to city bids, ignoring the guidelines that were in place. Likewise, the city should stay out of the bar business, and allow the LCB to exercise its control. There are neighbors who live by the fairgrounds. Just because they tolerate the fair one week a year, doesn't mean that they're never entitled to some quiet.

ADDENDUM: The Entertainment District would also include the Shanty and Ringers,  wedging the residents of the 500 block of St. George and 18th Streets into permitted year round noise.  These other bars were included so that the proposal doesn't smack of favoritism toward the Maingate, which it is.


molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday,  year-round.

Dec 16, 2019

Better From The Pagoda

When I was a kid growing up in Allentown, we would visit my cousins in Reading. Allentown and Reading seemed very similar, row houses and corner stores. My aunt owned a corner soda fountain. Those Sunday trips were special, because I could sit at the soda counter, eat ice cream and read comic books, to my content. Outside the store, you could look up and see the Pagoda, seemed sorta  magical. This weekend I returned to visit the Pagoda and the neighborhood. While the Pagoda pretty much hasn't changed, downtown Reading is devastated. Block after block is run down, with no revitalization in sight.

While this blog misses the Allentown center city of years ago,  Reading doesn't even resemble its former self.  If you visit, I suggest viewing it only from the pagoda. From that height the city looks as it always did, up close it gets very rough.

molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday, year-round.

Dec 13, 2019

The Hypocrisy Of Donald Cunningham

In his latest Morning Call column, Donny Cunningham laments the loss of yesteryear, especially in regard to the trolleys. Cunningham claims that today's millennials appreciate the same things as their great grandparents, such as farm to table food, and walking paths. Actually Donnie, those paths today were created from former railbeds. You cannot get nostalgic about trolleys while you're ripping out railbeds. When I protested Jaindl recently removing the last tracks in Allentown down by the waterfront, there was no objection voiced by Cunningham.

The sorry truth is that Don Cunningham was responsible for numerous attacks on our history. While Lehigh County Executive, his public works director went on a rampage against stone arch bridges. I did manage to successfully fight Cunningham and his staff to save one bridge, the Reading Road Bridge by Union Terrace.

I also note that Cunningham, as former Secretary Of General Services in Pennsylvania, has said nothing about the planned destruction of the historic architecturally rich state hospital.

Here in the valley of political correctness and revisionism, while the Morning Call will print anything from the establishment, this blog will call fouls for the few who still value truth.

photo: Reading Road Bridge, condemned by Cunningham, saved by blogger

molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday, year-round.

Dec 12, 2019

When Kahane Came To Allentown

He told the Jews gathered in Allentown that their leaders were spineless, 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 immigrating 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.
His speech in Allentown was one of his last. He was assassinated later that year during a speech in NYC. 

above reprinted from 2014, 2018

ADDENDUM DECEMBER 12,2019: Although it was 50 years ago that Kahane formed the Jewish Defense League in the NYC area, a resurgence of that group would still be needed today.

molovinsky on allentown is produced on weekdays throughout the year.

Dec 11, 2019

FBI Agent On Pawlowski

Yesterday I attended the taping of Iannelli's Business Matters Show. He was interviewing former FBI agent Scott Curtis, who had investigated Ed Pawlowski.  Last time I saw Iannelli, I was a guest on a panel about the NIZ, arguing with Mike Fleck.  Speaking of Mike Fleck, Curtis had some interesting comments about him.  He revealed that Fleck was the backbone of the information and case against Pawlowski, and because of that, he felt that Fleck received too long of a sentence. After the interview, he was asked twice if he felt that Fleck was the real mastermind of the shakedowns. Curtis repeatedly made clear that Pawlowski was in charge, and it was him that called the shots. The most revealing aspect of the case that Curtis disclosed was the sluggishness of the prosecution.  He had to do a lot of the transcriptions and other work himself,  normally done by the prosecutor's office.

For me the saddest question was by someone who identified himself as a member of the city's ethics commission. He wanted to know what could be done to make sure that such corruption never occurs again. Clearly this gentleman doesn't read this blog. I can't imagine the cheery thoughts one must have in their brain to think that city hall is now completely corruption free*.

*By "corruption" I'm not referring to the exchange of money or bribes, but rather a compromise of good ideals.  It can be harassment by an inspector, as I have documented recently,  or misplaced priorities, as in the park department's neglect of the WPA.


molovinsky on allentown is produced weekdays, year-round.

Dec 10, 2019

Fast Tracking Jaindl Sponsored Interchange

Although Jaindl and two other real estate interests* have only been sponsoring a study for an additional interchange on Rt 78 at Adams Road since 2016, Penn Dot has announced that funds will be shifted to that use,  instead of widening Rt. 22, which has been on the public's wish list for decades.

Jaindl's group has moved their agenda along at warp speed with the help of local state senator Pat Browne, who apparently started lobbying the Penndot secretary from day one.  Although local planners and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission have been advocating for Rt. 22 improvements for well over a decade,  there hasn't been a peep out their director, Becky Bradley, about the Jaindl group's windfall and the public's loss.  Her comments have been limited to praising Browne about the Rt. 78 improvements.

It's wonderful for our local movers and shakers to prosper beyond their dreams here in the valley of apathy. There is no local paper which scrutinizes such dealings, only a couple of blogs.

*National Freight Inc. and Liberty Property Trust

molovinsky on allentown is produced every weekday of the year.