Mar 29, 2010

The 6th Ward


When my grandfather first arrived in Allentown, he lived in the Ward, on 2nd. Street. It was around 1895 and the neighborhood was full of immigrants. Some groups came from the same area in the old country, most noticeably the Syrians, from the village of Amar*. They were Greek Orthodox, a minority in a Muslim country. The congregation of St. George's Church on Catasauqua Ave., largely is descended from those immigrants. Well known names in Allentown, such as Atiyeh, Haddad, Hanna, Makoul, Koury and Joseph are among their members. They were among one of the first groups to organize, and those organizations still exist. The photo above was organized by the Syrian American Organization in 1944. Note that Jewish, on the left, is treated as a nationality.

* hopefully my Syrian friends will correct any historical errors I have made.

click on photo to enlarge

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

According to a contemporary piece from THE CANARY, the William Allen HS newspaper :

"Captain Syria George Joseph" made the play of the game in the annual Allen-Dieruff football rivalry in 1983.

With Allen trailing late in the game, the blitzing linebacker forced the Dieruff quarterback to fumble deep in Husky territory.

Mike Brogna soon scored on a quarterback sneak - the West Siders won 15-14.

Kevin Easterling was the star running back for Dieruff at that period in time.

Tony Hanna said...

Michael,
The village in Syria you referred to was "Amar," one of many villages in an area of Syria known as "Wadih Nassara," or "Valley of Christians." Most of the Syrian-American immigrants who came to the United States in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century were from Amar and other villages in the valley. My paternal grandparents came to the US in the late 19th Century about the same time as yours and lived on Second Street in the Sixth Ward - not far from yours. St. George Church is part of the "Antiochian" Orthodox Church and is located on Catasauqua Avenue, not Front Street. I loved growing up in the Sixth Ward and wouldn't exchange my childhood and adolescent memories of Sheridan Elementary School and its asphalt "playground," the Ridge Avenue Boys Club, Riverfront Park - now named for my baseball coach the unforgetable George "Bucky" Boyle, Harrison-Morton Junior High School and Dieruff High School, for anything. It was a great neighborhood.
Tony Hanna

michael molovinsky said...

tony, thank you so much for the comment and corrections, which i will make in the post. both my father and myself grew up with syrian friends, from that interaction which started so long ago in the ward. i should note that a syrian community still resides there, and of course numerous businesses owned by them.

Tony Hanna said...

Michael,

Very well aware that a Syrian community still resides in the Sixth Ward. My mother, who passed away just after Christmas last year, lived in the same house I grew up in on Tilghman Street, until just a few months before her passing at 82 years old.

The Jewish community migrated westward - except for your family that somehow ended up on the Southside - taking with them their synagogues and businesses. I have many great memories of Second Street alive with the mix of many ethnic flavors, but dominated as it was in my childhood. by the Kosher butchers, the deli - run by the Grossman sisters who fed me my first bagel in the 1950s, with "sweet butter," leading to a life of searching for bagels as good as those of my "Shabbos Goy" youth.

Tony

michael molovinsky said...

tony, i know you're very well aware of these ethnic reminiscences, but for the benefit of other readers, let me mention that some jews still continue to live in the ward. older members of the jewish community managed to keep agudas achim synagogue on second street open to around 1998.

Tony Hanna said...

Michael,

Lest you think that I am sitting around my office reading your blog and posting comments, I am off today and home, recuperating from a back injury. Thanks for your post about the old neighborhood.

By the way, Agudas Achim synagogue was where I "helped" on Shabbos. My dad told me stories about his being asked to "make a minyan" a few times at Agudas Achim by his Jewish friends when they used to all hang at the Sixth Ward Democratic Club. With a name like Abraham or Abe it certainly is plausible.

It's sad that so many things like that temple and the other older Orthodox temple a few doors down the street, Shari Shalom, no longer are active. I believe Shari Shalom was the first Orthodox temple in the City.

Tony

michael molovinsky said...

i understand my father's cousin "mashe" was a regular at the dem club. every older syrian i meet mentions him. i know of at least one "inter- marriage" between a jew and syrian in the ward, being a friend of the family.

i believe that shari was absorbed by agudas, and likewise agudas is now part of sons of israel. that means that sons accepts responsibility for the cemeteries of those previous congregations, which actually adjoin its cemetery anyway , off of fullerton ave.

Tony Hanna said...

Michael,

I assumed "Mashe" was related to you. He was a friend of my father's and I used to see him on Second Street and at the Sixth Ward "Demos." I used to go the "Demos" as a child to watch Yankee baseball on their TV. They had cable TV, something my family didn't get until later.

Tony

Anonymous said...

FIRST & SIXTH WARD Memories

My paternal Grandfather (and grandmother), from southeastern Austria east of the beautiful provincial capital city of Graz (3 hrs. by train SE from Vienna), and west of the Hungarian border... emigrated to Allentown around 1895 also. His first job upon arriving in Allentown was in the Buehler Furniture factory on Front St. near Neuweilers. He had been apprenticed and trained in Austira as a cabinet maker. Later he went into the saloon business at Ridge and Gordon on the SW corner at the 'Ivy Leaf Saloon' (still standing) which was owned by Neuweilers Brewery. Prohibition came and my grandfather had to find a new occupation, so he founded the Allen Bottling Works which manufactured seltzer water for use by the numerous hotels in the greater Allentown area. At this time my grandparents moved to a nice sized, single family home at 207 N. Second Street, near the Austria/German social club, The Liederkranz, of which my grandfather was one of the founding members. It had a large side and back yard and a garage facing the alley in the back with at least three rentable apartments above the gagrage. A real American success story. They became citizens, joined St. Peters Lutheran Church on Ridge Avenue (comprised mainly of Austrian Protestant emigrants), learned English, became productive Allentown citizens... the whole ball of wax.

It was a wonderful and magical time in Allentown at that time, where one could realize one's dreams.

Anon.

Anonymous said...

Correction!

The score in 1983 was 15-12 (a subconscious attempt to be gracious with Dieruff, perhaps)

The story remains the same, however.

For those who like their source material :

THE CANARY
Vol. 38 No. 3
November 29, 1983

"ALLEN BEATS DIERUFF; 'CAPTAIN SYRIA' MAKES PLAY OF VARSITY GAME"

By Albert Charlie

Nicole said...

I just found this blog today when I Googled "Allentown 6th Ward" to see what/if any interesting articles I can find to read over my lunch break. It was the first tike that I search for this information, and was plesantly surprised by what I found.

I come from a large family who all lived and mostly worked in the 6th ward and surrounding areas. By the age of 8 or so, I knew a lot of the old 'ward' stories...as I come from a family of great story tellers!

Living in the Washington D.C. metro area, I am meeting people from all over the world these days. I find myself constantly referring to my childhood by saying that I grew up in a small town.

Growing up in this "small town" I knew so many Hanna's, Atiyeh's, Joseph's, Nomie's, etc. Still today at 33, I am so interested in these stories...hence my google search!

I loved reading your post and will continue to read along.



Nicole Spang
Whitehall High School
1996

arnold fein said...

Hello molovinsky,
I found your blog today. I was born in the 6th ward in1933. My grandfather, who died very young, long before I was born, was Emanuelle Markowitz and was, I believe, the first religious head of Aguda Achim. His wife was Ida Markowitz. We lived at 234 and then 244 Hamilton St. and went to Harrison Morton grade school before departing permanently to New York City.

Arnold Fein (brother is Barry)

michael molovinsky said...

arnold, i have written about the synagogue and read about your grandfather. my grandparents first lived in the 600 block of 2nd street, which was almost all jewish at the time. agudas achim closed about 12 years ago, when the last of the ward old timers could no longer make the trip down there once a month. they had all moved to other sections of the city long before. i attended one of the last services there with my uncle. my grandfather was a founding member. thanks for the note, best wishes. michael molovinsky

arnold fein said...

Michael,
Though I spent a few of my early baby years in Brooklyn, I lived in the 6th ward from ca. 1938-1945, throughout WW2. I wonder if anybody I knew from those days is a blogger here! I certainly remember all their names and have a vivid memory of my immediate neighborhood and the names of some of the stores.

arnold fein said...

Michael,
Hello Michael,
Though I spent a few of my early baby years in Brooklyn, I lived in the 6th ward from ca. 1938-1945, throughout WW2. I wonder if anybody I knew from those days is a blogger here! I certainly remember all their names and have a vivid memory of my immediate neighborhood and the names of some of the stores.

Regards,

Arnold

michael molovinsky said...

arnold, if you care to, send another comment with your email address, and i will send you a private communication on sunday. i will not publish your email address here as a comment.

Tim Frisby said...

It's great reading these comments about Allentown's 6th Ward. I was raised in the 6th Ward. Of course I attended Sheridan, Harrison-Morton and Dieruff High School. I remember the vibrant atmosphere of Ridge Avenue and Tilghman St. in the late 60's and early 70's. I remember the Butcher's, Cobbler's, Shoe Stores, Clothes Stores and there seemed to be a bar on every corner. There was the Ridge Avenue Boy's Club. I remember the Demo Club on 2nd and Allen. My neighbor "Tucker" Cramsey frequented the club. I remember riding the pole at the Hibernia Fire Station and playing on Engine 6. Most of all I remember the people. It was a great place to grow up. My mother still lives on Green St. in the Ward.