Oct 6, 2022

Growing Up Parkway

I'm a baby boomer. I was born in December of 1946. As soon as my mother climbed out of the hospital bed, another woman climbed in. I grew up in the neighborhood now called Little Lehigh Manor, wedged between Lehigh Street and the top of the ravine above Lehigh Parkway. 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, our own grocery store, and the park to play in. On Saturdays, older kids would take us along 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, and a banana split at one of the five and dimes, we would take the bus back over the bridge to Lehigh Street.

Not that many people know where Lehigh Parkway Elementary School is. It's tucked up at the back of the development of twin homes on a dead end street, but I won't say exactly where. I do want to talk about the photograph. It's May Day, around 1952-53. May Day was big then, so were the unions; Most of the fathers worked at the Steel, Mack, Black and Decker, and a hundred other factories going full tilt after the war. The houses were about 8 years old, and there were no fences yet. Hundreds of kids would migrate from one yard to another, and every mother would assume some responsibility for the herd when it was in her yard. Laundry was hung out to dry. If you notice, most of the "audience" are mothers, dads mostly were at work. I'm at the front, right of center, with a light shirt and long belt tail. Don't remember the girl, but see the boy in front of me with the big head? His father had the whole basement setup year round with a huge model train layout. There were so many kid's, the school only went up to second grade. We would then be bused to Jefferson School for third through sixth grade. The neighborhood had its own Halloween Parade and Easter egg hunt. We all walked to school, no one being more than four blocks away.

reprinted from June of 2008


  1. Since you brought up a downtown matinee, where did you watch them?

    I'm a little younger than you and can remember going to the Colonial or Capri theaters to watch movies downtown. I also remember the multi-screen Eric movie theater at 4th and Hamilton, but that was later and may have helped with the demise of the single screen theaters that remained on Hamilton. I think there was at least one other theater downtown, but that may have been slightly before my time and I just can't remember the name.

    Anyway, I always considered the small geological garden sandwiched between the Colonial Theater and the Old Lehigh County Courthouse (which then housed the Historical Society Museum) to be one of the hidden gems along Hamilton. The garden was always on the agenda after a movie at the Colonial, along with a bit of browsing at Ossie's Coin Shop.

  2. anon@3:43: Back then there was a theater on the south side of Hamilton called the Midway, they specialized in those matinees.

  3. Thanks for letting me know it was the Midway.

    I did a quick internet search, and it looks like it stood at 608-610 Hamilton Street (the south side of Hamilton, as you mentioned). It was opened in 1936, renamed the Midway in 1943, but closed after a fire in May of 1955.

    It looks like it was then converted into an office building on the upper floors and housed Salomon Jewelers (another favorite of mine) on the first floor.

    Despite managing to survive WW2 and a fire, the unique building ultimately succumbed to the NIZ, being replaced by a cookie-cutter glass structure.

    I'm guessing you already covered that last part in another post.

  4. I have similar memories. I grew up on South Jefferson St in Lehigh Parkway. Across the street were fields until they built the shopping center. I also went to Lehigh Parkway K to 4th grade and then was taken by bus to Sheridan. Tom Raub