Saturday, April 29, 1967. I was a 13-year-old eighth grader. In the afternoon I listened to the opera, Die Walküre, the second in a weekly series of radio broadcasts of Wagner’s four-part Ring of the Nibelung. Late in the afternoon my mother, sister, and I visited Aunt Ella, my father’s older sister. It was Passover week. Every year, my mother prepared a large, traditional Jewish meal for the holiday, though we didn’t have a Seder.
When I was a small child in the 1950s, just before Passover, my mother used to take me to the still extant Jewish market in my father’s old neighborhood in North Philadelphia to buy carp and whitefish for gefilte fish and a kosher chicken for soup. In the early years of their marriage, my parents lived in an apartment in that neighborhood, near Aunt Ella, who taught my mother the art of Jewish cuisine. There was a vibrant street life on Marshall Street, a bustling marketplace in the heart of the Jewish Northern Liberties community. Jewish merchants set up pushcarts or worked in storefronts selling a variety of goods and services. The pushcart area was basically a bazaar. It was akin to what you think of the mall today, but all outdoors. There were pushcarts on both sides of the street – one right next to each other. There were pushcarts for bananas, a pushcart for potatoes, one for produce. As a small child, I witnessed that world.
On this April afternoon in 1967, I chatted with Aunt Ella about my eagerness to start high school in the fall. Like Aunt Ella’s son, Leonard, I would be attending Central. She mentioned that she did volunteer work at the Widener School, a school for disabled children, which was near Central’s campus.
Later in the week, Aunt Ella spoke with my father. He said she gushed to him about what a fine young man I was turning into.