To the Editor:
Both of my folks passed away this year. My mom, born in South Philly in 1935, was proud of growing up in this special place. My dad was from Olney and, after their marriage, lived in my grandparents’ South Philly home until they bought a house in the Northeast in 1960. He too was proud of our South Philly roots. My wife, daughter and I moved from Queen Village to Charlottesville, Va., last year and are in the process of moving again for my new job in Nashville.
I have had the same conversation with non-Philadelphians countless times since we left town. Everyone who hears I’m from Philly brings up Rocky, the historic area and our demanding sports fans. Those who are thinking of visiting talk about going to Independence Hall and South Street, finding a cheesesteak and running up the Art Museum steps. I tell them if that’s what they want to do, have a ball, but they will never fully understand what is great about my hometown unless they spend time in South Philly.
While the things they mention are nice, South Philly is where you find my hometown’s heart and meet hard-working, salt-of-the-earth folks who say what they think, work hard, play hard, pray hard and do so proudly. I tell them to walk around the Italian Market, an experience that blows away all of your senses; go to the Oregon Diner where the waitresses call you “hon;” share a booth with strangers at the Melrose; and have at least one dinner at Marra’s where my parents went for their first date in the '50s. I tell them if they want to know what is going on with real Philadelphians, grab a South Philly Review and read it from beginning to end and do not miss Phyllis Stein-Novack’s column. She is by far the best restaurant reviewer I have ever read — way better than those in major publications around the country — and if she loves a restaurant, they will too.
As much as we are looking forward to moving into our new home and exploring our new city, the one thing we cannot find anywhere else is the people of South Philly, which I have realized that, after living in the area for 45 years of my life, it was easy to take for granted. You have no idea how nice it is for me when I wear my Phillies, Flyers and Eagles gear in the south and have someone from my hometown shout a “Yo,” do the E-A-G-L-E-S chant or start talking about the cheesesteaks they miss (I get teary eyed thinking of one with whiz and onions from just about any place in South Philly).
As my wife, a native of upstate New York, always says, “You can take the boy out of Philly, but you can’t take the Philly out of the boy.”
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