Story Archive May 09 2012

What will become of Philly schools?

Concerned residents questioned school officials on overhaul plan at input meeting.

Editorial: Get down to business

The more things change, the more they stay the same.That old saying applies to so many things, including the long commercial strip along Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philly’s Castor Gardens and Oxford Circle sections — where the types of businesses, like the surrounding neighborhoods, have undergone somewhat of a transformation of late.Change can be a good thing, even in the wonderful world of good old-fashioned family-run businesses, which are prevalent on Bustleton Avenue, which has seen an influx of Asian, Middle Eastern and Hispanic merchants.Indeed, ZIP code 19149 was described as a “global nation” by an Asian-American official of the city’s Commerce Department, which last week stepped up efforts to create a Bustleton Avenue Business Association.The new group would address issues that long ago have been tackled by organizations in other Philadelphia neighborhoods, including security, sidewalk cleanliness and parking. To be sure, the Northeast deserves some of the blame for the City of Brotherly Love’s other, less charitable nickname, Filthydelphia, so whatever the new Bustleton Avenue group can do to chip away at that embarrassing moniker would be welcome. Upgrades to the sidewalks and installation of benches would be a good start.The new inhabitants on the residential and business sectors, along with the old-timers who have not yet fled to greener, “safer” pastures in suburbia, represent an opportunity to rejuvenate an area that once put the “bustle” in Bustleton. All it takes is for the merchants — ALL of the merchants — to join together and make it happen.Send letters to:

Honoring heroes at Living Flame Memorial

Philadelphia honors its fallen firefighters and police officials, including Lt. Robert Neary and fireman Daniel Sweeney, during the Living Flame Memorial.

Letters to the Editor: May 9, 2012

Firefighters are grateful for public supportTo the citizens of Philadelphia:As you all know, this has been a very rough time for the members of our union. The men and women firefighters and paramedics of Local 22 have suffered a tragic loss. I am humbled by the outpouring of sympathy and support shown by you, the citizens of this great city.Your generosity, kindness and empathy have had a profound impact on our members, and though we will be in mourning for some time, you have shown us all that the sacrifice these men made does not go unappreciated by you.When we lose a member in the line of duty it is never easy. We chose a profession — no, a calling — where we go out each day to try and help our fellow citizens, and when we lose one of our own in the process, it really hits home. We are faced with the dangers of our profession day in and day out. We as firefighters and paramedics have answered the call to put ourselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and the property of our city.One thing that we did not sign up for is to have the very city we have sworn to protect attempt to systematically cut the necessary resources it takes for our members to do their jobs in a manner that is not only safe for you the citizen, but for our members.We appreciate all that you the citizens of Philadelphia have done for us. Your prayers and your kindness have helped us begin to heal. Remember that we are always there for you, and I will never forget how you have been there for us.Bill GaultPresident, Local 22 IAFF

Keep on food truckin': PhillyMFA event supports Fishtown's LSH

Philadelphia Mobile Food Association brings food and funds to Fishtown, and residents savor both.

Thanks for the memories, Northeast Times

Over the last couple of weeks, some kind folks have asked what the biggest change has been in my 25 years at the Northeast Times, and it gets me thinking.Hmmm. I suppose it’s that I don’t goof around and raise as much hell as I used to here. And on Saturday nights I’m usually snoozin’ by 10.That’s when I realize they’re asking about technology and stuff. Oops … stupid me!May 9 closes a quarter-century run for me as editor of the Northeast Times, a personally enriching and glorious run that I don’t measure by anything I’ve done, but rather by the remarkable people — some still in this Trevose building, many spread elsewhere, a few who have left us forever — who have given me a cardboard box full of wonderful memories to chuck in the back seat.Initially, I wasn’t moved to do a “farewell column.” Too many good things have spurred the Times’ growth over the years that I won’t ever be able to take credit for. But then I figured maybe I should do a farewell column, simply because I fret about the future of newspapers these days, and perhaps in 2550 when Franklin Mills is being knocked down to make way for a regional government launching station that will send colonies of Northeast Philly residents to Jupiter, this edition will be unearthed, and someone will marvel that there really was a paper called the Times that chronicled life in the Northeast for years and years and years.To be honest, so much of those 25 years … I can only recall it with a haziness akin to driving up 95 to work on a fog-enshrouded morning. But I doubt I’ll ever forget March 1, 1987, the day Lou Chimenti, the executive editor of the Smylie family’s Northeast Times, gave me the chance to leave a South Jersey newspaper — where the editors were ensconced and becoming the fossils that I myself have become — and boss people around in my own newsroom.What a wonderful 35th birthday gift!The Times was on Frankford Avenue in Holmesburg then, just above Rhawn Street, in a narrow and crumbling white stucco building that I figured had to have been built around the time of the Louisiana Purchase. I just remember arriving for the job interview and peering out my car window, unsure I was at the right place, thinking, “I hope that’s not it, it looks so … so … condemned.”It was the right place.A week later — my very first day — immediately established the tone for why I’ve wanted to be here all these years. I felt good that morning. Figured I’d wowed my new, young staff with my personality and knowledge shaped by 12 years in the business, and I was ready to tackle lunch.Rich Bradley was the young managing editor, a talented but pain-in-the-butt little rascal who wore a stud earring long before guys even had the brass to do that. I think he also invented “Let’s Haze the Editor.”“Where can I eat that’s fast?” I asked Bradley.“Well, there’s a Roy Rogers restaurant. Just go onto Frankford Avenue, turn right, and walk two or three blocks … you’ll see it.”Seven blocks later, this Roy Rogers still was nowhere in sight. So I kept walking, block after block, thinking surely it had to be the next one, feeling very much like Peter O’Toole in the movie Lawrence of Arabia as he meandered across the desert in search of water, but at least Peter had a camel. And finally there it was, Roy Rogers, roughly a mile from the office.I know that some people may call that trek stupidity. I prefer to call it optimism. Either way, as I wiped my glistening forehead with a napkin and bit into my Roy’s Double-R Ranch Burger, I took out my small writing pad and pen.“Note to self: Fire that kid.”Yes, it was an endearing place. But it also established a 25-year journey that I will remember most for remarkable colleagues in all our departments — in my newsroom, in advertising and business, in production, in circulation — who shared the goal of growing a wonderful Northeast Philly newspaper that had been an heirloom of the Smylie family for 65 years, until they sold it with reluctance in 1999. I wish I could take time to name them all. But I’d be like the guy who wins the Oscar for Best Totally Obscure Foreign Film and has 266 people to thank — and then the orchestra music suddenly builds to a crescendo, his clue to get his butt off the stage.I will say there’s a little Oscar I’m taking with me. It’s a miniature version of the Times front page embedded in a glass cube, a Pennsylvania Newspaper Association honor for having been selected as best statewide weekly in our circulation category a few years back. We were fortunate to have won that award twice; I gave the first cube to former owner Bob Smylie, but I need to keep this one, not as any trophy, but simply as a memory. I’m grateful to all at this paper who have enriched my life. I’m grateful for so many young journalists over the years, so into this business and so eager to learn, because they kept me young too. I’m grateful for the loyal readers and advertisers who’ve believed in the Times. Grateful too for Northeast Philly, such an amazing coverage area with so many stories to tell. I’m especially grateful that I could work in jeans.Of course, there is always unfinished business. And there are worries, whether it’s the fragile future of newspapers, or a new generation of journalists wondering when opportunity will knock, or even if the Northeast Times can keep fighting in this unpredictable era for newspapers.I think I’ve done all I can do.So I’m pleased to offer best wishes to Lillian Swanson, a veteran Philly newswoman who came on board as editor this week to help our publisher, Perry Corsetti, and owner Darwin Oordt keep the pages turning here at the Times.I do need to express my affection for some longtimers who have devoted huge parts of their lives to this paper, and their names are familiar to many: managing editor Fred Gusoff, reporters Tom Waring and Bill Kenny, and our community editor, Joyce Ruggero.I just cleaned out a lot of years of stuff but didn’t keep much, only because sentimentality has a way of making the suitcase too heavy. Besides, most of it is stored in my head and in my heart.And as time passes, my friends, that will bring me the best feeling of all.Thanks for making it happen.

What's up with the budget? Council gets an earful in Kensington

Local residents let council hear their concerns about city funding and other issues during a budget hearing held in Kensington.

Northeast High's space students go to the moon

Some Northeast High students went to the moon this week. The trip wasn’t just for laughs, but they had a few getting there and back. And, since nobody died, we are happy to report the lunar mission ended on an up note.

Debby Boone will light up the Keswick

Probably best known for her 1977 hit You Light Up My Life, which led to her winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Debby Boone will light up the stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside next Sunday, May 13.“Of course, that song will be included in my show,” says the 55-year-old singer. “I think people would be really upset with me if they came to my show and I left that one out. Today, because it’s become such a standard, I realize I owe it to my audience to sing it.”Boone is comfortable singing that song now, but it wasn’t always that way.“When I sang that song I sang it to God, even though most people saw it as a romantic song,” she explained. “When I recorded it I wasn’t in a relationship, so I felt like this was a kind of prayer and so I sang it that way.” But, Boone admitted, because of the popularity of that song, a song that was on almost everyone’s lips once it came out, she got really nervous.“It seemed that for the next three years, nobody wanted me except to do that song,” she said. “That’s all they wanted and so I felt I would never be allowed to grow or sing anything else.”But she needn’t have worried.The third of four daughters born to singer-actor Pat Boone and Shirley Foley Boone — daughter of country music star Red Foley — Boone was just 14 years old when she began touring with her parents and sisters. Later, when the other sisters dropped out of the spotlight, Debby Boone decided she wanted more. That’s when record producer Mike Curb urged Boone to release her first hit solo, You Light Up My Life. “Singing and touring with my dad came about because he didn’t want to travel so much and leave us behind. So we went with him,” she said. “But I think he thought his daughters should get married and settle down. But from the first time I hit the stage, I loved the attention I got. I knew I had found what I could do well and enjoy for the rest of my life.”And she was right. Since those early beginnings, Boone has gone on to make a name for herself in many aspects of music, leading to tours with her father and frequent television appearances. After the success of her first big hit, Boone later focused her music career on country music resulting in the 1980 No. 1 country hit, Are You on the Road to Lovin’ Me Again. In the ‘80s, she recorded Christian music that garnered her four top 10 Contemporary Christian albums as well as two more Grammys.And then, she said, much to her surprise, she was approached to appear in stage productions nationwide including lead roles in Camelot, Meet Me In St. Louis, South Pacific, The Human Comedy and more. “My first show was Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,” Boone recalled. “I think I was one of the lucky ones who got asked to do that role for a Broadway tour rather than having to audition with many others. They came to me because of You Light Up My Life, and I was absolutely thrilled for the opportunity.”Boone’s latest CD, titled Reflections of Rosemary, is a musical portrait of her late mother-in-law, the legendary singer Rosemary Clooney. It is a collection of 14 standards chosen for their significance to Boone’s life with Clooney and will be featured when Boone comes to the Keswick.Married for many years to Gabriel Ferrer, one of Clooney’s sons from her marriage to actor Jose Ferrer, Boone said her spirituality is one of the major reasons she’s been able to enjoy and get through the ups and downs in her life.“My parents were great role models. Watching how my father handled the ups and downs in his own career and in his life gave me the strength I needed in my own life,” she concluded.For show times and ticket information, call 215-572-7650.

Riverward upcoming events for this week, May 9

We've got you covered! Here's our list of what's going on in your communities in the weeks ahead. Plus, a special section for Mother's Day events (can't forget about her!)