Jerry McGonigle, who lives in the Marie Lederer Senior Center.
Jerry McGonigle looks at Palmer Park, across the street from his home in the former St. Mary’s Hospital, and sees things the rest of us can’t.
“I look over there, and I remember riding my bike, I remember my father sitting on a bench right over there,” he said.
His life in Fishtown has come full-circle: he was born and baptized in St. Mary’s Hospital, and lives there now that it’s been converted into a senior living facility.
McGonigle was born in 1941 and lived on Memphis Street, where he remembers his house costing 29 dollars per month in rent.
“The same house now just sold for $360,000,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s amazing how you see this neighborhood change for the better,” he said, recalling memories of both a popcorn and a Pepsi-Cola factory in Fishtown. He and his friends would get snacks from both, and then hang out at Palmer Street Cemetery, of all places.
Once, a tombstone fell on him in the cemetery, and he was patched up at St. Mary’s. Clearly, he’s got a strong connection to the neighborhood.
The changing vibe of the neighborhood, McGonigle said, is a great thing.
“A lot of old Fishtowners call these new young people ‘yuppies,’ he said. I talk to them in the park, they’re nice people helping the neighborhood. In the years to come, Fishtown is going to be really coming up. It’s going to be your next Society Hill.”
When McGonigle walks around the neighborhood and spends time at his favorite Fishtown bar, Fishtown’s 15th Round, he said he pictures his mother pushing his siblings in a stroller, or remembers girls he had crushes on in 4th grade.
“In Fishtown, what you see is what you get. People don’t walk around with a golden spoon in their mouth. The old timers walk around with Fishtown sweatshirts and have Fishtown license plates. The word I would use is ‘pride.’”
McGonigle said he thinks it’s a miracle that he was able to come back to live the rest of his life in Fishtown.
“Thomas Wolfe wrote, ‘You can’t go home again.’ Me,” he said, “I can go home again.” ••