Theresa Varillo, who lives on Gaul Street.
You might say Theresa Varillo’s Port Richmond home is the rock of her life.
She’s lived in it since she was born in 1942, save for a while living in Kensington after she was married. She and her husband returned to the Gaul Street home in 1987. In the decades since, she said the house has remained steadfast among many neighborhood changes.
“It just looked different,” she said of decades-ago Port Richmond. “There were lots of trees, and hedges on the sides of all the houses. It was more beautiful here.”
When she was growing up, she said that Richmond Street was a bustling shopping destination, and with the neighborhood’s three movie theatres, enjoying films on the silver screen was a popular pastime.
“It was 25 cents for a kid, and 50 cents for an adult to go to the movies,” she said. Now, she said, she wants to see Richmond Street return to its former glory.
“I’m hoping it can be more like [Main Street] Manayunk,” she said.
She said most of the people living on her street growing up had been living there since the houses were built.
“The atmosphere is different,” she said of Port Richmond now. “[Then] people sat outside and they talked, the churches had block parties and two-week carnivals.” The best decade, she said, was the 1950s.
“It really was like ‘The Happy Days,’” she said. “It wasn’t until the Vietnam War that things really got messed up.”
She said she feels relatively safe in the neighborhood, and that Port Richmond is a great place to raise a family.
Port Richmond, Varillo said, has a small-town feeling that is “stuck in time.”
“We still have the feeling of people knowing each other, of neighbors being very helpful,” she said. “I’m glad I stayed here.” ••