June 20, 2018


Take a Walk Around the Block-Your OLD Block

Take a Walk Around the Block – Your OLD Block


By Brian Coll



Today, my sister asked me to take her dog for a walk. Nothing new, I have done this a few times and walking around the block I grew up on I see things a little differently at 40 something then I did at 20 something when I moved out. What was different today was I brought my daughter.


We started down the old alley, half dirt/half paved and there are some little hills and bumps, but to her they were big as mountains. I loved her enthusiasm as she marched up the hill. We hung in the alley for a little bit, which seems so small to me now, but back in the day we could sled, ride bikes, even have a home run derby or dodge ball game there. It was a very cool spot over the years. Pretty sure my first kiss was in this alley. I may have drank a stolen beer or two in this alley as well.


As we walked the dog around the block I just started talking to my little girl. I didn’t even realize it at first but I soon realized I was talking about each house as if it was 30 years ago or so and the families or friends that lived there. She even started asking me who lived in some of the houses and I didn’t always have an answer. A few times I threw out a fake name and I think she caught me! We headed down 9th ave and I talked about old Mrs. White and her house on the corner. I pointed out Mr. Ancin’s house. An old neighbor was out at his car and said hi as we passed. A few of the houses had big back yards and it looks like the new owners have done some cool things to the yards that back up to the alley. I pointed out the area where some old friends the Messenger brother lived. Matt, Shawn and Marc. I still see them once in awhile, it’s probably been too long at this point. I pointed out where an old football teammate and his cute sister lived. We rounded the corner and started going back up a hill and I showed her a house where our friends Tammy and her brothers Paul and Dave lived. A little further I had to point across the street and asked her if she knew that Uncle Tim and Kevin grew up there? She agreed with me, I must have told her that when she “was a baby” she’s now over 3….. A few houses up from their house was the Lowrey’s and they were lucky because they lived like 2 doors away from Josie’s Candy Store! ( I’ve talked in length about Josie’s over the years, but if you ever want to talk about Josie’s give me a call. I loved it there) Before we got to the top of the hill I pointed across the street again and talked about my old friend Bob, and how Bob lost his dad at a young age and it was one of if not the first person I remember knowing who died. It was a strange sad time. I hope me and my kids get to take lots of walks and I’m around for awhile. Rounding the corner again I pointed to a house on the other side of the street and told her that she met the girl that lived there named Chastity at a party a few weeks ago. We were now standing where Cartwell and his sister Chablis lived with their family. Next up were the Lillicks ( I just saw a photo of myself and the Lillick girls in the new Conshohocken book) Next to them were some old friends Dave and Serge Bielanko. We started walking to the Dean’s old house and I had to take a step back and told my daughter that Dave and Serge were the guys in the band Marah and she was just playing with them and their kids a couple weeks ago at the concert. She remembered them, and asked to hear one of their songs. So….I guess I know who I’m listening to tonight. I started to mention the Dean’s….Phil and Diane. We shared a small concrete alley with them.


On any given day in the summertime you could find a number of these people out on Forrest Street playing something. It really didn’t matter what. Other kids came and played on Forrest Street or in the alley as well. Of course the games changed as we got older. A hot day like this there might have even been a slip and slide out. I probably gave my parents a heart attack with some of the water bills! Later in the evening we would catch the lightning bugs. During the day we would play all kinds of tag, kickball, dodgeball, ride our bikes, find a few cents on the ground and go see what we could buy at Josie’s. Sometimes we would venture down to Sutcliffe Park, maybe play in one of the creeks in the area. I’m not sure I could find one today, but as a kid you could find a creek and of course mud. I don’t think I ever owned white sneakers and if I did they only were white for one day. At the creek we would find crayfish, I see them on menus at restaurants every once in awhile and think I could have made a few bucks as a kid catching them. I probably would have just spent the money at Josie’s….. by the way, if that building ever comes up for sale, we should open a penny candy place in her memory, (I know I’m not the only one who remembers that place fondly)


A few of the other neighborhood kids I remember, not all of them lived on the one block walk me and my daughter took yesterday… Pat and Brian Dunleavy would come to hang out with us, every once in awhile their older sister Val would be around. Dave Carroll always seemed to ride his Diamondback down Forrest Street from 11th and Fayette. Walt Hauk would come up from the Sutcliffe Park area once in awhile. As we got a little older our circle grew a little wider and some kids would meet us from the other aves….. Even some of the older kids would get in one of the games, Rob, Scotty, Jimmy, Ronnie.


As we walked back in the door and took the dog off the leash, my daughter wanted to see the alley one more time, not sure if she saw something on our walk that she wanted to check out or not, but I was happy to take a quick walk back down the alley. She wanted to show me she could climb up a manhole cover that sits in the alley at a strange angle. It was cute and a perfect way to end our walk and my trip down memory lane. Jackie, anytime you need us to walk your dog, you let me know. We’ll be happy to take that walk.


thanks for reading.

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