Dan Donahue Interview

Dan Donahue Screenshot

Dublin Core

Title

Dan Donahue Interview

Subject

Tacony Creek Park

Description

Dan Donahue was interviewed on December 27 for the Oral History Project.

Creator

Ambrose Liu

Date

12-27-2018

Contributor

Olney Cultural Lab

Rights

Copyright of this site is held by Manor College Library under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC which restricts commercial use.

Relation

Tookany/ Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, Inc.

Format

mp3

Language

English

Type

Sound Recording

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Ambrose Liu

Interviewee

Dan Donahue

Location

[no text]

Transcription

Dan Donahue intw TTFWP

AMBROSE LIU: All right. So, wonderful. Um, today is December 27, 2018, and I’m here with --
DAN DONAHUE: Dan Donahue.
AL: Uh, who has agreed to be interviewed for the uh, Tookany/Tacony Creek oral history project. Um, it’s a partnership between, um, Olney Culture Lab and the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership. Uh, first of all, thank you, Dan, for, you know, making the time to do this. Um, I remember when I met you over the summer or late spring, and you had shared a couple of very colorful stories. I was, like, thinking recently, I need to get in touch with him. Um, so you grew up in Olney. [00:01:00] Um, when did you live and spend your time in Olney?
DD: Right. So, first of all, when [Christina?] had told me about, like, the food tour that you were leading, I think everybody else was in it for the interest of the food. I was interested in the Olney component of it, because, you know, my family, my mom lived there, and I guess my grandmother moved there in the ‘40s, so I think my other grandmom probably moved to her neighborhood, which is technically Feltonville, in the ‘50s. But we lived there in the ‘70s. In the ‘70s -- around 1974 -- we moved to New Jersey, but both of my grandmothers stayed in their houses, and we would always be between their two houses. And Fifth Street was kind of the common street, and we would spend a lot of time in their neighborhoods. We would spend the summers there, and, like, weeks at a time. [00:02:00] I’m one of eight kids. Some of us would stay at one grandmother’s, some of us would stay at another grandmother’s. We’d meet for dinner. So, you know, um, we spend a lot of time in Olney, even after we moved out of it and lived in New Jersey. And so, there’s kind of, like, three phases of my life. You know, there’s, like, history of thinking of, like, the way my mom or my grandmom think of Olney and what it meant to them in, like, the ‘50s. And then my experience of, like, the ‘70s as a young kid. And then, you know, the ‘80s and ‘90s. There was a lot of transition, in my opinion, and maybe it started sooner, but I would see it more, like, in the ‘80s. A lot of changes to the uh, mix of the neighborhoods. Yeah, and I was just curious to see, with all this time passed, and now it being 2018, I had a feeling that a lot of the transitions was, like, well [00:03:00] established now, and I was curious to kind of go in there as an outsider, even though I was an insider at one point, and just see what the experience was like. So, that’s why I was interested in the Olney tour. So, then, just to kind of lay it out, my one grandmom lived at Fifth and Fisher, which is in Olney; my other grandmom lived on Second Street, Second and Wyoming, which I think technically is Feltonville. But they were connected Incarnation Parish, which is at Fifth and Lindley, which is kind of in the middle, too, a little closer (inaudible), kind of in the middle, and the 47 bus kind of goes along, which is ironic because the 47 bus goes through my, my current neighborhood. And so, every time I see the 47 bus, I always say to my sisters, “I want to make a movie.” I have this movie idea, that I get on the 47, and it takes me back to, like, 1982 and [00:04:00] the days when we would, like, spend our summers in Olney and, like, you know, the world was great, and my grandmoms were healthy, and all that. So, but before we moved to New Jersey, uh, for a couple years we lived on a little street around the corner from my grandmother in Feltonville/Olney kind of area, just under the boulevard, around Fifth and the boulevard, but it was actually a little street called Mentor Street. But it was between Fifth and the boulevard and my grandmom’s house at Second and Wyoming. So, I don’t know how we started going to Tookany Creek. Well, I know in the sense of the picture I showed you, and I actually found another picture of that same day. So, that was the spring of ‘73, so that was definitely the days when we started going there often, and a lot of these pictures are really more of these Olney kinds of pictures. [00:05:00] The picture I had sent you, which I don’t have except the one I sent to you, but I went back to my house, and I have this small [box?]. My mom just passed away summer of 2017, unfortunately; she’d have all the facts. But this was the same day, and this is Tookany Creek. Um, and so, this is the spring of ‘73. So, what it means to me mostly is going there for things like Easter, like, for big occasions, and we would always get our picture taken. And so, it was kind of a spot that we would, you know, go to for, like, pictures. Um, you know, we lived in a very little, kind of tight little street with no green around us whatsoever, so my, my feeling is, for my parents, it was kind of this nice photo op kind of spot, is what I think, because I know there are a lot of these [00:06:00] kinds of pictures somewhere in my mom’s stuff. I just have this small box at my house that I went through in the five minutes I had. And all these other pictures was various pictures of Olney and the houses that we lived in. But just to focus on Tookany, so that was the first thing. You know, there’s a lot of pictures of us all dressed up for, like, Easter kind of thing. Um, then I was talking to my sisters about this in preparation. They say that they remember -- and I wonder if they’re right -- but they remember, like, a little playground area, and there was, like, I think there might have also been, like, one of those things that goes around and around, and you stand on. You know...
AL: A merry-go-round?
DD: Not like a merry-go-round, but everyone sits, stands on it --
AL: Right.
DD: It’s probably not, like, safe these days, [00:07:00] but you know. And you push the kids around. But they also had this other thing that was kind of like a wall, and it was made out of metal, and you kind of climbed up it, and then you kind of slide down it. I know exactly what they’re talking. My one sister is positive that was Tookany Creek. So, um, so from our collective memory, there was, like, a playground area there. I don’t know if that’s a fact or not, and my other sister recently told me that she was trying to go somewhere, probably one of my grandmoms’ houses, and have the GPS took her, and it accidentally took her to the entrance of Tookany Creek. And she thought that was a sign, because how did she end up there? And she recognized it immediately, and she said that those swings or that some kind of playground is still there. [00:08:00] Because I wasn’t even sure where we accessed the creek. She seems pretty confident, um -- and actually, it’s this sister right here; uh, my sister [Denise?], the younger one. And she was born in 1970. She seems to think it was straight down Wyoming Avenue, and if you went straight down Wyoming Avenue, in the map that she sent to me there’s actually a little Fisher’s Lane, which is interesting. My mom grew up on Fisher’s Avenue. So, she made it sound like it’s there. I don’t know if you know. She made it sound like there’s an entrance.
AL: There are multiple entrances.
DD: OK.
AL: Yeah.
DD: So, she --
AL: Because it’s --
DD: It’s not like we entered it. And from what I remember, too, I remember it being pretty well defined --
AL: Yeah.
DD: -- as, like, a park. It wasn’t like, you know, it wasn’t like we were using it, and nobody else was. It was, like, a park.
AL: Right.
DD: So, I think it’s one of the questions you were asking, is, like, where did [00:09:00] we access it? So, that’s kind of what they tell me. I don’t really remember. I don’t remember ever walking there. I do remember driving by, and my mom saying, “That’s Tookany Creek,” but also, the way it meanders through, she was pointing out a part, not where we accessed it.
AL: Your grandmother in Feltonville might have lived closer to the creek than your grandmother up in Fifth and Fisher --
DD: Yeah.
AL: -- now that I’m thinking about it. So, it’s possible that you accessed it a little further south in Olney.
DD: Yeah. Now that my sisters are talking about it, and the fact that the house that we lived in was around the corner from my grandmother in Feltonville, I think we might have accessed it -- like my sister said, when her GPS took her there, it was, like, just straight down Wyoming Avenue --
AL: Yeah.
DD: -- and then there’s a little thing called Fisher Lane, and she --
AL: There’s a rec center there [00:10:00] right next to it.
DD: Well, see, that’s interesting, because I remember walking there with my grandmom to that rec center.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: We wouldn’t do it often, because it was a little bit of a distance, from what I remember. But you know, we would walk to that rec center.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: Matter of fact, I was just thinking that I used to love when we would go there. Um, so how far would it be from the rec center?
AL: I think it’s right next to it.
DD: OK. Well, then, there you go. I do remember walking to that rec center, and I wonder if that rec center might be where my sisters are thinking of, like, this equipment.
AL: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
DD: So, it’s funny, because I have very vivid memories of my grandmom taking us to the rec center. I don’t think of my grandmom, like, taking us to Tookany Creek. I think of my parents -- who later split up -- but my parents, before they split up, taking us there with my grandmother.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: [00:11:00] Um, and actually, I can say I remember my nana -- that’s my grandmom on Second and Wyoming -- I can definitely remember her being there. I would think both grandmothers were there, but I’m positive, like, my grandmom from that neighborhood was there. So, that probably answers that question --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- in terms of where we accessed it.
AL: Yeah.
DD: And then the last phase, and this is where the story came in. So, we moved to New Jersey in 1974.
AL: How old were you?
DD: So, I was seven. I was born in ‘67. I was, like, seven. And the story that I had mentioned to you, my sisters and I -- I think I was, like, 11 or 12.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: So, there was a period there that we would be living in New Jersey, but my dad left around ‘78. So, let me think. (inaudible) -- I don’t remember my dad being at this event, [00:12:00] so -- let me think. So, I was 11, so that would be, like, ‘78, right? So, yeah. It’s probably around the time that he left. So, it was my mom taking us to visit my grandmothers and my uncle, who was my dad’s brother. And so then I also remember going to Tookany Creek, probably that same area, for picnicking.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: And again, especially my grandmom in Feltonville, there was, like, no greenspace. In Olney there were, like, little yards.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: Not much. Um, so I think of it as just a place that we would go for picnicking. And then you want me to walk through the story that I was telling you about?
AL: I’d love to. I’d absolutely love to.
DD: OK.
AL: Yeah.
DD: So, it’s funny, because I was asking my sisters, you know, what they think of when they say, “Tookany Creek,” and they all kind of have variations [of remembering?] the story. But anyway, my one sister said that [00:13:00] I got a concussion and, you know, my sister who’s a year younger than me, she got it right the most, and if I have my phone with me, I can even read exactly what she said. Let’s see. If I find it quickly.
AL: So, she emailed you [a reply?]?
DD: I sent a group text to about it to everybody.
AL: Oh, OK.
DD: Um, let me see if I can find it. There’s a bunch of group text here. [00:14:00] Yeah, I see it. Uh... As we’re going back and forth, my youngest sister says, “That sounds terrible.” You know, she doesn’t remember any of it. Um, damn it, maybe I can’t find it. There are just too many other similar messages. But I had just sent a message to them, saying, you know, I started a different chain, and I said, you know, I was meeting with you to talk about Tookany Creek. “Does anyone have any special memories?” And the main one that came out was the story of me falling into the creek. So, [00:15:00] we were there for a picnic, and, you know, we were trying to figure out who was the person who threw the ball. Somebody thinks it was my uncle. I tend to think it was one of my sisters. But you know, we were just having a catch, and somebody threw the ball. Somebody in my family threw the ball, and like, in slow motion, I remember jumping up and going to catch it, and we’ll assume I caught it. But as soon as I caught it, I knew that there was no ground below me and that I was, like, above the creek and landed right in the creek. And I also remember it being pretty, like, strong current, and having rocks. And you know, I was, like, asking my sisters, like, “Am I exaggerating that in my head?” They all seemed to agree that the current was pretty strong.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: So, I don’t know if that even says something about where we were. So, I’m being kind of thrown down there and kind of bumped around with rocks and everything, and then I kind of, as I remember, [00:16:00] hold onto the side of, like, vines or weeds, and I remember it being a little higher bank. Like, I was kind of lower, and there was, like, a bank, you know, and then maybe, like, that much of a difference, as I can recall. And so I’m safe, and I’m holding myself there, and I don’t feel like I’m unsafe, but it’s like, how do I get out of here now? And then somebody pulls me out, and then we all kind of just focus on, “Are you OK? Are you OK?” And then we kind of get our bearings. We’re like, “Who was that person who did that?” And he was no -- whoever did, man or woman, I think it was a man -- was nowhere to be found. We never figured out who pulled me out of the creek. So, the story that we always say is, you know, Superman pulled me out of the river -- out of the creek. And you know, over the years it kind of got elaborated, embellished. My sister said I had a concussion and all that. But it was just so funny, because, you know, you catch the ball, you land in the creek, [00:17:00] and then you get pulled out by some man, and my sisters were saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if, like, through this, you know, you find out who this guy was?” So, that was the story I was telling you about.
AL: Yeah, yeah. No, I remember that being, uh, just one of those moments where I thought, All right, I might have to come back to and talk to Dan --
DD: Yeah.
AL: -- just to hear more, see if there was anything else beyond that. Just the relationship with the park and the space and, um --
DD: [Yeah, I would say the relationship?] factor, um, and you know, even at 51, like, I would say that if I could have a different job, like, I would like to be, like, an urban planner. We live in Center City, so you know the Schuylkill Banks project, what they did there. I just love when they kind of take areas and not only [00:18:00] take advantage of the greenspace, but, like, make it public access to it. And it brings back, like, seeing the city with greenspaces intertwined. And, uh, another thing that I’m very passionate about is the, you know, the program that they’re taking over railroads in Center City --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- and they’re converting them into parks --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- and some of them are going to be elevated.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: So, we kind of checked out in phase one, like, around -- in Chinatown, like, maybe not Chinatown; 12th and Callowhill.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: We went there and checked it out. Like, I’m fascinated when they kind of take, um, spaces, and they kind of bring them back to life and try to encourage city people --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- to, uh, you know, take advantage of greenspace. So, that’s a strong passion. And so, it probably does go back to that, because that was our only greenspace in those days. Like, in the early ‘70s, you know, Tookany Creek was probably our only access to greenspace, [00:19:00] because we didn’t really leave the city much. My parents had me at 20; I was their third. They had eight kids at 29.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: So, you know, they, uh, weren’t college graduates. My mom became a pharmacist later in life --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- but in those days, you know, they had a lot of kids, and, uh, you know, probably you didn’t, like, leave; you’re probably pretty insular to that neighborhood at the time. So, I think Tookany Creek was probably our greenspace.
AL: Yeah. And then I know this is tangential, but what compelled you to move to New Jersey?
DD: Um, you know, so I think it was just my father and the neighborhood and, like, corner bars and things like that.
AL: Oh, OK.
DD: So, I think it was mostly, um, trying to get my father [00:20:00] out of the neighborhood, not the neighborhood as far as, like, the specific block or something, but I think, you know, it was just he was drinking too much, and I think my mom just saw the opportunity of, like, you know, growing up in a place where there was a lot of open space for the kids. And then there was this house that, um, he was going to renovate, and they had all these grand plans. Now, he ended up leaving instead --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- so, um, that’s a whole other story. But I think it was mostly, um, a combination of the family being as big as it was. Like, in 1974 -- the picture I sent to you --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- [Regina?] wasn’t born, and [Amy?] wasn’t born, so I think there were six in the picture. So, six kids. My mom, she had Regina in ‘74, so she might have already been pregnant or soon to be pregnant.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: Then she had Amy in ‘76. So, I think it was just [00:21:00] a combination of, um, you know, just trying to start fresh and have some opportunity for all of us kids and --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- in an area where my father maybe could get pulled out of, um, some of his drinking hangouts.
AL: Mm-hmm. Um, so Feltonville, Olney: I’m assuming back then it was predominantly, uh, it sounds like, European-American. Like, Irish, German --
DD: German, yeah. Like, my grandmom would always say how she loved the Germans, how good they were, like, keeping their sidewalks clean, and they would scrub their sidewalks.
AL: Uh-huh.
DD: I remember her always talking about how much she loved the Germans. So... It was also interesting, because later, when my mom [00:22:00] was, uh, 50, she officially found out she was adopted. She never knew she was adopted, and then when she was 60, she told us, out of, um, you know, she didn’t really want to tell us, but it finally came out. She never talked to her parents about it; she never talked to anybody. But at 50, she went to Incarnation of Our Lord church, where she was raised, and her baptismal certificate said she was born in St. Vincent’s Home for Unwed Mothers. And so, the reason I bring that up is because my grandmother would always say that the most beautiful people in the world were the Irish-Germans, and I was like, “OK, that’s pretty random, but...”
(laughter)
DD: But here my mom is Irish-German.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: So, it was kind of a hint that she was saying, she was talking about her daughter. But I remember that. But outside of the Irish-German part, I do remember, I won’t say, you know, [00:23:00] who she didn’t particularly like, but she definitely did like the Germans, because, you know, she thought they kept their properties impeccable.
AL: Right.
DD: And one thing that’s interesting: during those changes, it was a big shock for her, so she moved into Olney. You know, she lived in, you know, Fifth and Fisher. Her next-door neighbor was her best friend. She had just gotten married and moved in, and I think they moved in first, and then my grandmother and my grandfather -- who I never met; he had died young -- they moved in together. So, I always knew, um, Mrs. [Gallagher?] next door. We always would talk to her, and we knew everybody. They all had front porches; we kind of knew everyone on the front porches, and even people across the street. But one of the big shocks was when Mrs. Gallagher died. An Indian family moved in, [00:24:00] and my grandmom was actually very close to them. They had a good relationship, but the two things that bothered her, because my grandmom was a very finicky eater and didn’t like, like, to her, strange smells. So, one is, um, all the spices in Indian cooking kind of seeped through into her house, and that didn’t exactly bother her. It bothered me a little bit, because it was a little bit invasive. Like, her house smelled like their kitchen, but that didn’t bother her. But what really, really bothered, which was a cultural difference -- so we, as kids, our jobs were always to make sure, like, her little lawn in front and little lawn in back were impeccably cut, that all the trash was picked up, that we swept the sidewalks. We planted the flowers exactly as she did year after year. And I think this might be culturally true; [00:25:00] you know, I’m no expert, but when that family moved in, they saw their garden as a place to grow, uh, like, food. Right? So, suddenly, all their vines, their beans, would be, like, all over my grandmom’s. There was just a little fence between them. They would be, like, all over her fence and taking over her, you know, her little geraniums or whatever they were that, you know, her red-and-white geraniums with the red, white, and blue flags. That’s how she had it every year. And I mean, it was amazing. It was all, like, you know, food -- you know, vegetables. They probably used every bit of it. But, you know, it was just a shock for her. Like, it was very foreign to her to see them use their yard that way.
AL: You know, I think this is a great digression, because [00:26:00] I’m not from Olney, but I’m fascinated by whenever I walk through neighborhoods, and I see, I think it’s mostly the Vietnamese that have the vegetable gardens in their front yard. And then you’ll have, you know, other yards that are either well maintained or not well maintained, depending on whoever lives there.
DD: Yeah.
AL: And inevitably, it’s, like, the Asians that tend to have things growing in their yard or in buckets. I see them in, like, just plastic hardware-store buckets --
DD: Oh, really?
AL: -- growing things. Um, yeah, it’s definitely, I think, depending on the person living there and their culture, you know. You know, sometimes they’ll want to grow vegetables that they may not normally find, you know, in, you know, an American supermarket --
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: -- or at least have access to that isn’t nearby. I mean, they might be able to go to [00:27:00] Chinatown and get certain things, but if you’re living in Olney, you may not. Um, so that’s interesting that that happened. It’s like a little, uh, portal into the pluralism and how people, you know, bump up against each other and --
DD: Yeah, and that’s why me going back in, you know, for your food tour -- it was so weird. It was so familiar to me, but so not as well. Right?
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: Because, like, walking up Fifth Street, in my mind I’m going to the movie theater, like, pretty far north. Uh, past, like, Olney Avenue there was a movie theater we used to always go to.
AL: I think it’s a store now.
DD: Is it?
AL: Yeah.
DD: It would be on the, uh --
AL: Uh, right.
DD: On the right, going --
AL: Near Fisher Park.
DD: -- north, around Fisher Park, yeah.
AL: Yeah.
DD: [00:28:00] And then uh, we lived in the library there. I don’t know if you know the library. Like, a little farther south.
AL: It’s still there.
DD: Yeah, it’s still there. We lived in that library. The world was so different then. Like, my grandmom would give us, like, $5 each, and we would, like, go up and down Fifth Street for, like, four hours by ourselves, and some of us were under 10.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: You know, we were, like, you know, the oldest might have been 12, and the youngest would have been, like, six, and --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- we all just kind of just lived on, you know, I mean, on Fifth Street.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: And we had a blast, but, I mean, these are the images that I think of when I... Well, first of all, this is my mom in 1958. Um, so that’s kind of the world of Olney that, you know, was in my mom’s head.
AL: Yeah.
DD: You know? Um, I can’t really tell you where it is, but that’s my mom as a little kid. Um, very quickly, this is my mom’s house at Fifth and Fisher. Oh, there’s the geraniums right there.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: There was (inaudible) [00:29:00] geraniums. Um, you know, her flag is out. So, that was one house there, then her house, and the next house is where, um, her friend lived, and the Indian family.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: So, um, so that’s Fifth and Fisher. That’s also Fifth and Fisher. This is our house on Mentor Street. They all were just rental houses. This is my grandmom’s on Second Street. You know, we’re just going a little, uh, up. It’s where Wyoming Avenue was.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: So, um, then we all went to the Morrison School, I think it was called.
AL: Oh, yeah.
DD: On, uh --
AL: On --
DD: -- Third --
AL: -- Duncannon.
DD: Duncannon --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- and Second --
AL: Yeah.
DD: -- or Third. Like, behind Incarnation.
AL: Yeah.
DD: I went there recently and saw it’s still there, and, uh, you know, oh, look, you can see right -- 1973.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: I was in kindergarten, and then went to first grade at Incarnation. And it was so sad to see that, because that was, like, [00:30:00] the center of Olney -- at least Lower Olney, because there are a couple churches, Catholic churches.
AL: Yeah, St. Helena’s is in the north, and then Incarnation, yeah.
DD: And then there’s one south.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: Uh, St. Ambrose, maybe.
AL: I don’t know.
DD: Uh, my nana would always figure out what mass she was going to go to based on... But for me, Incarnation, and for my mom was, like, the center. Uh, like, that’s me, like, making my first communion. Yeah, I guess it is. Or penance or something. But, you know, we have all these pictures of, like, all the kids coming out, and the nuns. And then I went past there recently, you know -- actually, I went past there when I went to your event, and it looks like it’s kind of either abandoned, or it’s, like, a multipurpose --
AL: Yeah, the --
DD: Hard to figure out what it was.
DD: -- Catholic diocese sold it, or they’re renting it, because they couldn’t afford to keep it running. They [00:31:00] moved the -- whoever was still the congregation there, they kind of spread them out. Like, there was a Haitian Catholic congregation that was there. They are now in Lawncrest at another Catholic church there. There was, like, a Haitian Catholic congregation, I believe a Spanish-speaking one, and an English-speaking one. But attendance was so low, and given the budgetary challenges that the archdiocese has been having with lawsuits and stuff, they’ve been selling off churches left and right.
DD: Yeah.
AL: They just can’t afford to keep them --
DD: Yeah --
AL: -- you know.
DD: -- I’m sure everyone says the same thing for their church, but it was such a grand church.
AL: Yeah.
DD: It was kind of remarkable. Uh, so, like, even to this day, you know, my feelings of Catholicism are strongly influenced by the magnificence of that church.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: And I do remember they had a downstairs Spanish mass, I believe --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- you know. So, um, and I just remember there was a separate mass [00:32:00] that was Spanish-speaking, so clearly in those days, you know, the neighborhood had changed so much that they had Spanish-speaking masses. But anyway, another thing I wanted to just say is how prominent the churches were --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- you know, and those neighborhoods were really defined -- you would hear the bells go off at, you know, 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. or whatever times they went off. And, you know, Fifth and Fisher to, like, uh, Fifth and Lindley, I think it is, is a pretty significant distance, but you could hear the bell loud and clear and it kind of reminds me in Europe, you know. We always knew what time it was when you would hear the bell go off and --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- so, you know, I definitely appreciate that. But my mom, you know, even had it more so, like, in the ‘50s, you know --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- with this. So, I think it was hard for my mom seeing the neighborhood change. [00:33:00] And of course, you know, in the end things change. It all works out, and it’s good.
AL: Yeah.
DD: But it was kind of hard for my mom, because, you know, with the change comes the end of something --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- you know, and that ending I think was hard for them.
AL: Right.
DD: You know?
AL: And it’s probably changed even since the changes --
DD: Yeah.
AL: -- whatever they were. Um, I think there have been waves of different immigrants moving in: you know, the Koreans came at some point, uh, but then African Americans moved in, and then Latin Hispanics moved in, and even now there are waves of Caribbean folks coming through. A lot --
DD: Yeah, I was surprised by, uh, your stories of, like, the Korean, uh, population, how prevalent it was. Like, I -- I guess I did kind of see it a little bit in the area [00:34:00] where we had the meals --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- but I guess I didn’t realize how strong [of a base?] --
AL: Yeah. I mean, I --
DD: -- it is.
AL: I’m learning about it myself, and also learning about it as an outsider, um, and because my background is Chinese --
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: I grew up in New Jersey.
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: Uh, I --
DD: Where did you live? Where did you say you lived when you --
AL: Well --
DD: -- knew all this food stuff?
AL: Well, I’ve been working in Olney for, uh, eight years.
DD: There was another person. Didn’t someone live in Asia for a couple years?
AL: That was the --
DD: That was the other person?
AL: My cohost --
DD: Oh, OK.
AL: -- [Paul?], yeah he lived in --
DD: OK. I’m getting you mixed up.
AL: He lived in Japan and --
DD: OK.
AL: -- stayed at a Korean family’s house --
DD: OK, I’ve got you.
AL: -- for three years.
DD: I remember somebody telling that story. OK.
AL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, no, it’s interesting. The demographics of Olney are so fascinating to me in terms of the [00:35:00] different changes. I mean, I don’t know it well enough to say definitively, but I think at some point there was a wave of immigration from Korea. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the Korean War. I expect there may have been, but then a lot of Asians at some point came over to this country, knowing that there were opportunities to establish a better life and -- but then, you know, it becomes the kind of a thing where it’s like, they come here to do business. I think particularly the Koreans that came here, they came here to, like, do business and bring capital over here and start businesses and then send some of it back home.
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: Uh, so there’s definitely, uh, a generation of Koreans in Olney that came over as adults, but then they of course, how have kids and grandkids, and they’re more Americanized.
DD: Right.
AL: But then they’ve also moved out of Olney. And [00:36:00] they still own businesses in Olney, or own property --
DD: Right.
AL: -- throughout North Philly, but they live in, like, Upper Dublin or Cheltenham --
DD: Right.
AL: -- you know. Uh, and so, you know, I mean, to me, I think because I’m aware of it, I wonder about the relationship between what I call, like, the merchant class and, you know, people who either own the property or own businesses that are, let’s say, Asian, Korean, and -- versus the people who, like, you know, African American or African or Caribbean folks who, you know, are either the consumers, or maybe they’re renting from a property owner that’s Korean.
DD: Right.
AL: I mean, I think there are probably tensions there that are under the surface, and no one really sees.
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: But seemingly, there’s harmony in the sense that nobody is [00:37:00] in each other’s face about it. I find that there’s a similar dynamic in South Philly, but it’s tenser down there.
DD: Is it?
AL: To me.
DD: OK.
AL: You know, like, in Mifflin Square area.
DD: OK.
AL: I don’t know if it’s because the density, and maybe there’s more poverty down there. I don’t know what it is. It’s like South Philly is a little tenser. Not where you are, necessarily, because I think your area may be a little more gentrified, if that’s the right word.
DD: Yeah. What I think of --
AL: Middle class.
DD: You know, I went one time myself, I was waiting for my car, getting it fixed in the area, and then I said to [Tim?] -- I said, “We should go.” We took [Maya?] our daughter, which is ironic, because we ended up adopting an African American daughter.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: So, I just say that because my grandmother, who was born in 1906, right? So you can imagine her view of the world --
AL: Yeah.
DD: -- Irish American, and her definition of Olney. So, some of the changes, [00:38:00] you know, um, were challenging for her, you know, and I’ll say specifically with the African American community.
AL: Yeah.
DD: But when I found out that she adopted my mom -- and she was in her forties when she adopted my mom in 1946 -- that awareness and how close I was to my grandmom is what ultimately pushed my husband and I to the deciding point to actually do it.
AL: Right.
DD: And so, it was really a lot of it, because my grandmom, you know, living in Olney in 1946, adopting my mom. Flash-forward to 2015, we adopted our daughter --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- who’s an African American daughter. And it’s just so funny how, like, it’s all connected.
AL: Yeah.
DD: Um, and I’m sure my grandmom is super proud, and she would love Maya if she had met her. But it was just hard for her --
AL: Right.
DD: -- you know, she was pretty much housebound. Neither of my grandmoms ever drove. [00:39:00] They were heavily [set to?] people --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- or relied on us driving them places. So, you know, their view of the world was kind of, like, out their window --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- to a large extent --
AL: Mm-hmm
DD: -- you know.
AL: Yeah.
DD: So, I remember there was [Dinod?], and the son was [Vivin?]. And my grandmom was very close to them, you know. So, anyway, uh, I forget what I was saying, um, before I went on a tangent. But --
AL: I don’t know.
DD: Yeah.
AL: It’s good. It’s all good.
DD: Yeah.
AL: We talked about the churches and --
DD: Yeah.
AL: -- um -- yeah. I mean, I guess as far as, uh, Tookany Creek goes, you know, we’ve covered a lot. I mean, you alluded to, you know, your, ah, exposure to that greenspace, I mean, has informed some of your thoughts about, like, urban environmentalism, like you were saying.
DD: Yeah, I would say not even aware of it, um, until I’m sitting here [00:40:00] talking about it. Um, well, Olney, but even more so Feltonville, there wasn’t greenspace, so going there was probably a really big deal, uh, for us, and that’s why all my sisters remember it so well, and we talk about Tookany Creek all the time.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: You know? And, uh, the reason I wanted to mention, like, my sister and you know, where she is in business, and my brother-in-law being district attorney, um, is, like, you know, these people start, and, like, all these influences, and then you know, their lives blossom, and then it’s kind of interesting to see where people started. But, um, yeah, I’m positive that Tookany Creek had a major impact on all of us appreciating nature, because it was our only exposure to nature. Like, [00:41:00] we didn’t go to the beach. We didn’t go to the Poconos. I mean, in those years, you know, we didn’t do any of that kind of stuff. You know, my parents, like I said, they had so many kids so young, you know, and, you know, my father then had his own issues with drinking. So, um, that was probably, like, our escape to a large extent.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: An open space, too. Not just the greenspace, but green, open space, um, I think had a major influence. And I’m the only one in the family who came back to the city.
AL: OK.
DD: Everybody else lives in the suburbs, um, but I love the city, and I love it when the city maximizes, like, nature. [And I’m not that guy?] -- one of the reasons I made this appointment for 4:00 p.m., or asked you to make it for 4:00 p.m., is because I thought I would have time to, you know, go down Olney Avenue and see, A, if my sister was right, and, B, if it rang a bell --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- because now I’m curious, [00:42:00] because I don’t remember getting there except that recreation center. So, now I kind of want to go and immerse myself in that space. And if you ever get involved in anything that you kind of need volunteers to kind of help get the word out with, like, you know, even though I don’t live there, I would totally help out, because --
AL: Oh, [thanks?].
DD: -- like I said, I’m so passionate about things like Schuylkill Banks or all those things I already said. Um, they are so critically important, you know, to make city living its best.
AL: Yeah.
DD: You have to have access to nature.
AL: Well, I think my friends at the Watershed Partnership would love to meet you, because they’re doing the yeoman’s work of, uh, doing cleanings all the way up; I mean, actually, the creek coincidentally starts [00:43:00] at the local Abington High School area. So, the headwaters are right nearby, and it kind of meanders through Abington, into Cheltenham, and then it gradually, uh, near the Tookany Creek Parkway -- I don’t know if you know where Cheltenham Avenue --
DD: [I know?], yeah.
AL: -- hits the parkway -- and then it just meanders down in through Olney, and it crosses Roosevelt Boulevard, and --
DD: Yeah, I was looking at it on the map --
AL: Yeah.
DD: -- and, uh, I have to understand that part and, like, I think it’s Friends Hospital up there. That’s --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: Which is a funny thing, because when we moved to New Jersey, we would always go over 73, over the Tacony Palmyra Bridge and, you know, down the boulevard to my grandmom’s house. And on the way back, um, whenever we saw that H -- you know, the H that means “hospital” -- the first person who could say it first, that was the game. But we always thought that that hospital was called the H hospital. [00:44:00] That’s what we always referred to, as the H hospital. But I was surprised that, um, when you said that Tookany Creek kind of goes to that area, so now I’m curious, because, like, I don’t even know from driving, so now I need to understand, like, how that area relates to, like, where my grandmom lived on Wyoming Avenue. I never really understood what was down Wyoming Avenue once you get to, like, A and B and C. Like, what neighborhood is that?
AL: Juniata Park.
DD: OK.
AL: There’s a golf course down there. The creek kind of is part of the golf course, and it hugs it or something, and then eventually it spills into what is -- it looks like concrete basins right now, because there’s a lot of factory/industrial.
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: But then it turns into Frankford Creek -- that’s what is the “Frankford” in the name -- and then empties out into the Delaware.
DD: OK.
AL: Yeah.
DD: And then at that [00:45:00] point, is it all more, like, industrial and not, like, recreational?
AL: Right at that golf course it goes underneath Castor Avenue, and the minute it hits Castor -- I think it’s Castor -- it turns into the industrial area. It was just concrete basins --
DD: Yeah.
AL: -- and the water is still going.
DD: Somewhere, but --
AL: Yeah.
DD: -- it’s not, like, a park or anything.
AL: No, it’s nothing green at all.
DD: OK.
AL: Yeah.
DD: So, what’s the ultimate goal of the group that --
AL: The partnership?
DD: Yeah, the partnership.
AL: To help raise awareness in terms of making sure that people are not littering or dumping...
DD: Is it considered, um, fairly clean right now?
AL: Well, it’s cleaner than it’s ever been, but it’s still, you know, subject to rain runoff and, you know, uh, chemicals. It’s really, like, rain, and the water just kind of carries debris, uh, chemicals, uh, even the salt they use to melt ice. You know, [00:46:00] all that stuff goes into the river -- not the river, the creek, um, and, you know, has effects on the wildlife --
DD: Yeah.
AL: -- or the fish or whatever is in there. But, you know, my understanding is, you know, since the existence of this nonprofit they’ve really done a lot, you know, to, you know, make it a much better place and activate the various friends’ groups --
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: -- to engage with Tookany Creek all along the, you know, uh, its path. Um, but, yeah, like, uh, you know, I’m more than happy to introduce you to then, and then also, uh, you know, I’ll be continually engaging with them on sort of this cultural/artistic level to try to --
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: -- find ways to engage, um, different parts of the community, um, and like, you know, they have walking tours; they have bird-watching events; they have, you know, events throughout the year. [00:47:00] So, I’ll send you the link to --
DD: Yeah.
AL: -- the website. I’m sure you’ll --
DD: I want to definitely try to get my sisters engaged, too, because some of them live relatively close by; some don’t. Actually, most live relatively close by. Uh, and it’s in our brains. Like, it’s definitely a part of our history, and so I know that they would, uh, like to be aware or even support in any way that they could, because it means a lot to my mom, who just died, my uncle, who just died.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: My grandmothers, you know, died, you know, a while ago. But, um, it’s so sad. I was like, “If my mom was only alive, she could just go on and on, you know.”
AL: Yeah.
DD: Um, but sadly, it’s too late.
AL: Well, I feel like I’ve taken up enough of your time for now, and I haven’t actually asked many questions, which is great. (laughs)
DD: [00:48:00] OK. (laughs)
AL: Um, so --
DD: Can I ask (inaudible) for you, like, what other kind of people have you run into? Like, what other kind of, um, experiences?
AL: Um --
DD: Well, you mentioned one --
AL: -- sure.
DD: -- about [someone who got married?].
AL: Well, one gentleman I met who used to take wedding parties to the park and, you know, just shoot, you know, the bride and the groom in some very, like, Bridges of Madison County kind of shots, you know --
DD: OK.
AL: -- back in the day, probably in the ‘80s.
DD: OK.
AL: Um, they talked about a hurricane, too, at one point that, you know, flooded a lot of the banks and, um --
DD: Does it sound accurate that there would be part of it that was pretty, uh, active in terms of --
AL: It ebbs and flows. There are parts that seem active. I mean, there’s definitely running water. I can’t gauge for myself, [00:49:00] [let’s say?], from my car or from a bridge whether it’s deep or not. It seems like it’s -- I mean, as an adult -- that I could step in it, but I mean, too, I would imagine over time, you know, you’re talking about the ‘70s or --
DD: Yeah --
AL: -- ‘80s --
DD: -- early ‘70s.
AL: You know, like, it’s changed.
DD: -- in the spring. The spring could be different --
AL: Oh, yeah, the [belt?]? Yeah.
DD: -- because it was Easter. I’m confusing the pictures with my story. You know, my story was in the ‘80s.
AL: Yeah.
DD: The pictures were from the ‘70s.
AL: Right. So, it could have been the amount of snow. And actually, you wouldn’t know it, but as you drove up here today, it’s obvious that we live at a higher altitude up here, and so I might not think, but inevitably, when it rains, all the water just flows.
DD: Yeah.
AL: That’s an amazing thing I’m learning is regardless of where you live, as long as one area is a little higher than another, the water will go --
DD: Yeah, just goes down.
AL: -- inevitably go down.
DD: Yeah.
AL: [00:50:00] So, it manages to go down and go down, and it all kind of just builds --
DD: Yeah.
AL: -- you know, by the time it gets to the Delaware. Um, but, uh, well, it’s interesting. A young couple, no, the, the young man whose mom was an immigrant from Ireland, and when she came here, she found this really nice, you know, set of row homes right near the park that reminded her of home.
DD: Oh, wow.
AL: And it’s there near Tabor Road --
DD: OK.
AL: -- and it’s literally right on the property of the park.
DD: Nice.
AL: So, she ended up buying it back in the ‘70s or --
DD: OK.
AL: -- whatever, and she and her husband still live there, and their son recently moved back in with his now-wife, and they had a wedding on the property of the park. So, it was really great to hear that and just how aware they are of, like, the environment --
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: -- and trying to [00:51:00], you know, spread the word of protecting the nature that’s there. Um --
DD: Are there threats, or, um, like, from a city level, is there support to keep the creek protected, or is there --
AL: Yeah, I mean there are some --
DD: -- pressure to, like, develop it or --
AL: No, no, I don’t think so. I think there’s more of a desire to protect it, improve it, make it more, uh, hospitable to recreation, uh, in a good way.
DD: Awareness.
AL: Um, they just connected the north side to the south side in terms of the Roosevelt Boulevard. They -- the city or whoever -- they’ve finally, like, created, well, connected the pathways, so you can literally bike underneath Roosevelt.
DD: Whoa. I love that kind of stuff.
AL: You know? Yeah. Uh, but before it was just a mess, and people would have to go over [00:52:00] Roosevelt Boulevard.
DD: Right.
AL: But now they don’t have any worry about Roosevelt. They can just --
DD: Yeah, it’s like what they did with Schuylkill Banks.
AL: -- jog or bike under. Yeah.
DD: I went to St. Joe’s Prep. I went to school in North Philadelphia, even though I grew up in New Jersey.
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: And I was on the crew team, and afterwards, you know, or even during, we would kind of hang out by the train tracks, and that was, like, such a bad area --
AL: Right.
DD: -- all kinds of bad stuff going on there. And now, to see, you know, they have, like, paths that go underneath the roads and...
AL: Yeah.
DD: I don’t know if you’ve ever, like, gone there, but it’s amazing --
AL: Yeah.
DD: -- what they’ve done. So, if they can do even, like, half as much to connect it...
AL: The thing with Tookany Creek is, unlike some other parks in the city, there’s no, uh, physical building that houses, say, the nonprofit, or there’s no learning center. They have, like, like, an ice-cream car almost, where they can, like, bike around [00:53:00] to events where they share, you know, information and have fun games for kids to interact with --
DD: Right.
AL: -- about nature and --
DD: Right.
AL: -- birds and feathers and, you know, different samples of things. Um, and one thing we’re trying to do with this is, you know, create, like, maybe some sort of interactive iPad thing that they can, like, bike around with their ice-cream car or whatever, and people can listen to the interviews that we have --
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: -- if they want. Um, like, a mobile museum type of mobile engagement situation.
DD: Cool.
AL: Um, but, you know, I can’t, uh, be more effusive regarding their work. Um, I learned about it -- their work -- really just recently.
DD: Sure.
AL: [Maybe a?] year since they invited me to do this --
DD: Right.
AL: -- because I drive over by the park all the time --
DD: Right.
AL: -- not really thinking too much about it.
DD: Well, sure.
AL: And now that I’ve been in the park, [00:54:00] it’s like, “Wow, this is amazing.”
DD: Yeah.
AL: Um, so, yeah. I --
DD: So, I don’t know if it has a closing time, but I’m going from here right to Wyoming Avenue; I’m going to try to, you know, go there --
AL: It’s (inaudible) --
DD: -- even though it’ll be dark.
AL: -- closing time.
DD: OK.
AL: Um, it’s, uh, you know, they have conceptions of it, you know... I think it’s just city dwelling. You know, they still think, “Oh, it’s not safe,” because, like, the park being misused by, you know, people doing illicit things in the park, not being, you know --
DD: Yeah, typical stuff, you know.
AL: Yeah, drugs and whatever. But, uh, you know, at least there are caretakers now that have been fostered by this group.
DD: Mm-hmm. Is there lighting at night?
AL: Not necessarily inside the park. I would say there may be some street lighting -- [00:55:00]
DD: OK.
AL: -- in the gateway areas. Um, I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily encourage you to go walking in the dark.
DD: Yeah, at nighttime. Yeah.
AL: Yeah. Um, you could probably catch a glimpse of it, you know.
DD: Yeah, I’ll just drive by and see it.
AL: Yeah, yeah. Um, yeah, happy to share with you. I’ll send you some emails, [look at?] some stuff.
DD: Yeah, I want to check it out. I’m very interested in --
AL: If, like, you know, if you’re curious about these things, like, the William Penn Foundation, they’ve fostered a watershed group where it’s, like, a conglomerate of multiple parks in the tri-state area, but mostly in this area, where they’re all working together to try and build attention to the watershed --
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: -- protection.
DD: Yeah. Even the whole concept of a watershed --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- I’ve really only learned about in the last, like, five or 10 years.
AL: Same here, yeah.
DD: Like, it’s pretty fascinating.
AL: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Um, there’s also, uh, a website I’ll have to send you. I have to find it first. There’s a person who has been documenting the churches. [00:56:00] Like, he’s just a fan of old churches in Philly, so he’s been, like --
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: -- going around, like, kind of documenting there, especially where they’re closing, and just putting together, like, some photo essays about different churches.
DD: Mm-hmm.
AL: I have to find it. I haven’t looked at it in a while --
DD: Yeah, I’d love to see it.
AL: -- but I think you’ll like that.
DD: Yeah.
AL: Yeah.
DD: I mean, I’ll just end with this. So, time’s up. But we just recently joined, uh, a Roman Catholic church in Mount Airy called St. Raymond’s, because having an African American daughter, trying to expose her to things where she’s not the minority all the time. And Tim and I, we’ve been together 25 years, a same-sex couple and the Catholic church tend to not go well together, but this church does. So, um, we’re going to that church, and that church is fascinating, and it’s right at Cheltenham Avenue.
AL: Oh.
DD: And my mom and [00:57:00] my grandmother and my dad -- they’re all buried at Holy Sepulchre --
AL: OK.
DD: -- which is right on Cheltenham Avenue also. So, uh --
AL: So, what’s this church called again? St. Raymond’s?
DD: St. Raymond’s of Penafort. It’s on Vernon Road --
AL: OK.
DD: -- and Vernon actually hits Cheltenham, um, and it’s pretty close to, um, what’s, like, the -- there’s, like, a main entrance that says “Welcome to Mount Airy” when you go a few blocks farther. Holy Sepulchre is right there. If you go the other way, there’s a little, um, road that takes you to 309. There’s a Wawa there --
AL: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DD: -- and there’s, like --
AL: I’m going to have to check that out.
DD: -- a dollar store.
AL: Yeah.
DD: Anyway, it’s called St. Raymond’s of Penafort, but it’s cool. Um, and the history of that church is probably fascinating, because I wonder how long it’s been a predominantly African American church. But it’s cool, because it’s Roman Catholic, but they also have, like, their singing is [00:58:00] heavily African American-influenced --
AL: Mm-hmm.
DD: -- and they have a whole band. And my daughter hates it like every 10-year-old, because, you know, it’s church.
AL: (laughs)
DD: But I really enjoy it. So...
AL: Oh, that’s cool.
DD: So, yeah, I’d like to see that, too.
AL: Yeah. So, thank you.
DD: Yeah.
AL: Thank you for this. Let me --
DD: Thank you.

END OF AUDIO FILE

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58:21

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Citation

Ambrose Liu, “Dan Donahue Interview,” Hands On History- Oral Histories of the Northeast Philadelphia area, accessed December 11, 2019, https://manorcollegehandsonhistory.omeka.net/items/show/6.