Rocky Land

31 Aug

I ran across this photo recently and it took me for a ride on the way back machine. This is the quintessential Philly photo. Its 1980 and the hoods have seen better days, but the scenario depicted has been the same for generations.These working class row homes are typical. They were built in the early 20th century to house the many mill and factory workers. Philadelphia's neighborhoods once produced a large percentage of the durable goods consumed by the U.S. furniture,fabrics,paints,carpets an endless list of products all came from the very neighborhood where I now sit to write this.

The 60's and 70s saw the decline of manufacture and the loss of jobs that supported these hoods. The exodus left behind a crumbling shell throughout most of the city. Many inhabitants simply left and those who stayed turned to drugs and crime. The once clean and tidy homes on streets like this fell prey to lack of maintenance and section 8 housing for the poor and unemployed. Philadelphia had lost its claim as workshop for the world and its pride.

As 1976 aproached the city mounted a no holds barred policy to put a better face on the rampant decay.The Bicentenial to celebrate the nation's 200th birthday was to be the defining moment for the city that gave us the Declaration of Independance and the Bill of Rights. What the BiCen did give us was programs to paint flower pots and curtains on plywood to fill broken windows along Broad Street and a trash collection strike,along with an ugly visitor center and the removal of the liberty bell from its place in Independance Hall to another ugly pavillion on the green.The high point was a visit from Queen Elizabeth..a good effort but, Philly was still second class.

Philadelphia had developed a inferiority complex of major proportions,no longer were we first in anything,a sad end to a glorious past. The came Rocky Balboa,the down on his luck, working class, corner hanging everyman hero The perfect metaphor for Philly in the 70's. I remember when Sly Stallone was here filming ( Adrian's pet shop is 4 blocks from my house) Our savior had come to resurrect our sinking city.Little diid we know just how influencial Rocky would be.

From the moment the film debuted, Philadelphians were energized, our underdog came out on top.If he won so could we. I think that was the moment that sparked our return to prominance. Philadelphia is a very different city than it was 30 years ago. Neighborhoods are coming back,our population is increasing our Arts scene is vibrant and our restaurants are world famous. Sure we have problems, things are never perfect, but Philly is full of strong minded, fiercly proud citizens (just attend an Eagles game) and some of us still thank Rocky for giving us back our pride.


Getting Strong Now



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