Ghost of South Philly

This Blog is the product of bygone days and haunted memories. It is about myself and my family. While most of this is about the past- as I am still alive the ghost will at times be confronted by real living sprits.

Location: Nine Street

Saturday, April 08, 2006



Some people are born to crime, others thrust into it by privation or inclination, but a few bypass birth and situation and marry into it.

There lived in my proximity a girl known to be of good family. Good being defined as from the right part of Italy and with a family in a strong Cumpare relation. Cumpare relations were build by families over the years by participation in sheared births, weddings, confirmations, and deaths. So if say you were an usher at someone’s wedding and they were the Godfather of your son and your brother was the pallbearer at the funeral of their father- then you could say you were Cumpare or in dialect Cumbars or Gumbas 3 times.. got it .So judgment of a family as good or not good was a personal and relative thing.

This girl was considered by my family to be of a good family because she came from the same part of Italy as us and we were Cumbars about 127 times…

The girl grew to young adulthood in the mid 60’s attending the Amazon academy or St Maria Goretti. Teasing and doming her hair and highlighting her eyes she embraced the 60’s as Carlo’s sister embraced the 40’s.

At the age of 16 she met a young man a few years olden then she. He was a stranger, un straniero, for he came from a far away land, around 7th street. His family could be traced back to a large island near Calabria , and he rode a motor cycle. Yes that vehicle reserved only for depraved criminals , not a big Lincoln that good criminals who worked for Angelo Bruno would use. Needless to say he was judged not to come from a good family for he was not Cumpare, not from a good part of Italy (in reference to the girl’s family) and drove a motorcycle.

The Motorcycle Man was an upcoming Mod mobsters who led a dangerous free life in the outback of South Philly , the Lakes on Patterson Avenue. ( for those uninitiated into South Philly, the Lakes refer to the manmade FDR park and small lake reserves at the end of the peninsular South Philly sits on).

The young girl from the good family became enamored of the man on his free riding bike. The sprit of the 60’s had entered South Philly.

Her family were grief stricken with the arrangement. This was, I should note, one of those families in which decent from a Duke or Count was claimed. I need not remind the reader that Count’s daughters don’t marry Motorcycle dudes.

So the fated couple settled on a course of action that was unthinkable, unfathomable, unimaginable, and completely unbelievable to her family and neighbors. They ran away- they eloped … they skipped town ..they married silently and swiftly in a Pennsylvania courthouse ( the girl lied about her age ).

This action was more then just a shock it was a betrayal of the great and noble traditions of a South Philly wedding. Yes a grand South Philly wedding with all the trimmings. The priest in white polyester, the off pitch singer, the white dress, the rented blue tux from Chadwicks on Broad Street, the straciatela (an escarole soup with tiny meat balls called Wedding soup), the Tarantella, the serenade at the brides house with Vinnie Gumbats and his accordion/mandolin band , the little white bag bursting with currency filled envelopes like a Chinese New Year celebration , and the grand cutting of the cake so majestically heralded by the band leader at Palumbo’s the Bride cuts the cake, the bride cuts the cake Hi Ho Didero the Bride Cuts the cake Well I can understand why they eloped. In fact these weddings would cause any sane person to envy the unmarried and the celibate. A lifetime of solitude was small price to pay to avoid the old fashion South Philly Wedding. I will admit they were splendidly fun if you were a guest, and perhaps that was why her neighbors and family were upset as she denied them all a chance to sing and dance and eat the tiny meat balls floating in ‘scadole ( escarole in dialect).

But the couple knew her parents would never approve and they saw no choice but to run away and wed.

Her family was mortified. I remember the long line of her relatives and cumbars coming to our kitchen, this was our equivalent of CNN Breaking News, along with our own mini McLaughlin group of pundits and prognosticators commenting at length on this action and its ramifications.

The family, amazingly, put it about that their daughter had died! Causing some of the neighbors to raise a collection to offset the funeral cost!

Yet the deed was done and the family realized it would be less scandalous to accept the marriage then to disown their child. I am unsure if the collected money was ever returned, maybe it was put into a funeral mutual fund?.

The Girl shed the Goretti uniform and the two zoomed around South Philly like Synder Avenue Easy Rider. The Biker man engaged in all types of petty crimes. The girl enjoying being the moll of the bimotored gangster.

As the 60’s turning into the 70’s the true nature of their personalities came through. The motorcycle and helmet were exchanged for a Bonneville and cap, she stayed home and cooked up a hurricane. Children came rapidly as a testament to their affection. They moved into a little row home and entered cumardom.

The Guy was more then just tough, he existed on the plain of bold, brazen and strident criminality. He moved like a satellite around the world and henchmen of Angelo Bruno ( SP Mob boss 1960-1980) and if not a made man was being made. He was a fixer and I don’t mean household appliances. He fixed people of their bad habits, not showing respect, not paying their debts, incorrect filing of numbers files.

The good little Girl married the mob, and she loved it.

As life progressed his work and their lives became somewhat stressful. He released the stress by staying out with the guys or with a girl or two on the side. Now his wife, the Mob Bride , was opposed to this behavior as she sought a man who could pamper and take care of her and give her all the attention her looks and upbringing required.

By the dawn of the disco era (late 1970’s) their marriage was on the rocks, the rock being Gibraltar. Mob Guy flew into a rage at the slightest pretext. While he never struck the girl, well not really for if he did she would be the Mob Corpse Bride, he did break plates and furniture. He even committed an unspeakable act- he once lifted from the stove the Gravy pot and threw its tomato based contents about the kitchen- coating the walls and floor with thick red sauce, afterwards it looked like a Bull had been sacrificed on the kitchen table.

She soon left the Mobster and sought refuge with her family. Mob Man felt hurt and betrayed and with his particular sense of morality this only inflamed an already burning situation. He harassed his estranged wife and even showed a bizarre sense of humor as he once called the girl’s aunt claiming to be her recently deceased husband. He even sent an undertaker to collect his wife’s body at the home in which she was staying. The girl now made press with how she was being harassed by her husband to her attending audience of friends and relatives.

She demanded , and often received, a good deal of money from Mob Guy, but it was never enough. She once took him to court for child support , showing up bedecked like the Tsarina Maria Fedonova compete with diamonds and rubies ,protesting her poverty and declaring the hunger of her children . The judge cruelly, asked why she did not sell her jewels to fed her children.

She also began to make the rounds of Discos and night clubs in Philadelphia, New Jersey , and Atlantic City. In frosted Farrah Fawcett hair and dangling jewelry. She had her share of beaux , but somehow Mob Guy always found out and the mere mention of his name deflated even the most desperate of libidos.

I once encountered Mob Guy at the Dolce Vita night club at Front and Chestnut in May of 1978, he told me, in regard to his wife, Boy she became a real whore, to which I said yes indeed ( he was not the sort you disagreed with). I did want to say , I am sure she was a whore when you married her and now she has turned you into a ‘gudanud (Cuckold in dialect and a very very insulting remark), but had I said that I would surely not be here today.

Stuck in a struggle with Mob Guy the Mob Gal found no one who would keep her company, as no man in his right mind would even speak to her unless he sought passive suicide. Anyway she found normal men dull and uninteresting after her years with the Mob. The Girl was not unintelligent and found a way out of her predicament, a way to return excitement into her life, she found another mobster! Yes another man, a man with red curly hair, freckles, a winning smile and working for Mr. Gambino’s firm , I believe. Thinking herself safe , she flaunted the freckles and curls at every disco she could. The mob is wonderful the second time around. Mob Guy was very sore about this, he threatened. He once drove his young son to the apartment of Freckles in New Jersey and while sitting in the car told his son this is where your whore mother’s boyfriend lives and I am gonna shoot the son of a …

One Saturday night in august as Freckles was on his way to pick up Mob Gal, he was met by a shadowy figure.

Three shots and a quick getaway through the forest of South Jersey.

Oh how Mob Gal howled and assumed an imitation of widowhood for her audience. Mob Guy was suspect number #1. He protested his innocents from Washington to Oregon avenue. How could I do such a thing, he said I would be the first one the cops come after, I ain’t nuts. The argument did make a great deal of sense, yet we all knew he did it.

My grandmother Ma , who had a fondness for this man, defended his innocence for he told her he did not do it and he would never lie to her. Ma was not related to the mob guy and never associated with such people, so why she thought he would confess to her and then believe it perplexes me. I believe it was because they both disliked the same people, so she trusted him.

Soon the papers began to report that Freckles was secretly relaying information to the Feds! Yes he was a snitch , a turncoat, a rat. The mob had to silence his song. It was being viewed as a mob hit not a South Jersey Othello story. We figured the Mob Guy saw a golden opportunity to sort out his wife while advancing his career with the Mothers and Fathers of the Italian Association (M.A.F.I.A.).

Mob Guy was arrested and put on trial. He swore his innocence, his lawyer tried his best but the state had forensic evidence and the testimony of his son regarding the conversation in the auto proved very difficult to discount, even for the sharpest Philadelphia Lawyer. I would assume mother gleefully coached the boy for his appearance in court.

Mob Guy, swearing his innocents to the end and protecting a number of people in the process, was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to 20 years to life.

And so the Mob Gal was freed from the Mob Guy. Mob Guy continuing to protest his innocents, spent the 80’s and 90’s as a guest of the state of New Jersey. He missed Reganomics, the Fall of the USSR , Gulf War I, the Clinton Boon years, the birth of the internet and Monica Lewisnky. He mellowed in prison with privileges provide by the Mob in his benefit plan. He even allowed for a proper divorce from Mob Girl.

Ex Mob Gal became cheerless without the excitement of mobsters, shootings and trails around her. Her audience grew bored. By the mid 80’s she made contact with her ex behind his prison walls and by 1990s they were fast friends again. Freckles remained in his sepulcher.

To fight the boredom she also took up with another man, a petty crook who bounced checks by the dozen . She enjoyed this liaison as well as the renaissance in her relationship with the caged Mobster. However there are only so many checks you can bounce , so many relatives you can borrow from, and so many probations you can break. Soon Mob Gal and Rubber Check guy fell on hard times. Prison and the poorhouse yawned , opening for them the road to indigence.

But step in fate, Mob Guy was released! Yes like a Deus ex machine Mob Guy reappeared , released on good behavior. Why is it mobsters can behavior in prison but not in civil society? Mob Guy now enjoyed a place of great honor among the made men, for he did his time and kept his mouth shut. Soon he had home, business and new girl friend (mobsters can always get a date, remember that). Who says crime does not pay.

Feeling for his ex wife he opened his doors in a sign of great forgiveness and they all moved in together under his care, Mob Guy , new girl friend, Mob Girl and her petty criminal Check Bouncer. I would assume Mob guy gave Rubber Check lessons on how to be a real criminal. They were all very very happy! Mob Guy and Girl back together again despite the past, or perhaps because of it. Freckles had no comment.

But Mob Guy was getting older and ill, I saw him in the early 21st century at a funeral (funerals are always a chance in South Philly to catch up with the quick and the dead). He hobbled in like an old war hero and despite the fact that we had not seen each other in over 20 years, I normal don’t visit prisons except for the Moyamening, we had a very nice long conversation, discussing the past and the future. Prison certainly made him a reflective mobster.

Mob Guy was nearing however the end of his road, a few years later he joined Freckles. His ex wife was with him to the end and finally got to play a real widow, unfortunately her audience had long left.

At his funeral Mob Girl reflected on the past, it was a long motorcycle ride from the lakes to Holy Cross, and with sadness she bid Farwell to Mob Guy.

Mob Girl has grown into a happy matronly grandmother and continues to enjoy herself.

I guess the moral of this story is love conquers all, or the power of forgiveness, or perhaps that people sure do use each other or Gals like mobsters.

Or maybe Gals love to forgive mobsters then can use.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Story, and it is 100% true!

7:04 PM  
Anonymous mike salvatore said...

i love the history of south philly i guess some people live and learn.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous mike salvatore said...

i love the history of south philly i guess some people live and learn.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous mike salvatore said...

i love the history of south philly i guess some people live and learn.

11:39 PM  
Anonymous mike salvatore said...

i love the history of south philly i guess some people live and learn.

11:40 PM  

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