Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Weekend 2006 - The Times They Are A'Changin'

Labor Day weekend 2006 comes to an end, and exits with some notoriety. Three things that play on the memories of long-time South Philly residents are noted on this unofficial end of summer weekend. Two of them are goodbyes, the other remembering an ongoing annual charity...

No, it's not South Philly, and no, I've never set foot on Steel Pier although I've been to AC a number of times. But I've known and spoke with enough folks about their experiences at Steel Pier to have lived there somewhat vicariously. And our late neighbor across the alley on Bancroft Street, Alice, is said to have been one of the ladies who rode the diving horses on the pier.

I saw an article in the Inquirer this morning about the coming demise, with the pier closing in October. In that article, one of the amusement owners, Anthony Catonoso, is noted as saying:
"We're not going to be here because they don't want families in Atlantic City anymore". That's a terrible testimony for a city that relies on tourism and vacationers, even if it does play more to adults with it's casinos. This weekend alone will provide the Steel Pier with enough families for them to understand that providing attractions for the family unit still matters. But maybe the dollar matters more, and the money made selling the high-end properties and services that will replace Steel Pier will be enough to satisfy those investing in them (remember, it's a Trump venture). The families coming from other places can go elsewhere. But for those families of Atlantic City who don't have the extra money to travel, the loss of Steel Pier will leave them residents in a town without much to offer in spending a day or weekend together having some quality time. A 108-year history will become just that next month, history.

Sally Starr, hostess of a kiddie show that many of us will remember from the 1960's, retired this weekend from her Sunday afternoon radio show at WVLT-FM (92.1). If you didn't know she was still doing something on-air, well, neither did I until I read about it recently. I guess at 83 years old, retirement isn't such a bad thing. Best wishes Sally, and I hope Mr. Senske called to say the same.

Jerry Lewis has been hosting the telethon since 1966, raising over a billion dollars to fight Muscular Dystrophy. He's still doing it at 80 years old, despite health issues.

I remember as a kid two things about the telethon. On our own, my brother, Chris Arizzi, and I would go door-to-door asking for contributions from neighbors. We'd get a buck here, fifty cents there, but not too many folks said no. And we turned it all in, keeping nothing for ourselves. Why did we do it? Well, we just heard that other kids did and jumped on the bandwagon.

The other memory? We'd stay up late and call into the telethon, making a few pledges in the names of folks we didn't like so much. So if you got a letter in the mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope, thanking you for your $500.00 pledge to help fight MD, please accept my apologies and laugh a little. If you sent a gift out of guilt, feel good about it and laugh even more. Your gift may help find a cure to that insidious disease.

...Jerry Lewis crying at the end of the telethon. I remember sitting by the TV one year and my cousin saying something like, "Oooh, here's the best part of the telethon, he's gonna cry like a baby."

...Giving Mr. Senske a hard time about Sally Starr if you were a student in his gym class at Bishop Neumann HS. Legend has it that Mr. Senske had dated the old cowgirl and she jilted him. True or not, I don't know. But I remember a few times seeing him in the hall near the gym and hearing someone shout "Sally Starr" while hidden safely in a crowd of other students, trying to get under his skin. They often did.

...The Steel Pier Show. A locally-produced show that you could view on WPVI Channel 6 on Saturday afternoons in the summertime. Ed Hurst and some guy with the last name of Grady (Joe perhaps?) hosted the show.

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