Recreating an Alfred P. Morgan crystal set


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Bonus Material



    I'm not sure how much reading I did of the Morgan books in 1966. I can remember all the pictures but I don't remember any of the text. I had a ton of other things going on. My first radio didn't work very well but the second one did, so at least I got that much out of the books.

    I only saw Billy Meyers in the summer because that's when he came down for a few weeks to live with his grandparents. The summer of 1966 was a good one. We were always up to something, and wanting to be secret agents was the reason I built the crystal radios. Billy always had money. I think his grandparents gave him an allowance. So with Billy's cash we bought packs of "True" cigarettes and "smoked" them in his grandparents garage. True cigarettes have a plastic filter tip, which is why we chose that brand. We'd fill the whole garage up with smoke, then open the doors, stand back, and watch it billow out.

    One time after Billy went back home I was feeling kind of somber. I woke up and there was nothing to do, and nobody to do it with. I didn't even know where Billy lived. I had my pack of True with some cigarettes left in it, so I decided I'd smoke a cigarette, just like Billy and I would do. That half empty pack of True cigarettes was the only physical evidence that all our fun times were real, and the best part was my mom never found it.

    I rode my bicycle about six blocks away, where I knew that if I got caught smoking nobody would know who I was. I smoked one under somebody's back porch where people couldn't see me.  I must have inhaled because I got as sick as a dog. I felt so nauseous I was shaking. Just then, it started raining. I rode home in the rain feeling like I was going to throw up at any second. I was so sick I've never forgotten it.

    Billy came back the next summer. Sometimes we'd go to Korvette's in the Cedarbrook Shopping Center. One day we stole sugar packs from the restaurant in the mall and shot them down the "up" escalator handrail. We thought it would be funny if we OPENED the sugar packs, so we did. Just then, a bunch of guys in dark suits went to get on the escalator, intercepted the flying packets, and got sprayed with sugar. They came after us, running up the escalator steps. We took off and hid in the women's coat racks among the coats. We could see their legs walking back and forth while they searched for us. Later, we pretended we were manikins, till some lady touched me and I busted out laughing.

    There was a penny candy store on the corner named "Noah's Ark". We chewed about a pound of Bazooka Joe bubble gum that we bought there just to get the comics that came in the wrapper. The comics were a riot. For example: "Mom, Bazooka Joe said I was ugly!" "Bazooka Joe, apologize to your sister." "I'm sorry you're ugly!" I saved them all.

    The Bazooka Joe comics went the way of the Monkey Division radios - meaning I have no idea where they went, but probably the trash can. (*wince*)

    The radio stuff was only one part of my life, but it stayed with me all these years. "Get Smart" did too. I bought a bunch of episodes on DVD and swear I never saw any of them on television. On the other hand there was only one TV, and if my dad wasn't watching "Get Smart", neither was anyone else (unless he wasn't home!)

    In 1966 my brother Chris was born. NASA launched Gemini 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12, and I followed every launch as much as possible. I also got my first bicycle and a transistor radio for Christmas.

Philco Ford model RT-810
 I still have the transistor radio, shown above. It's in good shape after 50 years because it still had the vinyl case on it. The vinyl had shrunk and had to be heated with a hair dryer to get it off for the picture.

  Here's the Sears bicycle I got for Christmas in 1966. It's a knock-off of the Sears "SPACELINER." It's actually a nicer looking bike than the SPACELINER and was $10 less. The price shown, $35.44, is equivalent to $282 in 2019.

    By Christmas I had just turned 11, and was wise to the point where I thought it was a good idea to ride the brand new bike in the snow that had fallen the night before.

It was the day after Christmas. I slipped on the ice while carrying the bike down the front steps, smashing my chin on the handle bars. Man, did that hurt. I had this great idea that I could ride the bike in the tire tracks made by passing cars. That worked for about five feet before I ended up sprawled in the street.

I was so mad at the bike I put it down the basement so I wouldn't have to look at it. After all, it was the bike that made me fall, not the other way around. Since all the presents were still around the Christmas tree, my mom asked where the bike was. I told her it was easier to get it out the back door.

  I ended up riding that bike a million miles over the next four years. My friends and I would sometimes go on a "bike-hike," where we would just pick a direction and start riding, sometimes for 4 to 6 hours for the round trip.

I bought a "ten speed" in 1970, and gave the Sears bicycle to a kid named Joe Jones. By that time the headlight, fenders, kickstand, whitewall tires and the "rack" on the rear were long gone. Also, it was now painted black.

It remained under Joe's back porch in Glenside, PA for years. Sometime around 1974 Joe noticed it was gone.

    Sometimes Billy's older brother Bobby would come down with Billy. Bobby hung out with a kid across the street named Drew Miller. Drew was my friend, and Billy was my friend, but Billy and Bobby didn't seem to get along so I never hung out with Bobby and Drew because I was with Billy.

    Billy came down in the summer of 1967, and as usual, we had a great time together. West Oak lane was a great place to live back then. Everything you could ever want was within walking distance. The streets were wide, but hardly had any traffic on them. There was no crime. You could leave your doors unlocked. Actually, the only miscreants in the area, as far as I knew, were me and Billy.

    Unfortunately, West Oak Lane rapidly changed in 1968. The Jewish people all moved out and sold their homes to blacks, leaving the minority population of white Catholics behind. Temple Sinai Synagogue, built in 1947, was abandoned. In 1967 a new synagogue had been  built in Upper Dublin Township, about 15 miles from Philadelphia. The entire Jewish population of West Oak Lane then left. On the Temple Sinai website it is stated the families had an "exodus" to the "outlying areas." That's exactly what it was, an exodus.

    The neighborhood became almost completely African American by 1969, the year I "graduated" from 8th grade. Billy and Bobby lived in the suburbs (Warminster, PA), and their parents stopped bringing them down to our now gang infested and dangerous neighborhood.

    The owners of the drug store and hardware store near our house were murdered while being held up. The other stores were repeatedly robbed till they went out of business. "The Avenue" (Ogontz Avenue,) which had always been thronged with people, became a ghost town. (The liquor store remained open, however.) The Renel movie theater, opened in 1936, shut down in September of 1970 for a year, and then reopened as a porno theater. The Burroughs Corporation building became a mosque. Graffiti was everywhere, most of it illegible.

    A huge loosely formed gang known as the "Clang" materialized and trolled the streets at night. A white person walking alone was their main prey. They were probably responsible for 90% of the violence in the neighborhood.

   The grocery store, the firehouse and "Famous" delicatessen at 76th and Ogontz remained open, except that "Dave and Irv's Famous Jewish Delicatessen" changed hands and anything Jewish about it was purged. At the end of our street, before you turned onto Ogontz Avenue to go to Famous Deli, was our barber shop and the shoe repair guy. Sometime in 1969 I went down to get a haircut and both shops were boarded up. They remained that way for 47 years, as the skeleton of the sign over the barber shop slowly rusted away. In 2016 the sign was removed and the windows were bricked up.
75th and Ogontz. Our house was up the block, on the left.

The barber shop was on the left. The shoe repair shop to the right. Now bricked up, you can see where the doors to the shops were located. On either side of the doors were big glass windows.

This Google Street View from 2008 shows the boarded up store fronts before they were bricked up. The remains of the sign over the barber shop is still hanging from the second story above it. It used to say, "NINO'S Barbershop." The store windows and door of the shoemaker can be seen on the right.
boarded up
Photoshop! What I saw when I went to get a haircut. I don't think that car is from 1969, though.

    Also at the end of our street was a clothing store named "Artie's". We bought all of our clothes there because they sold "seconds" and they were inexpensive. My mom would walk us down the block and get our shirts and pants or whatever. It had a really neat smell, and all the sounds and voices were muffled by the clothes, piled on tables. It seemed to be very quiet in there and it had a wooden floor that creaked as you walked on it.

    Artie's closed! I could not believe it. Even black people need clothes! Unfortunately, some had a tendency to walk out the door without bothering to pay for them. And that was the end of Artie's. The building remained empty for over 40 years till it was demolished around 2008.
The remains of Artie's. Photo from 2008 Google street view.
The building remained abandoned for over 40 years.

    And of course, Ree Electronics shut down when the customers became more interested in the cash register than a turntable. That was the end of my radio parts source.

    The "ice cream store" closed. Nino's Pizza closed. The three 5 & 10's closed. The candy store closed. The bakeries closed. "Noah's Ark" closed. Greene's shoe store closed. One by one, every store on Ogontz Avenue was either robbed or shoplifted out of existence. The bars remained open, but under new management. So no more ice cream and no more pizza and no 5 and 10's. It was big disappointment for us kids. I really liked it when my mom took us to Nino's or the ice cream store. (It was actually a rare occasion and it goes without saying that we walked everywhere, my mom usually pushing a stroller.)

    The library at Washington Lane and Limekiln Pike was one of the few places that remained open, along with the liquor store and the bars. A newspaper article in The Evening Bulletin lamented that the only books being withdrawn were ones on Kung-Fu, while thousands of other books were collecting dust. That was the library where I rented the Alfred P. Morgan books on how to make a radio. Now it loaned out books on how to beat people up using Kung-Fu.

    The neighborhood became a dangerous place for white kids, which is one reason I put so many miles on the bicycle. Almost all our friends and classmates moved away. The streets became filled with broken glass bottles and abandoned cars. Trash, orange peels and chicken bones littered the sidewalks. Yes, chicken bones. What was that all about?

     A lot of the lawns became overgrown and the whole area (to me) took on a sinister appearance. My brother Rob and I used to get up early on Saturday and go door to door to make money "cutting grass". We only charged a dollar. Our marketing ploy was to say we would cut the lawn for fifty cents apiece. It sounded a lot less than "a dollar" and sometimes we would each get two quarters, so it must have worked.

    The lawn mower belonged to Billy Meyer's grandparents. It had metal wheels that made a racket on the sidewalks. The handle had broken off, so you had to use it like a push broom while mowing the lawn. Rob and I didn't usually get along very well, but we were a team while cutting grass. When we made two dollars each we were done for the day, and would go our separate ways.

    Some of the new people didn't want to pay to have their lawns cut and we lost our customers. Their lawns turned into weeds.  We gave up after a few weekends of coming home after walking the neighborhood knocking on doors, without cutting any lawns.

    Rob joined the grade school football team, but when the Clang attacked them during a practice, beating up the kids and stabbing the coach, the team was disbanded. The oldest kid on the team was probably 12 years old. The blacks had 50 pounds and five years on the biggest player.

    Rob then joined the Cub Scouts. Same thing, the Clang kicked in the door of the church during a scout meeting and beat up the Scout Master and some of the Cub Scouts. I remember the phone ringing off the hook and my mom being in distress. She sent me down to retrieve my brother. There was a police car in front of the church. I went in through the broken side door and saw scuff marks and blood stains on the floor. Fortunately Rob was unharmed because he and a bunch of the other little kids had hidden in a back room. The Cub Scouts were then disbanded. One by one, all of the things that made life "normal" were ruined.

St. Paul's Church, site of an attack by the Clang Gang on a group of mostly white Cub Scouts. The side door was forced open.
The fact that a few of the Scouts were black didn't matter, a black Scout was looked down upon by other black teenagers.

    I got a quick lesson in "racism", as they call it now. Back then it was called "prejudice". I was robbed by two adult blacks when I was 10 years old while walking home from Famous Deli. Later I had a stick broken over my head by some blacks who accosted me on Ogontz Avenue. I heard a loud BANG! and saw the ground coming up at me as a piece of broken stick flew by. They had hit me from behind as I walked past them. Then a tooth was driven through my lip by a sucker punch while I was waiting for the trolley. I needed seven stitches.

    We kids started to get the message. My sister was seven years old when some young black girls grabbed her and poured dirt into her mouth on her way home from first grade. My brother's new "Sting Ray" bike was stolen, and we kept hearing that this kid or that kid had been "jumped". Then "jumped" turned into "stabbed" as the neighborhood became more violent. Thankfully, the few times I was jumped I was never stabbed, though that was only because of quick reflexes. My navy blue nylon jacket had a white line down the front of it from where some old black guy tried to stab me in the chest. I had sensed someone behind me and turned to see a black guy glaring at me with a knife in his hand, raised over his head. The knife came down and I jumped backwards. The tip of the knife made a foot long mark on my jacket, as though it had been made with a pencil. Why did he try to kill me? It was because I took some snow off the hood of his car to make a snowball. At least, I think that's why, because that's what I was doing when he snuck up on me.

    Hardly anything that happened in West Oak Lane made it on the news, but we got to see the war in Vietnam every night. 8th grade was over and I was going to be a freshman in high school. In four years they were going to send me to Vietnam, which was much worse than my neighborhood. Things weren't looking good.

    Then, on Sunday, July 20, 1969 at 3:17 PM EDST, smack in the middle of summer vacation, Apollo 11 landed on the moon!! At 9:56 PM Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface, followed by Edwin Aldrin. Like most families, we were all glued to the television. This was it, after 5000 years of civilization, we were the generation who were fortunate enough to be alive to see this pinnacle of human achievement. The United States of America was able to launch a mission to the moon while simultaneously fighting two wars, the war in Vietnam and the Cold War against the Soviet Union. It was a defining moment in our lives. No one would ever look at the moon the same way again. Men had walked on the moon. Men from the United States.

    I don't think the moon landing mattered much to the gang members hanging out in front of Famous Deli. As a black "poet" wrote, "No hot water, no toilets, no lights, but Whitey's on the moon." His sister was bitten by a rat in the poem. That lifestyle of standing on a corner all day, then  robbing and beating people up at night, just wasn't working out. Paying a bill, fixing a toilet, or changing a light bulb was beyond their capability. Go figure.

    Billy came down one last time to visit his grandparents in 1970. By this time I was a paper boy for The Evening Bulletin. So was Drew Miller. My paper route was about five blocks away. It was Friday night and I had to "collect" (as we called it). Basically, go to each customer's house collecting the money for the weeks newspapers. Billy came with me.

    I was glad to have somebody with me, but I was also a little concerned. I was skin and bones and weighed about 100 pounds, but Billy had put on a lot of weight. He had always been a little chubby but now that he was a few feet taller he was downright fat. (Years earlier one of the "big kids" told us we looked like Mutt and Jeff.) Sometimes the best way to save your skin was to RUN. Billy didn't look like he could run ten feet.

    So while we were collecting I told him about what I called the "Safe Houses." The blacks went out looking for paper boys to rob on Friday nights. "Safe houses" were houses with bushes or a hedge in the front. You walk up the steps as though you lived there and duck behind the bushes till the danger passed. There were only a few places you could do this, not many people had bushes in front of their house. As I recall, there were only four "Safe Houses" on my paper route. One had an evergreen tree that had branches that went down to the ground, which was the ultimate!

    You had watch up and down the block and anticipate the distance between you and one of the "Safe Houses" and any threat coming your way. Since you were collecting your route as quickly as possible, you had to slow down and look like somebody just walking down the street to your house, not a paper boy collecting money. Do you know how hard it is to walk slowly in that situation??

    After hearing of my plan, he made fun of me.

7600 block of Rugby Street. When you're 12 years old with a pocket full of money walking in the dark, there really isn't any place to go when trouble comes strutting down the street. A "Safe House" is on the right. Ironic that it now has bars on the door.

    We had collected about half my route when sure enough, a block away we saw the silhouettes of people carrying broom handles and sticks coming towards us. They knew I was out there collecting, they just needed to find me. We slowly walked to a safe house, went up the steps, then dashed behind the bushes and waited. The gang walked by, loudly uttering some guttural language, every other word being "f*ck" or "mother f*cker". We couldn't really understand what they were saying, except we heard one of them say, "... GET that mother f*cker!" as he banged his broomstick on the ground.

    Billy was scared half to death. He was so scared that I thought he was putting on an act. I thought he was laughing that we had outsmarted them, but he was almost crying. The realization that they would have clubbed our heads in with those broomsticks to get the money we collected was a bit too much for him. That was his last visit, and after we went home that night I never saw him again.

    They never caught me, but they did catch Drew Miller. After they turned his pockets inside-out they bashed his face in so badly he needed two surgeries to fix his nose. I didn't know it was possible to stuff the amount of cotton up someone's nostrils as he had. That was the end of his paper route. Mine didn't last much longer.

     Most of our new neighbors on our street were pretty nice to us, perhaps because my dad was a Philadelphia cop, but maybe they were just nice, who knows. My younger brothers played with the black kids on our street, and Rob and I played "bottle caps" with the black kids around the corner. If you walked around the same corner to Famous Deli after dark, you took your life into your hands. It was also strange that you hardly ever saw a black woman in those days.

    While all this was happening we were hearing the best music on the radio, which came from Motown and Stax Records. Were these the same people? Why did these black people move into our neighborhood if they hated white people so much? Why did they hate us in the first place? We didn't even know them, and none of us did anything bad to them as far as I know. The black musicians we heard on the radio were our only exposure to black people prior to 1967. We bought their records at Gimbels department store, almost always a 45 RPM.

    Not to say that Motown and Stax were the only thing we listened to. In 7th grade my favorite album was "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", but what we heard on the radio from groups such as the Delfonics, the Stylistics, the Chi-lites, the Temptations, The Four Tops, the Supremes, etc. etc. made it seem we were living in two different worlds. On the radio it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

     One night, after we had been jumped by the Clang while walking on Ogontz Avenue, I came home and turned on my radio and heard one of my favorite songs, "Psychedelic Shack" by the Temptations. It sounds funny now, but I was sitting there with sneaker prints all over me and a black dirt mark on the side of my face. There was a lump on my head. I was filled with furious hatred, but that song calmed me down.

    I had been with two of my friends, Jimmy Nolen and Jimmy Walsh. We were on our way to Jimmy Nolen's apartment. He lived on Ogontz Avenue, over a drug store. We were almost there when suddenly an arm wrapped around my throat, strangling me as I was lifted off my feet. I was in an absolute terror, the arm around my throat was incredibly strong and I couldn't breathe. I tried with all my might to pull the arm away while kicking my feet in every direction. I couldn't get any leverage with my feet off the ground and I couldn't make a sound because my airway was cut off. I saw my friends walking away from me, not realizing I was not longer with them.

 Then I was thrown on the sidewalk, gasping for air. I didn't know what was happening to me, I couldn't stand back up. I was trying to get my breath and stand up but seemed to keep falling on the ground instead. I started to feel as though I was dreaming.

    In a daze I saw my friends step towards me, then turn around and take off running as a mob of blacks ran right past me after them. Didn't the mob see me? Apparently they did, because they came back. That's when they started kicking the crap out of me.

    I tried to crawl under a parked car but I couldn't get to it. Suddenly I heard tires screech. Two white guys jumped out of a car and the blacks went in all directions. The two guys gave me a ride out of there, dropping me off on Ogontz Avenue near the end of my street. They may have saved my life and I have no idea who they were.

    My friends had escaped, somehow making it to Jimmy Nolen's apartment. Later, after we met in my garage, I told them how I couldn't get up after I hit the sidewalk. They told me I was trying to get up but the guy who threw me on the sidewalk was stomping on me. They said he was a grown man! Jimmy Walsh started laughing and asked, "Doesn't your ass hurt?" I never felt a thing at the time it was happening. Never saw the guy, either.

    I have many fond memories of Jimmy Walsh, but the memory of him laughing while emulating how some adult repeatedly plowed the heel of his foot onto my 12 year old ass isn't one of them.

    In 1968 I met a kid named Joe Jones. Unlike Billy Meyers, who had no interest in radio that I was ever aware of, Joe's dad had been a radio repairman. When I met Joe his dad had already passed away and Joe "inherited" a basement full of electronic parts and test equipment. If I needed a part or some advice I could always get it from Joe, and I still use the Hickock tube tester he gave me 30 years ago. He ended up going to tech school for electronics and we're still friends to this day. There are cans of vacuum tubes and sockets, capacitors and boxes of miscellaneous parts in my garage that came from Joe's basement in West Oak Lane.
Joe's CB antenna
Joe Jones (right) and yours truly up on Joe's roof in 1968 (colorized photo). We are installing a CB antenna that Joe designed. The ground plane is the back of a shopping cart. The mast is a broom stick. The actual antenna is a brass whip antenna mounted above the ground plane. In this picture we're attaching guy wires, not to hold up the antenna, but to be an extension of the ground plane.

The big building top-right in the background is our church, Saint Athanasius. To the left you can see the roof of our school. The tower directly over my head is the chimney for the heater and incinerator.

Black socks and sneakers and a button down shirt. I was a fashion plate. All my clothes came from Artie's.

Here's Joe Jones and Jeff Sidewater in 1967 with Joe's "Ten Transistor Base Station" from Sears. This picture was taken the year before I met him. Joe told me 50 years later that the base station, being in the basement of a row house, was useless.

    Joe was also a paper boy for the Bulletin, but not at my branch. In addition to his radio experience, he launched model rockets and made cherry bombs and block busters. He developed and printed his own photographs, and taught me how to do those things and more. He never made a crystal radio. When his "Ten Transistor Base Station" with homemade roof antenna proved insufficient, he graduated to a Lafayette Comstat 19 and a store-bought antenna. After getting his ham ticket he built several amateur band transmitters.

Joe Jones 1967
Joe and his model rocket fleet in November of 1967. Joe was one of the biggest influences in my life.

    I was also friends with a kid named Jimmy Nolen, and we often hung out in Joe's basement. I think I met Joe through Jimmy, but I can't remember. Jimmy got a Comstat 19 like Joe's. I had a six dollar "Astro Commander" walkie talkie but I couldn't hear them on it.  Apparently there was an entire CB radio community in West Oak Lane that I missed out on by not having a rig, according to what Jimmy told me. It was a lot of juvenile stuff, so I didn't care. I did learn from stories of his antics that you could short out somebody's antenna by pushing a pin through the COAX antenna cable and then snipping the end off so you couldn't see it. This is one of the best "revenge" scenarios I've ever heard of.

    I built a KT-135 shortwave radio kit in 1971, and when Joe moved to amateur radio I made a small transmitter, almost entirely with parts that Joe gave me. Originally it was in a wooden box but it was rebuilt on an aluminum chassis. In the picture below, the only part of the transmitter I actually bought was the chassis. All the other parts came from Joe.
"Astro Commander" walkie talkie on top of the KT-135 receiver.
On the left is the transmitter I built with the parts Joe gave me.

    Jimmy Nolen moved to Harleysville, PA in 1971. Joe's family moved to Glenside, PA in 1972. Somewhere along the line, Jimmy Walsh just vanished. If he came to say goodbye, I wasn't there. I never heard from him again. We moved away in 1974, the last white family on the block.

    The day we moved, some guy we had never seen before started yelling that we had pushed his car out of the way to make room for the moving truck, because his car was next to the truck and wouldn't start.

     We never touched his car. We were putting everything we owned into the moving truck because vermin like him made it impossible for us to live in our own neighborhood. He called the police.

     When the police arrived we proved to them we didn't push his car (no skid marks from the tires!) They talked to the guy for a while, and he went into a house a few doors away. The police asked us if we were moving in or moving out. We said moving out. They left.

    I have to give my dad a lot of credit. He wasn't a cop anymore, but his blackjack, nightstick and service revolver were about 30 feet away from where this guy was standing arguing with us, and he could have taken that guy out with one punch in any case. No exaggeration. Actually, I was waiting for it to happen. To this day, I don't know why my father showed such restraint. It wasn't exactly his style.

     Why that guy wasn't lying unconscious on the sidewalk has been a mystery to me my whole life, but I remember my dad going into the house and hearing my mom saying something loudly to my dad. I was busy loading up the truck with our stuff, so it was only voices. Since they argued a lot it was just more voices. I guess my mom's voice was the voice of reasoning.

    That day in 1974 we moved to the Olney section of Philadelphia. Olney was a great place to live. As a matter of fact, after I met my wife and got married we continued to live in Olney. It was only five miles away from West Oak Lane and had an "Avenue", except that the avenue was named 5th Street. Everything you could ever need could be purchased on 5th Street, just as you could on Ogontz Avenue in 1968.

    One drawback was that the row house we bought in Olney was a lot smaller than our row house in West Oak Lane and there was no room for any of my hobbies. We no longer had a back bathroom, a foyer or a breakfast room and the house seemed to be falling apart. We couldn't even fit all of our furniture in it. I packed up all of my stuff and stored it in my grandparents basement. That was the end of my radio experiments, till ten years later when I retrieved the boxes. By then I was married with four little kids. Those boxes weren't actually opened till we moved to West Point, PA in 1999!

    But that was OK, you could go outside at night and feel perfectly safe. As far as I was concerned in my teenage mind, it made it all worthwhile. You could sit outside on your steps or in a lawn chair at night in the summer, or walk six blocks away to a friend's house in the dark, and not have a thought about your safety.

    Back to my West Oak Lane neighborhood, our $12,500 house on 75th Avenue easily fetches over $200,000 in 2020. I'm happy to report that West Oak Lane has been revived, thanks to the efforts of the "Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation," or OARC.

From the OARC website:

            "After decades of being a vibrant commercial corridor bustling with commerce and charm, the 7100 block of Ogontz Avenue
             began to decline in the early 1970's. By 1981, Ogontz Plaza, the centerpiece of this once mighty block had become a vacant,
             graffiti-scarred eyesore."

    There is no mention of WHY or HOW this happened. Ogontz Plaza became an "empty graffiti-scarred eyesore" for no reason whatsoever, because the actual reason was simply omitted from the article.

    The OARC has an annual budget of 25 million dollars, which I assume are taxpayer dollars. They've been at work since the mid nineties, which means they've sunk 500 million tax dollars into the area. 45 of the boarded up stores are open again, thanks to grant money from OARC. The half-billion dollars spent gives the area a semblance of how it once looked. It actually looks much better than it did in 1974, but not as nice as it did in 1966.

     The revitalization of Ogontz Avenue has spread throughout the neighborhood. Instead of becoming a "badlands" the homes in the area are well kept, and many commercial properties that were open in the 1960s have reopened, though the businesses have changed. There are no pawn shops and only one "we buy gold" sign. The porno theater is a church and the mosque is a dance studio. The abandoned synagogue is now the Masjidulla mosque. The lawns are well maintained, sidewalks are new in many cases and the streets are lined with many late model cars, most of which are nicer than mine (what am I doing wrong?) Driving through the area at night (many times in 2017) I didn't see any gangs or even any groups of people standing on corners. I was pleased to see it is a thriving working class neighborhood.

    The human excrement known as the "Clang Gang" somehow disbanded. Perhaps when they realized  there were no stores left to buy anything and they couldn't get as much as a slice of pizza, they just dispersed due to a lack of victims. Neighborhood destroyed, mission accomplished. Once one of the largest gangs in Philadelphia, they are now nowhere to be found, even on the Internet.

    I imagined buying my old house back, wouldn't that be cool? I could live in my old house again! Then I went on the Philadelphia Police Department website. They have an interactive map of the city. I drew a rectangle on the map from my house to my grade school. It said there were 1000 crimes there in the last six months. It also stated that 1000 was the highest number it could display. Basically, they keep the crime numbers down with a computer program that can't count past 1000!

West Oak Lane crime
This map is from the Philadelphia Inquirer. It shows 126 crimes in West Oak Lane in ONE MONTH. (March 27 to April 25, 2021). There was an assault on 75th Avenue (for some reason designated as an "All Other Part II Crime," whatever that means) and a car was stolen from a spot right in front of my old house. This is just the tip of the ice burg. A Google search shows a number of recent murders, shootings and stabbings in the immediate area reported by the local news sites, and they only report on the worst crimes.

 The idea of buying my old house went right out the window!


This is the Artie's site at the end of my old street, as it appeared in November of 2020. The Artie's building was demolished in 2008 and this new building was put up in its place. It seems to be the exact same size as the old building. They did a nice job on it, if you like cinder block. The front door and window have been smashed in to steal what was inside the pharmacy.

 Billy's grandfather passed away before we moved, and I don't know what happened to his grandmother. In 1994 I met up with Drew Miller, then a vice president at Beneficial Bank. He was still friends with Bobby Meyers. He told me that Billy's wild and crazy lifestyle had caught up with him, and he had died of a drug overdose. I had always meant to look him up. "Missed it by that much," as Maxwell Smart would say.
    Well, thanks to some kid who came down to live with his grandmom during the summer, and the Monkey Division "radios" my parents gave me for Christmas, my whole life was changed for the better. I was never sent to Vietnam, and partially due to my interest in radio I got a job at the phone company when I was 17. I'm still there 42 years later.

    Thanks Billy Meyers! Thanks dad, for telling me to go to the library and get a book on radio! Thank you Joe Jones! Thanks Maxwell Smart, you fictitious character! Thank you, REE Electronics guys. And thank you, Alfred P. Morgan.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, which is already in progress.