Monday, June 26, 2006

Cultural Differences Among White Working Class/Lower Middle Class Philadelphians: Focus on Mayfair

It was my great pleasure to run into the Whalens on Sunday. I hadn't seen any of the Whalens in almost 30 years. The Whalens were my next door neighbors when we lived with my grandparents in the northeast and were great neighbors and great people who I genuinely loved. Bill Whalen was the youngest and my age, the other Whalen kids were older and so I knew them, but never to play with. Bill Whalen was a great kid.

Just this week I told Lynn Bloom a story about a "spirited Mayfair discussion" among the neighborhood children about our ethnic divisions. Bill Whalen said that I was a hebe, prompting me to say, "you bow down to one every sunday" which then escalated into a full blown battle of ethnic slurs ending with Bill telling Dawn that their ancestors had been at war for over 800 years. The loser in this battle? Robbie Slinkard. Why? Because his brother was "gay" for singing in the Philadelphia Boys Choir and so he was always the loser. Actually, Robbie's brother turned out to be gay as in "homosexual" in addition to, "dude, singing in a choir is so gay." He nailed gay in every sense! Robbie was also the loser because he wasn't allowed to play in the open hydrant since his father was a cop and opposed it on principle.
This is what it was like in Mayfair, except loving and comfortable at the same time. This is how we talked to each other and how our neighborhood friendships worked.

6 comments:

The Capt'n said...

My friend pd over at Ether Meats did some time in the Northeast neighborhood known as Camelot. Perhaps she has something to share...

When i was at Durham school downtown, the big thing was "Ya'll a white cracker."
Later in Merion and Bala Cynwyd, it became an all-out psychological class war, with us being at the "bottom."
Occaisionally you'd hear a Narb (someone from Narberth) say something about a "Jew" or a "fuckin' Jew." Narbs were kind of like the Taneys of the Main Line.

zs said...

Why were Narbs like the Taneys of the Main Line? They totally were. Now Narbreth is fully part of the Main Line, with no hint of the former Belmont Hills row home feel or the idea of having gone to Lamberton as opposed to Lower Merion.

But seriously Dagger, I don't know why I'm more at home with Shawnie as opposed to Adrienne Rich, but I am and it seems as if that wont never stop. Who knows what the hell for a dag like me?

zs said...

Actually, that's not true, sometimes I'm happier with Adrienne Rich. Also, I bought one of the Arcadia books "History of Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia" and have to return it because there's no Sneakers in it. What's the point then?

The Capt'n said...

No "History of Gay and Lesbian Philadelphia" can be complete without the inclusion of Sneakers. That book is a sham! Did it at least mention Mamzelle's?

The Capt'n said...

The Narb thing may have been a class thing. Parts of Narberth, like parts of Ardmore & even Bryn Mawr, etc. have the row houses that were of course built for the domestic workers, railroad workers, etc., etc. of the Main Line. Plus Narberth was like 99% Irish Catholic I think. It also has those huge houses to hold all those kids. Was it cheaper? Did some of the actual Taneys "move on up" to Narberth back in the day when somebody got a job or whatever? Like my brother's friends the McGintys did in the 1970's (though they moved from the 49th & Baltimore area.)

zs said...

Hold up, no Mamzelle's. Dude, I would have settled for some something about the Newport!