Last week’s opinion by John O’Connell, “Re-imagining Germantown” attracted a lot of response from readers. The following comments were left on our website, chestnutillloval.com
Germantown is no ‘hellscape’
Do you even spend time in Germantown? You’ve described Germantown in such terrible ways while completely ignoring all the progress by so many dedicated and vocal community advocates.
Yes, Germantown needs to work more on its preservation, and, yes, our commercial corridors need help. But that’s in-progress and things are happening. And to categorize our neighborhood as some sort of shooting-gallery police-blotter hellscape is a huge insult to the residents. Families are happily raising their children here, businesses are setting up shop here, and people are engaging in neighborhood improvements every day.
We don’t need some guy from the city’s wealthiest neighborhood poo-pooing and tsk-tsking from on high about how he wants us to be a Williamsburg clone. If you ever spent any real time in Germantown talking to the residents, you’d know that an article like this would go over as about as well as a lead balloon. If you’d like to learn about us, come and hang. Both Uncle Bobbie’s and the Germantown Espresso Bar are great community hubs where the conversation between neighbors flows freely. Take in a show at the Rittenhouse Soundworks or visit the Saturday morning farm stand at the Germantown Kitchen Garden.
Elizabeth J. McTear
Germantown needs a push
This is probably a very tough piece for many Germantowners to read.
I lived in Germantown from 1959-1968. My parents stayed there into the ’90s. During that time, redlining strangled our beautiful community. Cheesy landlords tore down gorgeous old homes and erected cheap apartments, with little care for design or for fitting appropriately into the beautiful, historic community.
The business district went from a bustling center of department stores and little shops, to a place of empty storefronts, where many people of all ages and racial/ethnic groups were afraid to visit after sundown. I saw neighboring houses regularly spray-painted with graffiti.
One evening, a friend, visiting my parents had his tires slashed, while his car was parked right outside their door. We had part of our landscape, a beautiful evergreen tree on the front lawn, literally cut down and hauled off in the night during one Christmas season. The family station wagon, parked behind our house, was stolen.
Germantown became a sad and scary place. I wish that someone had spoken up back then at the Germantown Courier and at the Chestnut Hill Local, as the author of this piece has done here.
From what I have heard recently, the Germantown community is beginning to show real signs of flourishing again. There have always been little islands of beauty and historic significance there, but in the last few years there has been a renewed effort to revitalize and thrive.
I haven’t lived there for 50 years, but my heart will always hold a place for Germantown. I hope it rises! And I hope, too, that this journalistic piece, rather than evoking a defensive or angry response, evokes a spirited sense of renewal, an insistent push forward.
Romantic memories of Wheel Pump Inn
When I read the Local Life article last week about the Wheel Pump Inn in Erdenheim[“New Life ‘Pumped’ into 283-year-old Erdenheim landmark,” April 26], it opened a floodgate of memories. In the mid-’70s I was at a guitar-picking party in the boonies outside Lansdale. A group of us decided to head down toward Philly to this tavern where a band we liked was playing. The sign outside read “The Wheel Pump Inn.” I took my guitar inside because someone had told me that I could play when the band took a break.
I’ll admit I was a bit tipsy at the time, but I was always open to new places to showcase my performing skills as a single-act guitarist/vocalist, a career I’d been pursuing for years. The band left for a break. I picked up my guitar and headed up on stage. I’d barely thrown my guitar strap over my head when these two guys approached me, one on either side, and gently walked me back to my seat, saying, “No guests are invited to perform tonight, dear.”
A few years later when I moved to Ambler, I was looking for gigs in the area. The Wheel Pump Inn popped up in a weekend news entertainment supplement. I went to meet with the owner, Doug Derby, to check it out, the right way this time. I played Doug a short demo tape, gave him one of my brochures listing all the places I’d performed, and he hired me on the spot. The interior had been redone. There were apartments upstairs. The first floor had a huge horseshoe bar in one room and dining in the other. I played in the bar every Saturday for months.
One February night, Greg, a guy I’d met while performing there, introduced me to his friend, Gene, who loved my show. When I told Gene I was driving to Carlisle, PA, with my manager the next day to perform at Dickinson University, he said he’d see me there. I never saw him. I found out later that he drove out there, drove all over campus and asked tons of people where the show was, but nobody knew. So he drove all the way back.
I also found out that years before when I had been escorted off the stage that night, it was Greg and Gene — then the Wheel Pump’s bouncers — who had escorted me. And, above all, I found out that I’d met the love of my life at that February night performance when I met Gene for the second time. We married the next July. This July will be our 41st anniversary. Gene has traveled to every one of my shows and sat through every performance to this day.
We spend each anniversary dining out at a place that has iconic meaning for us. If the Wheel Pump ever turns back into a restaurant, we’ll be celebrating there for sure. It’s a place where kismet happened.