Life at the Intersection of Cottman and Frankford

via FOX 29

As I move along Frankford Avenue toward Cottman Avenue to join the Eagles celebration, I am pulled by an invisible tide that has guided me since I was a little kid walking to McDonald’s with my grandpop.

I’ve lived in Mayfair most of my life, and I’ve gotten to know a number of its landmarks.

There’s the abandoned building where the McDonald’s used to be. Across the street is a Republic Bank where the Mayfair Movie Theater used to be.

Used to be. It’s a favorite phrase of the “back in the day” brigade that frequently laments the deteriorating condition of Mayfair. Upon reflecting on the evidence, they have a point.

There’s the place that once sold ice cream. There’s the building where you could get your watch fixed. The Stutz Candy Company held down prime real estate on the avenue at one time. These places are all gone, relics of a bygone era.

Even the Philadelphia GOP has pulled up stakes and moved out of its Cottman Avenue headquarters, taking their Donald Trump cutout and promises to “make America great again” with them.

And yet, there are many stubborn holdouts. Capriotti’s continues to sell fruit and produce in their little space on the 7100 block of Frankford, as they’ve done since 1968. Up the block is Domenico’s Formal Wear. You’ll find McKenna’s Bar still serving pints on Aldine Street. If the promise of a 70 cent PBR mug isn’t enough to entice you to enter what the locals affectionately call “The Deener,” then perhaps you might be intrigued by its sign advertising “N.Y. TV.”

The first Philly Pretzel Factory opened its doors on Bleigh Street in 1998. Across the street is the Mayfair Diner, which has been in business since 1932. Depending on their age, locals will tell you about the time they met Bill Clinton and JFK at this long-entrenched greasy spoon.

There are plenty of other small businesses eking out an existence along this once-bustling business corridor, like Infinity Jewelers, Tailhook Tavern, the Parish Pub, and House of Thai cuisine. Bars like Harrington’s and Reale’s remain neighborhood staples.

In short, Mayfair is a community that is struggling to avoid submerging in the post-industrial muck that has claimed so many other towns and areas of the city.

Many of my neighbors in the ’90s and ’00s have moved in search of better schools for their children or a home that isn’t attached to other houses.

Some of my friends didn’t have the opportunity to make that choice, falling victim to a painkiller-turned-heroin epidemic that has devastated our area. While we were busy clearing street corners, we forgot about the dangers lurking in our medicine cabinets.

There is growing concern that the parochial school I attended, St. Matt’s, might meet the same fate as so many other shuttered Catholic schools in Philadelphia.

Nevertheless, we have endured. The neighborhood has seen an influx of immigrants and multilingual speakers who have injected some energy into the community. Mayfair School just built an addition to handle its growing student population. And new businesses have filled some of the vacant buildings that dot Frankford Avenue.

Although life might be different in Mayfair, one aspect has never changed: an appreciation for the Big 4 professional sports teams.

While there are always gatherings at Cottman and Frankford any time a Philly team gets to a championship game or brings home a title, the connection with this particular Eagles squad feels different.

We’re an underdog neighborhood in an underdog city. It only makes sense that we would gravitate toward an underdog team.

Sure, the people who don’t live here will laugh at us as some of our more inebriated neighbors try to climb greased street poles and judge us collectively as a few revelers get a little too rowdy.

They’ll cling to their narratives about snowballs and Santa, and claim that Philly sports fans are a menace to the NFL order.

They don’t get it. They’ll never get it. They don’t have the privilege of calling this city their home and the Eagles their football team.

They must never have lived in a place in which where you’re from is an integral part of who you are. They don’t understand what it feels like to have an organization hold you up as the pillars of your community crumble before your eyes. They don’t realize that, even though industrial jobs are disappearing, Philadelphia is still a blue-collar town. And we expect the players on our teams to work as hard as we do. What they interpret as anger we see as passion. We care, and we don’t apologize for it.

But let the detractors wallow in their vapid generalizations. They’ll certainly find anecdotal evidence to bolster their “Philly fan” narrative. Maybe they saw chaos from the narrow filter their Internet connection provided. What I saw from the ground, however, was a moment when a community came together and cheered the Eagles’ success.

The Eagles gave us a reason to celebrate, and – for the first time in awhile – to hope.

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22 Responses

  1. what a touching article!!! I almost cried! Go back and save your community instead of working for Crossingbroad! You are part of the problem for Mayfair!

    1. Hey buddy, I hope you are kiddin’,….’cause I did cry!! And didn’t your mother tell ya not to say anything if ya can’t say something nice???

  2. Wonderful article, Tim. I haven’t been this touched since mandatory closed door confession time in my private office. Greasing poles is, as you know, a highly regarded Jesuit tradition, and I’m glad to see it live on.

  3. I hesitate to ask this given the opponent in 2 weeks but I graduated Lincoln in 65 and rarely get back. Is New England Pizza still around?

  4. I saw Snow White and Bambi at the movie theater, my Nana use to walk us to McDonalds or Moe’s deli, we would go to Roy Rogers after St. Hubert’s let out and go to the Jack N the Box around the corner for dinner, my Nanas dog Smokey’s vet was on Frankford, the Beneficial bank was where I opened my first bank account. catching the 66 trolley to go to the El. Memories and pride of being from Philly. And I think you captured it quite well with the sentence “They don’t realize that, even though industrial jobs are disappearing, Philadelphia is still a blue-collar town. And we expect the players on our teams to work as hard as we do. “.

  5. I loved getting to ready this article. It was sent to me by an HUGE Eagles fan with the last name of Reilly. He has even gotten me to watch and cheer for the Eagles, and I’m a native Texan and Cowboy fan. I now want to go and explore the area you wrote about. I want to end with this, “GO EAGLES!!!! FLY EAGLES FLY!!!”

  6. Mayfair movie theatre closed in 1985. There’s not a chance the author ever saw it with his own eyes.Also, Mayfair has been a s-hole for decades filled with White Trash Racists, which are, ironically, being replaced by the people they bemoaned for decades.

    1. Mike,
      Mayfair isn’t a shit hole but it has gone through some changes, just like our world has. A lot of residents who raised families there have moved on, but the new residents are people who want to feel comfortable in their community and want Mayfair to succeed . Everyone wants to feel at home. Not evrryone bemoans others.

  7. I would’nt call us a stuborn holdout.
    Capriotti Bros. are doing just fine, i fact better than ever. True people have to eat but with so many options out there we do work hard to keep our good reputation going. We’ve seen businesses come and go thru the years and our share of empty stores. I can’t nail down y some stay and some go, but i do know that many homes are 2 income familys and that is a main reason why the corridor has suffered. So we (this may sound funny to some) need to make Mayfair a destination spot. Good quality businesses, with a clean and safe enviorment. The majortity of our customers park,shop and pull away. We need SOLID stores.

  8. Well written article that brought back memories of how it use to be. Now, lets back our team and bring the trophy to Philly town. GO BIRDS- beat the Patriots and show the world that you are the best.

  9. We lived in West Mayfair for years a good working class area. We worked in the prisons for 20+ years. Retired and moved to the pocono’s 2010. Went back to visit the old neighbor-hood and friends said you got out just in time because they are moving in (the ethnics).to me they are like locust they will destroy there neighborhood and move to another to ruin that area.

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