Tag: Springfield Avenue

Star Harbor


Star Harbor (4700 Springfield Ave.) in 1966

In the 1960s, as the youthful Baby Boom generation began to take over the news, their parents and grandparents sometimes felt left behind. The question became “Do we have a place for them in our fast-moving, youth-oriented society?”

The U.S. Government recognized vital needs. The Older Americans Act, signed into law on July 14, 1965, established the Administration on Aging within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and created Medicare, a health insurance program for the elderly; and Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor.

Other social issues were more complicated. Vicky Perralta, the Filipino Program Director of the Philadelphia Center for Older People, told the Inquirer: “I have seen more elderly people die from sheer loneliness and isolation…” She offered a cultural perspective, based on “my being an Asian, where the old are really looked up to, where they are really loved, respected and wanted ‘till they reach their graves…”

Our parish developed a prototype solution, when Monsignor Sefton, along with Monsignor McDonough of Catholic Social Services, and Vicky Perralta, shared a common dream to create a space “for and by the elderly in their own neighborhood.

At the same time, our neighborhood was changing, which became part of the challenge. Our Parish 100th Anniversary Book points out that in the late 1950s, as longtime parishioners began to move out to the suburbs, new families of different racial and ethnic backgrounds — many of whom were not Catholic — began to move in. What was needed, then, was “the first community of its kind in the archdiocese, a recreational center for citizens regardless of race or creed.” (it is important to note that the word “citizen” was used, then, as a synonym for “people,” not to signify nationality!)

F006Monsignor Sefton purchased the former J.J. White Funeral Home on the corner of 47th and Springfield in 1966 and the Parish Centennial book notes that “many volunteers pitched in to clean, paint, repair, and decorate the former funeral home and make it an attractive place to meet.” Initial offerings – chosen by the community — included Arts and Crafts and Painting classes, as well as a discussion group, trips, and a “TV Lounge.”

The efforts were successful: the 1967 Parish Monthly Bulletin reports: “It was a joy indeed to see so many happy faces at the first Open House of our new enter for older citizens on Monday, September 18. Almost a hundred members and potential members spent the day inspecting the facilities at the center, lunching together and sharing in the afternoon’s entertainment. The future of Star Harbor seems assured because it has the enthusiastic approval of the people for whom it is designed. All the older citizens are invited to join. Many happy hours and welcome companionship are in store for them as they participate in the activities of the Center. Star Harbor is the fulfillment of a dream of Monsignor Sefton….His efforts in behalf of the senior citizens will be long and gratefully remembered…

Today, Star Harbor Senior Community Center is operated by Catholic Housing and Community Services in partnership with the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), and continues “to provide services to ethnically and economically diverse seniors age 55 and over,” encouraging older adults to “engage in activities they enjoy and find meaningful. Health and wellness is a top priority with offerings in exercise, health education, screenings, and immunizations. Lunch is available for all members that are 60 years of age and older. Breakfast is available for purchase.” A counselor is on staff for senior issues. Today’s offerings also include opportunities such as “Learning to Use Your Tablet classes for iPad or Kindle.” Membership is Free. Check it out!

1967 star harbour ad

Star Harbor Senior Citizen Center, as in St. Francis de Sales Parish Monthly Bulletin, September 1967

Concert at Star Harbor 1978

1940 Summer Party

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The notes for the Saint Francis de Sales Summer Festival in 1940, the year of  the Golden Jubilee, provide interesting clues about parish life, long ago.

The party took place in the Parish parking lot on June 6, 7, 8 and June 13, 14, and 15, with “fancy goods, groceries, refreshments, recordings every night, ice cream, cakes and candy, novelties, games, and specialties, ” and the big attraction: the raffle of two 1940 Chevrolets, proudly displayed on the Rectory lawn.

Preparations involved a certain amount of arm twisting:  all parishioners were expected to sell books of raffle tickets, and sales were meticulously tallied, compared, and publicized per block and by parishioner. High school students were instructed that “Every time you dispose of a book, you receive credit for a Social Contribution to the High School Tuition.” Families were directed “to visit the Party at least one night each week.”

Notes from the wrapup hint at the size of the event and some neighborhood disruption: “We are well aware of the traffic on Springfield Avenue. Here is an interesting note: automobiles from eleven different states (including California) stopped to secure chances on our Grand Awards.” Traffic tangles, could, in part, have been due to assertive raffle ticket-selling: “No doubt you noticed the gentleman who sold chances in front of the Rectory. We are grateful to Mr. Martin Gillane for his services. We compliment him on the money secured by his work, Two Hundred Ninety-four Dollars and Ten Cents.” (That would have been 2,941 ten cent tickets!)

Did “Fancy Goods” (probably homemade crafts) fail to sell? A carefully-worded news item suggests some frantic behind-the-scenes efforts to increase revenue: “With very little time to prepare, the Fancy Goods table presented a mighty fine Card Party for the Summer Party Fund. We are grateful to these Ladies for the magnificent sum of One Hundred and Seventy-five Dollars, and we compliment them on the orderly manner in which their Party was conducted.

The Main Event was, of course, the raffle of the two 1940 Chevrolets, and the youthful winner likely caused some mirth (and envy): “The Summer Party Automobiles were awarded to Mrs. Clara Randolph of Upper Darby, and Master Allen Smith, 1123 Divinity Street. Master Smith is in the second grade of our School.

In the end, the Rectory commented: “We are most pleased and gratified…that the Summer Party will bring us more than Seven Thousand Six Hundred Dollars” for Jubilee-related repairs and renovations (mostly cleaning of  walls and updated lighting) – through the efforts of 396 workers, including adult parishioners, High School students, the Boys’ Battalion and Girls’ Corps (military-style organizations for parish children – precursors to Boy and Girl Scouts).  The report concluded: “With the help of God, with continued interest and co-operation, we shall complete our plans for a joyful celebration of our Golden Jubilee in the Fall.”

Why was God’s help invoked? The Great Depression had just ended with the beginning of World War II in Europe, but the parish was in debt and tension and uncertainty were in the air.  Reading between the lines, the carefully repeated insistence that among the volunteers “there was always close harmony. Everywhere there was goodwill. All of these speak for Parish Pride….” suggests, perhaps, some strategic optimism. Long-ago parishioners are often invested with halos, but perhaps they weren’t yet angels after all!