1041 Comly St. Oxford Village
by Lenny Seidman
Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.
Lenny Seidman shares his memories of 1041 Comly St., Oxford Village.
I lived here from age one to eleven. The rented white-shingled, coal-furnace house was in a square cul-de-sac of about 30 all-white families. This federal project was quickly built to house families near the navy depot. In the back was a big weeping willow tree and about 100 yards away was a baseball field where several sandlot games per week took place in summer months. I always stood behind the home plate batting cage to watch the pitcher's "stuff". The big street was Oxford Ave which ran along the cemetery. I walked through the cemetery to go to school. Every day after school, we played stick ball, hose ball, wire ball and step ball. Occasionally we would walk to the railroad tracks and set fires to the grass and weed embankments then run away, hearts pumping, scared and laughing.
Many of the 30 families were decent folks, but enough of them were bigots expressing their blind hatred towards Jews, African Americans, Puerto Ricans and Asians. Outside I played with their sons; inside the house was my father's deeply rich cantorial singing, a paradox that remains embedded in my psyche to this day.