In 1963, The Orlons recorded South Street:
Where do all the hippies meet?
South Street, South Street
Where the dancing is elite
South Street, South Street
The recent heat wave reminded me that, in the 1960’s, I had a summer job in Philadelphia on South Street. To make ends meet, I actually had two summer jobs. The first was a National Science Foundation grant to study the effects of using a Coulter Counter to determine morbidity in small cell organisms and the second was a night shift job at the Abbot’s Dairy at Second and South Street, loading ice cream and other dairy products onto trucks for the next day’s delivery. I will make no further mention of the NSF grant job: it would be like describing, in lurid and excruciating detail, a root canal or a colonoscopy.
The second job started at about 10 pm and ended around 5 in the morning. I took a bus each evening from Philadelphia’s west end down to Second and South fully equipped for the evening’s task. Even though it was a typical sweltering summer in Philadelphia – night time temperatures and humidity in the high seventies – I had to come equipped as a member of a crew to load trucks from freezers maintained at 20 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit). I wore jeans and a woolen shirt. Under these I had put on full woolen undergarments. Over these I added a hooded sweatshirt. Upon arrival at the dairy, I would add insulated gloves, insulated boots, an insulated full length jacket, goggles and a cap.
We divided into two teams. Each team, of about six to eight men, was given individual sets of products to load on their trays and we went into the freezers for no more than twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, you were just too cold to keep going. We loaded our trays, placed them into a truck and then got out and took a twenty minute break while the next team loaded their items.
Around two or three in the morning, we were given a half-hour “lunch-time” break. One evening, the driver of the trucks suggested to two of three of us to go onto South Street for a break by having a beer. A South Street bar, at three in the morning, was no place for any sensible person – period. My memory is hazy but I recall an extremely long, practically empty bar with a number of tables alongside. The three or four of us got our beers and sat down to drink them at one of the tables. At the other end of the bar, two men got into a heated discussion which ended when one of the men hit the other over the head with a bottle, breaking it on his head. We decided at that moment that it was very urgent for us to get back to work.
The summer jobs came to an end and I returned to fall semester at college with a new appreciation of why I was bothering to get a college degree.
You really are leaving us hanging here. Did either of those two jobs morph into a career?
Well, no. Both were just summer jobs, although I did get the NSF grant because I was studying science.
That’s a great memory. It sounds like a scene from a movie.
They had a bin of broken containers and let us eat as much ice cream as we wanted from the bin. Of course, if there was a flavor you particularly liked, that container just happened to break.
Surprisingly, after a night in a freezer, you lost interest in ice cream.
That’s a nice little perk, at least for awhile, until your uniform no longer fits you. It would take an awful lot for me to lose interest in ice cream, I’m just saying.