The way things used to be on Broad

Vinny Talotta says his father used to keep the books of Goldstein’s Men’s and Boys’ Wear, 2537 S. Broad St., in metal-studded notebooks that weighed nearly 20 pounds.

“Now they Google you – ‘boys white suits’ and pops up this address – it’s a new generation and everything’s on the internet,” he said.

At Methodist Hospital, 2301 S. Broad St., emergency patients used to arrive in horse-drawn carriages, now they can get a surgical procedure and be home later that day with nurses using “Smart Boards” (tablets with up-to-date information).

South Broad Street is at once a glimpse at South Philly’s past and its history. Goldstein’s has been in business since 1902, albeit primarily at its former location at 807 S. Sixth St., but the family business is still suiting countless boys for First Communions across South Philly and in New Jersey. Methodist was founded in Scott Stewart’s will with a $25,000 gift in 1877 and opened its doors with a Training School for Nurses in ’92. Marconi Plaza was created in 1914 and has hosted many Mummers Parades (City Council-approved in ’01) and nearly as many Columbus Day Parades, a timeless alchemy of family, friends, sun and celebration that transcends history. And John Lerro Candy, 2434 S. Broad St., hasn’t changed much in 100 years while watching independent businesses and pharmacies disappear across the city.

More Centenarian establishments and more great stories of South Philly history abound, collected in the spirit of a Throwback Issue that gazes 100 years or more into the past.

The hospital, at Broad and Wolf streets, has changed in concert with the changing nature of American history and politics – similarly going with the punches of the Great Depression and World Wars much in the way its neighbors evolved. Currently, it’s thriving with a partnership with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (celebrating 20 years together this year) and boasts 182 licensed in-patient beds, 900 employees, and 700 physicians on staff receiving 40,000 Emergency Room visits, 36,000 Radiology stops, and 5,000 outpatient surgeries.

“It’s a community hospital in an urban environment, which is kind of unusual,” Diane Pirollo, the executive director of the Methodist Hospital Foundation & Community Relations, a resident of the 1200 block of Fitzgerald Street, and a 2010 South Philly Review Difference Maker, said. “We’re very conscious that Methodist is one of the cornerstones of the community.”

It boomed with babies in the 1960s, was ground zero for “Broad Street Bullies” celebrations in ’74 and ’75, renovated outdated spaces in the ’80s and welcomed the Internet in the ’90s.

Janet DeLuca, of the 2900 block of South Juniper Street, and the Secretary of the Friends of Marconi Plaza, can remember when she had to take a bus from the Snyder Avenue SEPTA stop when she commuted to Temple University (she graduated in 1972).

“I went there as a kid, and it was great to take my kids as children. I always call [Marconi] an urban treasure – it’s set in the middle of a city neighborhood and it’s a nice open space,” she said.

She’s seen her Friends group participate in just about every citywide Park and Clean-Up tradition and they’re excited about movie and music nights coming up this summer. She remembers when statues went into the park in ’75 and ’82 and though Marconi, 2700 S. Broad St., “was always a place to go get your water ice at Pop’s [, 1337 E. Oregon Ave.],” she says they’re actively courting Farm to City as a Fall Farmer’s Market. How very 2010s.

John Lerro’s grandfather came to Philly from Italy in the late 1800s. If there’s one secret to staying alive as a candy business for a century, it’s “you make it to order and in smaller batches, and we’ve held off of preservatives,” he said. “We never really left South Philly” added Lerro, whose mother, Carmella, is waiting for you at 2434 S. Broad St. ready to inscribe your Easter eggs with your name.

“That’s probably why we’re still there – you can’t go to a supermarket and put your name on an egg.”

He remembers when “you used to have pharmacies on every corner and now it’s chains.” In 1920 a banana split cost $0.20 and a milkshake was half that. Ice cream was a John Lerro Candy tradition until grocery stores started selling the frozen treat in the ’60s.

The Goldstein’s heyday was in the ’70s and ’80s, said Lea Talotta, the surviving spouse of late leader Vincent, Sr., who would’ve been 85 in July.

“They were better times, people dressed with more dress clothing, and nowadays it’s jeans and a pullover shirt – people don’t get dressed up,” she lamented.

Vinny told a story of his father’s fight against casual. When his father was in rehabilitation and going through exercises and walking on a treadmill, he brought him sneakers and sweatpants. He refused.

“He wanted to work out in his Italian wool pants, suspenders and a tucked-in shirt,” the son remembered.

“He didn’t own a pair of dungarees,” the late figure’s spouse responded.

Contact Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at or ext. 117.

Photos Provided by Diane Porillo and The Friends of Marconi Plaza Facebook page

Methodist Hospital at Broad and Wolf streets has been treating patients for more than 100 years, while Marconi Plaza’s been groomed from nothing into a family-friendly park destination.