A ringing sensation

Winter Storm Jonas battered us with nearly two feet of snow

2016 will go down as an unforgettable year for numerous reasons, with the tumultuous presidential election and a surplus of celebrity deaths among the most newsworthy items. However, the year was certainly not all doom and gloom, especially with regards to local news. True to their identity as caring and compassionate individuals, South Philadelphians made chronicling their lives particularly rewarding this year, and the South Philly Review, nearing the end of its 69th year, loves continuing to age gracefully with all of you. Here is a summary of many of the major news items that appeared in our pages. May 2017 be an enriching blessing to all of you.

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin ended the year on a great note by becoming engaged and started it in a wonderful way by helping to break ground on the Smith Playground Revitalization Project. The endeavor, through his Make The World Better foundation’s ties with Urban Roots, which also helped to pioneer the rejuvenation of the Ralph Brooks Tot Lot, will soon come to endow the West Passyunk site with a state-of-the-art turf football field, two baseball fields, three basketball courts, a new playground, a rehabbed recreation center with a new kitchen, rain gardens, and a fitness trail.

The East Coast will never be a stranger to the quirky personality of Mother Nature. Winter Storm Jonas dumped 22.4 inches on Philadelphia, leading South Philly residents with the perpetually unappealing task of clearing sidewalks and parking spaces while praying for the City of Philadelphia to make streets manageable. Reports deemed the blast the fourth-biggest snowfall in 132 years of record-keeping.

Society can be quick to cast aside considerations of the homeless as being in need of love. South of South’s Bethesda Project will never stand for such disregard and yet again proved it through a Valentine’s Day fundraiser. The brainchild netted more than $1,500 that led to the creation of 600 valentines for its residents/shelter seekers.

Fifth-grade students from Passyunk Square’s Eliza B. Kirkbride Elementary School saw their confidence bloom through their Best in Show victory in a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society-guided Junior Flower Show. The learners paid homage to the Liberty Bell in securing placement among the other gems at the Pennsylvania Convention Center-held Philadelphia Flower Show.

East Passyunk Avenue would very likely fetch “great dining destination” as a word association inquiry. More than a dozen celebrated chefs, including mastermind Lynn Rinaldi, who orchestrated talks with the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District and who held the event at her establishment, Paradiso Restaurant, gathered to offer a dynamic dinner that generated funds for additional police presence during the summer months.

Life can be quite challenging in South Philly, leading few folks to be able to say “It’s gravy.” However, the appreciation of gravy itself has long been a source of comfort. Ss.Neumann-Goretti High School, through the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association, hosted the second annual Italian Red Gravy Cook-off, on a Sunday, fittingly. Eight contestants vied for tomato-based bragging rights in placing their goodies before five judges.

Locals celebrated the opening of the South Philadelphia Community Health and Literacy Center at Broad and Morris streets. The much-anticipated amenity consists of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Pediatric Primary Care Center, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health Community Health Center, the South Philadelphia Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the DiSilvestro Playground and Recreation Center.

As part of its fourth Throwback Issue, the South Philly Review paid homage to the 9th Street Italian Market’s businesses that have been in operation for more than 100 years. The tribute touched on changing tastes and demographics while also reinforcing what has kept the sites so in-demand, namely, consistency.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration introduced a $0.03 per ounce tax on sodas and sweet drinks in order to generate funds for universal Pre-K, rec centers, libraries, and parks. City Council approved the proposal by a 13–4 vote, dropping the tax to 1.5 cents per ounce, with implementation beginning on Sunday.

Enchantment Theatre Co. has been quite kind to South Philly-based performers and showed its enthusiasm for local learners by teaming up with George W. Childs Elementary School for a 20-week residence. The hard work resulted in a 10-minute staging of John Steptoe’s “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters,” a tale that Jennifer Blatchley Smith, Enchantment’s artistic director of literacy and education, described as an African folktale that combines elements of “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

South Philadelphia products Monique Impagliazzo and Jennifer and Krystal Tini returned to their roots by filming “Turkey’s Done” on the 1900 block of South Jessup Street and the 1200 block of McKean Street. The laugh-a-second project called on “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Cheri Oteri to play Peaches Brocco, a cheated-upon wife who vows holiday revenge on her wandering spouse.

We took a break in the battle for local cheesesteak bragging rights to recognize a milestone — Geno’s Steaks 50th anniversary. While Joey Vento may not have been around to enjoy the celebration, his son Geno, yes that Geno, recognized the occasion by hosting a block party. Marc Summers, of “Double Dare” fame, showed up at the Passyunk Square establishment to serve as the master of ceremonies. With the ordering line continuing to wrap around the block on a daily basis, it seems the initial $6 investment was an extremely good one for the Vento family.

With all of the famous people who once called South Philly home, the year had to include a celebrity sighting or two. Golden Boy Frankie Avalon was spotted on South Broad Street for a very special occasion — the unveiling of the South Philly Musicians Remix Mural. The project, which was done by lead muralist Eric Okdeh, features a who’s who of local legends. We’re talking Eddie Fisher, Fabian Forte, Bobby Rydell, Jerry Blavat, Al Martino, Chubby Checker, Charlie Gracie, James Darren and Danny Cedrone. Take a walk to 1532 S. Broad St. and see this Mural Arts Philadelphia beauty up close.

But only one of them is in the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Who is it?

In the latest round of the South Philly supermarket shuffle, the Colligas Family cut the ribbon on a brand new ShopRite in Whitman Plaza. This move from Snyder Plaza marked the official completion to a two-year plan. As a tribute to South Philly, the traditional numbered checkout lines feature a South Philly twist — they each pay homage to local streets. The site was previously a Pathmark. But the local supermarket game is far from finished, as the now vacant Snyder Plaza ShopRite will become an Acme in 2017.

The fall would not be complete without the South Philly Review recognizing the Difference Makers — local residents and employees going above and beyond the call of duty to help South Philly and its residents prosper. The seventh class of Difference Makers was honored at a special November banquet held at the Mummers Museum.

Yes, that was a trolley you saw shuttling shoppers around Whitman Plaza during the holiday season. The complimentary service came courtesy of an agreement between the Breslin Realty Development Corp. and Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours. The amenity will make its final trips today through Saturday, so treat yourself to one more holiday season goodie.

Frequent customers of D’Angelo’s Speciality Meats, the 106-year-old 9th Street Italian Market institution, felt the shockwaves following the unexpected news that owner Santo “Sonny” D’Angelo III would be calling it a career. The all-business butcher shared few words when he was asked, “Why, Sonny, why?”

Farewell. Many people shed a tear following the passing of Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia. What in the world does this have to do with South Philly, you ask? Well, her father was none other than legendary crooner Eddie Fisher, who was a native of the 2500 block of South Fifth Street.

Enough with the Hollywood trivia. Victor Picariello, aka Victor the Barber, decided to call it a career on Christmas Eve after 48 years in business at his eponymous shop on 16th Street and Oregon Avenue. One of his final customers was none other than SPR staff writer Joseph Myers.

The holiday season marked a special time of year for students in Tina Pierandozzi’s life skills class at Sharswood Elementary School, as the third, fourth and fifth graders took the time to share holiday joy with members of Engine 33 by preparing peanut and jelly sandwiches for the Whitman-based personnel.

Contact Editor Bill Gelman at bgelman@bsmphilly.com or Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com.

All images are file photos

Whitman Plaza is running a holiday trolley service through Saturday.

St. Gabriel School students learned the wonders of coding.

The SS United States’ future became a tad clearer in February.

Locals loved heading to 1532 S. Broad St. for the dedication of the South Philly Musicians Remix Mural.

Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars New Year’s Brigade offered Thanksgiving assistance to veterans.

The Italian Market hosted a scene from “Rizzo.”

Childs School students (left) staged “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters.” The 1300 block of Percy Street (right) brightens moods as the host of the Electric Street mural.

The FBI conducted an August raid at the Pennsport home of union boss John Dougherty.

This quintet of judges sampled the goods at the Italian Red Gravy Cook-off.

“The Electric Street” mural on the 1300 block of Percy Street has the peculiar Passyunk Square strip brightly lit.

East Passyunk Avenue chefs held a fundraiser to secure more police presence on their thoroughfare.

“Time Is On Our Side” celebrated various interpretations of pride in one’s culture, identity, and aspirations.

July’s Democratic National Convention led to the nomination of Hillary Clinton

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin, left, has been a hit with encouraging local youths’ athletic pursuits.

Bethesda Project showed Valentine’s Day-infused love for its population.

Numerous vendors have helped the Ninth Street Italian Market to excel for more than a century.