July_2002_pic_1
View

Lord, I Got Those Grays Ferry Blues

When I called Mike Rafferty to arrange a meeting to discuss a possible symposium on the demise of the local community, I had to choose a different date from the one I?wanted because Mike was busy that night.  He was boxing at the Spectrum.  Like Rocky Balboa, Mike Rafferty lives ten minutes from the Spectrum.  Unlike Rocky, Mike Rafferty is a lightweight—and a cop.  Unlike Rocky, he will never make enough money fighting to move out of the neighborhood, which may explain why he is interested in preserving it—what is left of it, at least.

Grays Ferry, a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia, lies across the Schuylkill River from the University of Pennsylvania, a geographical fact that has saved it from the University’s penchant to gobble up Catholic neighborhoods where no geographical barrier intervenes, as it did to the west in St. Francis de Sales Parish.  The Irish in Grays Ferry used to unload the coal barges that came down the Schuylkill from the mines in the mountains.  Then they became cops and firemen and worked for the utilities and the mills until the mills all left town in search of slave labor in the southern hemisphere.  But their penchant for fighting remained constant.  The young men who hang out in bars in Grays Ferry are avid sports fans in general and fans of the Notre Dame “Fighting Irish” in particular, probably because the team name suits...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here

X