Rittenhouse Square [sixth daily dose of What I Did with my College Education]

One of the regulars at Rittenhouse Square was a fellow named Kioshi, a brilliant man with a great job writing restaurant reviews for the Inquirer.  He often bought the kids meals and provided his own place as a crash pad.  He and I became good friends because he was part of The Movement too.  Just a few years earlier, while attending the Univ. of Pennsylvania, and Pres. Nixon was napalming little Vietnamese girls, he decided to organize a demonstration against the War.  He mimeographed a flyer that said:

Saturday at Noon

Come to the William Penn Statute

We’re Going to Napalm a Dog

Of course, everybody was up in arms.  The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took particular offense.  Pretty soon every talk radio host was denouncing it, but nobody knew who was behind it.  Sure enough a huge crowd showed up at Noon on Saturday where they each got a flyer:

You just saved one dog’s life.

Now what about the Women & Children in Viet Nam?*

I only had one text book the first year I worked at Voyage House.  By my second year of being a Streetworker I’d decided to enroll in Temple Law School – Evening Division and lugged law books around with me while I worked days on the street.  My pre-law book was Judge Richette’s The Throw-Away Children, and she was exactly right.  The kids I was meeting were more like throw-aways than runaways.  Either thrown away by their parents or thrown away by society.  And my job was to try to show them that somebody still cared.

Not The Man - street counseling in 1973

Not The Man – street counseling in 1973

 

Only I was too good at it.  They had me on a local TV show and the next day a half-dozen kids ran away to Voyage House.  Their parents were pissed!   Who did I think I was being such a Pied Piper?  The truth, though, is that Voyage House was a great place.  Many a drop-out ended up getting their high school diploma at the Voyage House Alternative Learning Center.  Many a kid in need of a foster home found safety, warmth and positive adult role-models to live with.  That’s all I said on TV.  Many of these throw-aways eventually did move back home after some intense counseling sessions (with their parents included).  We had good counselors, good teachers and good group home parents – despite what you might read in “Me & Russell & Billy’s Memorial Day Adventure.”

*Kioshi wasn’t the first.  In November, 1968, antiwar protestors in St. Cloud announced plans to napalm a dog causing Minnesota’s Governor to call on St. Cloud authorities to prevent this “senseless killing.”

Tomorrow:  Shipwreck, NJ

 

 


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