Monday, May 7, 2007

The 47 Trolley, heading "south" on 5th Street, between the Fern Rock Theatre and Fisher Park


Originally published in the May 4, 1963 edition of the "Olney Times", this Arnold Schnabel poem takes him on another tentative step toward some sort of acceptance of his post-breakdown life. (This sonnet brought to you thanks to the good people of the Arnold Schnabel Society.)

A few notes:

The "Heintz factory": this huge steel-works plant (now a shopping mall), which operated round-the-clock across Nedro Avenue from the Schnabel semi-detached, continued to play an important part in the poet's psychic life.

"Catholic War Vets": the Catholic veterans' club on Chew Avenue, which commonly kept its doors open on fair days. Arnold Schnabel was a member in good standing, but, as he was abstaining from alcohol on doctor's orders, he would no doubt have resisted its companionly charms.

"Krass": Krass Brothers on South Street, clothiers to generations of Philadelphia's working class.

The "47": Arnold would perhaps have taken this trolley to go downtown or to catch a ballgame at Connie Mack Stadium.



“It’s Not So Bad”

It’s not so bad, all this, this life, it’s really not:
The stertorous breathing of the Heintz factory,
The women hauling sacks of who knows what,
I nod to them and usually they nod back to me;
The boys outside the playground with cupped cigarettes;
The gaggles of girls whose giggling stops as I pass;
The pock of billiard balls in the Catholic War Vets’ --
I walk through it all in my blue suit from Krass.
My friend Jesus has not again appeared to me;
The doctor told me that was all inside my head.
I shall head home now, to Mother and TV,
Some cake, a soothing rosary, and then to bed:
But hark! The noble trolley that men call 47:
Would it could take me directly to heaven.


(For links to other inspiring poems from Arnold Schnabel, and to the serialization of his mammoth memoir Railroad Train to Heaven, check the right hand column of this page.)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank God we're in the post post-modern world devoid of these annoying trolley cars clogging our streets and preventing the free flow of speedy car travel. Time and technology marches on and with dear leader at the helm an endless supply of cheap fuel--doh!

Anonymous said...

Wat up wit dis blog?

Thank God we're in the post post-modern world devoid of these annoying trolley cars clogging our streets and preventing the free flow of speedy car travel. Time and technology marches on and with dear leader at the helm an endless supply of cheap fuel--doh!

Dan Leo said...

Dear Anon, your point did indeed bear repeating.

Vater Kartoffeln said...

au contraire, I live now next to a Strassebahn line, and I had forgotten how fond I am of the sounds. The gentle squealing of the wheels, the spark of the stator inching up the street, the hissing of the doors. They don't speak, these doors, not like the impertinent doors of the current incarnation of the Market Frankford El.

Dan Leo said...

There is no sweeter music on earth -- like the dying cry of some great crippled giant -- than the whine of a Philadelphia subway car as it pulls into your station.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's heading SOUTH!

Dan Leo said...

Anon, you're so right! I always did have a lousy sense of direction!

Anonymous said...

In your photo of the 47 Trolley heading North on 5th street, is actually heading South on fifth!!!
The FernRock theater was located on the east side of 5th. I grew up in the area.

Dan Leo said...

Thanks, Anon -- a previous commenter had already pointed out my error, and now I'm finally going to change the "north" to "south" in the title. I grew up in the neighborhood too, and went to the Fern Rock a thousand times at least, so God knows I should know better!

Anonymous said...

I found your blog as I was doing a Google image search for the Fern Rock. Now 60, some of my most evocative recollections of growing up in Olney were the Saturday matinee's. Always a great double feature for just the change from Mom's weekly shopping at the A & P.

Dan Leo said...

Yes, those were fun times at the Fern Rock!