Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pitching Pennies

This is the first form of gambling a young South Philly kid was introduced to, besides Uncle Giuseppe betting the ponies at the local bar.  Pitching pennies was a favorite pastime and kids would save their lunch and chore money to play.

The first step to pitching pennies would be to find a nice open wall with a smooth pavement.  The game was played by pitching (or throwing underhand) your penny towards a wall one player per round.  The person with their penny closest to the wall got to keep all the pennies that were pitched.  A leaner was almost a guarenteed win, unless some smart ass knocked your penny down or got a leaner which was higher up the wall.  A leaner was a penny that leaned against the wall while standing on the pavement.

As I was growing up we played with nickels and even quarters.  By the time the 80's rolled around,  you could not get anything for a penny anymore!

Hide The Strap

Hide the strap may have been a little before my time, but talking to the old-heads (older folks in the neighborhood) gave me great insight to how hide the strap was played.

The game was played similar to hide and seek, but with a twist.  A strap or belt was hidden somewhere in a predetermined  neighborhood (ex. from 8th to 9th, Jackson to Wolf).  One of the kids was chosen to be it.  How they were chosen can be anywhere from a shootout, rock paper scissors or even age.  Whoever was it had to find the strap.  Once they found the strap then they had to find the other players.  When they found a player they can hit or swat them until they reached and tagged home base.  Home base could be a persons step, a telephone pole or whatever else a young childs imagination could come up with.

Submit an Article

We are always looking for other peoples thoughts about growing up in South Philly. If you grew up in South Philly, at any time, and would like to submit an article about your experiences please feel free. We would LOVE to hear your stories!

We are interested in anything that you would like to share including:
  • The games you played.
  • The food you ate (either cooked at home or a local eatery)
  • Any special traditions.

ANYTHING THAT REMINDS YOU OF SOUTH PHILLY!! We hope to hear from you soon.

You can now submit an article or an idea for an article by using the form on the right column.  Please include your information (Name and Email Address) if you would like to receive credit for the submission.

If you would like to remain anonymous that is fine, we wont check if your using a real name or email address! ;)


Buck-Buck was a fun and sometimes painful game we played for hours on end in Key School Yard (Francis Scott Key School on 8th & Wolf Streets).  The game was played by one person being the wall cushion or anchor.  The first person of the defending team would bend over and hold onto the anchors midsection.  The next person bent over and held onto the first persons waist leaning on their back.  Depending on how many people you had you would create a chain in this manner.  We usually played with 8-10 people.

Then the fun was to begin...

A person from the other team would come running full speed and yell out "Buck-Buck number one is coming", then leapfrog onto the backs of the other team.  He then slid up as close as he could to the anchor so there was plenty of room for Buck-Buck numbers 2-5.  This went on until either all members were on the backs of the human chain or the chain collapsed.

If the chain did not collapse,  the captain of the chain gang (team bent over on the bottom) had to guess how many fingers were held up by the other teams captain.  He had three tries, and if he guessed correctly the teams would reverse sides and then the chain was formed by the team now on top.  If the answers were incorrect or if the chain collapsed the same team created another chain and the game started over from the beginning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dead Box

Ahh the game of dead box. What good fond memories, a simple game for a simple time...

This game has been played in inner cities for years, at least since the 20's or 30's. My father passed it on to me somewhere along the line and I decided I have to pass it on as well. The basics of dead box is to get your beerie (basically a beer or soda cap) from one base or pocket to the next without landing in the dead box. Variations of the game have been played as well, but thats the beauty of being a kid. Some people can just make new rules. Here we will outline the making of a dead box court, beeries, and the rules of the game. I hope someone out there will make it for their kids and invite me over to play.

Making the Dead Box:
When making a dead box you may have to improvise. Use materials that work for the location and keep other peoples property in mind (not that we did when we were kids). In our case we usually played in the middle of a side street that did not have much traffic. We used white or silver spray paint and used the dead box for a whole summer. Other people used chalk and used the dead box for one day. All that is a non-issue, as long as the dead box gets made. :)

First you will start by making a large square or rectangle (your choice), if square, it should be approx 5-6 feet on each side. Next you will need to make a box in the center which is called the dead box. It is traditionally decorated with a skull and crossbones in the middle. Start in one corner and make a box and number it with the number 1. The object in numbering the boxes is to make the player shoot across the dead box and much as possible. So after creating the first box the second should be the exact opposite side or close to it. Look at the drawing to see how your finished dead box should look.

Preparing the Beeries:
Each person had their own tricks to make a good beery or cap. My favorite way was to get an old crayon and a penny. Place the penny in the beer cap and melt your crayon into the cap filling it to the top with melted wax. You can use different color crayons to make designs and swirls. This gave you your own personalized beery. Some people carved their names in the wax afterwards and other put old toy parts in the wax. Whatever your mind could think of was ok with the kids. If you won with a beery it was traditionally thought of as a lucky beery, so you would guard it with your life or barter it for another beery, money or candy.

Play was started when the person chosen to be first (a shoot-out, age, or threat of an ass kicking can determine who goes first) knelt or laid on the ground at the base or pocket labeled 1. He took his turn trying to shoot the beery by flicking it with his middle finger to the number 2 position. If he made it there he went again and tried for the next number, if he did not make it, the beery stayed put and the next player went. If you land in the dead box at any time you pick your beery up and start from 1 again. This went on until someone made it to the last base or number, then from there hit it into the dead box in the center. It was also legal to knock someone elses beery out of the box, causing them to pick their piece and pride up and go to the beginning to start all over.

Here is a picture to help you in making your dead box. Remember the beauty of these street games was that it can be changed on a whim. Dont be afraid to change it to your liking.

Dead Box Diagram

About five years or so ago (I was 27) me and one of my cousins (Scott Ladooooo) decided to make a dead box and show the neighborhood kids the game. They loved it, I was surprised at how they took to it. If nothing else came out of it at least we had a blast for a day. Here is a picture of one of the neighborhood kids playing dead box that day.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Playing Dead box on Cantrell Street"]Playing Dead box on Cantrell Street[/caption]


Not the most politically correct name for a game, but we didn't think about that crap back then. Chink, which is basically poor peoples racquetball, gets its name for the sound the ball makes when it hits the crack where the wall and the ground meet. Chink kept us busy and active for hours on end and was the source for much of my bragging rights. The reason the game was so popular is because of the equipment needed to play. All you need is a racquetball (or pimple ball) and an empty wall (usually a school yard or side of a commercial building). For this reason just about anyone could play chink, fifty cents for a racquetball and you're ready.

The object of the game is simple, hit the ball and try to make the other person miss it.

There are a basic set of rules that you follow. First off there has to be boundaries, a left and a right boundary must be marked (or you can use chalk, cement cracks, doors, windows, drainpipes, etc). If the ball hits the wall outside these boundaries it is a point for the other person, some folks (novices) used to also create a rear boundary so you could not SLAM on them. When hit, the ball must hit the ground before hitting the wall, it can NOT hit the ground twice or the play is dead and the other person is awarded a point. When returning from the wall the ball may hit the ground ONLY once, more than once and a point is awarded to the other player. If the ball hits directly in the crack where the wall meets the ground you can call CHINK, which is basically a do-over, the play stops and the last person to serve gets the ball to start play again. This is because there is no clear cut way to determine if the ball hit the ground once before hitting the wall.

Play begins with a serve from one of the players. This person is determined in the usual way (shoot out, loser from last game, age, or just can get their ass kicked by the other player) before the game begins. The server has a duty to give a decent serve, the person getting the ball served to them also has the right to not play the ball and ask for a new serve. When served the ball must observe the rules, but ball must hit the ground first then the wall, just like normal play. Just like racquetball the ball is hit back and forth by each player until someone misses. When someone misses the other person gets a point and so on until the game point is reached. We used to play to 11 or 21 but you can use whatever number you want. There are many trick or speciality shots used in this game. Some for actual purpose and some just to brag about. Read on and we will outline just a few of the speciality shots...

The slam can be a very affective way to get yourself a back in the game, it can also kill you if not used right. The slam is when a weak ball is close to the wall and you SLAM it as hard as you can on a certain angle to make the ball go 50-100 feet behind you. This sends the other player far back into the court to hit the ball. BUT it also gives him the option to hit the ball to either side of the court if he gets to it, which will then leave you running! The SLAM is used most effectively when both players are in a heated battle close to the wall.

Master this shot and you will be feared in every school yard in the neighborhood. The SLICE is when a player gets low to the ground, swinging VERY hard with their hand inches above the concrete. When you make contact with the ball it zooms quickly just above the ground, slices the concrete and hits the wall just inches above the bottom. The trick is to put a backspin on the ball so when it returns from the wall it hits the ground and stops or does not travel to far. If this shot is done correctly it is very hard to defend. Only the most senior of player can make the necessary adjustments to play the ball. Even if he does he is usually in a position to get beat with the next shot, which is usually a SLAM. Because the player has to run very close to the wall to play the slice the slam is the best shot to send him deep into the court to try to play the ball. Perfect the slice and some player will ever get a chance to defend it off the serve.

The tap is used when your opponent is playing far back. You fake a SLAM or hard shot but just tap the ball. It makes the defender run full speed directly at a brick wall. This is a good tactic when a weak ball reaches the wall after a SLAM.

The skinner is a play when you find yourself stuck on one side of the court. The object is to skim the wall from the side and make it travel parallel with the wall. Remember the rules, it must hit the ground once before hitting the wall, after that your opponent is usually running into the street or across the schoolyard to get the ball! :)

No get your kid off that friggin' playstation and get him outside
playing. If your playing in Philly drop me a line and I will meet
you there!

Pimple Ball

Note to those who wonder what a pimple ball is:
Pimple Balls were used in Philadelphia, Boston, and other Northeastern cities for wallball, handball, boxball, points, wireball, stickball, and Hit the Penny among other games. If they were severly exposed to the elements (down a sewer or over the roof) they usually did not bounce as well so they were cut into halfballs. And if you had the dough, you might even cut up a new pimpleball for a game of halfball.

I haven't seen a pimpleball in about 15 years, but those who remember them can tell you that they were perfect for inner city street games like the ones named above. It was basically a thin rubber ball much like a racketball. It had little dimples, raised stripes and some models had a raised star on the top. If your family comes from Philadelphia, Boston or New York ask your father what a pimpleball is, he will be happy to share the information.

Pimple Balls were distributed by the Eagle Rubber Company of Ashland, Ohio from 1932 through 1982.  About a half of a million pimple balls were produced each year.  Most of which ended up on roofs and in coal-bins (sewers).

UPDATE: One of our readers was kind enough to send in a photo of an original pimple ball.  Thanks to Mike Gasiewski for sending in the photo!

An Original Pimple Ball[/caption]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

South Philly Talk

I grew up in South Philadelphia and still visit a minimum of
twice a week. Lately as the city grows there is more and more new
populations of people moving in. The real estate in Center City
is only so big, so the people that work and go to school in
Center City (we call them yuppies) are looking for houses and
apartments in the South Philly neighborhoods. I thought this
article, that originally was published in the South Philadelphia
Review ( in 2004, would be useful for
these folks. And yes, I enjoyed it so much I saved it for 3
years! :)

Indeed, how youze tawk in Soufilly has been da subject a much
ridicule, but whaddyagonnado, dat's jest da wayiz.

Can't say it? Then it's obvious you ain't originally from

Don't sweat it, new populations. We welcome you, and we're
here to help you assimilate and translate by spelling it all out
for you -- the words and phrases invented by the people and for
the people, from A to Z (minus Q and X). We've collected this
exhaustive amalgamation of vocabulary throughout the last decade
and printed bits and pieces from time to time, but now we present
you with the first full index of Soufilly Tawk. Carry it with you
throughout your travels for quick reference.

Soufilly Talk Index


aineecute (isn't he cute)

Ackamee (market)

aig (incredible edible)

air (there)

ahm (I am)

ammonia (viral infection)

Antnee (male name)

Aregen Ave (Oregon Avenue)

ariel (adjusts TV pixture)

aronacawna (just turn left)

arn (straightens clothes)

ascared (combo afraid/scared)

ast/astid (question)

atteetood (we have it)

awn (opposite off)

awnin (keeps sun out)


baff (gets ya clean)

baffroom (bafftub here)

bazeball (Phillies)

Beyourick (type of car)

billit (gunfire)

billivard (Columbus, JFK)

binaniz (yellow fruit)

birfday (same time every year)

bisgut (tooth-busting Italian cookies)

bofe (two)

bootahn (um, bad girl)

bozenegol (basil)

brang (past of bring)

breffist (day's first meal)

broadwalk (walk 'em downashore)

brocleela (bitter broccoli)

brudder (sibling)

buddin (not zipper)

buffalone (big guy)

burled (not fried)


c'mere (not there)

calcalate (figure it out)

calendar (drains pasta)

camar (female friend; poorly dressed)

Cantull Shtreet (Cantrell Street)

cassina (for gamblin')

cawfee (drink it hot)

cawlmee (on da phone)

cawna (popular hangout)

chigod (blind)

chink (wall ball)

choclet (sweet)

chooch (jackass, human)

choongum (crackles when chewed)

coggaroch (skeevy bug)

combar (aka "goomba," male friend)

conversatin (tawkin')

coochamend (bothersome)

cooley (da butt)

cork (caulk)

crowns (Crayola makes 'em)

crumbum (dirtball)

curve (owna payment)


da Ree-view (dis paypa)

da Reef (Coral Reef in Joysee)

de mare (only Rizzo 'round here)

Defford (Deptford Mall)

Dickison (Dickinson Street)

didja (or dintja)

dis (dat, deez, doze)

donegetmestatted (or ended)

downacella (basement)

downalakes (FDR Park)

downashore (da beach)

drawls (storage place; men's underwear)


Epithany (church at 11th and Jackson)

et (past of eat)

expresso (black cawfee)

e-ya (here it is)


fidollaz ($5)

fillum (for the camera)

fireplug (hydrant)

firescape (nudder way out)

fitty-cent (like rapper, only change)

Fitz-ah-watta (shtreet after Catharine)

five-and-tenny (once Woolworth's)

freetad (Italian omelet)

frent fries (now freedom fries)

friction (opposite of fact)

fughettabotit (Been sayin' dis, Tony!)


gabados (hardheaded)

gabaghool (a lunchmeat)

gaffabit (hope not)

gamawnin (day's first greeting)

gavadeels (dumplings wit rigut)

gavone (pig, ignoramus)

gaz (rising cost of)

gidoffit (stop tawkin')

gimmesummadat (say please)

goonbas (godfathers, friends; also
"combar" aka goomba)

gone (going, present tense)

gots (rated-R translation)


gottago (haff ta leave)

granfatta (mudda or fatta's fatta)

granmouse (Riding Hood's destination)

greezy (i.e. cheesesteak)


haff (must)

hamanaigs (breakfast choice)

hankerchif (wiping cloth)

havsies (half ball)

hedic (a real pain)

hee-cups (hard to stop)

hisself (on his own)

hoagie (sub)

holadoe (hold the door)

horns (twisted; hex)

hospilla (has an ER)

howbotit (whaddya think)

how cheap (embarrassed)

hurst (coffin car)


ice-crean comb (eat onna broadwalk)

icksided (thrilled)

idear (thought, proposal)

iet (already had dinner)

Iggles (football team)

inbom (done to corpse)

innacellaway (closet before going downacella)

inniyard (out back)

i-oy (garlic and oil sauce)

inyukies (gnocchi)

Itly (country missing vowel)

iyem (so are you)

izatso (really)


jaseedat (did you see)

Javela water (bleach)


keller (use crowns)

kiddin (says meow)

kinneegarden (before first grade)

kyakyarone (loquacious, big mouth)


laig (attached to foot)

langwidge (destroyed here)

lesgo (come awn)

looneyum (house siding)

lyberry (borrow books)


macaronees (pasta in general)

Madone (Geez!)

mamaluke (endearing nickname)

manege (oh, crap)

mannaze (sangwich spread)

manneguts (stuffed pasta)

mawnback (clearance for parking)

Medigan (non-Italian)

memberdat (don't forget)

minz/miyan (possessive)

mommy/daddy (parents calling children)

Monzola (oil brand)

mootsarell (pizza cheese)

mout (for tawkin' and eatin')

mudda (woman who bore you)

muntz (12 in a year)

My nerves! (upsetting situation)

my st'Rita (indicating sibling)

N nakins (wipe mouts)naybahood
(i.e. Soufilly)Neekcitee (cassinas
there) newzpaypa (i.e. Review) Nint-n-Jackson
(a cawna) noiznot (opposite of yes it
is) notfernuttin (but come on!)


O! (lazy yo)

oakmeal (Quaker)

ogida (heartburn)

oldtimers (Alzheimer's disease)

one-o-too, fatta (confession to, How many
Masses ya miss?)

opendelite (when it's dark)

Opowel Street (Opal Street)

owblum (requires turntable)

Owl! (Ouch!)


palor (living room)

parmejohn (macaroni cheese)

Pashunk (The Avenue)

pastafazool (gives ya gaz)

Patmarket (supermarket)

Pawter (Porter Street)

payment (sidewalk)

pershute (expensive lunchmeat)

pie-zon (friend, countryman)

pilla (on da bed)

pit (put)

pixture (photo)

pockabook (holds wallet)

praignint (with child)

problee (it's probable)

punkin (kind of pie)


restaval (entry to house)

rewf (top of house)

rigut (cheese in gavadeels)

rigatoneez (short pasta)

rite-ear (not there)


Sadiddy (day after Fridee)

salude (God bless)

sangwich (for lunch)

sawshig (for lunch or dinner)

scootch (bothersome)

shiken (fowl)

shtreet (road, de mare's name)

shudup (close your trap)

skanky (icky)

skeev (repulsed)

slice bread (in da bag)

soboppers (daytime TV)

soder (carbonated drink)

sofbawl (played downalakes)

Soushtreet (hippest in town)

sparagrass (green stalks)

spikit (source for water)

spittabacka (grasshopper)

stall (often mink)

Stir! Stir! (calling nun)

stockins (pantyhose)

sumping (not nothing)


tal (to dry oneself)

tamaytuz (good on pizza)

Tent-n-Mifflin (a cawna)

tidday (no longer yesterday)

tinnite (when it's dark out)

took sick (became ill)

trick 'n'

treat (on Halloween)

trow (opposite of catch)

turble (really, really awful)

turlet (when you gotta go)

Twelt-n-Poowder (where the Review

twicest (one more than wunst)

twoney (sounds like money, but 20)


uncajoe (everybody has one)

undaneet (not overhead)

unnashirt (unner anudder shirt)

uwunsum (question of want)


Valentimes (heart day)

vegebulz (good eatin')

vuin (before funeral)


wan (past of win)

warsh (gettin' clean)

walyo (young man; hey you)

wanded (desired)

weelbarrel (in da garden)

whenyezgawnclubbin' (problee Fridee o

wherdakits (honey, I lost the kids)

wherdatat (Where is it?)

wherjagetdat (Where can I find it?)

wheryat (Where are you?)

wherzeeat (Where is he?)

Whilewood (broadwalk downashore)

whyustartin (let it go)

wid (or widout)

windiz (made of glass)

winner (cold season)

witcha (come along)

woodya (or coodya)

Woof Street (before Jackson)

wootinna (or cootinna)

wosamattawiyu (Gotta problem?)

wudelse (Tell me something new.)

wunst (one less than twicest)

wuzupwitdat (What's the deal?)


yanowadamsayin' (Well, do ya?)

yerkidn (pulling my laig)

yizill (you, plural, future)


zink (warsh dishes here)

zip (little taste)

zisit (or zatit?)