The Greening of Manayunk
THE INDIANS THOUGHT of it first. They settled along the river because the river served a purpose. It was a good place to fish and bathe and launder their animal skins. Most of all, it was a good place to drink. In fact they named this new home "Manaiung," which was their way of saying "a place to drink."
And for a long time the Indians were happy with what they had.
Then strangers came. And everything had new value.
The strangers liked the river, too, because it served a purpose. It was a good place to float a barge and conduct commerce.
But the Indians made them uncomfortable.
They dressed in animal skins. which weren’t civilized attire.
They spoke in a strange tongue.
They drank from their hands.
So the strangers forced the Indians out of their home and told them to go drink somewhere else. And Manaiung became a place for these new settlers to live and to work and, yes, to drink. And this place would come to be known as Manayunk and, in time, its new natives would come to be known as Manayunkers — or plain “Yunkers.”
The children of the children of these new settlers came to run the mills that came to be powered the river. They built churches and bars. And for many of them life became a simple cycle of hard work and cold beer.
With progress came city water and aluminum beer cans and bowling machines. But Manayunk would remain a place to drink. And the places where the Yunkers drank would come to be known as "joints."
Among these joints were the Third Base — "the last stop before home" — and DiGiovanni’s, which was also known as D.G.’s, or "the house of cold ones."
These were places where loose cans were sold for loose change. Places where the bartender could tell who was walking in by looking at the clock as easily as looking at the door. Places where you could let your cares slip away to the beat of a blinking beer sign. Places where you could rub your buddy’s head for luck on the bowling machine.
And for a long time the Yunkers were happy with what they had.
But now new strangers have come. And suddenly everything has new value.
They like the river, too. But not because it serves a purpose. They like the view. And they have decided that Manayunk would be a good place for restaurants and antiques shops.
But the Yunkers and their drinking places make them uncomfortable.
The Yunkers wear work clothes, which aren’t civilized attire.
They speak in a coarse tongue. They drink from their cans.
And now, tonight, in one of these old drinking places there is talk that the Yunkers may go the way of earlier tribes and be forced to drink elsewhere.
It is like any other night here — a ritual of truth and beer.