The Greening of Manayunk

Once, the Indians came here to drink. Now, the yuppies do. And ex-mayor Bill Green is right in the middle of it all, merrily ringing up the register

So they dredged the scum out of the canal and put a pathway next to it, and then they gave the canal its own day to celebrate. The first Canal Day wasn’t much. Marge was working the bar that day in 1972 when someone stuck his head in and yelled, "Here comes the parade." And by the time Marge finished drawing a few more beers, the parade — two army jeeps, a policemen’s band and three locals dressed up something like soldiers from the American Revolution — was over.

But the parade grew with property values. It pulled in bands and spectators from all over the city along with politicians who came to claim credit for something they had nothing to do with. Pretty soon it didn’t have to be Canal Day for you to see strangers strolling down Main Street peering into buildings in a weird, curious way. Suddenly, Manayunk was popular.

Many of the locals grew so proud of what was happening to their home that they stopped telling the white lie here and there about how they were from Roxborough or some other nearby place that sounded better.

But other old Yunkers despaired that pretty soon their little town just wouldn’t be Manayunk any more. Another New Hope was what it would be. Just like they warned. Strangers roaming around like they just decided to throw a block party on somebody else’s block. Turning everything into French restaurants and antiques shops and making Manayunk into the kind of place where you couldn’t buy plumbing supplies.

But the way Marge saw it, the days were over when Manayunk could just be a hard-working, hard-drinking place. There just wasn’t that kind of hard work around, for one thing. For another, the change was already happening here and there. Mostly along Main Street. New people coming in and making things prettier than the old owners could afford to imagine.

And she saw what was happening in the bar, too. Not as many customers. If they complained about selling, that’s what she’d tell them. Where were they when she needed them? She was a generous woman, but bar work wasn’t charity work. She could see it coming.

And John DiGiovanni, who worked the bar long enough to see his hair turn white, he saw it too.

Yes, he said he didn’t want to sell. But he considered Bill Green’s offer the way he sized up a new customer, weighing it for bullshit.

It got him thinking the day the rescue squad pulled up in front of Joe’s Stop and Shop — now one of Manayunk’s most fashionable restaurants — and carried Joe out on a stretcher. It got him thinking, ”John, are they gonna take you out of there like that? Is that how it’s gonna end?" Didn’t like the idea one bit.