Just for a moment, put down that bottle of water you hunted down over the weekend, (Yes, I know what you did, acting like it’s Black Friday 1983 and the Lionel Kiddie City just got a tractor trailer full of Cabbage Patch Dolls. My mom came home with a shiner and missing a front tooth but she got two of those coveted dolls. That’s how it was this past weekend searching for cases of bottled water.) 

Remember the Pimple Ball? The Pimple Ball was made by the Eagle Rubber Company of Ashland, Ohio from 1932 through 1982. This company made half a million balls per year-most of them wound up on factory and rowhouse roofs — but where did the rest go?

In the sewer.

And how did we get them out of the sewer? How did every Philly rugrat living in Kensington, Swamp Poodle, Mayfair, Francisville, Port Richmond and South Philly get their coveted Pimple Ball back after it rolled into the sewer inlet on the corner?

We grabbed the skinniest, sometimes dirtiest kid by the Chuck Taylors or bo-bo’s or Nikes and lowered him or her into the sewer head first as we held onto their ankles. We dunked them into the sewer water chamber like a Chips Ahoy in cold milk until they grabbed that Pimple Ball so we could finish the game of halfsie, deadbox, wireball, or stickball. The Philly Dunk.

And that kid survived. Didn’t die or get sick from the Philly Dunk, maybe got pink eye but that was it. 

So be not afraid of this “wooder” thing. 

To the kids who grew up along the river— Fishtown, Richmond, Bridesburg, Tacony — be not afraid. We swam in the Delaware when it was 10 times worse, hopping fences and trespassing on industrial land just to get to the river’s edge. And then, a running jump into the murky waters of the Delaware.

If you were in Fishtown, you went to Penn Treaty Park or Graffiti Pier and swam off the bulkhead. Snuck a case of piss-warm beer out to pier and swam with your buddies, cast a line and listen to Harry Kalas and Whitey on the radio calling the game at the Vet.

Port Richmond kids headed to Pulaski Park and jumped off the rocks. We eyed the shoreline of New Jersey off to the east and retold the tale of Port Richmond legend “Beebo” Gniewek who in the 1960’s dove off the pier in Port Richmond and swam over to Pennsauken and then back, all on a bet and a dare.

If you were lucky enough to live in Bridesburg, you’re lucky enough … but the best kept secret in the City was the B.O.C. — the Bridesburg Outboard Club where every kid worth their 19137 went out on their dad’s or uncle’s (or in my case, Tucker Leonard’s outboard boat) and we had to sink or swim when we got pushed off the boat, the dock or fell off the tube as it pulled us from the Betsy Ross Bridge to the Tacony-Palmyra. 

One time, during a party at B.O.C., us kids were swimming in the river right off the boat launch. I’ll never forget this. One mama came down to the water and flicked her cigarette butt about fifteen feet with a softball arch into the river and cackled, “Don’t go past that cigarette!” It worked. We never drowned. We learned to swim and stay afloat off the Bridesburg beaches. (Now the guys skinny dipping and hang-jumping off the railroad bridge into the Dirty Delaware is a whole other column!)

In the riverwards, river water is in our DNA. We’re immune to whatever the hell you dumped in it. We were called river rats and we wore it like a badge of honor.

Be not afraid.

To those Hallahan High Girls — the girls who wore the navy-blue jumpers and blue and white saddle shoes — pfft! I know you are not afraid of this water thing. You swam in that damned Logan Fountain every June! Acting like Esther Williams and the Little Mermaid, taking gold medals in synchronized swimming of the Philly Olympics. A rite of passage to dunk yourselves and splash around in the fountain on the Parkway. So, Hallahan Girls, be not afraid after swimming in that fountain — this river contamination is like Holy Water for you girls.

To all those Northeast Philly guys doing cannonballs and Triple-Lindys into the Pennypack Creek: c’mon, you’re not afraid. If you haven’t had a third testicle drop and you’re still whooping it up at Frankford and Cottman after every divisional playoff win — all that crap that flows through the Creek isn’t your Kryptonite. You’re fine. Shake it off.

And to those rowers on the Schuylkill-how many times did you flip your scull? Got a mouthful of Schuylkill Punch? All those Dragon Boat paddlers, the back-end rowers got mouthfuls of river water down their throats and in their faces. Be not afraid!

To every kid and everybody who ever swam in a Swimm-o at the Rec in the summer……did you and your friends ever get out to take a leak? 

I know the answer. I worked at Foxy’s Pool for five summers and NOBODY got out to use the bathrooms. My job was to put the chlorine in twice a day and let me tell you: you were all pissers! And this is citywide! So I don’t care if you swam at Piccoli in Juniata or Cione in Flat Iron or Shepard out in Haddington, be not afraid of this water snafu — you’ve swum in WAY worse conditions. Believe me, the pH levels in Parks and Rec pools in the summer is more from your bladders than from the water pipes!

South Philly: I know you swam in The Lakes of FDR! What the hell was in the bottom of that pit? But you cannonballed into the “pristine” waters and swam at night. How many pet alligators nipped your peas and carrots? I think Swamp Thing was based on the Lakes at FDR. Be not afraid, if you survived The Lakes, you’re fine and gonna live ‘til you’re 99!

We drank out of hoses, garden hoses attached to a rusted spigot. We took sips from water fountains in our public schools-hell, how many of us sneaked sips of beer from the same Schlitz 40 oz on the corner, passing it back and forth when we were siteen years old? How did we not get impetigo or canker sores? 

Be not afraid!

If all these things we did, growing up and living in Philly didn’t kill us or give us lockjaw or crotch rot, this bullshit up the river in Bristol is nothing. Be not afraid. We know what those hot dogs are floating in from  the food carts in Center City.

If the Philly wooder didn’t kill us when we were kids, we’re all good right now.

We’re not afraid.

BUT, to the City of Philadelphia? What a fumble. 

Even Moe, Larry and Curly would have done a better job. Was the Jussie Smollet P.R. team behind this text message public alert?

Is the water safe or not? 

Now that your emergency alerts were the equivalent of saying, “The Titanic is sinking, but don’t worry, we’re monitoring sinkage at 11:59 p.m. … but maybe you’ll want to get a lifejacket for precaution … there is no more life jackets in Philly, so go to NJ or Delco for your lifejackets, which will be triple the price.”

And you caused your own City into a panic and bum’s rush the supermarkets for water … and you still can’t give us a definite answer.

So don’t worry and let’s all raise our bottle of water and toast the fact that  thankfully this shitshow administration ends in January 2024. 

Patty-Pat Kozlowski drinks out of the hose and still swims at Foxy’s. She’s selling cases of Port Richmond Fireplug Brew for $19.99. Email her at yopattypat@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Patty-Pat Kozlowski: Be not afraid of Philly’s wooder problems”

  1. Brings back summer memories. My formative years saw me growing up in a city north of Philadelphia that has a big electric star on a mountain and was home to a dirty, smelly factory whose smoke did on occasion curl the shingles on your parent’s roofs. We had a choice of swimming venues, a canal or a river. Most of the time we swam in the canal, generally naked. We had to cross active railroad tracks to get there but no one died that I know of. Every now and the passengers would complain to the railroad, and we would be chased by the railroad police (kind of worrying when naked trying to carry your clothes). When we aged to juniors and seniors in high school and lots of us drove, we would drive to a neighbouring area (I will not name it to protect its reputation) and swim in an abandoned slate quarry. 70 feet of free fall off the high face, it was exciting in the same way getting shot must be “exciting”. It also had a still workable slate trolley which was quite a thrill ride with maybe 6 or 7 teens (boys and girls) hanging on until it dropped into the water. Thinking back, we defied the annual summer polio epidemics, the toxic air and water wastes from the factories and the hazardous activities we undertook (which were a hoot nevertheless). So to Patty and today’s teens: You will survive and keep your stick on the ice.

  2. Patty Pat, your writing is trueful and entertaining. You have a true sense of humor and your writing skills are professional.
    Thank you for being an advocate for those who don’t have the means. You are a true hero for the resident’s of Philadelphia.

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