“I remember that picture was on the last page of The Evening Bulletin, up by the comics section. My dad bought ten copies and had the picture laminated. To this day I have it with me.” – Daryl Shall, February 2016 (the boy on the right of this photo)
This photo of two Philly cub scouts at a holiday party in 1962 caught my eye over the winter of 2016, when it was posted on the Facebook site Vintage Philadelphia by a regular post-er named Bill Carpenter. For reasons I’ll explain throughout this memoir, I wanted to find these men, if that was at all possible.
I am still looking for the taller scout with the Christmas tree, identified as Stewart Ross, 3rd from West Philadelphia. But I was successful at tracking down the smaller scout with the Star of David and Menorah, Daryl Shall. I called him up and he was nice enough to chat and to reminisce.
I wanted to meet these men because I know that efforts at diversity are not some new concept that is a product of “political correctness” (which is often spoken with an eye-roll). The Evening Bulletin took this photo because, 50 years ago, forging mutual understanding was valued. This was just two months after James Meredith became the first African-American student at Ole Miss after President Kennedy ordered U.S. marshals to Mississippi to ensure his safety.
I was just 11 years old that Christmas — right in the same age group as these cubs — and I was sure that brotherhood and equality were just around the corner. I guess that’s why I relate to this photo and wanted to find out what this holiday party meant to those in the photograph. I also know that these two schools were geographically very far apart in the city and so I concluded that some effort was taken to bring these children together.
The caption on the photo says: Enjoying a Christmas-Chanukah party at the John F. McCloskey Public School, Gowen Av. and Pickering St., are Stewart Ross, 3rd (left) and Daryl Shall. Cub pack 308 of the McCloskey School was host at the party yesterday for members of Pack 582 of Hamilton School, 57th and Spruce. – December 17, 1962
This is Daryl Shall’s recollection of the photo and what it means to him, in an interview he gave me in February 2016. “I grew up in the 1960s in a real ‘Leave It To Beaver’ neighborhood, Mt. Airy, right next to Temple stadium. It was the same block where Frank Rizzo lived, and I remember a lot of police protection. I went to McCloskey elementary school from first grade to 6th, and it was pretty much all white students then.
“My mom was the den mother for my little cub scout pack. We didn’t have a lot of exposure to black kids back then. That holiday party always stuck with me. I remember it was a lot of fun. Our whole cub pack was Jewish so it wasn’t just that we were meeting African American kids from different neighborhoods. Having a party that introduced us to Christmas was just as much of a cultural difference.
“The party was at McCloskey elementary. I was just a goofy little 8 year old kid. We both have such big smiles on our faces and it’s so nice. He was taller than me and I remember looking up to him.
“I don’t actually don’t know how the party came about. Or the picture. They kind of pulled us aside at the end of the party and I got selected.
“What you can’t see is that I had broken my arm and I have a cast on my arm. Once you know, you can kind of see it behind the little display of the menorah and I’m balancing it on my cast and pointing at the menorah with my one good arm. Today they probably wouldn’t let little kids hold lit candles. But back then, I did it, even with a cast on my arm. That makes me laugh to think about it.
“I like the picture, in our cool little cub scout caps. I like knowing I can point to a day long ago when the newspaper made an effort to show a picture of diversity.
“I still use that picture use to prove diversity was always a part of my life. I was glad I was part of something like that. That picture means a lot to me more than 50 years later.
“After McCloskey, I went to Leeds Junior High, more racially mixed. And then to Germantown HS when I was in the minority. It was maybe 10% white. Everyone got along. When you’re not exposed to something you rely on stereotypes and prejudices and whatever. In the Germantown neighborhood at that time, there was a lot of violence. I found out that the kids in class with me were just as afraid of the violence in their neighborhood as I was. I came to understand we all had the same fears.
“I eventually went to Temple University in North Philadelphia. A lot of kids I knew didn’t want to go downtown but I liked going there and being exposed to diversity there. I graduated from Temple in 1975. Then when I went on to work for the federal government in Philadelphia and Washington.
“I made my whole career in the federal government and was always conscious of the importance of diversity. We had a lot of training in inclusiveness and I went on to give that kind of training in my work. It resonated with me back to my days In Mount Airy. I always had that cub scout picture in my head. Once you have Philadelphia in you, you can’t get it out of you. I came back to my roots a little bit.
“In 2001, I was working in Washington. On September 11, I walked home from work that day in DC and I had to walk by the Pentagon, as it was burning. I decided that I somehow wanted to be part of the recovery. After 911, I transferred over to working at TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) from working for HUD (Housing and Urban Development).
“At TSA, I got to work in the most diverse team in my life. It felt like the whole United Nations. And it was the best functioning team in my life. People coming from every perspective … that stuff actually works. It goes back to those days in Mount Airy. When you get to know people, they’re PEOPLE and not what you read about in the paper.
“I am 62 and now I’m retired. About the whole thing that people think diversity is just about Political Correctness in the federal workforce, with women in the work place, or just some words in Washington politics… I know for a fact that this stuff works. Diversity works. I like the positive message and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that people get the message.
“I like to think that all started back when I was that little guy at that party.“
Thank you to Daryl for his memories and inspiring perspective. Thanks also to Bill Carpenter for the original posting on the Vintage Philadelphia Facebook page. I reached out to Bill and asked him why he selected it. Bill wrote back to me:
“..if you scroll thru the Vintage Philadelphia you can see all the Photos i post theres no pattern its just random photos which i find and eventually Post….If i see something i like i post it.
“I know at one point i was posting anything i could find on christmas related photos in and around philadelphia to bring back memories for everyone who grew up in philly and could reminisce don’t know if thats why i posted it or not.but a lot of times i just post photos that i like and hope people enjoy which i beleive they do for the most part –few complaints”
Finally, if anyone can help me make contact with Stewart Ross, 3rd, who went to Hamilton School in West Philly in 1962, it would be my hope to revisit this from his perspective.
Liz – 4/29/16