Whenever I talk to anybody who is, at best, slightly familiar with the area, or Philadelphia in general, there are two specific places I like to reference to give them an understanding of where I grew up.
And, without a doubt, people usually are familiar with both and tend to have a story – sometimes negative – about at least one of them.
Northeast Philadelphia Airport
If there is one thing I love so much about the Northeast without actually knowing very much about it, it has to be the Northeast Philadelphia Airport.
Having lived so close to Academy Road and Grant Avenue for most of my life, I’ve driven past the airport many times and seen my fair share of awesome blimps sitting not too far beyond the fence. When I was little, nothing blew my mind more than seeing a blimp on the TV screen during a Phillies game and then seeing it sitting at the airport (or vice-versa).
Although I don’t remember this, my dad claims that I used to always beg him to take me there to look at the blimps.
Fortunately, in the past decade or so, they have renovated the field in front of the gates with a walkway and benches to allow for onlookers to watch the blimps and other aircraft. Toddler Steve would have been so happy.
Franklin Mills Mall
I now live in a state known for its malls, but, to me, they never seem to hold a candle to the uniqueness of Franklin Mills Mall.
Is it the best mall in the area? Not necessarily.
But, hey, everybody knows it, and people in the area seem to have shopped there at least once.
When I reached the age of about 12 or 13 and became old enough for my mom to let me out and about with my friends in a non-chaperoned setting, Franklin Mills was our weekend hangout of choice.
With a lengthy, one-story setup, walking the entire length of the mall once or twice, occasionally stopping in FYE (I still call it The Wall for nostalgia’s sake) or getting a bite to eat at one of the food courts usually took up a whole night. Plus, with a selection of stores that never seems to be the same from week to week, it always seemed like a new experience.
Once my friends started getting their driver’s licenses, Franklin Mills Mall became less and less of a hangout, but, without a doubt, it is usually one of the first places I try to peruse every year when beginning my Christmas shopping.
I assume that all people, no matter where they are from, have that one place they are proud of – regardless of whether they are actually proud of it – simply because they can remember all of the changes that have been made throughout the years.
I remember in the early years when the movie theater was located external to the mall itself. I remember when the Dave & Buster’s was actually a Jillian’s. I remember when Carrefour (now where Walmart is located) existed and Sam’s Club didn’t.
So, as I said before, it’s isn’t the perfect mall and, by far, not my favorite. However, it’s the mall where I spent most of my childhood.
Plus, where else can you find a talking Benjamin Franklin head…that still scares me to this day?
Missing the Northeast is a column written by Stephen Wilson, a former Northeast resident who moved to New Jersey for work. You can read his column on the last Monday of every month.