Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Dec 6, 2010

Housing Project Family

By Rosemary Reeves

One lucky day after school let out, I found a dollar on the way home to the housing project where my family lived.  I was in second grade.  I never held a whole dollar in my hand before and marveled at my good luck.  I knew my family was poor, but there was a selfish instinct that overcame me.  I was the one who found it, after all.  The dollar was clearly mine, I thought.  I stopped at a little corner store on the way home and cheerfully hummed as I picked out a large bag of popcorn, a can of soda and some penny candy.  In those days, a dollar went a long way and I had some change left.  I put the change in my pocket and exited the store. 

It soon occurred to me that I should not even mention I found the dollar or I might get in trouble for spending it.  It was best to eat it all before going home.  I walked slowly until I found a good spot to sit, behind a bush that obscured me.  I opened the popcorn first and ate half the bag.  Then I tore into the penny candy, washing it all down with soda.  

When I was full, I couldn’t bring myself to throw the rest of the popcorn away.  I decided to bring it home with me and tell my parents that I was able to buy it because I found a dollar o in the street.  I hoped my family would be glad for that stroke of luck.  But it didn’t turn out that way at all.  As soon as I walked in the door with the bag in my arms, my parents began to interrogate me.  When I told them I found a dollar, their eyes grew wide, as if it had been fifty or a hundred dollars instead.  Mom and Dad demanded to know what I had bought with it and I told them. 

“What else is in the bag?” my father demanded to know.  He snatched the bag out of my hand and rifled through it.  “Is this all?”

“Yes,” I told him.

Dad grimaced.  “Where’s the candy?”

“I ate it on the way home,” I said.

Dad tossed the bag carelessly on the coffee table.  He looked at me with anger in his eyes.  “We could have bought meat with that dollar,” he told me, “The family could have had ground beef on our plates tonight.  But you spent it on treats for yourself instead.  You rotten kid!  You never think of the family, do you?”

He made a move to hit me.  I cowered.  Just then, Mom intervened.  “Don’t you touch her, Jim!” she said.

Dad snapped back, “That kid’s gotta be shown some discipline!”

Mom stared him down.  “Don’t you dare hit my little one!”

Dad backed off.   “Give me the change!” he demanded.

“There isn’t any,” I replied.

“Don’t lie to me, kid.  I said give me the change.”
I stood my ground. “No.”

Dad’s face was turning red and the veins in his neck were sticking out. “What did you just say?”

“The money’s mine,” I told him, “I found it.”

Dad made a move toward me again.  Mom tugged at my arm. “Give your father the change!” she told me.  I reached into my pocket and handed over the few coins I had left.  Dad slipped them into his own pocket.  He picked up the bag he had tossed onto the coffee table, took the popcorn out of the bag and started to eat some. 

“That’s my popcorn!” I said.

“You didn’t share,” Dad told me, “Now, you don’t get any.”  He devoured all the popcorn and said I couldn’t have any supper now because I had been selfish.  I didn’t care about missing supper because I was full anyway, but I was so mad about him taking the money that I could have spit. 

If only my father had explained to me in a soft and tender voice that a single dollar meant the difference between having meat or no meat, I might have understood the meaning of selflessness.  I might have learned that a poor family such as ours needs to pull together.  Then he wouldn’t have needed to rip the money and the food from my hands.  I would have gladly given it if only he had shown me love, just this time.

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