You know what nobody does anymore? Stoop-sit.
For those of you who did not grow up in or near a large urban area, stoop-sitting had nothing to do with crouching. Your stoop was the set of stairs – usually concrete – that led from your front door down to the sidewalk. There weren’t many of them – usually three or four steps was enough to bridge that gap – but they were all you needed to provide you with a place to sit and watch the world go by.
I come from a long line of stoop-sitters.
This photo was probably taken in the late 1920s, if I judge my grandfather’s age correctly. That’s him in the middle, hanging out with his boys down in South Philadelphia. They’re not really doing anything – maybe they’re waiting for the Sea Devils advertised in the broadsheet behind them, but I doubt it, since Sea anythings were rather uncommon on the streets of South Philly, unless you went to 9th Street and bought them fresh to eat for dinner.
This one is my great-grandmother – my grandmother’s mother – maybe a few years later and a few blocks over from the last photo. It’s probably the early 1930s now, and she’s out on her stoop, taking in the day.
Her sons were also practiced stoop-sitters. That’s John on the right – he would later go into the Army, and I’ve posted his service pictures before – and Joe on the left.
And you could always find Zaduck out on his bench as well, with a friend or two. He’s the one on the right, and it’s probably sometime in the 1940s.
The family has long moved out of the city and into the suburbs, where there are no stoops. The houses are bigger and nicer, and there’s less traffic and more space and green, but everything is oriented inward or toward the back of the house, away from the street and the people going by. When we stoop-sit these days, it’s an occasion.
Kim and I honeymooned in New Orleans, back before it was destroyed by the twin demons of hurricane weather and administrative incompetence. We spent a glorious week there, not doing much more than eating, drinking and taking it all in. There’s no open container law in New Orleans, so we got into the habit of going down to Bourbon Street to a little walk-up store with what appeared to be a row of Slurpee machines, except that they weren’t Slurpees – they were daiquiris. We’d get a 32-ounce daiquiri (we learned to split one, eventually) and sit on the nearest stoop and watch the people parade by.
It was a return to my roots.