Mary Jo Falco Johnson will never forget the day of her First Holy Communion. She recalls that day in May of 1964 was not just a celebration for her family, but for her neighbors on Vine Street as well. When a neighbor heard about the occasion, she ran inside then returned with a gift for Mary Jo -- a hassock. This was not the typical gift of a rosary or Bible, but to Mary Jo, it represented her neighbor's generosity.
Those who lived along Vine Street remember a community that was ethnically diverse, but one that was united in the desire to help each other. Close houses made for close neighbors who looked out for one another in times of need, whether someone was sick or needed a babysitter.
A mixture of homes and community buildings made Vine Street a bustling part of the Packer Avenue neighborhood. Neighborhood children walked to Central School and played games in the schoolyard. The Liberty Fire Company operated out of their Vine Street firehouse, ready to respond to local emergencies. When local residents and Lehigh University students wanted to dress to impress, they could go to Gasdaska Clothing Shop for men at Fourth and Vine Streets. On Sundays, Lutherans flocked to St. Peter’s Church at the corner of Vine Street and Packer Avenue. Neighborhood resident Catherine Ache remembers taking dance lessons with her best friend at the Una Houston School of Dancing and enjoying homemade pies at the Alfonso family's café.
By 1965, Vine Street had been dramatically changed by the urban renewal project. Now, the only building that remains on Vine Street from the old neighborhood is St. Peter’s Lutheran Church across from Lehigh University's campus. In fact, some of the demolished homes on Vine Street made room for St. Peter's expanded parking lot.
Did you ever get something to eat from the Alfonso family café? Do you have stories about your Vine Street neighbors? Perhaps you took dance lessons at the Una Houston School of Dancing. Whatever your Vine Street memories are, we want to hear them! You can help us recreate the Lost Neighborhood by sharing your memories and photographs with us!
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Photo Source: Anna Pongracz Papers, courtesy of Mary Pongracz
Mary Jo Falco Johnson will never forget the day of her First Holy Communion.
St Peter's Lutheran Church circa 1915. In 1916, construction began on the church building that now stands at Packer Avenue and Vine Street. As part of the urban renewal project in 1963, St.
Catherine Ache and her best friend, Jo-Anne Alfonso have many happy memories of Vine Street:
According to Patricia Girke, Gasdaska's Clothing Shop was "quite the place, very preppy."
On May 10, 1964, Mary Jo Falco Johnson received her First Holy Communion at Saints Simon and Jude Church.
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