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Packer Avenue

1940 to 1965

The only day I ever skipped school in my life was in October 1967. The Red Sox were playing the St. Louis Cardinals. Me and my buddy… we didn’t plan it too well. We didn’t have a place to go watch the game. So we came up to the Student Union building at Lehigh and we got caught! Didn’t even get to watch the game… oh well. It was worth it. Ron Fluck, neighborhood resident

With Lehigh University to the south and residences, churches, and businesses to the north, Packer Avenue was a sort of threshold to the “Lost Neighborhood.” Lehigh University students remember crossing Packer Avenue to socialize in local bars or to catch a movie at one of several South Side theaters. Likewise, residents from the neighborhood traveled across Packer to see a football game at Taylor Stadium or to take photographs on Lehigh’s campus to mark a special occasion. Packer Avenue resident Ron Fluck recalls hanging out in a Lehigh parking lot and watching cars for the spectators at football games, which earned him $0.50 per car. Former students and residents alike remember neighborhood landmarks such as Gus’s, the Brith Sholom Community Center, The Theta Xi Fraternity House, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, First Moravian Church, and the Cantelmi Funeral Home, which were all located along Packer Avenue. 

When the city of Bethlehem and Lehigh University drew up plans for their urban renewal project, the area bordered by Packer Avenue, Martel, Morton, and Webster Streets became part of the “Packer Avenue Project.” Today, Lehigh students cross Packer Avenue constantly as they make their way to classes, to the library, or to the school bookstore. This is certainly a change from the Packer Avenue Ron Fluck remembers; “It was all churches, schools, frat houses, and row houses. And that was my world. That was the world of most kids back then.”

What do you remember about Packer Avenue? It is our intention that this tour will become a collaborative forum where residents of the Lost Neighborhood can contribute their memories, so if you have photographs or memories of Packer Avenue, please share them with us!

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Photo Source: Mary T. Pongracz