I met Ike and Kat last spring while interviewing C. J. Waddy for another story. They mentioned that they organized the Old Heads Softball game at Gambrel recreation center. I had heard about it but had never been but the kept in touch and when the Old Heads finally came around in August I did a quick walk through for some pictures.
August 18th in 2012 was a beautiful summer day as we came down Ditman Street. My plan was to park and spend some time but it became clear that parking was not an option as both sides of the street and the streets all around were already filled. So plan B was to get dropped and walk through.
There were hundreds of people in family groups already there. Some had been there all night to get the best locations. Tents, canopy’s, picnic tables, gas grills, charcoal grills and people covered the landscape. Music and the smell of food filled the air. I walked through the happy crowd and happened to be there when a truck pulled up and somebody said the tee shirts are here. The crowd moved en mass toward that truck clamoring for shirts.
I moved up toward Margaret and met Jason Dawkins playing chess with his son. I Talked to Johnnie Mae Parker and her friends. I took a lot of pictures and everybody wanted to pose, especially the kids. It was a great experience. Everybody talked about how great this event is and how it brings everybody out and those who have left back to Frankford.
Ike and Kat Hardy never set out to be community activists. In 2005 several people were lost in Frankford due to violence. One day Kat was walking down Tackawanna Street and there was a group of young men on the corner. There had been an incident on the basketball court. A lot of people got hurt. She got into a discussion and told them grown people could get together, play a sport and just have a good time, why can’t you. She said I bet we can do that and nobody will get hurt, nobody will die and we’ll have fun and talk trash to each other and we’ll drink and party and have music and it will be a good thing.
So she went home to Ike and they started planning. As Ike said, we started that right where the football field is now. The first year we had 35 people. We brought our food out there and made a sign on a shower curtain and a sheet. And we went out there and played ball that night and all the young people were watching and they said can we play next year.
What started as almost a spur of the moment idea, has not become an “Old Frankford” institution. The challenges of organizing and funding it have grown as the event has grown. It takes time and a great deal of energy to pull it all together. And yet they are determined to keep it going.
They get some help but the main burden falls on the couple themselves. Funding the DJ and tee shirts and permits etc. is a significant expense and there is no sponsor or grant involved. They solicit donations and in this economy that are hard to come by. They have never made any money off the event and frankly there is no money to be made. What is important to these two people is the unity and good will that it brings to the community.
Do the young people ever get to play on the old heads team? No, they do not. You have to be 40 to get on the team. The young people on this day are the spectators. They enjoy the food and music and on this day peace reigns in Frankford. That can be a lesson to us all.