Posted on

Frankford Native Opens for President Obama

President Obama was in Philadelphia on Tuesday, September 13, 2016. He was campaigning for Hillary Clinton and something special happened. Candidate Katie McGinty,  PA representative Bob Brady, and Governor Wolf spoke at this event. And while we’ve heard  the messages of stumping politicians, something special happened here.

President Houston thanks Houston for his intro

President Houston thanks Houston for his intro

Now, Obama can excite a crowd, but this article is not about Obama or the others. This article is about the youngster who introduced the President;  it’s about the Frankford native Patrick Houston.

Houston was born into a very large and very poor family of loving siblings. They lost their mother in 1993 and the father passed away in 1999. These parents were special. They existed for their children and nothing else mattered. He, Mr. Alexander Houston Sr, was a truck driver and Patricia Houston was the ever attentive homemaker. Both were giants in their own right, were religious and, I repeat, dedicated to their children. Now, at only 21, their youngest son Patrick, a senior at Swarthmore  College, is on the move.

So on Tuesday, after speeches from McGinty, Brady and Wolf, Patrick came to the stage and really WOWED us. Ok, so in the interest of full disclosure he is my baby brother but his speech was impressive. The Swarthmore papers and online articles as well CBS, NBC and news outlets up and down the east coast and Australia have published articles about him. They said that Patrick reminded them of a young Obama: confident, articulate and in control of the moment.

Patrick told CBS Philly, “I had a big responsibility, I had the great privilege of introducing one of my greatest role models, President Barack Obama,” and “It’s almost like there’s no time to be nervous. This was a time to carry this message,  to do my part.”

“I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams,” he said. “And I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”

“As the youngest one in the family who spent very little time with mother, now he’s inspiring our whole family, (once again) to grow,” said Patrick’s older brother Vinson.

Patrick Houston is a Green Advisor at Swarthmore College and is a member of the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship Program, a partnership of the College’s Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, the Office of Sustainability, and Environmental Studies.

So while many horrible things are happening in our community and around the world, there are success stories. There are people as well as members of the media who realize our duty to nurture our youth and always display a willingness “to spend and be spent” for our children and families. This is why all of Patrick Houston’s siblings are productive members of society and it is a testament to love, to family, to responsibility and to a Higher Power because we were fortunate enough to be born to a good man and a good woman and that has made all the difference.


CBS Philly

Swathmore College on-line articles

The Daily Gazette

The Phoneix


The Daily Times News

Posted on

The Hope of Frankford

The third in a series entitled ‘Frankford Needs You’

So what is the hope of Frankford? It is the efforts of groups of concerned citizens. Those who realize that there are no free rides. There was a time when streets were swept and cleaned on the city’s dime, but those days are long gone. These residents have adopted the mindset: ‘We live here and it makes sense to protect and preserve our dwellings.’ I am talking about the residents of 4800 Penn Street and the tender-loving-care exhibited day in and day out by these and various other persons of well kept communities in Frankford.

I am new to the area (that is, if you call 6 years new) and I have observed the remarkable diversity of persons and communities. Sometimes on one block squalor, crime, and drug-running reigns at one end while the other is home to clusters of model citizens. The scene changes are dizzying. You round one corner and you will fine beautiful homes, well kept lawns and sidewalks free of litter. While a block or 2 later one can encounter the burnt out shells of former industries.

There was a time when most of the citizens of Frankford had work and ambitious persons could hold 2 jobs. Many of us remember when positions for the working class were plentiful. That was before many jobs were sent overseas because of cheap labor. It was a time when workplace health and dental plans were the norm and not the exception; when people, even those with limited education, could make a living. However, in the perpetual search for bargains, big businesses moved the jobs away. And sometimes they had to leave our shores in order to stay competitive, but we the people had to make ends meet. This exodus tore at the heart of America. It decimated neighborhoods and weakened families. Additionally, it was about raw greed, for they ( Big Business) wanted tax breaks too, so by and by, few remained to pay America’s bills. And then decades later came ‘sequestration’, and this was long after many city services felt the sharp edge of the fiscal ax. I wonder then, Is capitalism dead? Have we ridden it to this crossroad? I don’t have the answers, but I am certain, that capitalism without a heart is the eventual path to societal death. And the decay of so many inner cities demonstrate this. Some would say bailouts are governments’ jobs, but how can this be sustained with massive tax breaks, shelters, off-shore businesses and cloistered accounts. Governments are supposed to be ‘We the People’ but governments are broke. And here is a sad fact: it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between big business and daniel gardengovernment.

Well…. where does that leave us? What is the remedy for ‘We the people’? We must create a more perfect union amongst ourselves. We must look out for our neighborhoods. We must create more perfect communities. We see the squalor around us. We must mobilize cleaning corps. We have seen the proliferation of the drug trade in our communities. And while we understand this scourge may be the manifestation of capitalism in a depressed economy, we can curtail these activities. We can ward them away from our communities via a variety of methods both tradition and novel.

veronica franlin nate (4)webOk….I have strayed a little. But (if you please) let me explain. The folks on 4800 Penn have done this. They have taken in-hand their own destiny. This is a well kept block. Sure, there are challenges, but that does not hold them back. There are 2 properties on the block that are for sale and these would be dream acquisitions for an investor. I spoke with Mr. Franklin Daniel recently and he spoke of the stability of the neighborhood. He and his wife are active members in the community and work tirelessly maintaining and enriching the block. Without people like Franklin and Veronica the luster would certainly fade. Also, on any day you will find Bob Smiley chief editor of the Frankford Gazette out and about tidying up and covering civic events in the area. On another day, you might find Veronica Daniel and her daughter-in-law tending to the garden on Penn near Harrison street. On yet another day, you’ll find Nate, a resident of the apartments at Oxford and Penn, dutifully shuffling about. He is, often, hard at work on a maintenance project, but never too busy to offer a pleasant greeting. There are ( no doubt) many other neighborhoods that benefit greatly from community pillars like these. A thousand of these efforts can and will make a difference. The difficulty is getting people involved, especially our youth. Franklin Daniel said it best “those who know….know and those who don’t know (too often) don’t want to know”. My interpretation? Apathy is a terrible thing, but an once of precaution is worth a pound of cure.

To the residents of the 4800 block of Penn street in Frankford:

We appreciate you!

Al Houston

Posted on

Immigration Benefits Frankford

By Alexander Houston

Considerable discussion has been given this issue and with good reasons. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants. I have heard the debates in various legislative bodies, for I try to stay current. That is why I am in LOVE with the Cspan app for phones and tablets. And yes, I admit it. I am an app nut. Cspan 1,2&3 are on my phone along with Cspan radio. Therefore my addiction is fed anytime and anywhere. And the national immigration debate has gotten plenty of air time as listening choices for the Cspan junkie. A fire has been burning in Frankford for over 10 years now. It is being fueled by immigrants and laced with 3 things that nearly all Americans desire: convenience, discounts, quality, and speedy service.

With a drive down Frankford Ave (under the el) one cannot help but notice the myriad nail salons and barber shops. From Pratt to the Church Street station my quick count yielded 18 barbers and 13 nail salons or beauty shops. Some are owned and operated by African-American stylists, but a great many are now run by Vietnamese entrepreneurs. With more choices the residents of Frankford and other communities have much to gain. But I want to talk about what makes this a positive invasion.

The Asian nail stylist have been around for many years, and I suppose those who make frequent trips to these salons realize the benefits of competition and speedy service. I’ll take your word for it though, for I do not patronize these shops. A simple nail clipper is sufficient for me. Then, there are the convenience stores, restaurants and hardware depots. All of these are beneficial to the community, but honestly, I still prefer to make the occasional trip out to The Home Depot. However, not all folk have ready transportation for such excursions. So one has to be delighted with these industrious proprietors because good occupancy is far better than any vacancy.

And, oh yes, I remember the time when I would have to plan on a long wait to get a hair cut. I would spend 3-4 hours in the barber shop. I hated it and so did my boys. In addition, the cost was $15 a head and that did not include the tip. Hair cut day was a painful experience.

Shortly after moving to Frankford I saw the signs. Hair Cut $5, and I was thrilled. However, I had become used to my barber. I thought; only he knew how to cut my hair. I did not know if I trusted these other people. They were foreigners. Do they possess the skills? Would I be sorry? I did not dare, but increasingly new shops opened. Recently, I spoke with Kevin Gillis , a longtime resident of Frankford who also witnessed the explosion of Asian barbers in both Frankford and Kensington. Kevin, a longtime customer of the Son barber shop recalls the first store opening by Mr Son in the 4400 block of Frankford Ave. Later, Mr. Son moved the business to the 4500 block and the Win family purchased the old Son store and expanded the property which is adjacent to the nail salon in the 4400 block. Later, a third store opened down the street in the 4500 block and a stylist who worked at the 2nd Son family shop moved to the new store. The barber shop openings did not stop, and the stores seemed to do a brisk business!

I took the plunge and have been going ever since. It’s a no brainer. Good service, very little wait time and I save over 60%. Shame on me for not trying earlier. If you are not too concerned with an occasional barber switch and labored communication between you and the stylist, one can be in and out of the barber shop with only a dime in the meter. That is fantastic, and a good cut at $5; what’s not to like?! I am not going back to the old barber. These immigrants have found a niche and have supplied the need. What’s more, it has forced other barbers to reduce their prices. Additionally, Frankford Ave. no longer looks like a prize fighter’s smile. Stores have occupants and the avenue seems to be taking steps back to its former brilliance; the thriving, bustling shopping community of yesteryear.

As for the legitimacy and tax status of these immigrants, we’ll have to leave that to senators Shumer, Feinstein, Klobuchar and Grassley along with other members of Congress. But please be aware, Washington is a bit dysfunctional nowadays, so don’t hold your breath. We then (as long and short term members of the Frankford community) must realize the benefits. We must respect these persons, for we remember that ‘affording respect…. begets respect’. Consider what we would pay in time and money if their services were not available, and what would be the state of our avenue without them. Immigration is beneficial. It may be pervasive, but it is not always intrusive. As Kevin Gillis says they’re talking about us in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and if we prove ourselves amiable and respectful we could see Frankford’s stock rise. Then her citizens could be credited with having created a more perfect union, and we will have given the better angels of our nature the last word.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.