More than 60 former residents of Chester’s Highland Gardens section gathered last Saturday at the Henry Johnson Park in Trainer to reminisce and share memories of days gone by.
Organized by Mark Kosek, who was unable to attend, the reunion went on as planned, with attendees telling stories of playing kick the can, tag, hide the belt; and caughty, caught, caught. Other memories included the Maypole dance at William Penn Elementary School and rides on the back of the milk delivery truck.
“What I remember most, was never having to lock our doors,” said Jackie Foth Schonewolf, a former resident of Swarts Street. “Highland Gardens was a wonderful place to grow up. Everybody’s mom was like a mom to us all. People cared about each other back then.”
Rick Lyons, who now lives in New Jersey, said his memories of the old neighborhood was wonderful, including hours spent at the T7# hoagie shop at 9th St. and Highland Ave., which was owned by Tink and Earline Spencer.
“My buddies and I hung out, ate hoagies and shot pool,” Lyons said. “They were great times that I’ll never forget.”
Many attendees also had vivid memories of walking “overtown” every Saturday with family and shopping in Chester’s legendary stores including Weinberg’s, Stotters, Woolworth’s, Spear’s and McCrory’s.
“We spent countless hours in the back field,” said former Forwood Street resident Chip Haynes. “When the street lights came on, we knew it was time to go home.”
Kosek said the idea of having a reunion was sparked by his friend and former Kane Street resident Bud Walls who, one day, took pictures of the old neighborhood and posted them on social media.
“I recognized my house because my brother was a pitcher and hung a home plate on the outside of my house with a silver nail,” said Kosek during a telephone conversation. “The nail is still there.”
Kosek grew up on Perkins Street. His parents bought their home when the community was first built and they lived there until their deaths.
“There were great times and memories,” Kosek said. “My parents put $95 down on that house. People had, and still have, strong ties to each other from the old neighborhood. I remember summer playground league basketball where we’d play teams from other playgrounds from all over Chester. I am so happy the event was a success.”
In Kosek’s absence, Rose Trice Dawson stepped in to make certain the day went as planned. Hoagies were provided by Bob McGinn, owner of Munchies in Wildwood, who was also raised in Highland Gardens. Barry Derrickson, of Marcus Hook, arrived at about 4 P.M. with Civil War memorabilia.
Charlie Simmons was raised on Kane Street and traveled 6,500 miles from the United Arab Emirates, where he is a teacher, to attend the reunion.
“My memories of Highland Gardens have stayed with me my entire life,” said Simmons. “That neighborhood and these people had a hand in making me who I am today.”
Kosek said because of the success of the reunion, another will be planned for next year.
“Hopefully, even more people will attend,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t know about this. I told them if they lived in Highland Gardens, visited there or hung out there, they were welcome to come.”