On the first day of summer, I had to report for jury duty at the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice. As I stood in line to go inside the Jury Assembly Room, I noticed a panoramic mural. I made a mental note to check it out during the break.
Words cannot convey my shock and awe to discover some of the images depict Philadelphia’s legendary jazz clubs, including the Blue Note, the Showboat and Pep’s.
It is clear the details only could have come from folks who were there. So it was no surprise to learn the mural was conceived by Doug Cooper in collaboration with “Philadelphia elderly.” Cooper wrote:
I brought together more than 40 elderly residents to complete it, and I worked jointly with them at the Center in the Park in the Germantown district of Philadelphia. Local artist, Deborah Zwetsch and I assembled their memories over the previous 80 years.
The memories of the elderly are highly personal. Some are sentimental, some painful, some humorous, some ordinary.
There is nothing ordinary about the depiction of the Ridge Avenue jazz corridor.
Ridge Avenue is ground zero in the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s plan to transform the Sharswood neighborhood. There is widespread concern that PHA has no plan to preserve the neighborhood’s cultural heritage and historic resources.
Cooper’s mural, showcasing Pep’s, the Showboat, Blue Horizon, Uptown Theater and jazz joints on Ridge Avenue, tells part of the story of Philadelphia’s rich jazz heritage. We must capture the rest of the story while the folks who were there are still here. If we don’t, their stories will be lost for current and future generations.