Tag Archives: South Philly

O.V. Catto Elks Lodge

Octavius Valentine Catto was a 19th century educator and activist. He was killed on Election Day October 10, 1871 when he tried to exercise his right to vote guaranteed by the 15th Amendment.

O.V. Catto

Located at 16th and Fitzwater streets, the O.V. Catto Elks Lodge was a hub of community life for 30 years. In addition to its large meeting space and recreation facilities (including a full boxing ring and a basketball court), the building boasted a large roof garden for formal gatherings.

O.V. Catto Lodge - Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

The lodge’s Two Bit Club was also a draw. In Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson, the NEA Jazz Master recounted that for two years he played with the Mickey Collins Orchestra every Sunday at this South Philly landmark. This photo was taken in 1946 when Golson was 17.

O.V. Catto Lodge - Benny Golson

Published by Temple University Press, Golson’s autobiography is available for purchase here.

The O.V. Catto Elks Lodge 1903 banner has been conserved by the Philadelphia History Museum.

O.V. Catto Elks Lodge Banner

Jack’s Rathskeller

Jack’s was located in South Philly. In her autobiography, His Eye is on the Sparrow,, blues great Ethel Waters, recounted a watershed event in her life that occurred on Halloween Night 1917:

I sneaked into the back room of Jack’s Rathskeller, where there was a big Halloween party going on. Jack’s was on the corner of Juniper and South. No one under twenty-one was supposed to be allowed in Philadelphia saloons. …

Youngsters representing the wards all over Philadelphia were supposed to complete in entertaining at that party. I was living in the old Seventh Ward. The girl who was supposed to perform for our district never showed up, and somebody at my table yelled:

“Chippie sings! Come on, Chippie, sing for the old Seventh.”

I was Chippie.

[…]

And that night at Jack’s, Chippie Waters got up and sang tearful ballad, “When You’re a Long, Long Way from Home.” The crowd liked my rich, young voice, and I had to give two or three encores.

Among the professionals there were Braxton and Nugent, who had a small vaudeville unit. They said that if I would work on the stage with them they could get me ten dollars a week.

And the rest is history. By the way, residents of the 7th Ward were the subject of W.E.B. DuBois’ landmark sociological study, The Philadelphia Negro.