El Sobrante Press
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About El Sobrante Press

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El Sobrante Press is the sole distributor of the memoir "Growing Up on the Streets of Philadelphia."

    It’s at once a memoir of a boy’s struggle through the formative years in a tough environment and also a window into a simpler place and time when hard work, ingenuity and a sense of values would set the course for a positive future. The Philadelphia of the early Cold War years comes to life as we follow a small branch of the Buck Family in its quest to stay afloat amidst the tides of alcoholism, ignorance and poverty. What we find as we move along with James through his encounters with the inspiring, frequently curious and sometimes cruel inhabitants of his neighborhood is that life is not lived in a vacuum. Our own innate capabilities are shaped and guided by the various people in our lives, positive and negative. It’s a team sport; we win or lose based on personal drive, the inspiration and teaching provided by coaches, and sometimes merely the luck of the draw.

    We get a fascinating glimpse of the big city and the people that give it life as James takes us on one adventure after another. Money is hard to come by but James and his friends make the most of entrepreneurial opportunities. They find treasures in other people’s trash, practice recycling for profit and strip abandoned buildings of valuable metals. Eventually, such sporadic earnings give way to steady employment. Work at a local grocery provides spending money while surreptitiously building character and a sense of values. In the years from age ten to eighteen, James progresses from stacking soda bottles to managing the entire store, from riding homemade wooden scooters to driving Detroit-built dream cars.

    The City of Philadelphia, as a blue-collar town, provided numerous opportunities for adventure or trouble, depending on your point of view. There were factories and warehouses, railroads and trolley lines, abandoned buildings and empty lots. A boy and his mates could spend the day hiking the industrial back-streets or riding trolleys in search of parks and open space. Moms shooed the kids out the door in the mornings and admonished them if they dared reappear before dinner. Forts were built, wars were fought and games were devised that aptly suited the urban environment. With steady after-school employment, owning a bicycle went from dream to reality, opening a whole new world of travel and exploits.

    As a teenager, schools, girls and cars dominated James’ world. The schools were the most important but ranked a distant third behind the other two. Nevertheless, graduation from high school did occur, in spite of all the other activities working against it. A steady girlfriend performed her magic and James survived to move on to the next stage. With no scholarships and no money, a factory job as seemingly the only recourse, the U.S. Army provided a welcome alternative.

    James did make it through those formative years. In the journey he became an entrepreneur of sorts, learning the value of hard work and of doing the right thing. The essence that was Philadelphia, and the individuals that peopled his world, provided subtle influences that helped mold the character of the boy who joined the army and the man who left the city.

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