El Sobrante Press ESP
“Growing Up on the Streets of Philadelphia” is a story of coming of age in big city America. It chronicles the experiences and adventures of a boy coping with everyday life situations as a member of a working-class family struggling to survive amidst poverty and alcoholism, while never losing hope for a better future. In the backdrop of this urban landscape, it depicts the many challenges and hardships faced along the road to adulthood, eventual success achieved through a mixture of ambition, curiosity and blind luck, supplemented by the guidance and inspiration of the special characters encountered along the way.
The story describes the unique rough and tough Kensington neighborhood, the street-smart kids as both hooligans and entrepreneurs; the immigrant merchants who kept the community afloat; and the gradual climb from destitution to a better life. Principles and values are cultivated, mistakes are made, and victories achieved.
“Growing Up” provides a nostalgic look at big-city life in the not-so-distant past. It opens a window onto unique life-changing experiences, and those ordinary but challenging situations many of us have faced as we passed through those formative years.
“For those who lived during the early Cold War years of big-city America, this book will be a fascinating reminder; for others, it will be a glimpse into an almost forgotten era in one of the United States’ greatest cities.”
----Allen Anderson, author of Memoir of an Alcoholic American Spy
“This is personal memoir at its very best. Buck’s story of how he went from a shabby home in a factory town to serving in the Army and working for the government is modest and charming. This is the American dream done right”
----Patrick Moffett, author of Fortunate Soldier
“In a digital world. Jim Buck takes you back to a simpler time when children invented their own fun and success hinged on hard work. A deeply poignant read that serves as a testament to the baby boomer generation.”
----Marie B. Leonarde, author of A Woman’s Worth: My Life, My Struggle
"Growing Up" is 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 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 inspirational 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 treasure 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 was seemingly the only recourse. Luckily, the U.S. Army stepped up to provide 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.