philly in the 50s

1383824063874Dan Burt at Granta:

Prostitution, gambling, fencing, contract murder, loan-sharking, political corruption and crime of every sort were the daily trade in Philadelphia’s Tenderloin, the oldest part of town. The Kevitch family ruled this stew for half a century, from Prohibition to the rise of Atlantic City. My mother was a Kevitch.

Not all Jewish boys become doctors, lawyers, violinists and Nobelists: some sons of immigrants from the Pale became criminals, often as part of or in cahoots with Italian crime families. A recent history calls them ‘tough Jews’: men like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, who organized and ran Murder Incorporated for Lucky Luciano in the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, and Arnold Rothstein, better known as Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, who fixed the 1919 baseball World Series. The Kevitch family were tough Jews.

Their headquarters during the day was Milt’s Bar and Grill at Ninth and Race, the heart of the Tenderloin, two miles north of Fourth and Daly. At night one or more male clan members supervised the family’s ‘after hours Club’ a few blocks away. We called Milt’s Bar the Taproom and the after hours club The Club.

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