As I look back on the past eighty years of my life, it is obvious to those who have known me that I was born a leader. My purpose in stating this is not to brag but simply to acknowledge that leading rather than following always came naturally to me. My earliest memory of this trait is when I was about six years old and either I formed a little club of kids or the kids naturally gravitated to me to “lead the way.” I’m sure I was inspired by movies I saw in the Park Theater at the end of my 3100 block of Diamond Street in Philadelphia. Superman, Tom Mix, The Lone Ranger and Tarzan filled me with images of men taking charge and leading the way. During this period I acquired the nick-name Joe-Joe the Iron Man. If I had to guess, I would bet on my having come up with the name myself. This might have been the start of a lifelong predilection and talent for naming things: groups, book titles, captions, titles for my photographs and short stories.
When my family moved from Diamond Street in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia to the more suburban neighborhood of West Mount Airy, I became a serious gardener cultivating a half-acre plot behind my house. (This garden will be the subject of a future biographical entry). Around the age of 14, maybe less, I formed the Young Farmers Garden Mart. The goal was to find a piece of land, grow vegetables and sell them locally. I remember painting a sign with silver letters on a black background. The board I used was so small, it would have only attracted the attention of grasshoppers and mice. This group of about three other teenagers fizzled out when we were unsuccessful in finding a plowable site for our truck farm. But as they say: the fun was in the planning.
The next stage of my growth as a leader came when I was a student at Perkiomen Preparatory School in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, a boarding school forty-five minutes northwest of Philadelphia. I was elected president of the Junior Class (perhaps based on my modest campaign logo “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star.” The following year, I was elected president of the school. At Perkiomen I also took on the responsibility of directing a play based on Paul Gallico’s fine novel The Snow Goose. (This experience will also be the subject of a future humorous biographical entry). I also organized a group of students to decorate the gymnasium for a gala dance party, the likes of which the school had never seen. We installed a suspended ceiling of pink satin bunting, cast a concrete fountain in the middle of the basketball court, and lined the walls of the gym with 12 foot high heavyweight display paper on which we painted scenes of varying subject matter. This was my first foray into creating successful and memorable party extravaganzas.
The head of the (Philadelphia) Mayor’s Science and Technology Advisory Committee appointed me head of the Urban Design Division. With this mantle, I created the Philadelphia Renaissance project, which in essence was a city beautification program.
I founded the Architectural League of The Philadelphia Art Alliance and ran the League’s programs for half a decade. Our most drammatic and memorable event was the hugely successful Broad Street Comes Alive Exhibition, which attracted very favorable reviews and editorials in both of Philadelphia’s major newspapers.
Not all my projects have been successful. The Bicentennial Jamboree was an effort to celebrate America’s 100th birthday when the City itself failed to get a celebration off the ground.
My efforts to create an Avenue of American History had a checkered success rate. I was successful in forming a development group to move the project forward but the group was ultimately not successful in the United States.
SpaceGroup has been my most successful project initial. Writing in 2019, the Group has been in existence for thirteen years and is still going strong.