If you were looking for cutting edge entertainment in the 1920s you could see Milton Berle disguised as a woman in his vaudeville act there. (People got dressed up for that event.)
If you were looking for cutting edge entertainment in the 1970s you could see David Bowie disguised as a woman in his Diamond Dogs incarnation there. (People got a whole different kind of dressed up for that event.)
And Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Mariah Carey, Neil Young, Smashing Pumpkins, The Foo Fighters, U2, Lou Reed, The Grateful Dead, and on and on and on … they all took the stage at the Tower Theater at 69th Street in Upper Darby.
But that's not how I was introduced to the Tower.
When we were around 11 and 13, respectively, my brother Dan and I would go on Saturday adventures. Sometimes we'd walk to the Bazaar, a trip we estimated at around 20 miles but was actually closer to three. Other times we'd “go fishing” for minnows in nearby Muckinipates Creek. Since we were city boys recently moved from Southwest Philadelphia the minnows were in very little danger.
But our most adventurous adventure started with the walk to the Sharon Hill trolley on Chester Pike. There were always some shady characters on that run (we defined shady characters as older kids we didn't know), so we put on the meanest “public transportation don't mess with me” faces we could muster. Either because we looked amazingly tough or because we looked incredibly dumb, no one ever gave us any trouble.
And so we were on our way, past Springfield Road to Drexel Park to Beverly Hills (not that one) and on to the retail wonders of 69th Street.
Once there we would figure out our finances (usually around $7 between us) and our priorities (something fun to eat and a movie). Our possibilities seemed endless, but to be honest we always ended up making exactly two stops: a cheesesteak or hoagie at one of your finer eating establishments and a movie at the Tower.
For a short while, after a minor incident which wasn't really our fault, we chose to start seeing our movies at the Terminal Theater just down the street, but eventually we were allowed … I mean, we decided … to come back.
We laughed at Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau there, and were stunned when the gang members started prancing and singing in West Side Story there. (A musical? Oh man, you must be kidding!)
And so when I saw Bob Dylan at the Tower a few years ago, it was a double landmark event for me. One, the first time I saw one of my all-time favorites perform live (and miraculously, singing lyrics you could understand); and two, I think I was sitting in the same seat where Dan and I had met the dancing delinquents known as the Sharks and the Jets way back in the day.