A few weeks ago, I happened to be at a dinner party in Philly with a variety of people from throughout the city and its suburbs. We were talking about how we get to the airport, and I said, “Well, I’m from Delco, so it’s only a 10-minute hop, skip and jump for me!”
“Delco, Delco, Delco – that’s all we seem to hear about anymore,” said one of the other guests, good-naturedly, “What exactly is going on with Delco?” Everyone laughed.
I laughed with them, because I, too, have actually noticed this surge in Delco pride in the last five or 10 years. The guest was right. Suddenly, after all these years, people who live in Delaware County seem super proud to live here, and deeply connected to one another.
Instead of a six degrees of separation, almost everyone here has only one degree if they’ve been a resident of Delco for any length of time. As huge as Delco is, it also has a small-town flavor of everyone knowing and caring about each other. Delco people have the backs of other Delco people and that shows every time there’s a fire, sick child, accident, or any other time when we need one another’s help. Delco people are known to have generous and huge – really huge – hearts.
Almost overnight, Delco has become a hot commodity. In the last 10 years, all kinds of Delco-centric products and entities have popped up – Delco beer, Delco T-shirts, Delco wooden wall hangers, sill sitters and door mats, Delco sweats and beach towels, Delco bumper stickers, Delco hats and hoodies, a Delco Community Foundation, a Delco charity group, a Delco Connections networking group, Delco Live radio – hey, there’s even an annual Delco Day on 6-10 (chosen to celebrate our 610 area code). Is there anything that Delco doesn’t have? Mall kiosks, online Etsy sites and local gift shops are churning out the merchandise and hawking Delco wares and we just can’t seem to get enough of it.
Movies and TV series filming in Delco seem to be the norm anymore and Delco is quick to shout out, brag about and show support to its long list of “famous Delconians,” from Tina Fey, Mickey Vernon and Todd Rundgren to Jim Croce, Andrew Wyeth. Even the Slinky has its origins in Delco! But, it's not just the movie stars that we cheer on-- we give our collective loud applause to everyone from Delco who "makes it big," no matter what their career or profession.
We also love to boast that we’re the original home of Wawa, now that the Wawa stores can be found up and down the East coast.
Local residents may poke fun at living here or complain about it, but most know, in reality, there is much to like about the place and they’d miss a lot if they skipped town. My friends and I have a saying, “They leave but they always come back,” meaning we know a lot of residents who move south or west, but they often come back eventually.
Alright, maybe none of us would miss the traffic, but as I always say, there’s a lot of traffic here because the county has many perks and that’s why it’s heavily populated. In fact, I notice it’s the people who live here who make the most fun of Delco. We know we’re not perfect, and we have a good time ribbing ourselves about it!
I’m a Delco girl, through and through. I was born here, raised here and continue to live, work and play here. I even already have my cemetery plot pre-paid here. I tease those in my extended family who moved out to Chester County, telling them that all they did was increase the distance they now have to drive to get into Philly or down the shore or back to the heart of Delco, where there are always so many things going on. Of course Chester County is beautiful and has many things going for it, too, but that’s just my Delco-centric way of thinking!
In my opinion, it’s not just the location of Delco, close to the airport, trains, trolleys, the river, the big cities and the bridges to Jersey, that make it such an attractive place to live, it is the people of Delco who make it so special and unique. You can move them to the Main Line, to the West Coast or down South, but you can never really take the Delco out of a Delco person. I have a friend who moved to Bucks County. She is a class act and speaks well, but whenever she is upset by something, she says “Don’t let me go Delco on them,” meaning she’s going to become down-to-earth and tell it like it is. That’s what most Delco people generally do – there are no airs. What you see is what you usually get!
Delco people connect with one another and usually share other Delco residents’ frame of reference. Just like your family members and friends share “inside jokes” and references with you, ones that only you understand, so it is with Delco residents. For instance, if Delco residents say, “They taste like the cinnamon buns at ‘the Bazaar,” someone from outside of Delco may think that means a Christmas Bazaar or an overseas bazaar. Everyone from Delco knows they mean the former Bazaar of All Nations on Baltimore Pike. They know a reference to “Pulsations” means a nightclub and not the rhythmic beating of a heart and going to Tom Jones means getting a vinyl booth in a Brookhaven eatery and not going to hear a performer. The same goes for local meanings of many words, that only those from this area would know.
Delco residents immediately come up with visuals in their mind, if you talk about the former Yeadon Movie Theatre, the Balcony near 69th Street or the Longhorn Ranch in Glen Mills. It’s not only Delco treasures of the past –residents equally come up with visuals when talking about a modern Delco scene, like eating a Wawa breakfast of Sizzli and coffee on a trashcan tabletop. It’s a comfortable feeling talking with someone else who can “talk Delco.”
A few weeks ago, my son was on a vacation in Thailand. He was sitting in a Thai bar with his friend, when a couple at the bar approached him to ask about the Philadelphia Eagles hat he was wearing. It turned out, the couple was from Havertown.
“Even on the other side of the world, Delco people seem to find each other,” he laughed as he told me the story.
All over social media, there are Delco hashtags dotting photos and posts, making the 610 connection: #delcopride, #onlyindelco, #delcopa #delcoeats, #delcosports. Delco references seem to be everywhere. Inside jokes float through Facebook and through e-mails, “If Barbie and Ken lived in Delco,” or “Famous People Living in Delco” with funny images of them taking on stereotypical characteristics of certain towns. We even have our own comedian, “Aunt Mary Pat DiSabatino,” who has made a name and career out of zeroing in on comedic Delco traits and doing full comedy routines on the Delco way of life.
Even on the newscasts lately, instead of saying “Delaware County,” the news anchors and reporters say “Delco.” They don’t say “Bucksco” or “Montco.” Social media has really exploded with Delco’s popularity. There are dozens of pages and sites that bind us together. On Facebook alone, thousands enjoy the pages like “Meanwhile in Delco,” “Vintage 69th Street,” “Delco Restaurant Review,” “Delco Memories,” “The Real Housewives of Delco” and the list goes on! And that’s not even narrowed down pages, like each township and borough’s own neighborhood pages.
Now, let me get back to those dinner guests, and how they made me think about the recent surge of Delco pride and how we're becoming "Delco famous" because of it.
“Delco” is a not only a diverse, interesting, and vibrant place to live, but it’s also a part of our internal being, where we’re rooted, the way we operate. Although that pride has always been there, it is hard to describe to an outsider. I think the pride became noticeable because so many of its residents now realize that Delco is a pretty decent place to live so we’re not just going to take it for granted anymore. Instead, we’re going to flaunt it on T-shirts, bumper stickers and the beers we drink.
Go Delco! #delcopride