One man's life is inside the Palestra

Harrell marched with his mop held upside down, the white fringes decorated with red and blue Class of 2000 letters.


The temperature outside is 28 degrees, but that doesn't stop Harrell. He has one more stop to make, and he heads out a door to the alleyway that runs alongside the Palestra.

He points to the sections of limestone bricks that rise vertically up the walls. They're decorative, intended to break up the monotony of the red brick building, but to ingenious kids of a certain generation who lived nearby, they looked a lot like ladders.

"The kids from Grays Ferry, they were nuts," Harrell says. "They'd climb up here, run across the flat roof and see up there?"

He stops to point to a small window that is reachable if you shimmied up from the roof.

"That window gets you in right behind the scoreboard," Harrell says.

Harrell never got in that way, but he used the Hutchinson Gym entry more than once.

He figures he has paid for only a handful of Palestra tickets in his lifetime -- usually for Catholic League playoff games, because it seemed the right thing to do -- and he never did understand the security guards who acted like bouncers.

Back in the early 1970s, when the Flyers were ripping up the NHL and earning their Broad Street Bully reputation, he took tickets at the Spectrum.

"I'd go to a bar before the game and my friends would say, 'Yo, what gate you working tonight?' " Harrell says. "And I'd say [Gate] 4. They'd come, hand me whatever -- a matchbook, a movie ticket -- I didn't care, I'd let them in."

Mr. Landgra(e)th would be proud.

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