80-year Friendship Continues to Stand the Test of Time

Back row, from left to right: Jerry Goldberg, Gordon Lewis, Bob Sachs, Harvey Stern and Frank Gelb
Front row: Marv Frankil and Chuck Kurtz | Photo provided

When you’ve been friends with someone for long enough, the amount of inside jokes and stories start to fill volumes. Of course, so, too, can embarrassing photos and (shudder) yearbook pictures through the years.

With friends since kindergarten, those stories are more than abundant.

Bob Sachs, Marv Frankil, Jerry Goldberg, Gordon Lewis, Harvey Stern, Frank Gelb and Chuck Kurtz have been friends since their kindergarten days at what was formerly William B. Mann School (now Mastery Charter School Mann Elementary) when they were growing up in Wynnefield. Another, Howard Bolotin, died recently from a brain tumor.

Now entering their early 80s, the group still gets together about once a month, whether for dinner or to visit Kurtz, who lives in the Abramson Center for Jewish Life.

“We always talk about all the fun times and the crazy times we had growing up — some of them you can’t even print,” laughed Sachs, who lives in Ventnor, N.J.

They remained friends though their school years, playing sports such as wireball, stepball, boxball and basketball at Dimner Beeber Middle School and, later, Overbrook High School, from which they graduated in 1955.

In fact, they will gather at Sachs’ home on June 22 to watch a program about fellow Overbrook alum and basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain.

“He was the best player in the U.S., he was the best player in the NBA,” Sachs enthused, “and we were friendly with him and there was a program on him on Comcast that some of the guys had not seen.”

Throughout high school, the friends got into trouble — but not bad trouble, Sachs said.

They were members of the Tau Epsilon chapter of the Jewish high school fraternity Sigma Alpha Rho (SAR), which is having its 100th anniversary this October in Philadelphia. They all plan on going — as long as they don’t get kicked out of a hotel like they did when they were 15.

Back then, they took a train to New York for a SAR convention. While there, Sachs recalled, they were “carrying on,” likely leading to them getting the boot.

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” he said with a knowing laugh. “I remember that — playing pranks on the lobby.”

They also rented clubhouses to hang out in with a few others from the neighborhood or from school. The first was in a vacant store underneath a house, for which they scraped together $40 a month for rent.

Their second clubhouse, above a drugstore and complete with a bedroom and kitchen for $50 a month, was raided after they decided to have a little fun and throw a party.

“We were only 15, and we were running poker games and serving hot dogs and other stuff — and the other stuff was not what young boys were supposed to be doing,” Sachs laughed. “Police said, ‘Who’s running this?’ and we raised our arms and we said, ‘Us,’ and … they said, ‘Where are the adults?’ … They didn’t know what to do with us and we didn’t get arrested.”

Avid sports fans, some attended Eagles games together, being season ticket holders since the 1950s.

They watched the Birds from the upper deck on the 40-yard line as the team played everywhere from Connie Mack Stadium to the Vet.

In fact, Frankil, who now lives in Blue Bell, was honored by the Eagles two years ago for being such a loyal fan. He held season tickets from 1951 until last year, when he transferred them to his son. The team brought out former star Maxie Baughan to give Frankil and his wife a tour during a game.

“They announced it at half-time and they hosted us,” he said. “We went down for about three hours and sat and talked and they gave us a tour.”

Regarding his friends, Frankil spoke of a level of comfort not many have today.

“We have a certain bond and I don’t think any of us want to lose that feeling of being so close for such a long time,” Frankil said. “Everybody along the way in life meets new friends and new people, but there’s something special about when you start out at about 4 or 5 years old with people.”

Their long-lasting relationship is a testament to how much they care about each other.

“What’s so special is not only the friendship,” Sachs said. “It’s actually the care level for each one of us as we got older, not letting an illness of some type stop us from getting together.”

“We have a great time,” Frankil added. “It’s a wonderful experience just being with everybody, talking about old friends, talking about old times and we all enjoy ourselves very much together. … It’s nice in this environment in today’s society to be able to do that with people and feel that comfortable with people, so nobody wants to give that up.”

Contact: mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


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