Rats On Peach Street

Leonard Bonarek was on the phone, just a little concerned.

Yes, he actually got misty-eyed reading about himself this morning. (The tech-savvy subject of today's column wouldn't settle for seeing himself online. "I need to see the paper to know that it's real," he said, surprisingly.)

But he had a slight problem with the headline.

"The Pied Piper of Peach Street "sounded great, he said, but he wasn't sure of the reference, so he looked it up in Wikipedia.


My piece was about this American original -- Leonard -- who moved into a black neighborhood in West Philly, and started taking kids to baseball games and dance lessons, creating a one-man social services agency.

Wikipedia says this about the Pied Piper of Hamelin:

In 1284, while the town of Hamelin was suffering from a rat infestation, a man dressed in colourful garments appeared, claiming to be a rat-catcher. He promised the townsmen a solution for their problem with the rats. The townsmen in turn promised to pay him for the removal of the rats. The man accepted, and thus played a musical pipe to lure the rats with a song into the Weser River, where all of them drowned. Despite his success, the people reneged on their promise and refused to pay the rat-catcher. The man left the town angrily, but returned some time later, on June 26, seeking revenge.

While the inhabitants were in church, he played his pipe again, this time attracting the children of Hamelin. One hundred and thirty boys and girls followed him out of the town, where they were lured into a cave and never seen again. Depending on the version, at most two children remained behind (one of whom was lame and could not follow quickly enough) who informed the villagers of what had happened when they came out of the church.

What can I say, Leonard? I told him I don't write the headlines. But I did 'fess to describing the way he was leading four girls down to the Bike Works program on the Penn campus as Pied Piper-like.

In the best possible way of course.

Continue Reading