Back when they were growing up during the Depression, Harvey Pollack and his brother, Jack, would look forward to making a little dough on the Mummers Parade. Early on New Year's Day, they would head down from their home at 19th and Dauphin to the wholesale food market at Second and Dock to grab as many sturdy food boxes as they could from the trash.
"The parade would go up to Girard Avenue then, and people would pack in at the end. We'd go from Girard to Spring Garden and sell these food hampers for people to stand on to see over the crowd. Made a quarter or so each, which was a lot of money in the '30s," Pollack said.
Pollack, though, hasn't seen the Mummers Parade - live, at least - in more than 50 years, though he does have an excuse. Pollack, who has made his bones as the statistician for the 76ers, Big Five basketball, and a wealth of other things, has been the official Mummers statistician since the middle 1950s. This requires him to be inside a city office building ready to gather the judges' marks for every comic, fancy and string band to come up the street.
"It's amazing they still need me to add and divide, but they are busy folks, and I'm good at doing it," he said.
There usually are TVs broadcasting the parade in his statistical warren, Pollack said, but sometimes he turns to a college football game to check out the score. "I've been there for every parade, but I haven't heard a string band live for a long time."
Conversely, during those same 50 years, Ed Kirlin hasn't missed a march up the street (the Mummers were on Market Street in 1995 and from 2000-03, but on Broad Street the rest of the time). He has been a comic since he was 3. In 1971, Kirlin joined what could be the most raucous group in the parade, the Froggy Carr Brigade.
Fearing a lack of interest in the parade among kids, Kirlin last year wrote a book about a boy discovering the parade, The Littlest Mummer, and gave the proceeds to the Katie Kirlin Fund, to promote wheelchair athletics. Katie, his niece, was a young wheelchair athlete who died at age 11 from spinal cancer. It is available at Barnes & Noble for $12.
Kirlin's favorite place to watch the parade during the afternoon - the comics go up the street first - is Broad and Pine. His favorite Froggy Carr routine was "300 Stooges" in 1993.
"You can't get any better than 300 guys with Larry and Moe wigs or shaved heads like Curly doing the Mummers strut," said Kirlin, who likes Broad and Pine because it is a block from a favorite bar, Dirty Frank's, "where you can warm up with a cold one."
Like Kirlin, Golden Sunrise Fancy Division club cocaptain Chuck Erbenich hopes for a renewed interest in the parade by young people.
"I grew up standing at St. Agnes Hospital at Broad and Mifflin, where there used to be a ton of people," said Erbenich, 35, who has been marching with Golden Sunrise for 15 years. "When I was a kid, all I wanted to be was a Mummer."
"But plumes are now hard to find and people have to work hard and it takes time to build a big costume like I wear," Erbenich said. "It's hard to be a fancy - we have about 120 going up the street - in a day when there are so many interests. Still, there is nothing like being on Broad Street on New Year's Day."
Jake Hart, a U.S. magistrate judge who is the color commentator on TV for the String Band Division, wouldn't think about being anywhere else, and has a few tips for those not watching him chat on TV.
"Get out early and go down to Broad and Oregon, where the bands warm up before they start marching. You might not see the routines, but you will hear the music and see the costumes close up," he said. It is actually getting harder to see routines on the street, Hart said, because there are so many props blocking sight lines. "You have to make sure you are in front, not alongside like many people think, to see and hear."
Look for Ferko, Quaker City and Fralinger - 12th, 16th and 17th, respectively, in the line of march of 18 string bands - the winners of the last 12 parades.
"And be sure you listen for the bass saxophone, a six-foot-high monstrosity," Hart said. "They basically only exist in Philadelphia and for the Mummers. Maybe 40 are here and two somewhere in Boston. It's just the kind of thing that makes Mummers special."
Times: Comics start up Broad Street near Washington Avenue about 9 a.m. Fancies go off approximately at 10 a.m. and string bands at about 11 a.m. The judging area is at City Hall. The Fancy Brigades have indoor shows at the Convention Center, 12th and Arch Streets, at noon and 5 p.m.
Best Corners: There is no guarantee, but clubs generally perform at Broad Street's intersections with Locust, Pine, Washington, Tasker, Mifflin, Ritner and Shunk.
Tickets: Bleacher seating at City Hall is $14.50; tickets are available at the Independence Visitor Center, Sixth and Market Streets (215-965-7676). For the Fancy Brigade show at the Convention Center, $19 for adults and $14 for children, available at the Kimmel Center box office, 260 S. Broad St. (215-893-1999) or online at www.ticketphiladelphia.org.