BACK IN 1986, municipal workers were on strike, and trash and garbage were piling up on sidewalks and vacant lots all over the city.

It was July, and the stench of rotting waste was suffocating the neighborhood.

Bobby Brown, a man who didn't hesitate to take action when the occasion merited it, marched out of his South Philadelphia house, at 4th and Porter streets, started grabbing the festering bags and hurling them into the street.

Neighbors saw what he was doing and ran out to join in. Soon, mounds of fetid trash and garbage were clogging the street, blocking traffic.

"It was classic South Philadelphia problem-solving," said one of the neighbors, Ed Barkowitz, now a Daily News sportswriter who, with his father, joined in the fun.

Shortly after, trucks from a private contractor, apparently retained by the city, arrived and cleared the street.

But Bobby Brown and his neighbors had made their point.

Robert W. Brown Sr., a former Philly cop who worked in the special-investigative squad of the storied Clarence Ferguson and in the Highway Patrol, a longtime longshoreman and Army veteran, died Friday. He was 75 and lived in South Philadelphia.

Speaking of action, Bobby once became so irritated by the Mr. Softee ice-cream truck that had a habit of parking in front of his house and sounding its bells to bring out his seven children that he grabbed his service revolver and shot off the bells, according to his daughter Patricia Daly.

Bobby attended Southeast Catholic High School, now Neumann-Goretti.

He joined the Police Department in 1958, one of five Brown brothers eventually on the force. His first assignment was the 18th District at 55th and Pine streets.

In 1964, Bobby was a member of Capt. Ferguson's special-investigative squad when he was involved in a shoot-out with two holdup men in a car-rental agency on Hunting Park Avenue.

Bobby shot and killed one of the men when the other man grabbed a detective's service revolver and started firing.

Among more pleasant duties, he helped deliver several babies over the years.

When the department was looking for men for the Highway Patrol, Bobby volunteered to ride a motorcycle, which he had never done.

"He was able to get it moving, but he didn't know how to stop it," said Daly, a police officer assigned to the 3rd District, in South Philadelphia. "He kept going around in circles before he learned how to use the brakes."

Bobby left the force in 1969, and became a longshoreman. He was a member of the International Brotherhood of Longshoremen Local 1291. He retired in 1993.

"He was loyal to his friends and family," his daughter said. "If you were hungry, he would feed you. He took dinner to a homeless man who lived in an abandoned house. That man had a good meal every day."

"Mr. Brown wasn't just old school; he was the principal," said Barkowitz. "He was no-nonsense tough when he smelled trouble, but a giant teddy bear to his family and those he cared about."

He married Catherine "Doog" Palagruto in 1955. He was a member of the National Guard in 1952, and served on active Army duty from 1954 to 1956.

Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by three other daughters, Jeannie Moore, Barbara Kinsella and Cassy McCalllion; a son, David; four brothers, Tom, Don, Ben and Gene; a sister, Betsy Makarewicz; 21 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter, Deborah Brown, and a son, Robert Brown Jr.

Cassy is also a police officer, assigned as a court liaison.

Services: Funeral Mass at 9:30 a.m. today at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 3rd and Wolf streets. Friends may call at 8 a.m. at the Rogers Funeral Home, 1430 E. Moyamensing Ave. Burial will be at Ss. Peter & Paul Cemetery, Marple.