Florence Hampton: Remembering a different York

Florence Hampton reflects on life in the former Freys Avenue neighborhood more than a half century ago.

Presented by: SpiriTrust Lutheran
Written by: Anthony Machcinski
Florence Hampton (Photo by Paul Chaplin for Our York Media)

Florence Hampton remembers life in York City in the 1950s and 1960s as almost a different place. In many ways, it was.

Her family lived in a five-bedroom row home in what was the Freys Avenue neighborhood. It’s since been torn down; York County Housing Authority’s high-rise apartment now stand in its place – its towers unmissable to cars driving down East King Street.

Back then, it was a safe neighborhood, Florence says, where nobody locked their doors and every child was a child raised by the community.

“There wasn’t anybody who ever went hungry on Freys Avenue,” she says with a laugh. “You’d call your child to eat, and when you got to the table, you had your child and somebody else’s.”

***

Florence remembers the 1969 race riots. She can still picture the tank parked in the alleyway on the side of her mother’s home.

“They would park it there during the day, and at night, that tank would ride up and down Princess Street where they thought the shooting might be,” Florence says. “We could walk to my mother’s, but if we stayed and it got dark, you had to get a cab home.”

I never had no desire to move. Why move when you had neighbors who would help take care of your kids?

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Florence Hampton

Despite all the negative the race riots brought to York, Florence stayed and raised her kids in the city.

“I never had no desire to move,” Florence says. “Why move when you had neighbors who would help take care of your kids? I knew they’d take care of them.”

***

Florence remembers when her daughter came back from college one day in the 1970s.

They talked about life growing up being a struggle, Florence says, but it never really felt like it because it’s all they knew.

“Mom,” she said. “I didn’t know we were poor.”

“I told her, ‘Girl, you just didn’t know!’”

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717-854-3971
1050 Pennsylvania Ave. York, PA 17404

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