John Altomari, the Founder and first President, gave the following
account of the activities surrounding the founding of the Society:
In the fall of 1991,
Dr. Harry Silcox suggested to John Altomari that he write a history of his neighborhood
with the eventual aim of publishing the history as part of a larger Northeast Philadelphia
history. John got interested and brought the idea before a Wissinoming senior
citizens group. The idea was well received, and in September of the same year, the
first members signed up: Ann Peltz, Margaret Barth, Edna Altomari, Al Irvine, Del Irvine,
Alberta Chase, Dorothy Weideman, Ed Fink, Mildred Hughes, and George Schulle.
Early meetings were held at the Hope Lutheran Church, but because of a need for an
evening meeting place, meetings were held at the Wissinoming Methodist Church beginning in
1992. Other early members were Elsie Barnes, Marie McHeran, Walt Stock, Elsie
Hipple, John Boggs, Naomi Mellar, Alice Rapp, Regina Aitken, John Aitken, Marge Grayson,
Henry Collins, Joanne O'Brien, and Michael Gaynor.
John and other Society members represented Wissinoming at the meetings of the 10
Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood groups that would eventually contribute to the very
successful publication Historical Northeast Philadelphia, issued in 1994.
Meetings were held first at the Tacony Music Hall, then at the Frankford Historical
Society, then at the home of Patricia and Fred Stopper on a monthly basis.
The publication was made possible by a grant obtained by Dr. Silcox. To qualify
for the grant, each neighborhood group had to conduct intergenerational activities that
would give young people a meaningful insight into what it was like growing up in the early
days of their neighborhood. The Wissinoming Historical Society decided to
focus its efforts at Frankford High where many Wissinoming teenagers attended high school.
Mr. Peters, the Principal, became excited about the project and designated Mr.
Jerome Ruderman, the Department Head of Social Studies, to be the project manager.
Eventually, 16 Frankford High students interviewed 16 senior citizens of Wissinoming and
wrote reports on the experience. By all accounts, everyone had a great time and
learned a lot about each other and their different experiences. Three of the
interviews were selected for publication in Historical Northeast Philadelphia.
Because of his contributions to the Wissinoming History Society, the Society gave John
Altomari the title "Founder."