The Mystery of Little Ty

The Walker canvas had optimism—“Will be back Aug. 68. See you at the Blue Sal!”

The soldier, identified only as “Little Ty from 1-2 Poplar St. Tenderlions North Philly,” inscribed the graffiti on August 12, 1967. He noted too he “Slept Here on His Way to the War.”

An effort was made to find Little Ty, but the address doesn’t exist. The Philadelphia Inquirer even ran a feature story, on June 27, 2004, headlined “On a ship to Vietnam, the mystery of ‘Little Ty,’” but he did not come forward, nor did anyone who knew him.

A longtime Philadelphia resident helped decipher the graffiti’s real meaning. The address “1-2 Poplar Street,” according to John P. Buchanan, a detective in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, was actually the corner of 12th and Poplar Streets, a dangerous 1960s gang location.

“Tenderlions,” ,” was pronounced “Tender-Lines,” and was the name of an area gang, the detective explained. The “Blue Sal” could have been a bar or a candy store painted blue. It may also refer to a popular 1960s Philadelphia boxing venue. “The Blue Sal,” the detective said, “was most likely a location where Little Ty would ‘hang.’”

We continue to look for him.

<<< Back To Stories

Exhibit Schedules

    Part of the Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam is currently at the New York Historical Society in Manhatten through April 22, 2018. Information about the full Vietnam exhibit is available here

    Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam will be open at the USS Kidd Memorial in Baton Rouge, LA, from October 27, 2017 through February 28, 2018.