Talk about a dream home.
For two years, Vietnam veteran Tom Garvey claims to have lived in a self-made apartment hidden inside of Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. Garvey, now 78, says he secretly refurbished an empty concession stand inside the former home of the Phillies and Eagles.
“I was like a kid with a Willy Wonka golden ticket,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Garvey details his experiences — taking non-baseball hits in the dugout, halftime parties, and run-ins with Philly sports legends like Tug McGraw and Julius Erving — in his 188-page book, “The Secret Apartment: Vet Stadium, a surreal memoir,” which was published in December.
He said he worked at the stadium complex parking lots through a company owned by his uncles. Through that job, Leonard received an office at the Vet and keys to an obscure entrance to the stadium.
Across from his office — out in left field — was an unused 60-foot-by-30-foot concession stand. Garvey tricked it out all the comforts he could: a bed, sink, fridge, coffee maker, and hot plate. Leftover AstroTurf made for a good carpet. Parties were a hit — including with the wives of Eagles players, who were waiting for their husbands.
“We’d put music on the stereo and have a drink,” he said. “The husbands would join their wives and have a beer, and then the lot traffic would pull out and we’d get their cars and have dinner.”
Garvey was careful about his secret digs, never taking or allowing photos, though the Inquirer corroborated his story with multiple people.
Not that there weren’t clues he was getting a little too comfy within the confines of Veteran Stadium. A Phillies doubleheader, extended late into the night by rain, made for a puzzling scene for remaining fans.
“There were less than 200 people scattered around,” he said. “They didn’t want to know why I was there in a bathrobe and flip flops, they just wanted to know where I got a hot cup of coffee because the concession stands closed hours ago.”
As all good things do, Garvey’s time in his clandestine apartment came to an end in 1981 when his uncles’ contract with the stadium lots ended.
The stadium was torn down in 2004, and along with it any tangible proof his secret hideout existed. That seems to be OK with Garvey, who got just what he needed from the apartment after returning from war.
“I’d been so busy for so many years when I came home and this gave me the opportunity to put things in perspective,” he said of his time living in Veterans Stadium. “ I found it to be healing. It was a place where I went inside myself and found some peace.”