East Falls Historic Society Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Lorraine Brown (LB) with her daughter-in-law Sara Reiter (SR)
Interviewer: Wendy Moody (WM) and Katy Hineline (KH)
Interview: November 18, 2019
Transcribed by: Wendy Moody, EFHS
WM: It is November 18, 2019. We’re in the home of Lorraine Brown, doing an oral history interview - Katy Hineline and Wendy Moody. Also present is Sara Reiter, Lorraine’s daughter.
WM: In-law! Ok. So thank you, Lorraine, for letting us come.
LB: Oh you’re quite welcome. I just hope I can be of some value.
WM: I’m sure you will. Why don’t we start at the beginning and why don’t you tell us when and where you were born.
LB: I was born in Philadelphia and raised in Philadelphia, and the hospital was St. Luke’s which was down around Poplar Street, somewhere in old Philadelphia.
WM: Is that South Philly?
LB: No, it wasn’t South Philly. It was old Philadelphia, off Girard. I think it was off Girard. It’s no longer there. It’s been torn down. And I think there is another hospital there but I’m not sure what it is.
SR: It’s changed names several times. It’s around 10th and Girard, just north of Girard, sort of what’s now -
WM: What neighborhood would that be?
SR: Northern Liberties.
WM: And when was that?
WM: What was your exact birthday?
LB: August 2, 1928.
WM: Leo… and how long did you live there?
LB: We were living with my grandmother who came to this country with her children, one of which was my father. And she was quite young when she died, but at that time it wasn’t a young death. It was more average. She came from Russia. My father was born in Harbin, China, because my grandfather worked for the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
ALL: Oh my.
LB: And I think he was one of the first to be in that section of the railroad. And I think he had a drinking problem, and my grandmother had a sponsor and she left and came to this country with three – she had five children – but one was left in Siberia who was older – he was married – and then she came with the other four, one of which was my father and he was just about 5 or 6.
WM: What was your dad’s name and when was he born?
LB: Our last name was Molodyko.
WM: Can you spell that?
LB: And he was Valientin Moldyko? And then he became Ed Harris.
WM: Ed Harris. How do you spell Milideiko?
LB: Molodyko. And my father was (Pause) I’ve forgotten…
WM: When was he born – do you know?
LB: He came here – it was 1903…. pretty sure.
WM: So they came and moved to Northern Liberties and …
LB: Yes, and they rented a home - I don’t know if they rented it - but it was at 3rdand Poplar. And my mother and father were married in Media in 1925 at the courthouse. And the courthouse is still there.
WM: What’s your mother’s name and her maiden name?
LB: Esther, her name was Esther Gordon and she was born in Bronx, New York.
WM: Do you know how they met?
LB: No I don’t, but they were both very good dancers and at that time they had lots of dances, and I’m sure that’s where they met. And my mother loved her mother-in-law. After they were married, we lived there. And they were married three years when I was born. She took care of me, and I remember her swaddling me every night – I still remember…
WM: Your mother?
LB: Not my mother, my grandmother. At the time I spoke Russian but I never read or wrote it, so I was not able to keep it – I knew words, but not real language. After she died, I did not continue Russian.
WM: So then it was your parents, and you, and do have siblings that were living in the house?
LB: I have a brother who is now an orthodox priest and he lives in Florida now. But he did live in Alaska for 32 or 33 years - he had a parish there. He built it from nothing and now it’s a cathedral. I think it’s on the historical list of visiting places in Alaska. But he’s in Florida now. He’s 84 and he’s doing ok, but I think they’re going to be moving to Mechanicsburg in a little while because he has no children in Florida and at this time they would like to be near their kids – they have six.
WM: So how long did you live in Northern Liberties?
LB: I would say it was about four years and then, after the passing of my grandmother, my mother and father bought a home in Kensington but it was around Huntington and – it was pretty far – it’s not at Kensington and Allegheny – it was a lot further than that in lower Kensington. And we were there, I would say, about three years when my mother and father bought a home at Front and Ontario. It was still Kensington, but it was a middle class, blue collar, very friendly neighborhood and I went to middle school there, and I went to elementary school, and I had lots of good friends that I kept – really my whole life - and they’re all gone now except for me.
WM: So at what point – did you move from there to East Falls?
LB: No. When my husband and I got married in 1949, we moved to an apartment close by – it was at 2nd and Ontario. And we were there – that’s where my first child was born – Sara’s husband. That was 69 years ago, and we lived there – and the girl downstairs who owned the apartment – she and her husband. Her name was Lorraine also. And we were friends. But then I became pregnant again with my second son, Barry, and the apartment was growing small. We knew that we wanted to have a bigger home. My mother’s friend – who lived on Front Street also - her husband was a Committeeman, which was a big deal at the time, and he put our name in for Abbottsford Homes.
We knew nothing about Abbottsford Homes until we started making inquiries and found out that it was just for veterans, or spouses of veterans, who had passed. I knew about a veterans home – a veteran’s community – there was one on the Boulevard at the time – I think it was Nabisco’s property at the time, and I had a friend who lived there with her husband, and I visited her several times there, and knew that it was right for them at the time. He had experienced much in Guadalcanal, and really needed contemporaries around him. And it seemed a suitable place for him.
After a while my mother’s friend’s husband, Mr. Wallace, had our name in and we were notified that there was space for us so we moved.
WM: What year was that?
LB: It was in the early 50s. Greg was born in ’50 – he was almost 3 so it was near ’53.
WM: So it was you and your husband and three children? Well, one child at that time …
LB: One child at that time and I was expecting. When we moved in we were greeted very warmly by the people downstairs – the Lee’s – Christine and Tom - and they had a couple of children and it made us feel like we did the right thing.
WM: That’s a great feeling.
LB: Yes. We lived on Defense Terrace – all of the streets were named for places that designated veterans.
WM: Do you remember the names of any of the other streets?
LB: I only remember where we lived – on Defense Terrace. And you could not park in front – there were very few cars – and the cars had a special place at the very end of each terrace. We didn’t have a car and there were very few people that did.
The place that we lived in was very – it was very – I can’t say primitive – it was all the necessary rooms but it certainly wasn’t luxurious, but it was fine. We were very happy to be there. There was a place for children to play that did not include cars or anything really destructive.
WM: Can you describe – just in general – when you went into Abbottsford what it looked like? Many buildings?
LB: Yes. It was large. It was close to a hospital – it was called Women’s Medical. It was off Henry and Abbottsford Road. It was very big, to my mind. There was a gully where the kids could go down and play ball and not be distracted by any oncoming cars or any other vehicles.
WM: They were two story buildings?
LB: Yes. Our home was on the corner but underneath it - to the side - were our neighbors, the Lee’s, and on the terrace there were about ten houses on the same level, and they all led into the gully where you could walk or do whatever – have sports or that kind of thing.
There was a camaraderie there because everyone was either a veteran or the spouse of a veteran and it seemed like they all had similar experiences. They were in the foxhole together. There was a lot of confidence there that they were all doing the right thing. They knew that it was not going to be a permanent home - that someday they would be able to go out on their own and have the money to do what they wanted.
My husband, at the time, he had been working at a carpet company (Artloom Carpet Company) which left the country and he was without a job. Then he worked at … and that lasted not too long. My best friend Eva - her husband was in the elevator business which was, at that time, just for fathers and sons. But he put my husband’s name in as a desirable employee if they would hire him. He had hoped for that. Then he was hired by a door company for the elevator companies, and that door company was right near where Sara and Greg first lived. I don’t know that they are there any more.
WM: Was that in East Falls?
SR: That was on Shackamaxon.
WM: What was the name of that company?
SR: The door company…
LB: I don’t know.
WM: That’s ok.
SR: But they installed the elevator doors for the student elevator that used to go up to Costumes and Textiles – he installed those doors. (Ed. note: at Philadelphia Museum of Art)
LB: My husband probably installed those doors and he really enjoyed the job. But there was a lot of traveling. Then he got a call from the elevator company - I forget his boss’s name, but he was very sad to lose him, and my husband went into elevators. And he simply loved it. He was there for 40 some years before he retired.
WM: What was that company called?
LB: At the time it was Eastern. And it was privately owned by a father and his sons.
WM: Where was that located?
LB: That was at 5th and Girard, I think – the offices were there. Since then it has changed names, but they still install elevators. My middle son is still working there.
WM: No kidding, really? That’s great.
LB: But he is ready to retire. But Abbottsford, again, was a place where - my friend Winnie was a widow – her husband had been killed in the war and she was there. She lived two terraces down – I can’t remember the names of those terraces – and everyone was starting to say “We’re not going to be able to live here much longer because there are protests that they want to change it from a Veterans community to a low income community.
WM: That was right around the time that happened – around ’53 – was when it was beginning to switch over.
LB: And the protests were minimal in the beginning and then…
WM: People were protesting that they wanted it to stay the way it was?
LB: No, the protesters were the people who wanted it low income.
WM: Were they coming to your location to protest?
LB: They were coming to our location and marching, and decided this is what it should be. The war was over – I guess for a number of years, and they felt that it was time to change it. Of course everyone was objecting, but people were starting to think about leaving and gathering all their wits about them, and their money, and it was a hard time for many.
WM: So a very transitional time there.
LB: A very transitional time.
WM: Would they come - the people protesting – was this frequent?
LB: It was getting to be very frequent.
WM: Over months? How long a time span?
LB: I would say it went on for about a year.
WM: Were there marches? Or Signs?
LB: Marches. Yes, there were marches. And our friends that we had made there were looking for a new home and we were too. We had the two children. We needed more money, and at the time there was a job opening at Brown Instruments. They made thermostats, but I worked in the office filing and running the mimeograph machine But I took a job from 6 to 10, and my husband took care of the children and I would come home on the Z bus – the Z bus stopped right there on the corner of Abbottsford Homes. And I would meet people coming from Strawbridge’s where they worked.
WM: This was 6 in the morning?
LB: No, six in the evening. Six to ten, so it would be maybe 10:30. And they would be coming from - a couple of the men that I knew from riding the bus and from seeing them in our area – they would talk about the houses they had looked at, and one day the one friend said “Strawbridge’s just had a million dollar day for Strawbridge’s – he said I can’t wait to tell my wife.” So then, a little while later, he told me that they had found a home and they were going to be moving. And then my friends Chris and Tom Lee – they were looking - and then we started looking. That was when we had found the Welsh Road home. But we still didn’t have enough money for the down payment – I think it was $1000 so I took this job with Brown Instrument.
SR: Where was that located?
LB: That was - I took the Z bus there, but I can’t remember exactly where it was. It was on Wyndrim Avenue across the street from Wayne Junction.
LB: No, I think it was closer to you, Sarah, in Glenside. I’m not sure. I think it’s still there. And we went by bus to Holmesburg because we had seen the houses advertised. And that’s when we found the home – a row home in Holmesburg and we lived there for 35 years.
WM: What year did you move there?
LB: That was in the middle ‘50s because Brian was born in ‘58 – my third son. I think - so we had moved there before he was born because he was born at Rolling Hill Hospital and my other two sons were born in Episcopal – Episcopal Hospital is still there but Rolling Hill is now a rehab center, I’m not sure.
WM: So you came to Abbottsford around ’53?
LB: No, about ’54.
WM: And left….? What year do you think you left? ‘57 or so?
SR: Greg was born in ‘50; Barry was born in ‘53 so you came to Abbottsford Homes before Barry was born?
SR: Was he an infant?
LB: No he was one or two.
SR: Oh really; ok.
LB: And I was – Barry was 3 ½, I think, when I was pregnant with Brian – so between Greg and Brian there are 7 years.
WM: I’m just trying to get a sense of how many years you lived there.
LB: We lived there I would say close to three years.
WM: When you were there, where did you do your shopping?
LB: There was a market on the premises and I would allow - we would allow $18 for our weekly shopping (laughter). And sometimes I would have a coach and I‘d bring my groceries home that way or they would have someone bring it.
WM: It was a grocery store?
LB: It was a little market. It had all the things that I needed.
WM: Were there other stores there too?
LB: No, not on the premises.
KH: Were there any community areas where residents got together?
LB: No. It was just the homes in the middle of this open property – open area.
WM: So it had a playground?
LB: It wasn’t a playground – there was no equipment, no swings or seesaws or anything like that. It was just open ground – it was called the gully. That’s what everyone referred to it. And kids had a good time just running and playing ball and so forth.
WM: So it must have been later – I looked it up before I came here – when they were first advertising Abbottsford Homes they said there was a basketball court and a playground. Do you think that came later when it became public housing?
LB: I’m sure that came later. I’m sure that came later.
KH: Now that would have been a federal program at a when you were there.
LB: In the beginning it was strictly for veterans.
SR: Was it very inexpensive?
LB: I think we paid $50 a month and they wanted to make it low income and those who, I guess, were on welfare and so on. But they made it so that they didn’t say veterans were being kicked out or anything – they just said it was going to be low income and I think if you made more than a certain amount of money you had to leave – find other places to live.
WM: So at the point when you left, was that before or after that transition took place?
LB: It was in the middle – people were leaving and coming and it was later - not very much later - that it was made into low income housing. And I think it’s still on the list of low income housing. I haven’t been out that way in many, many years.
KH: Now was Roosevelt Boulevard there at the time?
LB: Oh Roosevelt Boulevard was in, yes.
KH: So there was a sort of barrier between East Falls and Abbottsford Homes because of the highway running between them, or did you get into East Falls?
LB: No, I was in Abbottsford Homes is located in East Falls.
KH: So did you go to shop in East Falls in addition to the market?
LB: Well yes. We didn’t have a car but there were things that we did. Our means of transportation then was the bus. If we went downtown we would take the elevated or the subway.
SR: So you would take the bus to the subway.
WM: If you needed things like clothes or a hardware store, would you go to Germantown or lower East Falls?
LB: You know what - I just don’t remember. My husband did a lot of shopping as far as bringing things home from the market, but we did most of our shopping at the community shop-store-market.
WM: Can you describe that store a little bit? Who ran it?
LB: Well, it wasn’t like Giant (laughter). I think I remember just one person waiting on things, and you asked for things at a counter. Bread and milk and that kind of thing you could take from the storage that was provided. As far as the other things, I remember just getting fruit and whatever was needed for the week. It certainly wasn’t a beautiful big market. But I don’t know if there were big beautiful markets at that time.
I remember when we lived on 2nd Street in the apartment we would go to an A & P and that was the best that was around at the time.
WM: Did you ever go into East Falls down Midvale and Ridge? Do you have any memories?
LB: I have no memories of that.
WM: Ok. Did you ever go to the movie theater here?
LB: At that time, no. There were very – seemed to be confined to living in there and then going to work.
WM: And your children then were too young to be in school?
LB: Too young to be in school. Then when we found our home in Holmesburg, the school was very close by – it was the Brown School and they did all their elementary school work there. And then went to high school – Lincoln High School - and then I started working at Brown School as an aide, then I became a reading aide in there, and had many good friends in the school.
But as far as Abbottsford, it was a place that was very needed at the time, as I look back, because it gave those veterans the need to know that there were so many others like themselves.
They were patriots – on holidays that required flags they didn’t disappoint. And it was a place where there was a warmth about it – my friend Winnie became – she worked at the ballgames and she was cooking hotdogs and she was very fussy and the hotdogs came out beautiful. All of a sudden all of these people were there and the hotdogs were coming out raw. Everyone knew about it and it was something we could all appreciate and laugh at with her, but those were the kinds of things that drew the people there together.
And there was a sadness when, although they knew they would sometime leave, they didn’t expect it to be in a hasty manner, which was went on.. And as I look back on it now, I’m glad that we lived there. It gave me a new sense of what these people went through and what turmoil they must have lived for a while. And I think this quieted them.
WM: So it was really a big support group in a way. So Katy kind of asked before, but were there any communal activities – was there a meeting room? Any organized programs, or events or picnics or anything for the residents?
LB: I don’t remember too many things that drew everybody together, but they somehow found each other and were able to communicate and have that camaraderie. So even though we were not there for a length of time, it was a good place to be for the time we were there.
WM: Now the people who did have school age children, where did they go to school?
LB: They went right there – I’m not sure the name of the school – I don’t know that there were buses.
WM: Was it Mifflin School?
LB: I think it was Mifflin.
WM: Do you have any memories of the library – did you go down to the library?
LB: I don’t remember the library and I’m a library person! I don’t remember one being there. I know I was very busy.
WM: Was there a library on the premises of Abbottsford?
WM: Did they ever talk about the history of Abbottsford? It had been a mansion before they built the housing there, of the owner of Dobson Mills – it was called Bella Vista.
LB: They might have, but that I don’t remember.
KH: Did you carry on with those friendships that you had?
LB: I did for a time with the Lee’s, and with Chris and Bernice down at the other end, but after – I don’t know what is going on with them now. The Lee’s were older than I was - the two of us – I’m sure they were both older because their children were older, a lot older. And the other people, I think they moved to another state. And Winnie and her child – I’m not sure – the lady next door was a widow also – she lived to the right of me, on the same level.
WM: You said that the apartments were somewhat simple, but can you take a minute to describe what they were like inside?
LB: Yes. We had a living room and a kitchen and then it was 2 bedrooms – I’m not sure that they were all on one level – it seems to me that the bedrooms and the bath…. the homes were terraced. The Lee’s were below us, but they were not directly. Part of it was under our place. So that when you came out, you had to walk down and kind of go around, but it was still attached to ours, which was a level higher.
WM: But were the bedrooms on the same level as the living room?
LB: I don’t think they were.
WM: Was there a washing machine?
LB: When we were in our apartment, my husband used to take our wash to my mother’s (laughter). She had a wringer washing machine, and I had a little tiny machine, and I used to wash a lot by hand. I used Tide products. I had to go to the skin and cancer hospital to have my hands wrapped for 12 days at a time because my hands were broken out from the Tide. I finally had to have Xray treatments on my hands.
That was before I moved out.
SR: Greg talks about – he remembers having a toy ironing board and an iron and he would iron when you were ironing.
LB: I would iron every Tuesday –I haven’t ironed now for 2 years!
WM: Did you ever go into Germantown?
LB: Yes, a couple of times – I went with my friend Peggy.
WM: Any memories of that?
LB: Well, we went to lunch there, and we also did some shopping at one of the famous stores, and I can’t remember the name of it. Everyone knew about it.
KH: Allen’s was one of them, and Rowells was one.
LB: It might have been.
KH: That was the fancier of the two.
LB: It was a fancy store. My friend really liked it. And she sewed. And she would buy material at that fabric store.
KH: I think that fabric store is still there.
WM: On Germantown.
WM: Did you take a trolley or bus into Germantown?
WM: Were there any holiday traditions at Abbottsford? At Christmas? Anything you remember?
LB: No. People decorated. I don’t remember any holiday traditions for the group. I know there were gatherings that we went to in our own area there. Food was provided by everyone, and there was a joyfulness to the groups. But I don’t remember any aggression or anything of that sort. It seemed very calm at the time.
WM: So it seemed like a very supportive environment.
WM: Did you go to a church when you lived there?
LB: No. No. We did go a couple of times to a church that was a candy store, and on Sundays it became a Fundamentalist Church.
WM: Right on the grounds of Abbottsford?
LB: No, no, no. We came on the bus. Actually it was at Front and the Boulevard. And then after we moved from Abbottsford, we started going to that church. And of course the church has since moved and bought properties that became their churches, but not the candy store (laughter)
The Fundamentalist Church did not acknowledge anyone drinking. So the place where we were, at the bottom of the candy store, it was like a hall and they had a bar. And then when they would come in on Sunday morning they would cover the bar, but you could still smell the beer! (laughter)
SR: When you were at Abbottsford, was it all white or was it mixed racially?
LB: There were very few people that were not white.
SR: But there were some?
LB: There were some. Yes. Yes.
KH: All of you must have been the same age – which was another reason it was so comfortable.
LB: That’s right. They shared experiences. Not that they were together in the war, but their experiences were similar. It gave them the feeling of similarity.
WM: Where was your husband stationed during the war?
LB: He was in the Navy. And another thing, most of the people that were there had a loss of someone – either a spouse or a relative. My husband lost his one brother in the Pacific. He was on board his ship – he was on the Savannah and then the Battleship New Jersey. And when he was on the Savannah and they were being bombed, the captain came to find him to tell him his that brother had been lost – had been killed. So that was a big blow to him. It was his older brother who had two babies at home.
WM: And your husband was stationed where?
LB: My husband was from Kentucky – I met him here. He was stationed at the Navy Yard. And my friend had a boyfriend, Al, and we would sometimes go downtown Philadelphia to do shopping. I was 16. She was 16. And she said Al was coming to meet her at Reading Terminal under the clock, and he brought his friend who became my husband.
KH: Romance began under the clock.
SR: Pop was in the Mediterranean during the war.
WM: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
LB: No, only that it was very nice remembering all these things and I appreciate you listening.
WM: Well, you’ve made it so vivid what it was like. It’s totally new to Katy and I – we had never met anyone who had lived there early on.
LB: Well there’s so much more I could have told you, but I can’t remember all the things – it has been a long time.
WM: Well you did remarkably well.
LB: Well thank you.
East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview – Methodist Church Closing
Interviewee: Jean Buckley (JB)
Interviewer: Jenna Musket (JM)
Transcribed by: Marissa Lutz
Date: August 5, 2010
In order to gain knowledge on the history of East Falls, Philadelphia, Jenna Musket, Adjunct Professor of Social Sciences at Philadelphia University, interviewed Jean Buckley. Mrs. Buckley is the oldest living member of Falls United Methodist Church.
With this interview we are able to understand the experiences in East Falls, the neighborhood’s past, and what has changed in the area. This interview will allow one to understand the suburban qualities of a town in urban Philadelphia.
JM: Thanking you for being generous with your time and coming to meet today.
JM: And maybe we can start simply with you sharing your full name and when and where you were born?
JB: I'm not.... well my full name, it was... Was or is now?
JM: Well why don't you start with your name when you were born...
JB: Maiden name, right?
JB: It was Jean..... Audrey, well it was Audrey A-u-d-r-e-y Holmes H-o-l-m-e-s. And I was born on Cresson Street in 1920. And..... I was the fourth of five children. And.....my mother had three girls and two boys. And.....as I said, I was the fourth. And I don't know where we moved right after that. But my mother loved to move, she loved to paint, she loved it. Paint inside homes and things (laughing). But...I know we lived on Wiehle Street. Do you know where that is? Wiehle Street; right there at the train station?
JM: Yes, if you’re going down... if you’re going down Indian Queen Lane?
JB: Yeah, uh huh.
JB: We lived there. We lived on Plush Hill and then...
JM: And Plush Hill was? Where was Plush Hill?
JB: Plush Hill was right on Indian Queen Lane. Just where the new homes are. And ... we lived there a while in a big house. And then my uncle, my father's brother... had this...owned this ground down in New Jersey, outside of Ventnor, New Jersey, and he wanted to build houses there. So he wanted my dad to go down and help him. He wanted him to be a salesman.
Well, we moved to Ventnor Heights in New Jersey. And, lo and behold, the.....the crash came. My uncle lost all money and his property and everything. So, that meant my father had no job. So, we had to come back to Philadelphia, and we moved to New Queen Street, 3522 New Queen Street. And that... we lived there until I got married.
JM: Well while you’re talking about your father, why don't we focus on that a little bit.
Tell me...tell me more about your parents. Where were they from?
JM: Who were your parents? Where were they from?
JB: My parents were Eva Smith, she had no middle name..... and my father, my mother, that was my mother... My father was Raymond Holmes. And I don't know when they were married, to tell you the truth.
JM: Where were they born?
JB: Where were they born?
JM: Where did they come from?
JB: My father was born here, in Philadelphia. But my mother was born in England. And my grandmother and grandfather came over here from England when she was one year old.
JM: Do you know where in England?
JB: Osset. 0-s-s-e-t. I haven't been there (laughing). Anyhow, I never knew that for years and years. And my mother... I think she went back. My mother and grandmother went back to England once, after they came here, and never went back again.
JM: Do you know why?
JB: Well I guess it was finances. And my grandmother had... one, two, three, four, five children. So I guess they couldn't, you know, go back and forth. But my father was a weaver.
JB: He worked at Dobson's Mill
JB: And he lived right on Indian Queen Lane, in the red brick house. And my mother lived on New Queen Street. So they got married (laughing). And as I said, they had five children, and my mother had six pregnancies and a...a little boy died and... I didn't know where he fit in, you know, in our family.
JM: How long was your father a weaver for Dobson Mills?
JB: Until nylon came into play (laughing) and then the woolen - the woolen business just went down the drain. So he had to change whatever he was doing. He used to go down to Ocean City and..... down the shore on weekends to sell property. And he worked for quartermaster department during the war. And... he had several jobs because in those days you.. .you couldn't say “I am going to work here for the rest of my life” because that's not the way things were. And many times he was out of work and it was rough, you
know. It was really rough for us. But then my sister, oldest sister, got work. And my...
JM: Where did she get work at?
JM: And what kind of work?
JB: Collins and Aikman (note: manufacturer of automotive parts). She was a secretary, and that was in Manayunk.
JM: And she was older than you?
JB: Oh yeah! She was the oldest of them and ... We were all about two and a half years apart. And then my brother - my two brothers, they went to Northeast High School. My sister went to Germantown High School. And my one brother, Stanley. It was Dorothy the oldest, Don was the next one, Stanley was the next child, I was the next one, and Arlene was my youngest sister. She's the one who lives on Penn Street. And... so my brother Stan became a football player, I mean always active in sports.
JM: Where did he play football?
JB: He played football in Northeast High School. Then he went to Franklin and Marshall College, and he was captain of the team there.
JM: Where was Northeast High School?
JB: It is on Lehigh Avenue.
JB: I think it was Lehigh.
JM: And they he went to Franklin and Marshall?
JB: Franklin and Marshall College! And when he graduated from there he was semipro - a semipro football team. Then of course, he was called into the service and he was First Lieutenant.
JM: What year was that?
JB: What year? Let’s see... I would say maybe it was ’42 or “43 because I know that he wasn't in the service when I got married. I got married in 1941.
JM: And he was at your wedding?
JIB: Yeah, so I knew it was then. So then...but then he went in, he was called into the service. He first went into the Navy; he wanted to be a pilot. And he...he...he was a character (laughing). And when he went to land the plane, for the final test, he bounced the plane. And instead of him keeping his face strong, he got out and he laughed. They washed him right out. That was it!
So then he decided he would go into the Marines. And...he was ... now what was it? I can't think what he did first. He was...well...he was a Paratrooper. And he was in charge, of I don't know how many men; and they were landing on Iwo Jima; it was when they invaded it. And they were in these landing boats, and of course the Japanese just bombarded them. Fortunately he was killed right away.
And so... I have some things that I can show you. He had a son. His son was born in December, and,
well, he was in the service and he was killed in February. So we’re hoping he got the pictures, but we don't know whether or not he ever got to see his son.
JB: So his son went to Annapolis. Graduated from there and then he decided he wanted to go into the Marines because his dad, because he never knew his dad. And so he went and... it was.. .what was the other war? There were so many wars (laughing).
JB: Vietnam! He went to Vietnam. He was wounded in Vietnam. And he could have gotten out of the service. Then he went back in again for a second time. And then he developed Agent Orange.
JB: And he died when he was about forty-two.
JM: Oh my.
JB: And, when my sister-in-law … I felt so sorry for her when she saw...when she saw the officers at the door. When he said he was wounded she said, "Oh not again," you know. And the night that we found out about my brother we were all in church; it was Holy Thursday night.
JM: Down here at the Falls (Methodist) Church?
JB: At the Falls Church. Yeah. And my uncle came up the steps. And the church was so full that we were standing. It was standing room only. And he called us and said “Your mother just got a message that Stan was killed on Iwo Jima.” And umm... so... I remember that night. I just sat on the side of my mother's bed and just rubbed her arms and legs. And my father...oh it...it was very hard. But one thing we were
grateful for was that he didn't suffer. And we know that's true because one of the officers he told my mother that. So that was...
JM: He came back after the war and shared that with you?
JB: Mmm. And took pictures of Stan's grave. Because my sister-in-law and my mother said “No, he's been with those men all this time - he should stay with them” and that's what he did. .. So...but...but it was ….it
was a shock. I don't think my mother and father really ever got over it, I really don't. We ... I thought we handled it well. But umm... I guess when it is your child, it is very difficult. My father never did get over it.
JB: No, he never did. And he just went from one thing to another. And he, but he, he didn't go to pieces. But I mean to say, he couldn't get settled what he really wanted to do.
JM: Well, it's a permanent loss.
JM: There's no way to get that life back.
JB: Mm Hmm. So anyhow...
JM: That was around the same time period you got married? That was in the early forties?
JB: Well, that was about... I was married in 1941.
JM: Why don't you tell me a little bit about that.
JM: About Mr. Buckley and how you met him...
JB: Well, Russ, you know, went to our church too. In those days a lot of the people that were in any of the churches married the people in those churches. So, it got to the point that almost everybody was related.
JB: (laughing) And Russ, that was my husband, he was just a year older than me. I had known him a long time, 'cause my sister and his sister were very close friends. So you know I was in and out of their house and everything. I never though anything about it and then...
JM: Where...where did they live?
JB: They first they lived on Ainslie Street in the 3400 block. Then they moved when the houses were built on Ainslie Street and Vaux in that section, in the thirty-third (3300 block). They bought the corner house, and my father-in-law was again Treasurer of the Philco Corporation. And so they were there for a while and then he became the treasurer. And so they moved to the house on the corner of Vaux and Indian Queen Lane. On the... let’s see... that would be on the…on the... towards Henry Avenue - you know, on that corner there.
JM: Okay so on the other side.
JB: Yeah, and so they moved there. Well a friend of Russ' said to him, "Why don't you ask Jean, you know, to... “ There was a big party coming up and Russ was nervous and..... he knew me but he never thought of me in that way, you know, and so that's how we started .. .and we went together.
JM: Do you remember what the party was for?
JB: It was just someone's birthday, and I can’t even remember who it was. But we had a good time. And at the time I was living with my sister on Barkley Street because (laughing) my brother, oh God, my brother Donald eloped. My sister Arlene got married, and her apartment wasn't ready. So she moved back home. So there was no place for Jean right (laughing). So I went to live with my sister for a little while till the
apartment - Donald's apartment - was ready. And Don's apartment was on Indian Queen Lane - where Plush Hill was they made the apartments out of that.
JM: What kind of apartments? I don't - I have never seen pictures of before those new town homes were built.
JM: What is going down Indian Queen Lane now?
JB: I'm trying to think. Ummmmm...
JM: Well just describe where he lived? What was it liked where he lived?
JB: The apartment. ..I think what happened was that the houses that we lived in were turned into an apartment. And I think, I think they had two bedrooms, and a living room, and a kitchen. And they lived there quite a while and then they decided that they wanted to have a house.
JM: Was Plush Hill … the real…the actual name that was on a map? Or was Plush Hill a nickname that people in this area gave it?
JB: Well I don't know, to tell you the truth. I always had a feeling that maybe there was a factory or something that, you know, did Plush work and I didn't know. But I don't know where it got that, but we all knew it as Plush Hill (ed. note: Plush Hill was the 18th century home of William Smith, the first Provost of the University of Pennsylvania)
JB: And it was…it was … it was really, really nice (laughing). He had … my sister lived in an apartment at the top of the barber shop on Conrad Street. Let’s see, there's a pharmacy there now and ... she lived there for a while, I mean she finally moved to Penn Street. So uhh... but that's how I decided to go with Russ and we went together five years until we got married. And we were supposed to be married in October, but Russ got his notice to go into the service so we moved it up to June.
JB: And my sister, Dorothy, had just had a baby, so I moved it up a week or two (laughing). She was ready to kill me.
JB: And Arlene was four months pregnant, and she wasn't too happy either with me because they were both in the wedding. And I wasn't too happy in June because I wanted fall colors. And I ended up with pink and blue, (laughing) which I said (laughing) “Positively no! I will not have” (laughing).
JB: But anyhow...
JM: Pink and blue for their dresses?
JB: Their dresses. You know their bridesmaids' dresses were pink and blue. Then because Russ had two perforated eardrums, they wouldn't take him. And so, you know, we could have waited till October, but we didn't. And then we moved into that house that I told you across the street from the Protestant Church.
I watched that being built, that church.
JM: Hmm. When was that built?
JB: It must have been, well, we were married in forty-one so I think they probably started it in forty. And my husband and I became air raid wardens.
JM: You became?
JB: Air Raid wardens.
JM: And what does, what did you do?
JB: Well everybody had to have a bucket of sand, a shovel …uhh what do you call them? A fireman hat, (laughing) extinguisher, and there was a….you had to have.. .you had to have jet black curtains.
JM: I see. Hold just … I'm gonna pause this for a minute.
JB: We had to take a course - my husband and I at...from the Red Cross.
JM: Where did you go for that? Where was the Red Cross at?
JB: Do you...do you know where the Old Academy was?
JB: Well do you know the building next to it?
JM: The Carfax building? The big white building?
JB: That house.
JB: I don't know what it is now, but used to be the Young Men’s Association.
JM: Yeah I went to the… I think it’s called the Carfax building now.
JB: But that's what we had to…we had to…we had to go there. You know how to...we had to have lipstick to write on if we were to respond and somebody was hurt. You had to do that, you had to learn how to take their blood pressure and how to listen to their heart, and, you know. My husband was on duty at night, and I was on duty in the day.
JB: The day. And if we got a call, you know, if we got an amber light, that meant there might be a bomb, you know, coming so we had to wear helmets.
JM: Where would the amber light come from? How did...
JB: On the phone, on the phone.
JM: So they had lights on the phone?
JB: No, no. They would say we have the amber light.
JM: Oh, it was code?
JB: And then of course the sirens would go, and I used to have to go out and stop all traffic on Midvale Avenue. And people wouldn't stop (laughing) for me. And I’m saying you’re supposed to stop.
JB: I'm out there with my...my. ..
JM: How would you get them to stop?
JB: Sometimes I didn't. Sometimes they just went. And I'd say "We have the amber light! We have the amber light! We have the amber light!" You know and umm...
JM: And when they would stop, what would you do?
JB: Well they just had to until I got the all clear.
JM: So they would just pull to the side of the road?
JB: Yeah. And then when the...when the...it was all clear, then the siren would come again and you would let them go.
JM: Where did the siren...where was that issued from? Where did that generate from?
JB: Umm, I can’t imagine. I don't…it was from the fire department. That's where I always though it came from.
JM: And the firehouse was the same firehouse? On Ridge Avenue?
JB: Mmm. And then at night my husband went out, of course there were no lights. You weren't allowed to have any lights. And it was frightening, it was to be out there at night, and so we got a little dog, (laughing) and he used to take the dog out with him. And he was all dolled up with his.. .his... he had, I guess he would call it a...call it a …oh what did policemen have that stick, you know... ?
JM: The Billy Clip?
JB: Yeah, the Billy Clip. We had a lot of stuff like that. And I will never forget this one night with Russ having trouble with his ears. I got the phone call and it said we have the ambulance. So I tapped him on the shoulder, and I said, (laughing) "Russ we have an amber light you have to get out." And he jumped up and got in our closet (laughing). He didn't know where he was. I think he had been asleep and had jumped up
and ran in the closet.
JB: I got hysterical. And there he is (laughing) pushed up because he had to get dressed and out. And they gave you so much time, which wasn't very much.
JM: Hmm, so they were like first responders?
JB: Yeah. Mm hmm.
JM: Were Russ's parents also from England? What were his parents?
JB: Russ's parents were from East Falls. But his grandparents were from England - were from Manchester.
JM: Have you ever met them?
JB: I've know his aunts but I, oh...oh well, his grandmother I met, yeah. She was a character, and she lived down in Atlantic City in a in a hotel. And during the winter, she had this lovely room and had plenty of room and all that sort of things. But in the summer time she had to move to a smaller room because they could get more money than she was paying. You know, (laughing) there would be people coming on vacation.
JM: Mm hmm.
JB: So they'd pack up and go to England for the summer. She'd go from May until October then come home and go in the big apartment (laughing).
JM: How did she end up in Atlantic City?
JB: Well she just loved to go there. And when her husband died she lived up here for a while, and then she just decided that she’d like to live down there. And she was a funny...funny gal. She used to go to England, and she'd have a bag like this and maybe another little bag. And she lived off of those two bags from May until she came home in October.
JM: She's a light packer (laughing).
JB: She knew...she taught her granddaughter how to pack. I mean...
JB: She rolled everything, you know, and she was really, she was ... Her mother was... when she came up here to visit, it would be for three days only. One (day) you come, one you stay, (laughing) then you leave. She said, "By that time your host is tired of you; you’re tired of them" (laughing). She'd come up on the bus and that's what she did.
JB: Never stayed more than three days. And I think that was it - she missed her friends, you know. But she... she was a... she was a sweetheart, she really was. His grandfather was a barber. When they came from England, they were on their way to Australia, and how he got to Philadelphia I don't know.
JB: But anyhow, he stopped. They stopped off here and he want to barber school and he...
JM: In Philadelphia?
JB: Yeah because that was not his profession. I don't know what he did. I'm sure he was a weaver because it was Manchester and that was an industrial, you know, town. But anyhow, his grandmother's family was in the pearl business. They made these little seed pearls.
JB: For you know...I have a pin that came from there. But anyhow, he had opened a shop there on Ainslie Street from Conrad... from, you know, I don't know what's there now.
JM: Is that where Joseph Patron Real Estate office is? Conrad and Ainslie?
JB: Conrad and Ainslie. Do you know where Joe the barber... (ed. note: Joe Michetti)
JM: I know...
JB: Do you know where Tilden Street is?
JB: If you come down to Ainslie Street, right, that's where.. .that's where his shop was. There was a bakery shop afterward.
JM: How nice.
JB: Remember that?
JM: No (laughing). No, I wish there was a bakery.
JB: (laughing) But I'm trying to think, what's on the corner there? There's, on the other side of the street, is the…I wanna say the café but it isn't.
JM: Apollo Pizza? No, that's on New Queen.
JB: Well it would be the next corner. You know it’s a bar or…
JM: The only two bars that I can visualize there actually are at the...actually both of them are at the corner of Indian Queen Lane and Conrad.
JB: Well this is up towards Ainslie Street, the lower Ainslie. And across the street used to be a shoe repair shop.
JM: So it was a very lively area then?
JB: This town was very self-sufficient.
JM: But also it sounds like Conrad Street was a major vein in terms of…
JB: Oh yes!
JM: Of activity.
JB: It was. And, you know, it was...it was amazing. But he was there for years and I said to my mother... She always sent me over to get my haircut, and she wanted him to cut my hair to the tip of the ear and shingled up the back. Well, he took that the tip of the ear was up here, and my mother wanted it here, (laughing) right here. And I wanted it here and I said to my mother, "Mother I'm not going to Mr. Buckley
anymore. He never cuts it the way I want it (whining)".
And he was a big man. And he, every once and awhile, he'd do a sigh of relief, "Ughhhhh," like that. And he blows like at my neck and (laughing) and I didn't like it. Next time I need a haircut I went to Mr. Buckley. But a wonderful man, real great man! And he was there for years. And the fellow that he was his apprentice, he opened a barber shop right across the street when he got older. And he was there for years.
JM: How do people come to be apprentices of people then?
JB: Well most...most... that's how you start out. You didn't start out you - you'd start out as the helper, you started out to learn.
It's just like in church. Russ, and it stopped with Russ's generation, they were being primed for leadership. They have a certain Sunday school called SMA, where they were being taught how to lead.
JM: When you say leadership, what do you mean?
JB: You mean like Treasurer, or trustee, or to be on the board and, you know. And they - they really, they really knew how to do things when they went into...to...to a service. And this one minister we had, my husband was the main leader then, and he was very young. And my husband said to him "You can nearly
have anything you want in this church but you have to go slow. You can't come in and change it overnight. You have to you know let the people know who you are and what you want".
And he said, "I'll have this church changed in one year."
JM: Your husband said this?
JB: No. The minister. He said “Well I wish you wouldn't do that." He said "Because you’re gonna have trouble." Well what he did was, he came in and all these men that have been on the board and trustees and Treasures. And there was a lot of people that worked in that church and he just rid of them all.
JM: What kinds of changes did he want to make?
JB: Well he wanted it to be more modern.
JM: What did that mean? I mean what year approximately are we talking about and what did he mean by modern?
JB: Well, I think at that time the Methodist Church was going through a change. And I remember I said to him, because I was teaching Sunday school, and I said, "I don't like the material that I'm teaching. And if I'm...... "
JM: Because why?
JB: Well, in the first place, all the pictures were very gruesome.
JM: In what way? What can... do you have any examples?
JB: Well, gruesome faces and gruesome uhh... I said, "You know, to little children that's frightening".
I mean I know that I didn't like to look at them myself. And I said, "If you want me to use this material then
I can’t be a teacher". And I said, "If I would think that I was scaring the children in the wrong way..." I said, "It would break my heart. I would die". So I said, "I really... "
Well he let me go back to the material I was using before that. And I... and that's when a dog looked like a dog, and a man looked like a man, and a woman looked like a woman (laughing). Not these gruesome terrible... they went through that, they got rid of it though. I mean...
JM: I’m still trying to picture what you mean by gruesome...
JB: Umm, like umm ...I don't think you have anything gruesome around.
JM: (laughing) I'm sure I do somewhere.
JB: (laughing) But it would be like their faces would be...
JM: Contorted or...
JB: Yeah! Yeah!
JM: So it was more by the looks on their faces that...
JB: Yeah! Yeah! In fact did you ever see the upper room? It's a devotional.., they went that way even when I see the front …I said to my sister not too long ago, "Why in the world do they put these pictures? Why don't they make it serene and nice? A picture to look like a picture".
JM: Well, why… why do you think they depicted...
JB: I don't know. It was, it’s modern art that's what it is. And, but I guess it didn't affect the children as much as it affected me.
JM: How do you... What makes you say that?
JB: Well, because they seemed to accept, you know, what it was... it was me that wanted the change. And, but this minister, he got rid of all the trustees all the men that worked for years and years, put all new men, all young men in that didn't know, you know, the workings of the church or anything...
JM: Where did...where did these young people come from?
JB: Well, they...they were in church.
JB: But they hadn't been trained to do these things, and the older men were crushed. You know, the men who had worked so hard for so many years. And they had to be elected every year. You know, you just didn't stay. They had elections and everything.
And so all of a sudden, the schools were doing bussing. And from then on all those young people moved out of East Falls, out of the city.
JB: Because they didn't want their children bussed to another neighborhood.
JM: Where would they have gotten bussed to?
JB: Well, who knows? They would probably go into a black neighborhood because the black children were being bussed here. Which wasn't right. Their mothers didn't want them bussed either, you know. And, one
by one, that's when our church started to fall apart.
And one family left, another family would leave, and another family would leave. Some took their children out of the school here and put them in Catholic school. And uhh...
JM: So some made the choice to rather than have their children bussed, put them into St. Bridget’s or to put them into the local Catholic...
JB: Right. Mm hmm.
JM: And others chose to move out of the neighborhood so their kids could to continue to walk...
JB: It was very high on the …. My children went to Penn Charter School. So I didn't have much to do with...with that school there.
JM: When you say that school do you mean Mifflin or...
JB: Mifflin, yeah.
JM: There was another school. Was it Breck?
JB: Oh, Breck is where I went to school. That was on Krail Street, Krail and Crawford.
JM: How was school when you went to Breck?
JB: How was it?
JM: Yeah. What was your ...
JB: Oh I just loved it! We walked to school, we had to be there by nine and lined up in lines, you know. I used to walk into the classroom, and we walked home at twelve o'clock for lunch. We had to be back by one thirty, walk back.
JM: Is this when you were on Ainslie...Ainslie Street or...
JB: I was on...
JM: Plush Hill?
JM: On Indian Queen?
JB: New Queen.
JM: New Queen, okay.
JB: Mm hmm. And we would walk back and then we'd be there till 3:30 and then we'd walk home again. So we walked a lot you know (laughing). And we used to have a little Italian man who sold pretzels, salt pretzels.
JM: Where was this? At the school?
JB: At the school, but we had to stay outside the gate, you know. And his name was Mr. Brenew (?) and...
JM: Did he live in the neighborhood?
JB: He lived in Ridge Avenue I think. And he was so nice. And his pretzels were always real shiny. And the kids used to say, "Mr. Brenew spits on his on his (laughing) pretzels and shines them up every day. I said "Ooohh, he does not". But he would come every day and, umm, we had some great teachers. We really did. I loved that little school.
JM: What happened to the school?
JB: Well, to tell you the truth I really don't know. They decided - I don't know if it was because they didn't have enough people to go there or what. But we graduated in eighth grade.
JM: So you went through the eighth grade at Breck?
JB: Yea. And I am gonna tell you this and I shouldn't. And I won a girls $2.50 gold piece for the highest marks (laughing). And there was a boy by the name of Bob Worhead, and he got it for the boys.
JM: That was when you were in 8th grade you won this?
JB: And, yeah, I just looked at it last night. The little... I still have it. Not the money, but I do have the container. And so then we were not allowed to go to Roxborough. We had to go... we were out of district or something. And so we went to Germantown High. And we had to go oven on the trolley and, um, I didn't go to college; we couldn't afford that. But I graduated in 1938.
JM: Would you have liked to?
JB: Yeah, I always wanted to be a school teacher. But...
JM: Well you did teach Sundays.
JB: I taught... yeah, that was kind of my (laughing) my substitute you know. And, but I did... I did and I enjoyed it.
JM: Did you work when... after you got married at all?
JB: No. You didn't work after you got married. If you were fortunate enough that the company would say you could stay, but they would say you were taking another person’s job.
JM: The company would say that?
JB: Yeah, some... some would not hire.
JM: So, not you husband, but the company would say that they did not want married women?
JB: Yes, exactly... exactly!
JB: Because there was a Depression. And there was not enough jobs to go around. So it took me two years to get a job after I graduated. I went everywhere.
JM: What year did you graduate?
JB: 1938. And I hated going on interviews! I didn't give good interview. I didn't, I guess. But, my friends, the only way that they got a job was if they knew somebody. And I couldn't ask anybody, well, you know.
JM: What kinds of jobs did you apply for?
JB: Well, I took the commercial course. So I would be a secretary, or a book keeper or…..I finally got a job through a friend of my mother’s at Germantown Trust. And I was the bookkeeper for the Title Department. So that's what I did, before I got married. But my... my husband didn't want me to work anyhow, but still I was taking somebody else's job. You know who did that. So...
JM: And you had learned bookkeeping in high school?
JB: Mm hmm. Bookkeeping, shorthand and typing and, of course, we had to write our English and history and all that sort of thing.
JM: Did they teach languages when you were in high school?
JB: Yes I took French. Yeah, mm hmm. But when I think - when my youngest son said to me "Why didn't you go in for music?" I said "Because I didn't have the opportunity". He was like, "What do you mean you didn't have the opportunity?" I said, "When you in the 19... 1940's, when you got married you made a home for your husband and your children and that was your job." And I said, "You know Bob," I said, "You didn't even realize that the salaries then, when my husband started working, he only made $20 a week". When I have my job, I had... I got $65 a month. And when... when we came home, I am saying “we” because my brothers and sisters did too, we handed our whole pay over to our mother. And my mother gave me $2.50 a week. Out of that came seventy-five cents for car fare for school. And, you know, if I needed socks or... all came out from that $2.50. And we would go over to the five and ten.
JM: Where was that?
JB: On Germantown Avenue. Walk over and walk back, and so we saved the money you know.
JM: And then what would you do with the money?
JB: Well then I'd then buy a pair of socks, or maybe a lipstick or something like that. But uhh...
JM: Did they have any movie theaters? Or...
JB: Oh yes!
JM: Were there... did they have any candy stores? I mean were there... where were some of the... what did you... was there anything fun that you did with your $2.50 (laughing)?
JB: (laughing) Well... by that time I was buying things for myself. But we had, when I was younger, on Friday nights they had fireworks over at Woodside, which was an amusement part.
JM: Every Friday?
JB: Every Friday night.
JM: Where was Woodside?
JB: Woodside was all off City Line, over near Lord and Taylor.
JB: In that area. And we would walk over there at night and walk back. But on Friday nights they would have these fireworks. And everybody would sit on the curb in the street. And my... that was the night we could have an ice cream cone. And my sister and I had the one dip. My neighbors had two dips. And I kept thinking, "Oohhh, I hope someday I can have two dips!"
JM: (laughing) And why did they... why did they get to get two dips?
JB: Because, my mother said they only had two children and we had five you know. We couldn't afford that. And we would sit there and we'd clap with those fireworks, you know.
JM: How big was the amusement park? Woodside... how large... how big was Woodside?
JB: It was big, pretty big. It was, I'll tell you, do you know where Belmont Avenue is?
JB: Well it was right over in there. And, as I said, we used walk, and I can't imagine that my mother allowed me to do it, because it was scary, going through West River Drive and all through...
JM: You would walk with your friends?
JB: Oh yea. And there was, they used to say... there was a part there... and they used to say, if you ever slipped and fell in there, they'd never find you. Whether that was true or not I don't know, but everybody would be staying on the other side of the road you know (laughing). But we had candy stores. In fact you know where The Hidden Valley is? That Hidden Valley, the little restaurant?
JM: The Hidden River Café?
JB: Yeah. That used to be owned by a man by the name of Mr. Grill. And he had all kinds of things. It was a little convenient store but he had candy and all that sort of things. So sometimes if we earned some money, on our way home from school, we would go in there.
Then up the street toward the railroad there was another little store and his name was Mr. Smith. And every once in a while he'd would have a special, and he would put all the stale candy in a bag and sell it, say for a nickel or something like that. And we used to do that.
Then up on Tilden Street where I think there is a sandwich shop now - Tilden and Conrad, there was another candy and ice cream store, and across the street from that was the drug store, and he had ice cream.
JM: And these were all owned by people who lived in the neighborhood?
JB: Well the fellow who owned the drug store, he didn't live in the neighborhood, but yes but the other all did. So and there was a shoe store, there was the barber, I told you. There were two... two barbers and then there was a shoe repair and a... I mean, you didn't have to go out of the town for anything really.
JM: And what do you... how do you think things came to change?
JB: Let me see (laughing).
JM: Like none of those stores are here anymore. I have heard even on these corners, right down here that there used to be stores right on the corners and things like that. Why... what do you think…..it sounds like a very vibrant strip.
JB: It was. Well, it was. I think it was the exodus. I think people started to move. They got jobs outside of the city, and things like that. They started...
JM: But if it was self-sufficient, you said it was self-sufficient, everybody could buy what they needed here and, if self-sufficient, and people could do that within walking distance and they had jobs to do that, what would be the reason... why did they take the jobs outside the neighborhood?
JB: Because there were no jobs. There were no jobs and... Dobson’s Mill closed and Hohanadel's closed. And so the people had to go elsewhere.
JM: So they moved when the factories closed?
JB: Mm hmm. And it seemed to me it was after the war, that people started moving out you know. And then the kids that went to college, they didn't come back in the town. And they moved somewhere else.
And it was... it was, I would say in the 1940's and 50's, you know. It was just... they just... things just... I moved out myself…
JM: Where did you move?
JB: I didn't moved out of East Falls as such. We lived on the Netherfield Road. You know where that is?
JB: Well, we lived there and then my father-in-law - he built a house on Coulter Street right after... right before we have been married. Beautiful home, in fact I think Mr. (Steve).Gibbs... I think he still lives there. And this house on Netherfield Road came up for sale and this man who owned that, that one time owned all the way out to Midvale Avenue, and obviously we used to go up to visit. My grandfather would take us to visit. We had this apple orchard and beautiful grounds. And so a lawyer friend of Mr. Buffers said, "Jim you ought to put a bid in for that house". It had 3 acres. And Mr. Buffer said "I just built this house." He said “I know, but this is a beautiful house; it has a swimming pool; it has a barn and an orchard” and he said, "Well I will give you a low bid because I really don't need it, you know". Well wouldn't ya know, he got it. So we were married then. I had my first child and the house I told you about we lived in, didn't have a very large yard.
JM: And you also owned that house?
JB: Yeah. And so we knew that if we were going to have any more children, we would have to have or we would have to move anyhow. We were not ready then, but Mr. Buckley got this house. And he said... he said, "I don't want, you know, to give up this new house that I just had. How about if you go up there and live". Well I didn't wanna go, because it you know it was a big house and I had no car, and it was further away from when I was in my own house I could walk right down to the butcher shop and that sort of thing. But we went up and it was lovely, and so my sister-in-law has been missing the service, and she was in her apartment, and she decided that she wanted to come back on Netherfield Road. So she took the barn and did it over. It was a darling house. And so Mr. Buckley said if...
JM: Mr. Buckley, your father-in-law?
JB: Yes, he said we were supposed to have a house side by side to face Netherfield Road. And then she did this, to the barn. Then Mr. Buckley said that we could have the front, you know, and built our house there. Which we did, and now this was during the Korean War. And we had all the plans made and were ready to go, when the government would not let up build it because they said it was taking too much material and too much ground off. The ground was ours, you know. But was too much material. And it was during the war.
JM: And was Mr. Buckley... he was working with Philco?
JB: He was the head of Philco. So I wanted – I said “If I had my choice I would rather have a ranch type of house.” Because the house that Mr. Buckley bought had so many doors and windows, I was petrified with the children, you know, that they would go out.
And there was mansion that laid next to ours. And kids used to go in there to get the apples and shoot birds and they’d come right - the pellets would come right in, you know, the porch, you know - the closed in porch. And so, anyhow, the government said if we wanted to build that house, we had to cut it down to practically, it was tiny. So I raised three children in a small house and had two great big houses before it, you know (laughing). And I had to get rid of a lot of my furniture and everything. But anyhow it was fine because the boys could walk to school, and come home, you know, and... so that's what happened. We were there for twenty some years. And then my father, mother in law died, and we went up to stay with Mr. Buckley, just over the holidays. And we were there six years (laughing). My house was empty.
JM: And when you... when you stayed with him, where was that?
JB: His house was here. Our house was here.
JM: So he was on Netherfield?
JB: Yeah, mm hmm. You know who is in his house now? The news anchor on Channel 10. What is her name?
JM: Oh! Renee Chenault?
JB: Yeah. So... so. .they all said “You are crazy. Why don't you rent out your house?” We never thought of renting our house. So finally we did and some people said “We will rent it with the option to buy.”
And when we decided, after Mr. Buckley died, we could not keep up that property, we decided to sell our house, and we moved out to Bucks County. Because, see everything was in trust and it was kind of a difficult situation. So, anyhow, my sister-in-law moved to Florida, she had built another house by the way, on the same property. And she moved to Florida. And so we went out to Bucks County.
JM: Where in Bucks County?
JB: In Jamison. And we had eight acres and a house that was well over a hundred years old. And I was in...I was in my glory, because I wanted that from the day I was born. I wanted to live on a farm. And I thought, wouldn't that be wonderful for the boys. You know to learn to raise animals.
JM: Did they? Did you have animals?
JB: We had rabbits (laughing) - rabbits and dogs. But when we were up on the farms we had horses. And then we were there six years until my husband died, suddenly, and I stayed there. We had eight acres and I stayed there for three years. And I...I was, I felt perfectly fine, but my family was very worried about me being up there by myself.
JM: When you moved to Jamison, were you still coming in to go to Falls United? How much of a drive was that?
JB: It was… it would take us about an hour.
JM: And why did you continue to commute?
JB: Well, we did try other churches. And we went to this church in Doylestown, and when I saw the choir come in, I was absolutely thrilled. When I saw how many people were in the choir. And, one thing my grand- father taught us was sing loud, sing out you know. So Russ and I were singing, and people...people (laughing) thought we were ... “Would you like to join the choir?” But when the choir sang, my heart sank. They were singing like this you know, they weren't singing up.
JM: This was a Methodist congregation?
JB: Yeah. And we felt... we felt terrible, because we were... we were singing so loud. And we tried there and, you know, you have to go to the church for a long time, you know, before you get to know the people and all. But it wasn't the same, and I said to my husband, "You know, we'll drive an hour to go out for dinner, we can drive an hour to go down to church". And he was ready to go back too. So we did. It took us, sometimes it would take us fifty-five minutes, it all it depends but most times say an hour.
JM: Who was pastor when you went back to the church?
JM: Or what year was that...that you went back? Do you remember?
JB: Well it was only... we moved out there in 1941 - that was our address 1941 (laughing). We moved out there in... my husband died in 1978, and it would be... is that awful I can't remember?
JM: It’s okay, maybe that will come back.
JM: There was one pastor that I was curious about, that I read in the East Falls booklet. It was actually a couple by the name of Phillip and Ruth Palmer. Do you remember them?
JB: Oh yes! Indeed.
JM: Because there was one thing that I was interested in... it said that they were dedicated to serving some of the changing needs of the church's congregation. And I was wondering what years they were there, and what kind of changes were going on at that time?
JM: She got very sick. They didn't, there was a little ...there was a little friction there because, they didn't think we should have as much money in our...our missionary fund or …
JM: Was this the same fellow who wanted to change the whole...
JB: No. No. They were definitely interested in missionary work. And one thing he did do, which everyone was upset about, was that he wanted all that missionary money to go at once.
JM: Go where... where would it go?
JB: Well, to whatever he felt was, you know. Well of course he didn't have the whole say, but….
JM: Who would have had the say?
JB: Well, the trustees. And I know that I was on inner circle then and we were raising money for the deacons. And they just didn't want us ever to have a penny in the treasury. Well we did other things; I mean it wasn't that we just gave to a certain missionary.
I mean if you were sick, or somebody in the church was sick, we gave the money, you know. Or somebody was out of work, they pay you know. That's what this missionary account did. I mean, we gave to the missionaries but we also took care of our own congregation.
But when he came in, he didn't want, but as far as I know, he was... they were all very loyal, very wonderful people. And she died, she moved to New Jersey after he died. And she had cancer of the eyes,
I think, and she was lovely. She had a beautiful singing voice and she, you know would fill in sometimes for him, but that's the only thing I could think of that... that... and that was upsetting.
And a lot of us, because, that guy just came in and they didn't know what our situation was, you know.
I mean they can’t know everything that goes on. And, but, she was very emphatic about having, say we had eight or four thousand dollars, and maybe we would sent fifty to this and you know that sort of thing and she never felt that we shouldn't have a penny in the ... Well, as I said, we did other things.
JM: One of the things that I read that you did as a group was affiliated with an orphanage?
JB: Yes, the Children's... the Methodist Children's Home.
JM: Where was that?
JB: That was over, do you know where the Simpson House is.?
JM: Oh sure. That's for elderly though.
JB: Yes, but the children's orphanage was next to that. I was active in that, until they started taking court cases and they sue. What we did was buy them shoes, take them out you know, and take them to our homes and all. Hands on. But then when they started taking court cases, they had to have, psychiatrists, and they felt that we couldn't fill the bill. Because most of the children then were troubled children, either they had been beaten by their parents or...something happened.
JM: So, there was a change in the type of orphans that would be housed at Simpson House.
JB: It was like Simpson House here, and the orphanage was here. But those women were wonderful.
I mean they’d take the kids out for lunch, they take them to the movies, they’d take them to their home, and then that was all - you know, you could do that anymore.
JM: What ...do you... around what year was that? Do you remember?
JB: That must have been maybe sixties, seventies?
JM: You have been the actually oldest member now that affiliated with the church. I think it was on your form that you were 85 years old.
JM: You must have seen some significant changes over the years. But you also must have a lot of vivid memories for you. What are some of the most vivid memories you have of your membership within that church?
JB: Umm... I've always been interested in helping people and working with them, you know. And I would say the music in the first place that. .that was wonderful.
JM: You mentioned before that when the choir would sing, people from Krail Street would come out and sit on their steps. It must have been a sight (laughing).
JB: They would sit on their steps because we would have the windows open, and they would wait for the choir. And also our congregation, saying because that is predominantly a Catholic area, so they didn't sing in their church, you know. So this was... this was different for them, and if we had concerts and things, they would come and, you know, our church we used to put chairs in.
Well see my grandfather had three choirs of his own. He worked at Wanamaker’s. He was in the
Men's Department. And so he had access to a lot of people. So he would tell them when we would have things going on as special. And they would all come. And that church was always packed whenever we did any music.
So music, of course, has been my life, simply because of my grandfather. And he and his brother
and his two sisters, would go out singing. One was an alto, one was a soprano. He was bass, and my other uncle was a tenor and they did it to earn money to pay the rent and that sort of a thing, you know.
But when we would get together as a family, and this is what people did then, because they didn't have the money to go out and go places. So you had your family, they would come sometimes, maybe once a month. We would go to one another's house. We would all go, and then my grandfather would come in with his thing like this filled with music and hand it out to everybody in the room and that was our entertainment. And my aunt would play the piano.
JM: And what kinds of songs? What would you sing?
JB: Hymns. Anthems. Mostly anthems.
JM: What's the difference between a hymn and an anthem?
JB: An anthem is more, what should I say, it’s harder and it’s...it would be like say a nursery rhyme, and a regular song you know. I mean it’s just... it just was more difficult, like the Hallelujah chorus versus a hymn which would be a song.
JM: (laughing) There is a difference.
JB: But, I was invited to sing with the... Lord, my brain's not working...Gilbert and Sullivan Opera.
JM: Where were they meeting then?
JB: They were in center city. But at that time, I was suffering from migraine headaches. And in order for me to go in town, I had to be there by seven o'clock. My husband didn't get home till six.
JM: How did you come to be invited?
JB: Well umm.... there was a couple in our church. And their names were Ruth and Webb (Webster) Gotwols. They were the ones who wrote our plays, and our musicals and all that sort of thing. And they were invited to join. And they asked them if they knew anybody. This was a semi pro. And so they asked me. And I was thrilled. But, the confusion between feeding my family, waiting for my husband to get home, getting on the train to go in town. And I just couldn't do it. I would have one migraine after the other, and so the doctor said, you know it’s too much confusion and upset. But my friends stayed in it. And we went to see the show.
JM: Oh how nice!
JB: And it was very nice. And they are both professional singers so it was natural for them to do that, but I would have loved to. Now if my husband, that day he happened to ask, but evidentially they didn't need any days (?). You know, maybe we would have dinner in town or something like that, but it was just too much.
JM: One thing that I was a little curious about - you mentioned that one side of your family was from Ossett, England from your husband’s side of the family they were from Manchester, England. Were most of the people in that congregation, were their parents and grandparents from England?
JB: Yes an awful lot. England and Scotland and Wales. Those three. We didn't have any Irish, but those three people.....those three... cultures. And that's where we got a lot of our music. My grandfather brought a lot of music over from England. And to this day some of the songs that he brought over, have gone to so many different areas. Because the people who have moved away, to like Washington, or to Florida, they took this music with them. And they formed groups to go out and sing carols on Christmas Eve. And so these songs have been out West. I mean they are still doing it. On Christmas Eve they go out, and sing the carols that we sing at church. And, you saw the congregation that was there. They came from all over.
JM: The choir was amazing. The last service; it was very beautiful.
JB: It was, wasn't it? No rehearsal or anything. It was of our favorite anthems. And I don't know whether you remember the plaque on the wall? In memory of Mr. Buckley because he did the story over.
JM: That was right up front.
JB: Yes. And underneath was The King of Love, Thy Shepherd Is. And that's one of our favorites and that's why we sang that, you know. But it’s amazing because there were all these kids, and they all knew these songs. They all knew the songs. And it’s because from the time they were little, we sang them. And they…. it was amazing to me. Because obviously with all the letters and the people, and I would think they came all this way, some from New York, some from Maryland, some from Florida, some from Northern Pennsylvania.
JM: When was this for?
JB: For the service. And when you think about it, I was saying to my sister, my generation, the people that I would bring things that Irene (Webster) wouldn't know some of the stuff. In the later years, Irene's age, that's what most people were. That's who the most people were. Because the people my age, are either medically incapacitated or they moved away with their children and that type kind of thing. And so all the people in there were most of the people I taught in Sunday school.
JB: And it was amazing to me. There was one friend of mine, Louisa Mano, we went to kindergarten together and all through high school.
East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview
Interviewee: David McClenahan
Interviewer: Lyda Doyle
Date of interview: June 2, 2014
Transcriber: Wendy Moody
LD: So, we’ll start with when and where you were born.
DM: Well I was born in Philadelphia in Chestnut Hill Hospital. I lived at 3434 Midvale at the time with my parents. That’s just a block from here.
LD: Did you move directly from there to here?
DM: Directly from there to here (3805 Vaux Street in East Falls) around 1954.
LD: Where were your parents born?
DM: My parents – my mother was born in East Falls. I think she was born at home which was on New Queen Street, down near the railroad tracks. 5 or 6 houses up from Indian Queen Street (Cresson?). She was actually born at home, and my dad was born in Kensington and moved here when he was about… somewhere under 10 years old. I don’t know exactly when. He moved to East Falls and lived in several houses before he and my mom got married.
LD: Did you know where they met?
DM: Best of my knowledge, they met at the Falls Presbyterian Church. All four of my grandparents lived in East Falls and one of them was born in Philadelphia (Germantown).
LD: What were their names?
DM: Well, Annie Neely was my grandmother on my mother’s side. She was the one who was born in the United States, in Philadelphia. Robert Neely was my grandfather on my mother’s side. He was born in Ireland. And he lived on, I think, Calumet Street.
And then my grandmother on my father’s side was Sarah Archer. She was born in Ireland and she lived in several places in Philadelphia. The first in East Falls was on Mill Street. I’m not exactly sure where Mill Street was.
LD: Maybe we can look it up on an old map sometime.
DM: Yeah, I know we looked it up but I couldn’t find it this morning to see exactly where it was, but it was over there. And then very shortly after that they moved to 3608 Calumet Street and then for some reason moved to 3606, or maybe it was the other way around, but they moved from one house to the other.
And, let’s see, my grandfather McClenahan (William H McClenahan, Sr.) - he was born in Ireland and lived in various places in the Kensington area before he lived at Calumet Street.
I don’t know where – well, my grandmother and grandfather McClehanan met in Kensington somewhere, in Philadelphia, and got married in that area. And I don’t really know exactly what the story was. Sarah and William McClenahan were married in the year 1900 at the 5th Reformed Church, Front St above York St in Kensington.
I didn’t say that my grandmother Neely’s maiden name was Annie Cropper. Everybody came to East Falls basically because of textiles.
LD: Because there was employment – there were textile mills.
DM: So that’s the original reason why parts of the family started in Kensington, because that was the textile center in the United States at the time. And then they (my grandparents) found their way to East Falls– for some reason – I don’t know what happened – some of them - the Croppers, I know, were hired in Ireland and sent to East Falls by the company to Dobson Mills. I don’t know the reason why some of the other parts of the family came here – what mill it was – or what textile thing –but they were all basically involved with the mills here.
Except for my grandfather McClenahan and he was not a well man – and he was not a highly trained man – he was a grave digger and had other jobs. One of the jobs he had when he was in East Falls – which brought him to this area, I guess – was he was a shepherd for sheep in Fairmount Park.
LD: Were they privately owned, do you know?
DM: No, they were city-owned. It was a city job and they brought them to cut grass. They would release small herds of sheep and they would move them all over and they would cut the grass. So there’s actually an old barn that’s still over in Fairmount Park. An outdoor display is at the barn and it’s all the pictures and explanations as to that’s what occurred.
Bob and I came across that accidently in a walk and said “We know our grandfather was a shepherd - we knew he was over across the Schuylkill River (from East Falls) herding sheep.” The sign said they were there cutting grass and they were there in the 1920s era and then it closed. The barn is still there.
LD: Very interesting. Now when you were growing up here in the ‘50s, what were the houses like? Pretty much like they are now?
DM: Yeah, very little has changed. The houses that all the grandparents moved into first – starting all the way back in the very late 1800s when the Croppers came to East Falls – that house is still there. They house they lived in on Bowman Street and Calumet Street – those houses are all there - and Indian Queen Lane, Ainslie Street, Midvale with Bob and I, and then this house. This house was not…we’re the first occupants of this home.
LD: Did you show me a house that your ancestors probably were in that was where McMichael Park is today? The Morgan House?
DM: Yeah, the “Blue” book calls it the Morgan House. It has all sorts of fascinating possible ties. Even the property has been changed a lot with other houses so it’s hard to tell exactly what was going on there. But in the Neely family, which was my grandfather’s family, he married into the Cropper family. Our mother, Clara Neely McClenahan’s father’s mother was Isabella Morgan.
That makes Isabella Morgan our Great-Grandmother. So we have that possible connection. We have pictures of the Cropper family sitting on the porch of the house, one of which identified it as being near the current Henry Avenue and Midvale. It was identified in the 1940’s by my aunt – my great-aunt Clara Cropper. And she’s in the picture and she identified it as being near there (near the current Henry and Midvale).
Some of the pictures in that East Falls Blue Book indicate there was a connection. I don’t have any real estate record yet to say they owned the house. Their regular house in that same period was over on Calumet Street, so it’s just possible it was a village house or something they went to visit. It was very rural back then. The pictures of it show it sitting all by itself on a little hillside with a stream going by it. And it’s possible they vacationed or just were visiting there.
My Aunt Clara Cropper – I overlapped with her - she died in the 1960s – we can remember her talking about it - in her handwriting is written on the picture that that picture was taken with our family on the front - all identified and recognizable. Somewhere on Henry and Midvale we later found out it may be Coulter and Henry. We don’t have any clue! (laughs)
LD: Well maybe someday…
DM: I hope. We’re going to try to figure out how to understand the real estate records a little bit better. That name Morgan is an old-time name in East Falls. We have no idea whether it’s connected except we know that our great grandparents were Morgans living in East Falls.
LD: Now, where did you go to school?
DM: I went to at Mifflin School.
LD: Did they have a kindergarten then or did you start in first grade?
DM: No, I started in kindergarten. I can remember Miss Murphy was my kindergarten teacher. The current building, without the extension they put on the back about 10 years ago or so, the kindergarten room is still in that building. I haven’t been in the school in years so I don’t know what they’ve done inside. But, yeah, a full year in kindergarten and then I went there for 7 years.
LD: And where did you go for high school?
DM: My parents had decided that they were going to send Bob and I to Friends Central High School out on City Line Avenue – a Quaker high school similar to Penn Charter but it was co-ed. And to insure that we would be ready for Friends Central, which was assumed to be a little ahead academically of Philadelphia (actually, I would have gone to Roxborough High School if I had stayed in the public school system), the school recommended we started a year early. Officially back then high school was 9 through 12 so they recommended that I take 8th grade at Friends Central, which was a kindergarten through 12th grade school.
LD: Now at Mifflin they had Shop and Home Ec classes for 7th and 8th grade. Did you take shop in 7th grade before you went…?
DM: 7th grade, yeah. The so-called cycle where you changed classes – very similar to what college ended up being, and high school. They had that too in 7th and 8thgrade. Yeah, I had shop. Mr. Simon was my Shop teacher. Mrs. Terrill was my Home Ec teacher.
LD: Was she still there – although I think I’m older than you. I just turned 66.
DM: I’m a year older (laughs).
LD: Did you have Miss Heck in 6th grade?
DM: Yes I did! Ruth Heck, yes.
LD: And Miss Young for math?
DM: Miss Young, Mrs. Lyons….
LD: Mrs. Dunn?
DM: Mrs. Dunn.
LD: Mrs. Sypher?
DM: Mrs. Sypher. She conducted our Glee Club. I’d love to get back in there. I had a lot of fun at Mifflin. They had bazaars. They had poster contests for the bazaars. I can remember my mom – I made up a poster and she said “You can work on that a little bit more” and when it was done it was my mom’s poster! (laughs) I can actually remember that. It was lavender.
And the teachers were all very nice. My mother was very, very involved in the P.T.A. so she knew all the teachers. I couldn’t get away with a thing. And because I was following three years behind Bob – he was academically very good, and I wasn’t the best academically – so it was always “You’re not keeping up…”
LD: Are you Bob’s brother??
DM: Yeah! And Dr. Israel Galter – he was actually the Principal when they moved from Breck to Mifflin because there were various people that I met over the years - one was Irene Webster – she’s in her 80s now – and she remembers marching from the old Breck School to Mifflin. Sort of settling into the new school.
LD: A celebration.
DM: Yeah. And Dr. Galter was the Principal at that time and he was still principal when I was there. I don’t know when he left. When I left, he was still principal.
LD: Did you have Christmas shows when you were there?
DM: Christmas shows? Yeah, I can remember standing on the stage. They had a wonderful stage – well-equipped - a BIG stage with big curtains – I guess for little children it was even bigger, flood lights, headlights and everything, sound system.
I can remember I was dressed as Santa Claus in one of the Christmas pageants and they were playing – we didn’t sing – they were playing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – and it started off “You know Dasher and Dancer…” and I stood on the stage and then the classmates jumped out and they were dressed in reindeer costumes and I would point to the part of the stage and out popped a reindeer – Dasher, Dancer – and then Rudolph came out with the red nose. I don’t know if it was electric or not!
And one other thing – they had assembly every morning in the auditorium. They played music as the students were coming in and it was always classical music. They didn’t have many records – maybe 10 or 20 songs and one of my jobs, for a few years, was to play the records. So I got to go – when I went in, I would go up the side stairs onto the stage and through a little door and there was room back there and in it was this big old record player with an amplifier
And we’d turn it on and set it all up and then, whoever was doing it, and I was just one of the people who did it, we’d come out and stand on the stage and say “Today you will hear….and it was like….Clair de Lune by….I probably said Debussy or something (laughs)….and Clair de Lune was one of them - I can distinctly remember that.
And you’d announce it – I had a little weak child’s voice, but and then you’d play it, and when it was over, or you were signaled to end and turn the needle off, you turned everything down, and came down and sat in your seat.
LD: Do you remember singing in assembly? I don’t know if it was for special occasions?
DM: Yeah, I can remember singing.
LD: I can remember Jacob’s Ladder and Battle Hymn of the Republic.
DM: Yeah, I’m sure of that. I can remember playing - I played the trumpet when I was at Mifflin because Philadelphia School System had a program where they would give you free music lessons if you supplied your own instrument.
So, Bob came first, so the word went out in the family – no one had any musical instruments – and somebody came up with a clarinet, so Bob played the clarinet. He was taught how to play the clarinet in his music lessons. Mine was – the word went out – and the only response was from the Neely family on New Queen Street (my mother’s family) – somebody had a cornet – a trumpet, and that’s what I got. And that’s what I learned to play.
But what I was thinking of was – I remember another classmate – Jacqueline MCCullough – she played the violin. And she and I, under the direction of Miss Heck, we learned This is My Father’s World, a hymn, and we played it as a duet. A very odd trumpet/violin duet (laughs) with her on the piano, I think.
So there was no – the whole religious thing – it was clearly a Christian-oriented education. And prayer, of course was there at the time.
LD: And Pledge of Allegiance?
DM: And Pledge of Allegiance. Yeah, every day. Even days when we weren’t in the auditorium. And that’s why I don’t remember if assembly was a couple days a week, because I can remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom.
LD: And a prayer.
DM: And a prayer. Yeah, I’m sure we sang hymns. And I know there was the glee club. I don’t know what occasions they sang; I know it wasn’t every day.
LD: The glee club…the Gotwols had something to do with the glee club.
DM: All I sorta remember about that was that Miss Sypher led it and she had these big flowing arms (laughs) Very different from Miss Dunn.
LD: Did Miss Heck ask you to play the bells or autoharp?
DM: Autoharp. What’s the song – I don’t want to sing on the tape – I can remember the song I learned on the autoharp. Strum with the right hand, over the left – yeah, I remember that.
The rooms I remember and, oh, the desks – the desktop was attached to the chair in front of you. So if that person moved the chair, the desktop moved.
LD: They had inkwells in them.
DM: They had inkwells in them. Now my father told me stories – my parents and aunts and uncles would tell me stories about dipping the girls’ hair in the inkwells. There was no ink in them by the time I came along! (laughs)
LD: Was there a girl in front of you?
DM: Yeah! Because I was all trained and ready to do that.
LD: There wasn’t much interaction among the schools, right? Mifflin didn’t play St. Bridget in sports…
DM: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think in those days the separation between Catholic and Protestant groups was stronger, and I don’t mean that in a negative way but there was a greater separation. I came from an Irish family – from a Northern Ireland town (Protestant). Many other Irish came from the south of Ireland. Whatever the differences were was very important to them, then they are now.
LD: And I think there were a lot of sandlot sports.
DM: There was. I was not a sports person so even on that form you gave me. I had nothing I could fill that I had played sports.
LD: But you were involved in music a lot, and church.
DM: Church and music. They were the big things. We did a lot of things then through the church – I didn’t do as many things through the school - as far as sports were concerned. I do remember recesses and organized games in the schoolyard. I was never on any of the East Falls’ sports teams, or Little League.
LD: Where would your family shop for food, clothes, housewares?
DM: Basically Germantown. Germantown had department stores – Allens, Rowell’s, and they had Penn Fruit Market over on Wayne and Chelten, a Food Fair market…
LD: Did your parents drive over or did you take the trolley?
DM: Both. For shopping, then you’d drive. We also went to the YMCA at Greene and Chelten - we walked to that on Saturday mornings - plus the 52 trolley went right by. Sometimes we’d walk over to the Y and then take the trolley home. 7 cents or something.(laughs)
Yeah, so Germantown supplied most of the stores we went to – but Roxborough was just as close, maybe even closer but, I don’t know why, but Germantown seemed to be where we went.
LD: And there were some grocery stores in East Falls where you could get something during the week.
DM: Yeah, there was an American Store down on Ridge and Midvale. And there was the Tilden Market, which is still there, that was the store closest to here and you could get whatever anybody had forgotten. Plus they had a really terrific meat…they had a real butcher and they did cut up carcasses. Then they’d cut it and hand it and show it to you – “Is that what you’re looking for?” wrapped it in paper instead of wrapped up in plastic…
LD: Did you get deliveries from the milk man or bread man?
DM: Bond Bread. Milk – I’m not sure who it was. And there was a laundry man for my father’s white shirts with starched collars. There was a huckster who came up the street – there was a tailor shop on Sunnyside and Vaux. Dry cleaning and things like that. Yeah, there were a lot more little stores and businesses – barber shops.
LD: Were there any candy stores?
DM: Candy stores? There was one just past the school on Conrad Street. And you’d go in there with your nickel and buy pieces of candy – wax lips – do you remember wax lips? And a little paper like a cash register tape with little candy dots pasted on it. That was a good business when you think it was so close to the school. I went home for lunch when I went to school. I never ate lunch at the school because I was only a block away.
LD: So then your mother wasn’t working. In those days most of the mothers were stay-at-home moms.
DM: Yeah. She apparently worked up until Bob was born and then stopped. She was a stenographer, typist. My mom always told everybody I was a typewriter (laughs). My dad worked in Philadelphia for the first part. I’m not sure when, but his company then, which was Merck, moved out to the suburbs so he commuted for a number of years to Lansdale.
LD: Did he take the train?
DM: No, he drove (to Lansdale).
LD: Did he drive in town or take the train?
He took the train in town. The Norristown Local. He’d take it to Spring Garden Street Station and then walked about 4 blocks to Broad and Wallace.
LD: Do you remember what make car he had?
DM: Hmm. Basically Chevys that somewhere along the line turned into Oldsmobiles. And I think for the rest of his life – he and my mom had Oldsmobiles. He used to be one of these people who bought a new car every few years whether he needed it or not. He didn’t pass that on his son! I just got a new car after having the other one for 11 years and that’s about my average – 11 years.
When he was - as I said, he was working at Lansdale, it was about a 25 mile commute – it was a reverse commute so he was going out of the city when most people were coming into the city. Bob and I ended up also working out in the suburbs in the same relative area. I in Warminster and Bob in another part of Lansdale/North Wales.
LD: So did you keep the same jobs for your whole careers?
DM: Always. Bob and I did, yeah. I worked for 27 years – we both retired early - and Bob worked for 30 years in the same place. When my parents were first thinking of moving from Midvale Avenue – I looked that up – so it was 1994….no, 1954!
LD: I was going to question that but you caught it yourself! (laughs)
DM: Apparently, they debated – they discussed as to whether they should live out where he was working. And as I understand it, my mother was strongly, strongly an East Fallser - never leaving East Falls and never leaving the church. So dad accepted that -as was his approach to marriage – and he commuted.
And I basically came to the same thing. When I was working - 22 miles to get to Warminster – commuting in traffic and in snow and everything, and keep thinking “Why aren’t I living out here?” I never wanted to.
LD: Your mother had a very strong sense of community and church and evidently that became part of your life. Falls Presbyterian is one of the two churches left in East Falls.
DM: Yeah. Well, we’ve always been associated with that church. My dad was involved quite a bit and at one time they had a number of people in charge of building – we call it the new church, but it opened in 1945. So he was head of the building committee for that. There’s a lot of interesting stuff about that involving getting money - the Dobsons were involved. He could remember having to go to the Dobson estate and knocking on the door as a representative of the church, with a couple other people and basically he always used to beg the Dobsons to give more money.
LD: Do you know how the site was selected?
DM: The original church was down on Kelly Drive (Ridge Avenue) and was getting old. This church building is actually just as old now. But apparently that one wasn’t built quite as well so was having some constructual problems.
Plus, East Falls generally grew – when East Falls started, I would say, most of the activity of East Falls was from the railroad on down the hill. Most of the houses were there. I’m talking now – the church started the process to move in the 1920’s, even though they didn’t accomplish it until 1945. But part of that process – the first thing they did was to decide on where - and they all decided that East Falls was moving up the hill. Eventually. And with the church you’re chasing the people, not the business so they – I don’t know the details of why this parcel of virgin land became available, but it was the size that they wanted. Some of the homes that are up in this area now were there. We’re talking about the 1920s. So a lot of the homes – like some of homes on Midvale – the ones where we lived in - they appeared in the 1930’s somehow. It was still sort of an open area. It was their vision to be there and they bought the property. It was
vacant for years – they didn’t start building until the 1940’s.
LD: Didn’t the war interrupt things?
The war interrupted for funds - people were in the war and weren’t coming – the church suffered an attendance decline and there were also restrictions on building materials – like steel. They started the building and had to stop because they didn’t have the steel to finish it. There are papers that I’ve seen where they applied for a special compensation on the embargo – not the embargo – the rationing of steel. They got permission to buy the steel that they needed to finish and close the building up. And then they ran out of money again. Even well before the war, as I said, the whole plan was to build this thing in the 1920s.
LD: Well, the Great Depression came in there.
DM: The Depression, and that was probably the biggest reason why it got a big delay. And then when you restart a project like that, like anything, it suddenly costs so much more than it was supposed to cost, let alone the regular things that may cost more when you’re actually building. And then the time, ten years, everything costs so much more. They didn’t run out of money – they had had the money to build it ten years ago.
So they finally – it was a combination of one of the Dobson daughters – I should know the name – I think it was the one named Spencer -it wasn’t Bessie.
James Dobson was dead by then and he had not left a huge amount of money to the church. He was the benefactor and very helpful while he was alive – very helpful – he enabled the church to do all sorts of things they wouldn’t have done. According to my dad, he would at times they would go to him – he was on the Board of Trustees of the church so he’d either know, or they’d go to him, and they’d say “More bills than we have money to pay!” and he’d pay up all the bills.
Bring them all up to date. He wouldn’t do that regularly, or he wouldn’t do that because – I guess he felt he wasn’t going to hold the church up (artificially). It needed to support itself. And I agree with that.
In this case - this Spencer daughter – I apologize I don’t remember the name; I’ll look it up – I have it. (note: Her name was Florence Dobson Spencer). She was killed in an automobile accident somewhere up near Ridge and Butler Pike – I know that (laughs)… but I can’t remember her name, but… This is all stories…and there was a sum of some tens of thousands of dollars in her will to the church and there’s a plaque (in the vestibule of the church to the honor of her parents, James and Mary Dobson) – well, so that enabled them to get enough money to finish off the church in the time frame of the early 40’s and it was finished up in ‘45. But they also had to get a mortgage. So they finished, but there was a mortgage involved.
…. Her dad left enough money to the church to pay off some bills, hire the contractors they needed to finish, and to get a mortgage. The church had been denied the mortgage because they didn’t have enough money behind it. No money in the bank and a half-finished church building.
And so the building is actually – when you go in the church building – it’s called Dobson Memorial Building. And they wanted to name the church the Dobson Church and the people in the church said “No, we don’t want that.” In this day and age of corporate naming and everything, it seems odd that people would turn that down.
They apparently agreed that the Dobson family - that they had done enough - and make it possible to have a church, even though (?) helped – the (?) came at the end. But the people didn’t want to be called the Dobson Presbyterian Church, so they agreed the official name would be the First Presbyterian Church of the Falls of Schuylkill. But they agreed then to call it the Dobson Memorial Building. So there’s a big bronze plaque inside the front door church building.
LD: That was a nice compromise.
DM: Yeah, the Dobson Memorial Building.
LD: So were there any special people you remember that contributed to the local community.
DM: No question - the Dobsons.
LD: How about the Pastors?
DM: I’ve only known Pastor Harvey – Robert Harvey - was at the church when I was born. He left around 1952. It’s funny, I can remember him preaching and at the end of the sermon announcing to the church that he’d be leaving. I think the Powers that be knew it but the people didn’t. I was very young, so I’m surprised that I can remember but I actually have a picture of that in my memory.
LD: So you were born in 1947?’
LD: What was the date?
DM: July 3.
LD: July 3, 1947 – I think I should have done that at the beginning. They’ll pick it up….
DM: I had to be born Caesarian, so my mother was given the option of when she wanted her son to be born – her child - she didn’t know it was a son. And she said ‘I don’t want it to be July 4 on the holiday because his birthday should be his birthday so they did it on July 3.
Oh, there are a lot of people I remember – the shop owners. The McDermott’s. Do you remember McDermott’s Store? Actually, Dr. McDermott was a dentist on Henry Avenue. The store owner was his father. Everything that you ever wanted to have was in this little store – a row house size store. And the Webster family. Dave Webster. I called him Mr. Methodist. He was very dedicated to the Methodist Church here in East Falls which I think follows the dedication that I usually am very impressed with in our own church – people that dedicated their lives. To some extent, I’m doing that and Bob’s doing that. But then he was a more of a Methodist theologically than I am a Presbyterian theologically (laughs). It was never about Presbyterianism to me.
LD: It was more Christianity.
DM: It was about this church, neighborhood, community. All that’s going on. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Nonetheless, it is an extended family and like all families you’ve got good and bad (laughs).
It’s amazing when I think back of all the people that I knew. The Hecks. You mentioned Ruth Heck, who was a teacher at Mifflin School.
LD: Was there a Jane Heck?
DM: Jane was Bud Heck’s wife. She was actually a Linton. One thing about East Falls, and you know this well (laughs) that there are families, spreading families, and one of the things I can remember my mother telling me – I don’t remember the exact occasion – she told us at various times: “Don’t ever say something bad about somebody because, almost assuredly, you’re talking to a relative of somebody – it either would be the Furmans, the Staretts….
LD: The Murphys – they said you couldn’t throw a stone in East Falls without hitting a Murphy.
DM: Yeah (laughs). So, yeah, Dr. Heck lived at the corner of Henry Avenue and Midvale. He was a great guy and a real role model. My father always said have a role model…. If I lived the rest of my life modeling him, I’d be very happy.
LD: Your Dad.
DM: My dad.
LD: There’s something to be said for the quiet, behind-the-scenes, get up and go-to-work-every-day, do the right thing by their job, by the family. They’re not in the news, but they’re the everyday pillar of the community and the family.
DM: I know that just part of his accomplishments at the church were to cajole people. I know it was a hard sell. He couldn’t do that. He was so sincere. So believable. He was very successful.
I don’t know if I mentioned, but there is a church organ that’s now 96 years old – 86 years old – I take that back - it’s 106 years old. So that was built and then donated by the Carnegie Foundation.
Carnegie did three things with his money later in his life – I read this – that maybe he hadn’t done for others with all the money he got. So he built libraries – he built the library in East Falls – it was donated by the Carnegie Foundation and he donated pipe organs to churches all over the country. The Methodist organ was obtained that way and the Falls Presbyterian organ was obtained that way, largely donated by Carnegie. This was in 1906 so it was in the old church – the organ was in the church on Ridge Avenue.
LD: They had to move it?
DM: They basically dismantled it and rebuilt it into the new church so it would fit… (indecipherable). It’s still a pipe organ and still has no electronics in it. It has electricity in it but it’s not computer-driven.
LD: You and Bob were not only in the church choir but in other community choirs?
DM: Yeah, a few years ago I joined the Roxborough Male Chorus. It’s a chorus dedicated to male music - men’s music, and it was quite a large chorus, apparently – it’s 75 years old – it’s existed for that long. At one time, it was maybe 100 people – 100 men.
LD: You have men and women in the church choir.
DM: Yes, men and women. I love music – I love singing. I said I played the trumpet but I don’t play the trumpet any more. I haven’t played it in 20 years.
LD: But you said you started out singing with the church – as a child?
DM: Well, as a child yes. I actually sang a song as a boy soprano in church, all dressed up in a bright red sport coat for Christmas. I stood up there and sang. But then I wasn’t in any of the choirs for a while because I’ve never been all that comfortable with my voice as a solo voice. I never want to hear my voice. So I thought you had to audition – and I think at one time you did have to audition to be in the choir in the Presbyterian Church – so I didn’t do it.
It was the year my dad died in 1982 and the old choir director left also. It’s not connected with my dad’s death in any way, other than that’s the year it was. This new choir director came – he was a young guy right out of college and he was looking for more singers – and slightly younger singers than some of the ones 70 and 80 year olds that were in the choir at that time.
And so he – I said “I’m not auditioning” and he said “You don’t have to audition. Come and sing.” “Oh really?” And I joined the choir that year and I’ve been in it ever since.
The church, since it is something that’s near and dear to my heart, it’s been though all the ups and downs, I guess, of life in East Falls and life in the city, at least.
We were very near the end in the late 1990’s. We were making our plans of how many more years we could keep it open and then how we would disband, what we would do with the building. The (officially stated) membership never dropped as low as it really was. There was something spiritual about not saying we had 25 members. But in essence we had 25 people.
LD: Was that before or after the anniversary?
DM: Oh that was before. And, as I said, we really had decided we can’t go on. We had been getting subsidies from the denomination. So we had to make all sorts of plans. And then we said, well let’s try to keep it going. And, one thing, we gotta cut costs. So we had to let our minister go, which was the biggest cost of the church – heating and the minister. We used the building hardly ever, except for Sunday mornings, we’d keep the building cold.
LD: And then just enough so the pipes wouldn’t freeze.
DM: Absolutely. Absolutely. We got ourselves down to where our costs were about what we could bring in, and then these two people walked up to our door. We were looking for somebody to take this job. When I say we got a new minister, we didn’t actually pull it off until we found somebody who was willing to work for just a few hours a week that we were able to pay. And these two people came up and applied for the job.
To make a long story short, they were very dynamic, engaging - the attendance started to go way back up. The word got out and people would come to hear them. They both sang so they joined the choir and they were good singers. And the whole thing – they were there 4 or 5 months and suddenly the attendance was up.
We were only paying them about 15 hours a week and we got it up to about 40 hours a week. And then we said “We think we can hire a full time minister.” They said “That’s not what we do. The church has turned around, and we send it on its way, so we don’t want the full time job.”
So then we went out looking and got the current pastor, who is Katherine Rick-Miller. We hired her as full time. She was a brand-new pastor so she’s grown with the church.
LD: And you sold the manse.
DM: We sold the manse which had become a tremendous burden – maintenance, taxes – it was the only thing we had for tax time was the manse – we paid taxes on it. Real estate tax. That manse was built in 1962. We put that money in the bank, invested it, and we had a couple bequests - far more money than the Dobson bequest. And the church is about up to 80 – 90 people.
As somebody who has sorta dedicated his life to the church, it’s pretty satisfying. And it’s even more so, you said it earlier, that’s there’s only just…. (indecipherable)
- far more money than the Dobson bequest. And the church is about up to 80 – 90 people.
LD: Did you go on summer vacations?
DM: Yeah. Ever since I was born my parents went to Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
LD: For a week or two or did they have a place?
No they never had a place. I think way earlier when we were infants, they would go for a couple of weeks. But the time I can remember being there as a 5 or 6 year old, we were four weeks. My college years I had gone for six weeks from the 15th of June to the end of July. Renting a house – a small house – for about $250 a month. (laughs)
LD: Amazing. It’s that much a day now!
DM: Yeah! So when I told people used to go to the shore for 6 weeks, but the whole thing was on a different scale. Even with inflation - we go to a condo place - we continue the tradition, Bob and I. We go down for a week every year to Stone Harbor – it’s actually in Avalon - and it costs $310 a day. And that’s just a condo - one bedroom, kitchenette, and living room. It’s a nice place – very nice. So that’s what we did.
And then in 1959 my father took us on our first trip. It was a car trip, basically to Yellowstone.
LD: Oh, you drove all the way out?
DM: All the way out. With a bug screen on the front of the car, staying at motels. It made an impression on us because I love travel – I always have. We didn’t go right the next year, but sure enough the shore trips tapered off and travel increased.
And then when Bob and I got to school and making some money and headed off to our own trips. Mom and dad were still taking trips. Dad got a little older and we joined the trips again.
Just a couple of stories I’ll tell you about the memories that I can think of:
One, when we lived on Midvale Avenue from 1947 to 1954, I can remember there was a bay window in the front with the little panes of glass. There was a radiator along the front window. And I can remember I used to love as a child to stand there with my elbows in the top of the radiator – it wasn’t hot, it was really nice and warm, and look out and watch Midvale.
LD: The cars going by, the trolleys….
DM: Especially the trolleys. I’ve always been intrigued by railroads and trolley cars. The 52 trolley went up Midvale Avenue and I have memories of leaning there and just watching for a lot of time, apparently.
LD: Did you go to the Alden movies once a week?
DM: Yeah! We used to go there on Monday – Sunday – Saturday! – I’ll get it right! Saturday matinee. It was about a quarter and we saw a few serials, Flash Gordon, we saw some Lone Ranger episodes, newsreels - I don’t remember any movies! (laughs) but we were occupied for a long time. I don’t remember the inside of it that well.
I also remember – another memory I have - there were no buildings where the house is here on Vaux. There’s three houses – Wendy’s, this house, and the one on the corner.
LD: It used to be the Lupinacci’s.
DM: Now it’s Heather Ritch. Very nice. And those three houses were built at the same time. But prior to them being built there was nothing here. This was one of the few vacant lots. The other vacant lot was where the manse was built – which wasn’t built until 1962. However that was graded. They had graded it back in the ‘20’s getting ready for the church which never happened for so many years. So they graded it flat where the manse is. And then there was a steep bank and they graded it where the church is sitting. And there was another steep bank that they had graded. So we used to play there.
And behind the houses on Midvale Avenue – the 3400 block of Midvale – there were two story tudor houses – there were almost woods behind them. So we played a lot as children in those woods. We didn’t have to go all the way to Wissahickon Park – we had our own woods here in East Falls!
I do remember playing on this lot. It was not graded and was very rough and rustic. There were some holes in it about half the size of this livingroom. I don’t know what they were.
And when we were living on Midvale, we had the back alley. And all of our playing on Midvale was in the back alley. There was really not much of a front yard on those houses. We’d just go out the basement door and in the back and see who was out in the back alley and play with them. Those were some of my schoolmates.
The lady that lives in the house at 3434 Midvale is the lady who bought the house from my parents. She’s still living there.
LD: You get a sense that there are a lot of houses in East Falls that are generational. The people live in them a long time and their children buy them or a friend of a friend.
DM: Yeah, I think that was. I’m not so sure that it is as much now. One thing that we’ve noticed at church, just by knowing the people that come out to the church, almost like a sampling of the neighborhood – the time that they spend in East Falls is generally short compared to me, who’s 67 years, or other families that we’ve talked about that are here or were here. One of the challenges that we talk about in church – it’s a reality – is that we get new members and it used to be “Oh, we got a new member; they’ll be here for 50 years” but now they’re here for 4 or 5 years.
LD: You still have to keep recruiting new members.
DM: Yeah, we lose about 8 and add about 10, a gain of 2 or something like that. It’s that kind of thing. And didn’t used to be. It’s true that people throughout my life were going to the suburbs – the flight to the suburbs - but not quite as much as now. The school system is a problem, so when young families have school age kids they tend to pick up and leave for another school district.
LD: That’s a city-wide problem.
DM: Yes, probably the single biggest thing that takes families out of the church is that they start their families, and having jobs in another place and the idea that you work in the same place for years just isn’t true anymore.
I sit in church on Sunday and I look and there’s at least two other classmates from Mifflin still there. So there’s three of us all from the one class. Bob’s generation is about four that went to school together – Charlotte Dobson, who’s probably not related to the Dobson family, she’s still living in East Falls.
LD: Are there any events in East Falls that stand out in your mind? Parades?
DM: Well, yeah, Memorial Day there was a parade. It was led by the Methodist Drum and Bugle Corps. They used to parade – it started with a ceremony at the park, at the memorial in McMichael Park and then they would march down Midvale and go to the river and have a ceremony and throw a wreath in the river and watch it go down the river. I remember that. And then all the churches had their 4th of July picnics.
LD: At separate locations.
DM: At separate locations – separate picnics, separate parades. Almost all of the churches paraded to their picnic grounds. St. Bridget had their picnic in McMichael Park, Falls Pres, in my era, had theirs at Penn Charter. Prior to that, the picnic for Falls Pres was at their church along the river.
And I can remember the Lutheran Church had their picnic right next door to the church. They had this wooden slide that they put together. You’d come down the hill right beside the church. I’m not sure I remember all the others.
The Methodists – I’m not sure where they had their picnic for a long time, and then as both of our churches were getting smaller, but still going back at least to the ‘80’s, we joined and we did have our picnics together. For a while they were both at Penn Charter - for a while they were on one side of the big football field and we were on the other side covered by the trees. And then somewhere along the line someone said “This is silly. Let’s get together and have our picnic together. We all like each other.” So we did that.
And the Drum and Bugle Corps always paraded up from the church to Penn Charter. And when we combined the picnic, I joined that Drum and Bugle Corps and played the trumpet. Bob played the drums. Helped to complete us in practice and we would go up there. Until we dissolved that picnic in the 1990’s the Drum and Bugle Corps was in business. The Methodist Church unfortunately closed in 2006.
In 2006 Falls Pres had its 150th anniversary, just a couple of years after St. Bridget’s 150th. And they decided – we had been having the picnic next to the church – a few blocks from the church just like the old days. We did it like that. And we put out the word, we put out letters and everything to people– come on back!
We invited everybody from the Methodist that we knew. There were about 70 people. And we used the park - Penn Charter was no longer available for that kind of thing.
LD: So you used McMichael?
DM: So we used McMichael Park. And we have done that now every year since 2006 so that’s 8 years now. It gets a few more people every year. I have to be very careful because, officially, we’re not allowed to use the park if we have over a certain number of people due to permits. This year we’re not having a picnic because we have a mission trip and 28 of our people are traveling that week, including the pastor and a lot of the people that help with the picnic so…..
LD: Where are you going?
DM: We’re going to North Dakota to help at an Indian Reservation.
LD: Anything we didn’t cover in the questions that you remember?
DM: I’m sure I’ll think of things, but, no, the things that I just added were the things that were going in my mind about traditions…
LD: So you had a definite sense of community growing up here…
DM: You did. And my family had a strong sense of East Falls. When I think all four grandparents were born – my mom and dad - all East Falls – it’s like a small town in the middle of Pennsylvania somewhere
LD: So it was a small town within a large city - it still has a sense of being its own little small town.
DM: And the people still meet in the church. As recently as 15 years ago, we had a couple that met in the church and got married, later in life. It was very common.
LD: And you still have members that have been members for a long time that come back for Sunday service, like the Harrisons.
DM: They just celebrated their 62nd anniversary.
LD: We can wrap it up and if there’s anything else that you think of, you can write an addendum and we can write it in.
LD: Are you comfortable with everything that we covered?
LD: Ok. Thank you so much for your time.
DM: A pleasure.
Copyright © 2023 East Falls Historical Society - All Rights Reserved.
Powered by GoDaddy Website Builder