Interviewer: Cherie Snyder
Interviewee: Ella Boyd McGlynn
Date of Interview: July 17, 1981
Transcribed by Greg Pilotti, 2nd Year Architecture Student, Philadelphia University, Day of Service, and Wendy Moody. EFHS.
Born in 1893 in East Falls, Ella gives vivid descriptions of stores, institutions, medical care, and people of of East Falls past, including the Dobsons, Kellys, and Hohenadels.
CS: Ok, Mrs. McGlynn, why don’t we just start out and you can tell us where you were born.
EBM: Well I was born on… Conrad Street, 35th Street. 35th Street. You want the number?
CS: Pull your chair up a little closer so we make sure we get this… So you were born on Conrad Street?
EBM: Yeah, 3341 North 35th Street.
CS: Were you, so you were actually born in the Falls, and how old are you?
EBM: I’m uh…88.
CS: So what year does that make you? ’
EBM: 93. (1893)
CS: Were you born at home?
EBM: Yes, right in the same house.
CS: Were your parents from the Falls, or they…
EBM: No they from Scotland.
CS: Did they come directly over from Scotland?
EBM: From Scotland with two children.
CS: One of them wasn’t you though?
EBM: Oh no! I’m the youngest of twelve.
CS: Twelve! And why did they come over to East Falls?
EBM: Well, they come over…I guess one come over the family and the other come over, and that’s eh, once the oldest come over the younger ones followed.
CS: But your parents weren’t married when they came over?
EBM: Yes they were they had two children! (Laughter)
CS: Ok, so they brought their two children over, and do you have any idea approximately what year they came over from Scotland?
EBM: Hmmm, No I, it’s over a hundred years old, see I’m 88 and I’m the youngest of twelve.
CS: And they had ten other children once they were here?
EBM: Yeah. They could count two years apart.
CS: So maybe we’re talking about the 1870’s?
EBM: They were over here at the Centennial, before that.
CS: I see. What was, did they come over to find certain work, or did they have a particular trade?
EBM: My father was a plaster worker when he came.
CS: And is that the work that he followed?
EBM: And then he worked in Dobson’s Mill.
CS: How many years did he work there?
EBM: Well he must have worked there until he was up in his 50’s.
CS: It seems like a lot of people worked in Dobson Mills in East Falls.
EBM: Yes indeed. When it closed down.. The Dobson’s mill closed down and Pencoyd closed down and it left the depression. And that was hard.
CS: So now did your parents live in that house the whole time?
EBM: No they came … over on a little house in uh Stanton Street and then they built the house. Yes they built the house. My father was a plasterer by trade. A builder.
CS: So they built the house that you were born in on Conrad Street? And what address did you tell me it was?
EBM: 3341, near Queen Lane.
CS: Sure, sure. But they first came they lived in Stanton Street, then built the home and that’s where you grew up.
EBM: That’s where I grew up in.
CS: And spent your whole life. Were there many other people that came over from Scotland?
EBM: Well I had aunts, I had aunts, and uncles and… the whole crowd come over. They thought it maybe was, better living, I don’t know. But they were all Scotch.
CS: And they all settled in East Falls?
CS: So you’re not aware of any reason that your parents chose this place, or you said that there were other family members here.
EBM: Well the mother died, and the father married again, and of course the family come over, see. Made out, for themselves. Course some of them are married, see, when they come over.
CS: Were there different, were there sections in East Falls? Where the Scotch tended to settle, The English or the Italians, or did everybody pretty much mingle…
EBM: No they were pretty well…but there were no colored, no colored. There was a … (inaudible)… who lived there and, for years, who went to St. Bridget’s. My father helped to built St. Bridget’s School. He was uh, sang at St. Bridget’s for 35 years.
CS: When did they build St. Bridget’s School?
EBM: Well, I have a sister, uh, let’s see, I guess Mary was, easy 20 years older than me. I had 9 brothers, see, and I went there. I know I started when I was 6 years old. My sister started – didn’t start, she went to the public school. My mother took I think 5 of them from the public school into the catholic school when it was built.
CS: Is this the home you’re still living in, the one where you were born?
EBM: No I’m living with my daughter up here, up with Jane. See Jane’s brother is my (inaudible)
CS: So then the house was sold on Conrad Street, but it’s still there isn’t it?
EBM: Yes, yeah it’s there. Nice built home. Bu, uhh, they all got married and left me and I was the last of the twelve.
CS: So you were left alone in that house?
EBM: I was left alone.
CS: Can you just describe a little about the house to me?
EBM: Well it was a well-built house and … it was … living room, dining room, kitchen, back shed, and then there were three bedrooms on the second floor and a bath, and two on the third.
CS: Did it originally have a bath it was built with…
CS: When would that have been added?
EBM: That was added I guess… oh maybe…60 years ago. I … just was …everybody had outside toilets. The street wasn’t…underground…there were no water pipes. It was a dirt road.
CS: Conrad Street was?
EBM: Yeah… so was Bowman Street. They were all dirt roads no pavement.
CS: Queen Lane was just a path.
EBM: Queen Lane only had, at the bottom of the hill, they had cobbles. It was such a hill. We sledded on Queen Lane many a time.
CS: (Laughs) You sledded on Queen Lane?
EBM: Many a time we played it.
CS: Well, what did Queen Lane look like at the time you were…
EBM: Queen Lane, of course, had… as I tell ya, had houses up to Scott’s Lane. That was the last house. Up above that, where the college is, was all woods, truck (?) patches, there was a big house – Abbottsford’s House – on the …right down from the reservoir. And then there were no… Henry Avenue wasn’t cut through. But they took the carts and wagons through on a dirt road. And then, down… there were duck ponds across the street, we skated on that.
CS: And where were the duck ponds?
EBM: Right… between… the Dobson’s mansion, and Henry Avenue, was the duck pond we skated on. And picked flowers and daisies and everything right there.
CS: Were there farms, I mean do people farm…
EBM: One farm, Coates, by the name of Coates, on Scotts Lane, and that’s where we used to buy our produce. Tomatoes and celery and everything in the summer.
CS: So East Falls must have looked very, very different?
EBM: Oh there were no woods at all! No woods regardless! Up above, all the way past, the reservoir. And the reservoir, the filtering baths, wasn’t up there. There were two big basins of water and a fountain in the middle.
CS: When did they build the reservoir?
EBM: They built the reservoir, I guess… maybe 60 years ago or something like that. The pumping station, you know down here, pumped the water up to the reservoir. And the fountain went, over that fence and around the big basins, and then that’s where we would go for a walk was around the reservoir. It was a nice steps. You went up the steps, and a nice walk around cement wall, and it was up high in a big hill.
CS: Now somebody told me when they were building the reservoir they brought some Italians in, come off the, come work on the reservoir. Do you have any memories of any Italian people coming in?
EBM: Oh there were Italians always in the Falls. Stanton Street. The Italians generally got near the Church.
CS: And they were at St. Bridget’s?
EBM: St. Bridget’s. They liked to live near the church. And of course the library was on Queen Lane when I was, at the turn of the century, I was only a little girl…wooden steps… I was only 7 years old and we used to go up in the library and look at books…it must have been at the turn of the century…because I was working when I was 13, and … coming down the steps…we get put out for talking, and she used to come and …holler at us, you know, and we would make a noise coming down. So I must have been about 7 or 8 years old, and that’s the turn of the century. Now before, they didn’t have it in the new book, the other book they wrote of East Falls.
CS: I know I know, we’re really interested in hearing about the library that was at Old Academy.
EBM: And Ella Boyd, was the same name as mine.
CS: And you told me that, tell me that story again about how, you discovered that you had the…
EBM: See she was much older than me. Her name was Ella Boyd but she was down from Allegheny Avenue, down the other end of the Falls. And …I never, we knew her in the library, but then when the new library come up, she used to walk up past our house to the new library. Where the new library is now was a duck pond. And my brothers skated and some of them went in under the ice and everything. There are a lot of duck ponds around. There were duck pond on …34th street, which is ….no…Henry Avenue and …yeah that would be Henry Avenue. It was 34th street then. At Indian Queen Lane. Fannings duck pond. He had cows, and we always went up and got our milk off of him, and buttermilk and butter and everything else.
CS: Backtracking, tell me about how you found out about Ella Boyd.
EBM: Well I was outside, you know I was…of course the library…this new library was built, it must have been uh, they were building it I think, and she was going up the street and I was outside sitting on the step on, see it right at our street on Midvale Avenue. They must have filled in the duck pond. She was passing by and I guess I was in my teens by then. She says, “Oh who you looking for?” I said I’m looking for my sister, my oldest sister. And she says “What’s your name?” I says my name is Ella Boyd and she says (surprised sound) (laughter)! So in this, you put down Ella Boyd McGlynn. Because a lot of people who read it might – the young people might know – the older people would know me by Ella Boyd.
And then, Dobson’s Lot. When I was a little thing. Dobson’s Mill – they had horses and carts, no automobiles. And they had the field, Dobson’s Lot. They grew hay, oats and things they used to stack, the big hay stacks. And we used to go down and pull them down. So they put a watchman on so we got put out. And there at the gates there was a little box and the gates went down and the man put them down, at Queen Lane. And East Falls Station was the bottom of Bowman Street, not at Queen Lane! It was not at Queen Lane! Queen Lane today, is the same as it was when I was a kid. But the East Falls Station was right at Bowman Street – one room, small room.
CS: When did that Station open, was that open before your time?
EBM: Before my time.
CS: And when was it moved?
EBM: It moved after the First World War, when the Manor was built up. The people didn’t like walking all the way down Bowman Street, so they come down Midvale Avenue and they built it over on Midvale Avenue.
CS: What did the rest of East Falls think .… about these new homes being built, Queen Lane Manor, Queen Lane…
EBM: Well after they were first built, of course, they were the big depression come-on and you could have bought them for near nothing. But we, they built them in rows. We used to go up while they were building, and you know it was after World War I… I was working then I was up in my teens, see. I was a milliner in Gimbels for twenty some years. And then I got married and, I worked, still worked there. They used to send out for me. And when I went back they put me in the shoe department. I worked until I was 72.
CS: So you started, and when did you start work you say?
CS: So you worked from the time you were 13 to 72?
EBM: I was 13 in May, and I went, in … after school.
CS: Did most girls your age at 13, go to work?
EBM: I worked there before I was 13, when I was 10 and 12 marking merchandise. Putting tags on them.
CS: And where was it you worked
EBM: In Gimbels.
CS: So they hired young kids to…
EBM: To put tags and pin tickets on the merchandise; machinery didn’t do it then. And I worked there, and when I went there I went in the millinery when I was 13, and I sat many and many a time with the old Mr. Dan Gimbel. Sat and talked to me because I had long blonde hair with long plaits, and he used to say, and many a time he used to say “Come on up and I’ll get you a cup of coffee.” The restaurant was right above us.
CS: So he took a fancy to you?
EBM: So, well I was only a kid, now, 13 or 14.
CS: But nobody thought anything of somebody 13 working at that time?
EBM: No, nothing at all. I put four months of my trade for nothing, worked for nothing, to learn… and when I went back I got 4 dollars a week.
CS: So now, when you started at 13 you were working for nothing to learn the trade? Millinery trade?
EBM: Millinery. And made many and many a hat for them East Falls’ brides and bride grooms. I made more money at home working and…
CS: So you also did this out of your own home in addition. Well now, how did you get into to town to go to work?
EBM: The trolleys, the old trolleys with the wire. You know they… just couldn’t walk around a wagon or anything like that like the buses, you know, if we were stuck in back of anything you were just stuck. It took us an hour to get in town. Walked to the Ridge every day. And worked from 8 in the morning till 6 at night. No vacation money.
CS: What happened when you were sick?
EBM: Well you lost your days pay that’s all. Then when these come out that they uh, people got paid for the vacation, then we used to get three weeks vacation.
CS: Paid Vacation?
EBM: Yeah, that was in the shoe department, I never got paid in the millinery. They didn’t pay people…their vacation. Then I had to walk down Queen Lane, and many and many… of course, Dobson’s Lot then went into the ball field. When Dobson’s shut down, they went into the ball field. My brothers – I had brothers that was in the teams.
CS: Let me just ask you one more thing about your work at Gimbels, when you married, how old were you when you married.
CS: You were 29.
EBM: The War come on.
CS: World War I. Before you were married? …Of course…
EBM: When they went to war, and, of course when they come home things wasn’t as good as what they…you had to get started in a business and things like that.
CS: Did you marry someone from East Falls?
EBM: Yeah. He lived on Queen Lane. They were all Falls people too.
CS: But you knew him before he went away? Your husband?
EBM: Oh yeah, I knew him before he went away. But I didn’t know him much when I was a child.
CS: Did you work when you were married? When you had children?
EBM: I went back to work. Oh, I worked all the time. He used to send for me at Christmastime to come in. I was working in the toys when the Second World War was declared. In the toy department when the war was declared.
CS: Did many women then work after they were married?
EBM: Yes, they were because it was hard for a man to get work. I worked and then my mother raised three grandchildren. Did you ever hear of Mrs. McIlvaine, the undertaker?
CS: Well, the McIlvaines, of course, I’m familiar with in East Falls.
EBM: That’s them! Well she’s my niece.
CS: Oh really.
EBM: My mother raised her from six months old. Her father died. She belonged to my oldest brother. And I was the youngest. And the mother died and left her six months old and a little girl five years old and another one six years old and my mother took them in and they were with us till they got married. They were like a sister to me. She’s here in Ocean City. I generally go down…
CS: Are they Scotch also?
EBM: No, they were all blonde haired. Their mother was Irish.
CS: Their mother was Irish. And how many children did you have?
EBM: One. I lost two before. I was operated to have them. Did you ever hear of Dr. Rath in the Falls?
CS: Dr. Rath? Otto? Yes. He was your physician? Tell me about him because I’ve read a lot about him. So tell me a little about him.
EBM: He operated on me when – at home. Right at home.
CS: You were due to deliver and you were having problems? Or?
EBM: No, I never had any. He said I never had them. My room was turned around…
CS: He operated on you at home.
EBM: I lost two and the third time he said “I don’t want you to even move off a chair.” And that’s her – that’s Claire – married to James…and she has 13…
CS: Well what did you do for anesthesia at home, if you were operated at home?
EBM: I had a doctor and a nurse. Another doctor and a nurse.
CS: And they came? But you were out? With ether or something?
EBM: Oh yeah. I was in bed for two weeks. Doctor Rath, my mother was the first broken arm he ever operated on – set. She fell on Queen Lane in the ice or snow and before coming home she went right across the street and he set it. And when he set it, my father said “Oh, they mightn’t be right. It’s his first year. And my father took her up to Memorial Hospital and they looked at it and they said “Why it’s perfect.”
CS: So he did a good job his first time around. Now where was his office?
EBM: On Indian Queen Lane, near Dobson’s Lot.
CS: Can you describe him as a person? What he was like?
EBM: He was German and he was short. And he was very – and a lot of people didn’t take to him because he – right away they’d say “operate.” And, you know, a lot of people don’t want that. And he would say “You need an operation.” Oh, don’t have Doctor Rath. He was very blunt with his talking. He wasn’t what you’d say – Bed? Bedroom?
CS: His bedside manner wasn’t so…
EBM: No, it wasn’t that at all. But him and my mother was very, very close. They were always very close. I had a brother who went with his Doctor Kelly for a long…and then he died.
CS: Now, Doctor Rath was in the Falls for years and years.
EBM: He never was any place else. He was married and was right in the Falls and stayed there in just a plain, two-story house. No fancy stuff or anything else. No fancy room or anything.
CS: But I saw when he – in the newspaper clippings when he became sick and then when he died, it seemed like he was a fairly important person in East Falls.
EBM: He was. He was head physician in Memorial. He was head guy. Head operator. He operated on my niece and he operated – I had a brother he operated on, and he fixed many an arm on my brother because they broke their arms up in cherry trees up in the fields – and walnut trees. So everyone had broken limbs. Some of them the second trip.
CS: So he made a lot of money off your family it sounds like with all those…
EBM: Well, no. You know what it cost – what he used to charge for delivering a baby? You know what he charged? $25.
CS: Oh, gee. Would he come over to the house to deliver the baby?
EBM: Yeah! Well, I went to Memorial. And it was early in the morning and all he did was – well, he just pulled his pants up on top of his pajamas. 6 o’clock in the morning, he went up with me.
CS: Was that when you delivered your Claire, your third child?
EBM: Yeah. I had McIlvaine – Charles – well, it would be her husband – it was a boy and we called him up to come down with the limousine to take me up.
CS: You mean the one they used in the funeral home? Is that what took you to the (laughs)?
EBM: She must be up in her fifties. And many a time old Dr. Kelly, old Dr. Kelly was a great doctor from up here, for the Falls. Dr. Kelly was…
CS: What was his first name?
EBM: I don’t know what his first name was, but it was Dr. Kelly. And then he had a son was a Dr. Kelly that operated – he was a medical doctor – he had a son that operated on, and he had another son, I think, was an eye doctor. His sons was all…And he had a daughter that married Dr. Leeman. Did you hear of him up here?
CS: No. Uh uh.
EBM: A great doctor from Manayunk.
CS: Did he work in the Falls at all?
EBM: Yes, he worked in the Falls. We had him down in our place.
CS: In most cases, if you had to see the doctor and you were real sick, would the doctor come to your house?
EBM: In a horse and carriage. Or if you had a horse and carriage, you’d go up and bring him down. And if you were going to have a baby, you’d call him up the night before, he’d stay all night and sleep on the couch, or sleep any place and get his breakfast in the morning and stay all the next morning.
CS: Times have changed, times have changed.
EBM: Stayed all night. Would stay all night with you or till it was born. My mother never had doctors.
CS: Did she just have family members? Or a midwive?
EBM: She had midwives. And Dr. Kelly, my mother went with him all over the Falls. And many of them were born before he arrived.
CS: Really. Your mother assisted Dr. Kelly? Is that what you mean?
EBM: In the Falls.
CS: Did she serve as a midwife?
EBM: Well, no. She just – as a friend, you know. Knew as much, I guess, and he’d come and give her – well, he’d stop at the house and say “C’mon.” Sometimes the people would call up my mother and my mother, if it were a neighbor, would go and deliver the child before he come and she used to say to him, “What are you collecting money for! $5 then. “What are collecting the money for!” I did the job.
CS: Did many women then who were delivering their babies at home lose their babies?
EBM: Oh no! They were all right. They were fine. Very few lost, you know.
CS: Mrs. Who?
CS: How do you spell that?
EBM: I don’t know how you’d spell that. Maybe Jane – Jane’s a good speller. Maybe she would know. Eckroyd, her name was, and she lived on Bowman Street. And us kids, she used to say she kept them in the cellar.
CS: Kept what?
EBM: The babies. (laughter)
CS: Did you believe her?
EBM: Well, we used to look down the cellar windows.
CS: She’s not still alive, is she? No, she was older when you were a kid.
EBM: She was doing that when I was only a little kid running the streets. We used to skate – roller skate around and we’d stop….I was a great ice skater too.
CS: Sounds like you were a devilish sort.
EBM: I skated on the Schuylkill, I skated on the creek, I skated wherever there was a piece of ice. Oh, I went out with my brothers. When they’d go skating, they’d say “C’mon.” I’d be up all day – we used to take our skates to school.
CS: Where did you go to school?
EGM: St. Bridget’s.
CS: You went – That’s right, I think you did tell me that. How was going to St. Bridget’s School different from going to like Breck, or the Forest School?
EBM: Well, St. Bridget’s, we walked. There were no buses ever took you anywhere. You went home for your lunch. After going home for your lunch, the people had the dinners ready to go down to Dobson’s Mill and you took them down.
CS: To the workers?
EBM: Yeah, to the workers.- And you’d wait for the gate to open at 12 o’clock and they’d let you in, and you’d give them their dinner, and wait for them to come home – cook dinner – we used to always take my father’s dinner to Dobson’s Lot – over the lot in the field. It was great fun. And, of course, we always played up around the reservoir. Up McCullough’s Lot – McCullough’s Lot was a great lot. Then, of course, then the Manor come – and they start building the houses and all and we were cheated out of it. Of course I was grown up and working then. But the other part of the Falls was just as it looks. Everything.
CS: What part do you mean?
EBM: All the way down to the Ridge is just as it is now.
CS: What about Dutch Hollow?
EBM: Dutch Hollow, I guess, is the same as it is. Because it was down on a deep hill. We used to make a shortcut down Dutch Hollow to school. See. Hohenadel’s – there was an old brewery down there.
CS: There was, you’re saying…
CS: The Hohenadel?.Was it Guckes?
EBM: Might have been.
CS: What the name of the brewery? But not Hohenadel.
EBM: No, I don’t think so.
CS: Yeah, there was another one down there in Dutch Hollow.
EBM: Yeah, in Dutch Hollow.
CS: Was it still operating, though, when you cut through there?
EBM: No. It was closed. Hohenadel was – my brother was “Confidential” head clerk for Hohenadel.
CS: He was what?
EBM: Confidential head clerk. He was head guy.
CS: What did they call him, though? Confidential?
CS: What did that mean?
EBM: Well, he had a lot of confidence. He signed checks, he run the whole business…
CS: For Hohenadel’s?
CS: Is he still alive? He’s older than you…
EBM: No, he was killed. Nine of them was killed. Nine boys went over Girard Avenue Bridge.
CS: What happened? Nine of your brothers?
EBM: No. Nine boys around Wissahickon and East Falls.
CS: What happened?
EBM: Well, there were a tailor on Broad Street, and a son went to school with these boys, see. Went to Roman. And his father got a new limousine – and this must be over 60 years ago – a new limousine – and the mother said – the boy said to his mother “You didn’t have to get licensed, you didn’t have to get nothing, tags or anything for the machine.” And he says “Mother, can I take the machine.” No… he asked the father, I think: “Can I take the machine out?” and the father said “No” and he asked the mother and the mother said yes. Around the block. Down Broad Street – there were big tailors. And he took the machine out and, instead of going around the block, he come up 33rd Street, up the park, at Midvale corner, and picked up the boys there. Nine of them. Besides himself and his friends in the car. And they all got in for a ride. And he never turned a wheel before. And he turned it around, and he went down the park, and, you know 33rd Street – there where the A bus goes – it goes like this…? .Well, he didn’t steer and he went over the bridge and the nine was killed.
CS: And your brother was one of those?
EBM: Yeah. And Mr. Hohenadel had to change his will. He owned the brewery. You see they had no children. Well, the wife had a boy but he had no part of the brewery. He went away and didn’t bother. Tom Hohenadel.(?)
CS: Did the Hohenadel’s live in East Falls?
EBM: Oh, always. When they got married, we went over with tin cans on the porch and we got pennies and everything – nickels and dimes and quarters. And that wasn’t built the way it was – it had a big porch around it. Midvale Corner had a big porch around that.
CS: Now what was Midvale Corner?
EBM: Midvale Corner and the Ridge? Where there is a gas station?
CS: What was there?
EBM: A saloon there and it had a big porch around the back from the park all the way around. And you used to go down and sit on the porch in the summer – the men and women with their lady friends and there was always somebody from town used to come out to these places, you know.
CS: And that was called Midvale Corner?
EBM: Midvale Corner. Roseman’s. Roseman’s Saloon. And it had a big…
CS: And when was that torn down? How long was it Roseman’s Saloon?
EBM: Oh, that was torn down in the teens.
CS: And you started to say…
EBM: And they tore it down and they built the Falls Bank.
CS: And that was on that corner too?
EBM: Yeah. And then the Depression. It was up and they tore it down and now they’ve built the gas station.
CS: So you’ve seen a lot of things come and go.
EBM: And we used to go across the street to Odd Fellow’s Hall – right across the street – up on the second floor and see moving pictures for five cents.
EBM: Well, they didn’t talk. They were silent pictures. I seen the Midvale – there were no moving pictures on Midvale or nothing – it was all woods.
CS: Can you describe to me how Ridge Avenue along there looked about that time?
EBM: Well, Ridge Avenue had sheds on it from Crawford Street. That’s near where the train goes over there. All the way up to the houses near Indian Queen Lane was galvanized sheds.
CS: What were they for?
EBM: Well they were awnings – all the way out to the curb. And you never had to – every store in the Falls had one.
CS: So these were stores.
EBM: Yeah, stores, all stores. Stores on the other side. Well there was a big inn there where the – now what’s there now? Below Queen Lane…I don’t know what…There was an open lot there.
CS: State store?
EBM: State store is there. Well there, there were a big mansion there.
CS: Who’s was that?
EBM: Whalen’s. Had a big mansion. You could go in there – there had a porch around the back. They done their serving the beer and anything you want – your dinners – you could go down there – a club could have their club meal down there. Inside, you know, I’ve been there myself for dinners. On the outside was a big place for horse and carriages. A trough for the horses to get a drink out of, and goldfishes in it.
CS: Goldfish in the trough.
EBM: Yes, they used to catch them and out them in to keep them in there.
CS: Was that called Whalen’s?
EBM: Whalen’s Saloon. They had a boy and a girl. Nellie Whalen and – I forget what the boy’s name was – they had two children. Went to our school. I went to school with Nellie Whalen. And then they had a row of sheds out in this little driveway where you went with your horse and carriage and if it were a rainy night or anything, of course you pulled in your horse and carriage underneath these sheds. It was a big open space.
CS: What time period are you talking about? The 20’s, 30’s?
EBM: Well, easy. Oh, well Nellie went to school with me when I was six years old and that must have been the turn of the century.
CS: So Whalen’s was there at the turn of the century but how much longer did it stay?
EBM: It stayed there until, oh, I guess, up in the 20s I guess. I lost track of them when Nellie got married and moved away and Mrs. Whalen died and she was the woman who run the thing. And of course if there was somebody overnight, they had rooms upstairs. They would put them up for the night, you know, if they wanted to stay overnight. They had, oh, it was a big – like a mansion there. They shouldn’t have been tore down! I don’t know who done that. That was the historical thing of the Falls.
CS: What was it originally? What was it before it was Whalen’s?
EBM: It was always Whalen’s that I knew of.
CS: But they tore it down.
EBM: It was always a big mansion and it was always a saloon. But in my time, and I was down there before I was seven years old, I guess.
CS: Now if you keep travelling up the Ridge, what else would you see?
EBM: Well, then further up the Ridge, McIlvaine’s had his funeral home – it was the hall, Odd Fellow’s Hall, what they called it then, at the corner.
CS: Now that’s still there.
EBM: Yeah, that’s still there and there were a store underneath that sold men’s clothing – neckties, collars, and shirts and underwear and things like that. Then McIlvaine’s Funeral Parlor, then the fire house and then after that there were another big hotel, and a mansion called Turfilla.
CS: Can you spell that for me?
EBM: T-u-r-f-i-l-l-a. Anybody would know it. Put it down as Turfilla. And that had a saloon. And that had a big porch around the back – they had singing and everything in that, just like Whalen’s. And in the front it had – was a – like a – it was nice in the front – it had like front doors and everything. And that was next to the firehouse. What’s there now? I think it’s an open little field now I think, isn’t it? They tore it down.
CS: There may be even some kid’s swings or something, but it’s open, you’re right. What about across – what about the Mifflin Estate? Was that across the street?
EBM: Mifflin School?
CS: No, not the school, but there was the old Mifflin home that was later, I guess, turned into the Beer Garden or something?
EBM: Well, that might have been up the Ridge further.
CS: That might have been.
EBM: There were a couple of them up the Ridge – Presbyterian churches up there and another inn up further – was up further – then there were little houses along on the Ridge up to the lake. I had an uncle who lived in one of them.
CS: Sounds like it was a pretty busy place.
EBM: Yeah. The, of course, the lake was much bigger than what it is now. They cut the lake up. They cut it – and, oh, it was long! There was a big fountain in the middle and everything when I was a kid. I don’t think they even skate on that now. I think the colored…(?)
CS: I wanted to ask you, when you mentioned the horse and carriages, when did you first start seeing more and more cars on the street?
EBM: I think the first car was – Hohenadel had it. It was the first car on Indian Queen Lane after he was married. I made Mrs. Hohenadel’s hats.
CS: Did you!
EBM: Yeah. My mother and Mrs. Hohenadel was very….(?)…in fact her brother, when I was born, wore his brother’s clothes – he was six months older than me and my mother thought she wouldn’t have any more children so she gave all of them away. And Mrs. Hardback (?) says “Don’t buy any; I’ll give you a whole load of them.” They lived right across when they got married. She lived across from the saloon. And Hohenadel lived in a little room down under the saloon at that time. Then they moved down to a big house on Queen Lane.
CS: Where on Queen Lane?
EBM: There right above the church – the Baptist Church. That was Hohenadel’s house. I think it has his name on the thing where they used to get out of the carriages and step down on the stump.
CS: On Queen Lane. What the cross street there?
CS: You’re talking about Indian Queen.
EBM: Indian Queen.
CS: Indian Queen Lane. Oh, I see. Right across from the church.
EBM: Well, down further.
CS: Oh, I know which one you mean.
EBM: Yeah it’s a big house. The back of it is on Midvale Avenue.
CS: Sure. I know which one you mean now. So Mr. Hohenadel, you think, was the first person to have a car.
EBM: Yeah. That was a way back. Let’s see, Jo (?) must have been dead before I married. He got married…Well, before the First World War. Just around that time.
CS: When did you start seeing more and more cars on the streets in East Falls? About what time?
EBM: Well, we used to…of course later on then the trucks come in. Because my husband was in the bread business and he had a truck.
CS: Your husband was…
EBM: Oh yeah, everybody knew him up here…
CS: So he was a baker?
EBM: No, well he was and he found out this fellow was jewing him, so he pulled out. He was a huckster. He was a huckster with James…. indecipherable (?)
CS: In the Falls?
EBM: In the Falls. During the Depression they had to go out of business. People didn’t pay their money when they bought their…they left it run for the week. “I’ll pay you on pay day.”
CS: And he would come back and collect?
EBM: They all went out of business then they went in the beer business.
CS: Who’s they?
EBM: James’ father. Went in the beer business. McKeever’s. And my husband took the soda water. And he went all the way up to Coatesville…and all. West Manayunk. He had three trucks running.
CS: Let me ask you about your father who worked at Dobson’s Mills. What did he do at Dobson?
EBM: He was a boss in the picker house where they – the wool – the stuff went in and separated all the stuff to make the yarn. Dobson’s Mills was a carpet mill, a plush mill, a cloth mill, and Jim Dobson had one part of the mill and John had the other part.
CS: Which parts did each of them have?
EBM: Well, that – I couldn’t tell you that. But I know one went all the way to Scott’s Lane from Crawford Street. It was a (?)…. in Falls – everybody worked in there. Girls and all went to work when they were any age at all. And they made the cloth from rags – they made the stuff from material, rags – they had women – elderly women sat down there cutting the buttons off of old cloths so it wouldn’t go among the machinery. And they put the clothes in and ground them up and made the yarn and made the – and then they separated them and they made many and many a remnant. We went down and bought for coats and pants and things.
CS: What did the people of East Falls think about James and John Dobson?
EBM: They were very good. And then there were Bessie, one girl, Bessie, and she had one girl married Jack (?) Whitney – the horseman? And we played with her.
CS: You played with her?
EBM: Yeah. She used to come down and next door was a girl used to have a big huck. She’d come down with her carriage horse and the girl next door used to ride a huckster horse.
CS: Well did you ever get to meet either of the Dobsons?
EBM: Oh yeah. I’ve been in the house many a time. I had a picture – it’s too bad – I had a picture of the First World War taken of the Ladies Aid. And someone in the family got a hold of that.
CS: Oh, that would be good to have. Now Mrs. Dobson was real active with that, wasn’t she?
EBM: Yeah, she was in it. They were all dressed in white. Taken in front of Pat Kelly’s house at Midvale and Conrad Street. Pat Kelly built a beautiful home where that school is.
CS: I’ve seen a picture of that.
EBM: And it were tore down. Pat Kelly’s older brother, Walter, the actor, went around with my oldest brother.
EBM: And George, Pat and Walter, well with the brothers down they…. That other book that was wrote didn’t have half the Kelly’s family in it. There were a lot of mistakes I could have told them about.
CS: Well, they are going to reprint it. Maybe you could – they’re going to put out more copies – I don’t know if they’re going to make any corrections or not, but you might want to talk to Lois or Fred and let them know. Because they are working on trying to reprint it.
EBM: Who, Fred who?
CS: Fred Childs and Lois Childs.
EBM: I know Fred Childs from the Falls? I know him.
CS: You’re talking about the East Falls book.
CS: Well I know they’re going to try to have it reprinted.
EBM: I have some of the pictures. I knew the family from all the way down. Every one of them. Grace, Jack and Walter and what they done and what they didn’t do. My brother… They come to our house. In fact when I was born the oldest one come with a quarter keg of beer up in the yard and my mother put him out.
CS: He brought a keg of beer over and she put him out? (laughs)
EBM: We were going to have a christening. Because I was a girl after seven boys. And my mother put Walter out
CS: This was Walter.
EBM: That was Walter Kelly. And we went up in the woods – well, I had a brother died a week after – he had a tumor on the brain and he wasn’t well, and then my mother who stood for me – my father sang in St. Bridget’s choir and the organist and one of the singers stood for me. My father was a great singer. And my brothers – my two brothers played violins and I had one played cornet. They had a regular orchestra. And another – do you know where McIlvaine’s Funeral Parlor is? That was a club.
CS: What was the name of that club?
EBM: The Young Men’s Literary Society.
CS: I’ve been trying to find out – what did that group do?
EBM: That group – all my brothers belonged to it – they all belonged to it. If you were sick you got a free doctor.
CS: You got a free doctor?
EBM: You paid dues into it – $1 a month I think it was. Or 50 cents a month, now I’m not sure; I didn’t pay it.
CS: Only men could belong, I suppose.
EBM: Oh yeah. There were over 200 members. They were first started over on Ridge Avenue and then they built it. The Young Men’s Literary built that building. Pat Kelly built it. And he got free doctor and I think you got $6 a week while you were sick and not working and free medicine. Out of a club of 200 members. Now they had a supper every year, they had a ball. A grand march. I can show you pictures of my sister that was in that and my brother too. They led the march, up in American Hall. Pat Kelly led it. And there was a great, big society in there – they played shuffleboard underneath and a dance floor on top and a floor where they had back rooms for eating if they had a supper and many and many a good entertainment and time they had in that place when I was only well I would say I was fourteen, 12 or something like that.
CS: And how old did you have to be to belong to that?
EBM: Well our boys used to join as soon as they got worker’s salaries – Up in their teens, 18, 19 or something like that. My husband was a member of it too. All my brothers was.
CS: So it was primarily a social club but it had benefits to it in addition.
EBM: Yeah, it had benefits to it. And my brother was president – two of them was president of the club. Bob was president and so was Hughie (?) president of the club. They had dances every Saturday night. They had plays – I was in the plays – and they had minstrel shows – I was in that when I was a kid and then there were another club now called the – on the bottom of Eveline – it was a Catholic Club – I think they just called it the Catholic Club. I think they belonged to the church. But the Young Men’s Literary Society was too independent – they weren’t letting the church run them.
CS: Were they mostly Catholics in the Literary Society?
EBM: Yeah, All, all, all are. Oh, all are. Yeah they were all. And the two factions used to fight and of course the Literary had the biggest crowd because they had more benefits but the church wanted to run the literary and they wouldn’t let them.
CS: They were too independent
EBM: They were independent but they run the other club and the literary stood out.
CS: Well why did they call it the literary club?
EBM: The YMLI they used to call it. Is that Y-M-L-I?
CS: But why literary? What did they have to do with…?
EBM: I don’t know. I used to call it the YMLI. And they all belonged to it
CS: When was the heyday? What were the prime years of the literary club?
EBM: Well it must have been when I was about 12, 13 or something like that
CS: What happened that it started to decline?
EBM: Well the younger members they were too strict – they got a little strict – they wouldn’t let them do – the young kids – with their drinking and all that kind of stuff. And they wanted some of them to quit drinking and they wouldn’t do it. How people got the drinking. And they got death benefits besides that.
CS: Wow, they really had a…
EBM: Hmm hmm. They had a good society. And my brother, when they sold it – I had one brother got his share out of the building.
CS: When did they sell it to?
EBM: They sold it to McIlvaine’s the undertaker.
CS: About when? In the 30s? 20s?
EBM: Oh, It was after that.
CS: It was after that.
EBM: Oh yeah. I think when Charles took it – he was in the business then. I guess in the… must have been married… how old is Charles McIlvaine? I don’t know how old he is. I couldn’t tell you his age. But – it was young Charles that took it over. They had on the Ridge – remember me telling you near Midvale
CS: Right. They moved from there up to…
EBM: And, of course when they built – when the Manor started – it must have been when the Manor started build up. When the Manor started build up and they – McIlvaine’s big house was on the corner of Midvale and Henry Avenue. That big house. That was the McIlvaine’s house – the old couple. And then there was Margaret and Mildred – Margaret is still living but Mildred is dead. Charles is dead. And my niece – she lives down in Ocean City. Mae McIlvaine.
CS: Well you certainly – our tape is about to run out, but you certainly
END OF TAPE
East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Mary Cashman (MC)
Interviewer: Gus Krebs (GK)
Transcriber: Carolyn Connor
Date: April 26, 2013
GK: We are here at 3681 Eveline St. We will start the interview by asking Mary about her family, where she was born, her school, her work and her memories of East Falls. So, here we go.
MC: Well first I was born on Thursday in 1925. It was also the year Saint Theresa was cauterized, and because of that my middle name is Theresa. I grew up in Manayunk in the Holy Family parish. I went to school there; I was married there.
I was May Queen the year I graduated. Again I say, I’m blessed. Then I got married in ’46 and didn’t move here until ’47 and at that time Saint Bridget’s was beginning their new school because they had so many children their little school was no longer adequate. Because of that we had block parties all over the parish to pay for the school. I really don’t know how the school was paid for, but that’s what they did at that time.
GK: So your kids were born?
MC: Oh, so yes, we came here when Bill was a baby, he’s now 65, he will be 66 this summer. I have three other children, Nancy’s 61, and Joanne and John, they are in their 50s. Who lives here? I live here now, but Joanne came to live with me when I had a stroke four years ago, and she gave up her home on Calumet Street.
GK: The address here? Yes, you’ve lived here since 1947, on Eveline St.
MC: Yes, I’ve never moved. People have asked me many, many times when I am going to move and I never do. I saw many, many people die on the street. You know when I first moved here all the older people died and then so many families were raised on the street. We had a great kid’s street, everybody looked out for each other.
We didn’t lock our doors. Nothing like today. Now, you can’t even trust the mailman, (ha), I don’t mean that, you can trust the mailman, maybe. I don’t know. But anyway, I remember Mr. Fiedler, who was pharmacist. When anything happened to our kids, we did not go to a doctor we went to Mr. Fiedler. He had special medicines for everything. And especially colds; we went right to him. Then later on he had a son who became a doctor, a real doctor. We called him Doc too but he was a pharmacist. So I guess the title was appropriate, I’m not sure.
GK: It was on the bottom of Stanton Street, was it?
MC: Yes, it was on the corner of Stanton Street. A big house.
GK: Stanton and Ridge Avenue.
MC: Yes, and then Mrs. Fiedler we had, what anniversary was that? The centennial? Mrs. Fiedler got dressed up in an old fashion dress and parasol and was down by the river. There was a big parade and, of course, there was always a parade on the Fourth of July. All our kids decorated their bicycles with crepe paper and all kinds of stuff and we paraded up Midvale Avenue past Holy Redeemer, where there was a little church and they had their party and they would wave to us. Everybody was so friendly. It didn’t matter what religion you were.
GK: Holy Redeemer was Lutheran right? Conrad and Midvale? Which is closed today.
MC: Yeah, but then again how long until St Bridget’s is going to be closed? It’s not believable but neither was our school closing believable.
GK: So true. Both of your kids went to St Bridget’s?
MC: All my kids went to St Bridget’s. They all graduated from St Bridget’s. The boys went to Roman, the girls went to Hallahan and Holy Souls. There was a commercial course at Hallahan, you know, Holy Souls was no longer, hasn’t been in existence forever.
And my son works for the racquet club in Chicago and just celebrated his 25th anniversary there and because of his service for 25 years they gave him, (pause) I can’t even say it - they gave him a $60,000 trust for his children for college, can you imagine? (Whew) Anyway, that’s still throws me, anyway. That is such a joy, we never expected anything like that, and the boys are so young that by the time they go to college that trust fund will amount to God knows what, it will probably take care of their whole college education. So, did you know John?
GK: I didn’t know John.
MC: Well John left the Falls for Chicago to get away from an element he was involved in, which was really a shame. But you know, besides being a good person he’s also a designated driver for Chicago, for the Racquet Club. So everyone can go out and have a really good time, John drives them. He’s stayed that way, for 25 years since he left here. We did have our problems, big time. But they ironed themselves out.
GK: What about your other children?
MC: Bill works for DeLoria, which is a laser company. He worked for the bubblegum people, for years and when he left, they closed. He went to Plumsteadville which is outside of Doylestown. He worked for a firm that sold laser work on your eyes.
GK: Lasik? Lasik surgery?
MC: I don’t know, I don’t know how they do it. But the company is DeLoria. And it’s a French company. The owners are French. And Nancy has been hurt, because she worked for Temple for years. Doing all kinds of labor, she waxed floors, shoveled snow when she had to, and look what happened. Housekeeping in Temple, cleaning the dentist’s offices, she did labor. As a result, she has a lot of physical problems because she hurt a lot of parts of her body doing that stuff. Joanne works for the eye doctor down at Ridge and Indian Queen Lane, used to be Doctor Solofsky, but he died and then his daughter took over awhile and I think is still affiliated with it but Jesse Jones, Dr. Jesse Jones, is now the eye doctor.
GK: At the bottom of Indian Queen Lane and Ridge Ave, in East Falls?
MC: Yup, I also remember, what was that Tavern across the street?
GK: The Old Falls Tavern?
MC: They did weddings there. It looked like New Orleans. It was that kind of architecture
GK: What else do you remember on Ridge?
MC: Oh, I remember the pharmacy, I remember where the grocery store is now on the corner, was the pharmacy.
GK: What grocery store?
MC: The one on the corner.
GK: Of what?
MC: Of Ridge and Midvale, a little grocery store.
GK: There was a 5 and 10 across the street?
MC: Oh yes of course my sister worked there for years. She lived on Indian Queen Lane. Oh my goodness I forgot about that. We also had a florist; Lupinacci’s had the florist.
GK: On Midvale?
MC: Pete had the restaurant and Joe Chaddo made the pizzas.
GK: Pete Mazzio right?
MC: Yup. Pete Mazzio. We would go up the alley, up the side alley to get the pizzas in the back from Joe Chaddo. He made the pizzas for years.
GK: Pete’s Spaghetti House
MC: Yeah, yeah.
GK: What was next door to the Spaghetti House, do you remember?
MC: I know McGill had a place there.
GK: George McGill
MC: Yup, he had a little beer stop. You could get beer there.
GK: And take out.
MC: Yup, and there was another taproom there.
GK: Yes there was Grady’s. It goes back a long time.
MC: Yeah, you’re not kidding! Yea, I remember all of that.
GK: Midvale Café?
MC: Now before McIlvaine took over - McIlvaine the funeral parlor - it was called the “Lit”. Because it was the literary club, we went there for dances. I went there before I got married because my husband lived in their neighborhood.
GK: That’s at the corner of Frederick and Midvale. The Lit.
MC: We called it the Lit, the Literary Club. I didn’t belong to that - we went there for dances. So I don’t know how involved that was in anything.
GK: But that’s where you went to be entertained at that time.
MC: Yes at that time we went all over for dances because that’s what we did.
GK: Where were the dances?
MC: They were at St Joe’s, over on Allegheny and Holy Family Parish in Manayunk, St. Johns, Holy Family, the Rec on Ridge, everywhere.
GK: There was a lot of entertainment for kids.
MC: Yep definitely, you could go to the Rec on Ridge Ave across from Memorial Hospital and get tap dancing lessons. Go swimming at the Bathey.
GK: Right, the Bathey, I was just about to ask. The Bathey right here in East Falls on Ferry Road.
MC: I know, but we never went to that Bathey. We had our own on Ridge Avenue, we would go for a rank and we would swing in the yard on the playground and go for another rank. And that’s what they called it, where you had to wear those bathing caps on your head and get in the cold shower before you jumped in the water. Yeah!
GK: What was on Midvale Ave across the street from the lake? Was that a theatre there?
MC: No, not a theatre. There was a super market on the bottom of Eveline, no Frederick and Ridge (Midvale). And before that it was the movie.
GK: At the bottom of Frederick and Midvale.
MC: Yes, it was a movie and then it was a super market.
GK: Yes but what movie was it? Besides the Alden.
MC: I don’t know. I can’t remember because I never went to it. It was before my time.
GK: I see, but it was a movie or theatre?
MC: Evidently because it was big enough to have a super market there. The Alden we went to forever!
GK: Well, yeah, that was later, that came later.
MC: Then we had a Gino’s on Midvale for a short time. Yeah, I remember when the bank opened. It one of those, oh what do you call them, they set up a, cause they were building the bank or rebuilding it, they had this thing like that have in the school yard.
Not like the one on Midvale but the one on Stanton. You know, like the building they had in the schoolyard. It’s right there, something is set up, but that’s where the bank was - in that thing, set aside. And you went there when the bank opened.
GK: Is that the Penn National Bank? What was there before that? It was the Alden?
MC: Yes, movies.
GK: How about on Ridge Avenue. What do you remember besides the Old Falls Tavern on Ridge Ave?
MC: Doc, Mr. G they called him I think - he was also a pharmacist. And then there was the Jitterbug - that was the place where the kids went for soda and stuff. But that was kinda before my time, but I knew about it because my husband went there.
GK: Well what about your time, it’s much more interesting. What do you recall on Ridge Avenue in East Falls?
MC: There was the Chinese laundry on the Ridge. There was a furniture store on the corner of Eveline and the Ridge and that changed into the pizza shop.
GK: Wasn’t that called Heimlechs?
MC: Yes it was.
GK: Yes I remember that, yes.
MC: You remember?
MC: How long have you been here?
GK: All my life, pretty much.
GK: Yes but this interview’s about you, not me. Where else do you remember going, besides Doc (…) besides Heimlechs? There was a couple steak shops there.
MC: Yes there were, because they kept changing. One thing after another
GK: Wasn’t there a Rayburns or a child’s clothing store?
MC: Yes but that was on the other side.
GK: The other side of what?
MC: Of Eveline, going toward Midvale, it was on the corner. Then it was Borlines (?) another shoe shop (Polis) and then of course there were all the barber shops, Felix (Herrera) and then Jerry on Midvale. Jerry was a great golfer; Jerry would go golfing up.
GK: At the corner of Creswell and Midvale
MC: That’s where Jerry was.
GK: Jerry Montimore.
MC: Then the tailor on the corner of that other little street. There were two streets there.
GK: Arnold St, that’s on Midvale.
MC: Yeah, that was a tailor – a great tailor (Nick Matragrano) and they had a little candy store in the tailor shop. Who ran that, Sim?
GK: I don’t know who ran it.
MC: And how about, um, the Stanton Street - the little candy shop across from school, Mugesette’s?
MC: (ha) Mudgees, and then how about at the top of Calumet there was another store…
GK: Carmela, Carmelas.
GK: I’m more interested on what’s on Ridge and Midvale, what was there, now there’s a gas station.
MC: Oh, there was a bank where the gas stations is, there was a bank. And beyond that there apartments which are still there.
GK: That would the southwest corner of Ridge and Midvale
MC: I’m trying to think if the bank was in front of the tavern.
GK: I believe so.
MC: Then the hardware was on the other corner; it was an amazing hardware store.
GK: Ok, is that what that was?
MC: In fact we still call that the hardware, a lot of things have changed but we still call it the hardware.
GK: Wasn’t there a meetinghouse there for a church?
MC: In the back, what was the hall called? (Palestine Hall) Because they also held weddings there, some of our family held receptions there.
GK: Masonic, some of your family were married there?
MC: My husband’s family. Not married there, help the reception there. They were married in the church.
GK: What is your maiden name?
MC: Erthal, E-R-T-H-A-L
GK: And you’re originally from Manayunk?
MC: Yes, Holy Family Parish, Hermitage Street.
GK: And your husband is from here or East Falls?
MC: He was from this street - 3675 Eveline Street. Yeah, he was born here.
GK: He went to St Bridget’s?
MC: Yeah, yes, all their family did.
GK: So his whole family lived here on Eveline Street, back several generations?
MC: Yes, well he was born in ’21. (Note: Bill’s father was born here in 1895.)
GK: What was his first name?
GK: Bill, Bill Cashman
MC: Yup, I don’t know where to go from there…
GK: Well the things you remember as a kid, you mentioned the playground, how about the playground, where Inn Yard is today?
MC: Oh my goodness, all the kids went there all summer long. Making pot holders, they had some kind of a program that the city paid for, where people came in and watched out for the kids and taught them how to make things like key rings.
GK: Key Fobs?
MC: Yeah, and pot holders and little keys you know.
GK: And this was run by the Parks and Recreation?
MC: And then they would take them on little trips. It was wonderful and it was sponsored by the city.
GK: And that was next to the firehouse on Ridge Avenue next to the firehouse?
MC: Yes, and then I only heard that because they called that the Inn Lot (i.e. Inn Yard). There was an Inn there back in the day. But there was also an inn on Frederick Street where the parking lot is, again. And then there was a nice house on Frederick Street on the top of Eveline, do you remember that? (Note: the Deer Park Inn, originally the Mifflin Mansion)
GK: Yes I do, part of it.
GK: How about going to Woodside Park?
MC: We walked to Woodside Park, with the kids.
GK: Now explain the Woodside Park was.
MC: Woodside Park was an amusement park; over in what was that part called?
GK: West Park I guess.
MC: The West Park Hospital.
GK: That’s right across the street.
MC: And then went to Crystal Pool there.
GK: Yeah, I heard about that.
MC: I was there, well they the wildcat and the tornado and the Lupa plane (Loop de Loop).
GK: Bumper cars, did they?
MC: Yeah, they had everything. We would actually walk there from Manayunk - we didn’t have much money.
GK: When you were here in the Falls, did your kids go to Woodside Park?
MC: Yes, when they were in school. That was where they had their yearly parties.
GK: Where did they go to school?
MC: St Bridget’s.
GK: Ok well then.
MC: St Bridget’s took the kids to Woodside for the school parties - the moms wheeling the babies that we had, two of my kids were older then the little ones. We would walk over the Falls Bridge over the Schuylkill River. And up through Chamounix, wherever that was, and there was a fountain there or probably a waterfall, probably still there.
GK: Yeah, it still runs.
MC: Then when the kids were teenagers, they probably went there on their own.
GK: Yeah, that was before the expressway was built.
MC: Yeah, it’s a “Sure Kill” expressway.
GK: What about Crystal Pool?
MC: Crystal pool was across from the park; it was connected to the park.
GK: Was it in Fairmount Park?
MC: It was right across the street from Woodside Park.
GK: And what was it, Crystal Pool?
MC: It was just a swimming pool you paid to go to. It wasn’t free; you paid to go.
GK: How about Gustine Lake, the pool up in the Gustine Lake?
MC: Definitely I went ice-skating there.
GK: Well where is Gustine Lake?
MC: Right there on Ridge Avenue near the water front. Across from the there was an ice cream parlor, a big ice cream parlor and I can’t remember name of it.
GK: This is at Gustine Lake?
MC: Across the street from Gustine Lake on Ridge Avenue, right there.
GK: In East Falls?
MC: Yeah, right there well there a creek and you cross Lincoln Drive there?
GK: Yes, yes.
MC: And then that’s where the ice cream parlor was - right now there’s a little fish store.
GK: Bob’s Bait and Tackle!
MC: Right, yeah.
GK: That’s before you cross the Wissahickon Creek, where the transfer station is?
MC: Yeah, we used to go canoeing on the creek, rent a canoe.
GK: Where would you rent a canoe?
MC: On the other side, on the other side down, like you walk down the creek. I don’t know exactly where the guys got the canoe.
GK: Ok, it was on Lincoln Drive I guess.
MC: On that side.
GK: How about when the projects where built?
MC: When the projects were built we were thrilled with them. We took the kids up there.
GK: What year was that?
MC: Oh, ’50 I guess.
GK: About 1950, ’48 ’50, something like that?
MC: Oh not ’48.
GK: Ok so it was in the early ‘50s
MC: It was early, because we took the babies up there and we looked at them and thought they were better then what we had.
GK: You mean the homes that were being built?
MC: Yes the homes that were being built were so nice, and it was brand new and then it turning into…
GK: Then it turned blight.
MC: Yeah, it turned into a dangerous place to be, but now it’s beautiful.
GK: Since they’ve taken the high-rise down.
MC: Yeah, in the high-rise even the elevators were bad, dangerous places to go.
MC: People around here lived there and had to put up with all the nonsense with the drugs and everything.
GK: And like you said when it was first erected it was beautiful.
MC: It was.
GK: It was for the lower income people
MC: The thing was, back then we were all lower income. We were lower income, but everyone was evidently lower then we were.
GK: So the veterans coming from the war needed housing.
MC: Yes, but they also were given a certificate to buy a house. We never used ours, we bought this house from a crook that after we gave him the down payment we had to fight for it because he couldn’t give us the goods. We had to get a lawyer to get this house, and believe it or not this house cost us $4,250.
GK: And when was that?
MC: 1947,’48. Can you imagine, but my mother in-law, who lived a couple doors up, bought theirs for $3,300 and then after that it started going up until today actually in that crazy time when houses were going for crazy amounts of money, some of the house went for $238,000! And now what the houses are now, they want to raise them to what there were. We just got a paper saying it’s going to go up to $149,000.
GK: The reassessment, whether that will go through or not I don’t know.
MC: Did you put in an appeal?
GK: No, because I don’t believe in appeals, I believe that they are going to do what they are going to do and you don’t have any control over it what so ever. I don’t believe that, I don’t have too much time left to say what I believe. (haha) So I’m going to say what I think!
MC: That’s why we are here.
GK: Right. Let’s say down on Allegheny, besides Fairmount Park, did you ever go down to the river? East River Drive? Did you ever attend any of the regatta?
MC: No, no we knew they were there but we never stood and watched them, no. We were stuck up on that street minding our kids.
GK: Did you have block parties here?
MC: Yes definitely, we had block parties. I told you we had block parties to raise money for the school. That was the main reason we had block parties, otherwise…
GK: That’s St. Bridget’s School?
MC: Right, and because of that St. Bridget’s owns that school, or the people own that school, is that true?
GK: I’m not sure who owns it.
MC: Well that’s what I heard anyway.
GK: You mean the people own St Bridget’s?
MC: Yes, but I don’t know if that’s a fact or not because I’m sure the archdiocese would like to get a bit of it.
GK: But anyway, how about McMichael Park on Memorial Day?
MC: Oh my goodness, of course, the Fourth of July!
GK: Well what took place?
MC: We had wonderful picnics there, it was all set up. St. Bridget’s was in charge of it. We went there for the Fourth of July every year until…
GK: Whose we? Your kids?
MC: Yes, and all the parishioners because it was all set up that they had places you could buy stuff, buy soda and stuff, you know. And they had games and everything for the kids. Then it got rowdy and evidently beer was brought into it, and Father Carton stopped it. Stopped it. The Fourth of July picnic at McMichael’s park stopped, because of drinking.
GK: And what year was that do you remember, approximately?
MC: About ’57, Father Carton went to Monaco, or Monaco or however you say it, when Grace Kelly…
GK: No, that was Father Kelly? No it wasn’t.
MC: No that was Father Carton.
GK: Oh did he?
MC: Father Kelly went for some other reason; he went to see her son and get him to come to the…. (Telephone ringing) Uh oh, going to have to get that because I’ll never make it. Hello, hi…
GK: What year was that?
MC: I guess around ’57, ’60 I really don’t know exactly.
GK: And that was because of them bringing alcoholic beverages into the park?
MC: Yeah, evidently there were fights. There had to be a lot of turmoil for him to stop it, because that was it.
GK: Um, how about your husband, was he a veteran? Did he attend the Hattel-Taylor Club over here?
MC: Yes up at the corner, of Stanton and Fredrick. The Laudenback post.
GK: The Laudenback, right.
MC: Hattel-Taylors is in Roxborough. This was the Laudenback Post.
GK: And that was veteran of __ am I correct?
MC: Yes I was the one who committed there for a long time, cooking, but you know with Helen Welsh who was my neighbor across the street…
GK: Yeah, Helen, sure…
MC: You know Helen, and Joe Welsh had the taproom down on Ridge, which was a decent taproom. It was, but it died, you know, there was a lot of guys…
GK: That was between Stanton and Frederick Street? On Ridge Avenue correct?
MC: No, it was between Eveline and Midvale. It changed hands several times since Joe died and is now not open at all. Because it went from the Gunboat, to the last one, the Pourhouse and because prices were so high, it wasn’t poor (haha). It’s a different word, it was a homonym. But then Joe Welsh had that place for a long time.
GK: How about Ridge and Midvale right there where the Major Wing Lee thing is there, do you remember?
MC: Yeah, it was a pharmacy.
GK: That was the name of it, “the pharmacy”?
MC: Ralph’s. I knew Ralph was a guy who worked there. He might be a pharmacist.
GC: I think it was a little delicatessen, wasn’t it?
MC: Well it was an ice cream place, had an ice cream bar.
GK: Had a counter…
MC: Yeah, where they scooped out the ice cream…
GK: Soda fountain where you could get ice cream sodas. Next there was a little grocery store.
MC: Yes there was, Sam’s. Sam and Annie. A little tiny store was there. I think a doctor has it, Dr. Feelgood
GK: Has it now, I don’t know…
MC: I think so, where you can get whatever you want, drugs.
GK: Prescriptions you mean drugs?
GK: Ok, so it’s a little doctor’s office where you can go and get treated?
MC: Yeah, I can’t remember his name. Joanne would remember but she’s not here to ask, but she would tell me that he’s still there.
GK: This is a physician you mean, a doctor, ok
MC: Don’t you know
GK: No I don’t think I remember.
MC: Do you remember Sam and Annie?
GK: Yeah, I remember Sam, yeah.
MC: There was an ACME on that street.
GK: Was that an ACME or was it a food thing or what was it?
MC: A Shop-and-Bag.
GK: That’s what it was, that was on Ridge Avenue?
MC: That was on Ridge Avenue, because it was right next to Sam and Annie’s. This was there store.
GK: This is where the Chinese restaurant is now, and that was the Shop and Bag?
MC: Well I’m not sure what it was called, but it was a supermarket. That was a long time ago, like I’ve said I’ve been here 66 years. I met my husband in ’42 and graduated in ’42, which was 70 years ago. I’m out of high school 70 years, amazing.
GK: What high school was it?
MC: Roxborough High.
GK: You went to Roxborough? Ok
MC: Well I went to Holy Family for 10 years, because they had a commercial course and so when I finished the commercial…
GK: This was up in Manayunk
MC: Yeah, I was too young, I couldn’t get a job because you had to be 16 to get a job and I was only 15 so I went to Roxborourgh for 2 years and graduated when I was 17. That’s the year I met my husband and I didn’t get married until I was 21.
GK: Did he go to Roxborough?
MC: No, he was going to the service, he was in the service 3 ½ years in Hawaii and Japan. He came home in February of ’46 on the USS Hermitage, which is the street I lived on and he came home on that ship, is that amazing?
GK: Yeah, it is.
MC: Unusual, a little bit. So anyway I guess that’s about it. I don’t know anymore.
GK: Ok, what do you think the future looks for the Falls?
MC: Now that we don’t have our school, I don’t think it’s going to happen.
GK: What’s not going to happen?
MC: People weren’t going to move out, because we had a good school here.
GK: St Bridget’s, is that what you’re saying?
MC: Yes, I mean we still have a public school but I mean like, come on.
GK: Do you think the Thomas Mifflin School is a good school?
GK: That’s a good school.
MC: I think it has become a good school, but I don’t think it was.
GK: But it had potential?
MC: Yes, well I think it’s really upgrading.
GK: Is it just the school, that the future looks weak?
MC: But the parishioners, I don’t know what percentage of East Falls is Catholic, I’m not sure but the people here want to send their kids to Catholic school and there isn’t any.
GK: You’re a practicing Catholic of St Bridget’s?
MC: Yes, well I was practicing.
GK: Well your health is, you can’t walk like you used to.
MC: No I can’t, but I’m still alive.
GK: Well I would be interviewing you if you weren’t alive!
MC: Well you know what I mean, my spirit is alive.
GK: Yes I know, you have a good spirit, an indomitable spirit, that’s wonderful. But anyway I want to thank you for letting East Falls Historical Society come into your home. You’re a great host, you made me feel very comfortable.
MC: Well you’re more than welcome, you know that.
GK: Well we had a good interview and I will certainly let people know at the Historic Society.
MC: Very good Gus.
Photo: Paul Costellos is second from right
East Falls Oral History Project
Interviewee: Paul Costello – Olympic Rower (PC) & wife Freddie Costello (FC)
Interviewer: Cherie Snyder (CS) with Ruth Emmert (RE)
Date of interview: March 16, 1983
PC: I started out like anybody else; a nobody. I won one race the first year I was rowing. It takes a little extra um - umpff to make me come back and “I’ll give it another try the next year” – and the next year I think I won 4 or 5 races.
CS: What year did you start, Mr. Costello?
PC: 1919, 1920 in around there.
CS: And how old were you?
PC: My early 20’s, 21 or 19, somewhere around there, I was. After the first year, only winning one race, it was rather discouraging to think you’re going to go back and try to win some more – if you only won one. In the course of events I gave a small fortune in gold – 5 gold medals make a beautiful bracelet and I don’t know how many gold bracelets I gave. In the family and the girlfriend you were sweet on at that time and they, but, in today’s market, they just give gold-plated.
RE: Did Freddie get one?
FC: I got 5 of them.
RE: Five Bracelets?
FC: Do you want to buy some gold?
CS: Mr. Costello, after that first year, when you only won one. What happened the next year?
PC: The next year I won three or four. I was motivated terrifically by that. I had a very fine physique for rowing. But I don’t think of any time, I don’t think of any time, the, that usually I would be delighted sculling along the line – but I had a very beautiful physique built up and I had the right type of ego that I was going to win. I worked very hard to build my body up.
RE: How did you do that?
PC: Through gymnastics.
RE: Oh, in a gym here?
CS: Can you tell me about the 1920 Olympics? Was that your first Olympics?
PC: 1920 was in Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium. Jack (Kelly) won the singles, and Jack and I won the doubles. In 1924 in Paris and I won the doubles with Jack and I was scheduled to run in the singles but we had a really a tough race and it was the same day so I said to Jack “I’m going to scratch it. I got the gold again and we got another year or two ahead. We can always challenge the champion to rowing.” And then that’s when I challenged the fellow from Canada and the fellow from Australia and they came up, he came up, and the three of us got on the line and I won. After the first half mile I was third, in the first half mile. Then I made my move and got out in front, kept them back of me and got over the line. Not making it easy but, I mean, it was - I made, after the first half mile, I made my move and when I made my move they were both ahead of me and I got ahead of them. When I got ahead of them I kept them back of me. They moved, I moved.
CS: Who was Garrett Gilmore?
PC: Garrett Gilmore was a wonderful oarsman. Garrett was a wonderful oarsman.
CS: Did you ever race against him?
PC: Yes, fortunately.
CS: Why do you say fortunately?
PC: I won. It wasn’t easy. To make it easy if you do like I did. The first half mile I didn’t worry too much – I didn’t worry whether I got a good start or not – when I hit the first half mile I made my move. And when I got out ahead of the other two or three guys that were in front of me there, that’s all I did is stay ahead of them and when one of them made a move I moved with him. And then you come into the last 400 meters ahead of the island and you can gullet from there on in. It was a wonderful thrill and, as I said before, I’m the only athlete to even win the gold three times at the Olympics.
CS: Didn’t you also break the world record in single sculling and it hasn’t been broken since? Is that true? The 2000 meters?
PC: I rode a race on the Schuylkill and, I think, for 2000 meters. It went down as a world record. See that cup upstairs is gorgeous and it can be seen with the proper person to break it out of there.
CS: What was that for? A World Cup?
PC: World’s Cup. Championship of the world.
CS: And what year did you win that?
PC: I won the Gold Cup in ’24 (1924)
FC: Jack Kelly’s name is on it, isn’t it? All names are on it. It’s a solid gold cup, you know? And it’s in the vault down at Bailey Banks & Biddle and I have never seen it but I have the pictures.
PC: I think you held the cup, didn’t you?
FC: No I didn’t.
PC: I’ll have to take it down and get a photographer and have your picture taken.
PC: It was under strict bond. You had it for a couple of days - they had big insurance on that cup because people can become careless. Intimately, with the family and close friends we drank champagne out of the cup. You saw the picture upstairs – the beautiful-looking cup
CS: Beautiful, just beautiful.
FC: Did you show the girls the picture taken with Frank Sinatra down at Resorts? That’s where he got that tall cup. When we were guests - you were the goldie among the oldies. That’s what they said.
PC: Frank gave me a beautiful little gift.
CS: And when was this?
FC: About two years ago. We were down for the weekend, and what a gorgeous weekend.
CS: Are there any of your rowing partners that are still alive?
PC: I killed them off.
Snyder: Oh dear.
PC: I didn’t want them to be around. One of the big races I won was the world championship and that was on the Schuylkill – a fellow from Australia and a fellow from Canada was signing autographs on the – they had this beautiful thing with my picture on it and then on the inside of it was what you were supposed to get to eat – that was the menu – and I was seated about an hour signing autographs - they just stood in line- and I figured it would improve my signature.
CS: You got lots of practice!
PC: I am the only American athlete to win the gold three times.
CS: That’s quite a distinction.
PC: And I could have made it four. Could have went out to Australia, no, out to California. Kelly and I would have won out there.
FC: (has photos): They had all the gold medals from all over the country – United States - flown into the Resorts International. Like they had, who was the girl who was the famous swimmer? - not Esther Williams, the other one. And Buster Crabb. And they were all there.
CS: When was that?
FC: A couple of years ago. This was when Frank presented. It looks like Paul’s singing, but he isn’t. And this all the Olympic but it goes way back on the stage. There are some of the women who had won. 1979.
RE: Oh, recently!
FC: And this is the picture of the gold cup.
RE: Beautiful, just beautiful.
FC: And this is all out on the boardwalk. They flew them in from all over – the Olympics.
RE: What an affair!
CS: Born in Philadelphia. 5’10” Weight 152 lbs.
PC: I gave 15-20 pounds away unless the fellows were bigger. But I didn’t have that extra weight to pull through the water.
CS: You were about to tell us why you didn’t win 4 gold medals. What happened?
PC: I fell in love. I had to get some money together to get married. You know, when you’re an athlete you don’t care. You’re rowing and that’s it. I had to step in and get some money. I had to go to work.
CS: What work did you do?
PC: Oh, I worked for the government and I worked for the state. I made most of my money selling automobiles. I was the leading Ford salesman in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Montgomery County. I sold more cars than any other human being in the world.
CS: That, and three gold medals.
PC: Well, you had to be a salesman. You can’t sell a car for nothing. I had the city business - the whole city –I got the police cars and trucks. And I had the all the steel plants through admiration of the sales managers. I spent a little money to make them feel good too. You know, if there was a good show in town I’d buy up a few tickets for the husband and his wife and if they had children old enough to go. Sometimes before the show I’d meet them at the Bellevue and treat them to cocktails and hors d’ouerves. I didn’t go to the show.
CS: Where was your showroom?
PC: I worked out of a certain Ford dealership. The city – I was the white-haired boy – I had all of the city business. I had all the big steel plants. I thought I was on my way to be a very wealthy man and then the crash came. You people would never remember. People were standing on corners selling apples. Plants were closed. It was terrible and so many people committed suicide.
CS: How did it effect you? What happened to you?
PC: I was in the bread line too. I didn’t have any money. Everything I had I practically-speaking lost. I lost the house up here on Penn Street. I should never have lost it. I was stupid.
CS: What could you have done?
PC: I could have talked to my bosom friend, John B. Kelly to help me out, you know what I mean, with a few extra dollars if I needed this much or that much. Put in down in black and white. And Jack, if I asked him, I know he would have helped me.
It was, and always will be, one of the greatest thrills of my life, if I go back Memory Lane, of all the wonderful people I met. To win an Olympic championship is not easy. It takes a lot of work and exercise.
The ’28 Olympics. The Canadians – the Canooks – two big, husky…Jack Guest and Joe (I’ll have to look in the book). They were both well over 6’ tall. We got the rumor from the boys from other countries that they were hoping they would get us in the finals if we went that far. So we get up on the line and I said to Charlie “When the gun goes off, we’re going to go up the line like as though we’re going to row 100 yards. We’re never going to be second. We’re going to be first. When we get out in front we’re going to stay there. That means we’re going to bang it all the way down. So we won the finals by 10 boat lengths. The Canadians were second and they were two powerful fellas, 6’2” or 6’3.” They couldn’t get up.
A fella by the name of Bobby Pierce from Australia – he won the singles championship of the world – he took a liking to Charlie and I – he took a special liking to me in the third Olympics. They put a beautiful necklace around my head – beautiful roses and so forth - and when I went over, when I rode across to the side, Bobby was waiting, picked me up right out of the double and I said “What’s with the flowers? He said “You gotta believe it.” So that night we went to a little shindig after the races. Then we were to sail for Europe, sail for Holland the next day to get down to Cherbourg and get on a liner.
We gave this very famous general – General Boom Boom Boom, he was honorary head of the Olympics, so when we came in the next morning – that evening- at dinnertime we carried the beautiful thing of flowers over and presented it to the big mahoff and he had it over the table and he brought it aboard the boat and it lasted the way home – beautiful – they’d take it down and put it where it could get water and sprayed it – and it lasted the whole trip home. General Mac Arthur – that’s who it was. General MacArthur; he was the big general. He got a tremendous kick out of it. He had a little gold medal made for Charlie and one for me. On the way back on the boat he presented the medals. I guess we have it somewhere around the house.
CS: Was that your most memorable Olympic? 1928?
PC: Yes, three in a row. If I hadn’t fallen in love with Freddie - John and I could have won out there on the west coast but I had to get some money.
CS: What did Charlie think of that? Was Charlie mad because you fell in love?
PC: Charlie MacIlvaine? I guess so.
CS: What did he say?
PC: In 1928, Charlie and I rowed in the Holland Olympics. Like I said, we busted the record for the 2000 meters. It wasn’t Jack Kelly, it was Paul and Charlie.
CS: But what did he say to you when you couldn’t go for your fourth?
PC: When you fall in love, you’re going to get married, you’re engaged you can’t fool around. You have to get some money together and get a house – maybe not to buy one but to rent one. We rented a house down here towards the end of this street.
CS: On Penn Street?
PC: We had enough money to furnish it nicely. Oriental rugs downstairs, at least.
RE: A beautiful home
PC: But when you go down Memory Lane, it was really a thrill – she put the words in my mouth - I would have liked to make it four in a row. But no-one knows better than I do that I fell in love and I had to get more money. Take life a little more seriously than just paddling up and down the river.
CS: How did you meet your wife?
PC: I met her – I lived up on the next block. Charlie McIlvaine - it was the day after a big regatta on the Schuylkill - and Charlie McIlvaine said “I’ll pick you up.”
I lived at 3323 W. Penn St. I said “No, I’m not going out, Charlie.” He said “The hell you’re not; you be ready.” So he had a date with Mary Marg Heyden – she was a beautiful girl. I didn’t have a date. We were pushed up at the head table at the country club, it was. And Freddie had a date. I danced with her and I said we’re going in town. I had no date. We’re going into town. Go into Child’s – that’s where everybody used to go at night. Between 15thand 16th on the north side. That was the hangout for all the young people. Go in there and get a cup of coffee or so forth. Then one of the boys got talking. Charlie reached Freddie and we got to drive this fellow and his girlfriend home. So when we drove Freddie down to her house over in Logan, she had her boyfriend in the car. We took him around to Broad Street where he could get a cab or something and then we came right around and Freddie was waiting in the vestibule and we went in town.
Joe, he did a little paddling on the Schuylkill. Joe and I became friends but I didn’t know – I knew they lived somewhere in Logan – but I didn’t know how many sisters he had or anything else like that but that’s how I come to meet Freddie. This fellow – it was the day of one of the major regattas – and he went to one of the country clubs after the thing was over. So that was it. I heard he became the “late” Mr. So and So.
I dated Freddie, not too much serious, every once in a while I’d had somewhere to go or something was going on and I’d call her “Would you like to go down to the river or something like that?”
CS: What year did you get married?
PC: It’s too far back to remember. I might as well be truthful.
RE: How long have you been married?
PC: Freddie could answer that better than me. I went through quite a career in rowing. Three Olympics. That’s tremendous. I’m the only one that ever did. And I know we could have made it four. I know we could have won out in California. Charlie McIlvaine and I. We broke the world’s record over in Holland. We won by ten boat lengths. You don’t win by ten boat lengths unless you were rowing against someone who was shooting their mouth off that they hoped they got get us in the finals. So that was it. We could only row two crews at a time. They don’t have a river in Holland, only canals.
Same way in Antwerp. When we rode over there, you could only row two crews. That’s tough on all of the oarsmen because, for instance, I might draw one of the best doubles in the regatta the first race, and if Charlie and I finish second we have one more chance. So it was unbelievable that the lightest double in weight – McIlvaine and Costello – and we broke the world record. The other guys were 10-12 pounds heavier, taller.
CS: Well, what made the difference then? Why did you two win?
PC: Pull. We had a lot of pull.
CS: Sounds like a lot of determination to me.
PC: I shouldn’t really say this but I think it is, as a competitive sport, it’s one of the toughest. See you’re rowing with all your body. You get a terrific amount of power from your legs. Naturally, your arms. Some people, I guess, they never really get the proper timing and they get discouraged and they stop. It was a tremendous thrill. I remember our second Olympic was in Paris and Jack and I won the double and they put on quite a show for us over there. And then in the third Olympic, my third time out, of course, and the way we won the finish as though we owned the canal, Charlie and I, and we were, weight-wise, the lightest double of any of the doubles from any country. The only way you could counter this was to say I won through pull.
CS: Were Charlie McIlvaine and John Kelly your friends?
PC: Jack Kelly? Jack Kelly’s my cousin.
CS: Is he your cousin!
PC: My second cousin. Jack Kelly, Sr. Young Kell is my third cousin. Grace Kelly was my third cousin. We used to swing Grace Kelly by her feet and by her hands on the beach. She didn’t want Jack to swing her because he gripped her fingers too tight and so forth and so on and I said “I don’t swing you that way. I swing you by your ankles and swing you by your wrists so you can’t slip out of my hands.” Princess Grace was a wonderful girl. A terrible tragedy. She was the most pleasant person you’d want to talk to and very attractive. And, of course, Jack Kelly died much younger than he should, age-wise. I think he died with cancer.
CS: How about Charlie McIlvaine. When did he die?
PC: He died a few years ago. He died young. He died down south, down in Florida. Charlie was a hell of a man with a pair of oars.
RE: What did he die of?
PC: You’d have to talk to one of his sons. It was one of those sudden deaths and I probably wasn’t in the city at the time. His picture is over there on the table.
CS: Now which one?
PC: This one is Charlie Jack Kelly. Paul Costello. And young Kell.
CS: Did the three of you get together as the years went by and talk about your Olympics?
PC: Oh sure. We were members of the Vespers Boat Club and the Penn Athletic Club. After we were through with competitive rowing we down to the regattas all the time. I rowed enough miles to row around the world.
CS: Were there a lot of sports people in the Falls when you were growing up?
PC: Not particularly. They played baseball and football teams, you know. College teams. Most of us never went to college. I went to college at night. But I could have gotten a free scholarship to almost any college.
RE: But you fell in love.
PC: I fell in love with rowing. The Schuylkill River here in Philadelphia is one of the outstanding rivers to row on. In Holland Olympics you could only row two crews. In Antwerp, Belgium you could only row two crews. So, after all, if you were rowing the best in the world, maybe the second or third day, you might be way off. If you lose twice, you’re out. It’s really tough.
CS: Well who got you started rowing here in East Falls?
PC: The fellow I played football with, Matt Luken. He was a big fellow, about Jack Kelly’s height and much heavier in weight than me. He asked me about rowing. I said I row up at the Philadelphia Swimming Club. No, he said, I mean rowing at Boathouse Row. He invited me down and I took a row.
Someone told Jack Kelly and Jack Kelly called me on the phone and said: ”I hear you were out rowing. How did you like it? You can’t join Undine. You gotta join Vesper.” I said “I do?” He said: “Come up to the house.” I said “I can’t go up to the house. I’m going to school.” He said come up at one. He said I want you to join Vesper Boat Club so I joined Vesper Boat Club and that year I won one race.
And it gave me some food for thought. I said I don’t know what we’re going to row in the next year got rowing in what they call a quad – that’s four men with two oars apiece – and we won, and we won, and we won three or four races in the quad.
The next year I came out and started paddling a single. The next thing you know I was competing in a single shell and the next thing you know I was the champion.
The fellow, Matt Lukens, was really put together. I was rowing in the senior singles in the same race with him. I was coming down the river and he was on his way up and he called to me. He said “I hear you’re gonna row against me Saturday.” And I said “If you’re in the same race I think I am.” He said “You don’t think you can beat me.” I said “I’ll going to say it with oars.” So he was never the same oarsman after that.
CS: You beat him, right?
PC: Yeah, I won. I won. I won. A lot of money bet in those days in rowing. The day I rowed in the singles against Garrett Gilmore, the champion of Canada and the champion of Australia came up - it was a small fortune lost that day.
CS: Because they were all betting on them, not on you?
PC: No, the Australian was quite a sculler and this guy from Canada was champion of Canada, an outstanding sculler, and Garrett Gilmore was a good sculler and myself. Four of us, or five of us were in the race. The first half mile I made my move to get out and I finally caught up with the guy who was leading out of that group. When he got in back of me that was all I wanted. If anyone made a move, I moved with them. There
was quite a lot of money lost. Any one of the four of us could have won. They were outstanding scullers. That was it. That was for the world championship. That’s the picture on the cup.
CS: How old are you now?
PC: 80 will be enough.
CS: Can you tell me your birthday?
PC: I really can’t remember that far back. This fellow Lukens. Blame him on getting me started rowing, not Kelly. Matt was really put together. A good 6’ tall and he was really in a beautiful physique. The thing that happened to him was that he rowed too long in the one spot.
CS: What do you mean?
PC: When I rowed against him, he rowed too long in the one spot!
CS: You must be Irish. Are you Irish?
PC: Costello? Costello is County Mayo. My mother’s name was Hanlon. Hark Hanlon. As soon as I was in Ireland I went to kiss the Blarney Stone because my mother came from Cork. And I went up and kissed it and another week later I went up again and kissed it. And then it was hauling your feet from 8 stories in the air. You lean back and they hold your feet. You hang down and there’s two stanchions to get a hold of. Then you push yourself up and kiss the stone. You leave go and they grab your wrist and pull you up over the thing 8 stories in the air. So I did go up the second time.
CS: Did you parents come from Ireland here?
PC: No, my father was born in America. Grandpop was born in Ireland. Near Cork. He learned to be a machinist. And he came to this country and they moved up to a place called Vermont. He learned to be a machinist in Ireland. Then he came to this country through an older brother who moved up and then he got him a position. They moved from Vermont to Philadelphia and Grandpop moved down here and he went to work at Dobson’s Mills and became the master machinist at John and James Dobson’s.
CS: This is your grandfather?
PC: Yes, he was the master machinist. Uncle Joe Costello and Uncle George became master machinist at the Philadelphia Navy Yard which is a terrific job. Master machinist of both the inside and outside machine shop.
CS: Where did your grandfather live in East Falls?
PC: He lived on Bowman Street. There were two twin houses there on Bowman Street – of course they’re very shabby now, but Dobson’s Mills built the twin houses to get Grandpop to come down from up in Vermont. He came down and moved into the house and all he had to do was pay rent. And I guess as time went on they offered to sell it and he bought it. They’re two beautiful houses. I haven’t seen them in a long time but I guess they’re pretty well banged up. So Grandpop and Uncle George, he became master machinist at Philadelphia Naval Yard, which is quite a job, and Uncle Joe, he became master machinist at Collins and Eichman out in West Philadelphia.
CS: What did your dad do?
PC: My father was, when he first got started, he was in the Barnum and Bailey show on the Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City. He swang Indian clubs and he posed with a black background in white. He also had a nice singing voice and he should have followed the theatrical end of the business and he would have been a star. A handsome-looking man, close to 6’ tall and athletically inclined all of his life. I have some pictures of him all in white with the sword. And I have him with the Indian clubs, with his face a natural color, and so forth.
CS: Did your father live in East Falls?
PC: I think he was born in Vermont. Then one of the brothers moved down to Philadelphia. After he got down here he got my father’s father to come down here and my father’s father became master machinist at Dobson’s Mill, the largest textile mill in the world.
RE: Was it?
PC: The largest textile mill in the entire world.
RE: I never knew that.
CS: Where did you live when you were growing up in East Falls?
PC: That little row of houses down near Ridge Avenue. Right this side of Ridge Avenue coming up Midvale Avenue. These new little brick houses with a nice little porch and that’s where I was born.
RE: On Frederick Street?
PC: Midvale Avenue. There’s a row of houses there that were brand new. And, of course, most of the people didn’t have money to buy them. If they did, they were lucky. But my mother and my father moved in and paid rent.
CS: So have you lived in East Falls all your life?
PC: Not entirely. I moved around a little bit – because I lived out in Ambler and I lived in Germantown. A buck was hard to come by. Especially if you were on your own.
CS: I have just one more thing to ask you: How do you think rowing has changed today. Do you think it’s better or worse? Are the rowers better or worse than when you were rowing?
PC: I haven’t been down to regattas because in the summers we go to Ocean City.
I don’t think, I’m pretty sure, that rowing was the same as when I was rowing. There was terrific competition among all the clubs along the river. And I think that has died down considerably. Because Jack Kelly, Sr., he was former World Champion, and Paul Costello, the former World Championship Single Sculler, and it’s hard to remember if there were two fellas – oh, Garrett Gilmore, I think he won the world’s title - Garrett was a very good sculler. (phone rings…end)
Copyright © 2023 East Falls Historical Society - All Rights Reserved.
Powered by GoDaddy Website Builder