Interviewee: Theresa (Altomare) Corcoran (TC)
Interviewer: Louise (Corcoran) McShane, Theresa’s daughter (LM)
Date of Interview: August 2, 2009
LM: Theresa, where and when were you born?
TC: I was born in East Falls, on the 3600 block of Stanton Street. I was born in one of the houses that was demolished, one of the 13 houses. I guess it would be 3618, somewhere around that number. All of our children went to Saint Bridget’s. Some people would laugh when I tell them that my children attended class in the same space where I was born by a midwife.
LM: When were you born?
TC: I was born in 1923.
LM: When did your family come to East Falls?
TC: My father came to East Falls in 1912, lived here for a while, went back to Italy where he met my mom, married there; then came back to East Falls and lived on Stanton Street. I’m not sure of the house, maybe the same house that he had lived in before. For a while he went to school to some of our relatives in Worcester, Massachusetts which at that time they called Oxford, Massachusetts if I recall that’s what somebody told me.
LM: Was your mother born here?
TC: My mother was born in Italy. She came here after she had four children. She brought two alive here, two died on the boat coming here to America and settled.., my father had rented the house on Stanton Street.
LM: Where were you married and when?
TC: I was married in Saint Bridget’s Church in 1949.
LM: Do you have any children?
TC: We have eight children, beautiful children.
LM: Do you have any grandchildren?
TC: We have twenty-eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
LM: Any more on the way?
TC: Not that I know of, hopefully there are..; the more the merrier.
LM: Did you have any brothers or sisters that lived in East Falls?
TC: All of my family lived in East Falls.
LM: Where did your brothers live?
TC: I had four brothers. We all lived in the same house until we got married. The first one that got married was living on Tilden Street, 3400 Tilden Street. Another brother lived on Bowman Street. And the other brothers moved to Tilden Street and Ainslie Street.
LM: Did any of your nieces and nephews live in East Falls?
TC: We had eight nieces and nephews at the time, maybe ten living in East Falls.
LM: Did you live in any other houses in East Falls besides Stanton Street?
TC: We lived on the 3600 block of Ainslie Street (3536: Ainslie and Cresson Street). We moved there later on in life. I was about, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old.
LM: After Ainslie, did you live in any other houses in East Falls?
TC: We moved to Washington, D.C. for five years. We lived right near The Capitol. My husband went to Catholic University for philosophy and then got a job with the government working with the senate and then became a capitol policeman during the McCarthy hearings.
LM: When did you move back from Washington?
TC: We moved back, I don’t recall the year, about five years after we were there. I don’t know what date that was. I don’t remember.
LM: After you moved back from Washington, where did you live in East Falls?
TC: We moved in with my mom on Ainslie, then we bought a house on Sunnyside Avenue; 3420 Sunnyside Avenue, and we lived there for a long time until my mother passed away and my father needed care so we sold our house on Sunnyside and moved into the house on Ainslie and Cresson Street and took care of my dad and the eight kids and two dogs.
LM: When you were talking about Stanton and Calumet Streets, do you remember anything about the Irish and Italian immigrants in that part of the neighborhood?
TC: Well, it didn’t seem like the Irish and the Italians got along too well. I remember as a kid they used to quarrel – what about, I don’t know. We used to see shootings on Stanton Street where the old school building was, just beyond the school building that’s there. I remember some of them being shot to death.
LM: Were there certain places on Stanton where the Irish lived and where the Italians lived, or certain places on Calumet?
TC: I recall that the Irish lived on the bottom of Stanton Street and the Italians up from the Irish, and the same was with Calumet Street. It seemed that the Irish were down at the bottom closer to the river, the Schuylkill River, and the Italians (it was a mix) - the Irish and Italians – the rest of the street.
LM: Did the Italians speak English?
TC: No, they didn’t. Because, they made their own community and they only spoke the one language, the Italian language. So, they didn’t get to know the English language very well.
LM: Where did you go to school?
TC: I went to Saint Bridget’s.
LM: What was that like? Did you like school, or not?
TC: I loved school. I liked school, I did; and I loved the nuns, except a few. I have bad memories of them.
LM: What did you not like about school?
TC: I guess homework. In those days, parents (especially immigrants) assumed that their daughters were to do all of the chores in the house – dusting and cleaning and what-have-you, and they were only concerned about that because they thought that the girls would get married and tend to their families more than anything else than to go out into the working world.
LM: So school wasn’t that important?
TC: Not to the parents. Some of them yes, and some no; to my parents, formal education was not that important.
LM: Where did you and your family go shopping?
TC: We went to where Ridge Avenue and Midvale – there was an A&P on Midvale at one time, and then there was one right across from the firehouse.
LM: Was that a supermarket?
TC: Yes, the A&P was a supermarket (The Atlantic & Pacific).
LM: Were there any other places to get groceries? Did you have a farm in East Falls?
TC: My Mom and I used to walk to City Line Avenue. There used to be great restaurants there before, but they tore them down. They used to have victory gardens. Money was hard to come across. People lost their money in the banks. It was depression time, and they had to find a way to live. So, what they did (most of the Italians) was to plant victory gardens. Ours, one we had at City Line and another we had in what is now called The New Homes on upper Cresson Street.
LM: What is a victory garden?
TC: A victory garden is where our parents grew tomatoes, string beans, and other vegetables and whatever we needed to eat. Many families grew victory gardens during the war.
LM: You and your Mom grew the victory gardens?
TC: My Dad, my Mom, and I helped.
LM: What did your brothers do?
TC: We had a barber, 3 carpenters, and a policeman. One was both a policeman and a carpenter.
LM: What did you do for fun when you were growing up?
TC: We used to call them the new homes. We still call them the new homes, which is upper Cresson Street. I used to go roller skating, which was the best time of my life. I guess that’s about it. The rest was get home and start cleaning.
LM: Was there a playground in the neighborhood or did the church have any parties you could go to for fun?
TC: We didn’t have any playgrounds in the neighborhood for the children to go to for fun. Saint Bridget’s had a lot going for us. We had a sewing circle. We met like Tuesday nights. We had Sodality (devotions to The Blessed Mother). What I remember most fondly, though, is the parades we used to have. I remember marching in the parades down Stanton Street and Midvale Avenue; and going up to Dobson, which was a beautiful mansion up there on Henry Avenue. It’s now, I think, a big school; but we had great fun having our church picnic there. People used to go from house to house to collect donations for the picnic, primarily for the picnics. They made enough money to have the picnic, a beautiful picnic.
LM: Was that picnic the Mardi Gras or was it something different?
TC: The Mardi Gras was something different. It was held, well, during Lent and I participated in that. We cooked a roast beef dinner and set the tables, and we would make money for the church.
LM: Where was the Mardi Gras held?
TC: That was in the cafeteria of the Old Church. It was in the school building; in the upper part of the school building. We used to have a kitchen. I guess the kitchen that we have there now was there at the time, and we used to do all of our cooking there.
LM: A lot of people from East Falls talk about going to Woodside Park. What was that like?
TC: Woodside Park was an amusement park where on Saturdays and Sundays parents would take their children to enjoy amusement rides, like the roller coaster and the merry-go-round.
LM: During World War II, did you go to see the GIs or were there GIs in East Falls?
TC: We used to travel to Atlantic City. There used to be a huge hotel, the Knickerbocker Hotel. They converted that into a hospital for soldiers returning home from the war. Many of them lost their limbs and had other serious injuries. We used to go down once in a while to visit and help the soldiers, and we had fun. There was also a dance hall in the hotel for socializing with the soldiers.
LM: What were the streets in East Falls like? What did the New Homes used to look like, or Allegheny, or McMichael Park, or the upper part of East Falls, like Netherfield Road?
TC: Well, most of the streets were cobblestones; which later on they just removed the cobblestones and just paved them. I don’t remember too much about the other streets, but I know Calumet and Stanton Street had them.
LM: Were the New Homes farms?
TC: The New Homes were the victory gardens where my Mother and Father had a farm. It was decided that houses were going to be built there, so that was the end of the victory gardens.
LM: The houses up by McMichael Park and Netherfield Road; were they all houses when you were growing up?
TC: McMichael Park was always a park and the houses were always there as long as I remember.
LM: Did people use McMichael Park a lot?
TC: The children did. They were really amused by the turtle.
LM: Do you remember any famous people who did something special for East Falls?
TC: I remember a story about my Dad in those days. People used to try to get their taxes lowered, and John B. Kelly was a contractor at that time, but he had influence at city hall to reduce the taxes for some of the poorer people in East Falls. I remember my Dad and I went to his house and he helped my Dad a great deal when we first bought the house on Stanton Street. He helped him with the taxes. I remember playing with the Kelly girls. I had permission from their aunt, which lived below our house on Stanton Street, 3634. I used to see the children going to ten o’clock mass; and at that time, nobody had swings and sliding boards because they couldn’t afford them; but Mrs. Kelly had nieces and nephews and children and Grace used to go down there and I got permission from Mrs. Kelly to go down and play with Grace. I guess she was my age, maybe younger.
LM: Did your parents and your friends’ parents work near East Falls?
TC: Manayunk was where my father worked.
LM: And your friends’ parents; did they work near East Falls?
TC: I don’t recall. I really don’t remember what their jobs were. They were out of work for months. My friend Betty Potenz’s dad owned a bar on Ridge Avenue in East Falls, but many of my friends’ parents were unemployed.
LM: Did most people get to work using PTC (public transportation) or did they own cars?
TC: They used PTC. There were hardly any cars when I was little. PTC was there at the time, and people had to use public transportation to get around. I remember my Mom used to buy her meats at 9th and Christian Street because the food was reasonable there.
LM: Most mothers didn’t work outside of the homes back then, did they?
TC: They didn’t work outside of the home, and the immigrant mothers didn’t want to go to school to learn English because the family came first, and they were not going to leave their children at home just to go to school and learn. It’s a shame that they didn’t.
LM: How did laws affect the way people lived? Did you see the laws against liquor, the bootlegging laws, have police come around for that?
TC: Yes, we had a house directly across from us. They used to do a lot of bootlegging. They had a huge hollowed tree in front of their house. It had a huge hole in the bark of the tree, and they used to make whiskey and hide it in the hole in the tree when the police came. Unfortunately the bootleggers bought a parrot who not only observed but repeated everything illegal that was going on; and one day the parrot heard Louie the bootlegger’s wife say “Louie, the cops are coming, hide the liquor in the tree”. When the police arrived they asked Louie if he had moonshine, and he said “No” (Mr. Potenz, I remember him). All of a sudden the parrot repeated “Louie, the cops are coming, hide the liquor in the tree”. It was an exciting neighborhood.
LM: Do you think that East Falls is different than other neighborhoods because of things like the corner store, or the churches, or because everyone knows everyone else?
TC: I don’t think so, not for myself anyway. It seems that no matter where I go I find that people are pleasant and really nice people. I couldn’t find any fault with any of them.
LM: Do you feel that East Falls is special to you?
TC: It is special and it always will be. One reason is because I received all of my sacraments at Saint Bridget’s.
LM: What was it like growing up during The Depression?
TC: Our family didn’t feel The Depression too much, except that my father lost all of his money at the East Falls bank. They had a bank, the East Falls Bank, at Ridge and Midvale Avenues. I remember my father going down there for his money, but the doors shut. That was a bad memory. He lost all of his money, whatever he had in there.
LM: Why wasn’t The Depression that bad for you?
TC: Because my father always had a job, and had a good job. He worked for Container Corporation in Manayunk; then it became Connelly Containers.
LM: Were your friends’ parents all out of work?
TC: Many of them were unemployed, but not my father. I don’t recall which of my friends’ parents were working and which were not, but evidently quite a few of them used to go in the bread line and I used to go with them to get extra bread. I didn’t have to go, but I would go to get extra for them.
LM: Where was the bread line in East Falls?
TC: It was on Ridge Avenue right across the street from the bathing house.
LM: And all you do is stand in line and they give you bread?
TC: Yes, they give you bread and whatever else they have for you. It was primarily bread there. Then they had food stamps.
LM: You didn’t have to say who you are? You just stand in line and they hand it to you?
TC: No, you had to have proof. I don’t know how I got the bread, but I did. My dad never had to apply for food stamps.
LM: Did they know that you were standing in line with your friend?
TC: I don’t know. I don’t think so.
LM: If they knew, would they be upset or send you away?
TC: I don’t think so. Some of them were nice and they felt that I was doing a good deed and they gave it to me. But I got it for them; I didn’t take it home.
LM: How about World War II? How did that affect you? Who was in World War II that you knew?
TC: Well, my brothers: Emilio was in the Air Force, my brother Ralph was in the tank division, and Louis was in the Marines. My other brother worked for PTC.
LM: So he didn’t go because he worked for PTC?
TC: Yes, they excused people who worked for the public, or who did any work for the government, as far as I know.
LM: Were both of your brothers in WWII at the same time?
TC: All three brothers were in at the same time: Ralph, Emilio and Louis.
LM: Were they in the same places?
TC: No, Ralph was in France and Italy. Emilio “flew the hump” over the Himalayas. Louis was in the Marines and sent all over.
LM: How about your husband? Where was he?
TC: Mart was in Germany, France, Italy and Africa.
LM: Were you dating him when he was in the war, or not until after he got out.
TC: Not until after he got out. I knew him while he was in because I worked with him at the Aero Manufacturing Company. That’s how I met him, and then they drafted him. In the meantime, I was writing letters to quite a few soldiers, being patriotic. Finally, he came home and asked me for a date and that was the beginning of our friendship which developed into our getting married.
LM: How about the Vietnam War? How did that affect you?
TC: I don’t recall the Vietnam War.
LM: Your sons were too young to be drafted in that war, but a couple of your nephews served, right?
TC: Thank God my sons were too young, but my nephew Ralph served in that war.
LM: Do you remember your friends from Church having anybody in there?
TC: I don’t recall. They were, but I don’t recall who were. But I know that Ralph was in the Vietnam War.
LM: Why do you think that living in East Falls was so special to you? Is there anybody, now that you’ve moved out of East Falls, anybody that you miss, anybody that you think about?
TC: Well, I think that The Falls is one big family, huge family and you knew everything. Whatever went on in the town you knew about it. The neighbors tried to help you if you got sick or anything. They were the first ones to help you out. It was always a beautiful neighborhood, and it still is I think. I’ve met a lot of good people, especially the parishioners at Saint Bridget’s. I love Saint Bridget’s.
Interview: June 17, 1981
Interviewers: Cherie Snyder (CS) and Ruth Emmert (RE)
Interviewees: Grace Davis (GD) and Hazel Stamm (HS)
Transcribed by: Frank Baseman, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Philadelphia University, as part of the Day of Service 2009.
Samantha Kibler, Graphic Design Student at Philadelphia, as part of SERVE-101 (Spring 2011).
Total Time: 1:03:22 (one hour, 3 minutes, 22 seconds)
CS: Okay, we’ll just start out with, um I’ll ask you your names.
GD: Well, I’m Grace Davies
HS: Hazel Stamm.
CS: And how old are you?
GD: Wanna know? 80 (heh, heh, heh).
CS: 85. And, have you, um, how many years have you lived in the Falls?
HS: All our life. Well, I was out about 17 years and I lived in West Mt. Airy, but outside of that we were born and raised here.
CS: Uh huh. In this, in this particular house?
GD: No, I was born around on Krail Street.
HS: And I was born on Hayward Street.
CS: And then when did you move to this house?
HS: 1941, in this house, we moved.
Int. And what’s the address of this house?
HS: We have it 3550 but the deed is 3548.
CS: And why’s that?
GD: Well, because this house next door is 3552 and it seems so silly…
HS: And that’s 44…
GD: And if that was 52 why would we be 48? It’s silly.
HS: And the Old Academy address is wrong too. Why didn’t they just put any number they wanted in those days.
GD: Well, no years ago, here I go. (heh, heh). Years ago when I was a little kid they started the numbers from Ridge Avenue and went down, see. Now, when we lived down next to, uh, Grills. We lived between Grills and Dr. Reyes, our number was 183. Now that house today is 3570. See. They’ve uh, since they changed the numbers they’ve got them all, you know, mixed up.
HS: And they’ve got the post office that way.
GD: Oh, it was 3550 the post office.
HS: Everything is 3550 outside of the deed on the house (laughter).
CS: Were your parents from the Falls?
GD: No, my parents were born up, uh, in Schuylkill County.
GD: But my…
CS: When did they move…to Philadelphia?
GD: Well, did Grandma move down here before Momma and them or what?
HS: Yes, well yes, I guess she did.
GD: Our Grandmother moved down here first, I guess. And then later on, my father and mother moved down here.
CS: Any idea about just approximately what year they moved?
HS: Well, I was born here in 1896. So they were here (laughter).
GD: Yeah, before that, before that they had lived up in New Ringle up in Schuylkill County.
HS: I don’t know how long they lived here before I was born; I don’t know.
CS: What…Do you know what brought them to Philadelphia?
GD: I wouldn’t know. I have no idea.
HS: I guess work maybe.
CS: It seems like, in talking to some other people in the group that there’s been people come from Hazelton…up in that area, Schuylkill County, coming down here and I just wondered whether there was any particular…
GD: No I don’t, uh…
CS: It probably was work…
HS: It was work.
GD: I guess it was work. Then Uncle Lou he came down to go to college down here to be a pharmacist.
HS: Some people like to move to a big city.
CS: Uh, huh.
HS: They think they’ll like it.…
GD: Well I guess they had to exist. For the…for work and everything, you know.
HS: Student nurses. Going into nursing in a big city rather than their hometown.
GD: See, in this house, uh, the people that lived in it…I was thinking back the other day, trying to get the connection, um.
HS: Mary and Kate were cousins to Momma. Their both names were Sauber.
GD: Sauber. Well, then there was the Potter. He lived here…
HS: Well, that was a Sauber. Kate and Mary was a Sauber (laughter).
GD: And then there was, uh, Boothroy. One of the wives must have been a, maiden name must have been Boothroy. I remember that very plain.
HS: She didn’t live here. No Boothroy ever lived here.
GD: Well, she must have been visiting because I remember (laughter).
CS: Do you know what work your parents took up when they came to Philadelphia? Where they worked?
HS: He ran a trolley car. (unintelligible) Horse-driven trolley car.
CS: For most of his working time?
HS: I don’t- well, he didn’t live too long. He died at the age of 36.
GD: He was only like 36 years old when he died.
CS: What did he die of?
GD: Typhoid fever.
HS: Was it Typhoid fever?
GD: Typhoid… an abscess had formed on his throat. They didn’t know much about those things then, you know.
CS: Did your Mother, did your Mother work?
GD: No, no, she worked to keep us (ha, ha); I mean home, you know, at home. No, she didn’t go…There was no welfare or nothing then you know, no Mothers’ assistance.
CS: Um, hum. How, did you have any brothers or sisters?
GD: Yep, I had two brothers.
CS: Um, hum.
GD: Of course…
CS: That’s right (laughter)
GD: Yeah, Lloyd and Carl.
CS: Uh-huh, Older brothers? Or younger?
GD: Older, older.
CS: Are they still alive?
CS: And they grew up in Philadelphia, too, or did they leave the area later on?
GD: Well, my older brother he left and went to Reading and lived in Reading. But Lloyd still lived here. Lloyd’s been dead how many years? Twenty?
HS: Sixteen. Sixteen in, in August.
GD: Yeah, he sang in the Falls Male Chorus…
CS: Oh, really?
GD: You know the Falls Male Chorus.
CS: Oh really?
GD: You remember that. Gladys’ father…
HS: Oh, yeah, Mr. Smith. Sure, uh huh.
GD: I don’t know when Dykes moved into this house next door to us. See, next door to us here was the undertaker, lived in here. (coughing) Those were the days when they had the horse-driven, like the cabs, you know, like. You know the funny cabs…
HS: Where’s the cat? He’s comin’ in…He’s no…I don’t know.
CS: Kitty kitty, kitty, kitty
HS: Oh lick ‘em…
CS: Yeah, what was the name of that undertaker you told me on the…
GD: Dykes. D…Y…
CS: Oh, I didn’t know the Dykes were undertakers.
HS: Charlie Dykes?
GD: Charlie Dykes? Oh, sure.
HS: Carters (?) were related to them. He was their Turner’s Uncle.
GD: He married…His wife’s maiden name is Turner. Dykes’s.
HS: No, her name was Sauber. (cat meowing) Jenny Sauber. (laughter)
CS: See, Turner…Turners were the Protestants’ funeral director in the Falls. And McIlvaines were the Catholics’. And it usually was that way.
GD: And her father…her father was a…
CS: But, before that I never knew about these other undertakers.
GD: Oh, yeah. I’m used to…you know…nothing…they were going to a funeral, but they were maybe going to, not people in it, they’d run behind it, it would be like the mermaids. Be real big and fat and go back and be real skinny.
HS: Remember how we used to run behind them? (laughter)
CS: Run behind the…
GD: Behind the cabs. Well it wouldn’t be a funeral, wouldn’t be in it, maybe it was going to go to a funeral, you know, or he was coming home or something, you know. And…oh that’s right she was a Sauber and her father was Squires (sp?), was a Squires (sp?). But that’s all written down, I told you we had…she wanted to join The Daughters of the Revolution. And she had this, I don’t know who she had look all this up. In fact we have a thing here someplace.
HS: It’s up in my room.
GD: I have a couple, I found this one out there in the dining room too.
GD: I think our relatives built the first… brick house in Germantown.
CS: Oh really? And who or what family was that?
GD: And the same with, one was a blacksmith down here in the ridge, or something.
HS: They made that iron stool.
CS: I touched that when I reached down and I went “Man…”, and I said, I was going to say, “That is marvelous.” And he made that, the blacksmith made it?
HS: Uh huh.
CS: What was his name?
HS: Sauber, I think his name was William.
CS: How do you spell it?
HS & GD: S-O…
HS: (laugher) Go ahead.
CS: Sorber, oh.
HS & GD: Uh huh.
CS: Did either of you marry?
GD: I did.
HS: I didn’t.
CS: Did you have any children?
GD: A boy, that’s my son out there (laughter), a daughter and my son has one daughter and my daughter has 3 sons. And I’m a great-grandmom. (laughter) Yeah.
CS: That’s all, you know, in terms of family questions that I wanted to ask, so. Okay well, we were interested in the, when the Old Academy building, which is next door the one to here, had a library in it.
CS: We know that the Old Academy had, every church started there and we know that…
GD: And the YWCA started there.
CS: Oh, the YWCA started there?
GD: For a while, started there then after that, wasn’t there for too awful long…
CS: And when was that, approximately? If you have any…
GD: Let me see, about 1907, 1908 I guess. I was born 1901 and I was just a little bit of a thing at the end of the line, along with the rest of them, so it would have to have been.
CS: What did they do there? The YMCA?
GD: Well just exercises and things, they didn’t have any…the, the bars or rings or nothing like that, you know?
CS: Uh huh, wow, never knew that.
GD: And afterwards they built a YWCA down the corner of Ridge Avenue and Ferry Road. (train passing) (9:35) And there we used to play basketball and they have gym and they had, oh, they used to teach millinery and sewing and all different things down there.
CS: About how many years do you think, that they were, that the Y was there?
GD: How long was it there? It wasn’t there too awful long, was it Hazel? I don’t, The Christian Association didn’t stay there too long; I don’t know what happened.
HS: I have no idea how long it stayed. I knew I played basketball down there.
CS: (laughter) Was it after the library moved or was it before the library came there?
GD: That the YW was built?
HS: Oh, before.
CS: No, No, No, that they had occupied the Old Academy building or…
HS: Oh! That was before, yeah the library, the library was still there I guess. The library was there when the church services were there.
GD: Oh, sure.
CS: What floor was the library on?
CS: Second floor? And then the churches and the Y…?
GD: Well I, I was christened there but I mean I don’t remember anything. I remember back going to Sunday School but so little I couldn’t tell you anything about it, you know?
CS: What was your church?
CS: Lutheran. Oh, Grace Lutheran, no, is it Grace?
HS: No, Redeemer.
CS: Redeemer Lutheran. They’re now at Midvale Avenue and Conrad.
HS: Uh huh.
CS: But… the library was there before 1913, we knew that, but you don’t know how many years it was in there? How far back it went from there?
HS: No, no.
CS: But it did move…
GD: Well it would…
CS: What would be your earliest memory of it in terms of…would it be 1913?
GD: Before that.
CS: 1913 is the cornerstone, the date on the cornerstone of the new library on Midvale Avenue.
HS: I don’t even know when our church was built.
CS: Do you remember what age you were when you played basketball there?
GD: Oh, around 15…
CS: So that would make it…
GD: …or 18.
CS: You were born what year?
GD: ’96. 
CS: Okay…so that would make it about, that makes it 1909 right? 1911 about then that you might have been…that the, that the library was there then, when you played basketball at the Y?
GD: I don’t, I don’t think it was, Hazel, I don’t think it was there much after 1908 or something, do you?
HS: Well it couldn’t have moved before that one was built?
CS: We know that, but we don’t know is what, how many years, what the years were it was in this building.
HS: Well it was there all the time I, I can remember.
GD: You know it was a library, it was just that the churches had no place else to start, they started there and the same with everything, just started in that building. So…
CS: Oh I see, along with the library.
GD: It must have been the library that was the library to begin with, I guess. Then these other places just were piddlies (?) to start those different things there, see.
CS: The deed says that it was, the land was donated and a building was to be built and to be used as a school to educate children, and that’s what it must have been at first.
HS: I guess maybe it was. Uh huh.
CS: A school. Now I don’t know when, do you remember the school being there?
GD: That was before our time.
CS: Because Mel Hess’s (sp?) father, grandfather was custodian, it think, when it was a school, because they had the big bell that he used to come out and ring to call the children in from recess.
GD: That was before our time.
CS: Was it?
HS: Uh huh.
GD: That was built in 1819 wasn’t it?
CS: Uh huh. Where did, where did the books come from, was it a community library? I mean it wasn’t the city library…
GD: Oh, I wouldn’t know.
CS: …or anything, it was… It says on the board in the library, in the Old Academy…
GD: Well they’d all be city libraries wouldn’t they?
CS: …it says “First Public Library”. Oh, so it would have been.
GD: Yeah, sure.
CS: So I don’t know but you know that they did move from the Old Academy over to the new one when it was built.
HS: I’m sure. Uh huh.
CS: You’re sure of that?
HS: I could be wrong now, but to my knowledge, they did.
CS: Did you ever borrow books from this library?
CS: Or go in and read or…
CS: Never did? Do you remember the librarian?
HS: Oh yes, Ella Boyd.
CS: Ella Boyd. Can you describe her for us?
HS: She had one hand off.
CS: Uh huh. One hand off.
GD: Short, heavy-set, and dark hair, (laughter) I remember that and the one hand, she always wore a black glove.
CS: That’s the one, then, then it must have moved to there because the first librarian on Midvale Avenue wore a black glove all the time.
HS: Yes, she went with them, I know that.
CS: She went with them.
GD: Uh huh.
CS: So there it is, continuous, that proves it! (laughter) That’s what we wanted to find out, if it was continuous from this first public library…
HS: Uh huh.
CS: …of Philadelphia to over there. So it was that proves it. Huh. Well then that’s great. (laughter) Well what was Ella Boyd like?
HS: She was the old-maidish type, kind of, plain person…nice.
CS: How did she run her library? Where there any stories told about her?
GD: It was…when you were angry, you kept quiet, you had enough sense; you didn’t talk. It wasn’t like it is today.
CS: Right. Uh huh.
GD: No way.
CS: Did she live in the Falls?
HS: I think she lived down the lower end, the lower end of the Falls.
HS: Around Allegheny Avenue.
GD: The lower End, the lower end, around Allegheny Avenue.
CS: What did they call that?
GD: We were just talking about the YWCA at the beginning of Ridge Avenue and what, we even forgot it was Ferry Road, it was always known as ”Cockroach Row.”
CS: Oh that’s, that’s the one where I said “Where’s Cockroach Row?” Yes, and somebody told me. Where it was, Allegheny Avenue. What was the name?
GD: No, not Allegheny, right down…
CS: There was another two roads…Bakers Crack….where was, do you know where…
HS: That’s up here.
GD: I’ve never heard of that.
HS: Yeah Division Street, I think.
CS: Yeah that’s what it was. So Bakers Crack was Division Street and Cockroach Row was Ferry.
HS: Uh huh.
GD: Ferry Road? We didn’t - we couldn’t even think of the name, who told us it was Ferry Road?
HS: Who were we talking to about…?
GD: All I knew was Cockroach Row. (laughter) How’d it get Cockroach Row? Because when you went down on the right-hand side there was about oh, 3 or 4 little shacks, you know.
GD: Little ole wooden shacks of some kind. I guess they thought they had cockroaches.
CS: Well who lived down there?
GD: Farmers of some kind, weren’t they, Italians?
HS: I don’t know. There was one that…
GD: They didn’t speak English.
HS: Yes they did…
GD: They did?
HS: Because one of, one of the girls that lived there worked with, in our place.
GD: Oh yes?
HS: Yeah, Yeah, I forget her name. She was, she wasn’t…
CS: Did you work in the Falls?
HS: I worked in Dobsons’.
CS: Uh huh. Oh! Did you? Did you know the Dobson Brothers?
HS: No, no, I knew of them but…
GD: Who, Jim and (unintelligible)…? [John?]
HS: Jim and (unintelligible)… [John?]
CS: Uh huh. What years did you work in the mills?
HS: I worked there…
CS: Or in the office? Or what, did you work in the office or in the mills?
HS: No, in the mill until…. ’29, I guess? Until it closed.
CS: Uh huh. What year did you start? Do you remember?
GD: Well I didn’t work until after I was…
HS: I have no idea what year I started.
CS: Or do you know how about, how many years you worked there?
HS: Well I went there when I was 15.
CS: Uh huh.
HS: And that would have been what, in 1909?
HS: And I worked until ’29 there.
CS: Uh huh.
HS: That would be 20 years.
CS: Uh huh. What kind of…
GD: Until they closed down Tooltops (?), shut down by putting off a lot of people out of work in the Falls.
CS: Oh yeah…
GD: Well that was really a shock.
CS: Uh huh.
GD: Our brothers were both chemists down there. See my mother, as I say, I was only 6 weeks old when my father died. Hazel was 5 years old, Willy was what? About 7 ½, probably about 9 ½ and we all had a public, grade school education. We got our diploma.
CS: Where did you go to school?
GD: Right down, at that time was our School, right at the back alley and right down the school on School Hill, course it isn’t there anymore, and then it was brick, then it was named Breck, Breck School, yeah. And then my brothers started work in the mill, they had to support my mother, she was really worn out from raising us, you know? But they went to Temple and finished their high school education and then, so they worked at Dobsons’ and they were very much interested, my brother worked in the dye house, and they were very much interested in the chemical end of it. And after high school and right on to college, they took up the course there.
CS: But they were working there while they were going...
GD: They were working there, they were going to night school; they were going to night school, Temple College. They both graduated as chemists, and they were still working, they were two of the chemists down at Dobsons’ until they closed.
CS: What kind of work do you do?
HS: I was a weaver.
CS: Uh huh.
HS: Excuse me, I have to see if the back door’s closed tight. Can I pass here? He can put the back door open (unintelligible) I never can’t tell when he’s gonna… (leaving)
CS: When she gets back, we can get back to, I wanted to hear a little bit more about the, the mills.
CS: But the other thing I was interested in, just was how you’ve seen East Falls change, let’s say even in your own street. Umm how things change, since…
GD: Well, the older move out and people take the apartments over and that is the end of it, it is a mess. East Falls was a wonderful place to live in. People who moved away always seemed to come back to it. It was a nice community, very nice, and the fellas used to go down the, they used to hang out at Ridge and Midvale at the, what they called a “Gun Boat”. Did you ever hear of the Gun Boat?
CS: Uh huh. Oh yes!
GD: Well my brothers could tell you about, funniest stories about, you know, down at the Gun Boat. Josie Gallagher, remember Josie? He never, well he was, he was wifty, you know. He used to always wear cigar bands for rings, oh he thought he was wealthy, he didn’t have a dime. (laughter) Oh sure. And they got him all dressed up one time and took his picture. They had it fixed up like Mrs. Altemus and they had the photographers with her, she got the biggest kick out of that. Oh they used to play tricks on him, they used to send him up to the Kettle to get something up in Manayunk, you know. And after he’d leave, they’d call up and say this crazy guy was coming up. Oh they used to do awful things to him.
CS: Was he an old man? Or…
GD: No, he was just around their, he was whipped age, just their age, you know but, oh it’s funny. They used to tell the funniest stories.
CS: How about Blind Bill? Umm…
GD: He is still around.
CS: He’s still around?
GD: I was just surprised, I just saw him the other day.
CS: He’s a Falls character.
HS: (returning) I guess I’ll go this way.
CS: Is he really blind?
CS: Woops. That’s okay.
HS: No I won’t, I’ll go this way.
CS: No step right over it.
HS: No I’ll go this way.
GD: He is, he can just about…
HS: Distinguish the light.
GD: …yeah and there could not be nothing done for him, because he went to the Presbyterian Church, that’s where I went at the time and so did the Dobsons, Altemus. And she had him to different surgeons, and nothing he - his sight couldn’t be restored.
CS: Well who’s he? I’ve…He wanders around the Falls but he’s a…
GD: He kept a nice family, used to live down here on the lane. Nice…
CS: I never heard anything but that his name was “Blind Bill” and he acts as though he knows me when…
GD: McClenigan, Bill McClenigan.
CS: …he talks to himself all the time.
GD: Yeah well, it’s McClenigan…he kept a nice family, but I guess, I don’t know who he lives with now, if they all died or he has a sister still living. But his mother was widowed, she had a hard time raising him too, you know.
CS: Uh huh.
GD: But as I said, Ms. Altemus used to, uh I think kind of help them out.
CS: But is there anything wrong with his mind?
GD: No, no, no.
CS: Just his blindness?
GD: Just his blindness.
CS: ‘Cause I thought there was something wrong with his mind, he talks to himself all the time.
GD: Well I guess he would, if you were like that all your life. (laughter)
CS: To go back to…I’m real interested in when you worked at the, at the Dobson Mills. You said that you were a weaver. You didn’t start out as a weaver…
HS: No, I started out in the velvet-finishing room. And we worked from 6 in the morning ‘til 6, 6 at night wasn’t it? Half an hour for lunch, or three quarters of an hour for lunch. That was about 56 hours a week and I got 4 and a quarter.
CS: Oh! Oh! Your weekly pay?
HS: My weekly pay, for 56 hours.
CS: So how long then did you work…was it velvet?
HS: Then I didn’t work there too long, ‘til they put in…what kind of machines were they? Warping machines and they were big, and the boss wanted me to go there because I was tall. So I went there and got 8 dollars a week. So then that was in the velvet. Then the plush was paying more money, I wanted to go over there. So I asked the boss if I could, if he could transfer me over to the velvet. I’d get 12 dollars a week over there. So he didn’t want to do it. But with more money, he had to, see. So I went over there and worked there awhile, when I learned to weave, then I was weaving all the rest of my life.
CS: Uh huh. And why have… did you notice a gradual decline in the mills or was this a sudden, uh thing in 1929?
HS: It was kinda…
GD: Well it was the Depression, just…
HS: It was kinda sudden. And seeing that the owners had died, both Dobson men had died. And he only had daughters, he had no sons, and they wouldn’t, they didn’t wanna take it over. They didn’t want to be bothered with it. So it just closed.
CS: Huh…they didn’t, they, it wasn’t sold, it just closed?
HS: Just closed.
CS: Do you remember the day it closed?
HS: The day? No, I just remember it was in ’29. Like month or day, I don’t know.
CS: No I meant, do you remember the last day you went to work. That’s I guess what I meant. Do you remember the last day when the mills closed?
HS: No! (laughter)
CS: No? No, not in particular. (laughter)
HS: It was, it was a party there we all had a lot of fun. (laughter)
CS: Well where’d people go to work after that? Where would they work?
HS: Well I went up to a mill in, in Roxborough. And at that time, they were changing the mills from here down south. And you’d work until your warp’d run out. And then you were done, they’d just take the machine up off the floor and ship it down south. I worked in two mills like that up in Roxborough.
CS: What mills were they?
HS: In Pierson’s. What was the other one? Up where the Salvation Army…?
GD: Was it Kenworthy?
HS: No, where the Salvation Army is. What was the name of it? Bennett’s.
HS: Bennett’s. And Pierson’s.
CS: Umm…the Dobson mills weren’t unionized were they?
HS: No, no.
GD: Didn’t have unions then.
CS: Was there any attempt to unionize?
HS: Never, no, no.
CS: Did the people generally, that worked there generally, think the Dobsons…
GD: Would never close up I guess.
HS: Would never close, you thought you were there the rest of your life.
CS: Uh huh. Did they like the Dobsons?
CS: Did they think they were good bosses?
HS: Well we never saw them.
GD: Never saw them.
HS: We never saw them. They didn’t discuss bosses in those days, you just worked! And that was it!
GD: Well it was such a big, such a big mill, my God how many employees? Couple of thousand.
HS: Yeah they had carpet and blankets, and velvet and plush.
CS: Were most of the people that worked there from East Falls?
HS: Yes. There was people from Manayunk and some from Kensington.
HS: Falls people were just…they were in town.
CS: Did…Excuse me, did he bring people over from England to work in the mills? Or, how did they…people…
GD: I think his daughters worked in the mills when they first…for a while, remember?
HS: Uh huh.
GD: So they say.
CS: Hmm. What did they do?
GD: Oh, I wouldn’t know.
CS: I was just going to ask the same thing, similar to what you were saying - were there certain ethnic groups that were more represented in the mills?
CS: Or was it pretty much a mix of…?
GD: You just went and worked, that was it. You’d think I worked there the way I’m talking. (laughter)
CS: Well you hear, you hear people talking. You get a picture.
GD: Well from Hazel and my brothers, you know.
CS: Umm, eh. I always thought the Falls was all English when I first came up here. And then I found out there were…some other people thought it was all Italian. What do you think?
HS: Most Irish.
CS: (laughter) Say mostly Irish?
HS: Uh huh, a lot of Irish in the Falls.
CS: Uh huh. Was there any particular time when you saw new groups of, ethnic groups moving in? Like when the Italians move in or was it…?
HS & GD: No, no.
HS: Now this used to be the main street in East Falls.
Interviewees: Tom Williams (TW) and Keith Shively (KS)
(formerly of 3806 Henry Avenue)
Interviewer: Ellen Sheehan (ES)
Date of Interview: November 8, 2008
ES: It’s November 8, 2008 and this is Ellen Sheehan. I’m here with Keith and Tom and they have donated the history of the Five Fishes on the river. Do you want to introduce yourselves?
TS:Tom Williams and Keith Shively, formerly of 3806 Henry Avenue, East Falls. We are going to chat a bit about the Five Fishes along the River. We have a book prepared about this but want to say what actually occurred. The start of this was the Falls Bridge Centennial in 1995. We were on a part of the committee for the bridge celebration. That's the background of the Five Fishes.
We were actually trying to raise money to light the bridge at that time through funds raised at the bridge celebration so we have a lot of materials in this binder that relates to the members of the committee and all of the activities that occurred. We are going to start looking at the materials in the binder.
KS: I don’t know if the date was given for this – November 8, 2008 and we’re in the Falls Library. Our story begins when a committee was formed to celebrate the Centennial of the Falls Bridge which is a very unusual structure. Various committee members decided we would have a festival along East River Drive - Kelly Drive. And Bill deHeyman and Wendy Moody were two of the great movers in this.
TW: They were the co-chairs and the committee was formed, I believe, in late 1994 because the celebration was to be June, 1995.
KS: So little did we know that somewhere along the line someone suggested we might consider raising money to light the Falls Bridge which was a great idea but we simply did not realize just how much money it would cost to light the bridge – the Falls Bridge – with decorative lighting.
But Sallie Maser, another community activist, got her friend, Ray Grenald, to make a light presentation - Ray Grenald does commercial lighting for places like the Comcast Center and that sort of thing. So we had our festival and we had a certain amount of money I am not sure how much, but it was certainly not enough to light the Falls Bridge.
Eventually this morphed into our deciding to have some sort of art installation. And eventually, as the Waterworks was under renovation at that time – I was down there with Tom Williams and I saw these fish plaques that were there and this gave me an inspiration that we could do this in East Falls. The Catfish was the neighborhood symbol of East Falls and which I don't know if it is good or bad, because catfish are bottom feeders and some people complained about that. But we could have these plaques of indigenous fish along the Schuylkill, so we started working on that.
TW: The plaques at the Waterworks are down by the Art Museum. We have photos of those and we’ll discuss them. We should talk about this committee for a minute. This Bridge Centennial Committee is a very long list and it fluctuated. Pastor deHeyman and Wendy Moody were the co-chairs and then we had a steering committee and an activity head and all kinds of neighborhood people listed here – I don’t know if we want to mention them all individually?
KS: Oh sure we do. The Steering Committee was Julie Camburn, Sallie Maser, Alexis Franklin, Ernst Hohmann, Scott DeLenca (?), Bill Epstein, Bill Hoffman and John Frees. Marcello Schmidt was the secretary and Lucy Iannitto was the treasurer.
The Activities heads – and this of course is for the Bridge Centennial – was: Publicity - Bill Epstein, Bridge Walk Photo display - Ellen Sheehan, Food Vendors -
Keith Shively, Tom Williams, Amusements - Scott Delenca, Horse Carriage Ride - John Frees, Stamp Cancellation - Julie Camburn, Bridge Centennial Poster - Maria Duca, Dignitaries - Bill Hoffman and John Fidrych.
TW:The Coupon Redemption Program was Alexis Franklin, Performance groups -
Ernst Hohmann, Bridge Lighting - Sallie Maser, Band - Wendy Moody, Regatta – Philadelphia Police Marine Unit - Hilary Langer, River Activities - Marilyn Schaffer, Souvenirs - Roberta Ginsberg and various jobs that were not filled at this particular moment. Some people came and went and we have various lists of people here available for reference.
KS: The bridge celebration was a success and as I’m going over this I realize some of the things I had forgotten, like the candle-lit walk across the Bridge and pony rides.
TW: On that evening we formed down there at dusk and just as we were to walk with the candles there was a heavy rain storm but we continued the walk but everything disbanded and there was a big rush to return tables and chairs to the library. That's how that evening ended but it was mostly a success.
KS: So what happened after that, we don’t seem to have any financial data but we kept trying to raise money to light the bridge. We even talked to a lot of people but we had already asked people for money for the bridge celebration so we didn't think we could ask people for more money for lighting, so we formed another committee and came up with the Fish Signage project along the river.
TW:That committee consisted of Keith Shively, Tom Williams, Alexis Franklin, Julie Camburn, Marilynn Shaffer, Alice Reiff.
ES: The Henzes?
TW:No, the Henzes became involved because we needed some financial support later on for maintenance so we turned to Penn Reels, so Gayl became involved. What we
did at this point, this was 1998, we engaged – contacted - a person who worked at the project down by the Waterworks, this chap named Steve Sears, from Sears Iron Works from Ottsville (?), Pa. We did a lot of work with him with prototypes. We presented at the East Falls Community Council, we were down at the river with signs – prototype signs and posts at a location at the bottom of Midvale and Ridge, but this turned out not to be a logical spot.
KS:I don’t really remember why – I think people thought it was too dangerous to put something there - cars might crash into it. So we went down to the area under the twin bridges which is really more dynamic. We got Steve Sears, as I think Tom said, because he had done some of the work at the Waterworks and he turned out to be very cooperative with our low budget art installation and the Schuylkill Valley Riverway or Greenway gave us a grant also. There was another financial contribution but it just slips my mind.
TW:Well, what we have is a letter dated April 22, 1998 from Sears Ironworks which gives all the specifications and did he give the cost at that point? I’m not sure if he did. That might have come up later.
This was a letter written to the Fairmount Park Commission from the Falls Bridge Centennial Committee asking if this was referencing the Schuylkill Heritage signage grant. They provided funding and we also had funding from the Penn Reels Fishing Company for some maintenance.
KS:We have a letter here, June 10, 1998, to Julie Camburn, Vice President of East Falls Development Corporation, from the Fairmount Park Commission Secretary, Dottie Buckley, "This will confirm that at its meeting held June 1, 1998 Fairmount Park Commission voted to adopt recommendations from the Park Use Review Committee installation of five fish silhouette interpretive plaques on the edge of the Schuylkill River under the twin bridges of the Schuylkill Expressway."
With certain modifications, the approval was made. The installation will be privately funded when the Penn Reels Company has made a written commitment to contribute $500.00 per year for 5 years for maintenance. This is not a notice to proceed, you are required to obtain a permit from the Park Engineer before commencing construction. So that was the OK from Fairmount Park. Shall we do these finances a little bit?
We have a summary of the cost. The expenses for the fish silhouettes
and the information plaque and the brick hardscaping came to $15,617.00. From the Falls Bridge funds – Centennial Committee funds - we had $8,000 and from the Schuylkill River Greenway Association – they did a matching – that came to $7808.50. And we had a funding from the construction company for the hardscaping. And then we had total funds of $16008.50.
KS:I wanted to say that Fairmount was not all that easy to get along with during this installation and we have to realize the Five Fishes are on Fairmount Park property and City of Philadelphia property and they really wanted us to donate money to Fairmount Park instead of just getting a sculpture in the East Falls area. But we were determined and we got our Five Fishes.
I also wanted to say that this was a small job for someone like Steve Sears who has a very good reputation in the ornamental iron sculpture work. I think he really cut us a break in the pricing of this.
I think at this time we could say what the Five Fishes are. The five fish are indigenous fish to the Schuylkill River; the small-mouth Bass, Carp, Shad, Catfish – the East Falls symbol, striped bass - and the Yellow Perch.
Many times they’re referred to as silhouette signs at the Falls Bridge. I don’t know if that’s really a silhouette - it's more of a cut-out. I don’t know the correct term for it.
I think we can probably go through a lot of this correspondence here and get to the point where we finally arrive at our Dedication of the Five Fishes.
We have some photos and can identify the people who were there. I want to say that mid-way through the process, Keith Shively and Tom Williams got a fax machine and it saved our life. (laughter)
There are a lot of fish photographs and drawings in here.
TW: You might want to talk about the information plaques because that took a lot of people and a lot of time to decide the wording. We have some examples here.
KS: (Keith reads the wording about the history of the fish in the Schuylkill.) That’s the first paragraph of our explanatory sign.
I want to give credit where credit is due. It was originally my inspiration which I got from the signage at the Waterworks on the walkway. Other committee members gave insight or input into this. Steve Sears was very helpful in contributing to the design. There was a gentleman named Bill Burke from Philadelphia Art Commission who came out to look at our proposed installation and it was his suggestion that the five fish signs be cantilevered over the river so that you could see the water flowing through the fish cut-outs. We gave ample credit to these two gentleman at the presentation to the Fairmount Park Art Association.
TW: We have come to the part of the book that has a couple of photographs of the information signs headed up "Welcome to East Falls. It’s to the right of the fish plaques at the right level for people to read - it’s below - so it’s accessible for anyone who’s handicapped.
On the next page we have the front cover of the East Falls history book to celebrate "Three Hundred Years of East Falls History. I think the photograph on the cover of the book is the photograph on our information signs.
KS:And that shows the rocks in the river – probably an old woodcut or lithograph – and it shows the rocks that were covered after the Fairmount Dam was put in.
TW:We’re looking at photographs of the signs after they were installed with the Falls Bridge in the background, some with the high bridges, some of individual plaques.
ES: Can I ask who did the installation?
TW: The installation of the plaques and the information signs was done by Steve Sears. The brick work was done by Mariano Construction. I think they donated some of their service.
This is some information on the Waterworks because we talked about them earlier. This is a letter from the Schuylkill Greenway Association allotting us the funds. Then we have a letter from the Water Department - at one of our meeting a local person, Liz Harvey, an intern at the Water Department who grew up on Penn Street – her parents are Alan and Judy Harvey - gave us information from the Water Department.
KS: I don’t think we should get into all that. She said their esplanade was conceived by Alan Fletcher and the design was done by Tourbier (?) and Bromsley (?)
TW: And this is the esplanade down at the Waterworks near the Art Museum. What they did down there was at a cost of $600,000.00 which we thought was rather interesting.
KS: Which is why I say I think they cut us a break.
TW: Let’s talk about this Waterworks thing for a minute. They were not fish, they were
KS: But the fish plaques were in the walkway much like the stars on South Broad Street – the bronze stars - were put into the cement – that’s how the fish plaques were put into the brick walkway at the Waterworks.
TW: We want you to notice that there are photographs here of the signs at the Waterworks and Powers and Weightman Manufacturing Chemists is one of the signs and I believe Powers & Weightman was in East Falls.
KS:And the Weightman house was once Ravenhill Academy and is now part of Philadelphia University. I read somewhere that Weightman’s daughter was considered to be one of the richest women in the world.
TW: Photographs are identified. We have one of the original proposed site of Kelly Drive and Midvale. We met there one day with mockups from Steve Sears with wood posts and foam board.
We have photos of people who were involved at the time: Steve Sears, Julie Camburn, Alice Reiff, Cynthia Kishinchand, Keith Shively, Tom Williams, Laurie Hayes from Fairmount Park, Liz Harvey, and L. Fisher an intern at Fairmount Park Commission at the time.
We show the signs straight up against the wall – this is not what we did later, but we wanted to show how we were working on this particular location.
KS:Now we’re to a flood – this is out of order. A newspaper clipping of a flood in March, 2000 along Kelly Drive which was prone to flooding. Someone put an arrow to show where the fish signs are. Just a little black mark. That was the year we lost one of the fish signs. Steve Sears refabricated and installed and at the end of the installation we noticed on the bottom of the river the missing plaque. He retrieved it and I think it may be available.
TW:In October of 1999 Sears Iron Works did this repair work from the flood. They replaced one missing fish silhouette - the small-mouth bass, they repaired a damaged post and straightened another fish sign at a cost of $450.00 and they wanted to do further maintenance at that time.
KS:The ongoing maintenance is a problem for us. There is no endowment and I don’t know how to address it.
TW:It was agreed that it would be turned over to the EFDC and there is documentation relating to that. We also have correspondence for the lighting of the Falls Bridge as late as 1999. All the bridges along the river were being lit at that time. We were pushing for the Falls Bridge. We wrote to Millennium Philadelphia; we wrote to PECO but nothing came of it but we have a lot of correspondence.
KS:And we cornered Ed Rendell in McMichael Park and asked him about it. He was not dismissive and said he would donate $1000.00 if you guys get it going. We didn't have the talent to do that sort of thing.
TW:We wrote letters to PECO. We have a response to PECO. Phil Steinberg, the President of the East Falls Community Council at the time, wrote to PECO. Michael Nutter helped us also. But as you know the lighting of the bridge eventually happened in January 2008.
KS:We’re now at the Dedication Day – I don’t have the date. We have photos of the dignitaries. The fish signs were covered with white muslin covers with fish and abstract waves on them and the dignitaries used rods that Herb Henze from Penn Reels brought to “catch” the covers and lift them off. Here’s Bill Mifflin doing that. Photos identified (Phil Steinberg, Tom Williams, Roberta Ginsberg, Cynthia Kishinchand, Laurie Hayes from Fairmount Park, Marilynn Shaffer, Herb and Gayl Henze.
TW:We gave Herb one of the cut-outs
KS:….Which I wrapped in brown paper like you would do years ago in the fish market and I think Alice Reiff presented it to him– “Here’s something from the fish market.” All very apropos.
TW:We had a little reception with food under the bridges across from here which is now a parking lot.
KS: And I think we had tuna tea sandwiches and cookies and ice tea.
TW: We wanted to register this with Fairmount Park Art Association as a permanent art installation so Keith wrote a letter to them back in July of 1999, asking about registering this. We have a letter back from them in August 1999 saying “Thank you for sending along information and photographs of the East Falls Five Fishes. I’ve seen it and I applaud your efforts because I remember when this was an idea and not a reality. We had an interesting discussion in our office on whether the work was a sculpture or a very innovative signage display. Since we couldn’t agree, we decided we would include it in our inventory. I’m enclosing an inventory form for you to fill out and return. Sincerely…” Keith and I worked on this application…
KS:The inventory form, and we finally sent it in last month, October 2008.
TW:We sent it to the Fairmount Park Art Association, 1616 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. We have a copy in the book of this multi-page form. It was involved so we put it off for a while. We haven’t heard back from them but they did agree to register it.
KS: But it’s in the inventory, so to speak. And it’s my understanding that the Fairmount Park Art Association does rehabilitate and restore and maintain art installations. I think they did the signs along the Manayunk Canal.