East Falls Oral History Project
Interviewee: Mary Webster (MW)
Interviewer: Cherie Snyder (CS) with Ruth Emmert (RE)
Interview: Sunday, June 21, 1981
Transcribed By: Samantha Kane, Student, Philadelphia University “Day of Service” (Fall 2009) and Wendy Moody.
CS: What kind of work did you do in the mills?
MW: I started out with sewing the numbers on the material. I had a big bolt of string around my waist. And I had fun, my sisters had fun in the mill.
CS: Your sisters also worked there?
MW: Uh-huh. For a while - but my sister worked at Wall & Ochs in town on Chestnut Street, my older sister she worked there for years and years.
CS: Which one Amy or Eva?
MW: Amy. But in a marriage, Eva married very young and she missed a lot. She really missed a lot.
CS: What do you think she missed?
MW: Well, I think she would have gone on to something better than the mill, course she had children right away, and her husband wasn’t very ambitious. And that’s sad, when you have a family and you’re not interested.
CS: She had a large family? How may were there?
MW: Yeah, Dorothy, Donald, Jean, Stanley- Stanley was killed in the war, and who was the other one? Five children. (Ed. note: the fifth child was Arlene)
CS: They were close too, weren’t they?
MW: Very Close.
CS: What age did you start working in the mills?
MW: About fourteen
CS: Same with your sisters?
MW: Mmhmm, no my sisters were, I think, they were older, but my older sister made out very good.
CS: How many years did you work there, just approximately?
MW: Well I didn’t work very long because my mother wasn’t able to do the work so I stayed home, that’s what I am, a housekeeper. Though I like it, I like it.
CS: Your sisters continued to work?
MW: Oh my older sister worked, she never married, she was an old maid, but I always felt sorry for my sister Eva because she had no life, I mean she loved her children, she took good care of them, but she had no life of her own.
CS: But she had a great sense of humor?
MW: Yes she did, yes she did. All her neighbors were nice to her.
CS: Was it hard work, working in the mills?
MW: No we had lots of fun, an awful lot of fun.
CS: David said you were a burler?
MW: Yes, after I did the string business, after I sewed the numbers on.
CS: Well what’s a burler?
MW: You pick out the flaws and they have a table that goes up this way and you have a tweezers and you pick out all the little knots and things. And then you pull them over and do them on the line, and then you pull them over and turn them. And then you had to go down the room and get another load, take it back and put it on your table and start over again.
CS: Were women’s jobs different in the mill than men’s jobs? Did they have certain things that the women did and certain things that the men did?
MW: Yeah, well the women did the burling, and the men did the machines, you know, the winding the thread. I can’t think of what it is.
CS: Were salaries different too, between the men and the women?
CS: Do you remember what you got?
MW: (Laughs) I didn’t get very much! But it was an experience.
CS: What were the working conditions like?
MW: Well it was nothing different, it was as likable as everywhere else. You know, they didn’t feel bad about it, it was kind of easy. They could talk on their lunch hour, they didn’t go home. They thought it was all right.
CS: You mentioned that you had a lot of fun, what kinds of things did you do?
MW: Yeah, fun. There was a little old maid there and they used to tantalize her a little bit. And she didn’t like it a bit. But they had lots of fun, and there were girls too, at this end of the table, two girls at the table. This one would be talking to you standing here about her. (Laughs). And I was like, ‘Don’t, don’t, she’ll hear you!’ And she said, ‘Ah!’
CS: So it was a good time to gossip?
MW: (Laughs). Yeah, oh yeah. But we used to go caroling up to Dobson’s. They were just a little past the women’s hospital. And they had a big stone house.( Oh look at the parade coming in! They were out camping all night those two girls!
(Laughs) So, where was I? We used to go up caroling, all the choirs went from the churches. And the men would come; there was a group with horns that would play. And we enjoyed it so much, and we walked all the way. We were walking until six o-clock in the morning!
CS: And this was Christmas Eve or just some time…?
MW: Christmas Eve. Mmhmm. And they’d give us money for the church. So one time when we were in there, Mary Elizabeth Altemus was home. And there was a boyfriend there, and she was kind of showing off. And she said, and we were all standing there, (of course we couldn’t sing when she was talking on the phone). She said, “Oh my,” she said, “you should be here,” she said, “There’s a crowd of people here; they’re looking at this strange telephone; they’ve never saw a telephone.” And that made me furious! I thought, “Oh if I could just go over to her and say ‘My dear, we’ve had a telephone for years!’ ” Laughs.
But we went there until they moved, I guess he died; I don’t remember him dying. Then he had a brother down on Allegheny Avenue.
CS: And which one was that?
MW: That was James. But this was James, oh that’s John.
CS: They always said John was the cranky one?
MW: Yeah he didn’t bother with anybody, much.
CS: At Christmastime, did the Dobson’s do anything for their employees? Did you get a bonus or a turkey?
MW: Oh no, no.
CS: Nothing? They didn’t do that back then, huh?
MW: Yeah, nothing like that.
CS: What would happen if you were sick and you couldn’t go to work one day?
MW: You would just go in the next day.
CS: Did they have a telephone? Did you call in sick, or did you just not go in?
MW: (Laughs). We just didn’t go in, we went in the next day.
CS: And you weren’t paid for that day?
MW: Oh no, oh no.
CS: What would happen if you were hurt on the job, something happened? Did the Dobsons take care of your medical bills?
MW: I don’t know about that. I was healthy. Laughs. Oh! I have a picture of Mrs. Altemus upstairs if you’d like to see it.
CS: We’d love to; we’d love to see it.
MW: She was a nice lady, very nice. Kind to you, speak to you. If she saw you, she’d pass you in the car she’d wave to you. That was nice; she didn’t have to do that.
CS: Can you describe how she looked?
MW: Oh she was tall, white hair when I remember her. And mostly wore black, I think.
CS: Why was that, did she just like it?
MW: I imagine she just liked it. In that time they thought she was really dressed up. And she wore that same hat for years and years and years, had it recovered. (Laughs). Poor Mrs. Altemus. But she liked the way that hat looked on her and felt, so she kept the frame and just had it covered over and over and over again. And her mother was the sweetest little soul; I don’t ever remember hearing her talk. But the family used to sit in the stairway, when we would go to sing. And Mrs. Altemus would be down with us. They gave us coffee.
CS: So you were actually invited in the house? Do you remember at all what it looked like? Or what your impressions of it were?
MW: This is what impressed me: the drape, one of the drapes, was over the radiator, and it must have been too hot, and it burnt. Well it wasn’t taken away and fixed, it was still there, and it was there the next time! (Laughs). So you see how we do things?
CS: So the rich maybe aren’t so different from us sometimes?
MW: (Laughs). That’s right! That’s funny.
CS: I’m also curious about the house, just because its not there and I think other people in this community had seen it and I never had. What was their house like on the outside?
MW: Well, when we were young, we kind of thought it was more like a castle, stones, you know. And they allowed us to go during the picnics on the grounds, and we had nice times. And the Mother’s Club used to go up there for picnics.
CS: And what was the Mother’s Club?
MW: That was a group of all kinds of women, housekeepers, and they had it for years, in the Falls. And Mrs. Altemus was interested, and she helped them out occasionally. I got in on the tail end. And they used to do nice things; they had a choir, they met at the library.
CS: At Old Academy or up at the Falls Library?
MW: Mmhmm, the Falls.
CS: Somebody in another interview told us that Mrs. Altemus, she thought Mrs. Altemus actually worked at the mill a little bit when she was younger; do you know if that’s true?
MW: Oh no, I don’t know, I didn’t know that.
CS: Maybe in the office or something?
MW: Yeah, maybe.
CS: What would you say might be your most vivid memory of working at Dobson Mills? What just stands out more than anything, or a feeling you had about Dobson that just stayed with you?
MW: Well there was many, it was fun. I had lots of fun. Lots of fun, and then later I worked at the Harry Clayton’s store, on Conrad Street. Between Sunnyside and Bowman.
CS: So you worked there?
MW: I worked there. I remember twin boys that worked for them, one worked at the grocery store, where I worked, and one worked at the meat store down at the next corner. And they were the skinniest kids I ever saw! (Laughs). And they were demons! This one, every time I went down to the cellar- of course Mr. Clayton didn’t care when I carried up from the cellar- I used to carry up cases of cans, up the cellar steps. And I met his son not too long ago, and he said, “Mary, how did you like, uh, remember what you got for salary?” I said, “Yeah I remember.” He said, “Eleven dollars.” I said, “Oh no, oh no, Harry, no! Seven dollars!” Laughs. Because I remember when he gave me that seven dollars one week, I went home and I said to mother, we are going to Rowl’s (?) in Germantown, and I’m going to buy you something. So, I bought her a seven dollar pocketbook.
CS: Oh I bet that was a big deal.
MW: Laughs. Oh boy was that something! And she said, “Oh child,” she always said oh child, “Child, oh that’s a shame you shouldn’t have done that.” So this boy that worked with me, he would hide down the cellar, and I didn’t know he was down there, and he would jump out at me, and I would get a hold of him, I could handle him, you know, he was skinny, and I would get him and I would thump the back of him. And he would laugh, you never knew that he felt it because he wouldn’t let you know. Laughs. But he would do it again the next time!
CS: And how old were you when you worked there?
MW: I must have been about fifteen, sixteen.
CS: David said something about pushing a truck?
MW: At the store? Oh I pushed everything! I cleaned the shelves, I cleaned the windows, I did everything!
CS: Well was the truck an automobile truck?
MW: Oh yeah, actually no it was a car, an old fashioned car. And you know there’s a street-Division Street- between Sunnyside and Bowman, and they treated me like I was a boy. ‘Mary come on you have to help push the car!’
CS: Were you as little as you are now?
MW: Oh I guess I was littler than I am now. There had to be about four of us pushing that car, through the little old street. And they didn’t think anything of that having a girl push the car. That was nothing! What are you talking about, you know! Laughs. Oh but through it all, I enjoyed my life. Really, I didn’t have anything, but I enjoyed life. So I can’t, he put, did you have the paper that he wrote on?
CS: Yeah let’s take a look, let me just ask a couple things, I usually like to start out asking, but it doesn’t matter when I ask them. And then we can go to some other question. When were you born?
MW: I was born in 1897.
CS: What day?
MW: The day? Oh, August 11. We have a cradle that all our children were in, it’s a wooden cradle that I put over
RE: I was going to bring that up. They had a family cradle.
MW. It came from England.
RE: It came from England. The youngest girl said that was what was wrong with her – that when she was in it – that was Gladys – she said – she cried - anyone who was minding her at the time had to rock the cradle and they rocked her sideways –back and forth - and her head banged on one side – banged on the other side – back and forth – and she always said that that was what was wrong with her.
MW: Well there was a hole bored in the side of the cradle, and we put a string in there, and we used to pull the string up at the end, you know. Maybe that’s what wrong with me, I don’t know. Laughs.
CS: Were you born in East Falls?
MW: Yes. I was born on Sunnyside, lower Sunnyside.
CS: And your parents were born in England? Both of them were born in England?
MW: Mmhmm, the same town.
CS: What town?
CS: Do you know, I don’t know England, do you know what part of England that was? North, South, East, West?
CS: And do you remember just approximately when they came? Were they a young couple?
MW: Yeah, he came first. See when there’s a family, the oldest one would come first. And after he got a job, the next one would come. And the father would stay over there until they were all over here.
CS: Was he married to your mother at that time?
MW: No, he was a young boy. And, let’s see, that’s how they came over.
CS: And she didn’t know him when she came over?
MW: Oh yes she was keeping company, that’s why they sent him back again. He went back over to bring my mother, and she lived with these people, until they could afford to get a place. But, the girls, there were two girls, they used to make fun of him, when she came over it was in February, and she had on a white hat. In those days you didn’t wear a white straw hat in February. And one of them said to her, “Is that the only hat you have?” She said, “No I have a black hat.” And they said, “Oh well wear that, don’t wear the white one, that’s for summer.” And they used to tease her a little bit, you know, she was green.
CS: They were married in England then?
MW: Yes, because her mother was furious at her for going, coming over here.
CS: Her parents were angry with her because she came to America?
MW: Mmhmm, so you know she must have been sad when she came.
CS: And you don’t have any year that they came over? How old would they be now? When was she born?
MW: Oh I don’t know, does it say on that paper?
CS: Was that Mary and Joseph (Smith)? They came over in the late 1880s just approximately, that’s what the note says here. And your grandmother returned to England in the early 1890s with your two older sisters, Amy and Eva.
CS: Did she stay long?
MW: I don’t imagine.
CS: And then came back and never went to England again. What kind of work did your father, do you know what kind of work your father did?
MW: He was a weaver. He worked at Dobson’s. But he then became a clothing salesmen, he knew the materials, you know. And that’s what he had as long as he lived, until he retired. He worked in Wanamaker and Brown’s first - that was down at 6thand Market. Then he went up to John Wanamaker’s, and then they had the, what should I say, the boss. They had the boss on his floor, um, died. And they put a younger man on, in his place. Now they should have put a man that was used to the job. And he stood at the upstairs and looked down and there was another man moving. And he said, “You see all those white haired men down there? Well they’re going to go.” This was when my father was still living, working. First thing you know, he was the one that went, and the others were put back again. You know, a smart alec. So, you never know, you never know!
CS: Did the, did it seem like a lot of people who came over from England would work in the Dobson Mill?
MW: Yes, an awful lot of them, because they knew the material, they had done the work, you know.
RE: But in England was it noted that if you get to America that you go live in East Falls and you’ll get a job in the Dobson Mill?
MW: Laughs. They used to go down to the water, and wait to see if there was anybody that got off that they knew. And they would direct them right up to East Falls.
CS: They meaning some of the workers or some of the people..?
MW: Some of the workers.
RE: I always wondered how they decided where in the United States they were going to go when they got here.
MW: Yeah, yeah. They used to go every time the boat came in they went down.
CS: The boat came in to Philadelphia?
MW: Uh-huh. Yeah.
CS: And you had, um let’s see, just two sisters? Amy and Eva?
MW: Amy, and Eva, and Gladys, and one boy. Oh yeah! Ida; Ida died when she was five.
CS: Older or younger than you?
MW: Younger, no, older!
CS: So you didn’t know her? Or you did?
MW: No, I don’t remember her.
CS: What did she die of?
MW: I think it was spinal meningitis.
CS: Did most women have their babies at home or did they go to the hospital?
MW: At home
RE: Edna Wooley mentioned Miss Dunns?
MW: Yeah, she was, I think she was Irish, but she was a very good nurse, and she never had any trouble getting work. And then she got to know these two women on New Queen Street- they owned some of the houses on New Queen. I can’t remember their name right now. But a lot of people had her, she brought a lot of children into the world.
CS: She had a sort of hospital on Henry Avenue, a three story house? And instead of going to the hospital when you had your baby…
MW: I had David up there.
CS: And did you walk up when you got kind of heavy, you walked up?
MW: Uh-huh. I walked up. On Henry Avenue near Ainslie, the end house in the row. It’s still there, I think.
CS: But it was a house? Like a small private little hospital. Was she a midwive or a nurse?
MW: A nurse. She was very pleasant.
RE: Did she have a doctor come in?
RE: She didn’t deliver the babies…
MW: No, Dr. Entwisle.
CS: About what years did she have the house? Was it there for as long as you can remember?
MW: No, she hasn’t been there for quite a while. Well she was getting up in age, you know. She was a lovely person, she was comical. Her sister lived with her, and one day I said, “Miss Dunn, I hear a noise, like somebody tapping, where would that be?” And she laughed and she said, “That’s my sister, she’s doing a jig down there.” Laughs. And she was such a sober looking person you’d never think of such a thing, you know?
CS: Why did you choose Miss Dunn’s to go to have a baby?
MW: Because I didn’t want to go to the hospital.
CS: You were scared of the hospital?
CS: Did everyone have the same feeling?
MW: I don’t think so. I think in years past, you know, they were more in the home.
CS: Was she less expensive?
(tape is blanked out for a minute or two)
MW: …I could kill that man so easy. I don’t know who ever gave him the outfit.
CS: What was his name?
MW: Dr. Roe. And when my sister had Dorothy, the oldest girl, she had her home, and he came one day and I was in the room and I didn’t know how to get out, I hated him so. He was annoying, you know. He would put his hands on you. So, um, I crawled under the bed. And my mom was in the room too, and I think she must have given him the goat eye and told him where I was, so he leaned down and got a hold of my leg and pulled me out. Well then I just hated him a little more. And then my mother would say sometimes when somebody was sick, “You’ll have to go down to the doctors and get some pills, he’ll give them to you.”
And I would say, “Yeah, well mother, I don’t want to go.” “Well you have to go because there’s nobody else to go.” So, my girlfriend went with me, Esther, remember her? She went with me. And I said uh, “I came for pills,” oh I hated that man! And he said, “Well you can’t have them until you sit on my lap.” And I said, “Well I won’t sit on your lap!” He said, “Well, all right,” so here he slipped them to Esther, and he sent me a note saying that he…
CS: So in those days he was a very old man?
MW: Oh he was, he was. You could tell to look at him. So, um, when we got a little closer to home, she said, “Listen Mary, here’s your pills, he told me not to give them to you.” Then I hated him more, how much hate can you hold. Oh dear it was awful, it was awful. Anytime my mother would say, “Go down to the doctor…”
RE: Dr. Zinn(?) was like that too.
MW Was he? I kinda thought he was!
RE: You had to stand flat against him and he had you put your arms around his waist and hold him tight and he held you while he looked in your eyes to examine your eyes because he said it was steadier that way, but he never made the old ladies stand that way.
MW: They were a thing of the past. Oh dear, it was awful. It was awful. Anytime my mother would say go down to the doctor …
CS: I bet you didn’t get sick much.
MW: No, I wouldn’t say I was sick. Laughs.
CS: Where did you go to school?
MW: Forest School, right down off Krail Street, it’s gone away by now.
CS: What are your memories of the Forest School?
MW: Um, bad boys. This Mr. Gotwols, who just died, he was in an automobile…. See, I’m getting stupid now. Laughs. He and his wife were in the car, and the dog, he never went anywhere without his dog. He came to our church, they lived all the way out in Jersey and they came to our church, the Methodist church. And he let it stay in the car while they were in church. Ain’t that funny? Well he died a couple of months ago, is it two months ago?
RE: This was George Gotwols?
MW: No, George died before this, that was my sister-in-law’s husband, and nobody liked him either. And this Alfred was in school with me, and he would think nothing about grabbing the hat off your head, hair along, and throw it up in the tree! And you wouldn’t even have a hat to wear, you couldn’t reach it! You couldn’t climb the tree, you were out of luck. Oh he was bad! Did awful things. So now he’s dead and buried, and she’s in the hospital with all kinds of complaints. I don’t know where she’s going to go. I really don’t.
RE: Who were the teachers at Forest School?
MW: Well, in first grade, I always heard this name now, I don’t know whether it was right or now, Miss Clara Cap(?) And she used to wear a little shawl around her, oh she was an old maid. Typical old maid. And she had first grade, Miss Walker – I don’t know her first name - , she had one first grade, and she had the other. And then there was Carrie Dyson- D-Y-, and her father had a junk store down on the Ridge, and you could get nice things down there, you know, cheap. Yeah, that was Miss Carrie Dyson. They were in the lower grades; then did I say Miss Walker?
CS: You just mentioned Miss Walker, now what grade was she?
MW: oh, I just mentioned Miss Walker… she must have been the third or fourth. And then I can’t remember the others.
CS: Was there a principal of the school, Mary?
MW: Yes. Um, Reese, Dr. Reese was one. Then there was an old, old man with a beard, and his, I think his name was Dr. Samuels, and he was kind of cute. Laughs. He used to kid around with the kids a little bit, nice, you know, real nice.
CS: Wasn’t it accustomed to call school teachers by their first names? You would call them Miss…
MW: Miss Clara, yes.
CS: Did the teachers tend to be older people or young people right out of grammar school?
MW: They weren’t real young, course you couldn’t gauge in those days, they were almost old - you know what I mean?
CS: What age did you become an old maid?
MW: Oh, Amy was an old maid. Oh, about in your twenties.
CS: In your twenties you were an old maid. So if you weren’t married by then, you were an old maid?
MW: Yeah, yeah. She was never married. But she enjoyed life, so she was great for music, she played the piano very well, she used to go to all of the good shows in town. She took a few trips, and she took a trip to Bermuda, I think it was Bermuda. Is that the one that the water is so rough? Bermuda?
CS: That’s probably right, I get the Bahamas and Bermuda all mixed up!
MW: Well anyway, she went on this boat trip, and she had everything new to go in. A suit, a pretty little suit, and a pretty hat, and I thought, “I’ll borrow that hat when she comes back.” Laughs. And she got sick, seasick. She went to bed in the suit and the hat and the shoes and everything, She was so sick. And the hat, the nice hat, was turned up at the back ‘cause she wore that to bed, and I said, “What happened to this hat? Cause I was going to borrow it.” She said, “I didn’t know whether I had a hat on or off.”
RE: They always wore hats and gloves to church. Not so informal as it is today. David said something about the flags out…
MW: Well I used to go out from the store and get orders. And I knew the people on my street, you know.. So, I don’t know what day it was they put out the flags and here I was on New Queen St. putting flags out on the road and Harry Clayton, my boss, was boiling in the store saying “Where can she be?”
CS: You were helping the people put the flags out?
MW: Yes, when I got back to the store I could look at his face and knew he was mad and he said “Where in tarnation have you been? I said I’ve been out getting orders.” He said “Well, it took you a long time.” Harry was a grump. He was grumpy.”
CS: There’s something here about the building of the Manor. What was the Manor?
MW: The Manor was from Vaux Street on…
RE: – Queen Lane Manor. It was when the new houses were built.
MW: Now that house that Ruth lives in, that was one of them in it.
RE: Queen Lane Manor, from Vaux Street to Henry.
MW: Onto Germantown Avenue
RE: Queen Lane Manor? Wissahickon, I think.
MW: Wissahickon; maybe.
CS: Why was it called Manor?
RE: The builder, McCrudden, McCrudden was the builder.
CS: It was a development?
RE: Yes, it was a development and he named the section Queen Lane Manor.
CS: And that was in the ‘20’s?
MW: And, you know, when they built the Lutheran Church, there was a man who would take care of things while the workers were away – see that nothing was stolen or anything like that. And we - they allowed the kids to gather up pieces of wood to take home for firewood - we didn’t need it but I used to go up and get it for my girlfriend. Oh I loved it – I loved picking up that wood.
CS: It sounds like you were a hard worker.
MW: Well we had jobs to do. They don’t have them now. These girls don’t have jobs to do; do they?
CS: What kind of jobs did you have to do?
MW: Well, we had to dry the dishes, we had to sweep the sunporch and the pavement, you know – things like that.
CS: What did the boys do?
MW: Well, we only had the one boy – he did nothing!!!
RE: David mentioned the 2-4-6-8-10 Club…
MW: Yes, that was a Sunday School class.
RE: Was your whole social life then, when you were young, was the church, wasn’t it?
MW: Yeah. We had the junior league on Friday night – we’d all come together and we enjoyed it.
CS: What’s the 2-4-6-8-10 Club?
MW: Because there were 10 girls in the club – we named it 2-4-6-8-10.
CS: But it was actually a Sunday School class?
RE: Something about counting it out by twos?
MW: Yeah. And the first teacher that we had was Mrs. Stupplebine and he was the – do you remember him? Store on Midvale? Well she had us in her house. Come to my house. So then it grew – we took a few others in – and it just recently stopped.
CS: It was in existence all this time? It was the same people?
MW: Yes. Alice Hess is in the Methodist Home. Myrtle Wilcox that lived down Queen Lane – she’s in a home in a home.
CS: In Maryland?
MW: Where? I think it’s Maryland; I don’t know. Anyhow, we used to meet in one another’s houses once a month and we’d have a spread, you know. And she took us down to Strawberry Mansion and then she’s take us over across the Ridge to an ice cream store. Oh was that ever something. We loved a plate of ice cream.
RE: What other clubs were in the church? There was the Queen Esther Circle, wasn’t there? How did it that get its name?
MW: Yeah. That was from the children’s home down in the depths of the city. We had a home down there for poor children and that was where that money went to.
RE: But why did they call it the Queen Esther Circle?
MW: I never knew.
CS: Queen Esther from the Old Testament, right?
MW: Yeah, I guess …to help people.
RE: We had varied stories on how the Moment Musical started, and some people said the Queen Esther Circle put on this musical play - minister’s wife to earn money for whatever – and others say, no, it was not the Queen Esther Circle it was something else, but they don’t know what. What do you remember?
MW: I think it was the Queen Esther Circle.
RE: It was the Queen Esther Circle. And the people of the church picked this musical play and put it on, and then later the minister thought it wasn’t suitable for a church to have plays and that’s when they formed the Moment Musical Club – in 1923.
MW: Yes that’s about right.
RE: But it was the It was the Queen Esther Circle that did it first
MW: Yes, hmhm.
CS: Were you involved in the Moment Musical Club?
MW: I wasn’t, but my sister played the piano, and my brother was in it, and my younger sister - my younger sister was a comic. Do you remember Gladys, don’t you?
RE: Oh, how would I ever forget her?
MW: I have a little picture upstairs – I’ll bring it down. And Mrs. Altemus.
RE: Never forget Gladys – the greatest actress, comedian - a natural, self-taught and she used to do monologues Yeah - and she could do them at the drop of a hat and go on and have an audience in the palm of her hands – they would be in the aisles laughing at her. Nobody does those anymore but Gladys could do them anytime and she was a marvelous actress.
MW: She worked at Wanamaker’s in the audit department and those girls loved her.
RE: Everybody loved Gladys.
MW: She would carry on for them, you know.
RE: Mary’s brother was Stanley Smith who was a charter member of the Moment Musical which later became the Old Academy Players when they moved into the Old Academy.
CS: Where did the Moment Musical Club meet at first?
MW: Well, they met at church.
CS: And then when the church felt that it wasn’t suitable, then where did they go?
RE: They went in each other’s homes, they tell me.
MW: Yes, they did.
CS: And where did they put on their performances until they got to Old Academy?
MW: Did they ever do them in America Hall?
RE: They did them in – you mean Palestine Hall on Ridge and Midvale?
MW: Yeah, it might have been down there, but there was a hall on 35th.
RE: Oh, America Hall, yes I know – the hospital has that now. They also rented the Germantown Women’s Club on Washington Lane. They rented various places and did them. Where they rehearsed I don’t know. In each other’s homes, I guess.
MW: Yeah, I don’t know.
RE: Until near 1932 when Jim Lawson suggested the Old Academy might be available for them. And they agreed and they moved in and renovated it and have kept it in good condition ever since.
MW: I guess the English Lodge – they used to meet in there.
RE: The English Lodge, yes, but they couldn’t do anything to keep the building in repair. I understand it was to be condemned and torn down when Jim Lawson brought it up about the Old Academy – the Moment Musical moving in. And that’s when they changed their name when they moved in there.
MW: How about that; I didn’t know that.
RE: And there was Selwyn Briggs – we must interview him - he still lives on Ainslie Street does he?
MW: Yes, upper Ainslie on the opposite side from (?)
RE: She’ll know which house, though. He was one of the charter members and he remembers everything. Did you go to Breck School?
MW: Yes, It was Forest – then it was changed.
CS: Changed the name?
CS: The building was the same? Did they add on to it at all?
MW: There were two buildings one for the younger classes and the other for the older. One was brick, one was stone.
CS: Yes, we’ve heard that. Now there’s something here about “Ducky”?
MW: The Ducky? Yeah, it was just a little pond at the top of Sunnyside and there were more accidents in that darn thing – the boys used to swing out on the limb of a tree and down they’d go! And how many broken arms, I don’t know…an awful lot…
RE: That’s when it was all woods above Vaux.
MW: Right where you were living was a big field where there were horses.
CS: Who had the horses?
RE: The 3300 block of Ainslie St., she’s talking about.
MW: There was a pool.
CS: But who owned the property?
MW: There was a Mr. Fanning. I think he was a milkman and he had a few cows and a couple of horses. Now my cousin – there was a crowd of us walking through that field one day – and one of the horses was there and one of the boys got smart and said to Myrtle “Would you like a ride on the horse?” And she said yes, so he pushed her up on the horse and then he gave it a crack and it flew up that field. I said “Oh! That was a dirty trick.” She was scared green.
RE: Bad boys, again.
MW: Yes, bad boys; they were rough. Very rough.
RE: But this pond, or whatever it was - at the top of Sunnyside and Vaux, they called it the Duckie? Did it have a lot of ducks?
MW: No ducks!
RE: You “ducked” into it…
MW: I guess they were ducking themselves in; I don’t think you were supposed to swim in it, but there was water in there. Now it might have just been water that laid in there but they used to swing out on the branch and drop down. Sometimes they dropped too far.
CS: Where the school is now, the Mifflin School, what was there before the Mifflin “School was built?
MW: Nothing. Midvale Avenue? None of those houses were there, not many of them. Down lower, near the Ridge, there were houses, and where the Catholic Church, St. Bridget’, there were houses on the other side of the street. But it was all woods there when we were kids. There would be a little stream on Midvale and we’d go over and move the stones and maybe find little animals…
MW: Yeah, We would be out all day – all day! Sometimes we’d forget to go home for lunch. Do you want me to get that picture? And the little one in the frame right there?
RE: I remember from my early days on Ainslie Street the Foggy Dews on Christmas Eve going around caroling and nobody seems to remember – some people remember the name - but who they were and what kind of music they played – what instruments or what is was all about. Do you remember?
MW: Well he was Bill Thorpe’s – his father – you know Bill Thorpe - he married Grace Tregae and Otto (?)
RE: And he had the Foggy Dews?
MW: Yeah and they used to go out Christmas caroling.
RE: And who else was in the Foggy Dews?
MW: I don’t know.
RE: Were there three or two?
MW: Four, I think
RE: And what were the instruments?
MW: I think he had a horn, Mr. Thorpe.
CS: Did someone say a fife and drum, in another interview?
MW: They might have. I guess in such times as we’re having now, people don’t want to do things.
RE: No. Where did they get the name Foggy Dews?
MW: It was before my time, I think.
RE: Grace Tregae’s husband, Bill Thorpe?
MW: Hm, hm
RE: Well that wouldn’t have been before your time…
MW: No, but this is his father…
CS: The other thing there was a note about was all the stores on 35th Street, so I just thought we might talk about that. Conrad Street, right?
MW: Yeah. Why, Mrs. Horsefield and her husband, Mr. Horsefield - he rode a motorcycle and he would take his sister-in–law to the store on the back of that motorcycle. She’d go anywhere – she’d go upstate – the wife wouldn’t go with him. And he wasn’t so good with the eyes - the eyes weren’t so good.
CS: He was an older man?
MW: Yeah, He was no kid. They had a little - why can’t I think of that…she sold girdles and stuff.
CS: Dry goods?
MW: Dry goods. Things like that. We had a name for him – everyone laughed about him – I never knew what he worked at, or if he did work, but she ran the store. We’d say “Look out, here comes Mr. Horsefield!”
RE: We didn’t touch the library.
CS: Oh, let’s do that.
RE: Do you have any idea how long the library was there in the Old Academy?
MW: As long as I could remember.
RE: And how long ago would that be? Would it have been before 1901?
MW: I imagine so.
CS: You were born in 1897.Do you have your first memory of going to the library, there?
MW: When we were at school - when I was in the early grades at school. We used to stop in on the way home and get a book or take a book back.
RE: Do you remember the librarian?
CS: Who was she?
MW: I can see her in my mind.
CS: What did she look like?
MW: She was dark complected and she sometimes was very grumpy – because we were noisy I guess.
CS: Was she an older woman when you first remembered her?
MW: Yes she was …
Tape ends here.
(This transcript was reviewed by Irene Webster, Mary Webster’s daughter-in-law on 2/15/2010).
Photo: Mae Mohr (center) on-stage
East Falls Oral History Project
Interviewee: Mae Mohr (MM)
Interviewer: Cherie Snyder (CS)
Date of Interview: April 13, 1983
Transcribers: Dustin Balton, Philadelphia University, April 19, 2010 and
Wendy Moody, June 9, 2010
CS: Mae, what year were you born? Do you mind if I ask?
MM: 1902, the exact birthday is January the 10th.
CS: 1902. Were you born here in East Falls?
MM: No, I was born in Fishtown, Ammon (?) Street in Fishtown. That’s in Kensington. But my brother, he was just 17 months younger than me, he was born in Labby Hill.
CS: That’s over here?
MM: Yeah, they tore it down, they tore the houses down to put that project up.
CS: Ah, where the Schuylkill Falls housing project is? So you had moved by the time your brother was born?
MM: Yeah, my brother was born in there. I was born in Kensington.
CS: When did you move here to East Falls then?
MM: That was in 1912. In between time I had another brother and he was born up in Hatboro.
CS: Was the brother that was born here in East Falls born after 1912?
MM: Yeah, Well, no. He was born in 1903, my brother Jim.
CS: In East Falls?
MM: Yeah. In Labby Hill.
CS: So your family came here for a while in East Falls? I see.
MM: And we have been here ever since.
CS: I see. So, you said you moved here in 1912?
MM: That was because we moved out to Kensington and my mother had another little girl, then we moved back here.
CS: I see. Were your parents born in East Falls?
MM: No they were born in Ireland.
CS: Did both of them come over from Ireland?
MM: Yeah. They were married here in East Falls. In the Grace Church down here.
CS: Ahh. They were living in East Falls at the time?
CS: What brought them to East Falls?
MM: Well, she had a sister here. And I guess that’s why she came here.
CS: Did they work in the Dobson Mills?
MM: My mother did, yes. My mother worked in the Dobson Mill.
CS: Can you remember when she was still working there?
CS: Or was that before you were born?
MM: Well, I don’t recall.
CS: And how many brothers and sisters did you have?
MM: I had three brothers and I was the only girl. The other one died right when she was an infant.
CS: And so when did your family settle permanently in East Falls?
MM: Well we moved from there up to Calumet Street and that’s right there at Dobson Street, 3632. We lived there, and from there we moved here.
CS: So you grew up in this house too?
MM: Well I was married from here.
CS: Tell me about the houses you lived around in Labby Hill.
MM: Well, I could show you them if you’d like, we have a picture.
CS: Sure, I’d like to see that. Did you rent the house?
MM: Yeah, we rented. We didn’t have the money to pay for it.
CS: How about the one on Calumet Street?
MM: We rented that and then my father wanted to buy a farm. He was always a gardener. And so we were just at the age that we were interested in the girls and boys, and so we didn’t want to go, so he started looking around the Falls for a house and we came over here and we got this one.
CS: How old is this house?
MM: Well, about I guess it’s almost 100 years old. I’m one of the oldest ones on this street right now.
MM: I mean the other people that lived here before all moved away or died.
CS: What did the houses look like? Can you describe them for me?
MM: Yeah, it was only about 6 or 7 houses on that road and the thing went almost straight up.
CS: Did you rent them from the… was it the Weightman family?
MM: I think they were on the other side of Ridge Avenue. And then they rented this part and they used to dump all their coal over on the other side. I guess my father worked there; it said in this here that he had been working for them.
CS: That’s what I had thought that they rented to workers. Do you remember the name of the company?
MM: I can’t seem to find it in my mind right now.
CS: Yeah, I know it too, I just can’t think of the name myself. Was it a pharmaceutical company?
MM: No, no.
CS: Okay. Well when you moved to Calumet Street what were the houses like there?
MM: Well they were regular row houses.
CS: Is it still standing on Calumet Street?
MM: Oh yeah, they are all still standing. My uncle owned two of the houses, he lived in one, and we lived in the other. And we have been nearby; we lived here about five years before I got married.
CS: What other kind of work did your father do?
MM: Well in the olden days he used to be a conductor in horsecars.
CS: Oh really?
MM: And then he took up gardening, and he worked for Percy Clark over in Bala Cynwyd, their daughter Anna married Nelson Rockefeller. So he used to take care… Her parents didn’t give her spending money and for them to make money they had to raise something. So they raised chickens and my father took care of all the chickens for her. Then she would sell the chickens back to her mother and the eggs back to her mother. Then when she got married my father was invited to the wedding.
CS: To Nelson Rockefeller’s? Did he go?
MM: Oh yeah, he was there.
CS: Did you remember him talking about it at all or was that before your time?
MM: Yeah, he didn’t say too much about it.
CS: Was the wedding held here?
MM: In Bala Cynwyd. Married at her place Percy Clark. When we lived on Calumet Street there were no houses up there on Warden Drive. No houses up there at all
CS: What was it? What did it look like?
MM: It was just like lots, you know just ground. Except there was one place, we called it the duck pond and my brothers and them used to go up there and one time they went up there to swim or bathe and this here park guard he was riding around on horses then… his name was Adams and he came along and caught them and they all ran through the woods. And then right there at Warden Drive to Henry Avenue - there were no houses there - and there used to be a spring that ran right there along the inside of where the painting is now. A spring used to run down there all the time.
CS: With good water?
MM: It was always running. I always thought there was a spring under that from the houses up there, you know you never know.
CS: Was it parkland or was it privately owned by someone?
MM: I guess it must have been owned by somebody, but there were no houses built on it.
CS: Trees? Did it have trees around?
MM: Yeah, and then we didn’t have this here playground (McDevitt), which all the churches used to have… Fourth of July we used to all meet over there at the playground, but it wasn’t like it is now, see they have the expressway there now, it was just a plain hill and then they had the service there and after the service every church went to their own picnic ground. They had done that for years and years and years.
CS: And what church did you belong to?
MM: I belonged then to the Falls Pres. But later I moved to the Methodist. My father was the treasurer for the builders fund at the Falls Pres.
CS: Oh, really?
MM: I was married in the Falls Presbyterian. And when Billy was born the minister (Rev. Cook) that married everybody, well he had retired and he came back in August to, you know at vacation time, to preach and when he did it I took Billy back and he christened him back there. So he’s got a little bit of everywhere in him. Presbyterian, Methodist, and now he’s a Baptist.
CS: He is well covered then. Well you mentioned about the Fourth of July picnics, what was it like at the Fourth of July picnics? What did everybody do over there?
MM: Well, they only had the exercise over there, but then each one went back to their woods. Well the Falls Pres., they met, their church was right down there where you make the turn to go up to Wissahickon. The big church was there and in the back it was the park owned piece of ground that we always had our picnics back there. They used to put the swings from one tree to the other and you could swing. And then on Sundays there was not much to do - in that part down there, it was like the Boardwalk; everyone was walking around.
CS: Now which park was this?
MM: Right down the end of the street here. Down the block and we used to walk every Sunday…
CS: You mean along the river?
MM: Yeah, right along the river all the ways down to 33rd and Dauphin. And that was an ice cream parlor down at Formers. He is one of the members over at the Academy. Ed Former. They had made their own ice cream and they used to walk down there every Sunday night for ice cream.
CS: Oh gee, that’s quite a hike, you earned it!
MM: Well, that’s all you did on a Sunday, you had nothing else to do.
CS: Well tell me about this Fourth of July service; who would they have speak? What would go on?
MM: Well the church provided all the stuff; we had lemonade, sandwiches, and peanuts and they used to have all kinds of games – a peanut scramble. It’s the same they do now, they just meet up at Penn Charter. Up there.
CS: Yeah that’s what Edna Woolley had mentioned.
MM: On Christmas we used to go out carol singing and see Dobson’s, they were Presbyterians so we used to go up there and carol sing for them at Dobson’s estate.
CS: Where was that located?
MM: It’s up there where the Abbottsford Homes are. That was all the Dobson’s Estate.
CS: And you would go up carol singing?
MM: Yeah, we would go carol singing and we always got fifty dollars for carol singing and so all the churches used to go there.
CS: And who would give you the fifty dollars?
MM: The Dobson’s.
CS: Did you ever see Bessie Dobson?
MM: Oh yeah, they used to come to church and the mother, the old Mrs. Dobson she used to wear those little tiny bonnets on her head with the tie around her chin, you know?
CS: So you are saying they went to your church?
MM: They went to the Falls Pres, they were members of the Falls Pres. The old Dobson her hair was all snow white.
MM: Yeah, Betsy, snow white.
CS: I understand she was a beautiful woman. What were some of her activities in the community? What kinds of things was she involved with?
MM: Well, she was pretty active in different things. I just don’t know all the stuff. And then before when the hospitals came up here, my brother he was painting up on the third floor, up here and he had a torch and it exploded and it caught him on the back of the leg and his pants got on fire and he got it out before he… we never knew, because he was always kidding around and we were all down here and he was hollering “Fire! Fire!” and we didn’t pay any attention to him. But he quick jumped in the bed and the whole back of his leg - and the Women’s Hospital wasn’t up here then but my aunt, they had just moved on this side of Calumet Street, at like a store and that’s where they started. My aunt, she was cleaning there, and told the doctor about my brothers leg, so she said well bring him on down. So Jimmy went down there and he was a patient before they started up here.
CS: And where was that located again?
MM: On this side of Calumet Street. On Ridge Avenue.
CS: So, it was like an office there?
MM: It was like a, it looked like a store, and they kept their supplies and stuff in there. That’s where they first came in from down there, before they had even started building up here.
CS: So, they were actually practicing medicine?
MM: Yeah, because the doctor he gave - and my brother when he went down to this doctor down here all he did was tell my mother to put corn starch on it, and every time my mother put the corn starch on him it would take the flesh right off it. And so then when he went down there, whatever stuff they gave him, it was something blue, it healed up right away.
CS: Where did you go to school?
MM: The Breck, down here.
CS: And tell me where that was located again.
MM: On Krail Street, right down at the bottom here. I’ve got a picture of that in here too. It was a small school and then they built the bigger school and from there they went up to Conrad Street.
CS: Can you describe what a day was like going to school?
MM: Well, we always had to walk from Calumet Street because no one was ever here, and then we didn’t have this railroad station down here and right up here at Indian Queen Lane, we just had a box station. Before they built this big one. So, I mean I’ve seen quite a few things in my day.
CS: I think you have. How would you say the community of East Falls has changed since you were a child? What are the changes you have seen?
MM: Well the only thing I can see is the kids around here. They really have changed.
CS: How do you mean?
MM: Well, between doping and robbing and things like that, that’s all they are doing out there.
CS: What would kids do when you were growing up for fun? Or what did they do that was mischievous?
MM: Well, I was talking to my brother the other day and he was saying about this here man on Calumet Street, he owned about 6 or 7 houses on the other side of the street and he used to have a back road – not on the street - that would take you down to Midvale Avenue. And up here - the tap room - he used to carry a kettle, you know get a kettle of beer.
CS: A kettle of beer?
MM: Yeah, he got a kettle filled with beer and brought it back home.
CS: I’ve never heard of that.
MM: So he came around the back road and they did it every night, I guess he had it for supper, so they got a string and they tied it from the post to the other post and when he’d come up to it, he would trip on it and his beer went flying, but he just got up and walked right back to the saloon to get it filled up again.
CS: So the kids did that?
MM: Yeah, and my brothers and all them they all liked to swim and they used to go to this rock out in the Schuylkill River – a big rock - so they would go out there and they weren’t allowed to swim and Mr. Furman, he was on the police boat, and every time they would see him they would really have to swim away.
CS: Were there movie houses? Or places that kids went?
MM: Yeah, we had one that was down there at Midvale Avenue. It used to be a market or something down there, at Frederick Street.
CS: You mean with the Betsy Ross building that’s there, it says Betsy Ross Flags.
MM: I guess that’s what it was.
CS: Did you ever go to movies there?
MM: Oh yeah, and then George Stubblebine - he lived across the street - he had a butcher shop down there, on this side, and a house over there. He was an undertaker and in those days they had to drive in the wagon and then he had a stable up at the top.
CS: The house right across the street?
MM: Right across the street there. He has like a two-car garage back there.
CS: The white house? And he was an undertaker?
MM: Turner and Dex, they were cousins I think.
CS: Was that his name, the guy across the street?
MM: Dex, yeah. Well they are not there now. My father used to go over there after he died to help Mrs. Dex. And then she had a colored maid, and it was just the two of them in that big house, so he used to go over every morning. They had a coal stove and he would go over and fix it for the day and then he would go over at night and fix it for the night. So she gave him that there chair over there. It’s an antique.
CS: So she gave him that, little press back chair?
MM: It’s got a pearl right there in the middle of the back.
CS: Isn’t that beautiful? So that came out of that house over there? It’s beautiful. Did he operate his business out of his house there?
CS: That was just his own home?
MM: Yeah, now their business was – McIlvaine’s was on this side and Turner & Dex’s was on this side.
CS: Turner and Dex were partners?
MM: No, their office, funeral parlor.
CS: But they were together? Turner & Dex?
CS: Oh I see, on the other side of this street.
MM: And now Turner is up in Roxborough. And now McIlvaine they moved down there. They were right next to the firehouse down there, a police station we had a police station down there.
CS: Down on Ridge Avenue?
MM: Yeah, down on Ridge. And they were next door to the police station and then they moved up here to the Literary.
CS: Is the building where McIlvaine’s…
MM: No, I believe it’s all torn down.
CS: Ahh, all torn down.
MM: They were all torn down. And where Turner and them were it is just like a gas station. It’s an empty lot right now.
CS: You mean near the Mobil station, is that was you mean?
MM: Near the gas station at the bottom of the street.
CS: Arco. That’s where it used to be. Is that what you are saying?
CS: Why did they tear all these buildings down?
MM: They just laid there.
CS: Were there any great disasters in East Falls? Any great big fires or any mill fires or disasters? Anything you remember?
MM: Well the only one is when the Old Academy was on fire.
CS: And when was that?
MM: I was taking care of it then. I guess it was 25 years or so back. And they were working on the walls, painting it, and I had come over and this was at lunch time and the men were sitting outside eating, when the people from the steel mill came over and said that there is smoke coming from under your roof and so when they went in they called the fire department, but the whole third floor - the roof was burnt right out. They said that when they were chipping on the wall wires must have crossed. So they really ruined it all the water came flying down and all the clothes went out the window. And all the play books came out the window and then that dome up there -there were about ten firemen hanging on it trying to pull it down thinking the fire would be up in there. And then the women around here said don’t tear that down it’s a landmark. So he took responsibility to take care of anything that would happen. But it’s still hanging that way.
CS: So they didn’t get it down?
MM: No, they didn’t get it down.
CS: Now that we are talking about the Old Academy, how did you get involved in the Old Academy?
MM: Well my father, see in the olden days you couldn’t collect anything if you were out of work. If you owned a house you couldn’t collect a penny. So my father just went over there and just did little jobs.
CS: He was out of work at the time?
MM: And so Stanley Smith, he was a member of the Old Academy and he, I guess they didn’t have anyone to take care of the place so then they came over and asked if my father would be interested. And so he just went over to look, he never made coffee before or anything like that, he never even made coffee in the house. He went over and they took him on. It was just like clockwork he would go over there and he would puddle around and he would come home at around 12 o’clock and Kate Smith was always on the radio and he would come home and listen to Kate Smith. Then he would go back again. So he had that for about 5 or 6 years, he was 86 when he died.
CS: Now what were his duties? What did he have to do?
MM: Well the things that I was doing, help and maintenance. If you ask any of the old members they can tell you all about Mr. Montgomery’s this and that.
CS: What was he like as a person?
MM: Well, this is a small picture of him.
CS: With a mustache?
MM: This was one when he was working over there.
CS: Oh, he was a dignified man. Very dignified.
MM: Yeah, so that is my brother’s wife. She died at the house, 24 years old when she had twins, this is my other brother’s kids.
CS: So he was responsible for doing the maintenance work? Keeping the place in order, did he have to make coffee?
MM: Yeah. When I was born he had double pneumonia then and that was down in Fishtown and he had both his lungs back then. But from that time on he was never in the hospital. He was never sick and then he got a cold and he was all choked up and so they said you should go to the hospital and get something, so they took him down to the Presbyterian Hospital and so we called up about 12 o’clock and they said oh he is fine. They were going to take him down to have his chest x-rayed and when we got down there he wasn’t in the room and so after a while the nurse came and so she said the doctor wants to see you in the office and so we went to the office and he said we did everything we could to save him but he must have scared him to death. They hadn’t even gotten to the x-ray room and it was such a shock on him that his heart just stopped. It happened so fast that they didn’t even have a chance to do anything and so I took it temporarily till they got somebody.
CS: And how old were you then?
MM: Well, I was married and I had it since ‘49. I spent 33 years and maybe one now.
CS: That’s quite a temporary job.
MM: But I enjoy it, I mean I am always meeting somebody. Everybody there is always nice to me, yeah I like it
CS: Well, tell me some of the things that you do. I know some of the things you do but I am interested for the purpose of the tape. So tell me some of the things you do.
MM: I paint most all the sets.
CS: And you are how old?
MM: 81 and I have made about 5 or 6 slipcovers for the red sofa over there.
CS: Over a period of years?
MM: Yeah. When they needed one for a show they would get the materials and I would make a slipcover. I am working on one right now for over there. Lori Cosiack (??) got me material so I am working on one upstairs now. And I help with all the sets and they used to have the English Lodge meet in there and I used to have to move the chairs around and fix it up for them and do that. And I do a little bit of everything to tell you the truth. I don’t know, I keep saying I am going to quit but as I say it I don’t want to sell the house. I’d have to go into an apartment and I don’t know what to do with an apartment. I have freedom of the whole house. My son wants me to move up there. He says you don’t have to live with me but you can get an apartment up there. But still my friends are all down here. So I am still stuck around here.
CS: I don’t know what the Old Academy would do without you, you are a institution. You are an antique that goes with the building!
MM: But I enjoy it.
CS: Is there any very special memory of Old Academy that sticks out in your mind, one special time?
MM: Well, they gave me a surprise party. But I think it was my daughter-in-law gave me that. And I didn’t know it, I think it was my 80th birthday, no my 75th birthday, but she invited the Old Academy and I didn’t know that. So, they all were up there and I was so surprised cause the majority of them came, all the active members, you know. So they gave me a birthday party up there at 75 and it was really special.
CS: How about any of the shows? Were there any shows that particularly stand out in your mind?
MM: No, they had me in one show.
CS: Oh, you were in one.
MM: Yeah, I had two words to say.
CS: What were those two words?
MM: “My daughter.”
CS: That was your line?
MM: And they didn’t put my name in the program, they wanted a surprise and all I had to say was “My daughter,” so, you know. And my picture is over there on the wall. Next time you come down I’ll have to show it to you.
CS: What play was it?
MM: I don’t even remember the play. So they didn’t put my name in the program they had put another name on and when I came out everyone hollered, “Miss. Mae, Miss Mae.” I don’t even think they heard me say my line.
CS: I hope it was a comedy.
MM: Yeah, it’s a good thing it was the end of the show.
CS: You’re right. Did you know Grace Kelly?
MM: Well, not personally. But I knew her from coming back and forth. See they used to live right there where the school is. The school…
CS: Oh, right at Midvale and Conrad.
MM: That’s where the family had lived.
CS: P. H. Kelly, right? Do you remember that?
MM: Oh yeah.
CS: There’s a picture of that also in there.
MM: I was looking at that the other day.
CS: So Grace was in some plays while you were involved with Old Academy?
MM: Well, no… she was out of it by then. But Lizanne was still acting then, and her husband. Well he met her one time down at Ocean City but then when they came and they were both in the same play at the Old Academy then they started going together.
CS: There is one thing that would be real helpful if you could do for me. If you could start at Henry Avenue and walk down Midvale, oh let’s say in the 1930’s… what would it look like walking down Midvale Avenue, starting at Henry?
MM: Well, there were no houses or anything all the way down to the bridge.
CS: So there is nothing to tell?
MM: Nothing to tell, but all the sudden the gas station started.
CS: Which gas station?
MM: All of them, they all started. And my father he said, “I never heard of so many gas stations in one place.” He couldn’t get over that. But there was nothing there.
CS: So then when did P.H. Kelly’s home, when was that built?
MM: That was on this side. It was where the school is.
CS: Right. Was there anything else on this side of Midvale as you walk down the hill? Just P.H. Kelly’s home and woods? So all the homes on either side of Midvale, top and bottom weren’t built?
MM: No. It was just an open field with lots.
CS: How about, do the same thing on Ridge Avenue, you are walking from, let’s say, where the Wissahickon comes in on down here, what would you see if you were walking down that street?
MM: Well, coming from Wissahickon?
MM: Well, on the left hand side there were no houses or nothing. Way up there, there were, you know. Well, starting from the other side there were rows of houses…
CS: Which side are you at?
MM: Coming down, there was just one row of houses, and then on the right hand side was the Gustine Lake.
CS: Alright, now I know which side you are talking about. So on the right hand side was Gustine Lake?
MM: Yeah, and then you came down and next was Falls Presbyterian Church.
CS: When did they tear that down? I mean 50’s or 40’s or…
MM: Oh well, it’s easy, that. I’d say… well I was married in Falls Pres. up there.
CS: And that was what year?
MM: ‘26. And there was maybe 5 or 6 years after that.
CS: Why did they tear that down?
MM: Well, see they were building a new one. They bought that whole square up there. I thought we had the whole history of that in here.
CS: Yes, it does. Okay so now you are walking down and you have the Presbyterian Church and…
MM: A couple of houses, then you came down further and then it was the Grace Church. They had their place there.
CS: And what cross street was that?
MM: Right there at Calumet Street, just before you go over the bridge. Calumet Street on the right hand side was the church.
CS: That’s not there now?
MM: No. They are up at Wissahickon and Henry Avenue with the new church.
CS: Were people moving from down in the lower Falls to the upper Falls because the buildings were getting old or were they moving because of a change in the people that were living there, why, I don’t understand why everyone was moving from lower Falls away. No particular reason that you know of?
MM: Not really, well when I got married I had bought a house on Vaux Street; my brother lives in it now. Then my sister-in-law died and I came home with my mother to take care of the twins, but then my husband said to sell it - so my brother was living with me then - and so we sold it to him.
CS: The sister in law that died – was that up at Medical College?
MM: Yeah, that was March 11. There was a storm that time. So my brother – her sister - was visiting and they were taking her home - after she got home and she couldn’t get her shoes on – so they put bedroom slippers on – she knew she was going to have twins because they had taken xrays so after she got home she got all tripped up – she could hardly breathe so she went up to the hospital to stay - my mother was with her all day and at 5 o’clock she wasn’t even in labor - and at 7 o’clock we got the phone call to come up right away she had passed away
CS: Isn’t that something? That quick…
MM: And the twins were born. She had died. She was 24 years old.
CS: Was it pneumonia or what?
MM: My mother said you can’t say what it was, but she smelled ether. My mother burst right into the operating room, my mother did. We did get the right call – we thought it was my mother. So, 24 years old... So she got two girls.
CS: Never saw their mother….When you were growing up, did most people have their children at home or in the hospital?
MM: Most had them at home. My sister had her three – two boys and a girl at home. I had my Billy down at Lankanau Hospital.
CS: When they had them at home, did a doctor come to the home, or a midwife?
MM: Well, the doctor would come.
CS: Would the doctor come and stay with a mother while she was in labor, or just in time for the delivery?
MM: When you called them, they were starting to deliver.
CS: So a woman would go into labor at home, and just call when she came close to the time of delivering?
MM: My aunt used to stay with them. And took care of them after that.
CS: You know, Edna Wooley was telling me about a woman who had a house up on Henry Avenue near Vaux Street where she took in women to have their babies. I think Edna had her baby there. Had you ever heard of that?
MM: No. I’ll have to ask Edna Sunday.
CS: Did you ever know the Dobson brothers?
MM: They were too old. I was only a little girl then. The two brothers – John and James. But everyone in the Falls worked there. That was about the only place anybody could get a job.
CS: Did any of your family work there?
MM: My mother worked there.
CS: Did she ever tell you anything about it?
MM: They were weaving yarn and stuff over there.
CS: Is that what she did?
CS: Now you said that your family is Irish?
CS: Were there special customs that your family celebrated?
MM: Well, yeah. My mother and father celebrated 12thof July.
CS: What’s the 12th of July?
MM: Orangeman’s Day.
CS: What’s that?
MM: Well, that’s between the Catholics and the Protestants. It’s still that way over there. The Orangemen were Protestants.
CS: Oh, like William of Orange, probably…
MM: Yeah. And when they came over here, they still had lodges, you know.
CS: What were the lodges called? The Orangemen?
MM: They all had different names. On 12th of July, they used to parade up and down Market Street in town. Then they’d go to Woodside for their picnic.
CS: Where was that?
MM: Well, in Philadelphia. We used to walk out there from here – they used to have fireworks every Friday night. You could stand out here and see fireworks. But that was it – the big amusement – Woodside Park. They had open trolleys you’d get on at 33rd and Dauphin and it would take you right to the park.
CS: So you’d walk down there to get the trolley?
MM: Well, we didn’t have the money to go there so we used to walk – we used to come down and underneath the railroad down there. As you went over the Falls Bridge, you’d go under a railroad and then there’d be a path all the way over to Woodside. It took us about an hour to walk over there. And then we’d walk back.
CS: Good exercise. What about Christmas time in your family? How was Christmas celebrated?
MM: Well, we had a regular Christmas party. I was the only girl. My aunt used to make dolls clothes for me. I remember our last Christmas - we were pretty big – we were all upstairs waiting for Santa Claus and my uncle came in – he didn’t have any children – so he came in and as soon as he’d leave he’d say “Oh! Santa Claus was here” and we’d all run downstairs to see what we got. We just had a regular life. Nothing special. In those days we didn’t have heat like now. In the kitchen the big stove had a boiler on top and that’s the other way we heated our water.
CS: Was that true of most people?
CS: You said you married in 1926.
CS: Did you work before you were married?
MM: Yes, I worked at John B. Stetson’s. The hat factory.
CS: Oh, really?
MM: I started there when I was 16. I stopped when I got married. I worked there about 15 years. And it was really nice there. It was all piecework. At Christmas time we all got a bonus and most of the time that bonus would be about $100. The way they used to pay us was silver and gold. Never had paper money. So when you had silver you either had a $20 bill and all these silver coins and then the girls would get a check to go down to Strawbridge & Clothier and buy a pair of gloves. The fellows used to get a turkey, a hat and a bonus
CS: Sounds like they treated you pretty good.
MM: They did. We had company coming in. Mary Pickford came in one time during the war and they’d have someone playing the piano and we’d all be singing. .Sometimes when we didn’t have any work, the girls would get up and roller skate all around the building. We did all that kind of stuff.
CS: Was there a union?
MM: No. We never heard of unions.
CS: Was there ever any attempt to unionize when you were there?
MM: No, it was good. We liked it a lot. After I quit, a Jewish company took over and it wasn’t as good after that.
CS: Where was the Stetson factory located?
MM: At 4th and Montgomery Avenue. Towards Kensington.
CS: You were living here at the time? So you had to travel?
MM: Yes, we went down on the train.
CS: Did you remember what your salary was?
MM: It was piecework. They’d have racks and maybe about a dozen hats on the rack. You had to write your name down on a slip. Sometimes a rack would only have 6 hats on it and then you were only paid for 6 hats. We’d make bands all around and a little bow in the lining of the leather. We used to put linings in it too. All by hand. Sewed by hand.
CS: Did each of you have a different job or did you do all those things?
MM: We’d do all those things. We’d make the bow, put it on the hat, we’d take it to the passer – she would pass the work - and we’d get paid at the end of the day – well, not paid, but counted – how much we did. I really forget now – we might have got about 10 cents per hat.
CS: What did the men do?
MM: Well, they started it from scratch. From the beavers. They had beaver hats. From the skins. They had big domes – not domes, cones. And whatever they did they would shrink it down to a regular sized hat. My brother worked there too.
CS: So how did you get that job?
MM: A friend of ours – her daughter worked there and she heard they were taking on people so she called and told me.
CS: Anyone else from the Falls work there?
MM: Oh yeah, we had about 5 or 6 people from the Falls there. And after I got out of there – got married – my cousin worked at the arsenal and I do a lot of sewing so I thought I could get a job there sewing uniforms but they said I was too old. To make uniforms.
CS: How old were you?
MM: Well, 50, I guess. Some friends of mine in Kensington called up this here machine shop and they were taking girls on there - I got a job down there on a big drill press. I couldn’t sew but I could get a job on a drill press!
CS: That was when you were in your 50’s that you went back to work?
CS: Did most of your friends work a while before they were married?
MM: Yes, everyone did.
CS: What age did most of your friends get married?
MM: Well my brother he was married a year after me. My youngest brother he didn’t marry too late. She was a friend of the family’s but she was much younger than him - 10 -12 years younger than him. And my brother .used to go with her brother and she used to say he was her boyfriend in those days.
CS: But once woman got married, did they work afterwards?
MM: The majority did.
CS: Why did you leave?
MM: Well, we paid off the house on Vaux Street in five years. There were new houses up there, when they were just built. My husband worked for Bailey, Banks & Biddle jewelers. So, I don’t know how to put it. I didn’t have an exciting youth.
CS: It sounds real interesting. It’s often times the people write about the famous people that lived the unusual life, and most people are everyday people like you and me. We’re not rich and famous and do great things and that’s exactly what we’re interested in – what it was like. It really helps us.
CS: Were you ever involved with any organizations? Woman’s clubs?
MM: Well over at church I belonged to the Esther Circle.
CS: Tell me about that.
MM: It was just a bunch of girls and they’d hold a meeting. I still belong to one – the same one. It was through them they started the Old Academy. A musical. They used to sing a lot. One of our members is making a history of the club – the Old Academy – how it started.
CS: Oh, really?
MM: They used to go around singing at different places. The play they put on was “The Minister’s Wife.” Edna Wooley’s husband was in that. They used to sing and go around to the different places. …Old Academy… The church didn’t want them to use the church name for the plays so that’s why they put it in the Old Academy. But it started in the Methodist Church they started.
CS: Well, when you said the Esther Circle, why did they call it that?
MM: I don’t know really. Esther in the bible, I guess.
CS: That’s what I thought. What did you do in that group?
MM: Well we had dinners and things to make money. Nothing special.
CS: It was a woman’s social organization to make raise money for the church?
CS: Were there any other things you were involved in?
MM: Well, when I was with the Presbyterians, they had a group of young people.
CS: Do you remember the leading organizations were in the community growing up? Any particular ones
MM: I wasn’t old enough. Only the church activities…
CS: How about politics?
MM: I had nothing to do with politics.
CS: Is there anything else? If you could look back 100 years from now and share one thing about East Falls, what would it be? Is there one particular memory?
MM: Mary Curren (?) and I – she lived in the second house up there – every year we’d sit on the porch all summer and watch people would go by – we never missed a night -we’d sit out there to all hours of the night.
CS: Did people sit out on their porch a lot?
MM: Yeah, in those days.
CS: Has that changed?
MM: Oh, yeah.
CS: Why is that, you think?
MM: Too many places to go. Too many activities.
CS: Edna Wooley said the same thing. Everyone would sit out on their porches and talk and get to know your neighbors and that’s really changed, she said. Ruth Emmert said maybe it’s because of television. And like you said, places to go.
MM: Well, we didn’t have television. Radios, but no television.
CS: Where was Cockroach Row?
MM: I heard of it, but I don’t know where it was.
CS: Someone said it was over here off Calumet, near Sunnyside? Does that ring a bell.
MM: Well, Calumet’s over here and Sunnyside’s over there…
CS: That’s true…
Photo: Kelly Family
Interviewees: Lizanne Kelly LeVine (LL) and Peggy Kelly Conlan (PC)
Interviewer: Cherie Snyder (CS) with Ruth Emmert (RE)
Date of interview: April 24, 1981
Transcribers: Anne Farnese and Wendy Moody
N.B. This tape is in poor condition. A large portion of it is inaudible. At times, the interviewees speak over each other and it is difficult to understand what is being said. Also, their voice are quite similar so there is difficulty understanding
which sister is speaking. A.F.
CS: Ok, well, we can start out by, just, what were the names of your parents and when did they come to East Falls?
LL: Peggy, you start with that one.
PC: Well, Daddy was born and raised in East Falls.
LL: Was he born in East Falls or was he born in New York?
PC: He was born in East Falls, Lizanne, I’m sure…
LL: Well, now we’re taping and we’re not quite sure about that one... He came when he was little; the family was originally from New York.
LL: Yeah, from Vermont. East Falls they came to, settled.
PC: But I’m pretty sure Daddy was born here.
LL: The earlier ones were born in Vermont. It was a very large family. Ten children.
CS: And your mother?
LL: Mother was born in the Strawberry Mansion area.
PC: 33rd and Dunne?
LL: Yes, and then when they were married in 1924, they moved right to the corner of Ridge and Midvale while their house was being built on Henry and Coulter Street.
PC: They lived over a store on the corner.
LL: Didn’t they live in an apartment over a shop?
PC: I don’t believe it was a shop. It was a saloon called the Gunboat.
LL: Well, I knew they lived in an apartment above…
PC: Right on the corner.
CS: And how many children were there in the family?
LL: In our family?
CS: Yours. Brothers and sisters.
PC: Four. I’m the oldest, then my brother Jack, then Grace, then Lizanne here.
CS: Are you revealing what years you were born in, or…
LL: No. Peggy was born in 1925, Jack in 1927, Grace in ’29 and I’m 33.
PC: You were born in ’33!
LL: Well, we don’t have to go into that… (laughter)
CS: How did you see East Falls change since you were growing up? In appearance? In makeup?
LL: Since the project, the Schuylkill Falls Project, was built there has been a great change. Before that it was just nice and gradual. That changed East Falls completely, in my way of thinking.
CS: When was that?
LL: Late ‘40’s, because I went to school at Ravenhill Academy and I remember when the project was going up and Reverend Mother was rather concerned because our hockey field looked over the project and she was greatly concerned that all these houses and stuff were going up. And that has to be the late ‘40s when that went up.
LL: And also the other thing that grew up were the houses across the street - – I don’t know if that’s East Falls - on the other side of School House Lane - there used to be a big forest down there - all the houses across the street from Ravenhill Academy on School House Lane.
PC: It still kept a lovely appearance and openness.
LL: Another thing, of course the whole area has grown up, we used to go down Henry Avenue and walk for miles and see nothing. There were never all those houses there. Those, I guess, go all the way to Roxborough. I remember when they talked about the Henry Avenue Bridge being opened to go across into Roxborough.
CS: How did you get across before then?
LL: I would imagine old Ridge Avenue. Down in the Falls. You went through the Wissahickon. There used to be a riding academy not too far from here.
PC: Right off of Henry Avenue
LL: And we used to go riding there and down to the Wissahickon.
PC: Wasn’t it Dupont Street? Rector Avenue. It’s still there. I saw horses crossing Henry Avenue just this morning from Andorra. They’re still crossing Henry Avenue with all that traffic. They’re crossing with traffic lights now.
CS: Did you both go to Ravenhill?
LL: Yes. Well I graduated Ravenhill, Peggy graduated from Stevens School.
PC: Grace went to Ravenhill but then graduated from Stevens.
LL: And our brother went to Penn Charter. So we all went to school right in the neighborhood. We all walked to school. We used to walk down through people’s property and up the hill up to Ravenhill – Roseneath farm was there.
RE: “The Nuts”
LL: Well, yes, the nuts. Well, Ruthie…
CS: Where was that again?
LL: It’s right down the end of Warden Drive
CS: Where is that again?
PC: The back of the property went all along Warden Drive there at the bottom of the hill but the entrance was up on School House Lane so it went right on through. A very lovely deep property.
CS: That’s not there?
LL: Oh, yes, it’s there. The original house has been ripped down and Textiles School bought it. And Textiles School has now bought Ravenhill. And they bought Lankanau School.
PC: And they bought your old house.
PC: And they bought my house. I lived on School House Lane when I was first married.
CS: Are they using that building?
LL: Yes, the president lives there.
RE: They are buying up all over.
LL: I don’t know who the Levys sold theirs to - Temple.
PC: Probably, but Goldie Paley, I believe, belongs to Textiles. And that’s used as a little museum now; it’s lovely. We went there the other day. But the big – Leon Levy’s house – big house down in sunken hollow – that’s Temple, I think. Or maybe it’s Textile.
PC: Textile used to use for soccer practice up front on School Lane, but the actual house; LL: I thought Temple – they gave it to Temple – I think the Leon Levy’s – right on the corner of School House Lane and Henry Avenue – beautiful White Corners – I wouldn’t be surprised if Temple hadn’t given it over to Textiles or University of Pennsylvania. Textiles is getting so big now.
PC: They might not need it.
LL: They might not need it but it would be lovely to have.
RE: Leon Levy was head of…
RE: CBS; that will identify him.
PC: But when they first moved to the neighborhood they were with WCAU and KYW, the radio stations.
CS: Were they living here when you were here?
LL: Yes, we were here.
CS: They had kids your age?
PC: Yes, Lizanne’s age.
CS: What were your most vivid memories of going to Ravenhill?
LL: Going to school – the farms. I started when I was two years of age. I was Baby Jesus in the crib.
PC: Lizanne was Jesus, I was a wiseman and Grace was a shepherd.
LL: And I was in the crib – I remember that – I don’t know why
PC: We used to cart Lizanne to school. The nuns were sweet. They would take your little sisters at any time you wanted to bring them.
LL: On rainy days mother used to ship me off to school.
PC: The classes were so small – 6 girls in my class.
LL” I was the only one in 1st grade
PC: For one year she was the only one….
LL: So I just walked around to all the different classes. When I graduated our class grew up to a big booming 17.
CS: Really? Were there boarders there?
LL: Yes, many boarders. There were a lot of Spanish-speaking girls because it was an order of nuns that had convents…
PC: In Manila and Nicaragua.
LL: People would send their daughters to Ravenhill.
CS: When you went to play, did you play mostly at home or go to playgrounds in the area? What did you do?
PC: We didn’t go – Ididn’t go - to playgrounds. We had most of our athletics after classes at school.
LL: We didn’t get home until it was almost dark. When we got home from school after hockey we walked home. We did have a tennis court in the backyard and my brother, when he was young, – I guess dad did it – put a basketball court in. And the neighborhood kids used to always come over, even after Kell stopped playing and was in college. The kids, the McIlvaine kids and their friends, used to come and play basketball in the court.
PC: And football in the side lawn.
LL: Yeah and a little bit of baseball in McMichael Park. We went over there and if you’d have a baseball game going. I was never much for softball; we watched them really. But McMichael Park was quite the thing in the springtime. That was about it. We didn’t go too far afield.
PC: There was a lot of activity in our house.
LL: We used to walk over here in early spring, coming to Alden Park and going swimming over here in the swimming pool, when this first opened.
PC: Yes, when this pool opened, right here where we are now.
RE: When you were little?
PC: We had friends that lived here in the apartments and we would visit them and go swimming with them.
LL: And go swimming. The swimming pool here, now it doesn’t do it, but it used to, it’s an indoor pool now, but it used to have a roof –
PC: A sliding roof.
LL: And it was opened in the summertime. And before we went to the shore, cause you see, we were gone all summer long, and we’d come over here and swim. We’d walk over here and swim.
RE: You see, Lizanne, You said why I did exactly the same thing as your children did. My children went to the “Bathey.”
CS: What’s the “Bathey?” (Laughter)
RE: It’s a public - a city-owned swimming pool down there and they called it the “Bathey.” And it was free. And it opened a certain date and closed a certain date and you could go any day and it had a lifeguard there. And they also went to ---what was the…
PC: Oh! Down, right down on the Schuylkill Drive? You mean? You mean Gustine Lake?
RE: Gustine Lake! They all went there to splash around but not to Alden Park Manor—you see you were different. (Laughter)
PC: It’s just that we went to school with these girls.
CS: And they lived over here?
PC: Yes, and we’d walk over here.
LL: And our brother, some of them were boys who went to Penn Charter that we knew who lived here.
CS: Were you involved in any of the local community organizations?
LL: Just our school—when I was in school I was at the Vernon Park, something or other, Germantown—it was a Germantown Organization. But, no, we really weren’t involved too much in the local…
RE: The hospital…
LL: Oh well, Medical College. That is a different story.
CS: Go ahead about that ‘cause I know your whole family was involved there.
LL: Well Mother, Mother just started that. She just started that. I don’t know how Mother got involved but I think…
PC: Mother got involved because she taught there before she was married. Mother taught athletics.
LL: Athletics at Penn and also Women’s Med - it was Women’s Medical College then, she taught basketball.
PC: The students. Athletics. But then they were so busy, they soon dropped their athletic program.
LL: Yeah, It wasn’t necessary for the medical students to take athletics. But Mother was teaching at the same time at Penn.
LL: And they also had lack of room—they used the gym you know. So Mother was very involved in Medical College for a long, long time. And just kept going. And when we were children… Pause….Do we tell that we stole flowers?
PC: Oh yes... (Laughter) It’s been told so many times, believe me. (Laughter)
LL: Well Mother used to have a fete—there used to be a fete.
PC: A Spring fete—gourmet fete.
LL: They used to have a lot of booths and everything around and there was—we always had to raise money and there was a flower booth. And also we had a flower booth right outside our front. On Saturdays we would decide it would be a good day to sell flowers in the late spring. And the Godfrey gals and the Kelly gals would get together and we would make---The day before up until it was, oh, 7o’clock, 8o’clock ‘til you couldn’t even see, we would climb the fence and steal Old Mosie Brown’s – well that wasn’t bad--the violets…
PC: The violets. Stealing Mosie Brown’s - he never even knew they were there in the back of his huge property. He had acres and acres and acres and we climbed the fence and would make-up all the bouquets of little violets.
LL: And daffodils
PC: But then all our neighbors in the back of the alley, we used to send Grace and the little ones up to steal all their—the neighbors’ flowers and we set them out at front and as the neighbors would go by in the morning we would sell their own flowers to them. Or we’d send the little ones with a little basket on their arms to go knocking on the doors. And they couldn’t resist these sweet little girls who had just stripped the backs of their gardens.
LL: It was for a good cause.
PC: I don’t know if they knew or not.
LL: Oh I’m sure they did but no one said anything. No. It’s sweet. It’s cute, no one said anything.
PC: Poor Mother she wouldn’t have approve if she had known—Mother didn’t realize that we were being…
LL: Mother knew exactly what was going on (laughter)
PC: Do you think she did, Liz?
LL: Mother! You did know!
RE: I think that your memories of the hospital fete in the front of the hospital when they used to—that would be nice.
LL: Well, we used to do that for years. Mother was in charge.
PC: Mother was in charge of it.
LL: Well, not the whole chairman but she was in charge of the chicken pot pies.
PC: Dinner. Well, the dinner came after. I can remember when they had the fete before they even had the dinner Liz.
LL: Well, Mother was in charge of the chicken pot pie dinner.
PC: And the strawberry shortcake dinner. It was a big success.
LL: And what we used to do—we’d sell chances and the cars---what we did for that hospital! I just shake my head when I sit at board meetings now. But it really---
PC: We fed patients; we were nurse’s aides and all that.
CS: So you worked in the hospital?
LL: Our new president in the hospital is Morrie Clifford, Maurice Clifford, I should say, I shouldn’t call him by a nickname. He was just inaugurated. He’s a delightful person and I, we had, Mother and I, went to a dinner though for Doctor Fay. Marion Fay has always lived in East Falls who used to be President and a Dean of Medical College.
PC: She lived on Queen Lane.
LL: They just honored her the other day with dedicating a wing, the Marion Spencer Fay Wing.
PC: Oh really?
LL: Yes. She had a lovely reception and Mother and I went and then they had a dinner for her and we went there. And then we just inaugurated a new president, Maurice Clifford. He will now be living in East Falls—he lives in Chestnut Hill now but he’s moving to The Oak Road—is that East Falls?
LL: He’s moving there and he is a delightful person, he really is. The first time I met him I was working at Medical College in the pre-natal clinic in 1955, and you were in charge of volunteers.
RE: Not really, Marie Hess was. (overtalk)
LL: You worked with Marie and you stuck me in the pre-natal clinic (Laughter).
RE: I remember.
LL: I was pregnant too. And you know what? They got better care than I did I think.
RE: But she saw life in the raw as far as having a baby because she delivered her baby, I didn’t realize it.
LL: Well, I couldn’t believe it! I kept going to my obstetrician, Joannie Roberts, who was also a graduate of Medical College.
PC: Yes, Women’s Medical
LL: And I said Joannie, they give pills and all that stuff, I’ve seen what they do, and you’re not doing that to me (laughter)
RE: The clinic patients always got better care than any private patient ever did. The diabetics. The diabetic clinic I worked in for years and I never heard of such marvelous care as they got. Their lectures, and their education, and their testing, and their medication—everything was much better.
PC: Well I know the one time I was there in the clinic and Maurice Clifford—it was his first year at the Medical College and I used to have to weigh the patients and take some specimens and do paperwork and then put them in the cubicles and call the doctor to come visit them. And as I put this one patient, she had been there for many years cause it was her 20thbaby, so I put her on the table and I said, “Oh my God! Morrie!” I didn’t call him Morrie then—“Doctor Clifford! There’s a baby! (laughter) And I tell you, he came running and that was—he does remember me from that. He says, “Boy do I remember you ‘cause I’ve never seen anybody look so mmmmm (laughter)
CS: Was the affair at Women’s Medical that raised money all-day long?
LL & PC: Yes (In unison)
RE: Oh it was wonderful!
PC: It was fun.
RE: It was like a small town thing which we don’t often get in the big city. And you could go there in the morning with your children and they would be amused, and you could eat, and you could buy, and you could take chances. And you could meet all your neighbors up there and it went on up there all day and dinner by Mrs. Kelly with her chicken pies and then on into the evening. And we had fabulous things at our hospital fair that no other hospital could have had—like a painting, an original painting, by you, of the Prince.
CS: And when was this?
LL: Well, this was back—it lasted until about ‘56
PC: I forget the year of the last one…
LL: It was about ’56 because they built the one wing and we couldn’t do it anymore—I mean, space.
CS: It was held out on the grounds outdoors?
CS: What time of year?
PC: May, the end of May.
LL: Just because of space you just couldn’t have it anymore. But, well, Peggy was very big on …
PC: Lemon sticks. If I cut another hole in a lemon I (laughter) lemon, Lemon sticks, yes. (laughter)
LL: It was fun. And I do know, I know the fair lasted to ’56 because after that it might be ’57. I don’t think it did because I had Gracie. It was May 17th -I had the baby and the fair was going on and she was born in 1956, so I know the fair was going on till 1956.
Now after that…
PC: Well then Germantown Hospital always had their Rose Carnival and then the Abington Hospital had the …
LL: June Fete
PC: June Fete and Memorial had an affair but we just stopped ours.
LL: Well it was really because of the wing and the space.
RE: I heard, I don’t know how true it is, that when the Project moved in there, that a lot of undesirables came and swiped and vandalized
PC: Yes it was very difficult
LL: It was during the fair
PC: It was very difficult.
CS: Now what year was it then that Women’s Medical opened? In the 20’s?
LL: Oh, Women’s Medical - It was in town.
PC: Women’s Med opened in 18--, oh it’s very old – 18…
RE: Not in the Falls though?
PC: It came up here about 1935?
LL: No, no, earlier than that—’24, ‘25
PC: Up here?
LL: No—you look in the front of the building, darling.
CS: I was thinking it was in the 20’s somehow
LL: Well, it’s in the 20’s—something in the 20’s babe. Oh gosh, I’m on the board and I should know and I don’t know.
PC: When it moved up here.
CS: Was your family involved at the time it opened?
PC: Mother was.
LL: Mother was almost from the inception.
PC: Yes. Well, I think after several of us were born, she really went over there constantly because it was just down the street; it was so nearby.
CS: I read somewhere that also a circus that you used to have at your house—is it a tale or true?
PC: We just did that one year but it was a big circus for the children but that went toward the fete. That money went into the hospital, to the hospital
LL: Mother arranged it. I was too young to remember really — what were you in that circus?
PC: I was the ringleader, dear.
LL: Oh—I was Tom Thumb, probably. And Dixie our niece, our cousin, she was very tiny. Well, she was married to Tom Thumb. We had the Tom Thumb wedding. (laughter)
LL: I was about four and she was three so I don’t know too much about that circus.
PC: Grace, I do remember, Grace was a tightrope walker—except the rope was on the ground - it was laid on the ground.
LL: But she did a beautiful job—she looked the part. And Fordie’s daughter or something who was—he was the Wild Man from Borneo.
PC: Oh certainly.
CS: Who was that?
LL: Fordie, our colored guy, our chauffeur, his son or something was the Wild Man from Borneo (laughter)
CS: Did people pay to get into this?
LL: Oh yes. It was all for the hospital.
CS: And what year would you say?
PC: Yes, about 1938.
CS: And it was just your family or did you have friends?
PC: No! All our entire neighborhood was in this. It was big! Oh there were hundreds of people there. In the whole big tennis court. Oh it was a big circus!
LL: All the funeral parlors gave Mother the chairs—Mother could get anything from anybody…
PC: Yes. (laughter)
LL: Any affair—call Charlie McIlvaine for chairs. He was a lovely…
PC: It was a big one.
LL: That was only one year however. Should have done that again.
PC: Maybe we should institute that again before poor Mother dies (laughter)
CS: Where is the house located?
LL: On the corner of Henry Avenue and Coulter Street, yes.
CS: And that’s still there?
PC: Yes, it has been sold.
LL: Mother sold it once and it’s been sold again and I think that’s all. I don’t know who owns it now, I really don’t.
CS: And how long did you live there—did the family own the house?
PC: Yes. Forty-four years, about 44 years.
CS: And it was sold?
PC: Daddy died in 1960 and Mother stayed on. She said as long as she had her little man, Fordie, her little helper, she would stay. And stayed there for a number of years alone. And then when Fordie died, she went.
LL: Twelve years ago Mother sold it.
RE: But you had other help in the house. You had a couple.
LL: Yes German help. Mother always had German help.
RE: Because I remember I had gotten a day’s worker who had come over from Germany. She was a—she worked in a hospital, not a nurse, and she was a Christmas gift from Doctor Fieldler’s wife’s mother in Germany. Her mother said, “What do you want for Christmas?” She said, “Somebody to help me with the housework.” And she sent her this girl from the hospital. And she was too heavy a worker and she couldn’t have enough work in the house. So, she, Mrs. Fieldler, asked me if I could use her and I said, “Sure.” And she came up and worked for me and she spoke often of my friends the Kelly’s, meaning the couple. She was friends with them.
LL: Franz and Theresa, the German couple. Well Franz and Theresa. We had one couple, we had Luchese, Mrs. Luchese, who was German.
PC: Was she German or Polish?
LL: Polish-Luchese. And her daughter stayed with us and went and became a doctor at—studied at Medical College.
PC: They were from Ohio
LL: And her mother worked for us and the daughter graduated from Medical College and she stayed with us and then we had Franz and Theresa who were German. Because Mother speaks German.
PC: But then after the war, it was difficult getting the German girls over that Mother used to have all the time. They would learn English quickly and then get married.
RE: So you see Cheri, their life was not like mine.
LL: My life was not like mine, then, too—I know that.
RE: When she called—well like shopping--where did you shop? I got on the 52 and went to Germantown just like anybody else and did my shopping.
PC: We did. We went on the 52 and went to Rowell’s a million times.
LL: We went to Rowell’s and Allen’s and you went to the movies at the Alden Theatre. Well, Alden Theatre. What I remember when I was a kid, going to the Alden Theatre it was 11 cents.
RE: Eleven cents!!
LL: Eleven cents for a Saturday afternoon matinee you walked down to Alden Theatre, paid 11 cents and Mother used to be magnanimous and give me at least another five cents for a candy bar. (laughter) And so for 15, well, 16 cents you could have a movie, a double feature and a candy bar.
PC: Lizanne, you don’t even remember the old Falls Theatre.
LL: I don’t remember that.
CS: Where was that?
PC: Down below almost to Ridge.
RE: At Eveline and Midvale?
PC: Yeah, sure.
RE: Eveline is a little street that goes off Midvale and—it’s a gray building now—it’s painted gray but that was the original Falls Theatre and that’s where I went.
CS: The Betsy Ross? The Betsy Ross Building?
PC: Yes that’s right. The Falls Theatre.
CS: It has the Betsy Ross Flag on the front?
LL: Well Peggy, see you’re much older that me
PC: It’s true. Dear. It’s true.
RE: That was the original theatre.
PC: No, the Alden Theatre was just built
RE: Where Ginos is now
PC: Where Ginos is now.
RE: Yes, cause my daughter went there, and she and her girlfriend Betty Jane Bennett always sat in the seventh row, seventh seat and god help anybody who sat in them.
Did you have that?
Dead air then tape continues
PC: The whole group was involved in that (laughter). Through our uncle—Mother’s brother, Midge Majer, lived on Queen Lane and he and his wife were interested and we all got started.
LL: Well I think Aunt Virginia and Uncle Midge were first things there and we used to watch them and they got us all involved.
PC: And the Canoe Club—Old Academy and the Canoe Club
LL: We’re still involved—Don and I are still involved with Old Academy
CS: Do you remember the first play you were in?
PC: The Women. I took over for Grace; she got the measles
RE: Grace was in The Women—she got the measles and you took over.
PC: I took over.
CS: Is that the one you took over with one night’s notice or something?
PC: She got the measles—well, there were so many women in that show, The Women.
It was during the war. Grace had two small parts. She was a hairdresser and a debutante. Because you could just change your clothes—it’d be another body backstage—and here she could just change your clothes and it was only one body for two parts.
It was a very small part with just a few speaking lines so that was very easy to do. It was the night of dress rehearsal and we were sitting at the dining room table and mother looked over and said “Gracie, you look a little flushed and funny. She was breaking out just then and had a fit! Right before the big night comes down with the measles – she was only 12 or 13. Old Academy was not too particular. (laughter)
(Side Two of tape)
LL: I think the first one I did was The Philadelphia Story. I was the brat sister and I think my two sisters thought I was very well-cast.
PC: YEP! No doubt! Typecasting! (laughter) Very well-cast! Brat! Brat!
RE: She was though…
RE: Well no she was that way.
PC: Yes, she was a mess.
RE: I remember going down on the train to Center City one time and Gracie and Lizanne got on and I/we pulled the seats and I sat with them. And Gracie was her usual gracious, friendly, sweet self and I kept addressing remarks to Lizanne who would…. (laughter)
LL: Well, I must say I guess I was not the most pleasant of children. I don’t know but I’ve been told that I was a brat.
PC: Yeah. Adorable. Beautiful.
LL: But a brat.
RE: She had almost white hair.
LL: Real blonde
RE: And braids, thick braids down here and beautifully dressed and beautifully built and everything and she’d sit there down at Old Academy with her Mother and Father between them and go….. (laughter)
LL: Well, I just didn’t care for everybody that I saw somehow. But I was a brat. Because Grace used to say to me, “How come you’re not as nice as I was to Peggy? You’re not as nice to me as I was to Peggy?” Grace was sweet to Peggy, and she was Peggy’s lackey really, and I was not cut-out to be a lackey. I was not. In years to come I’ve turned out to be a much better lackey but I was not then.
PC: NO! (in unison) No. No way.
CS: So how would you characterize yourself? If Grace was sweet then…
PC: Well I was bossy; sure. But she was so easy to get along with, you know, “get this; get that, do this; do that.”
LL: Well, I’ll never forget one time with Peggy—Peggy was pretty good, you know, Peggy was the matriarch of the kids. My brother used to have a bunk house or a—what would you call it?
PC: It was a bunk house.
LL: Out in the back of the house and they had what they called the Tomato Men Club.
PC: The club was just for boys.
CS: Where did the name come from?
PC: It was right by our victory garden and Mother grew a great many tomatoes. And the boys would love to pick up those tomatoes and have fights with them, so it was called the Tomato Men. No reason.
LL: So one time Grace and a girlfriend wanted to get into the clubhouse, the bunk house. No girls were allowed. ERA had not risen its head at that point. So apparently there was one girl who lived in the Falls or two girls were allowed in—they were not in on a Sunday morning, a Saturday morning or something like that.
PC: Two girls were allowed in to see the bunk house. And Grace was not. And Grace came running to me having a fit that these two gals were allowed in and she was not. I took care of that.
LL: You sure did! (laughter) You punched your brother right in the nose and gave him a bloody nose and I him coming, flying through the garden…
PC: Did I run!
PC & LL: Oh Boy! (unison) (laughter)
LL: Kell is not a mad person but he was mad at Peggy that time—flying the two of them.
She’s ahead of him and he’s flying with his nose—she gave him a bloody nose.
In front of his girlfriends. You let your sister in and Whacko! She gave him…. Ever since then, you know, we give her a wide berth when she gets mad. Just give her a little wide berth. (laughter)
PC: Grace was so meek, you know, that you just wanted to stick up for her and help her.
LL: Well, that was so funny and, oh, I’ve never seen my brother so mad in my life. (laughter)
RE: How about the dollhouse—that it was a child’s playhouse?
LL: Well it was in the same area in the back where the bunkhouse was. In the back behind the tennis courts. This they really almost built themselves—the dollhouse was rather nice looking. It wasn’t a dollhouse, it was a play house. We had an electric stove in there. Absolutely!
RE: A real one?
LL: A real on. You could cook all the old apples that fell off the trees—I don’t know what we cooked-up on them—you didn’t eat them. It had two burners. It was really a little dangerous and then it was taken out.
CS: Was it one room?
PC: One room, a little porch, door—oh, you could stand up in there
CS: It’s not there anymore.
PC: No but it was moved. It was the air raid—Daddy gave it to someplace in East Falls and it was an air raid warden shelter—so the dollhouse, the playhouse…
RE: On Henry Avenue?
PC: On Henry Avenue.
CS: Where we vote? It’s still there?
PC: Yes a teensy little thing.
RE: It’s hallowed house. I’ll go in there the next time I vote and think of you all.
I’ve heard so many of the senior citizens at the library speak of Gracie, and the call it, Gracie’s dollhouse. And I said, “Dollhouse!” because you know me and the dolls.
PC: They moved it. Daddy gave it during the war, gave it to an air raid shelter or whatever.
RE: My Word!
LL: It had shutters on it and a little shingled roof. I sure they propped it up higher and made it a little higher, a little taller.
RE: No, no it’s pretty much the same. It’s one room—how about that!
PC: Two little pillars out front and then it was a wooden floor. We had darling furniture in there. Yep.
LL: We used to call it the playhouse.
PC: It was the playhouse.
RE: Well these people…
PC: Oh six or seven kids could get in there easily.
RE: Because a lot of the East Falls children went up there a played in it, whether you knew it or not.
PC: Oh sure. It was never locked.
RE: Because I just found out that my daughter and her girlfriend used to go up there and I said, “You never told me that.” She said, “Well we sneaked it, Mother.”
LL: Well it was never locked.
RE: Nobody chased us except there was a dog who came around and growled.
CS: Was that your dog?
LL: Our dogs were so friendly there were so many kids around. It could have, oh, it could have been the German shepherds next door that were so…
PC: No, they weren’t nice.
LL: Our dogs were very nice.
LL: We had a couple of boxers, actually Mother got a boxer, the first boxer I ever saw. And we had two boxers, Wrinkles and Ziegfried.
PC: Wouldn’t bother a soul
LL: No, would not bother anybody.
PC: They were always good dogs
LL: And Flashy wouldn’t have bothered
LL: We had a pastor at Saint Bridget’s who had an Irish setter, and we had an Irish Setter name Flashy and Mother had a German maid called Barbara.
PC: (unison) Barbara Kestle.
LL: Barbara. And someone stole Flashy or Flashy got hit by a car. Anyway Flashy was gone and Father Cortican, not Cortican
PC: Yes, Father Cortican, lovely lovely Irish Setter
LL: And he was walking his Irish Setter and Barbara Kestle absolutely almost took him down with a knife, calling him, “You got my Flashy! You got our Flashy! You got our Flashy! And we had to practically get this poor woman off this poor pastor who was like… (laughter) “I don’t have your Flashy! I have an Irish Setter! That was Mother’s, one of Mother’s German maids that attacked.
PC: Well, it was so easy for Mother to bring German help over because she spoke German.
CS: Is she or her family from Germany?
PC: Oh yes. Mother’s family was born in Germany.
CS: What part of Germany?
PC: Mother was from Frankfurt and her father was from the southern part, Lake
CS: Did you have any holidays that were special in your family or any special family traditions?
PC: They were all special. I mean just—there wasn’t one that stood out.
LL: No, every holiday was so big.
PC: Everything was big.
LL: No, actually every holiday. Probably Christmas with the open house Christmas Eve each year—that was just a tradition.
CS: For your family?
PC: And friends
LL: And neighbors
LL: And neighbors and relatives. Anyone. Come one, come all.
LL: I would say that Christmas Eve was probably the biggest. The biggest. Easter, there might have been vacations away. But they were...it was all family and just a lot of fun.
RE: I think that your version of your mother and father’s twenty-fifth anniversary dinner…
PC: What was that? At Columbo’s?
RE: They were caught in a snowstorm somewhere and were trying to get home for dinner?
PC: I thought the twenty first—um
RE: And you had painted your mother’s picture as a gift—it’s from the cover of…
LL: Oh yes! I remember painting that. I have it at home. Mother had it here. But I don’t recall them not getting home for a party or late for a party.
RE They got…
LL: Oh! They got there. That could be…
RE: Lizanne had gotten steaks—you told me this—from the Vesper House
LL: From the Vesper Club? Probably. Could have been.
RE: And your father would call and say “We’re stuck here.” It was a terrible snowstorm.
LL: Well, their anniversary is
PC: Is the 31stor the 30th of January, sure.
RE: He would call and say, “We’re this far,” and you would put the steaks away and then get them out again.
LL: Well I do remember one—you’re talking about one special party. Speaking of that one special party, Mother was having Thanksgiving. And this was after Grace and Ranier were married. And just about two years later—‘cause Grace and Chrissy have pictures of it and they were tiny. So it was like in ’59.
LL: And Mother said, “I will have a party for the whole family.” And Grace and Ranier and everybody were over there and the whole family, and some friends I guess. And Mother set-up the whole thing. And I’m smelling (sniffing sound) and I said to Peggy “Do you smell…”
PC: Well I had come from my house. And wasn’t there all afternoon.
LL: No. So I’m saying to Peggy—we were all there having cocktails or something—“I don’t smell any turkey.” I said, “Mother!” (Imitating Mother) “Oh! I put the turkey in a long time ago.” And I’m (sniffing sound) (Loud voice) Don’t smell the turkey…!
So I walk in the kitchen and open up the thing and I say…I come out to Peggy and say, “My god Peggy, she hasn’t turned on the oven! Now what do we do?”
PC: Or it was just warm or something—turned it down or something or
LL: It was naked as the day it was born—let’s put it that way. (laughter)
And we’re about ready to eat, you know, in a half hour and I said,
“Peggy for heaven’s sake’s what are we gonna do?” So Peggy said, “Don’t worry about a thing. I cooked”
PC: I had just baked a turkey and since the children were home, you know, for vacation, I wanted to have a turkey at home. So mine had just come out of the oven. I went right around the corner to my house yanked—took mother’s - threw it in my oven and brought her mine.
CS: Oh wonderful! Laughter
LL: That was a re—memorable holiday.
CS: Did you ever tell your Mother?
LL: Oh yes! Certainly! Mother when did you? When? She said, “I don’t know what happened! I can’t imagine!
PC: I’m thinking it was just like half-started or something.
LL: Something was turned down because she wouldn’t be that dumb, you know.
PC: No! (laughter) “You wouldn’t have been that dumb, Mother! No!”
CS: Were you both married here in the Falls?
PC: No, I was married in Pleasantville, New Jersey. It was during the summer and Lizanne was married
LL: I was married in Saint Bridget’s.
PC: Saint Bridget’s, yes.
LL: Oh! I have—we were married—Grace had just won the Oscar and she was one of my bridesmaids. She was my maid of honor and Peggy was my matron of honor. And, of course, knowing that she was coming to the, you know, church, there were a lot of people outside. Don and his brother, my husband Don, and his brother, who was the best man, pulled up in front of Saint Bridget’s and as the limousines were pulling up or cars were pulling up, people would go look in to see who was there. They looked in and saw Don and Tom, they said, “Oh they’re nobody.” (laughter) and Don said “Aw, yeah, well…” (said derisively) (laughter)
RE: “I haven’t laughed so hard in years!”
PC: Well Fordie used to take all our, um, he loved to travel all the brides. Fordie was the colored man that we had, you know, that we mentioned before. And when one the Becker girls got married, going down Midvale Avenue to St. Bridget’s, naturally, it was on the right and he stopped there on the right. Well, I guess he wanted to be headed up the other way—but did not go in—he took the bride, delivered the bride in the lovely big car but he thought he—it was a Saturday—and he had a shopping list for Mother. Down, well, at the old Falls Theatre, it was at the point, it was a supermarket.
LL: Oh! Is that where Falls Theatre was? The old supermarket.
PC: Oh sure.
LL: Oh, that’s the Falls Theatre—uh, okay.
PC: So Fordie goes in—he figures the wedding, the wedding will take about twenty minutes, fifteen or twenty minutes and he does all the shopping. In the front seat of the car he comes back to pick up the bride and groom to take them to the reception—and a great big stalk of celery out of the top of the big bag on the front seat of the car—and the beautiful bride in the back.
CS: With the stalk of celery?
PC: With the celery. Didn’t bother Ford. The bride’s mother did not go for that too much.
LL: Ford was a classic. Everybody in the Falls knew Ford. He shopped at the hardware store at Ridge and Midvale - southwest corner there – he used to take me when I was a little kid and stand aside and going out with Fordie was the best treat in the world and he used to run around…Everyone knew Fordie.
PC: Do you remember Paddy Melon (?) the milkman? How about Peg Filoon? That’s a real old one. Snow White McCow (?)
CS: Who were they?
PC: Real old people in the Falls. They were our father’s friends. Really back - you’d have to find some people - and who used to sleep in the cars at…
PC: Porkie slept at John Cassidy’s garage. Is Cassidy’s garage still there?
LL: Well the garage, but Cassidy isn’t there, but East Falls Garage is there. Right on Ridge Avenue next to the East Falls Tavern it was – the back faces the river.
RE: Not the corner?
LL: It’s right behind where the post office is now. Right behind - the post office would back up to Cassidy’s Garage going towards the river. And a lot of people used to sleep in Cassidy’s old junk cars. The wrecks! The cars that were wrecked and all. So he would have permission to get all the wrecked cars that were on East River Drive. So he would stay there, and all his friends who didn’t have much of a home life…If they had had a little too much…
PC: Porkie used to sleep there. Charming Porkie.
LL: They would sleep in Cassidy’s wrecks.
RE: My word.
LL: Well, Daddy knew everyone in East Falls and Kell knew pretty nearly everyone too. He’d go down that street….now there is a little street near – across the street from….I don’t know the name of it - where the photographer lived? What’s his name?
PC: Mr. Brownworth!
RE: Mucky Brownworth.
CS: He was a photographer?
PC: A photographer; a family photographer. And he lived right in a little alley almost across from the church – there’s a little alley that goes up that way and they had a street fair.
RE: They still do?
LL: I don’t know, but they did about seven years ago.
RE: Arnold Street, is it?
LL: Could be. And they had a street fair there and Don and I went by there and had the besttime. And that was recently.
RE: Brownworth was about two doors down from Arnold Street….and what a marvelous photographer he was! Everybody went to him.
LL: He took my babies pictures, he took my wedding pictures. His father – oh, he was a nut, his father. Well, he’s a nice nut. I don’t think his son would think anything different of him – he was a marvelous nut. I mean, that’s a compliment.
RE: And Stan Smith
LL: Oh, Stan Smith and Odda
RE: And Midge, used to go down regularly and meet with Mucky Brownworth and they would have a bull session all the time and they would have a few drinks and they would talk and that was a regular meeting place.
LL: That’s weird. Can you see those three together?
CS: Where did the name Mucky come from?
LL: I never knew that. His son was Teddy. He’s Theodore and his son is Teddy, but Mucky is probably a local name that I didn’t quite know.
RE: Best in the world! They don’t make ‘em like him.
PC: And our cousins, the Kruskow’s, used to live next door to St. Bridget’s, right on that side of the street.
RE: What street?
PC: Just between there and the post office. And we were always there on a Sunday.
LL: And then on the other side of the post office was Uncle Charlie’s.
LL: Alma Morani has her office in one of them.
PC: Is she still there?
LL: Yeah, she’s still there. Then where the post office used to be, I don’t know who is there. I think that is closed. I don’t think there’s anything in there.
RE: No, it’s been for sale.
LL: It’s been for sale for years.
PC: And then the church took over. Charles Kelly sold his house to the church. To St. Bridget’s.
CS: Were there any nice places to eat in East Falls?
PC: There were.
LL: I never went to a restaurant in East Falls ever. Oh, pardon me, the Falls Tavern, once or twice, in later years.
PC: We always went over to the Bala Golf Club. East Falls had a big tournament at Bala Golf Club each year.
LL: They put a great big sign across the street. It was a big tournament.
RE: The Falls used to be very, very interested in athletics. They’re no longer that way, as far as I know.
CS: All sports?
LL: All sports; definitely so. In fact they used to call it the East Falls Golf Association, but half the members never played golf, I’m sure.
LL: But it was a big, big association.
PC: My father played for an East Falls teams when he was a young man. He played professional, but on a rather low level: baseball and mainly football and basketball. He would go upstate, change his name – play under a different name every week.
CS: What was the Philadelphia Canoe Club? You mentioned that earlier…
LL: Yes. My mother and her brothers were members there and we used to spend so much time on weekends and loved it, just loved it. But being away in Ocean City in the summers, we missed a great deal of what went on when children were off from school. I’m sure we would have found a million things to do in East Falls but we were away right after we got out of school.
On Memorial Day there used to be a parade in McMichael Park and they used to have the raising of the flag and the band and VFW or whatever but then after that we were never around.
PC: We weren’t around all summer.
RE: Did Fordie ever drive you kids anyplace?
PC & LL: Sure, every place. Everywhere we had to go.
Except for the gas rationing, we used the 52. He’d drive us to school.
LL: We’d walk to school.
PC: He drove us also.
LL: Well, except in the bad weather, he’d drive us to school but you couldn’t get to the school on the 52. We’d walk to school but Fordie would drive us to other places. But going to the movies or up to Germantown he never would drive us. He would take us places in town and things like that. There used to be little things at the Penn AC on Saturday afternoons.
CS: At the what?
LL: At the Penn Athletic Club. It was a wonderful family club on the corner of 18th and Locust. A wonderful club.
PC: Swimming pools. Squash courts.
LL: He would drive us down there. Anywhere we needed to go where you couldn’t take the 52.
RE: That was the trolley.
PC: Don’t they have something like that now?
RE: It’s a bus. It’s the K bus. Not a trolley anymore.
LL: Cause I know I’ve seen people standing on the corner at McIlvaine’s, sure.
CS: When you were teenagers, did you date any local boys?
LL: Surely. Our neighborhood was filled with boys and we were never at a loss for a date. And with Penn Charter so close by. And Germantown Academy so nearby. We had no problems.
CS: Any particular memorable ones?
LL: Oh, Howard Wycoff grew up with me – my boyfriend. Oh certainly. And a few others.
PC: And the very good friend of Kell’s that lived on Henry Avenue – the Lukens? That lived on Henry Avenue? There were many people who lived on Henry Avenue.
LL: No, Matt lived on Midvale.
RE: The Lukens manufactured…
LL: But then he married….and Tommy Kayon. He married Barbara something who lived on Henry Avenue.
PC: She lived on Vaux Street, dear.
LL: Dr. Vogel. At the end of Henry Avenue.
PC: She lived on Vaux Street, dear.
LL: And how about your friend…(?)
PC: Across from the Godfreys on Warden Drive.
LL: I dated all the guys who lived on Warden Drive. There were an awful lot of kids around there. It was amazing that that street – I guess everybody had children at the same time – they were all the same age.
RE: There was a period when all the press and magazine articles said “Have Babies.” Not in those words, but it was pushed that this was the thing to do – have a baby. And it was approved of. And so there was a big baby boom then.
LL: Except in my year…
RE: Now in my day, the ‘20s, they called it “getting caught” so that expresses how they felt about having babies…
LL: I was born in 1933. I was informed later on in life that that was the lowest - until the last couple of years – the lowest birth rate – because that was during the Depression – and that was the lowest birthrate year of anything.
PC: And Grace was born in ’29.