Interviewee: Eileen Flynn (EF) and Nancy Ann Sullivan (NS), sisters Interviewers: Martie Ann (MAP) and Jeff Polaski (JP) Date of Interview: February 2, 2014 Transcriber: Wendy Moody
Lifetime residents of East Falls, these sisters share memories of St. Bridget Church, local stores, WWII rationing, and more.
JP: May I start? What this is – the Historical Society is interviewing people who have lived in the Falls mostly all their lives, and their parents before that, and in your case, your grandparents before that. And what we’re doing is recording for posterity, some of the notable things that you remember about East Falls. It’s about East Falls, but East Falls during certain times. I’ll ask some questions, but first I have to ask some questions to fill out a form – I’m going to use the same form for both of you.
To introduce, this is an interview of Nancy Sullivan and Eileen Sullivan Flynn. Flynn with two “n’s. Martie Ann Polaski and Jeff Polaski are doing the interview. Today is the second of February, 2014, and your address is?
NS: 3518 Ainslie Street.
JP: And where were you born?
NS: 3406 Vaux Street. At home. In the house.
JP: Both of you?
EF: Yup. All six of us. That’s when mothers were first having their babies being born in the hospital. That was something new. Her first one was born in the hospital and did not live – she would not go back.
MAP: That was the end of it…
EF: That was the end of her – she had the rest of us at home.
JP: So that was the first…
NS: Sometimes she probably wished she had gone back to the hospital.
MAP: Do you remember the others being born at home?
EF: The baby came before the doctor! Aunt Jennie lived down the street so we went to visit her.
NS: Well I didn’t because I was next to the youngest.
JP: Well, who are the other four?
NS: There were six of us all together. One died.
JP: So the order in which you were born….the oldest….?
EF: The oldest would be Edward.
NS: Then Eileen, then sister Claire.
MAP: What year was Edward born?
EF: 1929? I was 1930, I know that.
NS: He’s a year younger than your Ed. About 14 months apart.
JP: After Ed…?
NS: Then after Ed came Eileen, 1930. And then Sister Claire – she was just 80 this year so we have to count backwards…then my brother Joe who was born in 1933, I was born in ’35, and sister Marie in ’37.
MAP: So that’s over ten years.
JP: Eileen, you were born October 29, 1930 and Nancy you were born September 29, 1935.
NS: I’m five years and one month younger than her to the day.
JP: What were your parent’s names?
NS: Edward and Frances.
JP: Frances with an “e”?
NS: With an E. She never liked her name.
JP: Sullivan…. Who were your grandparents?
NS: John and Bridget Tyrrell. 2 R’s and 2 L’s. Not related to the one “r”.
JP: And the spelling of Bridget?
NS: Bridget Cassidy Tyrrell.
JP: Where were they born?
NS: They were born in Ireland. My grandfather in Dublin and my grandmother in County Mere, Chestertown.
JP: Do you know when they came over?
NS: 1886. Election Day.
MAP: When was that?
NS: I’m assuming in November.
JP: Did they come to the Falls?
NS: Yes, directly to East Falls.
MAP: How did they know about the Falls?
JP: Your mother was born in Philadelphia.
JP: And your father was born in Philadelphia?
JP: And your church affiliation is St. Bridget’s.
JP: For how many years?
NS: Since 1886. The whole family.
JP And since you were born on Vaux Street… since you were born, for each of you.
MAP: How about your father?
NS: My father was born in Kensington, as we said. His mother, which we’re not really allowed to talk about, because she was born on English soil. She never forgave her mother for allowing her to be born on English soil.
EF: She was very bitter about that because she was Irish. She was the youngest of ten children and her mother did not make it back to the border, into Ireland, before she was born. So she was the only one born on English soil and she never forgave her mother.
NS: But you see at that time, her mother – my great-grandmother – she lived in a little town in England that was very anti-Irish. That was the problem in most of England in those days. And she said she did not want any of her children being born on English soil because of the times. But unfortunately she didn’t make it. She didn’t know the 10th one would come so fast! (laughter) His father died in…
MAP: But he lived in Kensington. And so how did your parents meet?
NS: My parents met through my Uncle Jim. My mother’s brother-in-law. She was a friend of my father’s. And he had a garage over at 30th and Allegheny. 30th and Torresdale, actually. And my father used to take his car over there to be fixed, to be serviced, when he was working. My father had a car before most people did. I don’t know how he knew Jim Durkin or if it was just coincidence. They are related to the Durkin’s who do a lot of stuff down at St. Bridget’s. My Uncle Jim Durkin’s father, Patrick Durkin, was an uncle to the Durkin’s here. His name is Jim also.
MAP: And Tim lives on Penn Street.
JP: I call them the Grubs because they’re always digging over there.
NS: Oh yeah! That’s a good name. I don’t really know them. I met them a couple of times and of course I say hello to them in church. But they don’t really know too much about the Durkin family, nor do I.
JP: Where did you go to school?
NS: St. Bridget’s, where else?
JP: And you went there for how many years?
NS: Well the school opened built in 1898, no 1888. My mother went to St. Bridget. I went for 8 years.
JP: And afterwards, did you go anywhere?
NS: Four years to Hallahan.
MAP: That’s what girls did. That’s what girls did.
NS: My mother went there also.
MAP: Was there any question as to whether or not your parents lived in East Falls?
NS: No, not that I know of…
MAP: You mean, if he was marrying her, he was coming here… They usually married in the bride’s parish and went to where the bride’s house was unless there were mitigating circumstances.
JP: When you were in school, did you play any sports? Were there sports at the time?
NS: Not really. There was a schoolyard with dirt, rock and cinders. It’s where the school is now – that was the schoolyard. You would skin your knee.
NS: Oh yes, recess.
JP: Any organized games?
NS: Not that I know. The only kind of organized anything you had was the 6th grade teacher, Sister Rosalita. There were all nuns, no lay teachers. She would play baseball with the boys on Stanton Street – I remember that. She was rough and tough. She was good. She was the only girl with a large family in Ireland.
JP: Were there any clubs after school or after you graduated school? Did you belong to any associations? Clubs?
EF: Not really, only things at church. We played bingo.
MAP: Where did you play bingo?
EF: In the school hall when it opened.
MAP: Was it St. Bridget bingo?
NS: Yeah, on Friday nights.
JP: Did other people come?
NS: Oh yeah, anybody was welcome.
JP: How big were the pots?
NS: Not much; I don’t remember.
MAP: Do you remember what it cost?
NS: Probably 10 cents a game. 10 cents a card or three for a quarter.
MAP: I remember that. Bingo was 3 for a quarter.
JP: And when you went to work after your schooling, where did you work?
NS: I worked for a clothing manufacturer.
JP: Ok. Eileen?
EF: I worked in a bank. It never brought us any money…
MAP: They didn’t give samples…
JP: I worked in a bank and they wouldn’t let me in the basement. Which clothing manufacturer?
NS: It was called Style Craft.
JP: Style Craft?
NS: Style Craft Frocks.
JP: And where was that?
NS: 1427 Vine Street, which is now a medical building for Hahnemann Hospital. The only building with over two floors still standing between Broad and Vine.
JP: Is it still there?
NS: Oh yeah, the building is still there. It’s a medical building now. It had one elevator that was a cage you could see in. Steps went up around.
JP: How long did you work for them?
NS: I worked there for 17 years and then they sold the company and moved to Hatboro, so I went in Hatboro for another 17 years.
JP: Same company?
NS: Well, new owners. I can’t remember the name, but it was the same thing, a clothing manufacturer.
JP: How did you get to Hatboro?
NS: I bought a car and drove. I learned to drive – I was in my 30’s. I had no desire to drive – I lived half a block from a train. Two blocks from buses on either end – why use a car?
JP: Eileen, how long did you work for the bank when you didn’t get any money from them?
EF: Not very long. I met Edward when I was still in school. He lived on Stanton Street. He went to St. John’s High School in Manayunk but he lived in the Falls.
MAP: So you didn’t know him until high school or you knew him most of your life?
EF: I probably knew some of the family. He had a big family. He went to St. Bridget’s grammar school.
JP: When did you get married?
EF: A long time ago.
JP: A long time ago…
EF: ’51. 1951.
MAP: Where did boys usually go to high school? Was this unusual?
EF: They usually went to Roman. If you lived in St. Bridget parish, you went to Roman. You didn’t usually change parish, but if you wanted to go to St. John’s you could. St. John’s wasn’t considered a dioceses school, I don’t think. I’m not sure of that.
MAP: So you married an older man?
EF: Two years older.
MAP: So in ‘51 you were about 20?
JP: How many children did you have? All those hooks!
EF: My son Jim did that. I had 11 children.
JP: You had 11 children. Do you remember all the names?
EF: I might (laughter)… Edward, Jim, Eileen, Claire, Bill, Catherine, Joseph, Paul, John, Ann Marie, and David.
MAP: That’s a lot of names to come up with. And they all went to St. Bridget too?
EF: No, some went to Archbishop Ryan’s School for the Deaf in West Philadelphia.
MAP: But the rest went to St. Bridget?
JP: And when school let out, what did you do?
NS: What did I do?
JP: What time did school let out?
JP: And at 3 o’clock?
EF: Went out with your friends, played ball, roller skate, ride your bike, jump rope…
JP: Where did you roller skate?
NS: Up and down the hills of East Falls.
JP: On the street?
NS: Well, there were cars, but not like there are now…
JP: What kind of skates did you have? The kind with the strap on?
NS: Yeah, and if you lost your roller skate key, you couldn’t loosen or tighten them or get them on at all.
JP: Which shoes did you use?
EF: Not your school shoes…
NS: You’d use your old school shoes that were already beat up. Until the soles start coming off…
JP: I understand that.
NS: You’d walk along with the thing flapping! (laughter)
MAP: Were the streets paved?
NS: Well it was cobblestones. Not good for a bike.
JP: Which street?
EF: Ainslie. My father used to drive down to school when it rained and when we asked him to come here (Ainslie) he said no. He tried it a few times and said “No! I’m not driving on that street!” And the next thing you know, we moved here! 1940 is when he died. He lived with those cobblestones.
JP: Where did you skate?
NS: On the sidewalk or on Cresson.
JP: Those streets were paved?
NS: Yeah. They paved the street shortly after they took the gas lamps out. It was the worst thing they ever did – removing the gas lamps.
JP: When did they change those?
NS: I don’t really know. Probably in the late 40s.
MAP: After the war?
NS: No, because when they had an air raid drill and you had to turn your lights off, they had to turn off each one of them.
MAP: So who did that?
JP: Did they have a ladder? A crosspiece?
NS: Yeah, they had a lobe (?). They doused it like you would a candle.
JP: When they replaced them, did they convert them or replace them?
NS: They took them out.
JP: They took them out?
EF: And when we used to have the air raid wardens and air raid drills, you had to shut all the lights off, including the ones in the street and the ones in the house. And we sat. Do you see the back stairs out there? Ours was enclosed and we’d sit there.
JP: How often did they have drills?
NS: Not a whole lot. Maybe twice a month.
MAP: That’s a lot.
JP: And how long did they last?
EF: Maybe an hour. I couldn’t honestly say.
JP: And was there any other responsibility other than turning out the lights?
NS: No, not for us, unless you worked. My grandfather was one of the air raid wardens.
JP: And what did he do?
NS: Well he’d go down the street and see if he could see any lights from anybody’s house. My grandfather was good for that – “Turn those lights off!” My grandfather was a staunch Irishman.
MAP: On this street, who turned the gas lights off?
NS: Well, the lamplighter couldn’t come around to get them all.
EF: Yeah, they did. They had districts.
MAP: During the air raid?
NS: During the air raid too. But there were a lot of people who volunteered.
JP: What else, about the time during the war? You had rationing?
JP: What did they ration?
NS: Food – meat, sugar, butter, most of the staples. Gas. We had ration stamps.
EF: We had six kids in the family so we got more stamps than somebody who had one child. Every person got a book.
JP: Every person got a book, so if you had rationed butter, could you use something else instead?
NS: Oh yeah. Margarine, oleo!
JP: How did that work for you?
EF: Ugh, we got a bag of white gook. Some stuff that was yellow that was supposed to look like butter. It was ok for cooking, I guess. I never went hungry that’s for sure. The thing was, with the ration stamps, every member of the household – during the Second World War we were 10 people in the house – 6 children, my parents and my grandparents. We were 10 people and each person got a ration book. Who could afford all that food? You couldn’t afford to buy all that food. What they used to do was share the stamps with other people which was technically against the law. That was the advantage, too, of your neighborhood grocer because he knew everybody. There was a couple – I only remember this from my mother telling it – but there was an older couple who lived up in 3400 Ainslie which meant they got 2 books. That didn’t allow them much
butter or sugar. We had ten books in our house. Who’s going to use all this? So through the grocer who actually never told you who any of these people were – you would give him your sugar stamps or your butter stamps and he would give them to them and they could buy, so they could get enough.
JP: So he was kind of like a broker?
EF: Yeah, he was wonderful. It didn’t mean a thing to him – he just wanted to help the people and because they were customers!
JP: Where was that store?
NS: Right next to where the real estate office is now on the corner of Ainslie and Conrad. Right next to it is a little apartment house. Well that was Caldwell’s Grocery. But that street along there had another grocery store on the next block and another on the next block because most people didn’t have cars.
JP: So that grocery store, Caldwell’s, wasn’t on the corner.
NS: No, no it was next to the shoemaker.
JP: It was next to the shoemaker on the corner.
NS: Sam Polis. When you were a kid you could stand on the corner look through the window and watch him repair the shoes. He had his machinery right on the Ainslie Street side of the shop and he sat there sewing the shoes. And you’d stand there and watch him….putting the soles on and whatever.
MAP: Did he make shoes?
NS: Probably did, but I don’t know.
JP: I’m trying to remember where the door is on that corner store. Right on the corner?
NS: Yes, right where it is now.
JP: Was the door set in a diagonal?
JP: And the corner of the building had a pole there?
NS: I don’t remember. There isn’t a pole there now.
MAP: What was the real estate, Petrone’s, then?
NS: That was the shoemaker. And it was something else for a while, I don’t remember what.
MAP: That was a big store for a shoemaker.
EF: Well, yeah. That whole row – there were stores all along there. There was a butcher shop, a grocery store. Most people did not have cars.
MAP: So the grocery store was mostly dry goods?
EF: No. They had some vegetables – not a lot. They also drove down the street and yelled “Joe Parks.”
JP: Joe Parks. What did he call?
NS: Jooooe Paarrks!!! Joooooe Parrrks! And you’d run out and buy your fresh vegetables. (Laughter) When Joe Parks father – he was the one who originally came around in a horse and cart. My father had a car and that was a great thing. We had a car. If it rained he’d pile them in the car – 4 in a row and sideways. Whatever. As many as he could jam in the car. He’d go up Skidoo and across the bridge. And he’d get near the corner and yell “Everybody lean to the right!” and some other places he’d yell “Everybody lean to the left!”
JP: How was gas stamps, gas rationing handled?
NS: Well, you had your ration stamps which people used. Now people could get gas every other day. Monday, Wednesday, Friday with license plates ending with numbers so and so, and Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday with numbers so and so. In those days, most places were closed on Sundays so you didn’t have to worry about that.
JP: Did the ration books include gasoline?
NS: Oh yeah.
JP: All ten of them?
NS: No, gas rationing was separate.
JP: Separate, so that was for each car.
EF: Right. And my father used the car a lot because he was in business in Mayfair. People would give him some stamps. Elderly people who just used the car to go to the store and back – they would have stamps left over.
JP: What was he doing?
EF: He installed oil burners in Mayfair.
JP: I was born in 1947 in South Philly and, excuse me, it wasn’t until ‘52 that we went to Mayfair.
EF: The radio announcer, he was very, very funny – he was born in South Philly and he used to say “I went from welfare to Mayfair!” (laughter)
JP: You don’t remember what station that was?
EF: Not offhand. I think WPEN.
JP: How many stations were there?
NS: There were a good many. Of course that was when I was older, not when I was a little kid. When WWII ended I was only 10 so I don’t remember a lot but I do remember going to the shoe store with the ration books and getting shoes.
MAP: Was that the shoe store here?
EF: No, it was the shoe store around the corner on New Queen Street. There was one up here too.
NS: They were repair shops. Sam Polis. We used to go up to Roxborough – Ridge Avenue. My cousin worked in a shoe store right up near Leverington Avenue – I know exactly where it was. He took ration stamps but another thing was with the times with my father – because my father used his car for his livelihood he could get stamps. If you had a business where you had to use your car all the time – and of course he did – he still had to get stamps for it but for some people who didn’t use their cars much, friends, they would give him stamps. People shared their stamps. You weren’t supposed to do it.
MAP: Was Conrad Market open at the time?
NS: There was a market there but it wasn’t called Conrad’s. I forget what it was called. There was Caldwell’s which was here. Then at the corner of Sunnyside and Conrad was “Fitzie’s” – John Fitzgerald’s (?) candy store. And on the other side of Sunnyside – it’s now that exercise joint – what do you call it? Therapy! That was a hardware store. Next to that was Sowden’s Market, which is where the laundromat is now. Now Sowden’s Market – I’m not sure if they took up two stores because there were stores there – the laundromat and the flower shop – East Falls Flower Shop is there now. And in there was Sowden’s Market. That was there for years.
JP: What was the name of it?
EF: S-O-U-D-E-N or S-O-W-D-E-N. That was the people’s (owners) name.
MAP: Would you go to one market most of the time?
NS: Oh yeah, you walked everywhere.
MAP: I wanted to know if you would go to one market or if you would go to all of them?
EF: No, you went to just one. And they came down the street everyday with fresh produce.
JP: In a car or truck?
NS: In a horse and wagon.
MAP: Even Joe Parks Junior?
NS: Yeah. He had the same route every day I guess. He had refrigeration. That was a big deal. A generator, I assume.
EF: In the war, there were shortages of oil and gas.
JP: Who else used horse-drawn wagons?
NS: The hucksters.
EF: People came to town with clothes. The ragman.
JP: Buying used clothes?
NS: No, I mean rags. They gathered the rags and sold the rags. The money – most went to the troops. Recycle. A big thing now.
MAP: Did they pay you for your rags?
NS: No. You put them out like you put out your trash.
JP: Were they collecting anything else for the war?
EF: Aluminum. Always aluminum. You couldn’t always get it.
EF: You had that in a separate bucket.
MAP: How about garbage? Did you put garbage out?
NS: Yes. Tuesday and Friday were garbage days and Monday was trash day.
MAP: Did farmers come?
NS: Farmers came and took the garbage and fed it to the animals. They did that for 150 years and nobody died of food poisoning. But, today, G-d forbid, you eat something that sat out for an hour….
EF: We had ration stamps for meat. If you had a big family with many children, like we did, you had a lot of stamps and couldn’t afford to buy all that food. But if you had a house with a number of adults it was hard and you would make due. Or get stamps from someone else.
MAP: Did you sled a lot?
EF: “Up the Nuts”
MAP: And where are The Nuts?
EF: Next to the library, near the university. You’d go down the hill and be on Warden Drive.
MAP: Were you allowed to go (sled) down Midvale Avenue?
NS: I guess people did; but we never sled there. There were trolley tracks, Belgian blocks.
MAP: How about on the sidewalk?
NS: No, you didn’t sled there.
JP: You sledded where the university was?
NS: We called it “The Nuts” because there was a hospital there with nutty people called Rose Neath.
MAP: Oh really! Rose Neath – how do you spell that?
NS: The people there were rather wealthy, like relatives of the Kelly’s. I didn’t know until years later that it was a mental hospital. The people who were in there had a lot of money and were mostly alcoholics. The rich and the famous – and that’s why we call it “The Nuts.” The people were nuts.
MAP: What was that building like? Like an institution?
NS: We never went near it. It was right where Ravenhill was. Right next to Ravenhill. I didn’t know what was there then. I don’t know how much of Ravenhill was there then. All I remember is that if you went over Calumet and then went up Dobson, you could see the cattle up there. They had live animals there.
JP: Whose animals were they?
EF: They belonged to Ravenhill. I don’t remember anything about them, except the cows being milked – that was pretty neat. There were a lot of fun things to do around here.
NS: I was just going to say – we didn’t have many organized playgrounds.
JP: We moved here more recently, but there was a movie theatre?
NS: Oh yeah, the Alden. It’s where the bank is now. Before that, it was right across the street from where McIlvaine’s is. There was a movie theatre there. When they built the Alden movie – that was a big deal. They invited the adults in the Falls to come in to view a movie in the new Alden Theatre, and they invited all the children to the old theatre where they had a movie to entertain them so the parents could go and see the new theatre.
JP: That’s the building that was a social service agency?
NS: That’s correct.
JP: So that was built specifically as a movie theatre?
NS: Right. But at that time McIlvaine’s wasn’t where it is now. It was over where the firehouse is.
JP: Was there another firehouse anywhere else?
NS: I don’t remember. I don’t think so. We just didn’t have fires.
MAP: So did you go to the movies often?
NS: I did, she didn’t.
JP: How much did they cost?
NS: A quarter, yeah.
JP: What did you like best in the movies?
NS: Me? The cartoons probably. I was a kid!
MAP: Did your parents go?
MAP: Because they didn’t like them, or because it was expensive?
NS: Because they were busy! And we were living in the Depression.
MAP: I hear stories about movie theatres offering dishes to keep the housewives coming.
NS: Yeah! I remember going down on Tuesday night at 7o’clock – that’s when they gave out the dishes. You’d get out a little before 8. That’s when I was in high school. And my next door neighbor –across the street – she would come out of the church and hustle or rustle up Midvale Avenue to get up to the movie in time to get her free dish on Tuesday evening. And I know some people still have them. I know people who still have them. They call them “movie dishes.”
JP: Movie dishes.
NS: They were nice dishes.
MAP: I was just going to say, what did they look like?
NS: They were too busy for what I like, but it would be like getting something like that (points). That was my grandmother’s – she brought that from England.
JP: Looks like a Delft.
NS: Probably. You see our grandparents – they were not married when they lived in Ireland. They were children when they came to England. They didn’t have problems like my father’s mother did with living in England because they lived in Liverpool, and Liverpool was a big metropolis in the 1800s. But they did not know each other when they moved to England.
My grandfather was from Dublin and my grandmother was from County Mayo. My grandfather was 9; my grandmother was 7 or 6 or something. They met and married in England. But my uncle, who was born in Ireland – no he was born in England – the older children were all born in England – he always said he came from Ireland by way of England. He never said he came from England. If you asked him where he was from, he’d say he was from Ireland by way of England. Or England by way or Ireland… I don’t know.
JP: Ireland by way of England.
NS: Yeah, my parents were born in Ireland.
JP: Did you have a lot of yard sales?
NS: We had yard sales for 30 years. And it ended at St. Bridget’s in 2005.
JP: Oh I know. I bought a camera there.
NS: Yeah, 30 years we had yard sales.
MAP: So let me just back up. So when your grandparents came from Ireland, by way of England, and they came right directly to the Falls, who was here in the Falls? How did they hear about the Falls?
NS: My grandmother’s brother, John Cassidy. On (?) Street. And how I know – a lot of this history we know from my mother. Of course her parents lived with her until they died. Some of my mother’s sisters, nieces, and nephews – they don’t know half of the history of the family because they didn’t live with them. I’ve spoken to my cousin recently and she never knew my grandmother and grandfather were not married when they moved to England. She assumed they got married in Ireland. They were little kids when they came to England but she never knew that. Well why would she unless her mother told her? But anyway I strayed….what …
MAP: John Cassidy.
NS: John Cassidy. And now I know they came on Election Day, because John Cassidy had voted for the first time as a citizen of a new country. It was a big thing.
MAP: Oh wow, how long had he been here?
NS: That I don’t know, but he had been here several years.
MAP: Enough years to be naturalized.
NS: I don’t know how long then it took to become a citizen.
JP: Did you say what he did for a living?
NS: John Cassidy? No, we don’t know.
JP: What did your neighbors do? Where did they work? Did they travel far?
NS: Probably not. The man right across the street from us – Foyles.
EF: A friend of mine worked in a factory sewing clothes. Chris Chioci’s father.
JP: And that was nearby?
NS: Yeah, a lot of people worked nearby. They walked to work.
JP: The factories were here.
EF: Yeah. There were factories along the Ridge.
JP: Along the Ridge.
MAP: Did many people work in the factories? I guess they must have.
NS: I imagine.
EF: When I was a kid I’d work anywhere.
NS: Right across the street from us were the Barlows – a man – there were 2 men and one woman who lived in that house. The woman was Alice Barlow and it was her brother and brother-in-law who lived in the house with her. The three of them. Their name was Barlow and the brother-in-law was Marlow. He worked for the city – Mr. Marlow – I don’t know what the other two did, they were older –probably retired, not working anymore. I know Mrs. Barlow used to sit in the window and watch what everybody did.
MAP: And you didn’t want to do anything under her gaze!
JP: Did she have a mirror???
MAP: She didn’t need one!!!
NS: Right next to her was the Foyles. He worked for the City. He had a good job with the City and his wife stayed home. They had the mother-in-law with them. Rose. And down the street was his brother-in-law – their name was Franklin. He also worked for the City. I don’t especially remember too much about them, but both the Foyles and Franklins had Irish setters. And Father Corcoran who was at St. Bridget at the time – he had an Irish setter. They used to walk the dogs together.
MAP: The three of them?
NS: Yeah. When these houses were built, the people who lived in them were mostly the higher- uppers of the mills.
JP: Where did the workers live?
NS: All around.
JP: The people who had stores – the grocer, the shoemaker, did they live above the stores?
NS: Some of them did, yeah. Some of them had other homes and, like I said, the Caldwell’s who had a store up here – his brother Ed had a store where the Tilden Market is now. So the people from Vaux Street, they went to the Tilden Market. We went to Caldwell’s Market. We went to the closest market. There were a lot of markets.
JP: Tilden Market. What was that…?
NS: That was a drug store. A little pharmacy. Tilden Pharmacy.
JP: Did you know Harry Prime?
NS: Oh yeah, sure. He lived on Bowman Street right where the restaurant is now –Epi…?
NS: He lived there.
MAP: He said he worked in the dry goods part when he was kid.
NS: Uh huh. When we were kids you could go to a store a block away – almost every block had stores, you walked everywhere.
EF: And my father had a car. That was a big deal that we had a car. Like we were rich.
JP: Midvale Avenue had a trolley?
NS: Oh yes. The 52. You’d get on that and go to Germantown.
JP: Or South Philly.
NS: No. This was only on Midvale Avenue. From Ridge and Midvale to Chelten – not Chelten, the street past Chelten – about 3 miles all the way out.
JP: Were there any other trolley routes?
NS: Yeah, the 61 on Ridge. That became a trolley car that became a trackless trolley years later.
MAP: How about Henry Avenue?
NS: Henry Avenue was always buses, from what I remember.
MAP: Was Henry Avenue always a big street?
NS: Probably. Because it was a main thoroughfare going from Roxborough over to Allegheny Avenue. It ended at Allegheny Avenue.
MAP: I remember once, not too many years ago, there was a … I don’t know if it was 4th of July or Memorial Day. We started at the park and then walked down to the river. And I think one of you was telling me about the 4th of July picnic.
NS: Yeah, they were great! Each church had their own.
JP: Where did you (St. Bridget) have it?
NS: McMichael Park. We were the largest church and had more people than anybody. Most of the others most likely had them at their church area.
EF: Most of them had them on their grounds around their church.
MAP: Did you go to each other’s picnics or stay to yourselves?
NS: Stayed to themselves.
JP: So every year you had the 4th of July, and every year you had the yard sale –
NS: That was later. We didn’t start the yard sales until the 80s.
MAP: What about Memorial Day?
NS: Memorial Day they had a parade but we didn’t walk in it necessarily. They had the bands and they went down to the river and they put a wreath on the river. They fired shots across the river with the echo coming back. On the west side.
JP: And could you hear the echo coming back?
NS: Oh yeah.
JP: How about the poor people on the other side pf the river when they fired the shots…
EF: Also with the closing of school for the summer, all of the school kids came and walked down and across the river and back and walked over to Woodside. All the school kids went.
MAP: Just the St. Bridget kids?
NS: Yes. Other schools came too, but not with us.
JP: Along with the 4th of July picnic, were there any other annual things that you did?
EF: The walk to Woodside was a big thing.
JP: Christmas Mass? What time of day was that? 5am?
NS: Yes. They didn’t have Mass on Christmas Eve. There was a Midnight Mass.
MAP: But not for kids.
NS: No. Because when we would go, we’d go to the 5 o’clock mass in the morning, because at that time then, Ed and Eileen had children and they’d work on the platforms and trains, go to mass and then get the kids up.
JP: What kind of train set did you have? Lionel?
NS: At that time, yeah.
EF: I still have them up at Christmas.
JP: Not American Flyer?
NS: She may have. She has 4 or 5 sets. People have given them to her over the years.
MAP: I remember seeing a photo of soldiers on the lawn of St. Bridget in front of the new church. Do you remember that?
MAP: Was that annual?
EF: I don’t know.
NS: I think it was the VFW – down at Ridge and Midvale.
MAP: So they’d come up and maybe have a mass or something and take a picture? Was that an annual event?
EF: That was before I remember. Second World War time. I was only 10 or so I don’t remember. The only thing I remember about that – the day I got word the war ended – my mother was in the kitchen washing dishes– she was standing at the sink and I was there and they announced the war had ended. She just dropped everything.
MAP: And what happened?
EF: Everyone went to church. Sure.
MAP: Were there many people in the service in the neighborhood?
NS: Oh yeah. They had the draft; they had to go. Relatives, cousins. I was a kid so I don’t remember that, but yes, there were a lot.
MAP: How about May Processions?
NS: Oh yes.
JP: Where did they process?
NS: We processed from the school – the old school. We came out of the school on Stanton Street, down the side yard, down the iron steps which aren’t there anymore, and through what is now the wall and the rectory if the weather was bad. Out to Midvale, down Midvale Avenue, up the long steps in front of the church and into the church. If the weather was bad, we went in the side door of the church, actually if the weather was real bad, you came out the door – where you come from making sandwiches – out that door, right across from it was the door that went into the basement of the old church, and you went through there and you came out on the landing where the door is now that would go out to the convent. We went through that landing, down the steps, and into the door that now leads to the bathroom and into the church. We walked down the sides and into the back.
MAP: And was this just the St. Bridget School children?
MAP: Were there high schools?
NS: No, not at that time.
MAP: What did you wear?
NS: White dresses.
MAP: Even the 8th grade?
NS: Everybody wore white dresses. Some wore gloves but that was optional.
JP: Well, I have instructions to try to keep this down to an hour. I was wondering if maybe we could do this again? Would that be alright with you?
NS: Sure. Anytime. You can tell we’re not bashful and we love talking about East Falls.
Father Kelly was here once and he said that one time he was in the rectory and he had had an auditor who said to him as he was checking things over, he said: “You know, on your Sunday counters, you are not to have two counters on the same day who are related to each other. “ To which Father Kelly said “Hell! Do you know this parish! Everybody’s related to everybody.” No such thing as finding two people who aren’t related!
JP: Including these two here.
NS: We counted together. And before that Teresa and Marty Corcoran – they counted collection every Sunday for a hundred years – just the two of them, husband and wife. They were in the rectory counting until somebody came to help them after a number of years. That’s when Father Cartland (?) was there. That was a long time ago. Nobody ever thought anything of it. Whatever.
MAP: You had honest people.
NS: Well that was the thing. Nobody’s going to take anything. First of all, you wouldn’t take a thing from the church because you might drop dead before you left. It just wasn’t done. It just never entered your mind.to steal something from the church.
JP: G-d bless you.
NS: We thought before you got down the front steps, you’d fall and break your leg.! We thought that when we were little. (laughter).
NS: And I remember when my father was working down there and he used to empty the box in which the donations were…
MAP: The poor box.
NS: He would go downstairs and empty the poor box. And at one point there was hardly anything in it for a while – he couldn’t figure it out…