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
Mae gives memories of Falls Presbyterian Church, her involvement with Old Academy Players, and the Stetson Hat Factory.
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 12th of 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…