Interviewee: David West (DW)

Interviewer: Katy Hineline (KH)

Date of Interview: June 26, 2013 at Foulkeways Retirement Village

Engrossing memories of growing up on Queen Lane and Penn Street: stickball, polio scare, writing a neighborhood newspaper, WWII, John B, Kelly, Sr.


KH: Where were you born and where were your parents born?

DW:  My mother was born in England, Yorkshire, 1902.  My father was born in Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia 1899.  I was born in 1931 in East Falls in Women’s Medical College Hospital

KH: When did your parents move to East Falls?

DW: They moved to East Falls soon after they were married in 1929. They moved to lower Queen Lane, the 3400 block of Queen Lane proper, just before

you get to the corner of 35th Street and Thomas Mifflin School.  When those houses were built they bought a brick row house – 3461 Queen Lane.

KH: When did your parents move to Penn Street?

DW: They stayed on Queen Lane and moved to 3019 Queen Lane in May of 1943.  I was born in 1931 and moved when I was 12 years old but it was still in East Falls.

KH: What was the age of those houses at that time, were they built in the early 1900’s?

DW: Yes, they were, I don’t remember the exact date, I might be able to look it up, but it was the early 1900’s.  It was not a new house but we bought it from its original owner (Roy Miller)

KH: How did they happen to choose East Falls as a place to live?  

DW: There were lots of reasons.  My dad was an electrical engineer and he worked for the Electric Storage Battery Company at 19th and Allegheny so it was not that far away and it was a nice place.  It was a new neighborhood, new houses, and there were lots of friends there and family because my dad’s father lived on Wayne Avenue right near Coulter Street so they were not that far away and my mother’s parents lived up in Mt. Airy near Carpenter Woods.

KH: Tell me about your family, did you have siblings, what did your Dad do….What was life like in your house?

DW: Dad, as I said, was an electrical engineer.   He had gone to Germantown Friends School and graduated in 1918.   He took courses at what is now Drexel. At the same time he got a job at Electric Storage Battery Company and stayed there 25 years.  My mother had been an executive secretary. She was the secretary at the British Consulate in Philadelphia. And they both had lots of family still in England.  All four of my grandparents were born in England. One time when dad was a bachelor and going over to visit his family as a young man, he had to get a visa in those days at the British Consulate, he met this young secretary and that was my mother.

   In my family, I am the oldest of three boys.  My brother, Gordon, is a year and a half younger than I am and Edward (Ted) is six years younger than that, and no sisters.

KH: What sorts of activities did you engage in as a young boy in East Falls?

DW: In those days nobody went very far.  Our family was pretty much middle class. We went to the New Jersey seashore in the summer.  As a small boy my Grandfather West used to rent a cottage in Connecticut. Vacation became very nice when my grandfather began to rent a cottage. That was great for us.  He was a widower by that time. He put up with having my mother and three small boys in the house with him. He wanted company, I’m not quite sure why he wanted company, our company, but he did.  

    Activities around the neighborhood were very focused.  I like to think of Midvale and Coulter Street as being the axis of my early life.  We lived at the end of Queen Lane. The axis extended all the way to Germantown Friends School where I went to school and to St Luke’s Episcopal Church across Germantown Ave. from it, where my paternal grandfather was the organist and choirmaster for 55 years.  We boys sang in his choir which was, in its time, the finest English men and boys choir in Philadelphia. So we went from one to the other. Being in the choir was a very demanding thing. Because, except during summer vacations, we had rehearsals Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 4:30 and Friday night with men from 7:30 to 9.  And two services on Sunday, 11 o’clock and evensong at 4:30 or 8:00 depending on the season. That took up a lot of time but that was a great activity. And very, very good training. Certainly by the time I got to Germantown Friends School, Mary Brewer {ed. note. Mary Brewer was the long time Choral director at GFS} was very glad to see me. I think it was because I knew what I was doing in the choir and I eventually became the president of the choir.  But, so that was one thing,

   The other activities were largely kind of around the neighborhood, what we did as boys.  There were several vacant lots in in East Falls that we used to frequent. There was one behind the church at the corner of Penn Street and Conrad. I think it’s a Baptist church that sits on the corner at Midvale so that was a place that we played,  There was another vacant lot, now built on, at the corner of Vaux Street and Midvale Avenue.

KH: What did you do on those vacant lots?

DW:  Well, on the church lot we played baseball, we played ball games.  The other one was a kind of wild lot, all overgrown. Big trees and we used to climb the trees and we had adventures there.  We played cowboys and Indians and things like that (small gang games)

KH: Were your friends from up and down the block?

DW:  Friends were from up and down the block, yes, and we went to the library, my mother took us early on to the East Falls Library on the corner of Warden Drive and Midvale and got us membership cards and enrolled us in summer reading programs which helped to make us pretty good readers, actually from an early age, actually before GFS.  

    Then we played in the back alleys.  On those blocks the houses had a central alley leading to the garages. That’s where we played stickball.  Or halfball as it is called. Played with a broomstick. You take a tennis ball, or a small rubber ball and cut it in half. And you pitch it and you make it soar and you have to hit it straight up the alley because if it goes in a yard it’s an out. That was a very active game and it was played… in those days we had bubblegum cards of baseball players.  We chewed a lot of gum just to get the cards, and then we made up the teams from ones that we had been fortunate enough to get and we would trade them to get rare ones. Everyone wanted to get Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson so there was a lot of trading and you made up your team of 9 players picked from the best cards you had and you played pretending you were Stan Musial and so on.  That was a big summer fun activity.

KH: Did you ever go to the Bathey?

DW: No, I don’t ever remember going there.   Swimming, we went to Alden Park, the pool there had summer memberships, for well-behaved kids.  Somehow my mother got us in there. That’s where we went. It’s an indoor pool with a roll back top, or it was in those days so it was kind of half in-half out.  They could fully cover it over and use it in the winter which we never did for we were only interested in using it in the summer.

KH: Have you stayed in touch with any of the boys you played stick ball with?

DW: Oh, sure.  Across the back fence on Penn Street, across the alley, we had the Richardson boys – Dickie, was my age, a year older actually.  And his brother Tony was my brother Gordie’s age. We were very close to them. Jimmy Trimble, who later became an Episcopal priest and for some years was the chaplain at Episcopal Academy, very nice guy.  The Tolan family lived up at the top of the hill and the Boyer family, Jack Boyer, and these were close-by people.

Now, once school started for me, I went to GFS in Kindergarten so Sept. 1936   my dad put me in the Model A and drove me over to take me to kindergarten and we drove up in front of Miss Comfort’s kindergarten and I jumped out and ran in and that was certainly where I wanted to be.  I couldn’t understand the little girl who was lying outside on the flagstones, kicking and screaming that she didn’t want to be left there. She got over it. So, school became a very occupying thing.

KH: How did you get back and forth to school?

DW: Dad dropped us off. As got a little bit older we became patrons of the PRT, Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company later the PTC and the 52 trolley.  That was a trolley car in those days that went from Ridge Avenue over Midvale and Coulter, turned up Wayne Avenue to Chelten then went east on Chelten  and I think after that after a long time, it fell off the edge of the earth I never knew where it went ultimately.

    When it got to Wayne Ave it shared the tracks with the 53 trolley which was a newer, more modern trolley.  The 52s were old boxes. The 53 went all the way up Wayne Avenue from Wayne Junction to Mt. Airy and at the end of that line was where my maternal grandparents near Carpenter Woods so we used that one.

KH: But you had a model A…

DW: Yes, it was a model A, Ford, of course, a 1936.  Because what happened was that my Grandfather West bought a new car every several years and they passed the old one down.  First to my father and then to his younger brother who lived up in New Jersey. A lot of mileage on a car…a lot of time on a car.

KH: Did you walk a lot?

DW: Oh yes, because we would get off the trolley car at the corner of Wayne and Coulter and walk across Green Street to get to school. And back the other way.  Rode the trolley.

    It was fun.  I always tell my kids, you know, we were isolated in those days dealing with the depression and the war people didn’t move around a lot. Gas rationing and the roads weren’t that good, I remember driving to Connecticut.  That was a long trip. They did start to build the Merritt Parkway before that and we used that and I remember each year when Gordon and I were small, so we’re talking about the 1930’s and 40’s here, each year when we went up we were excited to see how much further they had gone moving north and east toward New England.  We always decided what was the best looking bridge.

    I should say that East Falls had a dividing line in our lives, it was 35th Street, Conrad Street, pretty much. We didn’t go down and play below that. When they built the Mifflin School we used to play in the lot there, the playground, quite a lot.

KH: Do you remember what was in place of the Mifflin School?

DW: I don’t remember what was there before.

KH: Did you shop in the lower Falls?

DW: Yes, shopping went sort of like this…There was Matragrano, the tailor and dry cleaner down below the station on the left hand side.  There was the place my father was always going, Falls Hardware that was on the corner of Ridge and Midvale, a big old building that is still there.  That was the Falls Hardware. That was a really good hardware store. There was no Home Depot or anything like that. Sears was out in the northeast.  That was a long trip, if you wanted hardware that was where you went.

    Food shopping was interesting in those days.  There weren’t any super markets. I remember when Penn Fruit came along at Chelten and Wayne. And there was something called the American Store which became Acme.  My mother did our shopping. There was a store named Sowden family store, down 35th street it was getting close to where the Hohenadel brewery was, does that mean anything to you? (affirmative noises) That was my first beer, a Hohenadel beer.   Mother used to go down there to shop and the Sowden family knew her. And took good care of her. A younger son, Edward Sowden was breaking into the business and he was the delivery guy.  He would bring mother’s order back. So, that was groceries except that the huckster came around with a truck up the back alleys once a week. He would beep the horn and people knew he would be there because he came at the same time each week.  Mother would go out and pick over everything that was on the truck if it was good, fresh produce.

     Another place for shopping, there was a bakery, called Haasis it was over Queen Lane between Morris and Pulaski and it was a good bakery and had very good ice cream.  Milk, our milk was delivered by Holiday Dairy, the Dearnley family which had GFS connections and they owned the Dearnley Mill on East Chelten Avenue but they also owned a dairy farm somewhere out in Montgomery County.  They had a delivery fellow named Bob and Bob drove the truck and brought the milk and the bottles were delivered to the back door.

KH: So it wasn’t delivered by horse?

DW: We had horse drawn things but I know the milk was delivered by truck.  It had to come a rather long distance.

KH: Where was the Dearnley Mill?

DW: East Chelten Avenue, east of Germantown Avenue, about where the Reading Railroad crosses, just before or just after that, the bridge

KH: What kind of mill was it?

DW: It was sort of a textile mill.  My mother’s younger brother became their plant manager after some years and stayed with them for quite a while.  I think Betty Dearnley was at GFS in the early to mid 40’s.

    One of the things that happened in those early years when we were playing around was the almost annual polio scare.  That was really terrible because we couldn’t go to the swimming pool and school didn’t open. So, my mother and father encouraged us to go into the newspaper business.  I made you copies of three editions, It is called The Suburban Weekly and we charged 2 cents per copy.  I was editor this week, there are two of mine here. We took turns being editor between Jimmy Trimble myself and my brother Gordon.

   This one was September 12, 1941 so I was delayed going into fifth grade, Miss Katherine Dobson’s fifth grade. Delayed because:

“Schools Delay Opening

    Many schools in and around Philadelphia are postponing the opening of the first term as a precaution to prevent any further spread of infantile paralysis.  Penn Charter and Germantown Friends’ School will open on the 24th instead of the 17th.  Pupils of Mifflin School who have had their parents’ permission sent to the school office, are allowed to remain out until September 19.”  

    We started to do this. We collected the information and wrote it up.  My mother did the typing for us (we tried to do it). Then we would hop in the car with my dad. (She would type this on a stencil)  and we would drive over to St. Luke’s Church, to the office where Mrs. Curet (sp, pronounced Cure-ay) would let us print copies of this newspaper  Then we would come home and go around and sell them for 2 cents.

    We collected information and interviewed people at the same time we were selling the newspapers and delivering them.  A one-stop operation! (chuckle) Anyway, that was typical of a couple of summers. When we needed something to do at the end of the summer and some of our other activities were curtailed.  Mr Ed, (Sowden) who delivered our groceries is mentioned in there, his wife had a baby.

    {ed note: Copies of this newspaper are included in the paper file along with this transcript}

KH: Tell us about your career.  What did you do after you finished at GFS?

DW: I went to Princeton.  I was enrolled in the Holliway program of the Navy ROTC.  Which was very generous because they paid all of my tuition, all my fees, my books and 50 bucks a month which was quite a lot of money in those days.  In exchange for that, at the end of my four years at Princeton I was commissioned and served 2 years in the navy.

Sue and I became married and we lived in Newport, Rhode Island because that’s where the destroyer base was.   Then we began to have children and when I was out of the Navy we came back to Philadelphia. We lived in Plymouth Meeting, her parents lived in Blue Bell so we were close to them and I went to work for Philadelphia National Bank.  I went to Wharton School at night to learn accounting and commercial law and things.

I was in the commercial lending department of Philadelphia National Bank and used to commute back and forth on the bus.  That seemed sort of slow moving and so after two years I left. I had a lot of friends in the Pharmaceutical industry and Smith, Klein and French was a very good company in those days and so I was persuaded to apply and went to work for Smith Klein.  I went into market research which was a pretty new field at that time and they were very far ahead in that, as were other pharmaceuticals. Got introduced to computers at the very beginning stage, then.

And after a couple of years of that, four of us decided to, had an opportunity to, take over a small company and run it and it was market research in the pharmaceutical industry.  It belonged to Sydney Lea who was GFS class of 1928 or 29. He was a very wealthy guy. He just wanted an office to go to and gave us control of the company and let us run it.  He was a wonderful guy. Unfortunately he died after a while but the four of us took care of the company and eventually sold it to a larger company. I think two good things came together in that business.  One was market research, which was the discipline and field of business after WWII, and computers. One thing we did that helped to make us was that we began to computerize our reports and then we syndicated the sales of our reports to all different companies.  We did different kinds of research so we did product research and we did opinion research eventually audited sales for wholesale outlets, there was plenty of that to do. First we rented time on the U of P computers and then we moved to The Franklin Institute and then we got big enough to buy our own computer and we moved our business out of Chestnut Hill and into Flourtown where we bought a building belonging to the Keasbey and Madison Company.  Then eventually we sold the company to a larger global company that still exists, IMS. When I got out of it, I didn’t really want to work for a third company. I got out of it when Dun & Bradstreet bought IMS. Time to go.

KH:  What about your brothers?

DW: Well, Gordon worked for Corning Glass.  He went to Trinity College and then went to Wharton School and then to Corning Glass in the early days of television making television tubes out of glass. And then after a time, he got tired of living in Corning, New York which I can well understand, and he wanted to come back to Philadelphia, so Sydney Lea  knew Otto Haas and got my brother a job at Rohm & Haas where he stayed for a number of years, he’s retired now.

Younger brother did a whole lot of things.  He was not successful at GFS, he was a little distracted by the presence of so many females.  My mother and Burton Fowler {ed. Note: headmaster at GFS} eventually decided he would be better off somewhere else.  So one of our back fence neighbors was Jack Gummere (headmaster at Penn Charter) who had that tennis court (we could use that tennis court) and so Dad went over and talked to him and Dr. Gummere said, “Send him over, I’ll talk to him.”  So we sent Ted over there and then Dr. Gummere said, “I’ll take him!” And that was the admissions process. He did all right, he graduated and he went to Penn. And then he did a variety of things after that, but he was never really well physically and eventually he developed diabetes and he died in ’05 which was 8 years ago.

The tennis court ran between three houses, the Gummere’s and the one between you and the Gummere’s (ed. That would be behind 3026 and 3024 and 3020 Midvale)

KH: I thought that was part of the development of the whole block when those houses were built, called Queen Lane Manor.

DW: Queen Lane Manor, I refer to that in the newspaper we referred to Queen Lane Manor, my parents did, with no precise definition, but I would say, it included al the newer houses and that was the dividing line at 35st street.  And the other side would be Wissahickon and as far as School Lane.  Anything with in that somebody might have called Queen Lane Manor but I never saw it on a map.  

I’ll tell you another interesting thing we did.  We did the newspaper. One of our neighbor’s families were the Kelly’s.  Jack Kelly, (John B) and his lovely family of children including Grace who was a little older than we are.  She didn’t pay attention to us although we used to sneak in and use their basketball court and that was okay but she never came out.  But during the war John B. Kelly was appointed to something considered to be important, he was leader of the Philadelphia area Home Defense when we got into WWII.   He was supposed to coordinate all of these efforts. There were air raid wardens. My father was active in something called the Chestnut Hill Home Defense which met at the CH Academy where they actually had a pistol and rifle range.  He used to go up there and practice and pretend so that if the Germans came they could take care of them. And they bought new bicycles which I was very jealous because they had gear shifts and I never had a bike with a gear shift before and they had headlights on them and they had a green plastic thing on the top so that if the German planes came over the light wouldn’t shine up tell them they were there. And lots of stuff like that.

At any rate, we thought this was very important and one of the things we ought to do with our newspaper is that we ought to interview this man.  So my father had some connection with him through Chestnut Hill Home Defense and he arranged for us one Saturday morning to go up and see Mr. Kelly.  So a little band of us, I think three of us, (Dick Richardson, myself and probably Gordon) walked up to the Kelly red brick house. We rang the bell and it was opened and we asked if we could see Mr. Kelly and we were escorted in to the sitting room and there he was and we sat down and we talked to him. And we asked him what he was doing with his Home Defense and he went on and on and on.  I’m sorry that I don’t have a copy, but we had a nice time talking to him and he was very nice to us and he saw us out and we went home and wrote up our scoop. We scooped the Ledger, the Philadelphia evening paper. We scooped them because the next week the Ledger had more or less the same article that we had about Mr. Kelly and the Home Defense.

KH: What else do you remember about life in East Falls during the war?

DW: Well, gas rationing was very limiting to everyone’s range of motion.  So we didn’t go to Connecticut in the summer. My parents, my grandparents had a lot of family in England involved in the war and I remember that my Grandfather West had a great big radio with a short wave thing on it and he listened to the news and he listened every evening to hear Big Ben tolling, probably 7pm, listened to the news. It was an addition to the news.

My Grandmother Tattersfield, my mother’s mother, and all the ladies in the family belonged to Daughters of the British Empire and they tried to do good things during the war.  One of the things they did was arrange hospitality for British sailors who were coming into Philadelphia, both warships and traders and we had some of those people come and stay with us. One fellow, I remember, Fred Moore, was a lieutenant on a merchant ship and he came back several times.  I think he was interested in my aunt. But we never saw him after the war. One of the exciting things was a British Navy cruiser, the HMS Exeter came into Philadelphia one time and was open to touring. Our family went down to visit the Exeter and it was not long after that the Exeter and two of her smaller light cruiser escorts, the HMS Ajax and the Achilles sank the German battleship the Graf Spec and drove it into Montevideo where it was scuttled and the commanding officer of the Graf Spec committed suicide in Montevideo.  It was tremendously exciting we were on that ship a month or so before. So we followed the Exeter. Eventually it was sent out to the Pacific and was found and sunk by the Japanese.  

KH: How did you communicate with your families in England?

DW:  We got letters, some of them censored.  My Grandfather West was a very fine musician, a very fine organist.  He was admitted, as a young Englishman to the Royal College of Organists at the age of 17, at that time the youngest ever admitted.  This got him a bit of attention and at that point his parents died, separately but they were older and they died. He was still quite young.  

St Luke’s in Germantown was then quite a wealthy, white church, all white.  They had started a mission on Germantown Avenue. St. Barnabas mission was an African American branch if you will.  Later on the two merged. So, my grandfather was brought to Germantown by St. Luke’s Church and he arrived on Christmas Eve 1890, got off and played his first service on Christmas Eve at the age of 18 and stayed.  His principal teacher in England had a daughter that he was interested in. They stayed in touch and five years later 1895 he went back, married her and brought her and that was my grandmother. They came from Cheltenham in the west of England.  

My grandfather came from all over the place because his father, my great grandfather was a Wesleyan Methodist missionary and spent ten years in Tongo.  He took a wife out there with him and had five children and eventually she died and then my grandfather re-married and had 2 more sons and the elder of them was my grandfather.  I think their deaths are what probably compelled my grandfather to move out and come here. He didn’t regret it at all. He thought he had done the right thing.

KH: So both sides of your family….

DW: Yes, my mother’s family all came from Yorkshire. There they had been in the mill business, the textile mills.  One branch of them became wool importers. They bought wool from all over the world, had an office in India (now Pakistan), They bought wool and shipped it and sold it to the mills and that family came to Philadelphia in 1924.  Actually they came before that started and my grandfather came over and joined his two uncles who had started the business in Philadelphia. He came and joined them in 1924. My mother was the eldest of four children. She was then 21.

KH: Where there any organizations in the Falls that you or your parents belonged to?

DW: Hmmm….my mother and father did not belong to the Cricket Club.  I don’t remember any.

KH: Do you remember attending any movies?

DW: Yes, movies, that was a big thing, we remember very well when they built the Alden Theater.   Before then we went to the moves but we had to take the 52 trolley and get over to Germantown where there were four theaters.  The Orpheum on Chelten Avenue, the Colonial on that street, the Band Box a little bit further and the Vernon, a newer theater, was right next to the bank building at School Lane and Germantown Avenue.  It is gone now. In fact, they are all gone now. The Colonial was an old vaudeville theater. It was a big stage balcony thing. The Orpheum on Chelten Avenue was a nice big theater I would say it was probably built in the 20’s and the Vernon was quite new, it was the last of the four built.  

Germantown was quite a center then with department stores and it was at one point, before the suburban department stores happened.  Strawbridge and Clothier began by putting one in Jenkintown and one in Ardmore that was the beginning of it. Up until that time the center of Germantown was the second largest shopping center to Center City Philadelphia in the metropolitan area.  Rowells and Allens, of course, Jimmy Jones, those three were department stores. Jimmy Jones had the main story (where Gaffney’s now is at the corner of Germantown and Coulter St.) and then it had two of the other corners. The GFS corner was the Coulter Inn which on the ground floor was a pharmacy And then the other two corners, the one where the GFS math building is was the children’s store. Then where the parking lot is was the shoe store.  And they were all Jimmy Jones. They got a lot of GFS business.

KH: Did you ever go to the movies in the Falls on Midvale Avenue?

DW: The Alden – that is the only one that I remember.  I remember when they built that it was a little after they built the Mifflin School.  The Alden had no balcony it was a one floor thing, more like the Vernon was, a smaller modern theater.  We did go there and see movies. The Saturday matinee most favored was the Colonial in Germantown because they had all these serial things and besides the featured film, a doubleheader, it had all these other things.  The latest episode of whatever…Tom Mix and all kinds of things… anything you could think of, even the latest news. We were glad when they built the Alden Theater. We didn’t have to take a trolley to see the movies.

KH: How much did it cost to go to a movie?

DW: 11 cents  

KH: Did you use the profits from the newspaper to go to the movies?

DW: (Laugh) Yes, or from choir money because we got paid to be in the choir.  

KH: That was a lot of work.

DW: It was a lot of work but the rate of pay was not very good.  You went in at age six and then would be an exploited intern under my grandfather’s thumb for at least a year before you were allowed to take part in the service in the church. During that time you would be paid 25 cents a month plus your car fare and those were pressing times so there were a lot of boys who wanted to sing in the choir and you could only do that if they had their carfare paid. So a big part of the expense of it was carfare.  

KH: Do you remember going to the Old Academy?

DW: I don’t remember going.

KH: Did you go to the Bathey?

DW: We knew it was there but we didn’t swim in it.  

KH: Did you make use of Fairmount Park?

DW: Yes, one of the things we did a lot as boys when we got older would be to go to Fairmount Park.  We did that by going down Conrad Street across Germantown Avenue (must mean Midvale Avenue) up Warden Drive and then up where we used to have a sledding hill and cross over and go down Gypsy Lane and we’d cross down there and find the bridge and cross over into the woods.  

Of course, we were inspired by Joe Cadbury (science teacher in the lower School at Germantown Friends School) We were animal collectors.  We were looking for snakes and salamanders and frogs and tadpoles and turtles. One time Gordon and I got a pair of box turtles and we took them home to 3461 Queen Lane which had a front yard not bigger than this room, probably the width of the lot.  And we put the turtles in there and thought they would stay and then we found we had to fence them in to keep so they didn’t wander. So they stayed and the next thing you knew there were eggs so we took them to Joe Cadbury. He’s one of my strongest memories…early morning bird walks in Awbury…we always wanted to get there and see him because he would come around in the morning before school to see what was in the nets, take it out, band it and let it go. {There were nets set during bird migrations to catch birds, band them and release them} So we always wanted to get there and see what he had.  He had this somewhat circular arrangement of the chairs in class and he used to pass things around. I remember one time he had a king snake and he told us we should get used to snakes and eventually we got to the point where we could pick the snake up and weren’t bothered by that at all and I never have been bothered by snakes since. So, yes, we did go down into Fairmount Park.

KH: Were there fellow Culprits in these adventures?

DW: Yes, just immediately around the house.

KH: Did you go to McDevitt/Dobson Field? Which is over near Scott’s Lane and is now baseball and soccer.

DW: I don’t know that.

KH: Were there activities at the library?

DW: There were activities.  I don’t remember any sort of group activities. We went there mainly we would get in to see how many books you could read and get on your charts and get stickers on.  So it was a game to see who got more stuff, stars, than the other guys did. We did not have a great deal of contact with public school kids. Around us there were lots of families with kids going to GFS and Penn Charter and I think that pretty well ended at the bottom of Queen Lane, at 3600.  I don’t remember people coming to GFS from the other side. Now, of course, it was ethnically, it was all white it was Italian, Polish and Roman Catholic who went to St. Bridget’s. That was the dividing line – Conrad – that was the equivalent of 35th Street.  

KH: When you were there, were the (street) numbers still in operation?

DW: Yes, I recall calling it 35th Street and/or Conrad Street.

A very good thing that happened in these years living down there was the building of Mifflin School out of whatever had been there before this I don’t remember clearly.  I guess the WPA was good for lots of guys.  It was very exciting for us. Our most adventurous years, what we needed to do was to climb on this thing.  There were two things we did to climb one was to get up on the wall that goes up around the playground and there is a fence on top of that– and we would walk on the edge and hang onto the fence and go on around and that was a trip.  I fell off it once and fortunately the only thing I did was sprain my ankle.

I remember going to Germantown. I was in second grade at GFS.  My teacher that year was Miss Hintze – she had come in because Miss Dorothy Durling was ill.  She was a very nice teacher. We really liked her. She was much younger. Miss Hintze had to carry me piggyback out to the playground for a while because of the ankle I sprained falling off that wall but that didn’t stop us because once they got that building up the other thing we did which was much worse was that we went up on the ledge that goes around the outside of the building along Wayne Avenue (must mean Midvale Avenue).

The brick came up to a certain point and then there was a kind of a molding or white concrete ledge that goes around the corner, but you didn’t have a fence to hold onto.  So, it was much more dangerous but I didn’t fall off. Some kids did. That was very exciting stuff.

KH: There must have been a lot of big machinery around.

DW: When they were building it there was.  It was very exciting when it was being built.

KH: And there is behind that, still a ledge which is called the Hidden Rock Garden with lots of interesting trees.

DW: Yes, they are on the Midvale Avenue downhill side because the playground goes beyond the building and creates that wedge and at the far end of it on the downhill side down near the railroad there is a way out down there and it’s called the arboretum or something.

KH: One thing I’ve read about the Falls was the Sunday School picnics.  They seemed to involve the various churches in the Falls… picnics and parades

DW: This would all have involved churches down in the Falls, below Conrad, I would say. Because, of course, we were very much attached to St. Luke’s.  Later on, for a time, after my grandfather died, and my voice changed and I was no longer a soprano, we went to Church of the Shepherd on The Oak Road.

KH: ……clothing?

DW: Clothing!  My clothing, Gordon’s clothing… Big shopping thing toward the beginning of each school year when we had grown out of whatever we had before and we always went over, mother took us over to Jimmy Jones to Mrs. Flemming the lady that sold corduroy knickers. And we’d get equipped with a couple pairs of corduroy knickers every year and then we went to the shoe store, Cherry’s, and that was down Germantown Avenue almost at Armat Street and Cherries was an exciting place to go for shoes because they had one of those machines that, to see how big your feet were, X-rayed your feet you could see your toes.

KH: Were there special people, other than Mr. Kelly, you recall contributing to life in the Falls?

DW: There was Miss Dobson – she was my fifth grade teacher at GFS and she taught my father.  Her first name was Catherine. She lived in Ivy Lodge on Penn Street east of Germantown. That was a den of spinsters there, all of them teachers there and she lived there.  They were related to the Dobsons of East Falls. She had a brother Jim Dobson whom we knew because he had a business selling materials handling equipment. My father worked for him for a while, Very nice guy. They lived around the corner on Stokley Street in the middle of the block.  They didn’t come through, didn’t have a garage; didn’t come through to the driveway. The driveway comes up to a dead end there, and there is one garage there on the left belonging to the Stricklers at that time, another GFS family. Anyway, he lived there.

KH: How about Prohibition?

DW: Yeah, by observation, because I wasn’t a drinker.  I remember the first thing I had to drink was Hohenadel beer when my parents thought I was old enough.  What I remember about Prohibition was that my dad used to make some wine in the basement. He used to get berries and stuff and make… and I remember my mother was always very concerned about that and especially after one of his efforts blew up in the cellar. And everything and the white walls down there was purple.  It had to be cleaned up but we didn’t do that but we were told to stay away. That was definitely Prohibition.

KH: And the Depression?

DW: Yeah, it was all around.

KH: Did you know people who were out of work?

DW: Yes, I remember when my dad worked at the Electric Storage Battery Company and I was quite small every once in a while he had to go down to the office for some purpose or other, to check on experiments they were doing, some electrical thing or other on a Saturday morning . So, since I was out of school he sometimes took me down there and I remember there being strikers there and picketing and sitting on boxes with protest signs.

KH: Did your dad explain to you what that was about?

DW: Well, I knew what it was. That was evidence of hard times.

KH: Were there some important other world events, WWII and the Korean War?

DW: Well, in WWII, we’ve talked a little about that, my father was too old for that and just too young for WW I. I wasn’t around then but he actually got called in November 1918 and the armistice was called and he didn’t have to go.  Then he was too old with a family and children for WW II so he didn’t experience any of that. The Korean War, I was in the service then, didn’t actually go to Korea but I was in the Atlantic, on a destroyer fleet. Our ships went to the north Atlantic, the Caribbean and a lot of time in the Mediterranean.

KH: Then another question is, holiday celebrations.

DW: We had big Christmas celebrations in both family sides, the Wests and the Tattersfields.  My mother had an aunt who had a nice big house on Lincoln Drive near Carpenter Lane and they had a Christmas party. Big family things, and extended family so she would have 25 some people there and she used the porch and she used to have that set up with a long table and the dining room and she had a wonderful Christmas tree and she had gifts for everyone and the kids, when we went home, were allowed to take an ornament from the tree to take home with us.  She had four turkeys and there were four of the men designated, and my father was always one of them, four fathers, to carve the turkeys.

The biggest/best one of those I remember was 1936.  My grandfather had died in the summer and my grandmother was extraordinarily upset.  She only came to America because her husband did. She died a British subject. She would never become naturalized.  She died at 85. She was always very attached to the family in England. She knew my grandfather’s favorite sister over there, Aunt Edith, who had never married.  And the year that he died, Aunt Katie was arranging her Christmas party and she decided to have a surprise for my grandmother. And she arranged to bring Aunt Edith over.  Now, my grandmother had not seen Edith for a lot of years and she had just lost her husband. So what Aunt Katie did was to bring Edith over and they got a great big box and put Edith inside of the box and wrapped it all up in ribbons and everything and then Katie had a chauffeur then, a fellow who did handy stuff, and he had a hand cart thing and he put that box with Edith in it and we are all gathered around in the living room and in comes this box. A couple of the men opened it out steps Edith and my grandmother went PFUTT (fainted). It was a terrible shock.  It really wasn’t a very good idea. Aunt Katie always did things in a big way. She had a great big Pierce Arrow touring car and a Scottish chauffer, Andrew, who used to drive us places when we were small and used to take us down to the sea shore on day trips to go to the beach. She would get a bunch of the family kids and their mothers and fill up… she would sit in the back seat with the ladies all sitting up and we little rugrats would be crawling around in the back of the car. And we would drive down to the seashore for the day. She always did things like that, always did things in a big way.  

KH: Do you have special things you recall about the Falls?

DW: Yes, it was special because, to begin with you are three or four and you grow up you don’t forget that stuff so it has that kind of specialty.  I also think it is special now because despite of all of the changes in the urban make up I don’t think East Falls has changed that much. Same kind of people.  I don’t know how much diversity there is. (ed comment, there has been a gradual increase in diversity) Well, that is as it should be. When I drive through there it doesn’t seem to me that it has changed a lot.  Of course there hasn’t been that much building since then.

When I was a kid around Queen Lane, the 3000 block and down to Wissahickon, there were big properties on that other side.  The one across the street from us had a house behind it then a big pasture in front on Queen Lane with a few horses. Where the apartments are now.  The Youngs were on the corner, that was Dr. Summers house that was there but that was the only thing, then the next thing where the Lutheran building was that was the Clarks and I think they were Clarks related to Joe Clark (former mayor).  Then on the other corner the other side of Stokely Street, between Midvale and Queen Lane that was one big property, one big old colonial house where it had a three rail fence around it and they had a cow. They kept the cow we were always told so that they could just pay farm taxes. That house came down, that was Miss Newhall’s house and she was a grand dame of Germantown in those days. She had a brother.  It came down in the fifties. I think that Carleton was built in the early fifties. Then the ones across from 3019 Queen Lane those came later (the apartments and the Lutheran Center, now Drexel Medical School).

In World War II my father and a bunch of his friends decided that a big war time thing we must do was we must have a victory garden.  They went over and talked to the family that had the horses and they persuaded them that they didn’t need to keep the horses there they could put them somewhere else and they made arrangements to put victory gardens there and they got that whole thing from the Young’s house to Stokley Street for victory gardens they had a very busy time dividing it all up for victory gardens.  We had peas, lettuce, beets, radishes, onions in the early part of the summer and then we shifted to string beans, lima beans, tomatoes, corn, squash, and cucumbers. The parcels were pretty big and very productive. Gordon and I were inducted into the weeding and the planting. Mr. James came there every day. His son was one of the organizers and he’d tell us kids what we were doing wrong and he knew a lot and we learned a lot.

Queen Lane down toward the railroad tracks was a major war defense production area. The U.S. Army Signal Corp was there, Bendix Corporation, Midvale Steel, Budd.  Father’s place made storage batteries for submarines. And there was Dobson Mills (Miss Dobson’s family she lived in Ivy Lodge (E. Coulter Street).

KH: What activities did you do for fun?

DW: The Hot Shoppe at Henry and Hunting Park was a popular place to take a date after a movie.  They came out and took your order and brought it and hung a tray on your car window. You didn’t even have to get out of your car.

We went to the movies.

Baseball games at Shibe Park, 22nd and Lehigh.  When we were kids a great thing to do was go to a double header.  Get a cheap seat and sit in the front row….see Joe Dimaggio.

The zoo was also popular, it was so close.

Amusement park….Woodside near City Line.  We could see the fireworks on the 4th of July.  It had rides, a ferris wheel and merry-go-round.

We made lots of use of Fairmount Park.

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