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Jean Buckley (right, with sister Arelene)

East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview – Methodist Church Closing

Interviewee: Jean Buckley (JB)
Interviewer: Jenna Musket (JM)
Transcribed by: Marissa Lutz
Date: August 5, 2010


     In order to gain knowledge on the history of East Falls, Philadelphia, Jenna Musket, Adjunct Professor of Social Sciences at Philadelphia University, interviewed Jean Buckley.  Mrs. Buckley is the oldest living member of Falls United Methodist Church.

     With this interview we are able to understand the experiences in East Falls, the neighborhood’s past, and what has changed in the area. This interview will allow one to understand the suburban qualities of a town in urban Philadelphia.


JM:  Thanking you for being generous with your time and coming to meet today.

JB:  Oh.

JM:  And maybe we can start simply with you sharing your full name and when and where you were born?

JB:  I’m not…. well my full name, it was… Was or is now?

JM:  Well why don’t you start with your name when you were born…

JB:  Maiden name, right?

JM: Yes

JB:  It was Jean….. Audrey, well it was Audrey A-u-d-r-e-y Holmes H-o-l-m-e-s.  And I was born on Cresson Street in 1920. And….. I was the fourth of five children. And… mother had three girls and two boys. And… I said, I was the fourth. And I don’t know where we moved right after that. But my mother loved to move, she loved to paint, she loved it. Paint inside homes and things (laughing). But…I know we lived on Wiehle Street. Do you know where that is? Wiehle Street; right there at the train station?

JM:  Yes, if you’re going down… if you’re going down Indian Queen Lane?

JB:  Yeah, uh huh.

JM: Yes.

JB: We lived there. We lived on Plush Hill and then…

JM:  And Plush Hill was? Where was Plush Hill?

JB: Plush Hill was right on Indian Queen Lane. Just where the new homes are.   And … we lived there a while in a big house. And then my uncle, my father’s brother… had this…owned this ground down in New Jersey, outside of Ventnor, New Jersey, and he wanted to build houses there. So he wanted my dad to go down and help him. He wanted him to be a salesman.

     Well, we moved to Ventnor Heights in New Jersey. And, lo and behold, the…..the crash came. My uncle lost all money and his property and everything. So, that meant my father had no job. So, we had to come back to Philadelphia, and we moved to New Queen Street, 3522 New Queen Street. And that… we lived there until I got married.

JM: Well while you’re talking about your father, why don’t we focus on that a little bit.

Tell me…tell me more about your parents. Where were they from?

JB: Okay

JM:  Who were your parents? Where were they from?

JB: My parents were Eva Smith, she had no middle name….. and my father, my mother, that was my mother… My father was Raymond Holmes. And I don’t know when they were married, to tell you the truth.

JM: Where were they born?

JB: Where were they born?

JM:  Where did they come from?

JB: My father was born here, in Philadelphia. But my mother was born in England. And my grandmother and grandfather came over here from England when she was one year old.

JM: Do you know where in England?

JB: Osset. 0-s-s-e-t. I haven’t been there (laughing). Anyhow, I never knew that for years and years. And my mother… I think she went back. My mother and grandmother went back to England once, after they came here, and never went back again.

JM: Do you know why?

JB: Well I guess it was finances. And my grandmother had… one, two, three, four, five children. So I guess they couldn’t, you know, go back and forth. But my father was a weaver.

JM: Hmm…

JB: He worked at Dobson’s Mill

JM: Hmm…

JB: And he lived right on Indian Queen Lane, in the red brick house. And my mother lived on New Queen Street. So they got married (laughing). And as I said, they had five children, and my mother had six pregnancies and a…a little boy died and… I didn’t know where he fit in, you know, in our family.

JM: How long was your father a weaver for Dobson Mills?

JB: Until nylon came into play (laughing) and then the woolen – the woolen business just went down the drain. So he had to change whatever he was doing. He used to go down to Ocean City and….. down the shore on weekends to sell property. And he worked for quartermaster department during the war.  And… he had several jobs because in those days you.. .you couldn’t say “I am going to work here for the rest of my life” because that’s not the way things were. And many times he was out of work and it was rough, you

know.  It was really rough for us. But then my sister, oldest sister, got work. And my…

JM: Where did she get work at?

JB:  Uhh…

JM: And what kind of work?

JB: Collins and Aikman (note: manufacturer of automotive parts). She was a secretary, and that was in Manayunk.

JM: And she was older than you?

JB: Oh yeah! She was the oldest of them and … We were all about two and a half years apart. And then my brother – my two brothers, they went to Northeast High School. My sister went to Germantown High School.  And my one brother, Stanley.  It was Dorothy the oldest, Don was the next one, Stanley was the next child, I was the next one, and Arlene was my youngest sister. She’s the one who lives on Penn Street. And… so my brother Stan became a football player, I mean always active in sports. 

JM:  Where did he play football?

JB: He played football in Northeast High School. Then he went to Franklin and Marshall College, and he was captain of the team there.

JM:  Where was Northeast High School?

JB: It is on Lehigh Avenue.

JM:  Okay.

JB: I think it was Lehigh.

JM:   And they he went to Franklin and Marshall?

JB: Franklin and Marshall College! And when he graduated from there he was semipro – a semipro football team. Then of course, he was called into the service and he was First Lieutenant.

JM: What year was that?

JB: What year?  Let’s see… I would say maybe it was ’42 or “43 because I know that he wasn’t in the service when I got married. I got married in 1941.

JM: And he was at your wedding?

JIB: Yeah, so I knew it was then. So then…but then he went in, he was called into the service. He first went into the Navy; he wanted to be a pilot. And he…he…he was a character (laughing). And when he went to land the plane, for the final test, he bounced the plane. And instead of him keeping his face strong, he got out and he laughed. They washed him right out. That was it!

     So then he decided he would go into the Marines. And…he was … now what was it? I can’t think what he did first. He was…well…he was a Paratrooper. And he was in charge, of I don’t know how many men; and they were landing on Iwo Jima; it was when they invaded it. And they were in these landing boats, and of course the Japanese just bombarded them. Fortunately he was killed right away.

     And so… I have some things that I can show you. He had a son. His son was born in December, and,

well, he was in the service and he was killed in February. So we’re hoping he got the pictures, but we don’t know whether or not he ever got to see his son.

JM: Hmm. 

JB: So his son went to Annapolis. Graduated from there and then he decided he wanted to go into the Marines because his dad, because he never knew his dad. And so he went and… it was.. .what was the other war? There were so many wars (laughing).

JM: Vietnam?

JB:  Vietnam! He went to Vietnam. He was wounded in Vietnam. And he could have gotten out of the service. Then he went back in again for a second time. And then he developed Agent Orange.

JM: Hmm.

JB:  And he died when he was about forty-two.

JM:  Oh my.

JB:  And, when my sister-in-law … I felt so sorry for her when she saw…when she saw the officers at the door. When he said he was wounded she said, “Oh not again,” you know.  And the night that we found out about my brother we were all in church; it was Holy Thursday night.

JM:  Down here at the Falls (Methodist) Church?

JB:  At the Falls Church. Yeah. And my uncle came up the steps. And the church was so full that we were standing. It was standing room only. And he called us and said “Your mother just got a message that Stan was killed on Iwo Jima.” And umm… so… I remember that night. I just sat on the side of my mother’s bed and just rubbed her arms and legs. And my father…oh it…it was very hard. But one thing we were

grateful for was that he didn’t suffer. And we know that’s true because one of the officers he told my mother that. So that was…

JM:  He came back after the war and shared that with you?

JB: Mmm.  And took pictures of Stan’s grave. Because my sister-in-law and my mother said “No, he’s been with those men all this time – he should stay with them” and that’s what he did.  .. So…but…but it was ….it

was a shock. I don’t think my mother and father really ever got over it, I really don’t. We … I thought we handled it well. But umm… I guess when it is your child, it is very difficult. My father never did get over it.

JM: Never?

JB:  No, he never did. And he just went from one thing to another. And he, but he, he didn’t go to pieces. But I mean to say, he couldn’t get settled what he really wanted to do.

JM:  Well, it’s a permanent loss.

JB:  Right.

JM: There’s no way to get that life back.

JB:  Mm Hmm.  So anyhow…

JM: That was around the same time period you got married? That was in the early forties?

JB:   Well, that was about… I was married in 1941.

JM:   Why don’t you tell me a little bit about that.

JB:   (laughing)

JM:  About Mr. Buckley and how you met him…

JB: Well, Russ, you know, went to our church too. In those days a lot of the people that were in any of the churches married the people in those churches. So, it got to the point that almost everybody was related.

JM:  (laughing)

JB: (laughing) And Russ, that was my husband, he was just a year older than me. I had known him a long time, ’cause my sister and his sister were very close friends. So you know I was in and out of their house and everything. I never though anything about it and then…

JM:  Where…where did they live?

JB:  They first they lived on Ainslie Street in the 3400 block. Then they moved when the houses were built on Ainslie Street and Vaux in that section, in the thirty-third (3300 block). They bought the corner house, and my father-in-law was again Treasurer of the Philco Corporation. And so they were there for a while and then he became the treasurer.  And so they moved to the house on the corner of Vaux and Indian Queen Lane. On the… let’s see… that would be on the…on the… towards Henry Avenue – you know, on that corner there.

JM: Okay so on the other side.

JB: Yeah, and so they moved there. Well a friend of Russ’ said to him, “Why don’t you ask Jean, you know, to… “ There was a big party coming up and Russ was nervous and….. he knew me but he never thought of me in that way, you know, and so that’s how we started .. .and we went together.

JM:  Do you remember what the party was for?

JB:  It was just someone’s birthday, and I can’t even remember who it was. But we had a good time. And at the time I was living with my sister on Barkley Street because (laughing) my brother, oh God, my brother Donald eloped. My sister Arlene got married, and her apartment wasn’t ready. So she moved back home. So there was no place for Jean right (laughing). So I went to live with my sister for a little while till the

apartment – Donald’s apartment – was ready. And Don’s apartment was on Indian Queen Lane – where Plush Hill was they made the apartments out of that.

JM: What kind of apartments? I don’t – I have never seen pictures of before those new town homes were built.

JB:   Well…

JM:  What is going down Indian Queen Lane now?

JB:  I’m trying to think.  Ummmmm…

JM:  Well just describe where he lived? What was it liked where he lived?

JB:  The apartment. ..I think what happened was that the houses that we lived in were turned into an apartment. And I think, I think they had two bedrooms, and a living room, and a kitchen. And they lived there quite a while and then they decided that they wanted to have a house.

JM: Was Plush Hill … the real…the actual name that was on a map? Or was Plush Hill a nickname that people in this area gave it?

JB:   Well I don’t know, to tell you the truth. I always had a feeling that maybe there was a factory or something that, you know, did Plush work and I didn’t know. But I don’t know where it got that, but we all knew it as Plush Hill (ed. note: Plush Hill was the 18th century home of William Smith, the first Provost of the University of Pennsylvania)

JM: Hmm.

JB:  And it was…it was … it was really, really nice (laughing). He had … my sister lived in an apartment at the top of the barber shop on Conrad Street. Let’s see, there’s a pharmacy there now and  … she lived there for a while, I mean she finally moved to Penn Street. So uhh… but that’s how I decided to go with Russ and we went together five years until we got married. And we were supposed to be married in October, but Russ got his notice to go into the service so we moved it up to June.

JM: Hmm.

JB:  And my sister, Dorothy, had just had a baby, so I moved it up a week or two (laughing). She was ready to kill me.

JM:  (laughing)

JB:  And Arlene was four months pregnant, and she wasn’t too happy either with me because they were both in the wedding. And I wasn’t too happy in June because I wanted fall colors. And I ended up with pink and blue, (laughing) which I said (laughing) “Positively no! I will not have” (laughing).

JM: Hmm.

JB: But anyhow…

JM:  Pink and blue for their dresses?

JB: Their dresses. You know their bridesmaids’ dresses were pink and blue. Then because Russ had two perforated eardrums, they wouldn’t take him. And so, you know, we could have waited till October, but we didn’t. And then we moved into that house that I told you across the street from the Protestant Church.

I watched that being built, that church.

JM: Hmm.  When was that built?

JB:  It must have been, well, we were married in forty-one so I think they probably started it in forty. And my husband and I became air raid wardens.

JM:  You became?

JB:  Air Raid wardens.

JM:  And what does, what did you do?

JB:  Well everybody had to have a bucket of sand, a shovel …uhh what do you call them? A fireman hat, (laughing) extinguisher, and there was a….you had to have.. .you had to have jet black curtains.

JM:  I see.  Hold just … I’m gonna pause this for a minute.

JB:  We had to take a course – my husband and I at…from the Red Cross.

JM:  Where did you go for that? Where was the Red Cross at?

JB:  Do you…do you know where the Old Academy was?

JM: Yes.

JB:  Well do you know the building next to it?

JM: The Carfax building? The big white building?

JB: That house.

JM: Mmm.

JB:  I don’t know what it is now, but used to be the Young Men’s Association.

JM: Yeah I went to the… I think it’s called the Carfax building now.

JB: But that’s what we had to…we had to…we had to go there. You know how to…we had to have lipstick to write on if we were to respond and somebody was hurt. You had to do that, you had to learn how to take their blood pressure and how to listen to their heart, and, you know. My husband was on duty at night, and I was on duty in the day.

JM: Hmm.

JB:  The day. And if we got a call, you know, if we got an amber light, that meant there might be a bomb, you know, coming so we had to wear helmets.

JM:   Where would the amber light come from?  How did…

JB:  On the phone, on the phone.

JM:   So they had lights on the phone?

JB:  No, no. They would say we have the amber light.

JM: Oh, it was code?

JB:  Yeah.

JM:  Okay.

JB:  And then of course the sirens would go, and I used to have to go out and stop all traffic on Midvale Avenue. And people wouldn’t stop (laughing) for me. And I’m saying you’re supposed to stop.

JM:  (laughing)                                                                       

JB: I’m out there with my…my. ..

JM: How would you get them to stop?

JB: Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes they just went. And I’d say “We have the amber light! We have the amber light! We have the amber light!” You know and umm…

JM:   And when they would stop, what would you do?

JB: Well they just had to until I got the all clear.

JM:   So they would just pull to the side of the road?

JB: Yeah. And then when the…when the…it was all clear, then the siren would come again and you would let them go.

JM: Where did the siren…where was that issued from? Where did that generate from?

JB: Umm, I can’t imagine. I don’t…it was from the fire department. That’s where I always though it came from.

JM:  And the firehouse was the same firehouse? On Ridge Avenue?

JB: Mmm.  And then at night my husband went out, of course there were no lights. You weren’t allowed to have any lights. And it was frightening, it was to be out there at night, and so we got a little dog, (laughing) and he used to take the dog out with him. And he was all dolled up with his.. .his… he had, I guess he would call it a…call it a …oh what did policemen have that stick, you know… ?

JM:   The Billy Clip?

JB: Yeah, the Billy Clip. We had a lot of stuff like that. And I will never forget this one night with Russ having trouble with his ears. I got the phone call and it said we have the ambulance. So I tapped him on the shoulder, and I said, (laughing) “Russ we have an amber light you have to get out.” And he jumped up and got in our closet (laughing). He didn’t know where he was. I think he had been asleep and had jumped up

and ran in the closet.

JM: (laughing)

JB: I got hysterical. And there he is (laughing) pushed up because he had to get dressed and out. And they gave you so much time, which wasn’t very much.

JM:  Hmm, so they were like first responders?                                                                      

JB:  Yeah.  Mm hmm.

JM:  Were Russ’s parents also from England? What were his parents?

JB:  Russ’s parents were from East Falls. But his grandparents were from England – were from Manchester.

JM:  Have you ever met them?

JB:  I’ve know his aunts but I, oh…oh well, his grandmother I met, yeah. She was a character, and she lived down in Atlantic City in a in a hotel. And during the winter, she had this lovely room and had plenty of room and all that sort of things. But in the summer time she had to move to a smaller room because they could get more money than she was paying. You know, (laughing) there would be people coming on vacation.

JM: Mm hmm.

JB:  So they’d pack up and go to England for the summer. She’d go from May until October then come home and go in the big apartment (laughing).

JM:  How did she end up in Atlantic City?

JB: Well she just loved to go there. And when her husband died she lived up here for a while, and then she just decided that she’d like to live down there. And she was a funny…funny gal. She used to go to England, and she’d have a bag like this and maybe another little bag. And she lived off of those two bags from May until she came home in October.

JM:  She’s a light packer (laughing).

JB:  She knew…she taught her granddaughter how to pack. I mean…

JM:  Hmm.

JB:  She rolled everything, you know, and she was really, she was … Her mother was… when she came up here to visit, it would be for three days only. One (day) you come, one you stay, (laughing) then you leave. She said, “By that time your host is tired of you; you’re tired of them” (laughing). She’d come up on the bus and that’s what she did.

JM: Hmm.

JB:  Never stayed more than three days. And I think that was it – she missed her friends, you know. But she… she was a… she was a sweetheart, she really was. His grandfather was a barber. When they came from England, they were on their way to Australia, and how he got to Philadelphia I don’t know.

JM: Hmm.

JB: But anyhow, he stopped.  They stopped off here and he want to barber school and he…

JM:  In Philadelphia?

JB:  Yeah because that was not his profession. I don’t know what he did. I’m sure he was a weaver because it was Manchester and that was an industrial, you know, town.  But anyhow, his grandmother’s family was in the pearl business. They made these little seed pearls.

JM:  Hmmm.

JB:  For you know…I have a pin that came from there. But anyhow, he had opened a shop there on Ainslie Street from Conrad… from, you know, I don’t know what’s there now.

JM:  Is that where Joseph Patron Real Estate office is? Conrad and Ainslie?

JB:  Conrad and Ainslie. Do you know where Joe the barber… (ed. note: Joe Michetti)

 JM:  I know…

JB:  Do you know where Tilden Street is?

JM:  Yes.

JB:  If you come down to Ainslie Street, right, that’s where.. .that’s where his shop was. There was a bakery shop afterward.

JM:  How nice.

JB:  Remember that?

JM:  No (laughing). No, I wish there was a bakery.

JB:  (laughing) But I’m trying to think, what’s on the corner there? There’s, on the other side of the street, is the…I wanna say the café but it isn’t.

JM:  Apollo Pizza?  No, that’s on New Queen.

JB:  Well it would be the next corner. You know it’s a bar or…

JM: The only two bars that I can visualize there actually are at the…actually both of them are at the corner of Indian Queen Lane and Conrad.

JB:  Well this is up towards Ainslie Street, the lower Ainslie. And across the street used to be a shoe repair shop.

JM:  So it was a very lively area then?

JB: This town was very self-sufficient.

JM:  But also it sounds like Conrad Street was a major vein in terms of…

JB: Oh yes!

JM:  Of activity.

JB:  It was. And, you know, it was…it was amazing. But he was there for years and I said to my mother… She always sent me over to get my haircut, and she wanted him to cut my hair to the tip of the ear and shingled up the back. Well, he took that the tip of the ear was up here, and my mother wanted it here, (laughing) right here. And I wanted it here and I said to my mother, “Mother I’m not going to Mr. Buckley

anymore. He never cuts it the way I want it (whining)”.

       And he was a big man. And he, every once and awhile, he’d do a sigh of relief, “Ughhhhh,” like that. And he blows like at my neck and (laughing) and I didn’t like it. Next time I need a haircut I went to Mr. Buckley. But a wonderful man, real great man! And he was there for years. And the fellow that he was his apprentice, he opened a barber shop right across the street when he got older. And he was there for years.

JM:  How do people come to be apprentices of people then?

JB:  Well most…most… that’s how you start out. You didn’t start out you – you’d start out as the helper, you started out to learn.

        It’s just like in church. Russ, and it stopped with Russ’s generation, they were being primed for leadership. They have a certain Sunday school called SMA, where they were being taught how to lead. 

JM:  When you say leadership, what do you mean?

JB: You mean like Treasurer, or trustee, or to be on the board and, you know. And they – they really, they really knew how to do things when they went into…to…to a service. And this one minister we had, my husband was the main leader then, and he was very young. And my husband said to him “You can nearly

have anything you want in this church but you have to go slow. You can’t come in and change it overnight. You have to you know let the people know who you are and what you want”.

        And he said, “I’ll have this church changed in one year.”

JM:  Your husband said this?

JB:  No. The minister.  He said “Well I wish you wouldn’t do that.” He said “Because you’re gonna have trouble.” Well what he did was, he came in and all these men that have been on the board and trustees and Treasures. And there was a lot of people that worked in that church and he just rid of them all.

JM:  What kinds of changes did he want to make?

JB: Well he wanted it to be more modern.

JM:  What did that mean? I mean what year approximately are we talking about and what did he mean by modern?

JB:  Well, I think at that time the Methodist Church was going through a change. And I remember I said to him, because I was teaching Sunday school, and I said, “I don’t like the material that I’m teaching. And if I’m…… “

JM:  Because why?

JB:  Well, in the first place, all the pictures were very gruesome.

JM:  In what way?  What can… do you have any examples?

JB:  Well, gruesome faces and gruesome uhh… I said, “You know, to little children that’s frightening”.

I mean I know that I didn’t like to look at them myself. And I said, “If you want me to use this material then

I can’t be a teacher”. And I said, “If I would think that I was scaring the children in the wrong way…” I said, “It would break my heart. I would die”. So I said, “I really… “

       Well he let me go back to the material I was using before that. And I… and that’s when a dog looked like a dog, and a man looked like a man, and a woman looked like a woman (laughing). Not these gruesome terrible… they went through that, they got rid of it though. I mean…

JM: I’m still trying to picture what you mean by gruesome…

JB:  Well…

JM:  Gruesome…

JB:  Umm, like umm …I don’t think you have anything gruesome around.

JM:  (laughing) I’m sure I do somewhere.

JB:  (laughing) But it would be like their faces would be…

JM:  Contorted or…

JB:  Yeah! Yeah!

JM:  So it was more by the looks on their faces that…

JB:  Yeah! Yeah! In fact did you ever see the upper room? It’s a devotional.., they went that way even when I see the front …I said to my sister not too long ago, “Why in the world do they put these pictures? Why don’t they make it serene and nice? A picture to look like a picture”.

JM:  Well, why… why do you think they depicted…

JB:  I don’t know. It was, it’s modern art that’s what it is. And, but I guess it didn’t affect the children as much as it affected me.

JM:  How do you… What makes you say that?

JB:  Well, because they seemed to accept, you know, what it was… it was me that wanted the change. And, but this minister, he got rid of all the trustees all the men that worked for years and years, put all new men, all young men in that didn’t know, you know, the workings of the church or anything…

JM:  Where did…where did these young people come from?

JB:  Well, they…they were in church.

JM:  Okay.

JB:  But they hadn’t been trained to do these things, and the older men were crushed. You know, the men who had worked so hard for so many years. And they had to be elected every year. You know, you just didn’t stay. They had elections and everything.

      And so all of a sudden, the schools were doing bussing. And from then on all those young people moved out of East Falls, out of the city.

JM:  Because?

JB:  Because they didn’t want their children bussed to another neighborhood.

JM:  Where would they have gotten bussed to?

JB:  Well, who knows? They would probably go into a black neighborhood because the black children were being bussed here. Which wasn’t right. Their mothers didn’t want them bussed either, you know. And, one

by one, that’s when our church started to fall apart.                  

      And one family left, another family would leave, and another family would leave.  Some took their children out of the school here and put them in Catholic school. And uhh…

JM: So some made the choice to rather than have their children bussed, put them into St. Bridget’s or to put them into the local Catholic…

JB:  Right. Mm hmm.

JM:  And others chose to move out of the neighborhood so their kids could to continue to walk…

JB:  It was very high on the …. My children went to Penn Charter School. So I didn’t have much to do with…with that school there.

JM:  When you say that school do you mean Mifflin or…

JB:  Mifflin, yeah.

JM:  There was another school.  Was it Breck?

JB:  Oh, Breck is where I went to school. That was on Krail Street, Krail and Crawford.

JM:  How was school when you went to Breck?

JB:  How was it?

JM:  Yeah. What was your …

JB:  Oh I just loved it! We walked to school, we had to be there by nine and lined up in lines, you know. I used to walk into the classroom, and we walked home at twelve o’clock for lunch. We had to be back by one thirty, walk back.

JM:  Is this when you were on Ainslie…Ainslie Street or…

JB:  I was on…

JM:  Plush Hill?

JB:  Queen…

JM: On Indian Queen?

JB:  New Queen.

JM:  New Queen, okay.

JB:  Mm hmm.   And we would walk back and then we’d be there till 3:30 and then we’d walk home again. So we walked a lot you know (laughing). And we used to have a little Italian man who sold pretzels, salt pretzels.

JM: Where was this? At the school?

JB: At the school, but we had to stay outside the gate, you know. And his name was Mr. Brenew (?) and…

JM:  Did he live in the neighborhood?

JB: He lived in Ridge Avenue I think. And he was so nice. And his pretzels were always real shiny. And the kids used to say, “Mr. Brenew spits on his on his (laughing) pretzels and shines them up every day. I said “Ooohh, he does not”. But he would come every day and, umm, we had some great teachers. We really did. I loved that little school.

JM: What happened to the school?

JB:  Well, to tell you the truth I really don’t know. They decided – I don’t know if it was because they didn’t have enough people to go there or what. But we graduated in eighth grade.

JM:  So you went through the eighth grade at Breck?

JB: Yea. And I am gonna tell you this and I shouldn’t. And I won a girls $2.50 gold piece for the highest marks (laughing). And there was a boy by the name of Bob Worhead, and he got it for the boys.

JM:  That was when you were in 8th grade you won this?

JB:  And, yeah, I just looked at it last night. The little… I still have it. Not the money, but I do have the container. And so then we were not allowed to go to Roxborough. We had to go… we were out of district or something. And so we went to Germantown High.  And we had to go oven on the trolley and, um, I didn’t go to college; we couldn’t afford that. But I graduated in 1938.

JM: Would you have liked to?

JB:  Yeah, I always wanted to be a school teacher. But…

JM:  Well you did teach Sundays.

JB:  I taught… yeah, that was kind of my (laughing) my substitute you know. And, but I did… I did and I enjoyed it.

JM: Did you work when… after you got married at all?

JB:  No. You didn’t work after you got married. If you were fortunate enough that the company would say you could stay, but they would say you were taking another person’s job.

JM: The company would say that?

JB:  Yeah, some… some would not hire.

JM:  So, not you husband, but the company would say that they did not want married women?

JB:  Yes, exactly… exactly!

JM: Why?

JB:  Because there was a Depression. And there was not enough jobs to go around. So it took me two years to get a job after I graduated. I went everywhere.

JM:  What year did you graduate?

JB: 1938. And I hated going on interviews! I didn’t give good interview. I didn’t, I guess. But, my friends, the only way that they got a job was if they knew somebody. And I couldn’t ask anybody, well, you know.

JM:  What kinds of jobs did you apply for?

JB:  Well, I took the commercial course. So I would be a secretary, or a book keeper or…..I finally got a job through a friend of my mother’s at Germantown Trust. And I was the bookkeeper for the Title Department. So that’s what I did, before I got married. But my… my husband didn’t want me to work anyhow, but still I was taking somebody else’s job. You know who did that. So…

JM:  And you had learned bookkeeping in high school?

JB:  Mm hmm.   Bookkeeping, shorthand and typing and, of course, we had to write our English and history and all that sort of thing.

JM: Did they teach languages when you were in high school?

JB: Yes I took French. Yeah, mm hmm. But when I think – when my youngest son said to me “Why didn’t you go in for music?” I said “Because I didn’t have the opportunity”. He was like, “What do you mean you didn’t have the opportunity?” I said, “When you in the 19… 1940’s, when you got married you made a home for your husband and your children and that was your job.” And I said, “You know Bob,” I said, “You didn’t even realize that the salaries then, when my husband started working, he only made $20 a week”. When I have my job, I had… I got $65 a month. And when… when we came home, I am saying “we” because my brothers and sisters did too, we handed our whole pay over to our mother. And my mother gave me $2.50 a week. Out of that came seventy-five cents for car fare for school. And, you know, if I needed socks or… all came out from that $2.50. And we would go over to the five and ten.

JM: Where was that?

JB: On Germantown Avenue. Walk over and walk back, and so we saved the money you know.

JM: And then what would you do with the money?

JB: Well then I’d then buy a pair of socks, or maybe a lipstick or something like that. But uhh…

JM: Did they have any movie theaters? Or…

JB: Oh yes!

JM: Were there… did they have any candy stores? I mean were there… where were some of the… what did you… was there anything fun that you did with your $2.50 (laughing)?

JB: (laughing) Well… by that time I was buying things for myself. But we had, when I was younger, on Friday nights they had fireworks over at Woodside, which was an amusement part.

JM: Every Friday?

JB: Every Friday night.

JM: Where was Woodside?

JB: Woodside was all off City Line, over near Lord and Taylor.

JM: Oh!

JB: In that area. And we would walk over there at night and walk back. But on Friday nights they would have these fireworks. And everybody would sit on the curb in the street. And my… that was the night we could have an ice cream cone. And my sister and I had the one dip. My neighbors had two dips. And I kept thinking, “Oohhh, I hope someday I can have two dips!”

JM: (laughing) And why did they… why did they get to get two dips?

JB: Because, my mother said they only had two children and we had five you know. We couldn’t afford that. And we would sit there and we’d clap with those fireworks, you know.

JM: How big was the amusement park? Woodside… how large… how big was Woodside?

JB: It was big, pretty big. It was, I’ll tell you, do you know where Belmont Avenue is?

JM: Sure.

JB: Well it was right over in there. And, as I said, we used walk, and I can’t imagine that my mother allowed me to do it, because it was scary, going through West River Drive and all through…

JM: You would walk with your friends?

JB: Oh yea. And there was, they used to say… there was a part there… and they used to say, if you ever slipped and fell in there, they’d never find you. Whether that was true or not I don’t know, but everybody would be staying on the other side of the road you know (laughing). But we had candy stores. In fact you know where The Hidden Valley is? That Hidden Valley, the little restaurant?

JM: The Hidden River Café?

JB: Yeah. That used to be owned by a man by the name of Mr. Grill. And he had all kinds of things. It was a little convenient store but he had candy and all that sort of things. So sometimes if we earned some money, on our way home from school, we would go in there.

      Then up the street toward the railroad there was another little store and his name was Mr. Smith. And every once in a while he’d would have a special, and he would put all the stale candy in a bag and sell it, say for a nickel or something like that. And we used to do that.

     Then up on Tilden Street where I think there is a sandwich shop now – Tilden and Conrad, there was another candy and ice cream store, and across the street from that was the drug store, and he had ice cream.

JM: And these were all owned by people who lived in the neighborhood?

JB:  Well the fellow who owned the drug store, he didn’t live in the neighborhood, but yes but the other all did. So and there was a shoe store, there was the barber, I told you. There were two… two barbers and then there was a shoe repair and a… I mean, you didn’t have to go out of the town for anything really.

JM:  And what do you… how do you think things came to change?

JB:  Let me see (laughing).

JM:   Like none of those stores are here anymore. I have heard even on these corners, right down here that there used to be stores right on the corners and things like that. Why… what do you think… sounds like a very vibrant strip.

JB: It was. Well, it was. I think it was the exodus. I think people started to move.  They got jobs outside of the city, and things like that. They started…

JM:  But if it was self-sufficient, you said it was self-sufficient, everybody could buy what they needed here and, if self-sufficient, and people could do that within walking distance and they had jobs to do that, what would be the reason… why did they take the jobs outside the neighborhood?

JB:  Because there were no jobs. There were no jobs and… Dobson’s Mill closed and Hohanadel’s closed. And so the people had to go elsewhere.

JM:  So they moved when the factories closed?

JB:  Mm hmm.  And it seemed to me it was after the war, that people started moving out you know. And then the kids that went to college, they didn’t come back in the town. And they moved somewhere else.

And it was… it was, I would say in the 1940’s and 50’s, you know.  It was just… they just… things just… I moved out myself…

JM: Where did you move?

JB: I didn’t moved out of East Falls as such. We lived on the Netherfield Road. You know where that is?

JM:  Sure.

JB: Well, we lived there and then my father-in-law – he built a house on Coulter Street right after… right before we have been married. Beautiful home, in fact I think Mr. (Steve).Gibbs… I think he still lives there. And this house on Netherfield Road came up for sale and this man who owned that, that one time owned all the way out to Midvale Avenue, and obviously we used to go up to visit. My grandfather would take us to visit. We had this apple orchard and beautiful grounds. And so a lawyer friend of Mr. Buffers said, “Jim you ought to put a bid in for that house”. It had 3 acres. And Mr. Buffer said “I just built this house.” He said “I know, but this is a beautiful house; it has a swimming pool; it has a barn and an orchard” and he said, “Well I will give you a low bid because I really don’t need it, you know”. Well wouldn’t ya know, he got it. So we were married then. I had my first child and the house I told you about we lived in, didn’t have a very large yard.

JM: And you also owned that house?

JB: Yeah. And so we knew that if we were going to have any more children, we would have to have or we would have to move anyhow. We were not ready then, but Mr. Buckley got this house. And he said… he said, “I don’t want, you know, to give up this new house that I just had. How about if you go up there and live”. Well I didn’t wanna go, because it you know it was a big house and I had no car, and it was further away from when I was in my own house I could walk right down to the butcher shop and that sort of thing. But we went up and it was lovely, and so my sister-in-law has been missing the service, and she was in her apartment, and she decided that she wanted to come back on Netherfield Road. So she took the barn and did it over. It was a darling house. And so Mr. Buckley said if…

JM: Mr. Buckley, your father-in-law?

JB: Yes, he said we were supposed to have a house side by side to face Netherfield Road. And then she did this, to the barn. Then Mr. Buckley said that we could have the front, you know, and built our house there. Which we did, and now this was during the Korean War. And we had all the plans made and were ready to go, when the government would not let up build it because they said it was taking too much material and too much ground off. The ground was ours, you know. But was too much material. And it was during the war.

JM: And was Mr. Buckley… he was working with Philco?

JB: He was the head of Philco. So I wanted – I said “If I had my choice I would rather have a ranch type of house.” Because the house that Mr. Buckley bought had so many doors and windows, I was petrified with the children, you know, that they would go out.

     And there was mansion that laid next to ours. And kids used to go in there to get the apples and shoot birds and they’d come right – the pellets would come right in, you know, the porch, you know – the closed in porch. And so, anyhow, the government said if we wanted to build that house, we had to cut it down to practically, it was tiny. So I raised three children in a small house and had two great big houses before it, you know (laughing). And I had to get rid of a lot of my furniture and everything. But anyhow it was fine because the boys could walk to school, and come home, you know, and… so that’s what happened. We were there for twenty some years. And then my father, mother in law died, and we went up to stay with Mr. Buckley, just over the holidays. And we were there six years (laughing). My house was empty.

JM: And when you… when you stayed with him, where was that?                                                                       

JB: His house was here. Our house was here.

JM: So he was on Netherfield?

JB: Yeah, mm hmm. You know who is in his house now?  The news anchor on Channel 10. What is her name?

JM: Oh! Renee Chenault?

JB:  Yeah. So… so. .they all said “You are crazy.  Why don’t you rent out your house?”  We never thought of renting our house. So finally we did and some people said “We will rent it with the option to buy.”

      And when we decided, after Mr. Buckley died, we could not keep up that property, we decided to sell our house, and we moved out to Bucks County. Because, see everything was in trust and it was kind of a difficult situation. So, anyhow, my sister-in-law moved to Florida, she had built another house by the way, on the same property. And she moved to Florida. And so we went out to Bucks County.

JM:  Where in Bucks County?

JB: In Jamison. And we had eight acres and a house that was well over a hundred years old. And I was in…I was in my glory, because I wanted that from the day I was born. I wanted to live on a farm. And I thought, wouldn’t that be wonderful for the boys. You know to learn to raise animals.

JM:  Did they? Did you have animals?

JB:  We had rabbits (laughing) – rabbits and dogs. But when we were up on the farms we had horses. And then we were there six years until my husband died, suddenly, and I stayed there.  We had eight acres and I stayed there for three years. And I…I was, I felt perfectly fine, but my family was very worried about me being up there by myself.

JM:  When you moved to Jamison, were you still coming in to go to Falls United? How much of a drive was that?

JB:  It was… it would take us about an hour.

JM:  And why did you continue to commute?

JB:  Well, we did try other churches. And we went to this church in Doylestown, and when I saw the choir come in, I was absolutely thrilled. When I saw how many people were in the choir. And, one thing my grand- father taught us was sing loud, sing out you know. So Russ and I were singing, and people…people (laughing) thought we were … “Would you like to join the choir?” But when the choir sang, my heart sank. They were singing like this you know, they weren’t singing up.

JM:  This was a Methodist congregation?

JB: Yeah. And we felt… we felt terrible, because we were… we were singing so loud. And we tried there and, you know, you have to go to the church for a long time, you know, before you get to know the people and all. But it wasn’t the same, and I said to my husband, “You know, we’ll drive an hour to go out for dinner, we can drive an hour to go down to church”. And he was ready to go back too. So we did. It took us, sometimes it would take us fifty-five minutes, it all it depends but most times say an hour.

JM:  Who was pastor when you went back to the church?

JB: Umrn.

JM:  Or what year was that…that you went back? Do you remember?

JB:  Well it was only… we moved out there in 1941 – that was our address 1941 (laughing). We moved out there in… my husband died in 1978, and it would be… is that awful I can’t remember?

JM:  It’s okay, maybe that will come back.

JB:  Yeah.

JM:  There was one pastor that I was curious about, that I read in the East Falls booklet. It was actually a couple by the name of Phillip and Ruth Palmer. Do you remember them?

JB: Oh yes! Indeed.

JM:  Because there was one thing that I was interested in… it said that they were dedicated to serving some of the changing needs of the church’s congregation. And I was wondering what years they were there, and what kind of changes were going on at that time?

JM: She got very sick. They didn’t, there was a little …there was a little friction there because, they didn’t think we should have as much money in our…our missionary fund or …

JM:    Was this the same fellow who wanted to change the whole…

JB: No.

JM: No?

JB:  No. No.  They were definitely interested in missionary work. And one thing he did do, which everyone was upset about, was that he wanted all that missionary money to go at once.

JM:  Go where… where would it go?

JB: Well, to whatever he felt was, you know.  Well of course he didn’t have the whole say, but….

JM:   Who would have had the say?

JB:  Well, the trustees. And I know that I was on inner circle then and we were raising money for the deacons. And they just didn’t want us ever to have a penny in the treasury. Well we did other things; I mean it wasn’t that we just gave to a certain missionary.

     I mean if you were sick, or somebody in the church was sick, we gave the money, you know.  Or somebody was out of work, they pay you know. That’s what this missionary account did. I mean, we gave to the missionaries but we also took care of our own congregation.

     But when he came in, he didn’t want, but as far as I know, he was… they were all very loyal, very wonderful people. And she died, she moved to New Jersey after he died. And she had cancer of the eyes,

I think, and she was lovely. She had a beautiful singing voice and she, you know would fill in sometimes for him, but that’s the only thing I could think of that… that… and that was upsetting.

      And a lot of us, because, that guy just came in and they didn’t know what our situation was, you know.

I mean they can’t know everything that goes on. And, but, she was very emphatic about having, say we had eight or four thousand dollars, and maybe we would sent fifty to this and you know that sort of thing and she never felt that we shouldn’t have a penny in the … Well, as I said, we did other things.

JM:  One of the things that I read that you did as a group was affiliated with an orphanage?

JB: Yes, the Children’s… the Methodist Children’s Home.

JM:   Where was that?

JB: That was over, do you know where the Simpson House is.?

JM: Oh sure. That’s for elderly though.

JB:  Yes, but the children’s orphanage was next to that. I was active in that, until they started taking court cases and they sue. What we did was buy them shoes, take them out you know, and take them to our homes and all. Hands on. But then when they started taking court cases, they had to have, psychiatrists, and they felt that we couldn’t fill the bill. Because most of the children then were troubled children, either they had been beaten by their parents or…something happened.

JM:  So, there was a change in the type of orphans that would be housed at Simpson House.

JB:  It was like Simpson House here, and the orphanage was here. But those women were wonderful.

I mean they’d take the kids out for lunch, they take them to the movies, they’d take them to their home, and then that was all – you know, you could do that anymore.

JM: What …do you… around what year was that? Do you remember?

JB: That must have been maybe sixties, seventies?

JM: You have been the actually oldest member now that affiliated with the church. I think it was on your form that you were 85 years old.

JB:  Hmm.

JM:  You must have seen some significant changes over the years. But you also must have a lot of vivid memories for you. What are some of the most vivid memories you have of your membership within that church?

JB: Umm… I’ve always been interested in helping people and working with them, you know. And I would say the music in the first place that. .that was wonderful.

JM:  You mentioned before that when the choir would sing, people from Krail Street would come out and sit on their steps. It must have been a sight (laughing).

JB: They would sit on their steps because we would have the windows open, and they would wait for the choir. And also our congregation, saying because that is predominantly a Catholic area, so they didn’t sing in their church, you know. So this was… this was different for them, and if we had concerts and things, they would come and, you know, our church we used to put chairs in.

       Well see my grandfather had three choirs of his own. He worked at Wanamaker’s. He was in the

Men’s Department. And so he had access to a lot of people. So he would tell them when we would have things going on as special. And they would all come. And that church was always packed whenever we did any music.

     So music, of course, has been my life, simply because of my grandfather. And he and his brother

and his two sisters, would go out singing. One was an alto, one was a soprano.  He was bass, and my other uncle was a tenor and they did it to earn money to pay the rent and that sort of a thing, you know.

     But when we would get together as a family, and this is what people did then, because they didn’t have the money to go out and go places. So you had your family, they would come sometimes, maybe once a month. We would go to one another’s house. We would all go, and then my grandfather would come in with his thing like this filled with music and hand it out to everybody in the room and that was our entertainment. And my aunt would play the piano.

JM:  And what kinds of songs? What would you sing?

JB: Hymns. Anthems.  Mostly anthems.

JM:  What’s the difference between a hymn and an anthem?

JB: An anthem is more, what should I say, it’s harder and it’s…it would be like say a nursery rhyme, and a regular song you know. I mean it’s just… it just was more difficult, like the Hallelujah chorus versus a hymn which would be a song.

JM: (laughing) There is a difference.

JB: But, I was invited to sing with the… Lord, my brain’s not working…Gilbert and Sullivan Opera.

JM:  Where were they meeting then?

JB: They were in center city. But at that time, I was suffering from migraine headaches. And in order for me to go in town, I had to be there by seven o’clock. My husband didn’t get home till six.

JM:  How did you come to be invited?

JB: Well umm…. there was a couple in our church. And their names were Ruth and Webb (Webster) Gotwols.  They were the ones who wrote our plays, and our musicals and all that sort of thing. And they were invited to join. And they asked them if they knew anybody. This was a semi pro. And so they asked me. And I was thrilled. But, the confusion between feeding my family, waiting for my husband to get home, getting on the train to go in town. And I just couldn’t do it. I would have one migraine after the other, and so the doctor said, you know it’s too much confusion and upset. But my friends stayed in it. And we went to see the show.

JM: Oh how nice!

JB: And it was very nice. And they are both professional singers so it was natural for them to do that, but I would have loved to. Now if my husband, that day he happened to ask, but evidentially they didn’t need any days (?). You know, maybe we would have dinner in town or something like that, but it was just too much.

JM: One thing that I was a little curious about – you mentioned that one side of your family was from Ossett, England from your husband’s side of the family they were from Manchester, England. Were most of the people in that congregation, were their parents and grandparents from England?

JB: Yes an awful lot. England and Scotland and Wales. Those three.  We didn’t have any Irish, but those three people…..those three… cultures. And that’s where we got a lot of our music. My grandfather brought a lot of music over from England. And to this day some of the songs that he brought over, have gone to so many different areas. Because the people who have moved away, to like Washington, or to Florida, they took this music with them. And they formed groups to go out and sing carols on Christmas Eve. And so these songs have been out West. I mean they are still doing it. On Christmas Eve they go out, and sing the carols that we sing at church. And, you saw the congregation that was there. They came from all over. 

JM: The choir was amazing. The last service; it was very beautiful.

JB: It was, wasn’t it? No rehearsal or anything. It was of our favorite anthems. And I don’t know whether you remember the plaque on the wall? In memory of Mr. Buckley because he did the story over.

JM:  That was right up front.

JB: Yes. And underneath was The King of Love, Thy Shepherd Is. And that’s one of our favorites and that’s why we sang that, you know. But it’s amazing because there were all these kids, and they all knew these songs. They all knew the songs. And it’s because from the time they were little, we sang them. And they…. it was amazing to me. Because obviously with all the letters and the people, and I would think they came all this way, some from New York, some from Maryland, some from Florida, some from Northern Pennsylvania.

JM:  When was this for?

JB: For the service. And when you think about it, I was saying to my sister, my generation, the people that I would bring things that Irene (Webster) wouldn’t know some of the stuff. In the later years, Irene’s age, that’s what most people were. That’s who the most people were. Because the people my age, are either medically incapacitated or they moved away with their children and that type kind of thing. And so all the people in there were most of the people I taught in Sunday school.

JM: Hmm

JB: And it was amazing to me. There was one friend of mine, Louisa Mano, we went to kindergarten together and all through high school.