Ruth Camburn and Loretta McDermott
East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview
Interviewees: Ruth Camburn (RC) and Loretta McDermott (LM), lifelong residents of East FallsInterviewer: Jenna Musket (JM)
Transcriber: Brianna Faas, student, Philadelphia University
Date: August 16, 2005
JM: Well this is Tuesday, August 16, 2005 and I’m sitting here with Ruth Camburn and Loretta McDermott. Miss Camburn, it was you who I initially called because you were a member of Falls Methodist and we’ve been interviewing some of the members of Falls Methodist because of the recent changes (the closing). And maybe we can simply start by you telling us who you are, how old you are, how long you’ve lived in EF, and maybe a little bit about your parents.
RC: Well I was born in East Falls and I’ve lived here all my life. And I’m 76 years old, and lived in the same house on Calumet Street. And I went to school at Thomas Mifflin – well, Breck School and then Thomas Mifflin School. And my father was from North Philadelphia on Bouvier Street and his parents were all Methodists, and he went to a Baptist church. My grandfather went to a Methodist church, but the only reason he went to a Baptist church was because all his friends went there. And when he met my mother and heard my mother was a Methodist, he said “Thank God” (laughs) he was marrying a Methodist. And then they got married in 1925 and they moved in here with my grandfather, and I’ve been living here 76 years. And I was born and raised here in this church. And I went to Breck School and then I went to Thomas Mifflin.
JM: You had mentioned that your father was from North Philadelphia and you mentioned your grandfather?
RC: My grandfather was from England and he came over to this country by himself. He had family over in England but couldn’t bring them over. He had to have a job and also a house for them to live in before he could bring his family over.
JM: Do you know where in England he was from?
RC: Rochdale. They lived on the top of Calumet Street when they came over. Then they came down and moved ten houses on the other side of the street and then we moved in this house. My mother was married in this house. My grandfather worked for Dobson Mills on Ridge Avenue. He was a carpet maker and he was from England. When my mother was a baby – one year old – she came over because she didn’t need citizenship papers. He brought 9 of his children over here and they lived on Calumet Street.
JM: Did your (grand)father know carpet making when he was in England or did he learn that when he came here?
RC: He learned when he was here – I’m not sure of that but I think he learned that when he was here. And he worked there for a good many years and he also went to the Methodist Church where we were brought up in.
JM: So your grandfather was very involved with the Methodist church for most of his time when he came over?
JM: Do you know what kind of carpets he made?
RC: I imagine they made floor carpets, for the floor. You know; I think that’s what they made. Then he, my father, worked for Xlag (sp) Storage in Crescentville. He was born here.
JM: So your grandfather – you said his family had to leave England?
RC: He wanted to come to the United States. He couldn’t bring his family because he had to have a home for them, and a job, and a house to live in. Those were the three things he had to have. So he came to this country and then he went back to get his family.
JM: Do you know why he came to Philadelphia?
RC: I don’t really know; I don’t really know that. I think that the boat let them off in Philadelphia. As far as I can remember them telling us, of course. My mother didn’t know too much because she was only one year old – she was the baby of the family. And her mother died on the way over here. She was going to have twins and died on the way over on the boat. She got seasick and died on the way over.
JM: I’m sorry. Your mother was born in this house?
RC: No she was born in England.
JM: okay, in England. So your mother was born in England and when she came here, what did she do?
RC: Well she was only a baby so she went to school and grew up. She went to Breck School on Crawford Street. After she quit, she went to Dobson Mills.
JM: So she also went to Dobson’s?
RC: Mostly everyone in the Falls worked at Dobson Mills.
JM: Do you know what she did at the mill?
RC: She was an examiner to see that everything was done right when it came from the weavers.
JM: Do you know how your mother and father met?
RC: Well there was a man next door – a Mr. Finkelstein. He knew my father and introduced my father to my mother and then they got married.
JM: And where? Do you know where this was or how it came about? Any stories?
RC: It’s just that Mr. Laurel (sp?) Finkelstein introduced my mother to my father. That’s all I know.
JM: Do you know where Mr. Finkelstein lived?
RC: He lived right next door.
JM: Ok, so that would be up towards you? Near your house?
LM: My house? My turn? Yes, my house – that’s where he was from.
JM: Okay, so why don’t we hear a little about you – maybe start by saying your first name, how old you are, where your parents are from, what you know of your grandparents and share a little bit with that?
LM: I’m Loretta McDermott, 82 years old – I hope that’s the right age (laughs). I was born in Philadelphia. My parents lived in East Falls. My father lived down in the lower East Falls – Allegheny – that’s where he was born. My mother went to St. Columbus. She was born in – I believe it was known as “Swampoodle.”
JM: Swampoodle? Where is that?
LM: Swampoodle is below Lehigh. That was a nickname they gave it – Swampoodle. (ed.note: Swampoodle is an older neighborhood in North Philadelphia defined as the vicinity of the junction of three railroad lines near Lehigh Avenue and 22nd Streets. It was the home of Connie Mack Stadium, which was located at 21st Street and Lehigh Avenue.
JM: Do you know why they gave it that nickname?
LM: I don’t know how. (ed. note: There are several accounts of how the neighborhood came to be named Swampoodle. One source says the name refers to the swampiness and frequent formation of puddles near 22nd Street and Lehigh Avenue – slang for low-lying land may have been used because Cohocksink Creek ran through the area. Others have countered that the area is actually elevated)
I know my mother worked for the phone company and my dad at one time was a bartender at a drinking place up in Fairmount Park. When he left he got a job as a taxi cab driver. He had that for a while. Then he got a job with some wheel company, driving a truck. How my mom and dad met, I don’t know but they were married in 1920 and they had 11 children, all born in Philadelphia.
JM: So you were born and raised in Philadelphia?
LM: Raised right here.
JM: Both of you have been here all your life.
LM: All my life. 3712 Calumet to 3728 Stanton Street – a bigger house for all these children over at 3728 Stanton Street. My mother died when she was 59; my father died when he was 72. He had 11 children (note: Loretta was 3rd of 11. There were 2 older than her, 8 younger) – I can’t even begin to count the grandchildren (note: there are 56 grandchildren).
JM: Oh my!
LM: I have four children; I have 10 grandchildren; I have 9 great-grandchildren. I’m just one – all the others have their own. Three are behind me, and all the others are in front of me. So I just stopped counting how many grandchildren. I can’t keep up with it. So that’s where we lived.
JM: It’s a big family.
LM: It’s a never-ending family. Every time you turned around it was somebody. And my father he loved it every time someone gave birth to a baby. And he always liked to have a big Christian family. It was his pride and joy that somebody had another baby.
JM: So your parents wanted a big family?
LM: No, my dad did.
JM: Did your mother as well?
LM: My mother was from 3 boys and 3 girls – six children. My dad was from five – 2 boys and 3 girls. But both my father’s and mother’s families are dead now.
JM: What about your mother’s side – do you know where your grandparents on your mother’s side were from?
LM: No I don’t know where any of them came from. As far as I know my father’s parents were born here and my mother’s parents weren’t. I don’t know. They’re from Swampoodle.
JM: Swampoodle – that’s am interesting name. So Swampoodle was the lower Falls?
LM: No, that was further over than lower Falls. The lower Falls was down by Clearfield – that was called the lower end of East Falls. But all of them had to come up here to go to church – to go to St. Bridget.
JM: where was the higher end of East Falls? Was there a higher end?
LM: No, just right here is – just because they were lower they would always be called the lower end.
RC: Well I think it’s mostly down below Midvale that they called it the lower end, you know?
LM: Yea, I guess the church on Midvale on this side and below that side was the lower end.
JM: So you’ve been a member of St. Bridget all your life?
LM: All my life. No other church. I was married from St. Bridget in 1945. Been married 60 years this year.
JM: Congratulations! Have a Happy Anniversary.
LM: Yeah, 60 years we’re married. No, I didn’t have a big celebration – I didn’t want one. We had a celebration at 50 with my children – no one else – my 4 children and however many grandchildren I had. My father wouldn’t have liked that if he were still living – he liked a big time! I don’t like to be the center of attraction; that’s why we wouldn’t have it.
JM: What about your husband? His name?
LM: He was from Manayunk. His name is Robert McDermott. Let’s see – there was Teddy, Bob, Leo and Nancy. Three boys and a girl. He went to St. John’s. Then he joined the Navy in 1940 and he was on the Enterprise – that’s where he was discharged from in 1945 – the USS Enterprise.
JM: Do you know where the Enterprise went?
LM: Oh yes – in the thick of the battle – his ship almost got bombed by the Japs. In fact my father used to say “Loretta! Bob’s ship is bombed.” And I’d get the paper and go to church and pray. It wasn’t his ship. He was near where the Japanese were at Pearl Harbor – he was right there. Umhumm. The reason his ship wasn’t in there was because a big storm came up so the ship was not allowed to go into Pearl Harbor. So that’s the only thing that saved the USS Enterprise.
JM: So when he came back is when you met him?
LM: Oh no, I knew him before he went in.
JM: How did you know him?
LM: Well we used to have a dance up at St. John’s or even up at St. Bridget’s. And he would come here – that’s how I met him. If there was a dance up at his church parish, at St. John’s, I would have to go up there. But actually we met on a straw ride. We used to have what they called “Straw Rides” and go on them – do you remember? I don’t even remember where they went. We would go swimming there and we would eat and have dancing. I always had two left feet (laughing). But that’s nearly how we met. But I knew him from St. John’s; they had a big football team up there. He didn’t play, but he was always up there.
JM: Where did they play?
LM: Up at their field up in Roxborough. They had their own playing field. On Thanksgiving it was Roxborough against St. John’ – your Catholic school and your public school. They can’t compete now – there’s no real St. John’s.
JM: So you met on a Straw Ride? Who organized the Straw Ride, do you know?
LM: I don’t remember who started them, but I know they started on the street over there. It was some kind of a big truck; it had straw on the bottom of it.
JM: And when you say the “street over there” you mean?
LM: Stanton Street – that’s where I lived. On Calumet first, 3712 Calumet – then we moved from there over to Stanton Street 3720. But it was someone over there – Peg Hildebrand? Not Hildebrand, but anyhow someone over there started it and they got the boys from Manayunk to come down and the girls, too.
JM: So that was a good time.
LM: Oh yes. And like I said, you never went out any place when I was growing up. If you lived on this street, you played on this street. You didn’t go over to Stanton Street to play, you had to play right in front of your house.
RC: On Friday nights we used to have fireworks from Woodside Park. We would just sit out here on the street and no cars would come up. You could sit on the street and watch the fireworks every Friday night.
JM: Woodside Park was that amusement park?
RC: Yeah, that was the amusement park. It was right over on Parkside Avenue. Right across from that was the Crystal Pool where we used to go swimming.
LM: When you would sit for the fireworks, you could sit on the street because (only) three people that I remember had a car on this street. Three cars on this street – that was back when, Ruth? 1928?
LM: Three cars were on this street.
JM: So very few people had cars?
LM: Oh very few.
RC: No, the only man who had a car was the plumber across the street – Mr. Foster, and then the man who lived right next door to me, Mr. Nicholson, had a car and then there was the….
LM: Man who had the driving machine…
RC: Monday’s his name – that’s his last name.
LM: That’s all the cars I remember on Calumet – that’s why you could sit in the middle of the street. And then because of this arc light, we’d be able to sit here and play jacks. Remember playing jacks, Ruth?
LM: But then we didn’t have the arc light, did we Ruth?
RC: No, we had a gas light right here and a man used to come every night and light it. And it was right here. And we had a fire plug right here and we used to be able to put that on in the summertime. And I got cut by a piece of glass one time. And I went to Mr. Fiedler – he wasn’t a doctor but we always called him Doc Fiedler. I went to him and he took the piece of glass out and he put medicine on it and wrapped it up. He said “Now you come back to me tomorrow.” I went back to him and he put medicine on it and said “You’re alright now.” But he was no doctor.
JM: Who was this Doctor Fiedler?
RC: Doctor James Fiedler – he had the drugstore there. He was very nice. We had a little candy store down here – this was Cresson Street. And across the street was another ice cream store. We’d go down there to get our ice cream and once in a while they’d give it to us for nothing. (laughing)
JM: How nice!
RC: It was only once in a while but it was nice.
LM: The candy that you would buy would be called a Grade A – about that big – one penny. One penny.
JM: What’s Grade A?
LM: It was called a Grade A – a little square of chocolate.
RC: And we used to go up to Jimmy’s store on our way to school with a penny.
LM: Aunt Mary’s wasn’t it?
RC: No, Jimmy’s. We used to get candy from him and we’d get good candy. When he had some left over, he’d put them in grab bags and we’d have to push it and pull out the number. And he’d give you the bag and it was all stale candy. We didn’t know the difference and it was only a penny.
JM: Now, were your parents the same way? Mrs. McDermott had mentioned that most of the kids, most of the children in this area, played on this street. You were the same way?
RC: Yes. Oh yeah.
JM: So you never went on to Stanton Street or other streets in the area?
RC: We used to go traveling around but most of the time they would come here because you could see Woodside Park from here when, on the other streets, houses were behind the trees a little bit. But you could see Woodside Park here, and when they had the fireworks on Friday night, they used to gather over here to see the fireworks.
JM: So people from Stanton Street would come over?
RC: (sentence hard to hear)
LM: You always played right in front of your own house. Ruth would come up and who else? We had a few families here who had children but you never left the front of your house.
RC: We used to play jacks and hopscotch.
LM: Hopscotch, yeah, that was another thing.
RC: And we used to play those things. There was one house up the street – Mr. Lewis’ house and he used to have big steps – large steps – and we used to try to get that step every day to play our jacks on. And the fellows used to play.
LM: Yes, you had to make your own fun.
RC: And hide and go seek. We used to go in the alleys and hide with somebody and they’d have to come find us, you know? It was really a lot of fun when we were children.
LM: We didn’t have money but we had a lot of fun. You made your own fun because you didn’t have money to spend. You had to make your own fun.
JM: How did you make your own fun?
LM: Playing hopscotch. Playing jacks. You would get 12 jacks for, what, 10 cents and you always had a golf ball. And that’s what you had to do – you had to guard it down with your life!
RC: And John B. Kelly – you know, Grace Kelly’s father – well they lived up the street – I think that would be nearly five blocks away. And he used to come up here every night. He was a great golfer and he used to throw golf balls out to us. And he always said: “Now get away from me so as I don’t hit ya!” and then his son, young John, he used to go out and throw tennis balls at us. And you know John B. Kelly won the Diamond Scull in …. ? (ed. note: 1929 with Paul Costello). I still call it East River Drive – they can call it Kelly Drive but it’s East River Drive to me. His big statue is down there on the East River Drive and you know Grace Kelly – she’s our idol!
JM: Why is that?
RC: She’s a movie star! She’s our idol! I mean we were just from East Falls, and Grace Kelly was from East Falls!
LM: And they lived up Calumet when it goes up further and becomes Coulter – at Coulter and Henry Avenue. That’s where John b. Kelly lived and that’s where Grace Kelly the movie star was born.
JM: So you mentioned John B. Kelly lived on Stanton Street first?
RC: At one time when he first – I don’t remember that. That’s what my mother told me. He used to live in, I guess, where the main alley was – he used to live about 4 or 5 houses up from that. And then he started the mill down at Crawford and Ridge Avenue where Chelsea is now.
JM: What kind of mill did he start?
RC: It was a carpet mill…. Oh no, he was a brick layer! That was it.
LM: Right, right. Yes, yes, he was a brick layer.
RC: Dobson’s started the carpet mill and John B. Kelly was the brick layer. He used to do a lot of these houses in East Falls that are brick. Built by John Kelly.
JM: So, your house? Do you know?
RC: I don’t think so, no, because my house was built when my grandfather came and John Kelly wasn’t born.
JM: Do you know how old your house is?
RC: I would guess that it has to be about 200 years old because my parents came here and lived up the street and these houses were built and we bought them. They were new houses when we bought them.
LM: And they’re still standing.
LM: And we’re still here and they’ll carry me out feet first.
JM: But they were new houses when your mother bought?
LM: Fairly new.
RC: Fairly new – I mean in those days they just built a little at a time, you know?
LM: There’s no two houses alike along here.
LM: She has two windows; I have two windows. (A neighbor) has one window and the next one has one window. I said they must have been drunk when they were building these homes.
LM: And sometimes they go up the center and sometimes they go up the side.
JM: Why is that? And do you like that or not?
LM: Oh it doesn’t make any difference to me.
RC: We can call it the house that Jack built, (laughing)
LM: I bought it; that’s what it was. Even this one had like a winding stairway and the next door one didn’t go up like this; it went around.
RC: I remember when the girl who used to live next door was going to a prom one night and she fell down the steps in her gown. Remember Ida May? (the daughter of Ruth’s next door neighbor)
RC: She fell down the steps in her gown because her steps winded and her gown didn’t go with her feet, you know? And she fell down.
LM: And don’t the other side of the street have one window in the front. Most of these were two up until this spot – then they’re all just one. Everyone is just one window.
RC: Now I’m the only house on this street that don’t have an alley. All the houses do have an alley all the way. Well, Mrs. Esposito is the only one who doesn’t have an alley. But, I’m the only one around here who doesn’t have an alley.
JM: Do you like that? Or not like that?
RC: It’s vice versa; I’m glad in a way and I’m not glad in a way. I mean either way suits me, I guess ‘cause I’m used to it. I mean, I was born here.
JM: So all the time that you spent here, you mentioned Breck School and Mifflin School. Can you tell me a little bit about when you went to school?
RC: I was in 3rd grade in Breck School when Breck School moved to Mifflin School.
JM: Why did it move to Mifflin School?
RC: Well they built Mifflin School. There was never a school up there – it was just an open lot. They built a public school up there because Breck School was getting….
RC: Yeah, they couldn’t do anything with it.
RC: And down at Breck School they had two houses – one for the little children and that’s where I was. And the other one was for the other children from 6 to 8 (grades) I think.
LM: About 6 to 8 or 5 to 8; I forget.
RC: But I was only in 3rd grade when we moved up to Mifflin School.
LM: That was a brand new beautiful school. Ooooo!
RC: We had our opening exercises on the porch on the back towards Midvale Avenue and we were – you were never allowed to go on there unless something was going on. And we had the opening there. And we had the Mayor of Philadelphia – I forget who he was – but we had the Mayor, and the governor, and we had different high officials. John b. Kelly was there and then we moved into Mifflin School and it was a beautiful school. I mean they had everything possible – they had a gymnasium, they had a woodshop for the boys and they had a cooking shop for the girls. And then they had a sewing room for the girls that we could go in and make – in fact, we had to make our uniforms to go into the cooking, like aprons and all. We had to make them in the sewing room and we had a big auditorium and you obeyed…
RC: your teachers. And you obeyed every official – you didn’t talk back to them. They would tell you whatever they told you and you had to do it.
JM: What would happen if you didn’t do that?
RC: They would punish you. They would send a note home to your mother and father. And they would also punish you – you would have to stay after school and do different things for them that you could do. That was your punishment and we knew you shouldn’t do things like that.
LM: But not many kids were punished then.
RC: No, you paid attention.
LM: Not like the kids today. I shouldn’t say that – I don’t know how the kids are today, but I know when you were told to do something you didn’t ask questions. You did it.
RC: If your teacher told you – no matter what she told you to do – you did. Because you knew you were brought up that way.
RC: Because you knew your teacher was your boss.
JM: So when you went to Mifflin, you were there the first year they built it? Is that right?
JM: How long did you stay at Mifflin?
RC: I stayed until I was in 8th grade. Then I went to Roosevelt Junior High because that was the junior high school over in Germantown. Germantown and Musgrave. And after that I went to Germantown High.
LM: And you used to walk to Germantown High. We didn’t have money to ride.
RC: And we used to get a nickel one time…
LM: You might ride to school.
RC: There was a drugstore on the corner where we used to wait for the bus. And if you didn’t come home on time, they would say “Oh well, they got their soda.” That was our money to go but then we used to walk through Penn Charter School and through.
LM: Wasn’t it, Ruth, that we rode to school but we always walked home?
RC: Most of the time we walked home.
LM: We always walked home. I know I did. We used to get on the bus to go over, and then when school was over, you’d meet all your friends and you’d all walk home together.
JM: Would you stop?
LM: Because everyone went the same way.
JM: Would you stop anywhere on your way home from school?
LM: I wouldn’t have money; no.
RC: We didn’t stop anywhere unless, once in a while, you’d get a nickel and you’d go – there used to be a drugstore on the corner of Germantown and Chelten and we used to go in there and get a coke. That was only a nickel. And then we’d walk home.
JM: And you would walk from Germantown and Chelten?
LM: Right. Mhmm.
RC: We’d walk through Penn Charter.
RC: And we were always late when we came home. Mother used to say “Well they stopped to get a soda or something” if we hadn’t, she’d know we had fare for a bus. She always knew that we spent it to get a soda.
JM: Would you walk even in the winter?
RC: Oh yes.
LM: Yeah, oh yeah.
RC: It didn’t bother us in the winter time. We had school, too – they didn’t give you time off because it snowed.
LM: Yeah, just because it snowed.
LM & RC: You went to school! (giggled)
LM: You might be late but you went to school.
JM: So tell me a little about Roosevelt. What was Roosevelt School like?
RC: Well it was over at Germantown and Musgrave Street. It was a junior high school. It was from 9th grade – oh wait, it was from 7th grade, I think.
LM: 7th to 9th, I think it was.
RC: It wasn’t on Germantown – it was up. We had to walk from Germantown Avenue – you had to walk about four blocks to Musgrave.
LM: Germantown high was closer than Roosevelt.
RC: Germantown (ed.note: Roosevelt) was on Germantown Avenue and Musgrave Street. Germantown High – that was Washington Lane and Germantown Avenue. Roosevelt Junior High was on Musgrave. And that’s where we went for only one grade because that’s where Germantown High started from 10th to 12th.
LM: Did you graduate? I quit and went to work in a blouse factory.
JM: Where was the blouse factory?
LM: Down at Bloom (?) and Cherry. My aunt was a secretary there. I was so lucky to get a good job. You brought that pay home to your father and he gave you what you wanted. You didn’t keep it.
RC: No. I worked at the Cinderella Dress Factory by the Rosenau Brothers.
LM: Yes, that’s where you worked.
JM: Where were they?
RC: Fox and Robbins (Roberts) below Lehigh and Allegheny. And then they moved up to Musgrave right where the project was. Fox and Robbins – that’s where they went. They moved and built a new place up there. But I worked in the factory – no, I worked in the office and then they got slow in the office and the boss said the girl next to me got the job and he said “Well, what if we put you in the factory?” So I went down there and I worked down there for 50 years.
JM: What did you do?
RC: I was a dress pinner, and then I became an examiner.
LM: That’s what I did with the blouses. Then when I left there the war was on and I went down to the Navy Yard and got a job. Rosy the Riveter (laughs)
JM: So what did you do at the Navy Yard?
LM: Well, I really learned how to rivet. And then they put me in the office. I was called a Follow-up Girl. If my Group 11 was missing a part, I had to go to Group 23 to find out where that part was. It’s not over in my shop. I didn’t get dirty, though. I know that. And I worked there until the war was over.
JM: And then what?
LM: I got married. I’ve been working ever since. I loved every minute of it.
JM: Did you work after you married?
LM: In short spells, yeah. First I worked at TastyKake, but you had to lift those trays up. And my arms couldn’t do it. Somebody got me the job but I couldn’t do that so I quit.
RC: Didn’t Luis’ girl get you the job?
LM: Yes, over there.
RC: She got me the job. In the summertime I used to work for TastyKake. I used to pack chocolate cupcakes. They used to come three in a pack and you’d take them and wrap them up. Now I guess they do it by machine.
LM: But we were married in 1945 and I had a baby in 1947 which was a stillbirth. Then I had my second one in 1949. After the kids were old – my last one was in the 1st grade – I got a job as a school crossing guard for 20 years.
JM: Oh my!
LM: Great job – I loved every minute of it.
JM: Where was your crossing?
LM: Up by my church. First I was up the street here by the library (note: Warden Drive and Midvale) for the public school (Mifflin). But then a girl who was down at St. Bridget’s, which is really what I wanted, she went to another school. And I got that. The kids were wonderful. I never had any problem with any child crossing. Never. I loved it. It was a good job. And we used to go in the summertime – no air conditioning or anything. We used to lay on the floor with windows and doors open. We were never afraid of anyone coming in.
LM: We never had a fan.
LM: I don’t ever remember having a fan at home but my sister did – this was after I left.
RC: Who had these?
LM: That was your fan (laughs)
RC: And it wasn’t this kind either – it was paper! (laughs) Your newspaper or something – whatever you had!
LM: Yes, Eileen bought a fan. She was on the third floor over on Stanton Street. And it was hot – hot in the summer. You put out a glass of water on your windowsill – it was ice when you woke up – that’s how cold it was in the winter. But anyhow, she bought a fan and my father said “And what do you think you’re going to do with that, Irene?” She said “I’m going to put it in the third floor dad.” Two weeks later, didn’t he buy fans for his room and the kitchen?
JM: What year was that? Do you remember? Approximately?
LM: About 1945 or 48. (note: probably in the 1950s)
JM: So they were new then, the fans?
LM: Oh yeah, but my father wouldn’t buy them. He suffered – not that hot, right?
RC: Yes, it’s something that you get used to… We can used to a lot of things that children today won’t get used to. Because we remember when we didn’t have all these things, you know. Fans and all… but the kids today just think that’s the thing you have – everybody has air conditioning.
LM: Yeah, my father didn’t want a fan at all; I know that, until Irene bought one in 1945 or it might have been even 1950 when he got the first fan over there. And then he bought and bought and bought. I still have one of them. That’s how solid they were.
JM: So you think that everybody today has air conditioning?
LM: Oh, my daughter has her whole house air conditioned. Oh well, woo, woo – I just have to pay the phone bill. Even now I have a ceiling fan in our bedroom and I have a box fan sitting on a chair. I have an air conditioner in the middle room, but when you have that on you have to shut the door, and when you walk out of that middle room into the hallway, you think you’ve walked into an oven. So very rarely do I use it.
RC: I have a fan in the middle of my dining room. The reason I didn’t put it in my living room here is because people were stealing fans. So I got it put in my dining room. Well, if I don’t sit in the dining room I don’t get any air. I have to sit in the dining room, so I have a fan here, as you can see, and I have one in my kitchen and I got one in my bedroom.
LM: When you have air conditioning, you have to keep the windows all closed and the blinds shut. I don’t like that. I like to be able to look out my window.
JM: Did you ever have a fan stolen?
RC: No, I never did because I don’t have air conditioning in the front room. But some people had.
LM: But where Ruth is situated she could always get some cool air because there’s nothing over there.
RC: If there’s any air, in fact, the girl up the street, Theresa, used to come down to our house when it was hot because I can get air from over there. It used to be “Labby Hill” – it was wonderful in those days. There used to be stables with horses and you could take the horses out there and ride. And people lived up there… when they built the project there, the first project was terrible (ed. Note: Schuylkill Falls Housing Development).
RC: They just put anyone in there, and it was bad, and they tore the houses apart, practically. But now I don’t know what they’re having up there – I don’t know if they have to buy those houses or not, but they look nice. I’ve never been in one. And they want to put stores down in the bottom of them. But nobody’s getting them (renting).
LM: By the way, my son had a job up at Textile when he was in high school. He was like a handyman up there. It was a really nice job. Bucky Harris was the boss.
JM: Oh, they have a gym named after him now.
LM: Yeah. Well he belongs to the Presbyterian Church too.
JM: Bucky Harris?
LM: Yes, Bucky Harris at the Presbyterian Church. He was a nice fella.
RC: Yes, Bucky was a nice fella and is very nice to everyone.
LM: He is a great fellow. And before that Bobby (Loretta’s son) had a job delivering a paper every morning. That was his job for spending money. That was when he was in 8th grade and part of high school. Kids can’t do that now – it’s too hard. Well nobody has the paper delivered. Well, in the morning they do – a man comes around in a car and throws it. It’s easier to go down to buy the paper.
RC: You know we used to get The Review (Roxborough Review) every week and we used to pay – got a fella who used to go around at the end of the month. Now we get it for two weeks, maybe, and the next week we don’t get it. I mean we haven’t had it this past week or nothing.
LM: Well I would never order The Review because they never have anything in that paper about East Falls unless it’s something bad. So I would never buy it. We get it once in a while, but I wouldn’t buy it. The only time they put anything in is when there’s something bad going on in East Falls. A robbery or fighting or…
JM: Do you think that as well, Miss Camburn?
RC: Yes, there’s not much about the Falls unless it’s something bad, you know.
JM: So you only see bad things about East Falls in The Review?
RC: Most of the time we do.
LM: Well you know we have a little paper now called The Fallser.
RC: It’s right in back of you – I have one.
LM: And it’s free.
JM: What do you like about The Fallser?
LM: It tells you what’s going on in East Falls; it’s all about East Falls.
RC: They give you news all about East Falls. It’s called The Fallser and you get it once a month.
RC: And I don’t know if you know Julie Camburn.
JM: Yes, I wondered if you were related.
LM: It will tell you about churches, everything about East Falls. Nothing about any of the other places that I can see, but with The Review, they never told you anything about East Falls unless it was something bad.
JM: Well with both of you living here (so long), what are some of the changes you’ve seen just on this street?
LM: From all the way up to about 6 – 10 houses – that’s where a person lives who was there for a life. That one about four doors up, there’s another – Luis. And then up a little bit further there was a family but they have passed away. On this side, it’s Ruth, McDermott’s, Caruso, Petrone, (Donahue, Grispon) Esposito, (Furman) McGettigan, (Dugan), Grosschatter(?) and that’s about it. Otherwise I don’t know anyone over there or anyone up the street. So everybody on this street has moved except me and Ruth.
JM: What kept you here so long?
LM: It’s paid for.
LM: I don’t have a mortgage.
RC: No, my house too.
LM: And another thing… like I say, kids say maybe you ought to move. If I moved I would have to go someplace where I would have to take a bus to go to the store. Here we can walk down to this corner here. I can take any bus to go to Roxborough, Manayunk, Germantown, downtown. I’m independent – I don’t have to depend on someone to pick me up, even when it comes to the time when Bob can’t drive. I don’t drive anymore – I don’t like it, but the two of us can get on a bus and do our own food shopping. I don’t have to call my kids, as long as there’s two of us. If Bob would go, I would stay here till I would see how things were going to go.
JM: Have you thought of moving?
LM: The only reason I thought that I would move is if something happened to Bob. Otherwise, no; I won’t move. If something happened to Bob, I would try to get near my children. I would not – do not want – to live with them. Bob is a golfer and said he has an apartment picked out up in Roxborough (laughs) right across from the golf course.
JM: Does he golf a lot?
LM: Five days a week – he keeps in great health.
RC: But you know, we were always used to golfing in East Falls. A lot of people know that Roseneath used to be a golf course. Now the college bought it, but they didn’t build anything where we sledded – we used to call it “The Nuts.”
LM: Oh yeah. The reason it got the name “The Nuts” is because a psychiatric hospital was there and then it was a Catholic school. (Ravenhill)
JM: What was the psychiatric facility?
LM: Right up there – it belongs to Textiles now. But they tore it down.
JM: But do you know who owned it? Rosenall was it?
LM: No, but I know that’s how it got the name “The Nuts.”
RC: I remember now they used to call it the Roseneath golf course. But I don’t know who owned it. But we used to call it “The Nuts” when we were sledding.
LM: I mean, that’s going way back – years and years ago. They had big hills there.
RC: I mean, this boy used to go to Mifflin School and it (The Nuts) was right across from Mifflin school, and we used to go up there and put our books up and then Mr. Frasier, the caretaker up there, he had two toboggans – one for the girls and one for the boys. And he used to say “Put your books in the garage” and he had toboggans for us and we used to go and then he’d say “Okay, it’s ready for supper; go home!” And if your mother would let you go up (sledding) tonight, I’ll be here, but if you don’t, don’t give her no arguments! You stay home if she wants you home.” He was the boss. And then he’d have his toboggans for us. And I think he had a sled. We used to go up there and sled and everything.
LM: But in the winter, you know, you could sled right down here because there were no cars.
RC: We used to put ashes…
LM: Everybody had ashes – you know, burned coals. So bottom of the hill, from here down, was nothing but ash, so that when you came down on this sled, you would stop. Right about here.
RC: Sometimes we didn’t either. We would go right down onto Ridge Avenue – but there were no cars.
LM: No, there were no cars. And you still put down the ashes.
RC: You put down the ashes there. I mean, that was in the winter time and the ash man didn’t have to come because all of our ashes were on the street. And we had street cleaners too. Every week they came over – I think it was a Monday, wasn’t it? Those street cleaners would come and then a truck would come with water and brushes on the back and spray all the water on the street and then the brushes would brush the street and then you’d have your other men to see that everything that dirt was, but now your trash men
LM: I don’t think anybody has coal now, do they?
RC: Oh, I don’t think so.
LM: We either have oil or gas. We have gas.
RC: Yes, I have gas.
JM: The place that they used to call “The Nuts’ – did people live there?
RC: The golf course
JM: Were people treated there?
RC: They had a sanitarium up there.
LM: No, they never had people in there that were sick – they were mentally sick and, I mean, that’s why we called it “Up the Nuts.”
RC: We didn’t mean anything bad by it.
LM: No, uh uh.
RC: It was really called Roseneath, wasn’t it? Wasn’t the house?
LM: I can’t remember.
RC: But we never thought anything mean. We didn’t mean it mean. We meant going down to the golf course and coming up the hills on the toboggan. Really, that’s what we thought. We didn’t call the people…
LM: No, we never saw them.
RC: At the sanitarium “nuts.” We never really thought that.
LM: But then after that left, a catholic school went in there and wasn’t there long. And then Textiles bought it.
LM: Ravenhill, Ravenhill – that was the name of the high school.
JM: Ravenhill Academy?
LM: Money, money…
RC: Yes, Grace Kelly used to go there.
JM: When they bought the school, or when they made it Ravenhill Academy, did you see any changes in the neighborhood in terms of, you mentioned how wealthy the school was when it became Ravenhill Academy. Did you see changes in the neighborhood?
RC: I don’t think so.
LM: No, I don’t think so because that was up over the bridge, so I guess I didn’t see any changes.
RC: And Mr. Kelly he used to…
LM: Yeah, he was a great golfer.
RC: And he would come up the street sometimes and he’d say “Get into your house. I’ll throw golf balls on the street and when I’m done, you can go and collect the golf balls.” (laughs) And we’d have golf balls, and we’d play jacks, and we’d play blocks on our street – we’d put numbers down and we had little stones you’d throw onto the numbers and you had to hop.
JM: So you got to keep the golf balls?
RC: And sometimes he’d throw tennis balls and he’d say “Ok, kids, get in the house” and he’d throw tennis balls and he’d say “Now you can go and get them.” And, I mean, we didn’t have to worry about traffic. He was a great guy. I mean, John B. Kelly was so good.
JM: In what way?
LM: Friendly. He was friendly to everyone. He never looked down his nose at anyone.
RC: Yes, just because he had money, he didn’t think that he was better than you. He was just. And Grace was the same way. Don’t let anyone tell you she wasn’t a good girl. She was just marvelous.
LM: They used to go to St. Bridget. That was their church.
JM: Did you know her?
RC: Yes, we all knew her and she knew everyone else. And when her brother John won the diamond Sculls, they had a big thing down Midvale and Ridge Avenues. They had a platform and all. And the whole family was there, and it was all over her Jack boy. Grace went down and shook hands with everybody. The other two sisters sat out and the mother sat out on the balcony, and they didn’t come out.
LM: But they were very friendly people.
RC: I mean just because she was a movie star, she was very nice and she didn’t hold her head higher than anybody. She was a wonderful girl and don’t you let anybody tell you that Grace Kelly wasn’t a wonderful girl, because she was.
LM: Yeah, there was Grace, Lizanne, and I think there was another. Yeah, there were three girls.
RC: Well, one is still living.
LM: I think, yes, but I don’t know which one though.
RC: What was going on a couple of months ago, something, and she was there?
LM: Her husband died; Prince Ranier died – Grace’s husband.
RC: But that was when Grace was living. That was… he died after Grace, didn’t he?
LM: Yes, he just died. That was the big thing.
RC: Yea, but there was something in the paper about her; I think that’s what it was.
LM: Yes, Prince Ranier.
RC: Don’t ever let anybody tell you that she wasn’t a wonderful girl.
LM: We liked her anyhow.
RC: She had a wonderful father. She was just like her father – very nice. And John B. is the same way.
RC: He was a good boy. But the other two we didn’t know too well. But they were nice, but, I mean, we just didn’t know them. They never associated too much with us. But oh, she (Grace) was, oh wow; they still have Grace’s picture down in the post office, down there. And, in fact, not too long ago, it was her birthday or something. They had stamps out with Grace Kelly on them and, oh, we think she’s wonderful.
JM: When you were working at the blouse factories, the Cinderella factory, how did you learn to do your jobs?
RC: Well it was just one of those things. I first worked in the office and then it got slow so they put me down in the factory and I used to pin the dresses. We used to put them, when you got the dress that you made, it was like a little girl was in it. We used to take tissue paper and stuff it up and then we would put cardboard in at the waist and then we would pin the cardboard and tissue paper, and then we would tie the belt around, or the sash – whatever it was. And then we would puff the sleeves out with the paper. And they looked like a little girl was in it and that’s the way we used to send them to the store. So just when it was near the time that the Cinderella closed – well, it was a couple of years before that, and they wanted us to send them to the other side. And our men denied (refused) but they had to do it. The government said you had to send them. Well they came back with slips.
JM: What do you mean by that?
RC: Well we had to send them to make them. We cut the dresses out – see, we used to cut the dress out and make it – and we had three factories up in Lansford to Red Hill and Efferdale (?) in upstate Pennsylvania. And we used to send them there to get sewed. Our girls in our factory – we cut the dress out and then our samples used to be made by people in Northeast Philadelphia. Those samples would go out to the stores. I don’t know how many men we had – 10 or 15 men – the sales men. And they would go over to sell our dresses; get orders to sell our dresses. And then those dresses – when you sent the samples, they would look like a little girl was in them. But they didn’t have a face. They had the arms and they were padded. They were all made by tissue paper. And then after we got the orders, they made the dresses up in Efferdale, Red Hill and Lanford and they would send them down where we were. They were cut here in Philadelphia and, when they came in, they got examined by a group of girls and if they were good, they would send all the good ones into the pressing room, and then they would press them. And I was a pinner, and we had to put paper in them and tie the belts and make them look like a little girl was in it. And then it would go to the sorters, and they would make sure that everything was right because, especially our red dresses, we’ve examined 4 times before they were sent out. And that’s why a lot of your stores liked to get our dresses. Because they knew that they were perfect.
JM: Did they sell mostly in Philadelphia?
RC: No, we did sell outside of Philadelphia. A lot of it was Pennsylvania but we sold but we sold to New York. Because we had a New York Office. And towards the end we were sending them all over the place. A lot of it was from Pennsylvania. A lot of it was because we had a New York office. And towards the end we were sending them all over to different places.
JM: Like where?
LM: Well we sent to New York and we sent to in fact I think we even sent to down south. We had a factory down in the south. But they didn’t like it because they didn’t make the dresses like we wanted them made, and we were used to.
JM: Is there still a Cinderella Dress, Ruth?
RC: No, we had to close up because they wanted to send our stuff overseas, and our men wouldn’t do it. They said we did, and they weren’t made nice, like they wanted them made.
JM: So they tried to have the dresses made overseas?
RC: Oh no! we had them made and sent overseas. They tried to have the dresses made overseas and our men wouldn’t do it. They tried to make them overseas.
JM: But they never?
RC: But after they came back, we had a couple of seasons of them.
JM: Do you know where overseas that they tried to do that?
RC: I think we had one in China… China and Japan and on some of the islands out there.
JM: How long did you work there?
RC: I worked there for 50 years.
LM: How long?
RC: 50. I started there when I was a young girl. I started there when I went to school in the summertime. I’m counting that too because I was with the same factory. But they were just wonderful people. And I mean they never, they never gave me any uppish or anything.
In fact, one time the big owner brought some people in, and my boss – my floor lady – she went over to the window so the boss, the owner, wouldn’t have to say hello to her. So as soon as they left, as soon as they went – when the visitors left, he called her up and said “Don’t you ever do that again.” He said “I saw what you did.” He said “Listen, those people aren’t making my money. You’re making my money.” And he said “I can say hello to you any time, so don’t you ever do that again.”
I mean we just thought it was a wonderful thing that he said that, you know? I mean because he said “You just never do that again.” He said “You are making my money’ those people aren’t making my money. You are.” So he said “.”I can say hello to you any time. If the President of the United States, the King of England comes in here, you say hello to me. Good Morning. And I will Good Morning to you. But never walk over the window so you don’t have to say hello to me.” I mean, I thought that was wonderful; we thought that was wonderful.
LM: Well it’s almost time that I be going in to make dinner.
JM: Well maybe I can just continue with you for a little bit and get some recollections about the church?
JM: I wanted to hear a little bit about the membership at the church, and hear maybe the kinds of activities you did before you leave.
LM: Well the only activities they have here now is Senior Citizens – they meet in St. Bridget’s. It’s not only St. Bridget’s – all the other communities they go to St. Bridget’s Senior Citizens.
JM: Oh, do you go to St. Bridget’s?
LM: No, she goes to Methodist.
RC: Well I was Methodist, and now, since Methodist closed, I go to…
LM: Now with Mrs. Fuhrman’s church.
RC: Hehe, yeah we call that Mrs. Fuhrman’s church because she was such a high person in that Presbyterian Church at one time.
JM: In what way?
RC: Oh well, she did everything. She was always in everything. She was a nice woman.
LM: But I’m going to have to go in. Bob’s in there waiting.
JM: Oh, Okay. Well Thank you.
LM: Okay I enjoyed talking to you.
RC: Yeah, I thought it would be nice if someone else came in.
LM: Right, yeah, and gave their views.
JM: Well you feed to each other, what each remembers and…
JM: That’s good.
RC: Well we’ve all grown up together.
LM: Okay, Bye bye.
JM: Well why don’t we switch gears a little bit and talk a little about the Methodist Church. How long have you been a member of the Falls United Methodist?
RC: 76 years, since I was born. I was born and raised in that church. I was christened in that church. I was born and raised and we went to Sunday school every Sunday. And we had Junior League on a Friday night.
JM: What was that?
RC: You would go there and you would have little things about the church. And sometimes you would play little games you know? Stuff like, I mean it was part of being in the church but it was really nice.
JM: Well, being a member there for 76 years you, what were some of your fondest memories?
RC: Well it was always wonderful there. I mean, when I was little – my mother’s picture, I showed you her picture there – she was mine
(her teacher?). She took all the babies. She had like a class for babies. I think it was intermediate but like Sunday school. And then when we would grow up, we would go up into the big Sunday school. And the men had the bible class, and the women and children were down in the second floor there. As you went into the door, there was a big room there and that was our Sunday school room. Then on each side, they now they made an office where you put your gowns for the choir. That used to be two rooms and they used to have windows in the front. When we were singing, and having our beginning of our Sunday school, those windows would be open and we’d close them when they had the lesson. They were all the older windows. And up in the church they had the men’s bible class. And all the men used to go up there.
JM: So the men would study bible separate from the women? So the women who were studying or teaching in the Sunday school would be separated? What were some of the things that you learned in Sunday school?
RC: Well, we had books from the Methodist book room and it was more or less different stories about Jesus and how Jesus went with the disciples and how God made the world. Then we’d each learn about the disciples and different things about the disciples and how the world – you know, when Jesus came to this world – how the world has changed. And the different stories you read about when you’re walking on the river; he didn’t drown because it was by God that he was walking on that river, and how he brought Moses and Moses came over and he walked on the river. I mean different stories we hear that were in the bible, and that was our Sunday school and we would sing. And we would go right up to church – that was in the other floor and we would sing – the choir would sing. And then we’d have our sermon and benediction and we would go home.
And then on Wednesday night we used to have a prayer meeting and that was mostly for older women. Sometimes I think they had men there too. And that was for the older people – they used to go to that and that was on a Wednesday night. And then on Sunday there was Sunday school and then we would go to church.
Now on Friday night we used to have the Intermediate League, and that’s a League we used to go there and we had stories and we sang and played. And then on Sunday, of course, we had to go to Sunday school. And then from Sunday school we went to the church. We had a choir – we had a junior choir. I was in that, and then the older choir was the older people in the choir and then we’d have church, and then on Sunday night we had Intermediate League. And we used to go there and they used to have teachers and they used to tell stories. You know, God Stories people like God and all. Another from there up at church, you would go up to church upstairs at the church and after that, of course, you were home.
And on Wednesday nights they had Prayer meetings that was only for the older people. We had Sunday school picnics and all and we used to have doggy ropes and we used to go over – well you can’t – it’s Chamounix we used to call it. They had steps that you would go up. They had fireplaces there – old fireplaces and you could roast dogs and marshmallows and stuff. And then they’d always make sure you got home. We had to cross the bridge over here, but you weren’t afraid because it wasn’t going to hurt you.
And then some nights – what was it? On Sunday night, no, yes, Sunday night in the summer time – we didn’t have church on a Sunday night in the summer time – we used to go over to Woodside Park. You would walk through the woods going over and coming home. There’d be cops there, and they’d watch and they’d never say to watch out – you’re going to get robbed or beat up or anything, they just said “Watch the bricks and the rocks so that you don’t fall over.” And we used to go through a dark tunnel over there with no lights on it and over the Falls Bridge here. Sometimes on a Sunday my mother would say “I’ll take you over to Woodside” and then we’d get the park trolley home. Well we could get off right over here, which we could walk. Well I wanted to go over the river, to see the river – we had these open air trolleys. Just so I could go over the river to see the river. And then we used to get a bus at 33rd and Dauphin. It was just the different things we did; we didn’t go over there often but you went over there maybe.
JM: What did you do there what did they have at Woodside?
RC: They had a Hummer go up and down the hills, and they had all kinds of amusement park things there for kids. They had merry-go-rounds with horses and they would have the whip and then they would have the Skadoo, the thing that you go around in cars. You know it was different things like that they had. It was just wonderful, you know? And yet maybe you’d pay a dime to go on them and then
in the summer time Pepsi Cola, I think it was, gave out tickets and you would only pay a couple cents to go onto rides over at Woodside. And for a nickel you could get a Pepsi Cola drink. We’d walk over there and back. We used to go over there for spring water over across the bridge here. You’d cross the West River Drive and you’d go through a tunnel and there used to be a spring there and we’d go and get our spring water. And that was the water we drank. And they would come around every so often to test the water to make sure it was alright to drink, you know? And we’d go home and then refrigerate it. We didn’t have no – you know, artificial things like Chlorine in it; was just regular spring water.
JM: What were some of the biggest changes that you saw inside the church over the years?
RC: Well the membership went down.
JM: When did that happen or how did that happen?
RC: Well a lot of people moved from here to other places, like Roxborough, and they had other churches up in Roxborough, and they would go there. And then it just seems like people married and then they moved away. And it’s just and the people in the neighborhood aren’t going to church anymore. I think all of your churches have decrease in membership.
I mean we used to have over a hundred people going to our church. In fact at one time I remember when I was a little kid, we used to have to put seats in the aisle so people could come to church. And then we would have church at night and we’d have an
intermediate league for the younger people in my life. And now the older people and their children moved out, and now there’s just too much of the outside world. I mean, years ago nothing was open on a Sunday. I mean your stores were closed on Good Friday, your stores were always closed 12-3 – I mean church was the thing years ago.
But today, I mean church was the thing years ago, but today it’s not. I mean a lot. I mean I’m not saying I’m not positive of this but I think a lot of your children have never been into a church. And on Sunday mornings coming out of church you see these college children there – an awful lot of colleges around here – and they don’t come to church and they just look at you. You know, but it’s just that we were lucky in our church; I think in the end we had about 28 people in the church. We were getting a few colleges together from MCP – Bob, of course – that was about 3 or 4.
JM: Did the members who left the church continue to go to churches elsewhere?
RC: Yeah, and we didn’t have any people – about 28 people in the church. We are getting ready for a few college people from MCP (Medical College of Pennsylvania) – Bob, of course. That wasn’t repugnant.
JM: Did the members who left the church continue and go to churches elsewhere?
RC: And we didn’t have any – I mean our membership went down terrible. We tried so hard to do it but, you know, my heart aches because I’ve been born and raised in it. It just seems like something’s been taken away from me. I mean, now I know a lot of people at the Presbyterian Church. It’s not that. Churches are feeling the same thing. You know there’s a lot of churches closing up in
Roxborough. It’s just that the people aren’t thinking of church anymore. You know when I was little, very few things were open on Sunday. But now everything is open on Sunday I mean your taverns are open on Sundays.
JM: Do you think it’s a good thing or not so good thing that stores are open on Sundays?
RC: I don’t think it’s a good thing, no. I mean you’re taking away God’s day. And I was always taught that Sunday was God’s day. And don’t do anything during the week that God didn’t want you to do, but Sunday is God’s day and you go and worship him. And thank Him for all that he’s done. It’s just the way I was brought up and I believe it and I’m happy that I know that He’s … He’s everything to me.
JM: What does that mean to you? When you say that God is everything? What does that mean for you?
RC: It means that God is with us and God will help us and if we just ask for God’s help we need God’s help. Because He is the only one that can help us. All the money in this world won’t bring God’s peace to you, to me. I mean, I love God. And I feel peace when I talk to Him. And I talk to Him so often. I mean, of course, I can’t hear His voice, but I think He give me things that are into His mind. And I just
Mean, maybe since I was brought up that way, I just believe in Him. He just means the world to me. And I pray to Him all the time. I mean, I don’t go out of this house when I pray to Him and ask Him to be with me. And help me because I think He is the only one who can help me too. There’s a lot of things going on this world that really are discouraging. And If the children only have a little bit of the
happy life we had, and if we look back, we just think why isn’t it like that now?
JM: How do you imagine or think that it is different for children today?
RC: Well, we were always told we went to church on Sunday and we learned about God. We went to Sunday school and we learned the thing that Jesus has done for us that God has done for us. And today the children aren’t learning that. And I think it’s going to come to … I mean we’ll never know the time where it’s going to come, and what the world’s going to show us. I mean it tells you in your
bible that the world will come again. The way the world is coming today, you’re afraid to go anywhere. I guess when you read the stories in Jesus’ day, a lot of things went on too. To me, I think they ought to take guns off the market and anybody who has a gun – I don’t care who you are. I think guns should be taken off the market because you can’t even go out your door day or night now. It’s just
JM: Do you keep your door locked now?
RC- Oh yeah, you have to.
JM: When did you, what was the difference because you both talked about sleeping on the floor and keeping the doors and window open – when did that change?
RC: Well that was when, oh I guess I was in school too. I don’t think when I worked it was like that, but when I was in school we used to sleep on the floors instead of going upstairs cause it was so hot and we didn’t have no fans. Or nothing. And we didn’t have fans like that and we had paper you know? Newspaper was something you could fan yourself with, but I mean, we didn’t have anything electric or anything like that. But it just seems like we’d sleep down here and nobody would ever bother you. Nobody had money, you know? We’d leave your doors or windows open. We’d close your door if we went anywhere. But I mean it was so wonderful; I mean, I don’t know, it’s just a different life. You have to really live the life to know. What it was; how it was. I mean I know today you could never have this life again. It’s just wonderful to think what you had, but then when you think of what is today your heart aches.
JM: Well I get a taste for it through the stories that people are telling me. When Mrs. McDermott left, she left to go make supper for her husband. Were you married?
JM: Did you ever think about getting married?
RC: Yes, I did go with a fella, but he got killed in the war, but, I mean, I never met anybody that, you know… so I never got married.
I mean we all were together, everybody, and I had a wonderful mother and father. I guess everybody else thinks the same thing that my mother and father were wonderful. In fact, my cousin she used to come down and stay with us at nights when their mother
didn’t live far from us. But she used to come down here, because my mother used to tell us stories. It was just one of those things when you lived that life. You think and wonder how everything changed so much. Yeah, we she had 10 children in her family.
JM: Did you ever eat in each other’s houses?
JM: So now will you cook for yourself or do you ever share suppers?
RC: No, no. I mean once in a while the girl up the street – Dorothy her name is, she’ll come. She’ll say “Oh come on up for some lunch we’ll have grilled cheese or something like that.” But I mean as far as having big meals or something, we just do holidays maybe like Christmas, Thanksgiving, something like that since my mother passed away. My cousin and I, I used to cook the turkey or something, and now when he died, I go to Mary and Tom’s house and for Christmas and Thanksgiving since my cousin died. He died in 2002. He died and we were he was like my brother we were always together.
JM: He was from East Falls too?
RC: He lived on New Queen Street, yeah. He used to come down here on Sundays and we used to make a cooked meal. I used to cook a meal Sundays and then sometimes he’d come down during the week and we’d have something, or we’d go out to a restaurant or something sometimes. But he died and he was sorta like my brother.
JM: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
RC: I was like the only spoiled brat. (laughs) No, I was the only child but my mother raised my two cousins – they lived with us. And my mother raised them; it wasn’t that she didn’t want any children – she never had any children after me.
JM: One of the things that interested me that I read about you – I don’t know if it was from the paper or from the brochure, was some of the activities that the church had been involved with. One of them was associated with an orphanage.
RC: Yeah, Methodist had an orphanage, near Woodside over in West Philadelphia over that way. And they used to have an orphanage – a children’s orphanage – and they used to go over there and we used to give them little games and stuff like that.
JM: Were these children from Philadelphia?
JM: Your church also did missionary activities?
RC: Yeah we had missionaries. Well, when I was little we had missionaries that went all over.
JM: Did you actually know some of these people?
RC: Well, yes.
JM: Where would they go?
RC: Well they would go to, well I was only young when it happened, but they would go to different places like England and stuff like that. And they went different places and I was young when that all happened, but I remember different people going different places.
JM: So they actually stopped that quite some time ago?
RC: Oh yes.
JM: I really don’t know much about the structure of the Methodist church, but I’ve heard some people talk about the conference?
RC: Yeah, they have a conference every year and they change the ministers sometime.
JM: You mean in your church? Or at the big conference?
RC: The big conference will change the ministers, and they usually have now, next to the house, next to our church that used to be the Parsonage. Where if you got a new minister and he has family, they would go, and live in the Parsonage.
JM: And that’s not, that wasn’t owned by the church in the past few years?
RC: Yes, it was owned by the church.
JM: But the pastors…
RC: I think they still own it.
JM: But the pastors didn’t live there anymore?
RC: No, well the last one was a woman and she didn’t like it there so she…
JM: Who was that?
RC: Eh, Adele – I can’t think of her last name, I can only think of her first name.
JM: And was she there very long?
RC: No, she wasn’t there for too long. And she bought a house and we had to pay something towards it. But that house was near the church and that was really our Parsonage. All the ministers always lived there.
JM: Did the current minister, was his name Mr. Williams, Reverend Williams did they live there?
RC: No, we haven’t had a minister who lived there for quite a few years. And, see with us, we change ours ministers so often. And now a lot of churches don’t have that and the Presbyterians, they keep their ministers a long … but we used to change our ministers. They had a conference every year and if they wanted to transfer, or if we wanted to transfer them, or the church or the conference wanted to change them, they would change them. And we had quite a few ministers in my day. And it’s just the way it is now. And the minister – when Adele moved from there – we had two people move in there in the Parsonage.
JM: Do they pay rent to the church then?
RC: It goes to the conference, I think, for the church. But you know my heart aches just because you figure it’s like a piece of you.
The church meant a lot to me. I never missed Sundays because if I did I felt like something was wrong. I mean, of course, if you’re sick or something I could see that, it just seems like today people just don’t want to go to church. I think there’s too much outside. When I was a child, when we were school children, we didn’t go in town on a Sunday. I mean Center City – we used to call town Center City. I mean Sunday was God’s day. I mean we did a lot of things, but not bad things. Your taverns were all closed and your restaurants, a lot of your restaurants, and from 12 to 3 your stores were always closed in town on God Friday. And where I worked at Cinderella they were Christian Jews and Good Friday they’d give you the day off, and you didn’t… (END OF TAPE)