East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Robert Connolly
Interviewer: Wendy Moody, Winston Moody
Date of Interview: November 1, 2013 and six years of email correspondence
Transcriber: Carolyn Connor, Wendy Moody
Over the course of 7 years, Wendy Moody and Robert Connolly corresponded about his memories of growing up in East Falls (2008 – 2014).
On the following pages are Mr. Connolly’s words, extracted from his emails to Mrs. Moody, and somewhat organized by subject. Following these topical reminiscences is information about Mr. Connolly’s life, the text of the interview when Mr. Connolly finally met Wendy and Winston Moody in 2012, and his narrative on his career as a professional clown.
Mr. Connolly’s first email is printed as received – he typed in caps because of his poor vision. The others have been reduced to a smaller text size.
April 18, 2008
Hi, I am originally from E.F., I was born on CALUMET Street about 5 houses south of the MAIN ALLEY, ABOUIT 3708/10 CALUMET STREET
I’M SURE THE OLD MAIN ALLEY IS STILL THERE, MY NAME IS
ROBERT F. CONNOLLY HERE IS WHERE WE USE TO LIVE
2YRS……..CALUMET STREET, UNTIL MY SISTER WAS BORN
ABOUT 7 YEARS AT 3705 STANTON STREET
ABOUIT 7 YEARS AT 3549 SUNNYSIDE AVE
DURATION OF MY GROWING UP YEARS AT 3414 BOWMAN, FIRST HOUSE BELOW 34TH OR ..VAUX STREET……………………………………………………….
I DON’T REMEMBER ANYONE BY YOUR NAME, BUT OF COURSE I DIDN’T KNOW EVERYONE EITHER…..LET ME KNOW IF I CAN HELP,YOU ABOUT EAST FALLS, I DO KNOW A KINDA BIT………..ROBERT
April 18, 2008:
How nice of you to email me. I was the librarian at the Falls Library for about 25 years (1980 – 2004), perhaps you remember me from there. Before me, my husband Winston Moody was the head of the library. Where do you live now?
Yes, I’m quite interested in learning what you remember about East Falls. Would you be willing to be interviewed? Do you happen to have any old photos, newspapers, or artifacts of East Falls that we could copy? Once I know where you live now (Cape May?), we can figure out how to share your knowledge.
Thank you for contacting me and for offering to help us. Wendy Moody
April 21, 2008
Thank you for all the information you have given.
I was curious how you were able to get in touch with me. Do you get our local newspaper The Fallser? I write the historical column every month and my email address is in it. I can’t think of how else you would know how to contact me – but I’m so glad you did.
I love playing piano, so I was especially interested in your memory of the old sheet music. Your life in East Falls sounds full of wonderful memories.
I’d like to ask you one or two questions in each email I send:
1) What school did you go to? Breck? Mifflin? Can you write all the memories you can think of about the school? Things like what subjects were taught, the names of teachers and classmates, the dates you attended, what you did on the playground, what the building was like. Did you go home for lunch?
2) Tell me a little about your family. Brothers and sisters? Why did your family live in East Falls? What did your father do?
Maybe I’ll write a column about you sometime. After I hear from you, I’ll send you more questions. Thank you for helping us preserve the history of East Falls.
The Bathey was the public bath house between Ridge Avenue and the Park Drive. I don’t recall the name of the small street – it is now under the overpass.
It was a high walled-in pool. Inside were lockers to change your clothes, no locks of course….then changing into your suit. You walked into a small shower room, required before entering the pool area. Also a foot bath was there. The area in and around the pool was always spotless, No glass allowed in the building at any time. Lots of chlorine was used, also in the footbath.
To us, the pool was large, deep at one end and about 3 feet at the top. The water was usually cool, very crystal clean and smelled of Clorox or disinfectant. For our benefit, I’m sure, we all got one hour, except for working men who got a little extra time. We got time to get dressed and go out a side door. Most of the kids carried extra suits – dry ones – to get in again. We were devils. We were only allowed one session in the morning and one in the afternoon. There were “Boy” days and “Girl” days – every other day. It was great that we had that.
To me, the Bathey was large, more or less square, an open front with rows of benches running east to west. I think they were all around the inside of the entrance and one or two rows in the middle. We had to be in line: “No pushing, no shoving, no horse play as someone can get hurt on the concrete floor.”
No number locker was assigned, we took whatever was open – “locker” meaning a small tiny closet in which you changed your clothes. Once in the pool, you could not leave to go change unless we all did at the same time. The times were 9 to 10am, 10 to 11am, three hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. The pool was completely empty before the next gang could come in.
The evening hours were saved for the adults and working people. I believe the hours were 6pm to 9pm. I think the door was left open to the pool area to allow the men or ladies to come in as soon as they arrived. No lines for them and they could leave whenever they had their swim. No children in the pool at those times.
A high wall was all around the pool itself. But I had known of kids jumping or climbing over the wall for an after-hour swim. My long-time friend lived on the Ridge and his yard was across from the pool….he was a devil!
There never was a charge or fee paid, it was all free. They had one up in Roxborough, at the Ridge and Walnut Lane – I think that was the Roxy Rec Center.
The Bathey was well used. I don’t know when it closed for good.
What was it like? It snowed most of the time that I can remember….heavy, deep, deep snow. We had a front porch, 4 to 5 feet off the pavement – the snow drifted that high during the night…cars half buried. The whole street was white clear across to the other side. There was even snow on the porch and on the windows. All of the houses were decorated, even parts of ours.
I kinda remember going into our dad’s bedroom, seeing if they were asleep, then sliding down the winding stairs into the dining room. In our PJ’s we peeked into the living room…wow, such a big tree! It stood in the corner near the snow covered window, full of candy canes, silver stuff hanging all over it, and bright and shiny colored balls covered the whole tree. I don’t think we had lights because we were still on gas lights, at least on the second floor. There were many red colored stockings, our name, some with our parents’ names too. Long, fat, full of goodies, little candies, store bought…
We had a big Christmas tree – at least it was big to us, my sister and me. Under the tree were lots of small packages tied with ribbons, name tags glued on or some attached with string. Very few were wrapped. I can’t remember all we got, some toys, small ones, some clothing from aunts and uncles. Plenty of wooden toys, lots of them handmade. Lots of small things, little cars for me, dolls and doll clothes for my sister. Once I got a “Tinker Toy” – what a great gift! And once, too, I got a Learner’s Chemistry Set.
Soon our parents were there, hugs and kisses were plentiful. We really didn’t have that much but we had a great family. Breakfast was as usual, I guess, cocoa and toast. Sometimes Quaker Oats. Guess we were lucky, maybe some kids didn’t have that.
Can’t much remember about the rest of the day, but I did find out later in life that our dad waited where the trees were being sold and after the owners left about 3:30 am, leaving unsold trees, he helped himself to whatever looked good. What time was that? How cold was he? We’ll never know that.
I had spent two years in a heart hospital on Ford road near Woodside Park on Christmas Day. My parents and mom’s five sisters all helped to make our Christmas. Not too much else in those days but we enjoyed what we got and were grateful. At that time, we (my sister and I) were the only two little ones in the family. We never got out much on the streets.
There was: the Democratic Club, the Republican Club, the Old Academy Players, the “Lit”, the Daughters of England (not too sure on this one).
There was a group on Indian Queen Lane, below the Playhouse. They had pool tables and all kinds of games – I never got to know who they were. They were in a big old house at least three stories high and it was on the left side going down Indian Queen Lane. Some kind of Boys Club?
I’m sure there were other “church” groups. My mother belonged to the Daughters of St. George (??). Sorry, I wasn’t into clubs; I just heard about some of them.
LOTS OF MEMORIES!!!! Dutch Hollow; it was an area from the Reading Railroad, Indian Queen Lane and Midvale Ave. The top of it started at the coal yard and Indian Queen, over to the iron fence that circled the train station, then down to Midvale Avenue. The other side was bordered by the yards from the houses that lined Indian Queen Lane all the way down to Arnold Street. I remember running through the fields near the old Breck School down to Dutch Hollow and the caves. I think the name of the street off Indian Queen that led into Dutch Hollow, past the coal yard, was Wylie Street??
My sister and I, used that way to go to the Breck School many times. My sister had a girlfriend (Irene Hodges) that lived on Arnold about four doors from the caves and was in her class. She is still living as far as I know in Warrington Pa with husband Bob Watson. He was from 34th and Allegheny. Irene has Alzheimer’s and Bob has had a few minor strokes; they live with their son.
The area was rugged with a large trough running down the middle ending near Arnold. It was full of trash, people dumping over the years. Mostly wooded with high weeds etc…..There were two caves: an upper one, and a lower one in which we played, we really didn’t play in it all the time but used it as a hideout playing cowboys and Indians. Cap guns and bows made from large branches and tied with string. We never went near the upper cave as it was too tightly closed off, but use to slide down into the bottom cave on large pieces of cardboard. The bottom one had a high ceiling, looked like red brick covered over with something white, about 40 ft. wide at the bottom. The bottom was wet and damp and chilly. We never stayed too long.
When we went to school, we would come out at Indian Queen Lane, walk through an area near the Old Playhouse and down through Dobsons Field to school. If the weather was poor, then we used Ridge Avenue to get to school. I remember a tailor shop on the corner of Arnold and Midvale and a Flower Shop on Creswell Street and Midvale. A Doctor Coll lived between Creswell and Arnold. The front of the bottom cave was almost covered over except for a hole near the roof about 5ft wide and a few feet high, our entrance…
I can remember lots in younger years, some in teen years, like going to coffee clutches and having to take my sister! “You can’t go” says mom, “You have to take your sister or stay home!!!!” 15 cents gets you some coffee, a girl to “chat” with and dance music….who needs a sister????
Sometimes unwelcomed guests would arrive that would end the party. We had some very nice times – no rowdiness, no bad words, and no alcohol of any kind was permitted. We sometimes played “Spin the Bottle.” – we’d sit on the floor and hope the bottle stopped at your favorite kisser, then head for the nearest closet to collect your prize….WOW…. We were so bad in those days…14 to 17 years. The girls sometimes made sandwiches and we would walk to the Wissahickon Creek, find a grassy spot, and have a little lunch. We were so bad – sometimes someone brought soda and it would “pop” all over in the heat. But we weren’t bad….none of these boys or girls that I ever knew or traveled with, even through high school days ever got in trouble with anyone. We were so bad in those days….
I can remember one girl, her name was Elaine Remolde. She lived down across from Gustine Lake on “Paste Board Row.” She was so beautiful I was afraid of her – I didn’t think I was handsome or good-looking enough for her. She was chasing me and I didn’t know until she gave up on me! But she was so pretty!!!! Nobody that I knew ever had a steady gal – we just palled around with the same kids all the time. Great years…
Fourth of July:
Both Fourth of July and Memorial Day were important in our family. Not that we had people in the service, but my mom’s family always felt how great our country was. Our family celebrated every national holiday. There were parades, picnics in the park, all kinds of shows around town. Even the movies had war pictures going on.
Parades included all the churches in the neighborhood – Baptist, the Pres, Lutheran and Methodist. Except St. Bridget’s – they wanted to do their own thing, to each his own. The other churches all paraded, each had their own band or drum and bugle corps.
Pop Snyder had the Vets drum and bugle corps down on Ridge Avenue. He paraded with anyone. “Pop” Snyder’s Boy Drum and Bugle Corps – I’m going back 76 years now…We used to practice on Ridge over one of the stores – second floor, close to Joe Welsh’s Taproom. About 30 of us. I can remember one or two guys: Elwood Hummel, Jimmy Parry, me, of course. Sorry, fellas, can’t remember the names of the others. We paraded for anyone.
Parades in the Falls were great events. I don’t know which was the biggest – the Catholic one I think, as they had the most people from church. The Methodist was next. Can’t remember who followed. After the parade, it broke up and I believe we all lunched in McMichael Field. All kinds of games, all kinds of food. It was wonderful – five different religions all getting together to celebrate one great event. Of course there were some speeches, a few prayers, but for one great cause – our country. It was a shame we all couldn’t do it together. Families got to know other families too. Because most of the kids went to the same schools, we all knew each other – our parents didn’t. When it was all over, the food gone, tired kids as well as adults, we picked up our trash, left a clean field as we found it, went home.
Grace Chapel had their picnic on the church grounds, the Methodist up on the golf course (Walnut Lane and Henry Avenue (then)
Some families celebrated out at Woodside Park over on Ford Road with the Crystal Pool. It was one great picnic, with thousands eating, playing, swimming, and, hey, they even had a hall in the back of the hobby horses where amateurs could show off singing and all kinds of musical gigs. Others went to Willow Grove Park, some sat on the river bank fishing or maybe on the Wilson line to Riverview. Either way, any way, we all celebrated. All the churches participated. All had banners and flag bearers and food galore.
There were all kinds of things going on, on the Fourth – parades on Midvale to the Park, parades on Indian Queen Lane. And the largest one was in the Roxy area. The churches in Roxborough went to a park off Henry Avenue and Walnut Lane – large place with tables and all. Roxy had one giant parade. Everyone joined as one off and on Ridge. The parade they had lasted almost two hours.
I think the St. Bridget’s Church had their picnic on – sorry about the name – but what was known as Daggo Louie’s ball field on Henry Avenue across from the agricultural school. You will have to excuse the (Daggo Louies) name, but for years that section was always called that. A giant ball field, big enough for two or three games at one time. Now they keep animals and farm it for food for the animals at the school. Hope this has helped, and to all my Italian friends, my apologies. This is all I can remember – it was a long time ago.
There were family gatherings over in Fairmount Park, good eats, played many games, hot dogs galore, lots of fixings too, family affair. When I got older I played in “Pop” Snyder’s Drum and bugle Corps. Older more, I dated some nice girls and had picnics with them. When I was even older, I played with the drum and bugle corps at Robert J. Lautenbach V.F. W. Post.
On the Fourth of July, my dad had to work at Woodside Park – biggest day in the Park history every year. Thousands flocked there – you had to stand in line for a while just to get a ride. Every ride was jammed. I remember my mom packing his lunch, and supper too – none of the operators left their stations that day, including the cashiers too. They had special rooms put up for the personnel on each ride (bathrooms). So now you know how we spent our Fourth.
Besides the Bathey, we also had Gustine Lake – also a favorite for the poor. We would pack a lunch and spend all day there…. It was free I can’t remember how clean it was, as there were no feet pools and no lifeguards. But on a Sunday, just to sit around it, was beautiful. It was never closed and open all year – even for ice skating in the winter. Little did we know we had a treasure….I don’t know when they closed it.
Memories….how far back? On the big lot or playground across from Stanton Street, there was a large hotel – two or three stories if my mind serves me right – also wide and deep. It had a veranda or porch around it…colors…that was in the early 1920’s – I was six or seven then (1930).
Hurley’s Ice House:
Hurley’s Ice House on Frederick Street at Eveline….They had, I think, the only ice business in the area. They had small trucks that carried large blocks of ice and would go street to street selling pieces of ice for the “ice boxes” where people kept the food. Any size, a 5 cent piece, or a ten center – it all depended how large your box could hold, or how much money you had. We had a “5 cent piece” ice box – filled it almost every other day.
The buildings they had were large wooden sheds where they made and kept giant ice blocks. Us kids would hide nearby, hoping to catch a sliver of chipped ice as the ice man made large blocks into small ones….if it wasn’t trying to catch the ice in the summertime, it was trying to chew the black tar that we found in the cracks of the streets. Wonder why we didn’t die of something….
I thought you might like to know that Mr. Kelly, who was a member of our VFW Post, was a very quiet, soft-spoken person that I can recall. If you can remember Grace Kelly speaking, it was just as soft as hers. I was only at the house a few times, but I can remember Mrs. Kelly being most gracious and every bit of a well-groomed person. They were all from a fine family of ancestors.
Laboratory Hill was the original houses built for the workers of the chemical plant that was nearby (Powers & Weightman). It was off Ridge Avenue, above Calumet. A long concrete walk – all steps – led to these houses up on “Labby Hill.” They also had some houses (about four I think) just off Ridge Avenue on the right side.
I used to see one of the girls who lived in one of the houses….I had to put that in…her name was Peggy Pender, with raving shiny black hair, big blue eyes – a beautiful girl. She went to St. Bridget’s – I went to Breck and Mifflin and we used to meet in the back row of the old movies. She was really that nice. I understand that she is still living off Allegheny across from the catholic school in one of those small houses.
I don’t know what ever happened to all the houses. I think when they built the project housing they tore them down. I think I was married then and had moved to Germantown. Everything now, or has been, rebuilt over again. A lot of nice people on “Labby” Hill…
The only thing that I can remember is that it (the plant?) was on the left hand side of the homes that were built there. I can remember being told not to play around the old building as they had been using mercury and it still may be in the ground.
The library was a big stone building between Calumet and Midvale. We used it very little until we got into the fourth or fifth grades that I can remember. A large big room, high ceilings and shelves all the way around. The front desk was just as you came into the room. A very stern-looking woman looked to see what you were returning, if anything. Another one was always busy putting books away I guess. I remember it being very clean and neat in there. Always smelled clean, too.
It was very bright in there too. We could stay and read or get some books to take home. Don’t remember if I took any home or not. It was always a nice place to visit with a friend and one could hold hands under the big tables (without being seen).
The only one I knew there was the little old guard. I don’t remember his name but he looked like Charlie Chaplin, the movie actor. Friday night was good. Most of us had no money, so we would gather in front of the steps, sit and talk. If we got too noisy the guard would chase us. The old fella had crooked legs – bow-legged – and could not run too fast. (We had a cruel name for him). I still remember how some boys from a different area of East Falls were very cruel to him. (If my mom knew or heard of me doing or saying anything like that, I’m sure my days would have been restricted. My sister and I were supervised many times for small things that we thought we ok, but our parents had different thoughts – from the old school. But they were good to and for us).
The grounds around the library were always spotlessly clean. It seems like there was a doorway entrance on the Midvale side – I never got to know what that was. I was never in the lower part of the building. I know the building was well used. Most all the time, cars were parked outside.
One thing, we were not allowed to sit on the library steps. You know why, people coming in and out.
I didn’t use the library too often, darn it. Just for work in the 7th and 8th grades that we needed to finish for Miss Martin – a real great teacher (I should have listened more to her). I wish now that I had used it more often, but you know young boys – more attention on pretty girls and football.
I remember one time I took out Tom Sawyer and kept it out too long. It cost me 11 cents or so to bring it back. In the early ‘30’s, I think, I’m also remembering Tom Swift: Boy Inventor. He invented all kinds of gadgets, special watches and phones that show who you were talking to, etc. Way too many for me to remember. I think Tom Sawyer and Tom Swift were most popular for my age. I can remember Doc Savage, inventor, scientist, he did it all too. He had 3 or 4 helpers or companions fighting the underworld, Dick Tracy, how many more???
Can’t think of any of the ladies at that round desk as you go in the front door. Not too sure if they had some kind of ladder that went around the room? Late ‘30s, too far back…I do remember the long, long tables. I don’t know if they had a restroom on that floor….
The big mansion across from Library was P.H. Kelly’s home, torn down to make room for Mifflin School. His house had great big windows all around it… kinda spooky as it was vacant for many years that I knew of…..
Falls Theatre: (Midvale and Frederick)
I don’t think I even knew the name of the old movie house at Midvale and Frederick, but it was “old.” (I thought it was called the Falls Theatre or perhaps The Midvale, but never the Middies. The owner was Sam Golden.
I can picture the movie building. It was curved. There was an alley alongside Frederick Street that led to three exit doors from the movie house. Then it curved around on Midvale Avenue to another alley – same reason – three exit doors. The front was on the far end toward the houses. The cashier’s booth was up 2 or 3 steps, maybe 4. The entrance was to the right, theatre was down on the left.
It was a real narrow room with three rows. Narrow rows on the left and right and the big wide rows in the middle. It had a large middle section with two side sections – about 30/35 seats deep and maybe 20 seats wide. The side seats started 10/12 wide and narrowed down to 3 or 4 at the bottom of the rows. There were rows of seats on the left, then a wide aisle, lots of seats in the middle, then another aisle and the same as what was on the left side. I can’t remember if they had cushion seats or backs. There were 6 exit doors. The front opened after every show to exit the people. The side doors were unlocked during every show, then as the people exited, they locked the side ones so no one could sneak in for free. When the show started they were unlocked by the attendant or usher. Seemed like a large stage and screen… I was 11 or 12 when I went to the old movie.
The Alden Theatre:
The Alden was a new movie house up on Midvale that was pretty modern – all plush seats, plenty of room and well kept. Large screen and stage. I was only in there just a few times; I never went there too often – I don’t know why. It seemed larger than the old movie house. It was bright and beautiful. The aisles were very steep.
I sat in the back row, left-hand side facing the screen. I can remember a little man climbing the ladder to start the film. My mother’s family – all girls, one boy – collecting dishes one night a week. I think they only collected one set as money was tight and only one of the seven girls could go. They chipped in the cash to pay for her ticket. I don’t remember the colors or the design.
We weren’t allowed to go to night movies (school time). I met my first girlfriend (back row) from Labby Hill. Saturday movies were jammed with kids. Some used to sneak in side doors. I think it cost a dime to get in on Saturday. We had to get a “fine toothed comb” when we came home – it was a good place to get the “cooties.” And then mom had to crush them on her finger nails…
I remember Flash Gordon, Tom Mix, Looney Tunes, PPPPPorky PPPPig, and Our Gang.
I thought that “Benny” was a relative who built the Alden.
Harry Prime was raised on Bowman Street, as far as I know. He lived at Bowman and Conrad over the store on the north corner (Clayton’s, then Conrad Caterers, then Epicure). He was another old East Fallser who was catcher on the East Falls ball club (the Falcons) before WWII. The team played over on Dobson’s Field – the one nearest the railroad tracks. He played with all the local guys – Budentz, the two Bounassissi boys (John and Jim), and lots of others I can’t remember. I was about 13-14 years old.
He was a great singer back in the days of Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and all of those big bands. He had a brother Johnny. He is still singing somewhere up near Chalfonte and sings in the Poconos. He’s over 90 and still going strong.
Recreation (Half Ball, Wire Ball, Games):
Half Ball was played with as many as we could scratch up to play, usually in teams. Seems like “Rosie Andrioli” was always one of the team…
We used a rubber pimple ball or a tennis ball cut in half, or one that we would buy for a nickel. The ball was cut in half and we had a broomstick for a bat. We played on the corner of Sunnyside and Cresson Street alongside of Bouonassisi’s garages. There were about 6 – 8 of them on Cresson attached to the big house.
One team in the outfield, one team batting. The ball was tossed, never thrown, upside down so that the large open cup floated to the batter. One swing only…outfield in position for catching. If a mis-catch, then it was first base. The street was lined off for first, second and third bases. If a hit went way out by the coal yard, it might be a homer. All for a 5 cent ball.
We played Wire Ball with any number of kids, girls invited. Needed was a soft rubber ball or tennis ball. If two played, one would be the fielder, the other the pitcher or thrower. We played at the bottom of Sunnyside Avenue and Cresson. If two played, one was on the dirt side of the railroad tracks, near Cresson Street and the other in the outfield – on Sunnyside, in the street. The thrower would try to hit one of the wires overhead throwing toward the Sunnyside catcher. If he hit the wire and the catcher did not catch the ball coming down, that was a man on first. If he caught the ball, then that was one out. You only got three outs, but as long as you could hit the wire, the man on base advanced – the man being the hit wire. If you missed the wire at any time, that was an out; three outs, next kid took his turn. We spent many evenings playing wire ball, all for a five or ten cent ball.
As we played wire ball at times, there came a time when the outfielder would miss the ball and it would roll down the corner sewer (near Walker’s coal yard). Dilemma… how would we ever get our ball back? “No problem there” says Johnny B (Bounasissi). “Open the lids or covers and I’ll get Dominic (Mickey Verdone) to get it.” – Johnny B. being bigger than all of us, took Dominic by the feet and lowered him in, headfirst into the sewer. Dom grabbed the ball, sopping wet, and John pulled him out, on with the game….12 to 14 years old….
Mickey was a little guy. Maybe not more than 5’4” but a happy kid. We were all happy in that time of our lives. No money, a five cent baseball or pimple one, the baseball was called a “Nickle Rocket.” A roll of twine with a false leather cover cost??? Just five cents for weeks of fun. Even if the cover came off.
Games: Penny stage shows in the backyard, pitching pennies or bottle caps. We sure had a great life and we were all good kids, no smoking or swearing allowed. Knuckles down shooting marbles on Walkers Coal Yard grounds near the coal silos. Played “Buck, Buck, Number 1 is Coming” – ever hear of that one? 87 years old, and I still remember it all, even Simon Says.
Not one of us, of all the kids in that area, ever was in trouble, ever. We were too busy having fun. We played hide ‘n seek, all kinds of simple games: hopscotch, marbles and “Pitch” (we’d toss bottle caps up against a wall to see who could come closer to a line). A favorite was Simon Says…or someone would change the words to Monkey Says.
Friday night was special. Fireworks from Woodside Park could be clearly seen. Saturday the girls scrubbed marble steps with cleanser and the boys just talked baseball, football, and autos. Some had skates, some just chalked the slate sidewalks – we never marked anyone’s home with chalk. Sometimes the girls played jacks. Then there were swimming days at the Bathey – girls’ days and boys’ days.
I was not on any team of any kind. A childhood sickness kept me from participating in any body or contact sport – football, baseball, soccer. I couldn’t do any of the kid’s sports in school either. I felt left out many times, hearing and seeing my friends laugh and scream at things. Even during recess time, I had to sit on the step and watch the other kids have fun.
All I did, most, was play wire ball. No running or jumping there. Half ball the same, or Hide ‘n Seek….wasn’t life boring??? I was permitted to play in the high school band and march – walking was good for me. I could play in the orchestra because I would be seated. We had the nicest group of kids, both boys and girls.
I went to Breck School through 7th grade. We, the boys, used to walk to Whittier School one half day each week for woodshop training, I can’t remember where the girls went for cooking & sewing. We were taught English, math, history, spelling, grammar – a little I think.
1st Grade: Miss Everhardt
2nd: Miss Cramp
3rd & 4th: I was in the hospital
5th, 6th 7th 8th: Miss Topin (History), Miss Edwards (Math), Miss Della Martin (our fine English – Grammar – and homeroom teacher). Miss Murphy (WOW) taught 5th grade at Mifflin – a beautiful, blue-eyed beau.
Mrs. Wertz (English). Miss Welch was our gym teacher – she was tall, slender and very athletic. Also very nice…. I’m trying to remember my history teacher…big woman…
Dr. Galter was our Principal, both at Breck & Mifflin.
My sister and I used to walk home from Breck via Dutch Hollow to Stanton Street and return after lunch. We also walked from Mifflin to Sunnyside and back (8th grade only) and last grade there. I was in the second class that graduated from Mifflin in 1938.
I don’t have too many memories of grade school as I spent 2 grades in hospital (also went to school in hospital).
Breck School had two buildings, a large main one with classes 4th and up, and a small building, classes third and down. It had one bathroom in the basement of the main building. It smelled like a sewer, always dark too. There was a large concrete play area, giant oak tree – only one on the grounds. We played all kinds of games that I can recall; I don’t know what they were called. I remember running through the fields near the old Breck School.
One of the things that I remember so well about the old school – there was an Italian man who sold penny candies and soft pretzels outside of the iron fence near the front entrance. I believe his name was CARUSO and he lived down on Ridge Ave near Crawford Street. The best deal was a large soft pretzel with plenty of yellow mustard. He never missed as far as I can remember! He was there, rain or shine, except very bad rain storms….
(Later, Mr. Connolly wrote “I had the wrong name for the old Italian gentleman at the front gate. His name was Beneau, or however it is spelled.”
I walked to school, rain or shine, even during snow times. I graduated from Mifflin to Germantown Sr. High, over in Germantown on High Street. I walked there and back every day, winter/summer, except very severe rain or snow from 9th thru12th. How did we walk? I walked from Sunnyside Avenue (3549), over 35th (Conrad) to Warden Drive, up Coulter Street to Penn Charter, through Penn Charter to School House Lane to Wayne Avenue. Wayne to Chelten, over Chelten to Germantown Avenue and then up to the school. A nice walk in the spring time. If the weather was bad – not just a drizzle but raining, we took the 52 trolley at the bottom of the train tracks on Midvale and transferred to the 23 on Germantown Avenue. Maybe walked home in all that….I’m still here.
I was not a good student. My sister Kathryn went to Wm. Penn for girls and graduated.
I’d love to have an old copy of “A Capital Ship Took an Ocean Trip” from the old Breck grammar school days.
Raven Hill was a girl’s school – very plush. We were told it was well-guarded and never try to go see it. It never minded us – we never knew anyone who went there.
The Whittier grade school was on Clearfield Street and 27th, I believe. It was in the back of the Trolley Barn on Allegheny Avenue. I think that is where the Route 60 Trolley used to be housed. The Barn was below Corpus Christie Church going East and the School was (South) in back of the barn. It was just 2 story I think, maybe 3, and we the boys, had the Wood Shop in the basement. After classes, we had to walk back to school and be dismissed from there – I guess it was done to make sure we were all together at classes. My first project was a wooden take up reel for clothesline.
I remember it as a large flowing waterway. Not too much fish being caught there. There were some carp, catfish, small…not too much of anything else. Upstream had all kinds of mills dumping their junk into it. . As youngsters we weren’t allowed to go there unescorted. Lots of kids drowned in there. There were all kinds of boat races in the summer time. I can remember only one time the river rose and flooded all the stores on Ridge Avenue. The water came all the way up to Midvale as far as the first taproom that was next to McGills. We moved away from that area (Stanton Street) when I was 9 or 10 years old….over the tracks to Sunnyside Avenue.
Soupy Island? What an experience. I was about 7 or 8, maybe 10, and lived with my grandmother up on Seville Street in Manayunk near the Reading Railroad. Every year for a few years she would take me to Soupy Island for a little trip. It was near Red Bank on the Delaware River (South). We would take the train down to the terminal and walk down Market Street to the river. There we would board a large boat with hundreds of other kids and go for a boat ride to “Soupy Island.”
There we would get a bowl of soup and a sandwich at lunch time and we could swim in the Delaware (it was where the boat discharged its waste. The kids had to push the waste aside to swim near the beach (who cared?) – it was a day for poor kids to get away from the big city. It happened every year. Sometimes we went to Red Bank for the amusements, all for free, something to drink and a free sandwich again on the big boat, really big for us kids.
I don’t remember if I gave you the news about the two seater, but we lived on Stanton Street (3705) and we had an outhouse in the rear of the back yard. (We only had water in the shed of the house (Kitchen). It had two holes, also the one next to it, 3703, front house and rear house had the one next to ours. We didn’t have electric and used Gas Mantels for lights.
3703 was a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost house, with two different yards in the back fenced off so each family had their half of the yard. They shared the same outhouse. 3703 Stanton had 3 rooms in the front part, one over each other, small front porch, the house in the rear had 3 rooms but they had a small shed as we did attached for a kitchen.
Thought you knew?? A two seater is two holes in the outhouse…on the seat.
Our yard ran back to the one on Calumet Street. Our house had a dirt cellar, with a coal bin, a large wooden porch, 3 rooms on the first floor, a winding staircase to the second, 2 bedrooms and the same on the third floor. We heated our kitchen with a “bucket a day” coal burner and a large coal stove in the basement. We use to sieve the ashes to get the unburnt coal pieces.
When it snowed in the winter all the residents would save the ashes and put them in the snow at the bottom of Stanton so the kids would not go all way to Ridge Ave (when they sledded). We could sled from the top of the street, near the church and go all the way to the bottom. Wattttaa ride! But then we hadda walk back up again – but well worth the ride.
Our neighbors were the Parrys, Lynches, Kelly sisters and brothers, and the Ockabees. Then below the main alley below us were a family that raised racing pigeons. Two down were the McManus family (Leo, who was my age, went to St. Bridget’s as most all Stanton families did). Vincent Iccabockie, up the street and young Frankie Collaraso (big Frank now) across the street, first house below the Castle Gardens.
Castle Gardens were a group of wooden houses – an old wooden frame building – on a piece of ground corner of Stanton and Frederick, facing Frederick. They burned down one year (?????). I think there were 4 houses, all wood, all in poor condition. I don’t if anyone lost lives there, burnt the places to the ground. I was about 7 or 8 years old when we moved from Stanton to Sunnyside Avenue. I do know that it burned down just before we moved about 1930. There were 2 or 3 families with children living in there when it burned down. I wonder what ever became of them.
On Ridge Avenue:
Ridge below Calumet – Tailor Shop. Across the street was a printing store.
Also, across the street was the Grace Episcopal Church and Sunday School buildings on Calumet between the Ridge and the park.
Corner of Stanton and Ridge: Fiedler’s Pharmacy.
On the corner of Eveline was the Jewish Department Store. They sold everything for the home – I think they are still there. On the other corner was a shoe store, some small stores and the “A & P”, then a drugstore on the corner of Midvale and the Ridge.
On the other side of the Ridge was the fire station and a large hardware store. On top of the hardware store was the Masonic Lodge.
On Midvale Avenue:
From the Ridge (north side of Midvale): A drug store, a luncheonette, bar room, bar room, Smith’s Insurance & Car Titles, the old movies.
Across Frederick on Midvale: the Men’s “Lit” (pool room in the basement), the church grounds, the church, two stone houses, the Reading Railroad Bridge, a gas station, the movies, Atlantic Gas (Fred Phillips) gas station, the library.
(South side): Across the street, before the school was built, was a beautiful stone home – really big – owned by, I think, Paul Kelly.
All the way down now below the bridge: a large green lawn with trees and fence on Midvale side. A wide street ran from Midvale up to the station – also a sidewalk. Going down, there was a row of small houses, then a tailor shop at Arnold Street, first or second house next was a Doctor “Coll.” 3 or 4 more houses, then Creswell Street. On the corner a flower shop, a barber shop, one or two houses down was the Baptist Church grounds, then the church, a small alley and a store front, next door was a meat market (Stubblebines), couple houses….some large plate glass windows – one was Hassis Bakery, then I think a hairdresser, then a variety place – all junk stuff. .
Around the corner was a big drug store, corner of Ridge and Indian Queen Lane, across the street was Alberta’s Hair Salon, below that was “Rose’s Bar and on the corner of Ridge and Crawford was a plate glass and auto glass shop business (Bob something).
34th and Tilden: A large drug store, next to it was a meat market.
Ridge Avenue (from Midvale going south):
On the west side – Turner’s Funeral Home and Felix the barber, a long row of porch houses, a bar room, a tap room at Scott’s Lane and luncheonette. The other corner, too, had a luncheonette.
Dobson’s Mills ran from Crawford to the Railroad tracks on Ridge. Long grey buildings – “closed.” A fish and fruit market on the Ridge next to the drug store and A & P.
Sunnyside at the top of the street 3400 block, one side was a tailor store and across was a food store.
3300 Bowman and Vaux – a food market and on the next corner, Indian Queen, was a long time drug store – Buchanan’s (Jim).
Eveline and Frederick: there was a corner store – a bakery – owned by the same family who had the ice business.
And not to be forgotten, “Quinnes” at 35th and Ainslie. They used to give away – buy two, get one free – no matter what you were drinking. They also served excellent dinners in the back room. You couldn’t beat their Friday night fish dinners.
I can remember gasoline $.15 a gallon. You had to pump it up into the upper bowl to a certain line, put the hose in the car tank and release the trigger. The gas would flow down from the bowl into your tank. The American Hall Garage, on 35th Street (Conrad) used to have one of those pumps.
Green Corner: The Green Door was on the corner of Indian Queen Lane at the Reading Railroad tracks. The whole building was painted green and they sold like a big candy store – “everything.” There was also another old candy store, next to the Green Corner (across from American Steel), I can’t think of his name, but he sold many penny candies too…his store ran long and deep and had the cases on the right hand side as you went in. It was run by a kindly old fella with a white mustache and he sold anything you needed for a penny.
I’ll try to remember more old stores. Most of them were closed or moved by the time I returned from Army service on December 28, 1945.
There were trolley cars on Midvale Avenue when I was still going to high school. The number was #52. It ran both ends. When it came to Ridge Avenue, it switched over to a single track. The conductor got out, switched poles on either end, took his control lever and was ready to go back up the hill to Germantown and beyond. The end was where McGills Store and the drug store was 1933/35. There also was a large newspaper stand on that corner. There also used to be a small two pump gas station next to the hardware going into the park. It was an Atlantic Station and owned by Mr. Furman – a little two pumper with a tiny little office.
Above Henry, from Hunting Park up, there was nothing but Bessie Dobson’s estate. Then the reservoir, over to Queen Lane and Midvale nothing has changed much. McMichael’s Field (Park) is still there, then a row of stone homes. Over to School House Lane, the college was not there, just bare ground. Nothing changed except for the college and Abbottsford Homes.
Wissahickon Avenue Area:
About the Atwater Kent buildings, they were on Wissahickon Avenue, one above Abbottsford Road and one below. I believe this is where the radios (you must remember them) were made by Atwater Kent.
I think we had one in our house on Stanton Street – a little 3 “watter” powered by a 6 volt battery. We had two batteries, one being charged by the man at the corner of Calumet and Ridge Avenues. And one we were using – I don’t remember the charging rate – I’m guessing 10 or 15 cents a charge. The Second World War took over the two buildings. I’m sure there were more out buildings too. The Army made gas masks there. I know that because my mother worked as an inspector of masks. The upper building was used by the Signal Corps repair shop. Then after the war the government took them over for offices – Department of Vets, I think.
Bessie Dobson’s place was between Fox and Henry, and Abbottsford and the street between Budd’s Company and Bessie’s grounds (it ran from Wissahickon, crossed Fox, and dead-ended at Henry – can’t think of the name).
My dad was a manager there for 30 years and I had the advantage of “free” tickets for all the rides, including the Crystal Pool. They had three managers there – one for the lower end, one for the middle, and my dad had the upper end where the Airplanes, Dance Hall, Picture Studio, Music Hall, Scary Haunted house, the Hobby Horses, and the Hummer were. You can imagine who the most popular two kids on Sunnyside Avenue in the summer time were, especially when the free tickets came out.
Woodside Park was on Ford Road near Monument Road. It covered many acres. The entrance was off Ford Road to the main walkway. The first thing you saw was a large orange fruit stand, fresh fruit all the time, orangeade, lemonade and other fruit drinks… then going up the walkway – it was very wide at most parts.
Rides: The FERRIS WHEEL – it was BIG…or it seemed so big to us;;;;;;then there was the LOVE BOAT ride, traveling thru a darken tunnel in a flat bottom boat which could hold up to10 people,,,,,,, it was a nice ride, soft music and running water sounds, nice for a couple;;;;;above that was an ELECTRIC CAR ride, two to a car which twisted, turned, rolled and pitched in the dark….scary figures jumping out, flashing up and down, all kinds of lightings going on, weird….
Also on that side was another FUN HOUSE, with air holes all over, when you stepped on a board, a large puff of air would shoot out from the bottom….a girl’s thing….they even had a hole in front of the building, in front of everyone, it happened too!
On the same walkway, there was a few other stands selling all kinds of novelties….all carney items…. Also was a large round building for ball room dancing, it changed later to roller skating. Above this was a large AIRPLANE RIDE – you had to walk up a long flight of steps to get to the platform – 2 to 4 people in a plane and it flew around in circles pretty high in the air….
Then the MERRY-GO-ROUND…a large wheel, beautiful colors and animals to ride on, coaches to sit in, horses that went up and down – also other animals that you could ride on. Some days they had an arm that came out and you could try and get a ring from it. In a great while…a brass ring. It was a bright and shiny wheel, all kinds of colored lights flashing and real merry-go-round music.
My dad was manager of the big merry-go-round for over 30 years. The two merry-go-rounds were the two my father managed, under Park supervision of course. My dad had the upper ride – very large wheel with lots of things to sit on or stand by. I was permitted to use the “Ring Grabber” to put the brass ring out to see if someone could catch it. It was a long arm which dispensed, or dispatched, these brass or iron rings the size of a silver dollar. My job was to fill the arm so the people could catch the rings, no charge for that. Then they would throw them in a large open box as high as the horses and go back for more……A dirty job – no pay, just fun for me.
In back of the merry-go-round was a large hall used for putting on live shows. They had all kinds of shows, from little kids, singing and dancing to big minstrel shows that they put on weekly. They always had amateur shows both for adults and kids too. JACK STECK, an entertainer, was always the ”M.C.” he also was on radio. Great programs, most of the time, free to the public.
Woodside….on the same side again, near the love boats was a photo shop who did good work. Coming down the other side of the park was the ”’HUMMER”, a gentler ride. It was a light low riding 10 car open air roller coaster ride, a long ride with up and down hills and one large hill up and down, for those who needed small ride, no frills…. Next was a PENNY ARCADE…. all kinds of penny games and tricks.
Most expensive was the 4 pictures for a quarter in a little corner booth and one seat, you got 4 quick pics and for fifty cents more, they would color them…..a real money grabbing room.
Down from there…the TORNADO! A very fast twisting and turning ride, racing to the top and slamming to the bottom, screeching at every turn, a body shaking roller coaster ride…all over in less than 4 minutes….a real tooth shaking ride…..not for the light hearted….
Then the giant roller coaster…WILD CAT….A mile high, or so it seemed, ride – roaring down and throwing the bodies all over, it too, ran crazy, turning and twisting, up then down the next second, the best ride in the park, especially the front seat if you weren’t too scared of speed ….Wowzzzzzzzzzz! … On the Wildcat, it climbed slowly up the wooden hill where the tracks are, then raced down to the ground level in only 5 seconds!
Further down, small rides for kids, ducks, swans, all kinds of water rides for the kids. The last thing in the park was the second FUN HOUSE, this time with riding carpets air jets again and spooky rooms.
At the end of the park was a very large LAKE with rowboats. Boating of course – you could row yourself. That’s where they shot off the Friday night FIREWORKS, a really good show! There were, of course, many hot dog, waffle and cream, all kinds of food stands, at a fair price I guess. Across from the park was CRYSTAL POOL (Sylvan Pool)…a large pool with diving boards, sand piles, small pools for little ones, one long sliding board too….really high…. I had a pass for that – lucky me.
Most all of the national organizations came to Woodside. They even had “ORANGE MAN’S DAY” where, to this day, I swear I saw her – my dearest late wife – riding on one of the HOBBY horses, going up and down. She had this pink and white dress with polka dot orange panties. She was about four years old then, that was my story to her when I found out the family went there on ORANGEMAN’S DAY….
And about the MERRY-GO-ROUND, it has always been a special thing in my life. Woodside had closed, I think, when I was away in the Service – I just don’t remember the exact date and my dad never told me about it either. I guess it was a hard spot in his life because he had so many years there and we (my sister and I) grew up with this. We – my family – spent many happy hours there. Of course it was “free” for us all the time. We knew all the operators of all the rides and concessions. The food we had to pay for, of course, but the music hall, the pool and all the rest came with the job. I even worked there one year (guessing the weights). A Carney operation….in the summertime, two kids never had it so good. You can imagine how many friends we had through the summer months!
I don’t remember if I told you this story:
As you know, my dad was one of the managers of Woodside Park and was always on the lookout for things that were not right so people couldn’t sue the park. I don’t know where this came from, but one day he came home with a large paper bag and asked me if I wanted a treasure from the park. “Sure thing” – I was always looking for some crazy object to play with. I guess I was about 11 or 12 years, old but I opened the bag and in it was a large stuffed head of a tiger, including part of the neck. It was beautiful. He thought that I could hang it on the wall in my bedroom. “Good idea” I said, but I had just had made plans for another little thing to do:
We had a side alley on our house down on Sunnyside Avenue and it had a two foot opening at the top. I think you guessed it already. When the kids were on the sidewalk, I would bang on the side door real loud and then stick the tiger’s head over the top of the alley door and growl real loud. It was so real. If you could see the kids scatter real fast! Life is so short…
We, the family or myself, used to walk to get to Woodside Park, even though there was a trolley stop on the upper lake. There was a lake called Chamioux. I, or we, would walk from Bowman, down the park drive, cross over the river, then go through a dirty, crummy, stinking tunnel under the train tracks. It was used mostly by bums who had no other cover. From there I would walk through the woods, a large wide road all the way to the park, a few miles I guess. Sylvan Pool was there too. My mom and sister very seldom ever went there.
Business people, like Breyer’s Ice Cream and many others, gave away free tickets, a deal with the Park, like “Orangeman’s Day” “St. Pat’s Day” – all of those holidays drawing people into the Park.
I worked there three summers doing “Guess Your Weight/Guess Your Age.” There was a giant weight machine and a stand full of Chinese/Japanese toys in case we were wrong. I rode most of the rides while they were breaking them in for the new season….spent over 1 to 2 hours on the WILDCAT and other rides making sure all was safe to ride in.
I got free dogs, cokes, ice cream all the time – no money as I was there because of my father, over 30 years he was there…every summer. He worked in an iron mill in the winter as a welder. None of our immediate family gave Woodside a second glance….except when they gave us free tickets. I can’t remember any of my mother’s sisters going out there.
On the Fourth of July, my dad had to work – biggest day in the Park history every year. Thousands flocked there – you had to stand in line for a while just to get a ride. Every ride was jammed. I remember my mom packing his lunch, and supper too – none of the operators left their stations that day, including the cashiers too. They had special rooms put up for the personnel on each ride (bathrooms). So now you know how we spent our Fourth.
Hi, my name is Robert Connolly. I am originally from East Falls. I was born on Calumet Street about 5 houses south of the main alley – about 3708/10 Calumet Street. I’m sure that the old main alley is still there.
Here is where we used to live:
2 years – Calumet Street, until my sister was born.
Moved to a three story house on Stanton Street – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Three rooms, one on top of the other, toilet in the back. About 7 ½ years at 3705 Stanton Street. It was just below the main alley. Had a 2 seater out in the yard….and joined a 2 seater which was next door.
About 7 years at 3549 (3547?) Sunnyside Avenue, across the tracks as they say – the last house coming down to the railroad (see section on Friends).
The duration of my growing up years at 3414 Bowman Street, first house below 34th or Vaux Street. This was during the war years. My parents purchased the house for $2500 – a beautiful two story with a porch and a closed in yard.
My mom was 96 when she left us. My dad was only 42 – accident. My mother was Lutheran, my father was Catholic. My sister – you name it. My mother went to 35th and Midvale (i.e. Redeemer Lutheran Church, Midvale and Conrad). My father went nowhere – very bitter.
Six of my mother’s sisters worked, as they had no kids. Two other sisters only had 2 kids each. For as many as there were in my mother’s family, it was small in the number of kids – total of 7 children from the 8 girls. One male had two boys, one died early.
Two other sisters only had 2 kids each, for as many as there were in my mother’s family, it was small in kids – total of 7 children from 8 girls. , one male with 2 boys.
On the fourth they did get together every year, as many as they could, joining other families to celebrate. And as the years rolled by, it became just one to 4 girls would contact me to keep the family name together. Then later only one was left, out of a family of 12 or 13 kids. Many died during birth or flu season. They had only one boy out of 13 kids. We even had small birthday parties.
I had one sister nicknamed “Lindy.” My mother, same name, my father was John. I have a few cousins, 2 still living.
I was baptized at St. John’s in Manayunk. Christened at the same. My sister – I don’t know. I went to church all summer at St. John’s. All winter, the church on Park and Calumet?
My dad used to roll his own cigarettes, or we took turns rolling them, two packs at a time. I didn’t know too much about wildlife, except what my father brought home from gunning – that was our supper.
I had a mixed up life. I was in a hospital bed around 8 or 9 – there for 6 months. Six more in Children’s Heart Hospital, across from Woodside Park – for a total of one year in bed. I never lost a school day – there was a school in the heart hospital. I was never allowed sports, not even “Spin the Bottle” – remember that one? I played in the high school band and played in the school orchestra.
I can remember when I was about 10 years old, I was sent home from school with a note. My Dad took me to the Jefferson Hospital in town. They did a number of tests and my Dad left me there. I remember having a tube in my throat to “”pump me out”” they said and then I was given a person to person blood transfusion. We laid on a table and the person next to me was my Father. I can remember the people talking about the transfusion. I had spent a total of 12 months in two different places after that – 4 of those months in Jefferson and the other 8 out in the Children’s Heart Hospital on Ford Road across from Woodside Park and on the grounds of the Philadelphia Country Club. It was a two story building, girls on the first floor and boys on the second. It cost my Mom and Dad $3.00 a month to keep me there. I could only see one of them for 1 hour a month, on a Sunday. That’s when you bring your $3.00…
Just to give you a little more information, my sister and I came from poor parents. My mom worked a few hours a week for the owner of our house to pay for the rent. My dad did the same – he worked in the garden for the owners and was allowed to hunt for small game on the property – rabbits, squirrels, and kind of bird for eating. Milk money came from some of my mother’s sisters and her father. I went to Manayunk for the summer to help my mother keep food on the table. My uncle went caddying at the Germantown Cricket Club to help his mother (my grandmother) pay for some things. We survived.
I used to “shoot butts” where McIlvaine now has his business (funeral home on Midvale). It was called the “Lit” for the sake of a better name (“The Literary” – the Young Men’s Literary Institute). They played pool and other ball games as far as I know. Shooting butts was picking up old cigarettes that had gone out and smoking them.
Friends in East Falls:
Johnny Bounasissi – We use to sit on John B’s front steps, right under his father’s bedroom window. There were 7 steps leading up to the front door and we all played, sang, whatever… until Mr. Bounasissi had enough and used to dump buckets of water from the window….too much noise… John B. was Johnny Bounasissi , a great guy and he lived just across the street on the corner of Sunnyside and Cresson.
The Bounasissi house was laid out longwise. It was a very large 3 story house. Even though I was in there, I couldn’t tell you how many rooms since they raised 11 or 12 kids in there – four of the boys were in the service. From the front steps, the house ran up the street, if I can recall. A large store room, once used to sell grain and feed, then a living room, dining room, large kitchen.
That was attached to Milliades house next door, then attached to that at right angles was a large cooking room where John’s mother used to do all the cooking. From our house address up to Simon’s house, that is how long the Bounasissi house was. There was a large garden in back of the row of garages that lined Cresson Street. Their property ran from Sunnyside to the Walker’s Coal Yard on Cresson Street.
John was named after his father. I never knew Mrs. B’s first name, only that she attended mass at St. Bridget’s in rain, snow, hail. In the worst kind of weather, you could set your clock by her walking to church every day at 6 am. Never failed.
We lived directly across the street from them at 3547 Sunnyside. When we were about 10 or 11, the big house was burned out – combustion in the front store room where he sold feed, etc. Burned every room.
Three o’clock in the morning my mother took in the three boys – John, Jimmy, and Joe – while the rest of the kids were scattered all over the area. Albert, being only a baby, was taken in by the Milliades family, the family that lived next to John’s house, going up the street. They were left with nothing. Neighbors all got together and donated all they could and beyond just to keep the family together. We had the boys for about a month while someone found room for all of them to be together again.
While the firemen were fighting the house fire until dawn, all the neighbors were supplying the men with hot coffee and sandwiches through the night. Tight-knit neighborhood.
I knew the Eastburns, Lou and Lucy, who had a little store on the corner, Cresson and Ainslie. Lucy was part of the big family “Bounasissi” family. There were so many nice boys and girls – I wish I had better memories from our school room class. Kathryn Hoffmister – big girl, beautiful too. Rose Andriolo, 3500 block of Sunnyside – “one of the boys” so to speak. She made school teacher. MARRIED HER BEST GIRL FRIEND???? GETTING TOO DEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Irene Hodge – I just heard from a 77 year friendship pal, school chum from Breck School. Her name is Irene Hodge (now Mrs. Robert Watts, 34th and Allegheny) – guessing they are married about 70 years – she was married at a young age. Irene lived on Arnold Street and she and my sister used to walk to Breck School every day. She might have given you stories, but due to serious Alzheimer’s, I understand she is in her last remaining time.
6/20/2008: Irene, her husband and I will celebrate 68 years of friendship on Sunday. We used to walk to school via Arnold Street and Dutch Hollow 68 years – my sister Kathryn (Sissy), from Arnold Street and I walked to school and back, twice a day, morning classes and the afternoon classes, rain or shine, except very bad weather (we stayed home). 68 years of being friends – Irene is in the last throes of Alzheimer’s.
(After Mr. Connolly was sent the Mifflin School Roster of 1938 (his graduating year) he replied:
How does one say “Million Thanks”? Your letter came today. I wish I knew if anyone was still living or even breathing. One guy Vincent Iaccobacci from Stanton Street, 3600 something, was still living but I don’t know where. Goes to St. Bridget’s Church as of a few months ago (through Jim Mulligan on Indian Queen Lane). I thought Alice Underwood was in my class…and Ralph Johnson is in both classes? But I do remember so many of them, especially Kathryn Hofmeister. And I worked with Dominic Verdone for a lot of years before he became letter carrier. So many of the kids were so very nice. We all had nothing but lots of love and fun.
My mind is slipping somewhat. I do wish I knew more about the other kids and what ever became of them. I knew Frances Powers was gone, as well as Marge Whittaker and Georgina Lalley. I was with Marge Whittaker a few weeks before she passed on. She died during the Second World War. Others I just don’t know about but wish I did. Bud Spanninger lived up by York Road, above Willow Grove. So many years have gone by.
Alice Underwood, who lived on the corner of Dutch Hollow at Indian Queen Lane, who was in my class at Breck and Mifflin….is she still living????
I have much to be thankful for. I am going to make copies of this roster and send one to Dominic Verdone. I don’t know how many are still living from our street (Sunnyside), Just two that I know of, DOM, and a girl named Dorothy Whittaker, now (Thompson)…also in the POCONOS for the summer
(Note: On May 19, 2008 Robert Connolly wrote to Wendy Moody:
“I just read my old time neighbor Annie Verdone left us. Her two younger brothers, Mickey and Gene, and a sister Susie, were part of the half ball and wire ball players as well as the rest of the kids’ games. So sad.
I know Bea Verdone – she lives on Vaux near where my mom lived on Bowman. Her back yard (Bea’s) bumped into my mom’s yard in the alley. She knows me. And I think that the address you gave me for Michelle is where Dominic lives. His was the last house on Krail below Haywood. Thank you so much. There are only a few of us left from the old S unnyside kids. Many, many thanks. Robert.”
— On Sun, 6/1/08, WMoodyW@aol.com <WMoodyW@aol.com> wrote:
Yes, please call me Wendy.
I couldn’t find Dominic Verdone in the phone book so I asked a long-time Fallsers, Kathleen Gillard, to help. Here’s what she said:
Good Morning Wendy,
Anne Verdone Flanagan had two brothers, Eugene(Gene) and Dominic(Mickey). Eugene is deceased and his wife’s name is Bea. She lives on Vaux Street. Mickey is married to Jean and they live on Krail Street. Their daughter is Michelle, who also lives on Krail Street. I do not have Mickey’s address, however, if you want to send something to him, I would suggest you use his name and send it to Michelle’s house since they are both on Krail Street and you have her address.
Hope this is helpful.
So, Robert, try sending your note to Dominic’s daughter, Michelle Verdone at 3317 Krail St. Philadelphia, PA 19129.
Hi Wendy, Robert here. Remember the story about us playing ball and it goes into the sewer? And John Bounasissi would hold Dominic Verdone by his feet and lower him into the sewer, head first, to retrieve the ball and pull him back up again? Well my long-time friend Mickey (i.e. Dominic) has passed on and, of course, I could not be there. I’m confined to a wheelchair. Another loss to “When kids were really kids.”
John lived on the corner of Sunnyside and Cresson with his other four brothers and four sisters. Dom lived up the street, a few houses. I lived just across from John.
I worked at the Signal Corps over in old Atwater Kent building. I did Signal repair, and entered the Army Signal Corps, August 30, 1942.
Four years after I graduated Mifflin in 1938, I was in the Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, N. J. I was inducted in August 1942, went to Sea Girt for Basic Training, one month I think, then walked to Ft. Monmouth in September 1942. I was in tent city from September to December 1942. They shipped out the whole company to Oregon via train. We stayed at Fort Pendleton, an Air force base on top of a mountain. From there I went alone to the 1058th Signal Service group. We set up a signal station for fwd army troops. Just as they secured the area, we put up antennas and other signal equipment. None of our personnel ever got shot up or wounded. Thank God for that.
As soon as the fighting men went north again, we followed them again doing the same thing. I was in Hollandia and Finchhaven, both on the east coast of New Guinea. Then we sent to Moritia, then on to Leyte and into Luzon, the capital of the Philippines. There we again split up, sending repair men all over the countryside trying to repair the damage that the Japs had caused.
I and four other signalmen were sent up north to a little town called “Loag.” It turned out to be a stopping off place for the American soldiers who were captured by the Japs and being returned to hospitals in Luzon, then back to the USA. All of the hospital planes stopped there to refuel and rest for a day, then take off again. I saw many haggered and war-torn men, some barely alive, some not so lucky. It was a heart-breaking service time for a few of us (4).
We finished our duty there, returned to Manila, short rest period, and then shipped home on a Navy ship (APA). We landed in Oakland, California. We were staying in a wooden barrack and served our meals by, get this, German soldiers. We were there a week or so getting deloused, shaved, haircuts, and steamed bathed – all for free! New clothing and a ticket to Philadelphia. I spent Christmas Eve in a stockyard somewhere in Michigan, then on to Philadelphia.
I got off at North Philadelphia station and started to walk home to East Falls on Bowman Street near Vaux. I got as far as Broad and Erie and got the “A” bus to Bowman Street and walked down to where I used to live. The first person I met was John Bounasissi, who I played half ball with. I was home – 3414 Bowman Street after 40 months of being away.
Idamay (Robert’s wife):
My wife had started a book about me…Clowning. Unknown to her and me, she was already into Alzheimer’s. But she started a book and was keeping it until she had 5 or 6 chapters, then asked someone to edit for her. It wasn’t until after her passing that I found 2 or 3 pages of a chapter. I’ll mail you a copy of this writing, as an event that was part of my life.
Idamay had Alzheimer’s, unknown to me, until she was given a test and the results given to me. Our last ten years were the closest and nearest as two people could be. She died here (Cresthaven) with me 35 years and one week…
I don’t remember who I spoke to one day last year about Idamay’s memorial bench. I went to the city office one day and asked if I could buy a bench in memory of Idamay and have it placed on the Washington Mall. They took down all the information I wanted on the plaque and told me it would cost a sum of money to do that.
Her bench is now in the mall. It is the second one from Ocean Street, going south in the mall on the left-hand side – ocean side. I felt that was little enough to do for her after all she had done for me. It’s beautiful. A bronze plaque on a light green background. It will stay there for 15 years and then I can have it, or one of her family can take it if I’m not here or if I designate, someone else can have it. The bench seats six adults and is made of cast iron. It is very heavy, well-constructed to last a lifetime.
Note: Idamay A. Connolly (1926-2006)
Born May 30, 1926
Died July 23, 2006 at 80 years old in Cape May County, NJ.
I left East Falls after the war years, about 1950, but my mother still kept the house for many years after that. She married again, and then moved to Roxborough, near the Roxborough Baptist Church. I moved around a bit – At–o, NJ – near Route 73 and 70 (Marlton), then ending up in Florida for 35 years as a pro clown, not a circus clown.
We had to come north due to Idamay’s having Alzheimer. We are now in Cresthaven Nursing and Rehab. I am as healthy as an 85 year old can be with diabetes 2. I’m on an electric cart, unable to negotiate much on my two legs. I don’t have any old pictures or letters, just wonderful memories of my life in East Falls and most of the kids I went to school with. Most families had little or nothing in those years. We required nothing – we had half ball, wire ball, sledding and hay rides. Our doors were always open – we had nothing to steal.
We sang from sheet music, 10 cents for 4 to 5 pages of songs. Fireworks could be seen from Woodside Park on Friday nights in the back yard, as we held hands.
(April 19, 2008) I forgot to tell you where I live now. It’s in Cape May Court House. I am in the Cape May County Nursing Home, called Cresthaven Nursing and Rehab Center.
My address is: Robert F. Connolly, Room 339NW, 12 Moore road, Cape May court house, NJ 08210. Phone #: 609-465-1562 . E-MAIL email@example.com
Idamay’s niece lives nearby me and sees me as often as she can, being a working mother yet and a new grandmother.
I am not in my room most of the time, too lonesome all the time, but after 8pm and before 9pm I am here – most of the time I try for bedtime a little after 9pm. Bedtime meaning getting into my lounge chair, tv on, or reading good books, which I enjoy doing. I try to be active, but I’m not too successful.
I’m on the computer most of the time, have some cousins still living – Florida, Perkasie, PA, Warminster, and Delaware, so I keep in touch that way. I still have some clown friends who I used to perform with. I still have my clown suit but I gave my shoes away. I could not afford to keep them resoled. The shoemaker up on Ridge Avenue across from the cemetery did them for me. The last time was $125 for full soles. I use sneakers now.
Robert was born on February 1, 1923 and passed away on Saturday, September 27, 2014. Robert was a resident of North Cape May, New Jersey at the time of his passing. He was preceded in death by his wife Idamay.
Obituary of Robert Connolly
Robert F. Connolly, age 91, of North Cape May passed away peacefully Saturday, September 27, 2014 at Victoria Manor. Robert was born February 1, 1923 in Philadelphia, PA; and has been a Cape May area resident since 2003. He is the son of the late John and the late Kathryn (Parry) Connolly. Robert served his country in the US Army during World War II, and later in the US Navy also. He retired from U.S. Post Office, Philadelphia, PA in 1973 where he was a Mail Carrier. Robert was also known as “Buttons the Clown” sharing joy and happiness with children and adults throughout his life. He was preceded in death by his wife Idamay (nee Armour) Connolly in 2006 and his sister Kathryn Bellina. Robert is survived by his loving family and care givers at Victoria Manor. Funeral services will be private and at the convenience of the family. To share condolences, please visit www.evoyfuneralhome.com. – See more at: http://evoyfuneralhome.com/tribute/details/491/Robert_F_Connolly/obituary.html#sthash.wErCge5O.dpuf
Transcript of November 1, 2013 Interview:
In 2012, Robert Connolly and Wendy and Winston Moody finally met at Victoria Manor, a nursing home in North Cape May, NJ. All of the “interview” had already been conducted over the years except the factual cover sheet. In order to record his voice, the exchange for the fact sheet, (which needed to be done hastily) was recorded. The transcript follows:
Interview for Fact Sheet Information:
WM: It’s November 1, 2013. We are at Victoria Manor – Wendy Moody and Winston Moody meeting Robert Connolly for the first time, after 9 years of correspondence. Right? So I want to ask you some questions on the form. What was your address in East Falls, where did you live?
RC: Well I was born on the 3700 block of Calumet.
WM: 3700 block of Calumet. Do you remember the exact number?
RC: 370-something, three houses below the main alley, there was a main alley that ran between Stanton Street and Calumet.
WM: Yes, Skidoo Street.
RC: Across the street from the main alley was an icehouse and I was born on Calumet Street on the 3700 block.
WM: Ok, and what was your birthday, what’s the date of your birth?
RC: The day of my birth? Oh gosh (haha) February 1, 1923.
WM: And your parents’ names?
RC: My father was John Thomas Connolly
WM: John Thomas Connolly, ok.
RC: And my mother was Kathryn, K-a-t-h-r-y-n
WM: And what was her maiden name?
RC: Her maiden name was Parry.
WM: Were they both from East Falls?
RC: No, my mother was born and raised in East Falls. My father was born and partially raised in Bethlehem.
WM: Oh in Bethlehem? How did they meet each other?
RC: I have no idea except, just fate that they walked up and down the park where the bridge was, the East Falls Bridge. They would go up towards Manayunk. There was Gustine Lake. I think they used to go swimming; I’m not sure.
WM: What did your father do for a living?
RC: My father was raised in a Catholic Boys Home at Allegheny and Broad. Boys Catholic home. I can’t remember the name of that now.
RC: Not Girard. Nope, Allegheny Avenue.
WM: What kind of work did he do? How did he make his living?
RC: My father ran away from the home, and from what I can gather he was around 16 and he met my mother somehow, and my grandfather – my mother’s father – got him a job at Dobson’s Mills.
WM: Really? He worked at the mill?
RC: My grandfather was, what they call, the mill master. He was in charge of all the floor work and made things for carpeting and upholstery, for floors, and lots of things. I can’t remember everything.
WM: So your grandfather and your father both worked at Dobson Mills?
WM: What did your father do there?
RC: My father was a mill hand.
WM: A mill hand. Do you know what he did?
RC: Uneducated, I have to say it, poor and uneducated.
WM: Do you remember any stories they told you about the mill?
RC: Only how dirty it was and the hours they worked. The slapping and running up and down and the grease and the grim. I can’t picture it but I remember my dad saying how dirty it was.
WM: And did he ever meet the Dobson brothers?
RC: The Dobson brothers? No, I wouldn’t know.
WM: What church did they belong to in East Falls?
RC: My father was raised Catholic and when he got to be 16 he ran away from the home and then my mother… that was when they got married I guess…
WM: Did they go to St Bridget’s Church? Which was their church? Methodist? Baptist?
RC: My mother was a Lutheran.
WM: She was a Lutheran.
RC: On the corner of Midvale and 35th there’s a Lutheran church. Is it still there?
WM: They’re cleaning it out now. It’s over – they’re going to try to sell it.
RC: Oh, the church?
WM: Yeah, I was there yesterday because they were cleaning it out and I went over and I said, “Can we use this as our museum? We want to have an East Falls History Museum”, and the man said, “How much money do you have?” I said nothing! They’re selling it; it’s so sad. So when you went to church did you go to the Lutheran church?
RC: Uh, in the summertime, I would visit my father’s mother up in Wissahickon, on Cresson Street with the railroad tracks at the bottom. And she took me all summer and my mother had my sister all summer.
WM: You just have one sibling, a sister? What’s your sister’s name?
RC: We had a nickname for her – I remember my dad saying “Oh there goes Lindy. “
RC: Lindy was born the day that Lindbergh flew the ocean. My sister fell off the curb and cut her lip. I can remember my father talking about that.
WM: On that very day. Was Lindy older than you or younger than you?
RC: She was, might have been, a year younger.
WM: What was her real name? Linda?
RC: Kathryn. My father was John Thomas Anthony.
WM: Ok, John Thomas Anthony Connolly. And you went to what school, you went to Mifflin?
RC: He never went to school.
WM: No, but you – where did you go?
RC: I went to Breck School for half a day and the other half we walked out to the Whittier School and we take a class in woodshop down in this grungy old basement that stunk.
WM: Where was the Whittier School?
RC: On Allegheny Avenue, that was 25th and 29th, I’m not quite sure.
WM: So you went to Breck…
RC: I went to Breck – all through Breck. We were the second class out of Breck to leave there. The first class graduated from Mifflin, and we were the second class to graduate there.
WM: So you ended up at Mifflin, you graduated 8th grade at Mifflin?
WM: So you went to Mifflin for two years?
RC: Ah, a year.
WM: One year? Ok.
RC: I knew Dr. Galter? Ever hear of Dr. Galter?
WM: I’ve heard of him, yes.
RC: He was the principal.
WM: Ok, and were on any sports teams, in East Falls. Did you play any sports?
RC: I wasn’t permitted to do sports.
WM: Oh, you told me that. That’s right; your heart…
RC: Yeah. We lived on Calumet Street, and Stanton Street, right in back where I was born on Calumet. Almost identical, the same house.
WM: How long did you live on Calumet before you moved to Stanton?
RC: A couple of years, maybe.
WM: Oh, then what was your address on Stanton Street?
RC: 3700 again, it was the same house as Calumet, a block over on Stanton Street. I think the name was, I can’t remember, two young men owned the house. I can’t remember their names. They had pigeons, they had a pigeon coup. I’m sick of pigeons.
WM: And how about your career Robert, where did you end up working?
RC: How many?
WM: What kind of work did you do? Were you a clown your whole life or did you have another job?
RC: Well, the war broke out in 1942 and I went in, in October…
WM: You went in the Navy?
RC: July, August, of 1943 I went in.
WM: Where did you go, the Army?
RC: Army. I was there for 48 months and I came out of that and there wasn’t much money around or progress. People weren’t doing anything so I joined the Navy. I was at Willow Grove Naval Air Station – I became an airmen, for eight years. Not full time – I was what they called a weekend warrior.
WM: And then did you do any other kind of work?
RC: Other kind of work? I was a ? bookman for a number of years. Ah, I’m trying to think what else…
WM: When did you become a clown?
RC: Ohhhh my gosh! You don’t want to know. Idamay and I, she retired, went through saving bank, and we moved to Florida and I was cattycorner from an undertaker who had retired and he said to me, “Hey Con, why don’t you come up and join the Shriners “and I said, “I’m not sure; I wasn’t a drinker.” I didn’t drink anything but a beer once in a while and a little wine but I said, “I don’t think so.” And he said, “Yeah, come on, you’ll have a hell of a good time.” And anyway I joined the Shriners. They have a number of different outfits they are trying to sell (?) all kinds of groups, so I said to Idamay “What am I going to do?” She said, “Join the clown group, you’re such a clown anyhow.” (haha)
WM: I can tell that already, I can tell. (haha)
RC: Anyway, I went up. I said “Oh, I don’t want to be a clown; I want to be a piper, a bagpiper.” So I went to another meeting and the gentlemen was very polite and said, “We would love to have you, but you’re too old.”
WM: Aww, this was all in Florida?
RC: In Florida, at Fort Myers, Florida. And I said “What’s wrong?” and he said “It takes us too long to teach you to blow the pipes.” It’s better for some young men. It hurt my feelings.
WM: How old were you then, about? In your 30s or 40s?
RC: I don’t remember.
WM: Ok, well you wife’s name was Ida?
RC: Idamay, yeah, it was one word, I-D-A –M-A- Y
RC: Her maiden names was Armour, A-R-M-O-U-R and she was a beauty.
WM: You sent me her picture.
RC: God love her.
WM: And how did you meet Idamay?
RC: You may remember I’m not sure, you could put out an advertisement, “What would you like to see in a woman.” And for two bucks they would match you up with somebody – what color hair, does she like roller skating. I got the form back and there were five names already. They gave you a choice of five. And I picked a couple, which I wasn’t quite happy with, and anyway, I dialed this number and called it and the voice says, “Hello?” “Is this Ida(may) Armour?” and I could almost hear her coming out of the phone, the heat: “Don’t you ever call me Idamay Amour! My name is Idamay, and you call me Idamay!” She told that to the doctor, she told the doctor “Let me tell you – my name is Idamay, she was dead sure. “
WM: Wow, now what year did you marry Idamay?
RC: We got married up at Roxborough, at the Roxborough Baptist. It was her choice.
WM: Ok, and what year was that, 1950? 19…?
WinM: After the Navy I guess.
WM: After the Navy? You think it was in the 40’s or the 50’s when you got married?
RC: I wish I could remember.
WM: That’s ok, it’s ok. Did you date her a long time before you got married, or did you get married right away?
RC: Well she invited me to her home for a cup of coffee.
WM: Where was her home?
RC: On… East Falls… the train station right off of Ridge Avenue…
RC: Wissahickon, and she lived up the street from that, a beautiful house – a double wide, brick, and when I saw it I said, “Oh man you have bucks!”(haha) I said I don’t want to break up this conversation, but we should meet someplace else. It’s not polite to be in someone’s home, things happen. She said, “Don’t you worry about that, it’s just fine.” And then six months later we were married.
WM: Six months wow, did you have children?
RC: No. Idamay was unable to have children. I also came out of the service, the doctors were talking to us and advised us to take medical exams because of the amount of medicines we were taking were affecting our bodies. I had pretty bad fever over in New Guinea and I went to the doctors over in Germantown, on Greene Street and I said I want to get checked out to see if I’m capable of having children. We did all that, and sure enough, he said, “No, I’m sorry.” Any chance of building my body up? And he said, “No it’s too late for that.”
WM: And then you said you had a relative that works in a flower shop, so how is she related?
RC: Joyce is my niece.
WM: She’s Lindy’s, Kathryn’s daughter?
RC: Joyce – her father, her mother and father were alcoholics. And when the kids were growing up, the grandmother took them out of this environment and put them in with Quakers. And Joyce went with this young man, I forget his name now, I should know it. But working in a greenhouse, worked there years after school, running errands all the time and stuff. So she said to me, they offered us to buy the place. And it was such a good deal. We were to buy the business, it’s was such a good deal. It included everything, the grounds, the green houses, the home on there, right in Perkasie. Beautiful, beautiful.
WM: Wow that’s wonderful.
RC: They both worked it, they worked at it, two young people. And now their retired.
WM: So is she your only relative now? Is Kathryn still living? Your sister?
RC: There’s a cousin of mine, Jim Wilfong. He’s down at Jebber(?) Hills. I have a cousin Joan, down here in Cape May City. I got a half a dozen relatives left. They’re all hanging loose.
WM: Is your sister still living?
RC: No, my sister passed away, I think five or six years ago. If I can remember right, I can’t remember the date. I would ask her son, if he was here.
WM: So I have some other questions to ask you.
RC: Shoot away! I’m not going anywhere.
WM: Ok, where did your family shop? For food, for clothes and for housewares, were did you do your shopping? When you were growing up, what were the stores?
RC: Uhh, not Stubbelbine’s.
RC: It’s down on Ridge, barber stores.
WM: Did you go on Conrad Street, up 35th street to any of the butcher stores?
RC: Uh, no, we never shopped there.
WM: No, where did your mother get your food?
RC: I don’t know where my mother shopped at.
WM: Where did you get your clothes when you were little?
RC: Uhh, my mother got my clothes in a shopping bag.
WM: Shopping bag.
RC: She would bring it home in shopping bags.
RC: A couple pairs of pants and a couple pairs of socks. My dad would go out, Monday or Tuesday, I forget, on trash day and pick up shoes. He would take the leather off and put leather on our shoes to go back to school.
WM: Wow, and did your family have a car?
WM: No, did you use the trolley or the train when you were growing up?
RC: Public transportation?
WM: Yes, what did you use the trolley or the bus or what?
RC: Whatever. The trolley was available almost all the time. Very few buses at that time. The 52 trolley on Midvale. I remember that. Not much on Henry Avenue.
WM: Your father had a job at Woodside Park, didn’t he?
RC: My father was a manager at Woodside.
WM: Yes, I forgot about that. Ok, he was the manager of the…
WM: Did you ever meet the Kellys?
RC: Kellys? We had nothing… Mr. Kelly was a contractor for the City of Philadelphia. Of course, that would be a different group of people from how we lived.
WM: I understand that, but did you see him?
RC: One time we invited him to come down to the VFW Post. We were having a celebration for someone and he came down.
WM: Where was that, at the Masonic?
RC: On the corner of Frederick and Stanton.
RC: The VFW Post. And we had a little celebration and he joined in, he had __
WM: Did you ever meet his children?
RC: I met Mrs. Kelly a couple times. When we visited her home. She served tea.
WM: Where was that the home on Ridge? On Midvale?
RC: John B Kelly?
RC: The one below Penn Charter.
WM: Ok on Henry. How did you happen to go there for tea?
RC: We were invited. Mr. Kelly invited the whole Post to come up and we had tea and crumpets.
WM: Wow, what was the house like? I mean I’ve seen the outside, but what was the inside like?
RC: Beautiful, beautiful. Nothing elaborate, nothing greatly modern, but a good sturdy inside.
WM: And did you ever meet Grace?
RC: Did I ever meet Grace? No.
RC: They played in the backyard a couple times and she played tennis and would sneak around the corner.
WM: So do you have any special memories of things that happened in East Falls? Like any big events that you remember, anyone famous coming, or a fire or anything at all that stands out?
RC: No everything in East Falls was just East Falls, nothing elaborate like that.
WM: Did you like growing up in East Falls?
RC: Did I know any different?
WM: No, but were you happy there?
RC: Oh well yeah, I played in the Wissahickon. I grew up more or less with my grandmother. We lived in a Father, Son and Holy Ghost house, you know what they are? She my grandmother, her name was (Coran?) she and my Aunt Fay were on the first floor. My Uncle Leo slept on the second floor. My mother and father and me were on the third floor. My grandmother said something about, my mother gave me a couple dollars to move out of my grandmother’s house and get one of our own. So we moved around the corner to the almost identical flip flop home. Three story.
WM: Up Stanton Street. I wish you could remember the number of the house. 370-?
RC: I forget the number, either -05, -03. A lower number. It’s pretty hard.
WM: Ok, that’s ok. During World War II you were away, where were you stationed?
RC: I went to school at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey.
WM: That’s where I grew up, my dad was in Fort Monmouth; I know it very well.
RC: Was he a teacher?
WM: No he was a private first class, he was in the Army.
RC: A PFC!Signal Corps?
WM: Yes that’s exactly what he was, in the Signal Corps. He was a ham radio operator.
WM: Wow, his name was Bernard Sachs.
RC: As you progress, they go faster and faster and faster.
WM: Well when I was… -skip in recording-
RC: After school, come home for lunch then back to school and that was day in and day out…
WM: And the school was for signal training. Unbelievable, that you and my dad did the same thing in the same place. Any memories of the Depression? How about the Depression, you were a little boy.
RC: The Depression?
WM: Yeah, the Depression, do you remember that?
RC: We had nothing, and most kids had nothing.
WM: But you had fun playing, it sounds like you did a lot.
RC: They didn’t have a wagon, we didn’t have a wagon. They had roller skates, so we had roller skates, you shared everything. We would play baseball out in the front up Stanton, batting upward on Stanton, and somebody swung the bat and it hit me across the chest. That was my start of… my heart.
WM: But what did you do for fun? What did you like to do?
RC: Shoot marbles, Across the street from us was a baseball __. Four or five apartments, maybe two story I think.
WM: On what street?
RC: This would be Stanton Street going down, next would be Frederick, with the ice house. I’m trying to think of the last name, I can’t. Uh, oh they served ice all summer long, the young ones did.
WM: Did you know Harry Prime?
RC: I knew Harry Prime.
WM: You did know him, yes about two or three years older.
RC: He played baseball on an East Falls baseball team with Jimmy and Johnny Bounasissi and Boudentz.
RC: Gotwols? Yeah, I met Gotwols over in Australia. I was walking up the steps – I was serving a document where I was doing work, in the Signal Corps, they had me doing work making deliveries. I was walking it up to this building and this guy grabbed me from the back and it was Gotwols.
WM: Which one?
RC: I said “I can’t get away. I have a job to do and I have to do it.”
WM: You know Harry Prime is living in New Jersey, no, no, he’s in Pennsylvania.
WM: That’s right and he comes to East Falls where, remember Conrad Caterers? It was a grocery store there. He comes back to sing, he gives concerts in East Falls. In two weeks he’s coming to sing for us.
WinM: We’ve seen him sing about five times, he still has a great voice.
RC: I’ve heard that. He can’t see.
WinM: That’s true he doesn’t see very well at all.
RC: He’s living in a motel somewhere up in Warrington (?) I guess he never got my letter.
WM: Oh I’ll ask him when I see him, I’m going to see him.
WinM: She seeing him, we are both seeing him so we’ll ask him.
WM: We are going to see him in three weeks.
RC: You’re going to see him? Ask him if he remembers me.
WM: I will, I will. I’ll take his picture.
RC: See if he remembers Sis Connolly, my sister.
WinM: I bet he does, he’s got a good memory.
RC: Jimmy Bounasissi….
WM: He said he wanted to be a baseball player, but he wasn’t big enough. That’s why he became a singer.
RC: He was squat. He wasn’t very tall.
WM: How tall were you when you were a young man?
RC: I think like 5’ 71/2, ,somewhere around there.
WM: What else did you do for fun, besides marbles? Did you go exploring the neighborhood?
RC: Well we had a bicycle and we had two little scooters.
WM: Where would you ride your bikes?
RC: Any place we could steal a few pieces? from…(laughs)
WM: Like what do you mean, where would you go?
RC: Well, some kind of a trash dump.
WM: Did you get in trouble a lot when you were little?
RC: I probably did. I never saw much of my father because he worked all the time, and my mom took care of us. My mother was a cook for the Mifflin School. She would make stews and sell them to the kids. My mother did.
WM: Did you used to go over to… would you ride your bikes to Woodside Park?
RC: Oh Woodside……! (pauses reflectively) Good years, the good years. I would spend every summer, whenever I could get off, when I would be allowed. My father got me a job out there. They had a “guess your weight” – do you remember that out there? They had a great big stand, with all kinds of doodads. You weren’t allowed to touch anybody. Like ladies. You could just take them by the arm. Where you had to guess their weight.
WM: That was your job? Can you touch my arm and tell me what I weigh?
RC: (haha) __?
WM: Thank you, so that’s what you did, you tried to guess peoples weights? Were you good at it?
RC: I made a few bucks. Yeah, the stuff that you gave away was junk anyhow.
WM: Did anybody have a television?
RC: The television came later. It came the year I visited my Uncle Jim over on the Boulevard. He had a big television set with a little picture about that big.…
WM: That’s right, they all had the big cases with the little pictures. Did you listen to radio when you were growing up?
WM: Did you like to listen to the radio?
RC: I enjoyed good music. I don’t like fancy, high falootin’ – bang the drums type. I enjoyed good music. I enjoy that. I used to play the accordion.
RC: My mother bought me a 12 bass. I got kinda proficient at it. I was doing pretty good at it, so I swapped it in for a 24. Just before the war years. I got up to a 48 bass. Then I was doing fairly well. She said you can’t get much more than that. If you want a bigger one, you’ll have to buy it yourself. So I did. I went down to Wulitzer and I bought a 120 bass …
WM: Are you a good singer? Can you sing?
RC: Yes, I enjoy singing. I don’t know how good I was, I was a choirboy for St. Martin’s in the Field up in Chestnut Hill.
RC: Really. Did you ever hear of them?
WM: He rings the bells there.
WinM: I ring tower bells, I do now, still do.
RC: Were you there when the Englishman was there?
WM: No, he does it now, he goes every Sunday.
WinM: Tower bells.
RC: Oh tower bells, They had an Englishman – a choir master. He got drunk. He’d be banging on the piano. He was yelling “It’s wrong! It’s wrong!” So one year, maybe four or five years I was singing, they came around with these pieces of paper and they wanted to take us to Stone Harbor for a week. The church took us to a great big hotel on the corner of Stone Harbor Boulevard right on the bay. That’s when they put us up, the whole choir. Can you imagine that! A whole week! Ah!
WM: Wow – that must have been great fun. How old were you then? Where you a kid?
RC: 15 – 16, something like that.
WM: What did you do on holidays, what did you do on Halloween?
RC: I don’t know if I did anything.
WM: No did you dress up and go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood?
RC: I probably did.
WM: Yeah, do you remember any of the holidays? How about Christmas?
RC: I was not a holiday person.
WM: Ok, let’s take a break.
RC: (emotional) Idamay would disappear, disappear on me on shopping trips. We didn’t know what was wrong with her. We sent her to a psychologist, all kinds of tests, and he said “There’s nothing wrong right now with her. But down the road you’re going to have a problem.” She disappeared on Route 41. She didn’t know where she was going. The cops found her. I talked to somebody – I don’t know who, who said you have to take her someplace where she knows where everything is – where the door is, the bed…. She couldn’t cook anymore. She didn’t know where things were. (cries) We lived on Washington Street, the apartment house, we lived up on the sixth floor. We could see the ocean – it was beautiful. But I had to watch her. And one day I couldn’t find her, she had a stroke…..sent her home and then she had a second stroke. __
WM: Uhh, wow.
RC: How old was she? I’m 90, and she died 6 years ago. 80 I guess, I don’t remember. They put us in a nursing home in different rooms in Cresthaven. Put her in a nursing home, and they put me with her but not in the same room. (crying) Then right around 10:00 they came and got me. Said, “you better come we think we are losing her.” I went and she was still breathing but her breaths were heavy. “I wanna get in bed with her! I wanna be with her.” Then her body died. 2006 I think, 2006, July. So that’s (pause)….life. I’m sorry.
WM: That’s ok.
Note: Idamay A Connolly (1926 – 2006)
Born May 30, 1926
Died July 23, 2006 at 80 years old in Cape May County, NJ.
Being a Clown:
I guess it all started many years ago. I was always into something or another. But I had just married my best friend and we planned a time to sell the house and move to sunny Florida. We visited many areas all going south on the west coast, ending our quest at Fort Myers. We picked an area, looked at mobile homes, and wrote home to our lady who cleaned for us – We’re moving. We’re selling our home and would she make time for us to really house-clean, even though she kept it spotless herself. Don’t sell the houose to anyone, she wrote back – your house is sold.
Her parents were looking for just a house as ours and it would be close to the grandkids. Even though no price was asked yet, the house was sold. We returned, made settlement, and retired to Ft. Myers.
Not too long after living there, our friend next door, a retired funeral director, asked me to join the Shriners. I was not too sure about this, as they had a reputation as a bunch of drinkers and I wasn’t happy about that. But I joined the Shriners.
I wanted to belong to the pipers – bagpipers – but I was told that I was too old to learn the pipes. No small thing I thought. Then I was invited to join the Araba Clowns – drinking and clowning – what a group that would be. Nevertheless, I joined the clowns.
After being taken into the clowns, I had to give them a speech why it was important for me to be a clown…who was I…where did I come from…and most of all, why be a clown? I gave them all I knew about me – from, where, who and why – and a short note on my married life. They seemed pleased and I became a member of the Araba Shrine Clowns of Ft. Myers, Florida. A man who introduced himself as Uncle Frank offered to take the new clowns in hand and teach them make up and wardrobe. Seven other men had joined at the time I did. I don’t think anyone of us really knew what was in store for us.
We made plans to meet at Uncle Frank’s home over in the Cape – Cape Coral. He supplied all of the make-up. Then we all sat at a round table, piles of old clothes nearby, all white but color-stained from old make-up. He gave us a short story on how to apply the base coat of white – with our fingers. By the time we were finished, no wonder the clothes were all stained – so were we! He sent us home at 11 o’clock that night, full of what was the most hideous colors on men’s faces that I’ve ever seen. “It will come off,” he said “with baby oil or some kind of cooking oil, and wash with red hot water.”
It took me over four months of practice to get a face good enough to appear in public and get the approval of my strictest critic – my patient wife, who, until she no longer could understand who I was in her life.
I made sure that I was the best dressed, the best made-up as our finances could afford, to go out and BE A CLOWN!!!!
I won many awards, two being my favorite: I won one for giving the most free time to the community – Fort Myers Golden Apple Award and the community leaders of where I had worked before retirement. My name was placed in the chapel of the Four Chaplains for service beyond….
I’ll try not to bore you with all the details of becoming a clown and entertaining. It was a lot of hard work, but the most rewarding on my part. I got my name from my dear wife, who at the time was on the sun porch sorting out 5 pounds of buttons – she was a collector. It was she who gave me my clown name “Buttons” and it stayed with me to this time. I did hundreds of parties over the years, combined with other events throughout the area.
I worked for the country (county?), Lee, for a number of seasons doing parties at the recreation center. I also had an agent who supplied clowns for other parties, so I went all over south Florida.
I had a number of compliments – too many I think. But I have one that I think of most – while clowning for the state, I received a letter from an officer of the court of the state of Florida asking me if I would be interested in becoming – of all things – a “Guardian ad litem.” I was not too sure what that was. I asked around and everyone said that I should take it right now – not everyone is asked by the state to join this very special group. When I asked why they had picked me, the answer was that I had so much contact with young children – with all that experience I would be a good candidate. I accepted and had 2 or 3 years of the most intensive court cases that anyone could be involved with.
I had to leave it as I could not afford all the traveling time and gas money that I was using from my household account.
If I didn’t clown, I didn’t make any money, and I couldn’t clown with all the time and travel. All the time spent and all the gas used was at my own expense. I believe later they were paying gas mileage – much later. It’s hard to express the satisfaction I got and the thrill I got in representing and caring for these kids in court.
I continued with my clowning as far south as the Everglade City, as far north as Nova Scotia, all through Canada, south into Mexico, and west to California, Oregon, Washington state. I covered most states except the middle of the states. Ever watch a sunset on the rim of the Grand Canyon – or a sunrise?
I still blow balloons for the kids who come to Cresthaven. Sometime I’ll tell you how I got “free balloons” for the remainder of my life. (note: story of “Free Balloons” is attached).