East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Eileen Furlong (EF)
Interviewers: Wendy Moody (WM)
Date of Interview: September 16, 2015
Transcriber: Wendy Moody (WM)
EF: My parents were Samuel George Tomey and Ethel Jane Tomey and I have two sisters – Jean McWilliam and Hilda Newsum. I worked at a government institution, and when the war broke out I was transferred to Oxford, which I loved – it was a great city to live in – and it was there I met my first husband who was a Canadian in the Royal Air Force.
WM: His name?
EF: His name was Robert – he and I were married in January – I’m not sure of the year – I know I was 19 (1941).
Robert was a pilot – a Canadian pilot in the Royal Air Force and he was killed on a raid back from Munich. He was the pilot of the plane and he was the only one identified because he had a Canadian flash on his uniform. We were married just shy of a year.
I hadn’t returned home yet from Oxford, because I lived in Oxford for several years, and I was getting itchy and I decided to come to Canada.
We were told when we were going to Canada you must not tell anybody and have no-one with you at the railroad station. So I wouldn’t let my parents even come to the local station and I got to London and, lo and behold, crowds of people – everybody had all their relatives!
The boat’s name was the Mauritania and that was in December – the end of December, just after Christmas.
WM: Early 40s?
EF: Early 40s, yes. So we came across – the war hadn’t ended. … We thought it would be so cold because it was Christmastime but we got on the ship and it went way down south – it was beautiful; it was so warm. It was a funny way to go to Canada but it was to avoid the U-Boats. And then we turned north and it became bitter cold. We had to wear the safety jacket all the time and they said it was a waste because once we came north, they said you wouldn’t last in the water more than three minutes! We had to wear the jackets.
And everybody got off the ship but I couldn’t, because Prince Edward Island where my husband’s home was, you had to cross water. And for the first time, the ferry couldn’t cross because the water was frozen for the first time in many, many years, so I was the only one left on the ship.
But my father-in-law got to hear of it and he called a friend who lived nearby and arranged for me to stay with friends in Halifax. They were lovely. They picked me up. We were having dinner in their house – they had a son who was probably around 17 or 18 – and suddenly I remembered in the middle of dinner “Oh, I just remembered! I told Stuart on the ship to knock me up at 8 o’clock!” and there was a terrible gasp! And they wouldn’t tell me why – “You must never use that word!” I didn’t know what it meant, because knocking up at home meant knocking on the door.
WM: Right! Different terminology – so you got to your in-laws?
EF: The next day I was able to get on the water ferry – no longer frozen, then the train, and my in-laws met me and the relatives with three children who were away at school but they came back for Christmas. I couldn’t believe the snow – and the icicles from the second floor all the way down to the ground! And the streets at that time on Prince Edward Island, they were just gravel – they weren’t paved at all.
My mother-in-law was a delight – I got along with her beautifully. And I lived there for about a year and a half, almost two years. And then some Americans came through – they were looking for some secretaries to go off to Goose Bay, Labrador to work for the U.S. Army.
So I went, and the daughter of the Governor of the island – she was a friend of mine – came with me along with two local school teachers. The four of us went from Prince Edward Island to Goose Bay, Labrador. And it was cold! And I’ll never forget the seats on the airplane weren’t really seats, just buckets of metal and they were so cold! When we got there it was like 40 below and a terrible wind. Anyway, they were having a dance because it was the day before New Year’s – New Year’s Eve – and they said “Why don’t you go and meet some people” I’ll never forget – New Year’s came and everybody started kissing everybody! We were dancing and he tried to kiss me! “Don’t you dare!” I said. “Oh!”
But anyway, I worked up there for a year but I didn’t like it – it was the engineering trade. So I thought “Well, I’ll pay my way back…. and then the manager of the airline that was stationed there – it was the airline at the time – can’t remember what it is – very well-known – came to me and said “Do you really have to go? We’d love you to come and be the station representative when I’m not here” So I did. I had a wonderful time. I loved the job. I still lived with the same girls. Very happy.
And then I met my husband (Joseph Furlong).
WM: And where was that?
EF: That was at the Army base. They had a dance. And what happened was that we were dancing and he said “Would you like to go to Montreal?” And I said “I’d love to go – when are you going?” He said “I have to go tomorrow morning.” Well, in the meantime, I had been to Montreal and I saw a fur coat I really wanted but I didn’t have enough money with me, but I wanted to go and try it on – it was a leopard-skin coat. So he said “Well it’s a day thing – we’ll come back the same day.” I said “Fine.” He said “We have to leave very early.”
At that time I had a white leather fur-lined coat – it was beautiful – so that I put on. I’m on the plane – he and two other fellows – three of them and one of me, and apparently he put my name on the manifest after we left. We got to Montreal, which was great, and he got all the supplies but then the weather broke and we couldn’t fly back the same day. I knew somebody who had gotten me a hotel room before in the Montreal Hotel and I called him, but he was away on a trip and couldn’t get reservations.
We wandered around – we finally found this large hotel – not as nice as the other one. So we checked in there. And then the pilot who had taken me up said “I’ll take you out to dinner” so he did – we went out to dinner and dancing and came back and he was going to take me back to my room in the hotel and the manager came up and said “You can’t take her up.” Well my (future) husband, Joseph, said “I’m not going to just leave her here; I’m going to escort her to the bedroom.” He said to the manager “If you wish to escort me, come up – we’ll all go up together.” So we did. We found out the next day that the reason he had to escort us was that there had been a murder at that hotel that day! So the police were around (laughter). It was a nice hotel but there had been a murder!
WM: Oh! Were you attracted to Joe right away?
EF: Well, we went out for dinner….and, yes. Oh yes. Except in the meantime I was dating a medical officer on the base. Anyway, when we got back I was told that “Dr. So and So has been looking for you” and I said “Ok. Goodbye Joe.” I didn’t realize he was furious about it!
WM: How long after that were you married?
EF: What happened was, there was what they called a Sadie Hawkins Day – I had never heard of it. Someone said “Who are you going to take to Sadie Hawkins?” I said “I don’t know; I don’t know anyone really.” And they said “Well how about Joe Furlong?” “Ok, I’ll give him a call” because the doctor was away. And from then on, that was it.
Sadie Hawkins Day!
WM: Sadie Hawkins Day did it! And you were married in Canada?
EF: No. Joe was American. He was getting out of the service. I quit my job – the airline was great – I still can’t think of the name. They flew me down to New York, then they gave me passage to England after that. And they offered me a job in London. But anyway, we came here and Joe and I were married.
WM: So Joe was from East Falls? And you were married here in East Falls?
WM: Do you know the year you came here?
EF: I don’t remember.
WM: Was it still in the 1940s?
EF: Oh yes. The war was over in 1945. It was 1948.
WM: ‘48. And were you married at St. James the Less?
EF: No. Joe, of course, was Roman Catholic and I wasn’t and I had to go for instruction and there was a little small Irishman, Father Donahue, who I had for instruction and he used to say “You know that women are inferior, don’t you?” So he and I used to go round and round. And Joe, in the meantime, was flying commercially and he would either fly to the Azores or he would fly to Europe – Athens, then Rome.
WM: Do you know what airline he was a pilot for?
EF: It was called Trans American.
WM: So you received the Catholic instruction at St. Bridget?
EF: Well, Father Donahue got me so mad, so when Joe came home I said “You know, I’m not going to do this – it isn’t worth it.” So Joe came marching up to see Father Donahue and things changed. So we were married in the church but as I always claim, it was under the back staircase. I was not allowed on the altar.
WM: Tell me a little about Joe’s family – were his parents from here?
EF: His parents were born and raised here.
WM: Do you know their names?
EF: Joseph Furlong, Senior.
Wm: And his mother’s maiden name?
WM: Her first name?
EF: Some said Helen and some said Ellen.
WM: Where did they live in East Falls?
EF: They lived on Midvale Avenue.
WM: Do you remember where?
WM: And was he an attorney?
EF: No, he worked for the city – something to do with the Water Department – he used to go up to Roxborough.
I don’t know what it was exactly. That was after the Depression.
WM: Do you remember if Joe or his family ever told you any stories about East Falls way back?
EF: No. no, not really. When I came here everyone was really working hard to build the school (St. Bridget) and they would make pastries and sell them on the street. They really worked hard for that school. That’s why I was so distressed when I heard they had closed it (and for students) to go to a place where nobody would go in Manayunk. The people here in East Falls – particularly the back streets – they were cooking all the time to raise money, and I think it’s tragic…
WM: Very, very sad.
EF: So when Joe got out of school, he got out of the service, he flew commercially for a while – a small outfit and that was only to the Azores. Then he went with Trans American to Europe on one trip, then back to the Azores. And he came back one time – he had been gone two or three days – well, at least 3 or 4 days because it took so many hours to get to Europe that he had to sleep over, and so many hours before he was allowed to come back. He came back one time and I said “You know I don’t think we’re going to be married very long. I just don’t like waiting for you to come back.” So he quit the airlines. He came back from a trip one time, and they called him telling him about a trip he had to make and he said “No, I’m not going – I quit.” And they said “You can’t – I’m calling to tell you that you made Captain!” But he said “I don’t care. I quit”
So everybody thought we were absolutely crazy – he quit to go back to school because he said to me one time “You know, I always wanted to be a lawyer. We have no children…”
WM: Where did he go to undergraduate school?
EF: He went to St. Joe’s for a while – then had an argument with the head priest and he transferred. We had a little store with his cousin – we sold buns and doughnuts.
WM: Really! Where was that?
EF: On Midvale Avenue – it was a nice store.
WM: What’s there now?
EF: I don’t know what it is now. Oh, it’s part of the pizza place.
WM: Golden Crust Pizza. What was the name of the store?
EF: It was probably just Furlong’s Doughnuts. He was going to school when we had that. Anyway, I hated waiting on customers!
WM: Were you doing the baking as well?
EF: Oh no. We used to get the baked goods from Haasis Bakery – we used to go over on Sunday and get sticky buns.
WM: Where was the Haasis Bakery?
EF: Just on the other side of East Falls and people used to go there all the time to get sticky buns. They were our supplier.
WM: Now when did your sisters and parents come over and why did they come?
EF: I don’t know. They decided it was terrible in England after the war and it didn’t get any better and Hilda, by that time, had two children and they thought it was no place to raise children. So Jean’s husband was sent over with a cousin of ours and went to Canada. And they unfortunately stopped near Lake Ontario so it was terribly cold. So the families came there and we met them in New York. They went to the outskirts of Ontario. We knew things weren’t going well and they were terribly unhappy so Joe said “Let’s go and get them.” We already owned a house opposite Joan’s (McIlvaine) Funeral Parlor – a three story house.
WM: Do you know the address? Is it where Paul’s office is?
EF: I should….it was a white three story on the corner – 3664? I think that’s it. And it had four big bedrooms so it was great for six adults. It worked out fine – they all came down.
WM: So they were all living there?
EF: Jean, her husband, Hilda, her husband and two children.
WM: And your parents. Did your father work when he came here?
EF: Well he had to look for work. It was tough. He was too old. He did get a job – he worked someplace half way down School House Lane – there are some buildings on the bottom to the right.
WM: Was it Powers & Weightman – a chemical company?
EF: I don’t know what it was.
WM: Tell me a little about Joe’s law practice as it related to East Falls. His office was in East Falls?
EF: Yes. Well in those days when you graduated you had to work six months for a lawyer and that was tough because you didn’t get any pay. And he didn’t want me to work but, of course, I worked part time when he was in law school at a law firm. I figured that would be a smart move and it did help, too. I liked the work. I liked the job.
WM: What was the firm that you worked for?
EF: The one I worked for, for a long time, was Frank A. Moorshead and then after he died, I went to a law firm that I really liked (LaBrum & Doak) and I did all the typing on the case regarding admitting black people into Girard College. My boss was the nicest man. He insisted that I sit in his office, which didn’t bother me at all. None of the girls liked that, but I thought it was great. Then Joe decided – he was in a firm downtown – that his wife shouldn’t work and he made me quit.
WM: What was his firm?
EF: I’m trying to think – his name was in the middle “Something, Furlong, Something.” One of the men became a judge.
WM: When did he open his practice here?
Not too long after he was in law school. Actually before he went with their firm, he did a lot of workmen’s comp and he had a lot of people from around here. He opened the first office on the corner – it was a real estate office – right opposite where James lives (Eileen’s grandson). The house I said we owned – the white one- it was on the other corner. It was a realtor who had a business there and Joe used to rent the office for a few hours every night. That’s how he started his practice. And then he went with the city and he was Deputy City Solicitor. He was with the City when we were still living on Midvale Avenue. That’s when I was working for Frank A. Moorshead.
WM: Did Joe have any cases or clients that involved anything happening in East Falls?
Yes, he represented quite a few people who has asbestosis which they got from some of the factories right around here.
WM: Do you remember where the factories were?
EF: They were on Henry Avenue, some of them.
WM: Like over by Pep Boys and Tastykake?
EF: No. I can think of it later. He did asbestosis and workmen’s comp. And then since he was working, he decided he didn’t want his wife to work so I quit – not very happily. And then, of course, we adopted Paul, and then Tracey.
WM: And about what years were those?
EF: Paul was 1957.
WM: He was an infant?
EF: 3 days old.
WM: And Tracey?
EF: Tracey was 3 months old. She was born Feb 9, 1961 and she died Jan. 19, 2004. So those dates I can remember.
WM: Joe also did real estate?
EF: Well, he wasn’t real estate… when he graduated, at that time, lawyers were automatically realtors.
WM: I thought I had heard that he had something to do with the Old Falls Tavern – he had wanted to buy it?
EF: Oh yes. He did a lot of research on that. His plan was to buy out those houses there –of course the post office was there. He tried to get a group in to get that whole section –where there was a big building which he wanted to buy which actually is no longer there, where he had an office – his first office was there. Then they had the Old Falls Tavern and he wanted to buy the whole thing but we didn’t have that much money and couldn’t get anybody interested. He had all sorts of plans – he was really going to get that tavern in good shape
WM: I wish I had seen it – it was gone before I came here. Can you describe the tavern?
EF: It was a real old building and in the basement they used to bring prisoners from the city and they used to stop at the old tavern and chain the prisoners in the basement. It could have been – he had great plans for that. And the fellow who owned it said to Joe …
WM: Do you know his name?
EF:I can’t remember his name but whoever owned it died and bequeathed it to this fellow and his sister. So he had an agreement – Joe wanted to buy the tavern and I said it would be great, so Joe said “Well I’ll get the papers ready” And the guy said “We’re friends – you don’t have to get the papers ready and all this stuff. Just get whatever I have to sign.” But he didn’t live locally, he lived upstate somewhere. They found him dead in bed and his sister was a nasty person and she came to Joe and said “You’re not going to get that. You’re never going to buy that from me.” So she never sold it – she sold it a long time later and it just went downhill. It was very attractive.
WM: Did you ever go in it and eat there?
EF: Oh yes. But the food – it wasn’t very good. It was really rundown. But It was an attractive building.
WM: The front door was on Ridge?
EF: Actually on Ridge, yes. And you could see the river.
WM: Going back to when you had the business – the bakery – can you describe, as best you can, the business district down there. I understand it was quite a thriving business district way back.
EF: You could shop there. We had a little A & P on Ridge Avenue.
WM: Where was that – on the corner?
EF: No it wasn’t on the corner – it was two stores down.
WM: Where the Chinese Restaurant is or the other way?
EF: About there, yes – where the Chinese restaurant is. The other corner you had a drug store that went all the way around – a real old fashioned drug store.
WM: Do you remember the name of that one?
EF: No. A Jewish couple owned it – the nicest people – and then it was bequeathed to the daughter. And the daughter’s husband was the nicest fellow but very nervous and timid and he was intimidated by someone trying to hold him up.
EF: No, no. Fiedler’s wasn’t on Midvale. Fiedler’s had a doctor’s office on Ridge Avenue and he lived – if you go down here – Coulter Street and you make a right at the railroad down there…
WM: And there was a butcher?
EF: A wonderful butcher.
WM: Who was that?
EF: I can’t remember – I should know…
EF: Stubblebine was the butcher! A terrific butcher!
WM: What do you remember about him?
EF: I don’t remember him so much as Joe the butcher. Wonderful meat! The butcher died and his employee took it over – Joe. In fact, I have a knife that Joe gave me.
WM: No kidding! What else was down there?
EF: You had a wonderful hardware store on the other corner.
WM: Where the Masonic Hall is?
EF: Yes. That was a real old fashioned hardware store – sawdust on the floor.
WM: What was that called?
EF: I can’t remember the name.
WM: What else was down there? Could you buy clothes?
EF: Across the road on Ridge Avenue was a Five & Dime, but on this corner there was a store that sold furniture and stuff. There were a couple of taverns. One of them was across the road from where Joe’s office was on the corner, it was a little old Jewish man – I don’t know how long he lived there, but he also sold drinks and people would stop in and get a drink. Joe was there one time and a traveling salesman came in and he ordered some oysters and (laughing) Joe said the fellow behind the counter was opening the oysters and smelling them! He said it was hysterical – would love to have a picture. So the salesman – the purchaser – apparently saw all this and he finally found another oyster place. ”You know what you can do with those, don’t you!”
Another thing, Joe and his cousin were talked into buying a little store – this was when he was going to go to school – and that was the first store – if you go down Midvale, the first store you come to on the left hand side is the bakery.
WM: That’s before you get to Lupinacci’s Florist? Higher up than that?
EF: Right on the corner – it was Lupinacci’s. Well not on the corner but right on that row of stores. It was small and when Joe was going to school, he and his cousin were talked into a little deal – they were both really taken over. But they sold Haas’ ice cream and pastries, and so they ran that for a while.
Actually we had gone to England for Joe to meet my parents and we hadn’t been there for two days and we get a call that the store that Joe had tried to get was now available so we had to come back to meet with his cousin, and that’s when we sold Haas’ baked goods. And we had an ice cream counter. I was glad to get rid of that!
WM: Did you do your shopping down there?
EF: Yes – around the corner there was a little A & P – they’re still in business – I mean the big outfit is. And that took up quite a bit. And then they had a store that my mother liked – a lady ran it and she sold all sorts of little things like sewing things and knitting things.
WM: Was that on Midvale or Ridge?
EF: Ridge. And as you came up Midvale, you had a chiropodist and we had a dentist. You really didn’t have to leave East Falls very much unless you wanted clothing – then you’d go to Germantown and there were some lovely shops there – some really nice shops. A couple of small little boutiques. Friday night almost everybody went to Germantown.
WM: Really! What did you do there?
EF: There were two movies – one by the Main Street and another one on the side street and there was actually another one across the street. And you had the tow big department stores – Allen’s and Rowell’s.
WM: Now when did you buy this house?
EF: We lived in the 3rd floor of the apartment house right next to the church – the church down on Midvale Avenue. It was owned by a Scottish lady –we couldn’t find accommodations – actually it was like three rooms we rented from Gene London’s grandmother. I remember I did some cooking one time and I accidently picked up one of her forks which she had to immediately bury outside – she was very orthodox. She was charming – a real Scottish accent, thick as can be. We got along fine.
WM: And when did you move here?
EF: Well after that we bought a house on Midvale on the 3400 block and from there we moved here.
WM: Near where Jean lives?
EF: Next door but one. We lived there for three years and we had the two children when we lived there. And we came here. Jeanine Muniz, Joan McIlvaine, and we all moved here within a month of each other. 1952. (note: actually it was 1962)
WM: Had you looked at other houses in East Falls?
EF: Joe loved this one – we came through it – we really didn’t see it, we just rushed through it.
WM: Who was living here?
EF: It was a judge’s widow – his name was Bluett.
WM: Do you know when it was built?
EF: I think it was early last century – I think it was 1920s.
WM: Were they the first owners?
EF: No. The people who owned it built Jane’s house next door and he owned it – he owned this lot and that lot – that’s why she has no driveway. This is a bigger lot than the one across the road, which I don’t need. And a lot of stuff he did in that house he replicated here. I don’t know why, except here he made the ceilings high and the windows are high – you can’t buy one curtain – everything has to be made.
WM: So this was the owner before the judge’s widow?
EF: Oh Yes.
WM: Do you know their name?
EF: It was a couple of people before. Because during the war there was someone living here and the man had a workshop. I think it was a business in the basement.
WM: And your address here? You’re on the corner of Vaux and Coulter.
EF: 3901 Vaux Street.
WM: When you came here, can you describe what was here and what wasn’t?
EF: Warden Drive was here. Across the street, just before we moved in, was the florist who had a shop down on Midvale (Lupinacci)
WM: These houses (on Coulter) were already here then when you moved in?
EF: When we moved here, they had been built but not when we first came around to East Falls. They were built much after this.
WM: Early 1950’s.
WM: So when you moved here they were already here? And the church house was that there?
EF: No that wasn’t there – that was built a few years later. Everything else was here.
WM: Do you remember who your neighbors were back then?
EF: McIlvaine’s moved in the same time we did and the Ruffs were ahead of us by a few years. We’ve had a series of people next door.
WM: So you didn’t go to St. Bridget’s – did you go to St James the Less?
EF: I used to go to St. James the Less until that clown – that priest who just died just this year – he broke away from everything – he didn’t get along. He loved to get in his finery. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in it.
WM: I was just in it once and I’ve been to the cemetery where your parents are and Jean’s husband are.
EF: Well the priest at that time was charming – in fact we went to visit him one time way out in the Poconos – we went out to visit he and his wife. He and his brother – he had that church, and his twin brother had one in Roxborough – his twin brother was priest at the church on Ridge Avenue, which is a nice church too. St. Timothy’s – it’s right facing the hospital. And his brother had St. James.
WM: How interesting. And what else do you remember at St. James – the interior, the activities?
EF: (shows photo) It’s over a 100 years old – they got the plans from over there (England). Just beautiful.
WM: Were there any special activities that went on there?
EF: Not too much when I was there. They didn’t have a very large congregation. Most of them had already moved away. But it still had a beautiful service with all the candles, Christmas trees, poinsettias. Around these posts, they always had poinsettias everywhere.
WM: So speaking about Christmas, you told me once that you had something to do with the original caroling that went on here?
EF: Oh yes! It was Joe’s idea. So we got together with the Benjamins and the McIlvaines and the Furlongs and every year we would go out caroling. It was funny – one year when we went across the new priest was over there – not a priest, a minister – was over there and (laughing) he thought we were after money!
Ken Benjamin used to play the bugle or something – well I didn’t go too often because I used to be making mince pies and sausage rolls on Christmas Eve and that’s when they went out singing. Mary and Ken always went, and Joe and the McIlvaine’s – John McIlvaine was an awful singer! (laughing)
WM: But what a nice guy though. Did Joe have a good voice?
EF: No. none of us really had a voice.
WM: Were there other people who joined you?
EF: No just us. And Ken Benjamin, I think he played the violin or something, bugle or something. So every Christmas they’d go out – I made mince pie and sausage rolls.
WM: Tell me about the beginning of book club.
EF: Well it was already here when I moved here and apparently it was started during the war – the beginning of the war.
WM: Do you know by whom?
EF: I’ve forgotten the names – Mary Benjamin would remember. Her memory is much better than mine. And she’s a little bit older and has been a member longer. But that was quite the thing and they invited me to be a member but I couldn’t – the kids were small and I didn’t have anyone to look after the children. But apparently you don’t do that – you get someone to look after the children. Well I didn’t. So it was a few years before I joined, but Mary Benjamin was there from near the beginning – it was formed during the war.
WM: And they kept it logistically close by so you could rotate the books.
EF: It was always just Warden Drive and Vaux Street.
WM: Do you remember any of the old time members?
EF: Some of them, but I can’t remember their names.
WM: That’s ok. And you also were a member of Germantown Cricket Club. Tell me a little bit about that.
EF: Well we joined Germantown Cricket and it was my downfall because Joe did so much work for them.
WM: Oh you lost Joe!
EF: Because they had the swimming pool, but not the baby’s pool and the tennis courts.
WM: He was instrumental in starting them?
EF: And the third squash court that they said couldn’t be done. He was determined – he had me over there measuring different things and of course it made the club – the club was in bad shape. So we wanted the indoor tennis – all the old timers were against it.
So the first year they lost – and he had it for two courts and finally he was able to get it through with one court. Because actually that saved the club – all the income they got from the courts they used generally, and he said a portion should be retained to maintain those courts. He was responsible for the courts and he had to get everything approved.
WM: And that was tennis and squash?
EF: Well the squash – they always had squash but he had trouble getting the third squash court which has been great because they have had so many tournaments. They said it couldn’t be done – he had me over there with that damn metal thing – measure this!
WM: And the children’s pool – the kiddie pool? Was he involved?
EF: No, that came later. I can’t think he was responsible for that. He spent more time at that club!
WM: He’s the one who got us to join.
EF: Did he!
WM: Do you have any special memories of the club?
EF: Tracey’s wedding reception. I mean I hated GCC because – often he would go over just to stand and watch them play squash for a while, then he’d leave. That was his other home. He put in the indoor courts – he had nothing to do with the outdoor courts.
WM: He was quite athletic.
EF: Yes – you know how I found him? I never went out before Joe went to work. This Monday morning – I had to mail letters or something – and it was early. I came back and the phone rang and Joe didn’t pick it up. Well I picked it up and it was Paul and he said “When is dad going to come?” I said I don’t know I just came back. I don’t understand where he is and why he’s so late.
So I went upstairs and found him dead on the bed with his arms behind his head. But he was all black on his side – I heard later that he had had a very bad fall on the squash court – he always played with younger men and if he fell they’d say “Get up Furlong!” and he’d get up and he did hit the wall very hard on the Friday night, or Saturday I guess. And on the Monday when I found him he was all bruised all the way down his right side so I bet that contributed. When we called his doctor to tell him, he was reluctant to sign the death certificate. “There was nothing wrong with him!” Well there was, or he wouldn’t have died.
WM: What year was that?
EF: About 18 or 19 years ago.
WM: How old was he when he died?
EF: I was 70. He was 71, I think. He may have been 72.
WM: When was he born?
EF: 1921. Some of the things I can’t remember. Jean has a terrific memory – she remembers everything.
WM: You were here during the transition when the housing project was built down on Ridge – so can you talk a little bit about how East Falls changed?
EF: Well when I first came here they had just begun to build it. Because a friend of ours, whose father lived on Henry Avenue next door to the Kellys, was head of the school board. We never had any problem. His son was married to a friend of mine, and when they were first out of the service, they rented a place there – it was mainly servicemen who came back who rented there and then, of course, it changed completely. It really is bad now. That really hit the nail on the head once it changed.
WM: Hit the businesses?
EF: Yes, because people had very small salaries – it was pretty rough – I mean the police would never go in there alone. It had never been like that because my friend who lived on Henry Avenue’s son lived in the project said it was great.
WM: Do you know about what year?
EF: I get so mixed up…
WM: Because I understand it was a thriving business district and that changed things.
EF: It changed the whole neighborhood. When the war ended it was great. The servicemen came but in short order you couldn’t stay there if your income was a certain amount so that’s when everybody had to move. And that’s when it really got rough. The police wouldn’t go in alone they always went in pairs. It really got rough. You don’t hear about it now, do you?
WM: No. It seems to be much better now. Do you remember any special people who contributed to life in East Falls? Did you know any of the Kellys, the Specters?
EF: Everybody always talked about the Kellys because the Kellys were the thing.
WM: Had you met any of them?
EF: Well my sister-in-law, Joe’s sister, was working with Joe Verdeur, who did win the Olympics in swimming.
WM: What was his name?
EF: Joe Verdeur. And Joe’s sister was training for the Olympics.
WM: How many sisters did he have?
EF: He had two sisters and three brothers. And the sister was the swimmer, and she was training with Joe Verdeur who went on to win the swimming Olympics. But to practice in those days, you had to use public pools and it really affected her sinus and she had to drop out so she didn’t go to the Olympics.
WM: Had his sister met the Kellys?
EF: Oh yes. And any of the events here they’d have John B. Kelly and often Joe – I don’t know why. In the park.
WM: So you did see him?
EF: I never talked to him but I did with Mrs. Kelly – we were on a committee.
WM: What was your impression of her?
EF: She seemed very nice. Very ordinary. Nothing special. But very nice.
WM: What did your committee do?
EF: I don’t know what it was for now. It might have been the hospital – we were doing something – I’m not sure now.
WM: I know there was a big fete – a fair they had outside – were you involved in that? It was to raise money for the hospital.
EF: No, but it was something to do with the hospital. It was so long ago I’ve forgotten.
WM: But you hadn’t met any of the children?
WM: And the Rendells, the Specters – did you know them?
EF: We knew the Specters because Joe was Deputy City Solicitor when Arlen Specter was District Attorney.
WM: Where did your children go to school?
EF: Paul went to Penn Charter – well first of all he started off at the Montessori school that Mother Isabel opened – she went down to the private school down the road here – the old school that is now part of the university.
EF: Ravenhill! Mother Isabel came to start the Montessori school and Paul was three. And our next door neighbor at the time had a little boy the same age – they both started Montessori at the age of 3. Her kid became the captain of one of these submarines. It was murder there – Mother Isabel was no spring chicken and all these little kids going around! It’s a wonder she didn’t go straight back to France! (laughter)