Anne Atlee Jenkins
East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Anne Atlee Jenkins (AJ)
Interviewers: Wendy Moody (WM) and Karen Minyard (KM)
Date: April 22, 2022
Transcriber: Wendy Moody
WM: It’s April 22, 2022. Wendy Moody and Karen Minyard are interviewing Anne Jenkins at The Hill at Whitemarsh. Good morning Anne. Thank you for agreeing to an interview. I understand you grew up in East Falls – your early years. Why don’t we start by you telling us where and when you were born.
AJ: I was born in November, 1922.
WM: Where were you born?
AJ: I was born on Coulter Street – West Coulter, on the bottom of the football field of Penn Charter, which wasn’t there when I was born.
WM: Tell us about that.
AJ: Well we were about the third house in from the corner – Coulter and I don’t know the street.
WM: Stokley or Fox?
AJ: The Good Shepherd Church was there and the football field of Penn Charter – I was right across from the football field.
WM: Do you remember the house number?
AJ: 3012 West Coulter.
WM: Ok. So the very last house?
WM: Next to it?
AJ: Yes, there was one house, and then ours. Then a couple more, then there was Fox Street. There wasn’t anything more. Kelly was down the street but that wasn’t there then.
WM: Were you born in the house or in a hospital?
AJ: Lying-In. I don’t know anything more than that. (note: Philadelphia Women’s Lying-In Hospital was part of Pennsylvania Hospital’s Women’s Building on Spruce Street – basically the obstetrics department).
WM: And what about your parents – where were they born?
AJ: My mother was born in Petropolis, Brazil. My father in Philadelphia.
WM: In East Falls?
AJ: I don’t know where he was born – in Philadelphia.
WM: Do you know how they met?
AJ: How did they meet? My mother was born in Petropolis, Brazil and Grandmother was a concert pianist and she was in New England. My father’s classmate at Germantown Academy – they went up to New England, and when my father got there, Bill Harmer said to my father “There are three of the most beautiful girls you’ve ever seen.” – my mother and her two sisters. And my father married one.
WM: And how did they happen to move to East Falls?
AJ: I don’t know. “They” being my grandparents.
WM: No, your parents.
AJ: My parents lived with my grandparents for a while.
WM: Can you describe your house on Coulter Street?
AJ: It’s still there. If you go down and look at 3012 West Coulter Street, it’s still there – right at the bottom of the ballfield.
WM: Do you remember who your neighbors were?
WM: Tell us what Penn Charter was like back then.
AJ: It wasn’t there.
WM: What was there?
AJ: A field.
WM: This was in the 20s?
AJ: I was born in 1922.
WM: So you lived there how many years?
AJ: When Alden Park opened – and I don’t remember the year that Alden Park – the Manor opened (note: Alden Park opened in 1926), we bought apartments. Originally the Alden Park was not rental, it was ownership. And we bought apartments (note: both the grandparents and Anne’s parents) and moved – I was 3 ½ years old.
WM: 3 ½! So your memories of Coulter Street – you don’t have many…
AJ: I have memories of walking down the street – I remember the Bradleys were on the corner. Coulter Street was only one block and the Bradleys were friends.
WM: So when you say one block, are you talking about between Stokley and Fox?
AJ: Yes I am.
WM: And then what…
AJ: I don’t know because I didn’t get that far.
WM: Any other memories of being in East Falls?
AJ: We had an apple tree in the backyard with a bench around it and I stood up and picked the apples. I got milk bottles from the back porch and I presented them so proudly to my grandfather at Sunday dinner and I was not appreciated.
KM: But when you lived in Alden Park, didn’t you walk to nursery school with your mom on Midvale Avenue?
AJ: I went to Miss Cameron’s School which was on Midvale Avenue in a twin house – the second house in – the third twin. On the top floor, Miss Anne had grades 1 through 5 and Miss Christine had kindergarten in the parlor. And it had a long porch enclosed and you put your overshoes at the end of the porch. I clipped them together – mother saved the clothespin clip.
WM: What block of Midvale –
AJ: Down The Oak Road and you turn right – it was about the third house in.
WM: How long did you go there?
AJ: Five years.
WM: So you went from the nursery school…
AJ: No, I went from first grade.
WM: Did a lot of neighborhood children go there?
AJ: My husband sat next to me. I didn’t know it then.
AJ: We only had first names. And he sat next to me. He got my attention because he didn’t like school and he locked himself in the bathroom – a regular bathroom with a chain. His mother had to come down from Mount Airy “Open the door Richard!”
WM: Did you know him all the way through?
AJ: I knew him in dancing class.
WM: And where was that?
AJ: It was held at the Cricket Club at St. Martin’s.
KM: Philadelphia Cricket Club.
WM: What do you remember about the dance classes?
AJ: Hated it.
AJ: I was always tall. It was ballroom dancing. I hated it because I was tall.
WM: Taller than the boys.
AJ: Yes. My mother was 6’ and my father was 6’1”. I stopped at 6,’ thank God.
WM: Going back to your school, I’d like to hear more about it. Was it a regular curriculum like the public schools?
AJ: I don’t remember the learning of it so much, but I remember some incidents – you wouldn’t get away with it today.
WM: What do you remember?
AJ: I’d rather not have it said because it was inappropriate.
WM: You mean with the teacher…
AJ: The teacher with some of the students. It wouldn’t happen today.
KM: You were telling what was across Midvale Avenue in that area…
AJ: It was the Clark Family Farm.
KM: It was a farm.
AJ: That went from the railroad to the next street – it was a whole round house like this, field.
KM: Where the Carlton Apartments are?
AJ: On one corner were the Wallaces; on the other corner were the Taylors, and in between were the Clarks. They were all family.
WM: Can you describe the farm?
AJ: It wasn’t a farm.
WM: I thought you mentioned a farm. Just a big property?
AJ: Yes. It wasn’t a farm in any way. Her chauffeur would pick me up for dancing school and he had been smoking cigars in the car. It reeked!
WM: What did your father do for a living?
AJ: He was secretary-treasurer of a company in Philadelphia.
WM: And your mother?
AJ: Just a housewife.
WM: You talked about Penn Charter. Can you describe what was on that property?
AJ: There was nothing there. A woman brought her ducks there. The ducks would follow her.
WM: I wonder what year that main building was built?
AJ: My guess was 1926 but I may be wrong (note: PC moved to their East Falls campus in 1925). And you see I was born in 1922 and I moved in 1926 – I lived in Alden Park.
WM: There’s that little house as you turn onto Stokley Street – was that there then?
AJ: Yes. I think someone said it was connected with Penn Charter School.
WM: So when you moved to Alden Park I guess they just started building Penn Charter.
AJ: I have no idea.
WM: So to what grade did you go to your school on Midvale?
AJ: 5th grade.
WM: And then where did you go?
WM: Why did your parents choose Springside?
AJ: Well I really don’t know. I was sickly growing up as a child – and here I am turning 100 in November! (laughter) But I was sickly I had a lot of allergies. They didn’t know much about things in those days. I remember we lived in the Cambridge and from the school (Miss Cameron’s) I’d walk down The Oak Road – Midvale Avenue, The Oak Road, School House Lane, the Cambridge. And there was a field and we would pick the wild flowers.
WM: Was the field on The Oak Road?
AJ: Yes. Right in the middle of The Oak Road there’s an oak tree and the field – as I turned from Midvale onto the Oak Road, the field was on the right before the oak tree.
WM: Was the Memorial Church (of the Good Shepherd) there then?
WM: Was that your church?
WM: What do you remember about that church?
AJ: I got married there.
WM: Did you! What year was that?
WM: Were you active there?
AJ: I taught Sunday School there as well, and I would come home after doing Sunday School and get breakfast for my parents. They didn’t go to church. My mother was an invalid – suffered a lot. My father was Quaker. My grandfather loved the church and grandmother was not Quaker so that was our church.
WM: Do you remember who the rector/pastor was at that time?
WM: Did it have a big congregation?
AJ: I don’t remember. We always had the same pew.
WM: Who was the pastor who married you?
AJ: Vander Horst. (The Rev. John Vander Horst)
WM: So you were about 3 or 4 when you moved to Alden Park?
AJ: 3 ½.
KM You were in the Cambridge right?
AJ: No, the Cambridge wasn’t there – the Manor was there. And then they built the Kenilworth and then they built the Cambridge. It was in 1926. I remember grandmother and grandfather had a large apartment and we had a small one.
WM: Were they near each other?
AJ: Same floor. Grandmother and Grandfather’s apartment – their living room went this way and their bedroom and stuff went that way – they had a wing. We had an apartment.
WM: Can you describe your apartment? Did it have a fireplace?
AJ: Yes it had a burning fireplace. It had Mercer tiles from the Mercer Museum. The sidewalks were tile. Well they found out that the tiles were so slippery when they were wet that they got pink colored cement and brushed it on, but that didn’t work so well so they dug up the tiles and put cement sidewalks down. But here and there, if you go to Alden Park, you’ll probably see a few remnants of tile. Through the wood area.
WM: I know the pool has them. Any other special features in your apartment? Did it have bay windows?
AJ: They had casement windows which were terrible because you couldn’t get a little bit of air. If you opened them, the rain would come in. And then air conditioning – we didn’t have that, but they took a pane out of the window and they (demonstrates) – here’s the window and –this thing would be – there would be a trap under there in the pane to let some air in. No air conditioning.
WM: An early version… Was it two bedroom?
AJ: Yes, but there were bigger apartments than that. We had a two bedroom.
WM: Was it two bathroom?
AJ: No. but Mercer tile.
WM: Sounds beautiful. What floor were you on?
AJ: We were originally on the 2nd floor and then we got a bigger apartment with another bedroom on the 10th floor. The Cambridge was 12 floors, the Manor was 9, the Kenilworth was 12 with penthouses.
WM: There was a restaurant on the premises?
AJ: The restaurant was the Strawbridge’s home. I’ve forgotten the first name of the Strawbridge but that was their home. And all the offices were there. And they made the first floor into a dining room, and then tunneled from the Manor – there was a tunnel underground into the restaurant so you didn’t have to go outside. Thursday night was maid’s night out, so the restaurant was popular.
WM: What was the name of the restaurant?
AJ: Alden Park Dining Room
WM: Did you have a maid as well?
AJ: We had someone who would come to clean and cook for us, yes.
WM: Can you describe the restaurant?
AJ: They had a lot of weddings. The offices were there.
WM: I wonder when that closed.
KM: Were there many children living in Alden Park?
AJ: Oh yes.
KM: So it was a family place.
AJ: We had a feast playing on the property.
WM: What kind of things did you do?
AJ: Hide Go Seek, mark up the sidewalks with hopscotch, jump rope…
WM: Did they have a playground for you?
AJ: They had a playground with sandbox and swings.
WM: Where did the kids who lived in Alden Park go to school?
AJ: I have no idea because we didn’t share that. My guess is they went to Penn Charter. I had to take the train to go to school…. They went to Germantown Friends or public school. There was nothing wrong with the public school.
WM: Did you use the pool?
AJ: Every day in the summer. Byron Walton – I don’t know what his real name was – but he ran the pool and he took a room off the pool in the building, where there was a ping pong table. And then in the hallway of the building he had card tables where we played games. He was kind of there and kept order. It was our playground indoors.
WM: That’s great. It’s quite a big pool? Were you able to swim the length?
AJ: It was over my head at the deep end. And then it was boarded over in the winter time and a stage was put up at the end and we put on five plays a year. We won a competition so we put our play on in the park. The park was having plays and they thought we were good enough to put a play on.
WM: Was that McMichael Park?
AJ: No it was in Germantown.
WM: Vernon Park.
WM: So they didn’t put it down for ice skating…
AJ: No. they put down a floor, and at the end was a stage and this was all within the tiles – the open part of the pool. So we had 5 plays a year and won the competition, so one of our plays was put on in the park.
KM: When did you go to Springside?
AJ: I went in the 5th grade. Hmm, I don’t remember if it was 5th or 6th – I think it was 6th.grade…five years at Miss Cameron’s.
WM: How did you get to Springside?
AJ: Train. Wait a minute – lower school Springside was at St. Martin’s, and I got off at St. Martin’s and the next year I went to upper school – so it was 5th grade I went to Springside.
WM: Did you use the Queen Lane train station?
AJ: No, Chelten Avenue was right down the street from Alden Park.
WM: What happened after Springside? Where did you go?
AJ: Moore College of Art.
WM: And became – did you have a career?
AJ: Not really. I got married. Not right away because the war was on. It took us a while to get things organized. My husband came to my graduation from Springside but then he went to war, etc., etc.
WM: And you were living at Alden Park all that time?
AJ: With my parents, yes.
WM: What do you remember about the war years?
AJ: Reading the paper, coming out on the train and reading a name that I dated, or knew in the gang, wasn’t going to come home. I remember that.
WM: Were there any local efforts to help the war?
AJ: I have no idea but I was – I had to patrol at night.
WM: To make sure people had their curtains down?
AJ: Yeah. Air raid warden!
WM: Was that just around the Alden Park campus?
AJ: Just around my building. And then maybe at 4 o’clock in the morning I’d end up getting dressed and going to work. Not much time.
WM: Where did you work?
AJ: I worked at I-T-E Circuit Break Company which doesn’t exist anymore. I was doing electrical engineering.
WM: Where was that located?
AJ: 19th and Hamilton.
WM: What section is that?
AJ: I don’t know if the building is still there or not.
WM: So Anne, going back to Alden Park – I’m really interested. You lived there a long time. I had read that there were some sunken gardens?
AJ: There was. It was the Justus Strawbridge estate, and they kept the gardener. There was a fishpond in the middle. I wish I had the pictures. Anyway, there was a sunken garden – this side was a shade garden; this side was a sun garden. In the center they had a fish pond with a little angel fountain. And at the end they had one of those lattice places with bench and chairs to sit and, a flagstone walk, and they had a gardener who worked the beds around the fish pond. Here’s the fish pond (motions with hands) and they were like this at the corners. They were planted with tulips in season, and then taken out and then whatever was in season was put in.
WM: What buildings was it between?
AJ: It was in the center. Our apartment window looked right down on the garden; so did the Manor. The Kenilworth was up off…
WM: So that was the original garden for the house?
AJ: That was the original garden and the flagstone walk came down the steps from the restaurant – that had been their house – to the garden.
WM: I had read that Richardson Dilworth had lived at Alden Park.
AJ: Maybe. I didn’t know that.
WM: And I believe Grace Kelly’s parents?
AJ: Not that I know of.
WM: It must have been at a different time.
AJ: After my time maybe.
WM: Give us a little progression of what happened to you after the war when you got married. Where did you live then?
WM: Did you have children?
AJ: No not right away. I was told I couldn’t have kids so we adopted two girls and then 8 years later I had Julia.
WM: Isn’t that amazing! And what did your husband do?
AJ: He was an electrical engineer. He worked with RCA.
WM: So you lived in Glenside a long time? Did you come here (to The Hill at Whitemarsh) from Glenside?
AJ: We married in 1948; I came here in 2007.
KM: So you lived in Glenside that whole time?
KM: Tell us about your art.
AJ: I went to Moore College of Art. I painted that (points)
WM: That’s beautiful!
AJ: That’s where I lived.
WM: In Glenside? Oh that’s lovely. Where is that? What street?
AJ: On Bridle Road (612)
WM: That’s really good Anne; that’s gorgeous.
AJ: And the dog (points to another painting) – that was my dog. I painted that before I got married when I was about 14. That was my dog – a cocker spaniel.
That was my Jeffie – I was at Alden Park with him.
KM: Did you teach art?
AJ: Meadowbrook School for Boys.
KM: I thought I remembered that.
AJ: I would take Jeffie for a walk at Alden Park and the 6th hole was wooded – there were tennis courts here, a fairway, and woods. Balls would go into the woods and I would go like this (motions) and the dog would come out of the woods with a golf ball!
AJ: He loved to go out. He loved (Dick) Jenkins. I’ll tell you a story. I was dating somebody else and he came to the door and was talking to my parents – when Dick would come, he’d get a ball, there would be a walk – there would be fun with Dick Jenkins. This wasn’t Dick Jenkins. When he heard the door ring – Dick had a certain way of ringing the doorbell and the dog thought it was Dick. And it wasn’t Dick. And he ran around with the three of us standing by the door barking and my date’s face said “What’s the matter with your dog?” and my mother and I knew exactly what was wrong with the dog – it wasn’t Dick Jenkins.
WM: That’s great. When you were at Alden Park, did you ever use any of the facilities in East Falls? The library? The Alden Theater?
AJ: No, I did not.
WM: Were you more oriented towards Germantown? Where would you shop for clothes?
AJ: Germantown. Rowell’s. My wedding dress came from Rowell’s. And I bought it there because mother shopped there. She was very long-waisted and 6’ and would get her clothes there.
WM: What other stores would you use in Germantown?
AJ: Mostly Rowell’s.
WM: And where would you buy your groceries?
AJ: Zimmerman’s. It was in the bottom of what was originally someone’s house on Chelten Avenue.
WM: More like a grocery store than a supermarket?
AJ: It was a grocery store. He would know exactly what you wanted. As you look up Chelten Avenue from Alden Park, it was on the right. Beyond the Marchwood.
WM: Did you do any extra-curricular activities in school?
AJ: I couldn’t take sports. I had a heart condition, they thought. And here I am facing 100! Or maybe that’s why I’m facing 100 because I didn’t take sports!
KM: You enjoyed painting anyway…
AJ: But I was a golfer. There was a 9 hole pitch and putt at Alden Park and I golfed all the time.
WM: Really! Now where was that located?
AJ: On the grounds of Alden Park.
WM: Which section?
AJ: Well. School House Lane – that was holes five and four. One was in the middle up to the Cambridge. Then you went through the woods for seven and eight and you came to the 9th by the pool.
WM: So they weren’t all connected?
AJ: You had to walk.
KM: Sounds like they were kind of interspersed.
WM: Did they have any other facilities on the campus of Alden Park? Did you have your own washing machines in your apartment?
AJ: I think there was a facility downstairs where your maid would take the stuff, but I wasn’t involved in that.
WM: Was there a community council or a governing group?
AJ: I have no idea. I imagine there was.
WM: Tell us about teaching.
AJ: I don’t know.
KM: Well you were an art teacher, which is a little different…
AJ: The Meadowbrook School never had an art teacher. And I dated Dick Scott and his mother was secretary there and she know I had gone to art school and “Would I be interested?” So I was interviewed and hired, but I was never taught to be a teacher. But I was there eleven years. I had to stop because I had Julia and I just couldn’t handle it. I had someone taking care of Julia, but at the end of the day there was nothing left of me. So I said to the boss “Please don’t show me the contract! Please don’t!” He had it on his desk but I said “I really can’t go back.” I had two girls and a baby.
KM: That’s a good reason.
WM: Do you remember any of your neighbors at Alden Park or anyone noteworthy who lived there?
AJ: They’re all gone.
WM: Anyone famous? Anyone in politics?
AJ: If they were, I wasn’t involved in it.
WM: Did you enjoy living there?
AJ: The grounds were safe; it was patrolled.
WM: Sounds like a country club.
AJ: I mean I could come home on the train in the dark and walk through the property and not be concerned. It wouldn’t be that way today.
WM: Was there much interaction between the buildings? Did you hang out mostly with your building?
AJ: So much of it I was a kid, and an adolescent. The pool where there was always something going on – there was ping pong or a card game or whatever. In the summer it was a very special time.
WM: Sounds like it. And what was the name of the man you said that ran that?
AJ: Byron Walton.
WM: So do you think he was sort of an activities director?
AJ: Well he was great. He taught tennis and he ran the show. He was in charge of the golf course. He was in charge! And his wife – they decided to put on little plays – we put on five shows a year – he and his wife
WM: So there were tennis courts that belonged to Alden Park?
AJ: There was an upper court and a down court. Just because of the topography.
WM: Were they more towards School House Lane?
AJ: No, they were right by the pool.
WM: Pool, tennis court, golf, sunken gardens, anything else? A playground?
AJ: Playground, which I didn’t see much of because I had outgrown it. But at the playground was my sandbox from Coulter Street – my mother donated my sandbox.
KM: How long did your grandparents live in the Coulter Street house? You lived with them.
AJ: I have no idea. I was born in 1922.
KM: Did they move to Alden Park when you did, when you were 3?
AJ: We all did.
KM: Do you know what prompted them to move?
AJ: No idea. I know in the house we had two Irish maids. I don’t know what prompted them. They didn’t share it with me.
WM: Is there anything you’d like to add, Anne, about your early life in Alden Park and East Falls?
AJ: I was very fortunate to be there.
WM: Did you use the library in Vernon Park in Germantown?
WM: Where would you go to the movies?
AJ: On Germantown Avenue there was the Colonial, and the Bandbox didn’t show the kind of movies we used to go to. The Orpheum was on Germantown Avenue and the Colonial was on Germantown Avenue. and the Bandbox was on Armat Street.
WM: It was quite a thriving business district. And your dentists and doctors – were they in Germantown?
AJ: Down in Center City.
WM: Thank you very much. If you think of anything else, you can call Karen and she’ll convey it to me.
AJ: I can.t think of a thing.
WM: You did great. (Laughter)
KM: I wondered if you began painting when you were at Alden Park as a young girl?
AJ: Well my mother would give me busy work. I would be in bed – I would be fed – and they would go down to dinner, and I would be in bed with crayons and whatnot – I was given this.
KM: By the time you were 14 you were pretty good.
AJ: I had a lot of illness – I missed a lot of school and mother wasn’t well, so she kept me busy and I think that’s how I fell into artwork.
KM: And she provided you with materials so you could keep doing it. You clearly had a talent.
WM: When did you realize how talented you were?
AJ: Well I never thought I was talented.
KM: Well you went to Moore so somebody thought it.
AJ: Well that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t graduate from Moore; I only went three years – not the 4th yr. The war was on – I wasn’t going to sit and fiddle with paint when the war was on so I went to work.
KM: How old were you when your parents passed away? Were you an adult?
AJ: My mother passed away first and I was in Glenside and my father lived another year. So I was married. I forgot what years they died.
KM: Were your daughters young?
AJ: They didn’t know I had Julia because my father’s best friend, who went to Germantown Academy with my father – Fred Thomas – was Santa Claus always at one of the department stores. And I took Julia when she was 3 years old to see Santa Claus and it broke Freddie up – he had to leave when he saw me. My father was gone by then – she was three.
KM: I’m curious about Dick’s family.
AJ: Dick’s grandfather was something else. He was a well-known figure in Philadelphia – Charles Jenkins.
WM: How so? In politics?
AJ: In business. In many ways.
KM: Did he have the land that the Arboretum is on?
AJ: At Kitchens Lane – big property there – that was the Jenkins. If you go down Kitchen’s Lane – you don’t go this way, you go that way and their property is right there. Cows – they had cows. I don’t have a picture of it – I’m sure the house is still there. He was a mover and shaker in the city. Farm Journal.
KM: And so he was your kids’ grandfather – Dick’s father.
AJ: I’m trying to think if our girls came later.