East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Jack McNicholas (JM)
Interviewer: Lyda Doyle (LD)
Date of Interview: March 19, 2011
LD: Ok, this is Saturday March 19, 2011. My name is Lyda Doyle and I am interviewing Jack McNicholas. So I guess we could start with when and where you were born.
JM: Ok, I was born November 2, 1931 and actually born in Roxborough Memorial Hospital.
LD: Ok, and where were your parents born?
JM: My dad, whose name was James, was born in Ireland. My mother was born in East Falls, and her name was Mary Lynch. She was born on Clearfield Street, 3412 Clearfield Street, down what we call the lower end.
LD: So you grew up right here in East Falls?
JM: Yes, when my mother and father got married, they bought a house, a brand new house, on 3300 Tilden Street in 1927 and that’s where we were all born and raised.
LD: And when did you get married and move from that house? Were you there ‘til you got married?
JM: I was there ‘til I got married. I was there and I was born in 1931, I got married in 1960, and I was still there with my mother in 1960 when I got married.
LD: And then you and your wife bought this house?
JM: No, when we first got married we had an apartment, at 33rd and Allegheny, and we lived down there for about 2 years. Then we came back to East Falls and bought a house that I’m still in at 3429 Indian Queen Lane. That was around 1962.
LD: Alright. And how many children did you have?
JM: We had ten.
LD: That’s amazing.
JM: My wife had ten with a little help from her friend here. Hahaha
LD: And you were a mailman?
JM: I was a mailman for thirty-five years. Most of it right here in East Falls.
LD: So was it easy to raise ten kids with a mailman’s salary?
JM: It was, but I worked two jobs most of the time because my wife wasn’t. She had her first child, she worked up until then, and she never worked outside of the house after that, and so I just got a second job and I would have gotten a third job than to do what she did because her job was hard. She had three in diapers more than once at one time. It was really hard but she was really good at it so she got through it.
LD: Well, tell me about what it was like growing up in East Falls. Did you play sports?
JM: Well, when I was younger we didn’t have too much for sports because it was during the Second World War and everyone was in the service. So it didn’t have any sports teams, little league teams or anything like that. I went to St Bridget’s when we would play once in a while, we would play softball at Mifflin School, after school and then we would get games like the seventh grade would play the sixth grade over at Dobson’s lot, which is now McDevitt. And we just didn’t have bats or balls. We only had a few clubs. We would have a game. We would chip in and buy these balls at McDermott’s store on Sunnyside and Conrad, like they were a nickel. We called them nickel rockets and after about two innings dust would come out and we would tape them with black tape. We would have one bat. I can remember the bat would get broken and would have to tape it… One time we took it up to Dominic Cain on Conrad’s street and he taped it and put a screw in it. It was just because all the then men were in the war and there were no coaches.
We didn’t have any sports. No we didn’t have football or anything else. We’d play pick-up games at Dobson’s field and we had McCarthy field which was over around Cresson and Merrick, where we call the new homes are now. We had little pick-up football games, things like that. Nothing organized until, well after the war. After the war, like 1945 to 1946, I was just starting high school and they got a softball league up which was all the guys come back from the war. They had different teams like the VFW. Alden Theater had a team and bars like McMackins, Quinny’s had teams, and we had a team, they just called us the kids. We were all like sixteen, fifteen. Played in the league. We played all over. We played at Inn yard down at Ridge. It’s still there by the firehouse. We played there, we played at McMichael Park, and we played over at what we called McCarthy field, which the homes were built over there, I guess late 40’s early 50’s. They had a field there. And that was a pretty good league.
They didn’t start playing hardball back in East Falls, I guess until the 50’s when the East Falls Sports association got together and start having teams which they’re still going strong doing very well. I worked there. I coached little there for fourteen years, baseball, and with guys like Dick Garner and Phil Morris, and so many others Chicky Gramlich, and we did very well. We played in the Wissahickon league for a few years, then we got our own junior league and now our older teams play in the Roxborough leagues and they still have things going on down there, baseball.
LD: Was the Pop Warner Association down there?
JM: Pop Warner was football.
JM: Football, they had the East Falls Falcons, which were… They started right at the end of the war, and they played Pop Warner football. They were like the away team; 160, 150, 160 pounds. They had some good teams. They played the Wissahickon Hawks the one time. The Hawks were really good, they were really good from Wissahickon.
LD: Now, being so close to the river, did you ever go fishing as a pastime?
JM: No, when we were kids, we weren’t allowed down the river. My father wouldn’t let us. They were too worried we would fall in.
LD: They were too worried you’d fall in.
JM: We’d get whacked if they were afraid we’d fall in, and of course we lived on Tilden Street so that was a pretty good walk down there, and we were told to stay away from there until we got older. When we went down the Bathey and things like that which was right next to the river, but when we were younger we were told to stay away from there. So we did.
LD: Now being part of the post-war baby boom, when I went down to the Bathey they had to split into girls days and boys days. Was it like that when you were younger?
JM: It was like that when I was a kid. I started to go down there. I guess I started going down there in the late 30’s because I was born in ’31. I remember going down there nine, ten years old before the war, and we spent a lot of time down there. I just remember we use to just get in then we’d have to come out. Then we’d have to wait then get back in again. They had staggered hours.
LD: They called it ranks then?
JM: I forget what they called it, but we had to get out and get in line to come back in.
LD: I kind of remember coming out and going around the building and getting back in line.
JM: Yeah, they had you go out and come back. We use to go across the street, there was a store across the street on Ridge Avenue. Right around Ridge and Crawford (ed. note: Crawford ran down beside the end of Dobson Mills close to where the twin bridges start. You can still see part of it inside the fence). People named Croce had the store, and I knew one of the sons, Joe, he was my age, and his sister kind of waited on the customers. We use to buy a little loaf of Italian bread. I forget, nine cents or something, and we’d just pull it apart and eat it. No lunch meat or anything. That would be our lunch, but we spent most of the day down there, the afternoon anyway. Walked down, walked back it was some good time down there.
LD: Now, where did you go to high school?
JM: Roman Catholic High, Broad and Vine. That’s when we went to St Bridget’s for grammar school, and that’s where, more or less, you went to Roman if you wanted to go to Diocese. You could go to St Johns in Manayunk, but you had to pay some tuition and of course the other schools; the Prep and La Salle were private. You could go if you had the money, but we all, most of us went to Roman.
LD: So you took the bus?
JM: Took the bus, I can remember the first year of high school, we went to St Peter’s annex, which was 5th and Girard. So that was the only way to get there, we would all have to, no matter where we lived in East Falls. We would have to walk to Ridge and Midvale, get the trolley down to Girard. This was 1945. Right? September 1945. Right after the war ended in Japan. 61 to Girard Avenue, we’d get off there and we’d get the 15 trolley down to 5th street. We went to an annex school, which was St Peter’s. We went there for a year and then we went to the main building – Broad and Vine – and we would get there by getting the C-bus on Henry Avenue to Broad. Then we’d get the subway down to Broad and Vine. That’s how we went.
LD: You mentioned the end of the war, do you remember D-day or VJ day?
JM: Oh, yeah. I remember it very well.
LD: Here in East Falls?
JM: Yeah, I can remember the day the war started. I did write that down. I was ten years old and I was in the Alden Theater on Midvale Avenue, and I was by myself, ten years old. Those days we use to walk all over; no one was afraid to go anywhere and now I can remember. I was there on a Sunday afternoon and I walked from there over to Dobson Field, which is now McDevitt, there was a football game going on and everybody was talking about the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. That’s why I remember December 7, 1941. It was a beautiful sunny day and I remember the two teams that were playing, it was Roach AC, which was a team of all guys down Ridge Avenue round the Bathey.
LD: Roach Row?
JM: Yeah, Cockroach Row. That’s what they called it but they had a team called Roach AC, and I can remember they had a little roach on it, not on the football uniforms but they had a baseball team at one time and they would have a little roach on their jersey. But they played McCarthy AC. McCarthy AC was a bunch of guys from, more or less, over around Fisk Ave and Midvale (ed. note: Dobson St. – Fisk did not connect with Midvale or Cresson), upper, by the railroad. I guess you would say they had field over there named McCarthy field and I guess they named the field after that or it must have been some guy name McCarthy. It’s no longer there but that was the… I guess I was in fourth grade. Then I was in eighth grade. I just graduated eighth grade in June of 45. Then I started high school in September of 45. So I can remember all that excitement.
LD: Were there bells ringing, a parade or anything?
JM: There was a lot of people banging pots. You know like it was New Year’s Eve. Then, of course, all the anticipation of the people coming back. I had an uncle, my mother’s brother, who was Tom Lynch, who was first to go, and he was in the army four and a half years and he was oversees almost three years. So he was one of the first ones to come back and then some didn’t come back and then I remember they were all excited, a lot of them would have never went to school. That’s one of the good things that came out of it. They could get that GI bill and a lot of them went to college and got degrees, things like that. And they were worried about getting jobs, but most of them got jobs and went on from there. So all through high school it was all these people coming back and it was pretty exciting.
LD: Do you remember anything about rations during the war?
JM: Yeah, during the war, we had, my father had a car but we never used it. We use to go and get spring water every time. We took the car, we had to push it to get it started. I don’t even know why we even bought it, but we always had to jump start it.
LD: You became experts at jumpstarting…
JM: Yeah, you’d just push it down the alleyway. Then we’d go and get spring water in Atlantic City once and it took us about eight hours (note: Jack clarified later that it was 8 hours round trip. He also said they went there for salt water taffy and got their spring water in Germantown), but they had coupons for gas and I can remember they had red, and black. I think black for gas, and red coupons for meat. The meat and the gas, I don’t remember whether sugar and things like that there were certain coupons. But I do remember the coupons.
LD: The ration books?
JM: Yeah, the books. We never had too much problems with it. I can remember, whether you want me to say on there or not. Your father had a gas station on Midvale Avenue. He was a kind man and…
JM: A big husky man. My father became very friendly with him because every time we had a problem with the car. It was Dave Furman who we had to see to take care of it. He became good friends with my father. He had… he was one of the first gas stations down there, I think. That I can remember, he was there for quite a few years and he had a good business with everybody who went to him. Of course, there weren’t a lot of cars around during the war, but I can remember that, I think it was an Atlantic Station, but I am sure. Was it? Yeah that’s during the war, I was only a kid.
LD: So did you start with the post office after high school?
JM: No, when I got out of high school… There just, well though it was 1949, it seemed as though all the vet guys from World War II, you know, they were still getting jobs and they were getting preference which they should. There wasn’t much around for a kid, 17, I remember. I got a job down in Dobson’s Mills. The place called Vander Beck, it was a hosiery mill and there were some guys from East Falls, who were the bosses. Joe Verdone was a boss down there. Anyway, I worked there for about a year. I remember I started at 75cents an hour that was 1949 and that was shift work, three to eleven, but I could walk to work and things like that. I worked there for maybe a year.
Then we bounced around, we would work, I worked at a container corporation up in Manayunk for a while. I worked at Mrs. Schlorer’s Pickles down on Scott’s Lane at the time, and I know they use to play music down there. Mostly all women, and we would start singing and this and that. And the guy called us in the office, me and a fella named Harry McGready. His name was Ed Schlorer – Mrs Schlorer’s nephew, believe it or not. He said “You fellas are live wires and we really like you but all that singing you get the women going, and we can’t have that. So we are going to let you go.” So that was the end of that place. Then I bounced around a few places.
Then the Korean War came along in 1952, I went in the Navy, and I was in the Navy a couple years. Came out of the navy in ’54. And there wasn’t much around, so mostly everyone who came back from the Korean War would take tests. I took the postal test, I took the fireman’s test, I took the policemen’s test. Some guys went to school with the GI Bill, but my dad passed away right after I came home and I had sisters still in high school. So my older brother and I had to work to help my mom out. I took all these tests and I passed all the tests, but I went and took the postal test. When they called me, I ended up being a letter carrier, and I lasted thirty-five years.
I worked in center city for one and a half years. I worked at Manayunk for a year, then I got transferred to East Falls for the last thirty-two years or so, right in the neighborhood. So it was good, I retired when I was sixty, and during the time I was in the post office, I worked part time for Philadelphia Textile College. Then when I retired from the post office I got full time up there. I worked security and I drove a van and I worked there for twenty-three years. They were nice people. It’s Philadelphia University now, but they were nice people to work with. And it helped as a side job. I didn’t have to travel, I could walk over there, so that was about it for the working.
LD: I know, something you said made me think of another question. There were some factories in East Falls. There was Aston Hill…
JM: Oh God yeah. Well, see, when I was a kid, Aston Hill was down there at that complex, where the mills, we call Dobson’s Mills, down around Ridge Avenue (ed. note: it later moved up to Henry Avenue where the trade school is now – same building, just down from arboretum). This side of Allegheny, like past where the twin bridges are now, but there were a load of different mills down there. I remember when you rode by there, there was a place that made pies. Wasselle’s. W-A-S-S-E-L-L-E-S. They made pies, well I guess they made more than pies, but you could smell the pies and then there was the place I worked at Vander Becks, which was a hosiery mill. Then they had a place, I forget the name of it, but luggage. They made suitcases things like that, leather bags and I don’t know how many more places were in there. But a lot of people worked down there. They called it Dobson’s Mills, and a lot of people… In fact, my mother’s mother worked there during the First World War. They made uniforms or something down there, for you know, 1918. But I can’t remember the names of the other places that were in there, but a lot of people in East Falls work in there at one place or another.
LD: Do you remember the businesses that were around when you were growing up? Like you mentioned McDermott’s, the Green Corner…
JM: Green Corner was there. A lady we called Miss Hall, an older woman, she ran it. And then of course McDermott’s, and Fitzpatrick they had the corner store at Sunnyside and Conrad. It was just novelties. They sold all kinds of games and puzzles and candy. I don’t remember them having ice cream or anything like that. And there was at least two or three grocery stores. There was Caldwell’s, on Conrad Street by Ainslie (in the gray stone building that are apartments now). Then down, well right next to Caldwell’s store at Conrad and Ainslie on the corner (where Petrone’s Realty is today) was an old German guy. Schaff, his name was – a jeweler. You would see him working on watchers and stuff. Then down from there on the corner was McDermott’s Fitzpatrick’s store. Right there on Sunnyside and Conrad. Then right next to him on the other side of Sunnyside was a plumber, George Kelly, his name was. Next to him, couple doors down, was a meat market, Sowden, who sold meats. Then there was a barbershop, it was Herrera’s. Freddy Herrera and Felix, Felix was the owner and his brother Freddy were barber there. Right before you got to Division Street. Then past Division, on the corner of Bowman and Conrad, there was a store there, was it Claytons? Then it became…
LD: When I grew up it was Gotwol’s. It might have been between Clayton then Gotwol’s.
JM: Yeah, I think it might have been Clayton’s at one time. Then I don’t know if it was during the war or after the war or before the war, there was an appliance store there, Buckley and Hodge. I’ll never forget because the guy, Buckley, was about six foot six inches and he used to pitch for East Falls baseball team with Harry Prime, he was a catcher. The guy was a pitcher, who went to school at Penn Charter or somewhere (ed. note: yes, and they lived on Netherfield Road). He, Buckley and Hodge, and I don’t know how long that store was there. Then it sold appliances, refrigerators, and all that stuff. Then I think Clayton’s had and of course it changed hands so many times, this guy named Max Celser had it then. Tom, the guy that has the restaurant now, he had it for a while, then a guy named Joe Buloba had it. Before him, then of course there was that beer distributor, McKeever’s, which there are new apartments there on Conrad before Indian Queen Lane. When we were kids, Gene Rowland had it, and his wife, who I think you interviewed, Gene Rowland and Frank Rowland for years. And of course I forget what was on the corner where the Saloonery is now. I can’t remember what was there. I know McMackin had a bar there (catty corner from Murphy’s), but before McMackin, I forget what was there. Caddy-corner to where the Saloonery is now, McMackin had a bar there. Then when he had the new one built, where the Saloonery is now, he moved across the street, but McMackin use to be in the old place which is now Smokey Joe’s. McMackin, that was McMackin’s old bar before he moved across the street. Then up Conrad, up at the far end of Conrad, at Crawford, there was a little store on the corner. Real small little corner store, a guy named Bob Wittaker had it for years during the war. On the other side of Conrad, the brewery Hohenadal brewery, we all remember that.
LD: Was that still functioning when you were growing up?
JM: It was still functioning when I was a kid. I think, in fact, when I was twenty-one, and be able to go into McMackin’s place. I think they still had Hohenadal beer on tap. I remember they had strikes there. Like, after the war. In like the late ‘40s, they would have pickets and this and that. And I think Hohenadal’s, they were in business ‘til the early ‘50s.
LD: Was there a steak shop at, I don’t know, if it was Conrad or Cresson and Scotts Lane?
JM: Cresson and Scotts lane?
LD: There was a contractor there – that was the last business.
JM: No, where the contractor, Cameady is now, that was a bar, Si Feeler’s bar. They called it. Around the Horn, I don’t know why. It was right on the corner of Scott’s Lane and Cresson. And they had a whole row of houses on that block. Where Caveedy’s is now and all the way up to Crawford. There were, maybe, forty houses.
LD: Wow, that’s many.
JM: Yeah, because I can remember when we were kids playing. I can remember in the ‘50s, when the Falcons were playing, or ever when baseball games were going on. The older guys who lived on that road. Instead of walking down to the field, they would just stay and look down and watch the game from…
LD: From the fence?
JM: From the fence, that was on top of the railroad there. I don’t remember a steak shop there.
LD: I think it was a tavern, but they might’ve made sandwiches also.
JM: It could’ve been. I remember Si Feeler’s bar, but I…
LD: Don’t know if they had food.
JM: I think there might have been a steak place on Conrad Street, but that doesn’t ring a bell right now.
LD: Do you remember a reservoir, right behind McDevitt’s, where the parking lot is now. When I was a kid it was all dried up, but you use to be able to climb down inside it. It was right between Scotts Lane and where the McDevitt parking lot is now …
JM: Where McDevitt is now. I can just remember… Well it was Dobson’s Field, they had three fields. They had main field, when you came off Indian Queen Lane. They had a ball back there. Then in the middle was the main field where center field was facing, where Hohenadal’s was. Then down toward Scott’s Lane was a smaller field. Where a smaller field… what, they have two fields now? I’m not sure. (note: they are back to two fields now)
LD: Isn’t there just one?
JM: Is it only one now?
LD: Yeah I think.
JM: Well there use to be?
LD: Because the expressway ate most of the ball field.
JM: There use to be three fields, and like you know, the big team, like semi-pros, the Trojans or whatever, I think they called them the Gotwols brothers, they had great teams. Then they played all these teams from Kensington and Mayfair and… I forget some, I remember Mayfair and Kensington had teams because when the visiting team would come, we’d hang around and try to be the bat-boy for them, for like a quarter. I can remember players. I remember the Gotwols brothers (Dave and Webster), Mike Caukin, Dave Budens. These guys are all dead now. Harry Prime, he became a singer. They had an article in the paper about him. I think he must be ninety by now. And he was a catcher, I think for the baseball team, like in the ‘40s, late ‘30s. And Conrad. I talked about Sam Pollis, the shoe maker and right across the street on the corner of Conrad and Ainslie, there was a bar there called Quinn’s. Owen Quinn owned that bar, and on that side like at Sunnyside there was that Merrick Hall, where it used to be the Falls Official Club (note: originally America Hall). And there’s Dr. Durst there now. The garage there, they’re working on… I don’t know what they’re gonna do, put parks there, I don’t know, where that big lot is. I can always remember a lot there on Bowman and Conrad. Then there was a little store on the corner… had the little name… Annie Morrison had the store. Old lady, when we were kids. When someone had a birthday, they could go down and buy some hankies, handkerchiefs and stuff, like for a nickel, you’d get a couple of handkerchiefs for my sisters, to take to a birthday party. I don’t know whether it was exactly on the corner of Bowman and Conrad, or just the second house, but she was very old then, her name was Annie Morrison. And of course coming up at where Apollo’s is now, was a guy named Harry Katz had a drug store. Then of course you had Mifflin. Mifflin was built around 1935. They had Breck’s School before they moved to Mifflin. They had a place where you could play inside, you know. I remember a gym, they had games, but I forget. Then Krail Street ran all the way down to Crawford, and you could get down there and down to Ridge. That was before they put the expressway through. And…
LD: Now was the post office, in East Falls, on Midvale at that time?
JM: Yeah, the post office… Back when I first started working at the post office, the post office was still on Midvale. You had – right up from the church, the first house was Dr. Morani. She was a woman doctor, surgeon. She had an office there and I think there was another house. Then there was the post office and then there was a house next to the post office that the Pete Kelly’s lived there. Kelly’s that were related to John B. Kelly, I think. And I worked in there for… I started there in the post office around ’55 and I worked downtown and Manayunk. Around ’57 I came down to East Falls when they went down to Ridge Avenue. I’m trying to think it must have been the early ‘60s, but I’m not sure. And of course they had… Yeah the post office, well the new St Bridget’s school was built by then and then the old movie was there. I don’t know when the old movie got there, but I remember the old movie that was at Fredericks Street.
LD: Oh, at Fredrick and Midvale?
JM: Fredrick and Midvale and I remember it was a dime. In the late 30’s early 40’s it was a dime. I think during the war they moved up to Midvale, where the Chestnut Hill Bank is now, that use to be the new-old movie. And I’m trying to think… I remember going to the old movie. The use to give you candy when you went in and…
LD: They gave you the candy? You didn’t have to pay for it?
JM: No, they would give you like a piece of candy. I don’t know whether they did it all the time or just Saturday matinees or whatever. I remember it was a dime and I remember it went up to eleven cents. Then when they moved up to Midvale Avenue, where Chestnut Hill Bank is now. I remember that was the first time they started the evening movies. You know night time, it was always day time before. And we were always – we had to be a certain age before we could go at night.
LD: Now, you mentioned that the East Falls Beneficial Association was originally on Conrad and when did they move to Cresson?
JM: I’ll tell you when, because when I was a kind, they were on, up in what they call America Hall, which was the upstairs of that building at Sunnyside and Conrad. And I remember going in there when I got out of the Service… When I was in the service, you could go in there as a guest, if you were in the Service. That was like 1952, somebody signed me in as a guest and when u came back from the service in 1954, right around that time. ’55 they moved to Cresson Street between Bowman and Indian Queen.
LD: Was Len’s store there?
JM: Yeah, Len’s store was there (note: Len’s was a sporting goods store). Len’s store was on the corner (note: Bowman and Cresson – an empty lot now). Now, when I was a kid, Len’s store was the Republican Club. Yeah, Len’s store was a Republican Club, and it was an old building then. Then when the Republican Club folded up, I think the Republican Club moved into where the Benefit Club was. Then Len moved into the old Republican Club, across the street was the Italian Club. Now, when I was a kid, the Italian Club was a coal yard there. A guy named George Walker had a coal yard there (note: later the coal yard was smaller and owned by the Ferrante family). There was no Italian club. Now, right on the corner on Cresson Street, there was a place we used to call the Wagon Wheel. It had a wagon wheel outside. That was some kind of club. I don’t know whether it was the old Italian Club or just a club owned privately but a guy named Rafferty ran it. And I don’t think I ever went in there. I went in there, I think, the Italian Club might have taken that place before they moved into the new building, which was Walker’s coal yard. But I’m not sure but I can remember the old Italian club when we played football, this was around 1956 or around there. Pete Maggio (note: he later owned Pete’s Café on Midvale Avenue across from Furlong’s old office) was our coach, and we use to change in that old building into our football equipment then walk over to Dobson’s. That’s where we played. Let me see…
LD: I can remember that those associations ran picnics…
JM: Yeah, the Beni club had a picnic every year. Kids loved it. We would get, I think we would get as many as three buses, three or four buses. They would leave, maybe, 7:30 in the morning and then you’d get home, maybe, 7:00 at night. And they went to Mermaid Lake, we had different places.
LD: Forrest Park maybe? Was that one of them?
JM: Yeah, I forget. I know Mermaid, but there was an old place up further. Later years we had places that had bathrooms, but we went to some places that didn’t. I remember this one placed you’d use to have to walk across this rickety bridge to go to outhouses, you know. I forget the name of that place, but they had all kinds of food, and everything and usually they had a place where you could swim. And they had lifeguards and things like that, but it was something the kids looked forward to.
LD: And did Santa use to come to the Italian club?
JM: Yeah, they had a Christmas party. See the Benefit Club, no women were allowed in there (note: Benefit Club was the East Falls Beneficial Club), and I can remember the first time they had the Christmas party for kids. They had it in the regular falls benefit club, which was on Conrad street and I don’t know who the president was then. But then, because the women were coming in with the kids, I know there was something about the liquor. They covered all the liquor up with like black tape or something. Everybody was inebriated… you know. Then it got the, the upstairs of the Benefit Club got so small, there was so many kids that they made arrangements with the Italian Club after that. Where any member, their children or grandchildren were eligible to come. We had quite a few kids that was quite a few years. The kids got an individual present. Then we had a Santa and we had entertainment stuff or them. It was a shame when that place went, but everything else went. I forget what year that went.
LD: Now do you remember parades and there was memorial services here in East Falls on Memorial Day? Or Fourth of July?
JM: Well the main parade that I remember was the Fourth of July because St. Bridget’s use to march in it and have a picnic. We would go to McMichael Park, and you had to meet down at the school in order to get a ticket for a hotdog and a soda. If you didn’t go down to the school and march – then you didn’t get a ticket. And it got so bad… I mean there were so many kids. I remember one time we would go up Midvale over Conrad and up Sunnyside and they couldn’t even go up Sunnyside (too narrow) so they moved over to Bowman because it was wider. Then over Vaux and then up Midvale or up Coulter probably to McMichael’s. They had tents and they had everything.
Then the other churches, they all had their own. I remember the Baptists, this friend of mine, Dave Webster, was big in the Baptist Church, or was it Methodist (note: yes, Methodist, not Baptist), it might have been Methodist. They had a drum and bugle corps, and they played every year. They played up into the ‘90s, I think, the ‘80s anyway. Even when it was only three or four of them left, but St Bridget’s they would hire a band, sometimes they did sometimes they didn’t. And I remember my kids use to go with their friends to one of the churches I forget which one. They use to have their picnic at Penn Charter (Falls Presbyterian). I forget whether they were the Presbyterians. Now the Lutherans had the picnic right on their own grounds down, then, on Midvale and Conrad. They had their own Fourth of July picnic there then of course there was the group that… Penn Charter and… I forget where else. One time they use to a… Before Abbottsford was there, they had picnics up there at one of the churches Bessie Dobson belonged to, I guess. (Note: Falls Presbyterian. She was a financial contributor and helped get the new church built). But the neighborhood, they had all kinds of picnics, Fourth of July.
LD: And remember putting a wreath in the river on Memorial Day?
JM: Yea, and I think they would fire rifles and stuff then I think it ended up at McMichael’s. They had an honor guard. I know a few friends of mine; Franny Kelly and Joe McShane and all that. They had an honor guard. It was a shame that not a lot of people showed up in later years. A very few would go up when they had the service. They had the wreath at McMichael where they would have a memorial there. People for the VFW, they tried to keep that every year and I don’t know whether they do it anymore. I don’t know.
LD: Now, did you and your wife get to go out ever?
JM: Rarely, very rarely. Wakes and weddings. No, we didn’t go out much, but we did… She had a large family and I had a large family so between christenings and birthdays and Christmas. We’d all walk up to her sister Marie’s, the Boyles, on Bowman Street and we’d spend Christmas with them. They were in an out. I was coaching Little League and that was… I’d go to a house party on New Year’s Eve every once and a while. Jack Lally would have a party down on Sunnyside, but no. We would, not until the kids got in high school, we would start going out, for dinner every once and a while. We’d see shows, we’d went to a lot of those shows in the tents, like Valley Forge and King of Prussia. Where they had plays…
LD: Theater in the Round, those types of things?
JM: Yea stuff like that. And out to Fairmount Park. They had one right over here by? Chamounix or Belmont, whatever.
LD: There was a Kelly Memorial Play house there, wasn’t there?
JM: Yea, well they had a swimming place, Kelly. But this place was very close by. Now the one they have now is down further where they have these musicians come (note: Robin Hood Dell), in Fairmount Park. I went down there to see Barry Manilow, down there one time.
LD: Like concerts in the park?
JM: It’s bigger, I forget the name of it because you going around down past Hunting Park, you go down that way. But this place down here, I can’t remember the name of it (note: The Mann Music Center is in West Park). They use to have shows and it was in the park, but it was smaller (Robin Hood Dell).
LD: When I was working at McDevitt I use to take the day campers over that way. They had a Children’s Theater at, it was called Kelly Memorial Playhouse. It was a theater in the round and it was over by the Belmont Plateau.
JM: That could’ve been the same place.
LD: It probably had a different name then, when you were going.
JM: Yeah, but I’m talking maybe in the ‘70s, late ‘60s early’70s. Playhouse in the Park that’s they called it. It was over there. The one they have now is down further (Mann Music Center), which is bigger. But I remember we went over one time and saw BB King and then we saw some musicals and stuff.
LD: They had Mann Music Center there.
JM: That’s the one that’s big now. But we saw a musical at Playhouse in the Park, the one time. And of course the bigger ones we saw; Valley Forge, was it? Yeah we went up there a few times. They had some big shows.
LD: Did you go to Robin Hood Dell?
JM: Yeah. I went to Robin Hood Dell. I also went to the one, the one time, I remember we saw “The Most Happy Fella.” It was way out US1 (Bucks County Playhouse?). I can’t remember the name of it. But those, the one’s we are talking about are around here.
LD: So you married at St Bridget’s?
JM: St Bridget’s, 1960, May.
LD: And was that where your reception was?
JM: No we couldn’t get it. There weren’t many places around here. The Italian Club, you could rent the Italian Club, but it was very small. We had a good American Legion over there (Wissahickon Avenue – still open), but it was booked for that day. So we finally ended up, Polonial Hall, we had Polonial Hall (Terrace Street, Manayunk – houses now). I don’t know if it’s still there now, but it was big, plenty of room. And it was… I can remember my mother-in-law didn’t want liquor. She didn’t want liquor. And I forgot who the caterer was but this was in 1960. I think we had roast beef sandwiches and potato salad, beer, and I forget what kind of music we had. But I think it was like $2.50 a head, $2-3. But it worked out.
LD: So like the Italian Club and the East Falls Beneficial Association were started to help the families, or for social reasons?
JM: Well the Italian Club, the Italian people, when they actually formed the club it was called the East Falls Italian Mutual Aid Society. So they did have benefits. They had some kind of deal where if you were a charter member you’d put so much in and I don’t know whether you got money when u were out of work or sick, I don’t know. Probably have to find someone of Italian descent who would maybe remember from here, and from the parents or grandparents. I don’t know. But because, if you weren’t Italian you’d just pay the dollar a year as a social member.
And the Beneficial Club, I remember seeing the charter I think it was formed in 18-something, 1890 something like that. And it was mostly British, who come over from England. That lived in East Falls that formed the club and it was called Falls Beneficial Association. Even when I first joined in 1955, they still had benefits. If you were out of work or sick, you got fifteen dollars a week or something. Well the benefits, I think maybe they lasted until the late ‘60s or mid ‘60s. They were in place, when I went in 1955, but the enrollment… Well they were chartered and only had so many members. Sometimes you’d have to wait years to get in there. I had to wait like a year and a half. I had to wait until somebody died or dropped out for not paying dues. And I became a secretary. I was a secretary down there for years. And it was all recording dues. You’d paid so much every month and then keeping track of all that. And if someone got behind then you’d have to send them a certified letter. Then if they didn’t respond, if they got dropped then they’d get a letter saying they were dropped, for not paying dues. But the benefits didn’t last long once I got there because there was too many… They didn’t have enough to pay out or whatever, I remember they were giving $5-10 a week out at a time, which I guess in like the ‘20s and ‘30s that was a lot of money, but they did stop the benefits. They didn’t change the name. But they did stop the benefits.
LD: The East Falls Golf Association, they use to have a benefit?
JM: The golf? They had a tournament every year. Supposedly it’s the oldest neighborhood golf tournament in the whole country. And it started, in what – 1920, something like that. Right after the First World War. You know, like John B. Kelly and a couple of guys like that. And in later years, when I was a kid, even Roche Petrone, and that was going down, but some group of guys jumped in and kept it going. It’s still going now. They’d play every year.
LD: I remember seeing trophies in windows or prizes.
JM: Every year the major drug put on display the trophies because at that time they had a big book made up every year with ads and memorabilia and everything in there. And I remember a guy, Bill Gable, who went around to different businesses to get. And at one time, everyone had an ad in there. And then that went to put in and at that time a couple Kelly’s and a few other members at Bala Country Club. And they would play every year over there. And when I was a kid, I remember I went over and caddied I was in high school and I caddied for Judge Daily and Spike Lally then later years I played. I played quite few years then they got priced out of Bala, or wanted a different venue. So then they started playing different places. They played all over. They played at, up at, the Cigna course there in Roxborough there past Friendly’s.
LD: Did you ever play at Green Briar (across the river from East Falls)? Was that still open then?
JM: I don’t know. They played at Lulu and played at places, I can’t remember, of course now the last 3-4 years they’ve been playing at… I can’t remember the name.
LD: There’s one in East Norriton.
JM: No they played up. God I wish I could remember the names of these courses.
LD: I wish I could help but I’m not a golfer.
JM: The one up above Norristown, they played there for a few years. I can’t think of them either. But they got over a hundred players.
LD: Westover, did they play at Westover?
JM: Yeah, they played at Westover. They played up there a few times. (Jack makes a phone call).
LD: There was the Melrose Country Club. That’s… East Falls was kind of self -contained, you could pretty much get everything you needed here in the neighborhood right? Clothes and food…
JM: Well, they didn’t have Acme’s and things like that. There were a ton of corner stores. Well we’d walk down. There was a five and dime store right where Johnny
JM: That was a big Woolworth’s, I think.
LD: Now, wasn’t there a drug store on the corner of Indian Queen?
LD: Falls Pharmacy
Jack: Well, it was called Falls Pharmacy, Jewish guy, can ‘t think of his name. Well did they have prescriptions at Ridge and Midvale, where we were talking about them having the trophies?
LD: Major Drug?
JM: Major Drug, I think they had prescriptions, but the guy around the corner here at Indian Queen, I think that was the Falls Pharmacy.
LD: And there was the hardware store?
JM: The hardware store was right across from Major Drug, like on Ridge, on the corner there. I don’t know what’s there, a market or something.
LD: An art gallery?
JM: That was the hardware store and overtop of it was the Hall…
LD: A Masonic Hall was it?
JM: Because they use to have weddings and stuff there. And then up from the hardware store on Ridge. McIlvaine’s was there before the move up to Midvale Avenue. Funeral parlor, McIlvaine’s was between the hardware and the firehouse. Then up from the Major Drug was… Sam, Jewish guy, had the store and it was produce and stuff. Of course you remember he had these shelves outside that he’d put the stuff on display like vegetables and fruits. Then of course there was always some sort of market in there, and a store. And it changed hands because I remember this big old guy, Steve, was a butcher in there at one time. And next to that was a barber shop and I forget who owned it then (note: Freddie Herrera opened his own shop there. His brother kept the one on Conrad Street), there was a restaurant, John Bourne Shop, John Bourne had it. They had great steak sandwiches. The best, they had these French rolls then he had pressed ham on toast with lettuce which was cheaper if you didn’t have enough for a steak sandwich, but that was right across from the firehouse. And of course Welshy’s bar was down there. I forget the name of the place now; then, like you said, there was a shoe store, store named Borland’s. I think it was right at the bottom of Eveline. I remember they use to sell shoes and stuff (and women’s lingerie). Polis and there was a Heimlich’s, that was the bigger store that was right up from Eveline. And I think your husband’s family lived up from there on Ridge. But after Heimlich’s there was some houses.
LD: And wasn’t it Fiedler’s
JM: And Dr. Fiedler (note: a pharmacist – his brother was an M.D.) had his store right at the bottom of Stanton. Then right across from Stanton was something else. I don’t know if it was another barber shop or what. That’s where Harker has his plumbing stuff there now. There was a store there I think. Then there was another little store, Caruso’s had a store (note: up on Calument about halfway to the bridge – rear-faced Labby Hill). When you got to Calumet, right past Calumet, right before you hit the project. There was a couple of big old houses there. At the bottom of one of the houses was this old lady and her husband. Her name was Caruso their son Dennis, who they called Demsy, was a coach of the football team, East Falls Falcons – that was Caruso. He married one of the Fiedler’s. Dr. Fiedler’s sister, I think. No, he didn’t… I think he married the one named Laura. Yeah, they had a little store, and you hardly ever saw anyone in there. Then on the other side of the street, I forget, what was over there. Where that…
LD: That Dunkin’ Donuts or…
JM: Yeah, Dunkin’ Donuts or something there. I forget what was there. There was a church right across from there. Lutheran’s or something were down there (note: no, it was the First Presbyterian church of East Falls). Then of course the Inn Yard. There was a couple of houses down there.
LD: Did you ever go shopping Germantown? Did you ever take the trolley, or take the kids down there?
JM: When we were kids we use to walk up to Germantown because they had more movies over there. And we’d walk, we’d walk up Queen Lane and over Chelten, then right on Chelten Avenue. They had the Chelten movie, and then you’d walk up to Germantown Avenue. You’d walk around the corner and there was the Colonial which was the big movie. Then there was a little street off to the left where a movie called “Bandbox”, was it “Bandbox”, I forget. It was dime, fifteen cents, but we would walk over, about a half hour’s walk. But we were all kids, it was no big deal. It’s good to have your choice of three different movies because we only had the one here.
LD: Well, we’re a little over an hour, you know, how are you feeling?
JM: I’m alright.
LD: Is there anything else you would like to add, any special memories?
JM: When you got down to the Ridge, I know a lot of people probably told you about that little store, across from the Bathey.
LD: No you’re my first interview.
JM: But I know a lot of people, who remember that store, but they don’t remember the people that owned it. And the people that owned it, their name was Croce.
LD: Croce, ok
JM: Joe Croce was a friend of mine, he was my age. I ended up delivering mail, he lived on Allegheny. He married a girl… what was her name? Mickey Steinberg, do you remember him?
LD: I don’t remember… Tom would remember Mickey Steinberg, but I know Herby Steinberg.
JM: Well, Mickey was an older brother. They lived down the Roach, when they were kids, but Mickey married. When Mickey became a fireman, he lived on Krail Street at one time, but then he moved to the north east. But News, there were these people from over around Allegheny. Their name was “News”. They were four girls, they were all pretty, Mickey Steinberg married one, Joe Croce married one, and Jakey Murphy. The Murphy’s from the lower end (Surgeon’s Row)
LD: The lower end.
JM: Well, Jake was like, he was younger than me, but he married. And you would probably know his kids from the playground. This Jake Murphy’s kids, the older ones, Richie was the younger one, there was one they called Shag (Billy).
LD: Oh right I know…
JM: I think they live in Manayunk now.
LD: Johnny’s the oldest.
JM: Johnny was a cop. Well Jake was their father.
LD: Was their dad?
JM: Yes and that wife of his, she’s still living.
LD: Yeah, Mrs. Murphy was a News.
JM: News. And her and Steinberg’s wife and Joe Croce’s wife were all sisters. Nice people. I use to deliver their mail on West Moreland street right off Hunting Park. What’s funny, they all married guys from over here. But I use to see them when I coached little league because Jake’s kids, one of his kids, Richie, and yeah I see Johnny, he’s retired from the police. He refs basketball and all that stuff. Yeah, in high school and all that I think. And Jakey he died kind of young. Bum Bum, he was an older brother (died young also). We cover a lot of things.
LD: Well after moving around and traveling, East Falls always seemed like a special place, you know. Like you were fortunate to have grown up here.
JM: Yeah it was, the way it was situated, it was like… and it was even better in the old days. They had church leagues and baseball. All the churches had teams. Yeah, it’s a pretty close knit community. It’s still holding on, there aren’t a lot of new people in East Falls. Like I said, they still have a good sports association and school are still pretty good. There’s not a whole lot of problems, I think. I guess there’s problems everywhere with people and kids getting in trouble and stuff. We were lucky, that’s why I got involved in the sports. Well of course I had kids and it was a good way of keeping them out of trouble. You know running around down there. They come home and they’re tired between practice and games. It kept them going and some play football and football season would start. Then they tried to get soccer going but it would never take off. Soccer’s great because all you need is a pair of shoes. And you don’t need all that expensive equipment, but they couldn’t get it going. Once East Falls was a great soccer neighborhood, at one time. All the English and Scots that came over here, they were big on soccer, and when I was a kid the ran…They had some good teams, East Falls. I was too young for the team and I can remember the Johnny Berras and John Taylor and the Verdones and Mr. Miller. He was this old Englishman, they played all over. I remember teams came here. They played the Germantown boys club. Then when the war started the Second World War started. They could never get it going again.
LD: Now, was Abbottsford built for homes for veterans?
JM: No, it was homes for defense workers.
LD: Oh ok.
JM: When the Second World War started, they needed places for… They had Midvale’s Steel over there and they had Budd’s and SKF, they were all making something that was good for the war, for the war effort. And they build that strictly for people who were working defense jobs. And that a lot of them came down from up-state. And a lot of them were from around Germantown and places like that. They moved in there because the rent was cheaper. But they had to work in a defense job. I can remember because St Bridget’s, our class size expanded right around sixth grade, fifth or sixth grade, they came in. All these people from up-state because their parents moved down here, moved up there because they worked in defense. Let me see, sixth grade would have been 1943 so it could have been fifth or sixth grade, when they came down here. And some of them with the war and everything they gave way to…different people ran it and they didn’t get the same break so they made it like they had to leave. They got priced out, a lot of people, who moved down from up-state. All different nationalities and they blended in pretty good. I remember when we were kids, even they had a softball team, Abbottsford we called them. They were older guys, guys working in defense jobs, but they all played in an East Falls league. And I got to be friends with a few who stayed, whose families stayed in East Falls some of them went to high school with me.
LD: Is there anything else you like to add?
JM: Just those golf courses I can’t remember. North Hills I’m thinking.
LD: Well we can always add it in the written later. If you think of it, you can call Ellen or me. Or call me and let me know.
JM: Its actually North Hills; they went up there about three or four years ago, and everybody liked it so much that this will be their fourth or fifth straight year.
JM: It’s North Hills or something. I’ll let you know. Yeah I think that’s it. I tried to mention all the stores. Is it still recording?
LD: Well, I can’t shut it off cause it’ll go back to the beginning.
JM: Oh, I see. Maybe he’ll call me in the next minute or two.
LD: But they type it up from here, so you’ll have a typed copy.
JM: Yeah, but up here I know I mentioned Buchanan’s was a pharmacy that was right up the street.
LD: Wasn’t there a barber shop up at Conrad and Bowman?
JM: Yes, there was. In fact, this guy named Joe Barreras (and his brother Dominic) was a barber there. He was from the Roaches but there was a little store because my wife lived right up the street on Bowman. And that’s where they got their lunchmeat and everything. All I know is the guy’s name was Herby. I think they were Jewish people and they had a son named Herby. There was an old guy and his wife and son named Herby, but we won’t mention that. It was a little corner store at Sunnyside and Vaux. It was when I was a kid, it was called John Young’s, John and May Young. John Young, he was in his ‘50s or ‘40s and his wife May and his father. And he use to cut lunch meat and bread and stuff. And we were on the tick everyone was on the tick, that’s what everyone called it.
LD: Yeah, down on Ridge, it was on the “I”.
JM: Ok, we called it The Tick…
LD: Did they have a board up with your names?
JM: No, they kept it in a book (note: in Caruso’s on Calumet your name was up on a board). They wouldn’t put on a board. That was private. Then everyone knew your business. When you’d come in he’d have a pencil and a pad. And you get a quarter pound of this and a quarter pound of that. Then my father was a policeman, he got paid every two weeks, and my mother the first thing she did was go down and straighten that up. But she did most of the shopping at right down at the corner of our street that was…Maybe that was Clayton’s. The one that’s called the Tilden Market now – that could have been Clayton’s or Caldwell’s, maybe it was Caldwell’s because there were two Caldwell stores. Yeah, it was Caldwell’s because one Caldwell had the Tilden Market and the other had the market right next to St Pollis on Conrad and Ainslie. Ed, he had a smaller store but it was Howard Coldwell that had the store up here. And my mother did most of the shopping there. And then across the street at Tilden and Vaux, there was an old guy named Beckman, who was a huckster at one time, but he was so old when I was a kid. That just a couple of times a week, he would open his garage which was right on Tilden Street where the alley way is near Vaux. And he would sell produce.
LD: Out his garage?
JM: Yes, out of his garage because I never remember him having a truck or a horse and wagon. When I was a kid everyone delivered with horse and wagon. Yeah, that was in the late ‘30s.
LD: Was that milk, bread, and produce?
JM: Milk and bread. Produce, no, no one came around with produce. We had the milkman and the bread man.
LD: Was there a ragman?
JM: Yeah well – ragman; we did have a ragman. I remember a ragman. I think they walked carrying stuff on their back. Then we had a guy who use to come up the alleyway selling horse radish and stuff.
LD: How about Fuller brush, did they come around? Or the vacuum cleaner people?
JM: I kinda forget, I was probably wasn’t home if they came during the day. I think I already mentioned, I do remember right before they had lighting, right across the street on Tilden Street they had a lamp post. And every night, before it got dark, a guy would come up the street with a ladder. Put the ladder down, open it up, maybe a four or five step ladder and would climb up the ladder and put something to light the lamp. That was it.
LD: So they were gas lights back then?
JM: Yep, I think, well we were in the middle of the block and that was right across the street from me, and I think there was one on each end then one in the middle of the street. I remember that. I don’t remember whether it went out by itself in the morning or whether they came around and put it out. I don’t know because they would probably come around right before daylight. But right before it got dark. Walking too, not riding. I can remember when the horses. I can remember one time when they would do their duty, you know I mean. One day, my father had our porch enclosed because of the kids and he didn’t want to have dust bothering anybody. And one time he told my brother, Jim, “Get the shovel, get the shovel, get out there and shovel that into the lawn.” Well we only had a little lawn and we didn’t know what he was talking about. Then he said “you’ll see, you’ll see”. And like two weeks later we’d have the grass up like that.
LD: It was free fertilizer.
JM: We thought he was crazy – “What do you mean shovel it up there?” We were young, eight to ten years old and then we found out why. Then I remember when the delivery with the horses. They had the wheels, the kinds you see in the westerns, like those wagon wheels with the wood and all that.
LD: The spokes, the wooden spokes and iron rims.
JM: Yeah, then they went to rubber wheels. Then I think the horses were done, but that was, I guess, late’30s. I don’t know if at the beginning of the war whether they were still there or not but I remember the trash trucks. I kind of think they were mechanized. People who picked up the ashes, I forget about the trash. I guess that went with the ashes but the ashes was a big thing with us. We didn’t have gas heat until the early ‘50s. Right before I went into the service, maybe ‘51 to ’52.
LD: And up until then it was coal?
JM: We had coal. You’d have to go down to the bottom of the cellar, and down at the bottom was the coal bin. And when we had the heater and then cellar window was right next to the heater. They built the houses that way. And I never got to do it…my father took care of that. You know he had to shake it down and get the ashes. Then we would help shovel them into the buckets. Pretty big buckets but we couldn’t fill them too high because then they got too heavy to lift up. It would take two of us. One would go outside and open the window while the other would lift it up. We put a couple of them out on trash day. And those guys would come by with the handkerchiefs and or the stockings around to avoid swallowing all the dust. But I don’t remember horses ever pulling them. They always seemed to have the motored engine or whatever. Yeah, I can’t think until I leave.
LD: That’s alright you can always write an addendum. You can write it down and we can add that.
JM: Oh I’m sure many people would remember much more than I can.
LD: I don’t know about more, but maybe from slightly different perspectives.
JM: People will remember something a little different something someone forgot about. That I’d remember and vice versa. I do, thank God, have a fairly good memory, but I know some people…But I go… Even down in Florida this year. I’m going back. And I could meet someone and talk about something in third grade and they’d say “Wow, you remember that” I do.
LD: Well, it’s been fun for me just listening and all…
JM: Yeah, I enjoyed that. I didn’t know how I’d make out or if I could help out any.
LD: Well, you did a really good job, and I think we made an hour and it’s over an hour and twenty minutes. You did a really good job.
JM: Yeah, I said to my daughter “I don’t think I can talk for over an hour without a couple of beers”, but I did alright. Yeah, I hardly have any beer anymore, but yeah it’s been fun.
Note: Jack clarified later that it was eight hours round trip to Atlantic City, not one way. He also said they went there for salt water taffy and got their spring water in Germantown.