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Oral History Interview

Interviewee: Alice Reiff (AR)

Interviewers: Ellen Sheehan (ES) and Wendy Moody (WM)

Date: June 5, 2019

Transcriber: Wendy Moody

AR:   Today is my husband’s birthday.

ES and WM: Oh! Did you do something special?

AR:   I had a tree put in.

WM: Today is June 5, 2019, Ellen Sheehan and I (Wendy Moody) are at the home of Alice Reiff on Ridge Avenue, having an oral history interview.  We thank you, Alice, for letting us come.

      So why don’t we begin by you telling us your full name, including your maiden name.

AR: My full name would be Alice Barbara Coine Reiff.

WM: And your address on Ridge?

AR: 4256 Ridge Avenue.

WM: And your date of birth?

AR: Aug 27, 1926.

WM: And where were you born?

AR: Media (PA)

WM: Can you tell us a little about your parents?  What are their names?

AR: My father name is William James Coine, Sr. and my mother is Mary Ellen Ruddy Coine.

WM: Where was your mom born?

AR: In County Mayo, Ireland.

 WM: And your dad?

AR: In Fitchburg Massachusetts

WM: And your church affiliation?

AR: St. Bridget.

WM: Were you another religion before St. Bridget?

AR: Yes

WM: Can you tell us about that?

AR: I remember going to a non-denominational church when we lived in Penn Valley and when we moved to East Falls I started going to the Grace Church at Calumet and Ridge Avenue.

WM: Can you describe the church?

AR: Just that it was beautiful and they had wonderful programs. They had a Sunday School.

WM: That’s not the church that became Falls Presbyterian?

AR: No, that was further up; more away from the city.  Bessie Dobson owned that church and she decided to build the church at Vaux and Midvale and she donated that ground to Fairmount Park.  And I notice that the builder seems to be taking it over and I don’t think that’s…

WM: Where exactly was that?  Ridge and where?

AR: It was next to the Anchorage.  Remember the Anchorage?

ES: Where they built those townhouses.

AR: The new townhouses.

WM: So way up there…..

AR: 4400.  I called Fairmount Park and tried to have them look into it, because on the other side, towards us, there was a little park and I remember going there with my first son for a picnic.  And then the Anchorage got a lease using about half of that – one half was green, towards Kelly Drive, and the Ridge Avenue part was for parking.  And I notice now that construction has taken it over.

WM: What is the Anchorage?

ES: It was a restaurant and a place where everybody went to dance.

AR: They had an outdoor patio.  They had live music and we could go up and sit on a bench and listen.

WM: What do you think happened to Grace Episcopal?  Why did they close? Why did they take it down?

AR: The project came and they were losing members.  It was pretty bad around here.  When we first moved here in 1950 they had all little, Heimlich’s, stores and you could do all your shopping here in East Falls.  Just walk.  But now everything has changed.

WM: Can you describe Ridge Avenue when you came?  What stores do you remember?

AR: I remember Heimlich’s. Because they were about five storefronts there?

WM: And what kind of store was that?

AR: They had clothing.

WM: A department store?

AR: Yes, a department store.

WM: What’s there now?

ES: Wouldn’t it be right on the corner at the bottom of Eveline (and Ridge)?  There’s a day care center there now.

WM: What else do you remember on Ridge?  There was a hardware store?

AR: Yes, there was a hardware store on the corner of Ridge and Midvale.

ES: Well our neighbors on Indian Queen Lane owned it – there name was Lochter.  Do you remember Ruth Lochter and Abe? They owned the hardware store.  And it was owned by her father – I forget his name –

AR: I remember Ruth.

WM: Were there other stores or restaurants?  Was there a 5 & 10?

AR: Yes, on the corner of Ridge and Midvale.

WM: Called?

AR: Just 5 & 10.

WM: A grocery store?

AR: There was Sam’s.

WM: Where was Sam’s?

AR: That was the second building in from Midvale.

ES: Next to the Major.

AR: Yes, Major drug store

WM: And what was going up Midvale? What do you remember?

AR: There was a restaurant where you could get…

ES: Do you remember Pete’s?

AR: Oh that was further up.  Pete’s Bar.  That’s still there but it’s closed.

ES: I think there selling it now.

AR: Oh they are? Did the wife of the owner die?  I think she lived upstairs.

ES: Yes, she did.  You’re right.  Mazzio?

AR: Yes! Pete Mazzio.

WM: Was there a butcher?  Was that Stubblebine’s?

AR: Oh yeah, the meat store was on Midvale.

WM: Where did you shop?

AR:I shopped everywhere in East Falls, because if you didn’t have a car…

WM: So it was a thriving business district.  And was the trolley active?

AR: Yes, and then that went away and the buses came.

WM: Tell us about the project.  So were you here before it was built?

AR:  Yes.

WM: Describe that in the whole process of what you remember: when it came, when it left, and the impact.

AR: I remember when it was proposed. a group of us went to protest – I guess City Hall, and of course John B. Kelly was a lot stronger than we were and that place went up.

ES: Why do you mention John B. Kelly? What do you remember about that?

WM: Was he for it?

AR: He did the brickwork.

ES: He built projects up and down.

WM: So what was there before the project?

AR: They had a factory here – Klein and Whiteman’s?

ES: Powers and Weightman.

AR: Powers & Weightman, yes.

WM: Did that come all the way down to Ridge?

AR: It came down – well I think they built the church and the houses on either side of the driveway to the church.  And then it was their building and then when the projects came in, they put up offices so that people would have places to work.  But it didn’t turn out that way.

WM: So the project, can you describe it?  There were two high risers – were there low buildings as well?

AR: Yes, 2 high risers and low buildings.  And when it opened, St. Bridget School – there were like 100 children in a class.  My son was going to St. Bridget.

WM: And what was the impact of the project on St. Bridget?  Did some of the children go there?

AR: Yes, most of them – it was so crowded.

ES: Well they had a school – the East Falls School.

AR: Oh that’s right – they did have a school there. But apparently there were a lot of Catholics who moved in.  At first it was doctors, interns, from MCP (note: Medical College of Pennsylvania) that were living there and they would move out and they moved in – other people who didn’t know how to take care of things.

WM: Lower income people?

AR: Yes

WM: So you saw changes.

AR: After that happened, the fire department was up there all the time. At Christmas time the kids would put their Christmas trees in the elevator, set them on fire, and send them up to the top floor.  But the buildings were so well built that nothing caught on fire.  They were award-winning buildings and it just seemed sad.  The view from their balconies looked over at the high-priced apartments across the river.  Beautiful view of the park.

WM: Were you ever in the projects?

AR: When they first opened we got to visit it.  But my son had friends who lived there.

ES: What was the impact on you – on your property here?  Was there any impact?

AR: Well we could see the neighborhood failing but we always had hope for it.  And my husband worked at School House Lane and the railroad and he could actually walk to work.

ES: So what company was there?

AR: Wood Specialty Company.

WM:  And what was that?

AR: They made precision wood.  They did a lot of printer blocking and I remember being in the doctor’s office and there was a printer’s block there and I turned it over and there were my husband’s initials!  She said she bought it at an antique dealer.

ES: So he made it!

AR: Yeah.  He had to sign anything that went out to make sure it was right.

WM: Did that company close when the housing project was built?

AR: No, they stayed – the owner died and his wife took over and it was very unpleasant to work there and I started keeping track of our expenses and I said to Jack, you have retire before this job kills you.  So he left early.

ES: So what years did he work there?

AR: 1946 to 1988.  He was a loyal employee.

ES: What is there now?

AR: It’s empty.

(phone call interrupts)

AR: That’s what happens when you own a property

WM: There’s so much we want to talk to you about, but before we leave the housing project, I just wondered, what did you notice about the shopping district over the years when the project came in?

AR: Well everything went down.  People were being mugged and nobody wanted to come down to Ridge Avenue  I remember sitting in a Community Council meeting and the people in front of me were talking about the ShopRite we had and the good prices, and she said she would never come down on Ridge Avenue.  And here I lived on Ridge Avenue!

WM: Did you feel unsafe, personally?

AR: I did not. I knew enough never to carry a purse.

WM: And so one by one the stores were closing down?

AR: Yeah.  And even up here, where there was a girl who worked – she lived on Eveline Street and she worked here – she’d come home for lunch for her children, and she got mugged a couple times and she just had to quit.

WM: Tell us what you remember about the day they were imploded.

AR: Well I had tickets for the implosion.

ES: You had to have tickets?

AR: Yeah, for the other side of the river and that’s where Mayor Rendell was.  It was sad.  I always thought that maybe it could be made into housing for the elderly.  But what’s there now has been good.

WM: It looks like it’s well maintained.  It’s mixed income and working well.

AR: And they have very strict rules.  One offense and you’re out, which is a good thing.  And they use our little park.

WM: Well we want to talk about the park, but just going back to Jack, can you tell us when you met Jack and when you were married?

AR: I met him in1939 when we moved to East Falls.  I met a girl and she had a birthday party for me and invited all her friends for me to meet.  And that’s how I met him.

WM: What were you doing in East Falls?

AR: We moved here.  Our family.

WM: Where did you move to?

AR: Here. 

WM: This house?  Oh. And why did that come about, from Media?

AR: Well we lived in Penn Valley and the house burned down and we had to move and we moved here.  And I hated it.

WM: You lived here with your parents in this house?

AR: Hm mm.

ES: Did you father work nearby?

AR: Well my father was a chauffeur and he ended up with a job in Chestnut Hill and the family moved to Chestnut Hill but I was already married.

WM: And you were, again, I don’t think we had it on tape, how many children did they have?

AR: 11

WM: And you are…?

AR: Number 3

WM: From the top or bottom?

AR: Top.  There are five bedrooms in this house and one bathroom so you wonder how we did it.  Today you have to have a bedroom with a bath.

WM: When you married Jack did you move right to this house?

AR: No, we had an apartment and my mother-in-law had a thyroid condition – she went in to have surgery – her blood pressure was high.  So they sent her home and I was taking care of her and she died suddenly in her sleep and that was in 1948.

ES: So was that the year you were married?

AR: We were married in ’47.

WM: Did you move to her house?

AR: No we kept our apartment.

WM: Where was that?

AR:  Down the Ridge. 4100.

WM: Did you work?

AR: No.

WM: What children do you have?

AR: Two sons.  One was born in 1948.

WM: What’s his name?

AR: John J. Jr.

WM: And the other?

AR: Thomas

WM: Born when?

AR: 1958 – we waited a long time (laughter)

WM: Now your sons were going to St. Bridget?

AR: My first son went to St. Bridget, graduated and went to Roman.  My second son started St. Bridget and got sick and missed the first grade.  So I looked into sending him to private school so he went to Waldron Academy.

WM: Now your husband, you said, was born here.  Do you have any memories of things he talked about growing up?  Where he played? What he did?

AR: We, he used to fish in the Schuylkill and I think they also swam in the Schuylkill.

ES: Did he talk about the Bathey at all? Or did your children swim at the Bathey?

AR: Yes they learned to swim at the Bathey

ES: Oh did they?

WM: Did Jack have any stories of Gustine Lake or what else he did as a child?

AR: He was a good skater and they used to be able to ice skate up there.  And he remembered the inn that was in the park.

WM: Falls Tavern?

AR: No.

ES: There were inns built in Inn Yard Park.  That’s why its call Inn Yard Park.  It’s the name of somebody – Bobby somebody’s inn…

AR: I think it was called Rivage.

ES: Rivage, ok. Well, Rivage was up this way.

AR: It went through a lot of different names, I think.

ES: Oh the one where the party was for the Kellys….  Riverside? Was that the name of it that, do you remember?

AR: I remember Rivage and I actually have a picture of it.

WM: Oh good. We’ll have to look at that.  So tell us about the evolution of the park.  When you first lived here, what was there?

AR: It was a park, and in the summer they had 2 college students – one a boy and one a girl.

WM: What year are we talking about?

AR: That would have been 1939.  And it was wonderful.  The children in the area would spend all day there.

WM: What would they do?

AR: They had a lot of programs.  The thing I remember best is them teaching chess.

WM: Was there a building in the park?  Was this done outside?

AR: Yes.

WM: Was the fire station there?

AR: That was built – rebuilt about 1958 and I have a picture of the program.  I made a copy and took it down to the firehouse and they actually framed it.

WM: How nice.  So was the old one in the same location and they rebuilt it?

AR: Yes.

WM: Were the basketball courts there?

AR: No they came later.  Somebody thought it would be a good idea to have the inner city – that’s what they called it – and the projects to get together and play together.  It didn’t work for a while.

ES: How did you become involved in the park?

AR: The park really went downhill.  They stopped the supervised play – in fact they were running out of money and they weren’t even cutting the grass.  The Fairmount Park Commission started a Friends Group and when I found out about it I applied and was accepted.

WM: When was this?

AR: About 1997.

ES: So were you made director of the Friends…

AR: Well you could take the title of President or Coordinator.  I ran that up until my husband went blind and it was just too much pressure for me.

WM: What kind of changes did you make at the park?

AR: Well I also started Arbor Day in the park and we had our first one in 1996 and that was a way to get trees for the park.

ES: So you raised money for the trees?

AR: Well they were donated because we had Arbor Day.

WM: Donated by the Horticultural Society?

AR: Yes.

WM: Which schools came to Arbor Day?

AR: In the beginning it was St. Bridget, Penn charter, and Mifflin – they were the three schools.  And now we invite Penn charter, Wissahickon Charter, and Mifflin. And this is the first year we were rained out!  It was our 24th

ES and WM: Oh dear!

ES: So what kinds of things did you do on this day? Did you have personalities come and do speeches?

AR: Yes.  We tried to keep it short because the children are so young.  But we gave out an award each year – well, some years we didn’t.

ES: For a student?

AR: No for people that …

ES: Contributed to the park in some way?

AR: Yes.  Keith Shively and Tom Williams gave them away.

WM: Didn’t they read a book to the children about trees every year?

AR: We gave them a book.  One year we gave each child a book and every year we gave each teacher a book for the library. Cynthia (Kishinchand) picks that out.  She does a wonderful job.

WM: And what about the new equipment there?  How did Inn Yard Park evolve?

AR: Well I heard about the Community Design Collaborative and I applied for a grant and I received it.  And they had architects that volunteer their time, and I invited members of the East Falls Community Council and Development Corporation. We sat around this table and talked about the plans.  And then they drew up the plans and they also included parking and that upset me because I didn’t want parking.  I was fighting to keep it open space.

WM: You mean behind it, towards the river?

AR: They were going to put it on both sides.

ES: They were going to do some sort of parallel parking along this Ridge Avenue.

AR: They did the cut-ins.  And they were going to take a slice of the park and I didn’t want them to put parking there because kids run out, chasing the ball, but I lost that one.  But I guess I won the one along – they were going to cut in and park this way (gestures) and we had a friend and her daughter was down in Avalon and they parked that way.  She was riding her bike and the guy pulled out and killed her. 

ES and WM: Oh my.

AR: That always broke my heart and I thought of that every time they suggested it.

WM: Who uses the park now?

AR: The whole neighborhood.

WM: Great!

AR: The design that they did for the park – we didn’t approve it because of parking and the expense.  But we did want to have the paly equipment so we had 2 girls that stepped up to volunteer to do it.  I figured we should have someone who has children to work on it.  So they went to Tom Sauerman (note: President of EFCC), and he was a big help in knowing the right people to contact and they put in that little park.  And I wasn’t happy with the fence around it but the kids love to run – the little ones – did you ever see them running?  I thought it would be better to have a fence on Ridge Avenue, but the mothers can sit there and do this (indicates cell phone) (laughter) – and not pay attention to their children.

WM: You’re also involved in Tree Tenders?

AR: Yes

WM: Tell us a little about that – how that began and your involvement.

AR: Well Sallie Maser and Lloyd Russo started the Tree Tenders.

WM: About what year?

AR: 1995

WM: Good memory Alice, my goodness!

ES: Sallie Maser and who?

WM: Lloyd Russo – he taught up at Textiles.  And how did you get involved?

AR: Well, Sallie Maser asked me if I wanted to join, and I had been reading about it and I thought, what a wonderful program. So my husband and I both went to the meeting – it was up at – was it still Textiles then in ‘95? Probably.  And that’s how it started.

WM: And what was your role in it?  Were you planting trees?

AR: Yes, planting trees and cleaning up tree pits.  Then we decided that’s not what we’re about – cleaning other people’s tree pits (laughter) so it got into planting trees and I did take a role of coordinator of it.  Cynthia Kishinchand stepped up and has been the head of it since.

WM: Are you still involved?

AR: Yes.  Actually Arbor Day is a Tree Tenders event – it’s not a Friends of the Inn Yard Park, but we host them.  Everybody thinks that were putting it on but were just hosting Tree Tenders.

WM: So Friends of the Inn Yard Park is still in existence?

AR: Yes.

WM: Who’s in charge of that?

AR: Jen Arnoldi.  And she’s so busy.  We’ve been storing all the equipment that’s used for Arbor Days and cleanups on our property, and I’ve been telling them, ever since my husband got sick, that were not going to be here forever and we need a little garden house.

ES: Exactly.  So are there plans to build something that would be a shed?

AR: Well they’ve been dragging their feet.  They all agree we need it.  So after my husband died….

WM: What year was that?

AR: The last day of 1997 – the 31st

WM: That long ago? 1997?

AR: Well it was only a year and 5 months ago.

WM:  2017.

AR: 2017; I’m sorry.

WM: Yes, I thought it was more recent.  I’m sorry we didn’t get to interview him.  How old was he when he died?

AR: He was 92 and today he would be 94. 

WM: So he was born in 1925? 

AR: After he died a lot of people donated in his memory for the garden house and my grandson actually hired the architect.  I’m so grateful to him.  So we have all the plans, and we put down a deposit of $5000 and still nothing’s happening!  So I don’t know why.  I call them every once in a while but it’s not my place…

ES: You want to see it accomplished.

AR: It’s been a month since I called.  I wrote a grant with $1000 towards the architect and my grandson doesn’t want the reimbursement until everything is paid for.  He just wanted to do that because he knew how much that meant to me.

ES: Is there anything that you regret about the park – the fact that they have the playground equipment there and the basketball court – have any of those things been a problem?

AR: Well, the basketball courts, they have lights there.  The firehouse was in charge of them.  They would be turned off, and then at night the fellows would say, turn them on. And if they didn’t, they would damage their cars, so of course the lights went on and they would be playing all night.

WM: Shining into your house.

AR: Yeah, we had to keep the windows and the blinds shut.

ES: Is it noisy too?

AR: It’s run properly now.  They came up with a system where it’s locked, and the fire department does not have access to it.  And it goes off and on at certain hour. Then for a while, they would drive their cars in and shine their lights and play their music but that stopped too.  Everything’s gotten so much better.

ES: What do you think that’s due to?

AR: Supervision.

WM: Tell us a little about your house.  You said it was built in 1849.  What else do you know about it?

AR: William and Amanda Shronk.  He was a fisherman.

WM: Oh yes, did he live here!

AR: Yes.

ES: Oh no! Is this the Shronk house!

WM: I didn’t know that; how exciting!

AR: A man by the name of Lukens was doing his family history and knocked on the front door, and here it was his ancestors who lived here.

ES: The Shronks.

AR: So I showed him the whole house.

ES: He must have been thrilled.

AR: Yeah, and I got a picture of him standing on the front step.

WM: There was a famous story of Geoffrey Shronk catching thousands of catfish in one day.  Now, who else has lived here? Do you know?

AR: The Shronks lived here until 1911 and it was inherited by a Rinehart – and I don’t know the exact connection but I think she was a Shronk.  She lived in upper Roxborough and she rented it out.  I know the Staffords lived here, and the Homewoods. And then we moved in, and the Hillenbrands bought the house after the war, and then he lost it or sold it to the Skolskys who we bought it from.  They moved up to Blue Bell.

WM: What’s the construction of it?

AR: The front part is all stone.  At the turn of the century they added the kitchen, and the porch, and the bedroom and bath.

WM: So interesting.  So I had heard you were a seamstress. Tell us about that.

AR: Well I always loved to sew. And all my friends would– if I made myself something, they’d say “Would you make me one?”  So it started out that – I said to Jack “I don’t know how to get out of this” – I was sewing for everybody.  And he said “I know how you can get out of it – charge them!” (laughter)

WM: So you had a business from your house.

AR: I guess you could call it that.

ES: I heard you made your husband’s and sons’ suits, and you made wedding dresses, everything.  Do you still sew?

AR: Only repairs. I haven’t been feeling too good and I was just in the hospital – my pacemaker wasn’t functioning properly. So they had a specialist come in and reset it and I feel so much better. I’ve had it for two years and this is the best I’ve felt.

WM: Were there other tailors or seamstresses in East Falls?  Any businesses?

AR: Well, the tailor shops all did repairs.  There was one across the street, and one on Midvale, and one up on Stanton Street.

WM: So it was quite a thriving business district.  I wish I had been able to see that.  Did you tell us where you went to school?

AR: I went to Bala Cynwyd Public School.  Their kindergarten teacher had her doctorate degree. It was a really good school.

WM: High school?

AR: Germantown.

WM: Any memories of that?

AR: The war just started then.

ES: When you started, the war was starting at that time?

AR: When I was there, I remember it starting.

WM: What was the impact of the war on you and on East Falls?

AR: Well, I guess the same as it was for everyone – we were devastated that all the young men were being drafted.

ES: Were any of your 10 or 11 siblings involved in the war?

AR: My oldest brother was a P.O.W. and then he was released and he was rehabbed in Atlantic City.  He invited us to come down.  And it was such a gorgeous hotel and that was my introduction to filet mignon.

ES: You celebrated!

AR: Well they served it to his guests.  Beautiful tablecloth…

WM: Was Jack in the war?

AR: Yes.

WM: Where was he?

AR: He was stationed on Long Beach Island – we didn’t know at the time, but the Nazi’s submarines were sinking our ships.

WM: He was in the Navy?

AR: No, he was in the Army.  Anti-Aircraft.  He was protecting shores.  But after the war was over you heard of all these things and it really got scary.

WM: Did you use the ration books for gasoline?

AR: Yes. And for clothing.  And shoes –I remember most.

ES: I think meat was rationed.  What do you remember about holidays in East Falls? 4th of July? Christmas?

AR: The parades that St. Bridget had on the 4th of July. They’d come down Stanton Street, down the river, and Fred Schrotz was a pilot and he would fly over and drop a wreath into the water.

WM: They had a picnic at the river?

AR: They would have it up at McMichael Park.

WM: Were you part of the parade?

AR: No, I never participated.

ES: After the war or before the war when they had these parades?

AR: I’m not sure, if it was during the war.

ES: Were there fireworks?

AR: No.

ES: And what about Christmas? What was your tradition?

AR: We would decorate, and decorate outside. We had a pear tree, and then the squirrels started eating the wires so we ended up we stopped doing that.

WM: Was there caroling going on, or any community events?

AR: Yes. But nothing much on Ridge. At one time they used to put lights up at Ridge and Midvale, and Jack’s uncles were electricians and they were involved in that.

ES: Did you belong to any community organizations?  You did mention East Falls Community Council.  Any social organizations or neighborhood ones?

AR: I used to volunteer at St. Bridget’s for the hot lunches and I’d have to have my sister come and give my son lunch because he didn’t want to stay.  (laughter)

ES:  So you were up there giving lunches while your sister…?

AR: And then the East Falls Development Corporation. They asked me to be a member and I was the Treasurer until 1998.

ES: That was a big responsibility I’m sure.

AR: I was the Treasurer at LaSalle High School when my son was a student.

ES: Oh really. So you were involved with St. Bridget School as a parent, and also LaSalle?

AR: And Waldron.

WM:  And the Development Corporation and Inn Yard Park and Tree Tenders.  Good for you Alice! (laughter)

ES: And making lunches at St. Bridget.

WM: Did you have any interactions with the Kellys?

AR: I met them, but that’s about all.

WM: Did you meet them at church?

AR: Yes. They always went to church, and it’s a shame now; I just read in the Now that St. Bridget’s might be getting ….that would be sad…

WM: It really would.

ES: What did you get from that article on St. Bridget?

AR: I was heartbroken.

ES: Because there’s fewer people attending.

AR: I can see that most of the people there are elderly, and once we’re gone, who’s going to be there?  And that’s coming true.  The children… well I do know a couple of young people – well, on Love Your Park day, we found a set of keys and there was a thing on there for Stanley’s Hardware and I called and spoke to the manager and asked if he could possibly give me the person’s name – because it was, house keys, car keys, the whole thing, on a great big clip. So he gave me the number and I called her and here she lives on 3722 Stanton Street, so she came down to get the keys and she brought another young girl with her – and here she had a box of strawberries as a gift!

WM: How sweet.

AR: And gave me a great big hug.

WM: Of course; what a good deed.

AR: The girl who was with her, her sister, is now dating my grandson.

WM: How ironic.  So what changes have you seen in the community.  You’ve been here, let’s see, about…

AR: 69 years,

WM: What do you think of East Falls now and what changes have you seen?

AR: So many.  I’ve seen it at its best, I’ve seen it at its worst, and now it’s coming back.  I see all the development along the river and I think people will be coming back to appreciate the river for what it is.  I always loved the river and I couldn’t understand why people weren’t interested in it.  But they are now.

WM: They are. How do you think the neighborhood came back after the project – you said you’ve seen it at its worst – how do you think it rebuilt itself?

AR: It didn’t get bad overnight and it’s not going to get better overnight.  It’s going to take time.

WM: But you’ve seen lots of improvements.

AR: Yes.

WM: Good.

ES: Did we talk about sports?  Were your boys involved in any sports or teams when they were growing up?

AR: They played in the Inn Yard Park.  They used to have teams, but then they didn’t have backstops.  The balls would come over, but I finally got them to put in a backstop and they could play in there and hit the balls and the balls wouldn’t come in our house.

ES: You’ve done so much for this community by taking care of that park all these years, Alice.

AR: I just love the park (note: Inn Yard Park) and it breaks my heart to see them taking park land.

WM: That’s terrible. Where did Jack go to school?

AR: St Bridget.  He went into the service when he was 18.

ES: Was that during the war then? He was born in 1925 so he was just a teenager I guess?

AR: When it started.  When he got in it, at the last… I think there was a year and a half after he was in.

ES: He went to Roman Catholic?

AR: No, he went into the service.

ES: He didn’t go to high school?

AR: No.

ES: So he went right into the service.  And where was he employed? Did we find that out?

AR: Wood Specialty.

ES: Oh yes, so he worked there.

AR: It was supposed to be a part time job, but it ended up…

WM: Is there anything else you’d like to share about East Falls or about yourself?

ES: You’re a very talented lady – all the things you’ve done – you’re renowned in the neighborhood for your sewing, your attention to the park, for so many volunteer things that you’ve done.  That’s a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

WM: You’ve made it a better place.

AR: Thank you, that’s why I want the garden house so badly because once we go, there’ll be no place to store these things and people will lose interest I think.

WM: Who’s in charge of getting that built?

AR: Jen Arnoldi is now the coordinator. And she’s actually an architect, but she’s so busy.

WM: If we see her, we’ll give her a nudge.  Well, thank you so much, Alice, for all your time and memories. We appreciate your adding to the history of East Falls.

                                             END OF INTERVIEW

Note from Ellen Sheehan:

The owner of the hardware store was Ruth Curson who inherited it from her father, Max.  Sophie Curson, the high end store at 18 & Rittenhouse. was a cousin to Ruth.  Ruth Stubblebine was a sister to Leroy Shronk.  Delores Hillenbrand lived next to Alice.