The Kelly Sisters
East Falls Oral History Project
Interviewees: Lizanne Kelly LeVine (LL) and Peggy Kelly Conlan (PC)
Interviewer: Cherie Snyder (CS) with Ruth Emmert (RE)
Date of interview: April 24, 1981
Transcribers: Anne Farnese and Wendy Moody
N.B. This tape is in poor condition. A large portion of it is inaudible. At times, the interviewees speak over each other and it is difficult to understand what is being said. Also, their voice are quite similar so there is difficulty understanding
which sister is speaking. A.F.
CS: Ok, well, we can start out by, just, what were the names of your parents and when did they come to East Falls?
LL: Peggy, you start with that one.
PC: Well, Daddy was born and raised in East Falls.
LL: Was he born in East Falls or was he born in New York?
PC: He was born in East Falls, Lizanne, I’m sure…
LL: Well, now we’re taping and we’re not quite sure about that one… He came when he was little; the family was originally from New York.
LL: Yeah, from Vermont. East Falls they came to, settled.
PC: But I’m pretty sure Daddy was born here.
LL: The earlier ones were born in Vermont. It was a very large family. Ten children.
CS: And your mother?
LL: Mother was born in the Strawberry Mansion area.
PC: 33rd and Dunne?
LL: Yes, and then when they were married in 1924, they moved right to the corner of Ridge and Midvale while their house was being built on Henry and Coulter Street.
PC: They lived over a store on the corner.
LL: Didn’t they live in an apartment over a shop?
PC: I don’t believe it was a shop. It was a saloon called the Gunboat.
LL: Well, I knew they lived in an apartment above…
PC: Right on the corner.
CS: And how many children were there in the family?
LL: In our family?
CS: Yours. Brothers and sisters.
PC: Four. I’m the oldest, then my brother Jack, then Grace, then Lizanne here.
CS: Are you revealing what years you were born in, or…
LL: No. Peggy was born in 1925, Jack in 1927, Grace in ’29 and I’m 33.
PC: You were born in ’33!
LL: Well, we don’t have to go into that… (laughter)
CS: How did you see East Falls change since you were growing up? In appearance? In makeup?
LL: Since the project, the Schuylkill Falls Project, was built there has been a great change. Before that it was just nice and gradual. That changed East Falls completely, in my way of thinking.
CS: When was that?
LL: Late ‘40’s, because I went to school at Ravenhill Academy and I remember when the project was going up and Reverend Mother was rather concerned because our hockey field looked over the project and she was greatly concerned that all these houses and stuff were going up. And that has to be the late ‘40s when that went up.
LL: And also the other thing that grew up were the houses across the street – – I don’t know if that’s East Falls – on the other side of School House Lane – there used to be a big forest down there – all the houses across the street from Ravenhill Academy on School House Lane.
PC: It still kept a lovely appearance and openness.
LL: Another thing, of course the whole area has grown up, we used to go down Henry Avenue and walk for miles and see nothing. There were never all those houses there. Those, I guess, go all the way to Roxborough. I remember when they talked about the Henry Avenue Bridge being opened to go across into Roxborough.
CS: How did you get across before then?
LL: I would imagine old Ridge Avenue. Down in the Falls. You went through the Wissahickon. There used to be a riding academy not too far from here.
PC: Right off of Henry Avenue
LL: And we used to go riding there and down to the Wissahickon.
PC: Wasn’t it Dupont Street? Rector Avenue. It’s still there. I saw horses crossing Henry Avenue just this morning from Andorra. They’re still crossing Henry Avenue with all that traffic. They’re crossing with traffic lights now.
CS: Did you both go to Ravenhill?
LL: Yes. Well I graduated Ravenhill, Peggy graduated from Stevens School.
PC: Grace went to Ravenhill but then graduated from Stevens.
LL: And our brother went to Penn Charter. So we all went to school right in the neighborhood. We all walked to school. We used to walk down through people’s property and up the hill up to Ravenhill – Roseneath farm was there.
RE: “The Nuts”
LL: Well, yes, the nuts. Well, Ruthie…
CS: Where was that again?
LL: It’s right down the end of Warden Drive
CS: Where is that again?
PC: The back of the property went all along Warden Drive there at the bottom of the hill but the entrance was up on School House Lane so it went right on through. A very lovely deep property.
CS: That’s not there?
LL: Oh, yes, it’s there. The original house has been ripped down and Textiles School bought it. And Textiles School has now bought Ravenhill. And they bought Lankanau School.
PC: And they bought your old house.
PC: And they bought my house. I lived on School House Lane when I was first married.
CS: Are they using that building?
LL: Yes, the president lives there.
RE: They are buying up all over.
LL: I don’t know who the Levys sold theirs to – Temple.
PC: Probably, but Goldie Paley, I believe, belongs to Textiles. And that’s used as a little museum now; it’s lovely. We went there the other day. But the big – Leon Levy’s house – big house down in sunken hollow – that’s Temple, I think. Or maybe it’s Textile.
PC: Textile used to use for soccer practice up front on School Lane, but the actual house; LL: I thought Temple – they gave it to Temple – I think the Leon Levy’s – right on the corner of School House Lane and Henry Avenue – beautiful White Corners – I wouldn’t be surprised if Temple hadn’t given it over to Textiles or University of Pennsylvania. Textiles is getting so big now.
PC: They might not need it.
LL: They might not need it but it would be lovely to have.
RE: Leon Levy was head of…
RE: CBS; that will identify him.
PC: But when they first moved to the neighborhood they were with WCAU and KYW, the radio stations.
CS: Were they living here when you were here?
LL: Yes, we were here.
CS: They had kids your age?
PC: Yes, Lizanne’s age.
CS: What were your most vivid memories of going to Ravenhill?
LL: Going to school – the farms. I started when I was two years of age. I was Baby Jesus in the crib.
PC: Lizanne was Jesus, I was a wiseman and Grace was a shepherd.
LL: And I was in the crib – I remember that – I don’t know why
PC: We used to cart Lizanne to school. The nuns were sweet. They would take your little sisters at any time you wanted to bring them.
LL: On rainy days mother used to ship me off to school.
PC: The classes were so small – 6 girls in my class.
LL” I was the only one in 1st grade
PC: For one year she was the only one….
LL: So I just walked around to all the different classes. When I graduated our class grew up to a big booming 17.
CS: Really? Were there boarders there?
LL: Yes, many boarders. There were a lot of Spanish-speaking girls because it was an order of nuns that had convents…
PC: In Manila and Nicaragua.
LL: People would send their daughters to Ravenhill.
CS: When you went to play, did you play mostly at home or go to playgrounds in the area? What did you do?
PC: We didn’t go – I didn’t go – to playgrounds. We had most of our athletics after classes at school.
LL: We didn’t get home until it was almost dark. When we got home from school after hockey we walked home. We did have a tennis court in the backyard and my brother, when he was young, – I guess dad did it – put a basketball court in. And the neighborhood kids used to always come over, even after Kell stopped playing and was in college. The kids, the McIlvaine kids and their friends, used to come and play basketball in the court.
PC: And football in the side lawn.
LL: Yeah and a little bit of baseball in McMichael Park. We went over there and if you’d have a baseball game going. I was never much for softball; we watched them really. But McMichael Park was quite the thing in the springtime. That was about it. We didn’t go too far afield.
PC: There was a lot of activity in our house.
LL: We used to walk over here in early spring, coming to Alden Park and going swimming over here in the swimming pool, when this first opened.
PC: Yes, when this pool opened, right here where we are now.
RE: When you were little?
PC: We had friends that lived here in the apartments and we would visit them and go swimming with them.
LL: And go swimming. The swimming pool here, now it doesn’t do it, but it used to, it’s an indoor pool now, but it used to have a roof –
PC: A sliding roof.
LL: And it was opened in the summertime. And before we went to the shore, cause you see, we were gone all summer long, and we’d come over here and swim. We’d walk over here and swim.
RE: You see, Lizanne, You said why I did exactly the same thing as your children did. My children went to the “Bathey.”
CS: What’s the “Bathey?” (Laughter)
RE: It’s a public – a city-owned swimming pool down there and they called it the “Bathey.” And it was free. And it opened a certain date and closed a certain date and you could go any day and it had a lifeguard there. And they also went to —what was the…
PC: Oh! Down, right down on the Schuylkill Drive? You mean? You mean Gustine Lake?
RE: Gustine Lake! They all went there to splash around but not to Alden Park Manor—you see you were different. (Laughter)
PC: It’s just that we went to school with these girls.
CS: And they lived over here?
PC: Yes, and we’d walk over here.
LL: And our brother, some of them were boys who went to Penn Charter that we knew who lived here.
CS: Were you involved in any of the local community organizations?
LL:Just our school—when I was in school I was at the Vernon Park, something or other, Germantown—it was a Germantown Organization. But, no, we really weren’t involved too much in the local…
RE: The hospital…
LL: Oh well, Medical College. That is a different story.
CS: Go ahead about that ‘cause I know your whole family was involved there.
LL:Well Mother, Mother just started that. She just started that. I don’t know how Mother got involved but I think…
PC: Mother got involved because she taught there before she was married. Mother taught athletics.
LL: Athletics at Penn and also Women’s Med – it was Women’s Medical College then, she taught basketball.
PC: The students. Athletics. But then they were so busy, they soon dropped their athletic program.
LL: Yeah, It wasn’t necessary for the medical students to take athletics. But Mother was teaching at the same time at Penn.
LL: And they also had lack of room—they used the gym you know. So Mother was very involved in Medical College for a long, long time. And just kept going. And when we were children… Pause….Do we tell that we stole flowers?
PC: Oh yes… (Laughter) It’s been told so many times, believe me. (Laughter)
LL: Well Mother used to have a fete—there used to be a fete.
PC: A Spring fete—gourmet fete.
LL: They used to have a lot of booths and everything around and there was—we always had to raise money and there was a flower booth. And also we had a flower booth right outside our front. On Saturdays we would decide it would be a good day to sell flowers in the late spring. And the Godfrey gals and the Kelly gals would get together and we would make—The day before up until it was, oh, 7o’clock, 8o’clock ‘til you couldn’t even see, we would climb the fence and steal Old Mosie Brown’s – well that wasn’t bad–the violets…
PC: The violets. Stealing Mosie Brown’s – he never even knew they were there in the back of his huge property. He had acres and acres and acres and we climbed the fence and would make-up all the bouquets of little violets.
LL: And daffodils
PC: But then all our neighbors in the back of the alley, we used to send Grace and the little ones up to steal all their—the neighbors’ flowers and we set them out at front and as the neighbors would go by in the morning we would sell their own flowers to them. Or we’d send the little ones with a little basket on their arms to go knocking on the doors. And they couldn’t resist these sweet little girls who had just stripped the backs of their gardens.
LL: It was for a good cause.
PC: I don’t know if they knew or not.
LL: Oh I’m sure they did but no one said anything. No. It’s sweet. It’s cute, no one said anything.
PC: Poor Mother she wouldn’t have approve if she had known—Mother didn’t realize that we were being…
LL: Mother knew exactly what was going on (laughter)
PC: Do you think she did, Liz?
LL: Mother! You did know!
RE: I think that your memories of the hospital fete in the front of the hospital when they used to—that would be nice.
LL: Well, we used to do that for years. Mother was in charge.
PC: Mother was in charge of it.
LL: Well, not the whole chairman but she was in charge of the chicken pot pies.
PC: Dinner. Well, the dinner came after. I can remember when they had the fete before they even had the dinner Liz.
LL: Well, Mother was in charge of the chicken pot pie dinner.
PC: And the strawberry shortcake dinner. It was a big success.
LL: And what we used to do—we’d sell chances and the cars—what we did for that hospital! I just shake my head when I sit at board meetings now. But it really—
PC: We fed patients; we were nurse’s aides and all that.
CS: So you worked in the hospital?
LL: Our new president in the hospital is Morrie Clifford, Maurice Clifford, I should say, I shouldn’t call him by a nickname. He was just inaugurated. He’s a delightful person and I, we had, Mother and I, went to a dinner though for Doctor Fay. Marion Fay has always lived in East Falls who used to be President and a Dean of Medical College.
PC: She lived on Queen Lane.
LL: They just honored her the other day with dedicating a wing, the Marion Spencer Fay Wing.
PC: Oh really?
LL: Yes. She had a lovely reception and Mother and I went and then they had a dinner for her and we went there. And then we just inaugurated a new president, Maurice Clifford. He will now be living in East Falls—he lives in Chestnut Hill now but he’s moving to The Oak Road—is that East Falls?
LL: He’s moving there and he is a delightful person, he really is. The first time I met him I was working at Medical College in the pre-natal clinic in 1955, and you were in charge of volunteers.
RE: Not really, Marie Hess was. (overtalk)
LL: You worked with Marie and you stuck me in the pre-natal clinic (Laughter).
RE: I remember.
LL: I was pregnant too. And you know what? They got better care than I did I think.
RE: But she saw life in the raw as far as having a baby because she delivered her baby, I didn’t realize it.
LL: Well, I couldn’t believe it! I kept going to my obstetrician, Joannie Roberts, who was also a graduate of Medical College.
PC: Yes, Women’s Medical
LL: And I said Joannie, they give pills and all that stuff, I’ve seen what they do, and you’re not doing that to me (laughter)
RE: The clinic patients always got better care than any private patient ever did. The diabetics. The diabetic clinic I worked in for years and I never heard of such marvelous care as they got. Their lectures, and their education, and their testing, and their medication—everything was much better.
PC: Well I know the one time I was there in the clinic and Maurice Clifford—it was his first year at the Medical College and I used to have to weigh the patients and take some specimens and do paperwork and then put them in the cubicles and call the doctor to come visit them. And as I put this one patient, she had been there for many years cause it was her 20th baby, so I put her on the table and I said, “Oh my God! Morrie!” I didn’t call him Morrie then—“Doctor Clifford! There’s a baby! (laughter) And I tell you, he came running and that was—he does remember me from that. He says, “Boy do I remember you ‘cause I’ve never seen anybody look so mmmmm (laughter)
CS: Was the affair at Women’s Medical that raised money all-day long?
LL & PC: Yes (In unison)
RE: Oh it was wonderful!
PC: It was fun.
RE: It was like a small town thing which we don’t often get in the big city. And you could go there in the morning with your children and they would be amused, and you could eat, and you could buy, and you could take chances. And you could meet all your neighbors up there and it went on up there all day and dinner by Mrs. Kelly with her chicken pies and then on into the evening. And we had fabulous things at our hospital fair that no other hospital could have had—like a painting, an original painting, by you, of the Prince.
CS: And when was this?
LL: Well, this was back—it lasted until about ‘56
PC: I forget the year of the last one…
LL: It was about ’56 because they built the one wing and we couldn’t do it anymore—I mean, space.
CS: It was held out on the grounds outdoors?
CS: What time of year?
PC:May, the end of May.
LL: Just because of space you just couldn’t have it anymore. But, well, Peggy was very big on …
PC: Lemon sticks. If I cut another hole in a lemon I (laughter) lemon, Lemon sticks, yes. (laughter)
LL: It was fun. And I do know, I know the fair lasted to ’56 because after that it might be ’57. I don’t think it did because I had Gracie. It was May 17th – I had the baby and the fair was going on and she was born in 1956, so I know the fair was going on till 1956.
Now after that…
PC: Well then Germantown Hospital always had their Rose Carnival and then the Abington Hospital had the …
LL: June Fete
PC: June Fete and Memorial had an affair but we just stopped ours.
LL: Well it was really because of the wing and the space.
RE: I heard, I don’t know how true it is, that when the Project moved in there, that a lot of undesirables came and swiped and vandalized
PC: Yes it was very difficult
LL: It was during the fair
PC: It was very difficult.
CS: Now what year was it then that Women’s Medical opened? In the 20’s?
LL:Oh, Women’s Medical – It was in town.
PC: Women’s Med opened in 18–, oh it’s very old – 18…
RE: Not in the Falls though?
PC:It came up here about 1935?
LL: No, no, earlier than that—’24, ‘25
PC: Up here?
LL: No—you look in the front of the building, darling.
CS: I was thinking it was in the 20’s somehow
LL: Well, it’s in the 20’s—something in the 20’s babe. Oh gosh, I’m on the board and I should know and I don’t know.
PC: When it moved up here.
CS: Was your family involved at the time it opened?
PC: Mother was.
LL: Mother was almost from the inception.
PC: Yes. Well, I think after several of us were born, she really went over there constantly because it was just down the street; it was so nearby.
CS: I read somewhere that also a circus that you used to have at your house—is it a tale or true?
PC: We just did that one year but it was a big circus for the children but that went toward the fete. That money went into the hospital, to the hospital
LL: Mother arranged it. I was too young to remember really — what were you in that circus?
PC: I was the ringleader, dear.
LL: Oh—I was Tom Thumb, probably. And Dixie our niece, our cousin, she was very tiny. Well, she was married to Tom Thumb. We had the Tom Thumb wedding. (laughter)
LL: I was about four and she was three so I don’t know too much about that circus.
PC: Grace, I do remember, Grace was a tightrope walker—except the rope was on the ground – it was laid on the ground.
LL: But she did a beautiful job—she looked the part. And Fordie’s daughter or something who was—he was the Wild Man from Borneo.
PC: Oh certainly.
CS: Who was that?
LL: Fordie, our colored guy, our chauffeur, his son or something was the Wild Man from Borneo (laughter)
CS: Did people pay to get into this?
LL: Oh yes. It was all for the hospital.
CS: And what year would you say?
PC: Yes, about 1938.
CS: And it was just your family or did you have friends?
PC: No! All our entire neighborhood was in this. It was big! Oh there were hundreds of people there. In the whole big tennis court. Oh it was a big circus!
LL: All the funeral parlors gave Mother the chairs—Mother could get anything from anybody…
PC: Yes. (laughter)
LL: Any affair—call Charlie McIlvaine for chairs. He was a lovely…
PC: It was a big one.
LL: That was only one year however. Should have done that again.
PC: Maybe we should institute that again before poor Mother dies (laughter)
CS: Where is the house located?
LL: On the corner of Henry Avenue and Coulter Street, yes.
CS: And that’s still there?
PC: Yes, it has been sold.
LL: Mother sold it once and it’s been sold again and I think that’s all. I don’t know who owns it now, I really don’t.
CS: And how long did you live there—did the family own the house?
PC: Yes. Forty-four years, about 44 years.
CS: And it was sold?
PC: Daddy died in 1960 and Mother stayed on. She said as long as she had her little man, Fordie, her little helper, she would stay. And stayed there for a number of years alone. And then when Fordie died, she went.
LL: Twelve years ago Mother sold it.
RE: But you had other help in the house. You had a couple.
LL: Yes German help. Mother always had German help.
RE: Because I remember I had gotten a day’s worker who had come over from Germany. She was a—she worked in a hospital, not a nurse, and she was a Christmas gift from Doctor Fieldler’s wife’s mother in Germany. Hermother said, “What do you want for Christmas?” She said, “Somebody to help me with the housework.” And she sent her this girl from the hospital. And she was too heavy a worker and she couldn’t have enough work in the house. So, she, Mrs. Fieldler, asked me if I could use her and I said, “Sure.” And she came up and worked for me and she spoke often of my friends the Kelly’s, meaning the couple. She was friends with them.
LL: Franz and Theresa, the German couple. Well Franz and Theresa. We had one couple, we had Luchese, Mrs. Luchese, who was German.
PC: Was she German or Polish?
LL: Polish-Luchese. And her daughter stayed with us and went and became a doctor at—studied at Medical College.
PC: They were from Ohio
LL: And her mother worked for us and the daughter graduated from Medical College and she stayed with us and then we had Franz and Theresa who were German. Because Mother speaks German.
PC: But then after the war, it was difficult getting the German girls over that Mother used to have all the time. They would learn English quickly and then get married.
RE: So you see Cheri, their life was not like mine.
LL: My life was not like mine, then, too—I know that.
RE: When she called—well like shopping–where did you shop? I got on the 52 and went to Germantown just like anybody else and did my shopping.
PC: We did. We went on the 52 and went to Rowell’s a million times.
LL: We went to Rowell’s and Allen’s and you went to the movies at the Alden Theatre. Well, Alden Theatre. What I remember when I was a kid, going to the Alden Theatre it was 11 cents.
RE: Eleven cents!!
LL: Eleven cents for a Saturday afternoon matinee you walked down to Alden Theatre, paid 11 cents and Mother used to be magnanimous and give me at least another five cents for a candy bar. (laughter) And so for 15, well, 16 cents you could have a movie, a double feature and a candy bar.
PC: Lizanne, you don’t even remember the old Falls Theatre.
LL: I don’t remember that.
CS: Where was that?
PC: Down below almost to Ridge.
RE: At Eveline and Midvale?
PC: Yeah, sure.
RE: Eveline is a little street that goes off Midvale and—it’s a gray building now—it’s painted gray but that was the original Falls Theatre and that’s where I went.
CS: The Betsy Ross? The Betsy Ross Building?
PC: Yes that’s right. The Falls Theatre.
CS: It has the Betsy Ross Flag on the front?
LL: Well Peggy, see you’re much older that me
PC: It’s true. Dear. It’s true.
RE: That was the original theatre.
PC: No, the Alden Theatre was just built
RE: Where Ginos is now
PC: Where Ginos is now.
RE: Yes, cause my daughter went there, and she and her girlfriend Betty Jane Bennett always sat in the seventh row, seventh seat and god help anybody who sat in them.
Did you have that?
Dead air then tape continues
PC: The whole group was involved in that (laughter). Through our uncle—Mother’s brother, Midge Majer, lived on Queen Lane and he and his wife were interested and we all got started.
LL: Well I think Aunt Virginia and Uncle Midge were first things there and we used to watch them and they got us all involved.
PC: And the Canoe Club—Old Academy and the Canoe Club
LL: We’re still involved—Don and I are still involved with Old Academy
CS: Do you remember the first play you were in?
PC: The Women. I took over for Grace; she got the measles
RE: Grace was in The Women—she got the measles and you took over.
PC: I took over.
CS: Is that the one you took over with one night’s notice or something?
PC: She got the measles—well, there were so many women in that show, The Women.
It was during the war. Grace had two small parts. She was a hairdresser and a debutante. Because you could just change your clothes—it’d be another body backstage—and here she could just change your clothes and it was only one body for two parts.
It was a very small part with just a few speaking lines so that was very easy to do. It was the night of dress rehearsal and we were sitting at the dining room table and mother looked over and said “Gracie, you look a little flushed and funny. She was breaking out just then and had a fit! Right before the big night comes down with the measles – she was only 12 or 13. Old Academy was not too particular. (laughter)
(Side Two of tape)
LL: I think the first one I did was The Philadelphia Story. I was the brat sister and I think my two sisters thought I was very well-cast.
PC: YEP! No doubt! Typecasting! (laughter) Very well-cast! Brat! Brat!
RE: She was though…
RE: Well no she was that way.
PC: Yes, she was a mess.
RE: I remember going down on the train to Center City one time and Gracie and Lizanne got on and I/we pulled the seats and I sat with them. And Gracie was her usual gracious, friendly, sweet self and I kept addressing remarks to Lizanne who would…. (laughter)
LL: Well, I must say I guess I was not the most pleasant of children. I don’t know but I’ve been told that I was a brat.
PC: Yeah. Adorable. Beautiful.
LL: But a brat.
RE: She had almost white hair.
LL: Real blonde
RE: And braids, thick braids down here and beautifully dressed and beautifully built and everything and she’d sit there down at Old Academy with her Mother and Father between them and go….. (laughter)
LL: Well, I just didn’t care for everybody that I saw somehow. But I was a brat. Because Grace used to say to me, “How come you’re not as nice as I was to Peggy? You’re not as nice to me as I was to Peggy?” Grace was sweet to Peggy, and she was Peggy’s lackey really, and I was not cut-out to be a lackey. I was not. In years to come I’ve turned out to be a much better lackey but I was not then.
PC: NO! (in unison) No. No way.
CS: So how would you characterize yourself? If Grace was sweet then…
PC: Well I was bossy; sure. But she was so easy to get along with, you know, “get this; get that, do this; do that.”
LL: Well, I’ll never forget one time with Peggy—Peggy was pretty good, you know, Peggy was the matriarch of the kids. My brother used to have a bunk house or a—what would you call it?
PC: It was a bunk house.
LL: Out in the back of the house and they had what they called the Tomato Men Club.
PC: The club was just for boys.
CS: Where did the name come from?
PC: It was right by our victory garden and Mother grew a great many tomatoes. And the boys would love to pick up those tomatoes and have fights with them, so it was called the Tomato Men. No reason.
LL: So one time Grace and a girlfriend wanted to get into the clubhouse, the bunk house. No girls were allowed. ERA had not risen its head at that point. So apparently there was one girl who lived in the Falls or two girls were allowed in—they were not in on a Sunday morning, a Saturday morning or something like that.
PC: Two girls were allowed in to see the bunk house. And Grace was not. And Grace came running to me having a fit that these two gals were allowed in and she was not. I took care of that.
LL: You sure did! (laughter) You punched your brother right in the nose and gave him a bloody nose and I him coming, flying through the garden…
PC: Did I run!
PC & LL: Oh Boy! (unison) (laughter)
LL: Kell is not a mad person but he was mad at Peggy that time—flying the two of them.
She’s ahead of him and he’s flying with his nose—she gave him a bloody nose.
In front of his girlfriends. You let your sister in and Whacko! She gave him…. Ever since then, you know, we give her a wide berth when she gets mad. Just give her a little wide berth. (laughter)
PC: Grace was so meek, you know, that you just wanted to stick up for her and help her.
LL: Well, that was so funny and, oh, I’ve never seen my brother so mad in my life. (laughter)
RE: How about the dollhouse—that it was a child’s playhouse?
LL: Well it was in the same area in the back where the bunkhouse was. In the back behind the tennis courts. This they really almost built themselves—the dollhouse was rather nice looking. It wasn’t a dollhouse, it was a play house. We had an electric stove in there. Absolutely!
RE: A real one?
LL: A real on. You could cook all the old apples that fell off the trees—I don’t know what we cooked-up on them—you didn’t eat them. It had two burners. It was really a little dangerous and then it was taken out.
CS: Was it one room?
PC: One room, a little porch, door—oh, you could stand up in there
CS: It’s not there anymore.
PC: No but it was moved. It was the air raid—Daddy gave it to someplace in East Falls and it was an air raid warden shelter—so the dollhouse, the playhouse…
RE: On Henry Avenue?
PC: On Henry Avenue.
CS: Where we vote? It’s still there?
PC: Yes a teensy little thing.
RE: It’s hallowed house. I’ll go in there the next time I vote and think of you all.
I’ve heard so many of the senior citizens at the library speak of Gracie, and the call it, Gracie’s dollhouse. And I said, “Dollhouse!” because you know me and the dolls.
PC: They moved it. Daddy gave it during the war, gave it to an air raid shelter or whatever.
RE: My Word!
LL: It had shutters on it and a little shingled roof. I sure they propped it up higher and made it a little higher, a little taller.
RE: No, no it’s pretty much the same. It’s one room—how about that!
PC: Two little pillars out front and then it was a wooden floor. We had darling furniture in there. Yep.
LL: We used to call it the playhouse.
PC: It was the playhouse.
RE: Well these people…
PC: Oh six or seven kids could get in there easily.
RE: Because a lot of the East Falls children went up there a played in it, whether you knew it or not.
PC: Oh sure. It was never locked.
RE: Because I just found out that my daughter and her girlfriend used to go up there and I said, “You never told me that.” She said, “Well we sneaked it, Mother.”
LL: Well it was never locked.
RE: Nobody chased us except there was a dog who came around and growled.
CS: Was that your dog?
LL: Our dogs were so friendly there were so many kids around. It could have, oh, it could have been the German shepherds next door that were so…
PC: No, they weren’t nice.
LL: Our dogs were very nice.
LL: We had a couple of boxers, actually Mother got a boxer, the first boxer I ever saw. And we had two boxers, Wrinkles and Ziegfried.
PC: Wouldn’t bother a soul
LL: No, would not bother anybody.
PC: They were always good dogs
LL: And Flashy wouldn’t have bothered
LL: We had a pastor at Saint Bridget’s who had an Irish setter, and we had an Irish Setter name Flashy and Mother had a German maid called Barbara.
PC: (unison) Barbara Kestle.
LL: Barbara. And someone stole Flashy or Flashy got hit by a car. Anyway Flashy was gone and Father Cortican, not Cortican
PC: Yes, Father Cortican, lovely lovely Irish Setter
LL: And he was walking his Irish Setter and Barbara Kestle absolutely almost took him down with a knife, calling him, “You got my Flashy! You got our Flashy! You got our Flashy! And we had to practically get this poor woman off this poor pastor who was like… (laughter) “I don’t have your Flashy! I have an Irish Setter! That was Mother’s, one of Mother’s German maids that attacked.
PC: Well, it was so easy for Mother to bring German help over because she spoke German.
CS: Is she or her family from Germany?
PC: Oh yes. Mother’s family was born in Germany.
CS: What part of Germany?
PC: Mother was from Frankfurt and her father was from the southern part, Lake
CS: Did you have any holidays that were special in your family or any special family traditions?
PC: They were all special. I mean just—there wasn’t one that stood out.
LL: No, every holiday was so big.
PC: Everything was big.
LL: No, actually every holiday. Probably Christmas with the open house Christmas Eve each year—that was just a tradition.
CS: For your family?
PC: And friends
LL: And neighbors
LL: And neighbors and relatives. Anyone. Come one, come all.
LL: I would say that Christmas Eve was probably the biggest. The biggest. Easter, there might have been vacations away. But they were…it was all family and just a lot of fun.
RE: I think that your version of your mother and father’s twenty-fifth anniversary dinner…
PC: What was that? At Columbo’s?
RE: They were caught in a snowstorm somewhere and were trying to get home for dinner?
PC:I thought the twenty first—um
RE: And you had painted your mother’s picture as a gift—it’s from the cover of…
LL: Oh yes! I remember painting that. I have it at home. Mother had it here. But I don’t recall them not getting home for a party or late for a party.
RE They got…
LL: Oh! They got there. That could be…
RE: Lizanne had gotten steaks—you told me this—from the Vesper House
LL: From the Vesper Club? Probably. Could have been.
RE: And your father would call and say “We’re stuck here.” It was a terrible snowstorm.
LL: Well, their anniversary is
PC: Is the 31st or the 30th of January, sure.
RE: He would call and say, “We’re this far,” and you would put the steaks away and then get them out again.
LL: Well I do remember one—you’re talking about one special party. Speaking of that one special party, Mother was having Thanksgiving. And this was after Grace and Ranier were married. And just about two years later—‘cause Grace and Chrissy have pictures of it and they were tiny. So it was like in ’59.
LL: And Mother said, “I will have a party for the whole family.” And Grace and Ranier and everybody were over there and the whole family, and some friends I guess. And Mother set-up the whole thing. And I’m smelling (sniffing sound) and I said to Peggy “Do you smell…”
PC: Well I had come from my house. And wasn’t there all afternoon.
LL: No. So I’m saying to Peggy—we were all there having cocktails or something—“I don’t smell any turkey.” I said, “Mother!” (Imitating Mother) “Oh! I put the turkey in a long time ago.” And I’m (sniffing sound) (Loud voice) Don’t smell the turkey…!
So I walk in the kitchen and open up the thing and I say…I come out to Peggy and say, “My god Peggy, she hasn’t turned on the oven! Now what do we do?”
PC: Or it was just warm or something—turned it down or something or
LL: It was naked as the day it was born—let’s put it that way. (laughter)
And we’re about ready to eat, you know, in a half hour and I said,
“Peggy for heaven’s sake’s what are we gonna do?” So Peggy said, “Don’t worry about a thing. I cooked”
PC: I had just baked a turkey and since the children were home, you know, for vacation, I wanted to have a turkey at home. So mine had just come out of the oven. I went right around the corner to my house yanked—took mother’s – threw it in my oven and brought her mine.
CS: Oh wonderful! Laughter
LL: That was a re—memorable holiday.
CS: Did you ever tell your Mother?
LL: Oh yes! Certainly! Mother when did you? When? She said, “I don’t know what happened! I can’t imagine!
PC: I’m thinking it was just like half-started or something.
LL: Something was turned down because she wouldn’t be that dumb, you know.
PC: No! (laughter) “You wouldn’t have been that dumb, Mother! No!”
CS: Were you both married here in the Falls?
PC:No, I was married in Pleasantville, New Jersey. It was during the summer and Lizanne was married
LL: I was married in Saint Bridget’s.
PC: Saint Bridget’s, yes.
LL: Oh! I have—we were married—Grace had just won the Oscar and she was one of my bridesmaids. She was my maid of honor and Peggy was my matron of honor. And, of course, knowing that she was coming to the, you know, church, there were a lot of people outside. Don and his brother, my husband Don, and his brother, who was the best man, pulled up in front of Saint Bridget’s and as the limousines were pulling up or cars were pulling up, people would go look in to see who was there. They looked in and saw Don and Tom, they said, “Oh they’re nobody.” (laughter) and Don said “Aw, yeah, well…” (said derisively) (laughter)
RE: “I haven’t laughed so hard in years!”
PC: Well Fordie used to take all our, um, he loved to travel all the brides. Fordie was the colored man that we had, you know, that we mentioned before. And when one the Becker girls got married, going down Midvale Avenue to St. Bridget’s, naturally, it was on the right and he stopped there on the right. Well, I guess he wanted to be headed up the other way—but did not go in—he took the bride, delivered the bride in the lovely big car but he thought he—it was a Saturday—and he had a shopping list for Mother. Down, well, at the old Falls Theatre, it was at the point, it was a supermarket.
LL: Oh! Is that where Falls Theatre was? The old supermarket.
PC: Oh sure.
LL: Oh, that’s the Falls Theatre—uh, okay.
PC: So Fordie goes in—he figures the wedding, the wedding will take about twenty minutes, fifteen or twenty minutes and he does all the shopping. In the front seat of the car he comes back to pick up the bride and groom to take them to the reception—and a great big stalk of celery out of the top of the big bag on the front seat of the car—and the beautiful bride in the back.
CS: With the stalk of celery?
PC: With the celery. Didn’t bother Ford. The bride’s mother did not go for that too much.
LL: Ford was a classic. Everybody in the Falls knew Ford. He shopped at the hardware store at Ridge and Midvale – southwest corner there – he used to take me when I was a little kid and stand aside and going out with Fordie was the best treat in the world and he used to run around…Everyone knew Fordie.
PC: Do you remember Paddy Melon (?) the milkman? How about Peg Filoon? That’s a real old one. Snow White McCow (?)
CS: Who were they?
PC: Real old people in the Falls. They were our father’s friends. Really back – you’d have to find some people – and who used to sleep in the cars at…
PC: Porkie slept at John Cassidy’s garage. Is Cassidy’s garage still there?
LL: Well the garage, but Cassidy isn’t there, but East Falls Garage is there. Right on Ridge Avenue next to the East Falls Tavern it was – the back faces the river.
RE: Not the corner?
LL: It’s right behind where the post office is now. Right behind – the post office would back up to Cassidy’s Garage going towards the river. And a lot of people used to sleep in Cassidy’s old junk cars. The wrecks! The cars that were wrecked and all. So he would have permission to get all the wrecked cars that were on East River Drive. So he would stay there, and all his friends who didn’t have much of a home life…If they had had a little too much…
PC: Porkie used to sleep there. Charming Porkie.
LL: They would sleep in Cassidy’s wrecks.
RE: My word.
LL: Well, Daddy knew everyone in East Falls and Kell knew pretty nearly everyone too. He’d go down that street….now there is a little street near – across the street from….I don’t know the name of it – where the photographer lived? What’s his name?
PC: Mr. Brownworth!
RE: Mucky Brownworth.
CS: He was a photographer?
PC: A photographer; a family photographer. And he lived right in a little alley almost across from the church – there’s a little alley that goes up that way and they had a street fair.
RE: They still do?
LL: I don’t know, but they did about seven years ago.
RE: Arnold Street, is it?
LL: Could be. And they had a street fair there and Don and I went by there and had the best time. And that was recently.
RE: Brownworth was about two doors down from Arnold Street….and what a marvelous photographer he was! Everybody went to him.
LL: He took my babies pictures, he took my wedding pictures. His father – oh, he was a nut, his father. Well, he’s a nice nut. I don’t think his son would think anything different of him – he was a marvelous nut. I mean, that’s a compliment.
RE: And Stan Smith
LL: Oh, Stan Smith and Odda
RE: And Midge, used to go down regularly and meet with Mucky Brownworth and they would have a bull session all the time and they would have a few drinks and they would talk and that was a regular meeting place.
LL: That’s weird. Can you see those three together?
CS: Where did the name Mucky come from?
LL: I never knew that. His son was Teddy. He’s Theodore and his son is Teddy, but Mucky is probably a local name that I didn’t quite know.
RE: Best in the world! They don’t make ‘em like him.
PC: And our cousins, the Kruskow’s, used to live next door to St. Bridget’s, right on that side of the street.
RE: What street?
PC: Just between there and the post office. And we were always there on a Sunday.
LL: And then on the other side of the post office was Uncle Charlie’s.
LL: Alma Morani has her office in one of them.
PC: Is she still there?
LL: Yeah, she’s still there. Then where the post office used to be, I don’t know who is there. I think that is closed. I don’t think there’s anything in there.
RE: No, it’s been for sale.
LL: It’s been for sale for years.
PC: And then the church took over. Charles Kelly sold his house to the church. To St. Bridget’s.
CS: Were there any nice places to eat in East Falls?
PC: There were.
LL: I never went to a restaurant in East Falls ever. Oh, pardon me, the Falls Tavern, once or twice, in later years.
PC: We always went over to the Bala Golf Club. East Falls had a big tournament at Bala Golf Club each year.
LL: They put a great big sign across the street. It was a big tournament.
RE: The Falls used to be very, very interested in athletics. They’re no longer that way, as far as I know.
CS: All sports?
LL: All sports; definitely so. In fact they used to call it the East Falls Golf Association, but half the members never played golf, I’m sure.
LL: But it was a big, big association.
PC: My father played for an East Falls teams when he was a young man. He played professional, but on a rather low level: baseball and mainly football and basketball. He would go upstate, change his name – play under a different name every week.
CS: What was the Philadelphia Canoe Club? You mentioned that earlier…
LL: Yes. My mother and her brothers were members there and we used to spend so much time on weekends and loved it, just loved it. But being away in Ocean City in the summers, we missed a great deal of what went on when children were off from school. I’m sure we would have found a million things to do in East Falls but we were away right after we got out of school.
On Memorial Day there used to be a parade in McMichael Park and they used to have the raising of the flag and the band and VFW or whatever but then after that we were never around.
PC: We weren’t around all summer.
RE: Did Fordie ever drive you kids anyplace?
PC & LL: Sure, every place. Everywhere we had to go.
Except for the gas rationing, we used the 52. He’d drive us to school.
LL: We’d walk to school.
PC: He drove us also.
LL: Well, except in the bad weather, he’d drive us to school but you couldn’t get to the school on the 52. We’d walk to school but Fordie would drive us to other places. But going to the movies or up to Germantown he never would drive us. He would take us places in town and things like that. There used to be little things at the Penn AC on Saturday afternoons.
CS: At the what?
LL: At the Penn Athletic Club. It was a wonderful family club on the corner of 18th and Locust. A wonderful club.
PC: Swimming pools. Squash courts.
LL: He would drive us down there. Anywhere we needed to go where you couldn’t take the 52.
RE: That was the trolley.
PC: Don’t they have something like that now?
RE: It’s a bus. It’s the K bus. Not a trolley anymore.
LL: Cause I know I’ve seen people standing on the corner at McIlvaine’s, sure.
CS: When you were teenagers, did you date any local boys?
LL: Surely. Our neighborhood was filled with boys and we were never at a loss for a date. And with Penn Charter so close by. And Germantown Academy so nearby. We had no problems.
CS: Any particular memorable ones?
LL: Oh, Howard Wycoff grew up with me – my boyfriend. Oh certainly. And a few others.
PC: And the very good friend of Kell’s that lived on Henry Avenue – the Lukens? That lived on Henry Avenue? There were many people who lived on Henry Avenue.
LL: No, Matt lived on Midvale.
RE: The Lukens manufactured…
LL: But then he married….and Tommy Kayon. He married Barbara something who lived on Henry Avenue.
PC: She lived on Vaux Street, dear.
LL: Dr. Vogel. At the end of Henry Avenue.
PC: She lived on Vaux Street, dear.
LL: And how about your friend…(?)
PC: Across from the Godfreys on Warden Drive.
LL: I dated all the guys who lived on Warden Drive. There were an awful lot of kids around there. It was amazing that that street – I guess everybody had children at the same time – they were all the same age.
RE: There was a period when all the press and magazine articles said “Have Babies.” Not in those words, but it was pushed that this was the thing to do – have a baby. And it was approved of. And so there was a big baby boom then.
LL: Except in my year…
RE: Now in my day, the ‘20s, they called it “getting caught” so that expresses how they felt about having babies…
LL: I was born in 1933. I was informed later on in life that that was the lowest – until the last couple of years – the lowest birth rate – because that was during the Depression – and that was the lowest birthrate year of anything.
PC: And Grace was born in ’29.