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East Falls Historical Society Oral History Interview

Interviewee:  Dick Webb (DW) – 100 years old   

                       Randy Webb (RW), Dick’s son, was present

Interviewers: Wendy Moody (WM) and Bob McClenahan (BM)

Transcriber:  Wendy Moody

Date:  August 8, 2019


Note: This interview of Dick Webb was conducted when he was 100 years at Bishop White Lodge at Cathedral Village.  Because of his advanced age, Mr. Webb had difficulty both hearing and remembering, resulting in a somewhat disjointed interview. But his wry sense of humor was still intact!

WM: This is Wendy Moody and Bob McClenahan interviewing Dick Webb on August 8, 2019 at Bishop White (Cathedral Village).

DW: I used to live up on Netherfield.

WM: What was your address on Netherfield? Which house?

DW: Not the main house but the one behind it.

WM: Over by Textiles?

BM: He worked for a rich guy and he lived on the guy’s property.

WM: What was his name?

DW: Buckley.

BM: Buckley, yeah, yeah, yeah.

WM: Which house was that?

BM: Well, I don’t know where the original was.  The only Buckley’s I ever knew lived where you come around Netherfield and like this (hand motion) and right about there – there was a house up there, and there were Buckley’s who lived there.  But I think there was another big house that the Buckley’s had too.

WM: Dick, Where were you born?

DW: 1334 Netherfield Road.  I mean 1334 71st Avenue in Oak Lane.

WM: Oh, you were born in Oak Lane.  Can you tell us a little bit about growing up?  What your dad did?

DW: I was only 6 years old when I was down there.

WM: Ok.  And where did you go to school?

DW: Abington.

WM: And when did you come to East Falls?

DW: About 30 years ago, I think it was.

RW: 1958.

WM: Ok.  What was East Falls like when you first moved there?

DW: What?

WM: What was it like back in 1958? Has it changed?

DW: More people living there.

RW: I was 14 years old.

WM: Tell us about what kind of work you did.

DW: Maintenance up at Philadelphia University.

WM: Can you describe what that job was like?

DW: It was alright. I did 39 years up there.

WM: What kind of things did you do?

DW: Maintenance all over the place.  Repairs.

WM: Who was in charge of the University back then?

RW: I forget what his name was.

DW: I went through five presidents.

WM: Did you? Do you remember their names?

RW: There’s Pendleton, there’s Partridge, there’s Hayward – Hayward may have been before his time.

WM: Gallagher?

RW: Gallagher! He was there when the guy Steve – I forget his name

WM: Spinelli?

RW: Spinelli, yeah.

WM: Oh, he was still there?

RW: Yeah, Spinelli had a 98th birthday party for him in his house.

WM: Wow.  So what was the University like back then in 1958?

DW: What was it like?

RW:  Oh, he won’t know. He wasn’t involved until mid ‘70s.

WM: He worked somewhere else before then?

RW: For Mr. Buckley. That’s why we lived there. We never would have afforded to live in there.

WM: So you were living on Netherfield on the property?

RW: We lived on Buckley’s property. Yeah.

BM: When did you start working at the college, Dick?

DW: 39 years ago.

BM: At the college?

RW: Well, 39 plus his retirement years. 46 years ago?

DW: I worked for an outfit called Philco.  Did you ever hear of that?

BM: Oh yeah, sure.

DW: I worked for the head man there.

BM: Did you?  A very good friend of mine worked for Philco.

RW: Didn’t you work at Standard Pressed Steel?

DW: Yeah.

RW: Over in Jenkintown.

BM: Ok.

WM: Who did you work for at Textile? Who was your boss?

DW: I don’t remember.

BM: Well for a long time it was (Walter) Bucky Harris.

DW: Bucky Harris.

WM: What was he like?

RW: (laughs) That’s a whole other interview.

WM: I’d like to hear.  What do you remember about him, Randy?

RW: He was a character.

WM: In what way?

RW: Well he was a Marine in WWII and he had a lot of Marine attitude.

BM: Hard-driving.

WM: Was he a hard boss Dick?  Bucky Harris, was he hard to work for?

BM: (pause) …You had your times with him, I know. (laughter)

RW: But he thought the world of you, I’ll tell you.

DW: When Philco owned the place, there was money all over the place.

BM: Bucky Harris was sort of a legendary basketball coach when he started at Textile. And after he got out of that, then he became head of the buildings and grounds. Maintenance. (Physical Plant)

RW: Among other hats. (laughter)

BM: Oh yeah. He did a lot for that college.  He was a little hard to get along with, but he did an awful lot for that college.  He worked all kinds of hours.

WM: Really.  Was he a good coach?

BM: Oh yeah.  He’s still the second greatest legend there. Herbie McGee’s outdone him by a lot of years.

RW: He coached Herb.

BM: Yeah he coached Herb. He wore red socks – to every basketball game he wore bright red socks.  Remember that – Bucky Harris wearing the red socks for the basketball games?

DW: Yeah.

WM: How did you meet your wife? What’s your wife’s name and how did you meet her?

DW: Mrs Webb. (note: Frances)

WM: Mrs. Webb! (laughter) How did you meet her?

RW: Mary and Wally Bindrum introduced you.

DW: Oh did they?

BM: I remember Dick’s wife, kinda; it’s been a while.

WM: 2002, Randy said she died.  Did she work?

RW: At the School Board.

WM: For the School District of Philadelphia?

RW: Yes.

WM: Dick, tell us your involvement with the (Falls) Presbyterian Church.

DW: What do you want to know about it? We had services every Sunday!  (laughter)

BM: We miss you! We need you to get back there!

WM: Who was pastor when you first started going there?

RW: The lady from Alabama? The preacher from Alabama?

BM: Katherine Rick-Miller.

RW: Yeah.

WM: Who was the man before her?

DW: What was her name? I forget.

BM: Katherine Rick-Miller was the pastor.

WM: The one before – the man…

BM: That was Logan Potts.

WM: That’s it.

BM: But I don’t know if Dick was coming then…

WM: Were you involved at the church, Dick, besides going to services? Did you serve on their Council?

DW: No.

BM: You did a lot of work for the church, didn’t you?

DW: When I had a problem walking, some people would, after services, walk me home.  But nobody walked me over to the church (laughter)

WM: You did that yourself.

DW: I had a terrible time.

BM: You used to do all kinds of maintenance jobs at the church.

DW: Did I?

BM: Oh yeah! You did all kinds of things. That was when Bucky Harris was also President on the Board of Trustees at the church.

WM: Oh really?

BM: Oh yeah. So when Bucky needed a job done at the church, he’d call Dick.  He was there and he took care of it.

WM: So what kind of things could you do? Mechanical things?

DW: Yeah.

WM: Painting? Plumbing?

BM: Plumbing, no.

RW: Not really painting. Just fixing things.

DW: I didn’t do plumbing. I had trouble with my own bathroom at home (laughter)…. $2000 bucks!

WM: So when did you move from Netherfield to Midvale?

RW: ‘78

WM: Do you remember your neighbors back then on Midvale?

DW: Remember what?

RW: Charlie Scavettion your one side.

DW: Scavetti.

BM: Scavetti on the upper side.

RW: The other side I don’t know.

BM: You know Charlotte Scavetti? Charlotte Dobson?

WM: Oh yeah, is that her maiden name?

BM: She was Charlotte Scavetti.

WM: I didn’t know that.

BM: She and her family lived right next to Dick.

RW: I know who was in the attached house to Dad’s – I think the Slaterbacks lived there when we first moved there. I don’t remember where Jim worked, but Gay worked at the school with my mom. May be how they found the house.

DW: The guy I worked for – Buckley – in the daytime he used to have trouble sleeping and all, and

when it was dark I used to go over and bring him the newspaper. I went there one morning and he was dead.

WM: Oh my.

DW: And the next morning the doctor pronounced him dead and he asked – he said “Who’s prepared to pay me the $200 your father owed me?”

RW: The doctor said it to the son or daughter.

DW: His name was Kleinman.

BM: Doctor Kleinman; I remember him.

RW: He lived down on Indian Queen Lane.

BM: Right next to one of my aunts.

WM: Really. Who was that?

BM: My Aunt Anna, who by the way, was here (note: Cathedral Village).

WM: Oh, that’s the one you mentioned.

BM: She lived at 3595 Indian Queen Lane for a while.  Then she moved to Ainslie Street.

WM: What was Mr. Buckley’s first name?

DW: Mr.

WM: Come on! (laughter)

RW: James.

DW: James.

WM: What was his business?

DW: He was head of Philco.

WM: Oh, he was head of Philco.

RW: And Head of Goodwill Industries.

BM: Who was Russell?

RW: That was his son.

BM: That was his son. Ok.

RW: Russell and Ethel were the two kids.  And they each had a house there on Netherfield also.

WM: Is it the house where Chaka Fattah lives?

RW: Yes. That’s the house Buckley had.

WM: That’s a beautiful house.  Can you describe that house? What was that house like inside?

DW: Very nice.

RW: It was big.

BM: He had money.  Lots of money. He was a big benefactor to the Methodist Church.  They sort of revered the Buckley name for a long time.

WM: Were you involved in anything in East Falls?  In the community?

DW: No.

WM: How have you seen East Falls change over the years?

DW: I really don’t know.

WM: Do you have brothers and sisters?

DW: Yeah, I had 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I had a brother and 2 sisters.

WM: Did they grow up in Oak Lane?

DW: No, they weren’t down here.

RW: Until they moved.

DW: Elkins Park.

WM: Do you have any stories about the church (Falls Presbyterian) you could tell us? Anything you remember?

DW: God was there.

WM: That’s important. Anything that happened there that you remember?

DW: Not really.

WM: We’re trying to get memories of the neighborhood, so anything you could remember would help us.

DW: I mind my own business.

WM: How about at Textiles? Do you remember anything happening there? Any big events?

DW: Lot of things happened. 39 years.

WM: What are some of the events you planned?

DW: I don’t really know.

WM: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

DW: Today’s Thursday.

WM: That’s correct.

BM: Are you getting along better now?

DW: I want to get out of here. That’s what I want to do. I want to go home.

BM: Obviously. Sure you do.

DW: I do.

BM: Are they giving you therapy exercise?

DW: Oh yeah. They give you a balloon – they throw a balloon at you and you’re supposed to bounce it back and stuff like that.

BM: Do you remember my aunt, Anna McClenahan?

DW: Who?

BM: My aunt Anna McClenahan – in the church.

RW: Names aren’t his forte. Never were.

BM: Her brother was Bill, who was blind.  She lived here. She lived in her regular apartment down there.

RW: Independent living?

BM: Yeah, until she had her heart operation and then, in her recovery, was such that they decided –   she came here for therapy. And after a while they decided she was going to stay.

DW: The first day I came to work for Buckley he took me up to the house I was going to move into and he started to hand me stuff. Hand me stuff. Hand me stuff. Good stuff. I never had anything happen to me in my life like that before.  Oh… I thought I better stop here because I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going on. He just kept handing me stuff…

WM: What kind of stuff?

DW: Hand me hand me.  He liked cars. He liked Cadillac cars. I used to take him down to the Union League and he used to tell me “Before you pick me up tonight, stop down and pick the car up.”  I asked the salesmen one time “How many cars has he bought in one year?” What was his best year for buying cars? How many do you think he bought in his best year?

BM: What did he say?

DW: How much! How many cars?

BM: I don’t know.

DW: Take a guess!

WM: Four?

DW: Fourteen!

WM: Did he have a big garage in that house?

DW: Yes.

WM: How many cars fit?

RW: Two.

BM: So this was old Mr. Buckley you’re talking about now?

DW: Yeah.

BM: I don’t remember Russell much at all – there were two boys…

RW: They had three boys – Russell had three boys – Jim, Bob and – I forget the middle guy’s name.  The daughter, Ethel, had three – two girls and a boy. Don, Donna, and Eileen.

WM (to RW): So did you live on Netherfield and Midvale?

RW: Yeah.

WM: Who do you remember living on Netherfield?  Were the Dodson’s across the street – Adam Dodson?

RW: There were no kids – that’s what I remember.

WM: Did you know Toby Dodson?

RW: No, I don’t remember any Dodson’s.  There were Lochran’s. The Lochran’s had four kids, I guess. The Broughs – do you remember the Broughs? Eric Brough? They had two kids but they were all so much older than me.

WM: So there was no-one your age to play with.  Where did you play?

RW: I guess at school.

WM: Where did you go?

RW: Mifflin.

WM: Not the same time as Bob – much later. What was Mifflin like then? Did you enjoy it?

RW: More than Roxborough (High School). The four years at Roxborough were the worse four years of my life. I think it was just being a teenager.

WM: Did you know Bob went to Mifflin too?  And his brother.

RW: Did you?

BM: I almost finished the 8th grade. I didn’t finish because my parents took me out to a private school on City Line. Friends Central.

RW: My mom went there.

BM: But they were staggered in such a way, that in order to start a year there, I had to drop off the last semester of Mifflin, so I never graduated from Mifflin. I used to be able to name all the teachers that were at Mifflin. I can still name some, about twenty.

WM: I have some of them in your interview, Bob.  Well Dick, thank you for giving us all the information. Anything else you want to say?

DW: I don’t think I gave you enough.

WM: Anything else you remember?

DW: Today’s Thursday, isn’t it?????

BM: All day!