East Falls Oral History Project
Interviewee: Edna Woolley (EW)
Interviewers: Cherie Snyder (CS) and Ruth Emmert (RE)
Date of Interview: March 30, 1983
Transcriber: Keisha Rigby 2/22/2011
CS: Why don’t you tell us when you came to East Falls, You weren’t born here correct?
EW: No that’s right.
CS: So when did you come?
EW: I was born. I was born in Upstate Nichols region. I’ve uh….
CS: Newspaper I think.
EW: I don’t get the newspaper.
CS: The Review!
EW: Yeah the Review! Well now see I can’t remember dates clearly. Can you remember back like that, like that?
CS: It doesn’t matter about the exact date anyway, just about approximately when you came here, when your family came.
EW: Well it must have been 19…uh…1920…1922.
CS: Uh hum, and how old about, were you at that time?
EW: When I came down? I was married that’s when I came down…I was married when I was 19, when I was 21.
CS: Uh huh, so you were married when you were upstate?
E: Yeah, I was married upstate.
CS: You came down with your husband?
EW: And I came down here. And I was 21 when we were married.
CS: And what was your husband’s name?
EW: Willy Norman Wooley.
CS: Uh huh, and why did he come…what brought you to Philadelphia and to East Falls?
EW: Well he was born, he was from Philadelphia.
CS: Uh huh.
EW: He was from East Falls.
CS: Uh hum.
EW: And uh it, it was a seashore romance.
CS: Aww (laughs) Well tell us about it (laughs)
EW: And I had a relative that lives here in the Falls. I had visited in the different times. And, but I never met him.
CS: Umm hum.
EW: But I met someone that he knew. And we were on one of the boardwalks of Wildwood. It was night. It was a Saturday night, no a Sunday night and we were walking along and I saw this group of boys that I had met before – previous, and Norman was with them. But I didn’t know him so I spoke to one of the boys and of course they all, you know how they gather around and laugh. And we were having fun and one of them said, “Well come on let’s go, there was a fire. Let’s go to the fire.” We didn’t know where the fire was but we was gonna go see…
EW: …where the fire was. And Norman, Norman grabbed a hold of me and we went, but we didn’t go to a fire we went to a movie. And I had…
EW: …Never been to…it was a Sunday night, I never been to the movies on a Sunday that was a mortal sin!
CS: Oh no.
EW: I would never go to a movies on a Sunday.
EW: So that was the beginning and uh we, then we were married the following uh…April.
CS: Uh huh.
EW: That was is August and he was down on vacation, had 2 weeks’ vacation and in August, last 2 weeks of August and uh that’s when we married up in April. So you see he was getting tired of running back and forth.
EW: You know the train (laughs)
CS: Expensive too.
RE: Edna was the prettiest bride I ever saw and her husband the handsomest. They were a very, very beautiful couple.
EW: Yeah he was nice looking. My husband was seven years older than me.
CS: Uh huh…When you came back down here had he already purchased the house or rented the house?
EW: We rented an apartment down Strawberry Mansion. He did, ‘cause his parents, mother lived down there and his sister. He lived there with them his father had died and he lived there with them. And he looked around down there and then he write back, “I got an apartment for us” and that was it. And it was up over a grocery store. Sam’s Grocery Store. Yeah. And we got the furniture – we came down shopped over in, in a German not the Upper Germantown, Germantown Ave. Germantown Liberty High.
EW: It was a big furniture store down there. And we went over there and brought our furniture and we picked it out.
CS: Uh huh.
EW: And it was all set you know.
CS: And how long were you in the apartment before you came back to Falls?
EW: We weren’t there very long. What year did you say you came here Ruth?
RE: The houses were built in 1926.
EW: Well we came. We rented a little house in the Falls. And my parents were unhappy with where I was living. They weren’t pleased at all.
CS: Why was that?
EW: They just didn’t think the house was very nice.
CS: Uh hum and where was that located?
EW: On Sunnyside Avenue (laughs). So these houses were being built all around here. This was, this was a field and…
CS: And you lived on Sunnyside Avenue?
EW: I lived on lower Sunnyside.
CS: This, this was a field.
EW: That wasn’t a field; this was a field, that wasn’t. And they started to build these houses and we got the bug. And then we would buy and so…
CS: Do you remember the selling price?
EW: Yeah sure. They were only what? $6,000; $6,500 I think.
EW: Can you believe that?
CS: Were there many people on the block when you moved in?
EW: Oh, this was called Methodist Row.
EW: Wasn’t it Ruth, Methodist Row? There were Methodist next door. Methodist up…oh! All the way up, Donald McKenzie, his wife. They called people across the street Methodist. Methodist Row. Yeah.
CS: Were they mostly Falls people or were they…
EW: They were all Falls.
CS: All Falls?
EW: Oh yes, they were all Falls people. Uh huh.
CS: And what church did they attend?
EW: Methodist in Falls. Methodist Church that’s down on Queen Lane, right down below the (indistinguishable)
CS: Is that were you attended as well?
EW: Yeah I still go there. Um hum.
CS: Okay. Um how long after you, you moved here did you have your children?
EW: I was we were married seven years before uh we had one…7 years.
CS: And where…was that baby delivered? Here in your home? Or was it…
EW: No, it was up in a house, the woman she was a nurse.
CS: Um hum.
EW: And her name was Ms. Dunn and she rented this big house up on Henry Ave and she just took in women that were expecting – were gonna have babies. So I had laid my guide (?) and made my time. Told her, you know, about the time I would be delivered and she delivered my baby. I didn’t have a doctor.
CS: Uh huh.
EW: The doctor didn’t get there.
EW: And the…
CS: Was the doctor supposed to get there?
EW: Oh yes, he knew ‘cause we called. I woke up through the night and I went to the bathroom and I couldn’t stop.
CS: Oh! (laughs)
EW: Couldn’t. So I called Norman and said there’s something wrong and I explained it to him and he said “Oh, we’ll call Dr.Empresol. And so we called him and he said, “Well you go; you better get up to Ms. Dunn’s.” We didn’t go to the hospitals as much then as we do today. Today everybody runs to the hospital right away.
CS: Uh hum.
EW: For everything I mean, I mean for each little thing and we didn’t. We went there and she had been up all night. She was still in her uniform and all. Norman walked up with me and it was around midnight.
CS: And where was her place located?
EW: Right around the corner, right on Henry Ave., right where they vote today, right next to the little voting… eh the polls. It’s a little shack there.
CS: And what cross street would it be?
EW: Its, its… it would be right up to Ainslie and Henry.
CS: Okay. Um hum.
EW: And so that’s it. And the doctor, and when the doctor came it was all over. He never got there ‘til, I don’t know what time, it was all over.
EW: So in fact Ms. Dunn wasn’t there she was so busy that a woman had to come in and she had miscarried and then another girl came in and she had twins.
CS: Oh my!
EW: Yes and Ms. Dunn went off to help her and she left me in a room with the children ‘til she got in the other room a bed ready for me. The other room she just kept storing supplies in. And so finally she got the bed ready and, but I was too ready.
EW: And I got up and I knew something was happening, I, it was the first and I know you know, and I just took the shoe. She wasn’t around I was the only one there. It was me and the people in the other room, a great big front bedroom. I think they had 3 or 4 beds in the front bedroom. And uh….so I took my shoe off and I hit the floor and she came up, around 2 of them coming up, and she looked at me, “Oh my”.
EW: You know, and I said… so she fixed me all up. There wasn’t a problem at all nothing. She took care of it and he was born and that was it.
CS: Were all these people who were having miscarriages and delivering and everything, was it just Miss Dunn and no doctors?
EW: No, there were….they might have had a doctor but my doctor never got there.
CS: Yeah yours didn’t, but did the other ones not have doctors?
EW: I don’t know. I don’t know if they had a doctor or not. I suppose they did but I happened so quick that, you know well he should’ve been there. He should’ve been there. The fact that he told me to go up he should’ve been there.
CS: Uh huh.
EW: And he wasn’t.
CS: Were the women, the other women where there were they coming from a surrounding area? Not those particular women. But did women from this community use that or…
EW: Oh yeah.
CS: …all over?
EW: No, they were just the people that lived around here ‘cause she was wonderful, wonderful nurse. And throw in Mrs. Webster. She had her son up there too.
RE: Oh didn’t she marry Webster?
CS: Oh can you describe what Ms. Dunn was like? Just to prove her personality and how old she was and what she look like.
EW: Oh, oh I imagine she was…she was lovely, and oh, so gentle, so kind she must have been uh in her 50s.
CS: Um hum.
EW: I would imagine, I never thought about age at that time, but I would think she might’ve been in her 50s because she didn’t go out she just stayed in this house and, and had her patients. People came right there, and they were just having babies.
RE: What did she charge?
EW: I don’t remember what she charged. Wasn’t much I don’t know if it was $50 or whatever.
CS: Well how long were you there when you had a baby?
EW: Till I was discharged. I wasn’t there long. I wasn’t there long. I doubt if I was there a week.
CS: So she took care of you while you were, you know?
E: Um hum. Yes, yes, she put me in the other room with the women, with the other women. I went in there.
RE: My word.
CS: And where would the babies stay? Did she have a nursery or did the babies stay with you.
EW: The babies had a little room to themselves. They had their little cribs in there and when Dr. Empresol came later when….When he came I said “I don’t know what you’re doing here.”
E: Don’t need you. You know? And she said, Miss Dunn, Miss Dunn said to him, “Everything’s taken care of.” He said, “Was she taut (?) at all?.” “A little bit but nothing to worry about”, she said, “It’ll heal real nice.
CS: That was that huh?
EW: That was that. And tell me when I hear of, you know I get when I see things on television how they perform, you know, women who have babies and their screaming and carrying on. I said oh that’s, that’s unbelievable, that didn’t happen like that at all. But I was one of the first I, I guess that I had an easy birth.
CS: Yeah, uh huh.
EW: I hadn’t any pain. Only thing hurting me was my back.
CS: Do you remember….was Miss Dunn around for quite a while before you were, before you delivered?
EW: Oh yes, she was up there for a while. I don’t know for how long really, but she was there for a while, maybe several years and I don’t know… Why I think she died. She just died had to give up.
CS: Did she do any of your prenatal care?
EW: No. I didn’t have-
CS: Did you go to the doctor?
EW: It wasn’t prenatal, just the doctor came once.
CS: So your, during your pregnancy you didn’t have any?
CS: You didn’t go every month like they do now?
EW: No. It was nothing.
EW: In fact my next door came up the very next, I think the very next day and she said, “I didn’t know you were expecting a baby.”
RE: I don’t know how they did it, but they could hide it in those days.
E: I didn’t hide anything. I didn’t wear a special garment or anything. I wore smocks like the paint, you see the painters you know? What they wear. I wore a smock and that was it. That was all. I didn’t do any-
CS: Did they have maternity clothes then?
EW: No. They didn’t. I had one dress that that I wore. And I got sick of it, that I wore it all of, you know, when I went out anywhere. But it had a little….ah, bolero thing like in the front and ah, it just covered- went down over and covered it. And she didn’t know, my next door neighbor. So uh….
RE: I lived near there and didn’t know.
CS: Was it just you didn’t talk about your pregnancy? Did you not talk about your pregnancy?
EW: I don’t think they talked…they didn’t talk about it as freely as they do today.
RE: I did, but then again I was always a mover and a shaker.
EW: But then people today they come out and talk….but there were so few.
RE: I remember sitting on the porch with Ms. Humwood and she would say, “Oh see that girl coming down there she’s in the family way.” And there was always so much discussion about whether people were in the family way or not. That’s when I suspected that I might be pregnant. I quickly went around and told everybody “Hi, I’m pregnant.”
CS: So nobody would-
RE: So they couldn’t surmise or decide whether I was pregnant.
EW: Well I lost the first one I was pregnant before.
RE: Oh you were?
EW: Yes, but I lost that.
EW: But I had a miscarriage and it seemed a long time, you know, seven years and after that there was one operation after another. There was no more, no more children.
CS: Did you nurse your baby? Most people nurse their babies then?
CS: How long did you nurse?
EW: Yeah. Yeah. Well I nursed ‘til I was told he was starving.
E: And uh, I would…I couldn’t believe it ‘cause I had so much. Really I had so much milk and, I had gone on home. I had taken him up with me and uh my folks up there said that, “That child is hungry.” He’s not getting enough to eat; I don’t know why. I had plenty of milk. Well I came home took him to the doctor weighed him. He said because,
before you go home, the doctor called the drug store. Do you remember Hall’s? Drug store was located down on, they used to call it 35th street, and there’s a – it’s a store there – but it was a drug store. It was Hall’s Drug Store. He said you stop there and you buy the bottles, but he said give him milk right away. “Don’t make a formula”, he said really starving.
CS: Did he cry a lot?
EW: He like most children that haven’t fed; he’d be crying. And I didn’t…you know the way things are today, girls run to the hospital. They would have known right away and, ah, I didn’t know, so when I came home I just gave him some milk. I warmed it and put it in the bottle. He never had a bottle not even orange juice. And he grabbed that bottle and boy did he down it.
CS: And how old was he then?
EW: He downed it.
CS: About how old was he? 5/6 months?
EW: He was, yeah, right. And from then on he blossomed. But I had a hard time. I had a rough time drying up and that. That was terrible. That was more painful than having a
baby. And Mary Webster came in, she lived next door, and she came in and used a pump. And of course if you used a pump to much it fills up again.
CS: Stimulates it again.
CS: So you weren’t nursing at all then.
EW: Naw, uh huh.
CS: Yeah, that would be hard then. What was your social life like as a young married woman?
EW: We had uh, groups that would meet. We had uh, maybe 3 or 4 couples and we meet at one another’s houses. You know Mr. and Mrs. Buckley. You know you remember Jim Buckley and Ethel. And my husband was there; they had a group of men they use to call it the Arcanun Club.
CS: The what club?
CS: Can you spell it?
CS: Uh huh, what’s that?
EW: Well I don’t know but that’s what they call it. And these boys were all from the Falls. And they would go, when they were younger, they would go on camping trips and things like that. And they just continued the habit to meet once a month. But the wives, the husbands and wives would get together, you know? But we were much involved in church: we sang in the choir; I sang in the choir and my husband sang in the choir. And we were involved in that. And of course when we had time to on weekends we would be going upstate, going up there visiting my folks. And we sing. We’d like to play the piano and sing.
CS: Nobody had cars much?
EW: Not that many. Mr. Buckley. We didn’t have a car then, but later we did get a car and then I think my father brought a new one and he gave us the old one. And Bruce said, my son, “Why didn’t he give us the new one?” That would be Bruce.
CS: What kind of car did you get?
EW: It was an automobile. But then when that played out we got a Chevy and I think no…we got a Mercury. And that was a lovely car; we were in the money then. We got a Mercury; it was a lovely Mercury and ah when that, when we decided to get rid of it we decided to get a Chevy.
CS: What kind of…What did your husband do?
EW: He was a jeweler. Manufacturing jeweler – he made jewelry.
CS: And where was his place of business?
EW: He worked, last time he worked he was at Caldwell’s.
CS: And when you were first married?
EW: He worked for another man – a man who made a lot of a school like school pins, college pins, and rings. They don’t seem to have them much anymore. He had worked for this man years and years.
CS: Not in Falls?
EW: No, in Philadelphia down on Chestnut Street., 1022 Chestnut Street. I can remember that.
CS: How did he get to work?
EW: First he used to use the train.
CS: The train that came-
EW: Uh yeah, East Falls. They had a nice train station down there, at East Falls Station.
CS: Down by (indistinguishable) Street.
EW: He’d choose that, and then when the bus started to run up here then he’d use that. He didn’t use the train.
CS: Do you have recollection when the bus started to run?
EW: I can’t remember the year. Ruth, can you remember what year? ‘Cause you don’t ride buses, you don’t know about buses.
RE: No I did. I always used the train.
EW: I don’t remember, but see Norman he used to use the bus to go to work and it was convenient for him. He didn’t have to walk up and down this hill. He came home at night, you know? But I don’t know really how long they been ah…running there a long time.
RE: I use to use the 61 on Ridge Ave. to get to Center City and the 52 on Midvale Ave. and then transfer down to the 61 on Ridge Ave which took you to Center City.
EW: I only got on the train; I never got on the 61.
CS: Did you ever after you were married have a job outside of the home?
E: Unh- uh (No), I was always being told to go get a job, not by my husband, but by my folks, use to say that “Why don’t you go get a job?”
CS: And why was that?
EW: I didn’t want one.
CS: Why did they tell you that?
EW: I don’t know. They said, “Why don’t you?” because I had worked for an attorney it was a legal job.
CS: Before you were married?
EW: Yeah, and I think because it was strange. See I knew people up here, I knew everybody up here. I didn’t know anybody up there. But here I would have to…. I would be altogether different working for …for someone down here. I just couldn’t get myself to do it. You know he, he was easy going. And he didn’t ever say go out and get a job.
CS: Did most young women work?
EW: They didn’t. There wasn’t many women working then not like it is today.
CS: Can’t you describe what your day was like at home?
EW: Work, work, work. Cleaning windows, scrubbings up in the paint. It was work, work, work. We always do work. Very busy, busy, busy. I don’t know when I think of it now, I don’t know how I did as much as I did do. When you’re young like yourself you can do a whole lot more – the young vital and can get around better. But I had many stories….