The two sisters (b. 1944 and 1949, respectively) who gave this interview were more critical than most other narrators about how the Redevelopment Authority dealt with homeowners at the beginning of the undertaking in Society Hill. They describe how the Redevelopment Authority, in order to get people’s properties, took advantage of homeowners who were elderly, uneducated, or did not speak English. The RDA required certain changes to the interior of their house to restore it to an earlier appearance, even though the house had never had those features.
These women came from a family with deep roots in Philadelphia. The families of both their mother and father came from Ireland. They lived with their maternal grandmother, their mother, two brothers, and a cousin in a small house (near Third and Spruce Streets) that their grandmother had bought in the 1940s; the house had indoor plumbing, electricity, coal heat, and a gas stove.
They talk about their education, their church affiliation, where they played, and what they played. They describe neighborhood businesses that were or were not part of the Dock Street market, as well as weekly food-shopping trips with their grandmother to provision their family.
They describe their neighborhood as racially mixed, black and white, “and everybody got along fine.” One of the women says she is offended when she hears the carriage drivers tell tourists that the neighborhood before redevelopment was a slum. She says, “Everybody had a job. Everybody was hard working. Took care of what they could.”
The narrator does not consider it a slum. As children, they played in their little street or in the Salvation Army playground at Third and Willings Alley. They used cardboard to go sledding on Lomby Hill (Lombard Street between Second and Front), where they also roller skated.
Transcribing an interview with two narrators can be challenging because the narrators often interrupt one another or speak at the same time. Sometimes they finish one another’s sentences. All three occurred in this interview. But it can also happen that two narrators, in talking to each other rather than to the interviewer, will trigger shared memories that might not emerge otherwise.
[Transcriber’s note: These two sisters requested anonymity after the interview. Accordingly, portions of the transcript have been deleted or changed.]
DS: This is an interview on February 22, 2006, with [two sisters]. Their present address is – AN3 lives at […] Street, and AN4, where do you live?
A4: [inaudible] Fishtown.
A3: She lives in the Fishtown area.
DS: Now, AN3, when were you born?
A3: 1949, June 10.
DS: And AN4?
A4: October 11, 1944. (1:00)
DS: Where were you born?
A3: [At the family home in Society Hill.]
DS: In the home?
A3: In the home.
DS: Both of you?
A3: Second floor, front bedroom. No.
DS: You were?
DS: Second floor, front bedroom.
A3: You were born at Pennsylvania Hospital [referring to AN4].
A3: I don’t know much after that; I wasn’t here. [Laughs] I came after you [referring to AN4].
A4: My mother was sick with pneumonia when she went into labor with her [referring to A3: ].
DS: Is that why it was at home? Just didn’t have time to get to the hospital?
A3: Nope, I decided I was coming, and there was no stopping.
DS: Do you have a church affiliation?
A3: Old St. Joseph’s.
DS: Oh, you are Old St. Joe’s. And AN4?
A4: Holy Name, Upper Fishtown. (2:00)
DS: Holy Name in Fishtown. Now, the rest of what we’re going to talk about is basically the family. I’m just trying to get a handle on where your family came from, I mean, what their roots were. You told me your grandmother lived here. Did she come – was she born here in the United States or –?
A3: In the United States. She was born in the Sacred Heart parish in South Philadelphia.
DS: Your grandmother. Going back another generation, do you – can you give me some –
A3: My grandmother’s – my great-grandmother was also born in Philadelphia. I’m assuming in the same area, the Sacred Heart area. They moved here [Society Hill area]. I don’t know when. I have no idea. My grandmother came from a very large family. It was ten children, and quite a few of the sisters lived around here until they all sold their (3:00) homes and moved back to South Philadelphia.
DS: So what country –?
DS: That’s your mother’s side.
DS: Your father’s side?
A3: We don’t know much about him. We know he’s from the Bridesburg area. He died when we were quite young. I know they’re of Irish descent. How far back they go I don’t know. [inaudible]
DS: Your mother was the one who came from a very large family.
A3: No, my grandmother came from a very large family. My mother and two brothers –
A3: Three brothers and herself. There were four children. My mother was born in (4:00) this area. She was [born in the 200 block of] Spruce Street.
DS: When did you move on to […] Street [in Society Hill]? When did she?
A3: When was my sister born?
A3: They moved May of ’44, and AN4 was born October of ’44. That’s how long we’ve been here.
DS: That’s how long you’ve been in the house. Your mother – your father died when you were both young. Your mother raised –
A3: All four of us. We had two brothers and the two of us.
DS: Two brothers and two girls. Were you the oldest, youngest, or –?
A4: The boys were the oldest, and then it was me and then AN3.
DS: What did your father do for a living before he died? Do you know?
A4: We know he worked for the Arsenal in explosives. Other than that, I don’t know (5:00) what type of work he did. What that meant at that point in time, I have no idea. [Laughs]
DS: You never asked your mother?
A3: No, no. Like I said, he died when we were quite young. He wasn’t a figure in our life, a person – we didn’t know him, and so I guess I can’t say I didn’t care. I didn’t know enough to care.
DS: So how did your mother raise you all? I mean, where did – how did she –?
A3: She worked for Abbotts Dairies.
DS: She did work for Abbotts.
A3: My grandmother worked for Abbotts Dairies.
A4: It was a family affair.
DS: Your grandmother lived with you.
A3: No, no, we lived with my grandmother. [Laughs]
DS: You lived with your grandmother?
A4: No, we lived with my grandmother. [Laughs]
DS: It was your grandmother who owned the house, and your mother and the four children. They both worked at Abbotts Dairies. What did they do at Abbotts? (6:00)
A3: My grandmother was a cook. My mother was what they called a packer. They filled the ice cream containers on the assembly lines. She worked in the plant, and my grandmother was in the cafeteria.
DS: They had their own cafeteria at the plant?
DS: They fed their own employees?
A3: Yes, they did.
DS: Allen Chapman worked there?
A3: Yes, they were good friends. They were related somewhere along the line.
A4: He was a nice man.
A3: Very nice person.
DS: Tell me about the house on […] Street – or, the first house where you were (7:00) on Spruce, but you wouldn’t remember that, right?
A4: We were too young. We were both only on […] Street.
DS: Now, tell me about that house, where you live now, but back at that time, when you were growing up. Did it have indoor plumbing?
A4: Oh, yes.
DS: And electricity and hot water?
A4: Yes. Coal heat.
DS: Coal heat?
A4: We had coal delivered, and then they converted to oil. They wanted to turn it over to oil.
DS: Oil heating, and stove?
DS: Where did you go to school?
A3: Old St. Joe’s.
DS: You went to Old St. Joe’s.
A3: [AN4] was the last one to graduate, the last class, eighth grade.
DS: That was a question I had. When did that close?
A3: [inaudible] Don’t worry about it.
A4: I want to say ’59 to ’60. It would close in ’59; June of ’59, ‘cause I went to (8:00) business school after that, and that was only two years. I got out of business school in ’61.
DS: After you graduated from business school where’d you go?
A4: To work. That was a long time ago. [Laughs] A bank up at K and A. No, it was an insurance company on top of a bank at Kensington and Allegheny; that was the very first.
DS: In the office? With clients?
A4: In the office; I was a file clerk. I left there and went to Hartford Insurance at Fifth and Walnut. Then they moved further uptown, and so I went to Hertz Rent-a-Car. Then I got married, and that was it. (9:00)
DS: You have how many children?
DS: Three children. Now, [AN3], where did you – after St. Joe’s?
A3: After St. Joe’s closed, they shipped us up to St. Augustine’s at Fourth and Race; I graduated Eighth grade there, and from there I went to Hallahan High School.
DS: Where’s that?
A3: Nineteenth and Wood, across from the Free Library.
DS: Oh. It was called Hallahan?
A3: John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School, first Catholic girls’ high school in Philadelphia; it still is there. All girls. I graduated there in 1967. Then I went to work for Royal Insurance, who at that time was in the Mall Building, right across from Carpenter’s Hall. We moved from there to the corner of Fourth and Market, (10:00) where the Fox building is now. That was our building. I retired from there in – what year am I in? – in the year 2000; no, 1999. I retired after 35 years.
DS: Did you have children?
A3: No, I wasn’t blessed with children.
DS: How would you get to work?
DS: Walked. Did you walk, too?
A4: No, not to K&A.
A3: Oh, your original job you could, but the other jobs you didn’t.
A4: I took the El up to K&A. When I was on Walnut Street, I walked. When I worked at Seventeenth and Market [Streets], I used to take the SEPTA bus home.
DS: The majority of your transportation was walking?
A4: [inaudible] (11:00)
A3: [inaudible] No, she was always late.
DS: She wasn’t late today.
A3: That’s a plus.
DS: So, now we have sort of a basic idea of who you are. Give me some childhood memories, childhood stories, good, bad, whatever. What did you play when you were growing up? Where did you go to play these things, who did you play with?
A4: Salvation Army.
DS: You went to the Salvation Army. Was it where it is now?
A4: The building’s right there, but on this side of Third Street, the south side of Third Street, there was a playground that went from –
DS: The south side or the east side?
A4: This side. The south, coming south, where the houses are.
A3: If you’re walking from Walnut, across Willings, Alley where that new house is –
A3: That used to be our playground. There, all the way back to Orianna Street. (12:00) Orianna Street is no longer there, because it’s Bingham Court. Behind that was the Yellow Cab company. Yellow Cab was across from our church.
DS: You would play in that playground.
A3: Um hum. Mostly there or in the streets, and our little street, we used to play out there. Well, there was traffic going through, because they used to go to big American Street [American Street north of Spruce Street, which no longer exists]. [inaudible] up the hill. We used to call it “up the hill,” because it was up the hill.
DS: Which would have been north of Spruce?
A4: Um hum.
DS: That American Street. There was a hill there?
A4: It went up the hill. Up-a the hill.
DS: Traffic would come through American Street to get over to the other side of Spruce to the other American Street? (13:00)
A4: There wasn’t any other way around there, between Dock Street and all the fish markets and produce and everything else that was there; poultry.
A3: Poultry. Both our uncles, my mother’s brothers, that’s all they did. They were truck drivers. At American and Spruce, there was the basket company and the rag company, that was up the street.
DS: Where was that? Oh, that was on Spruce.
A3: On American, big American. There was a wood factory up there, too. Used to make furniture, I remember that.
A4: Then Ideal was on this side; they came out the Front Street side, [inaudible] the back way for the trucks, ‘cause that’s where we used to go sledding, sledding down the hill.
A3: We used to go up the hill to go down the hill.
A4: [inaudible] give us cardboard?
A3: Yes, we used to slide – that was our sleds. We used to –
A4: We didn’t have no sleds.
DS: You used cardboard? (14:00)
A3: Yes, we used cardboard.
A4: We did that across the street, too, at […].
A3: Yes, the high steps on our street. When our street –
A4: The old lady lived there. We used to pack the steps and used cardboard to sled down. Vertical. [Laughs] It didn’t take much.
A3: No, it didn’t. It didn’t take much to keep us occupied.
A4: Lomby Hill, we had –
A3: Um hum.
DS: Lombard Hill?
A4: We called it Lomby Hill. Well, that went right down to Front Street, from Second to Front; that was kind of steep like. We used to go down there like way after working hours or Sundays, because of all the trucks.
DS: Wasn’t there a Water Street down there that ran north-south?
A4: I don’t think it was up this far, was it, Water Street? I think it stopped further down.
DS: Where on Lombard would you –?
A3: Between Second and Front, right here.
A4: Near Pine here; Lombard, too.
DS: At Pine and Front was where you’d go down the hill? (15:00)
A3: On Lombard Street.
A4: We were on Lombard. Second and Lombard to Front and Lombard. We used to use that.
DS: ‘Cause everybody talks about that sledding hill.
A4: I haven’t thought of that in years. [Laughs] We used to like to roller skate down there.
DS: Roller skate?
A4: Street skates?
A4: Yes. Well, [AN3] didn’t.
A3: I wasn’t coordinated enough. [Laughs] I was a homebody.
A4: She didn’t go out for dangerous things.
A3: No. My sister was more a tomboy. She still is, but that’s neither here nor there. She was more daring. I was the homebody; I like to stay in: play dolls, read books, cook, clean, iron – but not my sister.
A4: To this day I don’t like to do it. [AN3] still loves to be home, cooking, cleaning and reading books. [Laughs] I might be home, but I’m not cooking and cleaning and ironing. (16:00)
A4: Oh, yes, I loved it.
A3: Well, we weren’t allowed to have bikes.
A4: We didn’t have them.
A3: There was only two kids around here that actually had their own bikes, Joanie Bezotsky and [EG].
A4: There was a place up on Delancey Street, Sixth and Delancey [Streets]. It was called Bob and Mabel’s. Remember, we used to rent a bike for a quarter?
A4: Twenty-five cents an hour. If we got caught riding a bike, our grandmother would break our legs. She was –
A4: There was too much traffic around here, really. That’s why we – but we used to sneak up every Sunday and rent a bike.
A3: During the summer months when they were both at work. My grandmother worked day shift, and my mother worked night shift. One of them were with us at all times. Of course, when they were in doing things, that’s when we were out renting bikes and doing all kinds of stuff. Remember when we were on Front Street, when I was riding on the handlebars (17:00) with E –
A4: And he got that stuff in his face.
A3: Yes. They found out we were on the bikes –
A4: Yes. Ouch! Did I get ouch!
A3: She got ouch. I didn’t. I was hurt. I was hurt. Laughs]
DS: E? Who was E?
A3: My cousin.
A4: Our cousin. Remember when they had the fireplug on up on American Street, and Mom forbid us to go up there? I took you up. She [AN3] had to step on a piece of glass and cut her foot.
DS: The fireplug?
A3: Yes, that’s how we used to – in the summer months.
A4: There was no swimming around, so we used to open up the hydrants.
DS: What happened?
A3: I stepped on glass and cut the bottom of my foot. They had to carry me home from there. Of course, they all got punished again.
A4: That’s why it was safer for you to stay in the house. [Laughs]
A3: Because I was such a klutz. [Laughs] They didn’t want me out with them. Every time I went out with them something would happen. It’s like, “You stay home.” It was my sister and my brothers. My mother also raised my cousin, so it was the three boys and my sister (18:00 ) used to go out and I would stay home and wait.
DS: Your cousin was older?
A3: Oh, he was the oldest. Yes, he was the oldest.
DS: His name was [E]?
A3: [E]. He worked the docks [inaudible] ships up, when our port was flourishing.
A3: They used to call them longshoremen. There were plenty of those in our family.
A4: My husband was one. He retired after 38 years.
DS: Did your husband – did you meet him here in this neighborhood?
A4: I met him in town at a bar.
DS: He was not a neighborhood boy?
A4: No, he’s a Fishtown boy.
A3: No. My husband’s from Fishtown, too.
A4: I took her to a wedding and she met him.
A3: I met my husband sitting at a wedding with her, keeping her company. That’s how I met my husband. He walked up to me with a daisy and that was it. Daisies were (19:00) my favorite flower, and it’s history: thirty-one years of marriage. I guess it’s history.
DS: Good history. Yes. Did you go swimming? Swimming pools around here?
A4: Yes, there was one at Third and Reed in South Philly, but we weren’t allowed down that way.
A3: It was too far.
A4: Plus, they really didn’t want us down there.
DS: Your parents – your mother and grandmother pretty much told you the district you were allowed to be in?
A4: Oh, no, I’m talking about the kids. [Laughs]
A3: [Laughs] Oh, they would have went down anyway. It was the neighborhood kids that didn’t want us down there. [inaudible] territorial.
A4: On the south side of South Street. They didn’t like you going on their territory.
A3: That was South Philly. Once you hit South Street, the south side of South Street, was considered South Philly. This side of South Street we were all Center City kids. (20:00)
DS: Would there be problems if you crossed –?
A3: Not really.
A4: They’d just tell the group to get back up where you belong. There were never any fights. It was just [inaudible] –
A4: The girls, not the boys. The boys never did, [just] the girls. I guess they were afraid you were going to take one of their boys. There was never any rumbles or anything.
A3: No. It was very safe in this area. Yes, – at one point – I know I said to Penny [Batcheler] a couple of times: I resent the fact that when the carriage [ride] people are driving tourists around here, that they emphasize that I grew up in the slums. I did not grow up in the slums! I take offense to that! Wholeheartedly. I did not grow up in the slums.
A4: Remember that Philadelphia magazine [article] years ago about this area?
A3: We had a nice, blue collar, very safe area here.
A4: It was mixed, but –
A3: It was mixed, and everybody got along fine.
A4: Yes, they all watched out for you. (21:00)
A3: Yes, they did. It was a very mixed, black and white area, and the blacks were just as nice to us as we were to them. We all looked out for each other. I truly resent when I hear those carriage people riding around saying this was “the slums.” I didn’t call it the slums. I grew up in Center City. [inaudible]
A4: Gee, I never knew that.
A3: Yes, the first time I heard that [I thought] “No, I didn’t hear that correctly.” Then I started listening to what they were talking about. No, that wasn’t the slums. It was a very nice neighborhood.
DS: Even some of the literature that you read they’ll talk about it as the slums. I must tell you that almost everybody that I have interviewed – I have never asked them – they have always told me that this was not a slum. They are offended.
A3: Very much so. Why shouldn’t we be?
DS: Everybody had a job. Everybody was hard working. Took care of what they could. You’re not alone in that feeling. (22:00)
A3: I don’t understand why – or whose idea that was. They say that to make it more of an interesting story for the tourists to go through.
DS: Do you remember – were you here – you were here, A – but B – when Redevelopment Authority came in?
A3: Um hum. [AN4] was here, too.
A4: That’s right. I was here and then I got married in ’71. That’s when they were just starting to – whatever – you know – condemn these houses, and getting the old people out.
DS: When? In when?
A4: I was married in ’71. It started a couple of years before then.
DS: Yes, it started in the ‘60s.
A4: ‘Cause that’s when they were starting to hound [grandmother] about the house.
DS: They were starting to do what? (23:00)
A3: The Redevelopment Authority used to come around to the elderly people in our neighborhood, and if you didn’t have your wits about yourself, they would take your deeds away from you, because they wanted your house.
A4: They would find a way to condemn it.
A3: They would find a way to condemn you. It happened to quite a few of my grandmother’s friends. They lost their houses to the Dilworth Gang, as we used to call them. Their henchmen that came around and got rid of the people that didn’t know any better and didn’t have enough sense to hire somebody to fight for them. There were quite a few people around here that lost their houses, because someone wanted it and wanted to move in and start the quote unquote Society Hill redevelopment. That’s another little bone of contention that us growing up here look back on what was going on around here and how unfair it was to all of us. You know, it was very unjust what they were doing. (24:00)
DS: They picked on the older people or the people who didn’t know they had some legal recourse.
A3: Exactly. Exactly right.
A4: There was – you know, like – a lot of foreigners.
A3: There was a lot of –
A4: The immigrants.
A3: Polish, Ukrainian came here to live.
A4: You know, on our street – and –
A3: – and Jewish people around here, too.
A3: They didn’t have anybody and they had no recourse. They didn’t understand English too well, because they were first [generation] over here. It was horrible what they were doing, very, very mean, actually. Of course, they lost their houses, and everybody started moving away.
DS: When was that?
A3: Oh, in the early ‘60s when Dilworth started – became Mayor. They started coming into the areas to re-do. I can’t think of the date. I’m no good on dates. (25:00)
DS: I was just thinking, one of the people told me that after the war, when he came back, most of his age group was moving out of the neighborhood. But that’s not what you’re talking about. You’re talking about during the redevelopment, which would have been ’59, ’60, ’61?
A3: In the early 60s.
DS: These people started to move because they had given up their house?
A3: Not on their own accord. It was taken away from them by the Redevelopment Authority. They didn’t know any better. They didn’t know they could fight it. Of course, fortunately for us, my grandmother was very stubborn, and she fought tooth and nail.
A4: She fought City Hall.
A3: She fought City Hall to get our deeds back, title to the house.
DS: So had they taken it? To get the deed back?
A3: They just came with a piece of paper and said, “You’re surrendering (26:00) your house.” Unfortunately, these people didn’t know any better. They couldn’t read or write. You have to remember how far back these people came. How they were brought up around here. How much education they had. The ones that were doing it were educated and they came through and just started taking things away from people. People didn’t know what they were signing.
DS: What was your grandmother’s education?
A3: Fourth Grade?
A4: Fourth Grade.
DS: Originally when they came with the paper she did sign it?
DS: She didn’t sign it?
A3: No, because my mother was able to read and write and understand what was going on, and her brothers. That’s when they wouldn’t let her sign it, but my grandmother would never sign anything, would she?
A4: [Laughs] No, she wouldn’t sign anything.
DS: How far did your mother go in her education?
A3: My mother was eighth grade.
DS: Eighth grade. Your grandmother was stubborn.
AN3 and A4: Extremely.
DS: Extremely. It helped?
A3: Yes, it did. This one was able to stand her ground with these men when they (27:00) came in telling her to sign these papers, that they were going to do all these things for the neighborhood and she just needed to sign this piece of paper. The next thing you know, people were getting put out of their homes.
A4: When they came through the house to tell you what you had to have done, you had x amount of days to get it done. That’s why my grandmother went and fought in the court, because they said that house there had a basement kitchen, which it never did.
A3: Never did.
DS: But they said it did?
A4: They were trying to fight it, because they wanted her to put a basement kitchen in. She went to City Hall. Couple of years she fought that.
DS: Why did they want her to put in a basement kitchen?
A4: I don’t know where the heck they were going to put it.
A3: I don’t either.
A4: ‘Cause some of the houses on […] Street do have a basement kitchen, but they were original –
A3: They were originally there. When we were kids –
A3: Ours never had one. No, it was never –
DS: So what did that have to do with the – how could they –? (28:00)
A4: That was their grounds. Then they started picking up, well, this she’s not doing [this] and she’s not doing [that]. Then they tried to condemn the houses. That’s how they got possession of so many of them.
DS: By saying that you should have a basement kitchen?
A3: We needed – they needed to do repairs – they wanted us to do certain repairs in the house. I probably – you know me – I probably still have the papers from when they originally came in and talked to my grandmother about what she needed to do in the house. They would come in, it was the Redevelopment Authority, with documentations, maybe a hundred or so pages, come walking into your door. They would say, “You need to do a basement kitchen, or you have to redo your ceilings. You have to put your fireplaces back in there.” Now, when we moved into the house, when my grandmother bought the house from her sister….the house has been in the family for generations upon generations. These people (29:00) are telling us what – you need to do this, get it back to here, when they weren’t – they weren’t there to begin with. Fortunately that’s where my grandmother had enough sense to realize, “Why are you telling me to do this when it was never here?” You know, we never had anything like that in the house. Now, like, our neighbors that were living down the street, who were the Polish people who didn’t speak English, where […] originally lived, they were one of the first houses on our street – they were evicted, and they condemned that house.
A4: That’s the way it was back years ago.
A3: Exactly true. It’s like – that’s why there’s a lot of resentment from those of us who are still here, to say, “Well, look what you did to us.” Even though we were still kids, we still realized. We tuned into our parents and our grandparents. They worked darned hard for (30:00) these houses.
A4: They had to hire their [Redevelopment Authority] contractors.
A3: We only could do their contractors. We couldn’t have any –
DS: You had to hire contractors they –
A3: The Redevelopment Authority – yes. They gave you a low-interest loan for fifteen years and you had to pay the contractors. Their contractors told you what you had to do, how much the loan was going to cost you, and you had to pay it back in fifteen years. Those poor people that didn’t have the money to keep up with the payments for fifteen years, they lost their houses. They defaulted on their payment; the banks foreclosed on them.
DS: We thought the improvements that the Redevelopment Authority were requiring were just outside, front, like shutters, windows.
A3: Not when they first came around.
A4: Not when they first came around. My grandmother’s house there on [….] (31:00) Street – they always had storm windows. They didn’t want her to put any storm windows or storm door back up. They won’t recognize that in the Historical Society. If she wanted them, they told her to put them on the inside, the storm windows.
A3: No, the windows were always up there, because that’s how she winterized. They will not certify our house because of our storm windows and storm doors there. Now we are grandfathered on it because of how many years it’s up there, but if we ever want to do anything on the outside of our house, I’m sure they won’t allow us to put it back up.
DS: When did your grandmother buy the house from her sister? Do you have a date or an approximate date? I mean, are we talking about the 50s, 40s, 30s?
A4: In the 40s.
A3: In the 40s.
DS: Her sister owned the house?
A3: Um hum.
DS: What was the history on that?
A3: I don’t know how long they lived there. I know they had 17 children in that house. (32:00) But other than that I don’t know –
A4: Seventeen children! [Laughs] We still discuss that with our cousins. How the hell did you live in that house? Excuse me. Seventeen children.
A3: No twins, either.
A4: No, they’re all single births.
DS: This was back in the ‘40s? With no air conditioning?
A3: Right. Yes, yes. It was interesting. Then when they left our house on [….] Street they moved to [the 300 block of] Spruce Street, the big house up there.
A4: That’s when we must have squeezed everyone in the dumb waiter. [Laughs] It was a mansion compared to the [….] Street house. By that time some of them were married off. [One of the girls] lived right next door to us.
A3: See, when you did marry, you moved just next door. You really didn’t leave the neighborhood. You just stayed within the boundaries.
DS: Well, this is all good information. I’ve not heard anybody be quite as open about it as you are. (33:00)
A3: I don’t have a problem [Laughs].
DS: They allude to it, but they don’t –
DS: – actually tell me about it.
A3: It was awful. It was an awful time.
A4: [I] moved out. I left in ‘71.
DS: You wanted to move out. You wanted to get away.
A3: Well, she got married.
A4: I got married. [My husband] wouldn’t live here. He wouldn’t let me stay down this way.
DS: His family was all in Fishtown?
A4: What are we, ten minutes away? Up Delaware Avenue, and that’s it.
DS: Community life? Street life? Stores? Where would your mother and grandmother do their shopping?
A3: Right up here at the corner of Third and Delancey there was an American Store. (34:00) We used to go down to the Headhouse Square, to the market on Fridays, with my grandmother. Friday and Saturday. We used to go down there and buy our meats for the week –
A4: Meats for the week.
A3: Or butter, butter and eggs.
A4: Butter and eggs came from Fourth Street.
A3: Fourth Street. We used to shop on Fourth Street.
A4: Then there was another store at Second and South, where the restaurant is right now. In the back of the grocery store was a deli. Rosie Beck. Oh, that’s that name.
DS: Rosie Beck?
A3: Didn’t you say a Beck? Didn’t you mention Beck? One of the names of the –
DS: Oh, Judith Beck. She was an R.N. A public health nurse.
A4: This lady had a deli in the back of the store. That’s where we used to go to get our lunchmeat. [We’d] go right there to South Street, come back down Second Street, stop at the old guy and get peaches and all kinds of fruit and vegetables.
DS: The old guys?
A3: Produce guys. I can’t remember their names, but they were old men. [Laughs] (35:00) We used to call them the Old Guys. Then we would – like you said – go in the market and buy our produce.
A4: ‘Cause in the Headhouse it was all meats.
A3: Yes, all meats in there.
DS: When would that have been? It had to be before the food produce center moved out? But it was all meats?
A4: I’m trying to think.
DS: They moved out in ’59.
A4: I would say the ‘50s.
A3: I would say so, because I know I was around eight or nine years old when – I know I was about eight years old when we’d go to Second Street. He was one of the guys that sold veal. Headhouse and then he went down there [on Second Street] and then he sold everything. He was between South and Bainbridge. [inaudible] Oh, God, yes. On the other side, yes. I can’t think of – I can see his face, but I can’t think of the name. There’s a restaurant [there] now, on Second Street.
A4: Then when they closed the Headhouse down, that’s when (36:00) [inaudible]
A3: Everything was local. We didn’t own cars, because there was no need for one.
A4: There was a bakery at Fourth and Lombard.
A4: There was another one at Fourth and –
DS: What was that one called? At Fourth and Lombard?
A3: I don’t remember.
A4: Tannenbaum’s was on Second Street, right off of South, going toward Bainbridge.
A3: Where the bead place is now?
DS: Where the what place is?
A3: The bead place, used to be Tannenbaum’s.
A4: Yes, something like that.
A3: Then there was a bakery right up on Fourth, where the guitar store is now. They used to have the best ice box rolls and doughnuts. [Laughs]
A4: Yes, we didn’t go too much past Fourth and Kater. We always shopped at Fourth and Lombard.
A3: Yes. There was another bakery at Fourth and Kater. When Fourth Street closed down we used to go down to Kater Street.
A4: When both of them closed we went to Fifth and McKean. Yep. We used to walk down to McKean and get our breads –
DS: McKean? (37:00)
A3: South Philly.
DS: So you would go with your mother, your grandmother.
A4: My grandmother used to do the shopping on Fridays. Yes, we would meet her at the back of Abbotts, and then we’d go. Three hours.
DS: Three hours. [Laughs]
A4: Yes. Then Saturday we would go to Fourth Street and get the butter, the cream cheese, the eggs.
DS: That was from the Newmarket?
A4: No, he was always there, that man. I don’t know what his store was called. It was on Fourth Street between South and Bainbridge. Butter and eggs.
A3: In the middle of the block.
A4: I remember, we used to call him the butter and egg man.
A3: The butter and egg man. [Laughs]
DS: So, fresh vegetables, fruits?
A4: Oh, yes, we didn’t have frozen foods then.
A3: Well, we didn’t know of them. We never had anything frozen. It was all fresh.
DS: In this area, also? (38:00)
A3: Fourth Street, once again, was the produce – where I used to go. I can’t remember his name, either. Where the post office is now. That used to be where we’d go to get our vegetables. [inaudible]
A4: I don’t even know where your post office is now.
DS: What was South Street like when you were growing up?
A4: There was two movie theaters there.
A3: Yes. Clothing. We used to get all our clothes in Auerbach’s there. Shoes. The Buster Brown shoe store is still there, where we used to get our shoes, there on Fourth Street. I remember the furriers being down there.
A4: Oh, yes.
A3: Furs, used to sell furs. Lot of bridal shops. That’s where we used to go get all our clothes and things, right down on Fourth Street.
DS: So you wouldn’t go to town.
A3: Yes, we – That was more of a treat when we went up there. Everything (39:00) was within, you know, our blocks around here.
A4: Like when we were little, you know, we always went to the one store on South Street, Auerbach’s, the clothing store. It was for boys and girls.
A3: Then, once you hit a certain age, that’s when you used to go up to Klein’s. Klein’s was another place on South Street.
DS: On South Street?
A3: Yes. And then we would go in town; we used to go to Gimbel’s, and Snellenberg’s, Lit Brothers, and Strawbridge’s, John Wanamaker’s.
DS: That was a treat, to go to those stores.
A3: Yes, well, that was when we got older.
DS: Needed fancier clothes?
A3: No, we weren’t fancy people, obviously. Look at the two of us. [Laughs]
A4: We weren’t fancy. No. The only time we wore fancy clothes –
A3: – was when we were in our First Communion. (40:00)
A4: When we made our Communion we had to have special dresses for those, and the boys had their suits.
A3: Then when we graduated from Eighth Grade; had to have a fancy dress and then that was it.
A4: That was usually handed down.
A3: Yes. [Laughs]
A4: Like, my dress that I wore for Eighth Grade graduation, my two cousins wore, because they were younger than me.
A3: You always got something new. I was the baby. [Laughs] That’s what they used to tell me all the time. “Oh, you’re a baby.” [Laughs]
A3: Yes, I got everything. That’s ‘cause I was so small. It didn’t have anything to do with getting new.
A4: You were smaller than the rest of us.
A3: I was smaller than the rest of them, yes.
DS: But you weren’t sick.
A3: No, no.
A4: Oh, no.
DS: So, tell me about your doctors.
DS: What doctors did you go to? You didn’t see doctors?
A3: Not too often, no. [Laughs] (41:00)
A4: We got a vaccination, because we needed it for school.
A3: For school; which they don’t do today. The only needle you needed for school –. No, we were pretty healthy then.
A4: I just remember, she had the measles one time, wasn’t it?
A3: Yes, I had measles, and I got infected from that, and they took me to the doctor’s then.
A4: Down on Third Street. Dr. Silverman.
A4: My grandmother and aunt ran her – my grandmother and her sister […] ran her down Fourth Street to the doctor, because her leg was blowing up.
A3: Blowing up?
A4: Doctor just slit it, right in the office.
A3: Yes. Other than that, then I had my tonsils out at Metropolitan Hospital.
A4: My uncle carried her.
A3: My uncle carried me up there. [Laughs]
A4: You know the hospital that used to be at Third and Spruce?
A3: The Metropolitan Hospital?
DS: Yes, I remember it.
A4: Used to be a cigar factory there.
DS: It was a cigar factory when you were growing up?
A4: Um hum. Then it was a hospital.
A3: And then on Spruce Street, where those new houses are, remember the factory that used to be there? It was a slaughter house or something. I remember one of the animals got loose and was running around. (42:00)
A4: No, he got off the truck.
A3: Is that where he came off? I remember him.
A4: They shot him in front of Bookbinders. [Laughs]
A3: Not that I’m laughing at that. That was the excitement of the day. [Laughs]
DS: Oh, a bull!
A3: A bull was running around. I remember that. I thought it got out of some of the slaughter houses.
DS: Where were the slaughter houses?
A4: They were on Front Street, I know that.
A3: I don’t remember what was over – what was across on Third Street there? Or Spruce Street. You know where the new houses are?
DS: On the northeast side?
A3: Where the big house is with the yard?
DS: On the southeast corner?
A4: [inaudible] With the sign on the wall there?
A3: Oh, […’s] house. That was a bar.
A4: That was a bar. The hospital was there, across the street.
A3: Then a restaurant was there. (43:00)
A4: A little restaurant. And then on this side – Oh, it was the cigar place.
A3: Oh, is that what it was?
A4: Middleton’s. Right. The cigar place.
A3: ’Cause I knew there was a parking lot in the back there. Then when you came down on the corner of big American Street was another bar. Yes, a lot of bars.
A4: Oh, yes. There was a bar on every corner.
A3: Well, that was the area had all the Irish, the Polish. Everybody would drink back then, and still do, probably. Over here was Bender’s, the candy store, And then the barber shop.
A3: Koss. Al Koss.
A4: Second Street, there was more bars.
A3: More bars on the other corner. [Laughs] The two corners. What can we say?
A4: It was a well-watered area.
DS: For the locals or for the food produce people?
A3: For both.
A4: Oh, everybody. The men used to go and hang out – you know, sling bull around. There were never drunk drunks.
A3: No. Not that I recall.
A4: Not the way you see today in some areas. They used to go in after work, have (44:00) a couple of beers. It wasn’t bad, though. It was a good neighborhood.
DS: You felt safe?
A3: Extremely. Oh, definitely.
A4: We used to go to bed at night, leave the doors open.
A3: You never had to worry about locking your doors or windows or nothing.
DS: And this lasted until –?
A3: The Redevelopment Authority came. [Laughs] They disrupted our lives.
A4: Over here on Second Street, remember Bill’s? The store? Second and Delancey? Bought our marbles in the store that was there?
A3: No, I don’t remember.
DS: Bought marbles at Bill’s at Second and Delancey? [Laughs] Which corner? Or was it a corner?
A3: I remember the stables were there on Delancey.
A4: What’s this?
DS: This is Delancey, and Second is right there.
A4: On this side. Not your side of the street, across Second Street.
DS: The west side.
A3: I don’t remember.
A4: Remember the stables? (45:00)
A3: Stables. I remember the blacksmith’s, on Delancey Street.
DS: Where was the stables?
A3: Where the carriage house is now.
A4: That was a blacksmith.
DS: What carriage house?
A4: Up here. The two hundred block of Delancey Street, between Philip and Second, on the north side.
DS: The Haas house?
A3: Oh, no.
A4: Haas wasn’t even in existence back then.
DS: Where Delancey Mews are?
A3: Right, where the driveway –. We call it the carriage house. Where the drive – you go in the – yes.
A4: That used to be the stables. We used to call it the –. It was a blacksmith.
A4: Yes. Watch them shoe the horses.
A3: Shoe the horses.
A4: We always found something to do. It wasn’t much, but, you know.
DS: This was to service the wagons and the horses that were working in the food center?
A4: Um hum.
DS: So in that place where the Delancey Mews are now, there was a blacksmith? (46:00) What was the rest of that whole big square?
A4: Rooming houses, a lot of rooming houses.
A3: A lot of houses there.
DS: Houses were in there?
A4: Yes, yes. I don’t know what was in there.
DS: It wasn’t a parking lot?
DS: Or a parking space where they would line up waiting to go into the food produce center?
A4: No, no.
A3: I don’t know. I never went back there.
A4: We never went on anybody’s property unless they asked us to.
[End of first side of the tape]
[Beginning of second side of the tape]
DS: – there at Third and Delancey where the park is now, there used to be a fire station and a police station. Did you go ever up in there?
A4: Oh, yes.
A3: Yes. Remember Keets? Mr. Keets used to be the caretaker. We used to call it Keets mansion. We didn’t know it belonged to –
DS: Keets? That was Dr. Physick?
A3: Hill, Physick –
A4: Oh, I don’t know. We used to steal the flowers that used to hang over the wall.
A3: Yes, we used to go up there a lot.
A4: The lilac bushes.
DS: Pick the flowers in the garden?
A3: Yes. There was a garden – a caretaker up there – we used to call him Keets. It was Keets mansion, and he used to give us cookies and soda and let us come in and play in the garden.
A4: My friend lived right there on Cypress Street. Susie –
DS: In the three hundred block? You’d go up there? This man Mr. Keets lived there? It was his home?
A3: He lived in the mansion. We don’t know. I always assumed it was his house, but (1:00) obviously it must have been a caretaker. When we were growing up, it was his house. It was Keets’ mansion. [Laughs] We never thought of it as anything else.
A4: That fire house wasn’t there too long. I don’t know when it first came, but I remember it being there.
A3: I remember it being in there, and then they closed it down. But I don’t know where they went after the – I know it was up there. No, we didn’t have the Three Bears Park. No, we used to play in Independence Park, at the Liberty Bell.
DS: You did?
A3: We used to play in the Liberty Bell. [Laughs]
DS: In the Liberty Bell?
A3: [inaudible] We used to play hide-and-seek in there. [Laughs]
A4: When it snowed, you’d play in Carpenter’s Hall grounds and play around gullies.
A3: Yes, in the big parks.
A4: You’d get shot going in there today, wouldn’t you? [Laughs] I mean, they didn’t bother us. We didn’t destroy nothing. We were just playing in the snow. (2:00)
A3: No, see, we just took the parks for granted.
DS: Everything was open? The buildings were open, so you –
AN3 and A4: Oh, yes.
DS: The Bell used to be in that big building?
A3: In the center, in the big building. Yes, we used to go in and out of there. We didn’t even think twice about going up there. A couple of times we played hide and seek in there. Now you can’t even get in, [Laughs] but I understand why. Our playground was the parks and the Salvation Army.
A4: The Salvation Army. We used to play until like nine o’clock at night.
A3: They used to have like little crafts –
A4: In the wintertime, we were never allowed out that late.
A3: No, not when school’s –. We had to stay in. They had a lot (3:00) [inaudible] school.
A4: In grade school, they didn’t –. You had to lie to them. You couldn’t tell them you went to the Salvation Army, because it was against their religion.
DS: Who was this?
A3: Our nuns that taught us at St. Joseph’s. We weren’t allowed to go to the Salvation Army, because it was opposite religions, and they used to tell us that we weren’t allowed to go there so we just – we would fib a lot. All they had to do was walk out the convent. The convent was 262 South Third Street, our convent, which backed right up to the school.
DS: Where those brownstones are?
A3: Yes, the big brownstones. All they had to do was –
A4: The judge, Crumlish, lived there.
A3: Yes, Crumlish, he bought it from the diocese.
DS: Then going north from there, there was a factory there? Next to where the nuns lived, where the new houses are now?
A4: Wasn’t it something to do with horsehair? (4:00)
A3: They used to do – yes.
A4: I don’t know what it was.
A3: Furniture? It could have been furniture. I don’t know.
A4: [inaudible] a sign I remember with horsehair.
A3: Yes, and then the Post.
DS: What was the Post?
A3: American Legion. The American Legion Post – right next to the Powel House.
A4: – next to the Powel House.
DS: Did you go in there?
A3: Oh, yes. The caretakers was in there – remember their collie dog, Mike? He was precious.
A4: Yes, yes.
DS: They would let the kids come in and play?
A3: Yes, yes. There wasn’t no tours. They didn’t have any tours going around there at the time. Like I said, they used to have a collie, and he used to wait at the gate for us to come, “Woof woof,” that we were coming through. Then we would go up there and play.
DS: What else was on Orianna Street? Yellow Cab, the school, and Bell’s (5:00) Court.
A4: What was on – we used to sit on a platform there. Across from the cab company. A loading dock. It was a loading dock. Yes, but what was it?
A3: I don’t remember. I remember being there. I remember a loading dock.
A4: Remember the Brown’s lot? There was a loading dock up there.
A4: I don’t remember what that was. I know Yellow Cab was up there.
DS: Evening life? Dances? Interaction with groups of kids to go places?
A4: Oh, we would go ice skating on Sunday. To the movies. (6:00)
DS: Where would you go ice skating?
A4: There used to be at Seventeenth and Market, Penn Center. It was underground, down, like Rockefeller Center.
DS: You used to go up there?
A4: Um hum. It was the only one around.
A4: Movies. Movies. We would have to go in town. That was our local movie.
DS: South Street had –?
A4: Yes, they did, but they were closed down then. We weren’t allowed there because of the bugs.
A3: Yes, that’s what we were always told.
A4: – you’d come home with bugs.
A3: [Laughs] That was the way they kept us out of there, I think.
A4: Yes, there were bugs in there. [Laughs] They were filthy. [Laughs]
DS: They were filthy?
DS: There was one up on Market Street, too.
AN3 and A4: Three Threes. I remember that.
DS: Did that have bugs?
A4: No, we were allowed there. [Laughs] Oh, yes. Three-D movies. I don’t think you went too much. (7:00)
A3: No, you didn’t take me.
A4: I used to go with my cousin and my brother.
A3: She used to take me to horror movies.
A4: You don’t want to tell her.
A3: I don’t care. The –
A4: House of Wax.
A3: Scary movies. Her and her girlfriend, Susie […], used to take me, and then they would leave me in the chair when it was getting to the real scary part. They would have to go to the back to do something. Of course, I would get hysterical, being so young. When I would come home, of course, I would have to tell my mother on them, and then she would be punished. Then I wasn’t allowed to go with her to the movies anymore, so she succeeded. [Laughs]
DS: What did your grandmother die of?
A4: Old age.
A3: Old age. Natural causes. She was 85 years old.
DS: And your mom?
A3: My mother died last January, and – (8:00)
DS: Last year?
A3: Yes, she had breast cancer for four or five years, and finally it took her. She was 83. She died at 83.
DS: Do you know what your father died of? Did anybody ever tell you?
A4: Cancer of the throat.
A3: He had a form of throat cancer, but from what – we don’t know. Back then I’m sure it was more hush hush than as it is today, talked about.
DS: Did you ever go – did Old St. Joe’s ever sponsor camps, activities with other churches? The nuns pretty much wanted you to stay just within your group? Did you interact with (9:00) people from Old Pine or St. Peter’s Church, or –?
A4: No, God forbid.
A3: No, you were very much within your own group, within your own parish. You know, it was Old St. Joe’s, Old St. Mary’s, and [in] our time growing up, Holy Trinity had their own parish.
A4: Yes, and they closed that. Holy Trinity closed, and they sent them to St. Joe’s School. Then St. Mary’s closed and they sent them to us.
A3: Then they closed St. Joe’s, and they sent us to St. Augustine’s, and they closed St. Augustine’s –
A4: When I graduated from Eighth Grade, there were seventeen of us.
A4: Five boys and seven girls, that was the graduating class.
A3: And when I graduated Eighth Grade at St. Augustine’s there was seven of us, (10:00) four girls and three boys. We had our own private schools within our own private schools. [Laughs]
A4: We didn’t know we had it. [Laughs]
DS: Was it a good education, do you think?
A3: Yes. For our time, for what we were –
A4: Yes, I think so. It didn’t hurt us.
DS: It helped you?
A3: Yes, I made a nice living out of it.
DS: Anything else about the Redevelopment Authority or neighborhood landmarks? Or did you ever go over to Jersey?
A4: We went to the shore all the time.
DS: You did go to the shore? This was a family affair?
A4: Um hum.
DS: Your mother and grandmother would get vacations?
A4: Mainly weekends.
A3: Weekends we would go down. (11:00)
DS: So the Abbotts closed on the weekends?
A4: No, I don’t think they did. They were open. My mother only worked five days –
A3: My mother worked for five days, and so did my grandmother work for five days.
DS: They would have their weekends off? You would go down to the shore?
A3: Yes. We would go down with my mother’s friends. Abbotts used to have bus trips.
A4: Remember Bobby Rydell? [Laughs]
A3: Bobby Rydell’s mother used to work at Abbotts with my mom. We used to go to some farm. I have no idea where we were going on the bus. It would be the annual picnic. Bobby Rydell would entertain us on the bus; that was before he became famous.
A4: He was only a kid.
A3: He was a kid himself.
DS: Was he your age?
A4: He was a little older.
A3: He was older.
A4: My brother’s age. (12:00)
DS: He lived in this neighborhood?
A4: South Philly.
A3: They were in South Philly. Yes. We had good times down the shore.
DS: Who would be your friends in the neighborhood that might be still around? Like Elizabeth Mickle, or would she have been much older than you?
A3: Well, she was more my mother’s group of people. The only one left here is Lois Koss. She’s older than you. She’s [E]’s age, and I know Lois keeps to herself.
DS: Would she have played with you?
A4: She never came out. I used to go in the house with her. We always played dolls, [Laughs] and I don’t like dolls. [Laughs]
A3: You’re a tomboy.
DS: Nobody else is still around that I would know?
A3: I’m thinking. No, I don’t think so.
DS: Fred Ottaviano, that group, you didn’t – they went to –
A3: They went to St. Mary’s, and they basically kept to themselves.
A4: They didn’t bother with us.
A3: Yes. Susie and Freddy and Joey. They all kept to themselves. (13:00) Or, we kept to ourselves. One or the other, it could have been. I don’t know. I’m trying to remember. There’s really nobody other ….
DS: How about Lorraine Kelly? Or Carole Abercauph?
A3: Where is Lorraine Kelly?
DS: These were two names that Patsy Stevenson gave me. Patsy’s probably about your age, maybe a little older.
A4: That’s her name now, or –?
DS: Yes, I’ve forgotten her maiden name. It doesn’t matter.
A4: But I’m saying, Lorraine Kelly –
A3: Lorraine Kelly we know.
DS: A sister?
DS: You do know Lorraine?
A4: Yes, she lived two doors away from us.
A3: Oh, the Kellys. I forgot. Yes, I forgot. (14:00)
A4: They lived on [….] But I don’t know where she is today.
DS: It’s just one of the names she gave me of people I might want to talk to, who she thought were still in the neighborhood. Phyllis Reed? Did you know a Phyllis Reed?
A3: Joanne Reed. Helen was her mother, and Jimmy, and Pat. Pat was the older brother.
DS: Were they black?
A3: Oh, no.
DS: OK. This Phyllis is black.
A3: Oh, no.
DS: Which brings up a subject. You say it was interracial?
A4: Oh, yes.
DS: So did you interact with them?
A4: Um hum. I used to –
A3: Oh, yes. She used to roller skate with Cookie. They lived up on Spruce Street. (15:00) He was on Spruce Street, where Becky –
A3: Stoloff lives. That’s where they used to live.
A3: Holloway or Hollowell?
A4: Holloway. Hollowell.
A3: There was a Holloway or Hollowell.
A4: Yes. His mother worked in the laundry over at Abbotts.
A4: He was my street skating partner.
A3: We all played together, very nicely. Never even gave it a thought that –
A4: No, we didn’t.
A3: That we were different. We didn’t know any better. It was all like we were just – we all grew up together. It was not, like, no standoffishness. No, my God, you’re black and white. We never even gave it a thought.
DS: How about Puerto Ricans?
A3: I don’t remember them.
DS: On Lombard Street?
A3: Maybe, but we didn’t really get down –
A4: We only went to Lombard Street – (16:00)
DS: Your territory was really more north?
DS: Because your mother and grandmother didn’t want you down in South Philly?
A4: Oh, I don’t remember. [inaudible] I mean, we knew kids there, and we used to go knock knock and stuff.
DS: Used to go what?
A4: Used to go knock on the door to come out.
AN3 and A4: If they were here, they weren’t different than us. [Laughs]
A3: I don’t know. [Laughs]
DS: The place was clean? Air conditioning wasn’t here, so you were mostly open, doors were open, unlocked?
A3: Oh, sure. Fans. Mostly fans. Nobody had air conditioners. We rarely had cars. (17:00)
DS: Oh, I know something. Tell me about delivery men. Givella man.
A3: Oh, God, yes. They used to come down the street.
DS: Do you know how to spell Givella?
AN3 and A4: No.
DS: Everybody’s telling us about Givella.
A4: G-I-V-E-L-L-A [singing the call] How they sang, coming down the street.
AN3 and A4: There used to be a man came around to sharpen knives.
A4: Sharpen knives.
A3: And scissors. Yes. I remember that.
A4: Maybe once a month or something like that. But, the Givella man came every week, maybe couple times a week. Ice man, too.
A3: Ice man.
A4: Used to deliver to the corner store blocks of ice. I haven’t thought about them in –
DS: Milk man?
A3: Oh, yes. Harbison Milk and Abbotts Milk used to deliver. The milk plant was on Oregon Avenue, wasn’t it? (18:00)
DS: The milk plant? The plant right down here was just for making ice cream?
A3: Ice cream.
DS: Just ice cream?
A3: Just ice cream.
DS: Did they ever give it free to you?
AN3 and A4: No. We had to buy it.
DS: Even though your mother and your grandmother worked there –?
A3: Even though – They got it at a discount, but we never got it free. We always paid for it. I used to take the ice cream over to the nuns. Every Friday I’d go down, pick the ice cream up, bring it up to the convent. [Laughs] Weekly treat. That was their once-a-week treat.
A4: A gallon. I don’t know what we carried up there. We had to pick it up, bring it up to the nuns.
DS: The plant where they processed the milk, you say it was –?
A3: I think it was down on Oregon Avenue.
A3: I’m not sure about that. I know they were local, in the city. The milk would come in there from farms and be processed.
A4: Yes, ‘cause the garage was on the other side of Lombard there. (19:00
DS: What’s this?
A4: On Lombard Street, the side that Abbotts Ice Cream was on, on the opposite side of the street where the parking garage is now, that whole block was almost – I suppose almost the whole block, wasn’t it?
A3: Um hum.
A4: Was their auto mechanic shop, where they used to fix all the trucks and stuff there.
DS: Oh, okay. Was it a tall building?
A3: Little Gaskill Street was in back of it, a one-story building.
A4: I never even thought about it.
DS: It was a garage to service the trucks?
A3: Um hum. That little street that was back there – remember we used to go through –?
A4: That was on the ice cream side. There was a little street, Gaskill Street.
DS: It extended into – Third to Second? (20:00)
A4: It did go down to Second Street, and then there was another street – oh, American, that went out to South Street.
A3: Where Snockey’s was. Yes.
AN3 and A4: The seafood place. It’s down on Second Street now. They used to [inaudible] on American, American and South. ‘Cause I know we used to cut through there to go down to South Street.
A4: That was [inaudible]
DS: Interesting. You think this garage went the whole way from Second Street to Third Street?
A4: I don’t know, probably not.
A3: I’m trying to picture it.
A4: Seems like [inaudible] we’d go down to meet Mom Mom and [nickname for their mother], we’d always go the Second Street way and come back the Second Street way to [inaudible] the stores that were there.
DS: Mom and Junior?
A3: My grandmother’s name – we called my grandmother [nickname], and we called our mother, [nickname]. We never addressed her as Mother. We were taught to call her [nickname]. (21:00) No disrespect whatsoever, but that was the way we were taught.
A4: Growing up there were so many in the family, with my grandmother’s sister and all her kids, and everybody – you know, everybody was first name. Yes. My [grandmother], everybody called her Aunt [D]. Everybody in the neighborhood called her Aunt [D].
A3: Yes, all around.
DS: Was her name [D]?
A4: Then, when my two sons were little, they always called me [B], until the lady around the corner from me started to correct them. I says, “That didn’t bother me.”
DS: Oh, really?
A3: We were so used to it, it never even fazed us.
A4: It didn’t bother me.
[Several lines have been redacted here to preserve the anonymity of the narrators.]
DS: So your husband worked as a longshoreman. Does he still?
A4: No, he’s retired.
DS: He’s retired. And your husband did that too?
A3: No. He’s a school teacher.
DS: A school teacher. Public school?
A3: Yes. In Southwark.
[Tape is turned off, then on again]
DS: So you’re telling me you used to babysit for Deborah Latta – I mean, Deborah (23:00)
A3: Um hum. When she was on Third Street in the big house. I used to babysit.
DS: The Dilworths lived on Third Street.
AN3 and A4: His daughter [Deborah Dilworth Newbold, who later married Theodore Newbold].
A4: Not him. He lived on Sixth Street.
DS: Oh, Deborah’s children –
A3: Deborah’s children.
DS: You babysat Deborah’s children.
A3: Yes. Not Richardson. His grandchildren I babysat for.
DS: Did you ever want to have a conversation with her or –?
A3: Yes, I kind of lost my job over it.
DS: You did?
A3: Yes [Laughs]. Because he was in the presence at one time, and I decided to speak up about it –
DS: Mr. Dilworth was there?
A3: Yes, the mayor was there. And they were all going out for the evening. When they came back there were certain things – I don’t remember what they were talking about. But it triggered my temper, I guess, and I just said something back to him about it, “How dare you (24:00) say this about the families that lived around here?” Because it wasn’t true. The next week – I was like standing babysitter for every Saturday. The next weekend she called and told me I wasn’t needed any longer; then my girlfriend got the job. [laughs] So I knew right then and there what was going on. That was OK. I felt good about the way I – that I was able to say something to him about it.
DS: What was his reaction to your –
A3: He just told me that I really didn’t understand what was going on, and I was too young to realize the good of what was to come.
DS: You would have been how old then? Twelve? Thirteen?
A3: No, about ten or eleven. (25:00)
A3: Yes, around eleven or twelve years old, I guess.
DS: Your mother and grandmother were fairly angry, and the neighbors and the adults that you listened to were all very angry, upset?
A3: Very angry, very upset. Exactly.
DS: People like the […] and those who stayed had to go through the same –?
A3: Sure they did. Yes. Yes. [You] had to get attorneys to go up in City Hall for you to stand up for what was really yours that was being taken away from you. It was very unjust, what was being done.
DS: Once they put the sign on the house saying it was condemned, what did you do then? You just got a lawyer.
A3: Well, our house, they never got that far with us, but the people, our other neighbors, where they were condemned, they didn’t have the money or the means or understand (26 :00) what was going on, because they had the language barrier. They just moved on out and left the neighborhood. The next thing you know the house was being bought up and re-sold and fixed over to whatever. That’s where they took it from there. It’s what you have today.
[End of Interview]
2006 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.