Daniel and Jill Cathers

About forty-two percent of the narrators for this project moved out of Society Hill after having lived there for some time. Dan and Jill Cathers are among them. They bought 411 S. Third Street in 1965 because they wanted to live in the city, they wanted a house they could afford and could fix up themselves, and Dan, an architect, wanted to walk to work. They lived there for sixteen years and then moved to West Mount Airy so that their two sons could attend Germantown Friends School. Noise, air pollution, and parking were also factors.

When they bought the house, it had fifteen rooms and most recently had been a boarding house with a fire escape on the front. It had been unoccupied for a while. Every room was furnished with unspeakable furniture, and there were clothing in every closet and liquor bottles everywhere. Some of the plumbing worked. Dan and Jill did much of the renovation work themselves, sanding floors, scraping wallpaper, and burning paint. When they removed walls, bedbugs occupied their bed.

They tell about their boys visiting archaeological sites in the neighborhood and even undertaking an excavation in their own basement. They tell a story about receiving a visit from the wife of the minister of St. Peter’s Church across the street. Jill says that, when they arrived, Three Bears Park was populated by mothers and children; and when they left, it was nannies and children. They loved the baby-sitting co-op, and so did their children.

They loved living in Society Hill, and it took them six months to get over their sadness when they moved away. Dan says, “Still, the neighborhood had changed. You didn’t see people painting their own shutters. … We loved it at the beginning, when you could walk around the block and you would see paint-spattered lawyers painting the front door.”


DS:      This is an interview with Dan and Jill Cathers. The date is June 19, 2009. The location is at their home. The interviewer is Dorothy Stevens.

DS:      Jill and Dan, tell me, when did you come to Society Hill?

JC:       In 1969. No. 1965.

DS:      1965. And why did you come to Society Hill?

JC:       We were looking for a house to live in. We kept walking up and down the streets, and because we loved the area and wanted to stay in the city. We loved the area and looked into a lot of different places. We came up with two and bought the one we bought. 411 S. Third Street.

DC:     And we also at that point lived on Elfreth’s Alley, which we loved. We (1:00) loved the history of Elfreth’s Alley, and we liked that atmosphere. We had a one-bedroom apartment and we then had a baby, and we needed more room. We didn’t need 15 rooms, but that’s what we bought.

DS:      And why did you choose that neighborhood?

DC:     The new one?

DS:      The Society Hill neighborhood.

DC:     Well, one reason was the ability to buy a house we could fix up that was affordable, and I could walk to work, which was very appealing. The house which we did get, with 15 rooms, presented us with more opportunities than we could ever possibly deal with, which was exciting to us. It was a very inexpensive house. I think it was $16,000. It was livable, barely, but it was livable. (2:00)

DS:      And you are an architect.

DC:     Yes.

DS:      So you knew how to do the fixing up, and Jill was very amenable to helping you?

DC:     Actually, we didn’t know how to do it, but we learned. It was a whole new experience, which we loved.

DS:      You were finished with schooling and into a job?

DC:     Yes.

JC:       And at the time we could get 3% money if we hired somebody else to oversee what we were going to do. But we felt we could oversee our own. It took us fifteen years to finish what we wanted to finish, because you had to pay full price for everything.

DC:     We’ve always had the mistaken idea that we can do anything. And it’s not always true, now that we’re the age we are. It’s not always the best thing. [Laughs]

DS:      Tell me about the condition of the house when you bought it. You say it was (3:00) barely livable.

DC:     It was actually a boarding house. I don’t remember how many people lived there when we bought it. Every room was furnished with unspeakable furniture. I don’t remember what happened. I think the family that owned it died. It’s beginning to come back. There was clothing in every closet. There were liquor bottles everywhere. Most of the plumbing worked. Not all of it. And at one point I recall in the bathroom we used, we had to put a cooking pot in the sink because it wasn’t connected to a drain. I would shave in this cooking pot, dump it in the toilet which was connected. And did the (4:00) bathtub work? I can’t remember.

JC:       Yes, it did.

DC:     So those were early things that we had to get fixed very quickly obviously.

DS:      And you had to clean out the house to begin with.

DC:     Yes.

DS:      You had to clean it out and figure out – did the heating system work?

JC:       Yes. It was an old coal-burning stove that had been changed into an oil-burning stove. It was great. It had green linoleum in the halls and sort of a horrible mustard color paint on the stairway and –

DC:     On all the floors.

JC:       On all the floors, yes, on the floors in the living room, dining room. The kitchen was really tiny. You couldn’t really get outside. We had a little outside, and you couldn’t get outside easily, and we had a –

DC:     There was a kitchen door. There was one single kitchen door.

JC:       Where was it?

DC:     And we needed more room, counter space in the kitchen; from (5:00) the hallway we put a pair of French doors into that little courtyard.

JC:       And when we bought it there was a fire escape, and we didn’t have that taken off for a long time. Then Adam had Marian van Arkel over one night, and she went, “Mrs. Cathers,” and she was all the way up on the third floor on the fire escape. [Laughs]

DC:     You know, I just remembered the name of the owners before. Their name was Scibel. Joseph Scibel, and we’ve been trying to remember and it’s been gone. But we did buy it through the Sterns.

DS:      Not through the Redevelopment Authority.

DC:     No, it was through the Sterns.

JC:       The Sterns represented the Scibels.

DS:      Can you spell that?

DC:     S-C-I-B either O-L or –E-L. I don’t remember.

JC:       I thought it was I-E. S-C-I-E. (6:00)

DS:      Well, you can think on that and correct it later. [Laughs]

DC:     I wonder how we can figure it out.

DS:      The back yard – you had a back yard.

JC:       Tiny.

DC:     We actually didn’t have a back yard. The house was L-shaped, and that formed a small courtyard that was paved in concrete. And we had a little alleyway, and later on the Redevelopment Authority broke that long strip of property that went from Stamper to Pine into individual pieces, and we were able to buy it for, I think, $600. Then we were able to put walls up so that we would have privacy. Not everybody wanted walls, but we did. We wanted our own back yard.

DS:      There is an alley back there, right?

JC:       Yes.

DC:     The alley that was originally there was right next to the house, and we had (7:00) it put all the way back to what was then the Lemmers, so that everybody would have access to it and still have the privacy of individual yards.


JC:       And Garrett and Tony, of course, would go to each other’s house along the top of the wall, and climb down the tree and into our yard.

DS:      Good memories. You bought it from the original owners.

DC:     Except I think they were dead at that point. I think it must have been an estate. Because we never met the people, and that would explain why nobody had cleaned out.

DS:      You said the house cost you what?

JC:       $16,000. (8:00)

DS:      $16,000. Do you have any clue as to what spent on taxes?

DC:     We have no recollection, but it must have been small.

JC:       I think that our mortgage payments, which would have included taxes, were either $110 or $115 a month.

DS:      Tell me about that. Did you have trouble getting a loan or –?

JC:       No.

DC:     Not at all.

DS:      Not at all.

DC:     We think it was through Provident Bank, but once again, that was so long ago, and the papers were all burned up.

DS:      Right. Tell me what your families thought about this. What did your parents, Jill, what did they think about your moving into this area? (9:00)

JC:       I think they enjoyed it when they came. It was a different way of living, since they were from California, a very different way of living. I think they liked it. We went to the park with the children. It was interesting to them.

DC:     I think they were a little shocked by the conditions we lived in for a while, because it was so totally unlike their lifestyle, which was a very beautiful place. It was perfect, and ours was not perfect in any way.

JC:       And right after we bought it, someone died in the house next door. And we were looking out the front door, because there was an ambulance or a police car there, and we heard them bumping all the way down the stairs, from the attic, a body on a (10:00) gurney. We said to ourselves, “I wonder if our parents would buy this house. But we can move somewhere else.” [Laughs]

DC:     Not a serious thought.

JC:       No, but we were really appalled.

DS:      What did your parents think, Dan?

DC:     They enjoyed it a lot. My father loves history, so they just loved the whole area.

DS:      Are they from Philadelphia?

DC:     No, they are from New Jersey, and they lived in a nice suburban town, so it was totally different from anything they ever would pick themselves. But they loved it.

JC:       Especially Dan’s father absolutely loved it.

DS:      Did he?

DC:     And I often think –

DS:      Was he an architect?

DC:     No. I often think they would have been shocked to learn that we ultimately moved to a farm and have horses, dogs, and cats, because it’s totally unlike the way (11:00) they knew us for the sixteen years we lived there. I wish they knew. Maybe they do know. Who knows? [Laughs]

DS:      Do you have any idea how much money you put into the house? Just approximately, to make it the way you wanted it after all those years of construction.

DC:     No, and the reason I say that is that we did so much of the work ourselves, and I have no idea. Maybe $50,000.

JC:       Dan sanded all the floors, and then he finally gave up, because the sandpaper was ripping immediately and it was costing a lot of money just for the sandpaper.

DC:     The sandpaper cost something like $2 or $3 a sheet, and because there was so much paint on the floor –       (12:00)

JC:       And old nails.

DC:     It melted the paint, and the sanding block would last for three minutes. We figured it would be cheaper to have somebody who knew what they were doing to do it. And that turned out to be the case. But we scraped wallpaper off walls, and when I think back, we burned a lot of lead-based paint and scraped it. And we didn’t know.

DS:      Did you have a mask on for protection?

JC:       No.

DC:     I don’t think we did. We just didn’t know about things like that. And when we took a number of walls down – I took them down – we discovered one night there was a strange smell in our bed, and there were bedbugs that had come out of the old walls. We (13:00) asked around, “What should we do about it?” People said, “Put DDT on the mattress.” And we did. It’s amazing that we’re here.

JC:       We’re still alive!

DC:     It’s amazing what you don’t know at some point in your life.

DS:      Adam was already born and a toddler when you moved in?

JC:       No, no. He was a baby.

DC:     He was about six months old.

DS:      He was a baby. And Garrett followed how many years?

JC:       He’s three years younger. Three or four years younger.

DC:     Well, ’65 and ’68. So it’s three years.

DS:      What do they talk about? Do they remember this period of their life?

Both:   Yes.

DS:      Do you have a sense of how they feel about it?

JC:       I think they loved it. I think they love being out of the city at this point. But (14:00) I think they loved the city.

DC:     Well, they did, and ultimately we decided we wanted them to go to Germantown Friends to school, and Adam commuted out there, and we realized that was not a good idea. He took trains and buses.

JC:       I would have to pick him up after sports, because the walk from the school to the train station was through a bad area. I picked him up, although I was working out here, [in Great Valley, Malvern] I picked him up every time he had a game. He did take the train, and we said, “Do not ever, ever go into the bathrooms in the train station.” After he stopped taking the train and we moved, he said, “Ha ha ha. Guess what I did?” [Laughs]

DC:     Also, at that particular point, I was working out here with Bill Rouse, and (15:00) we found that we were taking our kids to the country every weekend. And they would play in what is now Great Valley Corporate Center. It was wide open fields at that point. They loved it.

JC:       Garrett came to camp right down the road here. Betty Stonorov ran the camp in the summer, and Dan would bring him and pick him up at the end of the day. And he loved that. He would say, “We went to Snake Island today,” which is a little tiny island, in a boat, about five feet from the edge. He loved it.

DS:      You found yourselves coming out here, or to the country?

DC:     Yes, but we didn’t move out here at that point. We moved to West Mount (16:00) Airy, which was close to Germantown Friends, and it saved me probably 35 or 40 minutes in my commute out here, so it was a good interim step.

DS:      And why did you not choose a school in the neighborhood?

DC:     They went to St. Peter’s for quite a while.

JC:       And I taught there.

DS:      What did you teach?

JC:       I taught second grade, I taught reading, and I ran the library. I was there about three years. And then we moved. The next year I was going to follow Garrett’s grade level up, and I didn’t want to do that, because if he had a problem, he would run to my classroom. That wasn’t any good. It wasn’t any good for us to be in the same grade. I wanted a different job. They didn’t have a different job for me. It was time (17:00) to move. Adam went to Germantown Friends at that point. No, Adam was already at Germantown Friends. We looked for a different place, and we moved. And Garrett went to Germantown Friends.

DC:     One of the other deciding factors about moving: we used to go summer in Maine, on an island. And when we came back, we realized our eyes were stinging. The pollution at that time was so bad – it’s much better now – but where we lived on Third Street –

JC:       And the noise.

DC:     There were buses. If we had lived on Delancey Street we probably wouldn’t have moved. But that traffic and the fumes were hard.

JC:       One night, when we came back from Maine and were sitting inside, Dan heard some screaming. He went over to St. Peter’s Churchyard, and someone was being (18:00) attacked. There were lots of people on the street, but it was so noisy nobody heard. But we were up above it, and he ran across the street.

DS:      How was crime for you?

JC:       It wasn’t really bad, I don’t think. It was just at the time when [the city was] beginning to have street people. People didn’t have a place to live.

DC:     When we were on vacation in Maine one year, we gave our keys to our next-door neighbor, who were original people, and when we came back and went inside, we found that our kids’ piggybanks had been smashed. There were a number of problems, but nobody had broken in. The people next door had teenaged boys, and I know (19:00) they were involved in activities they shouldn’t have been. We called the police, and said we wanted to report all of our losses. And there was probably a better way to handle it, but I didn’t know [what] it would be. And those neighbors never spoke to us again. But we never spoke to them. We did not have a lot in common, but you would like to be able to say “Good morning” to your next-door neighbor. We couldn’t.

DS:      And they had been originals there, I mean, born and raised there?

DC:     Yes. They were very pleasant people ‘till this happened.

JC:       There were a lot of different generations of that family living in that house. There were a lot of people. And if they put the key somewhere, it would be easy for –

DC:     We know there were drugs involved, and all sorts of things. We never (20:00) proved anything, but we had to report it for insurance purposes.

DS:      Were there other stories of your interaction with people born and raised in the neighborhood? Did you interact with them?

DC:     Yes. Everyone else in that block was very friendly, and before we owned the back yard, Jill would take Adam – and I don’t remember if it was Garrett at that point –

JC:       Before there were walls.

DC:     – and get a little plastic baby pool and put water in it. One of the older women would always shout over, “No put baby in cold water. No put baby in cold water.” And the water wasn’t cold. But we know she cared, and that was fine. We enjoyed that sort of thing.

JC:       The Buntings lived down the street. I don’t know how long they lived there, (21:00) around the corner.

DC:     Cathy Spause? We knew them. And the old original Buells, we knew well. And Matt Circola. Do you know them? They weren’t old originals. He was in advertising, and I’m not sure what she was in. But they were hippies, and they were delightful people. We really enjoyed them.

DS:      They lived on Stamper?

JC:       Yes. And they had one child, Bruno.

DC:     And they would call Jill when they put their trash out, because they always put treasures out. We got a beautiful regulator clock that she didn’t want any more. There were some other –

DS:      Trash picking.

JC:       We didn’t have to pick, because she called me. (22:00)

DC:     She’d call and say, “We’re putting out some trash. Are you interested?” Of course we were.

DS:      Were either of your boys – did they like to go around the neighborhood and trash pick?

DC:     I don’t think they ever did. But what they loved more than anything was going to the archaeological sites, one of which was in Stamper Court before it was Stamper Court.

JC:       It was where the garage is.

DC:     And then we would go down along I-95.

JC:       Every weekend.

DC:     And Adam decided to major in archaeology in college, because he loved digging so much. Which was not a good idea.

JC:       We have boxes of things he dug up in our barn.

DC:     In our barn. And Penny Batcheler said, “Bring it down. I’d love to see it.” Well, we never got to it. We have hundreds of old pipe stems and bottles.

JC:       Redware, redware pieces.

DC:     If you know of anyone who’d like it. If we ever clean our barn. [Laughs] (23:00)

JC:       We only have a few whole things.

DC:     You know, we actually did excavating in our basement.

JC:       That’s right.

DC:     There was a crawl space under the kitchen, and we dug wine bottles. [Sound of clock chiming.] There was a dirt floor, obviously, and we found a lot of old wine bottles. [Sound of a second clock chiming.] That’s all I can remember.

JC:       It was like a disease with Adam. He had to get one of those things that finds metal.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS:      Mostly bottles and pottery pieces.

DC:     There were some belt buckles.

JC:       It was like a disease, because once you find a well where they trashed stuff, you just have to stay there and dig. Adam just loved it. Then he went to college and (24:00) majored in archaeology, and in the summer he went on local digs. The people working with him had Ph.D.s in archaeology. They were getting poison ivy, and they couldn’t afford to get anything to put on the poison ivy. So that didn’t work. He wanted to go into something that made more money.

DC:     Another part of the renovation of that block, and I have no idea when this happened: the Redevelopment Authority put brick sidewalks in. We were able to pick the pattern that we liked best for in front of our house, and then they were going to plant trees. We picked the tree that we wanted, and we couldn’t have it, because there was a (25:00) cellar, a vault, under the sidewalk where they were going to plant the tree.

JC:       There was a coal vault. Wasn’t it for coal?

DC:     I don’t remember.

DS:      Could you get to it from your basement?

Both:   Yes.

DC:     At one point we thought, “Wouldn’t it make a great little wine cellar?” One of those things you think about and never get to. But after we sold the house, somebody did plant a tree. We’re not sure if they filled that vault in or how they did it. But there is a tree in front of the house now.

DS:      You did get your brick sidewalk.

JC:       Were we given shutter colors we could choose from?

DC:     There were specific colors you were allowed to use. All Philadelphia colors –

DS:      Were you restricted or was this just an option, that these were the colors (26:00) that were preferred?

DC:     I don’t think you could use purple, for instance. And maybe the Redevelopment Authority had something to do with cleaning up the front of the houses before they were there. I think we were restricted to certain series of colors.

JC:       Yes.

DS:      They did have an opinion on what you would do, and you would have it passed by them before you would do it.

DC:     I believe.

JC:       The outsides.

DS:      The outsides. How was the roof? Did you have to replace the roof?

DC:     Oh, yes. Not structurally, but we had to replace the shingles.

DS:      And the chimneys?

DC:     We had no chimneys.

JC:       The fireplaces were taken out of the house before we bought it, unfortunately.

DC:     And we never knew why. Somebody told us they thought it was to be able to get more beds in the boarding house. Who knows if that’s true? (27:00)

JC:       We had beautiful doors between our living room and dining room, beautiful, huge doors. What was the wood?

DC:     I think it was mahogany.

JC:       They were gorgeous.

DS:      They were original?

JC:       Yes.

DS:      Do you know any of the history of the house before it became a boarding house?

DC:     No. We did have a chain of title burned up. All of those houses were built by a family named Willing, originally, in 1822, and I don’t remember after that. Sarah Willing was the wife of the first Willing. I guess he was a developer.

DS:      They do look very similar, the houses from Stamper to Pine. Your general feeling about the neighborhood, the people, growing up there, is still very positive.

JC:       Yes.

DC:     We loved it, we absolutely loved it. I think it took six months, when we moved. It was depressing. We wanted to move. We had reasons to move, and we absolutely loved where we moved to, but we felt depressed for a long time.

JC:       You felt like, when you go back into town, this is where you should be.

DC:     One other reason we moved, come to think of it: Adam went to a party, and Anne van Arkel picked up the kids from somewhere at the other end of town. (29:00) I remember that I saw her car at the other end of Third and Pine, it was a Saturday night, and they went around the block to get to our front door, and it took 45 minutes. We didn’t have a parking place. It was a nightmare trying to find a place to park. If we had had a garage, once again, that would have made a big difference.

JC:       We did get to park in St. Peter’s after a while.

DC:     For a while.

JC:       For a while.

DS:      Tell me, were you involved at all in the development of Blackwell Court or Newmarket?

JC:       No.

DC:     We watched it happen. (30:00)

DS:      Not at all. But you weren’t professionally involved.

DC:     No.

DS:      Society Hill Civic Association, other groups in the neighborhood?

DC:     I was on the board for a while. I don’t remember what years.

DS:      Do you remember the subjects that you dealt with?

DC:     It had a lot to do with I-95. That was the major subject.

JC:       And that’s when John Hunt was the lawyer.

DS:      And depressing it. Getting it depressed. The Crosstown? The entrances? The exits?

DC:     That was all part of it. That was fascinating. It is fascinating to see that it is a current topic as well.

DS:      Can you give me an approximate date on that? We talking about the late ‘60s? The early ‘70s?

DC:     I would guess the early ‘70s, but I –   (31:00)

DS:      That’s fine.

DC:     Wasn’t Paul Putney president of the board during that time?

JC:       I thought it was Joanne [Denworth].

DC:     She was a little later.

DS:      Paul was president twice, and Joanne was president during the Benezet problems.

DC:     I think Paul was in charge at that particular point.

DS:      Stanhope [Browne] was much involved, as was Georganne Mears, and others put a lot of volunteer time into that.

DC:     I remember a fascinating evening, standing in front of your house [116 Delancey Street], watching warehouses being destroyed down along the river.

DS:      Quaker City Cold Storage. [Laughs] That would have been ’66. (32:00)

DC:     Actually, thinking about it, we met a lot of people in that lot across from you, because we always walked dogs there, as did everybody else.

JC:       It was dogs and children.

DS:      Yes, baseball games

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS:      OK. Stories.

DC:     Did you tell the story about the minister’s wife? It has nothing to do with history, but it’s a funny story.

JC:       When I invited Harriet over –

DS:      Harriet Richards [the wife of Lee Richards, the minister at St. Peter’s Church].

JC:       – for tea –

DC:     We weren’t yet going to St. Peter’s.

JC:       – so she came over and she went out to our little sitting area. We didn’t have a back yard, yet, I don’t think. For atmosphere, I turned on the fountain. We had a (32:00) lion head glued to a lavabos, only it had fallen out, so the fountain shot right out, and she had to jump back against the wall, not to be hit. And then we had tea. I mean she thought it was funny. We had tea, and when I came to let her out the front door, we couldn’t open the front door.

DC:     The lock was jammed.

JC:       The lock was jammed [and] we had to open the front window and put a step ladder out so she could leave. [Laughs]

DC:     Don’t you wonder what the neighbors thought when this very attractive young woman was crawling out through our front window? The other thing we often talk about – I don’t remember her name – yes, I do – Elizabeth von Vooren, (33:00) the artist who would go around and sell her little watercolor sketches. We were taking Adam out one Halloween evening, door to door, and I had made him a dinosaur costume out of chicken wire. He could hardly walk. It was one of her bad evenings, and she was shouting every obscenity under the sun about the Episcopal Church. We were trying to get him into somebody’s house so he wouldn’t hear all of this. We didn’t. She was a fascinating person. Do you remember her at all?

DS:      I do. She was homeless.

DC:     Yes, I think she was, but she came from a very well-known Philadelphia family, originally, but something went wrong. But she sold a lot of watercolors.

DS:      Right, she did. (34:00)

JC:       I think Halloween was another time that was unusual in the neighborhood, because we had so many kids. But we had a lot of people who came from South Philadelphia that were not kids. They were pretty grown up. That was kind of frightening.

DC:     That was toward the end of it. That wasn’t early on. It was when Society Hill became known as a haven of people with a whole lot of candy to give out.

DS:      Right. There would be buses with children in them that would come up and dump out on Delancey Street. That has changed.

JC:       When our children were little, I went to the park with them all the time, and there were mothers and children there. By the time we moved, it was nannies and children, because so many women had gone back to work, or were working. And younger people, probably.

DS:      This was Three Bears Park?

JC:       Yes.

DS:      Where else would you take your children? Did you go up to Starr Garden (35:00) or Segar?

JC:       I don’t think so.

DS:      Just the neighborhood? Just interact with your neighbors?

JC:       Yes, and it was a nice way to do it, because I got to see people and talk to people without having people over. And the babysitting co-op was wonderful. I loved that, and so did the kids, and you learned where your kids liked to go and who they liked to be with and who they didn’t like to be with. That was wonderful. I have recommended it to Adam and his family, to do something like that. It saves a lot of money and it makes you able to go out.

DC:     Do you know what babysitters make now?

DS:      No.

DC:     Ten to twelve dollars an hour. In this part of the world. It gets to be an (36:00) expensive evening if you go to the movies.

DS:      Yes, just a movie. [Laughs]

JC:       We didn’t go off in the summer. A lot of kids went to camp, which was I think one of the reasons we came out here more, because everybody would go, and your children needed somebody to play with.

DS:      Can you describe the feeling of being in the neighborhood? Was it a close feeling? I mean, everybody was sort of doing the same thing you were doing, restoring their houses? A lot of people talk about that.

DC:     Yes, and we loved that, but toward the end of our stay there, I think everything had changed. You didn’t see people painting their own shutters. It was a totally (37:00) different lifestyle. We loved it at the beginning when you could walk around the block and you would see paint-spattered lawyers painting the front door, whatever.

JC:       It was a real neighborhood at that point.

DS:      Anything else?

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

JC:       Adam went to first and second grade at McCall’s, and I went and taught in the hall people who needed reading help, just so I could see what it felt like in that school. He had been to Montessori school previously, and it seemed as if he was going nowhere.

DS:      Did he go to Greentown?

JC:       Yes. He went to Greentown. And so did Garrett. We decided to try to get him into St. Peter’s. And we did, and then I got a job at St. Peter’s. Teaching reading, (38:00) I think, was the first thing I did. [That] actually paid for at St. Peter’s. But McCall’s just was not what we needed at the time.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS:      Talk about South Street, in the time period of the ‘60s and early ‘70s.

JC:       I used to go to a thrift store there when my kids were really little, because you could get hand-made sweaters for twenty-five or thirty-five cents. Also at Christmas time, they would have a toy sale, and you could buy wooden toys, which nobody wanted, so you could fill your shopping cart with beautiful wooden toys.

DS:      Where was this?

JC:       It was on South Street.

DC:     About Fifth. (39:00)

JC:       About Fifth. And I also used a fish store, which was actually owned by the father of a doctor that lived in the neighborhood. You could buy fresh fish there. Also, he made horseradish. He’d sit on the sidewalk with a grinder and grind horseradish.

DS:      And where was this?

JC:       That must have been in the 300 block of South Street. I used the Eyes Gallery for a lot of things; that was probably not there then. And Essene I used all the time to get different flours and cooking things. I think they have moved. I think they’re still there.

DS:      On Fourth.

JC:       On Fourth, but they were on South Street at the time, a smaller venue. I loved that store. (40:00)

DC:     There was a wonderful restaurant called Lickety Split. Remember that? I recall that Joan Putney got the recipe for our favorite soup, which is cucumber and yogurt something which we still have all the time.

DS:      They were at Fourth.

DC:     There was a bakery at Fourth just south of South Street that we went to all the time. I forget what it was called, but it was a wonderful Jewish bakery.

JC:       Good bread.

DC:     Then there was this very, very far out theater called TLA, before it became a movie theater. And we loved it, because it was very avant garde, and unspeakable things happened there, which in this day and age you would think nothing of. But I (41:00) remember going to a play, and there was a woman in an Empire gown, and she had one bare breast. And at that time, you didn’t see things like that. And now I guess you can anywhere you go. There was another scene. There was a man in a bathtub, and I can’t remember the play, and he urinated, and this spout of water went up. This was very avant garde stuff.

JC:       We used to go with Brandy and Bill Surasky.

DC:     And still would be in our world. It was pretty tame when you think back about the things we all thought were a little wild.

DS:      This would have been at a period when the Crosstown Expressway had been turned down, or that idea had been canceled.

DC:     Yes.

DS:      The South Street corridor was kind of empty, so it was being filled up (42:00) by crafts people.

DC:     There was a gallery – was it called the Works? – that we used to enjoy going to.

JC:       Beautiful things.

DS:      The Eyes Gallery.

DC:     Did somebody live on Philip Street that was a director of the theater? There was. Tom somebody.

DS:      Gilhool.

DC:     It was not Tom Gilhool, but the director of the theater lived either on Philip or American Street, across from the Davieses. Maybe – is that where the Gilhools lived later?

DS:      American Street.

DC:     On American Street. I can’t remember the name, but we enjoyed that theater a whole lot.

DS:      Well, thank you, Jill. Thank you, Dan. (43:00)

[End of interview]


© 2009 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
905 Lincoln Road, Phoenixville, PA
Interview Date
June 19, 2009
Cathers, Daniel and Jill
Narrator Type
Redeveloper - Restoration
Oral History Sources