Elizabeth Mickle (1923-2010) was the fourth of seven children. Although Elizabeth’s father owned 312 and 314 S. Philip Street, the family lived in a rented house at 216 Spruce Street. After his death in 1942, Elizabeth’s mother moved her family to 312 and continued to rent 314 to others. As each of her children married, they moved away. Elizabeth’s mother, who died in 1945, provided that any of her children who survived her and needed a place to live could live at 312 S. Philip Street. Elizabeth, her brother Aiden (known as Sonny), and her sister Margaret Mary (known as Peggy), lived in the house together until they died. Elizabeth outlived the other two.
Elizabeth describes the neighborhood physically and socially. Everyone in her family was a parishioner at Old St. Joseph’s Church on Willings Alley. Much of the family’s life focused on the church and Old St. Joseph’s School on Orianna Street, now St. Joseph’s Way. Elizabeth and her siblings attended Old St. Joe’s School from the first to the eighth grade. Following an additional two years of schooling, she held a succession of jobs, many of them within walking distance of home. She mentions a number of businesses in the neighborhood, showing the great range of types of businesses before redevelopment.
She talks about people in the neighborhood, mostly other lifelong residents who came before redevelopment. Although Elizabeth’s interests focus more on the people of the neighborhood than on the buildings, and she never speaks about what she and her siblings did to make 312 S. Philip Street satisfy the Redevelopment Authority’ requirements, she paints a vivid picture of a community and a time in Philadelphia that is seldom recognized outside its own confines. Anne Tyler could mine Elizabeth’s interview for a novel.
DS: This is the second interview with Elizabeth Mickle. The date is July 2, 2005. The first interview was not recorded.
Elizabeth, I want to read to you what I wrote up after the last interview with you. You were born in 1923. The place you were born was 216 Spruce Street. You now live at 312 S. Philip Street. You go to Old St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. Your mother was Irish and Quaker descent, worked at Lit Brothers and lived on Stamper Street before marriage. Your mother had nine children, seven girls and two boys [numbers corrected after the interview].
EM: My mother.
DS: Your mother, yes.
EM: She lost two girls. They died. One was about two or three years old, and the other, I don’t know. I just remember that baby being laid out. My sister said my father carried the coffin right to the hearse. She was so upset about that. I remember – every time I see a doll in a long dress it reminds me of that.
DS: It is sad, but I guess that happened in those days.
EM: Well, she never was in a hospital one day of her life. I told the woman that. She had a doctor, a very good doctor. I don’t remember all this. She had four or five sisters, and one sister took care of her a lot. She was very motherly. She [my aunt] had – she lost a girl to whooping cough. She was about seven years old. I remember her laid out on Fourth Street, that’s where my aunt lived. The two sisters [unintelligible] and [unintelligible]. I (1:00) remember that, going in there, seeing her laid out.
DS: This would have been your sister?
EM: No, my aunt.
DS: Your aunt’s child.
EM: My cousin.
DS: Your cousin. Where did you stand in the placement of these children? I mean, were you first, second, fifth?
EM: Let’s see, my mother – I think I was – Libby, Mary, my brother Paul, I came next.
DS: That would be fourth.
EM: Yes, and my mother lost two girls after I was born or after Peggy was born. My sister died, Peggy. She lost two girls, Frances and Julia. Now one baby I don’t know whether it was laid out or not, but I remember the one, Julia, and Frances. I remember that. It’s funny how – and I remember my aunt’s daughter laid out. It was –
DS: This is Aunt Nelly?
EM: It’s a shame. I don’t remember her much, only going into that living room and seeing her laid out.
DS: Those things never leave you.
EM: No, some things you remember, some things you forget.
DS: Your father was Irish descent. One of your relatives served and died in the Civil War.
EM: My father – no, he didn’t die in the Civil War.
DS: Not your father, but a relative of your father’s.
EM: My grandfather, it would have been.
DS: Your grandfather?
EM: He didn’t die in the Civil War. I never saw him. He died before I was born.
DS: But, he served in the Civil War?
EM: From 1861 to 1865. I don’t know why – My grandmother had so many children. I couldn’t understand. That’s only how I feel. I wasn’t even born. How could he go away to war? She had all those children, and she lost a couple down here at the Shot Tower. I don’t remember, (2:00) they called it the Shot Tower. The Irish [Catholics] and Protestants were fighting each other, and one of her sons got hit right in the back of the head, and he never got over it. He died and he was only about 21 years old. I never saw him either. I never saw my grandfather or my grandmother. They died before I was born.
DS: It’s good that you clarified that. Your father worked as a city probation officer in the domestic relations municipal court, and he was a Republican committeeman during President Roosevelt’s term?
EM: His whole life, until he died. President Roosevelt ran a third time. His division was the only one that went Republican. Oh, he put his whole heart in it. You know, he never got a good job. He was always promised to be a tipstaff, but they always passed him by. More money he wanted, but he never got it, but he still was a Republican committeeman.
DS: You grew up at 216 Spruce Street, which your father rented. Your father owned two houses on Philip Street. When he died in 1942 your mother moved the family into 312 Philip Street and sold 314?
EM: Well, not right away. My aunt lived in that for a while. She didn’t have any money. At the time, my mother asked for rent. It was only $15 a month then.
DS: $15 a month to rent the house?
EM: You know, my father even rented 312. He never wanted to live on Philip. He never lived in those houses, because he didn’t like living on a small street. Half the time he didn’t even get the rent. I’ll tell you, I don’t know this only from my two sisters. Mary, she knows an awful (3:00) lot. She’s older than I. She told all this. She even said about my father carrying the little baby to the hearse when she was being buried.
DS: Is Mary still alive?
EM: Yes, you know what? She’s married. She was married; she’s a widow now, and then she had a house up in the Northeast. Then she decided – her husband died years ago, and she married a widower. He had children; of course, they were grown and they resented her a little bit. She didn’t care, Mary. He died and then she moved from one house, which was up on Howard Street. She just went into a Protestant home or something up there, ‘cause my sister didn’t like to cook or do cleaning. She’s a great talker and a great reader, but she wasn’t much for housework. She’s good, whereas my oldest sister was a very good housekeeper, and my youngest sister, she has eight children, but they’re all like grown now. Some of them are married. She was a good housekeeper, but she’s not well now.
DS: They all moved out of this neighborhood, but you stayed?
EM: Yes, because they got married.
S: They would go away? The husband decided that?
EM: Well, they got an apartment. My older sister had an apartment on Olney Avenue [Pronounced in true Philadelphia fashion, “All-ah-nee.”] She married a non-Catholic, but he later became a Catholic, a very good one; better than his two daughters that were baptized. [Laughs]
DS: Your mother did sell the house though in 1943?
EM: Yes, who did she sell that to? No, yes, ’45, she died. My father died in ’42; my (04:00) mother died in ’45. My aunt lived in that house for a while.
DS: He died in ’42, right.
EM: My mother died in ’45.
DS: Right. That’s what I have here.
EM: We still lived in that house, but we still had 314. My aunt lived in it, Aunt Nellie. I think we sold it maybe to Congdon. He worked for Curtis Publishing Company. We didn’t know him. He came – how we knew him was from Mr. Nicholson, who lived in that little court up there, Drinker’s Court. He’s the one who bought it from us.
DS: His name again?
EM: Congdon. I think it’s spelled C-O-N-G-D-O-N. Then he sold it to different people. We didn’t get much for it, but we were glad to get rid of it, because we had to pay taxes on it. We never had – my father never had good sense. Oh, my aunt, half the time she didn’t have the money, $15 a month rent.
DS: You think that you sold it in ’43, or you think you sold it after your mother died? [Connie Congdon says they bought 314 from the Mickles in 1958.]
EM: No, we sold it after my mother died. She lived there. In fact, she was laid out there. I don’t recall how – she was laid out in the house where we live now. I don’t recall what year that was. Somebody else must have taken care of that. I don’t recall. My aunt lived there and her Uncle John, and Billy and Eddy, (unintelligible). They lived there. I think Uncle John died. Different ones died. I don’t remember too much about that.
DS: You stayed in the house that your mother and you lived in, 312, and you stayed there with a brother and a sister? (5:00)
EM: Well, none of them were married then. My oldest sister got married from there. Yes, and she moved. Mary got married from there. My brother got married from there. Sissy was married from there – Theresa. Then the only ones left was my sister Margaret, who died, and my brother Sonny and I. We had an uncle, my father’s brother, lived with us. But he died, too. He had like a room. He was very religious. He always lived with us. Always. He wanted to become a priest, but he never –. I don’t know what happened.
DS: He was your mother’s –
EM: My father’s brother.
DS: Your father’s brother.
EM: When his mother died, my mother lived on Spruce Street and he lived there with us. He had a room. He never ate his meals; only on Christmas and Thanksgiving. That’s the only time he ate with us, but when he was sick my mother would take him up a plate – have us take him up a platter or something. He was a very good man. My father got him different jobs. He worked in the street, but as soon as he heard the men cursing, he quit. He walked right off the job. My father was furious. He was so religious.
DS: Your schooling: from the first to the eighth grade you went to Old St. Joe’s School, and then you had an additional two years at St. Peter’s Commercial School at Fifth and Girard. You went there and learned typing and shorthand. Your first job was at Forest Knitting Mills, a sweater factory at Third and Willings Alley, as a floor girl, for $12 for eight hours a day. (6:00)
EM: More than that sometimes; we worked on Saturday, half a day. I didn’t mind it too much. I was glad to get the money. You know, it’s no longer up there. It’s right near where the Salvation Army was.
DS: Was it on the corner where the Salvation –
EM: No, on Third Street.
DS: On Third Street.
EM: Right maybe where they have that – it’s like a parking lot now. Salvation Army sold that. I was surprised when the girl told me they were getting rid of it, because they were losing money on it.
DS: This knitting mill was across the street?
EM: No, it’s right on the same side.
DS: The same side, where the little restaurant is?
EM: Yes, exactly. Right near there. It was an old building. They had knitters there, and they called me a floor girl. You’d button up the sweaters. The pressers they had there. It’s so hard to believe when I go by there.
DS: What did a floor girl do?
EM: Well, you’d button, you’d have – you know how they have, what do they call them? They had a name for them. You know how they put pockets in the trunks of men’s bathing suits? Well, when they’d be sewn, they’d be sewn on the outside. Sewers would bring them down, and you’d have to turn them inside – to the right side, so they’d be able to sew them properly. I learned how to button up sweaters. [Laughs] They had a presser there – I never – men were the pressers. I only was there for about two years. We could walk to work and go home to eat my lunch. (7:00)
DS: Perfect. Then your next job was at the Catholic Standard newspaper, and you were a receptionist. Now you got $22.50 per week!
EM: That’s what I got. That’s right.
DS: Your next job was at the Bulletin newspaper in the payroll department. The next one was Juvenile Division of Youth Study Center at Fourth and Vine as a stenographer.
EM: Municipal Court, that was. Yes, that’s right. I was a typist, but then when they asked me could I do different things, I tried, and I did so well, I did become a stenographer. Not a court stenographer, but we’d take notes at preliminary interviews of juveniles that were arrested. That’s what I did. One time I did have to go – they needed – during the riots here in Philadelphia – I don’t know if you lived here then –
DS: In ’76 when Rizzo was –?
DS: I was here.
EM: Well, they had these riots; they were short of stenographers and they needed somebody to go in court. They asked me – they asked somebody else and then they asked me. I said alright, but, boy, I was scared. Judge Spaulding was the judge. He was so nice. Another girl, she was a court stenographer anyway, a black girl, she was very nice, her name was Elizabeth, and she gave me different pointers. I had to type all those up! I used to take notes over there at the Youth Study Center; never got any more money. Everything must have been alright because they accepted it, but I was scared to death. I always remember Bessie Einhorn, who worked there. Very, very intelligent girl.
DS: Bessie Einhorn?
EM: Bessie Einhorn, yes. She told me she was in court one day that he [the Judge] asked her what she was – she’s a little older than I. She said when the judge told her if you don’t hear, raise your hand. She kept raising her hand because she couldn’t hear the testimony. (8:00)
DS: If she couldn’t hear, she was to raise her hand?
EM: Judge told her that ‘cause he knew she was afraid, because she had never done that, but she was an excellent stenographer. Intelligent. Very good. I worked with a couple of good women over at the court. Mrs. Barr was a stenographer; she was a supervisor in the stenographic department in the court. It was called County Court when I went. They changed it so many times. The name now, it’s the Court of Common Pleas. They combined it all. You learn a lot of things; in each job, you learn different tricks.
DS: Your next job was at Publicker’s Whiskey. You were a PBX operator. Then you retired. That was your last job?
EM: I guess so. Yes. That’s right. I forget. It was such a long time ago.
DS: Then, under “Transportation” I have down here that when you had to go to school and your jobs you would walk, and only sometimes did you take the bus.
EM: That’s right. I would save the car fare.
DS: Then, under “Childhood and Neighborhood Memories,” I have that you felt that this neighborhood was ethnically mixed neighborhood with Irish, Italian, Ukrainian, Polish, Quaker. You never felt afraid, although warnings from your mother such as, “Show me your company and I’ll tell you what you are.”
EM: [quotes it at the same time DS says it]: “… and I’ll tell you what you are.” Yes.
DS: Another one your mother said, “You know your enemies, but be careful of your friends.” (9:00)
EM: She was very intelligent, my mother. She could spell, she could write. Beautiful writer. In fact, she used to write my father’s reports for him. He’d just tell her when he went to make these home visits, and he’d sit down and she’d do it every day for him. She was very intelligent. She could do arithmetic, too. We had a grocery store on Spruce Street, right below Third. Mr. Brown – it was Brown’s Grocery Store – and we had a book. You know, years ago people didn’t have the money, so they’d buy stuff and you’d have your book. He’d write it in the book; then, when you’d go up to pay him, he’d add it all up. My mother would add it after him, and half the time he wasn’t adding right, [Laughs] to his benefit, you know.
DS: This Brown’s Grocery Store was on the south side of the street, right?
EM: Yes, (unintelligible) Brown.
DS: Your mother must have been educated, then.
EM: Oh, she was.
DS: Where was she born?
EM: She was born on Stamper Street. She went to St. Joseph’s School and then she went to Horace Binney, which was – I think – I believe it was on Spruce Street. I don’t know.
DS: Horace Binney was – go ahead.
EM: We did have a Horace Binney on Spruce Street; they tore all that down. She was really intelligent.
DS: How far did she go in school?
EM: I don’t know. I really don’t know.
DS: Your father? Did he grow up in this [neighborhood]?
EM: He grew up here, but they were very poor. I don’t even know where he went to school. I imagine St. Joseph’s, ‘cause his mother, her name was Flanagan, and she came from (10:00) Liverpool, England. She was so religious, she would walk on the (unintelligible) pavement. Her name was Mary Flanagan. I never saw her – only I remember when she was laid out.
DS: You remember fondly Stanfield Playground at Front and Lombard?
EM: That’s right.
DS: You called it a College Settlement House?
EM: My mother called it. Yes, she called it College Settlement.
DS: Activities there were basket making and other crafts. You would play potsie, which was hopscotch, and jump rope and other sports?
DS: The Quaker Meeting House playground at Fourth and Arch had swings, a jungle gym –
EM: We went up there in the summer time.
DS: – and baseball and swimming?
EM: They had a swimming pool there. Now, you wouldn’t even think of it.
DS: Was it in their parking lot?
EM: It’s a big –
DS: I know where the building is.
EM: It’s right off Fourth Street, off Fourth Street, right above that new place that they have for senior citizens. [Unintelligible]
DS: Was the swimming pool inside or out?
EM: Outside. It was a little pool, not real deep or a lot of water, maybe a foot of water. We had swings. We learned different things up there. That’s where we went in the summer time. We hated walking up to Fourth and Arch, though. (11:00)
DS: Would you go up there by yourself, with your sisters and brothers?
EM: A group of us, my cousins. My mother had three sisters that lived around each other, one another, and they all had children; they were all different ages. Some were older, and some were – and we’d go up there.
DS: As a group?
EM: Yes. My cousins and my brother – my brother loved baseball. My father did, too. They’d play up at St. Joseph’s; they had a lot, Fisher’s lot. Every summer they’d go play baseball in that lot, and football.
DS: Where was Fisher’s lot?
EM: Right next to – it’s on Fourth Street, right – Fourth and Locust, but it wasn’t on Locust Street, it was on Fourth Street. Now they have that big apartment – or houses built there, which was a shame. Then on Orianna Street, which is called St. Joseph’s Way now, they had all garages and mechanics fixing cars and everything. They had Rorer’s, a chemical place on Orianna Street, too. [When she reviewed the transcript, she confirmed that Rorer’s was a plant or factory, not a retail store.]
DS: Orianna is what?
EM: St. Joseph’s Way, now. I don’t know why they changed it. They (unintelligible) way to me. That’s the way I feel. They tore down that school building; this two-story school building where we went to school at St. Joe’s. I couldn’t believe it when they tore that down. The priest over at St. Joe’s, Father Murray, he’s not there now. He’s changed, but he (12:00) didn’t know that. I said, “Why, the school building was there.” I know. I showed him pictures. We had nuns there, St. Joseph’s nuns.
DS: Do you have pictures at home?
EM: I think I have a few. I have to look that up. He [Father Murray] couldn’t believe it.
DS: Could I make copies of those pictures?
EM: Oh, if I have them, sure. I’ll have to look around, because –. He didn’t believe it.
DS: The school building for St. Joseph’s was where?
EM: It was right opposite Bell’s Court. Bell’s Court had Father, Son and Holy Ghost Houses. My aunt had one side, eleven, and Aunt Nellie had the other side. Of course, they didn’t have it for years after they –. I don’t know what happened. My aunt had it, but Aunt Nellie she lived there for years. She lived down at 314 Philip, because I think she lost the house. My father and mother let her live in that house. Aunt Mamie lived at 271 S. Fourth Street; it extended all the way almost up to Orianna Street. She had these four Father, Son and Holy Ghost houses, which was Bell’s Court. Her side was torn down, but the other side is still up. They had outhouses.
DS: They were back to back?
EM: What do you mean?
DS: Bell’s Court.
EM: Bell’s Court was like –. Say this was Bell’s Court, and the houses were right there.
DS: Facing each other?
EM: No, there were only four houses; they were next to each other. You’d have to see it, but I remember it.
DS: Then the school, St. Joseph’s School – (13:00)
EM: Was across the street.
DS: Was across the street. There was a street where St. Joe’s Way is now?
EM: Orianna Street. Father Murray didn’t know that. I told him. Oh, yes.
DS: I would love to see a picture of that.
EM: I have a picture of the nuns. Sister Margaret standing outside.
DS: That would be wonderful.
EM: I’ll see what I have, and I’ll bring them over to you.
DS: That would be great.
EM: We have albums, but I know I showed him the picture of Sister Margaret. I said, “I know. I went to school there for eight years. My sisters went, my brothers, and some of my cousins.” I know. He wouldn’t believe that. We had a (unintelligible) in this neighborhood, who lived on Delancey Street, John Daley. He went into Jesuit seminary; he became a Jesuit, and he became a (unintelligible) at one time. I don’t know if he’s still living. I never thought he’d stay in the seminary, but he did. He was so nice. His mother and father lived here, and he had a – Raymond was his brother and Robert. He had the one sister. She died, oh, about ten years ago. They didn’t live here; they moved out. She was so upset. She was so good to him. Rita.
DS: They grew up on what street?
EM: They lived on Delancey Street.
DS: Two hundred- or three hundred- block?
EM: They lived right where – Third and Delancey. Then they lived further up to Fourth Street, where the – on Third and Delancey was the American Store, the Acme [pronounced with three syllables, “Ac-a-me,” in true Philadelphia fashion] and (14:00) then it changed to the American Store. They lived upstairs. They had steps there, and they lived on the second floor. Then they moved from there. They moved several places. They were good people. She was very good when our Sonny and Sissy – you know our Sonny and Sissy – that’s my younger brother and my younger sister. They were both in the same grade. You know what happened? Sonny was – well, his name was Aiden, but we always called him Sonny. He was older than Sissy, so when he went to school, he must have carried on, and they was promoting him. My father said, “No, no promoting. Keep him back.” When Sissy, my younger sister, went to school, she was in the same room. He was better for it. The nun was going to promote him, and my father said, “No.” He didn’t want him promoted, and it was better for him, because –. Oh, he was very good to us, my brother. He was Aiden. Very extravagant. He’d spend his last cent. He was very good with his money, even on Philip Street. He paid for a lot of things around there. He was a good fellow. I miss him.
DS: I have down here: the churches such as Old St. Joseph’s, St. Peter’s, and (15:00) Old Pine would have activities open to the children. St. Joseph’s would put on a minstrel show involving the children and a dance.
EM: Not involving the children, young adults. They’d have a show on Sunday afternoon. I don’t know how much they’d charge, about ten or fifteen. These were regular people; they were young men. In fact, John Daley, who became a Jesuit priest, he was the interlocutor. My cousin, she played the piano and helped them along, you know. She could transpose notes, and play by ear and play by notes. She used to play the organ in St. Joe’s church. They’re all dead now, you know.
This priest that we have over here now, he’s a young priest. He said to me one day – he came over and said, “You are one of the Mickles,” because I said there was not many down here anymore. I’m the last one. Then he said to me one Sunday, which I remember a little bit, it seemed that the church – the courtyard – I don’t know how many times that’s been laid and re-laid and pavement and everything else in the years I’ve been living here. He had this done, and he started in this courtyard. He had to go in through Walnut Street, because they were fixing the yard on Willings Alley. He said to me one day, “They did very little here.” I said, “I don’t think so. I think they did pretty much. I think they did the best that they could.” They didn’t have money then. (16:00) They had the minstrel shows. Who else could train people who never sang and danced? It took effort. You had to be here to see it; they were enjoyable.
DS: Were these minstrel shows in the courtyard?
EM: It was in the basement.
DS: Oh, in the basement.
EM: Yes, and John Daley was the interlocutor.
DS: An interlocutor?
EM: Well that was – he was the end men. They had two on one side and two on the other side, and they would tell jokes. The interlocutor, oh, he was grand, John Daley. I used to say to him, “Is it all right if I don’t call you father? Is it all right if I call you John?” He said, “That’s perfectly all right, Nancy.” He always called me Nancy. I just asked the priest a couple of weeks ago if he knew Father Govern. He was an older priest. I said, “Did you know Father John Daley?” He said, “He was in my class.” I said, “Tell me, is he still living?” He said, “He died years ago.” I never heard this. I am going to ask somebody else. Then I asked another priest over there, a younger priest. See, my brother and Father Casey had church time. What I resented about this pastor [was] saying they didn’t do anything. He had all the pews taken out and put in new pews and asked different people if they [would] make like a contribution. My brother (17:00) bought one pew, and we didn’t even know it. The whole pew. My cousins went down from St. Frances Xavier parish and they talked to [my] brother, and he put their name on the other side; we didn’t care. I went over there the other day. I wanted to go over there to clean the pew. I went last Sunday. It’s so hard; it’s narrow. It’s your body. It’s not actually doing the cleaning. To move this way, you don’t bump your back. Anyway, I did that a lot. The Rosary Society. We always cleaned the church. I don’t know who does it now. I thought he was mean to say that they did very little.
DS: When you were younger, women of the church would clean the church?
EM: Yes, some of them would. Then they had maybe cleaners, I don’t know. I can’t remember. They used to have a cook over there at St. Joe’s. She used to come in early in the morning. She’d cook their breakfast and their dinner, but now they don’t have that.
DS: For the priests? And the nuns?
EM: No, not for the nuns. The nuns’ convent was on Third Street, 262 S. Third. It extended from Third Street to Orianna Street, which is St. Joseph’s Way [now]. Of course, the house (18:00) is there where they lived, the nuns. The other part of it, the school yard and the school building were torn down. I have pictures of them. If I can find them, I’ll bring them over and you could look through them.
DS: I would love to make copies of them.
EM: Oh, yes, yes. My uncle took a lot of them. He was a great one for taking pictures.
DS: Any pictures that you can find –
EM: I’ll bring them over.
DS: – that show the neighborhood.
EM: I’ll see, I’ll see.
DS: Old buildings, buildings that you remember as a child.
EM: We had cigar factories. We had the Mitchell Feed Company at Third and Spruce. They got rid of that. They tore it down and built these little houses, town houses, right there. They had the knitting mills and the cigar factories. A lot of the girls worked in cigar factories. I never worked in a cigar factory. Whenever I see those machines it reminds me of the cigars coming out – you know how they had those machines with the cigars, putting paper around it some way. I don’t know. No, I never worked in a cigar factory, but the girls around here did. They were glad to get the work. We had the National Publishing Company on American Street. They got rid of that! Oh, a lot of places they got rid of, which they shouldn’t have gotten rid of. Good profits. I don’t know if much profits or not. (19:00)
DS: There was manufacturing in the neighborhood?
EM: Oh, yes. We had the National Publishing Company on American Street. They had wood shops up there. [Unintelligible]
DS: Furniture-type wood shops?
EM: Yes, they had people making it. St. James Street was up there. Well, that’s not there anymore. There were little houses on that street. Mrs. Clark lived up there. They’re not there. They tore it down. I mean, they did a lot around here, but they tore a lot of things down, and I don’t think they should.
DS: What changes you have seen.
EM: I don’t believe it sometimes. I go up St. Joseph’s Way, I can’t believe the school isn’t there. All those mechanics that fixed cars and everything. Rorer’s chemical place [Rorer Group, pharmaceuticals]. My cousin worked there.
DS: What was the chemical place? I don’t know that.
EM: Rorer’s, I think they spelled it. I don’t know if it’s still in existence. They moved, and they went somewhere else. I guess they had to get out.
DS: Where were they? (20:00)
EM: They were on Orianna Street, which is St. Joseph’s Way, on the other side.
DS: On the other side –
EM: I remember them.
DS: I have down here as activities that you would do as a child, that you didn’t like to ride bikes on the street.
EM: I was afraid of riding a bike. I’m still afraid. I was on a bike one summer. Now I did ride in Southampton, when I visited my cousin, but the street, the roads were different. They didn’t have all that traffic. I would never ride in Philadelphia. I don’t ride bikes. Everybody did it. You’d rent the bikes, so much an hour, but I’m not a bike rider.
DS: Swimming? You went to a public pool at Third and Queen Street that had a roof as a cover, but the sides were open?
EM: Not open entirely. The roof – the sun would come in, and the sides were bricked up. They had benches where you could sit when you came out of the water. It was Queen’s. We called it Queenie’s.
DS: Queenie’s? (21:00)
EM: Yes, you know, they don’t have it there. They’ve gotten rid of it. It was right near St. Philip’s Church.
DS: Where was Queen Street?
EM: It’s about six blocks below South Street. It’s still there. It’s still Queen Street, but the pool isn’t there.
DS: You said that the boys and the girls were segregated by days, and the lifeguards were also appropriate to –
DS: Some boys from the neighborhood went swimming in the Delaware River, but you never did?
DS: One friend of yours –
EM: A friend of ours, Tommy Daley, he went swimming. They never found his body. He drowned and they never recovered his body. They don’t know what happened to it.
DS: Family trips: You would take the Market Street ferry to Camden and then the train to Wildwood for $1.25.
EM: Yes. We used to go on the Wilson Line to the Riverview, on Chestnut Street that was. We’d get the boat.
DS: You also said some of the family would go to South Beach in New Jersey, where your father owned some land.
DS: Pennsville, not Beach.
EM: No, Pennsville. (22:00)
DS: Pennsville. There was an annual school trip to Riverview Beach, an amusement park in New Jersey?
EM: That’s right.
DS: The children and their mothers would take the Wilson Line on Chestnut Street and Delaware Avenue and stay all day.
EM: All day. Then we’d be brought back by boat.
DS: That was a yearly event that was sponsored by the church? By the neighborhood?
EM: St. Joseph’s School. It was only the school that went.
DS: Then you and I talked about landmarks in the neighborhood, like, you said, saloons. There was a saloon at Second and Delancey. There were two saloons—
EM: There were four corners there; there were saloons.
DS: Second and Delancey?
EM: Except the north side. That was a candy store. Louie’s, they called it.
DS: So, Second and Delancey, on the northeast side or the northwest side?
EM: What, the candy store? It was on the – that would be north, wouldn’t it? Well, – (23:00)
DS: You have Second Street; you’re saying, say this is north, so it would have been which corner?
EM: It would be the southwest corner…. They used to sell everything there.
DS: All the other corners were taprooms?
EM: We called them taprooms or saloons.
DS: Then you said at Second and Spruce, there were more.
EM: Yes, that’s right. Second and Spruce.
[Tape is stopped, then started again]
EM: There used to be a soap factory.
DS: On Philip Street, where you live, there was a soap factory?
EM: They tore it down.
DS: Where was that?
EM: You know Catherine Apothaker?
EM: She (unintelligible). Her husband and she bought that lot, and then they had that house built [at what is now 315 S. Philip Street]. For years it was a vacant lot, I remember that. There was a cigar factory.
DS: On Philip Street? (24:00)
EM: No, not on Philip Street, on Third Street.
DS: On Third Street.
EM: A couple of cigar factories where different people worked. I told you the National Publishing Company – they’re out in West Philadelphia, now. They were there for a long time. They had – a lot of space on American Street, which no longer – I don’t know – they had a lot of places – I don’t know what they did there. People worked there, too.
DS: These cigar factories would be the size of an individual home? I mean, they couldn’t have been too big.
EM: They were big enough. Benders used to be at American and Spruce. It was a candy store. Now I don’t know who lives there. Some woman I don’t know. I might have seen her, but I don’t know all the new residents.
DS: Where her driveway is, that’s where American Street went north.
EM: That’s right. That’s right.
DS: We were talking about the saloons, and you said about Second and Delancey and Second and Spruce?
EM: They had saloons, too. (25:00)
DS: Third and Spruce?
EM: Yes, Third and Spruce, they had one where you get the bus. We had Mitchell Seed place for a while….
DS: American and Spruce.
EM: We used to go over there [to the candy store] every day. My father would give us a penny a day.
DS: A penny a day? What would that buy you?
EM: Enough, I guess. Whatever you’d want; you’d look at the case and see what he had. They [the Benders] were good people. They lost a son. They were heartbroken about it. His name was Paul Bender. They were good people.
DS: This restaurant that fed the produce workers, I have down here, they have breakfast, lunch and dinner there? (26:00)
EM: What restaurant is this?
DS: I don’t know. I just have on Second and Spruce there’s a restaurant called Benders.
EM: Benders is [a candy store] at Spruce and American. Now on Second Street they had restaurants. The men used to eat in there. They used to – every Sunday they’d come, the hucksters from Jersey. They’d park on Spruce Street. They had horse and wagons, and they’d park there all night until Dock Street opened up. A lot of them ate at different restaurants on Second Street. I don’t know all of them, but that’s where they ate. They’re not there anymore; of course, they have houses there.
DS: Your mother would shop at the Second Street market?
EM: Yes, we would go for her. My mother couldn’t do too much. She had a very bad heart, and we’d go. She’d tell us what she wanted. We went to Joe Duffy. They had two markets there. The marketplace at Pine Street and Second, and then the one at Lombard Street and Second. (27:00) They had, oh, everything you could think of in there. Bread, they sold bread. Milk. Everything.
DS: Cheese? Meats?
EM: Yes. Joe Duffy was a butcher. One side was a butcher’s, and the other side was where people sold cheese and –
EM: Yes. Everything.
DS: Most of this you think came from New Jersey farmers?
EM: A lot of it did. They parked, like I say. They had horse and wagons. They’d park on Spruce Street, and they’d take their supplies and go home. I guess at Dock Street they couldn’t open up. They had to open up at certain times. They’d come early. I remember the horse and wagons.
DS: Then there was Johnny Murphy’s store at Third and Delancey, the northeast corner, sold food and goods.
EM: Yes. My mother used to get Baker’s corn there. Couldn’t get it anywhere else. (28:00) Canned corn, Bakers, to put in the soup, the whole corn. Baker’s corn.
DS: You said it was a real old-fashioned store. That same intersection, southeast corner, was American Store, later called Acme.
EM: Yes, that’s right. No, it was the Acme first, and then the American.
DS: For clothes you would go to South Street or Fourth Street? There was a paint store on Second and Spruce?
EM: Right. (unintelligible0
DS: You said that when the redevelopment began to change the neighborhood, (29:00) the residents complained about the eyesore of the Society Hill Towers –
EM: They didn’t like it.
DS: – Hopkinson House and houses that were coming down. You would complain, but to no avail?
EM: Well, we didn’t have the pull, see. I don’t like those towers there. They’re eyesores to me, and they’re dangerous, too. Then they built the Hopkinson House. The Catholic Standard used to be there. You know that little building? [It] was right there, was where I worked, and they tore that down.
DS: Where Hopkinson House is?
EM: No, the Hopkinson House is a very big building. The Catholic Standard was a (30:00) little building, right on a little street there. Across from that was David McCabe publishing company and Lea & Febiger. Where the Hopkinson House is, [it] was Central News, and you’d see all the magazines and books and everything. Amazing, isn’t it? All these places employed people, too, and they’re all gone. People, when you tell them, they wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t believe it.
DS: That’s why we’re writing the book.
EM: They wouldn’t believe it.
DS: We were talking about Nancy Spaws, who –
EM: Oh, yes, God rest her soul. I was up staying with my sister, ‘cause she fell and hurt her knee, and I – when she [Nancy Spaws] was buried I would have gone down to her mass, but it was so far away. I didn’t know that she had died. My cousin told me. She was a hard-working girl.
DS: Nancy lived on Stamper Street next to Dorothy Bunting?
EM: She left it, I guess, to her son, because he was single, because Kathleen, she was married—
DS: His sister?
EM: Yes, and she couldn’t stand the husband. I don’t know where she met him, but Nancy wasn’t too thrilled over that marriage. I think he was a bugger. I don’t know. (31:00)
DS: He was a what?
EM: A bugger. That’s like a son-of-a-gun. That’s a word they used to use. [Laughs]
[Second side of tape]
EM: The marriage, I don’t know. I never saw him.
DS: Nancy Spaws and Dorothy Bunting were good friends, right?
DS: Were they – they were not your age. They were older than you?
EM: No, Nancy was a little younger than I, but Dorothy was older than I. She was more in the league of my two sisters, Mary and Mickey, and the (unintelligible) and different people that grew up around here. Of course, they’re all dead. A lot of them died. I can’t believe it. All these people die. I always say, one thing about God, I just wish He didn’t have to take – people have to die. It’s sad. But He must have had a good reason. I guess we’d be overloaded with people. [Laughs]
DS: Now, Jo Ann Buller, who lives on the 200 block of Delancey, told me that you said that you went to the knitting mill with the niece of Jennie Ordile?
EM: Betty Ordile.
EM: Betty. Yes. She was married to Mrs. Ordile’s son, I think. She lived right up – this girl that lives there now, her name is – I just got –
DS: Jo Ann Buller.
EM: Yes. She’s very nice.
DS: She’s on this list here.
EM: I asked her, “You live in Mrs. Ordile’s house?” “Yes,” she said, “That’s right.”
DS: 214 Delancey.
EM: Yes. She said she must be very old now. She was old then. I don’t remember.
DS: 241 [Delancey]. I’m sorry. 241.
EM: Mrs. Ordile. Yes, Betty. She worked in the Forrest Knitting Mills.
DS: With you?
EM: Well, my sister worked there first, then I went up there.
EM: It was hard to get a job. You know, you were glad to get the job. I didn’t mind it, but you know what I couldn’t understand? I was so used to – at school – you could talk and all, but we worked like that. You couldn’t talk. [Laughs] (1:00)
DS: Tell me about Mrs. Koss.
EM: Oh, God help her. She’s failing. She’s in her 90s.
DS: Ninety-four, I understand.
EM: Yes. I went over to her the other day. What did I go over for? I was at the Superfresh, and I – and I would go over, but see –. She had the woman helping her, [who] would open the door. It’s very hard for her [Mrs. Koss] to get up and open the door, and I’m afraid she’ll fall.
DS: She doesn’t have anybody there with her now during the day?
EM: No, no. It was too much for the woman. She was over at St. Mary’s Convent [at Fifth and Locust]; that’s a home where older women live, not many of them. I think they pay so much. I don’t know. They eat there and sleep there. It’s very nice. That was never there, either. It’s only new. It’s across from St. Mary’s School, and that’s where she lived. I go over there on the first Friday. You’re not Catholic, so you wouldn’t know. It’s a very quiet mass, very few people, just a couple of the women that live there, different people from the neighborhood go. I saw her [the woman helping Mrs. Koss] yesterday. I forget what her name is, but she came over to me. She was asking how Ann [Koss] was. I said, “Well, she’s failing. She’s just slowly fading away.” She said to me, “She has a fine daughter.” I said, “Yes, absolutely. Lois is a fine girl.” It’s just a shame. I said to Ann – she had the one son, Bunny. His name was Allen. Allen Koss. He was an artist, which you have one of his pictures, I noticed. Well, he has a lot – used to hang them in the barber shop. His father was a barber, and – what was I going to say? I lost my train of thought.
DS: Ann? (02:00)
EM: About Ann Koss. See, I’d tap the window. She would come sometimes, but when she had the woman there, the woman would open the door. Now it’s hard for her. I went over there for some reason. She did open the door and we sat together. I feel sorry for her, because she’s very sociable. She likes company, but it’s hard for her to get up to go to that door. Then suppose she can’t lock it, and somebody would walk in on her. She always was nice. I remember, she and Al [her husband] when they moved up. We lived across the street, 216 [Spruce], and they moved here when they had just Bunny and then they had Lois.
DS: What did you call Allen? Bonny?
EM: Bunny, I think when he was small they called him Bunny. Somebody did. It was a nickname, but his name was Allen. He died, though.
DS: Yes, I know.
EM: He married this girl – what he saw in her I don’t know, but that’s my opinion. [Laughs] Well educated and all this, and she has plenty of dough, now. She bought an apartment in the Hopkinson House, where a woman that used to live around here lived. I don’t know where she’s living now. I said to Ann on the QT, “Tell me, does Helen ever slip you a couple of bucks?” She said, “Never.” I said, “What?” I said, “She wouldn’t have had all she has it if wasn’t for Bunny.” They own a house upstate somewhere. He got sick all of a sudden, Bunny. Well, I always call him Bunny. I never called him that in front of him. He didn’t like it. Allen. Ann even calls him Allen, and Lois. I always remember him as a little kid, you know.
DS: Well, what do you know of Ann’s background. She grew up on—
EM: Delancey Street.
DS: Delancey Street.
EM: She had a very good mother.
DS: She grew up on the 200 block of Delancey?
EM: No, it was nearer to Fourth Street. (3:00)
DS: Fourth Street. Fourth and Delancey?
EM: Between Third and Fourth Street, they had houses. That’s what I remember.
DS: She grew up there?
EM: Yes. Then when she married – Al lived on American Street with his mother and father and his two brothers. I don’t know if they’re still living. I think he had a couple of sisters, too. I don’t know about them. I never seen them. He lived on American Street, and that’s how he got involved with Ann, you know. She often would say she should have married somebody else. [Laughs]
EM: She should have married someone else, but Al was a very good man, Al Koss.
DS: They got married, and where did they live first?
EM: They lived with his parents, his mother and father.
DS: On American Street?
EM: Yes. I think his mother was real hard to get along with. I don’t know. She [Ann] was glad to get out of there. They moved to Spruce Street; that used to be a fruit store at one time. Goodman used to live there, next to Benders.
DS: The house that they now live in?
EM: Yes; they fixed it all up.
DS: It was a fruit store?
EM: Yes, before they moved in. He was very nice, Al Koss.
DS: They had the two children?
EM: Yeah, Lois, you know. That was really a surprise, but, oh, she’s a pleasure. Thank God Ann has her. She’s very nice. She works for the government. She went to Hallihan High School. You know, Al wasn’t Catholic, but he did become a Catholic. He was a convert.
DS: Ann was Catholic?
EM: He [Al] was buried from St. Joseph’s Church. He used to help at the Bingo, too, with my brother and – who was the other man that helped? Oh, Bill (unintelligible). Father Casey used to have Bingo on Sunday over in the hall. It was nice. Father Casey was a (4:00) wonderful pastor, too. He did work around, like, helping with the Bingo. He’d take you out, like a group of you, out to a small place in Jersey, which he did take us. [Laughs] He’d say, “Get whatever you want, you know.” Some people have good principles.
DS: Now, back to Ann. She grew up in a Catholic family, you said.
EM: Oh, yes. Her mother was a Catholic. But Al – they weren’t Catholic.
DS: Ann’s mother and dad – were there children?
DS: A lot of children?
EM: Yes, she had a couple sisters and she had a couple brothers. They’re all dead, I think. Henry, George, and the sisters. I can’t remember all the sisters.
DS: He had sisters and brothers? Al did?
EM: Yes. I think a lot of them are gone, too. He got sick all of a sudden, now. He was a barber.
DS: Cancer, I think.
EM: Yeah, he smoked, too. I don’t know if that caused it, but it didn’t do him any good. He was a great smoker. He was a very good man, Al the barber.
DS: He was, he was.
[Tape is turned off, then on again]
DS: Walter. Walter who?
EM: Walter Mitkowsky.
DS: He lived in the house that’s on the northwest corner of –
EM: No, not on the corner. He was on Spruce Street. It’s about in the middle of the block. [311 Spruce Street]
DS: Down here? [Between Third and Fourth Streets]
EM: Yes. High steps. He often was there, every morning. Mary [his sister] lives there, the two of them. They had two apartments; Walter owned it. He took care of it for [his] mother and father. He died, Walter. What happened: he was in the hospital. They had this one sister, Doris. This is what I heard, now. She went up to Walter and had him change (5:00) his will, to leave her the house. Then she put them out. I just heard about it a month ago. She put them out.
DS: Wait a minute. I’m confused. We’re talking about who?
EM: Walter Mitkowsky.
DS: Walter Mitkowsky.
EM: He was a hairdresser at DeWeese’s for years.
DS: He’s on Third Street.
EM: No, Spruce Street.
DS: Spruce Street.
EM: Spruce Street. It’s a high-steps. He bought that house for his mother and father, and he lived there. He never was married, Walter. He got sick all of a sudden, and then he died. But, while he was in the hospital – this Doris is a sly one. I hate to say it. She went up to the hospital, and she had these papers there for him to sign the house to her. Really, it should have gone equally to Mary and Pauline – they had – and Johnny.
DS: To all the children?
EM: You know, that wasn’t right. She took it over. Naturally, she couldn’t put up with them anymore. Mary and Joe. She put them out. [Laughs] Joe is living down in Texas with his daughter, and Mary is living in a little upstate somewhere with her daughter.
DS: They’re gone?
EM: They’re gone. It’s sad, you know.
DS: Is that house up for sale?
EM: No, she has apartments in it, but it’s in bad condition. She don’t do anything to it. She should have it painted in the front, but she don’t do anything.
DS: Her name is Lois?
EM: No, her name is Doris. Doris Dougherty. She married Charlie Dougherty from the neighborhood. Her name was Doris Mitkowsky, but it’s Dougherty now. She lives above 69th Street; she lives in the suburbs. She put them out. It was sad. I didn’t know, but (6:00) one woman who comes to St. Joseph’s Church, Bridget, she has an apartment there. She said Mary and Joe were no longer there, and they’re never going to come back, either. She told me. I never would have known it.
DS: I missed them.
EM: Yes, they knew a lot, too.
DS: Let’s get back to Orianna Street, and we’re going north here. [Dorothy seems to be showing Elizabeth a map.] Here’s Bell’s Court. Where would St. Joseph’s Parochial School be?
EM: It would be right across Orianna Street.
DS: Right on this side.
DS: Did it go all the way to Spruce?
DS: It was in this section across from Bell’s Court.
DS: Where was the playground?
EM: The playground. They didn’t have a playground.
DS: They didn’t have a playground?
EM: No. They had a yard in the back, for recess, a yard back there, where they’d sell pretzels and so forth.
DS: Now, you said all along this street there was a chemical factory somewhere here?
EM: Across the street on Orianna Street. Rorer’s I think it was. I don’t know if I’m spelling it correctly, but it was. [Rorer Group, pharmaceuticals]
DS: North of Bell’s Court?
EM: It was alongside. Bell’s Court was here, and Rorer’s was next door there. One side of Bell’s Court is torn down.
DS: Bell’s Court was on the other side, too?
EM: Yes. Four houses on each side.
DS: The school was north of Bell’s Court?
EM: No, it was the opposite. See, Orianna Street was here. The school was over here. Orianna Street, where Bell’s Court was – it wasn’t a street. They just had two side –. One side – this side – I don’t know. It was just Bell’s Court on the other side. Four houses (7:00) on each side.
DS: Gotcha, and the school was over here, with a yard. Then you said there were car mechanics?
EM: All mechanics on that street, fixing cars.
DS: Both sides?
EM: Mostly, yes. They had a Yellow Cab station there for a while. Of course, they moved, you know.
DS: New car repair. You go to the end and you come to St. Joseph’s Way, and you have the church. That would be Fourth.
EM: That’s right. 321 Willings Alley. The priest – when he used to come – every so often [when] we went to school at St. Joe’s, one of the priests would come, not from St. Joseph’s parish, but from the diocese, and he would ask the kids all different kinds of questions. I never forgot this day. There was six holy days. Yes, six, three in honor of our Lord, two in honor of the Blessed Mother, and one in honor of saints. He said to the kids, “If you forget that, just remember St. Joseph’s address, 321 Willings Alley, and you can’t go wrong. [Laughs] I never forgot that. I told the Brother, in church, I couldn’t get over that. They used to come every so often to see how you were doing. I never forgot that. I always remembered that. 321 Willings Alley.
DS: Why was there St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s so close together?
EM: I don’t know. They didn’t have St. Mary’s School then. The kids used to go to Holy Trinity. My cousins went up there – two of them. (8:00)
DS: Where was Holy Trinity?
EM: Sixth and Spruce. The church is still there. They still have some kind of a kindergarten there. They went there [to school].
DS: They had a school there?
EM: They had a school. Very few children went. St. Joseph’s was really the main Catholic school around here then. St. Peter’s Church, they have so many children. I don’t know if they have as many as when I went up there. St. John Newman was buried there in the basement. They had him in a glass case; you could see his body.
DS: He was in the basement where?
EM: St. Peter’s.
DS: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church?
DS: St. Peter’s –
EM: The Apostle, at Fifth and Girard. Were you ever at it?
EM: Well, you ought to go down there. His body was put in the basement of St. Peter’s, and now it’s on display in a glass case. He was a very good priest. He was a very short priest, very small. I never saw him, but I remember that. They never had him on display, but now they do. A lot of people go up there to see that. That’s a beautiful church, St. Peter’s, Fifth and Girard. It’s a German church, a German Catholic church. I met good people up there. When I went up there, (unintelligible). It’s such a big difference from grammar school, going to a school up there. I didn’t know anybody. Mr. McGarvey used to take his son up there. He went to the grammar school up there, and he took another girl to another school, and he would take me.
DS: And you would have been going into 7th grade? (9:00)
EM: No, it would be high school.
DS: High school.
EM: High school, first year. First and second year. I used to be so lonesome in there. I met this girl, Pancoast, and she would take me over to her house at lunch time. [Her] mother was so good. She was a very good woman. In fact, when my brother was laid out, Peggy – Louise came down – I was surprised. I hadn’t seen her in a long time. She came down to see him laid out. I said to her, “Your mother —“. They were very good to me. She always would bring me a dessert, and rather than sit over in St. Peter’s yard, I got to know them very well. I thought it was very nice when she came to see my brother when he was laid out.
DS: Good friends.
EM: Oh, her mother was – as I said to Louise, “Your mother was a wonderful woman.” She was. A very good heart. They were German people. Fine people. I never met the father, but I’ll tell you about my cousins. They were buggers. We were up there one day, and they raised Cain.
DS: A bugger is a bad boy?
EM: A son-of-a-gun, like Peck’s bad boy. They raised Cain up there. Oh, I was wild up there. They brought their friend, Robert Daley. They used to go around. That was John Daley’s youngest brother.
DS: The priest?
EM: Yes. I would have never brought them, of course. They carried on high, you know.
DS: What would they do?
EM: Oh, I don’t know. Different things they did. Their last name was Pancoast, and (10:00) they’d call them like – they had a name for them, a funny name, you know. Pancoast. Well, it was an odd name for me, because I never had heard it before. I tell you, they were wonderful people. She was wonderful. I thought it was very kind of her to come down. My sister’s dead about 11 years now, and she [Mrs. Pancoast] came down to St. Joseph’s Church with her daughter. She must have seen it in the paper. Very nice, because –
[End of Interview]
©2005 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.