Jane Eiman

Jane and Bill Eiman's house, owned by a family named Brooklyn, at 239 Delancey Street, had previously been a blacksmith for horses that pulled delivery wagons for Abbotts Dairy. The first floor had been lowered to ground level so that horses could be driven in to be shod. When the Eimans bought the building in about 1961, the Ordile family owned it and 241 Delancey. It had not been used as a smithy for some time. The first time the Eimans saw the building, a Coca-Cola truck was parked inside, the upstairs spaces were residential, and a family had been living there recently.

They had to replace the entire façade: all the bricks, the windows, and the garage door that the smithy required. To get the windows correct, they copied those on 233 Delancey Street, which were original. Jane (1926-2015) and Bill used an architect and a contractor, but still did much of the work themselves.

Next door, at 235-237 Delancey, was an American Legion post that proved to be a difficult neighbor. They held practice drills that included much shooting of guns and hosted large, noisy parties with lots of drinking. Jim and Rachel Kise eventually purchased that property. Other neighbors included a brothel and a number of families that had lived in the neighborhood for decades.

Bill and Jane became involved with one of the neighborhood associations. When the two associations merged, Bill was elected the first president of the new association. Jane was asked to be a poll watcher for a primary and observed some of the behavior that gave the neighborhood the name "the Bloody Fifth Ward."


DS:      The date is June 5, 2007. This is an interview with Jane Eiman, E-I-M-A-N. The interview is being done at 116 Delancey Street by Dorothy Stevens.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS:      Jane, can you give me the address of your house?

JE:        We’re at 239 Delancey.

DS:      And that’s in Philadelphia 19106.

JE:        Right.

DS:      When did you come to Society Hill?

JE:        You know, I can’t remember. We think we moved in in ’62. We were married in ’58. We did another house over, and by the time we were finished with the other house, we thought, “Well, we really ought to think about doing this in Society Hill.” (1:00)

DS:      Why did you pick Society Hill? Where was your other house?

JE:        It was uptown, it was in the 2000 block of Addison, which backs onto Lombard. Uptown.

DS:      Then why did you pick Society Hill?

JE:        We just thought for the long pull – we wanted to live in the city – and for the long pull we thought this was going to be a better – not better, necessarily, but a more convenient neighborhood, a nicer place for families and things like that, than the other area that we were in, which was mostly apartments.

DS:      Bill worked – your husband Bill – worked in center city?

JE:        Yes.

DS:      At Smith Kline and French. This was convenient to work.

JE:        Yes.

DS:      And you worked?

JE:        I had stopped working at that point. (2:00)

DS:      What was the condition of the house and what’s the number of the house?

JE:        239 [Delancey].

DS:      And what was the condition of the house?

JE:        Somewhere – and I don’t know the date of it – I probably could find it for you – somewhere the house was owned by the Brooklyn family, who ran the blacksmith shop for Abbotts Dairies. The condition of the house was that the whole first floor had been leveled to ground level so you could drive the horses in to be shod.

DS:      Into your house?

JE:        Yes. And then –

DS:      It was a blacksmith’s?

JE:        Yes. Their name was Brooklyn. There were lots of Brooklyns around the neighborhood. I think there still are. I’m not sure about that, but there were at that time. We knew some of them.

DS:      Did they live in that building?

JE:        Yes. The second floor and the third floor and the fourth floor they lived in. There was a kitchen in the rear of the second floor. The whole – the house really had two (3:00) fifteen-foot square rooms on either side of the stairway that went back and forth, so that the rear of the second floor was a huge kitchen that would also be a dining room, a sitting room and all kinds of things. There was a stairway that went out from the back. They must have opened up one of the windows to make a door, so that you could take the stairs down into the back yard, for laundry and things like that.

DS:      But the whole first floor ….

JE:        The whole first floor had been gutted and the floor lowered to the street level.

DS:      This was blacksmithing for Abbotts.

JE:        Abbotts Dairies.

DS:      Abbotts’ horses?

JE:        Um hum. Yes. (4:00)

DS:      It’s wild! [Laughs] Was the house still being used in this way when you bought it?

JE:        The blacksmith shop was no longer in existence. I think the dairy – the horses were no longer over at Abbotts Dairies. I don’t know how long that had been, but there was a soft drink truck parked in there when we first saw the house. A big Coca Cola truck. Someone must have rented out that space.

DS:      But they were still living there?

JE:        There were families – there was a family living there. There must have been children, because the fourth floor had baseball cards pasted on the walls. [Laughs] Some little boy, I guess.

DS:      Did you buy it from the Redevelopment Authority, or did you buy it from (5:00) this family?

JE:        I honestly can’t remember. The family who owned, I think, at that point must have been Ordeal, Ordial, however you pronounce it – they were the same people that owned the Bullers’ house [next door at 241 Delancey Street].

DS:      Oh, they also owned your house?

JE:        I think so, but I’m really not that sure.

DS:      You can’t remember whether you bought it from them or the Redevelopment Authority?

JE:        No.

DS:      Would you have any memory of what you paid for it?

JE:        About ten thousand.

DS:      For how big of a lot is this?

JE:        Well, fifteen and one-half feet wide and forty….

DS:      Forty long? We’re eighty.

JE:        Then it was eighty. Yes, yes, it is eighty, because the garden – the house was forty (6:00) and the garden was forty.

DS:      OK.

JE:        We referred to the garden as the North Forty. [Laughs]

DS:      Did you do the restoration yourself?

JE:        No, we had a contractor do it. It was major. We opened up the basement….

DS:      There was a basement?

JE:        Well, there was originally. That had all been filled in when they turned it into a blacksmith shop. That all had to be excavated and the floor put back in where it was. It was not anything we could have done or even managed, I don’t think.

DS:      Do you remember the contractor who did it for you?

JE:        Pierre Sale was the contractor and John Sacksteder was the architect. The same one that did the Mears’s. (7:00)

DS:      Right. And did you have any difficulties? In the whole process?

JE:        No, I don’t think so.

DS:      Did it take a long time? I mean, are we talking a year, or less than a year?

JE:        I’m trying to remember when we started and when we moved in. It must have taken about a year total. I can’t remember when the contractor started, but I know that Bill and I were in there scraping paint –

DS:      You did some of the work!

JE:        – and that was in the winter. Then the following spring we moved in. It (8:00) must have started in the fall. We moved in, I think, close to Memorial Day.

DS:      It was finished when you moved in.

JE:        There was still a lot to be done.

DS:      A lot to be done.

JE:        The floors hadn’t been done. The painting was not done.

DS:      Was not done. You and Bill did the painting?

JE:        And had people do it. We did a lot of it. But the plumbing had all been put in. The kitchen was essentially done.

DS:      Did this not seem like an overwhelming job to the two of you?

JE:        No, I don’t know why. We had done a house before, so we had been through working with an architect and working with a builder, and so this was just more of the same. (9:00)

DS:      Do you have any memory of the cost of all this, approximately?

JE:        I think it was – gosh –

DS:      Just a ball park.

JE:        I think it was $35,000 to do it. I just remember that at the time, most of our friends were buying houses and having babies and all that kind of thing. We all had about the same amount of money in our houses. Which was interesting, I thought, because everybody thought it was so expensive to do what we were doing, but compared to what other people were doing, it was about the same.

DS:      About the same. I can remember going to cocktail parties, and that would be the source of everybody’s conversation. The plaster dust and the scraping – [Laughs] (10:00)

JE:        We had a party with rum punch one time, early on, and we always grated fresh nutmeg on the punch. Everybody who got their punch looked up to the ceiling to see what it was. [Laughs] The men, particularly. There were so many architects in the neighborhood.

DS:      Do you have any memory of the real estate taxes at the time?

JE:        No, not really. It was all part of the mortgage at that time.

DS:      Did the Redevelopment Authority put any specifications on you, restrictions?

JE:        Well, the color of the brick that we were using.

DS:      Was it new brick? (11:00)

JE:        Yes, we had to do – get new brick on the front of the house, because –

DS:      Because they had a garage door there?

JE:        Um hum, um hum.

DS:      You changed all the brick on the front?

JE:        Yes. We got a whole new brick front.

DS:      [The] Redevelopment [Agency] wanted to approve the color of it?

JE:        Yes, and I went up to the Redevelopment Authority carrying loads of brick. [Laughs] At that time, when you wanted brick samples, there must have been five or six bricks to show you the variation of color, and they were all bound and had a handle on them. They were heavy. I just remember _______ [Laughs]

DS:      Where was the Redevelopment Authority?

JE:        It must have been in City Hall at that point.

DS:      You took a bus there?

JE:        Um hum. [Laughs] Then when I did it, they said, “Oh, you didn’t have to do that.” You know, I thought, “What do you mean, I didn’t have to do that?” How are you (12:00) going to tell them apart if you don’t bring them.

DS:      Other specifications they – color of the paint?

JE:        There must have been, but it didn’t bother us. Whatever it was, it wasn’t –

DS:      A problem.

JE:        No. Everybody else was doing the same thing.

DS:      The windows. You had to change all the windows?

JE:        Yes, we did have to change – because at some time or another, I think probably when they made the first floor into the garage, they changed the whole front, and there were wide windows on each floor.

DS:      Large. Single.

JE:        Um hum.

DS:      You took those out and put back –

JE:        And put back what had been there originally.

DS:      How did you know what had been there originally?

JE:        Just by the other houses. Our house was built at the same time Maureen (13:00) Murdoch’s was built.

DS:      She was at what address?

JE:        She’s at 235, isn’t she? We’re 239. The Kises were 237-235. She’s 233.

DS:      233. What did you say? She had done the windows –

JE:        Well, she didn’t – hers were original.

DS:      You copied.

JE:        Um hum.

DS:      Did you make any – did you work with Jo Ann Buller and the house to your west?

JE:        No, because they came in after we did.

DS:      Your house and the front of her house were not meant to be twins, or –?

JE:        They were originally twins. They were all – and then there were two (14:00) houses where the American Legion is. There were five houses originally that were built the same way.

DS:      Where was the American Legion?

JE:        The American Legion is where the Kise house – what we call the Kise house, which is 237-235. 235 is the number they use.

DS:      That was an American Legion building, all one building.

JE:        Yes, that had been two homes, originally. Then they had been converted into an old ladies’ home, the two houses knocked together and made into an old ladies’ home, and then the American Legion bought that and re-did it. They had meeting rooms and what have you inside.

DS:      Were they there when you moved in?

JE:        The Legion?

DS:      Yes.

JE:        They were there.

DS:      They didn’t – nobody lived in the building. It was just for meetings and (15:00) activities?

JE:        I think there were many people who passed out and spent the night there [Laughs]. But that’s not really living. No, I think there were no bedrooms in there.

DS:      You could hear through the walls?

JE:        Oh God, yes. They rented the place out for parties. The whole block was throbbing sometimes. Then they used their back yard for parties, too. Originally, apparently, when it was an old ladies’ home, it was a beautiful, beautiful garden, and then when the Legionnaires took it over, they paved it all, and they used it for practicing and things like that. I woke up one day. I think it must have been Memorial Day or else it was the Fourth of July. They were out there with guns. Pow. Pow. Pow.

DS:      Shooting. Blanks.

JE:        I assume they were blanks. [Laughs] But I looked out and I got away from the (16:00) window. I thought they might take a shot at me, too. They weren’t very happy with me. [Laughs]

DS:      They were practicing their –

JE:        They were having some kind of a military display. There must have been eight of them, out there, in uniform. They shot up over the houses.

DS:      You say they weren’t happy with you?

JE:        Well, they were so noisy sometimes, it was really, really hard to have a conversation in the house, it was so wild over there. Yes, we were pretty unhappy with that. There were a lot of drunks that would be sitting on our doorstep.

DS:      The party –

JE:        The party would expand into the street, but mostly in the back yard. Music and dancing in the back yard. [Laughs] (17:00)

DS:      Did you think that maybe you had made a mistake?

JE:        No, I don’t think so. We knew they were going to go eventually. Actually, when they finally tore down the building, which wasn’t very long after we moved in – we didn’t suffer this for a long time – then they sued us for plaster damage to their building when we were doing our house over. They had no evidence. They had no pictures. They had nothing. They just sued us. The American Legion – I think the land – I don’t know how it is now – but that American Legion was privately owned. There were four men who owned it. I think they got from the city – I think they got $32,000, and then they sued us for (18:00) $8,000 worth of plaster damage. What they were trying to do was make it up to $40,000 so that each of them would get $10,000.

DS:      They sold it to the Redevelopment Authority?

JE:        Um hum.

DS:      Are any of those men still around?

JE:        I haven’t seen them for a long time, but at the time – they probably are. I don’t know how old they were when this all happened. I had to go down to the tax department one time. The IRS, I guess it was. A nice gal, who took all my information and so forth, and she said, “Were you next door to the American Legion?” I said, “Yes.” She said, (19:00) “I was one of the little kids who sat on our fire escape.” Used to throw things at the dog in our back yard. [Laughs] She didn’t say that. It really was kind of funny. Her father, I believe, was one of the owners of the Legion.

DS:      There was a fire escape on the back of the Legion building.

JE:        I think they probably had to have it, legally. Don’t you imagine? I don’t know, but they had rental rooms upstairs. Anyhow, there was something out back. I don’t know that we have any pictures. We used to have tape recordings of their parties. Well, if they were going to sue us for plaster damage, we had to have a little bit of recourse. [Laughs]

DS:      Strange. Then they sold that building to [the] Redevelopment [Authority], and [the] Redevelopment [Authority] sold it to the Kises, the Kise family. (20:00)

JE:        Um hum.

DS:      On the other side, where the Bullers now live, and that number is 237?

JE:        No, 241.

DS:      241. Was there anybody in that building?

JE:        Yes. Some of the Ordial family were in there.

DS:      Right.

JE:        You may remember Honest John. He was one of the Ordials, who lived down on American Street. There was an Ordial family down there, too. There were a lot of them around. But the old gal, I think it – I think the family that lived in there, I believe it was the mother of the man, and she used to sit in the upstairs window watching people go by – (21:00)

DS:      In the upstairs window?

JE:        Yes, upstairs. And he – he was – I think they started to do the house over, and he really wasn’t well at all. I don’t know whether you knew him. He died before they finished it, and that’s when the Bullers got it.

DS:      There was no trouble with that side? What was behind you, where the parking lot is now?

JE:        Well, there were – on Third Street, you had the Newbold house, and then there were two more houses, and then there was a parking lot; the parking lot was for the hospital.

DS:      Metropolitan.

JE:        Yes, Metropolitan. We had open space behind us.

DS:      Even then? (22:00)

JE:        Um hum.

DS:      That’s nice.

JE:        It really is. It made a big difference, I think, in everybody’s – in the light and air in your house, to have that open.

DS:      Did the Redevelopment [Authority] not insist that you put shutters on?

JE:        No, they don’t.

DS:      They didn’t.

JE:        And we never did.

DS:      Did the Murdoch home have shutters with hers? I can’t remember.

JE:        I have a feeling that she did, but I’m not sure. I’ll go down and look. It’s awful the way you notice and what you don’t notice. You get used to it and all that kind of stuff.

DS:      Yes. What other stories would you have about restoring the building, interactions with the – you were good friends with Bill and Deborah Newbold?

JE:        Ted.

DS:      Ted.     (23:00)

JE:        Yes.

DS:      He was working for the Redevelopment Authority. Right?

JE:        Yes, he was working in the area where, you know, they were trying to sell the houses. I mean, he didn’t have anything to do with the color of the bricks and that kind of thing.

DS:      No. Right. He didn’t have anything to do with the sale of your house.

JE:        No, we didn’t buy it from him. I’m sure we bought it from the family.

DS:      From the family.

JE:        I ought to – we can’t find any of those papers. I mean, Bill looked for them, that long ago. They are absolutely gone.

DS:      Any other stories about contractors or suppliers, while you were redoing the house? Did you have any trouble with people coming in and taking stuff during the night, or losing supplies?

JE:        Never. (24:00)

DS:      Any other stories about restoring that you can think of? Problems you ran into digging out the basement, or the back yard?

JE:        We never found anything. There were no coins [Laughs] between the floorboards.

DS:      No glasses?

JE:        I have one ceramic bottle that they found. It’s really kind of interesting looking. It must have been a vinegar bottle or something. That’s all we’ve ever found. There was nothing in the attic over the fourth floor, which we call the fourth floor. There was an attic above that. I think we found a pair of shoes up there. Nothing. No ink bottles. Nothing. [Laughs]

DS:      Any other stories about neighbors? Neighborhood associations. Now, (25:00) Bill was

JE:        I think Bill was the President of the first Society Hill –

DS:      SHARA?

JE:        No, not SHARA. SHARA was the organization before us. I can’t remember. I talked to Stanhope [Browne], who is also interested in this kind of stuff. I can’t remember the name of the woman who was head of SHARA; she lived in the house that Bill and Susan Schwartz live in. SHARA – they objected – what they did – they only wanted home owners in their organization. They didn’t want any renters in at all. Our civic association got rumbling, and there were so many people who were renters, apartment livers, that we all (26:00) thought should have a voice in what was going on. That’s how those two organizations got going, and then they merged.

DS:      And was Bill the first president?

JE:        I – he was the first president of the joint. I – he was part of the group that merged.

DS:      Oh.

JE:        He was the first president, I think.

DS:      This would have been in the 60s, early 60s.

JE:        Um hum.

DS:      Any stories about that? Problems that Bill had with that?

JE:        Not really. It was the same – Maureen Murdoch was really a great peace-maker on all that stuff. She – I think we had Maureen and – I can’t remember that lady’s name, it’s all gone – we had her over for dinner one night so we could just – and Maureen kept saying to her, “You ought to talk to these people, because they’re nice people, and – “ not us, (27:00) but the group in general, were nice. They wanted the neighborhood to be nice. It’s not to say they were bad at all.

DS:      But they did finally join.

JE:        Um hum. They merged.

DS:      Do you remember what SHARA stood for? S-H-A-R-A?

JE:        No, I don’t. We must have some paperwork from this, and Stan [Browne] wanted me to look it up, too. Bill just never, ever, threw anything away. Then you just have gobs of stuff. I have no idea where some of that stuff is. I know he didn’t throw it away. We may have it somewhere along the line.

DS:      What was the reaction of your family when you told them you were going to take on another house to restore and that you were moving to the Society Hill area?

JE:        Nothing. (28:00)

DS:      Nothing?

JE:        I think Bill’s brother probably thought we were nuts. But everything we did he thought we were nuts. [Laughs]

DS:      Is this an older brother?

JE:        I don’t know if you ever met Jack. He’s about a year older than Bill. They lived out in the suburbs and had a big family. That’s the way things were done, but my parents certainly didn’t care one way or another.

DS:      Where was your family from?

JE:        New Philadelphia, Ohio.

DS:      Oh. They thought this was perfectly fine?

JE:        I don’t think they understood at all. My family hadn’t done a house over themselves, so they were very much interested in the mechanics of it, but not to worry or anything like that. Bill’s mother was certainly very supportive.

DS:      Very supportive.

JE:        Um hum. Ruth. You remember Ruth Patrick? (29:00)

DS:      Yes.

JE:        She just had a fit.

DS:      Your aunt.

JE:        She isn’t my aunt. She’s my third cousin twice removed or something. [Laughs]

DS:      I thought she was your aunt.

JE:        No. I took her down there to see it, maybe just three or four weeks before we were going to move in. It was – you could go up the steps. She said, “Oh, Janie, isn’t this cute?” [Laughs]

DS:      [Laughs] Isn’t this cute?

JE:        Before that, she really pressured us to look in Chestnut Hill. It was the only place to live. Not too long ago she was in and had lunch. She said, “It’s really so nice here. You’re so lucky to have neighbors, close neighbors that you know.” And I (30:00) reminded her that she thought we were nuts when we did it. She said, “Well, we all make mistakes once in a while.” [Laughs]

DS:      [Laughs] She’s a doctor, no?

JE:        Ph.D. Yes, I guess she’s a Ph.D. I’ll never forget “cute.”

DS:      Yes. You think you do have boxes of stuff.

JE:        I really don’t know. I know there are photographs around someplace. I can’t tell you how many boxes of photographs we have. Stacks and stacks and stacks of the family. I just don’t know where that stuff is.

DS:      But you know it’s in your house somewhere.

JE:        Unless we tossed it somewhere along the way. The best picture we have, and I have no idea where it is, and we didn’t take it, and I don’t know anything about it, [is] when they were building the Pei houses [on Third Street between Locust and St. Joseph’s Way] and they did the foundations, then they did some of the (31:00) stone work, then they put the metal frames in for the doorways, and they were just sticking there, up in the air, nothing around them, no brick around them, they were just there, and it was at Christmas time, and somebody had put a wreath in there. We have a picture of that. It was just a wonderful picture, and I have no idea where it is.

DS:      But you still remember it.

JE:        I remember it, yes. Even contemporary. It was really amusing. Somebody – I don’t know who owned the house.

DS:      It’s a nice story. Any other stories that you and Bill – you raised a daughter in this neighborhood. Was there any problems with that?

JE:        No.

DS:      No. Jenny was born in – (32:00)

JE:        ’68.

DS:      1968. You had no problems raising her in the city?

JE:        No. At one point, when she was about 16, we had some friends that wanted to trade houses for a year. I can’t remember why they wanted to be in town for a year. Not permanently and all that kind of stuff. I thought, “Why that’s fine. Jenny would think that was fun.” I told her about this and she said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

DS:      Where would you be trading?

JE:        Gladwyne, or someplace like that. She was in school out there, and I thought she would have a good time.

DS:      But she didn’t want to move to the suburbs.

JE:        No. She didn’t want all those people, and she liked things the way they were. I was really thrilled that she felt that way. Of course, she’s really angling to move back here.

DS:      She wants to move back? (33:00)

JE:        Um hum. Well, they have to move. They can’t stay where they are forever. Nobody has enough money to put two kids in school in downtown New York. It’s just a monumental effort to do that, and inevitably they’re going to have to get someplace where there are schools and stuff like that. She said, “If we’re going to move, I’d just as soon move down here. If you have to take a commute,” she said, “you know, if we would move to Connecticut or northern New York or anything, it’s a long commute. No matter what you do.”

DS:      She would move back to Philadelphia and commute to New York?

JE:        Yes, he would. He’s not adverse to it. He really – he likes Philadelphia. He went to Wharton, and he likes it and all that kind of stuff, but nobody likes a commute. (34:00) You give up your kids, the evening business with your kids, which is really hard to do; but I just keep out of it. I figure it’s their decision, certainly not mine.

DS:      It’s nice to know that she has fond memories of growing up here –

JE:        Yes.

DS:      – and would want to live here again.

JE:        Yes. They like it. She has always said it’s so much more manageable, and to me you don’t realize how hard it is even to go to the laundry [in New York]. It is true, particularly with the kids. Well, she’d have to do that here: put your snowsuits on to go to the laundry, to go to the dry cleaners. [Laughs] But there, everything just seems uphill.

DS:      That’s a nice story. What was the social life like back in the beginning?

JE:        Oh, we knew absolutely everybody. Everybody had so much in common. (     35:00)

DS:      Because they all –

JE:        We were all doing the same thing. We were all worried about trash and all kinds of things. Some of the same problems.

DS:      And –

JE:        When did you move in?

DS:      We moved in –

JE:        Across the street from us.

DS:      Across the street, that was probably ’63, and we started building in’64.

JE:        It was right after we moved in.

DS:      Right. My earliest memory of the social life was that there were a lot of architects, right? A lot of people who were restoring houses and very serious about restoring houses. There were still a lot of people who were born and raised in this neighborhood. Did you interact with any of them? (36:00)

JE:        Oh, yes.

DS:      Can you tell me about some of them?

JE:        Well, my closest relationship with anybody was with Mrs. Mitkowsky, who was –

DS:      On American Street.

JE:        No, she was on Delancey, I guess, the second house in from the corner.

DS:      From Third –

JE:        From American. She was right in that strip with us.

DS:      All right.

JE:        I don’t know how we got to know each other, except that Mrs. Mitkowsky cleaned offices, and I was often going up to get Bill at the time she was leaving. I started taking her up with me on the way. We got to be friends from that. (37:00)

DS:      She’d be going to work at 5 o’clock, and –

JE:        And I was going up to pick up Bill.

DS:      I see. She was going uptown to clean up office buildings.

JE:        Um hum.

DS:      Did she have a family.

JE:        Yes, but they were all grown and away. I got to know their daughter, too. And her granddaughters would come to visit, and things like that. She was a really nice, nice lady; she belonged to the Ukrainian church on Pine.

DS:      Active?

JE:        Um hum. I saw her out on the roof one day.

DS:      Doing what?

JE:        I can’t remember the name. There was a roofer around who was a familiar name to everybody at that time, and she knew him, and she wanted him to come and look at something. She overheard him say to somebody else, “How am I going to charge an (38:00) old lady like that?” And she was miffed, so she did it herself. She took a pot of tar out on the roof and –

DS:      She repaired the roof herself.

JE:        Well, I simply couldn’t believe it. She really was a tough old bird. You know, not particularly agile on her feet and so forth. Couldn’t believe she’d get out there and do it herself.

DS:      She must have been in her 50s? 60s?

JE:        Oh, it’s so hard to know. I think she was probably, maybe 60s.

DS:      Anybody else?

JE:        Well, the Smiths across the street. They walked my dog; took care of the dog.

DS:      The Smiths?

JE:        Mikey is there now, and Kay is still there. Her husband was a really (39:00 ) nice man.

DS:      You’re saying Schmidt?

JE:        Yes.

DS:      S-C-H –

JE:        Kay has always called herself Smith.

DS:      Smith.

JE:        Yes, and her husband’s name was Schmidt. I think what happened, really, was during the war the kids got teased about being Germans, and the boys, the two older boys, officially changed their name to Smith. Kay’s name is officially Smith. Mikey, I don’t know why, he maintained the Schmidt.

DS:      There are three sons. You became friendly with her, with the family?

JE:        With the family more than with Kay. The boys took care of our dogs when we went away. Mike, the father, was a wonderful guy, and he and Bill traded tools and stuff like that.

DS:      What was their address? (40:00)

JE:        I think it’s 246.

DS:      246.

JE:        Um hum.

DS:      What did he do, Schmidt, for a living?

JE:        I’m really not sure. A laboring job.

DS:      A labor job.

JE:        Um hum. Kay was raised on the street.

DS:      She was born and raised on the street?

JE:        On Delancey. They moved – I think they bought that house shortly after they were married. They moved back – moved to that house.

DS:      Who else? That you interacted with? (41:00)

JE:        Those are really the only two that we had – the Goldoskys, across the street, we knew.

DS:      Say it again?

JE:        Goldosky. G-O-L-D-O-S-K-Y I think it is. Goldosky. They – you just knew them, because they were all out on the street at the same time you were out on the street. When we planted a tree, they all came out, brought out their chairs and watched. [Laughs]

DS:      [Laughs]

JE:        Then they wanted to know how much the tree cost. I think we paid $10 for the tree. They couldn’t believe it. “Where’d you get a big tree for $10?” They could get a big tree for $10. Then shortly after that the city came along and put the trees in. [Laughs] There was – I don’t know the names of the people that lived – the Reardons were there – (42:00) next door to the Reardons?

DS:      The Reardons were across the street from you, next to Drinker’s Court.

JE:        [Indecipherable] yes, um hum. Then there was a house there that had – I don’t know what was going on in the house, but a lot of men coming in at all hours of the day and night.

DS:      In Drinker’s Court area?

JE:        No. Two doors away from it.

DS:      There was Drinker’s Court, and the Reardons, and then the house that you said people were coming and going in?

JE:        Yes.

DS:      We’re going east on the block.

JE:        Yes.

DS:      On the south side.

JE:        Yes. Frank Roberts needed more details of that than I did. I think he took notes. [Laughs] Some of the young policemen were some of the “guests”. Then one time, there were about three or four large police cars with lots of brass – police brass – getting (43:00) out of the cars. That was the last time we ever saw policemen around.

DS:      Interesting. This was in the ‘60s.

JE:        Yes. There was a couple that moved into your house, I think, after you. I can’t remember their names.

DS:      240 Delancey you’re talking about?

JE:        Yes.

DS:      Yes, we rented that property from Joe Ottaviano.

JE:        Then there was another family that came in after you. I think they did a house over here on Pine Street, two or three houses in from the corner. I can’t remember their names.

DS:      Did they buy it?

JE:        They may have. I don’t remember. They had a really nice little girl, who was probably about ten or eleven. She used to go down there to that house. (44:00)

DS:      The little girl used to go down to what house?

JE:        [very softly] To the [house of ill repute].

DS:      To the [house of ill repute]. OK. [Laughs]

JE:        Because there was a young – about a sixteen-year-old who was part of the business, I guess. I remember one day I marched over and said, “You really shouldn’t let her go over.” She didn’t like being told anything like that.

DS:      Lives were intertwined?

JE:        Yes. I hope you’re going to edit this thing. [Laughs] Or forget all the stuff I’m telling you. Frank can give you the details. I’ve heard him talk eloquently about it.

DS:      Any other –

JE:        I can’t think of anybody else on the street.

DS:      Some of the residents have told me about stores that were on the corner of Third and Delancey. Were they still there when you moved in? (45:00)

JE:        Just barely. I think they moved out fairly soon after that. There was a little grocery store over on Fourth Street, sort of on the west side and a little bit north of the Hill-Keith-Physick House.

DS:      You went there to do some grocery shopping?

JE:        No. They had just a very few things in there, but if you were desperate, everything else was closed, you could get a can of peaches or a can of tomatoes or something.

DS:      Where did you do your shopping?

JE:        We went down to south Philadelphia. (46:00)

DS:      Oregon Avenue, where the old A&P, the Acme used to be?

JE:        Yes.

DS:      In the neighborhood, there really were just these little shops?

JE:        There were some things on South Street that I think we all used. There was a fish man on South Street, and there was a place where you could get butter. There were some fruit stands, but not so much. We were delighted when the A&P moved in.

DS:      Yes, we all were.

JE:        I was up at the A&P about a year ago, and there was a man in there trying to either get them closed down or something, because they didn’t always have all the things that were in A&P ads – the SuperFresh ads. I just couldn’t believe that anybody would –(47:00)

[End of side one of tape]

[Beginning of side two of tape.]

JE:        – early. It must have been maybe ’65, 4 or 5. They’d asked me to be a watcher. Then when I got over there, they were short of one of the people that sits inside. They asked me to come in and do that, and I was going to get paid for it. I would prefer to sit down rather than stand up all day, so I took the job. It was just absolutely amazing. One man particularly I remember. He came in, and he said to the guys who were manning the booths, he said, “Why don’t you pay me now, and I’ll go get a sandwich and sober up, and I’ll come back and vote later?” There I sat.

DS:      [Laughs] Did they do it? (1:00)

JE:        Yes. They gave him money. He left. And everybody else – whenever anybody came in to vote, that wasn’t like me, they would take ‘em out, slap ‘em on the back, and a handshake, and they’d pay them for their votes.

DS:      Pay them for their votes.

JE:        Unbelievable.

DS:      Some of our neighbors were very involved in politics, right? I mean, people who were original?

JE:        Oh, yes.

DS:      A lot of Republicans?

JE:        I honestly don’t remember. I just remember that it was a primary when I was there, and I might say I never was invited back again after being there. People would come in, and they didn’t have their glasses on. Somebody would step in and vote for them, that kind of stuff, and I objected. Then the Committee of Seventy or somebody came down, because my objection had gotten up to the office. So that’s why I was not invited back. (2:00) There wasn’t much you could do about it, you know. [Laughs] There was one other tidbit, but I can’t remember what it was.

[End of interview.]


© 2007 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
116 Delancey Street
Interview Date
June 5, 2007
Eiman, Jane
Narrator Type
Redeveloper - Restoration
Oral History Sources