Leonard Cutler’s grandfather, Hyman Cutler, founded the family business, in 1898 after immigrating from Ukraine. Initially located on S. Fourth Street, the business moved in 1929 to 115 Pine Street, and over the years it expanded to include 117 and 119 Pine Street and 112 Delancey Street. In 1959 the Redevelopment Authority took the buildings by eminent domain, and the business moved to North Central Philadelphia. Because of alterations made to the buildings to accommodate business needs (refrigerators, freezers, elevators, garages, breaking rooms, offices) they could not be restored but were demolished, creating vacant lots on which new houses were built. The business on Pine Street was called Cutler Dairy Products, later changed to Cutler Egg Products. It bought fresh eggs from nearby farms, shelled them, packaged them and sold them to bakeries, either whole or separated, refrigerated or frozen. It also made sour cream and cheese. Most of the employees were Cutler family members (four generations), but later they also hired people from nearby neighborhoods. Leonard describes the unsanitary conditions of the whole market area; the luncheonettes and restaurants where they had lunch during the workweek; and the businesses that were located near them on Pine and Delancey Streets, very close to the Dock Street market: wholesale groceries; a chicken feed company, many poultry companies, wholesale butter and egg businesses, cold storage companies, whitefish and salmon smokers, banana importers, and tomato packagers.
CE: This is an interview with Leonard Cutler and Joel Cutler, who are cousins. (0:00) The date is September 12, 2008. The location is 191 Presidential Boulevard, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. I am Cynthia Eiseman.
Leonard, what is the name of the family business that was located in Society Hill?
LC: Cutler Dairy Products, Inc.
CE: And when was it founded?
LC: My grandfather founded the business when he came over from Europe (1:00) in 1898.
CE: And what was your grandfather’s name?
LC: Hyman Cutler.
CE: And where did he come from?
LC: The Ukraine, Russia, via England.
CE: And where was the business located?
LC: Originally, it was located at 613 S. Fourth Street.
CE: Six thirteen S. Fourth? And was it always at that location?
LC: At the beginning, that’s where it originated. But then it moved to 115 Pine Street, in later years.
CE: I’m sorry, what year did you say it was founded?
LC: Eighteen ninety-eight.
CE: So it was at 613 S. Fourth Street and then it moved to Pine Street. Do you remember what year?
LC: In 1929. Originally, at 613 S. Fourth Street, it was a retail store. We had (2:00) a butter and egg retail store, and we just called it Cutler Butter and Eggs.
CE: And then when it moved to Pine Street it became…?
LC: Cutler Dairy Products. We started to manufacture sour cream, cream cheese, baker’s cheese. And that’s why we changed the name to Cutler Dairy.
CE: I see. In these two locations, the Fourth Street and the Pine Street locations, did the business own the properties or did they lease them?
LC: The business owned the properties.
CE: OK, describe to me in a little more detail what the two businesses did. The first one and then the second one.
LC: Originally, on Fourth Street, my grandfather had the horse and wagon, and he would take the butter and eggs and cheese from the store and distribute it to the (3:00) people in the neighborhood. His wife and children tended the store. Besides having the retail store, where customers had the privilege of coming in. He also carried poultry. In later years, a few years after 1898, he bought the property next door, and he opened that up as a poultry and fish market. But he didn’t distribute that wholesale. He just had that as a retail end of the business. He died in 1928, and the property was sold.
CE: So when did he move to Pine Street?
LC: Before he moved to Pine Street, my father came over from Russia in 1914.
CE: What was your father’s name?
LC: Charles. He moved in with my grandfather, but this becomes very (4:00) complicated, because he moved in. He moved in with his uncle.
CE: And what was his uncle’s name?
LC: Hyman Cutler.
CE: That’s your grandfather’s name?
LC: That’s my grandfather’s name.
CE: [Laughs.] I see why it’s complicated. OK. How do you spell Hyman?
LC: What happened, was, if I may explain….
CE: Sure. Please
LC: He came here as a young man of about 16.
CE: This is your father.
LC: Yes. He landed at South Street. He didn’t go to Ellis Island. I think there was a port on Delaware Avenue and South Street, where ships came in in those days. He went right to his uncle’s house, at Fourth Street, and lived with the family. My (5:00) grandfather had five siblings, three girls and two boys. After four or five years and starting in business with Hyman, he fell in love with one of the daughters, by the name of Claire, and in 1923, he married her.
CE: Was she a cousin?
LC: She was a first cousin.
LC: [Laughs.] That’s very unusual.
CE: Just had to know. [Laughs.] So they got married, and was he working in the business at that point? (6:00)
LC: He was in the business part time, but he also started as a paper-hanger in between.
CE: Now, when did you start working?
LC: I came out of the service in 1945. I was discharged from the service. And then I went into the business. By that time, my grandfather and father had passed on, and my two uncles (my mother’s brothers) had been working for my father. So the two of them ran the business on Pine Street.
JC: There was Bill and Abe, and then their sister Ray Cutler joined them. (7:00)
CE: So you went to work in the business when you got out of the Army.
CE: I want to hear about that, but before we get to that, did you live in the neighborhood?
LC: No, we lived in southwest Philadelphia.
CE: So the family all lived elsewhere and came in to the business – the ones who worked there.
LC: In 1925 or ’26, I’m not sure what year it was, the business on Fourth Street was sold. Actually, I think it was1928, because that was the year my grandfather, Hyman Cutler, passed away.
CE: So that business was sold and you said in 1931 it moved to Pine Street.
LC: Well, in retrospect, it must have been in ’29, after the stores were sold. (8:00)
CE: All right, so we are now in the middle ‘40s, the business is on Pine Street, and you’re working there. Can you describe the building or buildings the business occupied? I know you have pictures, but remember we’re talking on tape and the people who are listening to the tape can’t see the pictures.
LC: Well, there were awnings. They were converted houses.
CE: There was more than one building?
LC: Originally, there was only the one building at 115 Pine Street. In 1933, 113 Pine Street was acquired, and they broke through a small opening just to have more room for storage. Then in 1947, they acquired the building on the other side, 117 Pine Street. (9:00)
CE: And did the same thing? Broke through?
LC: They thoroughly broke through.
CE: You say they were houses. They were multiple-story, three or four stories with basements.
LC: That is correct. With an attic for the fourth story.
JC: I remember.
CE: How was the space used inside? Tell me what went on.
LC: Well, the buildings were originally, 115 Pine Street, the original building, was gutted and an elevator was installed in the middle of the building, where they had the second floor as a breaking room, where they broke eggs. On the (10:00) third floor, the elevator went up to the third floor where there was a storage area. And then in the basement they had refrigeration equipment, for the coolers and the freezer that were on the first floor.
CE: And what happened on the first floor?
LC: First floor was also the office.
JC: And the coolers and the freezer.
LC: The coolers and the freezer were on the first floor.
CE: And as the business expanded into these other buildings, what went on in those buildings?
LC: Well, the building on the west end, 117 Pine Street, became a garage. Three quarters of the building was a garage. And then also, right after the garage, in the (11:00) building, another cooler and freezer were installed. So we had more room to freeze product.
CE: The garage was for trucks?
LC: For trucks, mainly loading and unloading.
CE: Talk a little more about the business, about the egg breaking, and what happened. Where did the eggs come from? What did you do with them when they arrived? And then how did you distribute them?
LC: Well, before that I’d like to tell you about the sour cream.
CE: Oh, OK!
LC: We started to manufacture sour cream, and Abraham Cutler went to Penn State University for a course in manufacturing sour cream. Then, that was in the early ‘30s, 1933. We do have the pictures of four or five panel trucks – the picture was taken in 1934. (12:00)
JC: That’s this one.
LC: These trucks are International Trucks for the year 1934. Anybody would recognize the model.
JC: This was in ’58. I remember that car. That was a ’58 Chevy.
LC: But the building was built –
JC: The building was – that’s the garage.
LC: It’s got to be ’57, or early ’58. In ‘58 we moved over to 612 Sedgley Avenue.
CE: We’re getting there. So you made sour cream for a while?
LC: We manufactured sour cream for a while, right there at 115 Pine Street, using the coolers and freezers in 117 Pine Street for storage. Then we slowly expanded (13:00) into the egg – shelled egg – business. That meant breaking eggs from the producers in Lancaster, Vineland area.
JC: Pick up the eggs.
LC: We would have our trucks pick up from the producers in these areas.
CE: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Vineland, New Jersey?
LC: Yes. In those days, Vineland, NJ, was a very large egg-producing area. And when we – when the trucks brought the eggs into the plant, they would be broken by hand, with six or eight female people, working at tables, breaking the eggs right out of the cases, strained, put into cans, frozen and sold to the bakeries. (14:00)
CE: Oh, so it was a wholesale?
LC: It was all wholesale. The retail end was gone after South Street.
CE: So at that point, do you remember how many people the company employed?
LC: Well, first, it was all family there, and I would say maybe seven or eight employees.
CE: Including the women who broke the eggs?
LC: I would extend that to about a dozen with the women.
CE: And they were all family members?
CE: Who were they? Where did they come from?
LC: From the neighborhood. Labor was very easy – available in that neighborhood.
CE: We have learned from conversations with other people who lived in the (15:00) neighborhood at that time, that there were what was called chicken houses, and woman in the neighborhood, after they got their kids off to school in the morning, would go and work in the chicken houses during the day and pluck the chickens and dress them and so forth.
JC: Right down the street.
LC: That is true. That was right on the same side of the street. I could describe it to you. You could see part of it in this picture.
JC: In this one, definitely.
LC: This picture has an even better access.
CE: Those were the chicken houses?
LC: Yes. What they were – they were originally houses that were converted into kosher chicken houses where the chickens were slaughtered. At the end of the work week, on Friday afternoon, all the feathers and all the – I guess the droppings, whatever there was
CE: The waste. (16:00)
LC: The waste of those chickens that were slaughtered during the week from Monday to Friday – there was no incinerator or anything – the owners would throw the trash in the street, and then Friday afternoon a city truck would come by and pick up all the –
JC: The odor.
LC: – and the odor was impressive, from the accumulation all week without any refrigeration.
CE: So it accumulated all week. That must have been really nice in August!
LC: Beautiful odor on Friday. At least during the week it was kept in their building. Across the street, at the corner of Front and Pine, was a very large poultry house called Quaker City Poultry Company, and Nat Pollin was the owner of that. He had a (17:00) very big business of bringing in live chickens from Delaware and Maryland, and they would slaughter them there. But they wouldn’t be used as the kosher ones were used – they weren’t sliced up as the ones that were done on the side of the street where we were. There was no odor – what I’m trying to say is there was no trash. (Laughs)
CE: You say his name was – ?
LC: Nat Pollin. Quaker City Poultry.
CE: Good, that’s good to know.
LC: Next door to him was Belofsky Granoff, a fish house.
CE: That was a restaurant?
LC: No, it was a wholesale – smoked fish – smoking house, whitefish – (18:00)
JC: I remember that, “B&G”.
LC: B&G, Belofsky and Granoff. They were two partners.
CE: Fish smoking. That must have smelled good, too.
LC: Everything was relative. They processed in their building. There was no waste thrown out.
CE: There was your grandfather, your father, your uncles.
LC: My grandfather and his two sons.
CE: And yourself.
LC: No, this was early on.
CE: I’m just trying to find out how many generations of your family worked in the business.
LC: We had four generations.
CE: You did.
LC: My grandfather, my father, and myself and a cousin, Coleman, who had two sons.
CE: Now, what did you do? (19:00)
LC: I was at the very beginning on Pine Street, I would go out with one of the panel trucks with the driver salesmen, and we’d go to the Salers dairy stores and other butter and egg stores and sell the cheese and the sour cream and various items.
CE: And did you work in the egg part of the business?
LC: Not early on. I was still in school at that time. I didn’t go out, actually physically, into the business until after I returned from the war in 1945.
LC: When we expanded our business on Pine Street.
CE: Tell me about the expansion.
LC: It was very interesting, in 1948, when we broke through to 117 Pine Street, we acquired – there was an ad in the newspaper – I don’t know whether it was the Philadelphia Ledger or the Inquirer or the Bulletin – there was a sheriff’s (20:00) sale for a building at 112 Delancey Street. A sheriff’s sale. And we bought that property – that house – because it extended through to the 117 Pine St. building – and we bought that for the amazing total price of $1200. [Sound of clock chiming.] Believe it or not. Check the records.
CE: I just want you to repeat that number for the tape, since the clock rang.
LC: All right. In 1948, there was a sheriff’s sale advertised in the Philadelphia paper, for a building at 112 Delancey Street, and we acquired that building at sheriff’s sale for $1200 back taxes. (21:00)
LC: Today I’m sure it’s worth a couple million.
CE: I’m sure it is. OK, you were going to say something, Joel?
JC: Didn’t you break through to go into that building, too?
LC: Yes, we broke through. That’s why we acquired it., because it went through to the building at 117 [Pine Street]. We were doing more and more business and required more room, so we bought that, not for speculation or not for rehabbing it.
CE: Well, that was a little bit before Redevelopment.
LC: Yes, but I do remember when the Redevelopment authorities came in and went over the history of that building, they said it was a very, very Colonial and had (22:00) history – a Colonial building, and a prominent family once lived there.
CE: So you expanded the business by enlarging what you were already doing or adding additional activities?
LC: By enlarging – we were expanding our egg business. And by the way, we expanded making sour cream – manufacturing sour cream and butter, and when these trucks went in and brought the shell eggs in for breaking purposes, we changed the name from Cutler Dairy Products to Cutler Egg Products.
CE: That’s the name that Joel told me. And all this time your family lived in other parts of the city. You did not live in that neighborhood. (23:00)
LC: None of us did.
CE: I’m interested in knowing when the business left Society Hill. You can tell me about that now, but if you want to tell me what happened between the time you bought 112 Delancey and when you left, I’d be interested in that, too.
LC: I’d like to talk more about Delancey Street.
LC: Across the street, on the east end of Delancey Street, was Weinfeld Wholesale Grocery.
CE: Now, wait a second. Delancey runs east-west.
LC: So south.
CE: And 112 would be on the south side. The even numbers are on the south side. (24:00)
LC: The north side.
CE: So the north side was –
LC: Weinfeld Wholesale Grocery. He had about four properties. And right after Delancey Street, I guess it would be south [Actually, it is north of Delancey Street.], was Dock Street. So his property went right through to Dock Street.
CE: Right, which is where the produce distribution center was.
LC: And also on Delancey Street there was, next to us going toward Front Street, a company called Segal Feed Company, chicken feed. They didn’t slaughter the chickens; they just had the different ingredients for chicken feed and manufactured feed products. Segals. They were very large at that time.
CE: Were most of the – it sounds to me from the names that you mentioned – most of the business owners were Jewish. Is that right? (25:00)
LC: Eighty-five percent or maybe even 95%.
CE: Why do you think that was?
LC: I can’t answer that, but I think that Philadelphia had certain areas. Down in South Philadelphia was the Italian area, and that’s my understanding. Different areas had different denominations – there were Polish people down further south towards Delaware Avenue and Oregon Avenue. There were different religious groups. And they all stuck together.
JC: All the Jews stuck together.
LC: Everybody. The Italians on Ninth Street.
CE: The Italians, African-Americans, everybody. Other things about Delancey Street? (26:00)
LC: The whole area was unsanitary. There was no sanitation requirements from the Health Department in those days. In the summer time the flies were all over the place. It was infested with different flies and so forth.
- Rats. Exactly.
JC: I remember as a kid, my father would tell me – or maybe my mother told me – he would catch some of these rats. They’d be flying in the garage and he’d grab them, catch them alive and kill them. I’m sorry to say that. (27:00)
CE: Well, if that’s what life was like in the neighborhood, that’s what we want to know. [Laughs.]
LC: And on Pine Street, aside from Belofsky and Granoff, the poultry company, Quaker City, there was another wholesale grocer called Mersky. Close to Second Street. Oh, one thing I must tell you about Second and Pine, there was the Headhouse. On the corner was a stand. Louie we used to call him; it was his first name. I don’t recall his last name. He had a stand that would sell cigarettes and cigars. I remember as if it were today. People would come up and buy one cigarette for a penny. (28:00)
JC: One cigarette for a penny?
LC: A pack of cigarettes was 15 cents, but if you bought it individually – there were 20 cigarettes to the pack, in those days. I don’t what it is now. I don’t smoke. I don’t know what’s in them.
JC: For a penny, there’s no way I could have told you this, Cynthia.
CE: This is great!
LC: I was just a kid. I remember. I was just out of the war; I must have been about 23. And I was smoking. I’d go down to Louie’s and get a cigarette. My cousin Coleman and I would come. We’d each get a cigarette. We didn’t have the 15 cents for a pack of Camels.
CE: Any other stories about what went on in the neighborhood?
LC: Well, Ben Agre had a butter and egg wholesale business, on the same (29:00) side of the street as us on Pine Street. And next door to him was the marine handling company; it was like a wholesale brokerage. They would buy food and sell it to the steamship companies. They were at 123 or 121 Pine Street.
CE: Were the streets paved?
LC: On Pine Street they were, but on Front Street and on Delancey Street, they were cobblestones.
CE: Oh, they were.
LC: Yes. There was Quaker City Cold Storage Company that was between Front Street and Delaware Avenue. I forget the name of the street there, maybe Fitzwater. They had a very large warehouse called Quaker City Cold Storage Company. I think people – the Wilson brothers owned it. (30:00)
CE: Did you ever go down to the river?
CE: For any purpose.
LC: Just in the truck. No, we never walked there. Just passing in the truck, delivering, coming and going from the plant.
CE: But never for any recreational purpose.
JC: I don’t think there was anything there, was it?
LC: First of all, I should say that we did go down to the river in the summertime to catch a ferry. At Market Street. There was a Market Street ferry, and that would take us over to Camden, where the railroad, I think it was Seashore Railroad, would take us to Atlantic City. I think we used to go on the five o’clock train. My father had a summer place; so after work he would commute – I didn’t but he did – to Atlantic City by way of (31:00) the Market Street Ferry to Camden and then catch the railroad. My mother would pick him up in Atlantic City at the railroad station.
CE: So the business moved out of Society Hill in –
LC: In 1959. You said ’59, but I thought it was ’58.
JC: We moved out in ’59.
LC: We built the building in – we meaning – my father had passed away, but Bill and Abe, the two brothers, Joel’s father Bill and Abe, his brother. They built the building at 612 Sedgley – bought a lot, not a building, excuse me, bought a piece of ground from the Pennsylvania Railroad at that time, at 612 W. Sedgley Avenue. It was around (32:00) 3400 North Sixth Street. At that time the family all lived in Elkins Park or Melrose Park, the northern end of town. Most of the people, as you probably know, Cynthia, from Dock Street, they all went down to the Food Center. We decided that from Elkins Park to the Food Center was too long to travel. We had the opportunity of buying the piece of ground at Front and Packer, I believe; there was a building right there. We had first choice of that, but we declined because we wanted it a bit closer. We didn’t want to travel up and back.
CE: You wanted to have a shorter commute.
LC: A shorter commute. That is correct.
CE: So tell me what prompted the business to move.
LC: Oh, we were forced. Mayor Dilworth – I don’t recall what it was. A law (33:00) was passed that Society Hill was being formed, and we were going to be compensated for our properties. And we had to move out. And preferably they wanted us all to move – we’d get a good deal down at the food center at Front and Packer.
CE: So it was directly as a result of the redevelopment.
LC: Immediately. Everybody had to get out. Dock Street moved, Delancey Street, the fruit people. And by that time, the kosher butchers, I think the Health Department was getting stricter. They all disappeared under one roof.
CE: So, the business moved out of the neighborhood, and you all had a (34:00) shorter commute. You said that the city government told you that you would be compensated for the property. For the buildings.
LC: For the property. Now I will tell you that we received for 112 Delancey, 113 Pine, 115 Pine, and 117 Pine the total amount of $90,000, which in those days was a lot of money.
LC: And with that money we were able to buy the ground and build at 612 Sedgley Avenue.
CE: So you thought at the time that it was a fair price.
LC: A fair price, oh, yes. We thought we were getting a nice price.
CE: Well, that’s good!
LC: They had no argument from us. And as I was telling you, we were (35:00) expanding. Each few years we bought another property. The business was very lucrative, and there was nobody doing any egg-breaking – of any amount. There were a few people, a few individuals that might have been handling a few cases of eggs, breaking them by themselves, but not with any volume. So it worked out well for us to move our location.
JC: We have bigger facilities.
CE: More modern. Was there more automation?
JC: Yes, absolutely.
LC: But when we first moved over to Sedgley Avenue, we still did the hand breaking. We didn’t bring in the breaking machines until – I’ll never forget the first breaking machines came the day John Kennedy was shot.
CE: Oh, for heaven’s sake.
JC: That’s how we know.
LC: I’ll never forget. It was on a Friday afternoon. We had two new egg-breaking machines installed. (36:00)
JC: Was it November 22 nd or whatever it was? 23 rd?
CE: Well, we all remember where we were when John Kennedy was shot, and you – that’s a very interesting story.
JC: Yes, we were installing those machines.
LC: That’s right. It was a Friday afternoon.
CE: When the business was still in Society Hill, what changes if any do you remember seeing to the neighborhood during the time you were there?
LC: It was really no advancement, no changes, in this particular area. Now, there was a South Philadelphia National Bank at the corner of Second and Pine, which changed its name, I think, to Central Penn. There was a Peter Lumber Company, I believe, (37:00) that expanded between Second and Third on Pine Street. Also Nardon Paper Box Co. There wasn’t any real, in my recollection, changes, improvements. With the exception of getting rid of [Laughs.] –
CE: The chicken entrails? [Laughs.]
LC: That’s exactly right.
CE: Tell me about the relationships you had with the other businesses in the neighborhood. Did you – ?
LC: Very, very friendly. We would barter. We would give them sour cream. Across the street, for example, Belovsky and Granoff, they had smoked whitefish and (38:00) salmon. We would trade with them. We would give them sour cream and butter for their smoked fish. We were very friendly with Nat Pollin. Of course, we didn’t have anything to do with the chicken business, and also on Delancey Street where Segal had his feed house, my father and he were extremely friendly. There was all harmony, wanted to help each other. It was a very close-knit area.
CE: When you were in business there, where did you eat your lunch?
LC: We would get in the car and go over to either South Street, at Kellem’s at Fourth and South. Chickie Kellem was the son. Mr. Kellem, the old father, would stand by the cash register and collect the money. He didn’t speak much English, but he would watch. And also –
CE: Is that K-E-L-L-A-M? (39:00)
LC: K-E-L-L-E-M. Kellem’s Delicatessen or Luncheonette. We had various places. We would go over to Sixth Street, Sixth and Lombard, I believe it was, to Levis’s Hot Dogs.. L-E-V-I-S. We’d get a hot dog and a Champ Soda.
JC: Wasn’t there a diner?
LC: There was a very popular place. It’s still there. It was just acquired a year or two ago.
CE: The Famous.
LC: The Famous Delicatessen.
CE: Fourth and Bainbridge.
LC: Auspitz. Auspitz was the owner, but I think he sold out.
CE: Yes, he has. Excuse me, Joel, you remember Kellem’s. You purred or something.
JC: Not Kellem’s, but there was a diner that Uncle Joe used to –
LC: Excuse me, excuse me for interrupting, but he might be referring to Market Street, that had H & H, Horn & Hardart, at Second and Market. (40:00)
JC: They had the automat.
LC: Yes, the automat, and also Third and Market, the automat. So we had four – oh, at Second and Spruce, there was a nice restaurant. We had our choice.
CE: Second and Spruce?
LC: It was a restaurant, very, very fine people, very successful restaurant. We’d have lunch there. It’s only a block and a half away. We’d walk over there. Kellem’s and Famous and Levis’s we’d have to drive.
CE: Joel, you remember Levis’s?
JC: Um hum.
CE: Fondly, obviously [Laughs.]. OK.
JC: I was just a little kid at the time.
LC: I wasn’t much older. (41:00)
CE: So the business was sold for $90,000 – for the properties in Society Hill.
LC: Yes. All the properties.
CE: And you were happy about that.
LC: Yes, and while we were rehabbing a few years before leaving, I guess it was ’49 or ’50, we really did a wonderful job of tearing down a lot of the inside that was neglected in prior years, putting in concrete floors, a new sewage system. We put a lot of – we modernized the inside of Pine Street.
CE: Not realizing, of course, that you were going to be moving.
LC: At the beginning, you know, I guess Mayor Dilworth talked about it for a year or two prior to moving, maybe three years. We were very upset, not upset, concerned, (42:00) because of the improvements we had put in. We didn’t know what kind of money we would be getting for the properties. But once we received the money, we were satisfied to move on.
CE: So you moved up to –
LC: Six twelve to 630 West Sedgley.
CE: Which is what neighborhood?
JC: North Central Philadelphia.
LC: Between Allegheny and Erie, 3400 North.
JC: Not far from Temple.
LC: It’s very close to Temple.
CE: And did you ever see any of your friends from the old neighborhood after that, the other business owners?
LC: No, they disappeared. They either went out of business or moved down to the food distribution center – well, Levin, Levin was the banana people. They were very large on Dock Street. (43:00)
LC: Levin Brothers. My father was very friendly with their family.
JC: I went to camp with his son.
LC: Then there was the tomato people, Dickter and Sons. Tomatoes. They packaged tomatoes and so forth. They were on Dock Street, Everybody on Dock Street, 95% of Dock Street moved down to the food center.
CE: Now, people who lived in the neighborhood, have told us that there were a lot of horse-drawn carriages – or horse-drawn wagons in those days.
LC: Good question. The only time you would see them would be on Monday morning on Delaware Avenue. They stood in line from 3 o’clock in the morning to 7 o’clock – loaded with bananas and various fruits, coming from different parts, I guess, I’m not sure, from South Jersey. They were horse and wagon, but most of them were loaded with bananas, to go to Dock Street. There were no horse and wagon as you see them today around, the tourists getting rides.
CE: No, no, I meant –
LC: Commercial. Well, I should say – there were also milk wagons. There was Abbotts Dairy. I forgot to mention that. Abbotts Dairy was at Second and Pine and went all the way through to South Street. They manufactured ice cream there. I think they had their milk plant on Chestnut Street, at 31 st and Chestnut. But Abbotts had horse and wagon delivering milk in the neighborhoods. (44:00)
CE: When you were working?
LC: Well, I didn’t actually see them in the area.
CE: Do you remember ever having conversations with other business owners about the coming redevelopment of the neighborhood and what they got for those properties?
LC: No. Never.
CE: Didn’t have those conversations.
LC: We were interested –
JC: In ourselves.
LC: – getting the money we got. We were fortunate that my cousin Coleman found this piece of ground in North Philly. So we never checked with anyone else. (45:00)
CE: So you have these pictures. Are there other – Is the company still in business?
LC: No. Cutler Egg Products was sold out in April of 2001.
CE: You both remember that date.
LC: I think we remember.
CE: And who was it sold to?
LC: Moark. A company called Moark. They were an offshoot of Land O Lakes. Moark stands for Missouri Arkansas.
CE: That’s good to know. Was that a happy occasion for the family, to sell the business? (46:00)
LC: I wouldn’t say it was happy. But the industry changed, the egg industry had changed.
JC: We were fortunate to get out when we got out.
CE: Did anybody from the family keep any of the records from the business after the business was sold?
LC: Well, I kept them for seven years. In fact, I have the last of them now, in case the IRS wanted to check any of the records. I kept them here.
LC: I think we have only one more year to go.
CE: So you kept them for legal reasons, not for sentimental reasons. But you do have a few pictures. These are mostly of the building –
[End of first side of the tape.]
[Beginning of second side of the tape.]
CE: I was asking if you had pictures of any of the people who worked – (0:00)
LC: This is a picture of my father and grandfather, in 1924. And unfortunately, as you can see, my father didn’t have much money. The buttons are torn off his sweater. And he spelled the name Cuttler.
JC: Oh, yes, I never noticed that.
LC: We had relatives at Third and South Streets who were in the Army-Navy business. Sam Cuttler, and they spelled it with two Ts.
LC: He was a first cousin. (1:00)
CE: So if I were to look up the business in the city records, it might be spelled with two Ts, rather than one.
LC: No, I think at that time, when it was on Pine Street, it was one T.
JC: One T, Cutler.
LC: Yes, it would be one T.
CE: Now, these pictures of the building were taken in –
LC: They were taken in 1946, I think it was, or ’47.
JC: But this automobile is ’58.
LC: Right before we left.
JC: Yes, this is a ’58 Chevy. I know that.
LC: Well, they could have been taken –
JC: I drove this car. That’s a ’58 Chevy.
CE: The reason that I’m making a point of the year is that I’m looking at the condition of the buildings, and – of the upper stories – they look very good.
LC: You can’t judge a book by its cover. [Laughs.] (2:00)
LC: They all had awnings.
JC: It’s hard to see. The awnings [Inaudible.]
CE: Now this is the loading dock?
LC: That’s correct.
CE: And that’s on Delancey?
LC and JC: No, this is Pine.
JC: One fifteen is in the middle.
LC: One fifteen is in the middle, 113 is here, and 117 is here.
LC: I mentioned to you before, we acquired this here, which is a break-through – right at the Depression time, in 1933, a couple of years after we moved in here. One fifteen, and a couple of years later, 117.
CE: What else have you got? What is that? (3:00)
LC: Racine cut this out, January of ’05. It was in the newspaper. Susan Philips – [Laughs.] You see the date?
CE: [Reading.] 114 Delancey, January 23, 2005, Philadelphia Real Estate Transactions, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, 114 Delancey Street –
LC: We were at 112. Racine cut it out.
CE: – was bought for $1,050,000. That’s great. That’s great. Now, of course, I’m curious, and I’m going to have to walk down Delancey Street and look at these addresses and see what’s there now. Have you been back to the neighborhood lately?
LC: About a year or so ago, I had to go down there, because my daughter-in-law (4:00) was picking up a friend, I think, at Second and Walnut [Inaudible.] and they were catching a plane. I picked her up. I said, “We’re so close to the area. I want to take a look.” All I kept thinking of was what a change it was. How it was then. There was a saloon on the corner of Second and Delancey, a beer saloon on one side. It was a run-down neighborhood, really run down.
CE: You think it was.
CE: There’s a controversy about that, because the people who lived in the neighborhood, who are what we call the lifelong residents, who have lived their all their lives and are now in their 80s and 90s, resent the fact that the city fathers at the time (5:00) said the neighborhood was a slum. They to this day deny that it was a slum. And if you talk to a number of them, as we have, you realize that they had a real sense of community, these people. They were mostly ethnic. They were Irish and Ukrainian and Polish and Russians, but they had a real sense of community.
LC: Well, further south that might have been.
CE: But I’m talking people –
LC: On Pine Street?
CE: Maybe not on Pine Street, but the woman who lives next door to me on Philip Street is Irish. She’s 85, and has lived there in that community all her life, and (6:00) she says it was not a slum. It was a real sense of community. People looked out for each other. They went to school. They worked. They walked everywhere they went.
LC: As a child, maybe eight or nine or 10 years old, when my father came home, at the dinner table or something, he would mention – I always remember the name, Second and Monroe. And in his opinion – I don’t recall as a child, in fact I don’t think I was ever there – the way he spoke, it was a horrible neighborhood. Second and Monroe. At Second and South there was a very big bakery, Teitelbaum Bakery.
CE: Yes, I’ve heard about Teitelbaum. (7:00)
LC: Mr. Teitelbaum – we’d have coffee there in the morning. That was another eating place.
CE: What do you remember about Teitelbaum’s?
LC: We would go there, and I don’t recall now, but there was something about it. We would always talk about Teitelbaum’s. It’s been so many years now, but there must have been something that everybody knew about Teitelbaum’s.
CE: You know what it was?
LC: What was it?
CE: It was their rye bread.
LC: Probably. And also, coincidentally, there was a Levitz Bakery between Lombard and South on Fourth Street. Levitz Bakery. They also had one of the tastiest rye breads with seeds. Levitz and Teitelbaum with the rye bread and challah. I knew it was something.
CE: At least that’s what some of our other narrators have told us.
LC: Check with them about Levitz Bakery. And there was a Moskowitz Bakery (8:00) on Fourth Street and Bofoslofsky on Fifth next to Uhr’s Restaurant. There were quite a few bakeries where we would sell the liquid eggs.
CE: Oh, sure. Did you ever go to South Street. I know there were a lot of merchants on South Street.
LC: Well, my grandfather had a pushcart – I forgot to mention it to you – in front of the stores, where my grandmother would stand during the day and sell the fruits and different things outside.
CE: They had a pushcart from which they sold fruit.
LC: Well, the whole area between South and Lombard was like the area on Ninth Street, the Italian Market. Washington Avenue, where they have these pushcarts. (9:00) And this has nothing to do with Society Hill, but another section of the city was Marshall Street.
CE: But it’s interesting that your grandparents’ pushcart, they sold fruit. They didn’t sell egg products or sour cream.
LC: Not on the outside. Especially in the summertime, the sour cream needed refrigeration, and the butter.
LC: Whatever they sold, different vegetables. They were very hard working, like everybody else. All of people were very hard working, working six and a half days. Sundays a half day. A day off Sunday afternoon. Everybody worked Saturdays.
CE: Really? So they worked every day except Sundays.
LC: Half a day on Sundays. (10:00)
CE: Including the egg-breakers? The people who broke the eggs?
LC: No, they would only work five days. No, at the beginning they worked Saturdays. Before we had the full crew of females, we had maybe three or four men. Black men would work in the breaking area on Saturday.
CE: Where did they live? Where did they come from?
LC: One of the men, whose name was Freckles – we called him Freckles Wilson – he lived at Seventh and Rodman. And I went to his house once or twice to get him out of bed or something. And that whole area was really –I mean, the houses were (11:00) in dire repair. And Rodman Street today, I’m sure it’s like most of those townhouses on Lombard or Pine Street, are well improved, well preserved.
CE: The house that Freckles lived in, was it a rooming house?
LC: No, no, it was just a one-story house.
CE: It was a single-family house?
LC: A single-family house, but they were all together, houses, like, it was –
CE: A row house.
LC: A row house, right.
CE: But it was a single family. Did he live there by himself or with his family? Do you know?
LC: I’m not sure. I think with his family. But the neighborhood, those houses could have been bought for very little money.
CE: So you had some employees who were black. (12:00)
CE: And they lived essentially within walking distance.
LC: Oh, they all did. The furthest one I think lived at 12 th and South. But he would walk. They didn’t have carfare. I think their salaries in the ‘30s was $5 a week, or $6.
CE: And this was in the late ‘40s?
LC: No by then they were making more money. I’m speaking of the late ‘30s, when I was a kid.
LC: Maybe $25 or $30 a week by the ‘50s.
CE: And the other people – the members of your family who worked in the business and lived in the other parts of the city, how did they get to work?
LC: By car, or truck. My father had a panel truck, and he would come to (13:00) work in the truck. Part of the other part of the family, that lived in Melrose Park, Joel’s father –
JC: Used to go in that car. [Points to a photograph.].
LC: – would go by car, a Chevrolet.
JC: That one.
CE: So people didn’t take public transportation.
LC: Not our family.
CE: How was parking in the neighborhood in those days?
LC: [Laughs] No problem. No problem whatsoever, no tickets.
JC: Nobody bothered you.
CE: Well, Joel, I want to hear a little bit from you about what you remember. I realize it’s a little bit later than Leonard.
JC: I remember going down. My father used to take me down there, because at the time I was still in school. When they moved the business in ’59, I was, I think, in 11 th grade. So I wasn’t working there full time. The only remembrance I have is that when (14:00) I was a kid, my father would take me there on a Saturday or whatever, and I would just work there for a few hours or a day or whatever. And I remember all the chicken places and all that, across the street. Leonard described it perfectly. I couldn’t nearly come as close as he did. That’s why I wanted you to talk to him, because he’s expert on the dates and times, which I could not have provided you. So that worked out well. That’s basically – I mean, Leonard pretty much described what I remember. I was just a kid. I remember breaking eggs. I used to hand break the eggs, but only for a few hours. Not like the people did, all day long. I would go in the freezer, do odds and ends. My responsibilities were just to come in for a few hours, do my thing, and then go home. I was (15:00) still in school.
LC: Joel mentioned hand-breaking eggs. I just remembered – I broke many cases of eggs by hand. It would take 15 minutes to break 30 dozen eggs by hand.
CE: One person?!
LC: One person.
CE: Fifteen minutes, 30 dozen eggs.
JC: That was separation, Len, wasn’t it?
LC: No, that was whole eggs. We had these big, large cups. We didn’t have –
JC: I remember the cups.
LC: You put one shell –
JC: You’d stuff one shell in another.
LC: You’d crack it and stuff it so you wouldn’t waste any time.
JC: Right, because it would be another motion if you had to throw the shell away. You’d crack it, stuff it, crack it, stuff it, crack it, stuff it. And then throw maybe eight or ten or 12 shells away at one time, so your movement, hand movement, was much less.
LC: All condensed, the shells were all together, half shells. (16:00)
CE: Did you get shell pieces in the eggs?
JC: It was strained. You’d get shells in your fingers and all that, under your nails. I didn’t –
LC: Excuse me. He mentioned getting them in your fingers. When you broke the eggs, I remember, we didn’t have to – the eggs after breaking them would clean your fingernails. They were shining.
JC: Oh, yes.
CE: From the whites.
LC: From the juice. Clean fingernails. Not that we were using gloves, nobody knew any better in those days.
CE: So you broke the eggs into what? Big containers?
JC: Yes, you know, something like eight inches in diameter, and about three or four inches high.
LC: About eight or ten, ten or 12 eggs into one cup. That was in the early days, the early ‘30s and early ‘40s. (17:00)
JC: Then they’d go into the strainer?
CE: Did the yolks break?
JC: Yes, sure.
LC: On Pine Street we did very, very little separation.
JC: Mainly they made whole eggs. But they did separate. I remember the little cup, Len. Remember, near the end?
LC: That’s right. That was a big improvement.
JC: Then you had whites and yolks and whole eggs, all three products.
CE: And you froze them?
LC: After straining them we froze them, or we would sell them as liquid. Fresh liquid to the bakeries, Levitz, Moskowitz, Teitelbaum’s. All these bakeries in the area. We had a dozen bakeries within six blocks.
CE: And were they kosher? (18:00)
CE: The eggs.
LC: No, I would say they were not.
JC: Once we got to Sedgley Avenue, then they were kosher. Then we had OU.
LC: We had USDA inspection.
JC: We had an OU inspection and everything.
LC: We had OU, as Joel mentioned.
CE: Any other stories about the neighborhood? About the business in the neighborhood?
LC: I’m glad you reminded me about Teitelbaum’s and the rye bread. [Laughs.] That Headhouse on South Street was like a farmers’ market. I remember going in there.
JC: All the people.
LC: A lot of people came from the neighborhood. They would shop there (19:00) once a week. They got paid once a week, on Friday. So Saturday, Headhouse market was tremendous.
CE: My understanding from some of the other people we’ve talked to is that the merchants at the Headhouse had permanent stalls.
LC: That’s right. It’s like a farmers’ market. They had their own concessions.
CE: But they were there permanently. They didn’t come in just on Saturdays like they do now.
LC: No, they were permanent. However, the economy wasn’t that great for that many people to shop every single day. People got paid at the end of the week. I remember Saturday was really crowded. But it was open all the time. I know Louie, the corner man, with cigarettes and penny candy and licorice and whatever, he was open all the time. Abbotts Dairy was there on the corner. (20:00)
JC: I remember just the trucks coming in with the chickens. Live chickens, all over the place. And they were down at the end of the block.
LC: They would go for Pollin.
JC: There were chicken feathers everywhere. I remember that. Squawking, chicken squawking all the time. Those were the good old days, I guess.
[Tape is turned off, then on again.]
CE: I want to get this on tape. Start again.
LC: I remember between Front and Second Street on Delancey, there were very few houses occupied by families.
JC: Mostly businesses.
LC: It was mostly businesses. Or rooming houses where somebody would (21:00) come in for overnight. It was a very, very poor neighborhood.
CE: And a lot of the rooming houses, as I understand it, had fire escapes on the façades.
LC: Yes, the law required that they have fire escapes, absolutely.
[End of tape.]
Transcriber’s Note: Leonard Cutler made some changes to the narrative when he reviewed a draft of the transcript. These changes appear in the transcript but are not on the tape.
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