Linda Long Maxwell

The life of Linda Long Maxwell (b. 1957) differs in many respects from those of the other narrators of her generation. She begins her story by saying that her father had another family by his first wife and may have been as much as sixty years old when Linda was born at Pennsylvania Hospital. Her family, which included three brothers and a sister, lived at 247 Monroe Street, near Second and South Streets. Parts of her childhood were spent on Monroe Street, which is located in Queen Village, and other parts were spent at 128 Delancey Street in Society Hill. Linda is one of just two African Americans who were willing to be interviewed for this project. When Linda was about ten, she met Frances and James Rementer, who lived at 128 Delancey Street. The Rementers became friendly with Linda and her siblings, and eventually they invited Linda to come live with them, with the approval of her mother, who was by then a widow. Linda’s two younger brothers followed. The couple became the three children’s legal guardians. Linda describes what life was like for her and her two brothers as children living in Society Hill in the 1960s. They went to many of the same places and did many of the same things that other children in the neighborhood did, but Linda is the only one who mentions a comic book factory on Naudain Street. After she graduated from high school, she married and had three daughters. After her children started school, she went to work as a secretary, and she describes the places where she worked.


DS: This is an interview with Linda Long Maxwell. The date is November 15, 2008. The interviewer is Dorothy Stevens. The place is 116 Delancey Street in Philadelphia. Linda, tell me when you were born.

LLM: I was born July 12, 1957, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Pennsylvania Hospital, located at Eighth and Spruce Streets.

DS: Wonderful. Where did you live when you were a child?

LLM: I lived at 247 Monroe Street, and that’s also in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the zip is 19147. I resided there with my three brothers and one sister, Delores.

DS: A mom and a dad?

LLM: A mom and a dad, yes.

DS: Tell me about your mother and what did she do. (1:00)

LLM: My mother worked in a laundry room, right on South Street, Third and South Streets. She also did, like – I’m not quite sure, because, like I said, I was very young at the time, I just remember her coming home tired.

DS: Tired. Your father, what did he do?

LLM: My father’s name was Philip Penna. My mother and father were never married. I’m my father’s second set of kids. He worked down on the waterfront. I’m not sure what his job description was. Like I said, I was very young.

DS: Did his first children live with you?

LLM: No, his first children are like much older than I am. In fact, I went to New York last year, my children and I, to meet my nieces from my father’s [first] children, which are my [half-]brothers, that I have never met. Last year was a very good summer for me, for meeting his side of the family. Like I said, my father was in his late 60s and I was (2:00) like 12 years old; I don’t really know much about him. He had passed away like a year later.

DS: You, your brothers [and sister], and your mother continued to live at the address you gave me?

LLM: Yes.

DS: This would have been from the time you were born until you left the neighborhood?

LLM: Yes, well, I actually didn’t leave the neighborhood. I was like back and forth from Delancey Street to Monroe Street, and then, I’m trying to remember what year it was. I know I went to Meredith, the Performing Arts School, in ‘67, I think it was. I graduated from the sixth grade there in ‘68.

DS: Meredith?

LLM: Meredith. Then I went to St. Mary’s [Interparochial School] for two years. After that I went to John W. Hallahan Catholic High School in ’72, 1972. (3:00)

DS: Did you graduate?

LLM: Yes, I graduated from there in 1976, June.

DS: Wonderful. Then what did you do?

LLM: Then what did I do, from 1976? I met Gregory, who is my husband, the father of my three children, and in ’77 we got married and our daughter was born in May, 14, 1977.

DS: Wonderful. Now you have three children.

LLM: Yes, Miranda, youngest daughter, who was born in 1978, and Nicholas, who was born in 1980.

DS: Tamara?

LLM: Tamara, she’s the oldest. She was born in May, ‘77, May 14.

DS: Tell me about your siblings.

LLM: My siblings: Wendell, the oldest brother; Barry, younger, one of the (4:00) younger brothers; and Philip, and Delores was the baby. They all went to Meredith School, as well as I did. They didn’t go to parochial school. They didn’t want to go to parochial school. They liked the public schools. Wendell’s my oldest. He graduated from –

DS: Your oldest brother?

LMM: Yes, he’s my oldest brother. He went to Bartlett Junior High School, which was at Eleventh and Catharine Streets in Philadelphia, which now is a creative and performing arts school; I’m not sure what the name is. After he graduated from there, he went to Bok Vocational High School at Eighth and Mifflin Streets.

DS: Barry?

LLM: Barry, he went to Meredith as well; he graduated from there and also went to Parkway High School in Center City.

DS: Philip? (5:00)

LLM: Philip, he graduated from – he didn’t graduate from Meredith. He left Meredith. I’m not sure; I think it may have been in the fourth or fifth grade. He also went to St. Mary’s [inter]parochial and graduated from there. Then he attended Roman Catholic High School at Broad and Vine in Philadelphia and graduated from there. I’m not sure what year. Don’t quote me on a year.

DS: Didn’t Philip go on to college?

LLM: Yes. Philip went to – I’m sorry. I can’t remember the name of the college.

DS: That’s all right. Delores.?

LLM: Delores, she also went to Meredith, graduated from Meredith School and went to Parkway Gamma at Forty-fifth and Chestnut Streets at the time. She did not go to college. She went straight into the workforce. She’s also a secretary, like me. She worked for the Restaurant School, which was located at Twenty-fourth and Chestnut. Then she went to the National (6:00) Adoption Agency, which was located on Fifteenth and Walnut Streets, and now she works for the Anti-Defamation League.

DS: Now, quickly give me an idea of what you did after you got married. You had several jobs up to your present job?

LLM: Yes. I didn’t go to work right away. I stayed home with my children until they were about, maybe, until like when they were in kindergarten, about five years old, and then I went to a business school, American Business Institute, which was located at Broad and Chestnut Streets at the time. I went there for Business Administration. I got a certificate in there. I went there for eighteen months. Then I applied to some temporary agencies, because my children were still young and in school. I didn’t want to work full time. I just wanted to work part time; so I could be home with them, too. My (7:00) husband at the time was a bus driver. He worked for SEPTA. I had, like I said, various jobs from Western Temporary Agency, which is located at Broad and Walnut Street, I think. That was like in the early ‘80s. Then after that I worked for St. Christopher’s Children’s Hospital. I worked there for a few years. Then I also worked at a social service agency for about fifteen years. Now I’m currently at a foster care agency, which I was there nine years, I think, in September.

DS: Wonderful. That’s very good. Did your family have any religious affiliation in the neighborhood? Were you Catholic?

LLM: No, we weren’t Catholic. We were Christian; we believed in God and still (8:00) do. We went to church often. I’m sorry, not often. Every now and then we would go to church. When I was living down here on Delancey Street, I went a few times with Mrs. McCarthy, who attended St. Joseph’s Church on Willings Alley, right off of Fourth Street. I went there a few times with her on Sundays.

DS: Maybe this is a good time to bring in the story of the Rementers. Jim and Frances Rementer.

LLM: I met the Rementers in 19—. I’m sorry, I really can’t remember the year. It was like in the mid ‘60s. One day I was out trick-or-treating with my siblings. We came on Delancey Street, because I always thought this was a gorgeous neighborhood, and still do from this day on. We talked to them for a while; they asked us, you know, how we liked trick-or-treating, and were we having fun and things like this. Of (9:00) course, I said yes. Then Mrs. Rementer asked my siblings and I would we like to come over sometime and visit her. Of course, because she didn’t have any kids. James had one son. His son’s name was James, Jr., I think. We, you know, got in touch with one another. I visited them periodically, and then I always told her how gorgeous her house was and, you know, I wish I could live there one day. She said, “Well, if you want to live here you can.” I would have to ask my mother. I would talk to my mother about it. She met the Rementers and she liked the Rementers, and finally I just, you know, started living with them. Then my two younger brothers happened to come over, too, and, you know, they stayed there as well.

My youngest sister, she wanted to stay with my mother. I was five years older than her.

She was just about seven; she was close to my mother. My older brother had a mind of his own. He was a year older than me. He was settled there and he, liked, you know, living with (10:00) my mother. Even though we were settled too, but, I don’t know, it was like a change to another neighborhood. The blocks weren’t that far. It was only like about three blocks from where I lived to where I moved with the Rementers.

DS: You stayed with them year-round?

LLM: I stayed with them year-round. Yes, I did. They took us on like family vacations, you know, did fun things for the holidays.

DS: You went to the beach?

LLM: We went to the beach like on the weekends, when it was nice. They had a home in Avalon, New Jersey. It was a very nice, beach-side home. We would go there like every weekend. I think we went there more so – not to say to keep us out of trouble, because we were never troublesome kids. We never got into any trouble. I guess it was more family oriented, just to be around family, to do fun things like on the weekends and things, because during the weekdays, Mr. and Mrs. Rementer both worked. My brothers and I, we were both like in school; we did homework, we did our chores, we had dinner. (11:00) Wasn’t much really to do during the weekdays after school, but do your chores, do your homework, and then, you know, watch a little TV, and then go to bed. The weekends were the most fun for us.

DS: What was the address of the Rementers?

LLM: Their address was 128 Delancey Street.

DS: And what did they do for a living?

LLM: James Rementer worked for HUD, which was known as Housing, Urban and Development, which was located at Seventh and Walnut. I think he was like in the architectural department. I’m not sure, but I know he was working with homes. I’m not sure what the correct title was. Frances Rementer worked for the National Park Service, which was on Third and Walnut. She was a secretary; I guess that’s why I really wanted to become a secretary. I used to visit her in her office, and she used to show me things that, you know, she did in her office, like accounting and like different (12:00) types of bills and things like that. I thought it was really a nice job then. Especially like to have your own office, especially when you’re a kid, you’re looking around this great big office; you see like desks and chairs and a lot of people that are just working and things like that. Sometimes I used to sit there and fantasize, you know, at night, to see what it would be like, you know, if I could have something like that.

DS: If you could do it?

LLM: Yes.

DS: Did they officially adopt you, or was it just an agreement?

LLM: No, they became our legal guardians.

DS: They did?

LLM: Um hum.

DS: All three of you. This was all right with your parents?

LLM: Yes. My father had passed away at the time.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Linda, tell me what kind of things you would do as children in the neighborhood for entertainment.

LLM: Like, in the summers, we would, you know, go to the Three Bears Park and play…in the water fountain at the time. I am heartbroken now that there’s no water fountain any more. In the summertime we would just go up and down, (13:00) you know, and play in the park. The Headhouse Square had like a lot of activities over there. They had like a carnival, a traveling carnival, which we used to love to go to in the summertime. It was very nice over there in the summertime. Like on the weekends, we would go to Avalon. Sometimes we would, you know, just stay in the neighborhood. My brothers would go up to Starr Garden, which is located at Sixth and Lombard, and play basketball. It was a very nice place to go to in the summertime. They would have like a recreation center on the inside, where we could finger paint and do things like that. We were home before dark.

DS: Were you pretty free?

LLM: Yes, we were pretty free. We knew, you know, what our boundaries were. We had like curfews, when we had to be in school. First, we had to make sure our homework was done and make sure our chores were done. Then we had our leisure time, as I would call it, to go out and do what we wanted. We were back home like maybe dinner time and went back out for another hour or so and back in the house before dark. (14:00)

DS: Your mother – your father was gone by this time – your mother was the one setting the rules?

LLM: Yes.

DS: Did you ever go down to the river for any activities?

LLM: I used to like walk – myself, personally, I used to just walk down there and look down there. There were like a lot of factories down there at the time. The development wasn’t what it is now. There was like the sugar company down there, railroad tracks, trains that would go up and down. I would just sit there looking at them, wondering what was going on, wondering where the train, you know, was going. I was even thinking about hopping on a train, but I don’t like danger, so I didn’t do that. I was tempted quite a few times. The train wasn’t moving very fast. It was just like slow. At the time you would have the conductor on there waving to the children that would, you know, sit down and watch the trains go by and things like that. Then in the wintertime; it was one of the most fun times, because we would come down the hill over there on Second and Spruce Streets. We would slide down the hill with our – what do you call those? (15:00)

DS: Plastic pans or a sled?

LLM: Yes, plastic pans. We would slide down – but we had to be very careful, because there were cars always coming. We would have someone at the bottom of the hill – no, at the top of the hill, it was safe to come down the hill. That was very fun.

DS: Did you ever go swimming anywhere?

LLM: We used to go swimming in Society Hill, over there in the swimming pool. [This could be the pool at Society Hill Towers or at the Society Hill Club at Fifth and Locust Streets.] We had a membership; we used to go to the pool and, you know, go swimming there. Mostly we used to go like down the shore on the weekends, so we had a great big ocean to swim in versus a public pool. I wasn’t that crazy about the public pools. I preferred the ocean. It was very nice there.

DS: Any other stories? How did you see the neighborhood? Did you think it looked run down or poor? Or as a child, did it seem like a wonderful place?

LLM: As a child, it seemed like a wonderful place. The neighborhood did not (16:00) seem run down by all means at all. There were like working-class people in the neighborhood. They had like, me, as a child coming up, I even worked at the ice cream parlor at the time, which was called the Grape Harbor, when I was like sixteen years old, serving ice cream.

DS: The one on Second Street? South of Pine.

LLM: Right. I also worked at Tancredi’s, which was the drug store that was on Pine Street. [Tancredi’s was on S. Second Street, just south of Pine Street.] I worked there for a while. It was very nice. And like I said, there wasn’t much to do – there weren’t many kids in the neighborhood. At least, I didn’t see many kids in the neighborhood.

DS: Your age?

LLM: My age. Yes, there were not many kids. We had to entertain ourselves, like either going to the carnivals when they had them on the weekdays, or even going to the library or just going on different outings and things like that.

DS: Did you ever think about moving to the suburbs? Or were you ever –

LLM: No, I never thought about moving to the suburbs. I’ve always heard that the suburbs were more like countryish or countrified, if that’s a word. I’m not sure. (17:00) I don’t like seclusion. The suburbs seem like it’s more like secluded, even though I like to be – I’m private in some respects. Even so, as a child I wouldn’t think I wanted to be in the suburbs, because the suburbs reminded me of like just open land, like there’s nobody there but you, there’s no one to interact with, or if there was somebody to interact with it was like far away. In the city you have like homes, real homes, people living next door to one another. You can meet your neighbors, you can come out your door and say hello, whereas in the suburbs you have to scream down the street or down the road. [Laughs]

DS: [Laughs]

LLM: I still think, as an adult now, I don’t think I ever want to live in the suburbs. I think, it’s like too open for me. I like people around me.

DS: Did you ever go digging in the empty lots for the old bottles and the artifacts that were in places where they had knocked down buildings? (18:00)

LLM: No, I didn’t. I was the type that I didn’t like dirt under my nails, so I didn’t do that. They had a comic book factory on Naudain Street, which was in between South and Lombard. It was a little street called Naudain, and this comic book factory. My brothers and I, we used to go there and get like all the Marvel comic books. Matter of fact, my youngest brother, Philip, used to have a collection of the Marvel comic books; they were fun. They were only five cents at the time, or ten cents. Now, who knows what the price of a magazine is?

DS: That’s a good story. Any other good stories?

LLM: As I was saying, like in the Headhouse Square, which is located between Pine and Lombard, they had like a lot of flea market and different activities going on (19:00) down there, and we sort of like wandered through there and like buy different things, like jewelry. I don’t know at the time – I forget, because it’s been so long – but they had a lot of things there that you could just spend all day at Headhouse Square just looking at things and buying things, and, you know, just seeing different people, and even meeting some people. Some people were friendly. They just said hello, things like that.

DS: How about crime? Did you ever feel threatened in this neighborhood at that time?

LLM: No, I’ve never felt threatened in this neighborhood. Matter of fact, I never really saw any police officers in the neighborhood. The neighborhood was just like so quiet. Everybody knew everybody. Like, when I would come home, like, sometimes as a teenager, like before dark, I would see people like, you know, coming to the door and waving to me or speaking to me before I went in the house. I saw no crime in the neighborhood as a child coming up at all. I was totally surprised, but thank God there was no crime in the neighborhood or anything like that. The neighborhood was a very nice neighborhood, and I’m assuming right now, today, it still is, because I used to (20:00) bring my children here during Halloween, because the neighborhood was so nice, and now my grandchildren come here, so it’s like generations. I still love the neighborhood.

DS: Well, you’re not very far from it.

LLM: No, I’m not far from the neighborhood. Matter of fact, I only live like about seven blocks from the neighborhood. I walked from my home to here today, which was a very nice thing, a very nice walk, because it gave me a chance to look at some of the properties and how they looked first, like in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, up until this time now. The houses are still gorgeous. They still look the same. I mean, the neighborhood still looks the same. I think the neighborhood is wonderful.

DS: What street do you live on now?

LLM: I live right off Fifth and Catharine Street, on Lawrence Street.

DS: Fifth and Catharine, on Lawrence.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Did you ever feel that you were missing something in your life, that you were being deprived of something that other people had? (21:00)

LLM: No, I don’t think I was ever cheated out of anything or deprived in life. I had everything I wanted as a child coming up. Well, I think I could have, like, my parents would say, “Your eyes are bigger than, you know, what your stomach is.” In terms of that, they mean you always want something, and you actually don’t always want what you want. You get rid of your wants and you keep your needs. As a child, I had like toys, I had clothing, I had money in my pocket, and as a teenager, when I was sixteen 16 years old, you know, my parents took me to take my driver’s test. I passed that.

DS: When you talk about your parents, you are talking about the Rementers.

LLM: Yes.

DS: You had access…

LLM: I had access to their car at all times. I would drive to my girlfriends’ houses in different parts of the city, not dangerous parts of the city, but you know, I would drive and come back. I was a very responsible driver. During, like, school, some school dance, I would drive to school because we had candy drives. I used to sell a lot (22:00) of candy for school, not to win the prizes. Well, for me, I could meet some of the neighbors in my neighborhood. It was just a rewarding thing – doing something I knew the candy drive would benefit.

DS: How old were you when Mrs. Remember died? Approximately. Were you a teenager? Late teenager, early teens?

LMM: Early 20s, I think.

DS: Early 20s. When Jim died you would have been well into your 20s?

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Linda, tell me about some of the jobs that you had as a young girl.

LLM: As a young girl, some of the jobs, like I mentioned earlier, I worked at the drug store and the ice cream parlor. I did some babysitting for some of the neighbors, one was Candy Stiklorius; I babysat her two children. The Stevenses, I think I (23:00) babysat for them once or twice. That’s how, you know, I met a lot of the neighbors in the neighborhood. That would, you know, pass some of the time, I’m not sitting home after school when I’ve finished my chores. I preferred babysitting, than, you know, going out sometimes.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Tell us about setting off the alarm box that was at the corner of Second and Delancey Streets.

LLM: Sometimes when my brothers and I would be coming home, like, from an outing or either going to the stores, they would do mischievous things, like pulling the fire alarm bell and saying, “Run, run.” I’m turning around looking, and the next thing I know they’re running and I’m standing there. I decided to run, too, because I didn’t know whether they pulled the fire alarm or not, but they ran, so I’m assuming they did do that. [Laughs] It was fun, but it was kind of dangerous, too, because those fire alarms have a purpose, and I don’t think children should be playing with any of that. As a kid, I wouldn’t say that, but as an adult, I’m saying that.

DS: Linda, tell me when you were living with your mother on Second (24:00) and Monroe Street, what was your interaction, as a child, with South Street.

LLM: My interaction with South Street as a child, I’ve always found it like so congested. There were like a lot of people coming from everywhere just, you know, to visit South Street. For one thing, like, during the holiday time, Christmas time, New Year’s when the Mummers parade was there, a lot of the people would go down. They would call it Two Street, right off Second Street, where they would have all these parades. Like in my time, I can remember the Mummers parade very vivid, that they would get fully intoxicated, and they would like to pick fights, especially the African-American population. They would get intoxicated and start calling you names and throwing beer bottles and things like that. Well, that’s just one thing for South Street.

Another thing on South Street I can remember, like, all the stores. People were just in (25:00) and out of South Street, and there was I think because of all the congestion, like if you would bump into some people, some people weren’t as nice as the others. They would like pick fights and things like that. Even as an adult, I don’t live too far from South Street. I don’t really like South Street, because of the stores, and all the clothing stores they have now, like that are geared toward the younger kids. You have like these hip-hop kids that go down there wearing jeans hanging off their behinds, and they go into the stores and they cause all kinds of commotion. Some of them don’t have the money. Like, some of the stores have gotten robbed quite a few times. I used to hear it on the news and things like that. Me, personally, I’m not a big fan of South Street.

DS: As a child that wasn’t a destination for you to go play?

LLM: No, it wasn’t. It was not a destination at all. They were just stores, they were like buildings. For me as a child, I couldn’t find anything to do on South Street, but to walk along South Street. I wouldn’t choose South Street to walk along. I would (26:00) choose any other street, more quiet and subtle to walk along.

DS: As a child?

LLM: As a child, yes.

[End of interview]


©2008 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
116 Delancey Street
Interview Date
November 15, 2008
Maxwell, Linda Long
Narrator Type
Lifelong Resident
Oral History Sources