Patricia Stevenson

Patricia (Patsy) Stevenson (b. 1944) grew up in Society Hill in the 1940s and ‘50s. Her mother was of Polish descent, and her father was Norwegian. Many other area families were of mixed ethnic backgrounds. In her account, she makes the point that the transport, preparation, and distribution of food was a significant factor in the community and a prime source of employment for the residents. Patsy’s relatives worked in “the sugar pier,” meat packing, frozen food, candy, peanuts, and possibly peanut butter. She describes the neighborhood’s various stores, bars, restaurants, and other businesses. When Patsy was small, her mother was often hospitalized with tuberculosis, and Patsy’s aunts and grandmother took care of her. Consequently, she lived at half a dozen or more addresses in Society Hill. She attended McCall School and Bartlett Junior High and was then sent to West Nottingham Academy in Maryland. She describes the children in the neighborhood as “mostly Jewish,” whom she knew from school. After school, they would go to Old Pine or St. Joseph’s or the synagogue for candy-making lessons, sewing classes, or Hebrew instruction. Like so many other narrators, Patsy vehemently denies that the neighborhood was a slum. She says they may have been poor, but they did work, and they kept their streets, sidewalks, and houses clean. The neighborhood had its doctors and lawyers and dentists; and, if you needed their professional services, they would provide them even if you had difficulty paying the bill. Patsy describes the neighborhood around McCall School. She mentions several neighborhood playgrounds – including Starr Garden and Seger – and boats or ferries they took to New Jersey and on moonlight cruises on the Delaware River. She describes the Shambles on South Second Street and how it differed when she was a child from what it is today. This leads to a catalog of stores and shops on South Street, including movie houses, and a store called Foremost where Phillies players worked in the off-season because they did not make so much money playing baseball in those days. On the subject of redevelopment, she describes how the city demolished the houses from 206 to 216 Stamper Street (where she lived) to build the parking garage that now occupies that space. A Stamper Street neighbor used his influence to prevent the city from knocking down all the houses on the street. Patsy says, “It was just a good neighborhood. As poor as we were, I think because everybody got along, it didn’t make a difference if you had money or you didn’t. Everybody played together. Everybody did things together. It didn’t matter what color you were, how rich you were.” This reminds her of a childhood friend, an African-American girl named Phyllis. They would play at one another’s houses, and their mothers or grandmothers would do the girls’ hair, straightening Phyllis’s hair and braiding Patsy’s fine blonde hair in corn rows. Redevelopment changed that because, Patsy says, “You didn’t get to know who your neighbor was. People weren’t as friendly.”


DS: This is an interview with Patsy Stevenson. [Birth name: Patricia Eliasen; first married name: Patricia Dogles; second married name: Patricia Stevenson] The date is August 15, 2005.

Just to start on this list, Patsy, I want to know what your birth date is.

PS: March 16, ’44

DS: Where were you born?

PS: Philadelphia. Jefferson Hospital.

DS: Where did you live as a child?

PS: I lived at 216 Stamper Street. I lived other places, too: 234 Pine Street.

DS: That’s it for this neighborhood?

PS: 505 Pine Street; 232 or 236 S. Third Street. When I was born (1:00) I think I lived [at] 124 Bainbridge Street. My mother was in the hospital, so all these places were where my aunts lived, and they took me.

DS: Oh. Your mother was ill?

PS: My mom had TB.

DS: She would be in the hospital, and you would go to live with aunts?

PS: My father shipped out. He was a merchant marine.

DS: How interesting. You had many aunts then?

PS: Well, no, it was one aunt mostly that took care of me.

DS: Was that Aunt Min?

PS: No, Aunt Charlotte.

DS: Aunt Charlotte?

PS: My mother’s brother’s wife.

DS: Where did she live?

PS: Well, I was born at 124 or 127 Bainbridge. Then we lived [at] 236 [S. Third Street] or whatever [number] it was. (2:00)

DS: That was Second [Street]?

PS: No, Third Street. Then 216 [Stamper Street] was with my grandmother and ciocia, which was Aunt in Polish.

DS: That was grandmother?

PS: Uh huh. Grandmother and ciocia. Then 234 Pine and this one, [where] I lived with my Aunt Charlotte. They were just apartments that they had rented.

DS: Ciocia in Polish is Grandmother?

PS: No, ciocia is Aunt.

DS: Can you spell ciocia? Say it real clearly.

PS: Ciocia. I wouldn’t know how to spell it. In between, Aunt Min took care of me for a while.

DS: Where did Aunt Min live?

PS: She lived at 341 S. Fourth Street.

DS: 341 S. Fourth? (3:00)

PS: Fourth and Pine. In fact, I also lived in 352 [S. Fourth], which is the corner of Fourth and Pine. [It] used to be called Astoria. It was like Spanish-American records and dolls and everything. Right at the corner where that man Jim lives. Is that his name, from your church?

DS: C.J. Moore?

PS: Right, at Fourth and Pine.

DS: C.J. Moore [the person who owned the house at that location at the time of the interview.]

PS: Yes. That used to be called Astoria.

DS: It was a store?

PS: It was a store.

DS: That you would go and buy these things in?

PS: Yes. We would go in there a lot. The son lived there in the second-floor apartment. It was 352 and 350 S. Fourth Street. We lived in the second-floor apartment facing Old Pine [Church]. We were considered like the back apartment. The store you went in on Fourth Street. I mean, you went in on (4:00) Pine Street to get into the store. Next to us were, I think, an iron works.

DS: The Astoria store —

PS: Was at Fourth and Pine.

DS: You lived there with who?

PS: I lived there with – Well, my mom came home from the hospital in ’53.

DS: She was cured then?

PS: She had one lung out, yes. As a little girl, I was in the hospital with TB.

DS: Did they think you had gotten it from her?

PS: Probably. I think it ran in the family. My mother’s brother had it. I had it. My mother had it.

DS: How old were you when you got it? (5:00)

PS: Two.

DS: Two. Did your father have it?

PS: No.

DS: No. He probably didn’t bring it home. He was a carrier?

PS: Probably not.

DS: You were two when you got it?

PS: Well, I was two when I was in the hospital, so I assume it was around that time.

DS: What hospital did you go to?

PS: I was at Malvern. I don’t know what it was called. It was like a part of Jefferson.

DS: Oh, it was in the city?

PS: It was like where Eaglesville is now, where they have like for alcoholics. I think it was called then – it was some kind of a hospital for TB, like a convalescent place or whatever. Aunt Min could tell you about it.

DS: Oh.

PS: I might have pictures of it. I don’t know. I don’t remember.

DS: What was your mother’s background? I mean, what nationality and all?

PS: Polish, I guess. (6:00)

DS: Polish. First generation or second?

PS: They always say, “A little bit of everything and not much of anything,” when you asked them what they were.

DS: Is that right? [Laughs]

PS: My father was Norwegian, that I do know. [Laughs]

DS: He would be away for long periods of time.

PS: Yes. My father shipped out all the time. Oil tankers.

DS: Your mother wasn’t able to work?

PS: No, I guess before she had me she probably worked.

DS: Do you know what she did?

PS: No, not really. I think she worked in the peanut place at Third and Race Streets or something, Second and Race.

DS: Worked in a store?

PS: No, like in a factory.

DS: Oh, a factory.

PS: Factory work.

DS: Did you have sisters and brothers?

PS: No.

DS: It was just you?

PS: Just me.

DS: Did you go to any church here in the neighborhood? (7:00)

PS: Old Pine [Presbyterian].

DS: You did go to Old Pine. You still go to Old Pine?

PS: No.

DS: Oh.

PS: I was baptized or christened at St. Joe’s, though, because my mother was sick, and my godmother took me there to get baptized. Really, I guess I’m still Catholic, though I’m not a practicing [one].

DS: Um hum. As a child, or at some point in your life, you went to Old Pine?

PS: Always went to Old Pine.

DS: You had all these aunts and grandmothers. Were they on your mother’s side, or –?

PS: No, Aunt Charlotte was my mother’s brother’s wife, who took care of me.

DS: You’ve got a long history in this neighborhood. I mean, you’ve lived in more houses than I have in my entire life. (8:00)

PS: Probably more than that. Well, they were just like – you rented them. You didn’t own them.

DS: You didn’t own them?

PS: We couldn’t afford to own a house. You know, my grandfather worked at the sugar pier. My uncle worked at a meat place. My grandmother worked at a frozen food place. This is what my Aunt Min always says to me: “They all worked in something with produce and pickles.” She had pickles.

DS: Aunt Min did?

PS: No, Aunt Min worked at Whitman’s and Cherrydale Farms.

DS: That’s where Dorothy [Bunting] was?

PS: Yes. Dorothy. Well, wherever they went for a job, if they didn’t hire three of them, then all three of them walked out. That was Ethel, Dorothy, and Aunt Min.

DS: Who was Ethel?

PS: Ethel [is] Dorothy’s sister.

DS: Oh, that Ethel.

PS: If three of them got hired, they’d stay. If not, they never took the job. [Laughs] (9:00)

DS: It worked?

PS: I mean, they worked all over together.

DS: You say your uncle was in meat packing?

PS: Uncle Mike worked in a meat place.

DS: Was that here in this neighborhood?

PS: It was, but I don’t really remember where it was.

DS: Oh.

PS: It was some place close by here. Aunt Min worked in the candy and my grandfather worked in the sugar pier.

DS: That was right here on Delaware?

PS: Delaware Avenue and, I think, Reed, at that time. It wasn’t north. I think it was Delaware and Reed, when I was a little girl.

DS: Right.

PS: My Mom worked in the peanut place; I think it was some kind of a peanut factory, where they made peanut butter.

DS: That was in this neighborhood?

PS: Yes. Well, that was around Race Street, Second and Race. I remember Levin Bananas used to be across the street here. (10:00)

DS: Right here?

PS: Um hum.

DS: In the 100 block of Delancey there was Levin’s Bananas?

PS: Um hum. I think M. Levin Bananas.

DS: They were wholesalers for –

PS: Yes, I guess the Dock Street was around here. They would have the warehouse. I remember how we used to have – you know when you go to the dry cleaner and your clothes are on a conveyor belt? Well, they had a gigantic thing with ten-foot stalks of bananas [it] would be, with the spiders. If I would go in, they would say, “Patsy, you can have all the bananas you want, but don’t touch it until we give them to you, in case there’s any spiders.”

DS: They knew you there?

PS: Oh, everybody knew me.

DS: Everybody knew you?

PS: Everybody knew me.

DS: Why?

PS: Because they gave me all the fruit, you know. I would go with my mother (11:00) in the coach and I’d hold my hands out and knock all the fruit off the baskets. I’d eat the fruit. [Laughs] I guess I was a bad little girl. Everybody knew me because I’d try to always help people from the time I was little. “Can Patsy go to the store?” Then [they would] say, “I’ll give you two cents, or you can have a piece of fruit.” Of course, I always took the fruit. I don’t know why.

DS: Well, that was good. Most of the stores on the north side of the 100 block of Delancey Street – I mean, most of the buildings were stores?

PS: Down like by Front Street, there was like a little courtyard, and they had some houses. There was all chicken coops on Front Street. I think there was like a grain store at the end of the corner here, at Front and Delancey on the south side of the street, some kind of big place. As far as the names of places, you’d have to ask my aunt. I don’t know if Dorothy told you a lot of the names. At the corner of this end there was a bar. (12:00)

DS: The corner of Second and Delancey was a bar?

PS: I’m talking about like in the ‘50s. Another bar at Second and Delancey, but maybe two doors from the corner. There was a Chinese laundry. There was a dry cleaner on Second Street.

DS: Going south?

PS: Going south.

DS: From Delancey?

PS: Yes, from Delancey. They had the presser, the guy with the pressing machine. Second and Pine was a bar.

DS: Lots of bars?

PS: Plenty of bars. Plenty of bars between South and Spruce. I think more bars than stores.

DS: They would primarily get their customers from the workers at the food produce center you think?

PS: I think more the neighborhood people.

DS: The neighborhood people?

PS: Or maybe a lot of the workers.

DS: How about the south side of Delancey in the 100 block? (13:00)

PS: Houses.

DS: Then going up Delancey, the 200 block?

PS: The 200 block, corner of Second and Delancey, the south side of the street was a grocery store. Sybilla [Zeldin, who owned the house at that location at the time of the interview.]

DS: Zeldin house. That’s right.

PS: Third and Delancey was an Acme at one time. One-room Acme. On Third Street going toward Spruce Street was a candy store called Heidi’s.

DS: On the corner?

PS: No, roughly two doors from the corner, three doors from the corner. Where the iron gate is there.

DS: Where the parking lot is?

PS: No, before the parking lot. I think the parking lot used to be – like the Jewish Home for the Aged.

DS: Oh. (14:00)

PS: On Third Street on the north – I mean, on the west side of the street used to be a stocking factory, where those two houses are between Cypress and Delancey. That was a place where they made stockings.

DS: Oh, the Duckett house. [Margaret Duckett is the person who owned the house at that location at the time of the interview.]

PS: Yes, the Ducketts.

DS: Then there was Metropolitan Hospital.

PS: Metropolitan Hospital.

DS: That was a hospital when you were growing up?

PS: Yes.

DS: Because some of the ladies have told me other things that it was before it became a hospital.

PS: Bars, maybe?

DS: Soldiers living there for a while?

PS: [Inaudible]

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: There was what?

PS: There was [inaudible] grocery store on Third Street, right off of Pine, which was an elderly husband and wife, and they had bags of grains and, like, rice, and potatoes. Everything was in bins. I would help them. Mr. [inaudible] would say, “Patsy, get me an onion. Patsy, get me a potato. Get me two potatoes.” I would be like a little helper at like age three. He used to have a book that when you bought your groceries, he would write in the book what you bought. My mother would go in at the end of the week and she would pay for whatever she had bought. It always was that she got potatoes, onions, rice, whatever, some lunchmeat, bread and Tastykakes. One time, I was supposed to be taking a little nap, and my mother was ironing. But, I went to [the store] and I bought Tastykakes and potatoes and came home and just put them in the kitchen. My mother didn’t know it until the end of the week when [he] said, “Pauline, you know you owe me this much.” And she says, “No, my book only says this.” “Well, Patsy came in and got potatoes and Tastykakes.” They were good days. I can remember they were really good days. (16:00)

DS: Tell me again where this store was?

PS: It was – I want to say 338, 336 S. Third, right by Pine.

DS: Oh.

PS: I can never remember that house on the corner. I think one of the houses on the corner was an undertaker, at Third and Pine. But I don’t know if it was the west side of the street or the east side of the street on the north side.

DS: That’s in Dorothy’s [Bunting] write-up.

PS: Oh. Then there was Nickle’s [Nicholson’s] drugstore on the corner.

DS: On the south—

PS: Southeast corner.

DS: Southeast corner, yes.

PS: There was a drugstore, and there was a dry cleaner at Third and Stamper on the corner.

DS: Patsy, where did you go to school? (17:00)

PS: I went to McCall.

DS: Did you? By that time it was a grade school? When Allen Chapman was growing up it was a trade school.

PS: No, no.

DS: It was a grade school.

PS: I went to McCall. And then I went to –

DS: Until ninth grade?

PS: No, just to sixth.

DS: Sixth grade?

PS: Up to sixth grade; then I went to Bartlett for a year. Then I went to West Nottingham Academy in [inaudible] Maryland.

DS: Say that again?

PS: West Nottingham Academy in [inaudible] Maryland, which is close by the Rising Sun, Maryland.

DS: The reason they shipped you out?

PS: My mother was still in the hospital, and I wanted to be – the minister from church – I was giving my aunt kind of a problem –

DS: At Old Pine? (18:00)

PS: Yes, the minister from Old Pine. I wanted always to stay out of school to be with my mother, but they sent me to West Nottingham Academy.

DS: Who was the rector at Old Pine then?

PS: Dr. Long and Dr. Love.

DS: You finished school there and then came back to Philly?

PS: No, I didn’t stay completely. I didn’t finish because I didn’t like to be so far away from my mom. At that time, she was at the hospital at Front and Luzerne. When she got a little bit better, they put her at Broad and Fitzwater, [and in] ’53 she came home. (19:00)

DS: 1953?

PS: Yes, 1953.

DS: How did they treat your tuberculosis? You don’t remember?

PS: I was too little.

DS: You’re completely cleared of it?

PS: Yes.

DS: You have no problems?

PS: A couple of years ago I did have a problem. I wanted to lose weight and I went to the doctor. They took a TB test and they found it was raised. I told them I had TB as a child, but he said given it wasn’t in my lung, it wasn’t contagious. I was on medication for maybe six months, and then that was it.

DS: Good. Wonderful. When you were a child you knew all the shopkeepers and helped out. What other things did you do to entertain yourself as a child? Were there a lot of kids in the neighborhood? (20:00)

PS: Well, most of my friends were from like Fifth and Pine. Most of the kids were Jewish.

DS: They were related to your school?

PS: I just knew them from school; I would go and play with them after school. They would even go to Old Pine for sewing classes and candy-making classes and activities after school. The little Catholic girls from St. Joe’s – we would go with them for different things. They would have a lot of things, like selling chances where you could win things, to raise money for the school. We would go there, and they would go to Old Pine with us, or with me. We would go to the synagogue with our Jewish girlfriends and go to Hebrew lessons. You know, it was a little League of Nations. I mean, we had the Chinese – you know – [inaudible] (21:00) many Jewish kids that you could name. Milton’s parents took care of the house on Eleventh and Spruce, which was a music hall. We would all get together: Carol Robinson, Bobby Bloomhood, [who] lived at Third and Delancey, Libby Levin, Cheryl Maypow, Maxine, Morris Goldberg, and Michael Rubin. We would all play together and do things together.

DS: There were plenty of children?

PS: Yes. Growing up.

DS: Were you afraid?

PS: Afraid of the neighborhood? Never.

DS: Never? Would you have called it a slum?

PS: No. Definitely not.

DS: Right.

PS: We looked poor, but we were clean. (22:00)

DS: Right. People had jobs and they were working?

PS: I went on a house tour of the neighborhood maybe in the ‘80s; [at] the houses I went to, I had black girlfriends and black kids that went to school with me, and whose parents – they had lived in the homes that are now owned by people that have money. The only difference is now there’s oriental rugs. They’re painted. As kids we all played in the houses. You could eat off the floors, because the parents were clean; they were just poor. The only difference is that now people have money and they have the best of everything.

DS: Fixed up?

PS: Some of them have dirty windows. It was a good (23:00 ) neighborhood. You didn’t have to be afraid of anybody. I don’t think a police officer ever had to pull his gun. You got in a little bit of mischief, he took his blackjack out and hit it on the curb, and that was it. You didn’t have to be afraid. Although, I do remember, my aunt worked in a store at Second and Pine across from the Shambles; she was robbed. Somebody came in and robbed her and knocked her teeth out. She wouldn’t tell where the money was. It was in the refrigerator. The guys from the neighborhood – you know, the people that worked on Dock Street – they went looking, and here the guy had just shipped in. They found him, and they beat him, and then they took him to Twelfth and Pine to the police station. (24:00) But, as far as being afraid in the neighborhood, you never had to be afraid. At least I was never afraid. I mean, you could walk the streets any hour of the day. Everybody got along, black, white, Chinese. Everybody knew everybody. You needed a cup of sugar, you got it from your neighbor. If you needed an egg, nobody talked about you. You knew who your neighbors were. You didn’t have to lock your doors.

DS: People lived here for long periods of time, so you got to know them? Nobody had air conditioning?

PS: I mean, there was doctors, there was lawyers, there was everybody. Everybody got to know each other. Dr. Jaffe, which was at 309 Pine, if you had seven kids he only charged you one price. It didn’t make a difference.

DS: Bringing in all seven kids for treatment? (25:00)

PS: Yes, everybody got treated for the same price. If you couldn’t afford it, he still treated you. You still got your medicine.

DS: Where did he live?

PS: 309 Pine.

DS: 309?

PS: Yes. Dr. Jaffe.

DS: Where St. Peter’s Walkway is now, Victoria Onitsky told me there used to be a doctor’s office there.

PS: Well, maybe that’s what I’m saying. Dr. Jaffe.

DS: Oh.

PS: With the house; Dr. Jaffe.

DS: You would ride bikes?

PS: We used to rent a bike for a quarter from Bob’s and Mabel’s.

DS: Where were they?

PS: At Sixth and Delancey. Now the schoolyard is there. Delancey Street used to go between Sixth and Seventh. You could go to Bob’s and Mabel’s if you didn’t have a bike of your own.

DS: The building that’s there now – (26:00)

PS: That used to be a whole street.

DS: Oh.

PS: Between Sixth and Seventh.

DS: There was another building for McCall’s?

PS: There was never a building there. We had gym in the basement at McCall’s School.

DS: Oh.

PS: That building they moved and made that yard. When I was little, we didn’t have no trees in the yard. It was just a school yard.

DS: The building that’s McCall’s now, the main building, that was –

PS: That was always there.

DS: But the street –

PS: Delancey Street –

DS: Went the whole way through?

PS: Yes, went all the way through. At the corner of Fifth [she means Sixth] and Delancey was Bob’s and Mabel’s. There was a garage next door. At Seventh and Delancey was the baby hospital. On the side of McCall’s school, on the north side (27:00) of the street, was houses, between Sixth and Seventh; on the south side of Delancey, the teachers from McCall would park their cars on an angle. When we ran – relay races – we’d get outside on the Delancey Street side of the school. There was a little schoolyard on Panama Street. There was a Jewish delicatessen at Sixth and Pine, Sam’s. There was a little grocery store, a little deli, a luncheonette, you would call [it], Manny’s, on the corner (28:00) of Sixth and Pine. There was Levi’s Hot Dogs, the brother had a place, on the corner at Sixth and Pine. The original Levi’s was on [Sixth, south of Lombard Street]. You know there was at Third and Lombard a little luncheonette. There was Luke’s shoe man, that repaired shoes. Luke and his wife had one daughter. Then later they moved to Fourth and Lombard. My girlfriend’s grandmother had a little Polish [shop] where you can go for a bowl of soup for fifteen cents or ten cents. A lot of the guys [from] Dock Street would go; that was on Third and Lombard.

DS: Third and Lombard?

PS: Yes, a couple of doors from the corner. Of course, there was Abbotts, that you got all your delicious ice cream, because once you got your block of ice in your refrigerator (29:00) you didn’t have no room to put ice cream. Abbotts would throw Dixie cups over to our back yard on Stamper Street.

DS: What do you mean “throw ‘em over”?

PS: Well, they would ask, you know, “Can Patsy have ice cream?” My ciocia would say, “Yes.” They would give us Dixie cups: they’d throw them over [into] the back yard. [In] those times, they’d have movie stars in the lids of the Dixie cups. Did you realize that?

DS: Now that would have been at 216 Stamper?

PS: Yes. It was, I believe, from 206 to 216, and then we had an alley. They wanted to knock the whole block down, but Alfred Spaws, (30:00) who worked in City Hall, lived at 234, so they did knock [down] from 216 all the way down to Second. They built, you know, the garage there that’s there now. From 230 – no, 228 – up to Third Street they kept intact. Carter’s Box Factory used to be between Second and Third on Pine, and it came out onto Stamper Street.

DS: Where Blackwell Court is?

PS: Yes, where Blackwell Court is that’s where Carter’s Box Factory used to be.

DS: What did you say Mr. Spaws did to prevent them from –?

PS: Well, he lived there, and he did something at City Hall. I don’t know if he was a committeeman or if he was –

DS: Pulled some strings? (31:00)

PS: Yes. I guess they were saying that the neighborhood was a slum and he said, you know, it’s not a slum. This was a neighborhood where people have grown up. His family owned a bar at Front and South. There we go again, a lot of bars. [Laughs]

DS: Yes. On Lombard Street between Second and Third, on the north side, what was there?

PS: Lombard between Second and Third? There used to be a pool, I think, on Naudain Street. It used to be called Lombard Hill. We used to just ride down the hill. I can’t remember what exactly used to be there.

DS: I’m thinking Lombard, you know, where Dorothy’s [Bunting] back yard is?

PS: That’s where Abbotts was, where there used to be the parking for Abbotts. (32:00)

DS: Parking for Abbotts?

PS: On the other [side] was the factory where they made the ice cream.

DS: Right.

PS: On the north side –

DS: On the north side would have been parking for Abbotts. Now, you say there was a swimming pool at Naudain?

PS: Naudain between Second and Front. There used to be a pool.

DS: Public pool?

PS: Yes. Public pool.

DS: You went swimming there?

PS: Um, yes, but I used to go more, I think, to around Third and Fairmount, Third and Brown. There used to be another pool someplace around there where I used to go.

DS: Oh.

PS: But, we were more for riding the bicycles up and down. Libby’s father had a garage on Fifth and Lombard, and he would take us to the Y at Broad and Pine and we would go swimming. (33:00)

DS: The Jewish Y?

PS: The Jewish Y.

DS: Good. Were there playgrounds? I mean, you did activities in the churches, but were there playgrounds for the children with some type of activities?

PS: Yes, I think on Front and Lombard we used to go for some kind of activity. [There] used to be the high steps right at Front Street and it was a playground. I really can’t remember the name of it. We would go to Sixth and Lombard to the playground.

DS: Starr Garden?

PS: Yes, Starr Garden, and we would go to Seger, the playground, or Smith (34:00) Playground.

DS: Did you go to Smith? Out in Fairmount Park?

PS: Yes. Libby’s father had a car, and he would drive us out there.

DS: Did you ever go down to the river?

PS: Liberty Beach Line, yes. We used to take a –

DS: Riverview Beach Line?

PS: Yes. We would go down to Riverview Beach, where there was an amusement park.

DS: Where was that?

PS: I would say it was probably past – down toward Chester, but I’m not really sure.

DS: It’s on the Jersey side?

PS: I would think, but I’m not really positive. They had (35:00) a moonlight cruise, and they would have a day cruise. [On] the moonlight cruise, there would be dancing. They would take you on the Delaware, you know. You’d have to get all dressed up, and have a little shawl or whatever – you know, to keep you cool – I mean warm – because it would be cool at night. Riverview Beach, I think it was called.

DS: Riverview Beach?

PS: Yes.

DS: Not view?

PS: Maybe Riverview Beach. Maybe you’re right. But, that was the ferry. It would be the ferry would take you across.

DS: Which ferry? Off of South Street? Lombard?

PS: Yes, South Street, Lombard, would be the ferry. (36:00) It would take the cars over. You would go over to Camden.

DS: It would leave South Street, and you could put your cars on? That was also how they would put the [inaudible] on that they sold –

PS: I don’t remember that.

DS: Do you remember anything called Soupy Island?

PS: Yes, I do.

DS: Where was Soupy Island? Everybody knows about Soupy Island.

PS: Maybe that was north. I don’t really know, but I remember you’d get a boat and it would take you up to Soupy Island. For some reason, I think there was a camp up that way, too. Camp Happy, or something. That might have been from the Salvation Army, because we would go to the playground at the Salvation Army at Third and Willings Alley (37:00) [on the] southwest side. A lot of the kids would go up there and play sports, or we’d go to the Shot Tower, which is below Christian [Street].

DS: What would you do there? At Front Street?

PS: We would just play.

DS: At the playground there?

PS: A playground [with] monkey bars, swings, slides.

DS: Yes. Other landmarks, community life?

PS: The Shambles.

DS: The Shambles. Tell me about the Shambles in your childhood. (38:00)

PS: It always had sawdust on the ground. You could go there and get cheeses – kind of like the Reading Terminal, but a smaller version.

DS: Outside?

PS: No, it was inside when I was a kid.

DS: Was it?

PS: Yes.

DS: The Shambles was enclosed?

PS: It was closed in. You went in through a door on the side, and it went as far as to South Street.

DS: Oh, so it looked like it does now, only it went the whole way to South Street, and it was – the sides were closed.

PS: Well, it had doors that you can go in – like when we came down Stamper Street, we could just go right into the door and go into the market. (39:00) It had stalls, you know, with cheeses and fruits and vegetables. On Second Street, it would have fruit stores and Canuso’s on Second and South. There was a State Store. There was Teitelbaum’s Bakery at Second and South. There was a grocery store right at the corner, later on, at Second and South, and there was a butcher. There used to be an Acme, like around 214 South Street was an Acme. Later on it was a Polish butcher, where you could get kielbasa – (40:00) any kind of meat, but it was a Polish butcher, Sam. There was plenty of flower shops on South Street. There was Lena’s and there was Schultz’s. Do you remember Lena’s?

DS: Um hum.

PS: Wow! Snockey’s Seafoods. There was Army and Navy stores on South Street, between Second and Third. [inaudible] A restaurant, which was a Greek restaurant.

DS: Were the movie houses still down there?

PS: Yes, there was the Model and there was the Palace. At Eighth and South there was a movie also. (41:00)

DS: When you were growing up in the ‘40s, South Street was still a booming shopping center?

PS: Yes. I think South Street was better in those days than it is now. There was more variety.

DS: Was it still good when you went away to high school?

PS: I would think so.

DS: That would have been into the ‘50s?

PS: Yes. I think it changed somewhat, but I think it was still nicer than what it is now. (42:00)

DS: How old were you when you left to go – it would have been high school, right? You went to sixth grade at McCall’s and then one year at Bartlett’s that would have been seventh grade?

PS: Then I went to eighth grade at West Nottingham. I came back and went to Southern, but then I got married.

DS: Eighth grade you would have been fourteen, so it was still good when you were fourteen?

PS: Yes, I would say that. I got married in ’62, at seventeen. It was still nice around South Street then: they sold a variety of things. You (43:00) had Triplex Shoes; you had City Shoes. You had Arabach kids’ store. You had My Lady’s. You had an antiques store at Third and South; not the one that’s there now. You had the Five and Dime at Fifth and South that you could go in through South Street and go out onto Fifth or come in through Fifth and come out onto (44:00) South Street. There was Longo’s Poolroom. There was Sam’s Deli. Herbie and Gertie had a little pinball place on South Street. You had Schultz’s Wallpaper. You had Foremost at Third [she means Fourth] and Gaskill, which had baseball players that were Phillies that worked there in all seasons.

DS: At the Foremost there?

PS: Kosher place, yes.

DS: Right.

PS: Phillies baseball players worked there, because in those (45:00) days they didn’t get that much money for playing baseball, so they worked to supplement their income so they could have money. There was the Model Bakery, which had the best rolls and doughnuts, and Moskowitz’s Bakery on Fifth Street. Murray’s Restaurant. It was just a wonderful neighborhood.

DS: Model’s was on Fourth?

PS: The Model [Bakery] was at Fourth and Lombard. You can go in there at eleven o’clock at night and get a dozen rolls, and you got thirteen, a baker’s dozen. Everything was fresh made. (46:00)

DS: A lot of people worked in factories or stores in this area?

PS: Right. There was [the] Ottavianos, who had Freddy’s Barber Shop on Fourth Street. Hoffman’s Iron Works was on Fourth and Pine.

DS: What did they make there?

PS: Mostly, I think, iron railings for properties and homes and businesses or whatever. They were good days.

DS: I think you did really well; you remember the names of all these places. (47:00) This is good.

PS: Some I don’t remember. The most important thing is everybody got along.

DS: When the Redevelopment Authority came in, do you remember your feelings about this? Did you see it as a good thing or not, or did you not care?

PS: No, I did care. I thought it broke up the neighborhood. I think it took the really poor people and pushed them out. I think we paid maybe $60 a month in rent, (48:00) where my mother and my aunt [lived]. My mother’s family lived around on American Street, where they paid $9 a month rent. We’re going back a lot more years.

DS: Where on American Street?

PS: They lived at 307 South American. [I mean] Philip.

DS: Philip.

PS: 309 or 307, where they paid $6 or $9 a month rent. (49:00)

DS: What would you get for that $9? Two rooms or three rooms? A bathroom?

PS: I think they got the whole house.

DS: Oh, the whole house?

PS: Yes, I think. My ex-husband’s relatives had a boarding house at, I’ll say, 209 Spruce Street. They went to St. Peter’s. The Dogles. I never knew (50:00) they had a boarding house, where the people from on the ships, or dock workers, [would come] rent a room. Eventually they moved to Fifth, 529 Delancey – no, 527 Delancey.

DS: Your ex-husband was from this neighborhood, too?

PS: Yes. His family went to St. Peter’s; his grandmother and grandfather. Growing up, I can remember, I would say the rich people would come to the neighborhood (51:00) with the cars and park outside of the churches, because the people that had money from Old Pine would send us to camp. We would go to Daily Vacation Bible School and if we stayed for Daily Vacation Bible School and learned Bible verses, the people that had money from church would send us to camp. [It] is still in existence, [where] I loved to go, out in Downingtown.

DS: Why did the people – the rich people come in from the suburbs to these churches, (52:00) St. Peter’s, Old Pine?

PS: I don’t think they all came from the suburbs. I think a lot of them lived a little out of the neighborhood.

DS: Just out of the neighborhood, perhaps.

PS: Yes, I would say in Olney, or whatever.

DS: Do you think that they had spent their childhood here and then moved out when they made money? You don’t know.

PS: I really don’t know. It was just a good neighborhood. As poor as (53:00) we were, I think because everybody got along; it didn’t make a difference if you had money or you didn’t. Everybody played together. Everybody did things together. It didn’t matter what color you were, how rich you were. I mean, we had holes in our shoes and put cardboard in them, but we played together, and we had fun. The best memories you can have is having fun as a little kid and remembering what you did as a little kid. (54:00) If my ciocia or my grandmother would cook and I’d have friends come over, they would eat. If I would go to their house, I would eat. Not too long ago, I went to the bank at Second and Pine (55:00) to cash a check, and the girl said to me, “Hi, Patsy.” Now, my check was [made out] to Patricia Stevenson, but I knew she had to know me because she called me Patsy. I said to her, “I don’t really know who you are.” She said, “Patsy, don’t you remember, when we were little, I would go to your house, and your grandmother would put a hot comb” – or whatever they called it – “on the coal stove and heat it up?”

DS: A hot cone?

PS: A comb.

DS: A comb?

PS: A comb, like a curling iron, I guess. (56:00)

DS: Oh.

PS: My grandmother would put it on the stove and heat it up and straighten Phyllis’s hair. I would go to her house, and her mother would corn-row my hair. I thought I was the cat’s meow, because when I’d take [the corn-rows] out after it dried, I’d have a hundred different waves. She wanted her hair straight like me, [and I wanted] the kinky hair [like hers]. She said, “Patsy, can’t you remember?” and I said, “Phyllis, I can’t believe, after forty years, you (57:00) could remember who I was.” She said, “Because you’re always talking and always helping people, and in the bank, helping a lady that [you] don’t even know, probably. That’s what you always did as a kid.” Here Phyllis – Phyllis Reed – worked at the bank, and she remembered, they were good times. Or you gave your clothes away. Somebody else didn’t have clothes, you gave your clothes to them. You didn’t have clothes, they gave you their clothes. It was share and share alike. (58:00)

DS: When Redevelopment came in, that all changed because you didn’t know everybody?

PS: Right. You didn’t get to know who your neighbor was. People weren’t as friendly. They may be now. I think after they have lived here for a while people have changed. But, some of the [new] neighbors didn’t want to bother (59:00) with you. I think they felt that they were better than you, maybe. [As I’ve said], all my girlfriends’ fathers were doctors. Cheryl Maypow’s father was the ear, nose and throat specialist; Dr. Zubrow was the family doctor in the neighborhood, at 521 Pine. Jewish friends’ parents had stores on South Street, linen businesses, or on Fifth (60:00) Street, where it was a wholesale house. It was all wholesale houses on Fifth Street, between Pine and Spruce.

DS: On Fifth Street between Pine and Spruce?

PS: Grace Kelly came, when she was getting married, to get linens. I can remember, as a little girl, that she was there. (61:00)

[First side of tape ends. Second side of tape begins]

PS: Haberdashery: a place where you could buy underwear, a dozen pairs of socks. Fourth Street had the best shops. Cheese, eggs, butter; that was after the market closed on Second Street. Anything you wanted, you didn’t have to go far.

DS: When did the market close on Second Street? Do you know?

PS: No.

DS: Fourth Street became –

PS: Well, you could go to Fourth Street even when the market was here. You could go to Ninth Street, the Italian Market.

DS: The fabric center on Fourth was very active then?

PS: It was more active than it is today. People sewed. (1:00)

DS: Yes, you made your own clothes. You were taught to sew in school, right?

PS: You had sewing in school. Too many things nowadays are commercialized. Most women don’t cook; most women are out working. They come home from work, they’re too tired; they pop it in the oven. Years ago, people worked, they came home, and they made things, or they made them before they left in the morning. I’m not saying everybody. I’m just saying, people made homemade pies. They made homemade cakes. They made homemade everything. Now you can buy everything and just pop it in the microwave. It’s entirely different now.

DS: One of the ladies that I’ve talked to previously said that there was a street that ran (2:00) through from Second to Front in the middle of this block (Delancey to Spruce, Front to Second). Do you remember a street being in there?

PS: No, I can remember little houses though. There could have been a street. I mean, I can remember Gaskill Street came through to Second, not just between Third and Fifth; but it came zig-zag. In other words, it came down so far and then it came over and then it went that way.

DS: It was sort of going around Abbotts?

PS: Well, kind of.

DS: The dairy was between Gaskill and Lombard?

PS: Yes, right. That’s the main building. There were a couple little streets that had a couple little Father, Son, Holy Ghost houses on them. At Third and Gaskill (3:00) two sisters used to have cigarettes, cigars. Where the dry cleaner is now, used to be two old sisters, and they had like, used to be called –

DS: Tobacco shop?

PS: Right. I couldn’t think of the word.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Tell me the story about the plane.

PS: As a little girl, Horace Bunting and Dorothy would take me down to the airport. We would be able to watch the planes and you would actually see people walking up the steps to get into the plane. You’d say, “Well, gee, I wonder where they’re going.” Nowadays, when you go to the airport, you just walk into a room, and you walk, and you walk a little walkway. You don’t see a runway. You don’t see anything until you’re completely (4:00) on the plane. In those days you could go down and watch the planes just take off, south, north, east, west, and you always just wondered, “Well, gee, where are they going?”

DS: Tell me how you got to know Dorothy and Horace Bunting.

PS: Dorothy lived at 214 [Stamper] and we rented the house at 216 [Stamper]. I assume when I was bored, you know, I would go to see my grandmother and my ciocia. Dorothy was the next-door neighbor. Dorothy would take me different places, because they had a car. I think I was the only girl on an all-boys street. I got to play baseball, football.

DS: Were you a tomboy?

PS: I would say I was until I reached a certain age. [Laughs] (5:00) Then two other little girls moved in, but I would be the athletic one, doing sports.

DS: Did Aunt Min live next door?

PS: Aunt Min lived next door to Dorothy. Aunt Min lived at 216 [Stamper].

DS: She is your aunt, but she’s not the one you’re calling ciocia.

PS: No, my ciocia was my grandmother’s sister. They were older; Aunt Min was younger. They were good days, dark days. Family was wonderful, really wonderful. (6:00)

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Did you have police on the street?

PS: When people say it was a slum, we had police officers, we had committeemen, we had –

DS: The fire station?

PS: We had the fire house. We had a fireman that lived on the street, we had a policeman that lived on the street, we had a committeeman that lived on the street. You know, we had hard-working people that lived on Stamper Street.

DS: They were invisible?

PS: Yes, that you could see anytime you needed somebody, they were around. You didn’t have to worry. You know, you left your doors unlocked. We didn’t have air conditioners. I don’t even think we had fans. We didn’t even have a TV. When the ice man came and brought you ice, I mean, he knew everybody by name. You know, you didn’t have to worry who your neighbors were, whether they were black or white, you were neighbors. I mean, Third and Delancey was a mix of people, but everybody got along.

DS: You had milk deliveries? (7:00)

PS: Uh huh, the milkman, Jake the milkman. You had the ice man. It was just great.

DS: You had gas heating and gas stoves?

PS: No, we had an old coal stove.

DS: Coal.

PS: We had coal delivered, and you had an old cast-iron coal stove, and that’s what you cooked on. You had a little ice box, where when they brought a block of ice you couldn’t put anything else in: the block of ice took up the whole space. You had the Givella man coming around, which was like bleach, Clorox.

DS: Who?

PS: Givella. We used to call it Givella water. It was similar to Clorox. A guy would come in a horse and wagon and holler, “Givella water! Givella water!” [You used] that to disinfect. [When] the fire (8:00) plugs would be on, you’d clean your streets, your marble steps, with brown soap and a scrubbing brush. You never had mosquitoes or flies, because everybody got out there and cleaned everything that was thrown on the ground.

DS: Was it dirty because of the produce market, or was it just because of the city and you’re living so close to each other?

PS: Down around Dock Street it was dirty, but I think the city would come around and clean. It wasn’t the cleanest, but you were able to walk on Dock Street.

DS: What would you use the Givella for?

PS: For disinfectant.

DS: For clothing?

PS: Yes, or for the floor; when you did your wash. Of course, you didn’t have a washing machine; you had a scrub board. [Laughs]

DS: You would use it in the kitchen?

PS: Yes, we didn’t even have indoor plumbing. We had an outhouse. (9:00)

DS: You did! On Stamper Street?

PS: On Stamper Street. No indoor plumbing at all. The Troyanos had, I believe, the first outdoor shower.

DS: Dorothy’s.

PS: Yes, Dorothy’s parents had the shower.

DS: Outside.

PS: Outside; eventually, I guess it went inside. We used to have a galvanized tub that was your swimming pool, that was your bathtub, that was your everything. You would heat the water on the coal stove or put it in the yard to make it warm, and that’s how you took your bath.

DS: That’s how you did your wash, too?

PS: Yes.

DS: You’d hang your laundry outside?

PS: You’d hang your laundry on a pulley line.

DS: In the winter?

PS: Same thing.

DS: Same thing? [Laughs]

PS: They would stand up when you brought them in, and they would have to thaw. You know, your pants would literally stand straight up. 10:00)

DS: To heat the house?

PS: Coal stove.

DS: Fire places?

PS: We had a couple of fire places, but I don’t think they were working. I can remember always pushing that thing at the bottom of the coal stove and letting the ashes go into an ash bucket. The basement would be a dirt basement, and a guy would come, have a chute, and the coal would go down the cellar. You would have coal heat. Down comforters or feather comforters, whatever it was, you hung out the window to air out, because there was no place to go wash them; you had to wash them by hand. At Third and Stamper there used to be a dry cleaner. They had a big (11:00) machine [that] would do your laundry.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: Go ahead, the Patous?

PS: Harry Patou, his family, there was a policeman, and there was a fireman, and then there was the Carakers, and there was Luskys, it was just a wonderful street. The Spawses, the Neimans, the O’Neills.

DS: Now you did tell me that the Spawses’ daughter –

PS: Kathleen.

DS: Kathleen lives in New Jersey; her son Fred, who did live on Stamper at 334, (12:00) sold in 1994 and moved to New Jersey?

PS: No, I think he lives in – his telephone number is the same, if you have his phone number.

DS: No, I don’t.

PS: Well, I probably have his telephone number at home, because I called to tell him about Dorothy, and Freddy, he would probably know a lot more than me.

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: But your grandmother—

PS: My grandmother used to clean offices around Fourth and Walnut, Fifth and Walnut. Used to be all insurance companies. They used to clean the offices at night to make money.

DS: Gatsby’s mother?

PS: Mother. It would be the mother. I think she lived up to her 90s. I can remember her being out with a broom with a rag on it, cleaning her windows, even into her 90s. (13:00)

[Tape is turned off, then on again]

DS: On Third Street, going south from Pine, east side?

PS: There was a drug store—

DS: On the corner.

PS: Then there was an apartment house, and a Jewish couple had a dry cleaner [shop] in the basement. Then it was Mikowskys; then another Mikowsky lived next door. Then it was the Birds and the Paskowitzes. I can’t remember who lived in the corner property. Wanda was his [Peter Paskowitz’s] mother; Mary Bird was Jimmy and Joey’s mother. (14:00)

DS: You’re amazing.

PS: Then there was –

DS: These were the children.

PS: These were the children that were my age: Johnny, Tommy, and Joey Carico, Johnny Luftig, who is now retired.

DS: Did a lot of the people did marry within the neighborhood?

PS: Yes.

[End of Interview]

© 2005 Project Philadelphia 19106™. All rights reserved.

About the Interview

Dorothy Stevens
Cynthia J. Eiseman
Interview Location
116 Delancey Street
Interview Date
August 15, 2005
Stevenson, Patricia
Narrator Type
Lifelong Resident
Oral History Sources