Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Archive for the ‘Nostalgic Memorabilia’ Category

Photo Challenge: Nostalgia

When I think about the past, I get a warm feeling. Wistfully, I fondly remember things of the past . . . old photographs, a typewriter, my grandmother’ quilts, my father’s train set from the 1920s. Sometimes the scene is recreated for us, such as an old general hardware store or train station.  There’s something quaint in those scenes that’s missing today. Despite all of our technology and modern gadgets, objects from yesteryear carry with them the skill and creativity that is still valued. The objects are embedded with memories. We never know what will stay with us and what will be gone some day.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgia

Photo Challenge, Rare: 18th Century Carousel

I’m expanding the “photo” challenge by posting a video. While visiting Zaragoza, Spain, a Renaissance Fair was well underway with colorful tents filling the square and the smells of cheese, incense, burning wood, and olives intertwined on whiffs of air. Crowds poured over the Roman bridge, as it seemed the entire population of Zaragoza showed up to visit the varied venders who came to sell their wares. Musicians played drums and a bagpipe troop snaked their way through the crowd. I wandered past the booths displaying pottery, jewelry and clothing as people cued up to get a photograph with a raptor or a snake charmer.

A vintage merry-go-round, cranked by hand by the operator, caught my attention. I watched the children enjoy the quintessential steampunk ride, with airships, balloons and other flying contraptions. A rare sight, indeed.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare

New Freedom African-American Historic District Tour

New Freedom African-American Historic District Tour

IMG_2954Philadelphia Hiking Meetup Group sponsored a tour of West Philadelphia that focused on African-American historic sites. The organizer, Jed McKee, plans hikes that are transit friendly and is one of the reasons I selected this walk. The tour began at 30th Street Station, which is a hub of the rail lines, including Amtrak and Septa, that go in and out of Philadelphia.

Our group met under the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, a 39-foot monument commemorating the Pennsylvania Railroad employees who died in World War II. The bronze sculpture, Angel of the Resurrection, represents Michael the Archangel raising up a dead soldier out of the “flames of war.” Assistant Organizer, Scott Maits, our guide and local historian, began his commentary with a history of the station and of early Philadelphia.

As Scott led us west along Market Street, crossing under the freight train tracks, he told us the story of Frances Harper, who protested segregation on the trolleys in 1858.  Frances refused to give up her seat or ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car. Frances, an abolitionist, was also a writer and poet, author of the poem, “Bury Me In A Free Land,”

I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
All that my yearning spirit craves,
Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

We crossed through the campus of Drexel University into the area known as Black Bottom, a predominantly African-American community that was almost completely destroyed in the 1960s for “urban renewal.” Penn, Drexel, University of the Sciences, and Presbyterian Hospital worked together to acquire properties for eventual demolition.

Kitchen Sink Sculpture

Kitchen Sink Sculpture

Scott gave us an opportunity to view the facilities of the Community Education Center, that once housed the Quaker Friends School and Meetinghouse, rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century. Local community members founded the CEC “to promote shared experiences and nurture fellowship among its varied neighborhoods across cultural and economic differences.”  The Center supports local community art programs, especially dance and performance.

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The neighborhood varied from grand mansions to row homes.

Dupree Studios just won their long battle with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA); the agency has ended condemnation proceedings to acquire the property by eminent domain.

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We walked along Lancaster Avenue, originally called the Lincoln Highway, finding these wonderful moments along the way.

Hall Rennovation

Lovely old building needing funding to restore to former glory,

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Inspection Station with mural and mosaics.

Included this photograph of CBM Tires because I like old gas stations!

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Bicycle Shop

Bicycle Shop with clever display of wheels and gears. Can’t find anything like this at the mall.

Belmont Mural

Welcome to Belmont Mural

Lava Space Mural

Murals on Lancaster Avenue/Lava Zone Mural

Martin Luther King Mural

40th Street and Lancaster Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. mural. Mural recreates “Freedom Now” Rally held on August 3, 1965, during the Civil Rights movement.

Our last stop was at the intersection of Lancaster Avenue, 42nd Street, and Brown Street, near the New Africa Center Muslim-American Museum, before heading back to 30th Street via Number 10 trolley.

IMG_2982The contrasts on Lancaster Avenue are striking: blighted stretches of store fronts and sidewalks in desperate need of cleaning juxtapose with the creative art displays, both public and private. Derelict buildings stand next to colorful sidewalk mosaics. After years of economic decline, revitalizing the neighborhood is a challenging task: to create a prosperous commercial corridor while preserving and encouraging a mixed-income community.

Extended thanks to Jed McKee and Scott Maits for giving our Meet Up group an opportunity to visit and to learn about the history of this important Philadelphia neighborhood.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time, Traveling into the Past

Recording family history has expanded my perceptions of time, how families lived out their days in cycles of births, marriages, and passings. Sometimes I cannot tell whether I am in their time or my own as these dimensions seem to meld together.

Video shows the passage of time for a little farm-house that belonged to my great-grandparents.  First photograph was taken a hundred years ago and the second when I returned to find the house along a back road on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

WordPress Photo Challenge: Time

 

Discovering Mullica Hill: Living History Weekend

Mullica Hill is a town in New Jersey, just a twenty minute car ride from Chester, Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River. Every summer, our family would drive through the town on the way to Cape May, our seashore destination. Farmland surrounds the village, and we would stop at one of the many roadside stands selling garden produce, always picking up fresh tomatoes and corn. To this day, nothing matches the flavor of Jersey vegetables.

Our rush to get to the shore meant forgoing a visit to the town, always intending to stop because of the appeal of the charming clapboard buildings that lined both sides of the street. Antique and collectible stores occupied several of the buildings, some of whichMullica Hill Singn dated back to the 18th century. I admired the decorated store fronts, festooned with flowers while eclectic items spilled out of the shops.

About 25 years ago, the village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey State Register of Historic Places in recognition of the town’s historic and architectural significance.

The second weekend in October Mullica Hill hosted a pumpkin festival and Civil War reenactment, so on a warm autumn morning, I drove through the countryside to finally visit the town. Stores displayed Fall motives with pumpkin and squash displays. I found places to eat such as Amelia’s Teas and Holly, The Canteen and the Blue Plate, which offers “Farms to Fork” with a listing of local farms from which they buy their ingredients. Musicians played from a porch on the main street, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Town Views

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Harry Potter Story Times

Harry Potter Story Time

Civil War Living History 

Mullica Hill claims a connection to the Civil War through native son, Samuel Gibbs French (1818-1910), author and Confederate General. He owned a plantation in Mississippi when he was appointed brigadier general of the army of the Confederate States. Gibbs wrote about his war experiences in his book, Two Wars.

In addition filming the Civil War reenactment battle, I strolled around the camps, taking in the aroma of camp fires. Reenactors shared their knowledge of guns and cannons as well as other artifacts from the era. I stopped to listen to  music performed by 26th Mifflin Guard band.

Returning to Mullica Hill was special, as I had friends who were participating in the living history demonstrations and could share a moment with them. Perhaps this was the time I was meant to be there.

Campsites

Battle Reenactment

Union Forces:
28th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Company C
2nd Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry

Confederate Forces:
2nd Regiment, Texas Cavalry
7th Regiment, Virginia Calvary
9th Regiment, Virginia Cavalry
1st Regiment, North Carolina Artillery, Battery C
19th Regiment, Virginia Volunteer Infantry

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Tempest in a Teapot: Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s challenge is to find beauty or interest where we might least expect it.

In walking through the neighborhood of Mt. Airy, I stumbled on the Philadelphia Salvage Company. Suitcases and trunks piled on an old railroad cart, and metal cans spilled over the sidewalk. I didn’t linger too long outside in the cold. On entering the building, I noticed a cast iron stove, pumping warm air through the building, and I warmed my hands as a looked around, mesmerized by the array of architectural salvage, from stained glass, plumbing and electrical fixtures, antique doors and windows.

A well-worn tea kettle bubbled boiling water as steam spewed from its spout.

Teapot

Weekly Photo Challenge: (Extra)ordinary

Childhood Memories, 1950s: Our Favorite Toys

Dolls with K & J

Displaying our dolls and stuffed animals

Working-class suburban children had more toys than kids from any previous era, although we had nothing to compare what life was like for children who grew up during other times or places. We didn’t know how lucky we were! Economic prosperity followed World War II, and parents had some expendable income and prices were relatively low. Parents expected us to share our swing set, wading pool and sandbox with our neighborhood friends. While we had many toys, they did not waste away in a mountain of plastic. We played with each toy, and parents were generally careful about buying too much. Toys fell to pieces from wear. Kids had time to play, as we didn’t have many chores, and mom was home to take care of the house, for most of us. In our family, our parents impressed on us to take care of our things, and if we didn’t, that demonstrated we would not be not entitled to any more. Santa delivered many of our toys on Christmas morning. My mother told me that when I was three, I exclaimed that I heard Santa’s sleigh bells, which kept me believing in the jolly old elf for years.

Backyard Swing Set

The 1950s brought in the era of reasonably priced, if not terribly safe or functional, swing sets. Some sets offered options, such as  rings, gliders, ladders or a slide, which would get burning hot in the summer. Fathers plunked the sets down in the middle of the yard on the hard earth without sand or wood chips. When swinging more than slowly back and forth, the entire set would fly up in the air. My dad added boards to the bottom to stabilize the set. Nevertheless, the swings became a place to hang out, if nothing else, passing the odd moments between other activities. Milling around the swings, we would start a game of tag, freeze tag or hide ‘n seek, hop scotch or jump rope. On summer nights, we’d find glass jars and collect lightning bugs.

Horns 1955

Skating

Suburban sidewalks and patios provided the perfect platforms for the metal roller skates with the leather straps. A key locked the skates to our shoes, and off we’d go around the neighborhood. In the winter, we signed up for ice skating lessons at the local rink, earning different color buttons as we moved up through the various skill levels. There was always a program at the end of the season to show off our talents, and the best part was wearing a fancy costume. We skated on creeks and ponds and at the tennis courts, which the township fire trucks would hose down to create smooth surface.

Trikes, Bikes and Scooters

David 4th of July Bike

TricycleKids under six would ride tricycles. Made of heavy steel, the trikes usually had a little platform in the back where a friend could go for a ride as we peddled.

Most, but not all, children in our neighborhood owned a two-wheeler. The popular Schwinn was equipped with foot brakes and large tires. A durable bike, it was difficult to peddle on steep hills. Some rode their bikes to school. Later, we graduated to the English bikes with gears and hand breaks. Because of the ease of peddling, we ventured further out of our neighborhood to explore local towns. Our municipality required bike licences, and we would ride up to the township building to go though the testing, which usually consisted of riding in a circle and straight line.

Dolls

christmas Baby dolls

1952 Christmas: dolls, bikes, clothes

Baby Dolls: Our cuddly baby dolls, made of vinyl soft plastic became our first favorite doll. Some had rooted hair that we could brush and some could be fed with a bottle and wet a diaper. Our layettes included blankets, pajamas, booties, and assorted outfits. We had cribs and baby carriages for taking our babies out for a ride in the neighborhood. Every night we would put the dolls to bed in their little cribs. I played with my Shirley Temple baby doll so much, she eventually disintegrated.

Christmas doll cribs

1954: Cribs, scooters, blackboard, lunch box

Walker Dolls: As we grew older, we graduated to a walker doll, usually about 14 inches tall, their legs and head would move together. These dolls were porcelain with mohair wigs and eyes would open and shut. Some of these dolls came in bride outfits. My friend, Joan, had the Ideal Toni doll, associated with the Toni cosmetic company, and came with her own permanent wave kit. I believe my doll was an American Character Sweet Sue. Joan and I had many of the same outfits for our dolls. We usually kept their clothes in small suitcases so that we could carry doll and outfits over to our friends’ houses. My the time my parents purchased a walker doll for my younger sister, the popular Shirley Temple, they were mostly made of plastic with rooted hair.

Madame Alexander and Ginny Dolls: These were the eight-inch little girl dolls, and we collected dozens of outfits for them and had at least two dolls. The accessories were endless: slips, shoes, socks, handbags, hats and headbands. The clothes were detailed and well-made. Our moms helped us create beds out of cigar boxes, using clothes pins as legs. Mom made little blankets, sheets and pillows. We could also buy furniture, including patio and bedroom sets. In the picture below is the cardboard suitcase that Ginny carried back then.  The price was still marked on the box: $1, for a nightgown, slippers, robe and towel.

High Heal Fashion Dolls: In the late 1950s, the 8-inch high heel, or grown-up doll, became popular. This doll was the precursor to Barbie. The dolls were proportional but designed to wear high heels. We could buy a variety of outfits and accessories including nylon hose, simulated pearl necklaces and earrings, and fancy undergarments. The Revlon Fashion doll was the most common, but one manufacture created a doll after a local Philadelphia television celebrity, Sally Starr, hostess for Popeye Theatre, which ran from 1955 into the early seventies. Like Sally, the doll was dressed in a cow girl outfit with hat, boots, gun and holster.

Doll Houses

Doll house; puppets

Doll House and Puppet Show

We had two metal doll houses, which came with moulded plastic furniture for every room. The miniature pieces, brightly colored, represented detailing of wood, bed linens and upholstery. In the photograph above, a colonial house, made by Marx toys, resembled our two-story home. My sister and I spent hours rearranging the furniture, trying to decide the aesthetic placement of all the little pieces. We would make up stories using the plastic characters that came with the set.

Sleds

Most kids had the American Flyer sled, made of wood with metal sliders. Our neighborhood had a great hill for sledding so at the first snowfall, we’d be out on the hill before the cars and snow plow removed the snow. Later, we used the aluminum twirling sleds, the circular disks that would twirl down the hill.

Sledding

Boy Toys

Boys had several different toys than their sisters. Boys would run around the neighborhood playing cowboys, donning hats, holsters and fringed shirts; in several blog posts I write about how television, especially the Westerns, influenced play back then. Erector Sets, a collection of metal pieces, including wheels and gears and an electric motor, could be put together with nuts and bolts to build any number of mechanical contraptions. Interestingly, girls did play with Lincoln Logs. Why were girls given Lincoln Logs and not Erector Sets? Maybe tool use was considered too masculine for girls. Boys also had model train sets, usually set up around Christmas and placed around the tree. Some boys had train layouts in their basements. During the holidays, my father would set up his train set from the 1920s for his daughters. I liked the train but was more interested in arranging the houses to make a holiday scene.

Lincoln Logs

Lincoln Logs and Dog

All the Others . . .

We had more playthings in our toy chests: tinker toys, hula hoops, paddle balls, balsam wood gliders, slinky, view master, jump ropes, paper dolls, crayons and chalk. We spent many hours playing games with our friends:  Old Maid, Canasta, Clue, Checkers and Chinese Checkers, to name a few.

We had a wonderful time with the variety of toys available to us and developed friendships that formed around the games and toys. If you have written a blog post about toys in the 1950s, please include a link in the comments.

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