Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Posts tagged ‘Family History’

A Family Story through a Rusted Bucket

My sister and I have been on a pilgrimage, searching for clues about our ancestors who homesteaded on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan just before the turn of the century. Jozefa and Herman, who emigrated from Warsaw and settled in a small Polish community, grew potatoes in the swampy, sandy soil. They experienced long and cold winters, where they measured snowfalls in feet and temperatures hovered well below zero. My grandfather, George, left the farm to work in the automobile industry in Detroit.

Although the farm has been abandoned for over 70 years, town folk still refer to the homestead under our family name and directed us to drive down a dirt road to find their house. We scanned the forest on either side of the road until we spy a rooftop peeking out above the tree line. I grabbed my backpack and camera, and we began pushing through the tangled underbrush. Thorny bushes and trees with low branches poked at us as we make our way toward the house. Thin trees encapsulate the home, but we climb through a space where the back door remains slightly ajar.

Paint peels away from the walls, but the floors remain intact. I can see the opening to the loft where my father told me he slept when he came to visit. Solid walls stand erect, the tin roof protecting the wooden interior. We explored all corners of the empty two rooms, and then just sit quietly on the hollow window frames.

We leave the house to explore the surrounding fields and come across a pile of old timbers and cast-off pieces of metal, all that was left of the barn. Under the brush, we pulled out the pieces of a rusted bucket. As I look at the bucket, I remembered one of the undated photographs taken of our great-grandparents’ barn. My laptop, which I carry in my backpack, holds the archives of our family history, so I begin searching for the photograph. Time evaporates as I gaze at the rusted bucket and then at the photograph of  Jozefa holding the pail.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Grandfather, standing to Jozefa’s left in the picture, traveled almost 400 miles to visit his folks on this day. I questioned why did he make such a long trip at this time? George appeared quite dapper in his fedora and long black coat, and I noticed that he was smiling coyly at the camera. I searched back in family records again and found that my grandmother, Catherine, had died in 1936. Several years later George remarried. Was that his new bride taking the picture?

This was the beginning of a new life for my grandfather, but Jozefa would have only a few years left to care for her animals and farm. I thought about her small hand holding the handle of the bucket.

Yesterday: Beatle Memories & My Letter from Peter Best

From our collection of trading cards 1964

Awe-struck best describes my reaction on seeing the Beatles for the first time on “The Jack Parr Show” during a wintry evening in January 1964. Parr had intended the short video as a humorous anecdote about a British rock band and their astonishing popularity. The clip from that show exists here on YouTube. The music instantly set the standard for originality, fresh and energetic with a rhythmic pulse. Their expressive singing conveyed true sentiment. I suppose some critics might argue that the song in that clip, “She Loves You,” is cliché, but a close examination reveals otherwise. The lyrics, written in the third person, resemble a conversation about love. These young men from Liverpool defended love and sang about fairness, and that was very romantic. They offer wisdom and reconciliation, “Pride can hurt you too. Apologize to her.” Their performance package was perfect. Growing up in the era of crew cuts, the lads’ longer hair had instant appeal–a break from the uniform haircut that almost all males had at the time. Criticized and mocked by the Establishment, the Beatles‘ hair cut was considered as radical as was their “yeah, yeah, yeah.” To us, they just looked fabulous; and we admired this rebellious response to the status quo.

The Beatles transformed two teenagers from the suburbs in style as well as in mind.  Before the Beatles:

and after:

I immediately connected with British culture and their representation of working class youth: Liverpudlian accents, collarless fitted suits and urban lifestyle. The Cavran Club tucked in a cobbled ally of Liverpool, provided that gritty, smokey backdrop that served as their performance home and became my imagined refuge from the suburban pabulum that surrounded us. Their place in the world was so foreign from my life. They lived on the edge of the wharfs and warehouses and played music in ally way cellars, while I remained safely planted in the middle of a suburban protective cocoon. I studied the geography of their city, intrigued by the River Mercy, the docks and ferries. The Beatles, humorous and irreverent, seemed fearless. They would find themselves in trouble because of their candid and unaffected remarks; but for their fans, they became that much more endearing. We admired their forthright approach to life. Aware of their way in the world, more than anything I wanted to be part of that scene.

So we bought their albums, in addition to fan magazines, posters, trading cards, which offered a way of transporting ourselves into a time and place we could only experience vicariously.

When the Beatles announced they would be performing in Philadelphia, we left school early and raced down to the Convention Center to buy tickets to their concert. We waited in line for hours, pushed and shoved as fans surged toward the doors. The police regulated the flow, but the crowds outside pushed against us as we waited our turn to pass through to the ticket booth. I finally squeezed through an opening, and just as I fell out of the crowd, a newspaper photographer snapped a picture, which turned up on the front page of the Philadelphia Bulletin the next day!  I’m the one to the left looking somewhat dazed after being crunched by the surging crowds.  About 12,000 tickets were sold that afternoon in just 85 minutes.

We were thrilled to attend the concert, and although we had seats in the back of the Convention Center, it didn’t matter because once the Beatles appeared on the stage, fans surged forward streaming down the aisles and through the chairs. The wooden folding chairs provided standing platforms, some girls standing on the back rim of the seat. We never heard a note of the singing–the screaming was so loud. Cameras flashed steadily during the entire concert. None of that mattered; we were with the Beatles.

A Letter from Peter

Peter Best, the drummer who preceded Ringo and played with the Beatles for two years, appeared on “I’ve Got a Secret,” a popular game show of the 1960s hosted by Garry Moore, on March 30, 1964. (YouTube clip here.) I was very much impressed with Peter as he had his own band but felt sorry that he had missed the opportunity to stay with the Beatles. I decided to write him a letter and began researching ways in which I might make contact. I phoned the “I’ve Got a Secret” show, and they suggested sending the letter to The Peter Best Four in care of Decca Records.

Two months went by when one day I was surprised to find my mother standing outside of my algebra classroom. I couldn’t imagine what had brought her there until she handed me the letter from the United Kingdom. Pete Best had written me back!

Post-Beatlemania Analysis

Our culture never had much respect for teenage girls for many reasons. We were “little women,” and society didn’t even respect mature women. In the early sixties, careers and opportunities for women were still limited to a few fields. My mother assigned my sister and me our occupations: teacher and nurse. Of course, screaming at rock stars didn’t help the status of teenagers in the eyes of the Establishment, but I now have an understanding of that enthusiasm that bubbled over: teenager girls were heralding what turned out to be one of the most influential bands in this history of music. The Beatles‘ music remains a powerful contribution to the musical canon, having sold over one billion albums throughout the world.

The Beatles profoundly influenced the culture, everything from movies and fashion to the introduction of eastern philosophy to the West. Some have speculated that pop culture changed the way Russian youth perceived the West, dissipating the propaganda of English/Americans as being the enemy. Individually, the Beatles contributed to progressive causes: George’s Concert of Bangladesh, John and Yoko’s peace campaign, Paul and Linda’s advocacy for animal rights.

Prophetic young women, teenage fans from those early years recognized that the Beatles brought hope, change and happiness through music, which is understandable and reasonable. Our unified voices, unfettered from society’s control, expressed an outpouring of  jubilation and appreciation. Sophisticated behavior in the eyes of the patriarchal society, probably not, but heartfelt, truthful and joyful, most certainly.  With a love like that you know you should be glad.

Nostalgic Memoribilia: Filling Stations of the 1920s

About twenty miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, we turned right from Route 13 to Route 184 to explore the bay side town of Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. For many years the town had been the terminal of the Little Creek Cape Charles Ferry, which provided car ferry service to Norfolk and Hampton. Now an expansive beach runs the length of the village. Many of the homes date back to the early 1900s, and the town center has a distinctly small town main street.

Upon leaving the town, we drove by the filling station pictured above. A sale sign poked out of the tall grass. Even in the state of disrepair, the little building conveyed a charming ambiance so we stopped to take a picture as it seemed that its future was somewhat precarious.

After some research, I learned that during the 1910s filling stations were fairly standardized, but beginning in the 1920s oil companies began pushing to make their product easily identifiable, leading to a variety of architectural styles for their stations. In 1926 the English cottage design became the trademark of the Pure Oil Company. These quaint cottage buildings were intended to appease neighbors, as unsightly gas stations were considered an undesirable addition to communities.

The Pure Oil Company painted their stations white and topped their steeply pitched roofs with characteristic blue enameled terra-cotta. Arched entrances, bay windows, ironwork and sometimes flower boxes gave these structures a Tutor look. Only the pumps out front identified the building as a service station. Carl A. Peterson, responsible for the design of these stations, became head of the Design and Production Department for Pure Oil in the mid-1920s.   The company continued to use his design until just after the Second World War. Some of these stations have received historical designations, such as Freitag’s Pure Oil Service Station; but unfortunately, most have been torn down. In Wilmington, Delaware, a monument to Peterson’s work stands at Market and Seventeenth Streets, on the edge of the historic district.

Phillips 66 and Cities Service stations adopted variations of Peterson’ popular style. Standing by itself, one of these stations still remains on Route 30 in Devon here. I’ve seen two others in the Philadelphia area, one in West Philly on the corner of Whitby and 52nd Street and another, converted to selling Italian ice, located in Upper Darby on Garret Road.

The Pure Oil Company has another local connection. Securing its name in 1895, the company finished its crude-oil pipeline from the Pennsylvania oil fields to deepwater terminals across Pennsylvania. In 1901 before the pipeline was completed, the company built a refinery at Marcus Hook, PA, to process the company’s crude.

What triggered my nostalgia for this filling station is that my mother worked for a time in an office in a gas station that had similar architecture. Located near the corner of City Line and Lansdown Avenues, we would often drive by the station; and my parents would remind us of Mom’s time there. I always admired the structure with its rust-colored tiled roof and rounded door. The station has long since disappeared from the landscape, but when we drive pass that corner, the ghost of the building still stands in my mind.

Briarhill Road, Springfield: Looking Back

Map

When Springfield was founded in 1686, most of the residents were farmers. In the 20th century, developers bought up most of this farmland, and our little neighborhood was carved out of the land for the growing post-World War II population.

Farming in Springfield c1930 from the Collection of Joan Gripshover

Farming in Springfield c1930 from the Collection of Joan Gripshover

Fall 1950, A Neighborhood Emerges

Memories of my childhood begin to focus when my parents purchased a house on Briarhill Road, Springfield, Pennsylvania. Most of Springfield had been farmland, but the demands of the baby boom generation changed the landscape as families began to look for housing in suburbia. Woodview Farms, the name given to the three streets in the development (Briarhill, Wheatsheaf, and White Oak) formed a circle with one flat side, the hill at White Oak. The developer flattened the land, leaving only a few older trees here and there. Our home was the fifth one up on the left side, purchased for $11,500. My parents paid sn extra $500 for the side porch. About 2 1/2 years old, I’m standing next to Mom, a few months before she delivered my sister in October. Mom, drawing from her Scottish legends, always believed they would have good luck with this home, as a cricket greeted them on the steps.

These houses were typical of the box colonial style that builders relied on for quick production and ease of construction. Local ordinances required that the builder vary the styles, at least slightly. Some houses were painted white, some had patios or porches on the front or side. The houses on White Oak had garages built into the front. However, a number of construction-related problems surfaced fairly quickly for the new residents. As a result, the neighbored established the Woodview Farms Civic Association to address their grievances collectively. Later, the Association served as a social organization, planning 4th of July parades and other celebrations within the community.

In the picture above, we are walking away from our house, about half way between White Oak hill and the curve into Wheatsheaf. Woods lined the back of the homes on the left side almost to Woodland Avenue. By the time my sister was born on October 15, 1950, grass had been planted, along with a few shrubs along the front, inclusive in the sales agreement. Every house had the two evergreens on either side of the front door. Note the lack of automobiles on the street. A working class community in 1950, most families did not own a car.

This photograph was taken in our backyard, from which we could view every house in the inner circle. I still have my Dad’s wheelbarrow, which is parked along the back of the house.

Wheelbarrow 2011

I believe I might have been the first kid on the block with a swing set. The 50s had arrived.

Commerce Corridor on Woodland Avenue

A sidewalk cut through our neighborhood to Woodland Avenue, Route 420, a major roadway to towns east and to the airport. At the end of the sidewalk on the left stood the Woodland Inn, a rustic bar that had been in that location for years. Once, I fell off my bike in the parking lot, with the resultant bloody knee and elbow, and the kind bartender gave me a band aid and a ginger ale. In the late 1950s, developers built a small strip of stores on the field on the left side of the sidewalk. Many businesses, including a toy store, hairdresser, orthodontist offices and M&M cafe went in and out of those shops.

Trolley Stop Woodland Avenue

Trolley Stop Woodland Avenue 2014

The Red Arrow Line trolley stop was also on Woodland Avenue. Access to public transportation was important so Dad could commute to his workplace at the RCA plant in Camden, New Jersey.

Planted on the other side of Woodland Avenue was another older strip mall. Patler’s Pharmacy and soda shop occupied one corner and was a favorite place to hang out. Inside, a soda station supported a row of swivel seats with green vinyl covers, and we could get the best milk shakes, made the old-fashioned way with milk and ice cream stirred up in one of those mixing machines. As Kathy notes in the comments below, cherry and chocolate sodas were the best-tasting drinks ever. Mr. Patler would stand behind high wooden cabinets supporting bottles of medicine. The pharmacy was still in business in 1979. I went in one day with my son, John, and Mr. Patler was so taken by him, he gave him a toy clown.

Photograph taken 2014, exterior, much the same, with different stores.

Photograph taken 2014, exterior, much the same, with different stores.

In the middle of the strip, a convenience store sold groceries and cold cuts. Mom often sent me there to buy lunch meats and rolls. However, I was under strict orders not to buy any candy.

Doll in yellow dressNext door, Carter’s Hardware Store displayed toys and home and garden tools in their window. As both Joan and Kathy remarked in the comments, Mrs. Carter was known for her gift wrapping skills. We would find any excuse to browse around the store, as Mrs. Carter artfully displayed dolls and their fashions in wooden cases with glass windows. Playing with our dolls, especially the 6-inch Madam Alexander or Ginny dolls, was a favorite pastime. We then collected the high heel fashion dolls, the precursor to the Barbie dolls that followed later. I specifically remember buying this yellow dress at Carter’s because I debated so long as to whether to spend the money.

One Year Later, Summer 1951

By the time the next year rolled around, neighborhood children had become playmates. I’m sitting center on the wheelbarrow, and Joan, my long-time childhood friend, is sitting on the left. Joan and I are still in contact today. Paul and Mary, the two children on the end, lived next door to us for a few years.

I wonder about girls playing outside while wearing dresses. Maybe it was a Sunday? In the post, 1950s Retrospective on Children’s Fashion: Petticoats and Mary Janes, I reminisce about what we wore back then. In the second photo just behind Paul, a hand lawn mower rests propped against the house. I remember that my Dad had one, too. What was nice about these mowers: no noise.

During the summer of 1951, the neighborhood organized their first 4th of July parade for the children, and the tradition continued for at least 50 years. My Dad took these pictures on Wheatsheaf.

1952, The Year of the Fences

Two years into the neighborhood formation, fences sprung up, including the dreaded chain link, the bane of aesthetic sensibilities. Is it true that the smaller the plot of land, the more likely people feel compelled to demarcate their territory with a fence? Our next door neighbors had added a room off the back of their house. Dad had begun the process of building our garage as the stakes in the ground marked the footprint. In the color picture below, taken a few months later, piled cinder blocks and other construction materials show up in the yard. Our 194? Plymouth sits on the recently poured concrete driveway.

Plymouth had a running board.

The 4th of July parade that summer had the usual decorated bikes and doll buggies, but David, neighbor from across the street, upped the ante by including a float. The Association was now awarding prizes.


1953 Halloween

By 1953 Halloween was well-established as a neighborhood tradition. The twins, Carol and Janet from next door, arrive to collect their treat with a few others standing behind the door. Jean and I modeled our store-bought costumes, but I was not very happy because Mom insisted that I wear a sweater.  Everyone knows that a princess does not wear a sweater under her gown under any circumstances! Thus began my compulsion about clothes that don’t match.

This next picture triggered a memory about wall paper. Home owners had a choice of having their walls painted or wall papered.  The choice of wall paper was considerably cheaper because the builder did not have to “finish” the walls for painting.  The wall paper was always a choice Dad would regret as scraping it off was tedious and time-consuming. While on the subject of interiors, the television set appears central to the living room. I’ve written several blog posts on television westerns during that time: Lone Ranger and Tonto: A Nostalgic View and Modern Critque and Lone Ranger on Television: Reflections on My Childhood.

That same year Mom and Dad gave us two bunnies. The neighborhood now included cats, dogs and other assorted animals. Mom had a goldfish bowl that sat on our kitchen window.  One of our little rabbits lived for twelve years.

1955 Halloween Party

Because my sister’s birthday fell on October 15, we usually had a birthday costume party inviting our neighborhood friends over for a celebration.

4th of July Celebrations on the Block

The Civic Association usually arranged for a portable merry-go-round to be part of the neighborhood 4th of July celebration. Although the ride only lasted a few minutes and was certainly a miniaturized version of any other merry-go-round I had ever been on, nevertheless I looked forward to this ride every year.

Backyard

Playing in backyard. Note fireplace in top, left corner.

School Days (Link to Springfield Class of 1965)

Most of the children in the neighborhood attended Central School on Saxer Avenue, some went to the Catholic school at St. Francis. We walked to school, which was about three blocks away crossing at the light on Woodland Avenue. Built in 1920s, each classroom opened with oak doors and hallways lined with woodwork trim. Each room had a huge walk-in closet for coats and boots. The cafeteria in the basement served hot lunches and milk in little glass bottles. The township demolished the school in 1978; a sports field occupies the space now. A Facebook page for Central Schools Alums is located here with pictures of the grand stone building. In those days the fire station’s second floor housed the public library across the street from Central School. This site has several pictures of the firehouse as it looked in the 1950s.

Miss. Symon’s First Grade Class, 1952-53

As a result of the housing boom, the district built a new elementary school, Sabold, on Thompson Avenue. Because of the street crossings, we now had to take a bus. The new school had new features such as a sink and bathroom in every classroom, and we each had our own cubby hole. A rack served as a coat depository.

Third Grade Classroom

Third Grade Classroom at Sabold

On Briarhill Road

On the front steps of Sabold School

While attending Sabold, I became fascinated by two of the school’s neighboring properties. One was the Blue Church, the oldest standing church in Springfield and adjacent grave yard; and the other was the mysterious research building behind the chain link fence, which defined the school’s boundaries. Students were absolutely forbidden to walk through the church property, but I couldn’t resist wandering through the grave stones looking at the names and dates. I also could not stay away from the small woods that followed along the chain link fence beyond the playground. I always loved any woodsy area, poking under rocks and studying the trees. That area served as a refuge from the school yard dramas. The mysterious L-shaped building, surrounded by trees, loomed on the other side of a high fence topped with barbed wire. Years later I found out it was indeed some kind of research facility. The building was eventually destroyed and the woods cleared for the shopping center where Gernardi’s now occupies that space. (More to come on the subject.) Ironically, I wound up working across from Papazian Hall at Swarthmore College, which was linked to the building behind Sabold. More information at this link.

Mrs. Boyer's 6th Grade Class/Springfield HS Class of 1965

Mrs. Boyer’s 6th Grade Class Sabold School/Springfield HS Class of 1965

Neighborhood Life 

Not long ago my neighborhood friend, Joan, wrote . . .

I have such sweet memories growing up in Springfield.  Every season had it’s specialty, from bringing May flowers to your special teacher, to the acorns that crunched underfoot walking to Saxer Avenue in the Fall.  And remember those winters when we lost power but played merrily in the snow, sledding down Wheatsheaf and building forts.  Or just simply lying on our front lawns in summertime watching the clouds pass by…where does one begin!

I have written about children’s books and our favorite toys at these two links. If you lived in Delaware County, these Facebook pages, The Golden Mile, Delco 19064, Delco Memories, Delaware County PA History and I Lost my Cookies at Playtown Park display pictures of Springfield and area in earlier times. Video of Playtown Park at the link.

By the late 1950s more cars began to fill up the driveways and streets. Still, most families did not own two cars as the majority of the moms on the block did not work outside the home. This was still the era where the bread man and milkman delivered to the back door. They drove snub-nosed square trucks with bifold doors. The bread man would carry a huge tray of bakery goods. We always begged mom to buy the glazed donuts. Milk came in glass bottles, and we had special little shelf at the back door where mom would leave the empties for pickup. He would also bring to the door eggs, cream and butter.

During the summertime, the neighborhood received regular visits from the Good Humor truck, ringing its bell in the early evening. Kids would run out to catch the truck. Couldn’t wait for that Orange creamsicle. The DDT sprayer vehicle usually made an appearance in early summer. Mom cautioned us to stay away from the spray, but other neighborhood children would ride their bikes behind the truck and in one case, one boy passed out while following after the cloud of pesticide.

Each household was responsible for burning their own trash, so every home had a fireplace in the back corner of the yard for this purpose. Most of the trash was cardboard and paper. Once I remember mom telling dad that she almost caught her coat on fire trying to light the match on a windy day. Each house also had a receptacle built into the ground for garbage. The township established strict regulations on what could be thrown into the pail. Once a week or maybe twice, the long, green garbage truck would come through the neighborhood. African-American men would carry the pail on their shoulders and heave the contents into the open truck, which we tried to avoid because it smelled so bad.

Sledding on White Oak Hill 1955

Sledding on White Oak Hill 1955

Pools: Backyard and Community

Our first “swimming pool” was a metal sandbox, which held about three inches of water. The plastic, blow-up pools became popular, and the kid who could fill their pool with six inches of water or more commanded status. Through the years, these pools morphed into holding one and two feet of water. David’s parents bought such a pool, and we were in awe. In the 1960s a few neighbors installed in-ground cement pools. These were the days before air-conditioners, and summers could be long, dry and hot.

Pool

Springfield had no shortage of community pools, and many of the children in our neighborhood learned to swim at the Palm Beach Swim Club, which actually dated back to 1928, built on the corner of Baltimore Pike and Woodland Avenue. In addition to the Springfield Swim Club another pool was located off of Rolling Road. We belonged to Drexelbrook, which had a separate deep end pool. Only the Springfield Club remains in operation today.

Construction of the Middle School

Around 1958, the school district began building the middle school on the plot of land next to our neighborhood. I believe an old tavern on was all that occupied the field. A wooded area lined the field. We were forbidden to venture into those woods, but occasionally we would climb down the neighbor’s embankment and over the trolley line to the path through the forest. If we made it as far as the creek, I considered the venture a success. For me, it wasn’t about being defiant but rather finding the woods so enchanting, drawn to the canopy of trees and the streams. As construction began, my father suggested that I take some pictures before the land transformed into a school yard. With my Brownie camera and friends in tow, we walked over to the field. The first picture, taken looking towards Woodland Avenue, shows the field just as the bulldozers began to flatten the land. The tavern still stands to the left, although difficult to see.

In this next picture my sister and our friend and next door neighbor, Carol, stand by a tire of the land movers. The middle school was eventually named for Carol’s uncle, E. T. Richardson, who was principal for many years.

Last photograph shows the view of the school construction from our second story window.

4th of July, 1958

Joan, Jean and I welcomed Alaska as the 49th State during the neighborhood 4th of July parade. Joan was “Miss Arizona” and I was “Miss New Mexico,” the last two states previously admitted to the Union.

The Six Stars

Not long ago, Joan sent me a reminder of our days back on the block . . . a little note I had written to her, and she had saved for 50 years!

Back then we formed our own kids’ club and named it “The Six Stars.” Some of our more ambitious projects involved putting on plays in our basement or garage. We prided ourselves in having real costumes, scenery and music. Disney movies served as our inspiration, and the photograph below shows us taking our bows during the curtain call for Sleeping Beauty. We had to bribe David to play the part of  the prince and reminded him he was not to jive the crown by tilting it to the side. For some reason, I remember I forgot to remove the chandelier during the scenes in the forest. Parents contributed cakes and cookies, served at the end of the performance. My mother didn’t allow us to sell tickets as she felt it unseemly to charge friends and neighbors.

In addition to the plays, we had great fun recreating our own versions of the adult world. We assembled a train car, school, tunnel world and jungle land. Building little houses out of anything we could find lying around the garage was our favorite project. We were frequently accused of constantly making messes, but these were our artistic creations!

Janet, Jean, Carol, David, me, Joan

During the summer, we sometimes would go off to camp, Jean with the twins to girl scout camp, Hidden Falls, and for me, Nik-O-Mahs in the mountains of central Pennsylvania.

Speaking of Stars, Dad gives Astronomy Lessons to Girl Scouts

Thanks to Dorothy’s note in the comments section about my father’s astronomy lessons for our Girl Scout Troop 665, in order for us to earn our star badge, I remembered that I had a newspaper article from the Philadelphia Bulletin, “Girls Get Own Planetarium.” Dad would set up the planetarium in our living room, and with a home-made pointer, he would name the star in the constellations. Marilyn, in the photograph, lived in our neighborhood, as well as Dorothy, Joan and Tacy, mentioned in the text. I still have Dad’s telescope, which he assembled, and then built wooden the stand. 

Dad with Girl Scouts

Going back a few years to when we were a Brownie Troop, we had our picture in the paper with a typesetter from the Chester Times. Other girls mentioned from our neighborhood: Linda, and Janice.

Brown Troop with Typesetter

Springfield Junior/Senior High School

In 8th grade, I joined the marching band and my schedule was changed to “music section” where classes were organized around orchestra and band classes. Picture taken at the side entrance of the junior high at that time.

Springfield Class 65, Grade 8-7

Springfield Class of 65, Grade 8-7

Fall 1960 Jr. High Band: Saxer Avenue

Bank Saxer Avenue 1960

In front of Martel’s Supermarket

Saxer Avenue F1960

In Fall of 1960, the Junior High Band was sent to Springfield Shopping Center, where then candidate for president, Vice-President Richard Nixon, greeted the crowd. When John Kennedy came through Delaware Country, he did not stop in Springfield but rather spoke at the Lawrence Park Shopping Center in Broomall.

Richard Nixon Campaigning in Springfield

Richard Nixon Campaigning in Springfield

Springfield High School

4th of July Parade 1963

1963

In order to create this flag masterpiece, we stuffed white, blue (and pink, because we couldn’t get red) tissue paper into chicken wire.

Teen Dance Scene 1964

IMG_8382Our neighborhood girlfriends would gather at our house for a ride to the teen mixers at Holy Cross. In the mid-1960s, Holy Cross was the place to be on a Saturday night. Most of the teens who attended the dances came from the working class communities in the adjacent neighborhoods, and most were Catholic, of course. We attended public school, so it was a bit of a leap to attend a dance outside of our school where we wouldn’t know anyone. Some of our friend’s parents didn’t like the idea of their daughters going to a Catholic dance, but somehow we convinced them it would be ok. My sister remembers her shocked reaction when she saw smoking going on around the corner of the church. We were somewhat protected in our quiet neighborhood bubble.

The Church kept a strict dress code. Boys had to wear coats and ties and for girls, skirts or dresses. We would spend all day getting ready: washing our hair in the morning and using those humongous plastic rollers so that our hair would have puff rather than curls. We would sit under a hair dryer bonnet for hours. More daring girls would wear heavy eye makeup and challenge the limits on how short their skirts could be. It was a fine line, and the authorities would send you home, if you crossed it. Looking back, I believe the dress code established a certain decorum, even if we complained at the time.

We would join long lines outside the gym to pay our 75 cents to get in, passing by the three or four priests that lined up near the entrance. Everybody danced on the crowded floor; we didn’t have to worry about being a wall flower. When dancing, the boys would cut in front of us, nudging each other out of the way. We had bragging rights depending on the number of boys that would cut in. The temperature would rise through the night, but the boys still had to keep their jackets on.

Versions of the Bristol Stomp provided the basic dance steps, and dancers would hit the wooden floor with a collective stomp on the beat. That unison had to be a genre of tribal dancing, and while we danced with a partner, it was really a group dance–and that made it exciting!

The kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol,
When they do the Bristol Stomp. Whoa-oh.
Really somethin’ when the joint is jumpin’,
Ah-ah-ah, ah. When they do the Bristol Stomp.
–Kal Mann & Dave Appell

After every dance number, we would escape back to our girl pods and share our analysis. “Wow, that was a cute guy you were dancing with.” “He asked for my number!” “Look, he’s wearing a Beatle jacket.” “Did you see that split?” Boys were considered “hot” if could do a split; and if a guy had a Beatle haircut, he racked up more status points. Oh, yes, about those Beatles . . . reminisces of the Fab Four at Yesterday: Beatle Memories & My Letter from Peter Best.

The DJ usually played Doo-Wop music for the slow dances: See the Pyramids Across the Nile, In the Still of the Night, Till Then, You Belong to Me. I remember melting every time the songs played.

1776 Neighborhood Bicentennial Celebration

On June 19, 1976, neighborhood residents held their own American Bicentennial celebration, 1776-1976. Neighbors distributed a booklet, which included the activities for the day, the current officers of the association, and a history of the organization.

Woodview Farms Bicentennial II

Woodview Farms: The Second Generation

Our family had the unusual situation that my parents moved out of their house in 1970, and my sister and I continued to live in the home. Jean eventually left, too, to start her nursing career in Boston. I married and raised two children in the house where I grew up. As an officer in the Civic Association for a few years, I assisted with the Christmas and Easter activities. I was active in local politics, especially in Bob Edgar’s 1974 campaign for congress.

4th of July 1985

Santa’s Visit to the Neighborhood, 1986

The neighborhood tradition continued with visits from Santa via the Springfield fire truck and company.

Easter Egg Hunt

First Day of School, September 1988

Andy, Heather, BethAnn, MaeC, Jeff, John, Matt

Epilogue

After forty years, I moved away from Briarhill Road. I thought that I might stay in the house until I could turn it over to my children, but a number of circumstances changed the course of life events, which prevented that outcome. As it turned out, Matt (pictured above) lives in Joan’s house and his sister, Stacey and husband, Mark, bought our house. A few of the original residents still live on the block. I will leave the history of Woodview Farms neighborhood to others to record the third generation, as I say goodbye to my childhood home.

447 BH 1993

447 in 1993

Suzie’s Hats and Coats

Coming to Full Circle

My mother had lost her poodle, Jossie, to a long illness and had grieved for many weeks when a friend suggested that she adopt another dog and recommended the Bosler Humane Society, an animal shelter not too far from their home in Westboro, Massachusetts.  Organized just a few years before, the shelter cared for abandoned and abused animals.  Elaine Bosler, founder, guided my parents to a dog who she thought would be perfect for them: Suzie, a chocolate miniature poodle. Her former owner could no longer keep her for reasons that seemed mysterious.  Her former owner treated Suzie well and had knitted her six matching coat and hat outfits and had even bought her sweaters, wraps and a plaid raincoat. Suzie came with an entire wardrobe!

Suzie fit right in with her adopted family and  became my mother’s constant companion. Mom would occasionally dress Suzie in her little outfits. Suzie was always present family events as Mom and Dad took her everywhere with them.  All the grandchildren loved Suzie.

My parents eventually moved back to Pennsylvania and settled in the same town where we lived. My father and I cared for Mom in the last stages of cancer. Suzie remained vigil at her bedside and was with Mom  during her last moments.

Dad eventually moved in with us and along came Suzie, too.  After Dad passed, Suzie continued to live with us. A quiet dog, affectionate and well-behaved, she remained a little lady who would be dressed up when she headed out.

Suzie’s gentle nature served her well, and she passed away when she was 22 years old.  The vet said she thought she was the oldest dog she had known. On a crisp November afternoon, our family buried her ashes at my parent’s grave site.  We didn’t ask for permission to hold our farewell ceremony. I placed the little coats in a box the attic.

Ten years later, I came across the box tucked  away in a back corner under the rafters.  What was difficult to figure out years before, the obvious choice now seemed clear. Since our kitties did not choose to wear the outfits, I donated the coats to the Animal Coalition of Delaware County, an organization dedicated to finding places for homeless animals.

I‘m sure Suzie would approve.

Cape May: Retrospective

Finding Cape May

Map

Located on the southernmost tip of New Jersey, a peninsula known as Cape Island. The city of Cape May is the oldest seaside resort in the United States.

1950s to 2011

Song Sparrow Greets Us at the Cape 2011

Jersey Shore 1957

When we were growing up in the 1950s, every summer our family vacationed at the shore towns of New Jersey, either Wildwood, Ocean City, Stone Harbor, or Long Beach Island.  Part of our stay would include a trip down to Cape May. Back then the little town was a bit run down, with many of the houses in disrepair. The boardwalk had washed away , and the beach was almost non-existent. Huge boulders lined the sea road, the beach extending to about thirty feet at the most. At high tide the water reached just about to the rocks. Still, the town had a mystique of a former era, and my favorite place to visit was the building called “the Casino,” a large round wood structure.  Inside imports from around the world lined the shelves. I couldn’t wait to see the little colorful cloth dolls holding baskets and brooms. The store offered a wide choice of  souvenirs, and, of course, the colorful plastic buckets and shovels. One year we came away with toy boats.

Cape May  has three sections: West Cape May, the City and Cape May Point. We rediscovered the Cape in 1980 when a friend suggested a place to stay on Cape May Point. The Point is a quiet little village with a lighthouse, park, pond, bird observatory and pristine beaches, in vast contrast to the honky-tonk of the Wildwood boardwalk. The amenities consisted of a post office, above which was a spacious apartment which we rented one summer, and a small general store. We always had plenty to do and took many long walks or bicycled along the pond or to the lighthouse.

We vacationed on the Cape every several years, our families renting places together or nearby. By that time, Cape May had been designated as a National Historic Landmark, with only San Francisco with more Victorian houses. We would drive our families into town for shopping or walking along the ocean, stopping to give the children rides at the small arcade.

When Jean and I returned to the seaside town, we stayed at Leith Hall. I spent a considerable amount of  time trying to decide which one to select out of the of the many B&Bs, inns, mansions and historic hotels, as so many have interesting architecture and character.  I decided on Leith Hall, enticed by their description of salt air breezes, given that Philadelphia was baking in a heat wave. The 4PM tea and cakes were most welcome and thoroughly enjoyed the homemade breakfast served on the porch.

We returned to our old haunts, including Sunset Beach and the sunken cement ship, Cape May Point State Park, and the Washington Street Mall. We attended a play at the Physick Estate and took photographs of the restored houses that lined the tree-canopied streets.

Past and Present

Returning to places from the past is like a form of time travel where memories, once faded or forgotten, reappear to intermingle with the images before our eyes. Emotions are neither happy or sad but in some intermediary continuum of peace and reflection.

 

American Oystercatcher


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