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one very large file - University Archives and Records Center
West Philadelphia Community History Center
More West Side Stories
West Side Stories
Memories of West Philadelphia
61st
s,
1886
and Vine Street
34th and
Girard Streets,
1860.
Market Street, west of
39th Street on the
North side.
3827 Powelton Ave.
and Saunders, 1890
Market Street at 38th
on the Northeast
corner, 1870
Market Street between
60th and 69th Streets.
Market Street on the
North side of 38th
Street, 1870.
Chestnut Street, East
of 43rd Street on the
North side.
39th and Chestnut
Streets, 1890.
32nd and Chestnut
Stres,180
37th Street and
Woodland Avenue,
1898.
Copy Editors: Jason A. Breinin, Dan Groucutt
Ciara A. O'Connell, and Amanda E. Smolka
Design Editor: Kanako Kawai
West Side Stories
Memories of West Philadelphia
Copy Editors: Jason A. Breinin, Dan P. Groucutt,
Ciara A. O'Connell, and Amanda E. Smolka
Design Editor: Kanako Kawai
This publication has been sponsored by:
The Institute for Global Education and Service Learning
2222 Trenton Rd. Lower Left Suite
Levittown, PA 19056
Phone: 215-945-8118
FAX 215-945-1818
E-Mail: [email protected]
Web Site, www.igesl.orq
Copyright © 2001
First Edition
Printed in the United States of America
Cover photographs are courtesy of the Print and Picture Collection at the Philadelphia Free Library,
Philadelphia, PA
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be translated, reproduced,
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
Preface
Acknowledgements
By Ciara O'Connell
to
By Amanda Smolka .. v
vii
Section One
Neighborhood Histories and Photographs
By Dan Groucutt
Chapter One
11
The People and Places of West Philadelphia
25
By The Philadelphia City Planning Commission. Chapter Two
History of West Philadelphia and its Neighborhoods
By Robert Skaler
Chapter Three
An Old Postcard from West Philadelphia
Chapter Four
33
By Bob Koch
43
Historic Hoagies
Chapter Five
49
By Ruth Molloy
Gently Down the Stream
Section Two
Student and Senior Interviews
Chapter Six
67
By Ciara O'Connell Introduction to Intergenerational Histories
Chapter Seven
69
University City High School and Mercy Douglass Smith-Shepard Senior Center
79
Chapter Eight
Students and Senior Citizens at the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
Chapter Nine
87
Sulzberger Middle School and Haddington Multi-Services Center
95
Chapter Ten
Our Mother of Sorrows School and West Philadelphia Neighborhood Senior Citizens
Chapter Eleven
113
University City High School and West Philadelphia Neighborhood Senior Citizens
Acknowledgments
By Amanda Smolka
he West Philadelphia Book Project was intended as a community endeavor, and
achieved this objective with the help and guidance of schools, senior centers, faith-based
organizations, local businesses and various historical and cultural institutions. The
Institute for Global Education and Service Learning would therefore like to extend its
sincere gratitude to the many contributors for their services, time and dedication to the
West Philadelphia Book Project.
This project has had countless supporters, some doing the interviews and essays,
some doing the behind-the-scenes work. Many thanks to Ruth Branning Molloy, Bob
Koch and Robert Skaler for their wealth of information on West Philadelphia resources,
contacts, and especially for their remarkable historical essays. Temple University Urban
Archives provided almost all of our fabulous historical photographs; Sheryl at the St.
Rita's Senior Center and Robert Cocco offered the equipment we needed to scan these
pictures. David Young at the Atwater Kent Museum and the staff at the City Planning
Commission were instrumental in providing historical resources and information. The
Post Secondary Readiness Coordinators Tom Dunn of the University City Cluster and
Joanne Graham of the Overbrook Cluster, along with the staff at the West Philadelphia
Cluster, did an excellent job of spreading the word to their schools.
viii
West Side Stories
To generate student enthusiasm for the West Philadelphia Book Project, the
willingness of teachers who would integrate an intergenerational service-learning
component into their curriculum was critical. Much thanks to Ann Walsh, Chris
Carambo, and Carol Rhodes of the University City High School, Lucille Simpkins and
Debbie Butler from Sulzberger Middle School, Jean Robinson from Martha Washington
School, Katie Cavanaugh and Sister Jeanne McGowan at Our Mother of Sorrows School,
Whitney Dockett at Sayre Middle School, and Frances Aulston of the West Philadelphia
Cultural Alliance for the coordination of interviews, and the time they gave their
students for training and interviewing. Julia Diggs at the Mercy Douglass-Stephen
Smith Senior Center, Betty Palmer at St. Ignatius Nursing Home, Geneva Black at
Haddington Multi-Services Center, Marj Robinson at the Mercy Douglass SmithShepard Senior Center, Julianne James at the Sunshine Older Adult Center, the staff at
the Paul Robeson Museum, Terry Steinberg at the Methodist Home for the Aged and
Felicia Muldron at the Our Mother of Sorrows Church deserve much praise for the time
they gave to set up interviews and work with the students.
Thank you to Koch's Deli, CVS, and all the local businesses that donated
products throughout this project. St. Rita's Senior Center is much appreciated for their
generosity with their scanner. Finally, thank you to all the senior participants for their
engaging "West Side Stories," and to the students for their hard work interviewing the
seniors and preparing the biographies for publication. It is only with the help of all of
these people that we were able to document such extraordinary living history.
Preface
By Ciara O'Connell
he Institute for Global Education and Service Learning has been involved in
intergenerational oral history book projects in many of Philadelphia's diverse
neighborhoods. These books preserve the oral history of a community by means of
intergenerational interviews. History books about Kensington, Northeast Philadelphia,
South Philadelphia, the Tacony area, and communities along the Wissahickon are
already available at most public libraries. The mission of this Institute is to publish a
history book for every neighborhood in the City of Philadelphia.
The West Philadelphia Intergenerational History Project officially started with an
informational meeting at the Haddington Multi-Services Center in December 2000. At
that meeting were representatives from schools, senior citizen centers, and cultural
institutions. From the onset, this project has been a community endeavor.
Any book about West Philadelphia faces a number of unique challenges. The
area commonly referred to as West Philadelphia is actually comprised of about 25
smaller neighborhoods and covers an expansive geographic region. West Philadelphia
is a center of culture, architecture, local ceremonies and traditions, education, health
care, research, music, and other forms of popular entertainment. As any resident will
happily remind others, West Philadelphia has always been an area with a strong sense
of community. Furthermore, this predominantly residential area has witnessed
incredible historical events and personalities since before the 1700s. For these reasons
and others, it is impossible to completely satisfy every West Philadelphian with this
publication. Our hope is that this project captures the essence of West Philadelphia.
This book is the outcome of a service-learning project in which school students
and seniors worked together to preserve and chronicle photographs and stories of their
neighborhood. All project participants can feel proud of their historical research,
vi
West Side Stories
thoughtful discussion, and increased intergenerational understanding. The book
evolved from a school project to a total community project when different voices from
social service agencies, higher education institutions, community organizations, and
independent researchers expressed an interest. The involvement of so many people and
organizations helped make this neighborhood history book the most comprehensive and
inclusive publication the Institute for Global Education and Service Learning has ever
published.
In Section One of this book, contributing authors Robert Skaler, Ruth Molloy,
and Bob Koch have written general historical and personal essays that cover a variety of
events. Section Two is comprised of oral history interviews that represent many
individual perspectives of West Philadelphia's rich history. In these interviews, the
memories of senior residents are preserved so that future generations will have a more
thorough understanding of the daily experiences of the people who lived in West
Philadelphia. The interviews will create a greater awareness of the various backgrounds
of the people who helped form the communities of West Philadelphia, and the future
residents of the neighborhood will carry on the sense of community that still exists
today.
Clearly, this is not a typical history book; it was never intended to be so. This
publication is only part of the involved process of better understanding one another and
the past. As a result of this endeavor, fabulous photographs and stories were
discovered, collected, and published. This is the legacy that Memories of West Philadelphia
and other service-learning community history books leave for generations to come.
Section One
Chapter 1
West Philadelphia and its neighborhoods
By Dan Groucutt
West Philadelphia is
Neighborhood Groupings
generally defined as the area that
spans from the Schuylkill River
to City Avenue. This area has
always served as a housing
CITY LINE
NEIGHBORHOOD
resource for Philadelphia's wide
array of businesses, especially
when the development of major
NEIGHBORHOODS NORTHEAST
52ND & MARKET STREETS
industrial centers in North
Philadelphia created a need for
NEIGHBORH OODS
WEST Of
52ND STREET
local employee housing. Even
UNIVERSITY CITY NEIGHBORHOODS
today, much of the land is used
for residential purposes.
PHILADELPHIA
PHILADE
CITYPLANGOMIS
12
West Side Stories
West Philadelphia spans
from the Schuylkill River in the
east to Cobbs Creek in the west.
It runs from the north at City
Avenue to the south near
Baltimore Avenue, where it is
separated from Southwest
Philadelphia by the Media-West
Chester railroad line.
In accordance with the
Philadelphia
City
Planning
Commission's classification, the
many smaller neighborhoods in
the 14.2 square mile region
making up West Philadelphia fall
into four larger areas.
August 4, 1963: 'The Community Center at 63rd and Ludlow, purchased
by the Cobbs Creek Civic Association is inspected by Association
members (left to right) John Clay, Malvyn Johnson, _lames Co, Isaac
Royal- and Elbert Saddler. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
The
neighborhoods northeast of 52nd
and Market Streets are Mantua,
Belmont, East Parkside, West
Parkside, Cathedral Park, Mill Creek, and Dunlap. The University City neighborhoods
are Powelton Village, West Powelton, Spruce Hill, Walnut Hill, Garden Court, and
Cedar Park. Neighborhoods west of 52nd Street are Cobbs Creek, Haddington, Carroll
Park, and Overbrook. The City Line neighborhoods are Overbrook Park, Green Hill
Farms, Overbrook Farms, Wynnefield, Belmont Village and Wynnefield Heights.
Although West Philadelphia mainly functions as a place to live, there are many
opportunities for employment in the health and education industries. These two
industries alone account for 67% of all jobs in West Philadelphia (Philadelphia City
Planning Commission 23). West Philadelphia has an extensive offering of health
services, with six general hospitals and four specialty hospitals. These hospitals have
historically been valuable assets to the community of West Philadelphia and continue to
West Side Stories
13
Scenes from the
Philadelphia General
Hospital
October 30, 1951: The new neurology
building of the Philadelphia general
Hospital- is inspected by (left to right) Dr.
Pascal- F. Lucchesi, hospital superintendent;
Mayor Samuel and Director of Public
Health Reeves. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
December 21, 1953: Santa Claus talks with
three year olds Debbie Arnold and Matthew
Boran during a visit to the Philadelphia general
Hospital. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
December 10, 1964: Christmas treats for Philadelphia general
Hospital- patients. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University,
Philadelphia, PA.
September 3, 1964: Young physicians at
Philadelphia General Hospital- express their feelings
as the Beatles perform across the street in
Convention Hall. One of them sitting on the sign
wears a Beatle wig. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
14
West Side Stories
Other hospitals in the
West Philadelphia are a
March 24, 1977: The West Philadelphia Medical Center at 144
S. 52nd St. was known as the "fraudulent medical - schemes"
building in West Philadelphia. Courtesy of Temple University,
Philadep,A.
September 8, 1942: Nurses at St. Vincents' Hospital
practice evacuating their children patients at 70th Street
and Woodland Avenue. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University Philadelphia, PA.
These patients at the Osteopathic Hospital, at 48th and
Spruce Streets, called themselves bedside generals. Each
day their beds were pulled together and they mapped war
strategy. They are (left to right) Nurse Alice Shank
George Sweade, Frank Dick Walter Robertson. Courtesy
of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
April 7, 1977: Lines form for free orthopedic shoes at the West
Philadelphia Medical- Center. Despite a cut off of payments
and an investigation for Medicaid fraud, a crowd lines up.
Courtesy of Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
West Side Stories
15
be so today. The University of
Pennsylvania Hospital, which
opened during the 1870s, was the
country's first teaching hospital. The
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
th
at 34 Street and Civic Center
Boulevard, established in 1855, was
the first hospital in the United States
to provide formal training in
pediatrics ("About Children's
Hospital"). Children's Hospital was
recently ranked the number one
children's hospital in the nation in
the February 2001 issue of Child
magazine.
There are 35 public schools November 17, 1979: About 200 students of St. Joseph's College it
and 13 parochial schools located
within West Philadelphia. Many of
Philadelphia demonstrate against the holding by Iranian students of
62 Americans in the United States 'Embassy in Tehran. Courtesy of
Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
these schools have been part of the
community for years, while others have been more recent additions to the community,
such as University City High School, which opened in the early 1970s. West
Philadelphia is also the home of St. Joseph's University, Drexel University, and The
University of Pennsylvania. The University of Pennsylvania, which moved to West
Philadelphia in 1875, initiated the first liberal arts program in the country, and remains
one of the most respected universities in the world (Penn and West Philadelphia). The
population centered around these schools further adds to the diversity of West
Philadelphia.
West Philadelphia has always been a center of culture and the arts in this region.
"American Bandstand," the show that helped popularize rock and roll, was filmed at
46th and Market Streets between 1957 and 1965. Pop artists would lip sync along with
their records while teenagers from local high schools danced. Many local singers, and
16
West Side Stories
even some of the dancers, were
vaulted into national popularity
through their appearances on the
show (Hansing).
Some of the organizations
that offer experiences relating to
the arts today are the Institute for
Contemporary Art, the West
Philadelphia Cultural Alliance,
April 2001: The Institute for Contemporary Art is located on the corner
of 36th and Sansom Streets on the University of Pennsylvania campus.
Courtesy of John Anderson.
the University City Arts League,
the University City Historical
Society, the International House of Philadelphia, Movement Theater International,
Philadanco, the Mill Creek Jazz and Cultural Center, and Bushfire Theatre for the
Performing Arts. The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University are constant
resources for culture and the arts as well. These higher education institutions offer
museums and libraries that are great community assets.
Although West Philadelphia
has an abundance of facilities
devoted to culture and the arts,
much local entertainment is found
at informal gathering places in the
neighborhood. West Philadelphia
is well known for its variety of
ethnic shops and restaurants; a
person does not have to look too
hard around the neighborhood to
find Ethiopian restaurants, East
April 2001: The International House of Philadelphia, which is located
on 37thandWalutSres,ofviypgrams.Coutef
John Anderson.
Indian restaurants, or African
food markets. For years, people have been going to Koch's Deli between 43rd and 44th
Streets and Locust Street to get a good sandwich. Even though the wait can be long, Bob
Koch will always pass handfuls of meat, cheese, and pickles down the line to keep the
West Side Stories
17
customers from going hungry. The Carrot
Cake Company on 47 th and Cedar Streets is
a corner shop where one can buy candy,
snacks, sodas, and of course, carrot cake.
There are many places in West
Philadelphia where one can go for outdoor
recreation. Many residents enjoy walking,
running, biking, or fishing along the
Schuylkill River. The most developed
sections of Fairmount Park are in West
Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Zoo,
located in West Park, was the first zoo to
open in the United States in 1874, and
continues to provide people with
April 2001: The Carrot Cake Company is found on the
John of corner
Courtesy
Strof
es. 47thandCer
Anderson.
enjoyment by letting them see animals from
exotic places ("America's First Zoo"). Historic
Bartram's Garden, at 54 th and Lindbergh
Streets, was the first botanical garden in the
United States. Around 250 years ago, the
Quaker John Bartram was stopped in his
tracks by a daisy while plowing his fields, and
decided to devote the rest of his life to studying
nature ("Bartram History").
West Philadelphia is well known for the
distinct architectural style of its houses,
April 2001: The University City Arts
League, a nonprofit organization that
offers a variety of fine arts classes to the
Greater Philadelphia community, is located
on Spruce Street between 42 nd and 43 rd
Streets. Courtes y of Amanda Smolka.
apartments, schools, and churches. Most of the houses were built in the late 1800s and
early 1900s, and many of the two- and three-story homes have been converted into
separate apartments. There are several National Register Historic Districts in West
Philadelphia, including Garden Court,
Powelton Village, Overbrook Farms, East
Parkside, the University of Pennsylvania
area, and parts of Haddington. These
Historic Districts are sponsored and
maintained by the many different
community groups who are trying to
preserve the history and architecture of
West Philadelphia. Many historic houses
from the late 1700s and early to mid-1800s
July 31, 1949: Belmont Mansion, an example of the
unique architecture in West Philadelphia, is located on
the Belmont Plateau in West Fairmount Park. Courtesy
of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
can be seen in Fairmount Park on the banks
of the Schuylkill River.
West Philadelphia has a unique
public transportation system. The
population of West Philadelphia expanded
early in the twentieth century with the
construction of the Market-Frankford
Elevated Train and the various trolley
lines, because it suddenly became easier
for people to live farther from their jobs.
Trolley routes were once commonplace
throughout the entire city, but now West
February 17, 1962: The "Old Yellow Mansion" formely the
Garrick House at 69th street and Paschall Avenue, was built
around 1723 (likely by Swedish settlers). Courtesy of Urban
Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
Philadelphia is the only area where
trolleys are still used. The train and trolley station located at 30 th and Market Streets,
commonly referred to as the 30 th Street Station, is one of the nation's busiest
transportation centers (Philadelphia City Planning Commission 3).
West Side Stories
19
This area of trolley tracks,
health and education centers, parks,
and restaurants, has been the home of
many of the nation's most famous
personalities,
legend
including
basketball
Wilt Chamberlain
and
actor/entertainer Will Smith. Paul
Leroy Robeson (1894-1965) was an
internationally known actor and singer
January 15, 1956: West Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra
members range from an octogenarian to a Cad of thirteen.
Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University,
Philadelphia, PA.
who promoted racial equality. He was
heavily involved in the arts, linguistic
study, musical theory, athletics, civil
rights, and diplomacy. Stephen
Smith (1797-1873) was a former slave
who, after buying his freedom,
became an ardent abolitionist and
one of the wealthiest AfricanAmerican businessmen in the United
States. Before his death, he donated
property for the establishment of a
home for the aged and infirm, which
still exists today on Girard and
Belmont Avenues (Philadelphia City
Planning Commission 38).
Some of the most fondly
remembered personalities, however,
were not those who went on to
national fame, but whose daily
presence etched themselves on the
May 17, 1959: The iceman's daily visit. Courtesy of Urban
Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
memories of neighborhood residents.
Many of these people were not even known by name, but rather by ther job titles, such
as the Ice Man, the Pretzel Man, and the Rag Man. The daily encounters on the street or
20
West Side Stories
informal gatherings on the front
porch are the kinds of experiences
April 2001: From left to right, Kareem, Caleon and RayLuz hanging
outside of the Second Mile Center. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
that stand out the most in people's memories,
because above all else West Philadelphia has always
been an area with a strong sense of community.
April 2001: The Second Mile Center is a
popular thrift store located on the corner of
45th and Locust Streets. Courtesy of Amanda
Smolka.
West Side Stories
21
March 18, 1980: A vendor
finds new business slow as
snow falls in Philadelphia.
Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University,
Philadelphia, PA.
Philadelphia
Hucksters
September 20, 1924: William S.
Malcomson delivering ice. Courtesy
of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
August 13, 1978: A street vendor leans into the task of moving his
business to a new fixation near Broad Street. Courtesy of Urban
Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
22
West Side Stories
Three Philadelphia girls stand in a section of the
world's largest circuit breakers at 69th and
Elmwood. From left to right, Katherine Conway,
Adele Stokes, and Belle Stanley.CofoUurrbtaensy
Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
Mrs. Ora Kappra works at the Philadelphia General Beauty Parlor,
oSUdS4lotrcbaen.2ACuuhitv3f5shy,Tmpl
University Philadelphia, PA.
World'sablreragkenss,tdcdiignu
built at the Philadelphia Works of the General
Electric Company on 69th and Elmwood.
Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
West Side Stories
23
August 17, 1959: Sealtest Ice Cream Plant, 34th and Market.
Ralph A. Marino of Media, PA works at the Sealtest Ice Cream
Plant at 34th and Market Streets in the ice cream cold storage room
where it is 30 degrees below zero. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
July 18, 1940: Joe, a Snowball vendor in Philadelphia,
sells "snowballs" of shaved ice. Courtesy of Urban
Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
November 10, 1950: On the northwest corner of 11th
and- Market Streets, a disinterested customer walks away
from the vender's pushcart. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
24
West Side Stories
Works Cited
"About Children's Hospital." Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Online.
America Online. 20 April 2001. http://www.chop.edu.
Hansing, Maggie. "American Bandstand" and West Philadelphia: A Teaching
Experience at West Philadelphia High School. Fall 1996. Online. America
Online.
http://www.upenn.edu/ccp /Ford/Wphila AmerBandstand.html.
"Bartram History." Historic Bartram's Garden. Online. America Online. 20
April 2001. http: //www.bartramsgarden.org.
Penn and West Philadelphia. Online. America Online. 20 April 2001.
http: //www.archives.upenn.edu.
The Philadelphia City Planning Commission. The Plan for West Philadelphia.
Philadelphia: The Philadelphia City Planning Committee, 1994.
"America's First Zoo." Philadelphia Zoo. Online. America Online. 20 April,
2001. http: //www.phillyzoo.org.
Chapter 2
History of West Philadelphia and its
Neighborhoods
By The Philadelvhia City Planning Commission
The following text is an excerpt from a general history of West Philadelphia written by the Philadelphia City
Planning Commission as part of their Plan for West Philadelphia in 1994. The Plan for West Philadelphia is a
comprehensive guide for the future growth and development of West Philadelphia, and an essential informational
resource that will be used by decision-makers involved in neighborhood revitalization and economic development projects.
T
he area now known as
West Philadelphia had been
inhabited by the Leni Lenape
Indians when British and Welsh
settlers arrived during the
1600s. A real estate assessment
taken in 1693 by Thomas
Pascall, Jr. listed 15 landowners
in the area. Prominent among
these were John Rhoads (in the
Haddington
area),
the
April 2001: This sign signifies entrance into the Drexel Universii
campus on 33rd and Walnut Streets, Courtesy of John Anderson.
Welshman William Powell (south of Spring Garden Street) and the Quaker preacher
William Bedford (Overbrook). The estates of major landowners were subdivided and
developed during the 1800s and the early 1900s. The vast majority of the land was
developed for residential use while the area near the Schuylkill River, adjacent to
26
West Side Stories
January 30, 1930: Edward Hogan on duty in the control
tower, which raises and lowers the University Avenue
Bridge. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University,
Philadelphia, PA.
January 30, 1930: Looking downstream under the
University Avenue Bridge, an important artery of
communication between West Philadelphia and South
Philadelphia. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University , Philadelp hia, PA.
August 21, 1931: A view of the Walnut Street Bridge
over the Schuylkill River. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
Market Street Bridge and the Schuylkill River in 1900
facing the Southwest. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
West Side Stories
27
Center City, became a mixed-use zone
dominated by distribution and
transportation functions. The University
of Pennsylvania moved its campus from
Center City to West Philadelphia in
1875, and the Drexel Institute opened at
32nd & Chestnut Streets in 1892.
"University City" wasn't widely
recognized as a distinct section of West
Philadelphia until the 1960s when
institutional expansion and
neighborhood reinvestment gained
significant momentum. Powelton and
typical Laniganville house in the Mantua
section of West Philadelphia from the last century.
It has the usual wooden picket fence of homes in
that area. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
A
parts of Spruce Hill are the oldest
remaining large-scale tracts of housing
in West Philadelphia. They were built
in the early to mid-1800s as fashionable
suburbs outside of the "old city." The
predominant building type in these neighborhoods is the three-story Victorian semidetached house, but detached houses and mid-rise apartment buildings are not
uncommon. The working-class housing of Mantua, Belmont and Parkside was
developed in the second half of the 19th century. Two- and three story brick row homes
are the most common house types in this area.
Most of the large twin homes of Cedar Park, where Queen Anne is the dominant
architectural style, were built in the very late 1800's, and the large detached houses in
Overbrook Farms and Wynnefield were also developed around the turn of the century.
Overbrook Farms' houses, many of which are of the Renaissance Revival style, are quite
spacious--often containing as much as 4,500 square feet of living space.
The majority of West Philadelphia's housing was developed between 1910 and 1940
following the construction of the Market-Frankford El through the area. This was the
period of West Philadelphia's rapid urbanization, when the neighborhoods of Cobbs
28
West Side Stories
Architecture
currently
found in the
West
Philadelphia
neighborhoods
Apri 2001: These row houses, located on 41st and Locust Streets,
are examples of the architecture found in West Philadelphia.
Courtesy of John A nderson.
April201:Fontchesvrybuildngacomshtiny
West Philadelphia neighborhoods. These apartment buildings are located
on the 45th block of Locust Stre t. Courtesy of John Anderson.
April-2001: This classic apartment complex can be found on the 46th
block of Pine Street. Courtesy of John Anderson.
West Side Stories
29
Creek, Haddington, Carroll Park, Overbrook and the remainder of Wynnefield were
built up wit predominantly row housing
designed for middle class families. West
Philadelphia was substantially developed
by the time of World War II.
The City Line and University City
areas experienced pronounced changes
following the Second World War. Near
City and Haverford Avenues, the
Overbrook Park neighborhood was
developed with brick row homes and
with stores fronting on Haverford
Avenue. Three miles to the northeast, the
Wynnefield Heights neighborhood was
also subdivided for row housing, starting
March 25, 1980: Al Smith hawks naval oranges and
other citrus fruits near 32nd and Market Streets.
Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University,
Philadelphia, PA.
in 1958. Here, low-rise single family and
duplex homes near Ford Road and
Conshohocken Avenue were built on land
that had previously been occupied by the Woodside Amusement Park. High-rise
apartment buildings were gradually added to the neighborhood in later years.
During the past forty years,
University City has evolved from
a mixed use, transportationoriented area to the institutional
complex that currently exists. Rail
transportation is still an
important feature of University
City, but many of the rail lines are
not readily visible to pedestrians
and motorists. This is due in large
part to the placement of the
elevated train underneath Market
April 2001: The Market-Frankford train is pulling into the 46t h Street
Station, located on the corner of Farragut and Market Streets. Courtesy of
John Anderson.
30
West Side Stories
Street east of 45th Street (completed in
1960), and the construction of the subway
tunnels for the Woodland Avenue and
Lancaster Avenue trolleys. Changes to the
street pattern (the removal of portions of
Locust Street, Woodland Avenue,
Lancaster Avenue, 35th, 37th and 39th
Streets) and the widespread use of the
federally-funded urban renewal program
facilitated the expansion of the campuses
of the University of Pennsylvania and
Drexel University, and enabled the
The 30th Street Station hosted a candlelit protest for women's
rights in the ealy 1970s. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
University City Science Center's campus to be created in 1964.
A major event in West Philadelphia's history was the Centennial Exposition of
1876--the nation's first world's fair. The site of the Exposition was in West Fairmount
Park abutting Parkside Avenue. The theme was industry and technology, and more than
30,000 exhibitors took part in the Exposition. Of the 167 buildings that were built to
house the exhibits, Memorial Hall is the only major structure that remains today. The
Pennsylvania Railroad built a large passenger depot at 32nd and Market Streets to serve
the nearly three million persons who
visited the fairgrounds. The presentday 30th Street Station was built about
50 years later.
Transportation trends have
had a profound influence on the
development of West Philadelphia as
a whole. The earliest development
April 2001: The entrance to 30th Street Station on the Schuylkill
Avenue side. Courtesy of John Anderson.
was focused along the Lancaster
Turnpike and the roads that are now
named Haverford, Baltimore and Woodland Avenues. These long-distance roads
facilitated the movement of food and supplies from the Schuylkill River wharfs and
bridges to cities located far to the west. In the mid 1800s, the new railroads lessened the
West Side Stories
31
importance of the major
highways. Railroads also
spelled a quick end to
West Philadelphia's
canal trade. A portion of
the PhiladelphiaNorristown Canal was
constructed in 1833-34 on
the west side of the
Schuylkill
April 2001: 30th Street Station is now the hub of transportation throughout
Philadelphia. This entrance is located on the 30t h Street side of the building.
Courtesy of John Anderson.
River.
It
crossed Market Street
under a drawbridge and
was used for a brief time
to haul coal. The canal was bought out by the Reading Railroad.
The railroads were the major factor behind the development of the Overbrook
Farms and Wynnefield neighborhoods. Overbrook Farms was first developed by the
Pennsylvania Railroad. In about
1890, trolley routes were
established in conjunction with
residential development in
neighborhoods such as Cedar
Park and Powelton. Finally, by
1960 the Schuylkill Expressway
had created an entirely new
form of access that contributed
greatly to the growth of
University City and the "City
Line" area.
January 27, 1969• The rear end of a trolley is wedged inside a restaurant at
63rd Street and Girard Avenue after it was stolen from a depot at 59th and
Callohill and taken for a joy ride. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
32
West Side Stories
April2001: A Penn student Ls walking through Cllark Park, located on 44th and
Baltimore Streets. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
April2001: The 4700 block of Cedar Avenue. Courtesy of John
Anderson.
April 2001: A local West Philadelphian rests on a bench at Clark Park. Courtesy
of Amanda Smolka.
Chapter 3
An Old Postcard from West Philadelphia
By Robert M. Skaler
O
n a still hot summer's
night in 1940, when I was just a
small child sleeping in my
parents home at 40th and Ogden
Streets in the Belmont section of
West Philadelphia, I was
suddenly awakened with a start
by the trolley sweeper's steel
wheels and brushes as it cleaned
the trolley tracks on 40 th Street in
March 25, 1942: A trolley at the corner of 63rd and Girard Courtesy
of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
front of our home. I had never
seen such a trolley, half as long
as a regular trolley with no roof, just a cab, fearsome with very bright lights that lit up
my bedroom, a scary sight to a four-year-old, a spooky event still remembered sixty
years later. Keeping those tracks safe was important because almost everyone used the
trolleys then to get around, for West Philadelphia was a "trolley car suburb."
The convenience of the trolley system was probably one of the reasons my
parents, Louis and Minnie Skaler, moved to this corner row house in 1925, soon after
they were married. My father, who was well trained as a butcher by my maternal
grandfather and my Uncle Harry, opened a Kosher Butcher shop on the first floor of
34
West Side Stories
their home at 871 North 40 th Street.
Gold-leafed on the front plate glass
window of the store was "L. SKALER"
with the Star of David, and the words
"Kosher Butcher" written in Hebrew
letters below. When my two brothers
returned home from World War II, the
words "and Sons" were added to the
Robert Skaler's drawing of his father's butcher shop at 871
North 40th Street in West Philadelphia. Courtesy of Robert
Skaler.
business name, now written in modern
electric neon lights in the store's
window.
When my parents moved into their house, a meat market was already there fitted
out with white marble counters, wooden chopping blocks, porcelain display cases,
mirrors, and a porcelain walk-in box. They bought the house with the store from my
Uncle Harry Biderman, who had a retail poultry market there, but had decided to go
into the wholesale poultry business instead. Uncle Harry was ahead of his time with his
dressed poultry merchandising ideas. He built a large poultry-processing plant at 38th
and Poplar Streets, and went as far south as Virginia to set up the poultry buying
stations with the farmers for his new
business venture. Unfortunately, Uncle
Harry was killed in an automobile accident,
and never lived to see his dream come to
fruition. If he had lived to see his poultrymerchandising concept come true, he would
have been Philadelphia's own Frank Purdue.
My father was an old-time
professional butcher, who got up at 2:00 in
the morning to go to the chicken market on
South Front Street to buy live poultry.
Then off he would go to South Philadelphia
August 27, 1957: Route 15 trolley car crashes at 41st
Street and Girard Avenue after running through an open
switch and Jumping the tracks. Courtesy of Urban
Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
Dressed Beef, or Cross Brothers, to put his
stamp in the sides of "prime" beef he wanted delivered that day. Big boxes of fresh eggs
West Side Stories 35
would be delivered to our store from Vineland, New Jersey; it was one of my chores as a
youngster to put them in cardboard cartons. Samuel Sandler Company, whose plant
was in nearby Strawberry Mansion, delivered fresh salami, bologna, ring wurst, and hot
dogs. My father pickled the best corn beef and beef tongue for his customers, because
he never skimped on the spices. The Lundys delivered lamb, their specialty. At
Christmas time, we would get richly marbled Black Angus prime beef. Bags of fresh
clean sawdust were gotten from the local lumberyard, which were spread on the store
floor every day. L. Shoemaker and Sons, whose fat rendering plant was located on
Aramingo Avenue in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, came every week to buy
the cans of fat and bone and take them away. They used them to make tallow and bone
meal; as you drove down Aramingo Avenue your nose soon told you that you were
approaching the plant. When the plant finally closed, that stretch of Aramingo Avenue
soon became lined with new shopping malls. After home freezers became popular in
the 1950s, my father had customers coming from all over Philadelphia for his prime
meats and poultry, many of them now living in the newly built Northeast section of
Philadelphia, so in 1952 he moved the business and our home to Bustleton Avenue.
Now it is fifty years later, and I am still interested in the history of my old
neighborhood, a fascination that started when I was young. As a child walking to and
from Belmont Elementary School, located a few blocks from my home at 41 st and Brown
Streets, I would pass blocks of wonderful
old Victorian houses. These houses stood
like faded roses along old tree lined streets
behind black wrought iron fences. They
always fascinated me; maybe that's why I
became a preservation architect. They
were unique, built in a variety of
architectural styles and sizes; many were
April 2001: Belmont Elementary School as it still stands
today at 41st and Brown Streets in West Philadelphia.
Courtesy of John Anderson.
already seventy or eighty years old in 1940.
Unfortunately,
the
1930s
Depression had taken its toll on this quiet middle class neighborhood. My parents told
me that whole blocks of houses went up for sheriff's sale in the 1930s, including our own
36
West Side Stories
house, as West Philadelphia banks closed one after another, leaving depositors,
including my parents, without funds. In the 1930s Depression era, a West Philadelphia
row house could be bought for as little as four hundred dollars. Consequently, many
large houses were bought cheap and subdivided into apartments, now owned by
landlords instead of homeowners. This was accelerated when the need for housing
became acute during World War II.
During the Depression, a young depositor who had fifty dollars in his bank
savings account received a check for only seven cents when the West Philadelphia Title
and Trust Company at 40th
Street and Lancaster Avenue
closed its doors. He
promptly bought an ice
cream cone with the check
leaving him with two cents
in change. I recall that in the
1950s the marble skeletons
of these defunct banks were
The southeast corner of 48 th and Cedar Avenue. Courtesy of Robert Skaler.
still standing in West
Philadelphia, but they were
no longer used as banks. The classical Hamilton Trust Company bank building at 40th
and Market Streets had become an empty shell; a used furniture store occupied its once
elegant marble floor, the great bank vault filled with household junk.
As a teenager, I was always curious why the Belmont and Parkside
neighborhoods looked the way they did. It wasn't until years later that I came to learn
how the neighborhood I was born in developed and changed. For example, our home
was built after the Centennial Exposition, in the 1880s. In 1882, horse drawn trolleys
began to run past our house on 40 th Street and on to Parkside Avenue; by 1895, the
trolley cars were electrified. Belmont was a trolley car suburb.
Around the time of World War I, North 40 th Street started to become
commercialized as front porches were removed from houses and storefronts built in
their place. Although it never had a front porch, the first floor of our house was altered
into a storefront about that time. This change could be seen all along North 40
th
Street
West Side Stories
37
up to Girard Avenue. When my
parents moved into the Belmont
area, the neighborhood was an
ethnic mix of Irish, German,
African-American, Italian, and
Eastern European Jews. Each
ethnic group had its own enclave,
but lived next to one another.
People were divided more by
Looking down 41st Street, south of Girard Street. Courtesy of Robert Skaler.
income than race. The small streets are where the poorest folks lived; the larger wide
streets had the big houses owned by doctors, teachers, and professionals of all races. An
African-American doctor, who was probably on the staff of the West Philadelphia
Hospital for Women nearby, owned the Victorian mansion at the corner of 41 st and
Ogden Streets.
Back when I was growing up, you knew the policeman on the beat, the local
committeeman, and the neighborhood numbers writer (who as I remember also
happened to be our committeeman). Business families lived over their corner stores,
which was common in those days. They worked long hours, and knew all their
customers and the customers' children on a first name basis. Before credit cards,
neighborhood storeowners had books where they kept track of their customers'
purchases and settled up at the end of the week on payday.
We lived in the Belmont area south of the 40 th Street Bridge that crossed the
Pennsylvania Railroad lines; on the north side was the East Parkside neighborhood.
Parkside has its own unique history. After the Centennial Exposition, East Parkside,
which borders the Exposition site, was ripe for development. In the 1890s, as the new
electric trolleys traveled up cobble-stoned Parkside Avenue, large double houses, the
Brantwood Apartments, and Lansdowne Apartments were built on that street. In 1900,
th
the high rise Park Manor Apartment was built at 40 Street and Girard Avenue facing
Fairmount Park. Houses that are more modest were built on the side streets off Girard
Avenue. Around 1900, an upper middle-class German-Jewish community settled on
Parkside Avenue. The more modest homes, not fronting on the park, were bought by
middle-class Eastern European Jews, newer arrivals to America, who only had to walk a
38
West Side Stories
few blocks to enjoy the park. They built six neighborhood synagogues, a Workman's
Circle, and a thriving
commercial district along
North 40 th Street and Girard
Avenue, which included the
well-known Gold Medal
Jewish Bakery and a
delicatessen whose owner
invented a hot pastrami
42nd Street, north of Parrish. Street. Courtesy of Robert Skaler.
sandwich with a secret sauce
called the "knockbuckle."
North 40 th Street and Girard Avenue were great business districts from the 1920s
to the 1950s. The city wasted no time installing parking meters on the streets. There
were two movie theaters, the Ritz and the Grand, which opened in the 1920s. Shops in
those days specialized in every type of food. On North 40 th Street you could find a store
that just sold dairy products and eggs, several meat markets, an ice cream parlor, the
Gold Medal Bakery, grocery stores, fruit and vegetable stores, fish stores, and several
delicatessens. There was a drug store, variety stores, a barber shop, a hardware store,
and tailor shops. Two very fine dress shops and Ziedener's Bakery were located near
the Grant movie theater on Girard Avenue. On hot summer nights, the stores would
stay open until 10:00 at night, as people walked to and from Fairmount Park, making it a
very lively area indeed. On hot humid summer nights, people would sleep in the park,
and get gallons of cold spring water from the park's many natural springs, which were
unpolluted until the 1950s.
Thomas Wolfe wrote, "You can't go home again." For older West Philadelphians
like myself, this is sadly true. However, the "old neighborhood" still remains fresh in
the memories of many present day West Philadelphians, who when asked will gladly
tell you about their old West Philly neighborhood, for long ago and far away are always
with us.
West Side Stories 39
December 13, 1968: (left to right) 10 year old Linda
Wilkins from 620 North 37 th Street; 12 year old Vincent
Waters from 876 North 41' Street; 13 year old Johnnie
Silver from 306 North 32" Street, all at the "Sunday Story
Mini School." Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
The Faces of
West
Philadelphia
June 18, 1967: John Wynn (left) and Alfred Thomas (righht), both sixteen, are at the
gymnasium of the West Philadelphia Boys Club. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
40
West Side Stories
November 2, 1980: Sarah Whitney is working
on an abandoned home in the Mantua Section of
Philadelphia. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
Mantua Community Planners talking around a kind with a basketball.
Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
1958: The Lucia Fest is 9 centuries old. This photo is from the celebration at the
Saint James of Kingsessing Church. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University
Philadelphia, PA.
West Side Stories
January 27, 1968: Standing on the step.
of the newly renovated West
Philadelphia house into which she will
move, Carolyn Harris introduces her two
year old adopted niece, Cynthia, to her
neighbors, Mr. And Mrs. James Fager.
Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA
41
February 20, 1960: Jim Crow pickets at F. W. Woolworth stores at 4028
Lancaster Avenue. Picketers were made up of students of different schools in
the area and the picketers were under auspices of the Philadelphia Youth
Committee Against Segregation. They are demonstrating in protest against
closing of eating places to African Americans throughout the Southern states.
Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
July 16, 1971: Kingsessing youngsters race along 56th Street between Chester
and Springfield Avenue. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University,
Philadelphia, PA.
Chapter 4
Historic Hoagies
By Bob Koch
How West Philadelphia and Koch's Deli have shaped -one another.
When I was growing up, no one
had to tell us how to get along - we just
did. Although I only knew one Gentile
family before junior high, but after that,
diversity was everywhere. The
neighborhood started changing around
1959 because people were moving out to
the suburbs into bigger houses. At the
same time, businesses in the area started
changing as well. The owners of "mom
and pop" stores were retiring and their
kids didn't want to go take over, so those
stores shut down and new businesses
came into the area.
Until the late 1950s, West Philly
had pretty much been working people
April 2001: Bob Koch in his work uniform of his blue
Koch's Deli t-shirt and apron underneath the sign to his
fabulous deli on 43rd and Locust Streets. Courtesy of
Amanda Smolka.
and shop owners. The Fairfax
apartments on the corner of 43 rd and
Locust were made up of mostly older
44
West Side Stories
women and men, not students, like it is now. Then in the late 1960s and early 1970s the
area changed to a lot of graduate, medical and nursing students. It was then, in the
1970s that safety became a problem - there just weren't the proper amount of police.
The federal government pulled all their money out of this area and the University of
Pennsylvania didn't want Philadelphia police on their campus. That's why a lot of the
Penn students think that you shouldn't "go past 40th street" in West Philly - Penn scared
them into thinking it was all bad where there weren't Penn police.
When the University named Judith Rodin president, she brought back the safety
of the area. She made a lot of West Philadelphia into "University City," and now Penn
police cover a greater area. The criminals aren't stupid. They aren't going to work an
area where they have a good chance of getting caught. Even a few years ago, there used
to be kids out in the streets hanging around all the time, but the police have changed
that. A lot of things out here look better - it's cleaner, the University looks better,
Walnut Street looks better. It's a great neighborhood. The architecture has so much
historic value. Koch's wouldn't have stayed here as long as it has if I didn't love West
Philadelphia for what it was
and what it is now.
Although my parents,
Sidney and Frances Koch,
started the store together in
1966, my mother was really
the brains behind the
operation. My father wanted
nothing to do with it. He
April 2001: With his good-natured, friendly personal ity, Bob Koch poses
with a customer just outside his deli. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
was much more conservative
than my mother. He worked
as a policeman and a taxi cab driver. He was always clean-shaven, his clothes were
always pressed, and he won all sorts of safe driving awards. People used to write all
sorts of letters to the store about what a kind individual he was. He didn't plan on the
deli. He did love food though, which is how my mother convinced him to open the
store.
West Side Stories
45
When my brothers, Lou and Barry, and I first took over, there used to be a man
walking around selling signs — Walter Fullerton. He would walk up and down the
streets shouting "$1.50 a sign!" I would say, "Hey Walter, I'm a businessman. I'll give
you a dollar for two signs." And that's how I got all the old fashioned-looking signs that
are hanging up in the store. I'll never take them down, because they are a part of the
history of this place. My favorite is the one that says, "Through our doors walk the
finest people on earth: our customers."
That's how it is here. The policy is always the same: every person who comes in
is important. I don't look at people as a certain race, or as dollar bills. I think that's why
they keep coming back. It's a demilitarized zone. Hippies would talk to cops in the 60s,
and people generally just get along. I met all of my girlfriends here, including my
fiancee, Patricia. Five couples, who ended up getting married, met here in line. My
family went to all of those weddings. One couple came here on their first date. The guy
ended up proposing to her here. He had me pass down the ring in one of the food
samples I gave out to go down the line, and then he got down on one knee and asked
her to marry him. She got so excited that she screamed, "Yes!" and jumped backwards,
knocking over the whole potato chip stand. Everyone in the store was laughing and
cheering. It was quite a scene!
People know that we know them when they come in, and if we don't, we make
sure we find out who they are. Customers walk in, get food while they're standing in
line, taste how good it is, and they feel like they're home. I am really proud that my
store and I have been a part of West Philadelphia history for so long. Out here, there is
camaraderie between businesses, and every ethnic and racial group has contributed to
make West Philly what it is.
46 to
West Side Stories
The familiar sites in
the neighborhoods of
West Philadelphia
April 2001: The street signs on the corner of 45
th and Locust Streets. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka. April 2001: Students from a "UC Green Group" plant a tree on 39th and
Baltimore Streets. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
April 2001: This mural can be found on the corner of 40th and Chestnut
Streets. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
April 2001: Kane's Hair Braiding is
located on 45th and Locust Streets.
Courtesy of Amanda Smolka
West Side Stories
47
Local Hangouts
'Although West Philadelphia has an abundance of facilities
devoted to culture and the arts, much local entertainment is
found at informal gathering places in the neighborhood "
- Excerpt from Chapter 1 by Dan Groucutt
A201:pLaPertiClspouarkilctedh
8b3locktfWanuhSre.Itisowf avrynd
sweet crepes as well as its long line of hungry students.
Courtesy of John Anderson.
April-2001: The area outside of the Penn Bookstore on 36th and
Walnut Streets has numerous tables and chairs for people to
enjoy the outdoors with some coffee and good conversation.
Courtesy of John Anderson.
April201:ThenatocifBskRbn31
Flavors has found its way to West Philadelphia on the
39thBlackofWalnutSret.Anice ramfnismaking
his way into the store. Courtesy of-John Anderson.
April 2001: A couple locals, Jason on the left and John on the right
pose outside of the Penn Bookstore. Courtesy of John Anderson.
Chapter 5
Gently Down the Stream
By: Ruth Molloy
Part One
ENCOUNTER
Walking West on Walnut Street,
I ran into a paradox
No one was there to warn me; what was there to say?
Myself – a weary housewife- met myself – a little girl in socks—
Coming home from high school on a bright spring day.
"Excuse me Mrs. Unh," she said.
"Does ante take the ablative?"
"If X plus Y is zero, is X the same as Y?"
"You'd be surprised, my dear" I said, "at just
how much it costs to live,
And just how many times a day a baby likes to cry."
"Did Ivanhoe regret his choice?
Was Magna Carta justified?"
I held her arm and shook her.
"Those things don't matter now.
How many stitches can I take from four to five o'clock?" I cried.
"How many cups of sugar will my future plans allow?"
50
West Side Stories
I spoke to her in anger, but my troubled eyes were giveaway.
Yet innocent, unknowing, unfrightened, she passed by.
Walking west on Walnut on that bright spring day,
I prayed, "Don't let her guess my name, and teach her X is Y!"
During World War II my poem
Encounter was published in the Saturday Evening
Post. In it a high school girl "in socks" meets a "weary housewife" on Walnut Street.
There are questions to be asked and sometimes answered. The schoolgirl is Ruth
Branning, a senior at West Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1925. The housewife is
Ruth Branning Molloy, who was living at 3719 Chestnut Street with her husband Joe
and their three small daughters in 1942. The following dialogue, set in the year 2001, is a
conversation between the ninety-one year old Ruth Branning Molloy in 2001 and her
younger self Ruth Branning, who is just about to graduate from West Philly High in
1925.
R.B. I think I understand who these two people are...Us...but what is the "cup of
sugar" all about?
R.B.M. During World War II,
sugar was rationed. We
had to ration stamps to
use and we had choices to
make. Meat, bananas,
butter and many other
foods were hard to get. I
remember standing in
front of a neighbor's open
door and sniffing for
428 S. 45th Street between Walnut and Locust. It was once a potato
patch (as shown here), and now it is Street. Courtesy of Ruth
Molloy.
blissful minutes because I
could smell hamburgers cooking. Once my mother mailed me a chicken and it
smelled terrible when I opened the box, but I cooked it and it was very tasty!
I remember World War I, but not much. We saved peach pits and knit mufflers
for soldiers. My mother Anne and I lived in West Philadelphia and I went to the
Lea school at 47 th and Locust. I remember the names of my two classmates, Jesse
West Side Stories
51
Moon and Merida Grey. I always loved people's names. I remember drawing
class. A boy and girl would stand on chairs with their backs turned to the other
pupils who would draw them. I guess it was easier than drawing faces. For a
while I went to the Huey School at 52nd and Pine, and I remember crying outside
the principal's office because I was late for school and had to say why. I still
have my report card showing I was promoted.
R.B
I think this was around the
time when my brothers and I
had whooping cough and the
house we lived in had a
quarantine sign on the front
door. These were sheets of
paper the Board of Health put
up to warn passersby. Our
address was probably around
45th and Walnut then... we
moved around. We had
1912: 428 S. 45th Street: Kitty O'Kane sitting in the backyard of
Milt Farm. Courtes y of-Ruth Molloy.
second floor rooms. What the other people in the house did while we Branning
children coughed, I don't know. Some time later I told my mother I had seen
men in derby hats walking through our back alley looking up at our windows.
She said, "They must have been from the Board of Health, listening to hear if you
were still coughing."
R.B.M. I remember that alley. Every evening the lamplighter would come by with a
long pole and light the gas lights. Years later I saw these same lights outside a
hotel in Portland, Oregon. I found out that either the city or the hotel had bought
them from Philadelphia. I felt as if I were seeing old friends.
R.B. How did you happen to be in West Philadelphia in 1917?
R.B.M. Don't you remember? You were there.
R.B. Yes. We came from the New Jersey shore. My mother was born on December
15, 1883 in Philadelphia. She'd gone to Girls High and the Philadelphia Normal
School, and she came back to teach. My father lived in New York. My mother
52 to
West Side Stories
promised me that in Philadelphia I'd see the hokey pokey man. He sold ice
cream on the street. I never saw
him.
R.B.M. That was because a scientist who
worked for the city, Dr. Mary
Engle Pennington, uncovered the
awful truth about Hokey Pokey.
It was full of germs and could
have, and probably did, kill
people.
RB. What nearly did kill my mother,
she said, was being vaccinated.
Hers was on her arm, big and
round. She didn't want us to be
vaccinated. She thought nice
June 30, 1941: The Hokey Pokey Man will go out of
business due to a city ordinance passed on July 1, 1941,
that forbids the street sale of ices and frozen desserts.
Hokey pokeys are ice cream sandwiches. Also affected is the
pretzel man. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
children didn't get smallpox, but the city required it to go to school. She took me
to some doctor and she said he told her that his last patient had died from being
vaccinated and getting blood poisoning. She told me this but she took the chance
so that I could go to school. She told him I should have the scar on my leg so that
when I wore evening dresses it wouldn't show.
R.B.M. What do you remember about grammar school, besides being late?
R.B. Oh, the kids had a bad habit of bearing down on the desk tops with their pens,
making big gashes
and filling the gashes with ink. I did it too. The teacher said "Get vinegar and
clean up your desks." I didn't know what vinegar was, but I rang doorbells and
asked for some.
R.B.M. How old were you?
R.B. I guess I was about seven then. I was born July 24th, 1910.
R.B.M. And now?
West Side Stories
53
R.B. I'm fourteen. I guess I am the youngest girl ever to be graduated of West Philly
Girls High. I'm going to recite the welcoming
address at graduation. I get tutored in it
everyday after school by Miss Jane Allen, an
English teacher. That night we'll wear white
Grecian robes with light blue cords wrapped
around our waists and criss-crossed above.
Our school colors are light and dark blue. Our
class just loves West Philly. We'll cry on our
last day.
R.B.M. Did you always love it?
R.B. No. I came over from Asbury Park High
School in the fall of 1922 and everything
seemed strange... and hard. I had to be on the
late shift. In the winter that meant going home
in the dark and you couldn't join any clubs
until you were on an early shift. The school
was only ten years old. The library had a
April 2001: West Philadelphia High School today,
located on 48 th and Walnut Streets. Courtesy of John
Anderson.
mural of the Canterbury Pilgrims. The librarian was Miss Miracle. Isn't that a
wonderful name? I loved the girls and I loved the teachers, most of them
anyway. They call us Miss... Miss Branning, Miss Farnham, Miss Huntsberger.
Alice Farnham is my best friend. She's 18 and engaged, but when she told her
friend Jack she'd rather go to college than get married, he cried and she said all
right. She can't stand tears. She's read all the books on the reading list. After
school she works at Brill's where they make trolley cars. Her mother is head of
the old people's home on Powelton Avenue. She once threw a milk bottle at
Alice...Awful... Helen Huntsberger is our Students Association president. At
the school track meet she jumped four feet and seven inches.
R.B.M. What do you wear for physical training? (As if I didn't remember!)
R.B. Big, heavy dark blue serge bloomers, black stockings and sneakers, white middy
blouses and ties in our class colors. Ours is just beautiful, burnt orange and dark
blue. We vote for our colors and class rings and class sponsor. Ours is Miss
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Frances Newcomb, a pretty gym teacher. We love her. All year we saved money
in the Banking Club for our trip to Washington. The class had a picture taken
with President Calvin Coolidge ... Only I didn't go.
R.B.M. Why not? Money?
R.B. Partly that. But I think I was afraid to stay in a hotel. And some of the girls wore
black lace nightgowns... Imagine that! Alice went. Our English teacher, Miss
Georgina Melville, paid her way. It was the big event of the year except for
senior prom and now graduation.
R.B.M. Did you go to the Prom?
R.B. No. I am too young to know any boys to ask. I skipped grades. My mother is a
teacher and she liked me to skip.
R.B.M. I knew your mother.
R.B. Really? I guess you know she never had any money, but she was proud that she
did what she called "keeping her family together". I have two younger brothers.
I guess you know that too.
R.B.M. Yes... and I knew Alice and Huntsy and Miss Melville too. Alice had the first
baby in the class. Everybody clapped when she came to the first reunion with
the baby in a long white dress. Later she wrote stories for the confession
magazines; she wrote good stories too. She also wrote a column for a newspaper
in Nassau, the Bahamas. Finally she killed herself.
R.B. Oh, my. Is that what life is like after high school?
R.B.M. Miss Melville lived to be 95. She lived her last years at the Presbyterian Home,
which remained at 58 th and Greenway until the year 2000. She edited the Home
newspaper. At West Philly, after the Boys' and Girls' Schools combined in the
late 1920s, she was the sponsor for the school paper. Everybody loved her. One
of the last times I saw her, she was so upset. She said, "I had everything ready to
paste up the newsletter and I couldn't remember what to do. Something I'd been
doing for so many years, and I just couldn't remember."
R.B. Miss Melville is sort of gushy, but she is wonderful. The class clapped when she
came in the room at the beginning of the term and we knew she would be our
teacher. She said she was eager to have our school win the big contest about the
Constitution. Alice represented our school, but Robert Lingelbach from the
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55
Boys' School won for the whole country. His father is a professor at the
University.
R.B.M. Do you belong to clubs at West Philly?
R.B. Oh yes, I couldn't wait to be a member of the clubs, especially the English club
which gives the plays. I love to
act. I have to play little boys'
parts because I am the
youngest. I wish I could be a
heroine, just once. I go to the
Dancing Club, even though I've
never been a very good dancer.
We meet at the Kingsessing
Recreation Center and we
dance, with other girls of
course, and we have a
Victrola record player for
April 2001: The Annenberg Center, the fine arts theater at
University of Pennsylvania, is located on the 3600 bl ock of Walnut
Street. Courtesy of John Anderson.
music. I write poems and short stories for the school magazine, The Torch. I get
pretty good marks except in physics. I can't understand anything except
dewpoint on account of the name. The Physics teacher is Miss Dena Daisy
Unglemach. Isn't that a name? Once during an assembly a little boy from the
Boys' School played the cello. His name was Timothy Orlando Cole. I wrote
about it in my diary. Orlando!
R.B.M. I must tell you that when I, we, went to the University of Pennsylvania we had to
repeat Zoology. English was always our best subject.
R.B. How do you know these things?
R.B.M. I was there... I was always there...
R.B. I do like Latin. When Miss Laura Seguine, one of my Latin teachers saw me
wearing knee socks, she scolded me and said, "Young ladies in high school don't
wear socks." Later, when we had to write down our birth dates in Latin, she sort
of apologized to me and said, "I didn't know you were so young. I guess it's all
right for you to wear socks."
R.B.M. How do you like Physical Education, or Gym?
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West Side Stories
R.B. I have never been very good in Gym. We had Indian clubs and dumbbells and
knee bending and the Sailor's Hornpipe and the Highland Fling... and rope
climbing. For the rope climbing test I climbed all the way up. I guess because I
had to. Never before or again. The school game is Captain Ball. One of the
players, Ruth Karlson, a term ahead of me, is just wonderful. She plays with one
arm behind her back. I love her. We call it a crush. Almost all the girls have
crushes on another girl and on some of the teachers too. Especially the gym
teachers. So romantic in their big gym bloomers and their commanding voices.
R.B.M. After the two schools combined, crushes became a thing of the past, because then
there were boys to fall in love with. I wasn't there then, though I did go back, to
play Ursula in Much Ado About Nothing. Listen to me! I'm jumping ahead. What
was the worst thing that ever happened at West Philly?
R.B. It was when Ruth Karlson and two other girls had to resign from their school
offices -- they were all popular -- and I didn't know for a long time what they'd
done. Well, I did find out. They had stayed all night in the school. That was just
about the worst thing that ever happened. Except I knew one girl who killed
herself. She thought she was somebody else...she told me that... which kind of
worried me. And I heard that one teacher went crazy and ran down the halls
saying she hated the assistant principal.
R.B.M. So it wasn't all roses...
R.B. Mostly it was, though. And that makes me think of graduation. We'll carry roses
at graduation...just two...one for the Student Government President Huntsy,
and one for the class president Martha Stevenson, so at the end they each will
have an armful. It is called the Ceremony of Roses. What happens at graduation?
Do I forget my lines?
R.B.M. You will. I will. I did. It will be at the first line of the last paragraph of your
speech...but don't worry. You'll make something up and nobody will know
except poor Miss Allen and you'll never forget the look on her face.
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57
R.B. The day after graduation I'm going to the barber's
and get a boy bob. After all, it's 1925 and
everybody's getting a shingle or a boy bob.
R.B.M. About 20 years ago I took a short history course in
the history of fashion with Mary Schnabel and
when I told the class that little bit about getting
the boy bob, they were so excited. Mrs. Schnabel
said, "We're hearing about styles from a whole
new angle." They were all much younger than I
was.
R.B. I wonder if I'll remember as much when I'm your
age.
R.B.M. I wouldn't be surprised. When I was doing
April 2001: Ruth Molloy's house at 200
St. Marks Square. Courtesy of Amanda
Smolka.
research for the history of my street, St. Mark's
Square, I felt lasting gratitude to the
residents or former residents of my
street whose great memories made
my work so much easier, as they
brought up little wonders out of the
past. Another great person to
interview was Miss Georgina
1926: 200 St. Mark's Square, Philadelphia, PA: "Some
of us take (this scene) for granted; but many of us are
left tongue-tied by the wonder of it all We pass on but
the maze of traffic at .34th Street, (snatching) a little of
peace from a rustling world" - Penn women's year
book, 1926-27. Courtesy of Ruth Molloy
Melville. The tapes Georgina made
with me, and her distant cousin, Dr.
Fran Byers, are full of detail and
color. She remembered the sound
of fire engines racing by at night
and the sparks that struck off the horses' hooves on the cobblestones.
R.B. Fire trucks always make a lot of noise but I haven't seen any cobblestones.
R.B.M. When I interviewed Miss Melville, she talked about a party at the Woodlands
mansion for "the frail daughter of a frail mother," the family of the cemetery's
superintendent. She glowingly recalled her mother's perfect cakes and pastries
and the thick icing which gave her a lifelong taste for sweets. She talked of her
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mother's boarders, and of one in particular, saying, "He asked me to marry him,
but I guess I was waiting for my knight to come riding by." Miss Melville gave
me a recipe for her mother's rice
pudding, just rice and milk and
sugar, no raisins, no nutmeg.
Doctors sent their patients to Mrs
Melville's boarding house...and
there were so many to choose
from before the days of
apartment houses...because Mrs.
Melville's cooking would bring
them back to health.
R.B. It's nice that we both know
Miss Melville.
In my class
April 2001: The unique design on the porch of a house on St. Marks
Square off of Locust between the 4200 and- 4300 block is showcased.
Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
there's a girl named Bessie Abramowitz who wants to be a science teacher.
R.B.M. Oh, Bessie. She became a very good teacher. She started classes in Astronomy at
West Philly High. Once she was a runner-up as the best in the country. The best
chapter in a book by David Brenner called "Soft Pretzels with Mustard" is a
tribute to Bessie. Once she wrote to Einstein inviting him to a Club dinner. She
wanted her students to know that you can try anything, whether or not you get
no for an answer. Einstein wrote them a nice letter in return.
R.B. I always think I'm going to get yes for an answer, or win things. But I never feel
bad when I don't. I'm going to miss West Philly.
R.B.M. You're going to stay out of school for a year and then you'll be going to the
University of Pennsylvania, class of 1930. That class will be the first to have to
take an intelligence test, an aptitude test, to be admitted. It will also be the first
time the girls, the co-eds, will be able to get a season football ticket just because
they're students. And tuition is $200 dollars a term!
R.B. But I think I want to go to Wilson College. Somebody came to our assembly and
talked about Wilson... it sounded so nice.
R.B.M. You'll like the University... even though you'll be in the School of Education,
unless you want to be in Fine Arts or Music.
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59
R.B. I'm not an artist. I always had a hard time with things like bilateral units in art
class. And I can't sing, except I used to enjoy chorus with Miss Virginia
Henderson. You can't help but like Miss Henderson. We sing, "Oh, that we two
were maying" and rounds of "Row row row your boat."
R.B.M. That reminds me of something. Maybe you'll think it's funny. Maybe not. Some
years ago I had to go to take pictures at the Wilson school at 46 th and Woodland.
They were going on a school trip and had to wait for a bus. While they waited
the teacher suggested that they sing. So they sang...
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream
Push the teacher overboard
And listen to her scream!
R.B.
I can't believe it!
R.B.M. You'll have to. I was there... We were both there!
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Part Two
Excerpts from Ruth Branning's and Ruth Branning Molloy's diaries:
Ruth Branning -- 1924
November 1, 1923: I am going to the Halloween party at school tomorrow so mother
and I had to walk about four miles to get a costume. It is a jazz girl and it is spiffy.
November 21, 1923: A group of us English Club girls took a trolley and went to Curtis
Publishing Co. The loveliest Maxfield Parrish pictures, but I could not stand the smell.
December 21, 1923: We translated some more of Chaucer. The whole class went to the
library and Miss Melville pointed out to us all the characters in the Prologue painted on
the whole length of the wall. We paraded in our costumes. The audience sang "Holy
Night." Mr. Shoch, our principal, read Scripture . Then we had the play.
February 8, 1924: In gym we had Indian Club arm movements without Indian Clubs.
March 5, 1924: Tryouts for "The Romancers." I didn't try out, as I guess I'm too short,
but I walked home with Gertrude Andress, who was chosen for the heroine.
March 13, 1924: A girl fainted something terrible in study hall. In English we talked
about upholding respect for womankind.
April 11, 1924: The English test is postponed till Wednesday. I saw Colleen Moore in
"Flaming Youth." She was flaming, but the rest of the picture wasn't.
May 6, 1924: In gym we practiced throwing the ball without a ball.
May 8, 1924: Up about 7:30 took my usual cold bath and exercises. From 69 th Street we
walked to Newtown Square for the school picnic. At the Crowell farm I bathed my feet
and my soles fell off. We played Farmer in the Dell, Little Sally Waters, Go in and Out
the Window, Leap Frog, etc. Some day, but grand.
June 17, 1924: It was the last Assembly. Peg Wettlin and Frances Dowdy said their
Farewell speeches and Mr. Shoch made two speeches. The 12Bs went out singing their
class song. The girls in the Girl Reserve crowd were crying.
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61
Ruth Branning Molloy -- 1941
December 2, 1941: Cold and drizzly, I made up boxes "for the needy" which the
children have been asked to take to school. My plum pudding finished boiling at 9:30
pm.
December 3: We were awakened early by annoying sirens - the beginning of Defense
Week. The children ate early and when Joe came home he and I had steaks. A rare
occurrence.
December 4: I painted a box for a doll bedroom, repainted the old dollhouse, painted
the tin sheeting of the back stove (red), and the washing machine lid (red).
December 5: Mrs. Clarke at 3717 Chestnut Street, our next door neighbor, was married
to Mr. Sutton, the Police Superintendent. I always thought he was her brother.
December 6: Joe took Brenda down town to Music Class. I took the twins to Dancing.
December 7: The children got me up so early, 7:30, that I let them all go to church
together at 8:00. I just had to get pictures taken to use for our Christmas card, so off and
on all day that's what I was doing. The news came this afternoon of the Japanese air
attack on Hawaii, so tomorrow we shall
officially be declared "at war." The radic
has been wildly excited. Joe went down tc
his office at the Inquirer to help out
Mother put the twins to bed for me. I did
the wash. It was mentioned on the radic
that wars happen on Sundays and that the
long friendship between the U.S. and
Japan was over.
December 8: There weren't any
commercials on the news programs
today. I had just finished hanging up
June 18, 1956: Bulletin Employees of Horn and Hardart's
basement restaurant opposite City Hall mop up after water
from a broken pipe in the Mark. Street National Bank Building
seeped into the automat and through the coin slots. Courtesy
of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
clothes when President Roosevelt called for a declaration of war. I tried to tell the
children that this was a very historic occasion. After lunch we went to see Santa Claus at
Strawbridge's.
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December 10: I typed the piece I wrote in the bathtub last night. It's called "A Day to
Remember," and is about the children's reactions to the declaration of war. My
confession story "Blind Eyes and Burning Lips" came back today. "Nicely written, but
not our style."
December 11: After the usual housework I listened to WDAS. Germany and Italy
declared war on us and we on them. I decided I would get the children to sleep in
different beds from time to time to get them used to changes in case of an emergency.
Brenda's music teacher said she found out she was pregnant the same day war was
declared.
December 19: Mari's tooth fell out at school (St. Leonard's Academy, 39 th and Chestnut)
and she lost it. She's crying.
December 20: We ate out at Horn and Hardart's at 40 th and Chestnut. Then we shopped
at the Giant Tiger.
December 21: We all went to H and H at 34th
and Walnut for dinner.
December 22: I've won the Gilbert and Sullivan
contest on WDAS every day. Tonight, Brenda
and I went. The Mikado is beginning to tire me.
In New York Pinafore and Trial by Jury were
substituted for the Mikado. At the program
May 1967: Richard-Pease, manager of Horn and
Hardart Automat—cafeteria at the Reading
terminal stands by to help young visitors with
their selections. Courtesy of Urban Archives,
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
tonight the "gentleman of Japan" came out waving
little American flags.
December 23: Linton Martin's review in the
Inquirer said, "The program called attention to sly, wily, and deceitful, unconscionable
corrupt and treacherous traits perceived by Gilbert more than half a century ago."
December 25: The children and Joe went to church (St. James at 38 th and Chestnut) at 8.
He told me that when Mari put the money in the collection plate she said, "Now that
I've paid, what will I get?"
December 31: New Year's Eve. The Philadelphia Inquirer had a list of things to do, like
"I will prepare my home for air raids... I will not be lulled into a false sense of
security... I will remain calm and be resolute... I will obey defense regulations, etc. etc.
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63
While I was doing dishes I had a pain in my heart, but I got over it. Soon it will be 1942
so this is my last entry. At least I've proved I can stick to something for a year. My
resolutions for 1942 are: to go to bed earlier, to be kind and quiet...to accomplish
something.
Ruth Branning Molloy – 2000
December 23, 2000: A long day...my holiday party for the children of St. Mark's Square,
plus the evening party at The Gables... I
used only the front room, as the so-called
dining room was too filled up with cartons
and ephemera to use. I moved the table to
the space between the rooms so no one
would try to leave the front room except
through the hall. I hadn't realized how
crowded the living room would be. Kate
and Kathy were the only ones not here with
their babies. Everybody else from the street
was here. We got pictures, including the one
I especially wanted of me on my stair-lift
with all the children on the stairs. The oldest
was Emily Licht, home from Brown
December 27, 2000: Ruth Branning Molloy and
children of St. Marks Square (and one father!).
Courtesy ofRuth
University, and the youngest was Arden
Brady (I'm holding her). The children loved
playing with my dollhouse furniture. Karen
supplied a bag of favors for each child. Several brought cookies and Eric gave me two
cakes of soap! I had made the salmon-cream cheese-onion mix for the pastry shells, as
well as little pumpkin pies. By four o'clock everyone had gone, so I napped for two
hours, then dressed for The Gables' party. As always, the wonderful big house was
decorated to the hilt, with Christmas trees in almost every room, each with a different
theme. Upstairs there's one room, which is decorated for Christmas all year 'round. It's
the most spectacular Bed and Breakfast in the area. The food (hors d'oeuvres, entrees,
and desserts) looked wonderful. A big crowd enjoyed everything.
Section Two
Chapter 6
Introduction to Intergenerational Histories
By Ciara O'Connell
Service projects that join teenage students with senior citizens offer great hope for
recapturing a sense of interconnection between typically disparate age groups within a
community. These two groups, both of which are often underrepresented or
misrepresented within the community, are empowered to take an active role in
discovering first-hand and preserving their community history. Students learn to do
scholarly research, conduct interviews, write biographies, and produce a book. Seniors,
while working to preserve community history and folklore that could have potentially
been lost, experience a feeling of pride and contribution to the community. Such a
history service-learning project involves real academic learning, has a vital effect upon
the community and promotes lasting relationships between students, teachers, and
school administrators with senior citizens and community leaders.
Once a partnership is formed between a school and a senior groups, each group
generally participates in age sensitivity and awareness exercises, either independently at
their own sites or together at their first meeting. This, as well as continued reflection
throughout the interview process, opens the door for increased intergenerational
understanding. Icebreakers ease the students and seniors into the interviewerinterviewee relationship. Once the students and seniors felt comfortable working with
one another, they began to pair up or form small groups. These informal gatherings
helped to stimulate a series of conversations that eventually became the interviews
included in this publication.
For the partners involved in the West Philadelphia Intergenerational History
Project, the interview process lasted anywhere from one day to six months. Seniors and
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students from one partnership decided to meet for Martin Luther King Day and focus
their conversations on how the civil rights movement affected daily life in West
Philadelphia. Another partnership cultivated a relationship by getting together for
major holidays and joining for fun activities; students did not begin to record the senior
citizens' stories until four months into the project.
Although the completion of interviews technically marked the end of their
participation in the project, several of those partnerships flourished long past that time.
Almost all of the participating schools were located in close enough proximity to their
partner senior centers to allow students to walk to those sites. Both during and after the
project, students and seniors gathered to share memories, participate in games, or eat
lunch together. The sustainability of these partnerships, even after the interviews were
turned in, proves the success of such an endeavor and the importance of the programs
like these in our communities. Projects such as this one demonstrate that people are
truly interested in the history of their neighborhoods. Furthermore, there are countless
local resources, including older residents, who prove to be invaluable in remembering
and recording events from the past. When we take the time to get to know these
residents, the results are increased appreciation of the community, enhanced community
assets, and the forging of friendships among people who might not have otherwise met.
Chapter 7
Interviews with University City High School
and the Mercy Douglass Smith-Shepard Senior Center
The following interviews took place at an Intergenerational Martin Luther King Day Conference.
Interview with Mildred Douglass
By Ish'shea Jenkins
Mildred Jenkins was born February 20 th, 1930. Like former president Jimmy
Carter, she grew up in Plains, Georgia. Ms. Mildred came to Philadelphia on May 28th,
1948.
During the Civil Rights
Movement, Ms. Mildred stayed
in Philadelphia. She says she
has no memories of being
discriminated against as a
female. As for racism, she
commented: "Since I didn't live
down south in Plains, Georgia
anymore, I didn't really feel I
April 2001: The main entrance into University City High School.
Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
was ever treated any differently.
If it is up to me, I will never live
in Georgia again."
Mildred remembers vividly when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She
says: "I was at the hairdresser and it was all over the television. It was the saddest thing
I ever heard. I knew he had a lot of enemies, but I never thought it would go that far."
Mildred believes deep down that Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination was part of a
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conspiracy. Mildred says: "After Dr. King died, everybody tried to keep his dream
alive. Nothing comes but from the real thing."
As for her own life, at the age of
eighteen, Mildred eloped with her high school
sweetheart. This is how she came to live in
"After Dr. King died everybody tried to keep his
dream alive. Nothing comes but from the real
t thing. " —Ms. Mildred Jenkins
Philadelphia. Mildred and her husband, Henry Frank Douglass, had four kids, three
girls and a boy. After thirty happy years of marriage, Mildred suffered the terrible loss
of her husband. She carried on with her love of her husband and her children.
Mildred now lives in West Philadelphia and enjoys her life to the fullest.
Interview with William "Sonny" Martin
By Stacey Johnson
William "Sonny" Martin was born
December 14 th, 1930 and raised in West
Philadelphia. Mr. Sonny, as I called him
when I was growing up, says that his
neighborhood around 58th and Arch Streets
was a nice place to be. He attended
Sulzberger Middle School, and remembers:
"Sulzberger was a nice school at that
time." He remembers that in order to
attend Dobbins, he had to take a test.
Mr. Sonny was raised by his
July 22, 1924: Mayer
Sulzberger School' on 47' and
Fairmount. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
Philadelphia, PA.
mother, who owned three beauty shops. His father worked for the Post Office. His
Grandmother, who was an Indian from Oklahoma, worked as a seamstress sewing
linens. He had three brothers and three sisters, although only one sister is still living
Mr. Sonny remembers a much different West Philadelphia: "The neighborhoods
were much cleaner. We cleaned up the block every Saturday. We had nice trees.
People took care of the neighborhoods. Everybody played together, all races." He also
remembers the horse and carriages that pulled the milkmen. Policemen also rode horses
because cars were so expensive at that time. Mr. Sonny remembers that "everybody got
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71
along: Irish, Jewish, and many more cultures. We didn't have time for the racial
situations."
"The neighborhoods were much
cleaner. We cleaned up the block
every Saturday. We had nice
trees. People took care of the
neighborhoods. Everybody played
together, all races."
-Mr. Sonny
Mr. Sonny reminisces, "while growing up, it
was kind of hard. It was the Depression and they
were getting ready for the greatest war, World War
II." He remembers that during the war they had to
purchase rations using government stamps, and that
everyone recycled because they knew it would go to
the war effort.
Of more recent history, Mr. Sonny
recalls the assassination of Dr. King: "I
was in kind of shock. Dr. King was here to
educate people. Now kids take him for
granted." Mr. Sonny remembers
encountering racism in the Navy when a
young man from Mississippi called an
African-American man a nigger, saying "I
stopped him because he obviously didn't
know the meaning of the term nigger."
One of Mr. Sonny's best memories
is of the battle Cecil B. Moore fought to
integrate Girard College. The school was
founded for boys without fathers, and
Cecil B. Moore helped make sure that
April 2001: A shot of the decor that greets the
students as they walk into University City High
School: Courtesy of Amanda Smolka
African-American boys would also be able to attend this private boarding school.
I have known Mr. Sonny all my life. I never sat down and talked with him in
this way, however. I learned a lot from him and would like to continue our
conversation another time.
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West Side Stories
Interview with Lucy Gaines
By Jennera Payne
When I went to the Mercy Douglas Smith-Shepard Senior Center, I met a lady
named Lucy Gaines. She is a very nice person with an exciting personality. She was not
afraid to tell how it was during the Civil Rights movement. She was very calm in
talking to us about it. It was hard for her to talk about Dr. King, because she knew him.
He visited the churches she attended a lot, and she knew his family. She even heard his
"I Have a Dream" speech.
Ms. Gaines was born February 29, 1907. She attended Berea High School in
Washington D.C. After high school, she played on
the girls' football team in Valley Forge as a hobby.
When 1 asked-Ms. Lucy about Dr.
Martin Luther King, she said: "He
was a very nice man who even
attended my church a couple times.'
She had to play against the white teams. When she
went to Washington to see Dr. King she had to sit at the back of the bus. She was upset
because she felt it shouldn't be like that.
Ms. Lucy worked in the Shepard Village Nursing Home for twenty-five years
and has been living there for ten years, and said that "it's nice." She also told me that
she was brought up good and she was not allowed to speak her mind. If she did, she
would get a beating.
When I asked Ms. Lucy about Dr. Martin Luther King, she said: "He was a very
nice man who even attended my church a couple times." When Martin Luther King Jr.
was murdered, Ms. Lucy attended his funeral. Ms. Lucy
Now people deal with
discrimination by fighting but the people who should
get in trouble don't get in
trouble.
agreed with Dr. King one hundred percent. His funeral
was really crowded, but it was nice other than that.
Ms. Lucy was very nice and I'm really glad that she
talked to us. She was open and honest with us and she
didn't hide anything. I thought what caused the Civil Rights movement was bad before
I went there. I've had nothing similar happen in my own life. In high school there are
popular people and unpopular people, and the popular people look down on the people
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73
who are not popular. It was like that with the blacks and the whites. It shouldn't be like
that. Now people deal with discrimination by fighting - but the people who should get
in trouble don't get in trouble. I also spoke with Sarah Jackson, Emma Jones, Audrey
Code, and Elise Jackson. I enjoyed getting to know the stories and opinions of these
Senior adults.
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74 West Side Stories
Pictures from the:
Martin Luther King Day
Conference
held on Friday,Janury,12
2001. The Conference was
held at the Mercy Douglass
Smith-Shepard-Senior
Center. Residents from the
Senior Center as well as
students from Ms. Anne
Walsh's class from
School
participated in discussions
centering around Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. and other
civil rights topics.
West Side Stories
"Dr. King was here
to educate people.
Now
kids take him
for
granted."
- Mr. Sonny
75
76
West Side Stories
I have known Mr.
Sonny all my life. I
never sat down and
talked with him in this
way, however. I learned
a lot from him and
would like to continue
our conversation
another time.
— Stacey Johnson
West Side Stories
Participants of University City High
School and Mercy Douglass SmithShepard Senior Center Interviews
Mercy Douglass SmithShepard Senior Center
Joseph Akers
Beatrice Allen
Oreader Burgess
Dorothy Butler
Ethel Callicut
Catherine Cann
ie David Casson
Lois Chapman
Audrey Coard
Lawrence Collier
Annas Colon
Joseph Cubbage
Ruth Daniels
Roscoe Dorsey
Mildred Douglas
George Drew
Mildred Formon
Lucy Gaines
Gussie Gatson
Inez Gilchrist
Lela Gorham
Rebecca Griffin
Mamie Haines
Letha Harte
John Hill
George Howe
Arcie Hyman
Mary Jackson
Sara Jackson
Dorothy Johnson
Frances Johnson
Emma Jones
Milton Jones
Versia Jones
Willie E. Jordan
Willie Joyner
Louise Key
Mary Koenig
Ella Lenox
Adelaide Lockwood
William Martin
Roys ter Millner
Bullet Minor
Virginia Morgan
Clifton Nixon
Sarah Petty
Pearl Rodgers
Sarah Rosenbourgh
Cleveland Ruff
Ruth Schretzenmaire
Glorian Smith
Inetha Terry
Gregory Torrice
Thelma Upshur
Connie E. Walker
Harriet Washington
Vera Waters
Virginia Watkins
Dorethea Woodfolk
Bertha Kimble
University City High
School
Natasia Bryant
Davida Carr
Janeen Conae
Sareeta Cross
Kaleena Dockery
Dinisha Graham
Donte Grantham
Siedah Harris
Gennie High-Beatty
Jerome Jackson
Ish'shea Jenkins
Stacey Johnson
Samphorst Lang
Dante Madden
Lakia Martin
Shavon McCain
Mary McCloud
Dominique McFarland
Shavon Parker
Lindsay Patrick
Jennera Payne
Bernard Reed
Alicia Samuel
Ashley Tart
Linde Te
Tashi ma Thimas
Lotasha Watford
Nephryrititi Williams
77
Chapter 8
Interviews with Students and Senior Citizens at the
West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
Interview with Frances Aulston
By Alia Hatch
Frances (Fran Aulston) is a retired librarian from the Free Library of Philadelphia
after thirty one years. She worked for many of those years at the West Regional Library
at 52nd and Sansom Streets where she assisted in opening in 1970. She began life on her
mother's birthday, January 6, 1940, in Richmond, Virginia. In 1948, Fran came to live
with her Aunt Aggie, a self-taught seamstress, and her husband, Uncle Fred, a dairy
employee in West Philadelphia in a three room apartment at 219 North Ruby Street.
From the age of nine, Fran traveled to Philadelphia every summer on the railroad
trains to visit relatives in West Philadelphia. Traveling from Richmond to Philadelphia
was an exciting time for Fran. "I bragged to my childhood friends that I was going 'up
north' for the summer." She remembers arriving at the 30 th Street Station with suitcases
jam packed with new summer clothes, and a rumpled lunch bag with cake crumbs and
the remains of fried chicken left over from lunch packed by her Mama, all neatly
wrapped in waxed paper. Fran was careful to obey instructions given by her mother on
train etiquette.
The three-room apartment on Ruby Street was quite a transition from her large
southern ten room house and her own bedroom. Fran slept in the living room on a day
bed with a ruffled garden flowered coverlet and matching pillows that were designed
by Aunt Aggie. Because the living room faced the street, her nights were shared with
80
West Side Stories
the sounds of children and families sitting on their awning porches speaking of the day's
events and planning tomorrow's challenges. The neighbors tried to outdo one another;
every summer, new paint curtains and flowers brightened up the street. Ruby Street
was lined with row homes, some enclosed with glass, and mostly all with awnings. "It
looked like a lovely European village," said Fran.
Fran was introduced to "up north" foods like soft and stick pretzels, kosher
pickles and water ice. Summer nights were wonderful treats with visits to the
neighborhood American Stores to get penny candy and pretzels. Her first love was the
teenage boy who worked in the American Store. Trips "in
town" on the El to the department stores like Snellenberg's,
Gimbel's Lits, Strawbridge's and John Wanamaker
fascinated her as well as walks to 52nd and Market Streets to
Summer nights were wonderful
treats with visits to the
neighborhood American Stores
to get penny candy and
pretzels.
the Post Office and to the Penn Fruit where you could go in on Market Street and check
out on Filbert Street and go to the Tailor's Shop to get button holes made for Aunt
Aggie's customers.
With many fond memories of her summers in West Philadelphia, and an aunt
who was childless, Fran's mother consented to let her live with Aunt Aggie. The family
moved from the apartment to a house across the street: 234 North Ruby Street. It was
previously owned by Aunt Aggie's sister, Aunt Marie. Aunt Marie moved around the
corner to a large row home, 246 North 52nd Street. Fran "thought it was a mansion
because of the powder room next to the kitchen, four large bedrooms and a living room
large enough for a baby grand piano."
Attending Our Lady of Victory Catholic School at 52nd
and Race was a cultural shock for Fran, who graduated from
the eighth grade as one of three African-American children.
According to Fran, "Going to school with other ethnic
backgrounds helped me in my adult life to get along with
Attending Our Lady of
Victory Catholic School at
52nd and Race was a cultural
shock- for Fran, who
graduated from the eighth
grade as one of three African American children.
everyone. I learned early that people are people. We all have
the same basic needs of survival to be loved and to live to our fullest the best life
possible."
The last forty years of Fran's life were spent in West Philadelphia, rearing her
two sons, and enjoying life as a community activist and arts provider. She attended
West Side Stories
81
graduate school at Drexel University in West Philadelphia, and in the early 1960s
"We all have the same basic
needs of survival to be loved
and to live to our fullest the
best life possible."
— Fran Aulston
discovered her passion for improving the quality of life in
the community. Many youngsters in West Philadelphia
were the benefactors of her den mother and Sunday School
teaching days. They would build crystal radios, plan
matchbox derbies and visit museums, attend cultural events and cram school buses with
families to go on weekend trips to Bushkill Gardens and to the Poconos. Fran and seven
other adults also established the Wynnefield Baptist Church, which was the first Baptist
Church in the Wynnefield section of the city.
It was at the West Philadelphia Regional Library in 1984 that a community
meeting took place where her community activism mushroomed with the founding of
the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, a grass roots organization that works with
community arts and cultural issues. Fran says that "working at the West Philadelphia
Regional Library and my interaction with people from diverse backgrounds in West
Philadelphia has groomed me to be a vehicle for social change in the community." In
1994, the WPCA took on the challenge to heighten public awareness of the life and
legacy of Paul Robeson, "one of the world's foremost African-American citizens who
was virtually erased from American history books." Fran proudly boasts: "This is the
house where Robeson lived the last ten years of his life with his sister in the heart of
West Philadelphia and just as Robeson reached out to citizens of other countries to
create bonds of respect and friendship we are also reaching out to our West Philadelphia
neighbors to help develop the Robeson House Interpretive Center, an institute for civic
responsibility." Fran looks forward to many more years of community involvement.
82
West Side Stories
Interview with Sybil Couche
By Alia Hatch
Sybil Couche, a retired school administrator, started her beginnings in the West
Philadelphia community in 1942, at the age of twelve. Her father died when she was
eleven and the family, her mother and two siblings moved to 136 North 50 th Street in
West Philadelphia from South Philadelphia. "I lived there until 1968 when I went out
on my own," says Sybil. "I lived in my apartment in Society Hill, but I didn't like living
in an apartment. I searched for a house and in 1972 purchased the property where I live
now at 4615 Locust Street. Come this July, I will have been there for 29 years."
Over fifty years of West Philadelphia life has given Sybil many good memories.
Life was wonderful for her in West Philadelphia. Sybil recalls, "My fondest memories
are of friends I made when I lived on 50 th Street and they have lasted throughout the
years. I still see some of the people I knew before but I don't feel nearly as connected as
I do to those from 50 th Street."
Attending the best schools available was her mother's
passion for her children. Even while living in South
Philadelphia, Sybil traveled to West Philadelphia to attend the
Attending the best schoo ls
available was her mother's
passion for her children.
Newton Elementary at 38 th and Spruce Streets where the University of Pennsylvania
Veterinary School is now located. "It was ancient when I attended, and is now torn
down." She also traveled from 50 th Street to Broad and Louden every day to attend J.
Cook Junior High and from elementary to Girls High and then to West Philadelphia
High School. Sybil said, "My best girlfriend transferred from Girls High to West
Philadelphia High and I worried my mother to death until she sent me to West
Philadelphia High. So West Philadelphia means a lot to me. I have very fond memories
of both Girls High and West Philadelphia High."
"In fact, I just came here today from West Philadelphia High where I am
currently attending a computer class. I taught at West Philadelphia High and I still
don't know my way around the building, it's a maze over there. I live right down the
street from West Philadelphia High, I made many friends there that I still keep in touch
with."
83
"My most vivid memory while living in the community was during my teen
years on 50 th Street, they called us the '400's' or 'toasties,' so to speak. We happened to
come from families where the parents were affluent enough and could afford certain
amenities and who also supervised our activities. Our parents kept up with us and
provided group entertainment like the Jack and Jill and Twigs children's clubs. When we
were in high school we were closely connected. Sometimes that circle branched off and
met with the other circles. There were several clubs, the Top Hatters and Club Regals,
mostly male clubs, they did civic minded things, gave dances and parties and our
parties were always supervised at someone's house."
Good fun is what Sybil remembers, with the Friday Night Hops at the YWCA or
skating parties at the Arena. On Sunday afternoons they would load up in Bunny
Phillips' father's car, "who was in the hair product business. He would empty out his
van and put benches on each side and go around and pick everyone up to go to 46 th and
Market and ice skate at the old Arena. And after the dance we would load back up and
he would drop all of us off. Families cared about each other. When I left my house to go
anywhere, I knew if I did anything that my mother did not approve of, my mother
would find out about it. Someone would have called my
"Of course, we would turn
the lights down and my
mother would come
through and turn the
lights back up."
— Sybil Couche
mother and told her that 'I saw your daughter doing such
and such' and she would be there with her such and such
strap. Even if you were at your girlfriend's house and did
something that wasn't right, your friend's mother would
tear you up and when you got home your mother would
give it to you also. It would be a different world if people stayed connected."
Interview with Ernestine Johnson and Katherine Baker
By Alia Hatch
Ernestine (Teenie) Johnson and Katherine Baker are two sisters who have lived in
West Philadelphia all their lives. They were born to Mildred and Ernest Clark.
Ernestine came into the world in 1927 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital at 34th
and Spruce Streets and Katherine in 1929 at the Women's Hospital located at 41' t and
Parrish Streets.
84
W est Side Stories
They grew up in "The Black Bottom," a section in West Philadelphia that is now
primarily occupied by the University of Pennsylvania. Their first home was at 3900
Folsom Street and second home was at 3903 Brown Street. After World War II started,
they moved to 628 North Markoe Street. It was here on Markoe Street where they played
with Congressman Lucien Blackwell's family. They remember spending much of their
allowances at the corner "Blackwell Grocery Store." Black, Jewish, and Irish families
lived side by side.
Coming through the Depression years was not as bad as
some may think. There was always plenty of food and clothes, even
Black, Jewish, and
Irish families lived side
by side.
if some of it was given by the Department of Public Welfare. The
Baker sisters remember wearing mixed plaid dresses. Katherine says, "Back then, mixed
plaids were not so fashionable; today, you mix everything and it's okay." Teenie says,
"We were fashionable and didn't know it."
They both smile as they remember their mother's sense of fairness in distributing
everything evenly among the three siblings. "What she did for one she did for all of us,"
says Teenie. "Mother would count out cookies and give each one the same amount.
Penny candy, Jewish pickles and loose potato chips from the barrel were everyday
treats. We could get a bagful of goodies for five cents from the day-old bakery, rolls and
cinnamon buns, enough to last for a few days." On weekends, Teenie and Katherine
The year 1940 was a memorable one.
That was the year the street caved in
because the houses were built on top of a
creek known as "Mill Creek."
attended the barbecue pit dances on the lot in
the neighborhood.
Mother would always
whistle for us to come home. Both my parents
were whistlers; my dad would whistle to work,
and coming home you could hear him whistling down the street."
Teenie and Katherine's parents were both musicians. Their mother played the
organ and their father was a very charming jazz pianist known around town as "Bozo."
Mother was always home, taking care of the family, and their father worked for the
City's Department of Public Works and then later at a downtown dental factory as a
dental technician. Many neighbors were the proud owners of false teeth made in their
mother's kitchen. Their father died of liver disease that was directly attributed to
working with acrylics. West Philadelphia public schools offered a rich education for the
Clark children. They attended Belmont and McMichael elementary schools, Sulzberger
85
Junior High and West Philadelphia High. Katherine was the youngest of three children
and she was stuck with being called a "spoiled brat." She says, "I am still trying to live
down that reputation." Often they were chased home from school because they lived in
the "Black Bottom," and had to walk from 39 th Street to attend Sulzberger at 47th Street.
They traveled together as they walked across the "Dusty" at 46th and Haverford Streets.
The year 1940 was a memorable one. That was the year the street caved in
because the houses were built on top of a creek known as "Mill Creek." Also memorable
were the years that the Clark girls were married. Katherine married in 1948 and Teenie
married in 1949. Katherine has five children; Teenie does not have any. However,
Teenie feels "like Katherine's children are mine." Friday evenings find everyone back at
their parents' home playing pinochle and singing around the piano.
Music, volunteerism and church have always played a major role in their lives.
Being members of Ward AME Church, located in West Philadelphia at 43 rd and Aspen
Streets, takes a great part of their time because both are active members on the Chancel
Choir, Missionary Society, Sunday School, Lay Organization, Credit Union the
Scholarship Committee, and KENNER Senior Program.
Currently, both sisters are still living in West Philadelphia, enjoying their
twilight years. Both ladies are currently working at the West Philadelphia Cultural
Alliance, a host site for the National Caucus for the Black Aged. Katherine is taking
piano lessons at the Settlement Music School and Teenie is volunteering for retirees in
Chapter 4037 of the AARP. They have seen many changes in West Philadelphia, both
growth and deterioration. However, they share the same philosophy: "It's not hopeless.
We just need more people to be involved; the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are
few."
86
West Side Stories
Students and Senior Citizens of the
West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
Participants
Fran Aulston
Ernestine Clark
Katherine Clark
Sybil Couche
Alia Hatch
Chapter 9
Interviews with Sulzberger Middle School and
Haddington Multi-Services Center
Interview with Ms. Alma Watkins
By Cameron Palmer
Ms. Watkins has been a resident of Philadelphia for 82 years. She remembers the
MOVE incident that took place in
May of 1985. Ms. Watkins stated, "I
thought it was the end of the world
because gun shots could be heard for
miles...they were so loud and I was
extremely frightened." She further
stated that the MOVE people were
very inconsiderate of others because
they had no respect for other
people's property. They threw trash
July 22, 1924: Mayer Sulzberger School on 47th Street and
Fairmount Avenue. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple
University, Philadelphia, PA.
anywhere. Moreover, the MOVE
people were
very unclean.
Ms. Watkins lived on the corner by where the MOVE people lived.
Even though Ms. Watkins called and complained to the Mayor of
Ms. Watkins has
been a resident of
Philadelphia for
82 years.
Philadelphia, W. Wilson Goode, nothing was done. They continued to be dirty and
trash the neighborhood.
88
West Side Stories
According to Ms. Watkins, her neighborhood has changed drastically over the years.
When she first moved into her neighborhood, it was quiet and oh so peaceful. Now it's
[Ms. Watkins] stated that
she would Like to see her
neighborhood safe and
beautiful again with
caring neighbors, just Like
the way it was years ago
when she first moved ther
a different story — with the drugs and other illegal activities
going on, Ms. Watkins said her neighborhood is horrible.
She stated that she would like to see her neighborhood safe
and beautiful again with caring neighbors, just like the way
it was years ago when she first moved there.
Ms. Watkins continued to talk about the many
changes she has seen take place within her neighborhood. Unfortunately, she sees her
neighborhood getting worse in the next five to ten years. She feels that the people who
presently live there don't have the interest or take the time to beautify their
neighborhood. She attributes this in part to the fact that a lot of [federally subsidized
residents] have moved in, and seemingly don't care about the appearance and upkeep of
the community.
Ms. Watkins further commented that during the 1950s and 1960s her
neighborhood could be compared to a paradise situation. It was safe, there were no bars
on the windows and doors, and you could walk down the streets without being
attacked, robbed, or raped. However, one morning during that time she was going to
the store and a man suddenly appeared and acted like he was going to choke her, but
she screamed and a lot of people came to her rescue, so the man calmly walked down
the street as though nothing had happened.
When asked what community activists she had met over the years, Ms. Watkins
excitedly responded: "I met Chaka Fattah — he came to the center to talk to us. He is a
very nice, kind, pleasant, intelligent and caring man. He talked about what a good job
Ms. Black was doing here at the Center. I too think Ms. Black is doing a great job!"
Although Ms. Watkins attended public schools in Philadelphia, she graduated
from Camden High School. She does, however, have grandchildren who presently
attend public schools here in Philadelphia.
Ms. Watkins' overall feelings about Philadelphia are very positive. She thinks
that at one time Philadelphia was both exciting and beautiful, but has gone down
completely. But, she says there is hope in seeing the revitalization of this great City of
West Side Stories
89
Brotherly Love. She feels that Philadelphia can and will be revitalized in the very near
future.
Interview with Andrea Richardson
By Lanea Bryant
Ms. Richardson has lived in West Philadelphia for six years. While living in
West Philadelphia she has seen lots of shootings, even students shooting in schools.
When asked how her neighborhood has changed over the years, Ms. Richardson
responded, "my neighborhood has a lot of drugs and drug dealers. You just don't feel
safe anymore. Sometimes the drug dealers are old and sometimes they are very young.
My neighborhood is no longer quiet and peaceful the way it used to be."
Furthermore, Ms. Richardson stated that she would like to see new houses built
and more concerned individuals
living in her neighborhood. It is
her opinion that if there were more
caring and interested neighbors, the
neighborhood would once again be
beautiful and safe. Ms. Richardson
said that during the 1950s and
1960s West Philadelphia was
beautiful. Her neighborhood was
clean, nice, friendly, and, most
importantly, it was safe with
caring neighbors.
April 2001: A snapshot of Mayer Sulzberger Middle School; located at
472 South Fairmount Avenue in West Philadelphia Courtesy of
Amanda Smolka.
I asked Ms. Richardson what community activists she had met over the years.
She excitedly responded: "I was very fortunate to have met David Richardson and
Reverend Louise Williams!" She further stated that she found both individuals to be
most inspiring and courageous. She said that although Dave Richardson has since
passed, she still remembers him and the great things he did for the city of Philadelphia.
She said Louise Williams is a great person also.
90
West Side Stories
Ms. Richardson went to public schools in Philadelphia and received a good
education. Her overall feelings about West Philadelphia are mostly positive. She feels
that Philadelphia was very nice at one time and can once again be nice and exciting.
Interview with Frances Drake
By Reuel Loveladce
Ms. Drake has been a resident of West Philadelphia for 71 years. She remembers
the MOVE incident that took place in May of 1985. "It
[Ms. Drake] remembers the
MOVE incident that took place
in May of 1985. "It was a
most frightening thing to have
had to encounter," she said.
was a most frightening thing to have had to
encounter," she said. Further, she said the gunshots
could be heard for great distances and she was so
afraid. She said that she hopes she will never have to
experience anything like that again.
Ms. Drake said her neighborhood has changed for the worse over the years.
There are drug dealers and other illegal things going on in her neighborhood, and it
seems that nothing is being done to stop these acts. She would very much like to see
new houses built, abandoned houses torn down, clean streets, more caring neighbors,
and a beautiful neighborhood once again.
When asked how she sees her neighborhood in the
next five to ten years, Ms. Drake said that she sees her
neighborhood with lots of children - children raising
children. Hopefully, it will be a more peaceful and safe
neighborhood where individuals take pride in their
When asked how she sees her
neighborhood in the next five
to ten years, Ms. Drake said
that she sees her
neighborhood with lots of
children — children raising
children.
community, and there will be block captains and members who will work together to
keep the neighborhood clean and beautiful the way it used to be.
Ms. Drake stated that she is a graduate of West Philadelphia High School, and
she views the public school system in a positive way.
Ms. Drake said that although Philadelphia seems to be filled with violence and
uncaring people at this time, it is her belief that Philadelphia will once again become the
great city that it truly is!
91
West Side Stories
Interview with Gwendolyn Ruffin
By , Patrick'
Cason
Mrs. Ruffin has been a resident of West Philadelphia for 68 years and has
witnessed a lot of changes during that time. She remembers the MOVE people and how
they behaved toward others, and how the MOVE people were treated - there was a lack
of respect for individuals' rights.
Mrs. Ruffin said that West Philadelphia is not like it once was when she was
young and growing up. It has become so very violent over the years. She would like to
see her neighborhood the way it used to be when she was young. It was quiet and
peaceful. People took pride in their community - they liked to fix up their yards, plant
beautiful flowers and keep the streets clean.
Mrs. Ruffin further stated that during the 1950s and 1960s West Philadelphia was
a nice quiet section of the city. Back then people were more caring and concerned about
their neighbors and neighborhood. People didn't hesitate to lend a helping hand when
and where it was needed.
Mrs. Ruffin said that she has met a few community
activists over the years but could not remember their names at
the time. She attended public schools here in Philadelphia. She
went to Daroff, which was located at 56 th and Vine Streets, and
also attended Sulzberger and graduated from Overbrook High
School.
"The neighborhood is
not the same as it was
when I was growing up,
and" children
en do not have
the same respect for
grownups now like they
did when I was growing
up."
- Mrs. Ruffin
When asked what her overall feelings were regarding West Philadelphia, Mrs.
Ruffin quickly responded: "the neighborhood is not the same as it was when I was
growing up, and children do not have the same respect for grownups now like they did
when I was growing up; Philadelphia just is not like it used to be. But I do believe it can
and will become the great city that it used to be."
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West Side Stories
Interview with Edward Jobe
ByJennifer Hayes
Mr. Jobe has lived in West Philadelphia since 1943. His neighborhood has
changed significantly since then. He would like to see his neighborhood drug free, with
better upkeep, beautified, and violence free.
Mr. Jobe has met quite a few community activists over the years. He was
impressed with the work that David Richardson did for the city of Philadelphia. He
feels that Philadelphia has had some dynamite leaders and is, hopefully, on its way to
becoming exciting and wonderful the way it once was.
Mr. Jobe is very much interested in the field of education. He stressed to me and
some of my classmates the importance of education. He urged us to be all that we can
be, and always do the best we can and don't give up. He told us to hold fast to our
dreams and make them a reality.
West Side Stones
Participants of the Sulzberger
Middle School and Haddington
Multi-Services Center Interviews
Haddington
Multi-Services
Center
Frances Drake
Sarah Harrington
William Jackson
Edward Jobe
Andrea Richardson
Gwendolyn Ruffin
Alma Watkins
Sulzberger
Middle School
Amanda Bell
Lanea Bryant
Patrick Cason
Jennifer Hayes
Cameron Palmer
Tysean Zellars
93
Chapter 10
Interviews with Our Mother of Sorrows School
and West Philadelphia Neighborhood Seniors
Interview with Carolyn Levy
By Shanefia Barrett
My Aunt Carolyn Levy was not born in West Philly but in Norfolk Virginia. She
came to West Philly in 1972 because her husband
had lived there. Later she was married in West
Philly!
After they were married, the two of them
moved into their own home, a three bedroom house
on the block of Union Street. They had two
children by the names of Kimberly and Jr., who are
still staying in their home. They are my godbrother
and godsister.
Mrs. Levy stayed on Union Street for
twenty-nine years and ten months. As her children
grew, Carolyn and Quilly, her husband, grew apart.
April 2001: Our Mother of Sorrows
Catholic School is located on 48th Streets
and Lancaster Avenue. Courtesy of
Amanda Smolka
Today the two are not together but are good friends
and care about each other.
In the last five years, Mrs. Levy says, "West
Philly has gone down hill." Many vacant buildings and storefronts have been
destroyed. She says that West Philly could use many improvements: abandoned houses
should be fixed, there should be more streetlights, and the alleys should be cleaned.
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West Side Stories
Mrs. Levy stayed in West Philly because this is where she was married and her
children were brought up here. She doesn't have the money to move. When her
children were younger, she would take them to the zoo and Fairmount Park to play.
Now Mrs. Levy has the house to herself. She has worked as a computer teacher for eight
years and still is working as one today. Mrs. Levy says, "I love the children and my
job."
Mrs. Levy is always willing to do things for others and I'm grateful to have an
aunt like this.
Interview with Jeanette Marie Guerrero
By Antoria Walker
Jeanette Marie Guerrero was born in Brooklyn,
The happiest days of
[Jeanette's] were when she
married Fredrick Miguel
Guerrera.
New York on August 1 st, 1940. She was the oldest of six
children. Jeanette had four younger sisters and one
younger brother: Darleen, Sharleen, Rosie, Tinie and
Robert. Jeanette lived a wonderful
childhood in Brooklyn. She always
dreamed of coming to Philadelphia as
a young child. "New York was not a
bad place to live, but it was just too
crowded," Jeanette says. Even though
she did not get out a lot, her sisters
would always want to follow her when
she did get out.
When Jeanette was ten years
old, she started to work. Her first job
was working at a factory packing
April 2001: A mural found at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic
School at 48th and Lancaster proclaims, "We are a community of
hope". Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
cigarettes. After packing cigarettes every day she went to go work at her family's store.
Working became an everyday process for her at a young age. With the little money she
received from working, she would save up to buy clothes.
West Side Stories
97
The happiest days of her life were when she married Fredrick Miguel Guerrero,
and had four beautiful children. She had two boys and two girls. When she found out
that she was pregnant with her last baby girl, named Lisa Guerrero, she moved to
Philadelphia to start a new life with her own family. Her children grew up on St.
Bernard Street and attended school at St. Francis De Sales.
Jeanette's latest job was at a Roman Catholic Church. She worked there for ten
years in the cafeteria cooking food. She liked that job. In 1997 she retired because she
was getting older and tired. Now she stays home and helps out and watches her
granddaughter and sons.
Interview with Margaret Battle
By Tory Williams, Khyra Daniels, Sierra Outtins ,Jefferson Dobson,
Nykeemia Holliman, and Christina Jacobs
Mrs. Margaret Battle was born on December 8 th, 1932 at Philadelphia General
Hospital, where the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia stands today. In all her life, she
never lived anywhere outside of
West Philadelphia. Her favorite
house was at 41 st and Filbert
Streets where she lived from the
age of ten until she got married.
She loved growing up as an only
child, living with her mother
Margaret and her father Ivey.
2001: Left to right, Sierra Outtins, Jefferson Dobson, Christina Jacobs,
Ton , Williams, and Nykeemia Holliman pose for a picture with Mrs.
Battle after their interview. Courtesy of Our Mother of Sorrows.
Mrs. Battle attended
Kendrick Elementary School,
which was located where Drew
Elementary School is today. She later attended Sulzberger Middle School, West
Philadelphia High School and one year of community college.
Mrs. Battle thinks it was easier for children to grow up in their communities back
then because there wasn't as much peer pressure on kids. She explained that people felt
safe and demonstrated true brotherly love. They were able to leave their doors
98 t)
West Side Stories
unlocked at anytime of the night. It was so safe that kids were free to wander in the
streets at anytime. Everyone knew each other, so police officers would stop by and
come in to sit for coffee.
When Mrs. Battle was a little girl, she remembers that another little girl wanted
to fight her. Every time, Mrs. Battle would run away. One day, as she got ready to run
in the house, her mother made her turn around and face the girl. Ever since then they
have been really good friends!
Years ago, everyone thought West Philadelphia was a nice area. Nevertheless,
there used to be gangs. 40 th Street divided the Top from the Bottom. The Up Gang, as
they called it, went from as far
as 52nd Street. The Bottom was
from 40th to 36th Street. If you
were not in a gang, however,
you could feel perfectly safe.
In Mrs. Battle's younger
years, people read books and
listened to the radio for
entertainment.
Mrs. Battle
2001: Christina Jacobs, Nykeemia Holliman and J- efferson Dobson listen intently
while Mrs. Battle tells her stories. Courtesy of Our Mother of Sorrows.
wished they had televisions, but they weren't introduced to her until 1948. Everyone
couldn't afford their own TV so they visited friends' houses to watch them.
Times have changed and so have prices. It cost thirty-five cents to see a stage
show when Mrs. Battle was in her teens. It cost ten cents to see a movie at 40th and
Market Street. As far as transportation goes, a one way ticket cost eight cents and if you
bought a round trip token it cost fifteen cents. Back then, the El ran above ground all the
way up to 32nd Street. Pay-phones cost a nickel. An entire Easter outfit could be
purchased for six dollars.
All teens needed was some place to hang out. Back
then, everyone hung out at Father Logan's Church on 41st
and Parrish Streets. There they had Girl Scouts and teen
parties on Friday and Saturday nights. When you went, you
Although there were some
places where blacks and whites
could go together, they were
often separated.
didn't have to worry about fighting. Young people also went roller skating, hung out at
the movies, and attended live stage shows where famous people would sing.
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99
Sometimes Dick Clark had a Bandstand at 46 th and Market. Mrs. Battle said that was
where young people went to dance on TV. Although there were some places where
blacks and whites could go together, they were often separated. At the movie theater,
blacks sat upstairs while white children sat downstairs!
Mrs. Battle married twice. She married for the first time at age 18 in a beige
chiffon dress that bloomed out. She had her first child at 19. Mrs. Battle's first husband
died shortly afterward. She remarried at age 27 and has been married ever since.
Mrs. Battle said that styles have changed a lot. Men, back in the day, wore Zoot
Suits and had beautiful hair. The women wore hats, gloves and long dresses with a
bustle on the back.
Mrs. Battle told us to do all that we can while we are young. She is a great
influence on us because she has been there and succeeded. We liked her very much and
will never forget all of the things that she said.
Interview with Rosanna Nelson
By Che' r Locust
I chose to interview my grandmother, Rosanna Nelson. She
migrated from South Carolina to West Philadelphia in 1965. Over the
past few years she has learned a lot about West Philadelphia. I talked
with her about the exciting things she likes to do.
2001: Che'r
Locust's school.
picture. Courtesy
of Che' r Locust.
My grandmother was born in Kingtree, South Carolina. The
reason why she came to West Philadelphia was that her husband built
homes. His friend asked him to come and build a motel for him. His friend died a week
later, so they decided to live here in West Philadelphia. Her husband got a job with the
McCloskey Building Company.
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West Side Stories
My grandmother told me she thinks
there is a difference between living
in South Carolina and West
Philadelphia. In South Carolina,
she had wide open space. Everyone
knew each other, the air was fresh,
and they farmed for a living. On
the other hand, West Philadelphia
streets are crowded, children have
to be supervised closely, and adults
Rosanna Nelson holds
her, Che 'r Locust, with radiance
granddaughter,
and pride. Courtesy Che'r Locust.
have to be aware of and prepared for
the danger in the atmosphere. The education
is different here than in South Carolina. My
grandmother had to learn from books that
were not updated, which means they were
rebounded (used books). They also didn't
have computers and blacks and whites were
separated. In West Philadelphia she studied
by lamplight. Today we have libraries, the
internet, institutions, and different
curriculums.
The food in South Carolina is delicious.
It is very fresh, and each home grows their
own fruits and vegetables. In the city the food
is transported.
My grandmother has a lot of memories
Ms. Nelson patiently waits for the ceremony to start.
Courtesy of Cite' r Locust.
about South Carolina. Her best memory was of visiting other
family members and spending time with them. Her worst
memories were of getting knocked down, spit at, and being
refused at restaurants by Caucasians.
I know one thing; my
grandmother loves
sports!
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101
I know one thing; my grandmother loves sports! She enjoys watching basketball,
soccer, baseball, and wrestling. Her favorite teams are the Phillies and the 76ers. Her
hobbies are cooking, singing, and gardening. If my grandmother could turn back the
hands of time, she wouldn't go back to South Carolina because of the gossip in the
atmosphere. She's very happy in West Philadelphia. I'm glad she's my grandmother
and I want her to stay happy!
Interview with Melvin L. Hardy
By Justin Minard, Laticia Bates, Carolyn Smith, and Ralph Camp
We interviewed a
terrific guy named Melvin
L. Hardy. Mr. Hardy was
born in Washington, North
Carolina in 1924. He lived
on a farm and graduated
from Mother of Mercy in
North Carolina. While in
Washingtion, he had a job.
Even though Mr. Hardy
wasn't getting paid, he still
2001: From left to right, students Laticia Bates, Carolyn Smith, Jack Woodley;
Justin Minard, and Ralph Camp gather together with the man they interviewed
Mr. Hai* Courtesy of Our Mother of Sorrows.
kept working. He moved
to Lancaster, Pennsylvania with his family in 1942, when he was a teenager. It was at
the end of the depression and they were seeking better economic opportunities. Later,
in 1959, Mr. Hardy came to West Philadelphia. His first job in Philadelphia was at Eddie
Stone where he made locomotive engines. He was paid seventy-eight cents an hour. At
the time, Mr. Hardy felt like he was on top of the world.
Mr. Hardy's father died in 1927 and his mother died in 1959. Mr. Hardy was
married for over 40 years and had four children. His wife's name was Avis Ruffin.
Melvin and Avis met at Blessed Sacrament church in West Philadelphia. His wife, sad
to say, died of cancer in 1992. After his wife died he never remarried. The saddest
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West Side Stories
moment of Mr. Hardy's life was when his son passed away. His son had taken his morn
scuba diving and something went wrong with the oxygen tank.
Mr. Hardy has been a Catholic all of his life.
[Mr. Hardy's] first jo b in Philadelphia
was at Eddiystone where he made
locomotive engines. He was paid
seventy eight cents an hour. At the
time, Mr. Hardy felt like he was on
top of the world:
He joined Our Mother of Sorrows Parish at 48 th and
Lancaster in 1955. He sent all of his children to Our
Mother of Sorrows Catholic School. Today he is a
very active member of the parish and a role model
for many people.
We asked Mr. Hardy what changes he
has seen over the passing years in West Philadelphia.
He responded by saying he is appalled by the way
violence has increased in West Philadelphia. He feels
as though there is a loss of generation in our society
today. He remembers when people could sleep on
their porches and people could leave their doors open
all night. "It was when no one locked up anything,"
he said. "It was when people cared about each other."
April 2001: This statue is found on
the Church side of Our Mother o/
Sorrows at 4 Street and Lancaster
Avenue. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
Interview with Elizabeth Thornton
By Bruce Hill, Samira Grimes, and Ashley Clinkscale
Mrs. Thornton was born in 1926 at the Philadelphia General Hospital at 15 th and
Race Streets, which is now Hahnemann University Hospital. She grew up on Fairmount
Avenue and attended Martha Washington Elementary. When Mrs. Thornton was eight
years old, she was outside playing tag with her friends one day. A person tagged her
but pushed her too hard, and she fell and hit her head on the side of the step and split
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103
her head open. You can still see the scar today. Her mother rushed her to University of
Pennsylvania. When she arrived in the emergency, they called a specialist all the way
from Boston, Massachusetts because of her severe condition.
After her operation, they put Mrs. Thornton in intensive care for four years. Every
night, her parents went home and came back the next day because they weren't allowed
to stay overnight. The doctors soon learned that she had been
paralyzed from her mouth down to the bottom of her body.
They often used electric shocks to stimulate her body. In
order for her to be able to get back on her feet, the doctors
made her run around the hospital to keep herself active. Mrs.
Thornton's mouth was also paralyzed, so the doctors made
her chew gum to get her mouth moving again. To this day,
Mrs. Thornton does not like chewing gum! Mrs. Thornton's
favorite singer is Nat King Cole, because he is the last person
Mrs. Thornton poses for a
professional photo.
Courtesy of Mrs. Thornton.
she heard before she lost her hearing.
After her condition was treated and healed, at the age
of twelve, Mrs. Thornton was released from the hospital free of charge because the
doctors had never experienced a case like hers and they didn't know how it was going
to turn out. Once she was released, she attended the Northwest School for the Deaf and
Hard of Hearing until 1940 and then went on to the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.
There she studied sign language and vocational training. In Mrs. Thornton's early
twenties, she got married and had two children, a son and daughter. Mrs. Thornton got
divorced when her son was just five years old. Today, she has a thirteen year-old
grandson.
Mrs. Thornton loves children and is still
Mrs. Thornton's best memory of
her life in Philadelphia was when
she met the President of the
United States, Theodore
Roosevelt.
working one day a week at Archbishop Ryan in
Norwood. All of the children there are deaf or
hard-of-hearing. She volunteers four mornings a
week at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic School at
48 th and Lancaster. She is a member of the Silent Society Club which meets monthly at
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West Side Stories
Elwyne at 40th and Market. Over the years, she has served as President, Secretary and
Treasurer of the club. Currently she is a trustee. On May 12 th, 2001, she will be signsinging with five others at a church in Bucks County for the ordination of Barbara Allen
who is becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church. In her spare time, Mrs. Thornton
enjoys doing ceramics, reading books, and playing on the computer.
Mrs. Thornton's best memory of her life in Philadelphia was when she met the
President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. She admired his concern for the
working people. She was able to shake Roosevelt's hand when he came to the Quarter
Master (War Plant at 20 th and Johnson), where she was working
seven days a week, to tell them that they were doing a fine job.
Back then, she remembers that you could ride the trolley car for
8 cents, go to the movies for 10 cents, and buy a loaf of bread for
Back then, [Mrs. Thornton)
remembers that you could ride
the trolley car for 8 cents, go to
the movies for 10 cents, and
buy a loaf of bread for a nickel.
a nickel. Mrs. Thornton could spend only $20 a week on
groceries for her family. Now it costs $100.
Today, Mrs. Thornton is unable to smile because she can't control the muscles in
her face, but no one notices it. She is always cheerful and energetic. Mrs. Thornton has
a warm face and bright eyes. She never frowns or complains. Whenever she gets on the
bus or trolley, she is barely up the steps before shouting out, "Good morning!" She is
very religious and loves going to church. Mrs. Flowers, a teacher at O.M.S. and long
time neighbor of Mrs. Thornton, has many fond memories of her. She says that Mrs.
Thornton makes everyone in the community feel good. Whenever there is a death in the
neighborhood, she is the first to bring food. She waves and speaks to everyone,
especially children. Mrs. Thornton used to give books to
'I've had a good life. My father
always said I have my finger in
every pie and nothing gets done
unless I do it."
- Mrs. Thornton
children, believing it would open up their world.
Until we sat down to interview Mrs. Thornton,
we had no idea she was such an interesting and
incredible lady with great memories. When we asked
Mrs. Thornton if she had any further comments, she told us the following: "I've had a
good life. My father always said I have my finger in every pie and nothing gets done
unless I do it."
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105
105
Interview with Charlotte Walker
By As hley Ishmael and Niya Brown
We, Niya Brown and Ashley Ishmael, were the interviewers of Charlotte Walker,
age 103. Charlotte Walker
was born on June 19, 1897.
Originally
from
Georgetown, South
Carolina, she grew up in a
poor but very happy family.
As a child, she and her six
brothers and sisters walked
three miles to and from
2001: Niya Brown, Ms. Charlotte Walker, and Ashley Ishmael - show how
much they enjoyed each other's company. Courtesy of Our Mother of-Sorrows.
school every day. Until this
day, Mrs. Walker can still
see her father with a bag
and a stick getting ready to go fishing. Her father was a missionary for most of his life.
He was very active in many church events.
Charlotte moved to West Philadelphia in 1920 and has been living there ever
since. She moved to Philadelphia with her husband, who came to work in the Naval
Ship Yards. Mrs. Walker says that the best thing she ever did was marry her husband
whom she met during World War I. When the Walkers moved to West Philadelphia 73
years ago, there were mostly Irish immigrants living in the area. The house that Mrs.
Walker and her husband bought at 48 th and Haverford Avenue was nothing but a shack.
Her husband tore the house down to the frame and rebuilt it. Today the house is still
gorgeous.
Charlotte had six children. Three of them are still living. She became pregnant
with her oldest son, Tobias Walker, in 1928. Tobias grew
up in the house that his father built and lives there today
with his wife and mother. In 1949, Mr. Walker died
[Mrs. Walker] considers it an honor
that many of the young people
called her "mom."
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West Side Stories
because of a blood clot in his heart. Mrs. Walker was married for thirty years and has
been a widow for fifty-one.
Mrs. Walker thinks she has had a lovely life. In her early years, Mrs. Walker
loved to bake cakes and give them to neighbors. She shopped for bargains on Lancaster
Avenue and often stayed up late into the night washing and ironing. After her children
were raised, Mrs. Walker volunteered for many years at the Veterans Hospital in West
Philadelphia. On weekends, she brought young, handicapped veterans to the V. W. Post
near her house for parties. She considered it an honor that many of the young people
called her "mom."
Asked to compare South Carolina and Philadelphia, Mrs. Walker said that
Philadelphia
was
more
for
partygoers while the South was more
family oriented. Charlotte agonized
over earlier times in which all
females wore gloves and hats to
church.
Charlotte does not wish she
was younger but she does wish that
she were a little younger than she is
now so that she could get around and
see the faces of young children. She
misses her loving family very much.
Mrs. Walker often returns to her
2001: Niya Brown, Ms. Charlotte Walker and - Ashley' Ishmael pose for a
picture after their interview. Courtesy of Our Mother of Sorrows.
hometown. Her most recent trip was a year and a half ago. She spoke a phrase that
made us think: "People used to have a life to live and love. Now they have a life to kill
and hurt." One thing she regrets not having had the opportunity to do was learn to
drive a car and become a full time missionary.
Her favorite song is "I'm Coming Up!" The greatest lesson she learned in her life
is to keep smiling. Finally, if she could go back in time, she would visit her mother and
say, "Thank you for raising me to be such a nice daughter."
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107
Interview with Mable Epps
By RosezinaHilf
I interviewed Mrs. Mable Epps on April 4, 2001. Mrs. Epps was not born in West
Philadelphia.
Rather she started her life in
Middlesex, Virginia on March 14th, 1928. At age
eleven, she was working for the first time serving two
white women. She cleaned, cooked, folded clothes,
Mrs. Epps walked to school everyday with
her eight sisters and brothers since there
was no transportation down south, and her
family did not own a car.
and did the laundry. Mrs. Epps went to the women's houses in the morning before
school and after school till dinnertime. She liked working and thought you must know
how to do something. Mrs. Epps worked for different families just to have a change.
Mrs. Epps walked to school everyday with her eight sisters and brothers since
there was no transportation down south, and her family did not own a car. In school,
Mrs. Epps was an average student who didn't like math; math was her worst subject.
She dropped out of school in tenth grade from Middlesex Training High. One of Mrs.
Epps favorite games is softball. As a child, she played softball all the time.
Mrs. Epps, her mother, father, brothers and sisters moved to Armoore, West
Virginia to live with her Aunt and cousins. This is where she met her husband, George
Epps. They had two children. She lived in Armoore for 15 years before she and her
husband moved to West Philadelphia. She moved there at age 23, in 1946, after WWII.
Her kids stayed in Armoore with her mother and father. When Mrs. Epps parents
passed away, her Aunt took care of them.
Mrs. Epps and her husband started out in an apartment together. She started
working by doing her favorite hobbies: mending, making pillows and other things.
They both moved into a house, which she liked more so than an apartment because she
grew up living in a house.
Mr. and Mrs. Epps moved into a four-bedroom house on 53 rd Street by Parkside.
That was their first house together. They had five more children. George Epps then
passed away on December 17, 1975. Mrs. Epps started to attend, and then joined Holy
Cross Baptist church on 60 th street. She had been baptized at age eleven. Mrs. Epps
went to housing school. She wanted to learn how to cook, clean, sew and make other
things.
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West Side Stories
When I asked Mrs. Epps what she liked and disliked about West Philadelphia,
she said that she doesn't like the drugs and people standing on the corners. However,
she has family members who live in West Philadelphia and the environment is better
now as opposed to when she first moved here.
Mrs. Epps said that daily newspapers were about fifteen cents when she was
younger. Now they are fifty cents. She says that she's happy about the transportation;
it's much easier for her to get around West Philadelphia than down south.
Some parts of West Philadelphia are more peaceful now—the streets are cleaner
than before, and things are more updated. There are more drugs
and killing now, and Mrs. Epps dislikes that. Mrs. Epps says she
lived a fair life growing up. Some of her favorite foods are fried
chicken and baked fish. Her favorite vegetables are broccoli,
collard greens and carrots. Her favorite fruits are peaches and
Some parts of West
Philadelphia are more
peaceful now — the streets
are cleaner titan before,
and things are more
updated
watermelons. Mrs. Epps enjoys a lot of things and especially going to carnivals.
Mrs. Epps now lives in Upper Darby. She has lived there for four years. She
says that one day she'll be able to move back to West Philadelphia—some great
memories were had there. Mrs. Mable Epps lives happily with thirteen grandchildren
and is 73 years old.
Interview with Mr. Fida
By Isaiah Smith, Marc Benson, Alexis Boaz, Lachandale Bennett, Morris Brown
Father Daly said to Mr.
Fida, you want to learn
something about life there
is a job available for a sixth
grade teacher."
We recently had an interview with Mr. Fida who
has been working at Our Mother of Sorrows (OMS)
Catholic School for 26 years. He was born in Germantown
but came to OMS in 1973. Mr. Fida mentioned a friend
named Father Daly, who at the time was pastor of Our
Mother of Sorrows. He described Father Daly as a kind, loving and caring man. Father
Daly said to Mr. Fida, "If you want to learn something about life there is a job available
for a sixth grade teacher." He recommended it.
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109
Mr. Fida has stayed all these years because of the students and his great love for
teaching. He has attended many local colleges and universities, including Temple, West
Chester University, Drexel,
Chestnut Hill College, Saint Joe's
University and Penn State.
We asked Mr. Fida what
he likes and dislikes about
Philadelphia. He says he likes
the boys and girls, but doesn't
like the drugs, shootings, and
2001: From Left to right, students Lachandale Bennett, Marc
Benson, Kevin Medley (behind Mr. F.), Isaiah Smith and Morris
Brown take a time out with Mr. Fida during their interview.
Courtesy of Our Mother of Sorrows.
house fires. Between 1974 and
2001, Mr. Fida observed that
houses have fallen into great
disrepair. He also doesn't like
how the government passes over the destruction to build stadiums.
Mr. Fida remembers when Our Mother of Sorrows had a gym and a basketball
team. Hobbies have changed, he commented. There was a lot more interest in sports
back then. We asked how people dressed "back in the day." He said that boys couldn't
wear earrings.
Mr. Fida is one of eight children. He got married in 1956 to Mrs. Eileen Fida.
They have been married for forty-four years and have four girls named Colleen Marie,
Tara Jane, Joyce Kerry and Mary Joe. Mr. Fida also has nine grandchildren: Sean, Lewis,
Mary Anne, Patrick, Mary Beth, Rachel, Abigail, Seth and Rebecca.
Mr. Fida is a devoted teacher and a loving person who taught us that we must
take care of our city.
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West Side Stories
Various Churches
found in West
Philadelphia
April 2001: The St. Francis de Sales Church stan ds on the corner of
47th Streets and Springfield Avenue. Courtesy of John Anderson.
April 2001: University City New School and
Church is located on the 4200 block of Spruce
Street. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka
April 2001: The Baptist Church is located on 40th and
Chestnut Streets. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
April 2001: University City New School and Church is on the
4200 block of Spruce. Courtesy of Amanda Smolka.
West Side Stories
Participants of the
Our Mother of Sorrows School and
the West Philadelphia Neighborhood
Senior Citizens
West Philadelphia
Senior Citizens
Our Mother of
Sorrows School
Margaret Battle
Mable Epps
John Fida
Jeanette Marie Guerrero
Melvin L. Hardy
Carolyn Levy
Rosanna Nelson
Elizabeth Thornton
Evelyn Thorpe
Charlotte Walker
Shanefia Barrett
Laticia Bates
Lachandale Bennett
Marc Benson
Alexis Boaz
Niya Brown
Morris Brown
Ralph Camp
Ashley Clinkscale
Khyra Daniels
Jefferson Dobson
Sam ira Grimes
Rosezina Hill
Bruce Hill
Nykeemia Holliman
Ashley Ishmael
Christina Jacobs
Che'r Locust
Justin Minard
Sierra Outtins
Isaiah Smith
Carolyn Smith
Tan isha Thorpe
An toria Walker
111
Chapter 11
Interviews with University City High School and West
Philadelphia Neighborhood Senior Citizens
The following interviews were under the direction of Mr. Chris Carumbo and Ms.Carol Rhodes of
University City High School along with various Senior Citizens in the community.
Interview with Dr. Vivian Nachmias
By Josanne Clark
Vivian Nachimias' family is from England. They came to this country in 1929
during the Depression. She was born in California in December of 1931 but grew up in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was a professor of Cell and Developmental Biology.
Dr. Nachmias is currently a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, where
she continues to do research. Dr. Nachmias is very active in the community; She runs
Saturday Science and a gardening club with children from Lea Elementary School, and
she helps out with the community garden on Spruce Street. I know her because she
taught part of my Biology course at my high school.
Dr. Nachmias got married in 1955. She has two daughters and says that she and
her husband Jack are looking forward to their fiftieth anniversary. They moved to West
Philadelphia in 1963. They got their home for a low price because it had been neglected,
but she and her husband fixed it up very nicely. They have lived in the same house
since them.
When Dr. Nachmias was younger, her favorite activities were reading, writing,
as well as many outdoor hobbies. She liked to play basketball even though she was
short. She still likes to read, write, and be outdoors. She would still play basketball, but
she can't find any ladies her age to play.
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West Side Stories
Dr. Nachmias thinks that family needs to be the center of
human life. She remembers that her family loved her a
lot, and that she grew up in a cooperative and caring
environment. She says that she was lucky to have had
such a good family and feels badly that lots of kids are
Dr. Nachmias thinks that
family needs to be the center
of human life. She remembers
that her family loved her a
lot, and that she grew up in a
cooperative and caring
environment.
not having a happy childhood. She says that a happy childhood is crucial for kids
nowadays. She says that kids are being short-changed these days because they don't
have enough time or outdoor spaces to play and have fun. Kids these days are growing
up too soon. She also says that kids these days are growing up too soon, and are more
cynical than when she was young.
When she moved here in the sixties, the local school was very integrated between
Europeans and African Americans. It was a good time because the community had to
work hard together.
They built a
temporary building on 48 th Street. There
was a really strong feeling about
Dr. Nachmias thinks that people that have turned
more inward and the feeling in the community is "more
entrenched"
working together. It was a very hopeful
time. Now, with so many drugs in the community, the feeling has changed. You can
fight and fight and maybe make some progress but "you can't be sure if you can make
any progress." She thinks that people have turned more inward and the feeling in the
community is "more entrenched." She likes this community because it has a lot of
independent minded people, but the community groups that started when she got here
haven't gotten stronger. She says that the community is
Science has become more
important because things
like the genome project may
some,* make it possible
for everyone to be born
healthy.
still struggling to build bridges between people.
She feels that the world has changed a lot because
things like e-mail, cell phones, television, and information
networks have made the world smaller and more
sophisticated. People can communicate with anyone
anywhere in the world. But at the same time that world is becoming smaller, there is
more fighting between cultures, more difficult diseases and viruses. We need to make
sure that we find ways to fight these new viruses. Science has become more important
because things like the genome project may someday make it possible for everyone to be
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115
born healthy. She thinks society is definitely more violent now. She blames that on so
many cheap drugs, guns, and on people who just want to make quick and easy money.
When I asked her what had affected her life the most, she told me that there were
different things at different times in her life. When she was very young it was the
Second World War, and then it was the Civil Rights
When I asked [Dr. Nachmias]
what had affected her life the
most, she told me that there were
different things at different times
in her life. When she was very
young, it was the Second world
War,
Civil
and then it was the
Rights Movement.
Movement. But the things that affected her the most
were her parents, her school, and the rise of women
in the world. She said that she never felt any racism
in her life, but she remembers some anti-feminist
remarks and a few anti-women actions when she
was in medical school. She says that most of that's changed these days, and that there
are more opportunities for women than when she was starting out. Nowadays the thing
that affects her life the most is the condition of children. She is very worried about
children. She thinks that we need a new "revolution for children."
I asked Dr. Nachmias if she had any information to pass on to kids about life.
She said that we should find something that we're good at and do it. It doesn't matter
what it is. Just find it and be persistent. She reminded us that even though "you have to
make a living, money won't make you happy." She said that we should find someone to
love and stay with them, but that we should know "the path of love isn't easy."
Interview with Thomas Marshall
By Nate Hicks
Thomas Willis Marshall lives at 3500 W. Fairmount Avenue. He was born on
March 30th, 1933. He is now 68 years old. He lived in Pennsylvania at Wallow Grove
and was married to Allias Woods for ten years, but then they got separated. He then
married Mary Allen. He had five children from those two wives: Tanna, Thomas,
Thomizaina, Marshall, and Maryann. He says that Tanna and Maryann were the good
ones because they never really got in trouble. They stayed to themselves and got good
grades! Thomizaina was the tomboy, and Marshall and Thomas were mischievous little
children who always got in trouble fighting and stealing things.
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West Side Stories
Thomas' family is from Philadelphia. They live in Center City on Poplar Street.
He went to Lansdale Elementary School, Lansdale Middle
School, and then Lansdale High School. When he
graduated from high school, he went into the navy. His final
rank was captain. When he got out of the navy he went to
Penn State, and when he graduated he became a private
[Thomas] says that the greatest
achievement in his life was going
to Penn State, where he studied
psychology and astronomy and
then when to grad school for
Accounting.
detective. He liked his job as a detective because he was just like a "cop" and handled
criminals. He says that the greatest achievement in his life was going to Penn State,
where he studied psychology and astronomy and then went to grad school for
Accounting. He still does taxes for people in his neighborhood.
He was very tall and athletic when he was young. He says that he was tall
because back then if you were six feet tall you were tall. His favorite sport was
basketball. He used to hang out at a restaurant where he always played the jukebox, but
[Thomas]' car was a "bad
45 Volvo." He says it
was "the bomb."
before hanging out, he would do his paper and grocery
routes. He liked to watch the cops at work, make money,
and then go out. These days he likes to sell things at the
senior center and watch TV like he used to when he was younger. His favorite
television show back then was Charlie's Angels. His favorite snacks are still chocolate
and Fig Newton cookies. His car was a "bad '45 Volvo." He says it was "the bomb."
Thomas has lived in West, North, and Northeast Philadelphia, as well as Oak
Lane. He says that Philadelphia is almost the same as when he
was younger, but back then it wasn't all about drugs, money,
guns, and shooting. The community has changed. Teachers don't
care about their students, and people aren't really concerned about
the community. Thomas feels that you are supposed to give to
[Thomas] says that the
person who most
affected his life was his
mother, because she
always told him to
"work hard and be the
best that you can be."
your community. He says that people from a lot of cultures have come into his life and
into his community. He thinks we should all learn to communicate better with people
from all cultures.
When I asked him what he would change about his life, he said, "If I could
change one thing about my life, it would be the time I spent in the Navy because I
couldn't spend enough time with my kids. Kids need discipline sometimes and if you
don't give it to them they will get away with a lot of things and think they're doing
West Side Stories
117
right." He says that the person who most affected his life was his mother, because she
always told him to "work hard and be the best that you can be."
Interview with Constance Atkins
By Terrell McCall
Ms. Constance Atkins was born August 8, 1927 in Lynchburg, Virginia. In 1934,
when she turned eight, Ms Atkins moved to West Philadelphia. Ms Atkins was raised in
a house on 840 North 40 th Street and went to Belmont Elementary School, Sulzburger
Middle School, and West Philadelphia High School.
Before she turned sixteen, Ms
Atkins learned many life skills
working for a medical doctor, Dr.
()het, on 40th and Spruce Streets.
While working for Dr. Oliet she
saved enough money to buy a
house.
Ms Atkins worked as a baby-sitter and made
four dollars a week. Before she turned sixteen, Ms.
Atkins learned many life skills working for a medical
doctor, Dr. Oliet, on 40 th and Spruce Streets. While
working for Dr. Oliet, she saved enough money to
buy a house. Luckily, she was able to get a house on the same block as her father, 3950
Parish Street. At the time Ms Atkins purchased a house; she did not have to lock her
doors. She lived there for sixty years.
While interviewing Ms Atkins, I could see similarities and differences that
changed through time. As I sat and listened to her story, I felt like things have not
changed that much since the time when she grew up.
118 West Side Stories
Participants of the
University City High School and
West Philadelphia Neighborhood
Seniors Interviews
West Philadelphia
Senior Citizens
University City
High School
Thomas Marshall
Dr. Vivian Nachmias
Constance Atkins
Josanne Clark
Nate Hicks
More West Side Stories
Terrell McCall