First mechanized fire truck at Bustleton Firehouse in 1913. John Moser driving. Firehouse
started in 1901 and used until 1956. First equipment was horse drawn. Located west side
of Bustleton Pike, north of Fulmer Street. Above is a 1913 Alco Truck.
Looking north where Bustleton Pike and Welsh Road overlap for a block. Union Hotel before
1900 was the Eagle Hotel from early or middle 1800s. Only 2 old buildings in this block remain.
An early auto accident in Bustleton. Car is a 1906 or 1907 model. Location is uncertain.
These beautiful homes still standing on west Welsh Road, just east of where Grant Avenue now meets Welsh Road. Notice early electric street lights from before 1900.
A pre-revolutionary war building became an arsenal during the same
war. In 1870 it became the Pennsylvania RR Station for the
Bustleton/Holmesburg line. Demolished 1968.
R. A. Erwin's first Chevrolet Showroom in 1918. This photo was
taken sometime after 1922.
Fayette Consolidated School taken in 1900. Second building at the site of oldest school site in Philadelphia in continuous use for
over 200 years, 1790-Present. In 1916 it became W.C. Jacobs Public School. East side
Old Bustleton Avenue, south of Welsh Road. Now N.E. Hebrew Academy.
Hayride for young children from Lower Dublin Baptist Church. Sometime between 1911-1918. This was
one of the many social activities of that time. Stopping in the 9500 block of Bustleton Pike.
This is the third school in Somerton—Built 1892, Watson Comly Public School.
This local Somerton General Store has had seven proprietors in over 100 years.
Depue’s, S. T. Erwin, Adam McLean, William Quigley, CoIIin’s, Baer’s and now
Brittingham’s. Many good memories are told about this store on Maple Avenue east of Bustleton Pike.
Patriotic Order Sons of America—A lodge—The Somerton group had a band. Many enjoyed
Taylor’s Barn was a central part of Somerton from late 1800s into the 1940s. Two local
churches started here—St. Andrew’s and St. Christopher’s. A sub-Police Station 1898 to
1945. Dances were held here for the young people. A library and debating club used it too.
Houseman's Pond was enjoyed by the local Somerton people, even
overnight camping. Located on the south side of Byberry Road between
Bustleton Pike and Worthington Road. Now the site of the Fraternal
Order of Police House.
This log house was built in 1734 and stood until about 1918.
Indians lived here in the early days. W. D. Bubeck, builder in
Somerton, built his daughter a house, also gone. East side of
Bustleton Pike, north of Trevose Road. Now apartments and condos.
Washington House Hotel—First seen on a 1887 Atlas map. People have good memories of this hotel even
into the 1950s when they held auctions under the horse sheds. On November 21,1937 you could get a Roast
Young Turkey Dinner for .75 cents with appetizer and dessert included.
Philadelphia County Fair at Byberry started 1912 till late 1920s. Located on south side of Byberry Road,
west of the Boulevard and the Short Line Railroad behind old Somerton Fire house. Sulky horse racing,
judging of farm animals, produce, canning and preserves and bake goods were all part of the County Fair.
Fair ran until the late 1920s. There was a 1/2 mile race track, two large buildings, and grandstands on 100 acres.
Most neighborhoods in the 1900's had baseball teams. This is
Somerton Team 1908. Neighborhood teams are still popular today.
A social function of the earfy days, teens into late 1930s. This was a Tom Thumb Wedding held at Somerton
Methodist Church in March 1918. Church dates back to 1834. Children took on
identities of the local residents.
Knight’s Mill on Poquessing Creek was the oldest mill on the creek dating back
to 1750. It was rebuilt in 1815 and today is near the site of Creek Edge Nurseries.
Picture taken 1899.
Byberry Farms were on the east side of Roosevelt Boulevard, north of
Southhampton Road. Farms were part of Byberry since the Hospital
was started in 1908 by the city. Farms supplied food to all city
institutions even into the early 1950's.
Carmicheal Presbyterian Church built in Mechanicsville in 1886. It is now a residence. Church is now located
on Street Road, Bucks County.
"Thornton Abbey” Home of James Thornton, 1750 minister of the Society of
Friends. Home was on west side of Thornton Road south of Byberry Road. Now
site of Holy Redeemer Nazareth Home Care Hospice Service. This house was
used for the first patients that came to Byberry Hospital.
Byberry and Somerton were located in Townships of Byberry, Moreland and
Lower Dublin. The area was settled in 1645 by Swedes, with Penn’s
Quakers arriving some thirty-seven years later. The Walton Brothers from
Bibury England were the first known English settlers in the area. They
arrived at New Castle, Delaware about 1675 and made their way walking up
the Delaware River looking for a place to settle. When they came to the
Poquessing Creek the land reminded them of home, so they chose it for
their future home.
The area of
Byberry included all of the land along the Poquessing Creek to the
Delaware River and inland to the west. Byberry encompassed the small
community located next to the Byberry Friends Meeting House on Byberry
Road. These Quaker settlers and the Indians were quite friendly. There
was a great abundance of game for food and the Indians taught the
settlers how to plant corn, beans and pumpkins. They first started to
meet in their homes in 1683 and built their first Meeting House nine
years later. By 1800 there were 579 inhabitants in Byberry, growing to
1055 by 1840. A store, Post Office, Blacksmith Shop and a Carpenter Shop
were located near the meeting House.
years Byberry was enlarged to include many different neighbor- hoods.
Small communities like Mechanicsville, Parkwood Manor, Modena Park,
Millbrook, Crestmont Farms, Morrell Park and West Torresdale all were
part of Byberry Township. Today little is left of the original town of
Byberry. Only Byberry Friends Meeting and Byberry Hall remain to
immortalize the town settled by the Walton Brothers.
remaining neighborhood is Mechanicsville which lies just east of Byberry
Friends Meeting. It was named, as one might expect, for the mechanics
who settled there. The trades people represented in this small town were
carpenters, wheelwrights, masons, storekeepers, machinists, butchers,
saddlers and harness makers. These trades were invaluable to an area
mainly settled by farmers and cattle ranchers.
Mechanicsville was home to a mill for sawing lumber and grinding feed.
It is believed that the lumber for the third Byberry Friends Meeting
House in 1808 was prepared at a mill erected by Evan Townsend in 1774.
There was also a quarry nearby, from which stone was acquired for some
of the local buildings. About the same time a public school began
successful operation in Mechanicsville. The town is still inhabited
today and is the last surviving of the original towns in Philadelphia.
Byberry on Byberry Road is the town of Somerton. The first available
notes of this settlement were written in 1720. Sometime previous to this
a few houses were built on the western boundary of Byberry Township and
the eastern boundary of Moreland Township. As the place assumed the
appearance of a village, it was first named Smithfield. It contained
about ten buildings, including a store, a tavern, and a blacksmith shop.
Thomas Livesey surveyed the town in 1758. He describes the town as
containing about eighty acres, with a Main Street, now known as
Bustleton Avenue. Some of the early families of Byberry and Moreland
Townships included Comly, Knight, Walmesley, Walton, Worthington,
Carver, Hart, Rush, English, Groome and Gilbert. The name Smithfield was
changed to Somerton sometime between 1862 and 1876. The change was
prompted by the control that Judge Sommers exercised over the region in
owning substantial property on both sides of Bustleton Avenue where Leo
Mall stands today. By this time the town consisted of thirty-five
dwellings, a public school, a Methodist Church, three hotels, two
shoemakers, a doctor, an undertaker, a general store and several
an old country store dating from the late 1800s which still serves the
community. The store, which is located on Maple Avenue near the Somerton
Railroad Station, has had seven proprietors since about 1890. They are
Depue’s Samuel Erwin, Adam McLean, William Quigley, Collins, Baer and
now Brittingham. A home, part of which was built in 1714 near Trevose
Road and Kelvin Avenue, may have served as an Indian Trading Post. A log
house, built in 1734, stood until about 1918 on Bustleton Pike just
north of Trevose Road. The house, that replaced the log house built by a
Somerton builder for his daughter, also is gone. Apartments and
condominiums replace these old memories. William Bubeck built many homes
in Somerton, of which one still stands on Whitney Street, one on Byberry
Road and one on Maple Avenue.
in the early days of Somerton stood near the same site as the Watson
Comly School on Trevose Road. These early schools include the Smithfield
School, the Patrick Henry (erected in 1847) and the first Watson Comly
School (erected in 1892). Pupils attended this school until 1928 when a
deal was made to acquire the present day site on Byberry Road. The
building was appropriated by the Masonic Lodge in 1928. The Masons made
the deal to exchange the two properties so they could have the school
site for the lodge hall.
an important part of nearly every community. The town’s Quakers
founded the Byberry Friends Meeting in 1683. The Baptists and others
went to the Pennypack Meeting House, founded in 1688, in the western
part of Bustleton on Krewstown Road. The Methodist Church, opened in
1834, was housed in an old school building on Trevose Road until 1836
when it was moved to its own building. This church recently has been
restored. St. Andrews-in-the-Field Episcopal Church, and St.
Christopher’s both began in Taylor’s barn on the northeast corner of
Byberry Road and Bustleton Pike. Each congregation has grown, and the
churches have been moved to their present locations. Other denominations
sprung up in later years along Worthington Road, Tomlinson Road and
trains came through Somerton on the Reading Line, but on July 20, 1992,
the old station building was torn down without any notice to the
community. Trains still stop here, but the 1870 Victorian Station is
gone. Some people may remember the large double-decker bus that served
Somerton. It traveled up the Boulevard from Frankford to Southampton
road, went west to Trevose Road, turned left to Edison and went past the
railroad station to Busfleton Pike and Somerton Avenue. Today, Somerton
is served by the 58 bus and the 84.
Pike was laid out in 1697 by John Harper, a Quaker who arrived with
William Penn. The Pike became known as the Philadelphia-Newtown Highway
or the Great Highway. At first, the highway extended to the Buck Hotel
in Feasterville, but by 1795, it ran to Churchville, Bucks County. In
1804, when the Turnpike Company was started, the road was extended to
Richboro. It became known as the Bustletonl Smithfield Turnpike and was
fashioned into a toll road. In about 1840 it became known as the
just three miles south of Somerton. Its boundaries have changed over the
years, primarily as a result of zip code changes. Bustleton was located
in the extreme northwest corner of Lower Dublin Township and a bit into
Moreland Township, where the Leo Mall stands today. The boundaries
changed in 1854 when the city consolidated all of the old townships and
boroughs of the county of Philadelphia. Although the boundaries changed,
many people as far north as Tomlinson Road still considered themselves
part of Bustleton for years.
The town grew
at the crossroads of Bustleton Pike and Welsh Road. Although the Swedes
had arrived as early as 1645, they had traveled west along Pennypack
Creek and settled near Pine Road & Susquehanna Road. Notes about
Bustleton show signs of growth as early as 1706. Before the
Revolutionary War, the Bustleton Hotel was located where the Frankford
Trust Bank stands today. By 1840, there were approximately 300 people
living in Bustleton, which consisted of a church, several stores, a few
taverns and numerous homes. Some of the early families were Ashton,
Fisher, Verree, Comly, Dungan and Heritage.
activity was an important part of the lives of the people. The oldest
church is the Pennypack Baptist on Krewstown Road south of Grant Avenue.
This church was founded in 1688 by twelve (12) residents, who met in
their homes until the year 1701 when the first building was erected. In
1700 there were only 46 members. The building was enlarged in 1774 to an
area thirty by forty five feet containing pews, galleries and a stove,
which was a real innovation. Thinking the town would grow, members built
a chapel on the pike just north of Welsh Road in 1860. In 1885 the large
edifice at Bustleton Pike and Murray Street was built. Services still
are held at Pennypack on the first Sunday of June, for special occasions
and on Christmas Eve (1991 and 1992). Before 1885 the members were
baptized in Pennypack Creek just south of the church. Baptism Rock is
now gone, blasted out to make way for sewer lines to accommodate the
Methodist Church was organized in 1827 in the home of Daniel Starkey.
Their first church was built in 1834 on the Pike just south of Welsh
Road. In 1944 this building burned to the ground and a new one was built
in the 9600 block of the Pike north of Fulmer Street. While waiting for
the new building to be finished services were held in the Alburger Hall
behind Lower Dublin Church. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was founded in
1861 on Welsh Road east of Bustleton Pike. In 1870 Maternity B.V.M
erected their first church on the Pike on the north side of Pennypack
Creek. Catholic services, prior to this, were held in a Mill located
nearby. Today a new building and school are further up the Avenue across
from the original Jacob school site.
consisted of activities in the church or in the Lodge Halls. In 1847 the
Union Hall was built on the Pike across from Fayette School. Union Hall
was home to many lodge meetings as well as to two churches. The first
Public Free Library was located on this spot in 1942. Later the
Settlement Music School used the facility. It still stands today and is
the home of the St. Peter and St. Paul Orthodox Church.
Education in such small towns started
with the many private schools of the day. The longest existing school
site in Philadelphia is Bustleton Academy started in 1790. It was not
until 1836 that public schools came into being. The school board rented
the private schools and it became known as the Fayette Consolidated
School around 1845. As the town grew, more school space was needed and
in 1915 a brick annex was added and the name changed to “William C.
Jacobs Public School”. This school continued to educate neighborhood
children until June, 1986, when it was closed. In September, 1986 The
Northeast Hebrew Academy rented the site and in March, 1990 they
purchased the site. Although the name has changed a few times, the
school has served the children of the neighborhood continuously for over
like many other areas nearby, was a gathering place for farmers, but
over the years this has changed. There is only one farm listed today,
the Bustleton Sod Farm. The city school farm, Foxchase Farm, on the edge
of Bustleton, south of Pennypack Creek and Pine Road, is protecting a
piece of green for the city and educating some of our young people about
gardens and raising livestock. . Pennypack Park, Poquessing Watershed,
and Benjamin Rush State Park are important sites that help explain what
the community was like 200 years ago.
serviced by the Bustleton Somerton Library had a population of 300 in
1840. In 1940, Bustleton and Somerton combined had a population of 1,269
people. Forty years later, Bustleton had 30,427 residents and Somerton
had 30,496 residents. This population growth was spurred on by the many
industrial parks constructed in the region and the development of
Northeast Airport. The first airmail from the city flew out of the
Airport, then located at the southeast corner of Red Lion Road and
Bensalem Avenue (now the Boulevard), on May 15, 1918.
Philadelphians lived in the Far Northeast including Dr. Benjamin Rush,
Stephen Decatur, Edward Duffleld and Lucretia Mott spoke in Byberry
Hall. Nicholas Moore, a lawyer from London and one of William Penn’s
Quakers owned a good bit of Somerton in the late 1600’s. Edward
Marshall, of the famous Indian Walks in 1737, was born in Bustleton.
George Washington and his men encamped along the Poquessing Creek near
the Red Lion Inn during their retreat from New York to Valley Forge.
There may be some who would remember comedienne Cass Daly a resident of
Bustleton, who made her debut on the Silver Screen in 1942.
These interviews were done by Ms. Angel Chiango and
Ms. Judy S. Filipkowski’s 4th grade Mentally Gifted students of Watson
Comly School in Somerton.
Interview with Helen Stoudt
by Rachel Cohen and Melissa Morbo
Miss Stoudt was born
in Bustleton in 1906. She lived in many houses, but she loved her house
on Kohl Street best built by her grandfather Lodge. The house was a
three story house. She was born in that house because women did not go
to hospitals in those days. Kohl Street is just below the Baptist Church
on Bustleton Avenue and only runs one block to the West. Lodge built two
houses on the other side of the street for his two other children that
Her house had
four bedrooms, a living room, parlor, dining room and kitchen. The house
was heated by coal. Miss Stoudt’s mother cooked on a coal stove. In
the summer they cooked on a kerosene stove in the back shed because it
was to hot to cook on a coal stove. They had to heat water for baths and
water was stored in the kitchen. Laundry was done outside in a
stationary tub. They had to rub their clothes on a washboard to clean
them and then hang the clothes on a clothes line outside to dry.
They did not
have a radio but did have a telephone. On the third floor of the house
there was a large room. Miss Stoudt and her brother would rollerskate
and ride their bikes there.
grandmother on her mothers side was born here but her grandfather was
born in the Central Pennsylvania Dutch area. He was a Pennsylvania
German. Her grandfather had four sisters and two brothers. She was not
sure where her grandmother came from, but she knows she was mistreated
as a little girl. She was forced to work for a family who did not take
care of her. She was left in a cold room and eventually mistreatment led
to her becoming deaf. Her grandmother was an excellent cook who loved to
bake cakes and pies. Miss Stoudt has many of her grandmother’s
Stoudt’s mother never worked. Her father worked for a company downtown
that sold lumber. He brought home many unused and unsold pieces of
lumber and made tables and toys for Miss Stoudt and her brother. Her
father was very handy.
is one of three children. She has a brother who is a retired
veterinarian and had an office in Frankford. Her older sister died at
the age of five shortly after Helen was born. Miss Stoudt went to the
Fayette School which was later changed to the W.C. Jacobs School in 1916
when they added the new building.
There were 48
desks in a room, and they were in rows. The teacher had her desk in the
front of the room and no one ever talked or cheated on tests. Miss
Stoudt remembers her classroom being divided when she was in third
grade. There was one teacher who taught both classes. Her teacher’s
name was Annabell Edwards a woman who spent her whole teaching career at
the Jacobs School and lived all her life in Bustleton.
There were no
toilets in the school until 1916 when the new building was added. The
children had to go to the back of the school to go to the outhouse in
order to go to the bathroom. For lunch she walked home and then went
back for the afternoon session.
As a child
Miss Stoudt did not like to play with girls. She enjoyed playing with
her brother and his friends.
She went to
Frankford High School. She said she was not a very good student in
school but she always passed her subjects. Latin was her favorite
subject in high school. She graduated from Frankford in February and in
September she went to the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated in
1928 from the school of education but was not able to find a teaching
to get a job for a printer at ten cents an hour straightening out his
ledger. When she left at the end of two years she was earning 25ç~ an
hour. She learned how to set type and proofread copy, so she decided she
wanted to get ajob setting type. Her last position was at the
Presbyterian Board of Christian Education which she held for thirty
years. Her job was copy editing, proofreading, writing, and learning a
lot about printing.
Miss Stoudt attends is the Lower Dublin Baptist Church on Murry Street
and Bustleton Avenue. Her father died when she was five and her mother
joined the Church. Miss Stoudt joined the Church when she was 14 years
old and remains very involved. The Church was founded in 1688 on
Krewstown Road opposite the cemetery.
In 1885 the
present building was erected. The Church was first called Pennypack
Baptist Church. There is a pipe organ in the Church that was donated by
the Andrew Carnegie Fund the year Miss Stoudt was born. The organ still
is in excellent condition. Bustleton is quite different from when Miss
Stoudt was growing up, when it was more like growing up in the country
or suburbs. Bustleton is very large, but she found the people to be
close and friendly on Bustleton Avenue. There were trees on the side of
the Pike. Horses would go up and down the street. Then the trolleys were
invented, so they had to cut down the trees and widen the Pike.
would go shopping at the corner of Bustleton Avenue and Welsh Road at
the American Store, which later became an Acme. She used to buy bread
for 5c~ a loaf. They traveled by car and train. Her father owned a
Maxwell Car, which was a touring car that could not be used in the rain.
When they did not use the car, they walked to the train. It was
difficult in that area to get to the Reading train.
life was exciting. She went to Churches and lodge halls for various
activities. In the winter, she would go sledding. She also went ice
skating at Haldeman Avenue above Red Lion Road, on Foster’s Pond. She
had to walk a mile and a half to get there, but she did not care.
Interview with Hazel S. Clay
by Maria Mouzithras
Hazel S. Clay did
not need to go to the store for food. She was born in the farmhouse at
Red Lion Road and Bensalem Turnpike, which is now Haldeman Avenue. Her
parents farmed it for a living. Along with her brother and sister, they
were the fifth generation on that farm. Hazel’s ancestors came from
Germany on her father’s side. Her mother’s side came from England.
had a back shed, large kitchen, dining room, and a parlor. There were
five bedrooms and an attic which also had a bedroom. She remembers the
fireplace in the dining room, living room, and one in each end bedroom.
But they did not use the fireplaces because they had a pipeless heater
to heat the house. The large cook stove in the kitchen also kept them
their own vegetables, fruits, and meat. They raised potatoes, tomatoes,
string beans, lima beans, asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, sweet corn,
horse corn, spinach, peas, and turnips. They had delicious fruit trees
such as apple, pear, peach, cherry, grape, and plum. They raised
chickens, cows, and pigs. Their family butchered pigs for ham, scrapple,
and lard. Vegetables were canned, not frozen. They had an ice box, not
an electric refrigerator like we use today.
always plenty of chores to do on the farm. The horses, cows, and
chickens had to be fed, watered, and bedded down. She also had to
collect the eggs. Her mother baked breads, pies, and cakes. She made
butter and with the extra butter she traded for flour and sugar. As for
stores, there were the peddlers who often came around with a big
selection in huge showcases. There was Ervin’s General Store in
Somerton. They had a truck and delivered.
delivered twice a day at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The mail came from the
Torresdale Post Office. The Clay family voted in Somerton. Hazel went to
school in Bustleton. She attended the William C. Jacobs School from
Kindergarten to 8th grade. When she started school she had to walk about
one mile and a half. Later her parents got a car, a Mitchell. In 9th
grade she went to Frankford High School.
remembers lots of snow in the winter, and since they had a large lawn
they played games on the lawn. One game they played in the snow was
“Fox and Geese.” They made a large wheel in the snow with spokes,
and the fox was to catch the geese. In the summer, they played lawn
croquet and later they played badminton with a net. She liked to play
hop scotch, and drew the blocks in the driveway which was made of cinder
and dirt. They also played card games and board games such as Parcheesi
at her house.
walking in the woods in the spring. She would look for spring flowers
such as spring beauties, jack-in-the pulpit, and violets.
the radio was how people got the news, although their family did get a
morning and an evening paper. When she was growing up there were
neighborhood sledding parties, skating, and Christmas parties.
Interview with Mrs. Edna T. Finney
by Maureen Ragan & Kevin Boyle
Mrs. Fmnney was born
in Croydon, Bucks County on October 1, 1906. Her parents were dairy
farmers who also grew hay, corn, potatoes, and seventeen acres of
asparagus. She had a brother and two sisters. Her ancestors were from
Wales. and England.
She moved to
a three story house on Academy Road in Byberry in 1909. The area is now
Parkwood, Modena Park, and Academy Gardens. The house had a water
catcher for catching rain water for the kitchen and bathroom. There was
a central heater in the basement that sent heat into every room. The had
a parlor that was used only on Sundays and for company. The furniture
was antique and covered with horse hair.
have to shop for much food because they lived on a farm. They sold
butter and milk and went to market to sell vegetables that they grew.
They did not have a refrigerator and kept meat and butter in a well in
the basement that had cold spring water. They also had pantries in the
cellar where they stocked up food for the winter. If they needed
groceries, they were one of the first to get a telephone so they called
a grocer in Holmesburg who delivered their order.
was always Monday. The family put all of their clothes into a big boiler
on a big stove in the kitchen. Then they were turned and put into two
big tubs to clean out the soap. The clothes were hung in the yard to
drive. Tuesday was ironing day.
would go to Bristol on Saturday night by horse drawn wagon to shop and
see their friends. The horse knew the way home! The family’s first car
was a Maxwell. They also had a Maxwell truck which Mrs. Finney learned
to drive on their farm. She never got a driver’s license. The got
their first telephone in the 1920s and their first radio in the 1930s.
She went to
school at Byberry Friend’s School on Byberry Road. They took a bus
with wooden tires to school. She also went to Maple Grove School on
Academy Road and Frankford High School. She left school after the ninth
grade. The children would go out with their friends on Sunday and have
sledding and watermelon parties. She picked flowers, jumped in weeds,
played baseball and soccer, and took walks near streams. She didn’t
have many toys. They would only receive toys at Christmas.
Interview with Mary L. Hoffner
by Ken Gollon
The small town of
Eddington, PA located in the beautiful countryside of Bucks County, PA,
became the first home for Mrs. Mary Lukens Hoffner as a child. She was
born in 1905 in the home of her parents on Route 13. Mary was one of two
children, but her sister lived to be only six months old. Mary never
Mr. Lukens decided to move his family to Somerton, PA.
Life as a
child was wonderful according to Mary. She grew up in a warm, loving
home with her mother and father. Mrs. Lukens, as most other mothers at
that time, stayed home to take care of Mary. It really meant a lot to
her that her mother was there for her.
worked at John Wanamakers department store in Philadelphia. In fact, he
worked there for 70 years before retiring. After Wannamakers, he
continued to stay busy by working at Mr. White’s, a local store.
used the train to travel to his job in the city. Before he would come
home from work, he would shop for the family’s groceries at the
Reading Terminal Market in the train station. Since Mr. Lukens brought
home everything they needed, Mary’s mother very rarely had to shop.
several stores in the area such as Mr. White’s and Mr. Quigley’s
(now Brittingham’s General Store). However, the best place to shop was
in center city Philadelphia at Lit Brothers, Wanamakers and Snellenbergs.
They had the best selection and it was worth the train ride into town.
Along with food, Mr. Lukens would also bring fabric home from Wanamakers.
Mary’s mother would sew clothing for Mary and her friends with her old
fashioned sewing machine.
three story house on Edison Avenue has been the only home to Mary for
the past 88 years. She remembers a time when there were only 6 homes in
the Somerton area. Her girlfriends lived across the street (currently
the Mayo Nursing Home). There were close ties with her childhood
friends. When Mary had the measles, her friends also had them and her
mother would take care of all the children at her home.
was less hectic many years ago, there were also less conveniences to
make life easier. Their large house, containing eleven rooms, had to be
heated with coal. This required shoveling the coal into the furnace
around the clock to stay warm. In later years they converted to oil heat
which made life a little easier for Mary’s father. Prior to the sewers
being installed that connected them to the city’s water supply, the
family had to pump water from a well and had cesspools for sewage in the
backyard. Laundry was done by Mary’s mother in two washtubs. One of
them had a washboard in it that was used for scrubbing the clothes.
Later she used a wringer washer.
A man by the
name of Mr. Roberts was the lamplighter. He had only one leg but was
still able to ride a bicycle from house to house. In order to light the
lamps with his torch, he would have to wrap his leg around the pole to
earliest memory is as a very young child. Her parents took her to church
every Sunday. They walked in all kinds of weather since her father never
owned a car. Mary’s mother wanted her to sing on Children’s Day at
the church. In those days, children drank a lot of milk from bottles.
She went up to sing at the alter with her bottle of milk. Mary heard
someone in the congregation say “Look at that baby with a bottle!”
She immediately slammed down the bottle on the marble floor and never
drank milk again.
When Mary was
old enough, she attended class at the Old Comly School on Trevose Road.
She walked there regardless of the weather. Miss Ross was the principal
at the time and there were 6 rooms. They were not crowded with students
like many of our classes are today. The children brought their lunch and
either ate inside the classroom or outside in good weather.
Prior to 1928
all the schools of Somerton were built on either the church grounds or
on the Comly School grounds. There were two other schools before the
Watson T. Comly School. The first was the Smithfield School and then in
1847 there was the Patrick Henry School. Foundations of the previous
schools were found during construction of the first Comly School.
Mary went to Frankford High School and then to a special school at
Wanamakers for interior design. She followed in her father’s footsteps
and worked there for sixteen years.
When Mary was
not in school, she had a wonderful time with her friends. Once a year,
for a week, the fair would come to town and set up near the train
station on Byberry Road. She looked forward to the ferris wheel,
horseracing and just walking around the fair grounds. The summer meant
swimming with her friends in Poquessing Creek. They would take the boys
clothing and hide it as a joke. The family vacation in the summer was a
trip to Atlantic City. After the train ride downtown, they took another
train to Atlantic City.
brought many good times for Mary. She and her friends would walk up to
the top of Trevose Road for the perfect sled ride down to the bottom of
the hill. This road was not used by cars nearby as much as it is today
so the children could enjoy themselves without worrying about traffic.
Ice skating was another highlight in the winter. The children would go
to the lake at the cemetery for fun on the ice.
At the age of
12 or 13, Mary drove her friend’s Cadillac up to Langhorne although
she didn’t have a license until she was 16. It wasn’t until she was
married that she and her husband bought a Ford with a rumble seat.
Mary and her
parents listened to the radio programs and music prior to television.
Later, she recalls Jack Benny along with Laurel and Hardy as her
favorite television programs. The show she enjoys now is Home
Improvement with Tim Allen. She enjoys the children in the show and
their little pranks.
As a young
woman, Mary played the organ at church. She also played the Wanamaker
organ once at the Matinee Musical of Philadelphia.
the wonderful memories there were difficult times for her family during
the depression. It’s hard to imagine the hardships that were imposed
on people. Mary remembers the rationing of gas, butter, and various
other items we take for granted. Everyone was very stressed and had to
make the best with very little. Mary remembers being questioned by
strangers as to why she and her husband were out driving when it
wasn’t an absolute necessity.
have taken place over the years and Mary has seen the community change
and grow along with her loved ones. Mary’s father lived to be 94 years
old and her mother lived to be 93 years old. Mary has fond memories of
her life with her husband of 61 years. He passed away two years ago and
she misses him very much. She now lives with her son.
Mary is a
warm, kind person and really seemed to enjoy all the simple pleasures
life offered over the many years.
Interview with Silas White
by Laura Ann Rillera
Silas White is a
very friendly person who was born in 1910 and lived in three houses
during his lifetime. The first house that he lived in as a child had no
heat upstairs, only downstairs. A coal stove in the kitchen was the main
source of heat. The house had no running water inside — it was not
unusual for that time to have a pump for water in the back porch. Silas
used oil lamps because there was no electricity available until the year
of 1922. His dad and mom owned and operated a meat and grocery store.
The store was located between Bustleton and Somerton Avenues.
As a child,
Silas made up his own games and toys. He enjoyed playing baseball, fox
and geese, and cops and robbers. His favorite toy was a train that could
be wound up and placed on a round track. He made his own toys such as
ice skates to play hockey.
transportation was to walk. If distance was involved, trains or horses
and carriages were used. Buses came out in the 1920’s. An important
event that Silas recalls was the railroad wreck that occurred in Bryn
Athen where his wife’s father died and 26 others were injured.
school, Silas attended Watson Comly School. Boys and Girls played on
separate sides of the schoolyard. Later he went to Northeast High School
followed by the University of Pennsylvania.
was older, he worked in his parents store from 1943 to 1975.
advice is to study and go to school and go to college and advance your