Monday, March 10, 2008

Old Stomping Grounds

It looks like a really beautiful day out there. I was headed out to see what I could see, but the car wouldn't start. Called my son, who will stop by after work. Meantime, I guess I am blogging.


Every once in a while there are scenes on TV news of places that I remember well, but they are no longer as I remember them. One such place that appears quite often is the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, PA. These days it is likely to be the site of a murder or something equally as disturbing. I remember it so differently.

When I was five, and six, and seven, my mother would take me into the 69th Street area to shop. We would go up the hill on one side of the street and down the other. We would start at the department store on the corner. I guess I knew that store by heart. The best part was pa
ying for our purchases when the salesgirl put the money into a metal cylinder and sent it through the pneumatic tube - Whoooooosh! - and waiting for the change and sales slip to come back. Remember that? As children, we loved it.

My mother was deaf. She read lips perfectly under ordinary circumstances, but occasionally a sales person would turn away while still talking. Then it was my job to relate the missed information. It made me feel very grown up and important.

For some reason I loved to watch my mother buy stockings. She made it quite a ritual, looking at different shades and weights, running her hand inside the tops of the stockings and holding them up to the light. This puzzled me because she always ended with the same kind.

I also liked buying shoes for myself. I never liked the choice. They were usually ugly brown oxfords. But in those days we tried them on and then stood with our feet inside an x-ray machine and could look down and wiggle our skeleton toes. That made it worthwhile.

Then we would start up the hill, stopping here and there, mostly window shopping. At the top was Kresgies Five and Dime. I got to pick out a small toy there. Then on across the street and down the other side. The very best was at the bottom of the hill again. Schneider's made their own candy and ice cream. We sat at a little round table and ate a pointed scoop of ice cream, served in a round metal dish. There has never been, nor ever will be better ice cream than that! If I got really lucky, Mother would buy a pound of butter creams, half chocolate and half vanilla, before we headed back to the terminal.

Another place I see on TV often is the Aronamink Golf Club. As a youngster, the golf course meant only one thing - sledding! It was a long walk from our house, but it was the best. One of the hills there was almost as good as a roller coaster. Naturally, we called it Dead Man's Hill. One of my earliest admirers (about age eight) used to let me go down, belly-flopping, on top of him, because I was afraid to do it alone. Georgie was a sweetheart. He gave me my first kiss, too. We were in the very front row at a Saturday matinee. Gregory Peck, in Days of Glory, at the Waverly Theater in Aronamink. He told me he loved me. Sadly, I did not return the feeling, and let him know it. But he seemed to bounce back from the disappointment pretty quickly.

Other sites flash on the screen. I don't recognize some of them even though they have familiar names. Isn't that where the bowling alley used to be? I thought the Baptist Church was there on Garret Road. I know the Hoagie Shop was there on Burmont Road. That's where I entered one day to find the old Italian lady sobbing into the sandwiches she was making. I asked what was wrong, and she told me she had just heard that Franklin Roosevelt was dead. (At sixteen, he was the only president I had ever known.) And I recognize that corner, where Schline's Delicatessan used to be. They had the most wonderful cookies in big canisters, and Mrs. Schline always handed me an extra one.

I wonder if I would find my way around the old neighborhood if I returned today?

12 comments:

Minnesotablue said...

Bobbie: How familiar that all sounds! When we going anywhere, my husband will say "Remember the store that used to be there,or when did they tear that down or I used to live here, where have the old streets gone?" Sometimes we hear of suburbs that are unfamiliar to us and then realize they have been renamed or are a replacement of the old ones we were familiar with. Aaah time marches on but we still march to that old drummer we are familiar with

Dianne said...

I loved reading this bobbie, and the photo of you and Mom is lovely.

Brought back so many memories. I used to call those tubes the "whoosh tubes" - they were my favorite part of shopping. Along with going to Woolworths and getting a bag full of candy and hair clips and socks and all sorts of goodies.

kenju said...

It's all familiar to me too, Bobbie, although our shopping area was on flat ground. We had Woolsworth's and Kresge's and 3 department stores I loved. The pneumatic tubes were always a hoot and the elevator operators calling out the floors and their contents! You bring back some good memories!

Singing Bear said...

Bobbie: It's the same story here in Britain. Everything changes but, it seems, rarely for the better. The area I was brought up in wasn't exactly wonderful when I was a boy but it felt safe and there were lots of shops and a sense of community. Now, you'd hardly dare to go there in broad daylight. The memories are good, though.

Amy said...

Small world alert! I worked at that 69th St. Kresges one summer, I think the year I graduated high school, before I went to Penn. 1980. I grew up in Lansdowne, a very short Septa bus ride away. Was that dept store on the corner where your mom shopped Gimbels? I have such fond memories of Christmas shopping as a child along 69th St. with my grandfather (and Gimbels was probably the most special), in the days when everybody in Phila and the near suburbs got around by bus and el, not cars to the (Springfield) mall. My family moved to Swarthmore that same summer, 1980, because Lansdowne-Aldan High School was merging with area schools and he wanted something smaller for his other 5 kids. Thanks for the memories!

bobbie said...

Thanks for visiting, Amy. You are the next generation. I graduated in 1950, and the department store was then Frank and Sedar (sp.?) But I knew Lansdowne well. had friends there. And Septa was the Red Arrow line. Malls hadn't even been heard of. At Christmas, Santa's throne sat way up high, with a slide to go down when you finished talking to him - just like the one in the TV movie, "Christmas Story".

bobbie said...

Thank you for coming, singing bear (Ido love that name). I'm not sure if times were better, or if we choose to remember only the bood. Well, that can't be true because I remember some of the bad too. But we're better off trying to remember just the good, aren't we?

Sandpiper said...

My brother is deaf, too, so I grew up in a home with sign language and reading lips. Wonderful reminiscences, Bobbie. I remember those stores, too. Woolworths had a soda fountain and they made the best hamburgers around. I loved it when my Mom took me there.

Anonymous said...

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Amy said...

A slide! I'm sorry I missed that.

ruby said...

hey! i remember buying brown oxford shoes with my mom, too. and i was just as happy.

Crayons said...

Hi Bobbie,
I loved reading this post. All of my grandparents and both parents have passed, so I miss this kind of reminiscence. The photo is singularly beautiful. How interesting it must have been to grow up as a helper.

I wish schools would teach this kind of history instead of military history. People show ignorance when they think we are more "advanced" than people then.