I got an email from Lyle (Corky) Larkin offering his remembrances of growing up in Frankford. This is the first installment:
Many very fond memories come to mind when I stop and think back to my earlier days in Philadelphia. “Philly” as it is fondly referred to by most of its natives. It all started in 1940 at 1626 Wakeling St. Can you imagine a city where doors were not locked, it was safe, drugless and clean. Scrubbing the front steps was not a myth, it was weekly occurrence. Littering was not acceptable in the neighborhoods.
Schools didn’t have grates over the windows – or if they did, they weren’t to keep people out, but to keep them from being broken by kids playing in the schoolyards – accidentally, not deliberately. Neighborhoods took responsibility for all the kids
Most of the houses are “row homes” meaning homes that share common walls. Some of these homes were semi-detached and had an alley between each two houses. Many blocks had an alley behind the houses; it was a narrow alley with cement curbs that had a steel rail or caps on each side. People would put their trashcans out back and the trash man would come by on a given day and collect it.
I remember such things as “The El”. An elevated train that can whisk you from the Northeast end of Philly to Upper Darby in less than an hour. I used this mode of transportation at the early age of nine. On Saturdays, I would go “Downtown” and visit such places as The Franklin Institute, The Philadelphia Art Museum, The Aquarium, Betsy Ross’s House, The “Liberty Bell, Fairmount Park, the famous “Boat House Row” where they held Scull Races on the Schuylkill river each Saturday and Sunday during the warm weather. The Fox Theater at 16th and Market St. The Reading Terminal which was probably one of the first “indoor Markets” for it was always filled with a variety of vendors selling everything from fresh buttermilk to made on the spot sandwiches. In all my travels I have never found a better “Chinatown then the one which was located at 9th & Race St.
The Horn & Hardart “Auto-mat” Restaurant was on Frankford Avenue, between Margaret and Overington St. Philadelphia was the point of origin for Horn & Hardart, in 1902 and disappointed many folks when it finally closed in 1962. I often stopped there with my grandmother on her way home from Nevin’s Drugstore where she worked, to pick up some of their “Macaroni and Cheese” or Creamed Spinach” to bring home to add to our dinner. The Auto-mat is not the usual restaurant. You are not served by a waiter, or even standing in a cafeteria line. When you entered the store, you would be faced with sparkling clean rows of glass enclosures full of sandwiches, fruits, pies, drinks and entrees. All these are behind doors and when you put the right amount of nickels in the slot for that window, Just turn the knob and the door unlocks and allows you to remove your selection. Once a week my grandmother would give me enough money to eat lunch there. That was a special treat. A typical Friday dinner: included Meatloaf 5 cents Baked Beans 5 cents, Creamed Spinach 5 cents, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy 5 cents, Hard Club Roll with Butter 5 cents, Skimmed Milk 5 cents (their dispensers could handle the then nu-homogenized product) and Coconut Cream Pie 10 cents. Total; 35 cents. Not bad for a complete dinner
Another place that stands out in my mind was the “White Tower” at Frankford Avenue and Margaret St. Open twenty four hours a day, you couldn’t help but catch the aroma of sauteed onions as you passed by this black and white tiled little gem.
News and shoe shine stands were usually located at the bottom of the steps of the “El” stations. Barrett’s Chemical Plant, is a place most people from Frankford would remember, it was famous for it’s regular explosions. The Frankford Arsenal was another landmark, during the war the arsenal would be busy making various mortar shells etc.
Whitehall was the local playground and indoor swimming pool. Located at Wakeling St. and Torresdale Ave. directly across from Harding Junior High, where I attended 7th through 9th grades.
You were only allowed to swim in one hour shifts because so many people went there. After the hour was up, they completely emptied the pool area and let in the next shift.
To be continued.
Who is Corky Larkin? In his own words:
I started out in Smedley School and Mr Julianna was the Principle in 1947 went to Harding after that, then decided to go to what is now “Walter B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences ” and two weeks a month to Gratz for academic classes. I started my own business when I was ten years old by having my friends father take me to Atco NJ to the egg farms and buy them wholesale then I started an egg route in my neighborhood. I made pretty good money back in those days. I finally left Frankford in 1968 when I bought a home in Palmyra NJ and started my family, but I traveled into Philly every day for work. My first job was at “Allied Hobby Shop” located on Frankford Ave. Near Foulkrod street in 1955 working for $75 cents an hour.
The company I worked for (B. Paul Model Dist.) I was sales manager, on Allegheny Ave. went out of business in 1976 and I saw a chance to get away from the harsh Philadelphia winters so I moved to Tucson, AZ for a couple of years then to Texas City, TX for ten years then to San Marcos, CA where I started my own Courier Business which I still own and operate, ace Book. The family that is left back East lives in Marlton, NJ and Virginia Beach, VA