Posted on 12 Comments

Growing Up in Frankford Part 2

Continuation of Lyle (Corky) Larkin remembers:

Frankford Avenue was paved with cobblestones (So many streets were paved this way) at this time and was the main shopping area for the northeast portion of Philadelphia. Within a four block area you could do your grocery shopping, take care of your dry cleaning, buy a new pair of shoes or  have the old one‟s repaired, while you waited. One of the places was named, “Vitacolona’s Shoe Repair” These shoe repair stores had sit down booths about three feet high with red leather seats and each booth had a door. The idea was to give the customer a feeling of privacy while having their shoes off. The “Cobbler” would be sure to have magazines or a newspaper handy (usually the Philadelphia Inquirer or the Bulletin later came the Daily News) to keep you occupied while he repaired your shoes.

After getting your shoes repaired you could stop in one of the many soda fountains and get a banana split, chocolate nut sundae or root beer float. At one of the candy stores you could purchase some penny candies Grade A Bars, Snowcaps, Maltballs, Licorice Babies, Coconut Potatoes, Mary Janes, candy cigarettes, cinnamon potatoes, jaw breakers, pills on a strip or rock candy or perhaps just go down the long row of glass gallon jars that stood on their sides with shiny metal lids, and under the careful scrutiny of the shop owner, fill a bag with “penny candy”.

You could go to any one of the many car dealers and purchase a Packard, Kaiser- Fraiser,  Studabaker, Hudson, Henry J, Willys or a Nash. Where are these cars today and don‟t you wish you had kept yours? How about a beer for a nickel, a new suit at Krass Brothers or Edco Youth Center or a dress, at Charming Shoppe, fill your prescription at Antwissles Apothecary at Harrison St.

Perhaps it‟s time to get your hair cut at  one of the many fine Barbers. All you had to do was look for one of those red and white candy striped poles out front and you knew you got to the right place. Inside, the first thing that hit you was the aroma of “Bay Rum” cologne. These shops were always immaculate with their black and white checkered tile floors and big red  leather special chairs. There was always one reserved for the kids down at the end with a booster seat that had chrome handles to straddle the chair.

The barbers took not only great pride in their work but also in their uniforms. They wore white smocks, heavily starched and never the same one twice. When the kids finished having their hair cut they almost always got a Tootsie Pop as a reward for sitting still. I‟m sure many of them got the reward in spite of their antics. Buy some flowers, have lunch, get new glasses, shoot pool, go to the movies or have a cut stitched up at Frankford Hospital on Wakeling St., it was our main hospital. Lastly you could pay your respects to a departed friend on Harrison St., which somehow became the street of Funeral Parlor‟s for this particular neighborhood.

Then there was always the old man with an organ grinder mounted on a pole, which acted as a stand for him to rest the organ on while he turned the hand crank that  played the music. He walked up and down the avenue with a trained monkey riding on his shoulder. This cute little animal had a collar around his neck with a long chain attached. The monkey‟s outfit was a pair of red and black checkered pants, red vest, yellow silk shirt and black top-hat. The monkey would dance to the organ music while the old man turned the crank and when the music was over, the monkey would beg for coins from the crowd by walking around with it‟s hand extended. As you put a coin in his hand, he would tip his hat and give the “Loot” to his owner.

To be continued…

12 thoughts on “Growing Up in Frankford Part 2

  1. I wish I could’ve seen the good old day’s of Frankford. I hear so many stories about getting dressed up in a suit and going down to the ‘Ave’ Facebook has a neat blog called “You know your from Frankford. They have some old time memories.

  2. My mother, aunt and Grandmother lived in Frankford during The Depression. I was told that on Saturday night people would dress up just to walk the Avenue. Frankford Avenue had many movie theatres during the 1930’s and my mother and her sister would go to the movies two or three times a week.

    My sister and I would visit my grandmother in Frankford almost every week-end. My grandmother hated to cook so she always took us out to eat at Horn & Hardart which we loved. We always ate up on the second floor. I can still remember climbing those marble stairs with our tray of food. For lunch we would go to one of the many bakeries on the avenue for snow-flake rolls and then to a deli for lunch meat (balonga and cheese on a snow-flake roll with chocolate milk was yummy when I was a kid). I do remember the shoe repair shop that Mr. Carson refers to. I remember sitting in those enclosed booths and waiting for my grandmother to get her shoes repaired.

    When I moved to Frankford, from Mayfair, in the late 1960’s I recall the avenue had many stores. You could do all your Christmas shopping right on Frankford Avenue. There were many shops for women, men and children. The shop I really liked was Sachs. They had smart looking clothes for women and the first store that gave me a charge account (not a plastic card – but a pocket size paper ledger card). I bought all my linens at Schwartzmans and my kid’s clothes at Kramers.

    Frankford was a nice place to live. Many of my childhood memories include Frankford.

  3. When I read Corky’s description of the shoe repair shop it matched a long forgotten memory that I carried. We lived on the 2000 block of Plum Street until 1948 and then moved to Bridesburg. We still came back to the Avenue for shopping though so it is very likely the same shoe repair shop.

  4. I am a collector of rather obscure book & literature, especially when it comes to Frankford and Northeast Philadelphia.

    I found a book with a rather odd name written by an author with an odd name, and it might be the only copy in existence.

    Title: The Millionaire of Tookany Frankford – Rama
    Author: Z – D Kid
    Vantage press. 1962.

    The author of this book was the son of someone (an immigrant) in Frankford that ran a large leather company.

    The book has some rather interesting accounts of this area and it jives up with this thread.

    As I remember, there was a Frankford Leather Company located at 4821-27 Frankford Avenue (and there was some $hit-hole bar on the same side of the street on the opposite corner).

    Frankford Leather Company is mentioned in this book:

    The Jewish community under the Frankford El

    “People for generations paid their gas bills, viewed new gas appliances, and attended meetings here. Browsing along the avenue was a favorite pastime. Sacks furniture, Mollie’s Junk shop, Frankford Leather Company, …”


  5. Yes the Frankford Leather Co. was on the corner of Frankford Ave. & Fillmore St. and the bar is still across the street but with a new owner and name. If I remember correctly the Frankford Leather Co. sold luggage and the bar was Nick Dolge’s bar (I could be wrong on the name of the bar). There was a bar called The Little Brown Jug but I think that was farther up the avenue. Frankford had many bars years ago. Now we have methadone clinics. However the bars produced tax revenue the methadone clinics exists on government subsidies.

  6. The “Little Brown Jug” was a favorite hang out for many of my neighbors. It was on Fkd. Ave between Pratt and Dyre Sts. They were called “Taprooms” back then and men, women and children gathered at the end of the working day for the comradery Shooting darts, pool and playing shuffleboard. Beers were five cents each back then. They had hard boiled eggs and pickeled pigs feet in jars for purchase The “Northeast Bar and Grill was also on Fkd. Ave just north of Wakeling St.

  7. I’m pretty sure that the name of the bar across from the leather company was “The Old Spot”

  8. Lorraine, Yes the folks would dress up to walk the Avenue. So many stores to see and most all of them changed the “Window Dressing” once a month. Each Holiday was also a time to put special decorations in the windows. I really miss those days, especially Wanamakers and Gimble Bros. in Center City. They were the Kings in window dressing!

  9. By the way, my last name is Larkin, not Larson

  10. I have been talking to Corky by email for a few months now and know his last name as well as my own. When I was doing the serialization of his story I had the famous “senior moment” and copied the wrong name into all the future parts. So I have since updated each one. Sorry Corky.

  11. lyle4940 states:”I really miss those days, especially Wanamakers and Gimble Bros. in Center City. They were the Kings in window dressing!”

    Ah, Wanamakers at Christmas. I remember the toy department with the “ship” that went around the entire department. And those beautiful, expensive, dolls that were in the glass cases. Having lunch in the Crystal Room was a real treat.

  12. Thank you Gil! I have a lot more of those moments then I care to speak of!

Comments are closed.