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Growing Up in Frankford Part 11

Continuation of Lyle (Corky) Larkin remembers:

Trolley Cars

These cars were constructed of metal and wood, the outside was a green painted metal and had a “cow catcher” on either end. The seats were made of wood and constructed so that the back of the seat could be reversed when the trolley was going the opposite direction, thus eliminating the need of turning the car around. The interior was mostly wood and brass with straps hanging from an overhead brass rail that ran the full length of the car, so passengers could steady themselves while standing. It had “Conductor” controls at each end, and the exit was situated in the middle of the car where the fare collector took your money as you made your exit. The conductors were always in dark blue uniforms complete with hats that had a brass plate with the letters “P.T.C. (Philadelphia Transportation Company) which  resembled a train conductor and white shirts, which looked, like they were tailor made and always starched to the point that they had razor sharp creases.

These men with their uniforms just seemed to demand respect. Trolleys were always a lot of fun, and used both for travel and amusement. We kids would sometime  hide and wait for the trolley to make it‟s scheduled stop then run behind it and take the pole away from the overhead wire so the motorman would have to come out and reposition the pole. Then the car would once again have electricity to operate by. I can still picture the sparks flying from the top of the pole as it passed over one  of the many connections.

There used to be a roundhouse at Frankford Ave. and Pratt St. where the trolleys went in for maintenance. It was also the end of the line and had a turntable where  they could turn them to go to different tracks. There were three different trolley cars being utilized in Philly, the number “5” car which took the Frankford Avenue  route south and the Number “3” which took the Kensington Avenue route south. Route 59) did run on Oxford and Castor Avenues at one time; it’s route started at  Margaret-Orthodox Station and ended at Castor and Bustleton. It actually bisected the Oxford Circle. The number “66” which took you north on Frankford Ave. from  Bridge St. through Mayfair and Pennypack Park (a favorite fishing spot for many) to the end of the line which at the time was Poquessing Creek and Red Lion Road. These grand old cars were eventually replaced with the “Trackless Trolleys” which were much larger and still painted green and white. They still had that pole for electricity but the metal wheels were replaced with rubber tires. The first ones used to pitch and roll while in motion which caused many people to learn all about  motion sickness.

Pony Man

Once a year as soon as the weather got warm, here he came. A photographer with the cutest black and white pony you ever saw, with a beautiful shiny black saddle with silver horn and stirrups. This man would go door to door asking people if they would like to have their child‟s picture taken while sitting on this pony. He would  put a cowboy hat, a set of chaps, a gun belt complete with a shinny silver six-shooter and a western vest on the children before taking the picture. The kids were so  proud, for in their minds they looked just like their hero of that time which was Hop-a-Long Cassady or Tom Mix. About a week later he would come back to the house with a 5 by  7-inch black and white photograph of very high quality and collect his fee which was usually three dollars.

Horses and Wagons

These seemed to have gotten lost in the progression of time. Home delivery was a very important part of our city, and most of it was done with the aid of horses and  wagons. Suplee-Biddle; was the local Milk Company; they were located at Orthodox and Worth St. this was their distribution point as well as their stable. During the forties and part of the fifties all of the deliveries were made by way of horse and wagon. The horses were so accustomed to the routine that they were used to walking up and down the streets of Philly at a very slow pace. Whenever the milkman would get off the wagon, the horse would go on to the next house and stop and wait for him to get back on before he would move again.

Because the city relied so much on the horses, they had horse troughs at many corners on Frankford and Kensington  Ave. These troughs could be found in most parts of the city in fact because they used horses for everything in those days, right up until 1955 or so The milkman as  well as the iceman went in and out of the houses for the most part before the inhabitants were awake. Isn‟t it hard to imagine people coming into your house as you  sleep nowa -days? They would put the milk in the wood and metal iceboxes take the empty bottles and then would be on their way to the next stop. It was a daily  chore to empty the tray that caught the water, as the ice melted during the day, otherwise there would be a puddle of water on the kitchen floor. During the winter,  the milk would be left on the front steps or porch, for there was no concern about it going bad since the temperature was usually around 30 degrees on a good day. There was no such thing as non-fat or 2% milk at that time so when you came out to get your milk on a winter day, there would be a round column of cream growing out of the top of the bottle, pushing the paper cap up as it grew. The weather was so cold; it was freezing the milk and pushing the heavy cream through the top of the    bottle. My grandmother would break these Columns off and save them till Saturday then we would put them in the wooden churn and make butter.

To be continued…