Posted on

Growing up in Frankford Final Installment

Final Installment of Lyle (Corky) Larkin remembers:


My only regret is not paying more attention while growing up and for taking so many of these adventures for granted at the time of their happening. I left Philadelphia  in September of 1978, heading for warmer places. Many times during the course of my life, I fondly look back and recall the many good times I had in growing up in  Philly. I consider myself extremely fortunate for spending my childhood in Frankford and for having all the experiences that the city had to offer. We had no drunks walking the streets, no shrewwives screaming, no bullies in school; but even in those days, we as kids were made aware that Philadelphia had some “bad neighborhoods” and those we stayed away from even as we became older. I‟m always proud to announce to people when they ask, that I‟m from Philly! That city  really lives up to it‟s motto! “The City Of Brotherly Love” I try to make it a point to go back once a year for visits.

Each time I do, it brings back more fond memories.  Most of all, I miss the friendliness of my old neighborhood. I also miss the lightning and thunderstorms of the summer. So take a moment and go back with me, ok? I’m talkin’ bout hide and go seek at dusk. Sittin’ on the porch, Hot bread and butter. The Good-Humor man, Red light, Green light. Chocolate milk, Lunch tickets, Penny candy in a white paper bag. Playin’ Pinball in the corner store. Hopscotch, butterscotch, double-dutch Jacks, kickball, dodgeball, Mother May I? Red Rover and Rolly  Polly Hula Hoops and Sunflower Seeds, Jolly Ranchers, Banana Splits Wax Lips and Mustaches Running through the sprinkler The smell of the rain…. Wait;……  Watching’ Saturday morning cartoons. Some of my favorite morning cartoons were, Howdy Doody Fat Albert, The Road-Runner, The Three Stooges, Willy The Worm  and Bugs Bunny, Or back further, listening to Superman on the radio Catchin’ lightening bugs in a jar, shootin empty cans with a sling shot. When around the corner seemed far away, and going downtown seemed like going somewhere really special. Bedtime, Climbing trees. An ice cream cone on a warm summer night Chocolate or  vanilla or strawberry or maybe butter pecan. A lemon coke from the fountain at the corner drug store A million mosquito bites and sticky fingers, Sittin on the  curb, Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, Jumpin down the steps, Jumpin on the bed. Pillow fights, runnin till you were out of breath Laughing so hard that your stomach and face hurt. Being so tired from playin’that you would fall asleep at the dinner table. Remember that? I ain’t finished just yet… Eating Kool-aid powder with sugar Remember when…When there were two types of sneakers for girls and boys (Keds & PF Flyers) and the only time you wore them at school, was for “gym. class” When it took five minutes for the TV to warm up, if you even had one. Ours had a big magnifying glass in front of it so it looks twice as big as it was. We also had a piece  of colored plastic stuck to the screen, it was blue on top yellow in the middle and green on the bottom and that was our “Color TV” When nearly everyone’s mom was  at home when the kids got there. When nobody owned a purebred dog When a quarter was a decent allowance, and another quarter a miracle. When milk went up one  cent and everyone talked about it for weeks? When you’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny. When girls neither dated nor kissed until late high school, if then.  When your Mom wore nylons that came in two pieces. When all of your male teachers wore neckties and female teachers had their hair done, everyday When you got  your windshield cleaned, oil checked and gas pumped, without asking, for free, every time. And, you didn’t pay for air. And, you got trading stamps to boot! When  laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box. When any parent could discipline any kid, or feed him or use him to carry groceries, and  nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it. When it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents. When they  threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed. and did! When being sent to the principal’s office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited a misbehaving  student at home. Basically, we were in fear for our lives but it wasn’t because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs, etc. Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat! and some of us are still afraid of em!!! Didn’t that feel good.. just to go back and say, Yeah, I remember that! There’s nothing like the good old days! They  were good then, and they’re good now when we think about them.

Posted on

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…

Posted on

Growing Up in Frankford Part 10

Continuation of Lyle (Corky) Larkin remembers:


They were made of metal and were shaped like a pyramid with slots running up all four sides. You placed them on top of the gas stove and placed the slices of bread upright against the sides. As the heat reached up inside the toaster, it would blacken or if you were lucky, brown the side of the bread. You would then have to turn the slice over to get it done on both sides. Many a burnt finger was caused by this process.


We as teens, hung out at “Big Boys” drive-in on the Boulevard near Cottman Ave. They had the cutest waitresses with short skirts and sweaters as uniforms, complete  with “Bobby Socks”. Pull your car into one of the many parking spaces and have a girl come out and take your order. In just a little while, she would return with a tray  full of food and hook the tray on your car door. The milkshakes were the best! Even if you didn’t have any money for food, it was fun and the accepted thing to drive  very slowly through the parking lot (cruise) to see who was there that evening. It was also a great place to be seen with your date.

The Front Porch

The front porch was probably the most important part of keeping a neighborhood together; it was also a way to escape the heat. During the summer months, it was a  relief just to be able to get out of these hot houses. Each afternoon, people would wander out of their houses to enjoy the cool air. This was before air conditioning. Almost every house had it’s own front porch, complete with a decorative railing to protect you from going off the edge. Some were furnished with swings suspended  from the ceiling with chains, or gliders others had wicker furniture, complete with coffee tables and upholstered sofa and chairs. Toward late afternoon, many of the  folks would be sitting on their porches having iced tea and chatting with their neighbors. However, they were never too busy to stop and greet the people who were  coming home from work as they walked down the street. There were no strangers on my block. Moms and dads would use this vantage point to look out for each  others children who might be playing outside. If a skirmish might rise up, it was the unspoken duty of any grown-up within shouting distance to keep things under  control. The magic part of all this is that the kids had enough respect instilled in them to “Listen To Their Elders! When you walked home, many times you would say hello to as many as twenty neighbors and even catch up on the latest news. Some of the folks used to sit on their porches from early morning till dusk, reading the  paper, catching up on the sewing or even doing some of the preparation for that night’s dinner. Many times my grandmother and I would sit there and snap beans or  peel potatoes. As time went by, some of these porches were glass enclosed and they were called Sun Porches. This process made them useable during part of the  colder months as well as the summer. It was not unusual to come out of your house during a rainstorm and find one of your neighbors taking refuge on your porch.  (“Just till the rain lets up a bit.”) It was also a great place for the kids to stay out of the weather and it was large enough to accommodate the kids and their toys. A lit porch light was always a sign of “Welcome”, it was also an indication that you were in trouble for being late if you were a kid and just getting home! I‟ll wager that  many lasting romances began on these very porches Perhaps your parents began their courtship on one of them.

Posted on

Growing Up in Frankford Part 9

Continuation of Lyle (Corky) Larkin remembers:

Spick and Span

The people took great pride in our neighborhoods. You never saw trash on the streets. The women cleaned the steps in front of their row houses every Saturday, with buckets and scrub brushes. Fall was always a pretty time of the year. The streets were lined with trees of all shapes and sizes, ours had maple trees, which turned a  bright gold with the first frost. Now came the fun part, when the leaves began to drop the neighbors would keep them raked into huge piles that gave us kids a perfect  place to romp in. We would dive into these piles and sometime ride our bikes through them. After the piles would begin to get big enough to get out of hand, they  would be burned right on the street. Somehow, it never seemed to hurt the asphalt. Everyone watched out for us kids, and if we were out too late as it got dark – the  women would call to us “the lights are on, it’s time to go home now”. In the pre-air conditioning days of Philadelphia, everyone in our neighborhood would come  outside after dinner and sit on the front steps. The adults would chat, and we kids would play. It was all very friendly.


The Brown Jug, Flanagan‟s, Northeast Bar & Grille, Duffy‟s Tavern Now they‟re called BARS. The neighborhoods used to call them “Taprooms”. These places were  totally different back then. They were “Meeting Places” for the people in that neighborhood. Complete families would gather for a night out. The atmosphere was  always a friendly one. Nickel beers, regular Hard boiled eggs or Pickled Eggs and pigs feet in gallon jars on the bar, baskets of peanuts, take-out beer in a pail, which were called “Buckets” that looked like a miniature milk can. These buckets would hold about two quarts and would cost fifty cents each. You were always expected to return them on your next visit. When the adults gathered at home , there would be several trips to the local bar with a bucket or pitcher to bring home the beer. Taprooms always had a separate ladies entrance, either at the side or rear of the building. No self respectful woman would walk through the front door of one of these establishments.

Wissinoming Park

We would fill the trunk with empty gallon jugs and get into the car and drive here on Sunday afternoon, just to get the spring water. We would actually stand in line,      waiting our turn. Sometime, we would just stop for a drink of fresh spring water that flowed from a 2-inch metal pipe hanging out of the bank. The water led to a good  size shallow pond that we used for ice-skating during the winter months. During the summer months, this was a great place for family outings, baseball games and picnics. To be continued…

Posted on 2 Comments

Growing Up in Frankford Part 8

Continuation of Lyle (Corky) Larkin remembers:


You couldn’t buy one at the store because all of them were hand made by us kids. The materials needed to build one of these beauties consisted of a three or four-foot  piece of 2X4 lumber and a discarded orange crate. Add one, old steel wheeled street skate taken apart, which now gives you two sets of wheels. Nail a set of wheels to  each end of the 2X4 and turn it over and nail the orange create to one end of it with the open part facing toward the other end. Next, make yourself a set of handlebars. Take two short pieces of lumber and nail them to the top of the create forming a “V” with the pointed end facing toward the closed end of the create, tack some plastic streamers at each end of the bars. Next step was to decorate the sides of the box with bottle- caps. You can spell out your name or make different designs. Take two empty soup cans and nail them to the front and you now have a set of headlights. We used these to get all over the neighborhood, whizzing down hills and leaning into  the turns to keep from turning over. If your buddy didn‟t have a scooter, that was OK because he could sit inside the crate while you did the scooting. Each one of these scooters was unique as they portrayed the individual who constructed it. Some kids even made “Low-Riders” by using a longer 2X4 and it would sag in the middle almost touching the ground. We were more than happy to oblige when mom asked us to go to the store for her, for we now had “CARGO” for our scooter. It was not an unusual sight to see a band of kids each with one of their legs “pumping” the street with a “Keds” sneaker at the end of  that leg burning up the street in a big rush to go nowhere. Some Saturdays you could find us at the top of the Wakeling St. hill getting ready for the big race of the day.

Street Games

This is kind of like the boy with a stick and a hoop; it just takes a little imagination to make a game out of anything. We would take the cap from a soda bottle and fill it with melted wax. Most times this was from mom’s candles when she wasn’t looking. We had games both with and without wax. We also spent a lot of time smoothing the bottom of the caps against the concrete to make them slide better. We then met on the street or sidewalk with a piece of chalk and drew our playing field. A large square was drawn, with numbered boxes at the corners and the middle of each side. In the middle of the square a skull and cross bones was drawn. The object of the game was to flick the bottle cap from one end of the square into each of the numbered boxes. The first person to do so was declared the winner. If a bottle cap  happened to land on any part of the skull and cross bones, that person was out of the game. Some of the grown-ups used them as chips while playing cards, they had a value of one penny each.

Games played around the neighborhood in the streets and alleys were some strange derivatives of Baseball called Stickball, Hose-ball,  Wallball, Half-ball, Step-ball and Wire-ball. Ya just gotta live in the city to experience these games. Bats, when required for a game, were old broomsticks. Believe me, hitting anything as small as a tennis ball with a broomstick is no easy task. In those days, one of the types of balls that could be purchased in stores was called a  „pimple ball‟. This was probably an unofficial name but its the only one I recall. It was a white rubber ball with bumps of about 1/8″ diameter all around it. Hence, the  name „pimple-ball‟. These were the balls eventually used for Half-ball; once they developed a hole in them and lost their air, they were cut in half at the middle to  make two half-balls. We started recycling a long time before it became fashionable.

To celebrate the 4th of July holiday, all of the kids in the neighborhood used to decorate our wagons, scooters and bikes with red, white and blue crepe paper, and ride them around the block in a mock parade. Another thing we did to our bikes  was to tie balloons in a position near the wheels so the spokes would rub against them and make a noise similar to a motorcycle. We would also tape small American  Flags to our handlebars.

To be continued…