|In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the nation should
celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. However, since
many Novembers have five Thursdays, this made Thanksgiving so late in those
years that it greatly shortened the Christmas shopping season. In 1939
and 1940, in order to give a boost to the lagging economic recovery and
provide some additional shopping days before Christmas, President Franklin
Roosevelt proclaimed that the third Thursday in November should
be Thanksgiving, a day that would best serve Christmas merchandising. In
1941, Congress and the President compromised on a joint resolution making
it the fourth Thursday in November and making it a federal holiday.
On this particular third Thursday, November 21, 1940, the last time that Thanksgiving was ever celebrated on this particular date, I was born with a cauliflower ear in Frankford Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the ‘City of Brotherly Love.’ I was the second and last child of Lawrence and Emma Bosler, the first being my sister Mary Ann Bosler, born April 25, 1936.
My family lived on north 5th Street at some time prior to my birth. The address is unknown but it is suspected that it was between Wyoming and Hunting Park Avenues in the Feltonville section of Philadelphia. In 1941, we all moved to 5359 N. Howland Street, a three story rental row house near Sears, Roebuck on Roosevelt Boulevard, in the Crescentville area of Philadelphia, and in late 1943 we moved to 106 Roslyn Street, a three story rental row house located in the Olney section of Philadelphia near the intersection of Front Street and Champlost Avenue. This would be my home for the next thirteen years.
I started talking at a normal age, learning such butchered Philadelphian words as 'crick', 'tawk', 'yo' and 'wader' from my sister and parents. So, blame them!
|My earliest memories of living on Roslyn Street are of playing in
the many vacant fields and woods located east of Front Street and north
of Godfrey Avenue, and in the streets and alleys around my neighborhood.
Other memories of these early days are of horse drawn milk and trash trucks, ice trucks which served as free refreshment centers on hot summer days, home delivery of Bond and Freihofer bakery products (from whom I got my first taste of Boston Cream Pie), fountain service at the drug store located at Mascher Street and Champlost Avenue (hand-dipped Breyers), our upright telephone with the number HAncock 4-2333 (it's amazing the things that I remember) and wind-up record player, produce vendors called hucksters selling their products in our alley, twice daily mail delivery and weekly street cleaning crews. Gas-fueled streetlights needed to be cleaned regularly and their timers had to be wound up once a week by a serviceman who would carry a ladder along his route in order to reach the mechanisms. Newspapers, ice cream cones and Cokes were a nickel, and we had coal delivered for our furnace on a chute through the small window in the front of our basement. Unknown to my parents, the coal pile served as an occasional relief station for me, helping me to avoid climbing two flights of steps to get to the bathroom. Of course, with a coal burning furnace, ashes had to be taken out to the street twice weekly for disposal. I also remember feeling so safe there because a policeman lived only five houses away.
The major shopping areas were along 5th Street between Godfrey Avenue and Tabor Road (about a mile from our home), and at Sears on the Boulevard. Stores that I remember near the intersection of 5th Street and Olney Avenue were Loft's Candies, Olney Federal Savings Bank, Colney Theater and Rite-Aid Drugs, where I remember being able to get a hamburger, French fries, lettuce, tomato, onion and a small Coke for less than a dollar at the lunch counter. Mom, being athletic (she was a member of several national championship gymnastic teams in the 1920s and qualified for the 1936 Olympics) could make the trip from our home to that intersection in about ten minutes. Whenever she took me along, and it was often, I must have really slowed her down, but she never seemed to mind. She always said that a brisk walk was the best exercise, and she practiced what she preached.
Daily necessities were purchased at Doerr's Unity-Frankford store at Mascher and Spencer Streets. I recall them having long poles there with grabbers on them to grasp an out-of-reach item from their tall shelves. They also provided a shop-by-phone service with free delivery. Ah! The good ol' days. It converted to a self-serve operation in the fifties.
We used to go to a small Italian restaurant on 2nd Street north of Spencer where we got 'hot' and 'not' hoagies; the hot ones were for Dad and Mary Ann.
It was here that I also discovered pizzas, although they were called tomato pies at the time. There were bakeries at Front Street and Godfrey Avenue and at 3rd and Nedro Streets, a shoemaker at Mascher and Nedro Streets, a butcher shop at Mascher and Linton Streets and a barbershop at Front and Roslyn Streets. All of these establishments were within a block or two of our house, which was in a residential area. Small commercial establishments located in the basement of the end houses of row homes were found throughout our area, and carried the nickname of ‘Mom and Pop’ stores, because they were almost always family owned and operated.
While there were green mail boxes located on almost every corner, an occasional walking trip to the post office was no effort since it was located at 3rd Street and Olney Avenue, about 1/2 mile from our house.
|Dad used to read the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin comics
to me and one of my favorite strips was ‘Bucky Bug.’ I remember Dad telling
me how much he liked reading this particular strip because the dialog was
all in verse.
During World War II, Americans were asked to assist in the war effort by conserving gasoline, food, metals, sugar and several other critical war materials. Most of us still remember the ‘white’ 1943 pennies that were made to conserve copper; they were really zinc plated steel. I remember blue and red plastic tokens that were used for meat and gas rationing, and crushing tin cans for pickup in the alley. Many people started growing their own vegetable gardens that were nicknamed Victory Gardens.
|This tradition lasted well beyond the end of World War II.|
|Holidays are special times for most families, and ours was no exception.
Easter time brought the continuation of a family tradition called egg 'uppering'.
After the traditional Easter morning activities, the colored hard boiled
eggs that the Easter Bunny brought were used in a challenge game played
to find the one with the hardest shell. Opponents had to select one egg
each, agree on either the butt or point end of the eggs, and then smash
them together; usually one egg remained unbroken in each contest. By process
of elimination, the last unbroken egg was proclaimed the winner. Once in
a while a raw egg was introduced into the challenge by an unknown somebody,
and it always resulted in a messy defeat for the victim.
|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.
Fireworks were held at Olney High School at Mascher Street and Duncannon
Avenue but I only went to see them once because I couldn't stand the loud
Halloween usually meant the arrival in our house of several boxes of Ivan's Spiced Wafers, also known as Ginger Snaps, which were a favorite of Mom's. She would always open all of the boxes (which were easily found in the grocery store due to their distinctive orange and black colors) as soon as she got them and leave them open so that they would get stale. For these cookies, stale meant soft, and that is how we all liked them.
Thanksgivings usually meant a gathering of our extended family at our house. Mom's specialty was her turkey filling, Dad loved the giblets, and someone always claimed the part that "went over the fence last." Dessert was usually Coconut Custard Pie, obtained from Horn and Hardart’s, or Shoo-fly Pie, one of my favorite treats, baked by Mom. Actually, any holiday usually meant that Mom would bake these Shoo-fly Pies (which were really more of a cake). The Pennsylvania Dutch recipe calls for molasses for its sweetness (and main ingredient) but Mom used Dark Karo® syrup in its place.
Every Christmas we set up a platform for my train set. There was usually nothing else on it except for the trains, leaving me with plenty of room to crawl around playing with them. My first set was a large one in 1/2" scale, which means that every 1/2" of the toy was equal in scale size to one foot of the real train. Later on I got the smaller O-27 gauge (1/4" scale tinplate, i.e., 1/4"=1') Lionel set that I still have today.
Whenever we visited my cousins in Merion, I remember that Mary Ann and I used to play with them while Mom, Dad, Aunt Clara and Uncle El got into some very rowdy Pinochle and ‘I Doubt It’ games that often lasted all night long. Uncle El would sometimes give each of us kids our own roll of toilet paper and tell us to decorate the house. We would then run around the house trailing toilet paper wherever we went, and he often remarked about how much fun we were having for just a nickel. That was how much toilet paper cost in those days. So you thought TP-ing was a new fad, huh?
|During WW II Dad worked as a welder at the Philadelphia Navy Yard
and I remember him taking me there on some of his days off to show me the
big ships, sometimes to see their inaugural launchings.
On September 9, 1945, I entered Thomas K. Finletter Elementary School at Front and Spencer Streets and attended it for eight years, skipping kindergarten.
My favorite Saturday afternoon activity was going to the movies at the Colney Theater at 5th Street and Olney Avenue (and sometimes the Fern Rock Theater at 5th and Fern Streets) where serials were played every week along with several cartoons and a feature film. More often than not, this would be a cowboy film starring Roy Rogers. It cost 10 cents to get in. I usually received fifty cents weekly allowance; ten cents was for the movie, twenty cents was for two comic books that I purchased at a corner newsstand after the movie, and the rest went into the bank.
Most evenings were spent listening to the radio. Favorite shows of mine were ‘Fred Allen's Alley’, ‘Jack Benny’, ‘The Lone Ranger’, ‘Gene Autry's Melody Ranch’ and ‘Fibber McGee and Molly’. The images created by my imagination during these broadcasts were far superior to the television images we see today. Other evenings were spent watching the sixteen millimeter movies that my parents bought for me watching such classics and stars as Felix the Cat, Donald Duck, The Three Stooges and Tom Mix in their early pictures.
After school and weekend playtimes were usually spent hiking along Tookany Creek between Rising Sun Avenue and Ashbourne Road or playing in the woods around home with my best friend Ray McCloskey.
|When the woods became developed with new housing, I switched play
areas to Fisher's Park at 5th Street and Champlost Avenue which was great
for bike riding, feeding squirrels and drinking from the spring water outlets.
I made several trips a year on my wagon to these springs with empty bottles
to fill for home use.
Mom and Dad would sometimes take us to see the Roy Rogers Rodeo at the Arena in West Philadelphia.
Once was on September 8, 1947 and what a memorable experience it was! Besides being a great show for this cowboy fan, I got to shake Roy's hand. What a thrill!
|Our house had a front yard that measured about twenty feet wide
by ten feet deep and was bordered in the front and sides by a box hedge.
There was a beautiful hydrangea plant in it, and the grass and hedge were
mine to cut in later years. I once planted a peanut plant there that yielded
Games played around the neighborhood in the streets and alleys were some strange derivatives of Baseball called Stickball, Hoseball, Wallball, Halfball, Stepball and Wireball. You 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 Halfball; once they developed a hole in them and lost their air, they were cut in half at the middle to make two halfballs. We started recycling a long time before it became fashionable.
In the wintertime, I remember sledding in the snowy woods north of Godfrey Avenue on hills called Big Sheepy and Little Sheepy. Big Sheepy had a nasty little stream at the bottom which loomed as disaster for anyone with bad brakes, but Little Sheepy was relatively safe. Another winter activity was sliding on the large ice puddle that usually formed in our schoolyard.
At other times of inclement weather, my play time would be spent in our basement which I would turn into a dark jungle, trolley carbarn, magician's stage, or whatever I needed at that particular time to set the stage for my fantasy adventures.
One day Mom took me, Mary Ann and several friends to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to see the Freedom Train.
|Whenever trips to our bank at Broad Street and Erie Avenue were
necessary, Mom always found time to visit a small store around the corner
on Germantown Avenue called Marquetand's Candies. Their butter creams were
my favorites, and she loved their double dipped mints.
Vacations during these times usually meant one or two trips on one of the Wilson Line excursion ships, the SS Liberty Belle or the SS Delaware Belle, down the Delaware River to Riverview Beach Amusement Park in Pennsville, New Jersey.
After several ownership changes, the park closed permanently around 1961. I never liked the wild rides such as the roller coaster (The Humming Bird) or the Whip, but I loved the little automobiles that I got to drive all by myself (The Auto Speedway), the Donkey Ride (a.k.a. K-BAR-A Dude Ranch) and the Miniature Railway. Mom would spend a lot of time at her favorite activity, the Skee-ball arcade.
The ride to and from the park was as much fun as being at the park. Hide and Seek was the usual game of the day for the ride, and with several floors of the Wilson Lines boat to hide in, it was really a challenge to find someone.
Strangely, and I don't know the reason why, we seldom took the Route 6 trolley ride through the woods to Willow Grove Amusement Park. I can recall maybe two times that we did.