Memories of By-gone Days

56_image01From time to time, the writer of this weekly column receives letters from various parts of the United States, from former residents of Radnor township who remain subscribers to “The Suburban.” A number are in a nostalgic vein, since the column often arouses memories of late happenings of bygone days.

Such a letter was recently received from O. Howard Wolfe, well-known former resident of the township, from Naples, Fla.

Since leaving Radnor some years ago, Mr. Wolfe has been making his permanent home in Milford, Pa. The letter was written following the appearance in this column, on February 22, of the picture of the old Pechin spring house, in Radnor. Mr. Wolfe says:
“Your picture of the old spring house in Radnor gave me a sort of double dose of nostalgia, first because of the mention of two well-loved childhood friends, Bessie Frame and Mary Brooke, although Mary may object if I include her name as belonging to my generation. And then the old spring house – old even as I so well remember it, 70 years ago. We always went in for a drink of cold, pure water as we passed it on the way to visit my grandfather’s farm, half-a-mlle away.

“The overflow ran parallel to the King of Prussia road, then rippled across Eagle road into the Pechin meadow. Wonderful mint and water cress grew along the banks of the little stream, which flowed into Gulf Creek.

“Jim Donaldson was indeed a well known character. He looked like General Grant, and he was always held in awe by us youngsters… It is my recollection that it was Jamaica ginger he used as a substitute for stronger liquor.”

In a letter sent to this columnist about three years ago, Mr. Wolfe gave other interesting data about the Radnor of his youth. At that time he wrote:
“Tryon Steele is probably one of the very few of us now living who knew intimately such old timers as Pete Pechin, Jim Donaldson and Oscar Dillon – just to name a few. Oscar Dillon was an unusual character in his own right, and deserves a column of his own. He was the last of the old-time country store keepers who took keen delight, not in being able to advertise the endless list of merchandise he had for sale, but in producing articles which you didn’t know he had.” He was a unique and remarkable man in many ways.

“Did you know how Morgan’s Corner got its name? If you look at a map of Delaware county, you will note the shape of the northeast section which is Radnor township, and see that it is a straight line right angle. This, I was told many years ago by George Righter, another old time character, was Morgan’s Corner, and the name did not derive, as many think, from any road meetings or intersections.

“I believe it was the Penna. R.R. which named Radnor and St. Davids and other stations along the line (Perhaps Wayne, too, instead of Louella as it was formerly called). In my early days it was “Ithan,” which was known as Radnor and, after the railroad came, as “Old Radnor.”

So much for Mr. Wolfe’s informative letter of several years ago. To return to his recent one of a few weeks ago, he tells of his pleasure in meeting an old time Wayne friend, still remembered by many in this community as the first woman member of the Radnor School Board, Mrs. Humbert B. Powell.

“She served with me on the board some 40 years ago,” he writes. “You can imagine how glad I was to find her living in Naples. We have had many interesting visits, talking over those difficult and dramatic days when the community was bitterly divided. If I am not mistaken, all of our colleagues of that period have passed on.”

Mr. Wolfe is remembered by all of Wayne’s old timers as the only resident of Radnor, and a graduate of its high school, who served both as president of the school board, an office which he held for 11 years, and also as president of the Board of Commissioners, where he was for eight years a member and for another eight, its president.

* * *

Such letters as Mr. Wolfe’s are always gratefully received by the writer of “Your Town and My Town.” All such letters will be published in the column when possible. – E.C.P.

Early ads: Edgar C. Humphrey’s Tin & Sheet Iron Worker, L.K. Burket & Brother, T. T. Worrall & Sons

55_image01In last week’s issue, your columnist described some of the advertisements which appeared in the cook book put out in 1892, by the Ladies’ Aid Society of The Wayne Methodist Church. The picture in this week’s column shows the stove on which the lady of the house could try out the delectable recipes. It could be purchased right on Wayne avenue, at Edgar E. Humphreys, Tin and Sheet Iron Worker. Such a stove, as illustrated in this article, was called the “Valley Novelty Range.” It could be kept “brilliant and black” with “Solar Paste” for which the housewife was “to ask her grocer and take no other.”

L.K. Burket and Brothers, now operating more than 60 years later under the same firm name, could sell the housewife “the best Lehigh and Susquehanna Coal at the lowest market rates” as well as “the best Virginia pine kindling wood, two or three sticks of which will be of service in getting up a quick fire, at a trifling cost, for an early breakfast or hurried meal.” C.B. Walton and Company, with offices in both Wayne and Devon, would also sell coal, as well as lumber and feed.

In Wayne, T.T. Worrall and Sons, whose specialization was “fine teas, coffees and spice” would supply the housewife with “fancy and staple groceries.” From Philadelphia, Showell and Fryer sent a salesman every Saturday to solicit orders for their “fine groceries,” which would be delivered by wagon the following Monday. E. Bradford Clarke, “family grocers,” located at Chestnut and 15th streets, had “free deliveries by wagon every Thursday of the year, at all points on the line of the railroad from Philadelphia to Devon.” Woodman, Gillette and Company, Grocers, at 13th and Market streets, advertised that “every barrel of our Red Seal Flour is guaranteed to make 300 pounds of bread.” (At that time there was no “bread man” making his daily rounds.)

Among the small dealers in meat and groceries in Wayne, was C. Pugh, with his store at the corner or West Wayne avenue and Conestoga road. Apparently, the only milkman to advertise in the Methodist Church cook book was Joseph H. Childs, of Wayne, by whom milk was served daily. (This was still in the period when the milk man poured milk from his own big pail into the smaller one placed at the back door by the housewife.)

Two advertisers, whose work was as vital 60 years ago as it is outdated now, were William P. Sassaman, harness and harness supplies, and Joseph K. Lentz, proprietor of the Wayne Wagon Works. The former was “manufacturer of Fine Harness and Harness Supplies” located on Lancaster avenue, while the latter always had “new carts and wagons on hand” and “attended to all kinds of jobbing in his line at the shortest notice.” Their places have been taken long since by the automobile dealer and the automobile repair man.

In the 1890’s the Wayne Title and Trust Company was in a small and picturesque building, on the same site on which the present modern building now stands. It is now known as the Wayne office of the First Pennsylvania Banking and Trust Company.

J. M. Fronefield, Jr.’s Wayne Pharmacy was just across the street, on the corner now occupied by the Sun Ray Drug store. Its proprietor was a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy who advertised his “stock of medicines as equalled by but few city stores.” But to one small girl of the 1890’s, now one of Wayne’s “old timers,” the store is still remembered for its soda fountain, where delicious ice cream sodas were dispersed for ten cents.

Early ads: Women’s Stylish Footwear, the Wayne Mart, John Wanamaker

54_image01Interesting as are some of the old-time recipes in the cook book compiled by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Wayne Methodist Church in 1892, described last week in this column, the advertisements are even more so.

Evidently, every merchant or business man in the vicinity who was in the market to sell anything, from homes to wagons, advertised their merchandise in this interesting 78-page booklet. Not to be outdone by the home merchants and business men, Philadelphians contributed their full share.

What a change in prices these 65 years have brought! Although all of us are conscious of those changes, still it is startling to think that a brand new 15-room stone house “finished in oak and plate glass,” and “located on ¾ acre of ground” sold for only $9,500 In 1892. This information was given in the very first advertisement in the booklet, by the one-time famous “Wayne Estates,” of which much has appeared in this column from time to time.

This was the era in which women’s “hand-sewn Paris kid shoes” were sold for $4.00 by Hallahan’s Shoe Shop, one of the most famous stores in its line in Philadelphia. The illustration appears in this column. At the same lime George B. Wells, “City Hall Hatter” was charging $1.90 for a “fine Derby Hat” with silk hats “at $3.50 up.” And $2.90 was the price for “the best Derby the hatters’ art can produce.”

There is a surprise in the wide variety of merchandise that could be purchased in Wayne itself in the ’90’s. But at that time there was no Ardmore shopping center, and a round trip to Philadelphia by train was a tedious affair.

John Wanamaker advertised as “the biggest store in the world, and the biggest dry goods store in America, nothing by halves.” And since it was a cook book in which they were advertising, they called attention to their “more than 50 shapes and sizes of agate ware, as safe to use as the purest ironware. And handsome! Pots and kettles, and stew pans actually handsome!” Strawbridge and Clothier emphasized “Dry Goods by Mail” from their Philadelphia store.

Locally the Wayne Mart, operated by George R. Park and F.E. Lamborn at “Store No. 1, New Block,” Wayne, sold a full line of everything from clothing to embroidery silks. C.W. Bensinger, at “No. 7 Business Block,” was a book, stationery and variety store.

Thomas Law, “General Upholsterers” located at “6 Business Block,” advertised that he “sewed and laid carpets,” thus solving one of the problems of the housekeeper of the ’90’s. Since lace curtains and carpets belong in the same era, it is interesting to note that the Forrest Laundry, of Philadelphia, made a speciality of doing up these window hangings, a matter which always presented a problem. This laundry, whose trucks are seen daily on the streets of Wayne, is still located on Columbia avenue, Philadelphia, just as it was in the ’90’s.

(To be continued)