Radnor Story #6: Memories of Growing Up in Wayne and St. Davids

My own memories go back seventy years to when I was four and put my feet into a big brown x-ray box at Wendy’s Shoe Store (next to Wayne Toy Town) to show my little toe bones up against the tip of my new shoes.  I can also remember getting lost (yes, LOST) in the Acme parking lot, which is now a private parking space between D’Amicantonio’s (where our friendship goes back four generations) and the State Store where the Acme once stood so proudly.

A few years later, we would go to Wack’s Apothecary and buy an ice cream cone for seven cents and I would gaze longingly at the glass bottles of Breck’s golden shampoo and pink crème rinse that older girls used. Other wonderful shops near Wendy’s in Wayne were Cowan’s beautiful flower shop, The Women’s Exchange, Gane & Snyder Groceries, The Wayne Hardware and on the corner with North Wayne Avenue, Wayne Jewelers and Natalie Collette, which had gray carpeted steps leading up to its glamorous dresses.

The Delaware Market House, 1950

On the South side of Lancaster Pike there was the Farmer’s Market (with sawdust on the floor), Woolworth’s 5 & 10 (which had a lunch counter and also sold goldfish downstairs in the lower floor pet, linen and leisure departments). Near Wack’s was the wonderful Delaware Market House owned by Jack Tolono and family, Leinhardt’s Bakery, a notion shop (like Jo-Ann’s today, only better), Park’s Hardware, Wayne Sporting Goods, Harrison’s Department Store and the Sun-Ray Drugstore on the corner. And around the bend was Anna Moffo’s dad’s shoe repair shop with his glorious flowers and ironwork trim (still there!).

There was also a Singer Sewing Machine store in the block, where instead of becoming an industrious creative seamstress as was so ardently hoped by the staff, I cut out a circle of soft butterscotch corduroy, wrapped it around my waist and sewed on a button. (A nod to Dior’s new look and no need to purchase a machine!)

Every Halloween all the storefronts were painted with pumpkins and ghosts by very talented local students. Later in the year, may brother and I would be taken to sake on Walton Pond at Eastern Baptist College and to sledding on the hills of St. David’s Golf Course before Altman’s and the Treadway Inn were built there.

My favorite spot of all in Wayne was the divine Library with all its magnificent books, soft chairs and gentle atmosphere.  It was truly welcoming and magical – an endless source of fascinating discoveries.  

And speaking of very special Wayne highlights what could top the Anthony Wayne movie theater?  There was just one screen with a single projector and a huge scarab decoration on the ceiling. When we weren’t watching Bambi, Snow White, or my favorite, The Painted Desert, my friends and I spent many happy afternoons telling jokes and giggling in the ladies room. The manager’s office was over on the men’s room side of the lobby and more than once he crossed over and stormed in perfectly furious to kick us out.

There was no such thing as a coffee shop, but you could have a cup of coffee at the 5 & 10 or the Rexall Drugstore (where Reader’s Forum was).  Where Christopher’s is now used to be The Gift Shop, two full stores of tchotchkes.  

St. Katharine of Siena Church

As for churches for me it was the old St. Katharine of Siena, in all its dark glory.  The nuns looked very forbidding indeed, however they were actually fond of children and couldn’t have been kinder.  

The St. Davids train station was in walking distance from our house on Hilaire Road and I can remember the oak-paneled waiting room and the post office there as well as the candy and newsstand facing the tracks.  One day long ago, there was a black and white photograph of a young boy who was found murdered and never identified. I can still remember his face. Others my age must have been silently haunted by this loss as well because out of the blue several years ago there was a grave dedicated to him with a new headstone in Philadelphia, probably by local authorities who had also been young children in the 1950’s and remembered and wanted to recognize this child before they retired.   

St. Davids Station, as it looked in 1964

My brother and I took the train to school (all boys Episcopal, all girls Shipley) and like our friends who got on at Strafford and Wayne, we were considered hopelessly provincial. Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Gladwyne were considered the prominent, desirable neighborhoods. Even Villanova was considered a backwater. Needless to say, this has all changed and good old Wayne now reigns supreme!

Contributed by Happy Shipley