Mary Weber was born in Abington, Pennsylvania on Friday August 21, 1925 shortly thereafter moved to Collingdale where she attended St. Joseph's school. She graduated from Notre Dame High School for Girls in Moylan, PA....to be continued
Grand pop and
Early Family History
I suppose they called him "Jack" in those days, tho? I?ve heard others call him "Johnny", and in the earlier days of their marriage, Mom called him "Tinny" (a pet name for Skinny), and we called him "Daddy" before one of the upstarts decided later to call him "Pop". Beatrice was mostly "Bea". Pop called her "Bill" when they were courting and later "Tinny", and she was "Mother" to us, and later "Mom".
Pop lived at 1130 Main St., in Darby, and Mom lived on a farm in Yeadon. It was the largest farm in the area and the huge house had so many windows, that I hesitate to repeat the amount for fear I may seem to be exaggerating. At Christmas time, Grand mom Moyer would starch and flat iron Priscilla curtains for every window in the house and place a lighted candle in each window on Christmas Eve. In the summer, the path leading to the house was flanked on each side by great beds of flowers.
Pop was working for Western Electric when a friend of Mom's brother, called Fritz, brought Pop to the farm and introduced him to Mom. Pop has never forgotten the impression Mom made on him in her yellow organdy dress. Mom and Pop courted for 13 months before Pop proposed on the front porch of the farm house. Soon they were married by Father Vincent Gallagher in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Darby.
Pop's brother, Vincent, was best man, and his sister, Mae, was Maid of Honor. Mom's sister, Madeline, played the church organ and after the wedding the bridal couple attended a catered dinner in their honor at the farm house. They honeymooned at Niagara Falls.
They rented a house in Willow Grove where I then Francis were born. I can still recall the little kerosene stove in the living room. We later moved to a little row house on Wayne Ave., in Collingdale. It had an open front porch and an alley ran behind the tiny back yard. Pop put a string around the yard about a foot from the ground - this was to keep me out of the alley and out of the way of the cars coming through.
We had a table in the kitchen where we ate breakfast and lunch, and where I was taught to say, "God bless what I eat," before each meal. Mom and Pop said the traditional grace before meals, but Pop must have said it the loudest because I associated the prayer with him. It wasn't long before I was to graduate into saying the longer prayer myself. I hated it - it was a man's prayer.
One day Pop brought me a coloring book of nursery rhymes and a box of colored Mr. Peanut pencils. As I colored each page, Mom taught me the corresponding verse. I remember the day that Pop woke me up and brought me downstairs to see the new mohair living room suite. I wasn't particularly fascinated at that age, but Pop was obviously elated. He liked to share many of his thoughts and impressions with me. He took me to Church with him on Sundays, and I'd be wearing one of the pretty dresses that Mom had so beautifully smocked. I think Mom made most of my clothes throughout my childhood, but none were prettier than the smocked dresses.
On Wayne Avenue, Mom was quite friendly with the neighbors. The row houses were so tiny and close, it was practically unavoidable. There was Helen Chambers, the school teacher who occasionally baby sat, and Mrs. Skulnik, the Jewish lady next door who shocked Mom's Christian modesty by exposing her baby's bare bottom in the back yard for a sun cure.
Once in a great while, Uncle Vince would take us in his car to visit Bertha and Raleigh Crean in Willow Grove. They were Aunt and Uncle to the kids and I always wondered why their house smelled like dill pickles. A mutual friend named Ann Laudance was sometimes there and we called her Nan-nan because it was easier to say than Aunt Ann. Ann was Mom's dearest friend until she died some years later.
Johnny and Therese were born on Wayne Avenue, and the growing family soon made a larger house necessary. It was fun riding in Uncle Vince's car and visiting all the different houses for sale. I met other kids and Pop engaged in much lengthy conversation with the owners. We somehow never bought the large bungalow with the big barn, but instead moved into the house on Ash Avenue. The big yard was overgrown with woods above our heads and Frank and I raced about playing hide and seek. That was the beginning of many fond memories.
Mom registered me in St. Joseph's school. She had already instilled in me a deep devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary, so it was no wonder that I became so much a steady visitor to Father Gromoll's replica of Lourdes, a large stone grotto behind the Church. It was on Ash Avenue that we became acquainted with Mr. Sherry, the egg man, Mr. Betterman, the grocer, Mr. Cornfield, the druggist, and Mr. Kitchen, the policeman.
Pop's brother's early death from diabetes apparently left Pop with a dread of the disease and so Mom was forbidden to eat chocolates. Her next door neighbor and friend, Bertha Crean, would have a ready supply on hand when Mom came over to visit.
....woman. She wore her long hair pulled back in a bun, and I remember when she had it cut in a short bob, I had the feeling Pop wasn't too pleased. Mom wore no makeup except a little lip rough which was like our lip glosses today, but packaged in a tiny tin, which I sometimes applied to feel grown up. Mom had a nail buffer on her bureau which she would use when she was going somewhere.
Sometimes Mom would take me to 69th Street on the trolley car to go shopping. Other times we would take the bus to the Big Bear in Darby. I liked it when we went out. Mom always smelled so fragrant and we always had a Wrigleys peppermint chicklet on the condition that I would keep my mouth closed and make absolutely no noise chewing. When there was a sale on children's clothes, she would buy a dozen undershirts, socks and so on. When it was time for a new pair of shoes, she would trace our foot on a piece of paper at home, and measure the tracing with the shoes in the store. There was also the "Shoe Lady", a sweet widow with a little square black car who also sold us shoes at home.
There were other salesmen who came to our house in those days. The ice man who always managed to drop some sizeable pieces of ice that we gratefully relished on a hot summer day. And the coal man with his metal chute in the basement window and the load of coal roaring into the coal bin by the furnace. And the hucksters peddling their fruits and vegetables up and down the street, and singing the special of the day so that it was hardly understandable.
Sometimes Mom would send me to Betterman's. I was absolutely fascinated by Mrs. Betterman's predictable greeting: "What was it you wanted?" in her Jewish accent. I was no less fascinated by the rhyming of Mom's most frequent order: a half a pound of the top of the round, ground, and I'd repeat it over and over to myself on the way. Other times Mom would send me to Mrs. Getra's bakery, in the basement of the house down the street.
Mom was a good cook, not a gourmet, but a good, large-family cook. One of her big gang specialties was dried limas that had been cooked in the leftover ham and cabbage water and baked in the oven topped with strips of bacon. Our favorite was a large pan of brown betty, made from day old raising bread that Uncle Vince would bring in large bags from his store. When Mom's cousin "Palsy" (Bill Mulrennan) lived with us, she would make a big ginger cake and Palsy would buy a large bottle of whipping cream from the dairy around the corner and Mom would use it as a topping on the cake. Mom introduced me to boiled chicken feet, and when the little ones were napping, she and I would each have a foot and lick each little bone clean. It was not unlike pig's feet, which we also had occasionally. Every relative who had ever had dinner at our house will tell you that Mom made the best baking powder biscuits in the world.
One time Pop ordered a load of mushroom soil and used it in the garden. The vegetables grew so huge, it was like a science fiction movie. Some of the beets were as big as your head, and cucumbers over a foot long. We had so much that year, we were giving some away and peddling some for pennies. We all worked in the garden, weeding and picking in the hot sun. Mom spent hours over the stove, canning and preserving, and I'll never forget the aroma of the board in the bottom of the kettle for scalding jars, and how it enhanced the aroma of the cooking vegetables. When we were bored with playing in the yard, we picked vegetables from the garden and ate everything imaginable raw. We rarely had sweets, although Mom had a glass jar of candy that brought everyone running when she took it from the pantry shelf and rattled the contents.
Mom was very conscientious about our health. We had cod liver oil every winter and licked the spoon clean, only because she sprinkled it with a little salt, creating a flavor like caviar. We made regular visits to Dr. Pauling, the dentist. When Gerry and Lambert needed their legs straightened, Mom and Pop had long metal braces made which eventually corrected the problem. Pop was very health conscious too and developed a new taste treat by putting peanut butter on apples. Once in a while, Pop would veer from his health kick and make up a batch of donuts. The kids would gather around with delight as he fashioned all kinds of designs and little donut people. It was lots of fun too when he made taffy. He fashioned a rig in one of the stair supports in the basement so he could throw the taffy over it and pull it. It looked so difficult. Pop also had a big crock in the basement in which he made sauerkraut. One time he made some wine from dandelions, and I was told that he used to make beer so potent that you had to drink it by the shot.
Among the many things that Mom taught me was a fear of spiders and thousand-leggers. When she saw one, she would become absolutely hysterical. I saw a spider on the kitchen wall one day and casually mentioned it which prompted Mom to faint on the spot and Pop to clobber me. Mom also taught me the names of all the flowers in the garden. She taught me how to cook and I thought I would never acquire the knack of having all the dishes prepared simultaneously for a meal. The first thing I learned to sew was a pair of bloomers made from a piece of material with large faded flowers. I was not in the least disturbed when Peggy Hefferman laughed after catching a glimpse of them while I was on her swing. " I made them myself," I said haughtily.
Mom was kind too. Many are the evenings when some poor family man would be far from home, looking for a job, and would stop at our back door for a bite to eat. Mom would bring him in and lend him a razor and while he was in the bathroom shaving she would prepare a hot plate heaped with whatever she could find that was good to eat. Very often she would be rewarded by an interesting story of his travels and experiences, which we all gathered round to hear. Mom loved to nurse the sick and did practical nursing as we grew older.
We didn't have our own car and so enjoyed having company. When Nan-Nan came she always brought a gift, either for the whole family or small individual presents. She sometimes stayed for a couple of days and she and Mom kidded and cut up like two teenagers. They would have an occasional glass of beer, which gave Ann hot flashes, and Mom would laugh and call her one-beer Annie.
We had other pleasures too, like the Jew's harp that Pop brought home. We all learned to play it. Johnny acquired a harmonica and played it and eventually Mom learned to play a small accordion. How I enjoyed hearing her lovely voice as she sang and accompanied herself on the musical instrument.
When we were little, Pop put up a tight wire and put a trolley on it with a bar from which we could hang by our hands and glide across the back yard. Another time he built a big, double swing set which finally fell when Therese and I shared a swing and tried to go over the top.
Christmas was the best of all. Pop wanted so much to have some kind of tradition, preferably German. For several years we hung stockings on Dec. 6, Little Christmas. Christmas was always tangerines and springerlees and pfefferneuse. There were a few gifts and the stable that Pop made for under the tree. Every scrap of fir tree was saved to put on top of the coal stove and the scent of Christmas permeated the entire house. Mom prepared a traditional dinner, sometimes freshly killed turkey that had been hanging from outside the attic window in the cold winter air.
Pop made a comfortable living for the large family of 10. He had worked from trainman up to superintendent of the Frankford Elevated. I was so proud to tell my friends and occasionally would go up to his office in the terminal building where he would proudly introduce me to his co-workers.
The saddest event I can recall is the automobile accident in which Mom and Pop were seriously injured. We were all well grown and experienced our first tragedy. It resulted in Pop being uncoordinated for a while and Mom wore a brace on her leg and had scars on her face. But considering the severity of the accident and due largely to Mom's perseverance with her therapy, they came though surprisingly well.
The children grew up - they all married. Mom and Pop now have 45 grandchildren and one great grand child, with another expected on their golden wedding anniversary. The children planned a big reception for the 50 year anniversary and Mom and Pop received a letter of congratulations form the president of the United States. All the children were present for the celebration except Johnny.
Friday, October 17, 2008