SPRING HAS SPRUNG!
“Spring has sprung,” my grandfather, Pop, used to say. For him, it was a time for celebration because he could go fishing again. Every April 15, the opening day of trout fishing, he took my brother to catch his limit. I went once or twice, but I never could land any trout.
I was always the weird one. Pop and my older brother Bill were fishing fanatics, and Bill still is. He has fished in many locations around the world and landed fish Pop could not have dreamed of catching. I guess that’s the point. The grandfather hands off his passion to a son or grandson and hopes they will be better at it than he was.
That wasn’t me, though. I thought of fishing as a chance to do something different, and I couldn’t have cared less if I caught any fish. In the spring, we went to the Schuylkill River to catch catfish and carp. I was just happy to get on the Number 60 trolley and ride it west on Allegheny Avenue to the end of the line. After a short walk, we arrived at the wonderful Schuylkill River. It was always brown, and the kids’ rumors said that any fish caught there and eaten would poison you. Even so, that didn’t stop anglers from all over the city from dropping their hooked worms into the muddy water.
I liked the trappings of fishing. There were long steps that led to the water, where most people fished. It was pretty cool for a pre-teen, and it thrilled because it was different from Howard and Wishart Streets, where my family lived. There is something about the flow of the river’s water that gives you a sense of peace. In reality, it was far from being a country atmosphere, but it felt like one to me.
Of course, my favorite springtime activity was Easter. After all, six months before Easter was the last time I got a boatload of free candy. If you don’t mind, I thought I would revise and repost my thoughts from Easter 2019. I made a few changes, but the sentiment is still the same.
When I was growing up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia during the 1950s, Easter was a huge deal. My family wasn’t particularly religious back then, but I guess Mom thought it might be good for her kids to experience a little church, so we went to Sunday school from time to time, especially at Easter. I don’t remember much about Easter Sunday school, but I do remember my childhood Easter festivities.
Easter started well in advance with a trip to Wanamaker’s, Gimbels, or Lit Brothers in downtown Philadelphia. I can’t remember if Strawbridge and Clothier was downtown, but Mom also went there.
We would take the Number 60 trolley east to Kensington Avenue and then ride the El to downtown Philly. I can hear those metal wheels clacking as I write this. The most exciting part was when the train went down the ramp to become the subway. From that point on, things got dark, and the train lights came on. If you were lucky, you were in the first or last car and could see the tracks coming and going.
Most of the time, we got off at a station connected to one of the big department stores. I forget which, but it might have been Gimbles. Anyway, off to the boys’ department we went, just my brother Bill and me. My sister Roberta, being ten years my senior, did her own shopping and thus avoided being hampered by two unruly brothers.
First, my brother got his outfit, which consisted of a suit, a new dress shirt, a belt if necessary, a hat, and a tie.
After that, we went to the husky section of the boys’ department to outfit me, generally with the same items as my brother. Then, Mom would peruse the women’s department. My brother and I were so bored at that point we found solace by crawling under the racks of clothing, and on more than one time, getting lost. On rare occasions, we ate lunch at the store.
New shoes were a different journey. Mom would take us a block away to the Front Street shopping area and Pinky’s shoe store. The only brand I remember was Buster Brown. Pinky’s may have been called something else, but everybody used that name because the owner had some pink discoloration around his eyes. At least that’s what I remember.
On the eve of the big day, we boiled and colored eggs. We were generally left to do the coloring ourselves, and my older brother Bill was better at it than I was, so I got a lot of lip from him. My grandfather, who was an expert in everything, often guided our endeavors.
We would rush down the stairs on Easter morning to see the beautiful baskets with the fake colored grass. Each basket was filled with jellybeans, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chickens, and the most amazing extra-large chocolate-covered coconut Easter egg.
After Sunday school, we came home to the smell of a fabulous ham baking. Mom and Grandmom always placed cloves in the ham and basted it with ginger ale. However they made it, though, it was delicious. We always had ham, potato salad, corn, and green beans for Easter dinner. Even when I grew older and had my own family, every Easter dinner involved ham. It was always the same, and we loved it.
Oh, the memories! I tried to keep the Easter traditions alive when I got married and had my own kids, but things change, and there was no shopping for dress-up clothing. The egg dyeing lasted until my granddaughter got older, but the one thing—the main benefit, other than the religious celebration—has gone by the wayside. We no longer get together for Easter. We might have a brunch or something like that, but it isn’t the same as when we were kids. Still, I have my memories of Easters long gone in Kensington, and I appreciate that immensely.
Originally posted on The Kensington Neighborhood Alumni Group on Facebook.
Personal photos from the 1940's, to thee early 70's.