SPRING HAS SPRUNG! Happy Easter
"Spring has sprung," my grandfather, Pop, used to say. It was a time for celebration for him because he could go fishing again. Every April the 15th, the opening day for trout fishing, he would take my brother to catch his limit. I went once or twice but never could land any trout.
I was always the weird one out. 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 dreamt of catching. I guess that's the point. The grandfather hands off his passion to a son or grandson and hopes they are able to be better at it than he was.
That wasn't me. Fishing, for me, was a chance to do something different, and I could care less if I caught any fish. In the spring, we would go to the Schuylkill River to catch catfish and carp. I was just happy to get on the 60 trolley and ride it west on Allegheny avenue to the end of the line. After a short walk, we were at the wonderful Schuylkill River. As I remember, it was always brown, and the kid's rumors said that any fish caught there and eaten would poison you. That didn't stop the city's fishermen and fisherwomen from all parts of the city from dropping their hooked worms into the muddy water. What I liked was the trappings of fishing.
There were long steps that led to the water, and that's where most people fished. It was pretty cool for a pre-teen. What thrilled me was that it differed 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 peacefulness. In reality, it was very far from being a country atmosphere, but to me, it was.
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. When I was growing up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia during the 1950s, Easter was a big deal. A huge deal. My family wasn't particularly religious back then, but I guess my mom thought it might be good for her kids to get a little church in our experience, so we went to Sunday School from time to time, especially at Easter. I don't remember much about Easter Day Sunday School, but I 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 it was a place mom would also go.
We would take the number 60 trolley east to Kensington Avenue and then the El to downtown Philly. I can hear those metal wheels clacking as I write this. The most exciting part was when the train would go 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, maybe Gimbles. Anyway, off to the boy's children's department we went. It was just my brother Bill and me. My sister Roberta being ten years older than me, 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 needed, a hat and a tie.
After that, we went to the husky section of the boy's department to outfit me. It was generally the same items as my brother. Once we were taken care of, my mom would peruse the woman's department. My brother and I were so bored at that point that we found solace by crawling under the racks of clothing and, more than one time, getting lost. On rare occasions, we ate lunch at the store.
Now 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 called it Pinky's 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 on our own to do the coloring, and my older brother Bill was better at it than me, so I got much lip from him. My grandfather, who was an expert at everything, often guided our endeavors.
We would rush down the stairs on Easter morning and see the beautiful baskets with the fake-colored grass. Each basket was filled with jellybeans, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chickens, and the most amazing, super large chocolate-covered coconut Easter egg.
After Sunday school, we came home, and the house had the smell of a fabulous ham baking. My mom and always placed cloves in the ham and basted it with ginger ale. However they made it, it was delicious. We always had ham, potato salad, corn, and green beans for Easter dinner. Ham was for every Easter dinner, even when I was older with my own family. It was always the same, and we loved it. Oh, the memories. I tried to keep the tradition up when I got married and had my kids. But things changed, and there was no shopping for dress-up clothing. We did the egg dying, and that 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 brunch or something like that, but it isn't the same as when we were kids. Still, I have my memories of Easter long gone in Kensington, and I appreciate that immensely.
The people’s photos are of my family and friends back in the day. Most are from the 1940s to the 1970s near Front and Allegheny. I grew up on the 100 block of West Wishart St.