Monday, December 28, 2009

Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia PA

One of the things Christmas does for all of us is make us nostalgic for earlier times. We live in Texas but we grew up in Philadelphia and all our relatives are in that area. From 1961 to 1978 I lived in the Northeast section of the city. We lived in various houses but always within walking distance of Frankford Avenue, generally called "The Avenue" by locals. Frankford Avenue has a long history. It was once an Indian trail and in colonial times, it was the main highway to New York City. In August 2007 I was in Philly and took a walk along The Avenue. Here are some of my photos.This may just look like a tree but it isn't just any tree. In 1963 or so, my Boy Scout troop, with the help of local merchants, planted trees for several miles along Frankford Avenue. Many of them still survive. This is one of the survivors.
When we first moved into the area, this was the Pennypack Movie Theater. It closed soon after we moved there and I never actually saw a movie there. It was a furniture store for many years and is now a dollar store. It still has the original marquee.
This building dates back to colonial times. Located at Rhawn and Frankford it is at the center of what was the town of Holmesburg before it was incorporated into Philadelphia many years ago. When I was a kid, this was a drugstore. When my mother was a kid it was a drugstore. As a teenager she hung out at the soda fountain there.
In the late 1960s this was a Jack-in-the-Box fast food place. It was the first fast food restaurant in the neighborhood. As I remember you could get hamburgers for a dime. We used to spend a lot of time there.
This is a portion of The Avenue where real retail district starts. Although Frankford Avenue for most of it's length has many retail stores, from here and for the next 10 blocks or so it is all retail. It really doesn't look much different now than it did then. Except I don't remember there being chain fences in front of the windows. Times do change.
Moe's. A fine Philadelphia delicatessen. One thing you don't see too much in my part of Texas. Great lunch meat (cold cuts to the rest of you) and great bread. One of my old Philly friends moved to New England in the early 1980s. Every time we visited him we had to bring him rye bread from Moes.
The Mayfair Diner. A dying breed, the railroad car diner. This has been the Mayfair diner since about 1920. The current place was built in the 1940s. It's a classic and seems to still do a good business. Barak Obama visited there in October 2008 while running for president. My sister-in-law was there for the occasion.

This is the corner of Frankfort and Cottman Avenue. The heart of the retail district. This furniture store used to be a classy woman's dress store called The York Shop where my Mom used to buy clothes.
Also at Frankford and Cottman, this used to be the Mayfair Movie Theater. The taller structure in the back was the actual theater. The part in the front, which is now a bank, was the lobby. It was a drug store for a long time before the bank moved in. I didn't go in so I don't know what they are using the old auditorium for these days.
This Family Dollar store was a Woolworth's when I lived there. My Mom used to work there, dressing the windows, in the 1940s. It had wooden floors and a soda fountain, even in the 1960s.

Well, that's it. I hope I didn't bore you too much. Or, if you're an old Philadelphian far from home, I hope you enjoyed this little trip down the Avenue of memories.


Jim said...

It was great to read your recollections of the Avenue - thanks!

Stan Denski said...

I remember the Mayfair theater; they ran serials before the movie and we went every Saturday. I also remember the Merben. The Merben was opened in 1950 with seating for 2100. It closed in 1977 and was later torn down. It was at 7145 Frankford Avenue. It was named for 2 brothers, Merton and Ben. Those two theaters were IT before the Orleans opened across the Boulevard in 1963. It was where I saw The Beatles film "Help!" in 1965. It was where I saw "Apocalypse Now" in 1979 - I saw it on a Friday and went back 3 more times in the next 2 days. It closed in 2007. Where do people go to the movies now?

jacobmrley said...

i used to live down the street from this diner:

pretty much the same kind of rr car. although i live in the land of the diner, this is still the best joint i ever ate in.

Matt said...

Thanks for writing this up! I grew up in Cheltenham but spent tons of time in the Northeast so much of what you wrote about Frankford was familiar. Not having lived there for 10 years, I like to look back nostalgically. The Orleans that somebody mentioned a couple of comments back was where we generally saw movies when I was little!

deal said...

You will also be happy to know that the Intersection of Frankford and Cottman was featured last year when the Phils won the World Series. THousands of fans spilled out of restaraunts and bars in the area and partied at that intersection.

Dave Nisula said...

Those remembering that era may also remember Lincoln High at Ryan and Rowland which opened in 1950 as a "state of the art" facility. Sadly that has fallen to the wreckers ball and a new school has risen behind it where the athletic field used to be.

Anonymous said...

Great read! I grew up on Cottman Avenue one block from Frankford. I still remember 1976 when the Flyers won the Stanley cup and there were people streaking on the billboards above the "York" shop. I also used to "hang out" at the Jack in the Box. I also remeber back in the sixties, I don't remember the year but there was a solar eclipse, and you could go to the Mayfair for an all day monsterfest where John the owner or manager hired staff to dress as monsters and walk up and down the aisles and scare people. Does anyone remember the pinball parlor on the side of the mayfair?

Michele Stipe said...

I recall the old white twin houseon 8938 frankford avenue and there was a Rev and his family who use to live there. Anybody recall?
The house was a big old white house and in the back had woods.Anyway, I recall many of things there on frankford avenue.

Joanna said...

Wow. I just happened to be trying to find a pix of the Mayfair theater to send to a friend and found your site. I lived just off of Welsh Road. I went to the same theaters, same diner, shopped with my mom at the York dress shop, had sodas at the same fountain at Rhawn and Frankford (vanilla sodas were the best). Eeep! Thanks so much for posting these.

J.H. Brown School, 8th Grade Class of 1962