Another Useless Conshy File (This one involves an Indian Chief, a Train and a Sanitorium)December 14, 2023
Welcome 2024 in The Conshohocken’sJanuary 18, 2024
Christmas In Conshy
Looking Back 60 Years
And Other Things
By Jack Coll
12-15-23 (published 12-22-2023)
Once again it‘s Christmas time in Conshohocken, I’ve always been a fan of Christmas, but for me it’s not like it used to-be. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Christmas, I miss waking up on Christmas morning to the squealing and laughter of young children racing down the steps to see if they got a visit from the man on the sleigh who might have left a pile of gifts under our well-lit Christmas Tree.
Both of my children were born in the 1970’s and let’s just say it’s been more than a few years since I heard the pitter-patter of feet bouncing down the steps and I don’t mind saying I miss that. The entire Christmas experience for me was always highlighted by that 20-30 minutes of chaos on Christmas morning, I used the term Christmas morning meaning 5:00 to 6:00 a.m., Donna would always use the term “middle of the night!”
In our house, “one-of us,” I wore a lot of hats in my house, when Donna would say “one of us,” or “someone” or “somebody” that was code for “Jack.” So “one of us” always had to go downstairs first, all alone, to investigate if anyone had been there in the “middle of the night,” while Donna and the two kids would wait at the top of the steps. So “one of us” would go down and part of the job description of investigating meant making a pot of coffee, so the other adult waiting upstairs (Donna) with the children would have a cup of joe waiting for her when she arrived at the bottom of the steps.
So, once the tree was brightly lit, and package’s straightened out from the two cats investigating all night, (we later learned that the best way to keep cats away from screwing up your tree and gifts on Christmas eve was too tightly wrap a sack of cat-nip and leave it in the middle of the floor in the other room, and if the cat-nip was properly put in a soft box and properly rapped, it would keep them busy through the night!) Once all this was taken care of, I would yell up the stairs, “you’re not gonna believe this, you guys better get down here and check this out,” and the chaos would begin.
These are my memories, and knock on any door, or stop and talk to anyone that’s raised kids, and I’m sure they’ll give you different details of their memories, but it all ends the same, with kids tearing open packages with you witnessing the most wonderful expressions of joy on their faces that you’ve ever seen!
Well, I can’t go back all those years to relive those memories, but I can take us back 60 years or so, if you grew up in Conshohocken, and are of a certain age, you might recall lower Fayette Street, a place where a lot of Christmas shopping still took place.
Although the shopping district was still thriving on lower Fayette Street, the once popular strip was showing cracks with less shoppers traveling in and out of the once popular store-fronts.
Going back to 1940 when according to the U.S. census, the Conshohocken Shopping District, that included Fayette Street from Second Avenue down to the bridge, and along the one and two hundred blocks of Marble, Elm, Hector Street and First Avenue there was 240 retail and service outlets in the borough, most of them family owned.
Well, by 1963, the Plymouth Square Shopping Center had opened offering 960 FREE parking spaces, close to the store-fronts which was a big feature. In Conshohocken you had a limited number of parking meters, sometimes forced to park blocks away in rain and cold weather, and if your meter expired, well, you know.
When the shopping center was under construction two years earlier a number of Fayette Street businesses signed on for the move including F. W. Woolworths Five and Dime Store once located at First Avenue and Fayette Street, the current location of Nudy’s Café. Should you be walking past Nudy’s or stopping in for a meal, as you approach the front door, look down and notice a tile entrance-way with a “W” in the middle of the tiles, that “W” of course stood for “Woolworths.”
With the shopping center open for business, and a number of local industry’s closing down, well, by 1963 business on lower Fayette Street was on the decline. Cracks could be seen in a number of the more than nearly one hundred-year-old buildings with a few boarded-up store fronts and a couple of whitewashed windows.
But if you were shopping on lower Fayette street 60 years ago, here’s a few of the retail outlets, along with a few of the services being offered and of course a couple of taprooms you might have stopped in at, just for a sandwich of course. And just for fun let’s recall a few other Conshy businesses that were around in 1963.
A lot of our senior residents can recall George Rafferty’s Pharmacy once located at 57 Fayette Street. In 1963 Conshohocken had five pharmacy’s including McClements Pharmacy operated by Jules Rosenberg at Sixth Avenue and Fayette Street. We also had the Fayette Pharmacy at 902 Fayette Street and then there was Doughtery’s Pharmacy at Fourth Avenue and Fayette Street. Samuel Katz owned the Peoples Drug Store once located at 301 East Hector Street.
One of the Fayette Street staples for decades was Kehoe’s Hardware Store once located at 109 Fayette Street. There was Claire’s Wearing Apparel at 73 Fayette Street, Anthony’s Men Shop at 117 Fayette Street, Cameo Beauty Shop was at 60 Fayette Street, Jennifer Kaufholz was the proprietor in 1963.
A few of us might remember The Best Shop at 116 Fayette Street, if you needed a hair-cut, and all the latest town gossip you went to Benny and Red’s at 26 Fayette Street, just off the bridge.
Let’s see, OK, Christmas shopping, let’s start at Jacobson’s Men’s and Boy’s Store at 69 Fayette Street, The Highland Shop Men’s Wear located at 108 ½ Fayette Street run by Len Talone and later by Mr. Tomaszewski. While the Woolworths store was long-gone residents still loved shopping at W. T. Grants at 108 Fayette Street.
Perhaps one of the most visited Fayette Street Stores in 1963 was Charlie Hicks Music Store once located at 70 Fayette Street, next to Herb Wilkenson’s Meat Provisions store, who was next door neighbors with the Riant Theatre.
There were many popular records flying off the record racks, for your enjoyment, if you were in fact a music fan in 1963, here is an extended list of a few songs you might have heard on the radio back in 1963, and purchased at Charlie Hicks Store.
Do you remember??
Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer by Nat King Cole
Walking The Dog by Rufus Thomas
The Night Has A Thousand Eyes by Bobby Vee
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
Just One Look by Doris Troy
Judy’s Turn to Cry by Lesley Gore
Donna The Prima Donna by Dion
Another Saturday Night by Sam Cooke
Go Away Little Girl by Steve Lawrence
Come and Get These Memories by Martha Reeves and the Vandella’s
One Fine Day by The Chiffons
Little Town Flirt by Del Shannon
Sugar Shack by the Fireballs
Surfin USA by The Beach Boys
End of the World by Skeeter Davis
Rhythm of the Rain by The Cascades
He’s So Fine by The Chiffons
Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton
Blowin In The Wind by Peter Paul and Mary
Hey Paula by Paul and Paula
So Much In Love by The Tymes
Wipe Out by The Surfaris
Walk Like A Man by The Four Seasons
I Will Follow Him by Little Peggy March
It’s My Party by Leslie Gore
You Can’t Sit Down by The Dovells
Heat Wave by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
Walk Right In by The Rooftop Singers
If You Want To Be Happy by Jimmy Soul
Be My Baby by The Ronettes
South Street by the Orlons
Two Faces Have I by Lou Christie
Da Doo Ron Ron by The Crystals
You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me by The Miracles
Devil In Disguise by Elvis Presley
In 1963 we had some very serious music with tunes like, “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah, (A letter From Camp)” by Allan Sherman
And we were rebels in 1963, getting songs banned from the radio like “Puff The Magic Dragon “ sung by Peter, Paul and Mary
There were other banned songs in the 1960’s including “Tell Lauria I Love Her,” by Ray Peterson, “My Generation,” by The Who, “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” by The Rolling Stones, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” by The Beatles, “Love Me Two Times,” by The Doors, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by The Sherrills, (A real head-scratcher) By the way the song still went to Number One on the charts, (As a lot of banned songs did) and by-the-way, the Sherrills were the first black female group to see a Number One hit according to Hot 100 Billboard Hits.
“Leader of the Pack” by The Shangri-Las was also banned, viewed as a teen tragedy when Jimmy takes off and crashes his motorcycle.
This song was banned, although it never made sense to me, “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys. The story is it was thought broadcasters banned the song because of the suicidal inference in “So What good would living do me.” Surprisingly, the reason for its ban across much of the United States was for the use of the word “God” in a rock song.
How about this one, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. The powers that be didn’t like the lyric “Making love in the green grass,” perhaps “Making love on the rocks” might have been OK.
Oh, and lets finish with this one, “Louie Louie,” of course, by the Kingsmen. “Louie Louie” wasn’t just banned from the radio, Nooooo, it was investigated by the FBI, I kid you not. However, true story, the only obscene lyric, or groan, happened when the drummer fumbled his drumstick and admitted he dropped the “F” bomb that can be faintly heard at the 54 second mark into the song, I’ll bet the FBI didn’t pick-up on that.
By the way, most of us were introduced to the Beatles in 1963 when they had two top ten hits with “Please, Please Me” and “From Me To You.”
Before we move on with a few other Conshohocken stores and services from 1963, I did mention the Riant Theatre, and many of us have Riant Theatre memories from over the years, so here are a few of the more popular movies from 1963, when Hollywood’s biggest stars were still shinning.
The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Charles Bronson
The Birds starring Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette
4 for Texas starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Charles Bronson and Anita Ekberg
Irma La Douce starring Jack Lemon and Shirley MacLaine
Lillies of the Field starring Sidney Poitier
Love With The Proper Stranger starring Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow staring Sophia Loren
Charade starring Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau and James Coburn
Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison and Pamela Brown
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World staring Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman and Mickey Rooney
The List of Adrian Messenger starring Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster
McLintock! Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Patrick Wayne and Stefanie Powers
Son of Flubber starring Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olsen
A New Kind of Love starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
The Prize starring Paul Newman, Edward G. Robinson, Elke Sommer and Diane Baker
Back to Conshohocken businesses in 1963, J A Warrell’s store once located at Second Avenue and Fayette Street was a great variety store selling appliances, car tires, bicycles, pots and pans toys and everything in between. Caddy-corner to Warrell’s at Second Avenue and Fayette Street was Wallace’s Jewelers and next to Warrell’s at 123 Fayette Street was the Brown Derby, owned at that time by Pat and Irene Bello.
Down at 49 Fayette Street was General Gifts & Novelty Company owned by Vincent Agostinelli, if you had a sweet tooth then you enjoyed going to Laverty & McGuier Whiteman Candy and Ice Cream Store at 63 Fayette Street. Down at Elm and Fayette Streets was Sam Gabin’s Hardware Store. There was Redmond Shoe Store, Dominic’s Shoes, Flocco’s Shoes, (97 years in business now) Wilder’s Fine Footwear, Charles Guarino’s Hair Saloon, Albert’s Hair Stylist, Landi Barber Shop, Anthony’s Men’s Shop, Conshohocken Flower Shop, Baldwin Flower Shop Shirley’s Market, and Ray’s Appliance Store.
If you got hungry or thirsty on your shopping spree there were plenty of places to eat and drink, we had the 401 Diner, owned by Bill Danitz, there was Paciello’s Bar at 51 Fayette Street, The Fayette Grill at 826 Fayette Street and Carr’s Tavern once located at Tenth Avenue and Fayette Street. Of course, Wally’s Grill was always open down at East Sixth Avenue and Wells Street.
In 1963, lower Fayette Street was still thriving, a retail district lined with family owned and operated businesses. Within a decade nearly everything from the First Avenue down to the bridge was on the demolition block. When it was over in the mid 1980’s,
More than 600 residents had been relocated,
More than 55 businesses had been relocated,
And hundreds of buildings had been demolished.
Sixty years ago, Conshohocken industry was on the decline, a mass exodus of residents began, and a dark chapter in the borough’s history was well underway.
More than 25 acres of land in the lower end of town went up for grabs for developers, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, to draw-up plans of their future vision for Conshohocken, they all promised retail outlets on the street level, for the residents and office personnel to shop at. All those promises never materialized. It wasn’t until the summer of 2021 that a coffee shop, “Perks” opened on the first floor in the Amerisource Bergen Building located on the corner of First Avenue and Fayette Street that Conshohocken had a public access retail outlet in the redevelopment area.
With all that being said, Conshohocken still has plenty of retail outlets to shop at during this holiday season. Many of these small businesses are the same businesses that help support our little league baseball and football programs. Many of these business support our library and our community outreach programs run through the Colonial Neighborhood Council. Going back through the years these same businesses contributed to the Fellowship House programs, the summer programs in the park and every fundraiser ever run in this borough.
The small businesses in and around Conshohocken is, and always has been the heartbeat of Conshohocken. These family businesses would appreciate your consideration during this holiday season. And one final thing, over the past 50 years, I can personally say that every fundraiser that has ever been given, our food industry has contributed to the event at no charge from the Conshohocken Bakery to the delicatessens to the Boat House and Great American Pub, all of our restaurants have always stepped up for charity events, I can’t think of anyone who has ever refused. So, if your considering shopping and eating out over the holidays, I would like to say in advance, Thank You for your continued support to the businesses that have supported Conshohocken over the years.
Are you looking for that perfect gift! Two tickets to the “Fayette Gala” an event sponsored by the Conshohocken Adult Prom Committee, would guarantee you and a loved one a perfect night out. This years event will be held on February 24, 2024, at the Great American Pub located at 123 Fayette Street. Tickets are limited and can be purchased at Coll’s Custom Framing at 324 Fayette Street. Instead of buying him another pair of socks, give the gift of a very memorable evening.
Merry Christmas, stay safe, stay healthy, and to everyone who gets to hear the pitter-patter of footsteps, racing down the steps on Christmas morning, you should know that, yes, I’m a little-bit jealous!
Thanks for the Memories!