Cell Phone Tower on West 3rd?March 4, 2021
Girl Scout Cookies for a Cause (the Colonial Neighborhood Council)March 11, 2021
HISTORY OF A HOUSE
Francis X. Boyle
“CHUCK WAGON PETE”
400 Block of East Eleventh Avenue.
By Jack Coll
My intention was to write another edition of “History of a House,” I was excited to be writing about a former resident of Conshohocken who lived on the 400 block of East Eleventh Avenue named Francis X. Boyle, perhaps better known as “Chuck Wagon Pete,” also known as “Uncle Pete.” The problem I ran into was while I’ve confirmed that Pete Boyle lived on the 400 block of East 11th Avenue in the 1940’s and early 1950’s, I’ve come up with two different addresses where he lived and I’m pretty sure about the one address but I simply can’t confirm it and therefor don’t want to give the wrong address.
So I thought I would proceed with the story of the former resident Pete Boyle without the exact address and perhaps give a little history of the area in and around East Eleventh Avenue.
In the mid 1700’s Jasper Farmer and his family were the earliest and most extensive purchasers of land in Whitemarsh as well as the first of its settlers. Part of the Whitemarsh tract he purchased would later become the East Side of Conshohocken. Major Jasper Farmer was an officer in the British army and a resident of Cork, Ireland. Hearing of the advantages offered by William Penn in colonizing this province induced him to purchase from Penn, by a patent dated January 31, 1683, two tracts, containing together five thousand acres. When all arrangements had been made for the voyage Major Farmer died, when his widow, Mary and their eight children, proceeded on the ship “Bristol Merchant,” from Ireland to Philadelphia, they arrived on November 10, 1685, it was Mary who settled Whitemarsh Township.
In 1850 Conshohocken incorporated acquiring land from both Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships. David Harry purchased 1250 acres on the Whitemarsh side of the borough which included the entire East Side of Conshohocken.
Eventually members of the Jones family purchased a large portion of the East Side of the borough from David Harry. By by the turn of the century there was a building boom in Conshohocken and in 1911 a syndicate of capitalists from New York and Cincinnati, composed of men well known to the country, one of whom, Malcolm McAvoy, Esq., who was an associate of Judge Ferris and formerly actively associated with former President Taft. The group purchased the entire Isaac Jones tract and development on East Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Avenues began becoming known as “Conshohocken Heights.”
Sometime between 1915 and 1920 the Lee Tire & Rubber Company purchased a large plot of ground that covered East Tenth Avenue and East Eleventh Avenue between Wells and Jones Street. In 1922 Lee offered his employees an opportunity to purchase lots of ground. The Lee Company hired a Philadelphia architect company who prepared plans for the construction of attractive houses. The houses were all to be different styles using different materials, the avenue sports some two story houses along with some bungalow style houses. By the fall of 1922 employees of the Lee Tire & Rubber Company were moving into their new houses on East Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.
A few of the original home owners included A. F. Barron, Eugene Quinn, Felix Lebreque, Albert Linsley, William Reilly, Leo Strouse, W. J. Kay and T. J. Whalen. Some years later when it was time for these original home-owners to move on new residents moved in on the block.
In the 1940’s one of those new residents was Francis X. “Pete” Boyle. (Again I have conflicting reports with two different addresses so I won’t say what house it was)
Pete Boyle was an extremely interesting fellow. Pete was a commercial artist for Philadelphia Electric Company when his television career began in 1947 with an hour long television show. The program was designed to sell stoves, and cooking demonstrations were featured. To fill in time while the food was being prepared, Boyle drew cartoons, talking all the while. Boyle was an oil and watercolor artist. His early works were shown at many exhibitions in the Philadelphia area. He attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he won several scholarships.
By 1950, at WPTZ, Boyle had become a staple on Philadelphia television. He stayed on Channel 3 until 1963 when it was WRCV-TV. He had a weekday show called Noontime Comics (later retitled “Lunch with Uncle Pete”) at 12:15 pm early on.
In between 1950 and 1963, following his appearances on the cooking show in January 1953 Boyle was on WPTZ seven days a week and it was all live (Video tape hadn’t been invented yet). Weekdays at 12:15 pm, he had a half hour show called Noontime Comics. On Saturdays and Sundays, it was “C’mon to Uncle Pete’s,” a half hour program. Sundays it was on 12 noon to12:30 pm and on Saturdays he was on at 11 am, sandwiched in between Rex Trailer (Ridin’ The Trail) and Grady & Hurst. “C’mon” was described as “cartoons, games, prizes for children. He had a sidekick called Snooper, (nicknamed Snoopy) the squirrel (a mascot puppet). Pete drew quick pen and paper sketches on all his programs. Sometimes, the drawings were done in charcoal. He was especially well known for his sketches. He also chatted and kidded around with the “Kids at home.”
From 1950 until 1956, he also was known as “Chuck Wagon Pete,” and ran half-hour western shows like the Cisco Kid, with the program being called “Six Gun Cinema,” he was on right after Howdy Doody and was sponsored by Sylvan Seal Milk, the house brand of the Acme Markets.
Chuck Wagon Pete was on Philadelphia television for close to two decades drawing animal characters and entertaining children. Pete moved to East Eleventh Avenue in the 1940’s and moved out of Conshohocken in the early 1950’s. Pete was in demand for personal appearances during his celebrity years while living in Conshohocken and following his time in Conshohocken.
For several years starting in 1952, Pete would march with Conshohocken Soap Box Derby contestants in the Parade of Champions on the Fourth of July. Derby entrants garbed in soldier blue helmets and white jerseys bearing the National Soapbox Derby insignia formed a Parade of Champions at the Washington Fire Company on West Hector Street. The parade led by the Conshohocken High School Band, members of the Washington Fire Company, the Burgesses (Mayors) of both Conshohocken and West Conshohocken, Edmund K. Williams of Conshohocken and Burgess Harry F. Mosman of West Conshohocken and Chuck Wagon Pete as Guest of Honor among other dignitaries would march up Fayette Street to Seventh Avenue and pause at the Conshohocken High School for a flag raising ceremony and opening remarks from attending dignitaries ending with patriotic music performed by the band.
Chuck Wagon Pete was usually garbed in his western attire familiar to his TV audiences, would arrive at William A. Moore’s Home at 708 Fayette Street, Mr. Moore was the President of the Chamber of Commerce and General Chairman of the Fourth of July celebration including the soap box derby and fireworks. The TV star would sign hundreds of autographs and address the thousands of persons attending the derby over the loud speaker.
The 1950’s throughout the country was a snapshot of innocence and Conshohocken was the poster-town for growing-up in small-town America. Soap Box Derby, Fireworks, Thanksgiving Day Football, not just any football game, the Catholics against the Publics with both High School Bands marching into a sold out “A” Field. There were summer playground activities, winter at the Fellowship House, and celebrities like Chuck Wagon Pete leading the soap box derby parade up Fayette Street.
The story of the Pete Boyle residence on the 400 block of East Eleventh Avenue didn’t end when he moved out in the early 1950’s. Pete had three children including Alice, Sidney and Peter. Young Peter lived in Conshohocken as a teenager and went on to star in many television shows and movies.
Younger fans might remember Peter Jr. for his role as the deadpan, cranky Frank Barone in the CBS television sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which aired from 1996 to 2005. He starred alongside Brad Garrett, Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton and his television wife Doris Roberts.
Some long-time fans might remember him in his role as Frankenstein in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy “Young Frankenstein.”
In the early 1970’s Peter Jr. became good friends with Jane Fonda, and with her participated in many protests against the Vietnam War. The two later appeared in a movie together called “Steelyard Blues” with Jane and Donald Sutherland. He appeared with all the major stars of the day in movies including Robert Redford, Robert Mitchum and many others.
Now the Jane Fonda connection was a hidden important piece for Boyle. While on the set of Young Frankenstein Boyle met his wife, Loraine Alterman, who was on the set of Young Frankenstein while she was a reporter for Rolling Stone Magazine. Boyle asked her out for a date while still in his Frankenstein makeup. Through Alterman and her friend Yoko Ono, Boyle became very good friends with John Lennon. The two couples would spend a lot of time together where Peter and John would often talk about politics, music, war and protest. Peter had extensive knowledge and experience having protested alongside Jane Fonda. Boyle and Lennon hit it off so well that John Lennon was Peter’s Best Man at his wedding in 1977. The couple had two daughters, Lucy and Amy, needless to say neither kids ever lived in Conshohocken.
The History of a House story on the 400 block of East Eleventh Avenue pertaining to the Boyle’s father/son is a little bit of a stretch, but none-the-less somewhat interesting that both men lived in Conshohocken even if only for a short period of time.
Celebrities who have lived in or visited Conshohocken is always interesting. Perhaps when I get a little time I will draw-up a quick article on Celebrities in Conshohocken, I think that might be an interesting read.
Anyway if I come up with the proper address where the Boyle’s lived I’ll be sure to print it in a future History of a House so stay tuned.
PHOTOGRAPHS SEEN ABOVE INCLUDE:
Two recent photographs (taken in March 2021) of East Eleventh Avenue.
Pete Boyle giving a big publicity “Wave” during a photo shoot in the mid 1950’s.
Chuck Wagon Pete seen in 1962 in his television art studio with a live raccoon sitting on his shoulder.
Pete siting with Snooper, his milk-drinking squirrel in an advertisement for Acme Markets.
An advertisement from the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 21, 1952, showing Pete promoting Sylvan Seal Milk, the house-brand milk for Acme Markets at that time.
Chuck Wagon Pete signing autographs on July 4, 1952, at William Moore’s house located at 708 Fayette Street.
John Lennon and former Conshohocken resident Peter Boyle seen in 1977 at Boyle’s wedding when Lennon stood for Boyle as his Best Man.