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Jul 9 12 11:07 PM

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Continuing the way we were...

Two of the greatest innovations to hit the Germantown of my youth were: The Escalator in Rowell's Department Store and the Photo Booth @ Woolworth's.   I, (along with friends), was banned from both by management--"Too loud, too mischievous and way too sugared-up" they told me.  "You cannot ride up and down on our Escalator yelling about being on a Magic Carpet and squealing 'Open Sesame!'. This just wont do; it disturbs the  customers." they said.  I suppose I had just been exposed to the Arabian tales of Ali Baba and was just acting out.  That's how it went at Rowell's.  Down the avenue @ Woolworth's, my ostracism was a bit more dramatic and certainly more humorous.  Another young friend and I decided we were going places, going to see the world and we needed some passport photos.  Off we went to the little photo booth located along a side wall inside Woolworth's.  For a quarter we could slide past the green privacy curtain,   slap some spit on our unruly hair, smile and await the warning light that alerted you that your photo would be taken.  Unfortunately, our attempt to create a serious passport picture came out pretty grainy (these early photos were not of the highest quality) and resembled some I've seen on Post Office walls.  We needed to be more creative. Both of us would have to get in the booth, stick our fingers up our noses and make goofy faces.  Kids stuff.  This was fun but eventually we concluded we would have to moon the camera--take butt pictures.  Naturally, nothing is more contagious than laughter.  We soon attracted a crowd which drew the attention of the store manager, who wasn't amused with our pictures of moons without noses.  We were 86th when we were approximately six.  I felt we were going to miss out on the 20th Century.
Kevin McKernan

Kevin Mc Kernan

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#1 [url]

Jul 10 12 3:40 AM

Kevin,   Very entertaining account of Rowell's escalator!  Rowell's escalator was my first escalator and a real challenge to hand-eye coordination at the age of 5.  From my young eyes, a Hollywood movie could have been filmed there.  The art deco interior, the perfumes, the ladies dresses, all were props for Norma Desmond, in Sunset Boulevard.  

As for the photo booth, I still have pictures taken in that very seat.   Perhaps poor picture quality, but without a doubt, archival quality photo paper.  As a child, I, like Norma Desmond, was always ready for my close up.  

Joe Gillis: You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.
 Norma Desmond: I *am* big. It's the *pictures* that got small. 

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#3 [url]

Jul 10 12 10:49 AM

Denise--I hope you didn't wear those new "high-heels" on the escalator. Mom told me if your shoes/foot got caught in the treads at the bottom, you would be sucked into the basement and cut up into little pieces. Even at a young age, I didn't believe her. As far as I was concerned, I had "a ticket to ride" the magic carpet while Mom talked to woman with blue hair about perfume...Kevin

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#5 [url]

Jul 10 12 4:44 PM

Vera, How right you are! I had forgotten about the ladies room. The entire building was an eloquent experience. Kevin, Are you sure you mom was wrong? Mine had a very similar story, which to this day, makes me a very cautious on escalators. Our moms may have been on to something. Their stories had us behaving! Hollow Girl.

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#6 [url]

Jul 11 12 12:32 PM

Hollow Girl,

Your reference to "Sunset Blvd." and Norma's comeback: "I am big.  It's the pictures that got small." was excellent.  When I contemplate what was Germantown with what it has become, I'm left with one pithy word-- "Rosebud."  Citizen Kane kept articles of his youth in storage; we have to be content to keep our memories alive mentally, with frequent mention on sites like this to keep them alive.  I am very grateful that none of our Woolworth's photos ended up on milk cartons or Post Office walls...but we were ready, just in case.

Finally, worry not about me and Mom's advise, most of what she taught me stuck--for better or worse.  I never miss the opportunity to take the stairs when that option is available (healthy).  When forced to take a "people mover," I take a long stride on and a longer stride off, steering well clear of those "Teeth of Death."  Why take the chance, eh?  H.G., keep up your most interesting posts.  They have been very encouraging.

JBS:  On behalf of the Irish-American Nation, I'll have a small drink of vino (nein whiskey) for your brother Ken's rapid recovery.  You may tell him that when my dear Grandmother was struck by a truck, my Grandfather pulled the bugger driving it out of his cab and beat him within a inch of his life.  They handled these matters a little differently back in the day.


Kevin Mc Kernan

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#7 [url]

Jul 11 12 2:44 PM

Kevin:   I agree with you about the importance or reminiscing and keeping our memories alive.  Staying active, both mentally and physically allows for healthy aging.   

JBS:  I will keep your brother in my thoughts.   I wish for him a speedy recovery.   

Now, here's something that just came to mind.  I used to take the 53 trolley every day.  On those very cold days, it seemed as if it would never arrive.  Desperation being the mother of invention, we would place an ear up against a pole to listen for the vibration of a trolley coming down the track.  Whether the pole was attached to the trolley's electricity in any way is long forgotten.  However, we swore it worked as well as placing a conch shell to our ear and hearing the sound of the ocean.  In some magical way, as only children can believe, we could hear the trolley coming and the cold of the street corner became tolerable again.  

Whenever I watch The Christmas Story and see this scene, I think of those moments in time.  Our crowd never took the same approach to the pole as this youngster, thank goodness.  A bare ear on the pole was torture enough!

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#9 [url]

Jul 11 12 6:01 PM

Kevin McKernan,
                            I appreciate the toast to Brother Ken who graduated from The Jesuit High School in North Philly, the same year that you graduated from CD. Like you, I prefer Vino and Ken would like to hangout in Dublin with some Paddy[Whiskey] and stout at an Irish Pub. He would not have a problem walking down a dark.dan,k and dirty alley to shoot pool if he would find a fish and not a shark. He would enjoy talking with The McKernan Brothers about life and the world-he has a lot of miles on that Germantown face. Germantowners are survivors and it has served us well in this game of life. One never knows what life and God has in store for us. One has to keep swinging albeit the curves in the road and the curveballs can be overwhelming. My observation is that things are going well for You and Brother Jim in Ireland. What's up with Brother Bernie? The last time ,I saw him was at LaFontna's in Hatboro and the lad was holding court.I hope that he is navigating the waters of Annapolis on his big boat. The McKernan Brothers have great residences-Sana Barbara,Annapolis,and Ireland. I do find it interesting, that you like wine and Professor Jim likes Irish Whiskey. When I was hanging out with Professors, I drank wine. I hang out in various marinas on The Jersey Shore,and these salty Irish Lads are characters and they like the strong stuff. One guy owned The Dunes in Somers Point and today, he repossesses boats. Many of the former boat owners were not surgeons-especially the ones In Ft. Lauderdale and South Beach-you get my drift. I do not want to keep him company since I do not like to travel with Smith&Wesson- I am just a reserved guy from The Prep. At the hospital, the nurse says to me that I know where Ken received his wounds and she asked me where I got my interesting features. In my callow youth, I danced with the wrong Fraulein. Sometimes, One should say "Nein", and sometimes
we have to keep trucking and stay clear of mean  motor truckers.                          JBS


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#10 [url]

Jul 11 12 10:46 PM

JB Schmitt--with a "t"--
Brother Ken may be consoled, or even acting on a little Confucian wisdom "Man who wants to meet pretty nurse must be patient."  Perhaps you should have followed this wise oriental's advise when he warned one to beware of Ladies with "filthy, frigging, ferocious boy friends"  during your forays down those dirty, dank and dark pathways...but it was interesting, wasn't it.  :-) 

Did I ever mention  that I spent many years with a beautiful, Viking namesake of yours: a Ms. Schmidt--with a "d".  Met her in San Francisco during the Summer of Love.  She was reared in Wisconsin, won First Place in Watertown's Miss Bratwurst beauty contest-- Hey, this was a big deal in that part of the country--a place that rolled and tied their hay--didn't bale it.  I liked her little town on the Rock River.  It was settled mainly by German immigrants who established the first Kindergarten in America (1856).  They drank a lot of Milwaukee beer, ate vats full of the sweetest tasting corn you can imagine, along with their brats...and watched the placid Rock river slowly make its way to the Gulf, via the Mississippi.  Good "fly-over country." Great Farmer's Markets.  I might add that they still drink much of their water from Artesian wells, the kind we used to have in Wister Woods and the Wissahickon... but are now polluted I am told.  Progress.
Kevin the "Bratmon"

Kevin Mc Kernan

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#11 [url]

Jul 12 12 7:36 AM

Hollow Girl,
                   Ken and I appreciate your prayers and you must have a direct line to The Lord since he is not in crtical condition and must get walking and breathing-his dancing days are over but maybe with God's Grace, he will be able to shoot pool again. I trust that you had some sun and fun at the beautiful beaches of Wildwood. I have a few friends who retired in Wildwood and it is going well. One of them,Bob Dolge,is a Jazz DJ for the local station. Back in the day, I enjoyed some cool-Jazz and did the whole nine-yards,Pep's,NYC,etc. and all the time that I squandered in my callow youth. Last Saturday was so darn hot that I did not visit Spring Lake and The Jersey Shore. One has to be a masochist to go the beach 100-degree heat. I could have hung out in a marina and consumed some Vino, however it is difficult to drink Red Wine in extreme heat. I am a reserved guy but I did not just get off the turnip-truck. Your new friend, The California Kid,and Connoisseur of Vino, would send me to a doctor if I drank red wine in that brutal heat. As we age gracefully, we must use common-sense[Tom Paine]  and use some of the street-smarts that we acquired in Germantown and in your case, the many experiences that you had at The Hollow and the great trolley-car that went by The Hollow-"The 53". I would conjecture that you are a Little Flower Pot and but did not partake of that substance. I read in Kevin McKernan's last post that he was out in San Francisco in the 60's and I was in LA when pot could be smelled all over the place. The 60's were wild with all the weed and grass. Last week, I was sitting on the boardwalk with one of my brothers and in the bench next to us,the folks were passing the reefer. They were of a different ethnic group and I wanted to be politically correct and I avoided any exhortation. My vocabulary on this forum can be a little pedantic but I can get down and dirty since I did not spend my entire life doing research in libraries. In my callow youth,if I had been with some of the characters that I knew who were union-organizers, we would have done the right thing and told them to smoke your stuff in your fudging car. Girl! The world is a changing[Dylan] and we have to accept it.       Burkes'  Neighbor-JBS

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#12 [url]

Jul 12 12 9:14 PM

Kevin McKernan,
                            That was a cute little story about the German-American Babe that you romanced in California. Frauleins like their bratwursts whether in Munich or San Francisco. With my German heritage, I danced with a few Frauleins in Germany and The States. In college, I dated a real Fraulein who was a nurse and worked on the Boulevard at The Masonic Home. We  spoke in German until she learned better English and then took up with an older guy who she thought was Ben Frankin-you get my drift. Your comment about jealous boyfriends expressed in alliterative style resonated with me vicariously. Back in the day,Brother Bernie and I spent some time on Route 73 where there were some hot-spots. I stopped at The Charles Lounge,dark and full of lounge-lizards and femme fatales. I just wanted to quench my thirst and I was chasing glass and not that other stuff. Low and behold, I strike up a conversation with a well-coiffed mademoiselle. After we talked, she asked me to walk her to her large green Lincoln Town-car. I had a bad read on what was going down and we were being watched. I would not have been worried if I thought that they were Law-enforcement but the dudes observing us, were dudes who rolled on the different side of the aisle-one had to  be carefull in that part of Jersey. When you were in San Fran in the 60's, I was in LA and hanging out at The Whiskey A-GO -GO ON The Strip. I get in The Long Line with some lads behind a couple with Toga Outfits. As the line moves,the guy is behind the chick and they are doing The Greek Bunny Hop. You have been to Athens and studied The Greek Philosophers and you know what I mean. LA was wild in the 60's and I was told Frisco was Crazy. You must have had some wild and crazy times-especially if you had been with your brothers. I see that your Brother Jim actually likes Wine where he is congruous with taste but you like The Reds and he likes Chardonay. I am not a Connoisseur of Wine but when I hung out in Sonoma and The Napa Valley- Your Cabernets were outstanding. In Germany, Rhein  Wine is excellent if one likes Whites. Traveling with Ludmila often to Argentina, I got hooked on Malbec. Having a steak-dinner &Malbec with somebody special and topped with a mid-night special is ethereal. Keep posting and we will read and respond.                      JB Schmitt

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#13 [url]

Jul 13 12 8:58 AM


           Dear Ken-------
                                So sorry to hear of your recent misfortune.
You are in my thoughts and prayers.
                                Please have a rapid recovery.
frank klock.

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#14 [url]

Jul 13 12 2:23 PM

Frank Baggs Klock,
                                 I just came back from Abington Hospital and Ken was so happy that he received a nice card from his old friend from SFA and Hawk Hill-Frank Baggs Klock. Ken knows that Frank Klock is not only smart but has a big heart. Ken will not forget your kind words and he would die for you. He is the type of guy that you want in your fox-hole. One never forgets old friends and Frank Kloch is held in high regard by The Schmitt Brothers of Germantown. Baggs! Hang in with The Phillies and let's have a victory tonight.              Schmitty

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#15 [url]

Jul 19 12 4:41 PM


I'll bet no one has ever accused you of being self-effacing.  That photo you submitted of yourself and Ms Hottie is iconic--only thing missing is the gold chain and chest hair.  I'm thinking very late sixties or early seventies?  Bet you can't fit into that outfit now, lad.   BTW, is that by any chance your sister?  There's a similarity you both appear to share.  Almost (not quite) makes me want to go to the closet and see if any of my old 'rags' have come back into style.  But i'll die contented if that horrible, polyester Disco style never reappears...

I admire your evolving thoughts on the Vietnam War.  It's not easy to recognize and accept the fact that we were lied to by our elected officials.  But we were!  I began the sixties--which I loved--by answering President Kennedy's question: "What can you do for your country?"  "Here I am, take me" I responded.  This was 1962.  Six weeks into boot camp, we were told to prepare for a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, if their ships, carrying nuclear weapons, crossed some imaginary red line near Cuba.  WTF?  One grows up quickly faced with such a threat.  So a decade that started out with a near nuclear war would end with a real war as the  decade ended.  I. along with countless other students and flower children tried hard to stop that madness, but that vast, "silent majority," fearful of their own children, elected a "law and order" paranoid, President Nixon, who had a "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War honorably.  He didn't!  Instead he expanded it.  Doubled down, because, in his own words, "I do not want to be the first American President to lose a war."  He and Kissinger could have achieved everything in 1968 that they settled for in Paris, 1973.  I mourn the loss of so many friends and classmates that died between the Tet Offensive (1968) until the helicopters lifted off the US Embassy roof 1973.  It was a terrible legacy we left behind, a city, Saigon, filled with bars and whore houses.  Thirty years later, we would again be lied to in the build-up to the Iraq War (recall Weapons of Mass Destruction, Mushroom clouds, "The smoking gun" etc) and make the same mistake all over again...and it still goes on.  Soldiers have always done their duty, it's our leaders that have let us down-- Badly, time after time.  Between these bookend wars, life went on throughout the sixties and it was good.

Kevin McKernan

Kevin Mc Kernan

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#16 [url]

Jul 19 12 11:37 PM


Be assured that the young lady in the picture with me was not my sister, nor any other family relative. I wasn't that big on jewelry or the opened shirts with all the chest hair showing. I guess it was my Catholic school background, that inspired me to always wear some sort sort of necktie. I am sure you remember that the style at the time, was either the greatly styled and colored wide ties, or “The Apache” neck wear. Yes I believe the picture was either the late 60's or early 70's. I have a strange way of remembering different times in my life, by the car I had at the time. When I was dating that young lady, actually she was two years older then me, I had my 1969 Buick Electra 225 convertible.

Did you also enlist in the Navy in 1962, and if so did you go to Great Lakes for boot camp? If you did, it appears we were both there at the same time, since I also remember a few of the barracks being emptied in the middle of the night in October, to send recently graduated recruits out to the fleet.

Not mine, but the same color that I had. One of my favorite cars that I owned.

John Fleming Florida's favorite uncle Uncle Johnny

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#18 [url]

Jul 20 12 7:26 AM

USNJohn, What a great ride you subtle! I can only imagine what you would have done to the hearts of our CD Ladies had you pulled up to school in something like that. Very impressive car, John. I had an embarrassing, little green, sunroof VW at the same time (1969). Those were school years for me and it was the best I could manage on my G.I. Bill and part-time work. I loved it! I was an Army Airborne guy in 1962 (101st Airborne). My brother, Jim was in the Navy, but this would have been well after you destroyed the place. Looking back, I was probably quite the hawk and totally non-political. What the hell did we know @ 18? The war changed us all. P.S. Do you there's a chance that fat ties and Paisley shirts will ever return? If so, I'm good to go. Puke redux! Kevin

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#19 [url]

Jul 20 12 7:49 AM

Guest Blogger,
                        Kevin McKernan and I, lalong with John Fleming and Joe Daggs were talking about Larry Bolger,A Brave Marine who gave His Life for our country in Vietnam. Do you have a problem with that,My Man? I was never an altar-boy,choir-boy,or boy scout but you were probaly a choir-boy and boy-scout so you can enlighten us with your days when you were hiking in the woods and roasting marshmallows.              JBS

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#20 [url]

Jul 20 12 9:08 AM

Kevin my ride at CD was the families 1947 Chevy convertible. It was originally my sisters, that was given to my father, when she got married. I didn't get the Buick, until I was out of CD and the Navy.  I was somewhat a contrarian  with my choice of wheels.  Most young men my age opted for the muscle cars of the era GTO, Camaro, Firebird etc.  I always thought I was built for comfort instead of speed!  I first remember seeing “paisley” in CD, when paisley ties made their introduction. The shirts I liked in the 60's and 70's were the Nik Nik styles. Many were really works of art. Ironically I had one, that was exactly like the one that Paul Newman, wore in the film “Slapshot”


Hey Paul I had the shirt before you did!

Me and the families '47 Chevy, 10 years before I was able to drive it.

John Fleming Florida's favorite uncle Uncle Johnny

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