Sunday, July 29, 2012

Edgar and the PTC trolley

In the 1930's, you could go almost anywhere in Philadelphia by trolley for 7-1/2 cents. We kids would sing "you can't get to heaven in a trolley car 'cause the PTC don't go that far." But they did make their way to San Francisco. Selma and I rode an old Philadelphia trolley with the PTC logo still visible when we visited San Francisco.

This opened up a lot of questions for me. When did they get there? How? why doesn't Tony Bennett sing about them?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Orange Tomatoes

My mother's sister, Aunt Florence, and her husband, Uncle Alec lived in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. Not nearly as romantic or picturesque a place as its name implies. Uncle Alec was one of the first soldiers who freed the prisoners from the concentration camp where lampshades were made from human skin. He remained an injured veteran of WWII for the rest of his life. He left their small Variety Store daily, to walk the half a block to the tiny railroad station to pick up their delivery of newspapers and magazines. That was it!!

We used to visit them 4 to 6 times a year - driving up the New Jersey Turnpike, getting off at Exit 8, Hightstown, and wending our way through the small New Jersey towns. We never went the same way twice and one time, we saw 2 young boys, manning a card table with two or three mounds of tomatoes, corn, and peppers. We stopped. The boys told us that the produce came from their own home garden. We were suckers. We stopped and bought tomatoes - red, yellow, and orange. I'm sure we bought peppers and corn too but I don't remembeer them at all. The only taste and color I remember was the orange tomatoes.

Every year, we plant tomatoes and peppers and every year we have a very nice supply of different sized tomatoes - from the little grape tomatoes through the juicy and large beefsteaks. But they have always been red. This year, and I don't know how, we have orange tomatoes. And they have the same taste, smell, and color as the orange tomatoes that I remember from one of our trips to Atlantic Highlands.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Mother's Friends

The array of women that pretended to be my mother's friends fascinated me. My mother never learned how to drive so, by and large, at least half of the women had cars. And my mother's generation believed in very small families. I have no brothers and no sisters.

One of her friends thought of herself as a gourmet cook and whe willingly agreed to share her recipes. However, she always omitted a key ingredient. Eventually, everyone learned to throw her recipes away. She had no children but bragged extensively about her niece, her brother's only child.

Another friend, also a nondriver, had two sons. When the boys were in their early teens, the family planned an automobile trip to Florida. All four of them were in the car and one of the boys complained and whined that he didn't want to go. So they stopped the car, he got out, and the three of them proceeded on the automobile trip to Florida. When my mother heard the story, she was horrified and asked, "Weren't you worried?" "No. I knew he would make his way to his grandparents' house." Many years later, my mother's friend didn't feel well and after listening to her complaints for a couple of weeks, my mother encouraged her to make a doctor's appointment. She told my mother, who asked "Is he any good?" Her answer, "I hope not. I don't want him to find anything."

Another of her friends, also childless, but a driver, would take her shopping from time to time. This woman was very tiny and I wondered how she could see over the steering wheel. But her driving saved my father and me many trips.

Perhaps her best friend, short and very stout, a driver with a wonderful sense of humor and two daughters, never lost her patience with my mother. I don't remember the reason, but shortly after the Roosevelt Boulevard extension of the Schuylkill Expressway opened, my mother and her friend went shopping in the NorthEast. My mother was a brilliant woman but she had a limited sense of direction. For example, when she came to Philadelphia from New York, 1934, she told me that she had to go to the Eagle in Wanamaker's (now Macy's) in center city to get her bearings. Then she could figure out where she was. So - my mother and her friend drove along the Roosevelt Extension and my mother told her friend, "all I know is that you have to stay all the way on the left. And, the two of them were chatting when my mother's friend started to giggle. She was not angry. Not even a little put out. My mother got the directions wrong - First, the driver had to take a right exit before getting over to the left. Not a problem for her friend who got off at Girard Avenue and wended her way back through the city streets. This same friend was told to eat at least one banana every day for its potassium. "That's not a problem," she told my mother. "I have a banana split with two scoops of ice cream over my banana every night before I go to bed."

Of course, there were women connected with the PTA but they were activity specific. And neighbors who either actively tried to convert her to their church, or sell her their latest remarkable antique finds.

Monday, July 2, 2012

We had no power on Friday night.

Our power went out around 7 o'clock on Friday night. We called PeCO and reported the outage on the automated system and were left "in the dark" as to what and where the problem was and when the power would be restored. Remember Friday night? It was VERY HOT.

Fortunately, our daughter lives not far away and, even though she did not answer her phone, we drove over. She had said, many times, you don't have to call. Just come over whenever you want to or have to. So we did.

On our way over, we met a PeCO repair team who had found the problem and figured it would be 2 or 3 hours until power was restored. Fair enough.

At our daughter's house, delightfully air conditioned, we watched "those dummy Phillies" until we couldn't stand it any more. Then we called PeCO and the automated system said that the workers are trying to locate the problem. Hmmmm. Different from what we observed. But, we called every 30 minutes or so, and the automated system kept repeating the same irritating message. Finally, our daughter tried a different tact and she got a live operator. Don't know how she did it. And the good news was that our power had been restored about 15 minutes earlier.

Hooray. We left. Drove home. And went to bed in the blessed, cooling air conditioning. PeCO's work crews did a commendable job in locating the problem, fixing it, and restoring the power.

PeCO has a major problem with its automated outage system and needs to be able to update it and assure its customers that power is back when it is.