The holiday year 2016 offers time for reflection of Thanksgivings and Christmases of past years and decades. From childhood and teenage memories in the late ’50s in Sun Village and the Delaware County area, I offer the following Christmas memories:
• Lionel Electric Trains: My best gift ever and opportunity for a lifetime of learning, the green 4-by-8 platform and train set was a Christmas gift in the early fifties. The joy of model railroading has been passed to grandchildren.
• Readers Digest Teenage Treasury: Second only to my trains as an all-time favorite gift was the four-book series that discovered the reader within me. Reading stories about Mickey Mantle, West Point and flying into the eye of a hurricane sparked a lifetime of reading and satisfying curiosity.
• Christmas Carolers: Hancock Street in Sun Village with it row houses and porches was a unique place to grow up. My memory from more than one Christmas Eve was carolers singing on the side of the street that is now I-95.
• A new basketball: Every day, including Christmas Day, was a sports playing day. When someone in the neighborhood (John Whitby, Ray Agnew or Albert Cesaerine) received a new basketball for Christmas, it was another opportunity for finding a court and playing a game of two-on-two or three-on-three.
• Christmas tree collections: A post-Christmas activity in Sun Village was collecting discarded trees and pile them in a gulley near 14th and Melrose Avenue in Sun Hill. Too young to understand recycling and pollution, we burned them under the watchful eye of the local fire department.
• Basketball tournaments: In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Christmas was synonymous with the Chester Kiwanis Basketball Tournament, which included every high school basketball team in Delaware County.
• Delivering mail: As a college student at P.M.C., holiday breaks were an opportunity to earn money for college tuition. One of my unusual working experiences was delivering mail for the Chester Post Office. A U.S. mail route through Buckman Village that took eight hours to complete on Monday was reduced to four hours the following Friday. A successful mail delivery route was no leftovers.
• South Street: Every holiday season included family trips to South Street for clothing, followed by a visit to a South Philadelphia pizzeria.
• Ice skating: Ridley Lake, the social mecca for teenagers in the late ’50s, offered ice skating on cold winter nights. Lifetime friend Jim Brogan and our dates would skate there regularly. As young college students, the price was right.
• Ice skating shows: The holiday season provided professional ice skating shows at Convention Hall and later the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Convention Hall was also the location of watching NBA basketball, including classic matches of Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia Warriors) and Bill Russell (Boston Celtics).
• Family visits: Holiday time in the late ’50s was synonymous with family visits of aunts and uncles and second and third cousins. I look forward to surprise “company” because it meant bakery pastries reserved for special visits.
To my loyal and longtime Delco News Network readers, I hope your holidays are filled with family memories, which accumulate through the years and decades.
Dr. Joe Giampalmi, an assistant professor at Rowan University’s Department of Writing Arts, has been teaching writing for 52 years. Author of five books and dozens of educational articles for national magazines, he has been writing this semi-monthly column since 1985 and has published more than 600 columns. Some past columns are available at DelcoNewsNetwork.com. Giampalmi regularly presents writing workshops for schools and businesses. Please address questions and comments to Giampalmi@Rowan.edu.