People Wearing Clothes

On August 9 I visited downtown Philadelphia, in from the the suburbs. I took a lot of pictures and I’ve done several posts on my adventures – look back over the last few posts to get an idea of what I was up to.

My travels took me from west of City Hall all the way east to 5th Street on Market Street, the main east-west street in the city, and then I came back up on a parallel street, Walnut. Plus wandering around here and there as I went.

Today, I’m starting off looking east on Market from City Hall.

John Wanamaker Department Store, as it was when I came to Philadelphia in the late 1970’s, is to the right. It is now a Macy’s. I bought a sewing machine there in 1980 for $190. Just saying.

I also recall getting the nicest teal/tan plaid pleated Pendleton wool skirt there for a price I can’t bring to memory but I know was a steal, because I do remember that.

So you understand how I like to look in the store windows here. Always have. Right now they are displaying back to school fashions.

I also like photographing reflections, by the way.

Well, as I was heading on my way east, I saw a ghost.

If you follow my poetry blog, you may know that I published a couple of poems recently about seersucker suits. I have always liked the look of this kind of summer wear, but it’s not seen much anymore in today’s more casual fashions. Although in my early working days, seersucker was a  casual summer fashion.

Anyway, at about 12th and Market, I saw the ghost. Rather, I saw a man wearing a seersucker suit. And he was carrying a leather briefcase, also the kind of bag you don’t see as much of anymore. I did think I might have seen a ghost of 1980?

No, it was a real live person. I turned and followed him, digging out my camera as fast as I could. Here he is. I felt so happy.

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Back On My Old Turf

On August 9, I took a little trip into Philadelphia; my husband had a meeting to go to and I got a ride in with him.

I walked all over Center City and the historical district; I’ve shown photo results of my day in the last few posts. Today I’ll talk about change and my life at work.

I am not originally from Philadelphia; I went to college in the area and then took a job with a local bank in 1980. Things were a lot different in those days, as you can imagine.

For instance, this building, a downtown mall, is being totally renovated. I remember it brand-new. I walked through the construction area on my way east on Market Street.

My destination was this location: 5th and Market Streets. I worked in this building, then known as the PNB Plaza, for many years. It looks exactly the same, except for the WF sign on top.

Next door, the National Constitution Center stands; it’s behind a construction fence – it is getting some kind of work done to it. In my era, this area was a giant paved plaza with a fountain that had some problems staying on the job.

Underneath it all (even today) is a parking garage; I zoomed in and out of there in my tiny car on my way to visit customers once a day, if not more often.

You may notice the tourists in the Plaza building picture. Many many tourists in this area – that is one thing that hasn’t changed!

Independence Hall is across the street and over a little.

In the past I was easily identified as a local, wearing my business clothes. Those tourists pictured earlier might have picked me out as a good person to ask for directions.

Today, I was just a late-middle aged lady wearing a sun hat. Oh dear.

Well, times change. I admit I was glad to see the Plaza building right where it ought to be, though.

On my way back uptown, I passed the hospital where my 2014 retina operation was done and my sight was saved. Thank you, Wills Eye Hospital, for giving me the ability to be out walking around today like this.

What Number, Please?

I took a little day trip into Philadelphia on August 9. I spent my time in Center City down to the historical area – from about 18th and Market to 5th and Market, and then over a block or two, and back up Walnut Street. A round trip of 3 or 4 miles.

On the way I took pictures of various sights. Now here is one that’s come up recently in my life: telephone booths.

I am of the age to remember and to have used pay phones. I remember when they still cost a dime. Enough said.

Pay phones are not too common these days. On east Market Street I saw one, though:

and I saw where one had been.

On my way, I stopped in the Curtis Center building to see the Dream Garden mosaic. I worked in a nearby building for some time and the mosaic was a favorite spot of mine to visit. And I remembered another landmark in my personal life. Past those stained glass windows, see that little alcove area with the stairs?

Here’s what is in there. The sign on the door says: Bell Telephone Pay Station.

Phone booths! I remember these two from way back when. They had a phone, phone book on a shelf, and a little wooden bench seat inside. You went in, closed the door, and it was…QUIET. I remember stopping in, not to call anybody, but to get a moment of QUIET.

I was puzzled, though, as to why the windows were so…white. My memory told me they should be dark; the booths had a light that went on when you closed the door, but it was not so bright as this was. On closer examination, I realized that the windows had white paper over them; through a tear, I saw that the booths no longer existed. The area behind had been torn out, enveloped into a larger space, and the whole thing immersed in mid-construction for offices.

Well, what do you know.

I’ll show you a quick look at another feature of this building, right around the corner from the phone booth remains. Curtis Center is actually built as a hollow square, with a huge atrium in the middle. I do not know what the space looked like when the building was put up in about 1914; I do know this format was used in the pre-air conditioning days as a way to get light and air into all the floors and all the areas of the building.

As a note, this building was the home of the Curtis magazine publishers, and all operations were done here, including the printing and binding. So, in summertime, air circulation would have been important.

The atrium now looks like this:

Nice, isn’t it? My husband tells me the building does a good business in hosting weddings and other events.

All right. More Philadelphia visit information later on!

Swim in the City

I made a trip to Center City Philadelphia on August 9 – my husband was going to a meeting and I took the opportunity for a chauffeured ride in.

I worked in the city for quite some time, but those days are in the distant past – 25 years ago I left office work. Still, those days at work here were some of the most important of my life. The memories are vivid and the streets of the city are full of places I have known for a long time.

I’ll give you a little tour of something new and old, all at once. Let’s start at 18th and Market, where my husband’s office was until his fall in December, 2016, and where he was going to his meeting today.

I started walking east toward City Hall along Market Street. City Hall is set in the very middle of the original plan of Philadelphia. Its location was originally the center square of five (the other five are still open space).

In the 1870’s construction began on City Hall and it took about 30 years to finish the building. It is monumental, to say the least, and a really interesting place. Courts and other functions are now handled in other more modern buildings around the square, but it is still full of offices, including the mayor’s.

In the early 80’s I used to cut through the building on the way to my office in the winter, coming from the train. That way I got to walk about a block in the nice overheated halls before I went back outside for the quick sprint to my office.

Anyway, I went east. Took a little detour through the Penn Center complex, but always there is City Hall in view.

But…things have changed here, too, at least outside the building. What used to be a grim granite plaza of varying levels, punctuated by non-fountaining fountains, desperate trees, and a lot of trash, is now a welcoming space. I’d been here last fall for the holiday events:

But I had no idea that in the summer – the plaza is a splash park! Fantastic!

There were tourists, locals, adults, kids…and one park policeman on lifeguard duty. I wondered if he wished he could take his shoes off and stand in the cool water.

There were “paths” through the jets to drain the water – I walked through the site for a while. This version of Dilworth Plaza, as it is known, is much better than the one I remembered from those years back.

OK, I’ll stop now. More later on.

City Life and Some Thoughts

I went into Philadelphia on August 9. My husband had to go to a meeting and so I hopped aboard the opportunity. I thought I’d take a walk through some old haunts.

I don’t go into the city much now, but I worked there for over a decade in the 80’s and 90’s, and my job required me to go all over the town, in the car and on foot. But the Center City and historical district areas were where my offices were – I never changed employers but I worked in a lot of different locations.

I started to work in Philadelphia as a newbie full-time grown-up in 1980. I wasn’t born here but this is where I have spent my life. So you can imagine that many scenes have layers of memory for me. I could go on and on and in such fascinating detail! But I’ll just do a few sights here, and maybe I’ll have some more to tell you about later on.

Today, I think I’ll show you common sights on the streets.

First up, people. People are always walking around everywhere.

I encountered a guy on a street corner shouting out a non-stop stream of words. City life has taught me not to let on that I am paying any attention, even when I am.

In my experience, people talking to themselves on the street fall into a couple of categories: they are preaching or speech-making, religious or political, to passersby; or they are in their own interior worlds and speaking to the people there. I realized on this trip that I needed to add a category: people who were talking on their Bluetooths.

I saw some of each classification during this day.

There are lots of places to get something to eat if you are hungry. I’ve had my share of meals from the food carts on the street.

You might need a magazine, bag of candy, lottery ticket…so you stop at a newsstand.

I saw groups of motorcycles all huddled together and I didn’t know what they were doing. Just parked on the street like that! I caught on quick after I passed a couple of similar locations. There are designated motorcycle mini-mini-parking-lots now. Like this one.

I also remarked to myself about how many more bicycles there are. Bikes are parked all over and there are plenty of official bike racks (as opposed to chaining your bike to a convenient tree). And I wasn’t counting the bike-share locations. I will tell you, in 1980, no one rode a bike to work.

Pipes still grow right out of the sidewalk; that hasn’t changed. I liked this group. It looked to me as if the big ones were protecting the little one.

I watched this bus unload itself. It stopped right on Market Street at about 8th; the people poured out, the suitcases were wrangled out of the hold by the driver, riders were waving papers and asking questions, lots of people on their phones, and people going further on the journey sitting in the bus in comfort, looked like to me (I sidled up and peered in a window as if I were looking for someone…no one paid any attention to me).

I didn’t know Megabus stopped in Center City; I’ve seen their buses at the train station, though, wheeling around the building in a flashy kind of way. Now, I made some bus trips in my teenage years; for instance, I remember very well being let out at a gas station in rural Indiana to be met by the people I was visiting, suitcase pulled out of the bus’s stomach by the driver, who kidded me about how heavy it was. Take away the double-decker shiny blue, the phones, the city location, and this scene felt familiar.

All right. That’s enough for now, I think.

Tiny Travelogue

I don’t go far from home. I don’t travel much. I like being home. And lucky for me there is a seemingly endless supply of things to explore right under my (geographic) nose.

Today we decided to explore the Morris Arboretum. It was established on the grounds of Compton, the summer home owned by the wealthy Morris family starting in 1887, who collected plants and were interested in furthering horticultural education; it is now part of the University of Pennsylvania. Not located near the main campus, though – it is only about 15 minutes from my house.

We became members not too long ago – I thought it might be a good place for walking, especially for my husband, as he continues to gain strength after his knee injury. Believe it or not, in almost 40 years of living close by, I had never visited the site, though I had often thought of doing so in recent times, because I drive past it on my way to Chestnut Hill College (of poetry marathon fame!) all the time.

It is expensive for a single visit, but a membership could pay off for the two of us after three visits – and being members makes a quick stop just for a walk much more likely. I signed us up.  Today was a reconnaissance mission.

It was a stunning day – sunny, warm, and low humidity. We parked in the lower lot – other people had the same idea as us to visit the gardens on such a nice day – and walked up the hill to the main building. I noticed I could see the roofs of Chestnut Hill College across the way – it is next door.

We walked around the upper areas following paved paths past manicured lawns and many trees. I found some details interesting:

Small structures dotted the area as well as sculptures:

There were other attractions, such as a garden railway exhibit and a treehouse/walkway structure; fernery; rose garden. Today, these areas were crowded with families; even if they hadn’t been, they didn’t much appeal to me. If this had been all there was to the place, I would have been lukewarm on it. I will say, though, the level paths would make a nice circuit for an easy walk (or run, if you came on a non-crowded day).

We made our way back down the hill to the wetlands area. This section was deserted and quiet. Just birds, insects, trees…

Now I was interested. Look at this milkweed.

A bee was working very industriously at this flower head.

This dead tree’s stark appearance amid all the greenery made it a landmark.

Mowed paths guided us through this section. There was so much to look at.

My assessment of the arboretum: I thought the main area tame and uninteresting. The wetlands, fantastic. I could see visiting that section often just to see the changes in the landscape. I much prefer walking on grass to asphalt. Wilder to manicured. Full of detail to edited. I’ll come back and concentrate my attention on this area, I think.

It would be a great spot for a walk after a poetry marathon session or for my husband to visit during lunchtime. I’m glad we checked out the arboretum.

Day After Thanksgiving, Part 3

Here is the last installment of the trip into Center City Philadelphia that my husband and I took on the day after Thanksgiving. When I left off in the previous post, we had walked down Chestnut Street to Dilworth Park to visit the Garden Maze and to check out the craft fairs. There was one more thing to see, though, and you might have noticed something about it in this picture:

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Ice rink! Ice rink!

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I’ll tell you right away, I didn’t skate. I last got out on the ice in 2004 and in that session I broke my elbow. With my balance issues and the memory of how long it took for that elbow to heal, I have no business ice skating, but…I do like to watch others doing it!

This rink (sponsored by a large orthopedic institute, something I found amusing, especially since the doctor who treated my broken elbow is associated with it) is a real ice rink, not an artificial-surfaced one. And it’s here all winter, open day and night. I’d love to see those sparkly little lights in the evening…We spent some time watching people go around the circle, all kinds of people, with all levels of skill (including none). When you look at the pictures, notice  the smiles.

Above the scene, William Penn stood, as he has since 1901, at the top of City Hall Tower, and took it all in.

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Well, that’s the end of the travelogue. After we finished at Dilworth Plaza, we did take in a little shopping – but for art supplies, at the Dick Blick store a couple of blocks away. It’s a treat for me to go to the store itself rather than buying online, so I can’t count it as shopping, exactly…and at the store, I won a $5 gift card when I spun the wheel for a prize. Couldn’t do that online!

Then we drove home. Nice day we had, wasn’t it?

Day After Thanksgiving, Part 2

More about how we spent an afternoon on Friday, November 25, in Center City Philadelphia. When I left off in the previous post, my husband  and I were walking east on Chestnut Street. Where were we going?

Our destination was Dilworth Park, where City Hall is located. Named for a former mayor, the park is one of the five original ones put into the street grid when the city was laid out by William Penn. It was appropriated for the location of City Hall, a massive building constructed from 1871 to 1901. The structure is as solid and imposing as a mountain and is a city landmark, although many city office are now located in more modern buildings nearby.

Dilworth Park was recently remodeled and is now used very often for city events and festivals. Right now it is hosting the Wintergarden and the Capital Garden Maze, and that is one of the sites I wanted to visit in the city.

The Maze is an installation of plants, topiary, and twinkly lights and will stay in place all winter. It’s a project of  Greater Philadelphia Gardens, a consortium of 30 regional gardens.

We spotted the event from across the street. The white tents are those of a craft fair also taking place on the plaza.

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Here is the entrance.

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We saw people sitting in café areas – the weather was gloomy but mild enough to sip a hot drink and talk to a friend. And the birds like the leftovers the people drop…

Then we came to the Maze. It was filled with people exploring it.

There are some fantastic topiary animals.

I was intrigued by the metal markers scattered in the beds. Each names a garden in the consortium as well as its mileage and direction from this location. I think this is a nod to the fact that this park is the center square of Penn’s plan, and is as such the very center of the city, from which distances are measured.

The plants in the boxes are ones that grow well locally and will have something to show of themselves all winter.

City Hall is a giant hollow square – and right now the courtyard is filled with another craft festival. We took a quick look inside. And, I took a picture of the tower. This is the landmark local people think of when they picture downtown Philadelphia; the historic area is a mile to the east, away from the main business and shopping area, and not the place residents go to as often as Center City.

All right – more later!

Day AfterThanksgiving – Part 1

Today, Friday, November 25, is Black Friday. Lots of people think about shopping. Me, I don’t. I don’t like shopping and so a special day for it doesn’t excite me. But, being the day after Thanksgiving, my husband took the day off, and so we decided to get out into the world, avoid shopping, and do something for fun.

We decided to take a trip into Center City Philadelphia. I had a few sights in mind to check out. I’ll take you along with me in the next couple of posts – I took a lot of pictures.

I worked for many years in the section of the city where we were going. I have 35+ years of memories everywhere I go around here. Things have changed a lot in that time. I marvel at the new buildings and I celebrate each renovation or repair to old familiar ones. But the city always feels the same to me – as I walk down the sidewalks I am the same person who came here in 1980 and has never left, and never wants to.

Starting off, we parked the car in a garage, ate a quick lunch, and walked down Chestnut Street going east. This street now is a major shopping street, revived after a decline of decades. Plenty of people with shopping bags and lots and lots of tourists. You wonder how I can tell who is from out of town, and I answer: I just can. And then I laugh and I tell you the secret – it’s in how they approach crossing a street. If you are from around here, you barge out. If not, well, you are more cautious about stepping off the curb, and your hesitation reveals you…

Buildings along this street are a mix of old and new.

I like to look at store windows. What they do to make them intriguing. And then, I enjoy looking past the display into the stores themselves. First, some glamor.

Now, people at work. In this shoe store, the man was buffing up pairs of expensive

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You also have to look up sometimes if you want to catch what is going on. Here is what I saw when I stopped to pay attention to this hair salon located on the second floor. Street life goes on while upstairs, the stylist concentrates while the client sits in the chair, ready to be transformed.

I passed this sign on the street for a needlework shop. The store is on the second floor and so it needs a street-level presence. To get to this shop you have to follow the instructions on the sign. I might have walked by the sign, not being interested in needlework, but – I visited this shop with my friend Diane several years ago. What a warm colorful place it was, I remember.

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I noticed the tile details around the windows and doors of a store. It’s not usual to see this kind of decoration. Our climate is hard on tilework. You can see the effects of seasonal changes on this sample.

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A lot of people ride bikes through town. There are bike parking stands everywhere. And I’m not counting the bikes for hire that are available – these are bikes that belong to a particular person who’s elsewhere at the moment, while the bike waits.

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Well, that’s it for today. I’ll tell you more next time.

Memory Lane, as in a trip down

The Fourth of July is the midpoint of summer to me, even if technically the season only got going about three weeks ago. With it being on Monday this year, it was nice to have a three-day weekend. My  husband and I decided to mark today by taking a walk along the Schuylkill River trail, incidentally collecting a symbol for our Montco trail challenge, though we don’t need one, we’ve met the goal of five.

No, mostly the idea appealed to me as a chance to revisit a place that was very important to me when I first settled in Philadelphia, the town of Conshohocken. Though I don’t live very far away, I don’t come here often, and usually I’m passing through on the way to somewhere else.

This municipality is situated in a bend of the Schuylkill, about 14 miles from downtown Philadelphia. My history with the town begins in 1980. I was working for Philadelphia National Bank, aspiring to become a commercial lender,  and was assigned to work as a trainee in the regional office here. The division handled small business loans; my enjoyment of the work I did here in this office determined the direction of my banking career. I went on to specialize in small business commercial loans for a large part of the next fifteen years or so.

I haven’t spent much time here in the past few years and so I thought we’d enjoy a walk through the borough. As a note, my husband also worked for the bank, although in a different group; that’s how we met, and this territory was familiar to him as well. Not to mention that he grew up only a few miles from here! We really have a history with this area.

All right. We picked up the trail at the Spring Mill train station.


This section of town was entirely industrial during my tenure here. Factories of all types, large and small, were arrayed along the river bank. I was familiar with this kind of structure from visiting customers here.

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But the town has changed and changed a lot since my time here. There are a few relics of the industrial past along here:

but the majority of the river area is now pricy apartments and high-rise office buildings.


We walked along the trail up to the Fayette Street bridge, Fayette being the main street through town. The office buildings surround this area now but when I was working here, it was a mixture of warehouses and factories. I crossed this bridge on my way to work every day, and I have some memories of trying to get up the icy hill in winter in my rear-wheel-drive 1976 Monte Carlo that still give me the shivers.

 

Here is a view looking into West Conshohocken – the old and the new.

We left the trail and walked up Fayette. Many things have changed on the main street as well. But the bank building in which I worked is still there, now used by a successor of PNB, Wells-Fargo. I took a picture of the front of the building and then of the side entrance- I shared the office with the windows to the right with two other people.

I have many fond memories of my time here. In those days, before internet banking and all the other changes in how money moves, the branch was very busy all the time. An office full of tellers, customer service people, and commercial lenders served the needs of the businesses, their employees, and the local residents. It was usual for me to arrive at work, before the bank opened, and have to make my way through a crowd of people waiting to go in. The large staff was mostly female and almost all lived within walking distance of the office. They took me, a young out-of-towner, under their collective wing, advising me on where to shop, to get my car fixed, best delis, and so on. If it snowed, I would get phone calls before work telling me to be careful driving. I can’t say enough good about my time in this office.

So. My husband and I walked on through town. Here up on the hill, the traditional Conshohocken landscape still exists – a mix of rows and twins, light industrial, garages, and modest singles. The town was built for the Italian, Irish, and Polish blue-collar workers of yesterday, but prices are high now – it’s a popular location to live. There are also plenty of new builds. I took pictures of what was familiar to me about the place.

We ended up back at the car – Conshohocken is not geographically very large, but it’s huge in my memory. I am glad to have taken the time to look around again, and at a pace that gave me time to remember details.

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