Friday, March 31, 2006

Buck Fleming

John Weleski was nineteen years old in this photograph. Known as "Buck Fleming" during his boxing days, I wonder if he took the Fleming part of his name from the name of that street in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. According to the street map, Fleming Street was the cross street at Roxborough Avenue where he grew up. I have to wonder if perhaps, he played at this corner as a child or maybe hung there with friends as a teenager.

Born John Joseph Wisloski on May 3rd 1904, he was the child of Eva Wisloski. It is my belief that his father's name was Sylvester. But because his father left the family (or was thrown out by the wife as the legend goes) when he was a child, I can only guess Sylvester Wisloski was his name. According to the Censes records of 1910, a man by the name of Sylvester Wisloski lived in the Roxborough area and had a son named John who was six years old.

John Wisloski married Marie Schroeder and had three children, Lillian Marie, Ronald Joseph and John Joseph. John changed his last name from Wisloski to Weleski between the births of his sons Ronald in 1933 and John in 1945. His wife Marie died two days after the birth of her son John in 1945.

John suffered a great many losses in his family over the course of a few years. His mother died in 1932, his brothers Andrew and Samuel died in an accident in 1938, his sister Eva died in 1945 as did his wife Marie.

John Weleski suffered a heart attack and died in 1954. He is interred with his wife Marie in Laurel Hill Cemetery. Also interred in the same plot are Charles and Mary (Mervine) Schroeder, parents of Marie and Earl Schroeder, thirteen year old brother of Marie.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

More Irish Eyes (Generations Later)

Frankie & Frankie (far left & middle)
John (far right) Shaun

By the way, I call these Irish Eyes Are Smiling. However, there are some who would say they are Devilish Eyes That Are Up To No Good..........................

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Uncle Jack

While sitting in the "Ole Ye Ale House" last night eating the traditional ham & cabbage and drinking beer listening to Irish music, it brought back memories of my grandparents who of course were both Irish. When they played the song "Irish Eyes Are Smiling" I could almost see the face of my grandfather whose eyes were always smiling. Today, my mom has those same eyes and truth be told my Uncle Jack looks just like my grandfather, his father.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Cresson Street Railroad

Boys play along the tracks of the railroad that ran along Cresson Street (St. John's in the background) before it had the protection of the wall and before the railroad was raised.

Having the railroad so close to residential areas meant there were many accidents. For example, it was not unusual for a house or place of business along Cresson Street to catch on fire from the sparks left behind as a train rolled by nor was it unusual for a train to hit those who played on or were too close to its tracks.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Old Ridge Avenue

Once upon a time, Ridge Avenue use to cross over the railroad tracks at the Wissahickon train station. Today, Rochelle Avenue is the new street name and Ridge Avenue has a new route. It now goes around the railroad and up over a man made bridge road that is famous for its bike races. (also known as the wall)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

When the demolition work began on the Old Falls Tavern, some "die hard" patrons saluted its demise. This historical tavern met with the recking ball in the early 1970's only to be replaced with a post office.

Old Falls Tavern

Built in the 18th century and home to the famous catfish and waffles meal. Catfish were once abundant in the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek and was a popular meal for two centuries.
The Old Falls Tavern was located on Ridge Avenue and its back porch viewed the Schuylkill River. Once an elegant and glamorous place, it fell in disrepair in the middle of the 20th century. While in existence, this tavern was a popular place among the males in our family.

Falls Of The Schuylkill Library

The first library in East Falls opened on June 1, 1901 as a Deposit Station on the second floor of the Old Academy, the first community center in Philadelphia. It was built in 1819 as a place of education and worship. Since 1932, the building has been used as a theater, and was the scene of Grace Kelly's acting debut. Featuring English Collegiate architecture, the current library opened on November 18, 1913. The building was funded by Andrew Carnegie, and the land was donated by William H. Merrick and the Warden Estate. The library was renovated in 1997 as part of the "Changing Lives" campaign, which refurbished branches and ensured Internet access. Atop the library, you'll see a catfish weathervane on the cupola. The preschool center also features a catfish. They are symbols of the thousands of catfish that thronged the Schuylkill River two centuries ago, when East Falls was known as Fort St. Davids. One fisherman in the 1830's caught 3,000 in one night with his dip net. Catfish and waffles were a popular meal in the inns and taverns that surrounded the river. (see Old Falls Tavern) While you visit, take a look at the beautiful garden outside the library. It has been maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers since the late 1980's. The library is located at Midvale & Warden.

Monday, March 13, 2006

What It Was Like For Those Who Worked In The Iron Mills In The Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

An explosion of gas, a slipping of the furnace, a cave-in of the furnace stack, a tilted ladle, a cracked converter, an overturning of a pile of iron, the breaking of a rotten scaffold . . . these are some of the most common of death-dealing [conditions] which make human life in and about iron mills and locomotive works as precarious as upon a field of battle.
And for all this slaughter . . . [management gives] but one answer: “Carelessness on the part of the injured person"

Taken from an earlier 1900's report on Iron Mills.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Midvale Steel and William Joseph Gallagher

After our country entered into War World II, the once lagging industry and country's depression receded and opportunity for workers began once again. It was at this time that my grandfather William Gallagher got a job at Midvale Steel in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia as a " roller " of steel but it was not long before he ran the biggest crane in the city in what was considered the largest one story building in the nation where he used the crane to pick up the large guns that went on the Navy's gun ships to dip them into the hot steaming steel. Before long my grandfather became one of the most respected employees in Midvale due to his courage and ability to perform a job well done. As his sons William, John and Gene became of age, they also were employed at Midvale. Sadly, Midvale Steel fell on difficult financial times and closed its doors a final time in 1976. It should be noted that Coll McCaffery, my grandmother's cousin and husband of William's sister Anna was also once employed by Midvale Steel. As a Train Conductor, he drove the trains in the rail yard to transport the steel. John Gallagher (Uncle Jack) resigned his position at Midvale Steel in the early 1960's to relocate to California and seek work as a Life Insurance agent.

Midvale Steel

Midvale Steel Company, Car Axles, Tires, Projectiles And Armor Plate Nicetown "Though a modern establishment, the Midvale Steel Works had rapid growth and constitute one of the gigantic industries of the country. Car axles, steel tires for locomotive wheels and structural work have long been their well-known products. They also made propeller shafts for steamships, and gun forgings and steel projectiles and armor plates for the United States Government".

Three Generations of Iron Workers at Pencoyd

The building above is the remains of what was once Pencoyd Iron Works. Located on the west side of the Schuylkill River in Belmont Hills (once called West Manayunk), this mill was the employer of John Keller (my grandfather William Gallagher's grandfather), William Gallagher (my grandfather's father) and my grandfather William Gallagher. John Keller was a "heater" of iron at the mill and in 1890 he was involved in an explosion. Though he did not perish right away, he did eventually die from burns he received at the mill. My grandfather William Gallagher was a "roller of steel" at the mill and in the early 1930's was asked by the mill's owner to relocate to South Africia to open a plant down there. However, he turned down this opportunity because of pressure from his family to remain in Philadelphia. An opportunity, he regretted until the day he died in 1980 because shortly thereafter the mill suffered financial loss and many of its employees were laid off including my grandfather and his father.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More Photographs of the Water Works

Magnificent Sight
Bigger View
Running For The Gazabo
Too Many Steps
The Eagle Has Landed
Cheerful Smiles

Fairmount Water Works "1812-1909"

Fairmount Water Works with view of the Philadelphia Art Museum in the background.

Built in 1812 to supply water to the growing city of Philadelphia. Up until then the water was supplied by the city's wells and had become polluted. Residents feared that the outbreaks of Yellow Fever were from the polluted wells. Frederick Graff who designed the Water Works asked the city to provide "buffer" land on both sides of the Waterworks to prevent pollution. The Fairmount Park, largest park in the nation was then created. However by 1909, the buffer land known as Fairmount Park was not big enough to prevent the waters of the Schuylkill from being polluted by the industry up river. Therefore in 1909 the Fairmont water Works closed and new access to water came from the Delaware River.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Boathouse Row At Night

If you ever want to experience a spectacular sight, drive along the West River Drive and glance across the river towards Boathouse Row in the early morning hours before dawn or after the sun goes down.

Many times I take this route to work just so I can experience its beauty. Just imagine the beauty of the lights as they dance across the water's surface. You cannot help but feel a sense of peace and contentment as you view the reflection off the river. There is no better way to start your day.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Boathouse Row

Situated along the riparian banks of the Schuylkill River below the Art Museum and the Waterworks, and nestled at the foot of Lemon Hill along East River Drive, are the Boat Clubs of the Schuylkill Navy, familiarly known as "Boathouse Row". Philadelphia and rowing have been inextricable linked for over a century and a half. This unique relationship of a city to its river and Boathouse Row has produced a saga of unequaled World and National championships.

The Schuylkill Navy is the oldest amateur athletic association in the country, dating back to the mid 1800s. Boathouse Row, which consists of several Victorian era boathouses, is their home. Races, regattas, and exhibitions are held here every year, and are very popular with locals and tourists alike. For a charming view of Boathouse Row with it’s twinkling lights, drive along West River Drive after dark. Visit East River Drive on foot - there’s usually lots of activity to watch, from rowers in the river to joggers and cyclists on land.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Area's Oldest Catholic School Closes

St John the Baptist cira 2006
St John the Baptist (19th century)
Father Eugene Murphy

After a two year battle to remain open, St. John the Baptist Catholic grade school will join other local grade schools by closing its doors forever after the end of this academic school year.

To see this school close its doors after so many years is indeed tragically sad. This was the school my grandparents attended in the early part of the 20th century. This was the school Father Eugene Murphy created in the late 19th century. A school he believed should provide it parish children the best modern education of its time. He encouraged the parents of his parish to provide their children an education to the 12th grade. He encouraged the parents to keep their young children out of the mills and factories as was so popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century. He believed girls as well as boys should receive an education. Education was so important to him that he visited each and every classroom each day just to speak with the children of his parish school.

At the conclusion of this academic school year, St. John the Baptist will close its doors along with the St. Lucy's, St. Josaphat's, St. Mary's and Holy Family.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

166 Roxborough Avenue

A typical rowhouse in Manayunk made with the original Wisshahickon stone. This house in Manayunk was the home of the Wisloski family. The below paragraph was taken directly from "a journey into the past".

While researching archival records at St. John the Baptist Church located in Manayunk, I came across the death records of Andrew and Samuel Wisloski. Both were listed as dying on the same day from Asphyxiation. This information prompted me to investigate the reason behind the Wisloski brothers cause of death. Upon further investigation, I discovered that after an evening of drinking, the Wisloski brothers got into a fist fight at home and unbeknownst to both of them the gas pipe above the stove was inadvertently hit by one or both of them causing the release of gas. Both were asphyxiated by the gas fumes. Andrew was 50yrs old and Samuel was 40yrs old at the time of their death. The date of death was listed as March 11th, 1938 and the funeral mass was held at St. John's on March 16th, 1938 at 9AM. Burial was held on the same date at Westminster cemetery in lot 327, grave number two. Residence listed at the time of their death was 166 Roxborough Avenue.