Apr 4, 2014

Flash From Past


Occasionally, some of the older boys in Lehigh Parkway would get saddled with taking me along to a Saturday matinee in downtown Allentown. We would get the trolley, in later years a bus, from in front of the basement church on Jefferson Street. It would take that congregation many years to afford completing the church building there today. The trolley or bus would go across the 8th Street Bridge, which was built to accommodate the trolleys operated by Lehigh Valley Transit Company. Downtown then sported no less than five movie theaters at any one time. Particularly matinee friendly was the Midway, in the 600 Block of Hamilton. Three cartoons and episode or two of Flash Gordon entertained our entourage, which ranged in age from five to eleven years old. We younger kids, although delighted by the likes of Bugs Bunny, were confused how the Clay People would emerge from the walls in the caves on Mars to capture Captain Gordon, but our chaperones couldn't wait till the next week to learn Flash's fate. Next on the itinerary was usually a banana split at Woolworth's. Hamilton Street had three 5 and 10's, with a million things for boys to marvel at. The price of the sundae was a game of chance, with the customer picking a balloon. Inside the balloon was your price, anywhere from a penny to the full price of fifty cents. The store had a full selection of Allentown souvenirs. Pictures of West Park on a plate, the Center Square Monument on a glass, pennants to hang on your wall, and picture postcards of all the attractions. Hamilton Street was mobbed, and even the side streets were crowded with busy stores. Taking younger kids along was a responsibility for the older brothers, the streets and stores were crowded, but predators were limited to the Clay People on the silver screen.

reprinted from January 2013

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

MM,
Thanx for the story, my mom was the baker for the woolwrth? The last line gets me? Hamilton street had its marvels for me to? It had four lanes and we would cruse the circiut all night long, no trouble just truely loud musel cars? The last sentence is a statement that makes up life today in allentown pa? Because the system that has come of age today as all aspects are the main industry today? This makes up the Hole of allentown and touches almost every individual residing as well as working?

Anonymous said...

Thank You again Michael for a trip down the "memory lane" of Allentown Center City past.
I served them all in their kitchens and cafeterias.
McCrory's, Woolworth's, H.L. Greens,
H. Leh, and Hess's Patio, plus snack bars.
And Yes! The streets were crowded with shoppers, and safety was not a real issue. You had at least 3 patrol officers on foot from 7th down to 10th along Hamilton....PJF

Anonymous said...

MM,
I'm curious about your stated location for boarding the trolley on Jefferson St. The closest street railway line was at Lehigh and Cumberland Sts., the entrance to Fairview carbarn. No trolley tracks were ever on Jefferson St. or the intersecting stretch of Lehigh St.

Jim Layland

michael molovinsky said...

jim, then i'm mistaken . i remember waiting at the church stop on jefferson, and i remember sitting in the terminal building on s. 8th off off hamilton, it must have been only for the bus.

Bethlehem Native said...

I'm curious as to when Woolworth's on Hamilton St. closed. The one on Main St. in Bethlehem survived right up to the very end of the chain, and was one of the few I knew of with a lunch counter still in service.

michael molovinsky said...

@12:32, i believe that it was in the late 1970's. i recall them removing the sign letters from the rear entrance on the alley behind the store.