Friday, December 27, 2013

Chestnut Hill Park

Freshly polished, a sugar bowl engraved with CH Park,
Chestnut Hill Park.
Among our many family heirlooms is a silverware set and sugar bowl engraved with C H Park, which is short for Chestnut Hill Park, an amusement park also known as White City Park which existed in the early 20th century. It was located in Springfield Township near Chestnut Hill where Bethlehem Pike and Paper Mill Road meet. We have these anitiques because my 3rd great grand uncle, Clinton Rorer, was one of the founders and briefly president of the park before he died in December of 1899. While doing research on the park, I was surprised to find no Wikipedia page for it and so I created one myself. After Clinton's death, the park was purchased by White City in 1906, a chain of amusement parks across the nation and even international. There was a pre-existing Wikpedia page for White City with a list of locations, most of them without their own individual pages so if anyone has enough information about the other parks, please consider creating a page for them as well.

Silver plated forks engraved with CH Park
As I have mentioned before, Clinton Rorer never married or had children so everything of his was given to his two nieces, Mary Ann (Rorer) Fallows and Emma G. (Rorer) Aiman. Mary Ann was my 2nd great grandmother and the C H Park merchandise was passed down to her daughter, Emma Sarah Fallows, and then to my grandfather, Chester Harold Godshall Jr. The fact that my grandfather shared the initials C.H. is pure coincidence, although it did lead to some confusion when my mom was a small child and thought her father once owned a park.

Sadly, Chestnut Hill Park did not exist for very long. In February of 1898, the Chestnut Hill Casino Company purchased 25 acres of land for it's development and it was ready to open by May but due to heavy rains, the opening had to be pushed back until June. Over the years, it featured many attractions including a large lake with row boats and electric launches, 50,000 fragrant plants, a carousel, a live brass band, and later, a rollarcoaster, pony track, and roller skating rink. It also hosted events and entertainment such as athletic meets, vaudeville performances, acrobats and gymnasts, and the presentation of a baby elephant named Little Hip.

Close up of the engraving
The park was intended to provide a more affordable option to Willow Grove Park for the middle to lower class of Norristown and Philadelphia. Although both parks offered free admittance, the trolly fare to Willow Grove was 30c whereas Chestnut Hill was only 5c. Unfortunately, the upper class residents of Chestnut Hill resented the crowds of lower class vistors to the area and in February of 1912, despite the previous year being the park's most successful, several wealthy locals pooled their money, bought the park, and immediately shut it down before the seasonal opening in the spring. After demolishing it, the land remained unused until 1927 when Erdenheim High School was built on part of it, which now operates as the Philadelphia Montgomery Christian Academy. Just north of Montgomery Ave, also on what would have been the park's land, is Antonelli Institute, a photography and graphic design school I coincidentally graduated from! Also north of Montgomery Ave is a small street named after Clinton Rorer called Rorer Street. There is also an Auchy Road, named after one of the other owners.

It's a shame the park only existed for 13 years and it's also a shame Clinton only lived long enough to see it operate for two years. However, I may not have been able to attend my photography school had it not been shut down and I am grateful these beautiful memorabilia have survived. Unfortunately, I can't share any of the surviving images of Chestnut Hill Park because I don't know what the rights situation on them is but if you google it, you can find some postcard images. And I can, of course, share images of the Chestnut Hill Park antiques.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I'll Miss About England (And What I Won't)

After about 8 years here in Manchester, UK, my English husband and I are moving back stateside in one week after the months-long process of obtaining his visa. I can't wait to be able to see my friends and family in Pennsylvania on a regular basis again but there's a lot of things I'm going to miss about living here . . . and a lot of things I won't.

I will really miss this kind of history in the UK.
Thing's I'll miss:
  • The history. I love history. Don't all genealogists? I love it whether it's my own family history or not. And the UK is so rich in history. The castles, the halls and manors, the roman ruins, viking towns, etc. It's all so beautiful and romantic and it's been practically on my doorstep for eight years.
  • The countryside. Drive a mere half hour out of the city and all you'll see for miles are lusciously green rolling hills dotted with fluffy sheep and lined with stone walls and fences. The UK does not really have the "suburban" culture so common in America.
  • The accents. I loved getting to know all the different accents across the nation and I'll miss them all (well, most of them). At least my husband will be bringing his with us.
  • The music! This is essentially what brought my husband and I together in the first place, our mutual love for British music. Of course we'll still be able to listen to British music but we'll miss the live music scene and our favorite radio station, XFM Manchester. I honestly don't know what we're going to listen to in the car without it.
  • The chocolate. So smooth and creamy. Need I say more?
  • The pubs/Sunday roast. How would you like to have a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner every sunday? Roast turkey, beef, chicken, ham, or lamb, with gravy, roasted vegetables, perhaps even mashed potatoes, and my personal favorite, Yorkshire pudding. And you get to eat all this in a beautiful, historical, cozy gastro-pub with a roaring fireplace. Sounds great, right? My husband and I have vowed to maintain a Sunday roast tradition but it will be at home, not in our favorite pubs.
  • No tipping necessary. In the UK, tipping is not commonplace and only done for exceptional service, which is the way it should be. By definition, gratuity is optional, not expected.
  • Fewer bugs. I'm the kind of person who, for some inexplicable reason, attracts mosquitoes like a moth to a flame. I go to the Caribbean and come back with 30+ bug bites. England thankfully has so few bugs that most homes don't even have screened windows. I will miss itch-free summers.
  • The plumbing. This might seem like a strange topic but it's time the truth was told! In the UK, toilets don't get clogged. That's right, you read it correctly, they don't clog. When my English husband clogged his first toilet in America, he had no idea what was wrong and I amusingly had to show him how to use a plunger. I couldn't understand how someone could reach the age he was without having clogged a toilet before! After living in the UK, I now understand. British toilets, instead of merely releasing water into the bowl to flush it, have a mechanism which pushes the water out forcefully, flushing it more effectively. Apparently, it is something which can be installed into American toilets, called a "flush assist" and for the life of me, I don't know why it isn't the norm like it is in the UK.

Thing's I won't miss:
  • The WEATHER. I don't think words can fully express how much I hate the weather here but I'll try. It's cold, it's damp, it's rainy, it's cloudy, it's windy. I never minded the rain until I moved here, I even rather enjoyed a good thunderstorm. But in eight years, I've never seen a real thunderstorm here, it's just a dull, dreary drizzle. Maybe once or twice a year I'll hear a low murmur of thunder and my husband will excitedly exclaim "Whoa, did you hear that?!" That's not thunder, thunder is getting snapped awake from a dead sleep by what can only be described as God himself smacking his whip against the skies. But it's not just the rain which depresses me, the average highs in the summer are in the low to mid 60s. The rare days when it gets above 70, the warmth is quickly countered by 20-30 mph gusts of winds. And the winters aren't much different. Snow? Fat chance. Just more rain and wind, with average temperatures only about 20 degrees lower. The one big snowstorm we had while I lived here was not dissimilar to the snowstorms that usually hit the Philly region at least once a winter, except everyone in the UK kept declaring that they hadn't seen snow like this in 20 years and no one knew how to drive in it, though in their defense the city is ill-equipped to handle it since they're not used to it. They salt and grit the roads but there are no plows. 
  • Having to do 90% of my genealogy research online. I have two, possible three English branches which originated from England and one of which were coincidentally from an area just outside where I live now in Manchester. But otherwise, the research that requires going to cemeteries and such in the U.S. could only be done in short bursts when I was visiting family back home. I can't wait to be able to go places for my research whenever I want!
  • People looking at me like I've got two heads because they're not expecting me to have an American accent. Really. You'd think they'd never heard an American accent before. I can't wait until I no longer feel like I don't completely belong or fit in where I live. I realize it means my English husband might feel this way in America but he's much more adaptable and laid back than I am.
  • Not being able to drive. Okay, I could have driven but it would have required learning to drive manual and on the left side of the road at the same time. I'll be so glad to be back in a situation where I am actually comfortable driving.
  • The spoons! Another strange topic but seriously, the spoons here are either too big or too small, like some kind of weird Goldilocks universe. The big ones look more like mixing or serving spoons and the small ones have a very shallow scoop. My husband didn't understand what I was complaining about until my mom sent me a normal American spoon and while he was using it with his cereal exclaimed, "This is a good spoon, I like it." Yeah, I know! 

I'm sure I'm forgetting some things but that's the bulk of my personal pros and cons of living in England. While it looks like there's more things I'll miss about it than those I'll be grateful to get away from, ultimately being near my friends and family again trumps everything. Also exciting about the move is that we'll we taking a ship instead of flying. I'd like to say it will be like taking the journey my immigrant ancestors did across the Atlantic but I'm pretty sure my trip will be much more luxurious!