As a result of my involvement with the Newtown Square Historical Preservation Society, I come into contact with many people with an interest in history. Last week I “met” through e-mail Harriet Lockwood Gray. She grew up in Delaware County, and has specific ties to and memories of Newtown Square. Her father, Leslie Clyde Lockwood, ran a gas station in the 1930s at West Chester Pike and… Clyde Lane! Now the street name remembers him, as does his daughter Harriet. And now the rest of us know where the name came from.

Harriet turns 90 in a few weeks. She has taught herself to use a computer, and she loves to write. She and her husband had retired to Florida years ago, and while there, she took a writing class. She said the topics were generally about her life growing up. She asked me if I’d like to read some of them, and I said I’d be delighted. And so we have kept up the correspondence.

Today, a story came through on growing up in this area in the first half of the 20th century. I asked Harriet if I could share it on this blog. She was thrilled about having her writing published. And so, without further adieu, here are some memories of the area, from almost 90-year-old blogger, and former Havertown resident, Harriet Lockwood Gray:

From Early Days To The Present

The Great city of Philadelphia, Pa., was founded by William Penn in 1682. History tells us that it blossomed into a thriving metropolis and by 1800, there was much industry and a busy port along the Delaware River. From 1790 to 1800, Philadelphia was the capital of the United States with George Washington as President.

Transportation was a big problem as the city grew. One reason was that the city was cut in half by the Schuylkill River, so the ferry service that was originally used was the first to go. By the 1800’s, there were three bridges that spanned the large river. Soon public transportation was the major way to get through the city, first by horse car, then later street car lines. By the late 1800’s, the subway and elevated trains were built and that extended the transportation from the entire city to the suburbs.

In 1920, my mother and father got married and immediately moved into a home in the suburbs [Fulmer Avenue in Havertown – ed.] which was about seven miles from the center of the city. The house was a three story twin with a brick wall between two houses with two front porches and back yards.

By then our town was quite modern with paved roads, sidewalks, electric and gas and sewer lines. We had trolley and bus lines also. My brother and I went to an up-to-date grammar school and the junior and senior high school was very large with other school districts coming together. We also had a car barn that housed all of the trolley cars that were used from one end of the suburbs to the other. The first cars opened by a large door at the center where the conductor stood and collected the fare. These cars were built at Brills in Philadelphia in 1919. Later more modern cars came along that only had the motorman who ran the car and also collected the fares.

Further west from our home, in a rural area with farms and little industry, we spent much of our lives there, mostly because our father went to the same church as a small lad, and our lives centered around this church, the First Baptist Church of Newtown Square.

1st Baptist Church Newtown Square (circa 1945) Credit NSHPS collection

My father, Leslie Clyde Lockwood, was born in Newtown Square and then moved into a farm managed by his father [Florence H Lockwood – ed.] close by and lived there until he went into the Navy and got married. He mentioned to me at one time, that he worked very hard on the farm during the week and after school, but that his social life consisted of the many friends and relatives they saw especially Sundays after church. The mode of transportation when he was young was horse and buggy or horseback riding so everyone took advantage of their outing.

When my brother and I were growing up our family spent many hours with our cousins in Newtown Square, most Sunday afternoons, or possibly a number of picnics beside a creek so that we could take a swim when the weather was nice. It was nothing for us to just take a day trip to the seashore. We also spent time together at the seashore for our vacation. When at church and we would meet some new acquaintances we would caution them to be very careful not to talk against anyone because they could be a relative of ours.

Newtown Square was very rural at the same time our family was living in a more urban area. My cousins went to school in a building quite like ours, but stayed there until at least 7th grade before they moved to another building where their desks were double with two pupils to a desk. I would visit her some times when we did not have school and I remember the desks quite well. My cousin Eleanor says that when she visited my school she remembered we had physical ed. class and home economics and she envied me. In 1939, there were 33 that graduated in her class.

However, even though Newtown Square consisted of mostly farms and small industry, it did have trolley service that went through the town and continued further away from Philadelphia. The trolley service not only took passengers but also carried the mail. The trolley motorman would throw a big bag of mail at certain stops to be picked up at different small towns. Newtown Square had a post office since 1820. The stores in the early years consisted of a hardware store, a meat market, a drug store and a hotel.

Newtown Square Hotel and Hardware Store (circa 1920) Credit NSHPS collection

Everything is different now. The trolley cars are now gone. The hotel was ripped down years ago. The two lane road going from our home to Newtown Square has been a four lane highway for many years. We used to drive to our church in about 10 minutes when we were young. Now, I have counted 25 traffic lights and the trip is very slow and time consuming. Where my cousin graduated with only 33, her daughter had nearly 700 that graduated from her class less than 25 years later.

Our cousins are now scattered from Florida to Canada. Where we had such a good time growing up with them, our children do not even know their relatives. A whole different world and who is to say, which is better?


West Chester Trolley car – with Newtown Square Hotel in background. (1950) Credit NSHPS collection


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