The Autobiography Project

Your Autobiographies

Mary Ellen Bennett, O.P.'s Autobiography (submitted 5/1/06)

Riding SEPTA Regional Rail today brought back memories of childhood adventures.
My father was an engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad. This provided our family with a pass, which we made very good use of.
Back then, getting to Atlantic City by train reqired taking a ferry across the Delaware River to Camden. When we arrived in Atlantic City, we had lunch with our next door neighbors who had an apartment there for the summer. Next stop was the Planter's Peanut store on the boardwalk with a lifesize Mr. Peanut outside. We bought a sand bucket, shovel and sunglasses, then it was time for "the cure."
Some Catholics believed that people should go into the ocean on August 15 because there was a cure in the water in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus. There were variations on this belief, e.g. people should kneel down in the ocean at 3 p.m.; one should bless oneself with the ocean water. My mother was liberal; just getting into the ocean was enough for her!
Another destination was Harrisburg. We went every year to pick up license tags for our big black 1939 Packard. They could have come by mail, but this was more fun.
Sometimes we stopped at the Lancaster Farmers' Market. One year my mother was determined to get me an Amish sunbonnet there, and she did; a white one.
We lived at Eighth and Lehigh so walking to North Philadelphia Station or taking the 54 trolley which ran on tracks began our adventures. That neighborhood was familiar to me because my academic career began at Dobbins Vocational School across from Shibe Park. Their Home Economics Department offered a practicum in child care which enlisted kids from two to four years old. I was an only child, so my mother signed me up to get to know other children. She was the adventurer in the family.

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