Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: October 1979 Volume 17 Number 4, Pages 103–104

Some Recollections of Paoli and Berwyn Seventy-Give Years Ago

George B. Roberts

Page 103

I was born in Paoli, on South Darby Road a short distance from the Lincoln Highway, and was three or four years old when the 1905 train wreck occurred in the Paoli station. I may have heard the sound of the crash, and I think I heard the horse-drawn ambulances with their clanging bells. I knew that something unusual was happening.

Since there was no high-speed automobile traffic at that time, I was allowed to wander all over the central part of town. I remember going to the station and starting down the south steps, where I could see the debris scattered in front of me. Just then, a man came along and said, "You better get out of here, you are liable to get hurt." Having respect for my elders, I got out and found something more interesting to do. I heard afterward that a train was standing at the station when the tower-man threw the wrong switch, which allowed a through train to crash into the standing one.

In 1905, my father, a Medical Examiner for the Pennsylvania Railroad, was transferred to Williamsport, and the family moved with him. We were there a year or two, and then moved to Clayton, Delaware. Later my father was to be located in Sunbury. He decided that, as he was in line for a future retirement, he would locate his family perma­nently, and he would do the traveling. Since both he and my mother came from the Great Chester Valley, they decided on Berwyn. We rented the blue stone house across the street (Conestoga Road) from and northwest of the North Berwyn School.

Page 104

The folks then built the bungalow on Kromer Avenue. It was an unusual structure at the time. This was somewhere around 1908 or 1909, and I believe my brother, Charles, was among the first ones to graduate from Tredyffrin-Easttown High School.

I remember the old Berwyn station and the Wynnburne Inn. Also, the big house in Devon, with a stairway up a tree. We called it the "Crows Nest"

I wandered all over Berwyn in the early days. Autos appeared about 1910 or 1911. Charles Z. Jones, who had the Berwyn Plumbing and Heating Co. on Kromer Ave,, had one of the first Model T's, and his son, my buddy, was allowed to drive it at times so we had interesting times as youngsters.

Of course, Oak Knoll was a landmark, and I think I did some yard work for some of the Croasdales in the past.

Around 1903 or 1904 (or before), the Lincoln Highway was a toll road, Johnny Harrigan was a toll gate keeper when I was a kid in Paoli. He seemed to like youngsters, and some of us were often down at his toll house. The road activity was interesting, and the candy he had on hand was also an attraction. It seems that he had hard candies in jars for sale to passers-by. The toll house was located at the east end of town, where Bear Hill Road crosses under the railroad.

It is strange that we hear little, if anything, about the toll gates and keepers now. There must have been other toll gates at Strafford or Wayne and elsewhere, but as we did not travel far from home in those days, I can't remember any definite locations.

I realize that, as a youngster, I did not know that I was involved in history, and therefore observed only what was interesting to me at the time.


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