Haverford is just east of Bryn Mawr. Admore is just east of Haverford. Admore is only a few miles from Bryn Mawr, maybe even contiguous at spots.
I would get off the train in Admore on my way home from school on the Pennsylvania Railroad to get my hair cut at Troncelliti’s Barber Shop, to buy records at Mad’s Records on Lancaster Avenue, or to go to the dentist – Dr. Zimmerman – in the Suburban Square building.
Suburban Square was built in late 1920s. It claims to be the first suburban shopping center. It took the name “Suburban Square” as the winning entry in 1936 naming contest. Strawbridge and Clothier was what we would today call the anchor department store. It was a real department store. A few times my sister and I went there with my father as he Christmas-shopped for our mother.
Street-level businesses included FAO Schwartz (one of the early branch stores, and its first suburban store), Viking Pastry where my mother bought small croissants, and Ladybug with its proto-preppie girls clothing.
Suburban Square itself was filled with offices. Dr. Zimmerman was on one of the upper floors. I remember looking out the window from his chair, enduring the ordeal, looking at the strings of Christmas lights outside the window forming a large Christmas tree. After my dentist appointment I’d walk down to the lobby where there was an old-fashioned newsstand and candy stand. I’d buy chocolate-covered malted milk balls. I was unclear on the cause and effect of the sugar.
I marvel now and I think I wondered then about the embrace of “Suburban.” I guess it wasn’t a bad word. It made me think of Plasticville.
I now wonder – if “Suburban Square” was the winning name, what were the losing names? It just doesn’t seem that they worked very hard.
Or maybe it was just Ockham’s razor. But still and all, it is a place that makes me happy, even with dentist chair memories. “Suburbs” meant something different in the 1920s. There was an “urb” component, a bit of elegance and urban style – outside the city. We were still 20 years away from Levittown and that kind of urb-free suburb.
My friend went with me to Ardmore a time or two. We maybe even saw a movie at the Suburban Theater. I went to show him the photos of Suburban Square.
He was pretty lost in Peter Max. I got his attention and showed him the photos. He scratched his head – “So square it’s hip.” Anything else?