Two classic American institutions - one at the tail end of its run, and one with a few more miles to go. This photo was taken on April 26, 1953 at the intersection of Hamilton and Second streets in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Five weeks later, streetcar service would end for good in Allentown, as it would in most American cities before the close of the 1950’s. The overhead wires would be torn out, the ancient cobblestones and rails paved over.
Despite their introduction of supermarkets way back in 1936, there were still scores of tiny corner A&P food stores operating in the early 50’s. Even ten years after that, they were a not uncommon sight in many Northeastern cities. But times were changing for many of A&P’s core customer base of middle class families. They’d fought the Second World War. Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore. And in the 50’s and 60’s, large numbers of them were moving to new, suburban areas – all too often shopping at the gleaming new supermarkets of A&P’s competitors.
Looking back from our nostalgic viewpoint today, it’s fascinating to ponder how these little stores co-existed with the neon-emblazoned, pyloned colossi at the other end of the supermarket spectrum. A paradox of the quaint and the cool. I’ll take both.
The photo is the work of Edward S. Miller, one of the most esteemed photographers of 20th century American railroading. Mr. Miller, now in his late eighties, specialized in photographing traction railroads (streetcar systems), and chronicled virtually all the major American city and interurban systems of the 1950’s. A truly outstanding aspect of his work was his ability to capture the surrounding cityscape in the photos. My special thanks to Mr. Miller and to Ed Philbin for helping to arrange contact with him. This photo, along with hundreds of other superb ones, appears in the book “Streetcar Scenes of the 1950’s”, an incredible look at street(car) scenes from all over the country, in color and razor-sharp clarity, with narrative and photo captions by Le Roy O. King. It is one of my most treasured books, one that I’ve owned for years. My sincere thanks also to Bob Yanosey, publisher of Morning Sun Books, for allowing the use of the photo.