Celebrating 100 years

Reach­ing a mile­stone: Sylvia Edels stands after be­ing presen­ted flowers at a party cel­eb­rat­ing her 100th birth­day at Ta­bas House Monday. BRAD LAR­RIS­ON / FOR THE TIMES

In­come tax be­came law in 1913. Some good things happened 100 years ago, too.

Grand Cent­ral Sta­tion opened in New York. The first drive-up filling sta­tion opened in Pitt­s­burgh, selling gas­ol­ine at a pricey 27 cents per gal­lon. And Sylvia Wynne Edels was born in South Philly on Ju­ly 21.

The cen­ten­ari­an res­id­ent of Ta­bas House on Strahle Street was feted by friends and her sons, Howard and Mitchell, on Monday.

“I think she’s our first res­id­ent who turned 100,” said friend and fel­low res­id­ent Pat Sad­owsk.

She was just 16 at the start of the Great De­pres­sion. People today could not be­gin to un­der­stand the De­pres­sion, she said. 

“My whole child­hood was a struggle,” she said.

Part of that child­hood was in South Car­o­lina, where Edels’ fath­er had got­ten a job. The fam­ily came back to Philly, where, in 1939, Sylvia Wynne met Samuel Edels at a Cen­ter City dance.

“He couldn’t dance,” Edels said Monday. “I taught him the fox trot and we danced to ‘It Hadda Be You.’ It was our song.”

A year later they were mar­ried. Not long after that, the United States entered World War II. Already in his mid-30s, Samuel Edels was too old for the army, but he was draf­ted in an­oth­er way.

“My hus­band did mu­ni­tions work,” she said.

After the war, the Edels opened a vari­ety store at 61st Street and Elm­wood Av­en­ue in South­w­est Philly that they would op­er­ate for 28 years. 

“You don’t know when you’re a kid how hard it is,” Howard Edels said Monday. “My moth­er got up early, made us break­fast, got us off to school and then went down­stairs and worked at the store from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.”

Hard work is part of the cen­ten­ari­an’s re­cipe for a long life.

“What I did doesn’t work for every­body,” she said later Monday. “I’m a wor­ri­er, too. I wor­ried a lot, but it didn’t hurt.” 

She nev­er smoked, she said, and only on oc­ca­sion took a drink.

“I worked hard. I had a good mar­riage,” she said, “and our chil­dren gave us a good old age.”

More than 30 years ago, the Edels moved to Ta­bas House on Strahle Street in North­east Phil­adelphia. Sylvia Edels said her hus­band passed away at 93 in 1998.

In re­tire­ment, Howard Edels said, his moth­er was a vo­lun­teer lit­er­acy teach­er and she also worked as a judge of elec­tions and later as an elec­tion clerk at her polling place in Ta­bas House. 

“I stopped last year,” Sylvia Edels said. “I did it for a long time.”

The party at Ta­bas House was just the first, Mitchell Edels said. The fam­ily will be gath­er­ing for a big blast at Fish­er’s in Ben­s­alem on his moth­er’s ac­tu­al birth­day. 

Ta­bas House wanted to sur­prise their cen­ten­ari­an, Howard Edels said, “But my broth­er told them they had to tell her.” 

Party plan­ners had no oth­er way of guar­an­tee­ing Sylvia Edels would be in the build­ing, he said.

“She could be out some­where,” Howard Edels said. “She still drives.”  ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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