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.” ••