|This is the story of your community|
|WHCA Mission Statement|
|To strengthen the Westgate Hills community with programs and events to benefit all.|
Nothing is more typical of American than Westgate. Like the United States, Westgate grew because its people were united-united in everything undertaken. Because the members of this community pulled together and worked together in harmony, Westgate today is truly a neighborhood unique.
You "Old Timers" who came here during 1939 and 1940, can well remember how Westgate grew from an old farm with few trees, little grass and plenty of mud into a genuine community of friendship and understanding.
There were many architects in the Westgate Plan. Like the carpenter, plumber and bricklayer who helped put together your home, many of your neighbors worked from another set of blueprints. Their idea was from a Westgate U. N.-a miniature United Nations made up of United Neighbors. Nearly everybody tried and succeeded in the efforts to make Westgate a little prettier, a little friendlier, and a little more interested in its children and grownups. The desire was not to make the community a little more then just a place on the map, but, rather, a suburban residential section known or the warmth, feeling and understanding of its people.
It has been said that one thing, more than any other, helped weave the pattern of United Neighbors: that was the Westgate Hills Civic Association. We feel the Civic Association played the leading role in the story of Westgate. We also feel the Association will guide the destiny of our community in the future.
Back in 1939, the Warner West Corporation purchased the old Fairlamb tract and began erecting sample homes along West Chester Pike. In those days the ordinary price for a single home was about twice that being charged by Warner West. Thousands came to look at the samples and on weekends a detail of Haverford Township Police was assigned to help prevent the traffic jams along the highway.
Soon houses were built on Fairlamb Road, Ivy Rock Lane and "old" Windsor Park Lane. Some time later other homes were erected with the ones in the 300 block of Glen Ridge Road being finished last.
Many a back-breaking days were spent by the new Westgater in an attempt to produce a lawn. Many had to settle for a mixture of oats and rye or even crab grass that first summer. Although we have fighting the crab grass since, it was welcome in those days. At least, it was green (part of the summer!), it prevented the soil from washing away and it helped to eliminate a great deal of mud.
Everyone was busy working on his property but neighbor usually found time to help neighbor.
Westgate's soon found that by working together they got more done then by working separately. Much more was accomplished when groups worked together in teams. So why not form a big team, they inquired? We could get everything fulfilled that way. So, a few months after the first residents moved into the Hills, the Civic Association was formed and later chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a non-profit Corporation.
After the organization was set up, regular monthly meetings were held on the second floor of the Club Del Ria, West Chester Pike and Eagle Road. It was not unusual to have a couple of hundred people present at the meeting during the first few years. People looked forward to the first Monday of every month, when meetings were held. Many a lively argument developed, and some of the arguments became quite heated. But most of the plans and developments of the community grew out of those red-hot gatherings. It was here that folks from one street got to know the folks from another. Before long, everyone was saying "Hi neighbor."
Through the Civic association numerous social activities were organized. Some of the ladies got together and formed the Women's Club. The men organized several smaller clubs.
Dances were held a couple of times a year, the first few at Club Del Rio and later at several nearby golf clubs. One of the early fund raising events and, incidentally, the most profitable, was the yearly minstrel show. The entire cast was made up of local talent, In fact, it was produced and directed by Westgate's, and its frame spread through-out Delaware County.
Another thing that helped bring the community closer together was a weekly newspaper, "The Talk of the Town." The late Jack Lancaster, the editor, although not a resident of Westgate, had a deep interest in all local affairs. The paper was discontinued when Jack died several years ago but a couple of local youngsters have been doing a splendid job with their weekly for the past few years.
Nearly every phase of activity has been covered in Westgate's athletic program over the years. One of the first was the formation of a softball league comprised of teams from various streets. The league started out with eight clubs and finally dwindled down to four before it recently folded. Old age finally began creeping up on the would-be ball players. There is hope the street teams can be reorganized again in the near future. The community, however, does field a team in the Suburban Softball League and usually makes a creditable showing.
The bowling league has been going strong for a number of seasons with eight teams competing for a cup donated by the Association. The season is terminated with a banquet each spring. The women, too, recently organized their own league with six units participating. Tennis tournaments usually are held each year on the four courts at the local playground with the Civic Association donating awards to the champions.
The community has not forgotten its youngsters. When the association was in its infancy, one of the first thoughts was to provide a play area for the children. Through the cooperation of Warner West, a plot of five acres was purchased in the southern section of Westgate with the idea of making it into a playground. For this, a good sum of money was needed. The neighbors again united and donated sufficient funds to procure the ground.
Then, Westgate went to work. With its sleeves rolled up and with shovels and rakes in hand, the residents took over the task of clearing the area. Week after week, month after month, the men and some of the women toiled to transform a rocky field littered with rubble into a playground. Stones weighing as much as several tons had to be removed, tree stumps had to be uprooted. After the land was well cleared a play area was designated for the tiny tots. Sliding boards, see-saws sand boxes and swings soon were put to use by the children.
While working on the field it was discovered that a portion of the ground held a clay deposit. This was used to build the tennis courts and to make the infield of the baseball diamond. Trees and brush were planted. A building finally was erected on the upper portion of the playground by the Westgate Boy Scouts. The community poured thousands of dollars into the construction and up-keep of the playground, in addition to donating thousand of man-hours of labor. Almost every activity to raise funds centered on the playground needs. Finally the community decided to turn it over to the Township. In the future the major maintenance will be provided by Haverford Township. Of course the Civic Association will continue to participate in the further development of our playground facilities. The big thing however was accomplished. We have our playground right in our own community. We did not wait until some agency built it for us; we did the work ourselves through the United Neighbors.
When the Hill was only a few years old, some of the residents got together and entered the teenage boys in the Pop Warner Football League. At first the league officials said they did not think the Westgate boys were big enough or old enough to participate. The men who worked with the boys knew better and asked for an opportunity to prove they had the makings of a team. Two of the residents had put up several hundred dollars for uniforms and other equipment so league officials said they would give Westgate one opportunity to prove itself. What happen is an old story, but worth repeating to some if the new residents. The team went on to tie for the league leadership and lost the championship by a single first down to an opponent which was several years older and much heavier. Westgate, however, took a much more important prize, a cup for the best sportsmanship in the league. The tam gathered several cups through the years both for its playing and for the way it played the game.
Several baseball teams have been equipped by the Civic Association and members of these teams, too, have brought honors to the community. The boys have been entered in several leagues and have been taught and coached by other residents of our community.
During the summer the Civic Association and the Township furnished a teacher for supervised play at the tot lot. The boys and girls are divided into age groups and instructed in a variety of arts and crafts.
Throughout the year the Association remembers its young ones. Santa Clause rides through every Westgate Street at Christmas time, so the children can meet him personally. At Halloween the children dress up in their masquerade outfits and cope the Civic Association prizes. The kiddies also take part in the yearly 4th of July parade.
The Association usually schedules day long activities at the playground on such holidays as Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. On such occasion, the principal activities are children's contest, with additional entertainment for adults.
Sponsoring the Explorer Post of Boy Scouts of America is another activity of the Association.
Westgate has grown beautiful through the pains taking efforts of the Association and its members. Warner West planted avenues trees on a few of the first streets but the Civic group formulated the plan for the entire community. If you haven't noticed it, the trees differ on many of the streets. The reason they differ is because the residents of that particular block had a preference for a certain type of tree. The trees were selected on a majority vote basis. Each home owner in the block had a right to vote for the kind of tree they wanted in front of their property. It was agreed that the type selected by the majority would be acceptable to all. Once again this was a display of United Neighbors in action.
Another project the Civic Association had was to get a trolley stop at Glen Gary Drive. The Westgate Station was the only community stop for the first few years. Red Room Lines finally consented to have its trolley stop at Glen Gary Drive. But, typical of Westgate, the community wanted further improvements. One of Westgate's good citizens was appointed chairman of a committee, which, after much door-bell ringing, succeeded in collecting sufficient money to provide for a shelter at the new trolley stop.
When World War II began, a very high percentage of our neighbors entered the armed forces. Several paid with their lives. The folks back home formed an active air raid warden and auxiliary fire unit. The women donated many hours of Red Cross work. A plaque honoring the Westgate's of the past war was erected at the entrance circle of the playground.
Most activities were curtailed during the war years but soon picked up again when peace came. One of the most active organizations in our town is the Players group. Widely recognized for its outstanding dramatic productions, the Players group provided many top notch shows during the past several years. Recently the experience and talented Players have given a helping hand to the young set and today the teen-ages have the nucleus of their own little theater unit.
Close to a hundred of our ladies are members of the Women's Club. Primarily a social organization, the ladies of Westgate, however, have geared a number of their functions along philanthropic lines. Helping those who need assistance is the club's aim. The Welfare Department recently raised funds to purchase an aspirator, an apparatus used in the treatment of polio victims. The machine is now in operation at Delaware County Hospital. At Christmas the society sends gifts to Fairacres and Camp Sunshine, and baskets of food to the needy.
Other active units in the Women's Club include the American Home & Garden Group, the Literature Group, the Art Group and the International Relations Group.
Today the Civic Association continues its efforts to assist its members and better the community. It actively participates in Township and County matters through such organizations as the Haverford Township Civic Council and through close association with our elected governmental representatives. Playing the part of an interested and a good citizen in political, social and school problems, and trying ever to make living in Westgate Hills and Haverford Township a little more enjoyable, are literally daily activities of the Civic Association.
The Association, of course, owes its very existence to its dues paying members. It is your Association, operating in the manner that you decree. It needs your continued interest. Your financial support is equally essential. One look at a typical budget will show you how vital it is to have 100% active participation.