EFL Traveler: Kiwis in the Falls


New Zealanders find a touch of home in our ‘hood.

Where in the world is Kihikihi? You might not be familiar with the small town on the north island of New Zealand (FUN FACT: Kihikihi means “cicada” in the Māori language: the name imitates the sound made by the insect) — but there are plenty of New Zealanders who’ve heard about East Falls, thanks to the Merson family.  We encountered them in July at Billy Murphy’s, as they were grabbing lunch and planning the rest of their vacation in the States.

We thought we’d heard the last of them after shaking hands and wishing them the best but were deeply touched when we received an email from Mandy, Paul’s wife, a few weeks later.

Kihikihi Town Hall (c. 1904) By PhilBeeNZ – Own workw, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18333730

Turns out they were taken with our little corner of Philly —

July 2 (Email from Mandy to EFL)

Hi Carolyn,

Well, after carrying on to the rest of our whirlwind tour of the old “Erie to New York trail”, we found our way home with a thirty hour final push to Kihikihi, New Zealand — Home.

Our copy of the East Falls Local made the trip in good stead and is now resting with the souvenirs, tickets, passes and receipts memory box. The arrival at our little home was a case of euphoric exhaustion and leaving behind the entirely mind-blowing experience of our trip.

That quickly turned into cuddles and “welcome homes” and a whole lot of pats of our slightly confused cats and dog. The next and first hours after walking through the door was a kind of frantic and fragmented story telling session with our Nana and Poppa including in detail the stories of the people and places of East Falls and Billy Murphy’s and Philadelphia.

Without writing an epic recount of our travels, it is important for us to simply note what a great time we had in our short few days there. We truly and really appreciated the acquaintances, travel advice, genuine warmth and accommodation of a family of strangers from the other side of the planet. Our time there (East Falls) was the closest time in our travels to being around the type of people we know and spend time with here at home and we felt as welcome as if we had lived there for many years.

We tried to visit all of the sights shared with us by yourself and by the locals we met as we went and enjoyed dinner and a menu of things quite alien to us at the bar each night. A true highlight on top of everything else was the boys taking a last-minute leg stretch and walk around the block at 10PM, which turned into a truly special experience with the girls being dragged out of the house to wonder at the lightning bug/firefly display (clearly organised just for us by you all!!!)

Jakob and Paul are wearing the t-shirts we were given as a complete surprise on our second night of dining at Billy Murphy’s, and attached is a photo as promised. Our princess Makiya, as always, taking the photos.

Thanks again and to all. Should anyone find themselves travelling south on State Highway 3 through Te Awamutu, we would enjoy sharing a laugh and point out parts of the paradise that is New Zealand.

Be very well East Falls, PA.



July 6 (Our reply)

Hello Mandy! What a wonderful and touching note! And thank you so very much for the pic.

We really enjoyed meeting you and Paul and Jacob. We don’t often get visitors from such far-flung corners of the world. Really quite humbling that you found our little neck of the woods. We are so very happy that your trip was a success and you’re back home safely.

We were THIS close the night we met you to bringing you around the corner to a dear friend’s house who is quite the character and storyteller (he and his wife are lifelong Fallsers – born and bred here). He also brews some marvelous homemade beers. We won’t miss the chance should you find yourself back here again.

BTW, I forwarded your email to Mike Murphy, the owner of Murphy’s and he was deeply moved. All he could get out was “that is incredible!”

Glad our fireflies/lightning bugs got the memo and put on a show. Living among them it’s easy to forget how magical they are.

Thank you very much for the invitation. We will certainly keep your generous offer in mind and would love to see all the wonders New Zealand has to offer to those of us for whom it is only an exotic notion at the far side of the world.

Wishing you peace, love, and happiness.


Steve (and Carolyn) Fillmore

EF Local

July 9 (Paul’s reply)

Hi Steve,

It has been lifetime pleasure to have made acquaintance with a place, and some of the people who make it what it is, beyond a photo and the memory of having done so.

In fairness we can only attribute our time there as a matter of the universe providing. We (Mandy) chose the wonderful little apartment on the back of a rushed confusion. An already booked hotel and a second look at the feedback led us to believe our stay in Philadelphia would involve a dresser needing to be shifted into place behind the door after every entry to ensure a state of reasonable safety.

Bit of a last minute google searching and Mandy testing my initial reservations of the wonder of AirBnB…. and here we are.

I believe it is poignant to acknowledge a deeply shared fondness for a lightly cooled home brew (draught, IPA and a local ale in our stockpile!) and exploring through conversation the ideas and differences with those of other places. 

Jakob at VNEA (far left)

We would be tickled pink at the thought of any of our recollections of the time in East Falls, PA and USA being even close enough to interesting to be included in the Local. Every word a humble amazement at our time there. Them being shared would simply be another level to enjoying our short travels on the other side of the planet.

A couple of snaps attached while we are pushing send on a fun email and that keep the time alive for us… who came from our humble little islands at the bottom of the world. To see the wonder that is a United States, so vast and beyond comprehension without seeing it… in some little part we hope an experience our kids will take forward into their lives.

Manayunk train station.

The stop at Manayunk a result of timing our Friday to go and peek in on the art festival weekend Carolyn quietly mentioned was shaping up to begin, albeit after we were scheduled to leave. An oddly amazing quiet few minutes at a train station on the way back from some live evening music, art and artists all over the place and a visit to a particularly awesome little bookshop!

Love to stay in touch and have really enjoyed having a little bit of East Falls remain with us after passing  through and been returned to the reality of every day life and living. Be very well folks.

Paul and the family.

Here’s to new East Falls fans on the far side of the world. Thank you and best of luck Mersons! Hope to take you up on your offer soon.

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