Tom Lamb decided to buy the house in Glenolden even before he set foot in it. Once he saw the 50-by-25-foot backyard pool, he said, “I was sold.“
The property on two-thirds of an acre also included a two-story, three-bedroom house, a pool house, garage, and two koi ponds, all enclosed by a brick fence.
Though that summer of 1988, Tom and his wife, Denise, were able to swim in the pool, they later had it resurfaced and installed a new filter system.
Previous owners had updated the interior of the 1917 house with ugly orange carpet and dark paneling, which covered three living room windows. The Lambs removed the paneling and carpet, remodeled the kitchen, and added a family room with French doors leading to an outdoor deck. They also installed central air and added a full bathroom in the basement, where Tom stores his collection of 1,200 mostly rock-and-roll albums.
After Tom and Denise divorced in 2006, he kept the house and continued to make improvements. The carpet is now teal and the walls cream. The blond-wood furniture in the dining room is a shade lighter than the kitchen cabinets. Numerous house plants flourish near large windows overlooking flowers and shrubs outside.
Tom does his own landscaping and gardening. He grows vegetables, including a bumper crop of asparagus this year, and planted white hostas on one side of the pool and red hibiscus and yellow marigolds on the other. Pink water lilies float in the koi ponds. A bed of low-growing cacti flourish in a sunny spot.
Elsewhere, a tall umbrella magnolia with ruby seed clusters provides shade. “The leaves are so big, they are easy to rake up,” Tom said.
Tom grew up next to his grandparents’ farm in Sharon Hill. “That’s where I got my green thumb,” he said.
The décor of his Glenolden home reflects Tom’s eclectic work history. After graduating from high school at 17, he went to sea and for five years was a merchant marine sailing Sunoco oil tankers along the East and West Coasts and in the Caribbean. Hence, a Sunoco banner hangs from the pool house rafters.
Other nautical items suspended over the bar include a hammock Tom used on a ship in Panama and a large plastic hammerhead shark head. “It was hanging in my room until it fell on my head twice,” said Tom’s son, Chris.
After his stint at sea, Tom, now 60, worked at a power plant and sold swimming pools before becoming a civilian firefighter at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. For 34 years, he also has been a volunteer firefighter, first in Sharon Hill and then in Glenolden.
Chris, 30, is a firefighter in Chester. He has his own place but spends most of the pool season at his father’s house. A photo of father and son in firefighting gear was taken when the two teamed up for a program about using candles safely. Tom has another son, Nick, 35, and a daughter Lexxie, 27.
Since 1996, Tom has operated TNT Removal & Disposal, a salvage company in Folcroft.
His job gives him first dibs on quirky lawn ornaments, including a small cannon in the front yard, as well as all the necessary accoutrements for great parties. The pool features two sliding boards and a volleyball net and is ringed by a dozen chaise longues. A table tennis table is nearby.
Five barbecue grills — both gas and charcoal — and an electric smoker are ready to be fired up to feed as many as 150 guests. An outdoor stainless sink makes for easy food prep and cleanup. Tom grills year-round “whenever it’s not too cold.” He’ll be frying turkeys for friends on Thanksgiving.
He describes the large shed he built in the corner of his property as “my basement for all the outdoor equipment.”
Tom notes that he did not salvage the portable toilet along the back wall. “I bought it new,” he said, for his guests’ convenience.
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