Category Archives: Blog

Mayor Brown fashions a new July 4th parade baton

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

The July 3rd, 1865 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer announced “The Democratic citizens of the beautiful and flourishing town of Riverton… intend celebrating the Fourth of July in grand style.”

Children's Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

Children’s Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

As the Great Day approaches, some may wonder how some of our July Fourth traditions started. Here is a sequel to the origin story of the mayor’s parade staff.

The subject of the parade baton that the mayor wields as the July Fourth Parade traverses Main Street has been touched on in these pages before.

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth, July 2011

We reprinted here the findings of former Town Historian Betty Hahle and learned there were not one, but two staffs.

And it seems she reached a different conclusion from what been reached earlier in the 1965 Riverton Yacht Club Centennial Booklet – that the staffs had come from India. Admitting that history is not static, and the discovery of new materials can change the our interpretation of events, she reasoned that they instead originated from Switzerland.

Whatever the ancestry of those first two staffs, we can be certain of the provenance of the most recent addition to the Borough’s collection of parade batons.

This past November, I was talking about the parade baton with Mayor William C. Brown and he mentioned in passing that he had to fashion a new staff himself for the 2014 July 4th promenade.

Wait…what?

That is the very definition of Riverton history so I pressed the former marine for details of the news that was already several months old.

Mayor Brown explains:

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

The Mayor of Riverton’s tradition of carrying a staff during the Annual Fourth of July Parade, was started by Mayor E.C. Stroughton in 1897.

So that every year since then, a metal plate was added with the current mayor’s name, the year, and the number of children that marched in the parade.

There are three staffs in the Borough office, and legend has it that they came from trees located in Riverton. I’ve not found anything written about the first two, however I can state that the current staff did come from a Riverton tree.

I searched the wooded area along the park till I found a tree floating in the Pompeston Creek. I cut it loose, trimmed it out, and took it home, where I stripped, sanded, stained and applied two coats of varnish to preserve it.

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

One has to admire Mayor Brown’s unpretentious and no-nonsense account of how he humbly came to add another page to Riverton lore. And to think that we would have missed it if I had not brought it up.

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

This column from a June 28, 1934 New Era outlines the history of the Flag Parade Staff and lists the number of children participation from 1897 through 1933.

The  loss of those old hometown newspapers left such a gap in our historical record. If you have not yet explored them, browse though some pages. You might find someone mentioned you know.

If you have any issues we do not have, please donate them or allow us to scan the pages.

July 4th Parade batons

July 4th Parade batons

While Riverton history of old is worth preserving, so too, it is worth recording events of today. The approach of our Glorious Fourth is sure to cause much reminiscing and retelling of family tales.

Leave one below in the comments box, or let us know what draws so many to return to this “unique” place each July Fourth.

Have a great holiday! – JMc

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Many hands contribute to the success of the fifth Historic Riverton Criterium

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Under the sweltering heat of today’s sun, the fifth running of the Historic Riverton Criterium was exciting for spectators, punishing for competitors, and all the excuse many needed to throw a porch or backyard party. Those arriving just in time for such events may have missed this.  Below, a crew erects the framework that holds the photo finish camera. It’s just one of the many heavy lifting jobs, literally and figuratively, that get done before the first race starts. – JMc

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Remembering Tom Palermo

Perhaps you read a newspaper account on December 27, 2014, about Tom Palermo, killed by a hit and run driver outside of Baltimore while riding his bike in a dedicated bike lane. The news received national attention because the driver, Heather Cook, at the time of the accident was the second ranking member among Episcopalian clergy in the Diocese of Maryland.

My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979

My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979, Tom in back row, left, plaid shirt

It got my attention because of a Riverton connection. Tom Palermo was a Riverton kid, and I was his kindergarten teacher. Riverton School is a kindergarten through eighth grade school, and teachers, especially kindergarten teachers, have the opportunity to watch the students grow from five-year olds to students entering high school.

1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house

1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house

After their high school graduation, they scatter and move on, move away, or sometimes the student moves back to Riverton with a family, and their children attend Riverton School. That happens a lot.

I hadn’t heard about Tom Palermo for many years. Facebook allows people to reconnect, to catch up, to share. My daughter reconnected with Tom (I still think of him as Tommy) a while ago and sent me information about his life. The photograph of the grown man had the same smile I remembered from years ago.

Tom Palermo

Tom Palermo

And then Facebook spread the tragic news of how he died. The news spread and garnered an outpouring of shock and sadness. Television and newspaper accounts told the story of Tom’s life and how he died.

Here is a summary that I provided for people to share the news:

Tom Palermo, age 41, a senior Johns Hopkins Hospital software engineer, died after a vehicle struck him as he was cycling on the 500 block of Roland Avenue near Baltimore on December 27, 2014. Tom was married and the father of a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.

Tom grew up in Riverton, New Jersey, and attended Riverton Public School from kindergarten through eighth grade. He graduated St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia and earned a history degree from the University of Maryland. Family members describe Tom as a “seasoned cyclist who had a passion for mountain biking as well as logging countless miles on the road.” He was an advocate for bike access and bike safety. In 2002, Tom began making custom bike frames at his workshop.

Bishop Heather Cook of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is facing more than a dozen charges, including manslaughter, driving under the influence while driving, texting while driving, and leaving the scene of an accident. She had previously been arrested on a DUI charge. The trial date set for June 4 has been postponed until September.

A Palermo Children’s Education Trust has been established on the youcaring.com website. Donations may also be sent to:

Palermo Children’s Education Trust
℅ Molloy Investment Group
One South Street
30th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202

The Riverton connection remains. Six months after his death, his hometown remembers Tom as the Historic Riverton Criterium returns. Promoted by Riverton resident Carlos Rogers, attention will be focused on the sport of cycling, a perfect tie-in to Tom.

This account from Carlos:

“When Sue Dechnik approached me about memorializing the life of Tom Palermo I could tell how much of an impact he must have had on people given Sue’s sincere emotion during our conversation. I had actually read about his death as the news made national headlines, but had no idea he was from Riverton. It was a simple decision to do what I could to embrace his life and the circumstances surrounding his death. Given some of the feedback I’ve gotten from Riverton residents who knew Tom, it seems like he certainly made a lasting mark on people’s lives. Since he was a bicycle aficionado, and a builder himself, I’m sure he would have loved to have seen the Historic Riverton Criterium in person. Unfortunately, he will never get that chance. Even though I didn’t know Tom, I am glad to play a part, however small, in celebrating his life. Tragically, it ties together. One, Palermo was from Riverton, and two, he was riding his bike.”

Since 2011, the HRC has contributed over $15,000 to local Riverton and Palmyra organizations and individual causes. Carlos met with Tom’s father and arranged to donate part of the proceeds of the HRC to the Palermo Children’s Education Trust. In addition, in the HRC handbook there is a piece written about Tom.

In speaking with Mr. Palermo, I found him to be grateful for the recognition Tom is getting, but profoundly sad and shocked about the tragedy that took Tom from his family.

Personally, I remember Tom as a friendly, kind-hearted kid. From all accounts, he grew up to be a special man.

SDechnik (Copy)

 

by Mrs. Susan Dechnik

HRC 2015 poster

HRC 2015 poster

The Historic Riverton Criterium will thread through the gaslamp lined streets of Riverton for the fifth time tomorrow, June 14, 2015, 1-6 p.m. For more information, click on thumbnail at right, or visit https://www.facebook.com/historicrivertoncriterium

Find more information and photos about Tom Palermo at these links:

https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2014/12/28/grief-and-anger-at-scene-of-fatal-bike-crash/

http://www.wbaltv.com/news/Hundreds-of-cyclists-ride-to-honor-Thomas-Palermo/30492528

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/An_unfinished_ride.html

http://www.bikeleague.org/content/statement-death-thomas-Palermo

 

 

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Congrats to the RYC on the 66th running of their classic Governor’s Cup Regatta

Governor's Cup Regatta here, New Era, June 30, 1949, p.1.

Governor’s Cup Regatta here, New Era, June 30, 1949, p.1.

Governor Driscoll presents cup, New Era, July 7, 1949, p.1.

Governor Driscoll presents cup, New Era, July 7, 1949, p.1.

Congratulations to the members of Riverton Yacht Club on 66th running of the Governor’s Cup Regatta at Riverton Yacht Club as they celebrate their sesquicentennial – that’s their 150th anniversary, in case you don’t have a dictionary.

Here, Roy Vollmer narrates a short BCT video about the classic boat race established in 1949. http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/videos/local/video-governor-s-cup-regatta-in-riverton/html_d570d7c9-7496-5a24-9bf8-5a05bc75857f.html?mode=jqm&m=topstoriesnow

The clipping at left is from the pages of Riverton’s now defunct hometown newspaper, The New Era, which announced in late June 1949, the events planned around the first Governor’s Cup Regatta planned for the following July 2 and 3.

A week later The New Era provided coverage of the regatta in the clipping at right. In his remarks that day Governor Driscoll congratulated the Yacht Club for its part in teaching the youth of America the meaning of sportsmanship.

Today, no doubt, countless sailors far and wide have many memories and much to be grateful toward the RYC. Why not thank them or share a memory here?info@rivertonyachtclub.org  https://www.facebook.com/rivertonyachtclub?fref=ts – JMc

 

 

 

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Another Riverton Snow Day – 1896 style

1896 Snow House

1896 Snow House

There must be more to this story, but all I have to offer is this photo and caption card I found in the HSR files.  The card reads:

1896 SNOW HOUSE
BUILT BY JOE ROLAND OF ST. CATHERINES, CANADA
ON SLED – MARIE WRIGHT
AT LEFT – REX SHOWELL       THE HOUSE WAS CUT OUT OF A SNOW DRIFT
3RD FROM TOP – EDDIE B. SHOWELL
2ND FROM TOP – EDDIE P. SHOWELL
TOP OF HOUSE – WALTER WRIGHT
BEHIND HOUSE – ALLEN EARNSHAW
INSIDE HOUSE – FLORENCE SHARP
AT RIGHT – LAURA WHITE

1896 Snow House - full view of original cabinet card.

1896 Snow House – full view of original cabinet card.

1896 Snow House caption card

1896 Snow House caption card

Click on the thumbnails at left to view the entire cabinet card and the index card.

Do you think those kids knew they were making Riverton history when they carved that fort out of a snowdrift?

Why don’t you look though your family archives and see what you could add to these pages of Riverton history?

In completely unrelated news, the Society’s Board met last night at President Phyllis Rodgers’ home and, despite falling short of a quorum, planned details for the upcoming Antique and Collectible Appraisal on Sat., March 28, and the Second Annual Preservation  Awards Night in mid-April.

Also in our job jar is preparing our recently enlarged area in the basement of Riverton Free Library to better store our documents, photos, and artifacts and to one day receive visitors.

What would you hope to see when you get there? You Riverton ex-patriates now living across the miles – what would you like to see displayed here online? – JMc

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Walt Whitman – I finally heard him singing, thanks to Ed Centeno

Back in January, website visitor Ed Centeno wrote to us:

Many thanks for posting great postcards…. have several postcards not in your collection…. would love to share please email and will send….

postcard scans courtesy of Ed Centeno

postcard scans courtesy of Ed Centeno

This was remarkable since lots of people come by to view, but few actually stop back to drop off something. Ed sent a few scans of Camden postcards as email attachments, and I could see this serious collector had a theme right away – Walt Whitman.

There was his Camden home and his gravesite in Harleigh Cemetery plus statues and commemorative stamps.

Like other collectors I know, Centeno did not have just one version of the sought after image, but he had collected every iteration he could find.

(I suffer from that same collector’s addiction myself and always have room for another rendition of the RYC.)

Centeno Collection

Centeno Collection

Ultimately, Mr. Centeno sent in a few dozen scans and photos of the many items of philately, ephemera, commissioned art, collectibles, and commercial products related to the controversial and influential American poet, essayist and journalist.

Since then I have learned that admitted Whitmaniac, Mr. Centeno, has exhibited his still growing assemblage of Whitman artifacts at the Whitman Birthplace in Huntington Station, New York and elsewhere.

Here is a bit of Mr. Centeno’s massive collection displayed in a 45-page Walt Whitman Virtual Scrapbook and you don’t even need a ticket.WW scrapbook screenshot 01

(Click here for a 34MB PowerPoint or here for a 11MB PDF)

In related developments, Will Valentino of Palmyra Historical and Cultural Society sends us this timely and informative piece he wrote on the Whitman House in Camden (click here for PDF link) and reminds us that Mickle Street, a new drama inspired by a meeting between Oscar Wilde and Whitman, has opened at the Walnut Street Theater.

I confess that except for high school memories of Cliff-Noting my way through studying “I Hear America Singing” and recalling many crossings of the Walt Whitman Bridge to South Philly, I have taken little notice of the “father of free verse.”

I never really got it – the lack of rhyme.

Had I read decades ago his “Blab of the Pave,” a vibrant catalog of urban sights and sounds, I would not have missed the rhyme.

Today, however, for a man who received little public acclaim for his poems during his lifetime, it seems Whitman is everywhere.

Over a century since Whitman’s passing, countless books and articles interpret his life and work, and commercials invoke his name. Libraries, schools, roads, and parks across the USA plus a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop bear his designation, and frequent popular cultural references to him in movies, television,  music, and plays serve as proof of his  abiding appeal to today’s fans.

He’s been here all around me the whole time, but I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Even growing up in Camden, Whitman’s words were literally under my nose, or perhaps above it, on the south face of Camden’s City Hall tower which bears the engraving  “In a dream I saw a city invincible,”  an excerpt from his poem “I Dream’d in a Dream.”)

Years later I find it hard to believe these powerfully insightful nuggets were not just penned by a 21st century motivational guru.

“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.”

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

“Either define the moment, or the moment will define you.”

No wonder his message resonates with so many today. Of course, there is waaaay more to Whitman than is teased at here. Enjoy Ed Centeno’s collection and possibly find more to explore in the links you find there. – JMc

 

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Hopefully the last of the season’s Code Blue Alerts

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 24 2015 01

Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 24 2015 01

The folks are alright, kids.

With sub-zero wind-chill temps of late and threats of historic snowstorms I actually received emails and phone calls from friends in California, Virginia, and Ohio asking if we were OK.

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 24 2015 02

Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 24 2015 02

Yes, thank you for checking on the elderly – we are fine.

For any of you Riverton snowbirds temporarily billeted in a sunbelt state or expatriates currently living elsewhere, here are some recent photos of your old hometown.

Our HSR stringer Dick Paladino shot these with his point-and-shoot camera on Feb. 24 and 27.

He writes:

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 27 2015 02

Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 27 2015 02

Dick Paladino - RYC Feb 27 2015 01

Dick Paladino – RYC Feb 27 2015 01

I took them a few days ago when the ice was piled up along the river bank, then while driving by last night shortly after sunset, I picked up a few more in the dusky rose sky-glow.

 

FYI to any photogs hoping to replicate one of these moonlit views on the old postcards – you can never position yourself so the sunset or moon is behind the Yacht Club as it is in this scan of a vintage lithograph postcard sent in by Nick Mortgu.

vintage postcard of Riverton Yacht Club  scan contributed by Nick Mortgu

vintage postcard of Riverton Yacht Club
scan contributed by Nick Mortgu

 

Maybe some sailor can give us our bearings.

Light at the end of the tunnel – Accuweather is forecasting mid-fifties and rain for Weds. and spring arrives March 20.

Stop snickering, Murrietta, CA, I know it’s 75 degrees there. – JMc

 

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Mrs. Tilmont, retired Riverton School teacher, turns 99

Eleanor Tilmont 99th bd (Copy)It was a Girls’ Day Out last Thursday when retired Riverton School teacher Mrs. Eleanor Tilmont celebrated her 99th birthday with friends at Due Amici (her actual birthdate, Feb. 11, 1916).

Father Michael Doyle read Eleanor a moving poem and gave everyone a blessing.

This is one lady who does tell her age and is looking forward to her 100th birthday bash. – JMc

 

 

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Town Historian Paul Schopp comments on “Summering In Riverton”

Mrs. Patricia Solin and I collaborated on “Summering In Riverton” which appeared in the November GN. Shortly afterward, my friend Paul Schopp sent us a wonderful commentary which gives added context to several of our remarks and makes a couple of corrections.

John:

Okay, here are my comments on the “Summering in Riverton” article:

I do not believe the steamboat landing predated the town. No wharf appears on any pre-1851 maps. In addition, the founders and early residents had no regard for the railroad at all. The steamboat was the preferred method of travel. This is why the Camden & Amboy Railroad did not build a station at Riverton until the 1860s.

Regarding the Riverton Journal, I recall that the editors and publishers were a couple of teenage boys, hence the “frankness” and prose.

Riverton, NJ map 1859

Riverton, NJ map 1859

Attached is an 1859 map of Riverton; you will see the “Riverton House” next to C.P. Miller or Main Street. I believe this is the same as the Cinnaminson House that Charles Hall operated.

The 1877 map attached indicates that Pancoast had already built his house at 404 Main, but the lot where 402 would be built is still vacant.

Riverton, NJ map 1877

Riverton, NJ map 1877

As I indicated to you at the Memorial, the Kern’s Tourist Home was out along Route 25 (Route 130) and served the traveling public moving to and from New York City and should not really be included in your article.

In 1860, Pancoast was a farmer, but following the Civil War, I think he moved into Riverton and constructed 404 Main. He listed himself as “Palmyra, NJ” because the Riverton post office did not open until 1871 and he probably built 404 either in 1868 or 1869.

In 1890, the Pennsylvania Railroad published a guide to Suburban Homes within a radius of 30 miles around Philadelphia. This what it contains for Riverton:

“One of the most charming spots on the river is this favorite, conservative little town. Its population consists of seven-hundred, who are mainly property-owners, and the exceptional summer-boarding opportunities as presented here are usually captured a long time in advance. By a town ordinance no buildings are allowed on the river front, and now, extending for a  good mile in length, and running from the river wall to the artistic houses set back a goodly distance, is a green, velvet-like lawn, without fence or party-line, a perfect landscape garden, which has become one of the distinctive features pointed out to the boat travelers steaming by. It is a haven for yachtsmen, canoeists, lovers of the rod, cricketers, ball and tennis players, and its sandy beach is well dotted in the warm summer afternoons with numbers of bathers. Its shaded walks and drives bestow enticing coolness, even on the warmest day, and almost every evening some means of private entertainment or dance is improvised in the little theatre for the pleasure of the summer guest. From a sanitary standpoint it is very healthful, and the theory of malaria existing about these river-front resorts has long been exploded—as no better proof is needed than the return, season after season, of the same people, or by the length of years enjoyed by the permanent  New Jersey inhabitants. There are several churches (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Catholic) in the village. Telegraphic, express, and mail service.

Lawn House.”—Miss E.S. Bell. Three squares from station. Accommodates seventy-five guests. Open May 31st to October 15th. Rates, $10 to $25 per week. Large mansion; situated on the river bank; unobstructed view of river scenery. Good boating, bathing, and fishing.

“Private Mansion.” Miss Sallie Sickel. Few minutes’ walk from station. Accommodates thirty guests. Open all the year. Rates, $10 to 15 per week. Large porch and lawn.

Home Mansion.” Mrs. E.H. Pancoast. One square from station. Accommodates ten guests. Open June to October. Rates, $8 to $15 per week.”

I hope you find these comments helpful.

Best regards,

Paul

 Our thanks to Paul Schopp for his comprehensive fact-checking of our article.  – JMc

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We go in with Palmyra on a bigger, better Antique & Collectible Appraisal

Expert Personal Property Appraiser, Ronald Shaffer, ISA assesses Nancy and Bill Hall's music box.

Ronald Shaffer assesses Nancy and Bill Hall’s music box in 2013

Saturday, March 28, 2015, from noon to 4 p.m. will see the return of the popular Antique & Collectible Appraisal with the affable and very knowledgeable appraiser Ronald E. Shaffer, but with a  few upgrades.

The spacious Palmyra Community Center will serve as the venue for an enlarged event which the Palmyra Historical & Cultural Society is co-sponsoring with the Historical Society of Riverton.

Well-known Philadelphia antiques expert, Mr. Ronald E. Shaffer, ISA, is a frequent speaker on the subject of Fakes, Frauds & Flimflams, and he directs many such Heirloom Discovery Day events for historical societies and civic groups.

You are certain to be informed and entertained by Mr. Shaffer’s witty and informed banter as he speaks about each piece, about his profession, and offers his opinions of value for items brought to the event.

In addition, we are very fortunate to have available at this same event Mr. Nicholas Fratto, Accredited Master Gemologist and CEO of Anthony Jewelers, to evaluate your vintage fine jewelry. Anthony Jewelers, of course, is a 3rd Generation family business serving the Riverfront region and beyond since 1953.

Muster sheets listing names of local area Union soldiers on display in 2014

Muster sheets listing names of local area Union soldiers on display in 2014

Last January 2014, we reported on the fine PH&CS presentation of its recently acquired Civil War diaries written by Capt. Charles Hall and muster sheets of local soldiers in Company E, 4th Regiment NJ Volunteers of the Union Army. The Civil War muster sheets will also be on display at this appraisal event.

The popularity of Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and other such reality shows has us all dreaming of finding buried treasure in our attic or finding a bargain in that local flea market. Whether it has been in the family for generations or you just picked up a vintage item on eBay, find out what it’s worth at this rare special event.

Admission is free. Each expert’s verbal opinion of value is $5 per item with a limit of two per person. No written appraisals will be issued. No reservation needed.

PLEASE NOTE— so you will not be disappointed — Mr.Shaffer claims no general knowledge of firearms, swords, or modern-day collectibles. He specializes in American, English and Continental furniture, glassware, silver, china, American art, textiles, and needlework. Furniture items are always welcome — if they are easily transportable by the owner. Photographs of items, too large to carry, are acceptable as long as they are clear, true views with sufficient detail. Mr. Fratto’s specialty is fine estate jewelry. – JMcAntique Collectible Appraisal publicity 2015

 

 

 

 

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