Old newsletters reveal early work of the Historical Society that almost did not survive

Scroll down to see links for each issue

Here are the very first eight newsletters (1974-1977) of the Historical Society of Riverton.  Then-president Marilyn Colozzi probably wrote most or all of the single-page issues (Secretary Mary Jane Wittmeyer signed #8)

Incidentally, the names listed for the members of the Board of Directors are exclusively female.

So, thanks for the history, ladies!

RYC float, July 4, 1976 PHOTO CREDIT: Bill McDermott

In existence since June 1970, the young band of history enthusiasts struggled earnestly those first years to offer activities and programs, sponsor trips and tours to places of interest, recruit more members, and engage public interest in Riverton history.

The subject of Gaslight News #6, dated October 28, 1976, tells of a meeting that almost led to the undoing of the fledgling association.

A special meeting of the board was held October 5th to discuss the continuation of the Historical Society. After much discussion pro and con it was recommended, by those present, that the Historical Society should be dissolved. A motion was made to that effect. On October 20th the board met again. It was decided at this time to continue holding our programs, as planned, for this coming year.

Whew! We almost didn’t make it.

So here we are in 2019, approaching the Fiftieth Anniversary of our founding (June 2020), and we still strive to engage a community to understand and preserve local history.

Currently, only about 68 of 997 Riverton households support the Society with their membership. “Likes” on social media do little to materially advance our mission to “…create an awareness of our heritage, to discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the history of the area.”

What does move the Society’s agenda forward?

Gifts of time and money, and contributions of images, documents, artifacts, and other such evidence of our past by countless persons have made this online archive possible. Please join this group of ardent lovers of local history or donate at any time so that we may continue this worthy undertaking.

Gaslight News:
001 GN Dec 1974 
002 GN Feb 1975  
003 GN Apr 1975       
004 GN Fall 1975
005 GN Mar 1976         
006 GN Oct 1976
007 GN Nov 1976         
008 GN Oct 1977

Click here to see all back issues of the Gaslight News.

These early issues provide a glimpse into a HSR under Betty Hahle’s leadership

In October 1976, the Historical Society of Riverton almost dissolved.  Starting in December 1977, under President and Editor Betty Hahle’s leadership, the Society continued to offer activities and programs, expanded the newsletter from its previous one-page format, and pursued historic preservation projects.

In these issues follow the organization’s efforts to save the gaslights from extinction and preserve the film “Romance of Riverton.”  Read the first of Betty Hahle’s informative “Yesterday” articles. She went on to produce over 100 of her signature historical essays from 1977 – 2001.

Gaslight News:
December 1977
May 1978
September 1978
December 1978

Click here to see more back issues of the Gaslight News.

Editor’s Note: If I can locate it, I will post that Charles Stonaker interview mentioned in the Dec. ’77 issue.  Is there anything mentioned in these early issues about which you would like to know more? -JMc

Four-decade old newsletters chronicle formative years of the Society; Help needed to locate lost issues

Here is the next batch of scanned newsletters.

Gaslight News:
February 1980 
November 1979
September 1979
May 1979
February 1979

Click here to see more back issues of the Gaslight News.

Editor’s Note: The pages of these newsletters chronicle the early days of the Historical Society of Riverton.

Gaslight News binders

A previous post noted that the research and historical preservation efforts of many pioneering HSR members have given us the understanding we now have of Riverton history.

Much of that history is recorded in about 180 issues of the Society’s newsletter (thru May 2019).

Shortly after I took on the job of editor in September 2007, I set out to scan back issues of our newsletter. I was disappointed to find many issues missing from the file cabinet in the Riverton Library basement in which they were stored.

Luckily, former HSR President and newsletter editor Betty Hahle had her own duplicate files. She let me borrow copies that were missing, but there were still gaps in the full publication run of the Historical Society’s own newsletter.

Further rummaging through our storage area in the basement of Riverton Library yielded a manila folder full of newsletters that had belonged to Mrs. Joan Hartmann. Its contents filled in a few more missing pieces of the Gaslight News record.

The first eight single-page issues written by then-president Marilyn Colozzi proved to be elusive for a while more, but now, even those take their place in this archive of newsletter back issues.

Only two more, dated January and November 2006, remain missing. Please contact the Society if you are able to help in completing this important record of those first formative years of the Historical Society of Riverton. – JMc

Revised: 7-9-2019


40 years ago the HSR sought to carry out a mission; the work continues

The pages of these nearly four decades old newsletters detail early efforts of Society members to pay homage to local history and geography.

Gaslight News:
May 1980
September 1980
November 1980
February 1981
May 1981

Click here to see more back issues of the Gaslight News.

Incorporation of the Society, its certification as a non-profit, curating engaging historical programs, publishing newsletters, surveying Riverton, combing through period resources, securing a National Register of Historic Places designation, collecting and storing artifacts, images, and documents, and other work of historical preservation have brought us an understanding of what renowned historian David McCullough called “… who we are and why we are the way we are.”

Creating a website, updating it, refreshing the newsletter, and establishing a Facebook page, tasks for another generation of HSR members, would never have occurred without the pioneering endeavors of many who came before.

Who do you recognize among the persons mentioned in these five issues?

Louise Vaughn, “Sister” Probsting, Joan Hartmann, Nell Layton, EllaMay Moore, Ruth Schmierer, Betty Hahle, Carl and Walter McAllister, Harold Zayotti, William Baxter, Alice Myers, Pete Dechnik, Lloyd Griscom, Nancy Hall, John Parry, Betty Lockhart, Marilyn Colozzi…

And who among you will carry on our mission into the 21st century?

Constitution – Article II – Purpose

The purpose of the Society shall be to bring together those people who are interested in history and especially the history of the Borough of Riverton, but not limited thereto. The Society’s major function will be to create an awareness
of our heritage, to discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the history of the area.

Can you support this noble work with your membership or a donation?

Meet Me at the Eagle

by Harlan Radford Jr.

Are you are old enough to remember hearing the words, “Meet me at the Eagle”? I do recall hearing those very words uttered by my own mother. It was quite common for people who were shopping at the John Wanamaker Department Store in Philadelphia to arrange to do so with their family or friends. Moreover, if one were to become lost or even separated from their loved one while shopping, then this phrase took on real significance and became very sound advice!

John Wanamaker Building, Philadelphia, PA

In an age before cell phones and GPS, “Meet me at the Eagle” was the only geographic coordinate needed to arrange a meeting place in any John Wanamaker department stores. The following account along with several accompanying vintage postcard images will serve to illustrate the origin of that signature store symbol.

The Eagle, The Grand Court, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia

The Eagle was the centerpiece of the Grand Court in the John Wanamaker Main Store located in Philadelphia. This prominent symbol would become the meeting place for thousands of Philadelphians since Mr. Wanamaker brought it to the store from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis.

The Eagle, The Grand Court, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia

Separately made parts form the heavy plates of the inner structure and the outer features and other surface parts. The Eagle contains some 6,600 bronze feathers and each individual feather was made and painstakingly placed by hand. Created by the noted German sculptor August Gaul, the dimensions of his creation measured 6’6” in height, 3’3” wide and 9’10” in length. Overall, the Eagle was a spectacular and imposing work of art as well as the store mascot!

Strawbridge and Clothier’s, 8th and Market Sts., Philadelphia, PA 1914
The Gimbel Store, Philadelphia, PA

For many years, the Wanamaker store had to distinguish itself from among the other retail giants as considerable competition was coming from other notable names such as Strawbridge & Clothier, Lit Brothers and Gimbels.

In order to satisfy the demands of competition and to grow its retail business, Wanamaker’s made a strategic decision to open a number of branch locations. During the 1950s and ‘60s, the company built new stores in area communities including Wilmington (Delaware), Wynnewood, Jenkintown, and King of Prussia (all in Pennsylvania) as well as in Moorestown (New Jersey).

Furthermore, every Wanamaker Branch Store had its own large version of the Eagle, prominently displayed for all shoppers to see and enjoy. These Eagle replicas were placed in a relatively new type of merchandising venue, the suburban shopping mall.

The Eagle, Moorestown Mall
The Eagle, Moorestown Mall

Two more postcards depict the famous Eagle at the Moorestown Shopping Mall. Like its Philadelphia cousin, the massive golden Eagle perched high upon a pedestal amid a fountain of dancing waters at the mall entrance to the John Wanamaker store also served as a rendezvous spot.

The Eagle, The Grand Court, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia

In this final postcard, the Wanamaker Eagle sports a celebratory horn to trumpet and announce an upcoming store-wide event. Printed on the address side of this postcard, the message conveys the following information: “120TH / ANNIVERSARY / SALE / OCT. 14-25. We’ve made our 120th Anniversary Sale the most exciting storewide sale ever. Sale starts Wednesday, Oct. 14, in all Wanamaker stores. Doors open 9:00 am sharp! I look forward to seeing you.” Mrs. Fulcanetti, salesperson in the Linen Department at the Moorestown Store, mailed it from Moorestown, N.J. Oct. 8, 1981.

In 2001, the Philadelphia Historical Commission designated the Eagle an historic object. The original Eagle is currently located at what is now Macy’s Department Store at 13th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.

We welcome your recollections and stories and look forward to hearing from you should you wish to tell us about your memories of the classic Wanamaker Eagle.

Amazon offers a lengthy preview of Wanamaker’s: Meet Me at the Eagle (Landmarks) (Paperback) by Michael J. Lisicky.

Wanamaker Toy Dept. Monorail, 1986

PS: Since publishing the above, a few Facebook comments referenced eating in the Crystal Tea Room, seeing the Christmas Village, and attending the organ and light performance in the Grand Court. Our family has done those things, but the only photo in our album I could find was this one of the Rudi Express, a monorail that traveled around the 8th floor Toy Department. Could shopping online at Amazon ever duplicate the unforgettable and magical day we had shopping in-person at Wanamaker’s? – JMc

A terpsichorean performance at Riverton School, June 1938, prompts a look back to past May Days

Riverton School field day, The New Era, June 16, 1938, p2


Now there’s a College Boards vocabulary word – terpsichorean.

I had to look it up.

After recently stumbling across the above newspaper photo while searching our Historical Local Newspaper Collection, I realized there were a few other bits about the same topic in our archive, so I decided to get them all in one place.

But don’t worry – there is still room for more, if you care to contribute, as the women below have done.

Pam Deitz supplied these snapshots showing the ceremony for the crowning of the 1936 May Queen.

1936 May Queen ceremony – photo credit Pam Deitz
1936 RPS May Queen Court
1936 RPS May Queen Court






Cheryl Smekal, 2011 Museum for a Day Curator

Cheryl Smekal, a former HSR Board Member whose family photo album has been a source of inspiration here before, provides these scans of May Day celebrations in the mid-1950s.

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One wonders how much more Riverton history is stored away in basements and attics?

In the November 2009 Gaslight News, Mrs Elsie Showell Waters described the annual Riverton Field Day as it was observed in 1932:

What excitement—Field Day was coming! We got white sneakers for the day. We took flowers to school to decorate the May Poles. We upper-class girls donned our black bloomers, our middy blouses, and our new sneakers. We marched out to the field at Memorial Park to do our exercises with dumbbells and Indian clubs to band music. After that, we went into tents set up at the park to change into our pretty dresses for the May Pole Dance. Such fun dancing around the May Pole, weaving pretty colored ribbons under and over to make a pretty design.

2013 Parade Marshal Elsie Waters

Elsie, who passed in 2018 at age 99, was an active HSR Board Member and a vital part of our Society for many years. Her enthusiasm for history is greatly missed. Casey Foedisch‘s 2013 interview of Elsie reveals the great love she had for her lifelong home.

People ask, “Where do you get this stuff?” and the answer is, we get a lot of it from you, our members, and visitors. We welcome anyone’s photos or recollections that will elaborate on this May Day/ Field Day theme (or anything else, really).

Please the form below to comment or contact us for details on how to submit longer memoirs.

If you find value within these pages, please support this endeavor with your membership or use Paypal (button at left) to contribute to the noble work of preserving local history. -JMc

Thank you to all who volunteered to serve as HRC marshals

Iris Gaughan, Matt Morse, 2017

Iris Gaughan, Marshal Coordinator, sends a sincere thank-you to Michael Gilbert and all others who  helped to get to her goal of having 44 volunteer marshals cover the 7 corners of the race route for one-hour shifts during next Sunday’s Historic Riverton Criterium.  Iris reports that she now has enough volunteers.

And, the Society thanks Iris – the race literally could not go on without marshals.

2019 HRCriterium Commemorative Mugs available

Did you see the ingenious official 2019 HRCriterium poster on Facebook that Lauren West designed? She even included New Jersey’s State Bird, the American goldfinch!

2019 HRC poster by Lauren West

The two mugs below each incorporate her design elements and include a photo of Carlos Rogers, creator of the race, along with descriptive text.

To preorder a LIMITED EDITION 2019 HRCriterium Commemorative Mug, please use the form below, and someone will contact you to work out payment and delivery details.

(Actually, they are limited only to how many people order one.)

Red or blue – $15 each.

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9th Annual HRCriterium needs race marshals next Sunday

Hello, Everyone,

Bill Brown, HRC 2018 marshal

If you can spare just an hour next Sunday to cover one of the seven corners during the Criterium, please contact us thru the form below.

We extend a hearty THANK YOU to Suzanne Cairns Wells and Kevin Harris for responding to our request here on May 8 to serve as race marshals.

Marshal Coordinator, Iris Gaughan, explains more below.

Bill Brown
President, Historical Society of Riverton

If you have read the Special Historic Riverton Criterium Edition of the Gaslight News you know that this year, money raised from this town-wide tradition will benefit the Historical Society of Riverton.

Carlos, Adrienne, & Leo Rogers

On June 9, 2019, Riverton will host the 9th Annual Historic Riverton Criterium. Carlos Rogers, a Riverton resident and civic supporter, has been the promoter of this event since its inception in 2011.  The day is filled with professional bicycle racing and fun-filled activities.  Many community members along the race course have front yard picnics and gatherings.

Iris Gaughan, 2017

I am the marshal coordinator for the race.  This bicycle race cannot happen without a marshal on each of the race corners. 

Dennis DeVries, 2015 HRC Marshal

The marshal’s job is essentially to make sure that no one crosses the street during the race.  Each marshal will be given specific directions and guidelines before the race.  Each marshal will only need to be on duty for 1 hour.  Forty-four marshals are needed to cover the 7 corners for 5 races (some corners need 2 marshals)

It is incumbent upon race beneficiaries to volunteer to help. Please turn to a friend, colleague, and/or neighbor and ask them to marshal. 

Society membership is not a requirement. All I need from you is a list of names and email addresses and I will contact the individuals. Please use the contact form below.

The Historic Riverton Criterium has become a great Riverton tradition with over $35,000 given to local organizations.  Your help is greatly appreciated.

Thank You,
Iris Gaughan


Speaking of women cyclists…

2016 HRC Women’s race

With a mere three weeks to go before the Historic Riverton Criterium returns to the streets of Riverton, we remind readers that a previous post explained that women cyclists first competed in the 2015 Historic Riverton Criterium.

In cycling, as in other areas of sports, women have often been forbidden to compete in major contests. Men had their first Olympic Games cycling race in 1896, but women had to wait until 1984 for the first women’s Olympic road race.

Witnessing the determined women competing in high performance women’s cycling apparel, it may be hard to imagine a time when Victorian attitudes and long skirts made it difficult, if not impractical, for women to enjoy bicycling at all.

The cover of the National Police Gazette, October 28, 1893, shows Angelina Allen from New York, a daring reformer of clothing

Indeed, a popular thesis is that the late 19th century bicycle craze helped liberate women.

The story of Angeline Allen may serve as an example.

In 1893, Angeline Allen of Newark, NJ, created a sensation when she rode a bike through town wearing blue corduroy bloomers.

This brazen act was met with astonishment, derision, and a public scolding in the newspapers.

They were just pants!

But in a world where customs and laws restricting this manner of dress sometimes still criminalized such behavior even into the early 1900s, this was a brave act in reforming women’s fashion.

Today’s women cyclists owe a debt to the legacy of Angeline Allen and Annie Londonderry for moving the ball forward in the struggle for women’s rights.

Susan B Anthony c1855

In 1896, suffragist Susan B. Anthony observed, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Society, and bicycles, may have evolved since then, but to see how far, we will leave it to author Margaret Guroff to tell more about Miss Allen and explain how we got to this point.

In her recent book, The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped America Life, Guroff also examines how the invention of the safety bicycle ignited other changes in society – the development of better roads and changing attitudes of consumers, for example.

The website Longreads provides an excerpt from Guroff’s book entitled, The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped America Life, in a chapter called “The Wheel, the Woman, and the Human Body.

In this interview of the author we learn that finding out the role that bikes played in paving roads got her started, but her book also explores the bike’s influence on many other aspects of American life.

This amazon.com book blurb allows a peek inside other parts of her lively cultural history book.

As you enjoy the races on June 9, remember the history that got us to this moment.