Got a match, buddy?

Probably not the weirdest thing to collect, the hobby of collecting different match-related items such as matchboxes, matchbox labels, matchbooks, matchcovers, matchsafes, etc. is known as phillumeny. One who collects is a phillumenist.

Don’t you love this distance-learning?

Ok, eight is a pretty weak collection, but how many Palmyra/Riverton enterprises over the years potentially would have even used matchbooks to advertise their trade?

Please scan or take a photo of yours so we can add them to this display.

My favorite one is still the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge matchbook. I mean, just look at that artwork!

I even made a mug out of it.

Jersey Journal, July 12, 1960, p4

But this recently acquired one for the Carvel Sparks Dodge Plymouth dealership at Broad and Main piqued my curiosity. Wait – where at Broad and Main? And what a cool name.

The old 2L-5N, or “two-letter and 5 number” system in which phone numbers were assigned to residents based on location (in this case “RI” for Riverton) was retired in the c1960.  Riverton was the first town in the area to make the transition.

So I decided to start looking through our old hometown newspapers as well as in online newspaper archives for some evidence of  Carvel Sparks.

The Ridgewood Herald, Sept 1, 1938

So, it turns out that Carvel Sparks is not a nickname. The unique appellation simplified searching and resulted in very few irrelevant hits.

A 1938 Ridgewood (NJ) Herald news clipping describes the farewell luncheon her women’s club gave Mrs. Carvel Sparks when she and her mister relocated to Riverton.

The Penn State grad, artist, DAR member, landscape architect, lecturer on gardening, and published author was very socially and politically active well before she took on leadership roles at Riverton’s Porch Club.

Indeed, newspapers yielded dozens more search results for Mrs. Carvel Sparks’ activities before, during, and after her residence in Riverton spanning the mid-1920s through the mid-1970s than they did for all of Mr. Carvel Sparks’ business affairs.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov 13,1938

In 1940, the Carvel Sparks household, comprised of Carvel Sparks (aged 40), his wife Ethel, two daughters, and mother-in-law resided at 900 Main Street. Carvel Sparks’ occupation at that moment was president of an auto sales agency.

Previously, in 1938-1940, he had distributed Willys and Graham cars at another Carvel Sparks dealership on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

New Era, Nov 1, 1923, p1

Carvel Sparks directed his auto dealership out of a commercial building at 523 Main Street that was originally built in 1923 for the Clinton B. Woolston Star and Durant automobile business.

1925 Sanborn Insurance Map detail, Sheet 2

This detail of a 1925 Riverton Sanborn Insurance Map confirms that the capacity of the building was 35 cars.

A number of Courier-Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and The New Era newspaper advertisements from about 1944 through 1958, document the presence of Carvel Sparks’ auto dealership at that same location.

Courier-Post, Mar 26, 1946, p5

While in Riverton, Carvel Sparks assumed leadership roles in at least three organizations.

Courier-Post, Nov 21, 1950, p7

In 1946, he was a member of Riverton Country Club‘s Board of Trustees.

In 1950, Sparks served as treasurer for the newly formed Riverton Business Association, and later the Tri-Borough Chamber of Commerce elected him president in 1957.

The lifelong golfer’s name often figured prominently in local sports pages.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Carvel Sparks’ 1972 obituary tells us that he retired from his Riverton Dodge-Plymouth dealership in 1958 and had resided in Blakeslee, PA for the previous eleven years.

People come and go in Riverton for many reasons, The achievements of this couple obviously created an influence on this community for a number of years.

It was a matchbook that plunged me down this latest “rabbit hole.” What will induce you to delve in Riverton history during this coronavirus shutdown?

Can you name another car dealership in Riverton?

(Please know that clicking on an image will show a larger one and that underlined terms in the article above link to more content.)

Published by

John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

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