Old postcards trace early development of Stone Harbor, NJ

 

Jersey beaches are open! Well, at least virtually, here at rivertonhistory.com.

New Stone Harbor in the Making

The Rise of Stone Harbor, N. J.
by
Harlan Radford

In the late 1890s, three enterprising brothers from Philadelphia formed a business venture called the South Jersey Realty Company. Howard, David, and Reese Risley envisioned a thriving seashore resort community on an undeveloped tract of land popularly referred to as Seven Mile Island located in Cape May County.

New Stone Harbor, NJ – Watch it grow

The Risley Brothers set into motion a plan to transform this barrier island of sand dunes, wide expansive beaches, and salt marsh at the southernmost portion of the South Jersey peninsula into a popular vacation resort. Some folks referred to this new resort as being ‘Philadelphia’s Seashore Suburb.

A very important part of this early development plan included providing a means for connecting Stone Harbor with the mainland. Originally, a rail line was proposed but that soon gave way to a more feasible elevated roadway. Dubbed “The Ocean Parkway” initially and later called “The Stone Harbor Ocean Parkway,” this new boulevard extending from Cape May Court House now made it possible for people to come to the island. And come they did!

 “Building the Causeway to Seven Mile Island”

In 1911, a Gala Week of celebration scheduled for July 1 to 5 included an entire series of events of general public interest arranged as a means of promoting and featuring the many fine aspects and possibilities of the “new” Stone Harbor in the making.

Festivities kicked off on Saturday, July 1 with competitive sailboat races open to the public and a lush dinner-dance provided at the newly opened Yacht Club. Sunday, July 2, ushered in the first religious church services at the new Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches. Monday, July 3, witnessed the dedication of the Boulevard Bridges and Canal with appropriate ceremonies attended by public officials, dignitaries, and many spectators. Included in that august group of officials would be the Governor of New Jersey, the Honorable Woodrow Wilson. Other attractions included exciting automobile races on the beachfront, a beach party with a barbecue for county granges, a water carnival, a fireworks display, and a dedication ball at the Yacht Club. Tuesday, July 4, saw a sailing Regatta followed by athletic sports, including track and aquatic events and concluding with yet another ball at the Yacht Club for the visiting athletes and yachtsmen.

The conclusion of Gala Week celebrations occurred on Wednesday, July 5. The South Jersey Realty Company offered and sold First Mortgage Beach Front Improvement Bonds at the opening price of $65 (par, $100), which advanced to $70 at the close of business that day.

Purchasers under the famous Stone Harbor Bond Plan received free fully improved lots at Stone Harbor. Thus, not only was Stone Harbor then on the map, but interested persons could invest and buy into this community enterprise.

Gala Week in Stone Harbor, July 1-5, 1911

At about this time, postcards and especially picture postcards became in vogue as a popular means to communicate by mail with relatives, friends, and neighbors. Soon the post office delivered a marvelous travelogue of images depicting new and distant places to our mailboxes. Typical postcards featured an interesting photograph on the front and space for a brief hand-written note or printed message, mailing address, and a postage stamp on the other side. Postcards served as souvenirs or keepsakes and provided an easy means of sending personal greetings as well as conveying timely commercial advertisements.

The Risley brothers devised a novel means to promote the idea of announcing their real estate venture in Stone Harbor and they connected with the public in a clever and inexpensive way. Just one cent covered the cost of mailing a postcard back then. The Risleys utilized picture postcards as a means to promote Stone Harbor and attract buyers of homes and property. They captured the attention of interested parties by mailing picture postcards describing their direct role in the construction of homes and cottages in Stone Harbor. In addition, those picture postcards also clearly document the early development of Stone Harbor.

The Building Boom in Stone Harbor

The Risley brothers’ innovative postcard advertisements pictured below show the early stages of growth and development in Stone Harbor. South Jersey Realty Company/Beach Front Improvement Investment Bonds, issued in May 1909, raised money to fund the beginning construction of needed infrastructure including streets, sidewalks, sewers,  water supply, and electric power in Stone Harbor. Each beautifully steel-engraved certificate bore actual penned signatures of David Risley, Secretary, and H.S. Risley, President, and guaranteed the purchaser the return of $100, payable on December 1, 1927.

South Jersey Realty Company advertising postcards and bond

Boosted by the rise in popularity of picture postcards, Stone Harbor became incorporated just five years later in 1914. The Risley brothers’ brilliantly conceived real estate venture grew to become a unique South Jersey resort and adopted the slogan, “The Seashore at its Best.”

The advent of the automobile, the construction of major, multi-lane
highways and toll roads, along with the emphasis on enjoying the leisure benefits
of the Jersey Shore directly contributed to the Stone Harbor we have all
come to know today.

Looking through old photos brightens our day – even more now

Missing the daily pleasures of pre-quarantine life, pandemic-induced nostalgia and isolation have compelled many of us to find old photos and reflect on experiences with family and friends that transport us back months or years to normal times.

Rutgers-Camden researcher Andrew Abeyta says that one way that people can deal with these fears is “…to tap into the power of nostalgia – a sentimental or wistful longing for the past – which can have profound psychological benefits during periods of confusion or uncertainty. Nostalgia, he argues, can go a long way in helping to restore a sense of meaning in life.”

So forgive us for perhaps indulging in nostalgia even more than what may be typical for a historical society.

Camp Lenape waterfront, Aug1964

While looking through old scrapbooks, Harlan Radford recently re-discovered this black and white Polaroid photo taken in AUG. 1964, which shows the Burlington County Boy Scout Camp Lenape waterfront in Medford, New Jersey.  He writes:

The activity going on in this photo suggests that a couple of Boy Scouts were working on their Rowing Merit Badge and one of the requirements is to purposely swamp a rowboat (see far right of photo) and demonstrate what to do to save oneself if capsized.  

The aluminum rowboat shown here has built-in flotation compartments and will not sink; however, Scouts were taught to stay with the boat until help or rescue arrives.  Note the all-important “buddy board” with buddy tags shown in the lower-left corner of this image. Every swimmer entering the water was required to have a buddy and they were to look out for one another. Their name tags would be placed next to one another or paired together on the buddy board showing what Scouts were paired and whether they were swimming in the clearly marked non-swimmer, beginner, or swimmer areas.

Swimmers had to stay with your buddy and remain in the area that they were allowed to be in based on their swimming ability. Every ten to fifteen minutes a whistle would be blown and Scouts would have to quickly get with their buddy and raise their hands to be counted.  This way there was a periodic accounting procedure to do a headcount and make sure all swimmers are safe.  When all are accounted for, a whistle is blown again and swimmers resume their water activity.  

During regularly scheduled large group swimming sessions, trained Life Guards were stationed at various places along the dock or on the beach with long bamboo poles (see one such white pole being held by a Scout in this photo) to aid and assist a swimmer in need.  Rescues were to be carried out with safety for all including the rescuer or put another way – one only goes into the water to save someone as a very last resort.  Therefore it was important to extend the pole or toss a ring-buoy on a rope to the victim and then proceed to pull them to safety. Safety was always paramount when it came to all water-related activities such as boating, canoeing, and swimming.

The unearthing of this long-lost photo no doubt transported the former Boy Scout and Camp Aquatic Director back several decades. I can only imagine the wistful smile that this discovery brought to his face since we are miles distant.

What takes you back, Gentle Reader, and helps you to cope with the present distressing and uncertain situation? – JMc

Then & Now: 27th Street near River Avenue, Camden

Properties of WS Travis, 27th near River Ave., Camden, N J, postmark 1908

 

If you collect old postcards, then you know that a real photo postcard (RPPC) can be among the most costly to buy because it often is literally one-of-a-kind. This card was postmarked at Camden, N.J. on Nov. 16, 1908 and mailed to Meadville, PA. (Two successive clicks on the photo will enlarge to maximum)

As indicated by the “X”, this is the home and store of East Camden Grocer William S. Travis, wife Flora, and daughters Bertha and Helen.

Flora Travis, writing to her aunt, Mrs. Joel Smith, explains in the message that it is a “…picture of our house,” and that marks indicate Will and Helen. “I was in store and not on it.”

The newspapers of his day chronicled much of Grocer Travis’ colorful life and a search of ancestry.com fills in more blanks.

The well-known resident of East Camden owned the aforementioned grocery at 27th and River Road at a time when a team of horses and wagon delivered the provisions. He later worked in the road contracting business.

The Cramer Hill entrepreneur belonged to several fraternal and civic organizations, ran for Camden City Council, and owed a winning racehorse named Helen Hill.

Society columns kept regular tabs on his visits to shore resorts and other travels, a wagon accident caused by a runaway horse, family milestones, and his purchase of a new Overland automobile. The papers took note of birthdays, illnesses, a health scare on a ferryboat, and of course, his 1921 obit.

Street View, 27th Near River Ave. Camden, N J Sep 2019

What would Grocer Will think of his neighborhood today? Click on the Google Maps link at right and you can “drive” around the block.

We thank frequent contributor Harlan Radford for providing the scan that inspired this waaaaay too detailed article about one Camden postcard – even one written during a late-night pandemic isolation induced burst of energy.

Want to see more RPPCs? Scroll down to our search feature in the left column and search the term RPPC. Looking for vintage images of Camden? Search for Camden.

Still the best authority on all topics regarding Camden

http://www.dvrbs.com/

Thanks also to teammate Roger Prichard for the ancestry.com lookup.

 – JMc

Asking for a friend…

We received several comments expressing approval of an article in our last newsletter (May 2020) that told about the work of Riverton artists, past and present.

Joan Biddle, a longtime friend of the Society, suggested that we assemble a resource bank of historically oriented crafts people, much like we did recently for fine artists.

I like it! We need to hear about your endorsements with some photos, contact info, and a description of the their specialty.

The project that stirred our interest in creating such a list was a note from Joan asking if we could recommend someone to fabricate a new split-reed seat for a newly refinished antique “acorn” ladderback chair. The patterns vary for such seats but she aims to have the new seat constructed with similar material and pattern to match another chair.

We are working on getting a photo, but the chair is similar to this one above, plagiarized from the internet.

OK, I’ll start.

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.)

Our boardwalks and beaches are still open

Some NJ shore towns recently banned short-term rentals and closed beaches and boardwalks in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but housebound thalassophiles* will find our postcard views of the Jersey Shore are still open.

Our postcard collector friend Harlan, who obviously has too much time on his hands, has scrutinized his vintage postcard collection and noticed something. He speculates that the same photographer took all 3 of these photos at the same time period one sunny, summer day at Stone Harbor.

Beach view, Stone Harbor, NJ

The first postcard above is our starting point. Note the persons assembled up on the boardwalk. Slowly scan left to right starting with the baby carriage, bench #1, person holding an umbrella, and last, the 2nd bench. (Curiously this photo has had the lamp posts up on the board removed.)

96th St. and boardwalk, Stone Harbor, NJ

What do you see in the above slide that you saw before?

Boardwalk, Stone Harbor, NJ

In the scan above, we are on the other side of the boardwalk facing the beach and the ocean. Do you see umbrellas and two benches? And most importantly, there’s that baby stroller.

A.M. Simon at 32 Union Square, New York produced all three postcards. The typography and layout designs are identical.

In the absence of a copyright date, a postmark can often give the collector an approximate idea of when the photographer captured the image.

These dates are AUG 6, 1919, AUG 15, 1918, and MAR 26, 1946 respectively. The message on the back explains the reason for the 20+ year gap in mailings.

The Oakland, CA sender of the card postmarked 1946 hoped to convince the Columbia, SC recipient to swap or exchange postcards for their collections. Pretty clever.  See, there’s a story with every post card.

Harlan’s SH postcard map

Only a guy who sequentially orders his collection and indicates their subjects’ locations on a town map would connect the dots and notice this.

Do you think that Harlan got it right?

Have time for another postcard oddity?

What is going on with these two postcards?

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Abracadabra – the boardwalk’s now gone! The reason?

It would appear that the Hurricane of 1944 took out the entire boardwalk but left everything else intact including people, the lady’s beach hat is still nicely in place on her head and the beach umbrellas (see polka-dotted one in center) are all intact and not even affected by the terrific winds of that mighty storm!

We are thankful to collectors like Harlan Radford and others who have generously shared scans of their vintage postcard collections so that we may display the hundreds of scenes of the region on our IMAGES page.

*A lover of the sea, someone who loves the sea/ocean.

What would you have given for a crystal ball in January?

If only I had known in January what 2020 would hold!
Here’s a Top Forty list of stuff I wish I had known lay ahead.

Variations of this have been going around the internet for a few days. I copied and pasted a list that Tiffany Marie posted on April 2 and modified it.

Just so I NEVER forget….. April 4, 2020

  1. This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020
  2. NJ reported first coronavirus case March 4
  3. A total of 34,124 cases in NJ reported so far; 846 deaths
  4. Today, April 4: Coronavirus Outbreak’s Worst Day In NJ: 4,331 New Cases, 200 Die
  5. Coronavirus cases in and near Riverton: Beverly 4, Cinnaminson 6 (and 1 death), Delanco 4, Delran 17, Moorestown 21 (3 cleared from quarantine), Mount Laurel 31 (with 4 deaths and 1 cleared from quarantine), Palmyra 3, Riverside 6 (with 1 death), Riverton 9
  6. Gas price at Sam’s Club 1.99
  7. All 42 Burlington County school districts closed March 16 – April 17
  8. Social-distancing rules
  9. Tape on grocery stores floors help distance shoppers (6 ft) from each other
  10. Stores limit number of people inside stores creating queues outside
  11. Non-essential stores and businesses ordered closed
  12. Parks, trails, children’s outdoor play parks closed to the public
  13. All municipal court sessions suspended for two weeks; new jury trials halted indefinitely
  14. Entire sports seasons canceled
  15. Flags in NJ flying at half-mast until further notice
  16. Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – canceled
  17. Weddings, family celebrations, religious services, holiday gatherings, funerals – canceled
  18. No gatherings of 50 or more, then 20 or more, now 10 or more
  19. Don’t socialize with anyone outside of your home
  20. State-wide stay at home order, effective March 21 at 9 p.m.
  21. Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for front-line workers
  22. Panic buying causes shortages of toilet paper, disinfecting supplies, paper towels, hand sanitizer
  23. NJ governor previously shut down malls, amusement parks, casinos, gyms, movie theaters, hair salons, spas, tattoo parlors, and other establishments
  24. Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitizer, and PPE
  25. Liquor store and firearm store sales are up
  26. Coronavirus lockdown has a staggering impact on the economy; unemployment up; jobs and stocks down
  27. US borders closed to all but essential travel
  28. Some 700 inmates released from county jails in NJ
  29. Sit-down restaurant service banned; pick-up and delivery allowed
  30. Stadiums, recreation facilities, tent hospitals, two hospital ships open up for the overflow of covid-19 patients
  31. Pop-up sites established for coronavirus testing
  32. NJ governor activates National Guard
  33. FBI seized, bought, and distributed to healthcare workers “hoarded” masks, gowns, and other equipment
  34. Daily press conferences by President and governors of PA, NY, and NJ
  35. Stimulus bills and government incentives to aid businesses and people
  36. People wear masks and gloves outside and shopping
  37. Medical field workers make up a disproportionate number of cases
  38. Americans count on essential workers who are risking their health
  39. Governors warn of dire ventilator shortages; Trump says some are playing ‘politics’; Trump tells Pence not to call ‘unappreciative’ governors
  40. Will President Trump’s late March approval bump last? Will the public accept his branding of journalists as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people”? Will voters think he is doing “a great job” in this crisis or blame him for mismanaging the outbreak play a part in the 2020 Presidential Election?

History will be the judge.

Why do I write this status? Because anyone in the future who hasn’t lived through this would not believe it.

Add to this list if you wish by adding remarks to the “Leave a comment” link below. -JMc

More “lost” Riverton history surfaces. There’s more out there.

(Visitors, please know that underlined words in the story below link to more content on the topic found on rivertonhistory.com and elsewhere on the web. Click on pictures for a larger view.)

This post is proof positive that preserving Riverton history is not simply the exclusive domain of this historical society but works best when it taps into new community resources and becomes a collaborative effort.

This bit of Riverton history is owner Willanne Szulczewski‘s first-hand origin story for the original New Leaf and Plant and Gift Store at 606-608 Main Street.

1950s Collins Building, Main Street, c1950s, color slide donated by Bruce Gunn

Some months ago I posted a color slide image of the Collins Building and asked for “A little help…” with tracking down some more information about the brick building that dominates the intersection of Broad & Main Sts.

(Eventually, Pat Smith Solin and I wrote an article about the Collins Building for the April 2019 Gaslight News.)

Bill Moore, the administrator of Riverton Public School in the Wonder Years, a private Facebook group, was one who responded by sharing detailed recollections of some businesses that were headquartered there.

Curious, Bill wrote to Diane Pahl, sister-in-law of Willanne Szulczewski, the former proprietress of the original New Leaf, hoping to get some inside info on how the original plant and gift store started. But he heard nothing.

No judgment – people are busy, or at least, we all were before many of us were told to stay at home. Remember those days? If you are one who still works on the front lines of this crisis, “Thank You!”

Fast-forward to now – with COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines resulting in many people being hunkered down in their homes – and possibly feeling a bit nostalgic.

The old email gets rediscovered and is forwarded to Willanne; she responds with a torrent of information and two dozen heretofore unseen photos – at least not seen here!

front of the store at 603 Main St. after we added the garden center

Her origin story for The New Leaf follows.

When we started The New Leaf it was in the old J.T. Evans building at 603 Main Street.

Jack Laverty and his partner John Shea owned it at the time. Shea’s business was Center Motors. He had mostly old cars behind the building.

Harvey and Mary Hortmann had a gift store called The Loft in the building on the second floor of one of the sections near the war memorial. They were very nice people, and they helped us to get started and put us in touch with Jack Laverty.

The original section where we started The New Leaf was up for rent and Jack Laverty was kind enough to give us a chance when really most people thought we would fail. Mr. Laverty was a man who loved Riverton, and he liked the idea of what we wanted to do. We really give him a lot of credit for giving us a chance. He had other options.

Hortmann’s store sold general gifts. We opened The New Leaf in 1976 as a plant store with really no connection to them. We did not buy their store, and we carried merchandise that was totally different so as not to compete with each other. They closed at some point, not too long after we opened.

When we first opened Mr. Laverty had offices in the same building for his business. We started in one large room that fronted Main Street, and eventually expanded into a back room for greeting cards, and then into the garage next store when we opened our garden center section.

Other businesses that were there at the same time included a beauty salon, a dress shop, and a furniture store. Gary and Mary Chiaccio were the owners of the furniture store.

front of the store showing the rental next to us…Burlington County chapter of The March of Dimes. This was after Florence the hairdresser left.

A lady named Florence owned the beauty shop. There also was an office that was not retail. I forget what the man’s business was. He was a salesman and often on the road. The beauty shop and the salesman’s office were there before us. The dress shop and the furniture store came after we started up.

As our business expanded, we were running out of room, and at the same time, Jack Laverty and his partner had the building up for sale.

The New Era, Oct 21, 1948

Across the street was Freeman Hunter‘s furniture store. He had run the store for many years but passed away, and the building was for sale. That was 606-608 Main Street. With the building we were in up for sale, and the need for more room, we decided to look into buying Freeman Hunter’s property.

The story with that is interesting. His heirs were particular about who bought the building. They did not want someone coming in from out of town, buying it, and turning it into something that would make a profit, but perhaps not be the best thing for the town.

606 and 608 Main St. at the time we purchased it

So along with a bid for the property, anyone who was interested had to submit a detailed description of what you were going to do with the building. The description played a large part in who they would choose to be able to purchase the building.

It actually was basically two buildings that were joined together. One side was the store, and the other side was a house. As a part of their stipulations for getting the property, we also had to promise that we would live in the house.

608 Main Street at the time we purchased it. This is the house part of the property.

The buildings had great bones but were in need of lots of work…..really an incredible amount of work. But we were young and energetic and a little naïve, and we put in a bid and proposal. We were fortunate to be the ones they chose to buy the property. At some point in the spring or summer of 1979, they allowed us to go into the building and start working on it even before we purchased it.

In the meantime, Mr. Laverty and his partner sold the old J.T. Evans building and were to have settlement on our building. I believe that the settlement was set for July or August. Our store was still up and fully running in that building and the new owners were happy to have us there until we moved, and they had plans for what they wanted to do.

In the early morning hours of the settlement day, we got a phone call from a friend that the J.T. Evans building was on fire. By the time we got there, the building was engulfed in flames.

It was a huge fire, and the building and everything in it was destroyed. I can still picture standing across the street, and feeling the incredible heat from it.

We and several other people, along with the owners, lost everything, The fire was suspicious, but that is another story, and nothing was ever proved.

We were scheduled to go away that day for a few days for a sailing regatta, and go we did. By the time we got back, everything was bulldozed and gone.

My mother Anne Pahl and husband Ray working inside the store at 606 Main Street. Mostly work was being done on the tin ceiling at the time.

We started in working to get the store at 606 Main up and running. The work was overwhelming.

The New Leaf reopens…look at that beautiful ceiling!

The tin ceiling alone took hundreds of hours to restore. It was beautiful, but the paint was hanging off it everywhere, and the scraping and repainting were physically grueling.

We had no money, so everything we had to do ourselves with the help of family and some friends. It was a very difficult time and as I said before, we also had to move into the house next store at 608. That was in worse shape than the store.

We lived in very bad conditions for a couple of years. BUT, we were able to reopen the store in November or December of that same year -1979- and slowly started to build up the business again.

There are so many great stories tied in with The New Leaf. We were always incredibly grateful to the people of Riverton and the surrounding towns who supported us and allowed us to have a successful business where really no one thought we could. We owed it all to the loyalty and kindness of our customers.

Twenty-seven years after we first started, we sold the business and properties, hoping we fulfilled the trust that people like the Hortmanns, John Laverty, and the heirs of Freeman Hunter had put in us.

many years later after a complete restoration

Ray and Willanne Szulczewski

We at the Historical Society of Riverton hope that you enjoyed this nostalgic look back to a Main Street business that remains a fond memory for many residents.

Today, Dana Feigenbutz owns and operates The New Leaf Tea Room and Gift & Gift Shoppe, which Phyllis Rodgers started previously.

We welcome reader submissions and comments. Please draw our attention to any errors.

While you are here, see over 450 posts, browse through over 180 past Gaslight News newsletters and old Riverton and Palmyra hometown newspapers, or look through hundreds of vintage views of Riverton and the region.

Curious about a topic? Use the SEARCH box at left to see what we know about it. And if you have something to add to the conversation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

You kids of all ages, stay safe. – JMc

Note of thanks to Town Historian Paul Schopp for clarifying for me the timeline for the Collins Lumber and J.T. Evans Co.

Easter 1991

Revised 4/4/2020: corrected a couple errors this editor made in transposing the original story and changed a sentence to improve clarity

Added 4-4-20: Years ago our friend Celeste Kuensel had an Easter tree decorated with wooden ornaments she had bought at The New Leaf. We decided to start one for our kids. Who else still has something that was bought at Willanne and Ray’s New Leaf?

Hardships of an earlier era

When Keith Betten served as Church Warden at Riverton’s Christ Episcopal Church about twenty-five years ago, he wrote The Story of the Family of Christ Church, Riverton. Adapted from Chapter 5 of that work, this article holds some detail about the impact of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic on services at the church in November of that year.

Chapter 5 1915-1945
War
and Peace
by Keith W. Betten, Warden

Christ Church and Rectory

In the research which has been undertaken to prepare this short, serialized history of the Parish Family of Christ Church, this chapter has proven to be the most difficult to write for the very good reason that precious little has been unearthed in the way of source material. There are no detailed vestry minutes for this period and no historical sermons have been discovered to shed light on the 1920s and ’30s, decades which differed so very much, one from the other.

I think, however, that the experiences of the Parish Family over the course of the First World War, and during the bitter-sweet peace which came at its close may be used to capture the essence of the period under discussion. The Christ Church News (which seems to have ceased publication after 1920) has been used as a source of this description of the life of the Parish Family between 1915 and 1920.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 27, 1914, p1

The commencement of hostilities in far off Sarajevo in 1914 had attracted little attention at home. There was no official reference, at first, to the conflict in the pages of The News  – only a poem entitled “War” appeared. It read, in part:

In This World which Christ died to ransom
Two thousand long years ago,
The fruit of our peaceful progress
Shall War’s bloody sickle mow?
O ye, who trust still His promise
And long for His peace in our day
By the Christ who died in torment,
Let us fall on our knees and pray!

WWI Roll of Honor, Palmyra Record, Oct 26, 1917

Through 1915 and 1916 there was little hint of disruption in that “peaceful progress.” The practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist twice each Sunday was introduced, a new organ was purchased, installed and dedicated and the Sunday School boasted a staff of fifteen to tend its 129 scholars. By October 1917, however, the names of 18 members of the Parish who were ”serving with the colors” were posted on the Church porch and all members of the Parish Family were asked to commend them to earnest prayer.

The winter of 1917-18 was a bitter one (the coldest it was reported, in 98 years), forcing the closure of the Parish House to conserve coal. The Girls’ Friendly Society, which was wrapping bandages for the Red Cross, met in a private home, and the Rector of the Parish traveled to “Camp Dix” two days each week to minister to the departing troops and the injured, returned.

Riverton Red Cross, Evening Public Ledger, Oct 25, 1917, p10

By Easter 1918, twenty-seven of the Parish Family were serving their country; none to that date had been killed or wounded. A great patriotic Service was held in the Church on May 30th, a day that President Wilson and the Bishop had requested be observed as a day of “humiliation, prayer, and fasting.”

An overflow crowd, including the Mayor and Council, the Home Guards, the Boy Scouts, and the Red Cross, the latter all in uniform” filled the Church and spilled out onto the front lawn. “The procession, headed by the Cross and flag, filled all with a deep sense of pride and abiding hope” that the war would soon end, with Christian democracy triumphant. But at what price?

WWI Gold Star Boy Thomas Roberts Reath service photo

In June came the news that Thomas Roberts Reath, a son of the Parish and the grandson of long-time vestryman and warden Thomas Roberts had been killed in France; he was not yet 21. By fall, two others, Walter M. Kennedy and Raymond Pratt were likewise reported killed in action. The Parish Family, in deep mourning over these losses, was further traumatized by the onset of the great influenza epidemic of the autumn of 1918: the church was obliged to remain closed on three consecutive Sundays in October, a dreadful month which witnessed the death of eight of our communicants.

Thomas Roberts Reath WWI brass tablet Christ Church

The anguish came, mercifully, to an abrupt end in November when Riverton was awakened at 4:30 on the morning of November 11, 1918, by the ringing of our Parish bell–the first in town to announce that the armistice had been signed. The war, at last, was over. Tears of joy and sorrow surely flowed together as the Parish Family gathered one Sunday that month to honor their dead and to dedicate the brass tablet which adorns the wall behind the eagle lectern to this day. It is a memorial to the late Thomas Roberts for his half-century of service to the Parish and “to his well-loved grandson, Thomas Roberts Reath, 1897-1918. Born and baptized in this Parish, Sergeant, U.S. Marines; killed in action, Bois de Belleau, France, June 12, 1918.”

[Surprisingly, and regretfully, little has been found concerning the experience of the Parish Family during the course of the Second World War; of the sons and daughters of the Parish who went off to defend the nation; or of the efforts, hopes and fears on the home front. Should it be discovered that written documentation of this aspect of our history cannot be found, an oral history, drawn from the recollections of those who remember those days would prove to be both an interesting and valuable venture and addition to our Parish story.]

Keith Betten 3-23-2020: The chapter above was one in a series of articles presented in serial form to the parishioners of Christ Episcopal Church weekly from July to October 1994, as a novel approach to increase our “stewardship (pledging) program.  Its object was to enhance people’s commitment to the church by understanding the ways in which the church family had first come together and how it had evolved over the course of nearly a century-and-a-half.  The six chapters were ultimately combined in a booklet entitled The Story of the Family of Christ Church, Riverton.