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.
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
Editor’s Note: The pages of these newsletters chronicle the early days of the Historical Society of Riverton.
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
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?
THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF RIVERTON 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?
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!
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
One wonders how much more Riverton history is stored away in basements and attics?
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.
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
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.
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.
I am the marshal coordinator for the race. This bicycle race cannot happen without a marshal on each of the race corners.
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.
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.
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 Londonderryfor moving the ball forward in the struggle for women’s rights.
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.
In this interview of the authorwe 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.
Ok, Kids, time for another installment of old Gaslight News back–issues. But first, a little history of the publication.
This clipping from issue #41, Feb. 1886 explains the origin of the Society’s newsletter…
After producing at least 65 issues of the newsletter, Betty Hahle handed the editorial reins to Paul W. Schopp in the fall of 1993. He ushered in the use of desktop publishing when he composed the layout for the September 1993 issue of the Gaslight News with a word processing program. By 1995, this innovation made it possible to include black and white photos and graphics with which to illustrate the text.
Then President Dan Campbell assumed editorial duties in September 1996, and essentially continued the same format. Gerald Weaber took charge of the newsletter in September 2003.
Four years later, John McCormickapprenticed under Gerald Weaber for the September issue and then struck off on his own commencing with the November 2007 printing. That issue was the first to include color photos.
McCormick updated the layout template in January 2008, giving it only minor tweaks since then.
We have come a long way since that 1974 single-page typewritten and mimeographed newsletter, but there would be no Gaslight News today were it not for those who came before.
(Raise your hand if you remember the fresh smell of dittos in the morning.)
Without further ado, here are the latest scanned and uploaded back-issues of the Gaslight News. Only 20 more issues to go…