We are the keepers

Scanning and posting back issues of the Gaslight News has been an eye-opening and humbling experience.

Eye-opening because I am discovering so many bits of Riverton history that further illuminate topics I have dealt with here since making our first post in January 2011.

Humbling because I realize what a debt we owe to those many pioneering founders, leaders, and members who preceded us for preserving our local history.

As noted in this Jan. 16 post, I started to upload to our website recently scanned back issues of our newsletter, The Gaslight News, and had just reached issue #100, published in March 2001.

Working backwards, I just reached another milestone – issue #50, published in May 1988 – and am now headed toward the earliest issues of the Society.

Delaware River frozen over 1935, screenshot from video Glimpses of Palmyra and Riverton

While I have written about cold spells and the Delaware freezing here before, no account paints a picture of how frigid weather affected old Riverton better than this research that Betty Hahle recorded in one of her signature Yesterday columns in the March 2000 Gaslight News. (Searching our records, I found some images to go with her article.)

On a different note -January’s wintery weather has brought to mind an article found in a newspaper during the winter of 1917-1918. For the first time in many years the river had frozen all the way across.

Ice Skaters on Delaware River – Lee Cook, Sonny Wright, Mr Allen 1908 PHOTO CREDIT: ELSIE WATERS

Measurements made by boring holes into the ice set the depth of ice from seven-and-a-half to twelve-and-a-half inches. The weekend after the deep freeze brought out large crowds of people, estimated to be close to 1000. The article said that “every man, woman and child who owns or could borrow a pair of skates helped swell the crowd.”

People were eager to be able to skate on a long, smooth surface, instead of the smaller and often rough ice on local ponds. Two young men from Moorestown came to Riverton and drove their car across the ice to Philadelphia; and one of the Biddle boys (who lived on Bank Avenue) drove out onto the ice “and put it (his car) through a number of fancy stunts.”

H. McIlvain Biddle’s iceboat PHOTO CREDIT: STEEL FAMILY ALBUM

A number of ice boats glided out and around the skaters. Biddle and Frishmuth boys had the largest ones, capable of carrying twenty passengers, and had a great time on the ice – until the wind died out.

A smaller ice boat captured the most attention and interest. It was built by 11-year-old Art Wright, who lived at 305 Bank Avenue (in the house now located at Penn and Carriage House Lane). He loved the river, and spent all possible time there, both winter and summer. When his older brother began to build an ice boat, Art gathered up some scraps of lumber and made for himself a small ice boat “that would bear his light weight, and could outsail anything on the river.”

March 8, 1934 Courier Post ice-bound RYC

The channel dug during the second World War, and stronger ice-boats ended the spectacle of the Delaware river freezing all the way across. Perhaps some “Gaslight News” readers may still remember the ice boats, and skating on the river (with clamp-on skates), and bonfires on the bank to warm up.

The above article is almost 19 years old and scarcely anyone now can remember such times.

Horse drawn wagon on Main Street, no date PHOTO CREDIT: MARY FLANAGAN

It and others like it demonstrate the critical role of the Society as it serves as a keeper of culture, preserves the historical record, and interprets the past to the public.

 

 

How else would you know how awesome Riverton is?

Look for more evidence in the back issues of Gaslight News. -JMc

History matters

You may think from the website inactivity here lately that the government shutdown has resulted in us being furloughed, but nothing could be further than the truth.

steamboat landing sign installation by (l-r) Roger Prichard, Bill Brown, and John Laverty, Dec. 2017

The next Gaslight News will go out the first part of February.

One article will tell about Roger Prichard‘s continuing work on researching and producing  and producing historical markers.

The next two markers will be about homes at 309 and 311 Bank Avenue.

We have long made issues of the Gaslight News available online since developing our website in early 2011. However, the older mimeographed newsletters produced before our use of personal computers, and some others written through the early 2000s, were only available as hard copies and had to be scanned.

Short story – I scanned them all, saved them as PDFs, and started backdating them and posting them on our Gaslight News page.

You can now see back issues to #100 March 2001 (maybe more by the time you read this.)

Only 91 issues to go back to #009 December 1977! (We do not have the first 8 issues plus a couple of others, but still, this recovers and makes available a huge trove of local history. Look for more details on this project in the upcoming February 2019 Gaslight News.

The first General Meeting of 2019 will be on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 7 pm in Riverton Library. The presentation will be on our effort to organize, catalog, and store the collections of the Society. More details will follow later.

All through November and December folks near and far bought our historically themed mugs for gifts, but we couldn’t say much with giving away secrets.

The holidays are over, but you can still buy mugs. Just see this post that explains more.

We shared Bob Foster’s Facebook post on Klipple’s Bakery to HSR’s FB

On December 23, I shared Bob Foster‘s Facebook post from the River Towns’ People group to the HSR Facebook page and it received lots of views, some comments and shares.

Recently, Bob kindly sent me a better file for our records.

Klipple’s Bakery, Broad and Main, by Bob Foster, no date

A post to our website the next day, seen here, explained how the contributions of many members and website visitors have helped to… “add another stitch to the fabric of Riverton history.”

Who knows how much more history is tucked away in drawers, attics, basements, and family photo albums? Maybe someone will even find one of those missing newsletters.

Our goal is to make this a meeting place for crowdsourcing local history.

Nothing better illustrates this than Yesterday’s news rediscovered posted here in early December, which advised readers of the availability of viewing PDFs for sixteen issues of various hometown newspapers dated mid-1930s thru mid-1960s given to us by Ed Gilmore.

Over time, since our founding in 1970, despite adding to that patchwork of history, it still has a lot of holes in it. Please do not assume that the HSR has a monopoly on Riverton history.

Here comes the commercial…

If this history matters, please support the Society’s efforts by starting or renewing your membership.   -JMc

And the Universe answers… again

Regular readers here know that we here at the Historical Society do not have all the answers and regularly ask for help in finding information and images about Riverton’s past.

Bob Foster’s Facebook post on Klipple’s Bakery

The stars aligned (or maybe it was this year’s post-solstice full moon) and I just happened to see on Facebook a post with a color photo of Klipple’s Bakery.

I immediately shared to our Facebook page and was astonished to see the visions of cream-filled donuts, sugar cookies, twists, onion and snowflake rolls, and butter cakes that the mere sight of that picture activated in folks who commented on it, some of whom live far away.

Crowdsourcing Local History

As folks piled on with sweet reveries, recollections, comments, and questions, others pitched in. Marilyn Hahle recalled, “It was the best bakery. It was always part of Riverton Schools walking trips. Mr. Klipple would show us how everything was made then give out donuts.”

Michael Robinson connected the history dots thus, “Cream doughnuts back then — but as Zena’s and now Orange Blossom Cafe, it offers meals as well as pastry and serves as a center of community.”

Discovering that old color photo of Klipple’s Bakery on Bob Foster‘s Facebook post yesterday reminds me of other times our readers and members have contributed another piece of Riverton’s puzzling history.

Law of Attraction at work?

My quest for a photo of the Nellie Bly express train coincided with the opening of the Nellie Bly Olde Tyme Ice Cream Parlour in 2005. An investigative reporter named Nellie Bly who, in 1890, famously completed a trip around the world in 72 days was the inspiration for the Pennsylvania Railroad’s fast train that once shuttled passengers to and from New York City and Atlantic City.

I wished out loud during a presentation in 2007, and later implored readers of the May 2009 Gaslight News asking for someone to find a photo of the train.

According to news reports, the speedy commute came at the expense of occasional fires started by embers discharged from the steam locomotive’s chimney and as well as taking out scores of pedestrians, motorists, the odd milk truck, etc. that had lost their battles with Nellie over railroad real estate.

Nellie Bly Express leaving Riverton

I had all but given up finding a photo of the legendary train that still somehow stirred nostalgic memories for longtime residents when one appeared through the kindness of Riverton residents Don and Pam Deitz. (See Sept 2009 GN)

old undated cabinet card that Lorraine Gambone rescued from curbside trash collection. Initially mis-identified as the Evans Building until fact-checked by Paul W. Schopp.

Some, like Lorraine Gambone, literally trash-picked something that would have been lost otherwise.

Over time, the wish list of photos of other things that aren’t there anymore grew to include: the Lyceum, the Lawn House, the Sharon Shop, Dreer’s Nursery, the old bicycle race track, Klipple’s Bakery, the Roberts Store, the Evans Building, and many others.

What do you wish to see on these pages in 2019?

If Egypt can continue to give up more discoveries of mummies from time to time, then I can hope that there are still more photos stored in albums, scrapbooks, attics, and junk drawers that will surface when the time is right.

rivertonhistory.com is a collaboration

Pages of this website are full of relics of our collective past that contributors thought to share with the Society.

Indeed, without such contributions by Katie Washington HickeyEd GilmoreNancy and Bill SteelKathi GidenHarlan RadfordGeorge BishopBruce Gunn, John Criqui, Ginny Wierski, Jill and Hank Croft, Mary Flanagan, Colin Cattell, Mary Honeyford, and dozens of others, this content seen here would be a small fraction of what it is.

As mentioned in a 2016 post, “Every artifact, photo, ephemera item, old newspaper clipping, etc. we get helps add another stitch to the fabric of Riverton history.”

As illustrated by this recent find of a bakery shop photo, Riverton history is not just about early days, Quaker founders and riverbank villas. It is also a very personal collection of memories that somehow resurface as we take stock at another year’s end.

Thank you also to all who have helped sustain the preservation efforts of the Society with your membership in 2018. Look for the next newsletter later in January.

 

 

Scary times? It could be worse.

Imagine the emotions of the townsfolk of Riverton, Palmyra, and Cinnaminson as they gathered in the Parish House of Christ Church at this December 17, 1941 meeting, ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The purpose of the meeting was to prepare the community for an air raid drill to be held the next night at 11:30 pm.


In September, 1944, The New Era, Riverton’s hometown newspaper published a list of persons serving in the conflict that still had a year to go.

WWII Honor Roll Veterans List from The New Era, Sept 14, 1944

I see the names of Carl McDermott and his two brothers about a third down the second column.

McDermott Bros L-R – Bill, Paul Carl

THANK YOU for your service, Carl!

Who do you know in this list? (PDF here)

screen capture from an issue in our online newspaper collection

The New Era of August 16, 1945 issue records the jubilant celebration over the war’s conclusion and gave a sober reminder of the supreme sacrifice given by those “so that this Nation might live.”

We sincerely thank Kate Washington Hickey for gifting the Society the air raid fliers seen above as well as many other items, some of which we will show here another time.

postcard scan courtesy of Mrs. Betty Hahle

We are proud to be caretakers of Riverton history and invite you to join the conversation with your recollections and remarks. This archive is made richer every time another part of local history emerges and readers can simply learn from it or even contribute more to it.

While we enjoy getting likes and comments on Facebook, your thoughts are more likely to become part of the record here. If you think the history of our community is work keeping, scroll down to the bottom of this post and click on the link – Leave a comment.  – JMc

 

Yesterday’s news rediscovered

Macmillan.com informs that the idiom “yesterday’s news” means that the topic is something that everyone already knows about and is no longer interested in.

Let’s see.

Who or what will you find mentioned in these gazettes of bygone times?

Folks near and far often check our online resources for information on Riverton. Thanks to resident Ed Gilmore, we just added 16 more old out-of-print local newspapers to our archive.

Click on links below to see each issue.

The New Era, Jan. 30, 1936

The New Era, May 21, 1936

The New Era, June 11, 1936

The New Era, Dec. 29, 1938

The Palmyra News, Jan. 23, 1948

The New Era, Feb. 5. 1948

The New Era, March 3, 1949

The New Era, Jan. 31, 1957

The New Era, Feb. 7, 1957

The New Era, Oct. 26, 1961

The New Era, July 1, 1965

The New Era, July 8, 1965

The New Era, Feb. 3, 1966

The New Era, June 2, 1966

The New Era, Aug. 18, 1966

The New Era, Feb. 9, 1967

All but five of the 16 issues are ones which were not part of the Society’s original effort HSR President Betty B. Hahle started to save the vintage periodicals back in 1985-1986.

She’s looking for yesteryear’s news, BCT, Feb. 7, 1985, pg 9

Despite some missing and incomplete issues, the project preserved on microfilm over 130 issues of four local newspapers (1894-1949) –  The New Era (Riverton), The Palmyra Record, The Riverton Journal, and The Weekly News (Palmyra).  

Years later, in 2012, the RFL Association and the Historical Society of Riverton worked to complete the digitization of these four locally historic newspapers so they could be made available on the web at rivertonhistory.com. See them on the Historical Newspapers page.

As anyone who has browsed the files here can attest, the image quality varies and the search feature can miss a lot. These issues just posted are clearer and can be more accurately searched. 

Mr. Gilmore gave these issues to us a couple of years ago, but we did not have a way to scan the pages. I used an iPhone app called Adobe Scan to turn the pages into searchable PDFs.

While not up to the quality that we might have gotten from a $2,500 roll scanner, the Adobe Scan app produced a decent image and the text recognition is far more accurate than what we achieved on the microfilm to digital transfer. 

Well, anyway, I’m excited. 

The folks at adobe.com explain how it’s done here.

While they cannot compete with a scanner’s reproduction, mobile phone apps such as this or similar ones do open up the possibility of persons collaborating across the miles to add to the historical record.

If anyone else out there in cyberspace has an old hometown newspaper or other document to share, please send us a PDF we can post.  -JMc

HSR’s Museum for a Day event piggy-backs with RFL Candlelight House Tour Sat. Dec. 1

Almost ready – countdown to Saturday

During Riverton Free Library’s 2018 Riverton Candlelight House Tour this Saturday 4-9pm, be sure to make a stop at the Library where the Historical Society will offer a glimpse at some seldom seen items in our collection.

The Historical Society’s Museum-for-a-Day, last seen in 2016, returns with displays on the first floor as well as in the basement.

See this Riverton mini-mansion on the House Tour

On the first floor, be sure to see the tiniest house on the tour. This painstakingly detailed doll house is a replica of the real dwelling at 806 Main Street. You will have to come on Saturday to see the inside furnishings and details, complete with a Christmas tree and doors with crystal doorknobs.

RFL Then&Now mug

Among the local history themed items for sale are our mugs, Romance of Riverton DVDs, Bay Ruff’s Ruff Copy, Bill Washington’s Historic Rivertongift memberships to the Society,  and some reproduction prints and enlargements.

Yacht Club illustration from Reddy by Mary Biddle Fitler, 1929

Downstairs, see displays of vintage clothing, photos of old Riverton, our salute to veterans, a number of Dreer’s Nursery garden implements and photos, plus original manuscripts, novels, and scrapbook by Riverton author Mary Biddle Fitler, and much more.

Mrs. Biddle’s fictional book series for children began with the publication of Reddy in 1929 using Riverton as a backdrop.

As publicized by the RFL Assn., tickets for the Candlelight House Tour are $15 Pre-Sale/ $20 Tour Night and are available at The Riverton Free Library, The New Leaf and The Guitar Guild. Ticket proceeds benefit Riverton Free Library.

Admission to the Historical Society’s exhibition is free. 

In addition to seeing the five beautifully decorated homes on the Tour, local establishments will offer entertainment & refreshments. And while here, don’t forget to the visit downtown Riverton’s Christmas Village, with horse & carriage rides and local vendors! -JMc

Added 1/26/2019: Highlights from our Museum for a Day

 

HSR merch for sale at RFL Sunday

After restocking some of our mug inventory that had sold out, I will be at Riverton Library on Sunday from 2-3 pm to offer some items for the history buffs on your list.

Our exclusive historically themed designs feature vintage images of Riverton, Riverside, Palmyra, and Moorestown from our archives. Back in stock are mugs depicting Christ Church, Palmyra train station, Riverton’s 1890 map, Riverton Golf Club, and the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge matchbook.

Biddle Mansion mug

Joseph Campbell mug

Riverton’s rich history provides no shortage of inspiration for designing these mugs.

Here are two of the latest.

This 5-page PDF shows all the mug designs we offer. Not all are in stock. New orders can take two weeks so those taken after this week may not arrive before Christmas.

The Romance of Riverton DVD, Bay Ruff’s Ruff Copy, or Bill Washington’s Historic Rivertonand a gift membership to the Society also make great gifts. – JMc

 

Events conspired against getting this month’s GN to members in time to publicize the Nov. 14 meeting

It’s not like I didn’t try to get done on time.

The feature article about the history of the recently razed Cinnaminson Home was already running long, but I was missing some bits, so colleague Paul W. Schopp helped direct me to more sources.

Reshuffling the story delayed my getting the issue to the printer, which pushed back the job to Monday. After quickly stuffing envelopes with the issue this morning, I rushed to the post office only to find them closed for Veterans Day.

So, there’s no way that folks will get the issue in time to tell them of the November 14 meeting @ 7pm  featuring Keith Henley’s presentation on the life of World War I hero Sgt. Henry “Black Death” Johnson.

So, that’s my excuse for my homework being late.

Check out the November 2018 GN issue #177 here.

Look for the enclosed 2019 membership form. 

We hope to see you at the Nov. 14 meeting and at our display at the Library during the Candlelight House Tour on Dec. 1, 2018.

A “like” or “share” on Facebook might circulate this in time to help some people to show up Wednesday night. -JMc