Are you up for a polar bear plunge?

Chas. B. Durborow, New York Tribune, Feb 29, 1920

If the caption for this February 29, 1920 newspaper photo can be believed, Charles Durborow (also spelled, Durborrow, Durboro,  and even Durbonard) took a plunge every day!

The caption for this photo reads:

Charlie Durborrow, Philadelphia’s famous bank clerk long distance swimmer, just has to have his daily dip in the Delaware at Riverton, N.J., regardless of where the mercury happens to be. Here he is playing the new game of ice polo all by his lonesome.

For much more on this intrepid Riverton character, see this 2014 post. -JMc

Tagging people in the 1938 PHS class trip photo

Following up on the last post with the 1938 Palmyra High School class trip to Mt. Vernon…

PHS Class of 1938 Mt Vernon ID numbers

If you can ID anyone, send me the corresponding number and color for that person’s position, along with anything else you wish to add, and I will post a list. -JMc

rev. 3/2/2019: Thank you, Shirley, Amy, and Kristin. A special thank-you to Cheryl Smekal who loaned us her dad’s photo. We will add more when we get more names.

rev. 3/18/2019: Added one more – Domenique D***’s grandmom

rev. 3/29/2019: Added Edgar M. Schopp, Paul W. Schopp’s father

 

 

Who do you know in this PHS Class of ’38 photo?

PHS Class of 1938, Mt-Vernon Class Trip, PHOTO COURTESY OF CHERYL JOHNSON SMEKAL, DAUGHTER OF ELWOOD C. JOHNSON

The young men and women in this May 3, 1938 photo of a Palmyra High School class trip to Mt. Vernon belong to that generation that grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression.

As these mostly 17 and 18-year-old seniors moved closer to the end of their high school careers, Action Comics #1, dated June 1938, featured the first appearance of  Superman—and sold for a dime. (A mint copy of Action Comics No. 1 sold for $3,207,852 on an eBay auction in 2014.)

However, faraway events already in motion would soon crush their innocence and abruptly thrust these youngsters into adulthood.

Around the world the seeds of World War II had already been sown some time before.

The causes of the war – the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, Japanese territorial expansion, and Germany’s military aggression – coalesced as America, still mired in the Great Depression, tried to stay neutral from the European conflict.

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

Pearl Harbor was still 3-1/2 years away.

The PHS Class of ’38 came of age in the United States during World War II, and its graduates would either fight in the war or strive on the home front to help win it.

Television journalist and author Tom Brokaw first coined the term “The Greatest Generation” to describe those who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America. The people in this photo and in the Honor Roll at right were among that Greatest Generation.

Who do you know in this eight decade old photo? -JMc

 

 

There is nothing new…

…under the sun

I had to laugh when read this in the latest upload I made of another back issue of the Gaslight News.

This excerpt from one of Betty Hahle’s “Yesterday” columns in our September 1984 newsletter is 35 years old and references a time 100 years before that.

Just a century ago… elections, then as now, filled much of the newspaper space. Citizens actively supported the candidate of their choice, with torch-light parades, fiery meetings (no pun intended), charges and counter-charges.

Newspapers left no question about which candidate they supported, and one has the feeling that too much enthusiasm, rather than passivity, was typical of the day.

1884 Presidential Campaign
L -R, Grover Cleveland, James G. Blaine

One ardent Blain supporter bought 40 new brooms, with which to “sweep the country clean” in the anticipated victory parade–one wonders what he did with them, when Cleveland won.

By the end of November election tales were finally dying down, and a comment was made that “it is a pity all parties can’t come before the public with a platform without resorting to trickery, falsehoods, and deceit.” A sentiment that could be echoed today….

Fun Facts:

During the 1880s, journalistic sensationalism brought new drama to American election politics and raised nastiness to a whole new level.

1884 Republican Poster
American Memory – Library of Congress

Notorious mudslinging, including a bachelor Grover Cleveland paternity scandal marked the 1884 presidential campaign, considered one of the dirtiest ever. You could google that.

Voters had to decide between “Slippery Jim” Blaine, a profiteering congressman blamed for taking bribes from railroad interests and lying about them, and Cleveland, accused of fathering an illegitimate 9-year-old child and paying the mother to keep her quiet. When a friend asked him how to reply to the scandal, he said. “Whatever you do, tell the truth.”

Cleveland prevailed, served a term in the White House, but lost in his bid for reelection in 1888. He ran again in 1892 and was elected, thus becoming the only president to serve two terms that were not consecutive.

 

I am scanning and uploading back issues of the Gaslight News as I work back to the first one we have, #009 December 1977. There are a few gaps where issues are missing, notably #001 through #008, #120, and #124. If you come across one of these in your travels, please let us know.

Let us know what news you find in the Gaslight News back-issue archive of the historical Society of Riverton. -JMc, Editor

 

Who likes a puzzle?

Click on this to fill in the pieces

I love it when the pieces fall into place… even if it takes over 30 years.

In the March 2007 Gaslight News  we acknowledged a donation from Mrs. Lorraine Gambone. She literally trash-picked a cabinet card from a Riverton curbside that seemed to show some blacksmiths. (Cabinet cards are photographs mounted on stiff pieces of cardboard, popular in the late 1800s)

(Don’t even get me started on how much of our history people have discarded.)

Resolving the true identity of that enterprise led to news accounts of a blaze that not only totally destroyed the building, it resulted in discussions about the equipment, operations, protocols, and resources of Riverton Fire Company that ultimately made it more efficient.

Woolston Carriage Works, Riverton, NJ cabinet card photo

The cabinet card remained misidentified as a photo of Main  Street’s long-gone J.T. Evans Lumberyard for a while until historian Paul Schopp determined that it actually shows Woolston Carriage Works.

Where was it?

Riverton’s 1919 Sanborn Insurance Map (sheets 3 and 12 seen merged here) shows the location of C.T. WOOLSTON WAGON M’F’Y. 

1919 Sanborn Insurance Map composite of sheets 3 and 12 WOOLSTON CARRIAGE M’F’Y 7th & Lippincott

The wood-framed manufactory (so called, because it named a place where workers made things by hand) housed a blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, power wood working machines, and rooms for painting and varnishing.

Occupied recently with scanning and uploading to this website back-issues of the Society’s newsletter, the Gaslight News, I am struck with how often in them I find information about a topic that has somehow eluded me for so long.

Exhibit A: a selection from Betty Hahle’s “Yesterday” column in the February 1987 Gaslight News

In June of 1921 Riverton had a fierce fire. The former Carriage Factory of Mr. Woolston, along 7th street below Main, caught fire, and the flames were so intense that several nearby houses were also damaged.

Seventeen pieces of equipment were on hand, as neighboring towns responded to the call for assistance, and in the days following the fire, both Riverton and Palmyra companies seriously re-evaluated their own equipment and organization, which resulted in improved safety procedures for the communities.

Automobile Trade Journal, Volume 25, Part 1, Chilton Company, 1920

The former factory had been rented for about two years by a Philadelphia company that made automotive and truck bodies. For about a year it also manufactured, at this place, the Hilton, a coupe with wire wheels and a large rear deck. The car was named for Hilton W. Sofield, founder of the company, and the fire ended its production.

Wait – what?

A builder of horse-drawn carriages in Riverton sold out to an automobile manufacturer? And then the place burned down with no trace of it left today?

The New Era, June 17, 1921, p2

Searching for a Riverton fire in June, 1921 led to a contemporary account of the conflagration in the June 17, 1921 issue of The New Era.

The spectacular fire quickly engulfed the wooden structure and “…defied the attempts of fire departments from eight towns to quench it.” Equipment malfunctions and weak water pressure plagued the Riverton force. Embers ignited roofs a block away and residents snuffed out the sparks with “brooms, buckets, and garden hose.”

Although the fire consumed the building and its tools and machinery along with sixteen trucks and two Hilton automobiles, fire crews saved several nearby homes.

A gracious Penn Motors President Hilton W. Scofield thanked the fire companies and, in an interview, he expressed interest in building a new factory within six weeks.

What often follows a ruinous fire at a business?

A Fire Sale.

Well, they didn’t call it that, but ads placed within days of the event mentioned “Sacrifice sale” and a 50% reduction on the price of Penn Motors trucks.

Automotive Industries, The Automobile, Vol XLVI, No. 26, June 29, 1922, p 1446

A year after the fire a small article in an automobile trade publication announced the merger of Penn Motors Corp. and the Belmont Motor Co. of Lewistown, PA.

 

Further, four years later, the 1925 Sanborn Insurance Map shows four homes occupying the place where the factory stood.

Homes occupy former Woolston/Penn Motors site 1925 Sanborn Insurance Map, 7th & Lippincott

Thank you, Mrs. Hahle

More than any other single person, Mrs. Betty B. Hahle’s work has contributed to the understanding of Riverton history we have today.

From the mid-1970 through 2000, Mrs. Hahle wrote 100 of her signature “Yesterday” columns for Gaslight News, typing most of the masters herself. She would have loved knowing that today’s history lovers could learn from the embellished versions we offer today.

More to come

Let us know what topics you would like to see further explored here.

You know that saying, “When in doubt, throw it out”? Well, don’t do that with something that might help us fill in more pieces to the Riverton history puzzle.

More about the specs for the short-lived Hilton automobile and how the fire led to serious upgrades in the Riverton Fire Department will follow in another installment.  -JMc

A little help…

This is one of several 1950s era color slides that former mayor, Bruce Gunn gave us in 2015. We revisit this one because we could use a hand with tracking down some more information about the brick building in the background.

Businesses, Main Street, Riverton, PHOTO: google maps July 2018

Show your age and tell us the name of the building. It sure has changed a lot in 60+ years (haven’t we all?).

Quite a few local businesses have set up shop there over the years. Jason Cioci of Riverton Health & Fitness asked if we could tell him more about the history of the building.

So let’s crowdsource this project – kinda like GoFundMe, but send information and photos, not money.

What recollection do you have about business from back in the day?

Please add your comments (see the link at the very bottom of this post) or contact us if you have a scan, photo, or document we can post.


Thank you to Christine Jones-Williams, James Lockhart, Bill Moore, Rob Gusky, Jim Lockhart, Cara Vandy, Matt Mlynarczyk, and Christopher Ford who checked in and told about a memory they have of the Collins Building.

We shall add pictures of the Collins Building to our TTATA (things that aren’t there anymore) Wish List.

Christine Jones-Williams: I remember Mary Lou’s. She sold just about everything, but what she was most famous for was the penny candy.
I remember Marylou sitting behind the counter waiting for customers to come in her store. She would sit and count your candy and then put all of the candy in a little brown bag. Great memories. February 1, 2019 at 12:04 pm

James Lockhart: I remember this as the Collins building. Used to go by there a couple times a day on my way to and from school during the mid-1960s until about 1971. I remember there being a couple of shops between the Collins entrance and a barber shop on the opposite (Harrison St.) corner. There was also a print shop in the cellar that was accessible from Harrison St. The husband of our music teacher at RPS, Mrs. Horn, worked for Collins, IIRC. February 1, 2019 at 9:51 am

Bill Moore: It’s funny. It wasn’t until you posted this that I started thinking about the business on the far right. I can’t even remember what it was…a hardware store? But there was a LONG entryway…to a long counter on the left. I’ll be curious to hear what others remember because I have distinct memories of being taken in there but no memory of what it was. The store next to it was the deli. I remember that “The Elm Street Store” or whatever the official name was moved there in the 70s from their house/store on Elm Street and it became Deckards?…Deckers?…and later Bosch’s…and whatever it is now. The next store was the infamous Mary Lou Shop. While she had greeting cards, gifts, notions, etc. No one ever touched them and they probably had a layer of dust on them because everyone made a beeline for the candy…and I don’t think she ever got out of her chair to dust. On my list of things I wish I could recreate in Riverton…that would be in the top 3. I have no recollection what was in the shop next to that. Freddy’s Barber Shop was next door. My dad patronized it but my brother and I hated going there so my mother gave us our trademark bowl cuts. I seem to remember a couple of old school barbers in addition to Freddy working there. February 1, 2019 at 9:19 am

Rob Gusky: Anyone who attended Riverton School in the 70’s surely remembers the Mary Lou shop located in this brick building. It was an amazing place where you could fill a small paper bag full of candy for a quarter or less. In 1975 I was in 7th grade and got interested in collecting stamps. One day I discovered that Mary Lou, the proprietor of the shop, had a bunch of stamps behind the counter that she would sell for postage. These weren’t just ordinary stamps to me but were colorful stamps from the 60’s and beyond. Over time I bought a number of them and they were added to my stamp collection. Great memories – she was a very nice lady. February 1, 2019 at 8:32 am

Christopher Ford: Although I have vague memories of a lumber store in the upstairs (and a lift?) where my father would take me when I was very young, my clearest early memories were of Mary Lou’s Shop, where I would go spend my allowance on bowls of candy. I’d then dump the candy on the “counting counter,” where Mary Lou would add up the total cost and put it in a small brown paper bag.
After Mary Lou retired and closed her long-running store, I got my first real job at Barbara Drumheiser’s Victorian Thymes, where I could still get my candy fix, and where I got my lifelong love of coffee and fine food. During work I’d get my lunch next door at Beverly’s D&D Deli.
I love the stories this will bring. February 1, 2019 at 7:13 am

Mary Lou’s Shop sure left an indelible impression on some folks! Also mentioned were Deckards?…Deckers?…and later Bosch’sFreddy’s Barber Shop, and my personal favorite – Victorian Thymes. What was that Oscar Wilde quote that owner Barbara Drumheiser displayed over the entrance?

An earlier generation might recall Karl Frank’s Meat Store, Hullings & Son Plumbing and Heating, The Jersey Fruit Cooperative, The Riverton Meat MarketThe Christian Science Reading Room, or the J.S. Collins & Son Coal and Lumber. What other businesses have resided there over the years?

Whether your “good ol’ days” are 25, 50, or 75 years old, it’s all still Riverton history.

Thank you for adding your voice to rivertonhistory.com.

Look for more information here as we develop this story on the Collins Building. And don’t take any wooden nickels.

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.