Mayor Brown fashions a new July 4th parade baton

Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2
Fourth of July at Riverton, July 3, 1865 Philadelphia Inquirer p.2

The July 3rd, 1865 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer announced “The Democratic citizens of the beautiful and flourishing town of Riverton… intend celebrating the Fourth of July in grand style.”

Children's Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu
Children’s Parade, vintage postcard scan courtesy of Nick Mortgu

As the Great Day approaches, some may wonder how some of our July Fourth traditions started. Here is a sequel to the origin story of the mayor’s parade staff.

The subject of the parade baton that the mayor wields as the July Fourth Parade traverses Main Street has been touched on in these pages before.

Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth
Mayor Martin with 2nd banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth, July 2011

We reprinted here the findings of former Town Historian Betty Hahle and learned there were not one, but two staffs.

And it seems she reached a different conclusion from what been reached earlier in the 1965 Riverton Yacht Club Centennial Booklet – that the staffs had come from India. Admitting that history is not static, and the discovery of new materials can change the our interpretation of events, she reasoned that they instead originated from Switzerland.

Whatever the ancestry of those first two staffs, we can be certain of the provenance of the most recent addition to the Borough’s collection of parade batons.

This past November, I was talking about the parade baton with Mayor William C. Brown and he mentioned in passing that he had to fashion a new staff himself for the 2014 July 4th promenade.

Wait…what?

That is the very definition of Riverton history so I pressed the former marine for details of the news that was already several months old.

Mayor Brown explains:

Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35
Riverton Mayor Edward Stoughton, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2, 1898, p.35

The Mayor of Riverton’s tradition of carrying a staff during the Annual Fourth of July Parade, was started by Mayor E.C. Stroughton in 1897.

So that every year since then, a metal plate was added with the current mayor’s name, the year, and the number of children that marched in the parade.

There are three staffs in the Borough office, and legend has it that they came from trees located in Riverton. I’ve not found anything written about the first two, however I can state that the current staff did come from a Riverton tree.

I searched the wooded area along the park till I found a tree floating in the Pompeston Creek. I cut it loose, trimmed it out, and took it home, where I stripped, sanded, stained and applied two coats of varnish to preserve it.

Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014
Mayor Bill Brown, July 4, 2014

One has to admire Mayor Brown’s unpretentious and no-nonsense account of how he humbly came to add another page to Riverton lore. And to think that we would have missed it if I had not brought it up.

History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1
History of flag parade staff, New Era, June 28, 1934, p.1

This column from a June 28, 1934 New Era outlines the history of the Flag Parade Staff and lists the number of children participation from 1897 through 1933.

The  loss of those old hometown newspapers left such a gap in our historical record. If you have not yet explored them, browse though some pages. You might find someone mentioned you know.

If you have any issues we do not have, please donate them or allow us to scan the pages.

July 4th Parade batons
July 4th Parade batons

While Riverton history of old is worth preserving, so too, it is worth recording events of today. The approach of our Glorious Fourth is sure to cause much reminiscing and retelling of family tales.

Leave one below in the comments box, or let us know what draws so many to return to this “unique” place each July Fourth.

Have a great holiday! – JMc

Riverton’s 116th Children’s Parade – a classic that never gets old

Elsie and John Showell, July 4, 1920
Elsie and John Showell, July 5, 1920

As families and friends again congregated on Independence Day in Riverton, inevitably many paused to reflect on other Fourths of days gone by.

No doubt this year’s Parade Marshal Mrs. Elsie Waters has stored up many memories since that photo was taken of her and brother John sitting in wonderment at the 1920 July Fourth celebration.

FUN FACT: As July 4 fell on Sunday in 1920, Riverton’s Glorious Fourth was held on Monday the fifth.

1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program
1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program

Previous posts have addressed the origin and changes in Riverton’s Glorious Fourth over the past 116 years since the parade began in 1897, much of it gleaned from the research of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Town Historian, now passed. More than 100 of her signature “Yesterday” columns written for the Historical Society of Riverton’s newsletter, the Gaslight News still serve as the most authoritative record of our town’s early days.

July 4, 1920 program details, New Era 7-2-1920, pg2This previously posted four-page 1920 Program (above, right) details the activities enjoyed that day. HSR member Gerald Blaney generously allowed us to scan his rare eBay find and display it here.

The July 1920  New Era issues, just digitalized through a joint Riverton Free Library and HSR project late in 2012, provide new insights into Independence Day festivities for that year.

WWI signet ring top
WWI signet ring top

The clipping at left from the July 2, 1920 New Era newspaper advises readers of two added features to the program that included a presentation of gold rings to veterans of World War I.

Later, the New Era recapped the results of the many  games and summarized the patriotic observances witnessed by “fully five-thousand men, women, and children.”  The Children’s Parade had 792 kids vying for prizes such as best decorated baby coach, velocipede, or kiddie car.

July 4, 2013 Palm Card

Children gathered on the riverbank and scrambled as a Curtiss F. Boat hydroplane brought over for the occasion showered them with hundreds of tickets good for merchandise at either one of three local stores.

You can see the issue as a PDF file just as it appeared to Rivertonians 93 years ago. (You will need the free Adobe Reader program if you do not have Adobe Acrobat.) Scroll down to see PDF page 3 For the July 2 issue and PDF page 7 for the July 9, 1920 issue.

Follow the Leader
Follow the Leader – photo by Susan Dechnik

Were they the good ol’ days? Absolutely.

However, we do not dwell on the past, but simply acknowledge it as we value the contributions of those countless citizens who have helped Riverton develop into the unique place it is today.

The following photos and video demonstrate that for many, the experiences of this July 4, 2013 may just as well be recalled in the not too distant future as “the good ol’ days.” Absolutely!

 

Photographer Richard W. Pringle, Jr. kindly sent these photos that include a few great close-ups.

 

Here is a 4min:11sec, 239MB Windows Media Video File showing some highlights of the parade.

Wade McDaniels, the Snow Cone Man, brings cool treats and cheer to the Riverton Parade.
Wade McDaniels, the Snow Cone Man, brings cool treats and cheer to the Riverton Parade.

You never know who you will meet on the Fourth. Here is my former Riverton School colleague and snow cone entrepreneur, Wade McDaniels. After selling the frosty confections here for over twenty years, I guess that feat qualifies Mr. McDaniels to be included in the record of Riverton history.

Read more about my friend Wade in the phillyburbs.com  post by Burlington County Times Staff Writer Peg Quann. She interviewed the coolest Riverton School maintenance supervisor who has been moonlighting on this summer job since his first gig selling at a Beach Boys concert in Philadelphia during the 1976 Bicentennial. Chilly treats a tradition on Riverton’s Fourth by Peg Quann

The image gallery below illustrates what we remember in any typical Riverton Fourth of July observance: family, friends, flags, festivities, fire engines, fun, and food. What does a Classic Riverton Fourth of July mean to you?

The Fourth is often a time for reconnecting with others who have put some miles and years between themselves and their old hometown. Palmyra native and PHS alum Gary Weart stopped by to see Phyllis Rodgers and family while vacationing from his home in South Carolina. Here he is talking to Phyllis as she tallies the 320 children participating in this year’s parade.

Gary Weart, standing, pauses from taking photos to talk to Phyllis Rodgers, HSR President.
Gary Weart, standing, pauses from taking photos to talk to Phyllis Rodgers, HSR President.

It turns out the former teacher, whose great-grandfather James Taylor Weart served as Palmyra’s first mayor from 1923-1928, is a keen photo enthusiast who captures images with a truly memorable perspective.

Enjoy this slideshow by Mr. Gary Weart, book author, former social studies teacher, administrator, and athletic coach who founded Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), and received the Presidential Service Award from President Bill Clinton.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is still a little room left here for your own memories and recollections of July Fourth – actually for any year at all that you wish to share. Just contact us at rivertonhistory@usa.com – John McCormick

P.S.: This just in from Tracy Hansen Foedisch – more photos at http://riverton4thofjuly.com/photo_gallery2013.html

July Fourth – Something Old, Something New

undated July 4th photo courtesy of Mr. Ed Gilmore
Note to Self: Phyllis Rogers’ observation about the count of children who were actually in the parade gives me the idea to get a closer look at the mayor’s staff that has the bands which record that headcount through the years. Mrs. Tracey Foedisch, Riverton 4th of July Committee Chairperson, told me by phone that I can go to Borough Hall sometime and ask Municipal Clerk Mrs. Mary Longbottom to see it.

Meanwhile, here’s another great image, courtesy of Ed Gilmore. Undated, but probably from the same time as his photos in the last post, it affords us a glimpse of a Riverton Fourth “back in the day.” Way back. Ed does not know the identity of the children or anyone else in the photo—any guesses?

 

Elsie and John Showell, July 5, 1920
Elsie Waters again gives us a peek at her family album with this sweet image of big sister Elsie and brother John sitting in wide-eyed wonderment at the 1920 July Fourth celebration. We may infer by the patriotic embellishments to their perambulators that they were participants in the scheduled 9:45 a.m. Children’s Flag, Baby Coach, Velocipede and Kiddie Kar Parade. View the full 4-page 1920 July 4th program in the previous post, Odd Bits of Past July Fourths. FUN FACT: As July 4 fell on Sunday in 1920, Riverton’s Glorious Fourth was held on Monday the fifth.


 

I confess that I feel transported by such vintage photos
At right is one last look back at another of Ed Gilmore’s captivating photos from that undated parade.

Am I that only one that looks at these at great magnification and imagines that I could march down to the river with them?

 

 

On July 4th, 2011 I caught these video clips with my iPhone and spliced them together to make three short videos, 2-3 minutes each. Each one is a separate download.

 

 

 

 

Check out the Facebook wall for the Riverton 4th of July Committee and see what people have had to say there. Also, you’ll find links to other related topics including newspaper articles and the latest photo galleries. The 2009 and 2010 photo galleries are still posted on the 4th of July Committee’s website.

 

 

The perambulators may have changed, but the delight to see a child in this parade remains the same.

For some real Riverton July Fourth eye-candy, enjoy the photography skills of Mark Brown, a musician and Riverton resident who responded to my request for photos to post here when I distributed the 2011 July 4th Palm Cards.

He has kindly made these large files available to view, copy, print, whatever. Let me know if you need a larger file. One meets the nicest people in Riverton, especially on the Fourth.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

 

 

Proposed New Fire House of Relief Engine Co.
P.S. After posting over 300 vintage image of Moorestown here, it is rare to find a new one, but my collector friend just scored another one and sent it for us to enjoy.

P.P.S. Save the Date: The Historical Society of Riverton takes our show on the road to Columbus next week, July 20-23, 2011, as we join every local historical society in the County for a “History Faire at the County Fair.” More info to follow in another post.

 

 

 

 

July 4th Parade Prequel

Main Street homeowners decorate, clean up, and spruce up for July Fourth
By July 2, 2011, many homeowners were busy giving the finishing touches to the exterior of their homes and even doing some last-minute landscaping in preparation for the throngs of spectators who would be making their yearly pilgrimage from near and far to Riverton’s Main Street for its celebrated annual July Fourth parade.

It seems that everyone has their own July Fourth family rituals and cherished memories of the “good ol’ days” whether they be 8 years ago or 80. Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer, Jan Hefler, profiled the swirl of activity surrounding one porch party and wrote a story which could probably be repeated in kind, if not in degree, on quite a few other porches. Here is the link for Jan Hefler’s story.

Jeannie O’Sullivan, writing for the Burlington County Times, whom I have cited here before, reminds us that memories and rituals regarding Riverton’s July Fourth celebrations are no less vivid for out-of-towners (like myself) whose vantage point for watching the parade has varied from curbside to other people’s porches. Here is the link for Jeannie O’Sullivan’s story.

My first memories of Riverton are the times when my grandparents brought my brother, mother, and me to witness the parade and the fireworks that followed at the riverbank. That fifty year old memory is dwarfed by the recollections of many others who can mark so many personal milestones by the number of parades that they have seen pass by their view.

Reviving an HSR tradition which apparently had not been done since 2004, Gerald Weaber and I handed out several hundred July Fourth Palm Cards during the parade and during the raft races. I confess that I largely plagiarized bits from previous series of palm cards and hastily printed them up the night before. Readers, in your spare time, please check your old July 4th palm cards against these dates: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, and send me a scan of any more dates that you have. I would very much like to document what has already been done other years.

Maribeth Paige Shaffer was one of the people to whom I distributed the new cards.  She kindly responded to my request to send photos of the raft race to post. Thank you, Ms. Shaffer for the brilliant photographs .

 

 

There will be more posts and photos forthcoming on the subject of Riverton’s July Fourths, past and present. In the meantime, if you care to tell a bit of your story here, please leave a comment, or contact me. John McCormick, Gaslight News editor