Our previous post, “Fancy a swim to Philly?” described how Riverton youngsters proved their mettle back in the day by swimming across the Delaware River.
Maybe a knowledgeable sailor can report on today’s state of the Delaware River compared to a century ago, but swimming across now is probably ill-advised for several reasons.
Our dear former HSR Board member, Elsie Showell Waters, now passed, related the following story to Casey Foedisch who interviewed the Grand Marshal for the July Fourth Parade in 2013:
When Elsie was twelve, she swam across the Delaware River, a rite of passage that all the kids simply “had to do.” Elsie learned to swim at age five in the river, and her love of swimming continued into her time at Palmyra High School. There, she was a member of the Swim Team, eventually becoming captain, as two of her sisters had been before her. She later taught swimming to children with cerebral palsy at Medford Leas, and spent many years with Bay Knight Ruff, another cousin, giving swim lessons to Riverton children. Elsie estimates that the two of them taught a third of the town to swim!
When I started working at Riverton School in 1974, I remember the squeals of childish delight that followed that anticipated KYW radio announcement that school was called off on account of snow.
And that was just the teachers.
Later, administrators and PTA members developed complex phone chain networks that started with key people calling two people, who each called two more, and so and so on.
Now, I guess the kids get automated phone calls, text alerts, or check their computer.
I wonder how they got the word out a century ago when Gertrude Wright was a Riverton schoolteacher. Former resident Richard Flach sent this image from Florida of his relative enjoying a sleigh ride near 413-415 Elm Street in Riverton.
Gertrude Wright was the mother of Bay Wright Ruff, Riverton author and artist who passed away last year. Her family displayed much of her work along with many photos at her Quaker memorial service, including this remarkable undated Riverton School class photo, which I photographed.
The many characters of the Wrights, Showells, Flachs, and Waters families, like so many other Riverton clans of yesterday and today, have played out their parts on this Riverton stage, and much of it must be recorded in family albums, now even on computer memory and Facebook pages.
Some of the rarest images of old Riverton are probably the backdrops of family portraits stored in attics and drawers all across the nation. If future history buffs are to have any images of today’s ‘good old days’ to look back upon, please let’s try to supplement what seems to live on forever on YouTube.
As Betty Hahle, former Town Historian, told me, be sure to document what is going on today, for this is tomorrow’s history. One of her favorite memories was looking up Elm Terrace lined with gas lamps as the snow fell.
Please send us, or post on Facebook, any photos that show us how you have spent any past or present Riverton snow day. – John McCormick
REVISED 1/20/2014: While we hardly can be said to go viral, this post engendered more interest than most. Visitor engagement is what every blogger strives for, including me, especially when I hear from people who take the time to respond to our work here. We got 10 “likes” on Facebook for this post, several of whom reminisced at the very thought of those childhood times of getting the day off on account of snow.
Hey, I’m retired now. Every day is like a snow day.
I was especially gratified to hear from Michael Cattell who pointed out a mistake on a caption when this post first ran and proposed an idea for a video with accompanying period music.
I sincerely thank Michael Cattell for correcting an error in the caption. Our conversation started on the Historical Society’s Facebook page and you can also see an exchange of our comments in the “comment” link below. His sharp eyes caught that the backdrop for the Gertrude Wright sleigh picture was actually on Elm Street in Riverton, and not in Palmyra as it was originally captioned.
He produced this short YouTube animated morphing video showing the old and new views dissolving back and forth as evidence. It is amazing how he perfectly duplicated the angle and perspective of the 1914 photo with his own new 2014 photo of the same Elm Street setting.
With some luck, this may develop into a longer video project contrasting his new photos and our vintage views of historic spots in Riverton.
The kindergarten room of the nearby Westfield Friends Schools transformed into a Bay Ruff Art Gallery – at least for the day of her Memorial Service – as relatives and friends brought with them items that Bay had so lovingly produced over the years to put on display.
Please leave a comment and know that we would very much like to post more photos or information about Bay Ruff’s extraordinary life.
We welcome corrections, or more information about any of the works in the photos – owners, when received, reason, any anecdotal information, etc. Contact us if you need help. – John McCormick, Gaslight News