It was a S.R.O. crowd at Riverton Library for the Campbell’s Soup show

ACT I: “Campbell’s… more than just soup” slideshow

capacity crowd at the RFL PHOTO : JM
The audience needed every available space PHOTO: JMc

We sincerely thank the 80 or so hardy history buffs and lovers of Campbell’s Soup nostalgia who sat in chairs, sat on the floor, and stood (some with obstructed views), to hear Marisa Bozarth as she chronicled the history and development of Campbell’s Soup Company.

Even Jan DeVries, our reception hostess, stands PHOTO: JM
People spilled over to the next room PHOTO: SD

The turnout for Tuesday night’s program sponsored by the Historical Society of Riverton took us off-guard, so we apologize to several folks who looked at the overflow crowd and left.

ACT II: Reception at the former Campbell home

Some really good sports are sitting on the floor PHOTO: JM
Entryway PHOTO: JM

After the engrossing slide show, the meeting carried over next door to the home of Jan and Dennis DeVries who graciously showed us the former home of Joseph Campbell.

 

 

Pat Brunker cuts Susan Dechnik‘s Tomato Soup Cake PHOTO: SD
How serendipitous was it that the former Campbell is next to the Library? PHOTO: SD

A splendid dining room table centerpiece of carnelian-red and white flowers in a vase surrounded by cans of tomato soup reinforced the theme of the evening.

 

 

Mmmm…good! PHOTO: SD

The delicious desserts and confections arrayed there  fueled animated conversations about how much folks enjoyed the well-researched topic and Marisa’s buoyant delivery.

Framed Campbell’s embellish the pantry wall PHOTO: SD

Our hosts, Mr. and Mrs. DeVries, doubled-down on the evening’s refrain and carried out the Campbell’s Soup motif by hanging a portrait of the home’s early owner in the kitchen area next to a framed print of a soup can and an illustration of a Campbell’s Kid.

PHOTO: SD

A soup tureen filled with fresh tomatoes, a Campbell’s coffee table book, a Campbell’s recipe book (doesn’t everyone have at least one in their kitchen?) and actual cans of tomato soup consummated the theme.

 

HSR President Bill Brown presented Jan and Dennis with mugs that depict their home and information about Joseph Campbell PHOTO: SD

Marisa wrote later, “It was wonderful! Everyone was so welcoming and I loved getting the opportunity, not only share the Campbell’s story with everyone, but also to talk to so many people afterwards!”

She is so right.

This important aspect of our meeting helps to carry out the Society’s several-fold mission to bring together those people interested in history, to increase awareness of our heritage, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the history of the area.

Our current membership of fewer than 100 households is at a historic low. We need your support in the form of membership dues and donations to underwrite our efforts to bring such programs to the public. 

ACT III: History is the topic of conversation

Marisa also has a Campbell themed mug as a memento of the evening PHOTO: SD
Bill Brown and Alice Smith, President of the Riverside Historical Society discuss cooperating on a future presentation PHOTO: SD

Another side benefit to having people with a common interest in history assemble together is the networking, or sharing of information, that often happens.

Given the thousands of local people over the years whose farm products supplied the plant or whose labor produced soup, it comes as no surprise that a few in the group either worked there themselves or had a family member employed.

One woman volunteered that she has photos of the old Campbell Experimental Farm in Cinnaminson I can scan.

Bill Hall once worked on Taylor’s Farm and delivered tomatoes to the Camden plant PHOTO: JM

It turns out that one of our members had first-hand experience with working on local farms growing and delivering tomatoes, and another worked for a time in the Camden plant. Look for more about their anecdotes in another post if I can twist their arms to be interviewed.

 

Tomato Soup Cake – Don’t say no until you try it PHOTO: SD

Maybe we can get Susan Dechnik to reveal the recipe for her Campbell’s Tomato Soup Cake.

Here’s a link to a Campbell’s Soup Company’s A SPICY HISTORY OF CAMPBELL’S TOMATO SOUP SPICE CAKE.

 

Epilogue: Please tell your Campbell’s story

Roger Prichard will have two more historic signs ready for Bank Avenue properties this spring PHOTO: JM

If you have another memory of Campbell’s from back in the day, please contact us through the form below so that we may add your voice to this collaborative effort that is rivertonhistory.com.

Marisa may have to add another slide or two to that PowerPoint. – JMc

PHOTOS BY SUSAN DECHNIK AND JOHN McCORMICK

Stay tuned for the sequel

[contact-form to=”rivertonhistory@gmail.com” subject=”Campbell’s Soup”][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″][contact-field label=”Message” type=”textarea”][/contact-form]

Historical markers help preserve Riverton’s unique heritage

There’s that word again – UNIQUE.

How many times have you heard that word used to characterize Riverton?

Below, HSR Board Member Roger Prichard updates us on the Society’s Historical Marker Project – our effort to commemorate Riverton’s treasured past. – John McCormick, Editor

RFLibrary marker, June 2018, PHOTO: JMc

Our historical marker program has its next two markers in the ground, at Riverton Free Library and Riverton Public School.

John Laverty, Roger Prichard, RFL marker PHOTO: Bill Brown

Our volunteer Sub-Committee on Excavations (i.e. Pres. Bill Brown, John Laverty and Roger Prichard) planted them both on a recent Sunday morning.  Stop by and have a read!

The marker for the Library tells the story of the tiny cottage first occupied by a nationally known motivational preacher.  It was then for many decades the home of a lifelong bachelor who was a beloved figure in Riverton.  It was transformed into the home of the new Riverton Free Library and Reading Room Association, which has been a treasure for the town for about 110 years since then.

RPS historical marker, June 2018, PHOTO: JMc
Roger Prichard, John Laverty, RPS marker PHOTO: Bill Brown

Riverton Public School is actually the fourth public school attended by students of the area – the first being long before there even WAS a Riverton.  The marker tells of how its expansion paced the evolution of the whole concept of public education in America and includes a “then-and-now” graphic with groups of children from about 1915 and 2018.

Carlos Rogers directs the action at the 6th Annual HRCriterium, 2016, PHOTO: JMc

Carlos Rogers kickstarted our Historical Marker Program when in 2016,  he donated $4000 of the proceeds from his 2016 Historic Riverton Criterium to the HSR. We partnered with Riverton Free Library Association and the 2018 Class of Riverton Public School respectively to fund these historical markers. Previous markers installed under this program include those at the Caleb Clothier Home at 503 Bank Avenue and Riverton Yacht Club. – Roger Prichard

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