With a little help from a lot of friends

Rob Gusky HRCentury/ Community Ride 2016 by Carlos Rogers
Rob Gusky HRCentury/ Community Ride 2016 by Carlos Rogers

Tethered to my workplace until 5PM that day I knew I would be unable to catch the arrival of the HRCentury riders, so I appealed to the Universe and it delivered in the form of this great pic of HRCentury creator Rob Gusky from Carlos Rogers.

Rob looks pretty fresh after biking a hundred miles from Millburn, NJ to Riverton.

Susan Dechnik sent in most of the following photos.

The ride took longer than anticipated since the cyclists ran into a punishing headwind for much of it.

Also conceived by Rob Gusky, the 3-Mile Community Ride was to follow the conclusion of this second realization of the Historic Riverton Century, and many residents of all ages awaited in the former District parking lot.

HRCentury 2016 button
HRCentury 2016 button

Meanwhile, HSR member Susan Dechnik handed out souvenir buttons bearing Anne Racioppi‘s imaginative logo and explained the connection to the 1895 NYC-Riverton Relay Race to those who were unaware.

Carlos Rogers commends the HRCentury riders
Carlos Rogers commends the HRCentury riders

The arduous trip caused the bicyclists to converge on the parking lot from different directions and not all at once.

Carlos Rogers congratulated Rob and the other riders. A cheer arose from the crowd as the Community Ride began led by the Century riders.

The ride ended with a ceremony at Memorial Park.

Mayor Cairns Wells at left, President Phyllis Rodgers, Town Historian Paul Schopp
Mayor Cairns Wells at left, President Phyllis Rodgers, Town Historian Paul Schopp

Mayor Suzanne Cairns Wells, Lifelong Wheelman Gary Sanderson and Riverton’s Town Historian Paul W. Schopp each addressed the audience and congratulated the athletes on their achievement.

In his address Mr.Schopp acknowledged that “…women have always maintained a keen interest in cycling and the mix of riders in today’s Riverton Century uphold the long legacy of female cyclists,” and described the 1895 Tri-State Relay Race which inspired Rob to create the Historic Riverton Century in 2014. Find a text file of his address here.

Gary Sanderson
Gary Sanderson

Attired in vintage wheelman gear and displaying his restored 1895 Indian Racer bicycle, Gary Sanderson described the adversity experienced by the riders in 1895 with traveling miserable roads on failure-prone single-speed bicycles. Read Gary Sanderson’s remarks here.

Bill Hall at left, Rob Gusky, Carlos Rogers at right
Bill Hall at left, Rob Gusky, Carlos Rogers at right

Mr. Gusky cited nonagenarian Bill Hall for his dedication to bicycling, and recognized Carlos Rogers for creating in 2011 the Historic Riverton Criterium which every year contributes money to local organizations and individuals. To date Carlos has distributed over $20,000!

Rob recognizes the women athletes
Rob recognizes the women athletes

Gusky called up the women participants in this year’s HRCentury and Phyllis Rodgers and Pat Brunker presented them and the men with sashes reminiscent of those worn by riders in 1895.

Later, many in the group met at Riverton’s Orange Blossom Cafe to eat and to recount details of their experience.

Everyone agreed that the two big bike spectacles now associated with the second weekend in June are community assets which combine to promote the sport of bicycling as well as provide family fun.

Rob recaps the day for Bill Brown
Rob recaps the day for Bill Brown

Perhaps it was the influence of the euphoria of a bicyclist’s high, but Gusky and Crew were already heard scheming to recreate the next ride.

Are you up for it?

Later on Facebook, Rob Gusky generously thanked the many people and organizations that made this year’s Riverton Century and Community Ride a success.

Century route planner Randy “Wheels” Jackson of the Major Taylor Cycling Club also wrote a lengthy Facebook piece recognizing those who had made it possible for him to “…relax and enjoy the ride.”

The creation of the Historic Riverton Century Ride by Rob Gusky and the Historic Riverton Criterium by Carlos Rogers now rank among the most treasured traditions of the Borough. The Historical Society of Riverton is privileged to be associated with them both.

Please add your own photos or submit comments. – JMc

 

 

 

 

 

Riverton’s 118th July 4th Parade is history now; HSR Archives & Museum underway

HSR propagandists Bill Hall, Susan Dechnik
HSR propagandists Bill Hall, Susan Dechnik
2015 palm card A
click on image to view other side

HSR member Susan Dechnik shares these photos below she took July 4th.

She and Bill Hall and several other proselytizers were passing out our Glorious Fourth Palm Cards among the revelers bearing bits of borough history on one side and a pitch to become a member on the other.

Although recently retired as HSR treasurer, our goodwill ambassador Paul Daly also distributed the cards as he has for many years. The practice seems to have been started around 1987, possibly by Dan Campbell.

I have cards from 1987 thru this year except for 1992 and 1996. Maybe they were skipped for those years, but if any still survive in a kitchen drawer somewhere, please advise.

You’re thinking, “Shouldn’t you guys know? You are the historical society.”

HSR wants you1 (Copy)Uh…no. And you would be surprised how often our capability is over estimated. But we would like to improve that and, in numbers there is strength.

Kindly consider adding your name to our number.

HSR archives and museum logo (Copy)These are heady times indeed for the Society as renovations in the Library basement will soon enable us for the first time to set up a physical museum of sorts.

The Historical Society of Riverton invites you to join in our effort to make Riverton history more accessible by helping to underwrite the expense of this worthwhile project with your membership.

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Find the complete Riverton 4th of July Committee’s 2015 Program booklet here.

Find waaaay more pix and some video on the Riverton 4th of July Committee’s Facebook page.

Find Christian Hochenberger’s photos here, but know that the display is not permanent. Enjoy while you can. – JMc

Read the history that inspired this summer’s cycling events

Historic Riverton Century riders 2014
Historic Riverton Century riders 2014

The cyclists who took part in The Historic Riverton Century 100+ mile New York to Riverton bike ride on June 7 have moved on, but the memories remain here and a tangible dividend resulted for the town – the installation of a permanent historic marker at the former site of the track at the corner of South Broad Street and Thomas Avenue.

Riverton Bicycle Track sign, 8-1-2014
Riverton Bicycle Track sign, 8-1-2014

Riverton enjoyed another “fifteen minutes of fame” and media attention as a result of this June’s Bicycle Weekend that included the Historic Riverton Century riders’ arrival Saturday evening, June 7, the dedication of the Bicycle Track Historic Marker Sunday morning, June 8, and the Fourth Annual Historic Riverton Criterium Sunday afternoon.

Rob Gusky, the originator and planner of the grueling cycling odyssey that approximately recreates the route of the 1895 NY Times Tri-State Relay Race, continues to post photos and updates on Facebook since he returned to his Wisconsin home.

Particularly interesting is the first-person report of Randy “Wheels” Jackson, one of the riders, who gives his impressions of the hundred-mile trek from the steps of the New York Times Building to the site where Riverton’s quarter-mile bicycle track once stood near South Broad, behind the Riverline Station.

That endorphin-fueled high experienced by endurance athletes had barely worn off when Rob announced plans for the 2015 Historic Riverton Century that include a 15-mile ride from the Burlington Riverline station back to Riverton on Saturday, June 13, 2015.

l. Bill Hall; r. Rob Gusky
l. Bill Hall; r. Rob Gusky

Doubtless, these exciting new Riverton traditions owe at least a nod to events in our past for their inspiration.HSR Purpose

We pause here for a commercial message from our sponsor – the Historical Society of Riverton.

In the address he gave for the dedication of the Historic Marker, Town Historian Paul W. Schopp provided much needed historical context to Riverton’s decision to build a bicycle track in 1894.

Borough Historian, Paul W. Schopp
Borough Historian, Paul W. Schopp

In addition, Mr. Schopp’s remarks explain the broader implications of the Golden Age of Cycling and the influence that the League of American Wheelmen had on the development of better roads.

Then, there is the obvious question – what happened to the track?

It’s all here in Paul Schopp’s very fitting and customarily meticulous report on the Riverton Bicycle Track. – John McCormick

History Repeats Itself as Ice Jams the Delaware River

As last night’s (Jan. 9) Action News segment explains, the sight of recent ice jams on the Delaware brought out spectators with cameras to record the “once in a lifetime” event. However, for our friend William Hall this makes at least twice, as regular readers of our newsletter will recall (“Adrift on the Icy Delaware,” Gaslight News, January 2013).

IMG_6279 [1024x768 PPt]
ice jam RYC pier 1920
This stereoview of ice shards clustered up over the pier by the Riverton Yacht Club in January 1920 comes from Elsie Waters. There is another view on a Feb. 2011 post along with a few other images from this rare collection.

Say, doesn’t that pumper in the Feb. 2011 post look like the same one depicted in the photo I bought on eBay, mentioned here Dec. 22? But, I am off topic.

March 8, 1934 Courier Post ice-bound RYC
March 8, 1934 Courier Post ice-bound RYC

Back to the ice conversation.

Here is mention of a close call for some ice skaters rescued from an ice floe in 1900 by Charles Biddle.

Mary Flanagan’s scrapbook continues to be a goldmine of source material for this blog. This newspaper clipping provides another example of the uncommon phenomenon.

Or is it?

Can any reader recall another occurrence of glacial blockage on the Delaware?

If you have an old one or a new one, please send us a scan or donate it for our archives.

River Ice, undated, from Bill & Nancy Hall's family photos
River Ice, undated

Please appreciate the view from a safe distance.

NYT, Feb 11, 1917 Charles Durbonard, possibly Durborow
NYT, Feb 11, 1917 Charles Durbonard, possibly Durborow

This is NOT to suggest that anyone should  actually risk going out on to ice.

Or in it, as evidenced by this clipping from a Feb. 11, 1917 New York Times showing Riverton’s Charles Durbonard taking his usual morning dip in the Delaware prior to going to his office in a Philadelphia bank.

I believe this is the same Charles Durborow referenced in news articles of the 1910s-1920s as being a champion long-distance swimmer associated with the Riverton Yacht Club.

Again, I digress. – John McCormick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waaay overdue blog post on joint HSR/Riverview Estates sponsored Antique Fair

Mr McC HSR editorDid you ever just keep putting something off?

This post is a follow-up to our very successful Riverton Antique and Collectible Fair co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Riverton and Riverview Estates back on March 2.

I just could not seem to get the piece done until today.

Expert Personal Property Appraiser, Ronald Shaffer, ISA assesses Nancy and Bill Hall's music box.
Expert Personal Property Appraiser, Ronald Shaffer, ISA assesses Nancy and Bill Hall’s music box.

As advertised, expert personal property appraiser, Ronald Shaffer, ISA really was witty and informed – extremely well-informed. He not only evaluated heirlooms and offered a Verbal Opinion of Value, he often knew some relevant anecdote about a similar item or offered hints on how to care for the item. A few times he referred the owner to another person with expertise in a specific area, such a furniture repair expert.

Mr. Schaffer informed and entertained as he carefully considered the value of each possession and coaxed from the person what details of provenance they could give.  Often the article had come from an ancestor, and the present owner probably would not part with it for any price. Still, good to know.

By all accounts the affair was such a success that we expect to repeat it in the future.

Here is a 3 min., 40 sec. highlight reel of the 2013 antique fair. We have not progressed to the point of streaming video yet, so the best we can offer is for you to download and open the 48.7MB Windows Media file on your computer.

More photos…

Many thanks to all who came and helped support the work of the Society.

What prized possession would you bring to the next Riverton Antique and Collectible Fair? – John McCormick

Let’s do this more often.

HSR Board Members Mrs. Cheryl Smekal (left) and Mrs. Nancy Hall (right) make displays ready for our Museum-for-a-Day

A longer entry follows than most, but it’s been awhile and I have some catching up to do.

A week ago Saturday (Dec. 3) evening from 4-9 p.m. the Historical Society set up shop at the New Leaf for a one day only exhibition of seldom seen treasures from its collections and the consensus among visitors was, “You should do this more often.” People stopping by during their Library sponsored six-stop Candlelight House Tour examined the various displays and often left us with as much information as they took away.

Daniel Goffredo as scanned and restored
I set up my laptop to run the Riverton Veterans Honor Roll Album which reminded our hostess, Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers to loan me a copy of her father’s service photo.

One woman who came through our Museum-for-a-Day found some vintage postcard reproductions that evoked a memory for her, and she paused by my laptop to look at the veterans’ photos, some of whom she knew.

McDermott Bros L-R – Bill, Paul Carl
The conversation drifted to Irish Row when we came to the photos of the McDermott brothers. (I only recently obtained these photos of Carl and his two late brothers when he answered our website appeal asking for veterans’ photos)

I have since updated the Riverton Veterans  Honor Roll Album to include the names added this past Veterans Day and scanned in several more photos of vets. If you can help by adding a photo or clipping to go with any name on the Memorial please contact me so that we can add it to the online album. Regular visitors will recall that eligibility for inclusion on the Honor Roll now reads:

Any present or former resident of the Borough of Riverton, living or deceased, who served on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, during a time of war, is eligible to have their name placed on the memorial.

Charles Miller Biddle Residence, 207 Bank Ave., Riverton, NJ courtesy brynmawr.edu
Charles Miller Biddle Residence, 207 Bank Ave., Riverton, NJ courtesy brynmawr.edu

She casually mentioned that her mother had been a house maid for the Biddle household and that she had lived on Cinnaminson Street.

I showed her some of Joseph Yearly’s photos of Riverton’s own Irish Row stored on my computer and she became very animated, adding a running commentary. She pointed out people and places she knew in Mr. Yearly’s photos. I will have to get them posted after the New Year. We may hear some more from a Riverton Irish maid’s perspective in an upcoming post when the woman locates some of her late mother’s possessions.

Ezra Lippincott wedding party, Niagara Falls 1862

HSR Board Member Mrs. Nancy Hall is a granddaughter to Ezra Lippincott, one of Riverton’s founders. She brought a treasured family photo of granddad’s wedding party at Niagara Falls in 1892 to display.

Later at home, I scanned it and did some restoration on it, but I was a nervous wreck working on a glass photograph. The result is at left. Where are all the tourists and souvenir stands?

display of local antique bottles

Mr. Bill Hall, Nancy’s husband, related a story about his days selling Millside Farms milk. It seems that the creamtop bottles with many of us are familiar were not just a novelty but also served as a salesman’s pitch in the days before homogenized milk.

After witnessing Bill beat up some fresh real whipped cream from the few tablespoons of high-octane milkfat which he had poured of from the top of that cleverly designed bottle, the lady of the house was often convinced to try his product.

former location of Cole Dairy raw milk depot at 501 Main, three Cole bottles in foreground

The milk bottle display must have prompted Mrs. Helen Mack to ask about buying a copy of the remarkable interview we did with Mr. Francis Cole last year about his experiences as a young man working in his family’s raw milk business at 5th and Main right in Riverton during the 1930s.

I had none for sale, but she did motivate me to post the video which Mr. Cole so graciously recorded with us in August 2010, partly because it so perfectly illustrates why the oral histories of Riverton’s people are part of what makes Riverton’s history.

Francis “Franny” Cole August 2010

You can see the November 2010 Gaslight_News article about the interview, but until now I had difficulty posting the huge video file. So here it is in three parts, about 30 minutes total.  Mr. Francis Cole Remembers Cole Dairy Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. If you would like to leave a comment about Franny’s interview, I’ll be sure that he gets to see it.

Another woman visitor has her ancestor’s Civil War diaries and wants to know if the Society is interested and would we take care of them? WOULD WE? I pointed her toward Gerald and am hopeful that we can connect with her again.

Since the nation is observing the  Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, the HSR has made it a goal to try to document Riverton’s role in that conflict. Can any family historians out there with Riverton roots help with supplying individuals’ names, anecdotes, documents, etc. which might help us reconstruct what must have been varied responses of citizens? We are interested in Civil War veterans, of course, but also want to research the actions of women, Quakers, and how various groups and the business community contributed to the war effort.

One man spent at least two hours carefully examining the vintage postcard reproduction prints that we brought in to sell. Like a kid in a candy store, he pored over nearly every image category in the boxes until he settled on a handful of pictures to buy. During lulls in the museum traffic I went over and talked with him about his selections. He had a story about every picture.

What is it about these old photos and artifacts which induces us to reminisce and wax nostalgic? The times to which we look back may not be more comfortable or safer than now, but being in the past, at least they are known.  The recollections that I saw seemed more wistful and pleasurable and not melancholy, even though the holiday season can also a time for reflection and remembering those whom we miss.

At one point I heard Bryan Rodgers say emphatically, “I want it back,” as he gestured toward what was in his hand.

I looked at him puzzled since he obviously already had it, but he went on to explain.

“I want back what is in the picture – the town’s train station.”

Riverton, NJ PRR Station late1930s
Now I get it. Yeah, I know. Wouldn’t that have made a great permanent museum.  I do get jealous when I see that the Riverside and Moorestown stations have survived. Bryan and Gerald and I all agreed that it would be cool for Riverton to have an old train depot like those towns, and we wondered what happened to it.

Later, at home I consulted Betty, as I always do on such matters, and opened my file of Gaslight Newsback issues. The waaay back issues.

There on page 3 of the May 1980 issue was another one of Betty Hahle’s long-running and informative”Yesterday” columns. The answer is there if you care to look.

Business District of Palmyra, N.J., Broadway Theater marquee at left

In it, our first and only official Riverton Town Historian, the late Betty B. Hahle, also describes the Broadway Theater in Palmyra since the Society had recently shown the Romance of Riverton film to a capacity crowd at the Porch Club.

There are many more pearls of wisdom and historic information hidden away in those back issues. If there is interest among readers we can post more issues, perhaps scanned with some word recognition software so that readers can search the contents. What do you think?

The problems and dilemmas of historic preservation are not confined to Riverton, nor were they concluded decades ago. One person’s redevelopment and renewal is another’s demolition of culture and tradition; one’s preservation is another’s impeding modernization and dwelling on the past. It’s finding a balance which can prove elusive, and decisions once made may be regretted later. Staying informed about the history of one’s community is a step in the right direction.

Say, I really do wish we could do this more often.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

P.S. I’ll have many more photos of our Museum-for-a-Day displays posted shortly under the Programs & Events section.  As always, leave a comment, a question, or correct an error that you find.