The HSR sends a heartfelt Thank-You to Carlos Rogers

L-R. John McCormick, Carlos Rogers, Phyllis Rodgers
L-R. John McCormick, Carlos Rogers, Phyllis Rodgers

HSR President Phyllis Rodgers and newsletter editor John McCormick verrry gratefully accepted a check this afternoon on behalf of the Society from Carlos Rogers, creator of the Historic Riverton Criterium  – our biggest contribution ever!

THANK YOU, Carlos!!
THANK YOU, Carlos!!

This evening, Phyllis messaged her fellow Board members the awesome news:

Hello Board Members,
Carlos just brought a check for his Criterium Donation—-$4,000!!!
Many thanks to Carlos for all his efforts.
The HSR is so lucky. Life is good in Riverton!
Best to all,
Phyllis

Yes, it is good, and Carlos Rogers is one citizen who helps makes this town the great hometown it is.

Carlos Rogers directs the action at the 6th Annual HRCriterium
Carlos Rogers directs the action at the 6th Annual HRCriterium

He has devoted hundreds of hours over the past year to stage and promote the biggest and best Historic Riverton Criterium yet, drawing competitors and spectators from all over.

The Historical Society of Riverton is pleased to have again supported the event this year and truly honored to benefit from Criterium proceeds.

Thank you, Carlos, for your tireless efforts in continuing to bring such an exciting cycling event to our town. Your incredible generosity toward the many individuals and local organizations you have given to since its inception has just been a bonus! – JMc

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

 

 

 

 

 

Gear up, Rivertonians. The Great Riverton Cycling Weekend looms

Bicycle News, 1895-04-15 Phila InquirerThe Great Riverton Cycling Weekend is coming up in just ten weeks, and the HSR is on board to help promote and support both events.

HRC riders in NYC large edit (Copy)
Here are the riders before they departed from NYC in 2014.

Rob Gusky, Riverton Favorite Son and organizer, is planning now from his home in Wisconsin for the second running of the Historic Riverton Century (NYC-Riverton) on June 11, culminating with a 3-Mile Community Ride when the athletes arrive from New York.

 

Riverton Bicycle Track sign
Riverton Bicycle Track sign

The first time, in 2014, Rob also started an indiegogo crowdfunding effort and secured additional sponsors that resulted in the Borough scoring an awesome historical marker near the site of Riverton’s old bicycle track.

 

Carlos rocks a HRCriterium t-shirt at the 2015 race
Carlos rocks a HRCriterium t-shirt at the 2015 race

Carlos Rogers‘ 6th Annual Historic Riverton Criterium, follows on Sunday, June 12, and consists of a number of races ranging from a 200 meter kids’ race to a 35 mile professional race over a 0.8mile, 6 turn, technical flat and fast course through the center of Riverton.

What can we say about a guy who has the vision to originate and bring to the normally quiet streets of old Riverton a frenzied fun event to kick off the Summer, and then proceeds to give away twenty-grand to community organizations over five years?

Each of these guys had me at “Historic Riverton” as they not only conceived of new Riverton traditions, but also managed to “give back” to everybody’s favorite hometown in impactful ways.

How about you? – JMc

Many hands contribute to the success of the fifth Historic Riverton Criterium

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Under the sweltering heat of today’s sun, the fifth running of the Historic Riverton Criterium was exciting for spectators, punishing for competitors, and all the excuse many needed to throw a porch or backyard party. Those arriving just in time for such events may have missed this.  Below, a crew erects the framework that holds the photo finish camera. It’s just one of the many heavy lifting jobs, literally and figuratively, that get done before the first race starts. – JMc

 

 

Remembering Tom Palermo

Perhaps you read a newspaper account on December 27, 2014, about Tom Palermo, killed by a hit and run driver outside of Baltimore while riding his bike in a dedicated bike lane. The news received national attention because the driver, Heather Cook, at the time of the accident was the second ranking member among Episcopalian clergy in the Diocese of Maryland.

My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979
My Riverton School Kindergarten Class, Spring 1979, Tom in back row, left, plaid shirt

It got my attention because of a Riverton connection. Tom Palermo was a Riverton kid, and I was his kindergarten teacher. Riverton School is a kindergarten through eighth grade school, and teachers, especially kindergarten teachers, have the opportunity to watch the students grow from five-year olds to students entering high school.

1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house
1987-Tom Palermo and Jill Dechnik, after an 8th Grade Graduation Party at my house

After their high school graduation, they scatter and move on, move away, or sometimes the student moves back to Riverton with a family, and their children attend Riverton School. That happens a lot.

I hadn’t heard about Tom Palermo for many years. Facebook allows people to reconnect, to catch up, to share. My daughter reconnected with Tom (I still think of him as Tommy) a while ago and sent me information about his life. The photograph of the grown man had the same smile I remembered from years ago.

Tom Palermo
Tom Palermo

And then Facebook spread the tragic news of how he died. The news spread and garnered an outpouring of shock and sadness. Television and newspaper accounts told the story of Tom’s life and how he died.

Here is a summary that I provided for people to share the news:

Tom Palermo, age 41, a senior Johns Hopkins Hospital software engineer, died after a vehicle struck him as he was cycling on the 500 block of Roland Avenue near Baltimore on December 27, 2014. Tom was married and the father of a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.

Tom grew up in Riverton, New Jersey, and attended Riverton Public School from kindergarten through eighth grade. He graduated St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia and earned a history degree from the University of Maryland. Family members describe Tom as a “seasoned cyclist who had a passion for mountain biking as well as logging countless miles on the road.” He was an advocate for bike access and bike safety. In 2002, Tom began making custom bike frames at his workshop.

Bishop Heather Cook of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is facing more than a dozen charges, including manslaughter, driving under the influence while driving, texting while driving, and leaving the scene of an accident. She had previously been arrested on a DUI charge. The trial date set for June 4 has been postponed until September.

A Palermo Children’s Education Trust has been established on the youcaring.com website. Donations may also be sent to:

Palermo Children’s Education Trust
℅ Molloy Investment Group
One South Street
30th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202

The Riverton connection remains. Six months after his death, his hometown remembers Tom as the Historic Riverton Criterium returns. Promoted by Riverton resident Carlos Rogers, attention will be focused on the sport of cycling, a perfect tie-in to Tom.

This account from Carlos:

“When Sue Dechnik approached me about memorializing the life of Tom Palermo I could tell how much of an impact he must have had on people given Sue’s sincere emotion during our conversation. I had actually read about his death as the news made national headlines, but had no idea he was from Riverton. It was a simple decision to do what I could to embrace his life and the circumstances surrounding his death. Given some of the feedback I’ve gotten from Riverton residents who knew Tom, it seems like he certainly made a lasting mark on people’s lives. Since he was a bicycle aficionado, and a builder himself, I’m sure he would have loved to have seen the Historic Riverton Criterium in person. Unfortunately, he will never get that chance. Even though I didn’t know Tom, I am glad to play a part, however small, in celebrating his life. Tragically, it ties together. One, Palermo was from Riverton, and two, he was riding his bike.”

Since 2011, the HRC has contributed over $15,000 to local Riverton and Palmyra organizations and individual causes. Carlos met with Tom’s father and arranged to donate part of the proceeds of the HRC to the Palermo Children’s Education Trust. In addition, in the HRC handbook there is a piece written about Tom.

In speaking with Mr. Palermo, I found him to be grateful for the recognition Tom is getting, but profoundly sad and shocked about the tragedy that took Tom from his family.

Personally, I remember Tom as a friendly, kind-hearted kid. From all accounts, he grew up to be a special man.

SDechnik (Copy)

 

by Mrs. Susan Dechnik

HRC 2015 poster
HRC 2015 poster

The Historic Riverton Criterium will thread through the gaslamp lined streets of Riverton for the fifth time tomorrow, June 14, 2015, 1-6 p.m. For more information, click on thumbnail at right, or visit https://www.facebook.com/historicrivertoncriterium

Find more information and photos about Tom Palermo at these links:

https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2014/12/28/grief-and-anger-at-scene-of-fatal-bike-crash/

http://www.wbaltv.com/news/Hundreds-of-cyclists-ride-to-honor-Thomas-Palermo/30492528

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/An_unfinished_ride.html

http://www.bikeleague.org/content/statement-death-thomas-Palermo

 

 

Carlos Rogers made Riverton history again June 8, 2014

criterium jerseysHistory records the names and deeds of Riverton’s founders along with achievements of many citizens who have contributed to the Borough’s development. Know that these movers and shakers, these difference makers, who influence, inspire, energize, and improve us are not just mentioned in dusty old archives but that each age has its champions who leave a lasting legacy. Carlos Rogers, originator of the Historic Riverton Criterium, is a Riverton champion of the age in which we live.

The Historic Riverton Criterium, now in its fourth year, really is historic in that it is important, significant, consequential, and memorable. Riverton resident and race promoter Carlos Rogers has created an event, according to the HRC Facebook page, with a threefold mission, namely:

To promote the sport of bicycle racing, increase the visibility of Riverton as a historic residential and business community, and provide charitable contributions from proceeds of the race to local organizations.

He has succeeded famously on all three counts.

Participants and spectators alike now have many memories of how Carlos Roger’s dream to bring the excitement of a competitive cycling event to Riverton has come to herald the beginning of Riverton’s summer season. As the contest has grown in popularity, it has gained prestige among the racing community; success begets success.

For a compelling description of the phenomenon that has become the Historic Riverton Criterium from an athlete’s perspective (read that as, not from a geriatric newsletter editor’s view), see cyclist Mark Featherman’s personal account in The Featherman Chronicles. (He relates a bit of Carlos’ back story and includes a streaming ten-minute video shot from his bike during the race that takes you along for the ride.)

Dave Casale, another athlete who knows the deal with the HRC, describes his experience in the 2014 race in his blog:

The Historic Riverton Criterium is a top notch local race. It takes place on beautiful tree lined streets in South Jersey’s Riverton, passing the local police department, library, middle school, a church, and the promoter’s own house, all in a quick 1:36 lap. It’s local while it still has the feel of a much bigger race; it’s homey enough that you don’t mind setting up your beach chair on one of the neighbor’s front lawns, but you’ll likely target it as a priority race during the season. The prize money is very good, the competition can be fierce, yet all the kids running around the neighborhood still manages to keep the event feeling stress free, at least until you clip in.

For evidence that visibility of Riverton has increased as a result of the HRC, one need only to pick up a newspaper, turn on a TV, or check one’s newsfeed. Local newspapers, as well as a mention in May’s South Jersey Magazine publicized the event. (Most links to newspaper stories require a subscription to view.)

The unexpected bonus for the community has been the philanthropic aspect that has been part of each Historic Riverton Criterium since the first one launched in 2011. Various area organizations have directly benefited as a result of Carlos’ altruism including Riverton Free Library, Riverton Memorial ParkPolice Unity Bike Tour – Patrolman Jeff WalkerPalmyra Ambulance AssociationRiverton Shade Tree CommissionBoy Scouts of America Troop 9, Christ Episcopal Church (Riverton), Historical Society of Riverton, and Palmyra-Riverton Athletic Association.

So while the athletes have come here each second Sunday in June since 2011 for the chance to win recognition, rewards, and bragging rights, many thousands of dollars in contributions from race proceeds have had a big impact on the treasuries of local community groups.

Carlos’ success with this modern race caused another consequence by influencing ex-Riverton resident Rob Gusky to organize the recent Historic Riverton Century bicycle ride in 2014 to commemorate the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race from New York City to Riverton.

By definition then, Carlos Rogers and his Historic Riverton Criterium are now part of the pages of history recorded on rivertonhistory.com as well as here and elsewhere. We congratulate Carlos for his leap of faith in Riverton’s ability to embrace a new tradition and thank him for his extraordinary generosity in contributing thousands of dollars of race proceeds to area causes and organizations.

We wish to see the Historic Riverton Criterium continue for years to come and hope you enjoy these glimpses of some of the good times and excitement the 2014 event generated.

Slide show photos by John McCormick. Featuring Joshua Matisoff, the Balloon Guy, Wade’s Snooo Train, appearances by The Wheelmen, and music by Package Goods

 

Proposed ride recreates an 1895 NYC-Riverton bicycle race

Bicycle News, 1895-04-15 Phila Inquirer

Cedar Street  2-15-2014
Cedar Street 2-15-2014

With snow on the ground in Riverton for going on a month now, the humid heat of a Jersey summer seems a long way off, but plans are afoot now to shape the first weekend of June into a two-day celebration of competitive cycling with a nod to local history.

This past December Carlos Rodgers, already a Riverton history-maker as the originator and promoter of the Historic Riverton Criterium, emailed me and explained that an ex-Riverton resident, Rob Gusky, had reached out to him with a proposal for organizing a bicycle ride in 2014.

1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race medal
1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race medal

Since it will commemorate the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Relay Race from New York City to Riverton, Carlos drafted me to help with research as part of the team he was getting together to “set the wheels in motion to help make this happen.”

HRC winged wheelDo you see what he did there? An apt metaphor, Carlos!

Research, yes. I’m in.

Just don’t ask me to bike a hundred miles from NYC to Riverton.

Rob has christened Riverton’s newest bicycle race The Historic Riverton Century. A hundred-mile bike race is known as a “century.” Also cool is that he plans for it to fall on Saturday, June 7, the day before the Historic Riverton Criterium on Sunday, June 8.

As you can imagine, the logistics of pulling off a successful bike race over roads and highways from Manhattan to Riverton in today’s traffic are considerable.

To fast-forward to developments up to this point, through conference calls, emails, texts, and phone calls, Rob Gusky soon enlisted a cadre of amateur cyclists (and one amateur historian) to strategize a plan for overcoming the many obstacles to completing such a grueling race. Too, he began to also think of ways the event might benefit Riverton and promote its image to the region.

What started as Rob Gusky’s one-man quest to recreate the 1895 New York Times Tri-State Race in June 2014 has captured the imagination of everyone who visits the Facebook page he established less than a month ago. It serves as a kind of information-central showing the organization and planning for all aspects of the race as well as to promote public support for it.

Riverton historical marker, Broad & Main
Riverton historical marker, Broad & Main

It is absolutely the best place to keep up with all the progress as various team players do their part to ensure the success of this venture. Community approval and backing builds with every day as visitors drawn in by Rob’s infectious enthusiasm affirm their support with every webpage’s coveted “like”

Riverton Athletic Assn. bicycle track, New York Times, June 4, 1895
Riverton Athletic Assn. bicycle track, New York Times, June 4, 1895

A separate piece of this ambitious undertaking is the dedication of a historical marker sign, similar to the one by the gazebo at Broad and Main.

The proposed sign will describe particulars of the Riverton Bicycle Track constructed on the old baseball field between Lippincott and Thomas Avenues and note the original 1895 race.

A foremost racing venue of its day, the Riverton track was dedicated on — what else– the Glorious Fourth of July, 1894.

Riverton's Bicycle track - undated photo from Ed Gilmore
Riverton’s Bicycle track – undated photo from Ed Gilmore

It featured a ticket office, a club-house with separate apartments and all conveniences for both men and women, bleachers, a grandstand with a 3,000 person capacity, and twelve arc-lights to illuminate night races.

(Past the fence in the distance you can see the rooftop of the old passenger train station. And through the trees, do you recognize the building that will later be home to Klipple’s Bakery, Zena’s Patisserie, and now the Orange Blossom Café?)

New York Times Bldg c1895
New York Times Building c1895

In June 1895, the Hudson County Wheelmen of Jersey City organized a spectacular 150-mile race pitting relay teams of the best amateur cyclists from New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey against each other.

The contest began on the steps of the New York Times Building (then at Park Row) and climaxed with racers crossing the finish line at Riverton’s own quarter-mile track.  In addition, five distance cyclists who competed for special prizes by going the entire 150-mile distance left New York two hours before the first relay racers started.

GN Sep 2009
GN Sep 2009

Rob found out about the 1895 race that ended right here in his old hometown by browsing through the pages here at rivertonhistory.com.

In 2009, my colleague Patricia Solin authored an article for the Society newsletter, “The Fine Grounds of the Riverton Athletic Association,” which described the 1895 race and the Riverton bicycle race track, characterized by experts as “the finest quarter-mile track in the country.”

Grand Bicycle Meet, 1894-07-04, Philadelphia Inquirer, pg. 8
Grand Bicycle Meet, 1894-07-04, Philadelphia Inquirer, pg. 8

The debut of the Historic Riverton Criterium in 2011, and its return in June 2012 and 2013 triggered several more visits to the HSR archives to report on Riverton’s cycling legacy.

Rob started an online effort to fund the installation of a historic marker at the site of the Riverton’s Bicycle Track where the Tri-State Relay Race finished on June 8, 1895.

Any tax-deductible amount that anyone contributes on the secure website will move the campaign closer to its goal of preserving this milestone in Riverton’s history.

Have I mentioned that Rob lives in Wisconsin? You have to tune in to this story, if only to see how he pulls it off.

There is so much more to know about this exciting enterprise, but discover for yourself what is going on behind the scenes now so that we might all play a small part in actually making Riverton history.

I urge you to visit The Historic Riverton Century Facebook Page  and JMc05the Preserve Riverton’s History by Installing a Marker at the Bicycle Track Site Website  and throw your support behind the establishment of the race as well as the installation of the sign. – John McCormick

PS: In case you missed it, the Programs & Event Tab directs you to the summary of the recent Feb. 12, 2014 meeting that featured a presentation by actor/historian Bob Gleason as Abraham Lincoln.

Historic Riverton Criterium enters pages of Riverton history

Enjoy these pix from 2013 Historic Riverton Criterium. See much more on Carlos Rogers’ Historic Riverton Criterium Facebook page.

BCT Staff Writer Jeannie O’Sullivan wrote Historic Riverton Criterium cycles through town and Rob Scott of Cinnaminson Patch posted Historic Riverton Criterium Brings Out Crowds.

Find tons of professional quality photographs of the event by local Riverton photographer Christian Hochenberger at http://hochfoto.com/buy-prints/.

If you have some serious time to kill, search Historic AND Riverton AND Criterium on YouTube and you will find over a dozen vids of the 2013 crit and its two predecessors.

The 2013 official Historic Riverton Criterium results from USA Cycling.

A 18MB, 1:min 41sec video of the parts of the first race: 2013 HRC

Remember, folks, these are the good ol’ days. – John McCormick

It’s win-win-win as the HRC brings family-fun, prizes for athletes, and aids the RFCo.

HRC_cowbellHRC graphicRiverton resident Carlos Rogers goes for the hat trick June 9, 2013, 1:00 p.m., as The Historic Riverton Criterium returns this year for the third time to the gaslamp-lined streets of this near-square mile borough.

In a crit, cyclists race a specified number of laps on a closed course over public roads closed to normal traffic. In this case, athletes pedal 20-50 laps (depending on ability), around an eight-tenths mile fixed loop circuit of the Borough’s thoroughfares during a typical hour-or-so long match.

Capitalizing on the success of the last two competitions, Carlos’ HRC Facebook page has already drawn pro and amateur contenders signing up for the USA Cycling sanctioned series of bicycle races, which includes USAC CATEGORIES 3/4, 45+, and Pro/1/2.

Find out more about registration, race categories, directions, the cash purses and cash premes, lots of photos and results of the past races, and all particulars on that Facebook page.

Contributors have opened their checkbooks, and several sponsors have returned to throw in their support behind this exciting community event that already has a history of giving back to the local area’s groups and organizations.  See the HRC Sponsorship Sheet here (Word .doc).

The popular Kids Race returns and you might want to get your cameras ready for the Fireman’s Fun Lap!

From Left:  Carlos and Adrienne Rogers , Karen Healey ( RFL President) Michael Robinson (RFL Manager)
From Left: Carlos and Adrienne Rogers , Karen Healey ( RFL President) Michael Robinson (RFL Manager)

Since 2011, the HRC has been committed to supporting Riverton and its surrounding communities by making financial contributions to various organizations to aid and benefit our friends and neighbors. See the HRC Missions Proceeds Sheet here. ( Word .docx) This year’s proceeds benefit the Riverton Fire Company.

Jeannie O’Sullivan, Staff writer for the Burlington County Times, wrote a great color piece on last year’s day at the races, and if you search “criterium” in our search box at the upper right of your screen, you will be directed to several other references to the 2011 and 2012 races as well as Riverton’s vintage bicycle races of the 1890s.

I am ready – I found my cowbell from last year. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

 

Bicycle Races – Past, Present, and Hopefully, Future

History may indeed have been made on June 12, 2011, if the recently held Historic Riverton Criterium turns out to become another borough tradition as many hope.

HSR member Mrs. Pat Solin had a ringside seat for the main event from her front door at Fourth and Main .

She writes:

photo by Lee Rogers

“…all cars had to be off the streets.  Police set up barriers and town maintenance folk cleaned the street of debris to ensure a safe ride for the participants.  The weather was beautiful for the race… We could hear a live band, and folks lined the street along the route to cheer for their favorite riders.  Our neighbors had company over and made it an ‘event.’  We watched the riders from time to time either from the curb or from within the house because, as you noted, they sped by directly in front of the house.”

I knew that the race was coming because  HSR President Gerald Weaber had copied me on an email that he had received. Someone helping with organizing the Historic Riverton Criterium had a question about the age of a house.

Riverton Athletic Assn. quarter-mile bicycle track – note roof of old passenger PRR station in distance at right; roof of present-day Zena’s near center

First off, I had to look up “criterium.” in the dictionary.

Then I anticipated that the organizers might want to know that Riverton once held bicycle races and even had a bicycle track, now long gone. I didn’t hear anything further after I sent along a link to Mrs. Pat Solin’s September 2009 Gaslight News article, “The Fine Grounds of the Riverton Athletic Association,” and another link from the New York Times archives showing a map of the old bicycle track near Thomas Avenue and Broad Street.

In her September GN piece, Pat traces the development of the Riverton Athletic Association from its beginning in July 1865, just after the Civil War, as simply some amateurs playing baseball in Biddle’s apple orchard to its involvement in an array of other popular sports, including bicycling. A highlight of the story is the account of a contest which will probably never again be duplicated, a 150-mile race from the steps of the New York Times building in New York City and culminating at Riverton’s packed to capacity bicycle stadium. Click here to read the whole incredible story.

1890 map detail – Riverton Ball Club Grounds at Broad and Thomas later became the bicycle stadium

In any case, I imagine that the information eventually made its way to Jeannie O’Sullivan, staff writer for the Burlington County Times, who wrote a delightful story cleverly contrasting the old and new races.  You can find the complete article, photos, and a YouTube video by clicking on this link.

You can read the chatter between the members of the Historic Riverton Criterium Facebook group as the event progressed from planning and development, to race day, and posting of the results by clicking here. In addition, there are dozens of photographs of the day’s activities, posted by several different photographers. The students of Mr. Christian Hochenberger’s Shawnee High School Photography Club posted over 300 photos here. Do not miss viewing the set taken by Lee Rogers, owner of Bicycle Therapy, a race sponsor, and posted on flickr, the photo sharing site.

If you’d like to see more New York Times articles of yesteryear, use the advanced search option of the New York Times archive to search issues from 1851-1980 for Riverton related articles. Browse at your own risk, however, as it can not only become addictive, but hours can fly by reading about those times past.

graphic for 1890 bicycling column in The Sporting Life

Another place to look for sports news of all sorts related to Riverton is in the pages of The Sporting Life, a weekly sports news publication printed in Philadelphia from 1885-1917, and now found online at the sports research library of the LA84 Foundation. There you can read about the famous Riverton Gun Club, the legendary “Riverton Nines” baseball team, yacht races, football, bicycle races, swimming–even cricket. Here is the link for the LA84 search page.

In addition to enlarging my vocabulary, further investigation into this cycling phenomenon has resulted in finding yet another “Yesterday” column written by Mrs. Betty B. Hahle over thirty years ago for the May 1981 issue of Gaslight News which sheds more light on those bicycle races of the late 19th century. Following is an account of the opening of the Riverton Athletic Association’s new quarter-mile track in 1894. As Betty wished, the re-publication of her work which follows is printed exactly as it originally appeared:

“As bicycling grew in popularity, Wheelmen’s Clubs were formed, and meets became a part of the growing interest in athletic events.

Bicycle Century Run under auspices of Riverton Athletic Assn. Camden to Atlantic City via Gloucester – Gloucester-Woodbury Turnpike, Westville Toll Gate – Sept. 8, 1894

Riverton’s team used a track on Fulton street, below the railroad, and then a larger one above the railroad, whete Lippincott, Thomas, and 7th streets are today. June of 1894 saw the new track completed there, in time for the riders to begin training for the big meet on July 4th. It was the widest 1-4 mile track in the world, designed by O.S. Bunnell of Philadelphia, a much respected cycler who would also be referee on the big day.

Night Bicycle Race Medal – July 1, 1895

And what a day it must have been! Riverton, with a population numbering only a few hundred, had an attendance of nearly 4000, according to the papers. There were 8 class-A events, trick riders, an exhibition ½-mile ride by Harrison Barcus, a 5-year-old, on a 10 lb. wheel, and a 5-mile event that ‘kept spectators at fever heat from start to finish’. Julius Blauberg, a prominant caterer from Philadelphia, had charge of refreshment stands, and prizes–oh, the prizes…5 diamonds, gold and silver medals, jewelry, and many other valuable articles. A.J. Briggs, Riverton’s Athletic Association manager, kept things moving, and was careful that all activities and decisions were fair. Soon color was introduced into the meets by having riders wear brightly colored shirts instead of numbers to identify them–and shortly there followed items of vandals breaking into the athletic building on the grounds and making off with ‘articles of clothing’. Fireworks were held at the bicycle grounds after the races.

In 1894 W.F. Sims was out to break his record of a mile in 2.11. He aimed to do it in 2 minutes–and made it. (Speed on the track was one thing; it was something else along the streets and paths of town, and increasingly there were reports of children being knocked down, teeth being lost in the process, and broken bones of older victims. Tempers grew short with this behavior–even on Sunday–and there were calls for dealing more severely with the culprets.”

Saying, “It makes obvious sense to tie in the racing history and the Historic Riverton Criterium,” Carlos Rogers, a 20 year veteran competitive cyclist whose vision it was to bring the amateur cycling meet to his newly adopted hometown (by marriage to the former Adrienne Gaughn), started planning for the race late last year. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers are owners and  operators of the highly regarded Hush Salon in Philadelphia’s Old City District.

The novice promoter acknowledged the first-time challenges of navigating those uncertain waters of borough government and tradition and was, in the end, elated at the result. Taking stock of the event and the public’s reception to it, Carlos remarked, “By all accounts, from borough officials, riders, residents, and spectators, it was a resounding success.”

Let’s hope that history repeats itself in this case, and that the Historic Riverton Criterium returns again next year. In the process we shall add another chapter to the history of cycling in Riverton, NJ.   – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor