The young men and women in this May 3, 1938 photo of a Palmyra High School class trip to Mt. Vernon belong to that generation that grew up during the deprivation of the Great Depression.
As these mostly 17 and 18-year-old seniors moved closer to the end of their high school careers, Action Comics #1, dated June 1938, featured the first appearance of Superman—and sold for a dime. (A mint copy of Action Comics No. 1 sold for $3,207,852 on an eBay auction in 2014.)
However, faraway events already in motion would soon crush their innocence and abruptly thrust these youngsters into adulthood.
Around the world the seeds of World War II had already been sown some time before.
The causes of the war – the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, Japanese territorial expansion, and Germany’s military aggression – coalesced as America, still mired in the Great Depression, tried to stay neutral from the European conflict.
Pearl Harbor was still 3-1/2 years away.
The PHS Class of ’38 came of age in the United States during World War II, and its graduates would either fight in the war or strive on the home front to help win it.
Television journalist and author Tom Brokaw first coined the term “The Greatest Generation” to describe those who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America. The people in this photo and in the Honor Roll at right were among that Greatest Generation.
Who do you know in this eight decade old photo? -JMc
The reason for the recent inactivity here on the website is that we have prepared for our display of artifacts that we call our Museum for a Day at the New Leaf Tea Room in cooperation with the Riverton Free Library’s biennial Candlelight House Tour.
Once every two years we get to break out of storage some choice HSR treasures to exhibit to the public. Afterwards, the items get packed away, and until the next time, this online virtual museum will have to do until we get a real permanent one.
I only just found a box postmarked 2011 in our storage space full of donated items relevant to the Yacht Club, particularly the Duster, that former resident Marty Carhart donated.
More details of the remarkable contents will be forthcoming in a later post, but for now, blueprints for building a Duster and two reels of 16mm movie film taken of the 1949 Duster Championship race were just two of the more notable items.
Also in that box, a 1965 book published for the 100th anniversary of the Riverton Yacht Club now serves as a startling reminder that 2015 will be their 150th anniversary. I made a poster outlining some of the milestones in the RYC’s history to go with the table display.
“Tempus fugit,” as my Latin teacher used to say. Tempus fugit, indeed. I think time has even picked up more speed after I passed sixty.
HSR Board Member Bill McDermott also pitched in as a Museum Guide. Turns out he had never heard the story about how Ed Merrill built the Duster in a workshop on the third floor of a house at 301 Main Street. There are probably many things we could all learn from each other if we could pool our resources. We have the bandwidth here if you have something to share.
Readers, please search those boxes tucked away in attics and basements for anything you may have that would help to piece together a history of the RYC’s last half-century. Something spectacular is sure to be planned to commemorate that milestone, and with so many knowledgeable people now living far afield the internet is a great place to collaborate.
I made another poster that explained about Anne Knight Ruff’s book, hoping it would result in some sales, but no luck. This book is a treasury of Riverton history c.1890-late 1900s and should be required reading for anyone living in this zip code.
An exhibit about Riverton’s veterans included a poster with all the original names plus the names added since 2011. Longtime Riverton resident Daniel Goffredo lent us his World War II service uniform for the day.
Earlier this year the HSR bought a presentation projector that we could use for just this type of situation, so we set it up with a screen to show the much expanded Riverton Veterans Album.
Those old hometown newspapers that we got online in late 2012 have yielded a lot of anecdotal information about the people mentioned on the original War Memorial Honor Roll. Additionally, the newspaper files have been the source of many more news clippings about military personnel whom they described as being from Riverton.
That might be the reason if you were to find a person mentioned in the pages of the Veterans Album, but their name is not on the War Memorial Honor Roll.
I showed the presentation to our own HSR Board members Nancy Hall and Elsie Waters, but the best part was listening to them give the color commentary as they watched. – John McCormick
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.
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.
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
One Society member commented that the homes on the December 3rd Candlelight House Tour December were “…historic and all quite beautiful.” This extraordinary biennial event invites the public inside some of the most distinctive homes and buildings in historic Riverton to raise funds for the Riverton Free Library.Hundreds of admirers of 19th century architecture came from throughout the greater Philadelphia and South Jersey areato view the historic buildings all beautifully decorated for the holidays which included five private homes plus the Porch Club, Christ Church, and TheNew Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shoppe.
Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers, proprietor of The New Leaf, generously offered space to the Historical Society of Riverton (HSR) to host its popular Museum for a Day exhibition, a traveling display of local Riverton artifacts, photographs and ephemera from its archives.
The showing offered a special opportunity for its exhibit curator, Mrs. Cheryl Smekal, to display women’s period clothing and furnishings as well as rare objects belonging to prominent Riverton families. Mrs. Smekal organized the event with assistance and guidance from Society Board members Mrs. Pat Brunker, Mrs. Nancy Hall, Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers and Mr. John McCormick.
A table covered with 16 household objects common to the earlier 1900s which beckoned to onlookers, “Can You Guess…?” sometimes created traffic gridlock as museum visitors seriously debated the various uses to which some of the more puzzling objects might be put.
John McCormick was on hand to answer questions from collectors and the public about memorabilia and collectible ephemera. John, a retired educator and local historian, offered reproductions from his vast collection of local historic images with street views from local Burlington County towns.
John devoted a section of the show of artifacts to The New Leaf at 606 Main Street since that address has played a number of roles in Riverton’s business section since it first was the location of Ezra Perkins’ butcher shop about 1900.
You can view a PDF file of that banner that outlines the history of 606-608 Main Street here.
Always of special interest to collectors are the vintage post card reproductions photo-restored by John McCormick featuring Dreer’s Nursery, New Jersey shore resort towns like Long Beach Island, Ocean City, Stone Harbor, and other locales like Burlington, Trenton, Moorestown, Mount Holly, Palmyra, and Riverside.
One collector visiting the Society’s Museum for a Day was delighted to see that John had added considerably to what he had available at Victorian Day 2007, and he pulled up a chair and devoted over two hours to browsing the vintage postcard reproductions.
The Society appreciates Mr. McCormick’s generosity in sharing his collection on the HSR web site and blog for people of all ages to enjoy.
While an adult visitor may recall and perhaps even reminisce with the website’s content, a child seeing those same images and stories may see for the first time how life in his or her hometown was so different a hundred or more years ago.
We commend The Friends of the Riverton Free Library for their successful house tour program which reminds us that our magnificent, historic homes in Riverton can be restored to their past splendor rather than sold as apartment conversions.
The Candlelight House Tour significantly contributes to the rediscovery of Riverton by visitors and homeowners as a special place to live. The following photo gallery of our Road Show Museum will suffice until the HSR can secure a permanent solution to display the wonderful collection to which so many Rivertonians have contributed over the years.
– Gerald Weaber, President Historical Society of Riverton
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.
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.
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 clippingto 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
You can see theNovember 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.”
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.
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.
The Historical Society of Riverton held its Annual Meeting June 9, 2011, at The Bank on Main, courtesy of the Antonucci Family of Riverton. First constructed for the Cinnaminson Bank & Trust Company in 1928, its new owners have transformed the building’s interior into an attractive venue for business and social events.
In the business portion of the annual meeting members approved a slate of new or returning directors, including Pat Brunker, Donald Dietz, William McDermott, J. Edward Gilmore, Nancy Hall, John McCormick, Phyllis Rodgers, Mary Lou Smith, Michael Spinelli, and Cheryl Smekal. A number of By-Law proposals received approval with one change, suggested by Mr. Paul Schopp. Members approved his motion to change the quorum for a Board meeting to nine. Click here find the full text of the By-Laws to passed June 9, 2011.
The massive original vault remains the focal point of the room. Round linen-covered banquet exhibit tables flanked the carpeted part of the room and chairs arranged in rows on a magnificent marble dance floor in the center of the space faced the vault. The high ceiling, large windows, and sparkling chandelier hanging from the center of a huge, ornately carved medallion that dominates the ceiling all served to create an elegant setting befitting the main portion of the meeting; to celebrate the life of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Town Historian, who passed away on April 17, 2011. A large photo collage poster of Mrs. Hahle placed next to the vault represented some of her many accomplishments and provided a backdrop for the remarks and accolades of the speakers.
President of the Historical Society of Riverton, Gerald Weaber, started by reviewing the life of Mrs. Hahle, highlighting her contributions to virtually every Riverton organization and stressing her dedication and commitment to preserving Riverton’s history and character. Her meticulous investigating and record keeping, pursued with passion, earned her a place in Riverton’s history. Mayor Robert Martin then presented a proclamation to the daughters of Mrs. Hahle, Donna Hahle Kirkland and Marilyn R. Hahle.
Several members of the audience shared memories of Betty Hahle by illustrating examples of her generosity in sharing her extensive knowledge of Riverton while others cited her success in raising her three daughters.
A four-part a capella group called Three Good Men smoothly segued into the entertainment part of the meeting by appropriately choosing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” as their opening number. They continued the historical theme by serving up an eclectic mix of songs from classic barbershop to Rock & Roll and Doo-Wop, freely seasoned with jokes and puns. The inclusion of “God Bless America” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” on the same set list indicates the versatility of this talented quartet. We even learned history trivia; “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” (1942) was the first ever gold record. Clearly, the foursome achieved their website’s description of “the essence of Barbershop” by liberally “ringing chords” off those stately old bank walls for the entire performance.
Even a mid-meeting power outage which left only dimmed emergency lights to illuminate the chamber failed to dampen anyone’s spirit or curtail the marvelous entertainment from our a capella quartet, which fortunately required no electricity. At the conclusion, HSR President Gerald Weaber invited participants to enjoy refreshments. Three Good Men continued their convivial exhibition by harmonizing “Happy Birthday” for two HSR Geminis, Mrs. Linda McCormick and Mrs. Phyllis Rogers and serenading bride-to-be, Keri Antonucci with a song .
We sincerely thank the Antonucci Family for so generously extending to the Historical Society the use of this splendid facility for our Annual Meeting. Find out more about this new multi-purpose banquet hall and event facility at the Antonucci Ventures LLC website.
That was our last meeting for the summer, but check back often for more additions to this website. Our expanded HSR Board will be busy planning for the next 2011-2012 season. Please consider donating items to the Society as you de-clutter or downsize belongings. We also welcome your submissions of recollections, comments, photos, scans, etc. for possible publication in the Gaslight News or on this website. – Co-written and photographed by: Mrs. Susan Dechnik and John McCormick
Congratulations on a successful roll-out of the new web site for the Historical Society of Riverton. Our appreciation goes out to the web site development team led by John McCormick and the Solins – Mike and Pat.
Members of the Society marveled at the rich content and beautiful stereo slides and postcard images of life in the 1920s. John McCormick’s blog is a fresh and informative perspective on Riverton, its people and historic structures.
Thanks to the many Society members and friends who have shared their images on the web site.
Dr. Cliff Johnson attended the Society meeting to hear the oral history of Francis Cole whose family owned Cole Dairy at 501 Main Street in Riverton. Dr. Johnson, who was born in 1920, and lived in the Riverton-Palmyra areas since he was three years old, commented tonight, “I went to school with the girl who painted your masthead- Anne Knight Ruff,” and he went on to identify the members of the Palmyra Police Department during the Depression when Police Chief Maurice Beck and patrolman Bucky Wallace led the force.
Dr. Johnson is the father of Society member Cheryl Johnson Smekal. Dr. Johnson’s dentistry practice was located at 433 Thomas Avenue in Riverton and is still the oldest structure on that street dating from circa 1869. Dr. Johnson purchased the home from the Coddington family which operated a paint and wallpaper store in town.
The mysteries of Riverton’s past continue to be revealed as more people explore the web site and contribute images, memories and identify the faces of town folk long forgotten yet whose contributions to our community made Riverton such a special place to live along the banks of the Delaware River in New Jersey. – Gerald Weaber, HSR President