Our Museum for a Day came and went

Aggie Kennedy
Aggie Kennedy clothes a dressmaker’s form.
Susan Dechnik
Susan Dechnik took most of the photos here.
Cheryl Smekal, closest;  Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back
Cheryl Smekal, closest; Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back

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.

The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.
The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.

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.

We brought out some familiar chestnuts such as some Dreer’s Nursery items, our vintage clothing, and the Riverton Gun Club history book.

New additions to our exhibit repertoire include displays about Riverton’s War Memorial and Riverton’s military veterans, Riverton Yacht Club, and Anne Knight Ruff.

museum for a day_37I 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.

RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965
RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965

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.

museum for a day_17An 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.

museum for a day_13museum for a day_02That 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

revised  12/22: added ten photos to gallery below

 

 

Staying after school paid off in historic photos and a 1904 history of Sacred Heart

Dreer’s Lilly Pads – John Strohlein
I worked with John Strohlein when I was a teacher at Riverton School. He is a maintenance man there, and we often chatted about history at the end of the day when he came by my classroom. He always took an interest in the American and ancient history lessons and he turned out to be a rich source of information about Riverton history. 

Riverton Fire Dept. – unknown date – John Strohlein

John Strohlein is a descendant of a Dreer Nursery executive and he also had some relatives in the Riverton Fire Company, two circumstances which resulted in my restoring some old photos for the Society and the fire company.

At right is one of two group photos of firefighters I restored. See what I mean about photos you loan do not have to be perfect?

George Strohlein by Lothrop Photography

You can see the framed enlargements on display upstairs at the firehouse. John also had some Dreer’s Nursery postcards and a cabinet card of George Strohlein taken by Lothrop Photographers who, I believe, operated out of the Lyceum that once stood at Fourth and Main. (revised – see below)

Sacred Heart Church – John Strohlein
John also allowed me to borrow a slim booklet that commemorated the Silver Jubilee of Sacred Heart Church in 1904.

Compiled and written by Reverend J.F. Hendrick, this 16-page Sketch of Sacred Heart Church traces how Riverton Catholics in the early 1870s worshiped in nearby churches at Riverside, Moorestown, and Camden before services shifted to several Riverton homes while parishioners made preparations for construction of their church.

Sacred Heart Church – 1905 Sanborn map detail

When I scanned the booklet in 2007, I made a slideshow of the pages, burned some CDs, and took them over to the pastor along with some replica paper copies that I made with a color laser printer. He was glad to get them because his one original copy was disintegrating and had to be handled with gloves. Here now was a reasonable looking counterfeit that parishioners could read without worries.

Sacred Heart Church booklet cover

Read more details of how a Presbyterian gentleman donated the land for the church after neighbors objected to the sale. Just as there has been more than one Riverton School, the present Sacred Heart Church was the first Catholic house of worship in Riverton.

Click on the following link to view the virtual booklet PowerPoint Slide Show for the 16-page Sketch of Sacred Heart Church. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

Revised 05/03/2012 I dread making errors about Riverton history on this website because, once out there on the web, stuff just hangs around forever. Thankfully, I have friend and actual professional historian (as opposed to us amateurs), who helps with damage control here at the Historical Society of Riverton. My sincere thanks to Paul for making this correction.

Paul writes:

John:

Nicely done, as usual. Regarding the photographer, he did not operate out of the Lyceum. Rather, if you examine Plate 2 of the 1896 Sanborn maps, you will find his studio directly behind his house. The south-facing elevation of the building was glass, allowing Lothrop to take full advantage of natural sunlight in his professional work.

Best regards,
Paul Schopp

From the 1896 Sanborn Insurance Map section shown below, you can see the Lyceum at left and the Lothrup Studio at right. Fourth Street runs left and right on this map and that’s Main Street running up and down. For more about the Lyceum, use the search tool at the top right of this page.

Sanborn Insurance Map section, Riverton , NJ 1896

Happy New Year…almost

So I’m a bit behind the times.

There’s something about the end of a year and the start of another that gets us in a reflective mood.

When I get my hair cut, the topic of “What’s new with the Historical Society?” usually accounts for at least a portion of the conversation during bi-monthly visits to my favorite tonsorial artist.   Jeff, who cuts my hair, can trace his family tree back several generations and track their moves from Palmyra, to Riverton, and finally to Riverside.

Jack Ford and Friends: Jack Laverty, Dick Laverty, Tom Laffey, Joe Gropp, Ron Meyers

He showed me this photo of his father and some friends taken many years ago on Cinnaminson Street in Riverton.  An arrow on the photo and caption on the back identifies Jack, Jeff’s dad, but with both of Jeff’s parents now passed away, which of the others is which is unclear. I’m taking suggestions since Jeff is expecting that someone may know of his dad’s childhood chums.

Perhaps while kids are still off from school and as friends and family gather over this holiday break, conversations may drift to stories of long ago when the kids were little and parents and grandparents were young. Younger ones inevitably inquire about what life was like when you were their age.

You might want to try a virtual family visit to our recent  Museum for a Day to show youngsters about earlier times in Riverton  and to help the adults with some visual aids to accompany their “Good Ol’ Days” soliloquies.

Mrs. Mary Yearly Flanagan again shares here some of her grandfather’s photos which not only chronicle the progress of the Yearly Clan, but also help illustrate some aspects of everyday life in early 20th century Riverton.

 

Consider recording some of those moments with that new camera, smartphone, iPhone, iPad, a Fisher-Price camera, anything really, but capture them while you can because you sure can’t go back and get them later. You’ll look back on them years from now and wonder where all the time went. I can’t be the only senior for whom it seems that time has actually accelerated exponentially with each passing decade.

This website has plenty of images, text, and even some video clips which might help show the current generation how former generations lived, worked, played, and helped make Riverton the town that they have today.  Photos from a previous Joseph Yearly Photo Gallery, your own family album, other vintage images, or a screening of Glimpses of Palmyra and Riverton in the 1930s or The Romance of Riverton, will also serve the purpose to  illustrate the times of earlier generations.

The result of such an epic Riverton Retrospective may just leave everyone thinking, “You know what? These are the good old days.”

Mark them well, as we warp-speed into 2012. Please pause and comment on your own good old days, whenever they may be.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

 

Just in – over 30 new vintage images of Riverton

Recently I received an email alert that notified me that I had won an eBay auction for an old Riverton postcard.  And I got two in a row! Quickly, I keyed in the PayPal information and then checked the mail each day to see if my treasures had arrived.

These are two of the rarest kind of postcard images – real photo post cards, or RPPCs for short. They were created by developing a photograph onto postcard-sized photo paper with a postcard backing. RPPCs often demand higher prices than mass-produced postcards because of the limited number of cards produced.

As any collector will attest,  it is a great feeling to acquire that elusive stamp, comic book, coin, baseball card, matchbook, or some such chotskie. Some anthropologists say that we collect to reminisce and remember the past. Certainly, that is a motive here, but we hope that the images and information displayed on this website will serve as testament to what Riverton’s men and women have built here since 1851 on this scant square mile.

Whether you collect sports team memorabilia or antique dolls, you know that feeling when you’ve discovered yet another variation on a familiar theme. Well, if you are here because you are a fan of Riverton, NJ, imagine that elation and multiply it times ten because in recent weeks we have received dozens of great vintage postcard and photo album scans to add to our images pages.

These have come just when I was starting to think I had seen all the Riverton cards there were. There are more views of the Yacht Club, the Porch Club, residential streets, and Dreer’s Nursery, plus some rare RPPCs including the Children’s Parade.  Altogether, it is a remarkable photographic record and we are fortunate that Mr. Mortgu has opened up his album to share in this way.

If you received a reminder postcard for our last HSR meeting, you caught a brief preview of the choice vintage photos which Nick has scanned for display here.

They will also being placed in with the rest of the Riverton images so they will be easy to find when you return. We invite you to leave a comment, factoid, recollection, or question.

Readers, if you have one image to donate or a hundred, know that you will be contributing to a continuing virtual archive which we hope will help tell the story of Riverton’s historic past to current and future generations. – John McCormick

Riverton History 101

Mr. McC's history classroom

I started collecting images and information about Riverton’s early days to use in instructing my middle school students at Riverton School on local history. When I couldn’t buy on eBay, I borrowed from other collectors who generously loaned me items to scan.

The result was a virtual collection of hundreds of vintage images from which I reproduced prints and enlargements to raise money toward the purchase of a digital projector for my classroom. While my first goal was to help my students learn about their town’s local history, I soon learned that even many adults had not seen the images in this expanding digital compilation.

When Priscilla Taylor and Patricia Brunker approached me during Victorian Day 2006 festivities and drafted me into the Historical Society of Riverton, I mistakenly thought that one needed to live in Riverton to join. Au contraire, mon frère. There is no residency requirement. In fact, only about 60% of the addresses on the Gaslight News mailing list are for Riverton; the rest of the locations range from New Jersey to California and Maine to Florida. Rivertonians, current and former, are a far-flung lot. Hence, my wish to bring the show to the Internet. (Here’s a membership flyer, or go to the Contact page.)

screenshot of presentation title frame

Since joining the HSR, I’ve been tapped to do several presentations; some solo, some collaborating with others. I have never charged the HSR a speaker’s fee. In a classic case of “you get what you pay for,” or perhaps hoping that I’ll one day get it right, the Board continues to invite me back.

This was the first presentation that I gave to a HSR meeting in January 2007. Billed as a show of vintage postcards and photos, it played to a SRO crowd in the Riverton School Library, a feat not duplicated since. Maybe there was nothing on TV that night. For whatever reason, the turnout both surprised and gratified Bob Bednarek, the president at that time. Me, I was just nervous, as you may hear.

Topics include The New Era, Dreer's Nursery, Vintage Postcards and Photos, and Local Maps

However, once seen by the group of people who venture out for a particular meeting, the program’s content, however worthwhile, just languishes in the hard drive of my computer. While I have always wanted to post these presentations on the Internet, the large file sizes that result from creating PowerPoints from the vintage postcards and maps, graphics, and animations which illustrate my talks have been problematic.

Computer wunderkind Mike Solin once again shows his old teacher new tricks
Short story: I told Mike Solin, my former Riverton School student, now computer consultant, of my wish, and he figured out how to add that feature to the WordPress template that he continues to tweak to meet our needs.

 

Following is the link to download the large PowerPoint file for that first program containing images and information about historic Riverton. To be fair, it’s really more eye candy than in-depth information—the reason for the freshman course title of this blog post. I would learn at that first presentation, and on successive ones since, that when coming to address the Riverton citizenry on their history, I could expect to receive schooling in such matters myself.

Although I cannot find my handwritten presenter’s notes which explained the slides, somehow, through computer crashes and changeovers, I found on my hard drive a rather poor quality audio file recording of that evening’s program, complete with no small amount of audience participation. You may want to download the audio file and listen as you advance through the slides.

You can hear that my lecture certainly benefited from the many recollections and personal anecdotes furnished by the group. I have come to value the fact-checking, insights, and historical perspectives contributed by people in the audience.

Then, as now, I invite viewers to comment on the presentation, particularly if they would note an error or provide more information. One mistake in this presentation was my identification of a long-gone building that I thought was the Evans Lumber Building; it turned out to be the Woolston Carriage Works.

Click here to download the 74.3MB PowerPoint slide show, “HSR slide show 1-29-2007.” Click here to download the 52m, 06s 24.1MB wma. audio file which I recorded as I gave the presentation that evening. You will hear that my solitary “talk” instead turned into more of a town meeting, with the slides serving as an itinerary for a group excursion down Riverton’s Memory Lane. You are invited along, and it’s not too late for you to add your voice to the chorus.

John McCormick

I welcome comments from this larger audience and I’ll be glad to try to answer any questions that you may have. Please contact me if you can add to our knowledge base by donating relevant items, by loaning items so that we can scan them, or by sending text or image files as email attachments.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor