As Labor day approached in late August 1920, Riverton’s hometown weekly gazette, The New Era, reported, “It is astonishing the great number of children from 12 to 14 years of age who have swam across the river and back. At least 30 have made the one-way journey, and over a dozen both ways.”
Just as it was once a Riverton rite of passage to walk across the frozen Delaware and touch the Pennsy shore (see GN 2013), so too, was it the custom for youngsters to swim across and back in summer months.
You can take Elsie Waters’ word for it.
She recalled learning to swim at five years of age and making the crossing at twelve in 1930, in this 2013 interview.
With safety in mind, Riverton Yacht Club’s Secretary and Treasurer and famous distance swimmer, Charles Durborow (see Mar 7, 2014 post), accompanied the juvenile tadpoles as they paddled into adulthood.
The New Era article noted that swimming had “…risen rapidly in popular favor in Riverton of late and the Yacht Club has been kept busy handing out bronze and silver medals to its members.”
A week later, The New Era described how Riverton’s Miss Harriet Holder swam from Riverton Yacht Club to Race Street, Philadelphia in three hours and twelve minutes.
And I get winded backstroking across to the other side of my swimming pool!
Do you have more to add to this chapter of Riverton history? If anyone has a photo of one of those swimming awards or additional information, we would like to publish it. – John McCormick
As last night’s (Jan. 9) Action News segment explained, 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).
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.
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.
Please appreciate the view from a safe distance.
This is NOT to suggest that anyone should actually risk going out on the 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.
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
Mrs. Elsie Waters on right; Mrs. Susan Dechnik on left; fast disappearing cookies on table
In the summary for the last HSR meeting held at Riverton School in October I mentioned the scrumptious homemade gingersnaps that HSR Board member Mrs. Elsie Waters made for the refreshment table. You may have missed the post if you never check out the Programs & Events tab.
Elsie is always making something unexpected yet so perfect for the occasion.
Case in point – those delectable spicy ginger cookies were just the thing to get us all in a fall mood for the first meeting after the summer break. Click on this link for the PDF file for Elsie’s Old Fashion Ginger Snaps. You can print out a facsimile of Elsie’s two-sided recipe card.
Very classy, Elsie.
My two favorite photos of Elsie.
Fittingly, she is in a carriage in both shots.
She has fit in a lifetime of Riverton memories and experiences in between those two moments.
Readers may recall seeing pictures and references to Elsie before, as she is a vital part of Riverton and exemplifies what being an active member of the Society means.
Very classy, indeed.
The search box, above right, will point you to more references on this website about the Showell, Waters, and Wright families. – John McCormick
As families and friends again congregated on Independence Day in Riverton, inevitably many paused to reflect on other Fourths of days gone by.
No doubt this year’s Parade Marshal Mrs. Elsie Waters has stored up many memories since that photo was taken of her and brother John sitting in wonderment at the 1920 July Fourth celebration.
FUN FACT: As July 4 fell on Sunday in 1920, Riverton’s Glorious Fourth was held on Monday the fifth.
Previous posts have addressed the origin and changes in Riverton’s Glorious Fourth over the past 116 years since the parade began in 1897, much of it gleaned from the research of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Town Historian, now passed. More than 100 of her signature “Yesterday” columns written for the Historical Society of Riverton’s newsletter, the Gaslight News still serve as the most authoritative record of our town’s early days.
This previously posted four-page 1920 Program (above, right) details the activities enjoyed that day. HSR member Gerald Blaney generously allowed us to scan his rare eBay find and display it here.
The clipping at left from the July 2, 1920 New Era newspaper advises readers of two added features to the program that included a presentation of gold rings to veterans of World War I.
Later, the New Era recapped the results of the many games and summarized the patriotic observances witnessed by “fully five-thousand men, women, and children.” The Children’s Parade had 792 kids vying for prizes such as best decorated baby coach, velocipede, or kiddie car.
Children gathered on the riverbank and scrambled as a Curtiss F. Boat hydroplane brought over for the occasion showered them with hundreds of tickets good for merchandise at either one of three local stores.
You can see the issue as a PDF file just as it appeared to Rivertonians 93 years ago. (You will need the free Adobe Reader program if you do not have Adobe Acrobat.) Scroll down to see PDF page 3 For the July 2 issue and PDF page 7 for the July 9, 1920 issue.
Were they the good ol’ days? Absolutely.
However, we do not dwell on the past, but simply acknowledge it as we value the contributions of those countless citizens who have helped Riverton develop into the unique place it is today.
The following photos and video demonstrate that for many, the experiences of this July 4, 2013 may just as well be recalled in the not too distant future as “the good ol’ days.” Absolutely!
Photographer Richard W. Pringle, Jr. kindly sent these photos that include a few great close-ups.
You never know who you will meet on the Fourth. Here is my former Riverton School colleague and snow cone entrepreneur, Wade McDaniels. After selling the frosty confections here for over twenty years, I guess that feat qualifies Mr. McDaniels to be included in the record of Riverton history.
Read more about my friend Wade in the phillyburbs.com post by Burlington County Times Staff Writer Peg Quann. She interviewed the coolest Riverton School maintenance supervisor who has been moonlighting on this summer job since his first gig selling at a Beach Boys concert in Philadelphia during the 1976 Bicentennial. Chilly treats a tradition on Riverton’s Fourth by Peg Quann
The image gallery below illustrates what we remember in any typical Riverton Fourth of July observance: family, friends, flags, festivities, fire engines, fun, and food. What does a Classic Riverton Fourth of July mean to you?
The Fourth is often a time for reconnecting with others who have put some miles and years between themselves and their old hometown. Palmyra native and PHS alum Gary Weart stopped by to see Phyllis Rodgers and family while vacationing from his home in South Carolina. Here he is talking to Phyllis as she tallies the 320 children participating in this year’s parade.
It turns out the former teacher, whose great-grandfather James Taylor Weart served as Palmyra’s first mayor from 1923-1928, is a keen photo enthusiast who captures images with a truly memorable perspective.
Enjoy this slideshow by Mr. Gary Weart, book author, former social studies teacher, administrator, and athletic coach who founded Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), and received the Presidential Service Award from President Bill Clinton.
There is still a little room left here for your own memories and recollections of July Fourth – actually for any year at all that you wish to share. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org – John McCormick
A banner near the Riverton War Memorial announces the Cocktail Party and Concert in the Park during the weekend preceding the Fourth and invites readers to visit http://www.riverton4thofjuly.com/ for a complete list of July 4th events. Here is the Committee’s Dear-Neighbor-Ltr-2013.
The other day my friend Phyllis Rodgers compared getting ready for the Fourth in Riverton to getting ready for Christmas. Depending on one’s involvement, other comparisons may come to mind – like preparing for D-Day.
Certainly for Tracy Foedisch and the other dedicated members of the 4th of July Committee, they have been preparing for this year’s event even as the sun set on the last year’s celebration.
All over town residents display the patriotic hues of red, white, and blue as generations have done here for more than a century.
Members of the Historic Society of Riverton will especially cheer on their compatriot, Parade Marshal Mrs. Elsie Showell Waters, as a chauffeured convertible conveys her along the Main Street parade route on July Fourth.
Read Casey Foedisch’s interview of Elsie that appears in the July Fourth Program booklet: elsie_waters_interview
Paul Daly, our esteemed HSR treasurer, shares this photo of himself and his wife Cathy bicycling up Main Street during a Riverton Fourth of the late 1970s – perhaps it was for the Nation’s Bicentennial.
The July 4th post,How did Riverton’s “Glorious Fourth” start? referred to a number of July Fourth traditions which Mrs. Betty B. Hahle explained in her classic series of “Yesterday” columns published over her four decades of research and writing for the Historical Society of Riverton. I omitted her explanation of one longstanding parade tradition—the Mayor’s walking staff— until I could make certain of its status. As any observant parade spectator has noticed throughout the years, the Mayor always holds a long cane ringed with dozens of silver-colored bands as he or she walks.
Consider the above photograph of current Mayor Robert Martin with said walking staff.
To further explain the origin of this tradition, read below the complete text of our recently passed Town Historian’s “Yesterday” column from the September 1997 issue of Gaslight News entitled, “A Cane’s Name.”
A Cane’s Name
History is not static, as some might think. A different interpretation or the discovery of new materials can change a historical concept at any time. And slightly different accounts of an event provoke questions of which is accurate; age, perspective, and re-telling all influence the development of a legend.
In 1965 Riverton Yacht Club published a Centennial Booklet that contained two pages of memoirs of Ogden Mattis, an active member for many years. He also supplied a photograph of an early 4th of July Parade that was published with the caption “the Marshall’s baton is a Calcutta Cane brought from India by Og Mattis’ grandfather.”
The grandfather referred to was Louis Corner, who had come to Riverton from England circa 1863, and lived on Main Street.
Recently Sally Jane Mattis shared with me something her husband, George, had written in the late 1930s, when he was a student at Palmyra High School. A requirement of Miss Edna Ziegler’s Senior English class was the student’s autobiography. In his, George had written that his great-grandfather, Louis Corner, born in England…“traveled abroad many times visiting his parents and foreign countries.
On one visit to Switzerland in 1897 he brought back two Alpine Sticks and presented them to the town for the purpose of recording year by year the number of children in the annual parade on 4th of July… by placing silver bands on them…”.
We know that various kinds of walking sticks were popular in the late 19th century, and both records agree on who brought back the cane (s) that are a part of Riverton’s traditional 4th of July Parade. At first, the Marshall carried the cane, but for many years now it is the Mayor who carries it. A silver band bearing the year, mayor’s name, and the number of children participating that year is added to the cane after the event. In 1952 the last band that would fit on the original cane was placed on it, and 1953 started a new cane. Since 1958 the bands are of stainless steel instead of silver.
Another Corner legend about the 4th of July Parade is that Louis Corner’s young nephew, George, led the first Parade, in 1897. The Mt. Holly Herald carried a detailed account of the 1898 Parade, which said that it “was led by two 3-year-olds, George Corner, dressed as Uncle Sam, and Clarice Frishmuth, dressed as the Goddess of Liberty.” They were followed by ten little boys in Dewey suits (for the recent Dewey victory) and then by 250 children parading. (Gaslight News 1986, vol. 12 #4, told that story) There was no mention of a Marshall or of his baton. Would it have been called a Calcutta Cane or an Alpine Stick, if it had been described that day? – BBH
As the above photo of Mayor Martin shows, the tradition persists of adding a band to the cane each year engraved with the number of children in the parade. According to Phyllis Goffredo Rodgers, the official kid-counter for the past several years, the number this year was 185, about a half of last year’s showing and a fraction of the 600 tallied in 1908.
Scouring my hard drive for other references to that July 4th airplane drop of paper tokens good for penny candy resulted in the above scanned image of a stereograph from the collection of Mrs. Elsie Waters with the caption, “Frank Mills’ Plane, 1923” and a scan of an undated photo from the collection of recently elected HSR Board Director Mr. Ed Gilmore. Elsie told me that it was Frank Mills who gave airplane rides for a fee, but I’ll have to confirm with her (or another reader) if he is the one who dropped the penny candy vouchers and if it was done for more than just the year 1921. Regular readers may recall that Mrs. Hahle reported on such a paper shield penny voucher plane drop for the year 1920. So far I have been unable to account for the difference in dates. Further, can any aircraft expert determine if the plane in Elsie’s stereograph and Ed’s photo are the same?
Segue to this 7.28MB PDF file of a 1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program that almost got away. The original once belonged to Mrs. Mary Jane Mento, widow of Mr. Danny Mento, a popular local musician. When she passed away, her daughter living in the South inherited it, and she placed it on an eBay auction. Gerald Blaney, a recent homeowner transplant from Palmyra to Riverton and very keen on local history, prevailed as high bidder and has generously allowed the use of the image seen here. Would that all such great finds be shared with the community by such altruistic persons.
Classic cars and fire engines are always a part of the parade. Here’s an old one from 1925, again from Elsie’s stereograph collection, and a recent 2011 pic of Riverton Fireman Charles Dorworth with his daughter Nicole taking advantage of a photo op with her husband and son in the driver’s seat of Riverton’s 2005 Pierce 100 foot ladder apparatus, or “fire truck” to us civilians. The RFD, established 1890, is a respected institution with its own historic past which you can visit at this website link.
Although undated, Mr. Gilmore’s set of remarkably well-preserved photos may each have been taken around the same time. Another one, presumably from the same parade, shows what must be the mayor holding the cane with the silver bands. Are there any who history sleuths would care to deduce a date for the Gilmore photos? If you have a theory, please send it in.
Readers, please leave a comment, criticism, or even a correction, lest how else am I to get the record set straight? “Like” us on Facebook and tell your friends and family, whether local or across the miles, about the rivertonhistory.com website. With increasing visitor counts and membership support comes a greater chance to “connect the dots” and make sense of the separate pieces of our individual collections of artifacts, collectibles, and ephemera. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
Is there anything that evokes memories of Riverton more than its Fourth of July celebrations? Part parade, part family reunion, picnic, 5K run, field day, soap box derby, and crazy raft races on the Delaware River, Rivertonians of all ages look forward in anticipation to another one of this borough’s old-fashioned fun-packed Independence Day celebrations.
Former Rivertonians from near and far return for the event to re-connect with family and friends. The grand parade includes homemade floats, a Pet Pageant, kids with decorated bikes and wagons, classic autos, marching bands, musical groups, and military units. Throughout the town homeowners proudly display American flags and patriotic bunting. A parade route lined with hundreds of exuberant spectators attired in patriotic dress completes this Norman Rockwellian masterpiece. But Riverton’s Fourth of July observances were not always so spectacular.
The approaching festivities are all the excuse this former Riverton School history teacher needs to examine the beginnings of what the 1892 New Jersey Mirror was calling over 100 years ago “Riverton’s Glorious Fourth.”
I again defer to the research of our Town Historian, Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, who recently passed away after devoting many years to discovering and preserving Riverton’s past. From the May 1981 Gaslight News comes the origin story of this 114th Riverton Fourth of July Children’s Parade. As she wished, the excerpts below are copied as she wrote them:
“… July’s celebration in the growing village of Riverton was soon being called ‘Riverton’s Glorious Fourth’. In 1892 newspaper reports said ‘the quiet Quaker town put on holiday attire…’ and described the yachts and all smaller boats decked out with flags of all nations, and the competition among home owners in decorating their homes. That year the 28th annual Regatta at the Yacht Club was held. Celebrations focused on the children’s flag parade and on athletic events as well. … Wheelmen’s Clubs were formed, and meets became a part of the growing interest in athletic events. Riverton’s team used a track on Fulton street, below the railroad, and then a larger one above the railroad, where 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.”
Betty’s “Yesterday” column in the May 1986 Gaslight News reveals another chapter in the holiday’s development:
“And Summer soon follows…wooden tubs of Crane’s ice cream, packed in chunks of ice and delivered by steamer from Philadelphia to the Riverton pier. And then…the Fourth of July!
In 1886 Riverton celebrated the Fourth ‘in the old fashioned way, with houses decorated with bunting and flags…and lighted with Chinese Lanterns’. The Chinese Lanterns at the Lynch home, 2nd & Main, merited special note. Races at the Yacht Club had to be called off because of lack of wind, so pair-cared scull races ware substituted. Winners were Lawrence and Haines Lippincott. The Lawn House had some activities, and then the Calico Club paraded around town.
It was in 1897 that Charles W. Davis and Albert Briggs had the idea of a children’s parade for the celebration, and the Yacht Club liked the idea and set it in motion. The parade formed at the Roberts store on the point, each child was presented with a silk flag, and all preceded to the riverbank, where singing and oration followed. Aquatic events and then fireworks ended the day.
The next year more than 250 children were in the parade, headed by the Metropolitan Band of Burlington. An article describing the day said that two 3-year-olds, Georgie Corner, dressed as Uncle Sam, and Clarice Frishmuth, as Goddess of Liberty, led the whole procession. Then there were 30 little boys, dressed in Dewey suits (the Spanish fleet had just been destroyed) and commanded by Captain Walter Wright, who had been drilling them for 2 weeks. Then came the 250 children with their silk flags, ‘prettily costumed’. At the riverbank, Rev. Charles Kevin, son-in-law of the 1st mayor of Riverton, gave an inspiring address. And evening fireworks climaxed the day.
In 1908 there was threatening weather–but some 600 children marched in the parade, led by Mayor Brown and Chief of Police Major, and the Metropolitan Band. 1932’s parade had a special feature: two of the marching Riverton Firemen wore fire hats that had been donated by L. A. Flanagan. They had been worn ca. 1842 by members of his family in Philadelphia, and bore the date of 1800, the year of their Fire Company’s founding.
By the 1940’s and ’50’s the children’s athletic events in the Park took up most of the afternoon, with relays, sack, potato, 3-legged, and other races for various age groups, and prizes of skates, cameras, rings, and other things donated by local merchants. And free refreshments for all the children (from Riverton). Palmyra had its children’s events in the Grove, and often included a Punch-and-Judy show, then joined Riverton for fireworks on the riverbank.
Time brought some changes, but ‘Riverton’s Glorious Fourth’ became a well-established tradition, a day of shared activities, family gatherings, reunions with former residents and friends. In 1964 wooden wash-tub races and tilting were scheduled again, for the first time in some years. Floats were popular: some were individual, some were group entries; all showed imagination, enthusiasm, and many, many hours of work. The Porch Club, in 1965, had a large platform truck made to look like a front porch, with ladies in costume and seated in rocking chairs depicting a meeting in 1890. John Parker had made a large float of the Yacht Club; Frank Lockhart and Charles Foster made a large replica of Barnegat Lighthouse; and the Parry family celebrated the New Era’s 75th year of publication with scenes of their office as it was in 1890.
For a few years there were no fireworks to climax our Fourth of July celebrations, although other traditional activities continued. They were welcomed back enthusiastically recently, at the Park instead of the Riverbank—and once again the Fourth ended spectacularly.”
Riverton has a long history of honoring men and women who have served in the armed forces as this August 1983 installment of “Yesterday” reports:
“Memorial Park was dedicated on July 4, 1931. It had been a long while coming…after WW I an athletic field was decided upon, as a fitting memorial to those who had given their lives in service to our country, and to those who had returned. After many delays, a part of the Dreer property above the railroad was purchased from the company, and the Park was realized. Killam Bennett was Mayor when the land was purchased, and Howard Rogers was Mayor at its dedication. A decade prior to this 100 men and women who were veterans from Riverton were presented with rings, chosen by a Citizens’ Committee headed by Edward Flagg jr. Their names were published in the New Era. (Anyone have, or know of, one of these rings today?)”
This series of Betty Hahle’s “Yesterday” columns from past issues of the Gaslight News concludes with this anecdote from February 1982 and a most endearing photograph loaned by Mrs. Elsie Waters.
“A shield-shaped card in red, white, and blue from a 1920* Riverton Fourth, and a photograph showing children scrambling for the cards along the riverbank turned thoughts to warmer weather. The cards were dropped from a low-flying plane, and entitled the bearer to a 1¢ purchase at the stores of Theodore Schneider, John Adolph, or D.D. Bastion.”
Certainly, today’s events are the ones that historians will study tomorrow. Help document the next chapter in this chronicle by adding your “Glorious Fourth” recollection from the past or present to this archive. You can find us on Facebook, too. Remember, folks, these are the good ol’ days. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
* Betty’s article states “1920” for the airplane story and Elsie’s paper token shows “1921.” I do not know for how many years the tokens were dropped.
I am privileged to know Mrs. Elsie Waters through our membership in the Historical Society. Among the many things which she has permitted the HSR the use of are some of her family’s treasured photographs. These stereoviews are just a few of the photos, stereoviews, and movies which chronicle the history and growth of Elsie’s many kin.
The Waters/Knight/Wright/Flach Family Tree has a considerable history, parts of which have been entangled in many of the significant chapters of Riverton’s saga.
I am motivated by the increased ability of our amped up website to display media, and so I am revisiting resources such as this in order to bring them to a new audience. Jim Flach and his dad, Richard Flach, generously sent me these higher resolution files via Internet from Florida.
Click on each thumbnail for a hi-res file.
With some time on the PhotoShop bench, I was able to unwarp the curve in the cardboard mount.
I have wondered if one were to print these at actual size (3½” x 7″), how they would look in a stereoscope viewer. Somebody, let me know.