Riverton’s 116th Children’s Parade – a classic that never gets old

Elsie and John Showell, July 4, 1920
Elsie and John Showell, July 5, 1920

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.

1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program
1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program

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.

July 4, 1920 program details, New Era 7-2-1920, pg2This 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 July 1920  New Era issues, just digitalized through a joint Riverton Free Library and HSR project late in 2012, provide new insights into Independence Day festivities for that year.

WWI signet ring top
WWI signet ring top

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.

July 4, 2013 Palm Card

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.

Follow the Leader
Follow the Leader – photo by Susan Dechnik

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.

 

Here is a 4min:11sec, 239MB Windows Media Video File showing some highlights of the parade.

Wade McDaniels, the Snow Cone Man, brings cool treats and cheer to the Riverton Parade.
Wade McDaniels, the Snow Cone Man, brings cool treats and cheer to the Riverton Parade.

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.

Gary Weart, standing, pauses from taking photos to talk to Phyllis Rodgers, HSR President.
Gary Weart, standing, pauses from taking photos to talk to Phyllis Rodgers, HSR President.

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.

 

 

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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 rivertonhistory@usa.com – John McCormick

P.S.: This just in from Tracy Hansen Foedisch – more photos at http://riverton4thofjuly.com/photo_gallery2013.html

Odd Bits of Past July Fourths

Mayor Robert Martin with banded staff and President of Borough Council, Bob Smyth

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 suppled 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…“travelled 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, mayors name, and 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.

Frank Mills’ plane, 1923
undated photo – plane in Delaware at Riverton

 

 

 

 

 

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?

1920 Fourth of July Celebration Program

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.

THEN – Riverton Fire Department 1925
NOW – Three Generations of Dorworths 2011

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.

military unit in undated parade photo

 

undated July 4th parade photo
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