Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all; Join the fray and add your chapter to the Riverton Saga

vintage St. Patrick's Day card - image courtesy Moore's Postcard Museum

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!

Today is a good day to reprise the popular back-issue of the Gaslight News from March 2010 that ran the article about Riverton’s Irish Row by Priscilla Taylor.

At the time, so many people asked for extra copies to send to family members,  we had to get more printed.

 

The article apparently also evoked memories and motivated several comments on the website about growing up Irish in Riverton.

It also irked at least one reader because a family name was not included in the “A Sampling of Irish Row Occupants Living on Cinnaminson Street —Irish Row (according to Riverton’s 1900 Census).”

    • 703 – Annie McDonald (hairdresser)
    • 707 – Nora Williams
    • 709 – Julia & Patrick Ford (day laborer)
    • 710 – James Flynn (florist)
    • 712 – Annie & James McIlvain (coachman)
    • 717 – Virginia & Patrick Rarins
    • 721 – Maggie & John McDermott (steamfitter)
    • 723 – Mary & Patrick Jordan (day laborer)

Certainly, there are many more names that could be included for 1900, and more still for other years. With increasing interest in genealogy and the popularity of websites such as ancestry.com that help with the task of discovering family stories, it is very likely that someone reading this can add another paragraph to this article, if not an entire chapter.

The person who is in the best position to tell your story is the person most closely connected to it.  So please, send us more information, and we will incorporate it into what we have.  Maybe someone will write a sequel.

Irish Row children Cinnaminson Ave., Oct. 1922

Since the original publication, several readers have volunteered information or images such as this one sent in by Mary Yearly Flanagan.

In 2011, a reader recognized the photo of Kate the Cook shown in the March 2010 Gaslight News, pg. 5 as her great-grandmother.

That is just the kind of connection I hope that can happen here as we all collaborate on gathering more information.

Catherine “Kate” Toohey McLyndon

At the Museum for a Day this past December, a woman remarked that her mother had been one of those Irish servants working in the big houses on the river. I gave her my card and pleaded with her to contact me so that I could find out more.

But it’s almost four months later, and no word. People get busy and, let’s face it, this stuff is way at the bottom of one’s to-do list.

If there is ever anything whatsoever that you can add to this collection, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Don’t think that something is too small or insignificant because that bit might be just what we need to fill in a missing piece of a larger puzzle. Don’t imagine that we are experts or that we know it all.

We thank Moore’s Postcard Museum for the vintage St. Patrick’s Day card pictured above. This one came from the March 2011 post, but there are three more antique St. Patrick’s Day cards just posted there today, March 17, 2012.

Mayor Bill Brown tells us that so far he has eight names to add to the Riverton Honor Roll next Memorial Day.  Last week we added another photo to the Riverton Honor Roll Album -Donald Rogers Taylor.

The landscape improvements and beautification efforts at the War Memorial  site have truly revitalized that public space. Expanding eligibility for veterans to include “…any present or former resident of the Borough of Riverton, New Jersey who served on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States of America during a time of war” has brought well-deserved recognition to veterans of other conflicts in addition to World War Two.

Please visit the Riverton War Memorial next to Riverton Square on South Main Street, next to the River LINE tracks. See information on the Veterans Page if you want to submit a veteran’s name for consideration. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

 

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

 

Who will you look up in this 1928-1929 Riverton-Palmyra phone book?

vintage Bell telephone ad from May 1939  Popular Science  Thanks to http://blog.modernmechanix.com
Riverton-Palmyra phone book cover, c 1928-1929

I promised two weeks ago to post a scan of Carl McDermott’s c.1928-1929 Riverton-Palmyra telephone book, but I knew that I’d better do my homework first. When I speak to Carl, it reminds me of that Kevin Bacon game—Six Degrees of Separation— because, like so many Rivertonians, he can probably be connected to someone you know in just a few steps, or degrees.

Carl’s mother gave birth to him at 721 Cinnaminson Street—on Riverton’s own Irish Row—90 years ago this past October. His mother, Mary McDermott, worked for the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company as one of Riverton’s switchboard operators for 35 years.

Mary McDerrmott, 2nd from left, 1926

Here are Mrs. McDermott and some co-workers as they appeared in the 1926 film, The Romance of Riverton, which Town Historian Betty B. Hahle helped preserve some years ago. Click here to view a 33 second clip from the 43 minute video that was made from the rescued film.  The following description of that scene appears in the booklet that accompanies the DVD:

The Price building, on Broad between Church Lane and Main on Broad, was erected in 1891, on the former site of the Episcopal Church and churchyard. Many businesses started here. The Telephone Exchange moved to the 2nd floor soon after the turn of the century, and soon occupied both the 2nd and 3rd floors. Four young ladies shown near Church Lane are: Mary Bell, Mary McDermott (who identified both groups), ( ? ) Hanson, and Betty Steinbach. The telephone operators are: Hazel Woolford, Ethel Hanson, Mrs. Radcliffe (supervisor), Ruth Hanson, Oc1ey Ebert, and Frances Reidenbaker.

As a lad during the late 1920s, Carl spent several evenings at his mother’s side one summer on the third floor of the Price Building, now the upper level of Zena’s dining rooms at Broad and Main. Working evenings alone, she had been alarmed by someone trying the locked door at the back door to the fire escape, so Carl and his two brothers took turns at guard duty and slept on a cot.

vintage Bell telephone ad from Oct. 1927 Popular Science  Thanks to http://blog.modernmechanix.com
vintage Bell Telephone ad from Feb. 1929 National Geographic Thanks to http://blog.modernmechanix.com

While safeguarding his mom from midnight prowlers, young Carl picked up some on-the-job operator training. She showed him how she listened through her headset for the caller’s request for a number, and then manually matched a cord to a jack in order to connect the parties. She also recorded times for some calls on yellow slips of paper.

 

This story all unfolded because I remarked to Carl about the short phone numbers of only 2-4 digits and I asked how the caller dialed the number.

Here’s the listing for Schwering’s Hardware Store, an establishment which has served the region since 1922.

listing for Schwering’s Hardware in Palmyra, NJ

“Dial! They didn’t dial,” Carl explained. The caller rang for the operator and they told her the number of whom they were calling. I won’t even try to explain a party-line and a world without call-waiting, voice-mail, and texting to the smart-phone generation.

For others like me who may need a refresher on the state of communication technology of the late 1920s/1930s I included these great old telephone print ads from periodicals of the day, courtesy of modernmechanix.com.

Click here to download the Riverton-Palmyra phone book , c. 1928-1929. Two pages/one sheet on Palmyra are missing. Thanks so much to Carl for letting me borrow his phone book so that it could become part of our website. (revised 12/5/11 some viewers reported difficulty with original link)

Now, who will you look up in the pages of this old phone book? – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor