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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Welcome to the inaugural post of this blog for the Historical Society of Riverton. This new HSR website has much of the same content as the old one plus quite a bit more.
Much of the physical material upon which we depend for understanding Riverton’s past, such as maps, photos, postcards, documents, and text from various primary sources, is often in the hands of a few private collectors or securely locked away in the Society’s archives where few people can see them. People move away taking their collections with them, and historically important items may later be discarded. With the passage of time, history may be more dimly lit rather than more clearly revealed. Here, with your help, I hope to better illuminate some of those incomplete parts of our historical record.
A primary goal of this website is to educate and inform by making this physical collection available as a virtual collection to be accessed online. Vital to the growth of the size of the virtual archive that can be made available is your participation in this process. Here we can tap into that social network of present and former Rivertonians, wherever they may be now, in order to better “connect the dots” in our efforts to understand Riverton’s history.
There will be more additions in the coming months as I learn how to make use of the cool features of this WordPress template that Mike Solin customized for us, so check back to see what’s new. This will be no fun at all if no one out there is listening. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor