Riverton fire engines past and present

RFCo Engine #10. by Gary R. Weart
RFCo Engine #10. by Gary R. Weart

As Riverton’s recent July Fourth Parade attests, it’s not a parade without the fire engines and the fire fighters.

Riverton Children's Parade c.1950's
Riverton Children’s Parade c.1950’s

The purpose of this post is to consolidate some information and images from past posts on this subject.

Former Mayor Bruce Gunn provided the c.1950s Kodachrome slide for this fire engine (possibly Palmyra’s) from more than a half century earlier.

This past June, I posted this scan of a photo I bought on eBay to our Facebook page, and asked if anyone could identify the men. The only description for the small undated photo appears at the bottom – “192 American LaFrance, 750 GPM type 75, Riverton, NJ.”

American LaFrance, Riverton, NJ
American LaFrance, Riverton, NJ

A few days later, we received this response from Cara Vandy:

My mother, Mary Vandy, who was born in Riverton, says the driver is her uncle, Earnest “Ernie” Bishop and the other man is Jesse Perkins.

So now, can we assume that the photo was taken during a July Fourth Parade, or was it taken elsewhere, as was the case with this other photo I bought in 2013?

1956 photo 1926 RFD ALF 750 pumper in AC
1956 photo 1926 RFD ALF 750 pumper in AC

The seller’s description reads: “A very nice old 1956  original B & W 4 by 6 inch photo of the Riverton NJ Fire Dept  1926 ALF 750 pumper. This photo was taken by me at the  NJ State Firemen’s Parade in 1956 Atlantic City.”

If a reader can identify the driver, please advise.

See other fire apparatus photos which appeared in February and November 2011 posts.

courtesy of Mike Nowacki, Jersey Shore Photography
image courtesy of Mike Nowacki, Jersey Shore Photography

We come full-circle to Riverton Borough’s newest fire apparatus, Riverton, NJ Engine 2412, a 2015 Pierce Impel 2000/750, which made its Children’s Parade debut in 2015.

Read more of the history of Riverton Fire Company, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2015, in a series of articles written by former Town Historian Betty B. Hahle reprinted from July Fourth Program booklets in this June 2013 post.

Let this post serve as an invitation to readers to exhibit more photos of RFCo apparatus, old or new.

RFC1927ALF, chief's auto DGusky
RFC1927ALF and chief’s auto by DGusky

David Gusky, an avid model builder uses such photos to create incredibly detailed miniature duplicates of Riverton Fire Company vehicles.

And just maybe someone else will recognize an ancestor or acquaintance in this tribute to Riverton Fire Company equipment and fire fighters.

For more information, visit the RFCo webpage and Facebook page– JMc

Home preservation and four anniversaries headline Awards Night

Our much expanded Second Annual Daniel Campbell Riverton Awards Night took place April 16 at the Porch Club.

Homeowners brought photos and each explained their unique process involved in executing their restoration projects.

Dan Campbell, left, Adrienne Rogers, right, with the Society's "Diamond in the Rough"
Dan Campbell, left, Adrienne Rogers, right, with the Society’s crystal keepsake

Society President Phyllis Rodgers presented each recipient with an award to symbolize their home’s transformation from a diamond in the rough to a vision realized.

Heartfelt thanks to Paul Daly for his years of service in many capacities
Heartfelt thanks to Paul Daly for his years of service in many capacities

As originally conceived, it was again a night to congratulate and say ‘thank-you’ to a number of people who have served the Historical Society of Riverton.

The big addition to the agenda was the observance of milestone anniversaries of four of Riverton’s finest organizations – Riverton School’s 150th anniversary, the Porch Club’s 125th , Riverton Yacht Club’s 150th, and Riverton Fire Company’s 125th.

A cake for four anniversaries
A cake for four anniversaries

It was all the excuse we needed for a big cake!

Many details of the big night are shown in the four attached slideshows. Text below indicates the content of each part.

(The slideshows contain several links to external content, so check OK  or you will not see it.)

SLIDESHOW 1 covers the part shown in black text of the AGENDA below. (21 slides, 13.5MB)

SLIDESHOW 2 covers the part shown in green. (30 slides, 18.5MB)

SLIDESHOW 3 has only one topic, Riverton Yacht Club, but is the longest. (35 slides, 17.3MB)

SLIDESHOW 4, shown in the AGENDA in red, contains the Riverton Fire Company and some photos of the evening (10 slides, 10.5MB)

AGENDA
April 16, 2015
Welcome – Acknowledgement of Board members and past presidents
Business – Nomination and election of Peg Crook and Morgan Leone for Board seats 
HSR Service Awards to retiring Board members – Paul Daly, Charlotte Lippincott,
Riverton School History Project Student Achievement Awards
Daniel Campbell Awards – Bolton, Downes, Rogers, Schweich, Borough Council
Special Service Awards – Michael Solin, Linda McCormick
Historical House Markers – Bill McDermott explains new process, 100 Park Ave.
Anniversaries – Mayor’s Proclamation
Riverton School
Porch Club
Riverton Yacht Club
Riverton Fire Company and candid photos of the whole event

certificates, trophies, mugs, and crystal keepsakes - tokens of achievement, recognition, and gratitude await their recipients
certificates, trophies, mugs, and crystal keepsakes – tokens of achievement, recognition, and gratitude await their recipients

– JMc

Riverton’s variant of global warming and a Fire Co. History Mystery

time and temp on Rt. 130 North, Cinnaminson, NJ
time and temp on Rt. 130 North, Cinnaminson, NJ

Winter officially arrived December 21 at 12:11 p.m., but it felt more like spring with temps in the upper 60s and 70+ forecast for the next day.

I snapped this while finishing some Christmas shopping. No distracted driver here – I pulled into the bank parking lot.

Here’s a little History Mystery to solve.

Who is driving this 1926 RFCo pumper in 1956?
Who is driving this 1926 RFCo pumper in 1956?

I scored this real 4×6 inch photo on a eBay auction a few weeks ago. The seller described it as “A very nice old 1956  original B & W 4 by 6 inch photo of the Riverton NJ Fire Dept  1926 ALF 750 pumper. This photo was taken by me at the  NJ State Firemen s Parade in 1956 Atlantic City.”

Since no one else bid, it only cost $2 plus $1.97 shipping. It was worth the gamble.  That is probably a member of Riverton’s Fire Company piloting that pumper in Atlantic City. He could be somebody’s Pop-Pop or great-granddad. Let me know if you can put a name to that face. – John McCormick

PS. HSR Vice-President Mrs. Cheryl Smekal added ten more pix to the Museum for a Day image gallery in the previous post 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 PDF file 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

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