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

 

Betty’s Sage Advice

Riverton Yacht Club 12/26/2010
On December 26, 2010, I was driving through Riverton on my way to a post-Christmas celebration when I recalled Betty Hahle’s description of how spectacular gaslight-lined Elm Terrace looks when snow falls, so I decided to take a detour and snap some photos along the way. She once told me to not forget to record the history that is happening today.

21st Century Currier & Ives - 404 Main Street
I drove to the river to capture this wintry portrait of the Riverton Yacht Club rendered in murky shades of grey standing where it has weathered the elements on this pier in the Delaware River since 1880.

On the way back, I paused at the home at 404 Main Street which looked like it had the makings of a souvenir postcard, if only anyone still produced them.

According to the four-fold leaflet published by the Historical Society in 1989, “A Walking Tour of Historic Riverton,” researched and written by Betty Hahle, there are floor to ceiling windows with small iron balconies in the Italianate style house, built circa 1855. It was once called the “Home Mansion” and was a popular boarding house.

Riverton Walking Tour - side b
Riverton Walking Tour - side a

It's a Wonderful Life on Thomas Ave. 12/26/2010
Daylight was fading fast on Thomas even though it was still only late afternoon, and through my camera viewfinder I pretty much just saw a haze of white-on-white. With numb fingers I snapped this photo of a lucky kid being pulled up the street on a sled.

You can step back in time and view many vintage photos and postcards of the Riverton Yacht Club and much more by clicking on the IMAGES tab above. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor