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 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

 

Clothier Clan Returns to Founder’s Bank Avenue Home

503 Bank taken August 2007

I felt like my name had just been listed in Boyd’s Philadelphia Blue Book, that fashionable private address directory for the socially elite of the late 1800s when HSR President Gerald Weaber, myself, and our spouses received invitations to attend the Clothier Family Reunion recently. Society members Mary Louise Bianco-Smith and Ken Smith hosted the event at their Bank Street home on Sunday, June 5, 2011.

Gerald Weaber finds the house on a map

There we mingled with several generations of descendants of Caleb Clothier, one of Riverton’s ten original founders, and listened to tales about their ancestors and Riverton history in the very home where Mr. Clothier had lived.  We toured the grand villa so faithfully restored and decorated that it looks just as if Caleb and the missus just stepped out for a stroll along the river.

Plan of the New Town of Riverton c. 1850

Noted journalist Sally Friedman, writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer, produced a wonderful piece about the day’s events accompanied by several professional photographs.  Ms. Friedman, notebook in hand, earnestly questioned many persons that day as her photographer inconspicuously captured priceless images of this rare convergence of the extended Clothier Family.

Clothier heirlooms and mementoes

When the questions came to me about the history of Riverton and the founder’s home in which we were visiting, I referred the reporter to the ultimate expert. I mean, how does one give a person a crash course on 160 years of Riverton history?

I sent Ms. Friedman the link to the Borough of Riverton’s website to find the concise Town History which Mrs. Betty B. Hahle wrote in 2004. You can see the marvelous result of the correspondent’s due diligence in getting the facts aligned with the Clothier family saga at the philly.com website.

 

 

antique music box once belonged to Isaac and Mary Clothier

Click here for a short video of Robert Taylor demonstrating the intricate imported music box mentioned and pictured in the Inquirer article.

For our contribution to the historical record I consulted some of Betty Hahle’s research stored in our archives which we have not yet posted on this website. The best capsule description of how Riverton began might be in Mrs. Hahle’s 1990 introduction to the VHS videotape version of The Romance of Riverton, a deteriorating nitrate-based 1926 film which she helped rescue in 1980, by first having it transferred to modern safety film, then to videotape.

map detail - note Clothier home

“Riverton was founded in 1851 by a group of ten men usually referred to as ‘Philadelphia merchants’ who were seeking a place to build their summer homes away from the City’s problems, yet close enough to commute to their Center City places of business.

They were familiar with this area from family ties in the area, and from Friends’ meetings, and jointly purchased 120 acres of Joseph Lippincott’s farm that lay between the Delaware River and the railroad line. Robert and William C. Biddle, Prof. Charles D. Cleveland, Caleb and James Clothier, Chalkley Gillingham, Daniel L. Miller Jr., Dillwyn and William D. Parrish, and Rodman Wharton engaged architect Samuel Sloan to design their new village, to be called ‘Riverton.’ His plan included not only the founders’ riverfront villas, but also 105 building lots, streets, a walled and landscaped riverbank, a pier for steamboat landings, a railroad station at the upper end of town, and a small general store on the point opposite it. According to the noted historian of American architecture, Henry Russell Hitchcock, Riverton was the first wholly planned residential subdivision in America.”

View of RYC and Delaware River from the front lawn

From Betty’s “Yesterday” column in the February 1981 Gaslight News we learn briefly of the business dealings of the ten “Philadelphia merchants”:

“The Philadelphians who founded the village of Riverton lived and/or had businesses in Old Philadelphia, shared a love of sailing, and a friendship and trust that permitted arrange­ments to be sealed, with a handshake. The Jersey side of the Delaware was familiar to them not only from sailing into its coves, but also through business contacts. William D. Parrish had for some years advertised in Burlington county papers (wholesale dealer in paper, rags, school books, blank books, writing paper, printing and wrapping paper, wall and. curtain paper, all at manufacturer’s prices), as had others of the group. Dillwyn Parrish was a druggist, Robert Biddle a hardware merchant, Caleb Clothier dealt in bricklaying, Rodman Wharton in paints, and Prof. Charles D. Cleveland”… “had a girls’ school. Miller McKim”… “had an anti-slavery office near Cleveland’s school…”

Clothier 50th Anniversary

Memorial testimony at a meeting recorded in the Friends’ Intelligencer United with the Friends’Journal, Philadelphia, Sixth Month (June) 13, 1885, regarding the “humble and upright life” of Caleb Clothier mentions his involvement in the Abolitionist Movement: “He was early an earnest worker in the Anti-Slavery cause, and many a poor fugitive from bondage received his active and material aid.” Riverton is never mentioned, however, in this lengthy obituary from the Quaker perspective.

From another “Yesterday” column in the November 1979 Gaslight News we learn that Caleb Clothier sold the property and … “Edward Ogden, capitalist and 1st Mayor of Riverton, lived in the Caleb Clothier house at 503 Bank.”

Bing map - screenshot only

Here’s a link to a Bing Map of 503 Bank Avenue. You should see a bird’s-eye aerial photo map with a “pin” stuck in the location for 503 Bank.

You can choose to further explore the Riverton of today by using the navigation controls along the top margin of the map to zoom or rotate your view.

Regular readers may recall the January 30th entry, “Whoa, this is heavy!” which described the new Historypin website in which you can take a virtual drive through some of Riverton’s main thoroughfares.

From the Editor’s Desk: Readers, please note that you can find a summary of the Annual Meeting held at The Bank on Main on June 9, 2011. on the Programs and Events page.

The Society may be on summer hiatus, but please continue to check back here for more history of Riverton and the region. If you have something to bring to our attention regarding a story idea, comments or criticism, or you would like to make a donation which would help us in our mission to  “discover, restore, and preserve local objects and landmarks, and to continue to expand our knowledge of the area,” please do not hesitate to bring it to our attention. Remember our easy address, rivertonhistory.com and tell your neighbors and friends who have moved away about us. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor

 

 

 

 

THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF RIVERTON REMEMBERS BETTY BAILEY HAHLE

On Saturday, April 30, 2011, friends, family, community members, and colleagues from all points gathered at historic Christ Church in Riverton to celebrate the life of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Riverton Town Historian, former HSR President and editor of its newsletter, and relentless champion of historic preservationist battles, who passed away Sunday April 17, 2011.

Possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of all things concerning Riverton, Betty recently expressed regret that writing her book on Riverton’s history had eluded her. Nevertheless, the body of authoritative historical works that she produced is prodigious. Renowned for her thoroughly researched articles on historical subjects, she authored Riverton’s history for the borough website, wrote the history of the Porch Club, contributed to Riverton School’s Riverton Project, consulted on community planning projects, and produced over 100 of her signature “Yesterday” columns for the Historical Society of Riverton’s newsletter, the Gaslight News.

Her tireless activism in the pursuit of preserving Riverton’s heritage has resulted in a number of victories which will stand as her lasting legacy to the town which she so adored. In 1978, in concert with borough officials, Mrs. Hahle helped save Riverton’s cherished gas streetlamps from oblivion; in 1989, she rescued the fragile vintage film Romance of Riverton by preserving it to videotape; and she was one of the main persons responsible for saving rare late 19th and early 20th century New Era newspaper issues to microfilm. In 2009, the Burlington Board of Chosen Freeholders recognized both Betty Hahle and a colleague for their work in preserving the Romance of Riverton and making it accessible to modern audiences. Perhaps her most gratifying accomplishment was her 20 year-long quest to win for Riverton’s historic district a listing on the coveted state Register of Historic Places.

Betty Bailey married Joseph W. Hahle, and they raised three daughters in Riverton. Mrs. Hahle was active in Riverton’s Parent Teachers Association, the Palmyra High School Band Parents Association and was a Girl Scout leader. In the early l970s, Betty became interested in genealogy and local history, favorite hobbies she pursued with a passion. She was a member of the Porch Club of Riverton, holding various chairs there, and in 1989, the group honored her as their Woman of the Year.

The Betty B. Hahle Excellence in History Award is given to an eighth grade student each year at Riverton Public School. Betty Hahle’s many decades of historic research and writing as Town Historian and her interest in cultivating the interest of young people in the study of history inspired the award.

Mrs. Betty B. Hahle

Always generous with her expertise, just days before she passed, Betty was dictating notes from her hospital bed to encourage one author on the content of a future Gaslight News feature story while supplying an essential fact she recalled from one of her many interviews for the writer of another article.No one can deny her passion for pursuing Riverton’s history or her unwavering commitment to preserving Riverton’s character. Clearly, more than any other single person, Mrs. Betty B. Hahle has made our understanding of Riverton history what it is today. By so faithfully documenting Riverton’s past with her meticulous investigating and record-keeping, Betty has indeed now assured her own place in Riverton’s history alongside the very founders, merchants, industrialists, and social activists she researched, certain to be quoted and cited for years to come. She was 92.

Find the complete Burlington County Times obituary here.

HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF RIVERTON