Our Museum for a Day came and went

Aggie Kennedy
Aggie Kennedy clothes a dressmaker’s form.
Susan Dechnik
Susan Dechnik took most of the photos here.
Cheryl Smekal, closest;  Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back
Cheryl Smekal, closest; Aggie Kennedy, at right; Susan Dechnik, back

The reason for the recent inactivity here on the website is that we have prepared for our display of artifacts that we call our Museum for a Day at the New Leaf Tea Room in cooperation with the Riverton Free Library’s biennial Candlelight House Tour.

The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.
The items come out to play for a day, then are packed away until we get another offer for some free exhibit space.

Once every two years we get to break out of storage some choice HSR treasures to exhibit to the public. Afterwards, the items get packed away, and until the next time, this online virtual museum will have to do until we get a real permanent one.

We brought out some familiar chestnuts such as some Dreer’s Nursery items, our vintage clothing, and the Riverton Gun Club history book.

New additions to our exhibit repertoire include displays about Riverton’s War Memorial and Riverton’s military veterans, Riverton Yacht Club, and Anne Knight Ruff.

museum for a day_37I only just found a box postmarked 2011 in our storage space full of donated items relevant to the Yacht Club, particularly the Duster, that former resident Marty Carhart donated.

More details of the remarkable contents will be forthcoming in a later post, but for now, blueprints for building a Duster and two reels of 16mm movie film taken of the 1949 Duster Championship race were just two of the more notable items.

RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965
RYC 100th Anniversary book 1965

Also in that box, a 1965 book published for the 100th anniversary of the Riverton Yacht Club now serves as a startling reminder that 2015 will be their 150th anniversary. I made a poster outlining some of the milestones in the RYC’s history to go with the table display.

“Tempus fugit,” as my Latin teacher used to say. Tempus fugit, indeed. I think time has even picked up more speed after I passed sixty.

HSR Board Member Bill McDermott also pitched in as a Museum Guide. Turns out he had never heard the story about how Ed Merrill built the Duster in a workshop on the third floor of a house at 301 Main Street. There are probably many things we could all learn from each other if we could pool our resources. We have the bandwidth here if you have something to share.

Readers, please search those boxes tucked away in attics and basements for anything you may have that would help to piece together a history of the RYC’s last half-century. Something spectacular is sure to be planned to commemorate that milestone, and with so many knowledgeable people now living far afield the internet is a great place to collaborate.

I made another poster that explained about Anne Knight Ruff’s book, hoping it would result in some sales, but no luck. This book is a treasury of Riverton history c.1890-late 1900s and should be required reading for anyone living in this zip code.

museum for a day_17An exhibit about Riverton’s veterans included a poster with all the original names plus the names added since 2011. Longtime Riverton resident Daniel Goffredo lent us his World War II service uniform for the day.

Earlier this year the HSR bought a presentation projector that we could use for just this type of situation, so we set it up with a screen to show the much expanded Riverton Veterans Album.

Those old hometown newspapers that we got online in late 2012 have yielded a lot of anecdotal information about the people mentioned on the original War Memorial Honor Roll. Additionally, the newspaper files have been the source of many more news clippings about military personnel whom they described as being from Riverton.

museum for a day_13museum for a day_02That might be the reason if you were to find a person mentioned in the pages of the Veterans Album, but their name is not on the War Memorial Honor Roll.

I showed the presentation to our own HSR Board members Nancy Hall and Elsie Waters, but the best part was listening to them give the color commentary as they watched.  – John McCormick

revised  12/22: added ten photos to gallery below



Gingersnaps recipe and two milestone photos from a lifelong Riverton fan

Mrs. Elsie Waters on right; Mrs. Susan Dechnik on left; fast disappearing cookies on table
Mrs. Elsie Waters on right; Mrs. Susan Dechnik on left; fast disappearing cookies on table

In the summary for the last HSR meeting held at Riverton School in October I mentioned the scrumptious homemade gingersnaps that HSR Board member Mrs. Elsie Waters made for the refreshment table. You may have missed the post if you never check out the Programs & Events tab.

gingersnapsElsie is always making something unexpected yet so perfect for the occasion.

Case in point –  those delectable spicy ginger cookies were just the thing to get us all in a fall mood for the first meeting after the summer break. Click on this link for the PDF file for Elsie’s Old Fashion Ginger Snaps. You can print out a facsimile of Elsie’s two-sided recipe card.

Very classy, Elsie.

Elsie Showell and brother John, Riverton July 4, c.1920
Elsie Showell and brother John, Riverton July 4, c.1920
Elsie Showell Waters, 2013 Riverton July 4 Parade Marshal
Elsie Showell Waters, 2013 Riverton July 4 Parade Marshal

My two favorite photos of Elsie.

Fittingly, she is in a carriage in both shots.

She has fit in a lifetime of Riverton memories and experiences in between those two moments.

Mrs. Elsie S. Waters, Riverton fan 95 years
Mrs. Elsie S. Waters, Riverton fan 95 years

Readers may recall seeing pictures and references to Elsie before, as she is a vital part of Riverton and exemplifies what being an active member of the Society means.

Very classy, indeed.

The search box, above right, will point you to more references on this website about the Showell, Waters, and Wright families. – John McCormick

One less tree in Tree City

town tree near Cedar Street 1
town tree near Cedar Street 1

I was at work (my excuse for infrequent posts this summer) when one of our rivertonhistory.com  stringers, Susan Dechnik, sent me a text message:

“An enormous tree fell, just missing my house. If you aren’t at work you might want a pic. It’s a town tree, mr. Edmonds says…”

Don’t you love autocorrect? That had to be Barry Emens. Mr. Emens is the authority on all things of the arbor variety since he is chairperson of Riverton’s Shade Tree Board.

I wrote back:

“If you get any more details or take photos pls forward. I will try to post them.”

town tree near Cedar Street 2
town tree near Cedar Street 2

Susan lost several shrubs when the tree fell, but she managed to save three cucumbers, two tomatoes, and one black swallowtail caterpillar from the wreckage.

Later, she confirmed with Barry Emens that the black oak tree was the biggest town tree in Riverton.

At right, you see May Tree Service cutting up and hauling off the fallen tree. Part of it remained standing.

The preliminary forensic examination shows that the tree fell about 12:30 a.m. September 16 because it had rotted inside and was not due to storm damage.

There is a flattened garden under that fallen tree.
There is a flattened garden under that fallen tree.

tree-city-logo[1]This whole episode gave me reason to check out the Shade Tree Board’s page on the Borough website. Clearly, Riverton is a place that takes its trees seriously. The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Riverton as a “TREE CITY USA” for the past 25 years.

Among other things, the Shade Tree Board conducts a census of our trees to tell us the species, location, size and health of each one in town.

The garden before the tree fell
The garden before the tree fell


So if we are keeping score, Riverton’s tree population of 2474 just diminished by one.


Lucky for Mrs. D that it was a town tree. It means that it is on town property so the removal will not be at her expense. It was fortunate, too, that it happened at night and not when she was out tending her beautiful garden.


True or false?

  • A homeowner may fertilize a tree at the curb.

    Tree City sign, Riverton Rd.
    Tree City sign, Riverton Rd.
  • It is OK to attach a ‘lost cat” sign or a yard sale to a tree advertising a yard sale to a tree in the park.
  • It is OK to plant a tree at the street to replace one that died without a permit.
Tree City sign on Broad near Nat'l Casein
Tree City sign on Broad near Nat’l Casein


We’ll make this easy. They are all false. Chapter 35 of the Borough of Riverton’s Tree Ordinances explaining the organization and function of the Shade Tree Board and the care and maintenance of town trees may make for dull reading, but the information you find there may answer some questions you may have about what one may do, or not do, regarding the trees at the street.


Tree city sign on Broad across from Stan's Auto
Tree City sign on Broad across from Stan’s Auto


It’s not all rules, though. There is a Homeowner’s Guide to Beautiful, Safe, and Healthy Trees in Riverton, and information on getting a federal tax deduction for making a donation for the purchase of new street trees and how to get free wood chip mulch.

DSC01009 (Copy)


According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, planting trees around your home doesn’t cost, it pays off in increased property values and lower fuel costs. Just seeing a tree can help reduce stress. And don’t forget all of those eco-science benefits you learned in junior high about absorbing carbon dioxide and pumping out oxygen.

There may be one less tree now in this Tree City, but it is good to know that the ones left are in good care. – Gaslight News editor, John McCormick

Hurricane Irene (and other forces of nature) go down in local history

credit: Ivrie Myrhe

Since this is the website for the Historical Society of Riverton, the operative word being ‘historical,’ it is worth noting some remarkable facts which we shall record for August 2011. A rare 5.8 earthquake struck NJ August 23rd, followed closely by a hurricane, tornado warnings, and floods. And according to the yesterday’s Courier-Post, it is now official: For the Philadelphia/South Jersey region, August is already the wettest month in recorded history, breaking a century-old record.

I wondered how Riverton would fare after the white-capped Delaware finished slamming that riverwall at high tide and hurricane winds ripped through the streets and avenues of our favorite Tree City. So I emailed my stringers (actually two other HSR Board members) and they checked in with this report.

The sea was angry that day, my friends. (credit: Susan Dechnik)

My friend and former teaching partner at RPS, Susan Dechnik accompanies her Facebook photos of Irene’s effects on the riverbank with an àpropos quote from Seinfeld, her favorite TV show. It’s from the classic “Marine Biologist” episode.

She reports that winds blew down a large part of a tree near 8th & Main, blocking the sidewalk.

She adds, “The river was wild, didn’t breach the bank, but was splashing over.  The wind was incredible and a little scary.”

Does that line of debris across the grass indicate the high water mark? (credit; Ivrie Myhre)

HSR President Gerald Weaber reports that the river rose above the riverwall and winds had strewn about some limbs and branches, but he did not hear of any major damage from the storm.

These few stills, kindly provided by local photographer Ivrie Myhre of cinnaminson.patch.com confirm that Riverton generally withstood what Irene dished out.

That was not the case for all the surrounding communities, however.

credit: Ivrie Myhre

Just five minutes away at Riverton Road and Rte. 130, Irene’s capricious winds toppled a large tree in front of Bayard’s Chocolate House, and her relentless rains flooded some Cinnaminson homes and streets.

Our HSR website gets dozens, sometimes even over a hundred visits daily. True, most of them were probably googling for Rivertons in CT, CA, IL, UT, VA, WY, or even AU and wound up here by mistake. Nonetheless, inquiring readers want to know, Rivertonians. What happened in your neighborhood?

You can click on the Facebook link at the bottom of this page to visit the HSR wall where Susan Dechnik and a varied, albeit short, cast of characters “liked” us in a moment of lapsed judgment.  Please join in.

Also, that CinnaminsonPatch is a cool community-specific news, events, and information website that I never heard of, but one which I’ll certainly look up again. You’ll find more photo galleries by Ivrie Myhre and other local photographers along with news stories written by the local Patch Team.

It’s a young and growing website, but if the amount of Riverton coverage continues to expand they may have to change the name.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor

May 2011 Annual Meet Convenes at The Bank on Main

The Bank on Main - open for business once again

The Historical Society of Riverton held its Annual Meeting June 9, 2011, at The Bank on Main, courtesy of the Antonucci Family of Riverton. First constructed for the Cinnaminson Bank & Trust Company in 1928, its new owners have transformed the building’s interior into an attractive venue for business and social events.

In the business portion of the annual meeting members approved a slate of new or returning directors, including Pat Brunker, Donald Dietz, William McDermott, J. Edward Gilmore, Nancy Hall, John McCormick, Phyllis Rodgers, Mary Lou Smith, Michael Spinelli, and Cheryl Smekal.  A number of By-Law proposals received approval with one change, suggested by Mr. Paul Schopp. Members approved his motion to change the quorum for a Board meeting to nine.  Click here find the full text of the By-Laws to passed June 9, 2011.

The massive original vault remains the focal point of the room. Round linen-covered banquet exhibit tables flanked the carpeted part of the room and chairs arranged in rows on a magnificent marble dance floor in the center of the space faced the vault. The high ceiling, large windows, and sparkling chandelier hanging from the center of a huge, ornately carved medallion that dominates the ceiling all served to create an elegant setting befitting the main portion of the meeting; to celebrate the life of Mrs. Betty B. Hahle, Town Historian, who passed away on April 17, 2011. A large photo collage poster of Mrs. Hahle placed next to the vault represented some of her many accomplishments and provided a backdrop for the remarks and accolades of the speakers.

President of the Historical Society of Riverton, Gerald Weaber, started by reviewing the life of Mrs. Hahle, highlighting her contributions to virtually every Riverton organization and stressing her dedication and commitment to preserving Riverton’s history and character.  Her meticulous investigating and record keeping, pursued with passion, earned her a place in Riverton’s history.  Mayor Robert Martin then presented a proclamation to the daughters of Mrs. Hahle, Donna Hahle Kirkland and Marilyn R. Hahle.

Several members of the audience shared memories of Betty Hahle by illustrating examples of her generosity in sharing her extensive knowledge of Riverton while others cited her success in raising her three daughters.

A four-part a capella group called Three Good Men smoothly segued into the entertainment part of the meeting by appropriately choosing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” as their opening number. They continued the historical theme by serving up an eclectic mix of songs from classic barbershop to Rock & Roll and Doo-Wop, freely seasoned with jokes and puns. The inclusion of “God Bless America” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” on the same set list indicates the versatility of this talented quartet. We even learned history trivia; “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” (1942) was the first ever gold record. Clearly, the foursome achieved their website’s description of “the essence of Barbershop” by liberally “ringing chords” off those stately old bank walls for the entire performance.

Even a mid-meeting power outage which left only dimmed emergency lights to illuminate the chamber failed to dampen anyone’s spirit or curtail the marvelous entertainment from our a capella quartet, which fortunately required no electricity.  At the conclusion, HSR President Gerald Weaber invited participants to enjoy refreshments.  Three Good Men continued their convivial exhibition by harmonizing “Happy Birthday” for two HSR Geminis, Mrs. Linda McCormick and Mrs. Phyllis Rogers and serenading bride-to-be, Keri Antonucci with a song .

We sincerely thank the Antonucci Family for so generously extending to the Historical Society the use of this splendid facility for our Annual Meeting. Find out more about this new multi-purpose banquet hall and event facility at the Antonucci Ventures LLC website.

That was our last meeting for the summer, but check back often for more additions to this website. Our expanded HSR Board will be busy planning for the next 2011-2012 season. Please consider donating items to the Society as you de-clutter or downsize belongings. We also welcome your submissions of recollections, comments, photos, scans, etc. for possible publication in the Gaslight News or on this website.  – Co-written and photographed by: Mrs. Susan Dechnik and John McCormick


Fashion Tales Come to the March 23, 2011 HSR Meeting

Dear Readers: Mrs. Susan Dechnik, HSR Board member and one of my former teaching partners at RPS, writes today’s entry to accompany all of the great photos that she took at our recent meeting.  – JMcCormick

What can a purse tell about history or a hat about the man who wore it?  Ms. Kate Butler of Decotique.com and Mr. Greg Cristiano, proprietor of Teardrop Memories.com, brought their eclectic assortment of heirlooms and collectibles to the March HSR meeting to show us. They shared their extensive knowledge of antique apparel in the informative program, “Ladies and Gentlemen’s Accessories of the Past Victorian, Edwardian, and Depression Eras.”

Ms. Butler’s collection included antique purses, millinery, footwear, and vanity collectibles.  From handbags to hats and everything in between, including a Victorian-era bathing costume, Kate served up a richly illustrated account of how familiar objects changed through the centuries.

Greg Cristiano, Ms. Butler’s collaborator for the male portion of the fashion discussion, spoke authoritatively about mourning attire, mourning mementos, and men’s clothing items and accessories. Among other things, he brought a 19th century undertaker’s hat, a full-length black bearskin coat, and several unusual decorative mourning items constructed from the hair of the deceased loved one.

In the interactive part of the program the pair invited audience members to have vintage fashion items which they had brought evaluated. Often, the article came with a story connecting it to the owner’s relative, to which the presenters then added expert knowledge about the function and history of the piece. The lecture proved to be a fun and engaging way to relate to history and show how changing fashions and personal items can tell a fascinating story. Click here to download a video clip from the presentation. (It is less than two minutes, but it is a 102MB file.)  – Mrs. Susan Dechnik, HSR Board Member