Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's always nice...

It's always nice when someone other than family and the three friends I have that read my BLOG and then actually tell me about it. 

I received an e-mail from a man (he was a boy back when I was in Runnemede) who knew my sister.  I'm going to just paste what he had to say about Runnemede on this particular page.  I'll let you know when I start the paste.  I will edit out personal stuff. 

I have to say that my sister and I talked today and we both agreed with this former resident of "our fair town" that we were all so blessed to grow up in this small town, located on the main thoroughfare from Philadelphia to the shore communities in South Jersey.  Runnemede has changed so little, when you think about it.  Oh, some of the stores have changed hands, the library is at least 10,000 times bigger than the little 10 x 10 room that housed it when I was growing up.  The schools are the same, at least on the outside.  I know what is taught is a lot different than when I attended -- art was a crayon and a piece of no-line paper, music was learning a song in the classroom.  There were no TVs in school, no computers, not even a movie projector.  I think the school had one slide projector.  Overhead projectors were the gleam in a teacher's eye back then.  And there was not a library to be had in the schools.  There are still three churches (Mt. Calvary, Evangelical Lutheran, and St. Theresa's).  I say there are three because I heard that St. Maria Goretti which opened in the early 60s, closed recently, or is in the process of closing.  That may be in error, in which case there are more churches in the town. 

And lest someone decides to Google St. Maria Goretti, it's still on the Runnemede Website.

But it was a wonderful town, and I shall always be thankful that I grew up there.

Now to what a "friend" wrote about RR:

I came across your Runnemede Remembered blog because of Google Earth. I was looking at Runnemede, because I grew up there, and Google Earth actually labels "Suicide Hill." So I searched Suicide Hill and your blog came up. Apparently you had mentioned it in a posting. And then I got to reading. I can't tell you how pleased I am to find another person who treasures memories of growing up in Runnemede in the fifties.

You're four years older than I am, but your sister is around my age, and I remember her.

I can't imagine how you ended up living in KY, but I'm even farther away. For 10 years now I've been living in California, the Sierra foothills at present. Apparently you're near Cincinnati, which I always found to be almost more like Philadelphia than Philadelphia.

My tenure in Runnemede was basically first to ninth grade.  Unlike you I was not much connected to the community at large. We were Catholic, and of Irish heritage, so the church was our community. You, and others like you were those Protestant kids, all doomed to hell, of course! We heard unspeakable stories of things that went on in those public schools. But they couldn't keep me entirely out of the community. Scott (last name withheld by me) was my best friend. We were in the Boy Scouts together, and Jim Mutchler was the Scout Leader. My mother was horrified that I was in Troop 117, but St. Teresa's didn't have a troop so she allowed it.

Reading your blog is a real treat. The fourth of July activities I remember so well -- especially the decorated bicycles in the A & P parking lot. I also remember the Christmas events at the fire hall -- yep, the old one on the Pike. Those guys were great with all they did for the kids in the town. I still remember Santa riding through the streets on a fire truck tossing boxes of candy to the kids. And I don't recall you mentioning it, but someone sponsored a live Santa on the corner of Third and the Pike -- across from the jewelry shop. You could stop by and tell him what you wanted without going over the Gimbels in Phila! And I'll bet you were a kid who had an ice cream cone at Joe's Sweet Shop once in a while! I went to school with Joe, the son of the owner.

Obviously, we both have lots of memories. Do you ever get back there to visit or to see the place? I was there two years ago when I went back for my Dad's funeral. My Mom lives over in Deptford now; so does my sister. And I have a brother in Westville. In a lot of ways the town seems very different today, but the old foundation is still there. At least I hope it is.

A few years earlier I had come across a book, "The History of Runnemede, NJ, 1626-1976" by William Leap. You may remember Mr. Leap as he was in business painting most of the signs around town. Well, two years ago he was still around, and I was lucky enough to spend a few hours with him talking about the town. He lives in that big house on the corner of Washington and Lindsay, and I think he lived there most of his life. I also took some pictures around town when I was back there, and if you'd like to see them, I'd be happy to share.

I wonder if you share the feeling I have that we owe a great debt to the community that was Runnemede in the fifties? Growing up there now feels like it was a wonderful gift. We were allowed the innocence of childhood. There was virtually no violence. The adults all shared a sense of responsibilities for all the children, and they took care of us. Surely not a completely realistic picture, but it makes me sad to think that most kids today cannot even conceive of such an experience.

Well, I'll keep reading your blog. If you talk with your sister, please tell her I said hello although I'm sure she won't remember me. Please do ask her if she remembers Scott  or Bobby.

NOTE TO WRITER:  She remembers.  And yes, I'd love to see any pictures you have taken.

Thanks, Bill, for the lovely e-mail.  I'm glad your memories are as good as mine.  We were blessed, weren't we?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My mom's kitchen -- again!

Once again I've been thinking about my mom's kitchen.  I watch a lot of HGTV and the kitchens they have on those programs are, well, let me be frank here, wonderful.  But who has kitchens like those?  Now, I have a wonderful kitchen.  I love my kitchen, but it will never be featured on HGTV. 

My mom's kitchen was small.  It was what is billed as an "eat-in" kitchen.  We had a table in the middle.  Nowdays, it would be an island, albeit a small one.  And that magic "work" triangle?  It did not exist in my mom's kitchen unless you removed the table.  If the table was gone, you could say you had that triangle.

Who ever heard of a "work triangle" in a kitchen back in those years?  I first heard of it when I was taking a course in interior decorating in college in 1970 -- it was, I thought, an easy elective.  But the "work triangle" was something only decorators were thinking about and putting into text books which would produce decorators that made those types of kitchens ten years later.

The "work triangle" was not a necessary item for my mom.  She cooked well without that old triangle, and I learned to cook without it.  I guess God knew I wouldn't have a "triangle" in my life for many, many years, and he was preparing me to make do, as my mom did.  In every apartment or house in which we lived, there was never that magical triangle, until we moved to where we now reside.  I managed, just as my mom managed, although I think my mom did it better than I did.

I recall when I was first married and experimenting with a different dish every day, I came up with some really good eats.  But then I had children.  Children who only wanted hot dogs and macaroni and cheese!  When my girls got to be teens, that changed, and we three were able to start with the experimenting again.  Oh, happy day!

Now, in my mind's eye I'm back in my mom's kitchen -- that's the one with the stainless steel counter (now in style), the refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom (now, in style), a mandatory gas range (now in style), and the table (now called an island).  I guess her kitchen wasn't so bad after all!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sleeping in

It's Saturday.  It's 1:30 p.m.  I'm 16 years old.  I'm just not getting out of bed.  Yes, folks, on Saturday, I slept in.  And every Saturday I woke up with a headace.  Not enough oxygen in the past 12 hours?  I don't know.  All I know is that I woke up with a headache.  And no, I lived in a tea-totling household, so it wasn't a hangover.

Living in the attic with my sister was great because no one bothered me, or woke me up.  And Saturday was the day I slept.  All the other days of the week I had to be up by 6:30 a.m. or earlier, depending on what I hadn't set out the night before, such as clothes.  Decisions by girls (namely me and my sister) who had few clothes, had to be given great thought.  I mean one had to think whether their peers would remember that I had worn that same outfit two days ago.  So, unless I just wanted to grab something out of my closet (which was a few nails hammered into the wall, upon which my clothing was hung) and hope I hadn't worn the same thing two days ago, so I could get out of bed at 6:30 instead of say, 6:00 a.m., I had to set out the clothing the night before.

And back when I was 16 no one would ever been seen in public with just washed hair.  Oh, no, never, never, never.  Even if we had gym 6th period (that was the last period of the day), we would not get our hair wet in the shower.  It just wasn't done.  So I had to figure on whether I was washing my hair in the morning or the night before.  There were advantages to both.

Washing the night before, of course, the advantage was obvious.  I could sleep in until 6:30 a.m., and just comb my hair out.  The disadvantage to that was that I had to sleep on those huge rollers so that my hair wouldn't be one big, curly, frizz ball in the morning. 

Washing my hair in the morning had no advantages that I can think of, except that I would smell like fresh shampoo, and at that time I didn't know that was something boys liked.  Or did they?  And washing my hair in the a.m. meant that I had to set my hair in the big rollers and then hope that the hair dryer would get those big curls dried enough so that when I combed out my hair, it wouldn't spring back into a big, curly, frizz ball. 

Those were the decisions of my life when I was 16.  However, on Saturday, I didn't have to make any such decisions.  In fact, the more I hid in my room working on non-existent homework, I could get out of dusting, vacuuming, cooking dinner, going to the grocery store, etc.  The love of going to the grocery story wore off when I was about 12.  Every since, it's been very low on my list of things I love to do.

There were certain things I absolutely had to do on Saturday, though.  I had to clean up my room, which included changing my sheets and pillow case.  And since to me, cleaning the floor meant moving the furniture, almost every Saturday I rearranged my room.  I know that nuts, but I did.  And mainly I kept my room clean because I never knew when the fire inspectors were going to surprise us, and I didn't want to be the cause of us failing the fire inspection or being labeled a fire hazard.

I'd show up downstairs, ready to go to Youtharama, or some other church activity, which followed dinner.  So, when I smelled food being made, I knew it was safe to head downstairs and offer to help mom with something.  I usually ended up just setting the table.

Okay, folks, most of this is a work of fiction.  I rarely slept until 1:30 p.m., although on the rare occasions when I did, I certainly did have a whopper of a headache, which I figured was because when you sleep you take in less oxygen, and therefore, I was suffering from oxygen deprivation.  And the fire inspection thing?  They always let us know in advance when they were coming and mom would be in "whirlwind clean" mode, so we all knew to get our rooms spiffied up. 

The things about the hair is mostly true -- at least the part about my hair looking like a big, curly, frizz ball.  But my hair looking like that most of the time any way, no matter what I did to it.  

Last:  I apologize for misspellings.  Apparently Blogspot has deleted their spell check icon, at least I can't find it, and therefore, I can't spell check my BLOGs any more.  And, I am NOT a spell checker.  I have never been able to find my own mistakes.


Monday, September 14, 2009


I was 12 years old when I was baptized in the baptismal pool at Woodbury Baptist Church.  Our small church does not have its own facility for baptism, so our church, for as many years as I was at Mt. Calvary, borrowed the Woodbury church's facility.

I loved the drive out to the church, which was substantially larger than ours.  I know you want to know why.  The drive to that church took us past some beautiful, large, tudor-style homes, and I would gaze at those homes, with, I have to admit, covetousness in my heart.  I knew I'd never, ever see the inside of one of those homes, but I could dream, right? 

I recall that I and the others that were being baptized the day -- one of them my friend Kathy Kenders -- had to attend several classes on why our church baptized by "dunking" and did not baptize anyone who didn't know and understand that being baptized was telling the world (i.e., those in attendance and anyone who ever asked) that we were followers of Christ, that Jesus was our savior, having lived, died, and rose from the dead, to be taken up in the clouds to sit next to the father, and that he was the mediator between us and the Father.  Heavy words, and I could break down the larger words if you want, just ask me.

Anyway, as I was watching my grandson, Dan, being baptized yesterday (that's his picture), I recalled that day so many years ago, over 50 years ago, and I also remembered some things about all the baptisms I attended at Woodbury Baptist Church. 

First, I told my husband as Daniel was being pushed under the water, that it seemed to me that my father, who was performing the baptisms, held me under just a little longer than others, just to remind me to remember what I had done and why.  We always sang one of the verses from the hymn "Trust and Obey" as each person came up out of the water, and after all were baptized, we sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness." 

I have to say, I know the day on which I was baptized was a coolish spring day, and it was sunny because I recall the sunlight coming through those huge windows in that church on that afternoon as my father was giving a lesson on baptism to those guests in attendance, and once again to those of us who would be entering the water.

I am so thankful for my father.  He and my mom led me to Christ, raised me with the truth, and it is so ingrained in me that I guess I'm at an age that so many things I see outside my window remind me of God's faithfulness, His mercy, and His love. 

I wish I was the type of writer who could really say what is in my heart and mind about how much my Lord and Savior means to me.  Words just cannot express that.  I must close with these words:  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  What a wonderful savior.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

I just love that picture

My new look, I mean.  I just love that picture of my part of the front porch at 116 E. Second.  How I wish I could just sit on that porch and watch the cars go by.  Back when I was growing up, there were few cars on the street.  Now, as then, it's a cut-off from Clements Bridge Road to The Pike, and if people know about it, they use it.  It cuts off the main traffic intersection of The Pike and CB Road, which has always been a bottleneck for those using CB Road.  The traffic has often backed up the block and a half to the church -- and that block is really two blocks long. 

But, I've been thinking of all those nice-weather days -- and not-so-nice-weather-days -- I spent out there, either reading, or stitiching, or crocheting, or knitting, or just watching, and this picture says it all.  COMFORT!!!!!

You've got to love it!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New look

Do you like my new look?  This picture (the header picture) was taken outside my Runnemede home a couple of years ago.  It's not the entire house, just a shot of part of the front porch.  MY SIDE OF THE FRONT PORCH!  I hope you like the look.


Christmas 1960

I was certain that Christmas, this particular year (1960) was going to be a real bummer. We didn't use words like bummer back then, we would have said "pukey". But I was sure it was going to be a dismal Christmas. The love of my life, Alan, was off in Kenya, 8,000 miles and eight time zones away.

I had a horrible time getting a gift to him that year. I think I sent it via his Aunt Virginia. It was a scrapbook and I had started it for him with a few pictures. We have a picture of him looking at that scrapbook, and that picture even appear in his senior yearbook at Rift Valley Academy. Once again, I digress.

Alan had left me in August. I didn't date. Well, I did once, but the guy that took me out told me he knew I was pining away for Alan and he wanted me to be able to go to some sort of area church teen banquet with a date. A sympathy date, you might say. We had a decent time, but I was still "pining" as he put it.

I guess I should address the picture I posted. This is the first picture I received of Alan after he went back to Kenya. Shortly after the family arrived in Kenya this picture was taken, or maybe it was taken just before they left for Kenya, but the picture didn't get developed until they were in Kenya, I'm not certain, all I know is that at Christmas time in 1960 this picture was sent on a prayer card for the Hahn family to all their missionary supporters. I looked at Alan and I thought how much he had changed from the boy that had left in August. I mean physically changed. He seemed to have grown some and he had lost a lot of weight. That's him on the right.

I had also decided that year that I was going to open my gifts on Christmas Eve at midnight. I figured Alan would be opening his presents at 8 a.m. his time, which was midnight my time. Well, I was wrong. I found out a few weeks later when I got a letter from Alan that they always opened their gifts on Christmas Eve (around midnight), which was 4 p.m. our time. So, I guess the joke was on me.

I also recall that there was a full moon or close to it on that particular Christmas Eve, and while I knew that Alan couldn't possibly be looking at the same moon I was, since it was morning in Kenya, I felt like maybe he was.

The saddest part about that Christmas, in retrospect, is that Alan did get a gift to me via his Aunt Virginia, but I can't recall what it was. Now that's a real bummer!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Jobs I don't recall my mother doing

Today is labor day. We're supposed, I suppose, to be working, or is it not working, but working to honor those who are working or who aren't working. I don't know. I think labor day is a stupid holiday -- especially if you're a woman and have really had at least one "labor" day! If I have the idea of this day correct, we're not honoring all the women who have had an actual "labor" day on this day.

That being said, however, I have always enjoyed having the first Monday in September off from labor, and as I have never had a child born on September 1, I really have had a labor free labor day.

Now to the "jobs" I never saw my mother do.

I have recalled how every Saturday night, after dinner and after the dishes were clean, she would get out her bucket, her scrub brush, put some Pine Sol in the water, and get down on her hands and knees and scrub the kitchen floor. Then she'd go into the bathroom with that Pine Sol filled bucket of water, and as soon as we all had finished with our weekly bath, she'd scrub the bathroom floor, then dump the dirty water from the bucket down the toilet. She'd then fill the bucket with clean water and go back into the kitchen and get down on her hands and knees and wipe up the Pine Sol residue with a clean cloth. Every Saturday night, she'd do this.

But as I became a homemaker myself there were jobs that I had to do over the years that I never saw my mom work on. Things such as: cleaning the exterior of the kitchen cabinets -- because they get greasy; cleaning out the silverware drawer because of the dirt that accumulates in the corner of those dividers, emptying the refrigerator to clean it (she did that periodically with the freezer, but there wasn't automatic defrost back then); wax the wood floors.

There were, on the other hand some jobs that my mom did, that I rarely, if ever did: one that comes to mind is take a spray bottle, or a sprinkler bottler, and lightly spray or sprinkle the basement floor and then broom the floor. The light spray of water was to keep the dust down. I always used a vacuum cleaner to do the basement floor. I guess mom never thought to drag the heavy Electrolux down the basement steps to get the floor cleaned up, or maybe her method was better than mine.

Another job my mom had was on Mondays she would wash clothes, and then as she took them out of the washer, she'd lug them half-way up the cellar steps -- the washing machine was in the basement -- to the exit door, and hang them on a clothes line in the back yard. I never, ever hung my clothes outside to dry because the places we have always lived had "covenants" which prohibited hanging clothing on a line to dry. I miss, still, the smell of a sheet that has hung on a clothes line for half a day. I recall as many of us who were available rushing outside to get clothes off the line if a stray shower showed up. I never had to worry about that, either. Mom finally got a dryer when she was in her mid-50s, but all those years she used a clothesline. Even after she got her dryer, she still hung the sheets out to dry.

Another job my mom had was to make sure the bottom sheets on her bed were tucked in properly. She never had fitted sheets. And I, uneducated as I was when I first married, returned all the fitted sheets I received as wedding presents. I mean how dumb was that? What did I know? So, I guess I can't say that's a job she did that I didn't do, but I didn't do it for very long.

Do you all like the way I keep repeating the same word(s) over and over? It's a new style of writing (lol).

I do remember my mom emptying the kitchen cabinets every year to replace the shelf paper. Do you all use shelf paper? I don't any more. Do they even sell it any where? As I think about shelf paper, I surmise that was mom's method of cleaning out the cabinets, rather than washing them down. Although, in my mind's eye, I see her washing the shelves of the cabinets, just not the outside or inside of the doors of the cabinets.

Well, I guess that's enough reminiscing for today. More to follow.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

It came and went

My husband and I were married 43 years ago on August 27. The day came and went. We had planned to go out to a fancy restaurant, but neither of us felt well enough. Seems like some sort of flu bug has been plaguing us since late last week. It comes and goes. Well, on the 27th it came, so we didn't go (to the restaurant).

I had chosen Prima Vista, which is a restaurant in Price Hill, Cincinnati, Ohio, which has a fantastic view of the city, and the food is absolutely wonderful. We'll go there someday soon.

But coming up is our 50th anniversary -- of when we met. I found Alan's high school picture from that year. He looks so very, very young. He doesn't even look like a teenager, does he?

As I mentioned last month, we had about 6 months of enjoying each other's company before he and his family got on a boat and headed back to Kenya. The boat was scheduled to leave on August 4, but got delayed, so I was able to get one more day with him, because his folks had to come back down to the Philadelphia area to spend the night. Then they headed back to NY City on August 5 and sailed on the Robin Gray, a freighter. The trip took them through the eastern Caribbean over to the southern coast of Africa, then up the east coast of Africa to Mombasa, Kenya.
Well, after three years of letter writing, he returned to the USA, again in August, and we picked up where we left off. He had about a month to try to find some work so he'd have some cash for college. He found a job working for a contractor who was installing heaters in some HUD housing in Audubon Park, NJ. He came home (not to my house, but to the place where he was staying) each evening and was filthy from crawling in the crawl-space under each unit to get the heating ducts and units installed. But each evening, after dinner, we would take a walk or just sit on the porch talking, until he had to get back to where he was staying.
Around September 10 he headed off to Rutgers and that began three years of treks to New Brunswick. His first semester I had no car, and he had no car, so we had to get back and forth to see each other via bus. That trip took about two hours each way, and the buses were not frequent. He always found me someone to stay at Douglas College, so I could stay overnight and go home the next day.
One thing I remember during those early days of his time at Rutgers, was that every time the phone rang, I'd race down the stairs from my attic room to answer the ONE telephone we had in the house, hoping that it was Alan calling me. Those were the days when, yes, a home had only ONE telephone. Now, I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a phone in each room of the house. How did we live like that? He had to call me (reversing the charges) because he only had access to a pay telephone. No cell phones back then, either.
Christmas came in 1963 and I have to tell you, that was the best Christmas of my life. My husband (who was not yet my husband, nor were we engaged) gave me so many gifts. Oh, yeah, he got a new job in New Brunswick to get cash for college (his tuition, room, and board were paid for already) or was it cash for Christmas, by collecting the golf balls on a golf course. What a boring job! Anyway, back to Christmas. He bought me so many things.
You need to know that his dad had told him, before he left Kenya, that whatever gifts he gave me had to be something he could see me put on -- in other words, if it was clothing, it had to be something that could be put OVER my clothing, like a sweater or a jacket, or jewelry. So, he bought me a wonderful jacket, a beautiful sweater, a scarf, gloves, a purse, and he gave me some jewelry he had been saving that he purchased when he was in Israel earlier that year. Amazing. He's never done anything like that since -- I mean showered me with so many gifts.
At this point in our lives, we just buy what we want and tell each other, "This is what you're giving me for Christmas this year." How unromantic!
--to be continued --