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?


1 comment:

Lori said...

What a wonderful thing to read! Especially hearing him mention some of the things both you and dad have mentioned. Towns like that are few and far between anymore and that makes me sad, but I'm grateful that you're willing to share your memories with us. And, obviously other people are too. :-)