Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We knew it was Spring.

We knew it was Spring when mom gave up her Sunday afternoon nap.  In our house we all had to take a nap on Sunday afternoon, or at least pretend to be taking one. 

Why would mom ever give up her nap?  Of course she was tired.  But...

The call of the wild was stronger.  The wild woods, that is.  Actually, the not so wild woods.

There used to be a small patch of woods on Central Avenue between Fifth and Seventh Avenues on the east side of the street.  Mom loved going there in the Spring and Summer to see what wild plants she could collect for her garden.  She'd carry a bucket with a small bit of water in it, and a spade and off she'd go usually with two or more children in tow. 

I loved walking in those woods.  Mom would point out a wild flower and start digging, carefully, very carefully, getting as big a root ball as she could.  She also loved birds and would point out the various birds that inhabited the woods to us.  She got so excited when she saw a yellow-winged black bird, or a Baltimore oriole, or a blue bird -- birds that didn't "grow" in her garden.

Mom watched the clock to make sure we got back home before evening church and in time for us to get washed up.  Dinner was always after church on Sunday nights and I have to say, by the time we got home from church we were ready for it.  Let's face it, 9:00 p.m. is a very late time for a youngster to have something to eat after the luncheon of left overs from Saturday night dinner.  Mom did give us a couple of butter cookies (Nabisco brand, not home-made), or graham crackers and a glass of milk to hold us over. 

Mom didn't plant her "gifts" on Sunday she left them in the bucket overnight and was out in the yard early in the morning before we children got out of bed and planting her new plants.  And she treated them as babies for a couple of weeks, making sure they took hold.

I wish I had some pictures of Mom's gardens through the years.  I remember them as being so pretty.  Unfortunately mom didn't transfer her green thumb to this daughter.  I am probably the only person in the world that can kill mint.  But that's a story for another day.


March is Red Cross Month

I heard that statement on the radio the other day and it reminded me that , yes, March WAS Red Cross Month.  Do you remember?

It was pushed in school and each day of the month after attendance was taken we were asked if we wanted to put our pennies, nickles, or dimes into the little box for the Red Cross.  If we gave a dime or more we got this little pin-like thing to wear telling the world we had contributed to the Red Cross.

I so wanted one of those pins so I saved my pennies for almost a month and finally had enough to get my pin.  How about you? 

The most vivid recall I have of doing this is in first/second grade when I had Mrs. Marcantonio (Miss Bachelor).  I tried to get the pin at the beginning of the month by contributing two cents.  That's when I found out the minimum needed to get that pin.  I wish I had kept one of them.  I collected a couple over the years during Red Cross Month.


Monday, March 19, 2012


The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come...  That is from Song of Solomon 2:12

It is not yet officially Spring, yet the flowers are appearing, more every day, and the birds of singing and building their nests. 

I know this year Winter passed away very quickly.  Or, did it come at all?  We had no below zero overnights this year and rarely had high temperatures in the 20s or teens.  Here in Northern Kentucky we had no winter.  If I read the weather forecasts for Runnemede correctly, except for that freak October 31 snowstorm in 2011, the hometown winter was non-existent this year as well.

And now, even though it is still winter, we are having summer temperatures.  Alan has turned on the air conditioner, he says, to keep his computer cooled off because it was overheating.  I say, it's because he's warm.  Now, I am cold.  I would open the windows, but Alan's allergies would be worse than they are right now. 

So, I enjoy my sunporch and listen to the singing of the birds and watch as they fly from tree to tree, limb to limb. I even have a nest being built in my azalea bush out front.

Why do I bring up Spring?  I guess I don't really remember a winter in which we didn't have some snow (in Runnemede) when I was growing up.  Maybe we did, I just don't remember it.  What I do remember about Spring, though, was my mother's annual trip with her sister Anne to the Flower Show in Philadelphia.  She would bring home some seeds, one new rose bush, and probably some other plant, and then she would plant them.  That was her start of gardening for each year. 

I'm pretty sure she went to the Flower Show on March 21 or later in March each year.   Then the tending, mulching, weed pulling, watering, and watching the plants like a mother watches her new baby would begin.  Every morning that wasn't rainy, she'd be outside tending her new "babies" and her older "children" and you could see the pleasure on her face as she tended these gifts from God to her.

I always imagined at the end of her life that she met her Lord in her garden to be taken to be with Him in heaven.  Not exactly Scriptural, but it's how I envisioned her passing.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shops along the pike

I was thinking the other night about the Hobby Shop that was next door to the Borough Hall (the old one between 4th & 5th Aves.).  Dad and Mark and I liked to make models -- dad loved to build model ships and Mark (my brother) and I preferred working on airplanes.

I have to admit that sometimes we got frustrated, especially dad because the ships had a lot more small parts than the planes.

I think about the only thing the Hobby Shop had to sell was models and glue, the kind of glue that was later to become the halucingenetic of choice of kids in the early 60s.  Airplane glue was the common name and it was "ingested" by sniffing. 

I was also wondering how many of the shop owners along the Pike and other places in town were able to eke out a living and keep from going under.  I know Leap's Supermarket was often very crowded, and it really was the only grocery store in town that wasn't a deli.  It was also during these years the only store that had a frozen food section.  Frozen foods were a new commodity in the 40s and early 50s.  The deli located next to the Post Office (the old one on the corner of the Pike and Clements Bridge) was always, and I mean a-l-w-a-y-s busy.  You HAD to take a number.  There was another grocery store, sparsely furnished and really an over sized deli, around the northeast corner of the Pike.  That store was always empty, or I just hit it right.  I was my mom's "personal shopper". 

Some of the stores were:

Palumbo's Bridals -- never busy.
Marsten's Jewelers -- never busy.
Freddie's -- always busy
The Barber Shop -- always busy
Jake's 5 & 10, when it was on the Pike busy, when he lost his lease his little shop in his home, not busy.
The optometrist -- well appointment(ed) -- took the place of Jake's
The shoe store -- served the town well
The taylor shop -- Dad used this shop often.  Mom didn't really have time for mending.
Webber's bakery -- best cream donuts anywhere, ditto with the cinnamon buns -- ran out of baked goods by noon.
Runnemede Supply -- what can I say -- it was the only hardware store in the area for many years.

Most of these stores lasted until the late 50s, early 60s.  Then there seemed to be a downward trend in stores along the pike.  Closures because shop owners were getting old and retiring or passing away seemed to be a monthly event. 

One more thing -- I also remember when you didn't need an appointment to see the doctor.  You just went to Dr. Fessman's office, or Dr. Palmisano's office, walked in and waited your turn.  We went to Dr. Fessman's because he was closest until he died suddenly, then we stayed in town and used Dr. Palmisano until my mom died, and that was a lot of years.  In later years, of course, you needed an appointment. 

Oh, yeah, Dr. Fessman was known to show up at our house when we children got some contagious disease to put the "notice" on the door warning other Runnemedians(?) that there was a nasty disease in our house and they should stay away.


Thursday, March 8, 2012


We met with a couple from our church last night and we were talking about the "old" days -- the 40s and 50s.  We are the same ages (he and his wife, Alan and I), and the subject of coal furnaces came up.  That reminded me...

When I was a little girl -- before the early 50s -- we had a coal furnace.  I love that heater, although I'm sure my dad and mom didn't. 

I loved it because the floors were always warm -- big pipes in the basement pushing the hot air into the few registers we had upstairs.  My favorite register was the one in the kitchen and I'll get back to that topic shortly.

I figure dad didn't love the coal furnace because early in the morning he had to shovel coal into the main part of the furnace, after getting hot ashes dumped into the holding bind under the main heating area, then he had to wait until the fire died down a bit to empty the holding area into a large metal bucket which he had to wait again for said bucket to cool down, then he had to dump the ashes in the metal can (garbage can not used for garbage only for ashes) out in the back yard which was half-way up the stairs to a door that exited out to the back yard.  Then he had to go through that procedure at least twice a day -- once mid-day, and once just before he went to bed.  He didn't add any coal at that time but banked the coal so there wouldn't be a fire.

He never complained.  Perhaps it was something he enjoyed doing -- let's just say my dad was not a handiman and perhaps that made him feel more useful around the house?

Mom didn't like it because of (1) the dust that collected daily on all the furniture.  NOTE:  I usually notice the dust every 7-10 days, we could write messages to each other on our furniture from the dust that settled on the furniture on a daily basis back then; and (2) the day the coal arrived and was deposited into the coal bin (a small section of the basement that was baracaded off from the rest of the basement) there was a bit of coal dust that collected on all surfaces in the basement, which meant mom and I would sweep and dust the basement wearing our bandanas, our face masks, and carrying our sprinklers (bottles with a cap that had holes in it) to keep down the dust.  We were quite swarthy when we finished down there.  I think it was a quarterly event.

Now, back to the register in the kitchen.  It was between the stove and the chimney, and I used to sit on it to get warm, or I would stand on it and watch my dresses balloon out when the hot air came up.  That kept me warm also.

I am sure you are wondering why I would write about this.  Well, I was thinking as we reached 70 degrees late last week -- around March 1 -- dad would be been delighted because it would be warm enough to do without heat -- we'd just get warm under the down quilts we had. 

I bought a new, warm, down-filled coat for this winter with a hood, figuring I would need it.  I haven't worn it once -- the winter has been warm. 

I know dad and mom would be rejoicing over a warm winter, first heater was coal, and dad wouldn't have to shovel as much; second heater was oil, and the oil bill wouldn't be as much; and the last heat was gas, I think they had a gas heater last.  Anyway, as my husband is rejoicing over the lower heating bills, so mom and dad who lived on a very, very tight budget would have been happy.


This item has not been proofread.  Please forgive mistakes.