How to add a posting below . . .

To add a new posting, send an email to me at with a comment, question, story, photo, observation, etc. It will be posted below, shortly after the email is received. To comment on an existing posting, click on the "comments" command below the posting and type your comment. Your comment will show up immediately.   Pete Stemmer

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fred Kalm & Norm Cramer win amateur contest at the Community Theater - 3/21/49

Today we have "America's Most Talented" winning the TV ratings. Back in the late 1940's the Community Theater in Tuckerton was holding amateur talent contests to increase their attendance figures. New Gretna talent usually participated and sometimes won.

Tuckerton Beacon - April 21, 1949.

It's not surprising that two New Gretna boys, Fred Kalm and Norm Cramer, came away with first place. Through the years they often played as a team and were noted in the area for their talent.

Norm Cramer on electric guitar and Fred Kalm on banjo entertain the crowd in the 1964 New Gretna PTA minstrel show, Farmer Style. (Photo courtesy of Harrison Cunningham.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yesterday's Humor - Jokes from 1945

Humor is a subjective thing. What is funny to one person is, often, not funny to another. I believe that the same thing can be said for humor throughout the decades. What was funny a few decades ago may be stale and corney to us today. Except, maybe, for Henny Youngman. He's timeless.

Below are a few jokes from the humor column of the May 31, 1945 Tuckerton Beacon. The columnist identifies himself or herself only as "The Observer". You tell me. Does "The Observer" stack up with Leno and Letterman?

Pete S.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lincoln Mott meets the Cisco Kid

Tuckerton seems like the place to meet and greet celebrities. Somehow, they never seem to make it into New Gretna. We had an Elvis sighting at the Stewart's Root Beer Stand at the head of Tuckerton Creek on Sunday, December 14th, and now an academy award winning movie star stops in West Tuckerton for a hot dog on his way to the New York World's Fair.

Any one out there remember going to the movies to see the Cisco Kid? As a kid, I remember seeing the Cisco Kid on our black and white 10 inch Dumont TV in the early 1950's. The Cisco Kid was played by Duncan Rinaldo and Pancho by Leo Carrillo at that time. I remember that, at the end of every show, they would say "Oh, Cisco" and "Oh, Pancho" as they rode off into the sunset.

TV Western - Cisco Kid, Duncan Renaldo
Duncan Rinaldo as the Cisco Kid and Leo Carrillo as his side kick, Pancho, on TV in the early 1950's.

Pete S.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Blog's 2008 Holiday Home Decorating Award

As you drive around New Gretna during the holiday season, it seems that more and more homes are being decorated each year. The competition is almost reaching a fever pitch as houses are festooned with intricate arrays of lights and yards are crammed with a variety of displays often reaching towering heights. Each year the madness grows as preparations often begin before Thanksgiving. As night approaches you can hear the increased humming of the electric meters spinning faster and faster to keep up with the bright lights and the air blowers straining to keep multicolored nylon figures erect. Oh yes, the Griswalds would be proud!

The Township has sponsored a holiday decorating contest with a ballot box placed in the Post Office for residents to cast their vote for their favorite display. It's the democratic process at work. I haven't heard if a winner has been announced yet, so I decided to have a "Bass River History Blog Holiday Decorating Contest" and crown our own winner. And that winner is  .   .   .

.   .   .   the South Maple Avenue home of Tiny and Betty Jean Keufer.

(December 23, 2008 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

I don't have a complete history of the house. I do know that Helen Sears Carty's grandparents, Chalkley C. Sears, Jr. and Ellen Cramer, lived in the house, probably from the late 1880's through the mid 1930's. They were married in July 3, 1887. Chalkley met his Maker in 1935, followed by Ellen in 1938. Both are buried in Miller Cemetery in New Gretna.

Chalkley and Ellen Sears on the front porch and their son, Eugene, on the front lawn of the Sears families South Maple Avenue home. Eugene Sears is Helen Sears Carty's father. The street at that time was known as Eel Street. (Photo courtesy of Helen Sears Carty.)

After Ellen's death the house ended up in the ownership of her brother, John Franklin Cramer, Jr., affectionalely known simply as Captain John. He was captain of the New Jersey State Fish and Game boat.

Captain John, standing center with outstretched arms in the front yard of the Sears-Cramer house. (Photo courtesy of William and Betty Jean Mathis Keufer.)

I am uncertain about the ownership of the house from the death of Captain John on February 25, 1930 until the present owners, Tiny and Betty Jean Keufer. Perhaps someone out there in cyberspace can fill in some of the missing details?

Pete S.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Carol Kauflin's 5th Birthday Party

Christmas reminds us of the importance of birthdays in our lives. One of my favorite features in the Local News Columns of the old Tuckerton Beacons is the frequent mention of birthday parties. The following is an example of a well attended New Gretna birthday party held on May 22, 1952. By the way, Carol Kauffln (now Nicklow) and her husband, Ron, live in the South Maple Avenue home where the birthday party took place.

The two young boys below attended the party. See if you can guess who they are. 

Rickie Steele (l) and Jimmy McAnney attended Carol Kauflin's 5th birthday party. (Photo courtesy of Margaret Cramer McAnney.)

Pete S.

Friday, December 26, 2008

LEON and the real meaning of Christmas

Around the Christmas season, I often hear the phrase "Christmas is for kids." While I don't subscribe to that philosophy, I have to admit that some of my fondest Christmas memories are from my childhood.

I was blessed with loving parents who, during my early childhood, lived on the second floor of my great aunts' house on Wilson Avenue in North Brunswick. While some, today, might think the sharing of a house to be a disadvantage, I found it just the opposite. The love that I received from my aunts Julie and Elsie were a treasure that I hadn't realized I had received until later in life. As is often the case, it is the little things in life that reflect the love that we share with those around us. Such was the case with my Aunts Julie and Elsie and their annual Christmas guest, Leon.

As the Christmas holiday approached everyone in the house became busy with decorating and making preparations for Christmas Day. There was the tree to put up, holly and laurel to be spread, wreaths and stockings to be hung, cookies to be baked, presents to be wrapped, and . . . oh, yes . . . Leon to be unpacked. 

Part of my aunts' Christmas ritual was to place colorful ceramic letters on the mantle that read NOEL. Somehow that always seemed special to my aunts, and it was to become the center of a very special family Christmas tradition. One that we still keep to this day!

The day before Christmas my Aunt Julie would carefully arrange the four ceramic letters, N - O - E - L, just so, on the mantle. My cousin Wade, who often visited around the holidays, and I would look at each other with eager anticipation, surpressing a giggle. That evening, on Christmas Eve, we would sneak over to the mantle when no one was looking and quietly rearrange the ceramic letters to spell LEON.

On Christmas morning, we would all gather in my aunts' living room and, just before opening our presents, my Aunt Julie would look over toward the mantle and exclaim, in a loud exagerated voice, "LEON! OH, MY HEAVENS! NOW, WHO COULD HAVE DONE THAT?" as she rearranged the four ceramic letters back to NOEL. My cousin Wade and I would giggle and giggle, thinking we had pulled it off, again. Hollywood Oscar winners have nothing on my Aunt Julie.

LEON has a lot to teach us about Christmas. You see, the real lesson of LEON in our family is a lesson about the loving relationship that I had with my aunt and that we shared together as a family.  And that's what Christmas is really about . . . the loving relationship that we have with Jesus and that we share with those around us. It's the only path toward true peace in our lives and on earth that we so desire and sing about at Christmas-time.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when I drove down Route 9 the other day, I couldn't help but stop and take a picture of the sign that Naomi and Sharon Maurer place on their front lawn every Christmas season. It proclaims the true meaning of Christmas. I'm sure LEON would agree.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas !

May you and your family

have a very Merry Christmas !

1954 New Gretna Christmas float. Design and art work by Margaret Sullivan Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Naomi Post Maurer.)

The Manger scene in the North Maple Avenue front yard of Karl and Debbie Swanseen. ( December, 2008 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be on His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  [Isaiah 9:6]

For to you is born today, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  [Luke 2:11]  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Gretna Christmases Past and the Shropshires

It's the day before Christmas, and we're putting the final touches on our Christmas decorations and thinking about this evening's Christmas Eve service at the New Gretna Presbyterian Church. Every Christmas Eve, as I sit in the beautiful sanctuary, my mind wanders for a time . . . back to all those saints who worshiped here, together, throughout the years. 

First Presbyterian Church of New Gretna, Christmas Eve, 2006. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The 1940 Christmas bulletin below brings back bittersweet memories of those who are no longer with us. Thankfully, many of those listed on the program are still here. I'm sure that those of you who were born in and grew up in New Gretna would have fond memories of many of those who took part in the 1940 Christmas Service.

As I read the Shropshire names above, I am reminded of the early 1970's when Jackie and I moved to New Gretna, just across the street from the Presbyterian Church. Our neighbor was Minnie Shropshire. She introduced us to her daughter, Jean, and her son-in-law, Murray Harris. They were to become our dearest friends. 

My first New Gretna Christmas memory was Minnie Shropshire inviting Jackie and I to her home to sample her delicious Christmas fruit cake and enjoy some good old fashioned Christmas music. Minnie loved music and delighted in playing an excellent repertoire of Christmas music on her parlor organ. And her fruit cake was out of this world! She said her secret was soaking it in plenty of rum. I can believe it, as the singing flowed rather easily and got progressively louder as the fruit cake consumption grew. 

Over the next few Christmas seasons we got to meet and enjoy the rest of the Shropshire clan and their extended families. Unfortunately, Fred had passed away before we moved to New Gretna.

(l-r) Fred and Minnie Shropshire, granddaughter Jean Felsberg, Murray Harris, Jean Shropshire Harris, Lewis Shropshire (front), and Joe Shropshire (back) in 1951. (Photo courtesy of Jean Shropshire Harris.)

Jackie and I quickly learned to love our life here in New Gretna through the love of the Shropshire family and many of the New Gretna natives who welcomed us and became our friends over the years. We sure have a lot to be thankful for here in New Gretna.

Pete S.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Tradition and the Somes Family of Wading River

The Christmas season brings with it many traditions that become established by a family over the years. Some of these traditions revolve around the Christmas tree.

One of my pleasant memories as a small child was going with my father to the railroad yard in New Brunswick where car loads of Canadian cut Christmas trees seemed to be lined up forever. Unlike today, when we have a variety of species to choose from (scotch pine, blue spruce, fir, etc.), back in the "good old days" we could select balsam, balsam, or balsam. 

Balsam trees had an advantage and a disadvantage. They smelled great, but their scrawny shape left much to be desired. There was often more open spase than branches. 

An early 1950's photo, taken in our present New Gretna home and left by a previous owner, shows the Christmas tree of an earlier era. You could look through the tree and still have a clear view of the river through the window. Charlie Brown would be proud.

To solve the problem of the sparse branches, my father always purchased extra branches that he would tie up and cart home with the tree. As he set the tree up in the living room, he would drill holes in the tree's truck and meticulously insert the spare branches until the tree was perfectly formed. 

It was an art carefully honed over the years and would seem to be the perfect answer to the sparce branch dilemma; except, as the tree sat in the warm living room, the original branches were able to absorb the water from the tree stand while the inserted branches couldn't. The result was that, after a week, we had a bi-colored tree . . . green with scattered patches of brown with the needles from the "fake" branches falling in clumps. I guess it's true when they say, "You can't fool Mother Nature!".

When Jackie and I settled in New Gretna in the middle 70's, we had to make some important decisions regarding our family Christmas tree. We tried an artificial tree for a few years and found that unsatisfactory. Somehow, it just didn't seem right to take your Christmas tree down from the attic in a cardboard box and unfold it's branches before decorating. Where was the tradition in that?

In the early 80's we found our answer . . . the Wading River Tree Farm! 

The Wading River Tree Farm is on Turtle Creek Road, just a stone's throw from the Wading River Bridge.

The Wading River Tree Farm is owned and operated by the Somes family. It was opened by Horace and Dorothea McAnney Somes in the late 1970's on land that was part of the old McAnney homestead belonging to Dorothea's family for generations. It was an ideal business for the couple who loved the many outdoor activities afforded by the Pine Barren's environment. Horace developed a love for the outdoors as an officer in the local Bass River CCC Camp and as the Chief Ranger at Lebanon State Forest. Dot had loved hunting and the outdoors since she was a small child.

Horace as a young CCC Camp officer and Dot duck hunting along the Wading River in 1945. Both loved outdoor activities. (Photos courtesy of Horace Somes, Jr. via John Pearce.)
Horace and Dot's two sons, Horace, Jr. and Frank became a part of the family business at an early age, helping with the many duties of running a Christmas tree farm. They, too, loved the outdoors. A pine cone does not fall far from the tree!

Horace Somes, Jr. and his sons, Howard and Robert in 1992. (Photo courtesy of Horace Somes, Jr. via John Pearce.)

Frank Somes and his dog, Duke, in 1970. (Photo courtesy of Horace Somes, Jr. via John Pearce.)

Dorothea Somes passed away in 1992, followed by Horace, Sr. in 2003. They had been married for 53 years. During the later years of their life, the family Christmas tree farm became the love and responsibility of Horace, Jr. and Frank. They, with the help of their families, operate the farm today.

Following are some photos that I took when picking up our Christmas tree this year. 

First stop is the office which is warmed by an old cast iron wood stove.
Horace finds the location of our tree in the file. Notice, no computers here. They do it the old fashioned way! I always take a piece of candy from the jar, as Horace looks through the cards. Well, sometimes maybe two, but don't tell Horace.

Horace matches the tags to be sure it's our tree.

The tree is hand cut. No chain saws here.

Horace counts the tree's rings and tells me that our tree is 12 years old.

Our tree is baled so that it can be more easily transported and fit through our front door.

The service is always friendly. Last year, I got the same great service from Frank. Often, on weekends, there is hot coffee, apple cider, and cookies to make the experience even better.

So, I thank the Somes family for their friendship and efforts in helping to make our family Christmas tree tradition an enjoyable one. The tree looks great every year, and I don't have to drill holes and deal with fallen needles. Sorry, Dad, but that's one family tradition I'm glad to relinquish.

Pete S.

PS- If you always struggle with getting the tree straight in the stand, talk to Horace or Frank. They sell a Christmas tree stand that is fool proof. The end doesn't have to be cut square, and the tree is straight every time. No fussin' and cussin'.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Have a Berry Merry Christmas

Every time I drive to Tuckerton along Route 9, I pass a delapidated, old house on the left, just before I get to the Off Shore Manor development. It's in sad condition now, just waiting for the wrecking ball.

(2003 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

It's difficult to imagine, but at one time this old abandoned house was once an attractive, well kept home of an old Little Egg Harbor and Bass River family, the Berries. It was built in the late 1880's, with loving care, by Isaac Lewis Berry for his new bride, Martha "Mattie" Chew. It's grounds were well kept with fruit trees and shrubs carefully manicured and beds of colorful flowers faithfully tended. Isaac and Mattie raised four children here . . . Clarence, Lester, Anna, and Pauline.

The Berry house, circa 1940s. (Photo courtesy of Bobby Quinn.)

Issac Lewis and Martha Chew Berry. 
(Photo courtesy of Bobby Quinn.)

Pauline Berry married Paul Quinn. Their only child, Bobby, was the last resident of the Berry house. He became ill in 2002 and moved to his cousin, Amie Lamson's home in Mayetta, and passed away on December 31st of that year. The house has sat vacant since then, falling victim to vandals.

(l-r) Pauline and Paul Quinn with son, Bobby; and Isaac Berry. Lester Berry is in back. (Photo courtesy of Bobby Quinn.)

I visited with Bobby at Amie Lamson's house in the summer of 2002 and talked with him about that old house and the many good times the family shared there. 

Bobby Quinn was the valedictorian at his 1948 Tuckerton High School graduation. (Photo courtesy of Bobby Quinn.)

Some of Bobby's fondest memories were about the old fashioned Christmases the family celebrated. He particularly remembered the eleborately decorated christmas trees and the colorful, ornate Christmas cards that the family carefully pasted in large photo albums. It was family entertainment before television.

The Berry-Quinn Christmas tree was elaborately decorated each holiday season. (Photo courtesy of Bobby Quinn.)

A 1915 Christmas postcard sent by Clarence Berry to his brother, Lester. (Courtesy of Bobby Quinn.)

The memory of Bobby Quinn and the Berry family who enjoyed so many Christmas celebrations in that old house on Route 9 calls out to us today, through the photos and Christmas cards left behind, to wish us all a "Berry" Merry Christmas.

Pete S.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Steinhauer's 50th Anniversary and the Short Allen Connection

I am happy to report that Geary and Pat Steinhaurer celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary yesterday, December 20th. 

Photo courtesy of Grace Ann Steinhauer Rodriguez.
Geary's roots run deep in the history of Bass River Township. He was the oldest of the three sons of Paul and Virginia Steinhauer. His mother, Virginia, was the daughter of Uriah and Marietta (Corlis) Allen. This "Short" Allen branch of the family tree can be traced back to Robert Allen, the second white settler in the Bass River area of Little Egg Harbor Township. [ Note: For a discussion on the Tall and Short Allen's of Bass River Township, see the Bass River Gazette May, 1999 article at]

Geary's parents, Paul and Virginia Allen Steinhauer.
(Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhauer, Jr.)

Baby Geary with his grandfather, John Steinhauer.
(Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhauer, Jr.)

Geary was raised in a family and community environment that valued many of the noble traditions of the pineys in the area . . .  clamming and fishing in the bay and hunting and gathering in the surrounding woods.

Geary learned to hunt at an early age . . . 

(Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhauer, Jr.)

. . . and shot himself a goose from time to time.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhauer, Jr.)

Geary's grandparents were Uriah and Marietta (Corlis) Allen . . .

(Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhauer, Jr.)

. . . and his great grandparents were Uriah and Rita Allen who lived on North Maple Avenue in the house where Alston and Claire Allen are currently living. Rita ran a variey store from this house for many years while Rye conducted a number of businesses including the raising of cranberries [See].

A tin type of Rye and Rita Allen from the Allen Family photo album.
(Tin type courtesy of Paul Steinhauer, Jr.)

Rye Allen, Sr. was known locally as "Piper". His son, Rye, Jr., was called "Piper, Jr.", and Geary is known as "Little Piper". [Note: See page 4 of the "Bass River Gazette" for Almira Cramer Steele's article on Bass River Nicknames . . . .]

So, today we wish "Little Piper" and Pat a very happy 50th Wedding Anniversary and may they have many more.

Pete S.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Seven Turkeys and counting- Elaine Mathis

Well, it seems our turkey watch here in New Gretna is picking up steam. I received a report (See below) from Elaine Mathis, on the lower end of North Maple Avenue, who reports a sighting of seven gobblers. And a bonus deer sighting, too! Thanks, Elaine. That beats the three turkeys that were in my driveway. Anyone see a larger group? By the way, what do you call a group of turkeys?     - Pete S.

Hi Pete,
I enjoyed your story about the turkeys guarding your property.  It made me think of Thanksgiving Day last year when I watched 7 turkeys come walking out of our woods toward the house.  I hurried down the back steps of the deck with my camera and waited for them to get close.  They saw me and kept watching me, but I did not move a muscle or blink an eye.  I snapped their picture and thought how lucky they were that I already had my turkey roasting in my oven for dinner later in the day. 
We've had lots of deer come out of the woods this year, too.  They seem to love the acorns from the oak trees.  My mom (Elsie Ford Weber who lives with Bob and I), looks out her bedroom window every morning to see if she can see any deer in the back yard.  

We have had as many as 11 at one time out there munching those acorns.  They are beautiful to watch.
Sort of reminds me of  "Where's Waldo?".
How many deer can you find?

Elaine Mathis

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Gregarious Gobblers

Here we are between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and we all know what that means . . . turkey diners with all the trimmings. It seems as I wait for Christmas, the wild turkey population around New Gretna gets more testy and aggressive as they roam from out West Road and up North Maple Avenue to Leektown. It's as if they sense the threat of the season to their survival. As I look out in my yard, I see the birds at their best and at their worst.

They can be entertaining and look beautiful . . .

. . . or they can be annoying and a nuisance, as was the case the last holiday season when my friend, Charles, from Toms River, came for a visit. I was sitting in my living room, anticipating that he would be knocking on the front door shortly, when the phone rang. Upon hearing Charles say hello, I wondered where he was calling from, as he was usually prompt and was now a few minutes late. I asked if he was held up by an accident on the Parkway or some other traffic mishap. "No", he replied, "I'm calling from my cell phone and am right outside in your driveway. There's turkeys here, and they won't let me out of my car. I'm trapped. Help!"

Being from the "big city", Charles had never seen wild turkeys and wasn't about to take any chances, as the noisy birds circled around his car. I went out and chased them away, and we had a good laugh about the situation. Ever since then, I believe Charles gives a little shiver and listens for a gobble every time he pulls into my driveway.

The wild turkeys circled around Charles' car in my driveway.

I've heard that, some time ago, the gregarious gobblers were after Karl Swanseen while he was jogging along North Maple Avenue, causing him to flag down a passing car for refuge. Too bad he doesn't jog with a camera. I would have loved a photo of that!

Anyone else have any stories and/or photos of the wild turkeys around New Gretna? Email them to me, so we can share them on the blog.

Pete S.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Who's In Charge Here? The squirrels, of course!

I don't know about you, but I seem to spend a great deal of brain power and energy trying to foil the neighborhood squirrels from consuming all of my bird seed. It's no wonder that I don't see many birds around.

"That about polishes off another feeder full, and I'm still hungry."

"I'll just take a break while Pete fills up the bird feeder again. I've got him well trained!"

I'd be interested in seeing any squirrel photos, or other local wildlife photos,  that you may have. How about emailing me a few for the blog?

Pete S.