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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jacob Magid Hall and Dick Storey's Whizzer Revisited

I thought I would use today's Blog to tie up a few loose ends - the answers to the Saturday, May 16th Blog questions regarding Jacob Magid Hall and a follow-up on Monday's Dick Storey and His Whizzer item.

Jacob Magid Hall:

Jacob Magid was an entrepreneur from Philadelphia who bought the old Civic Hall on Allentown Road, now North Maple Avenue. The building, now the home of the New Gretna Volunteer Fire Company, was originally erected by the Women's Guild of the New Gretna Presbyterian Church in 1929 as a facility for community functions and events. The timing of the project was just right, as the Presbyterian Church was installing stained glass windows and donated the old church windows to the Civic Hall construction project.

Baby Carol Gray with her grandmother Willets in front of the old Civic Hall which would become the Jacob (or Joseph) Magid Hall in the late 1940's. (Photo courtesy of Franklin Willets Gray.)

Sometime in the mid 1940's the building was purchased by Jacob and/or Joseph Magid for the housing of a sewing factory. The factory was welcomed by the community as it produced needed jobs for many local women. Sarah Mathis, a local Insurance and Real Estate agent, was hired by Magid to recruit a local labor force as evidenced by the following May 27, 1948
Tuckerton Beacon classified advertisement.

Sarah Mathis helped in the hiring of local women for the Sewing Factory. (Photo courtesy of Murray and Jean Harris.)

Sarah Mathis operated an insurance business out of her home on Allentown Road, now North Maple Avenue. The home is currently owned by the Neuweiler family. (February 1, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)
Sarah, better known locally by her nickname "Sarah John", derived from her first name and the first name of her husband, apparently did an excellent job, as the factory was in operation by the first week of November, 1948.

Last Sunday, after the New Gretna Old Home Society's Annual Memorial Day Dinner, we were discussing New Gretna during the War years, and the subject of the old Civic Hall came up. Two of the ladies in attendance, Claire Kalm Allen and Georgine Mathis Bartlett, remembered working at the Sewing Factory. Strangely, no one seems to remember the name of the company, referring to the operation as just "the Sewing Factory."

Claire worked in the office at the Sewing Factory for a few months before it closed in April, 1952, about three and a half years from its opening. She remembers the date because it was the same month she was married to Alston Allen. 

Claire related that the factory was managed by a Miss Carter from Camden who rented the house just to the west of the New Gretna House on Rt 9 (The house no longer exists), and that cloths were made for various mail order catalog companies. She also remembers Tink Downs and Dot Allen, both from New Gretna, also working there.

Sabrina "Tink" Downs in 1946. (Photo courtesy of Tom Williams.)

Dot Allen with daughter, Eleanor, in 1945. (Photo courtesy of Almira Cramer Steele.)

As mentioned in the May 16th Blog posting, the Magid Hall was used for movies (See ad below). They appear to have been held only on weekends. I am somewhat puzzled by this, as the movies were being held in the same time period as the operation of the Sewing Factory. I don't know how both operations could have been held in the same building. 

Georgine Mathis Bartlett remembers a back door to a basement. Perhaps the movies were held there. I hadn't realized that the Civic Hall had a basement because there is no basement in the building today. It must have been filled in when the building was converted to a firehouse. When I go back and look at the photo of the old Civic Hall (See above) I can see the windows to the basement. I never noticed them before. 

I'm also puzzled by the May 27, 1948 news article stating that Jacob Magid was involved with the Dress Factory while the movie ad refers to the Joseph Magid Hall. Are they the same person, members of the same family, or was there a misprint in the May 27, 1948 news item? These are mysteries yet to be solved but, I guess, that is one of the challenges of being a history buff.

Tuckerton Beacon Ad - June 21, 1947 

No one seems to remember the movies, so it is likely that they were held for only a short time. The only ads I could find were in June, 1947. This was before the Sewing Factory occupied the building, allowing the movies to be held on the main floor of the facility. This would explain my puzzlement as to how the movies and the Sewing Factory could have been held in the same building.

Ben Allen reports that the old Civic Hall was also a roller skating rink prior to its becoming a Sewing Factory. The exact dates are uncertain in his mind, as he was not a skater. Any skaters out in the Blog-O-Sphere who could shed some light on this phase of the old Civic Hall?

Well, that just about answers the first four questions in our May 16th Blog Quiz. 

(1) Who was Joseph Magid? A Philadelphia businessman who purchased the New Gretna Civic Hall in the mid 1940's.
(2) Where, in New Gretna, was his hall? It was on Allentown Road, now North Maple Avenue.
(3) Other than movies, what was his hall used for? Skating Rink and, presently, the Fire Company.
(4) Is his hall still standing, today? Yes, it is presently the New Gretna Volunteer Fire Company.
(5) Have you ever been to a movie in Joseph Magid Hall? Still haven't heard from anyone on this.

The 5th question can only be answered by someone who attended a movie at the Jacob Magid Hall. Unfortunately, I haven't heard from anyone who had seen a movie there, but I'm hopeful that I will hear from a Blog reader who took in a local movie there.

Dick Storey's Whizzer:

Apparently, at least one person in the area purchased a Whizzer, as evidenced by the following classified ad placed in the May 10, 1951 
Tuckerton Beacon by Orville Fithian of Parkertown. I don't know if it was originally purchased from Dick Storey but, somehow, from the wording of the ad, "to sell cheap", I get the impression that the Whizzer wasn't too popular an item. I wonder if it is still available. With the price of gas inching up again, I just might give Orville a call.

A big thank you to Joan Exel from the Tuckerton Historical Society for giving me the Whizzer Classified clipping.

That wraps up some loose ends regarding the Magid Hall and Dick Storey's Whizzer. Hopefully, more details will emerge in the future.

Pete S


  1. Regarding the old Civic Hall - Sam thought there was only a crawl space beneath the hall. If Georgine remembers a door to the basement, maybe there was part cellar and part crawl space.

  2. Phyllis,

    Sam is probably correct. I'm now convinced that the movies were only held briefly and before the Sewing Factory came into operation.

    Pete S

  3. On the Civic Hall - Sam is right. Under the main floor was a space but just a small kid could stand up in it. There was a small cellar but just big enough to hold the heating system, and was always flooded when I saw it.

    Bob Mathis

  4. Pete,

    Reading about the old civic hall, I remember as a little child my father taking me over to the civic hall to watch prize fights. There was a full regulation size boxing ring, with a referee. I remember it being crowed with men yelling for there favorite to win and a lot of cigar and cigarette smoke. It was mostly contestants from the C.C.C. camp. I was quite amall as I remember him lifting me up so I could get a glimspe of the fighters. Ask Benny Allen, see if he remembers any thing about it.

    Don Maxwell

  5. Pete:
    The blog on the Civic Hall seem to inspire memories of an inert object yet the postings on Rev. Uncle & Post received little or no response. I'm guilty of this also.

    Here is my memory of the Civic Hall. Yes, it did have a basement as Bob and others have stated and it was always flooded. This was probably due to its location; adjacent to a swampy area which ran behind the Fire House, New Gretna House and close to Walt Loveland's garage. Perhaps by now it is all filled in and graded. I was told that area was under water due to a spring.

    Miss. Margaret Adams apparently was custodian of the Hall and had need to provide heat for a meeting held during the week 8th grade students were selected for the task of building a fire in the furnace. George Cramer and I provided this service several times in 1938/39. Kindling wood was obtained from the rear o C.G. Mathis store as in those days many food items came in wooden boxes. George was a smoker so matches were no problem. We entered the basement from the door located by the back steps. Milk bottle crates had been placed so that one could get to the furnace without getting your feet wet.Starting the fire was simple enough, keeping it going required additional fuel which was cedar slabs provided by the local sawmills. Breaking them in smaller pieces was required for them to ignite, but with little effort this was accomplished, then play time. With thefire burning well we started to select slabs that were not dry thus creating lots of smoke, which drifted up thru the vents into the hall. Tiome then to return to the class room. George stopped after school and added more slabs and logs to keep the fire going.

    A blog on how the hall became the current firehouse would be interesting and who were the movers and shakers.

    Don -Dave Kalm commented a short while back on the CCC fights

    Submitted by Clif Brown

  6. I am the great-granddaughter of Jacob Magid. Does anyone have additional information on him? I'm interested in learning more about my lineage. I'm fascinated by his entrepreneurial spirit and his interest in sewing. I never had the opportunity to meet him, though I grew up playing in his sewing factories - my grandfather (Jacob's son) and father (Jacob's grandson) worked there.
    Jacob was sometimes referred to as Jack (I never heard Joseph). I would assume that Joseph was a misprint, as his family was Jewish and very religious (Joseph is not a traditional name of Jewish decent).