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Monday, July 27, 2009

New Gretna Postcards

A few weeks ago the Tuckerton Historical Society had a Saturday afternoon program on old postcards from our area. Statistics show that postcard collectors, called deltiologists, are involved in the third most popular collecting hobby in the world, behind coin and stamp collecting. Baseball card collecting moves postcard collecting to fourth place in the United States.

I always have my eyes peeled for New Gretna postcards in my history travels. Unfortunately there seems to be very few available. Gets me to wondering how many old New Gretna postcards might be hidden away in attics around town.

I thought I might share some of the New Gretna postcards that I have scanned into my computer over the years. Hopefully they will prove interesting to you, and they may motivate someone to look through their old scrapbooks or attic for some to add to our history collection.

Local postcards were prolific in the early 1900's. Itinerant photographers would travel from town to town in panel trucks advertising family portraits and postcards. They would travel through neighborhoods hawking their services and, also, stop by small local stores and offer to take local photos and provide postcards for the store proprietors to sell. Often these postcards are the only historic record we have. A few of the following New Gretna postcards fall into this category.

This photo of the Thomas Wood's store on Hammonton Road shows an itinerant photographer's truck to the left. The lettering on the truck reads "FRED HESS & SON - PHOTOGRAPHERS". Fred or his son probably took the above photo and, likely, also travelled the streets of New Gretna hawking photos and postcards for anyone who showed an interest in their services. What a valuable resource they have been to historians of later generations! (Photo courtesy of Lucy Lehneis, Tom Wood's daughter.)

I cannot think about New Gretna postcards without thinking about Sarah Maria Mellette Allen. She was known by her nickname "Rita", pronounced "Rye-Tee", derived from her husband Uriah Jackson Allen's nickname, "Ry". The linking of a husband and wife's nickname was not uncommon in New Gretna, as evidenced by Almira Cramer Steele's "Bass River Nicknames" article on page 5 of the October, 1988 edition of the Bass River Gazette. Click on the link below to read Almira's Nicknames article:

"Rita" operated Allen's Variety Store out of the family home on North Maple Avenue for many years. Many of the New Gretna old timers that I have spoken to remember buying penny candy, as a kid, from "Miss Rita".

"Rita" Allen (1862-1935) operated Allen's Variety Store for many years. (Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhauer.)

"Ry" and "Rita" Allen's Allentown Road (Now North Maple Avenue) house, circa 1920's. Allen's Variety Store was located in the front room. (Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhauer.)

Today, Alston and Claire Allen live in the house where Rita ran Allen's Variety Store. Although they share the same surname and New Gretna roots, there is no relationship between Alston Allen and "Ry" and "Rita" Allen. "Ry" was a Short Allen while Alston is a Tall Allen. See the May, 1999 edition of the Bass River Gazette for an explanation of the Tall and Short Allens at (March 6, 2007 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Allen's Variety Store ad from a late 1920's or early 1930's New Gretna Minstrel Program.

An old cardboard candy box from Allen's Variety Store. I wonder if anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere bought candy cherries from "Rita"? (Box courtesy of Pat and Geary Steinhauer.)

"Rita" Allen also sold postcards at Allen's Variety Store. Some were of local scenes and were probably taken by itinerant postcard salesmen. Following are some postcards from her store. Her husband, "Ry", is pictured in the first two. See if you can spot him.

"Ry" Allen owned and operated a cranberry bog off Mink Path Road, not far from his Allentown Road home. He employed many local women during picking season. Notice, no cranberry scoops here, just hand pickin'. (Postcard courtesy of Pat and Geary Steinhaurer.)

Looks like a successful catch for "Ry" and three of his buddies. (Postcard courtesy of Pat and Geary Steinhauer.)

This postcard shows the lower Allentown neighborhood, including Allen's Variety Store on the left. Can anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere name any residents who lived in the surrounding houses? (Postcard courtesy of Paul Steinhauer.)

Scene looking north from the Presbyterian Church on Allentown Road (Now North Maple Avenue), circa 1920's. Notice the gravel sidewalk and telephone poles. Looking at the poles, I don't believe electricity had yet come to New Gretna. (Postcard courtesy of Paul Steinhauer.)

Looking south on Allentown Road (Now North Maple Avenue) toward New York Highway (Now Route 9), circa 1920's. The Presbyterian Church can be seen on the right. It's stained glass windows have yet to be installed. (Postcard courtesy of Paul Steinhauer.)

It's not surprising that "Rita" would have a postcard of the New Gretna Hotel, circa 1920's, on her rack, as it was a popular destination for fishermen and hunters who would board at the hotel while enjoying the ample supply of fish and game in the area. It was an important part of the local economy in the 1920's through the 1940's. (Postcard courtesy of Pat and Geary Steinhauer.)

There were also generic postcards that were sold in the early 1900's. These were usually scenic cards with no distinct objects to identify them with any specific town. The following generic cards were sold at "Rita's" store. Evidently cows were popular. I wouldn't be surprized if the same cards were sold in Tuckerton with the notation "GREETINGS FROM TUCKERTON" at the bottom.

Postcard courtesy of Pat and Geary Steinhauer.

The back of the above card. Both the sender and addressee are related to "Ry" and "Rita" Allen. Virginia is the grandaughter of "Ry" and "Rita". She is writing to her parents - Mr. & Mrs. R.M. Allen. R.M. is Ruy M., "Ry" and "Rita's" son. He married Marietta Corliss and had 5 children: Myrtle Elizabeth, Frances Rita, Lillian Ann, Virginia Mary, and Etta Malett.

Postcard courtesy of Pat and Geary Steinhauer.

The back of the above card simply reads "Dear Mom, Be sure and come up Sunday. From Sister Virginia" It appears it was never mailed as there is no stamp or postmark.

Writing today's Blog makes me want to take a walk down Allentown Road to Allen's Variety Store and buy some penny candy from "Rita's" glass case and pick a postcard or two off the postcard rack. I might even think about having a grape Nehi. The bottle cap would look great adorning my vest or hat. Remember those days? Care to join me? I know Leslie Whealton will, as he always has a cold grape soda waiting for me in the refrigerator when I pay a visit to the Whealton household to work on a history or genealogy project with his wife, Shirley.

We'll be featuring more New Gretna postcards and postcards from neighboring communities in future Blog entries, so stop by now and then for a look-see.

Pete S

PS- Did you notice that the postcards from Allen's Variety Store were from either Paul or Geary and Pat Steinhauer? Paul is the great grandson of "Ry" and "Rita" Allen and the son of Virginia Allen Steinhauer who wrote the two cow postcards above. Geary is Paul's brother. Pat is Geary's wife. You can view photos of Ry, Rita, Virginia, Geary, Pat, etc. on the December 21, 2008 Blog entry by clicking on the following web link:


  1. What a great blog, I'm not even from the area and it is riveting, the stories and the writing. I did a search for Hess & Son, found a Wikipedia posting for Jack E. Boucher, he worked for the Atlantic City Tribune then for a brief time for Hess & Son before becoming big time with the park service. I wonder if he would have any anecdotes?

  2. Dear "I'm not even from the area",

    Thanks for the complements and great lead regarding Jack E. Boucher. I'll see if I can follow up on it.

    Just curious - How did you end up reading the Blog if you are from out of our area?

    Pete S

  3. Came across this site today. Terrific. Does anyone know of any pictures of what is now 33 N. Maple Avenue?

    Many thanks...
    G. Peters