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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Blogs First Birthday and Cranberries Revisited

Today marks a milestone here at the Blog. It was a year ago on Thanksgiving day that the Bass River Township History Blog was born. It was, in a way, a serendipitous happenstance, as it was never planned. I had no intention of starting a blog.

Jackie and I were at Jackie's sister Jean's home in Charlottesville, Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our niece, Catherine, and her dog, Jack, had just moved into a rustic cottage in the mountains outside of Charlottesville.

My niece, Catherine's, cabin outside Charlottesville, Va. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Boston.)

Nestled in a wooded mountain slope, there was a beautiful view from the cabin overlooking a beaver pond. A wide variety of birds and animals provided an almost endless parade of interesting observations and experiences.

The beaver pond was a stone's throw, just down the hill, from the cabin. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Boston.)

The beaver left their calling call on trees surrounding the pond. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Boston.)

Jack after a hard day of patrolling the beaver pond. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Boston.)

Catherine mentioned that she planned to start a journal of her wintertime experiences in her new woodland home. It put me in mind of Thoreau's journal, “Walden”, which chronicled his experiences living in the woods by Walden pond. I suggested, in passing, that she should consider writing a blog for her journal. That way she could share her experiences with the family as she chronicled her daily activities around her modern day Walden pond.

Little did I realized that my blog suggestion would result in the birth of the Bass River Township History Blog. Catherine had not heard of a blog and asked me to explain how they worked. I knew what a blog was but had no idea as to where or how to start one. That evening, I logged onto Jackie's sister's computer and Googled “How to start a blog”. After reading a few web pages on establishing a blog, I soon realized that I would have to go through the process of teaching myself to set up a blog in order to teach my niece, Catherine, how to start her own blog.

Rather than randomly choosing a theme for my blog, I asked myself if I were to actually write a blog what type of blog would it be. The first thought that came into my mind was a Bass River History blog. It was something I was interested in, knew something about, and had a lot of photos that could be included. It was a natural!

Surfing the net, I found a good home for a blog, Google's Blogspot, and taught myself how to design, write, and maintain a blog, so that I could explain it to Catherine. My first blog entry was short and had a Thanksgiving theme featuring Ry “Piper” Allen and his New Gretna cranberry bog. The next day it was published on the net, so that I could show it to Catherine. Little did I realize that the Bass River History Blog was being birthed, nor did I have any idea that it would be around for an entire year.

Well, here I am in Charlottesville for another Thanksgiving, writing the first anniversary edition of the blog, and what subject would be more fitting than cranberries which were featured on the first blog. Last Monday's blog with Tom Doherty's cranberry picking video actually began the cranberry theme which will be continued today.

When I think of cranberries I can't help thinking about another adventure involving my good friend, Murray Harris. You might remember Murray from previous blog adventures involving picking peaches and an exciting expedition to ancient graves at Clark's Landing. You can refresh your memory regarding these two adventures by clicking on the two links below.

Peaches -

Clark's Landing -

Murray is always looking for adventures that usually involve unique ways of doing things that most people would not think of or actually consider doing. Procuring cranberries for the traditional Thanksgiving meal is an excellent example. Most of us would stop by our local super market to buy a can of prepared cranberry sauce or a package of cranberries to make our own sauce. Not Murray! That's too simple and not exciting enough for him.

Each fall Murray would tie his canoe to the roof of his car and journey through the pines to Batsto where he would put his canoe in a tributary of the Batsto River and hand pick wild cranberries along it's banks. We might have difficulty finding the elusive red berries, but Murray clearly knew the right locations, as he would return, year after year, with a couple of buckets of the tart treats.

My father loved cranberries and enjoyed making a variety of home made jams and jellies. When I told him about Murray's annual fall cranberry expeditions into the pine barrens, my dad's lips started smacking just thinking about a fresh batch of home made cranberry jelly and relish. He got in touch with Murray and the two planned a joint cranberry picking expedition. I remember hearing about my dad's cranberry recipe plans for weeks, as the day of the expedition approached. It would be a day to remember in the Stemmer household for years to come.

My dad arrived at Murray's house in New Gretna with a five gallon sheet rock bucket to hold the red treasures. I'm sure my dad was thinking that it was like being taken on a hunting trip by Daniel Boone with your prey clearly guaranteed. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel. He was, likely, wondering if one bucket would be enough. Murray had already tied the canoe on the car, and they soon set out for the Batsto River where Murray would show my dad his “secret” cranberry locations.

I don't remember the exact details of their trip, but I clearly remember asking my dad how many cranberries they picked. “Three”, my father answered. “Wow, three buckets!”, I replied. “No, three cranberries!”, my dad exclaimed. Seems, it was a disastrous year for cranberries. Somehow, I couldn't help laughing. My dad's expectations were like a kid's at Christmas, and Murray was the Daniel Boone of cranberries. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for those of you who know Murray, anything could go wrong at any time and usually does. It's his great charm! It is a part of his very being . . . and it just happened to surface at a Thanksgiving season when, unfortunately for my father, cranberry expectations were running high. When my dad got back from the great cranberry expedition, he looked like the kid who got coal in his Christmas stocking. I still laugh thinking about it.

I thought I would end this Thanksgiving's Blog, as the blog started – with some photos involving cranberry harvesting. The first Blog's cranberry photos featured Ry Allen. This year's cranberry photos feature my friend, Howard Ware, who is mentioned on the Blog from time to time. Howard worked at the Lee Brothers cranberry bogs for many years, helping with their construction as well as helping with the annual cranberry harvests. I'm thankful that Howard has shared the photos with me.

Howard worked at cranberry harvest time in the Lee Brothers fields in Chatsworth, NJ for a few years. The photos below were taken in the late 1980's when Howard was in his late 70's.

A machine beats the cranberries apart from the plants. The berries rise to the surface creating a red sea of cranberries throughout the bog. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

The Lee Brothers bogs in Chatsworth, NJ are a sea of red during cranberry harvesting season. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

Howard (center) wearing waders, raking cranberries at the Lees bogs in Chatsworth. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

Closeup of Howard "pushin the berries". (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

Howard (center) pushing the cranberries toward the conveyor system that loads the berries on waiting trucks. It's a far cry from the hand picking of cranberries at the time that Ry Allen harvested cranberries in his New Gretna bogs featured in the first Blog entry. (Photo courtesy of Howard ware.)

The cranberries are corralled by a yellow collar similar to those used to contain an oil slick, pulling them toward a conveyor belt which lifts them onto a waiting truck. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

Howard also helped with the construction of the Lee Brothers cranberry bogs which were constructed on the site of their blueberry fields in Charsworth, NJ.

Howard (right) helped to lay out and set the sprinker system in the Lee Brothers cranberry bogs. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

Howard setting a sprinkler head in the new Lee Brother's bog in Chatsworth. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

Howard (left) helping to join piping from the irrigation system by an earthen dike used to contain the water in the cranberry fields. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

Most things regarding the bogs have been mechanized, including the setting of the cranberry plants which was done by a tractor pulling a group of men who hand fed the plants into a mechanism that placed them in the sandy soil. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

The crew takes cranberry plants from a flat and places them in a wheeled contraption that plants them in the sandy soil. Howard is seated in the center of the first row. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

A closeup of Howard planting cranberry plants on the back of a specially built rig pulled by the tractor. (Photo courtesy of Howard Ware.)

I hope you all enjoyed our little foray into the evolution of the Blog, my father and Murray's cranberry adventure, and a visit with Howard Ware at the Lee Brothers cranberry bogs in Chatsworth. Hopefully, you learned something about cranberries and got a few laughs along the way.

Pete S

PS- Today's Blog entry was extra long, so the next entry will be Wednesday, December 2nd. I need a few extra days to catch my breath.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tom Doherty - The Bicycle Man

I've talked about our Men's Breakfast here at the Blog from time to time. Today, I'd like to introduce you to one of our breakfast regulars -Tom Doherty. Tom is remarkable and unusual in many ways, and I always enjoy his company. Tom, unlike most of us in rural New Gretna, does not have a car. All of his travelling revolves around his bicycle which he uses along with public service buses and trains. He takes his bike along on the bus or trains to use when he arrives at his destination.

Toms and his bicycle have traveled all over the Pinelands, throughout our tri-state area, and in many parts of the United States. He frequently pedals from New Gretna to Haddonfield where he catches the train into Philadelphia. From the train station in Philly, he pedals to the art museum for their Friday night jazz concert. After the concert, he pedals back to the train station and catches the train to Atlantic City where he boards the bus which drops him and his bycloff at the corner of Rt. 9 and Maple Avenues in downtown New Gretna.

Over the past year or so since I met Tom, I've been fascinated by his stories of his many interesting bicycle trips. He clearly has an inquisitive mind and adventurous spirit which I find delightful.

Recently, while bicycling to catch the train at Haddonfield, Tom was pedaling past the Cranberry bogs outside of Chatsworth. It is cranberry harvest time, and Tom spotted picking activity while pedaling past a bog. Naturally, he had to stop to check it out and video it with his cell phone.

Tom maintains a web site to share his thoughts and experiences with friends. You may visit it by clicking on the link below:

He posted the cranberry harvest video on his web site a few weeks ago. I thought I would share it with you here at the Blog. You can view it by clicking on the play arrow below. The video is a little grainy but, hey, it was taken by a little cell phone, so I can't complain. It is still interesting, never the less. I think you will agree. It's also timely with Thanksgiving just a few days away when most of us enjoy cranberries in one form or another.

My favorite cranberry dish is a fresh cranberry relish that Jackie makes each Thanksgiving. It sure beats that store bought stuff in a can. It's soooooooooo good that I often eat it for dessert as well as with the meal. It's especially flavorful after it has set for a few days. You may want to give it a try.


1 Pound of whole cranberries washed and cleared of leaves and/or twigs. (frozen whole cranberries work just as well)

1 Orange unpeeled, washed, and cut in eighths then seeded.

1 apple unpeeled, cored and cut in eights

3/4 cup sugar (1 cup if you like things on the sweeter side)*

*the equivalent of sugar substitute can be used for diabetics.

Combine the fruits together, and using a food processor, alternately process the mix till the consistency is like relish. Place the processed fruit mix into a bowl, add the sugar and stir. Refrigerate. The relish tastes best if it is allowed to sit for at least a day before eating to allow the flavors to meld.

Hope you enjoyed our little bike trip with Tom. We'll continue with the cranberry theme in our Thanksgiving Blog entry as we join Howard Ware, in 1998, working in the Lee Brothers Cranberry bogs, also in Chatsworth.

Pete S

PS- Anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere that would like to share a favorite Thanksgiving recipe, just drop it in an email and I'll post it on the Blog.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hidden In Plain Sight- A Double Outhouse

Just when I thought I had posted my last outhouse for a while, the unexpected popped up. My history and Men's Breakfast buddy, Harry DeVerter, gave me a hot lead. Actually, he told me about it last June but, somehow, it slipped my mind.

Seems there is a double, back to back style outhouse on Route 9, across the highway from the Off Shore Manor development - right behind the old Ernie's TV building.

The double outhouse is nestled behind the old Ernie's TV shop on Route 9, across the street from the Off Shore Manor development. (March 26, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)
I've been riding along Route 9 on my way to Tuckerton from New Gretna for over 30 years and never noticed it. It's been hidden in plain sight all those years. Of course that wouldn't surprise my wife, Jackie. Seems that, often, I can't find that elusive sock in my sock drawer or my favorite shirt in my closet. I swear it's not there but, somehow, she always finds it right away and tells me that it's a male thing. I think that the female species has a special radar. You ladies out in the Blog-O-Sphere know what I mean. Somehow, us fellas just don't get it.

The double outhouse - left side. (June 28, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The double outhouse - right side. (June 28, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

In case you're wondering why Ernie would need a double outhouse, he didn't. The outhouse was not his. It was erected sometime in the 1930's, probably by the Cruise family who operated an Esso gas station and luncheonette on the site. The HIS and HER outhouse was for the use of their patrons.

If you're interested in learning more about the Cruise's gas station and luncheonette click on the January 8, 2009 Blog entry, "Eat and Get Gas", listed below. Scroll about 3/4 of the way down to see info and photos on the Cruise family and their business interests.

Well, hopefully, that takes care of the outhouse situation in Bass River Township for a while, unless, there are more hidden in plain sight. Maybe, I should enroll Jackie to help on my out house quest. Now, where did I put my laptop?

Pete S

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Back on the Outhouse Trail

Well, I've finally gotten my computer back, so I'm back in the saddle again . . . and back on the Outhouse Trail for today's Blog.

Those of you out in the Blog-O-Sphere who have been following the Blog or visiting our companion Bass River History Web Site know that I am on a quest to photograph all the existing outhouses in the New Gretna-Bass River Township area. I'm like a knight pursuing the holy grail.

Click on the link below to see the photos of the Bass River Township outhouses posted on the Bass River Township History Web Site:

I thought that I had photographed all the available outhouses until my Men's Breakfast buddy, Rickie "White Shoes" Steele, gave me a lead on an outhouse on a property on Hammonton Road. Yesterday afternoon was a beautiful, sunny day, so I thought I would venture over to Hammonton Road and see if I could find the elusive structure. I was not disappointed, as I found the cedar shaked beauty, entrance door askew, sitting in fallen leaves, and nestled in a small grove of pines. The window on the door was missing it's screen, and the hinges had seen better days but, all in all, it's a lovely out building.

November 17, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.

Peeking inside, I noticed that it was a two seater. This was always a puzzlement to me. Why more than one seat? Did couples go to the outhouse together in the old days? Togetherness is often thought of as a virtue but, I'd have to say, "Not in this case!"

I wonder if anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere has any memories of outhouses with more than two seats. Now, that must be a really close family!

I can't help wondering if there is another outhouse out there that has evaded my wandering camera. If you hear of or see one, let me know.

Pete S