How to add a posting below . . .

To add a new posting, send an email to me at bassriverhistory@gmail.com 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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blog is on Hold

Computer Update: Looks like I'm getting my computer back on Monday afternoon, Nov. 16th. Hopefully, I'll have a new Blog entry on Wednesday, Nov. 18th. Stop by then.

Pete S

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bennie Allen Obituary



ALLEN, BENJAMIN AUSTIN 91 - of New Gretna, went home to meet his Lord and Savior on Tuesday, October 27, 2009. Born in New Gretna on December 10, 1917, Ben was a lifelong resident of New Gretna.

He was a veteran of WWII, serving 14 months in the Pacific campaign, including battles on Leyte, Guam, Ohau, and Okinawa where he, acting in the capacity of a lead scout, was severely wounded. He was decorated for the Asiatic, Pacific, and Philippine campaigns and received the prestigious purple heart.

Ben worked in the local Bass River CCC camp during the depression and, after the war, was self employed in the gravel business and also worked in the bay. He received the Hurley Conklin award from the Tuckerton Seaport in 2001. Ben is particularly remembered by multiple generations for plowing gardens throughout New Gretna.

Ben was predeceased by his parents, Harry and Ray Etta Allen; two brothers, Leon and George Allen; and two sisters, Anna Newman and Sara Ware. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Elaine Bangert Allen and a son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Helen Sirmon Allen of Robertsdale, Alabama.

A viewing will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of New Gretna, 19 North Maple Avenue on Saturday, October 31st from 10 to 11am, followed by a service and burial at Miller Cemetery, New Gretna. Arrangements are by Maxwell Funeral Home, 160 Mathistown Road, Little Egg Harbor. Donations may be sent, in lieu of flowers, to the First Presbyterian Church of New Gretna, P.O. Box 144, New Gretna, NJ 08224.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Farewell to Bennie Allen

Scripture tells us, so eloquently written by Solomon in Ecclesiastes, that everything has a season and a time for every purpose. No one knew that more than Bennie Allen, a master gardener and a bayman. Throughout his long life he has seen many seasons, always acknowledging, witnessing, and appreciating God's wonders in nature and in the many blessings in his life.

Solomon's words came rushing through me yesterday, as my cherished friend, Bennie Allen, went home just before noon.

Benjamin Austin Allen
(December 10, 1917 - October 27, 2009)


Ecclesiastes 3 - To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pull up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace . . .


Yesterday was, indeed, a time to die, a time to lose, and a time to weep and mourn; but it was also a time to heal and a time to embrace Elaine, his wife, and others who knew and loved Bennie and are also going through the grieving and healing process.

I know two sure things about Bennie Allen - He knew His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and he is now in His Father's glorious presence, free from his frail earthly body.

Passing from this world is just the beginning of life, not its end. It is the birthing process to eternity. So, this is indeed a bittersweet time. Yes, we will greatly miss our dear friend, Bennie, but we should also celebrate (a time to laugh and a time to dance) his life, comforted by knowing where he is today. And, above all, it's a time to love. Bennie wouldn't want it any other way.

So farewell for now, old friend. Until we meet again.

Pete S

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Have I Got A Summer Home For You!

The slowing down of our present economy has created an adverse situation in the housing market. Houses just aren't selling.

Tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to make you an offer that you can't refuse on a beautiful furnished waterfront home for just $6,490. Interested? Well read on . . .

Early advertisement for a fully furnished Mystic Island home. Date and newspaper unknown.

July 16, 1980 Philadelphia Inquirer


Following is a 1956 flyer advertising the many exciting recreational opportunities in the beautiful, new Mystic Island development, "America's most fabulous seaside resort".









Here's another 1956 flyer









And, finally, here 's the answer man to tell you how Mystic Islands got its name.




Well, by now you must have noticed that there is a catch to my bargained priced home. You'll need a time machine to get that $6,490 price.

Pete S

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Cousin Ricky - The White Shoes Connection

I posted a photo of Bud Steele who owned the Atlantic gas station in town on the January 5, 2009 Blog entry (See photo below). He is holding his son, Ricky, who was wearing white shoes.

Little Rickie Steele helped his father "Buddy" out at the Atlantic station from time to time. Notice the white shoes on Little Rickie. Must be before Labor Day. (Photo courtesy of Almira Cramer Steele.)

Well, it seems that, as a result of that Blog posting, a new nickname, Ricky "White Shoes" Steele, was born in the old New Gretna tradition. Evidently, some people in town, including our postmistress, have been addressing Ricky with that new moniker. Of course, I've also joined in here at the Blog. Never let it be said that I don't enjoy a little kibitzing among friends. And Ricky doesn't let me forget it.

Now, it appears, that the last laugh may be on me. I was going through some old Stemmer family photos the other day and came across two photos of me wearing, of all things, white shoes!


Nicholas and Madeline Stemmer, in the summer of 1943, holding their new son, Peter, who I must say is looking very fashionable.

I'll match my white shoes with Cousin Ricky's anytime!"

The surfacing of these Stemmer family photos poses two questions - (1) Does that make Ricky and me cousins by white shoe proxy? and (2) Can two people have the same nicknames, according to New Gretna tradition? My vote is NO!

Pete S

PS- Unfamiliar with the Bass River tradition of nicknames? Click on the link below to read Almira Cramer Steele's "Bass River Gazette" article (Issue #2, October, 1998 - page 4) on Bass River nicknames. Ironically, Almira is Ricky "White Shoes" Steele's mother.




Monday, October 19, 2009

John's Diner - New Gretna's Own Greasy Spoon

I've been going to a Men's Breakfast every other Friday morning for the past eight years or so. It's a time of fellowship when a few of the guys get together to chew the fat and, often, talk about the good old days in New Gretna. A few of our Blog readers, including Jim McAnney and Ricky "White Shoes" Steele, often join our breakfast group to swap cherished and, sometimes, long forgotten stories.

The other day, at breakfast, the current lack of eating places in New Gretna was a topic of discussion. Today, the only restaurant in town is Allen's Clam Bar. Such was not always the case. Over the years, New Gretna had many eating places, mostly luncheonettes and small restaurants. Ricky Steele and Jim McAnney happened to mention John's Diner which was just down the street from the Steele family's house and gas station on Route 9. Today it is a vacant lot with no evidence that a diner once stood there.



John's Diner was located on Route 9 in New Gretna, at the corner of Bowers Lane, just across the street from the lane leading into Miller Cemetery and just down the street from Ricki Steele's boyhood home. (Map from Bing Maps.)

The diner's history is somewhat murky to me, but I'll share the little that I know. Seems that John Martin came to New Gretna from Philadelphia and had the diner trucked into New Gretna in the early 1950's when the town was a buzz with workers constructing the Garden State Parkway. It was tiny and had a counter with a dozen or so stools. There was one small table that was eventually taken away to make more walking room in the crowded interior.

Although mostly patronized by the construction workers, the diner soon became a popular eating place for many of the locals. I'm told that Billie Sears spent a lot of time there and became good friends with John Martin. It also was a hang out for many of the New Gretna teenagers including Steve Eichinger, Zeke Zerrit, and Bucky Lamson. Steve remembers that Eliot Johnson, who lived on Hammonton Road across from Danny Loveland, cooked for John and that Jeanie Gray and Joyce Maxwell, Donald's sister, waitressed there.



A young Steve Eichinger (circa mid 1950's), who spent a lot of time at John's Diner, leans against his 1950 Chevy coupe in the small gravel parking lot next to the diner. A corner of the diner can be seen on the left. The absence of the thick woods and tall tress that have grown up in that area today allows the viewing of the Parkway construction in the background. Bowers Lane, which led to Ike Bowers' farm, is just to the right of the photo. (Photo courtesy of Steve Eichinger.)


Ike Bowers had an asparagus farm at the end of Bowers Lane. The construction of the Parkway cut his farm in half. It's difficult to tell for sure, but I bet that's Ike's trademark cigar cupped in his right hand. (Photo courtesy of Myrtle Wiseman Falkinburg.)


Janet Allen Brown who waitresses for John recalls Emma Wiseman cooking; Mary Emma Wiseman, Jean Atkinson, and Joyce Maxwell waitressing; and regular customers Harry Rulon, Ed Karaffa, and Bob Haas. Bucky Lamson remembers being waited on by Beatrice Cramer, Tater Cramer's daughter. Seems that John kept a lot of New Gretna residents employed.



Bucky Lamson (left) and Chuck Shellenberger in John Martin's Diner in 1953. (Photo courtesy of Bucky Lamson.)

I don't know much about John Martin and his wife, Mae, except that they lived on South Maple Avenue, John ran the diner, and they are buried on the north side of the hill in Miller Cemetery. Mae died in 1960 and John passed away in 1961. There is a small home made marker on John's grave that was made and placed there by Billie Sears, otherwise we would have no record of his burial here in New Gretna. Today, the Joe Capriglione family lives in John Martin's South Maple Avenue home.



John Martin and his wife, Mae, lived in a small house near the bend on South Maple Avenue. The house has since been expanded. (Photo from Bing Maps.)

The demise of the diner is uncertain in my mind. Steve Eichinger tells met that the diner closed after John was not able to run it due to bad health. If Steve is correct and since John died in 1961, that would mean that the diner would have closed by 1961. This was a surprise to me, since I found an ad from a 1963 New Gretna PTA Minstrel Program Booklet advertising the Bass River Diner. I had always assumed that it was placed there by the person who took the diner over after John died and changed its name to the Bass River Diner. Now, I'm not too sure of that. Perhaps, someone out in the Blog-O-Sphere can shed some light on this situation.



Advertisement from a 1963 PTA Minstrel Program. The question is - Is this from John's Dinner or another New Gretna eatery?

There was a fire at the diner probably sometime around the early 1960's. The damage was extensive, and the diner was likely torn down shortly thereafter.



The remains of the diner, probably around the mid 1960's. The parkway bridge over Route 9 can be seen in the top left background. (Photo courtesy of Franklin W. Gray.)

The Herrintown Poet wrote a poem immortalizing John's Diner. I thought I would share it with you here at the Blog. While entertaining, it also gives us a colorful picture of the dinner.


John's Diner

There’s a dining car down the street.
The sign in the window just says EAT.
John, he towed it down from Phillie.
Said he’s famous for his chili.




On Bower’s Lane he sat it down
And brought fine dining to our town.

• • • • •

Take three steps up and step inside.
It’s long and narrow, not very wide.
The counter ran the length of it . . .
With stools attached where you could sit.

The coffee urn stood in the center.
Smell of food is heavy as you enter.
John is hunched there in the middle,
Turning pancakes on the griddle
While up the wall curled greasy smoke.
It’s the place to eat when you are broke.

The vat of soup he stirred with a spoon,
And the smell of cabbage filled the room.

A bowl of stew filled to the brim.
This is John’s creme-de-la-creme.

A chunk of bread with crust turned brown
And a cup of Joe to wash it down.

Polite talk? you’ll find it missing.
It’s no place for dainty coffee sipping.

No time in here for social graces.
On their sleeve men wiped their faces.

John only had one rule you know -
Eat . . . pay-up and go.

• • • • •

The whistle blew one windy nite.
When the hose got there it was all a-lite.
Through heat and smoke I heard a holler
“Too late boys!” Save your water.

• • • • •

Morning brought the lookers round
To see where the old car charred the ground.
Where John once served Herrontown’s elite.
And a sign in the window that just said EAT.

• • • • •

Up on the “Hill” there’s a grassy mound
With a sliver of slate stuck in the ground
And stick on letters with Elmer’s paste
Mark John’s final resting place.

But every time I pass that hump,
Up in my throat there comes a lump.
And memory pulls me back through time,
And pictures flash into my mind.

They let me see those “HAPPY DAYS”
When through the window blue with haze
They’re all sitting at the counter still
Dave . . . and . . . Fred . . . and . . . Bill.

Now years have passed since it melted down,
But I sometimes go and stand around.
And on a day when the air is clear
Familiar smells still linger there.

And when the wind gets round to southard
There a savory odor of onions smothered.
I stand there in the winds that blow,
While salivary juices flow.

Then comes again the vivid scene
Of John a slinging his cuisine.
And stirring up his steaming vat
And the bowls of stew with chunks of fat.

• • • • •

When John’s name is widely sung.
And famous for the hash he’s slung.
Bus tours will stop to look and see
Where John cooked up his fricassee.

In the “Book of Giants” he’ll have a page
And be remembered throughout the age.
And he deserves that place, by gosh!
Herrontown’s “King of goo-losh”

The Herrintown Poet - 1985


Well, that's about all I have on John's Dinner. I'm hoping that I'll hear more about it from some of our Blog readers, so that I can better complete the picture for posterity.

Pete S

PS- Can anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere name any other old New Gretna eating places that no longer exist?