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

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Diving Bell

My history buddy, John Yates, wrote about his childhood memories at the Steel Pier in the late 1950's and the 1960's in the comments section of this past Tuesday's Blog, "The Mysterious Artifact Revealed". Following are his comments about the Diving Bell.
I only went on the diving bell once, but knew the routine. My date didn't. So I quickly got in line and in the bell with her before she knew how it came back up. It was pulled to the bottom with steel cables, and when ready to surface they simply released the brakes on the cable and it would quickly bob to the surface. Many screams, including my date! And they had a microphone in it so all those at the top could hear it all.
The following photo from our Bass River History Photo Archives was taken during a trip of some New Gretna young folks to the Steel Peer. If you look very carefully, you will see a young Jean Shropshire Harris at one of the port holes - at least that is what I was told by her husband, Murray who took the photo.

Jean Shropshire Harris peers out of a port hole in the Steel Peer's Diving Bell. (Photo courtesy of Murray and Jean Shropshire Harris.)

The Diving Bell emerging from the water. I can almost hear the screams. (Photo courtesy of Google Images.)

Today the Diving Bell can be seen at the Atlantic City Aquarium at Gardner's Basin. Somehow it doesn't look so exciting or romantic away from the Steel Peer. Looks like a big porta potty to me.

The Diving Bell, today, at Gardner's Basin.
(Photo courtesy of Google Images.)

I wonder how many of our Blog readers went on or took a date on the Steel Peer's Diving Bell and what they saw under the water?

Pete S

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Mysterious Artifact Revealed

Well, it's been about a week since I asked if anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere could tell me what the unknown artifact actually was. There were a bunch of interesting answers, but only one was correct. Betty Petzak hit the nail on the head when she said that "The artifact was a platform with a lady on a horse advertising the Steel Pier high diving horse show." Her observation was confirmed by Steve Eichinger who was exploring the remains with Rickey "White Shoes" Steele this past January. Steve remembers seeing the plaster sculpture of the lady on the diving horse in the 1940's. White Shoes was just a baby at the time.

The roadside advertising display was placed on property owned by the Hedevary family. George Hedevary, now in his 90's, remembers that the family received free passes to the Steele Pier for allowing the lady and the diving horse to be placed on their property. They thought it was a pretty good deal.

In the 1940's roadside advertising was in its hay day. In our area much of the roadside advertising was for the Steel Pier in Atlantic City which was a major east coast tourist attraction which drew traffic from the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and New York. The statue reminded tourists traveling from New York to Atlantic City along "Old New York Road", now Route 9, that they were getting close to their destination.

The Steel Pier in Atlantic City brought a lot of traffic through New Gretna, as tourists from New York traveled through town along Old New York Road, now Route 9, during the 1940's and 1950's, before the construction of the Garden State Parkway. (Postcard courtesy of Google Images.)

The only remains of the advertising sculpture is the wooden frame of the base, a mere skeleton of its former grandeur.

The sole remains of the Diving Horse advertising sculpture off Route 9 in New Gretna. (January 14, 2010 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

I have not been able to find a photo of the Lady and the Horse. It was likely a cement based plaster sculpture, an art form that was popular at that time. The following photo, while not the Lady on the Horse, shows the distinctive style which was perfect for advertising the many attractions available at the Steele Pier.

It is a similar base of the advertising structure that remains in the woods along Route 9 in New Gretna. The words were probably similar with the "See Baby Animals at" likely replaced with "See the Diving Horse at".

I remember my parents taking me to the Steel Pier in the early 1950's to see the diving horse. For its time, it was quite a site, although by today's standards it would probably be rather tame. We've become too sophisticated for such simple entertainment, and I'm not sure we're the better for it.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting the Diving Horse at the Steel Pier, you may enjoy the following video. For others, it may bring back pleasant memories. Enjoy!

Pete S

Monday, July 26, 2010

Greetings from the Grays


We are Jean (Atkinson) and William Gray. We were born and reared in New Gretna. Jean by her grandparents Joseph and Elizabeth (Bowers) Mathis. Bill by his parents Bill and Virginia 'Toots' (Darby) Gray. We left the area after marrying, but returned often with our children to visit family. We returned to Tuckerton for several years and started the 'Pine Cone'. (now Kohr's) Finding this website is wonderful. If anyone remembers us please let us know.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Allen's Dock Moonlight Cruises- Dave Kalm

I guess it was back in the 40's there was a moonlight cruise from Allen's dock. I know Don Maxwell remembers. I was trying to think of the Boats involved. Chet Allen had the Valiant, The Ruth V. was one and there were at least two more. The Ruth V. was Dan Lemunions. Who was the Fund Raiser for? Maybe the Presbyterian Church. These old memories come back to me and then I can't fill in the blanks.

Dave Kalm

Editor's Note - Can anyone fill in the blanks for Dave?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Mysterious Artifact

Sometime in mid January of this year two of my buddies, Steve Eichinger and Ricky "White Shoes" Steele, could be seen poking around in the woods on Route 9 across the road and around the bend from the old Renault wine bottle. Rumor has it that there lies the remains of an old New Gretna artifact that has long been forgotten, even by old New Gretna natives.

The mysterious artifact was found in the woods just around the bend from the Renault Wine Bottle. (Map courtesy of Bing Maps.)

Steve Eichinger, standing on the shoulder of Route 9, points past the pole and off into the woods at the remains of the mysterious artifact. (January 14, 2010 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Steve Eichinger (left) and Ricky "White Shoes" Steele take a close look at the remains of the mysterious artifact. (January 14, 2010 photo be Pete Stemmer.)

I'm going to pause here and ask if any of our Blog readers knows what the mysterious artifact was and/or remembers seeing it in it's hay day in the 1940's when it was intact. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of it in it's prime and would be grateful for any photo or verbal description that may be forthcoming.

I hate to keep everyone in suspense regarding what the remains were, but that's part of the charm of the Blog. Its close proximately to the well traveled Route 9 gives a good clue as to it's purpose. Keep tuned!

Pete S

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dingenis DeLeeuw Reprised

Last Wednesday, July 7th, the Blog presented the mysterious fire that lead to the demise of Dingenis DeLeeuw and the disappearance of his pension money. I closed with a request for any information that those out in the Blog-O-Sphere may have on Dingenis. I received the following responses.

Donald Maxwell wrote a comment on the July 7th Blog which is reproduced below. He verifies the fire which consumed Dingenis and gives the approximately location of Dingenis' small cottage and suggests that Clif Brown might be able to provide additional information.


Yes I remember the incident when Dimgimis DeLeeuew was burned to death. My father, Curtis Maxwell, was on the New Gretna Fire Department at the time, and he went to the fire. I remember him telling us when he got home about the firemen discovering Dimgimus in the ashes and the terrible smell associated with it. I was only seven yrs of age then but remember the whole town talking about it, especially in the stores and post office which were the prime meeting places where news was discussed back then. The origin of the fire was'nt but it looked like a cover up crime.

Dimgimis's little shack was located off the Greenbush Road. Where? I don't know, only that was where the fire engine went that day- over the bridge to Greenbush.

Maybe Cliff Brown can shed some light on the exact location as he is a couple of years older than I and lived in Bucktoe near Greenbush at the time.

Don Maxwell

Clif Brown, perhaps inspired by Donald Maxwell's faith in Clif's memory, emailed a photo of the small cottage that was to become the center of the mysterious episode.


Went through several shoeboxes to find the attached photo. It should answer your question as to where the cottage was that burned. In the foreground you will see my brother and I sitting on a wagon in our driveway and to the left background is the cottage that is no more. It was located directly oposite the electric pole that supported a street light, back about 20 feet from West Greenbush. Zoom up the photo and all will become clear. I will make some comments regarding on your blog.

Trust this is of some help.

Clif Brown
Dingenis DeLeeuw's small cottage on West Greenbush Road can be seen in the upper left background. Clif Brown (back) and his brother, Wharton, sit in their wagon on the graveled West Greenbush Road near their home. (Photo courtesy of Clif Brown.)
Clif followed up with the following email concerning the above photo and provided some additional memories.


Yes I do remember Dingenis DeLeeuw. I have just returned from a visit with my son in Peoria, Il. and went up on the blog and Wow! a important time in my youth came to life.

In the photo I am the boy in the back and my brother, Wharton Charles is the driver. His wife Catherine as you probably know still lives on West Greenbush.

I usually remember events with other happenings at the same time. In April 1934 I was very sick with Scarlet Fever and our home was quarantined. A common practice in those days was to plave a large yellow sign on the front door making people aware. To make it easier for my mother, my bed and hers were moved downstairs. Unfortionately that room had no east facing windows, so we were unaware of the fire until the a fire engine was positioned at the rear of the house and proceeded to wet down the shingle roof as a strong wind was blowing sparks and cinders. The fireman had positioned the new Ward LaFrance fire truck at the fire site and the old Model A at our home.

This is where my memory gets little fuzzy, as I thought it happened during the night but the newspaper indicated in the morning. Nevertheless it did happen.

Mr. DeLeeuw was our neighbor and "Sach" Robbins was also his neighbor who lived in the next home up Greenbush Road. It was the same house that was struck by lightning in the early 1960's and only the foundation surrived. Knowing this neighbors often transported others so taking one to AC would not be considered suspicous .

Having been inside the cottage, it was not a shack as previously described. What was unusal is that the home was not electrified. Candles were used for illumination, a kersone stove for cooking and a fireplace for heating. The newspaper article indicated he was in country for a short time, but he had retired from a railroad company from which he received a pension. It seemed strange that a foreign country would mail him money. It was common in the 30's to place valuables underneath your bed mattress for safekeeping.

Let me tell you, what I was told happened. Mr. DeLeeuw was a heavy drinker which he did often with "Sach" Robbins. When returning home candles were burning, as he was staggering to bed he knock one over and that started the fire. He was then aroused by the fire and carried some personnel belongings outside which were found. He then returned to get his valuables from under the mattress and then became overcome by heat and smoke. He was found not laying in bed but across his bed and clutched in his hands underneath his body was charred money.

New Gretna residents always seem have great imagination and this story was blown out of proportion. If you want a real murder story check with Don regarding what happening in Leektown in the latter '30's. Fellow by name of Hughes was sent to the State Prison and other locals were involved. Again another drunken brawl.

Trust you will find this interesting, any question I'll do my best to answer.

Regards Clif

Well, Clif's account of the DeLeeuw fire sure took the mystery out of the situation and his reporting that charred money was found in Dingenis' hands dispels the rumored motive of robbery and Sach's possible involvement in the fire. In addition, Clif whetted my curiosity regarding the murder in Leektown. Can anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere shed any light on that incident?

Pete S

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jessica Fletcher - We Need You!

A week or so ago I saw a feature story on TV about Angela Landsbury and her former hit TV show "Murder She Wrote". In that show Angela's character, Jessica Fletcher, showed a knack for solving murders in her small Maine village. Well, we could have used Jessica in New Gretna when a New Gretna resident, Dingenis DeLeeuw, died in a mysterious fire in the mid 1930's. Legal inquiries were made, but the cause of the fire remains a mystery. Charges were never filed; however, rumors did fly! Many locals suspected foul play.

The following two newspaper articles from 1934 present the essence of the case.

The man who accompanied DeLeeuw to Atlantic City where the article said DeLeeuw withdrew money from his bank account was not identified in the above article; however another article (see below) identified the man as Hillary Robbins, known locally as "Sach". Evidently, Sach was the last person to see DeLeeuw alive.

A young Hillary "Sach" Robbins. He was the last person to see Dingenis DeLeeuw alive. (Photo courtesy of Ronald & Marjorie Bozarth.)

The second article reports that DeLeeuw went to Atlantic City to get his $50.00 pension, while the first article says that DeLeeuw withdrew money from his bank account. Regardless of the slight descrepency, the important point is that DeLeeuw had a sum of money when he returned with Sach to his New Gretna home. The money was never accounted for. At the time of the fire and tragic death there were many rumors flying around which shall go unmentioned here, as they can not be substantiated. Most centered around Sach.

DeLeeuw's final resting place may be found on the hill in Miller Cemetery. I'm sure that many a person who walked by the stone was puzzled regarding how a man with a strange name from a strange place ended up in a quiet New Gretna cemetery.

Dingenis DeLeeuw (1874-1934) is buried on the north side of the hill in Miller Cemetery in New Gretna. (Photo courtesy of Pete Stemmer.)

If we have any amateur detectives, in the mold of Jessica Fletcher, out there in the Blog-O-Sphere who might be aware of any evidence or would like to venture a theory on the mystery, let's hear from you. Also, does anyone know where Dingenis DeLeeuw lived in New Gretna?

Pete S