How to add a posting below . . .
Monday, January 31, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October) Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn't wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term 'big wig.' Today we often use the term 'here comes the Big Wig' because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.
In the late 1700's, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The 'head of the household' always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the 'chair man.' Today in business, we use the expression or title 'Chairman' or 'Chairman of the Board.'
Personal hygiene left much room for improvement. As a result, many women and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would spread bee's wax over their facial skin to smooth out their complexions. When they were speaking to each other, if a woman began to stare at another woman's face she was told, 'mind your own bee's wax.' Should the woman smile, the wax would crack, hence the term 'crack a smile'. In addition, when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt . . . Therefore, the expression 'losing face.'
Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and dignified woman, as in 'straight laced', wore a tightly tied lace.
Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the 'Ace of Spades.' To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren't 'playing with a full deck.'
Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV's or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They were told to 'go sip some ale' and listen to people's conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. 'You go sip here' and 'You go sip there.' The two words 'go sip' were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we have the term 'gossip.'
At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized containers. A bar maid's job was to keep an eye on the customers and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was drinking in 'pints' and who was drinking in 'quarts,' hence the term minding your 'P's and 'Q's
One more and betting you didn't know this!
In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen.. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem...how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a 'Monkey' with 16 round indentations.
However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make 'Brass Monkeys.' Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled.
Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, 'Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.' (All this time, you thought that was an improper expression, didn't you.)
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The Port of Tuckerton
by Peter H. Stemmer
Anyone who has done any work on their family genealogy has come across an interesting story or two about a relative. Usually appealing, if not totally truthful, these stories are not documented but somehow are accepted as fact. Great-great granddad Andrew told great grandma Sarah who told Aunt Ethel, so it must be true that we are related to George Washington. Genealogists call these verbally transmitted stories family tradition. They usually are rooted in some truth that inevitably gets embellished and romanticized.
We should know better. After all, didn’t we all play a game called telephone when we were kids where a simple sentence whispered from ear to ear became so twisted that by the time it reached the end of the line we couldn’t help laughing? What’s the harm if we embellish the story a little? It sure makes life more interesting.
Ever since I moved to this area twenty five years ago I have heard that Tuckerton was the third port of entry into the United States. I’ve even read it in some books written by respected historians. Pretty impressive, I thought - a little town like Tuckerton being so nationally prominent. Wow! Well, I should have known better.
A Route 9 sign on the southern approach to Tuckerton proudly proclaims Tuckerton as America's "Third Port of Entry."
(Photo by Pete Stemmer.)
While surfing the net the other day, I came across some interesting documents relating to Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton as federal ports. I couldn’t help smiling and remembering that amusing game of telephone as I read through them. It seems Aunt Ethel and Tuckerton have something in common, that old bug-a-boo, family tradition.
A reading of the Laws of the United States and Acts of Congress as they deal with the regulation and collection of duties on ships, goods, wares, and merchandise imported into the United States reveals the truth about Tuckerton and it’s role as a federal port.
The First Congress of the United States met in New York from March 4th through September 29th, 1789, and on July 31, 1789, established districts and ports for the new country. New Jersey was assigned three districts: Perth Amboy, Burlington, and Bridgetown with Little Egg Harbour being particularly singled out as a port of delivery in the Burlington district.
. . . The district of Burlington shall comprehend that part of the said State [New Jersey] known by the name of West Jersey, which lies to the eastward and northward of the county of Gloucester, with all the waters thereof, heretofore within the jurisdiction of the said State, including the river and inlet of Little Egg Harbour, with the waters emptying into the same, and the sea coast, sound, inlets and harbours thereof, from Barnegat to Brigantine inlets, in which district the landing places of Lamberton and Little Egg Harbour shall be ports of delivery only; and a collector shall be appointed for the district, to reside at Burlington, and a surveyor at Little Egg Harbour. . . [Acts of the First Congress, Statue I, Chapter 5, Section 1, page 32]
George Washington, in an August 18, 1789 letter to the Senate, nominated Ebenezer Tucker as Surveyor for the port of Little Egg Harbor. [Senate Executive Journal, August 18, 1789, page 18] His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on August 20, 1789. [Senate Executive Journal, August 20, 1789, page 18]
The second session of the First Congress (January-August, 1790) saw no change in the status of Little Egg Harbor as a port; however, an additional district, Great Egg Harbor, was created on August 4, 1790.
. . . The district of Great Egg Harbor shall comprehend the river of Great Egg Harbor, together with all the inlets, bays, sound, rivers and creeks, along the sea coast, from Brigintine Inlet to Cape May; and a collector shall be appointed, to reside at Somer’s Point, on said river of Great Egg Harbor. [Acts of the First Congress, Statue II, Chapter 35, Section 1, page 148]
On February 16, 1796 Ebenezer Tucker requested that the House of Representatives establish a separate district of Little Egg Harbor and that a collector be appointed to reside at Tuckerton.
. . . Also, a memorial of Ebenezer Tucker, surveyor of the port of Little Egg-harbor, in the State of New Jersey, in behalf of himself and other citizens of the said State, praying that the waters, bays, rivers, and creeks, from Barnegat inlet to Brigantine inlet, inclusive, may be established as a separate District, and a Collector appointed for the same, to reside at the town of Tuckerton. . . [Journal of the House, February 16, 1796, page 414]
Evidently Tucker had some influence in such matters as the House adopted a resolution establishing Little Egg Harbor as the fifth district in New Jersey and officially classifying it as a port of entry. [Journal of the House, May 2, 1796, page 534] The House Resolution was quickly followed by a statute enacted by Congress on May 27, 1796:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the last day of June next, there shall be established, the following new districts . . . In the State of New Jersey, a district, to be called the district of Little Egg Harbor, which shall comprehend all the shores, waters, bays, rivers and creeks from Barnegat inlet to Brigantine inlet, both inclusively; and the town of Tuckerton shall be the sole port of entry for the said district; And a collector for the same shall be appointed, to reside at the said town of Tuckerton; and thenceforward, the office of surveyor for the port of Little Egg Harbor shall cease. [Acts of the Fourth Congress, Statue I, Chapter 35, Section 1, page 476]
George Washington nominated Ebenezer Tucker as the first Collector and Inspector of Revenue for the newly created District of Little Egg Harbor on May 28, 1796 [Senate Executive Journal, May 28, 1796, page 212] with the nomination being confirmed by the Senate on May 30, 1796. [Senate Executive Journal, May 30, 1796, page 213] Tuckerton was finally an official federal port of entry with Ebenezer Tucker it’s first Collector and Inspector!
So, what did my journey on the Internet accomplish? It showed me that the notion that Tuckerton was the third port of entry into the United States is, like most traditions, only partially true. It was, in fact, a port of entry but only one of many in the country and one of five in the State of New Jersey. Do these facts diminish the importance of Tuckerton and it’s namesake, Ebenezer Tucker? Certainly not. We can all still be proud to be Tuckertonians or “honorary Tuckertonians,” as the town looks forward to a renewal of it’s maritime history thanks to the Seaport Project and its many supporters.
So, the next time you are at the WaWa and hear someone say that Tuckerton was America's third Port of Entry, turn to them and say, "Excuse me, but . . ."
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Mary Surocca (center) and Charlie Sorocco with waitress, Dot Cramer, in 1963, at the Sorroco's Lunch counter. Food prices were listed on a board on the back wall.
My parents spelled our surname “Sorocco.” I’ve seen it spelled with every conceivable vowel manipulation. My father was a New York City native. His grandparents came to Manhattan ab 1873/76 from Genoa, Italy, where the surname was originally spelled either Saracco or Soracco.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Your blog entry on rum running has jogged my memory. I have three rum runner stories that were passed down in my family. I think the statute of limitations is up as well as any political ramifications. :-)
I remember my grandfather, Harry W. Yates, telling a story about finding their shanty stuffed with liquor during prohibition.
The Egg Island Shanty was South-East of Great Bay. This chart hung on John Yates' bedroom wall in the 1960s when he treaded clams as a summer job
It wasn't long before a boat came with some armed fellows who asked their help in navigating the waterways to take it away. It seems they needed to ditch it for a while until the heat was off, and the duck hunting shanty was an ideal place for temporary storage. They were very cordial fellows, just armed and in an illegal business, as I recall from the story. I heard this at family gatherings around the dinner table when I was in elementary school. So I don't recall or never found out more details. I do remember my grandfather's Egg Island Shanty in my youth. The Shack on Egg Island was one-third owned by my grandfather. He was a carpenter by trade. I remember being there a number of times, but after Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge bought the land, hunting was no longer permitted. They did "grandfather" in the shanty until all of the three original owners passed away. My grandfather was last, and sure enough, they burned it down some months after he died. It still appears on many nautical charts, even though it hasn't been there since the early 1970s. This however, was not likely the shanty involved in the rum running story above. Hurricanes had a habit of taking them, and I remember hearing about probably half a dozen shanties that the hunters in several families had out along the inland waterway over the hunting years.
I remember one of my Uncles, who shall remain nameless (but he started life living in one of the Sears residences in New Gretna ;-) ) who was a Teamster truck driver by trade. He made extra money by driving a truck for the rum runners. He told me the story that they would pull a loaded truck onto the ferry (I am not clear at this date which ferry) and leave the truck, but watch it from the passenger area. A number of times the Feds would approach the truck and discover its contents. The driver then would exit the ferry with the passengers, leaving the truck behind, and call Harry L… (oops! ;-) ) to tell him he'd have to go and pay to claim his truck back! It seemed to be an established cat and mouse game that they played! I remember the smile and gleam in my Uncle's eyes as he told the story.
Story #3The third story is from the side of the law. Harry W.'s father, Harry E. Yates, joined the Atlantic City Police force and became a Detective.He was called on a number of times to investigate tips of gangsters like Dillinger holding up in Atlantic City, but they always somehow "just" got away. He was in on a raid of the Karpis-Barker gang, and the gangsters got away, but barely. The odd thing though was he almost lost his job because of it, so the family story goes. The story I heard was that he was supposed to tell his superiors before conducting the raid, and after being unsuccessful with that previously, he decided to quietly hold the raid. Why would telling his superiors compromise the raid? Well, Atlantic City corruption back then is well known, and gangster payoffs for police protection would come under that. Nothing I can prove, dinner table stories are dinner table stories. And I never knew my great grandfather. I just discovered a year or so ago that his participation in this gang raid is documented in the book "J. Edgar Hoover and his G-Men" by William B. Breuer, pp. 149-151. He gives the date as January 20, 1935. Two fellows, "Creepy" Karpis and Harry Campbell, escaped guns blazing, but their two girlfriends were captured, one of them slightly wounded. One of them was the younger sister of a member of the John Dillinger gang. Only one detective was also slightly wounded, a bullet grazing his cheek. The shoot out in Atlantic City is also mentioned at:I remember seeing and handling my great grandfather's revolver at my grandfather's house. I believe my Dad and Uncle turned it over to the police rather than keep it in the family. This would be the revolver my great grandfather accidentally shot himself in the foot with. In Atlantic City's City Hall restroom, the gun fell to the floor, went off, and luckily only hit him in the foot. My grandfather was on the AC life guards at the time, and he ran from the lifeguard tent (not sure which one, but possibly States Ave) to the Hospital. This too was a story I heard around the dinner table as a youth. But a few years ago, I found a November 23, 1936 Time Magazine article on line that confirmed it!Clipping from 11/23/1936 Time MagazinePS- As I was writing about the Karpis raid, I discovered the date was 1935, and Prohibition was over in 1933, so it doesn't exactly fit under the rum running gangster umbrella, but why waste a good gangster story! Especially after I wrote it down! :-) .
Sunday, January 2, 2011
The DeVerter Christmas Tree is brightly decorated with a variety of hand blown antique ornaments. (January 1, 2011 photo by Pete Stemmer.)