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, September 30, 2011

New Gretna Veterans' Memorial

Earlier this week I had to stop in the Township Municipal Building. I parked my truck in front of the Veteran's Memorial that is located between the Municipal Building and the Fire House. I prefer to call it the "Veterans' Memorial" rather than the "War Memorial", which is inscribed on the monument, as the memorial honors the veterans and not the wars.

The Veterans' Memorial between the Municipal Building and Fire House

I stopped to read the names of the four servicemen who had died while serving their country in time of war and thought that it would be nice to be able to put faces with the names. 

Four local names are etched on the Veterans' Memorial.

When I got home, I looked through the photos on my computer to see if I had any of the four Bass River veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. I was able to find photos of John Sears, Orval Gerew, and George Heun and thought I would share them with you. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of William Ayres. Hopefully, someone out in the Blog-O-Sphere might have one to share with us.

Pete S


John H. Sears' tombstone in Miller Cemetery, New Gretna

Tuckerton Beacon - June 17, 1945


Orval Gerew's WWI Government Record Card stated that he died from anthrax.

Orval Gerew's tombstone in Hillside Cemetery, New Gretna


George Heun's WWI Government Record Card
George Heun's tombstone in Miller Cemetery, New Gretna


William Ayres' tombstone in Hillside Cemetery, New Gretna

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clif Brown Remembers Joe French

When I posted the September 12, 2011 Blog on Joe French's store and asked for comments and stories about Joe, I had no idea of the great response I would get. Some interesting comments were posted, and Don Maxwell's memories of Joe appeared in last Friday's Blog. Today, I'm pleased to share Clif Brown's memories of Joe French. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

By the way, I made an error in past Blog entries regarding Clif's place of residence. He resides in Arizona, not California, as I had previously stated. Sorry about that, Clif.

Pete S


by Clif Brown

Often wondered why Joe French was not featured in one of your blogs before now. I do remember a few incidents of facts, fiction and truths. Just finished reading Don’s comments and will try not to repeat. Remembering your neighbors in a good way is not always easy.

The Variety store was a great asset to the community. Joe certainly had a wide collection of merchandise, and quality ranging from poor, better and best, with price to match. How he located an item you wanted to purchase was a mystery to me. Just describe it to him and he walked right to it. If you needed an item not available, down the road to Tuckerton, Egg Harbor or Pleasantville. He saved a lot of miles on your car. I believe the modern Walmart stores came from a visit to French’s Variety store in New Gretna. What say you? Gents Furnishings could be socks, belts, suspenders, handkerchiefs, ties and etc.

Joe French's Variety Store, circa 1940's

The store was never over decorated for the holidays- a few pumpkins on the front steps for Halloween, a wreath hung in the door for Christmas, lots of christmas cards and cheap strings of Japanese Christmas lights on display. Memorial Day brought out lots of American flags for sale. 

Several punch broads were on the counter for anyone feeling lucky. Today they might be illegal. 

Some old punch boards,
an early form of the Lottery

The ads in the blog don’t list guns, ammunition and etc. but, as I recall, he had some on display. It could have been only shotgun shells. At the start of school year he carried lots of stationary supplies.

To me three things stood out. He had a large display case of candy, many well know names: Baby Ruth, Butterfingers, Milky Way, Hershey Chocolate Bars, etc which sold for one cent and, if you spent a dime, you got a extra one free.

Joe sold penny candy

Pepsi Cola was my favorite soda. Remember the jingle “twice as much for a nickel too, 12 full ounces that’s a lot” and etc. 

Lastly a pint of Hershey ice cream sold for 15 cents. Split in half, a fine treat to share with a friend.

Sometime in the early 40’s Joe decided to close on Sundays; however, selling Sunday newspapers were a problem and that’s how I got hired. Inserts to the Sunday papers were delivered during the week and stored in a box located at the front of the store. The news section came early Sunday morning and I had to put them together for sale. At that time about a total of 150 various papers were sold, the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday Bulletin, New York Sunday News, New York Sunday Mirror and Newark Star Ledger. I was ready by 7AM and shortly thereafter came my first customer by the name of Chapman who lived on Eel Street, now South Maple Avenue. He was obviously a transplant, as he got the NY Times. Don Maxwell came over by 9 AM and got a Philadelphia Inquirer. By 11 AM most of the papers were sold. I had a few “catch you next week customers” with no change. They only had big bills. I quickly learned to have lots of change on hand. Surprising, I got a few tips and packed up by 12 PM. I returned Monday to settle up. Joe was impressed by the records I kept and never questioned my figures. He treated me fair and square. This was a routine for many weeks until Joe passed the sale of daily and Sunday papers to Lang’s Esso . The gas pumps had been removed by that time.

Joe and his wife were great card players and attended many card parties given in support of various organizations. He was a member of the Bass River Election Board and served for many years. 

I know nothing about Joe's activities at the Pemberton auction, except he had a extra large panel truck to carry merchandise back and forth. When he was solicited by students for placing an ad in the Sr/Jr High school play program, he selected a full page. Whether his was a “Lum & Abner jotem down store”, he respected his customer privacy.

The nickname Talbert Loveland received from his New Gretna peers was very cruel and plagued him for years. Extending that many years after his passing is uncalled for. I never heard anybody address him directly by that name. The one time I did, he became very angry. All I want to say is that he was a loyal and excellent clerk and a helpful, patient person.


PS- How many of you out in the Blog-O-Sphere remember penny candy and punch boards? Let's hear from you! Pete S

Friday, September 16, 2011

Don Maxwell Remembers Joe French

Joe French's variety and antique stores were discussed on last Monday's Blog. I had mentioned that Don Maxwell should have some stories about Joe French, as he lived next door to Joe's store. The other day I received an email from Don with some of his memories regarding Joe French. I thought I would share them with you.

Pete S

*   *   *   *   *


I knew Joe French quite well as we lived next door all the years I lived in New Gretna until I was 24 years old. I remember when he built the store and lived upstairs. I believe he bought the property from Joseph Cramer, the same man my father bought his lot from. They had to fill it in some, as it was low there, and when they did all the excess rain water came over on us.

Don Maxwell in front of Clarence Mathis' store
(Photo courtesy of Betty Lamson West)

Joe had a so called variety store. You could buy just about anything but clothes there. My father did buy nearly all his groceries there.

Joe was always busy, and I remember, at one time, he had two clerks besides himself. They were Gene Sears and Talbert Loveland who we always called “Leaner” his New Gretna nickname. He was so named because he always leaned his head and neck to one side. After a few years Joe only had one clerk, “Leaner” for years. 

Gene Sears

Talbert Loveland outside Joe French's store

Joe's father was Houston French, and I believe he was a man of means as he had quite a few possessions like property etc. He also had property in Atlantic City in the Gardeners Basin area. I believe they were rental properties. I do know, like Phyillis Briggs said in a Blog comment, that he owned several houses in town, especially on South Maple Avenue.

Houston's father was Louis French who owned from the Parkway bridge in Port Republic up to and including the present Chestnut Neck boatyard, all the property around the monument, and up Chestnut Neck Road for quite a-ways.

The Frenches were an old revolutionary family and some of the first settlers in the Port Republic area. Joe's wife, Geraldine, was quite a cat and dog lover, and they had many. I remember her dog, Snookie, would come over every morning and defecate on our front walkway and mom would be mad.

Joe died in 1966 of a massive heart attack as he was a huge man, not too tall but very portly. Every Friday nite the place was crowded with people buying groceries and gas. He had two gas pumps with no electric to them. Some of us boys would pump them up full, as they held 10 gallons and had a pump handle that you would crank back and forth until it was full. when filling the car tank it was all gravity down to the gallon marks. Sometimes we would get a few pennies for pumping the tanks up and then go inside and spend it on candy. He also sold all kinds of magaznes and comic books. At 7 p.m. every weeknite he would turn on the Lone Ranger. How he loved that show. You could hear it outside the store.

One more little tidbit. Joe asked me onetime if I had any old burned out light bulbs as he said he would sell them for 10 cents a basket to people who hoped there would be one or two good ones.

Great Memories!

Don Maxwell 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Uriah P. Allen & Phoebe Leek Info

The following comment was posted yesterday on the Blog.

I am looking for Uriah J Allen married to Phoebe Leek and father of John P Allen. Uriah's parents were Thomas and Anne Marie Cranmer Allen. If anyone can help me with the Uriah/Phoebe/John link I would most appreciate it. Thank you, Sara Pugh

Well Sara, I hope the following information helps you in your family genealogy quest. The information comes from a draft copy of an Allen genealogy book that Shirley Whealton, Pat Steinhauer, and myself are working on. The numbers to the left are reference number for navigation purposes within the book.

Pete S

13. THOMAS JEFFERSON ALLEN, SR (JOSEPH4, PETER3, ROBERT2, RALPH1 ??) was born 06 Aug 1802 in Bass River, NJ, and died 03 Apr 1879 in Age 77 widower, Bass River, Little Egg Harbor, NJ. He married ANNA MARIA CRANMER 01 Jun 1823, daughter of CALEB CRANMER and MARY ADAMS. She was born 28 Aug 1801, and died 08 May 1866.
Listed as Anna Maria in Miller Cemetery.
Burial: Miller Cemetery, New Gretna, NJ
Children of THOMAS ALLEN and ANNA CRANMER are:
33. i. CALEB W.6 ALLEN, b. 15 Dec 1823; d. 08 Jul 1909.
34. ii. MARY ELIZABETH ALLEN, b. 14 Nov 1825; d. 20 Apr 1872.
35. iii. URIAH J. ALLEN, b. 11 Feb 1829; d. 03 Oct 1860, Bass River, NJ.
iv. SARAH LOVENIA ALLEN, b. 20 Jul 1830; d. 26 Oct 1833.
36. v. THOMAS JEFFERSON ALLEN, JR, b. 21 May 1834, New Gretna, NJ; d. 10 Nov 1915.
  1. vi. ANN MARIA ALLEN, b. Sep 1837; d. 1869.
  2. vii. JOSEPH BAKER ALLEN, SR, b. 03 Feb 1839; d. 14 Feb 1925.

  1. URIAH J. ALLEN (THOMAS JEFFERSON5, JOSEPH4, PETER3, ROBERT2, RALPH1 ??) was born 11 Feb 1829, and died 03 Oct 1860 in Bass River, NJ. He married PHOEBE LEAK, daughter of JOHN LEEK. She was born Abt. 1834.
Children of URIAH ALLEN and PHOEBE LEAK are:
i. MARTHA ANN ALLEN, b. 22 Jul 1854, Mathistown, NJ; d. 16 Nov 1856.
ii. WILLIAM HENRY ALLEN, b. 22 Jul 1854, Mathistown, NJ; d. 07 Nov 1856.
iii. MARY EMMA ALLEN, b. Abt. 1860; m. JAMES ROSELL.
    66 iv. JOHN P. ALLEN, b. 21 Dec 1856.
66. JOHN P. ALLEN (URIAH J.6, THOMAS JEFFERSON5, JOSEPH4, PETER3, ROBERT2, RALPH1 ??) was born 21 Dec 1856. He married LOUISA M. ALLEN Abt. 1873, daughter of CALEB ALLEN and MARY LEAK. She was born Abt. 1851.
Children of LOUISA ALLEN and JOHN ALLEN are:
88. i. IDA ELVINA ALLEN, b. Sep 1864; d. 15 Dec 1930.
89. iii. JOHN FRANKLIN "FLICK" ALLEN, b. 23 Nov 1874, Woodbury, NY; d. 09 Apr 1942.
iv. DORA M. ALLEN, b. 18 Oct 1881; m. ISAAC JENNINGS BOLTON, SR., 09 Jun 1901, New Gretna Presbyterian Church, New Gretna, NJ.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Joe French's Variety Store

I was sitting on my recliner this afternoon still wondering what I was going to write about for the Blog when the phone rang. It was Victoria Eddy who just recently took over Sandy Bourguignon's hair parlor on Route 9 in New Gretna. The business, called "Magic Shears" under Sandy, is now called "Hair To Please". Sandy stayed on to help Victoria.

Magic Shears on May 27, 2006
(Photo by Pete Stemmer)

Victoria asked me if I had any information regarding past businesses at her new location. I checked my computer files and was able to come up with some information on the property in the 1940's. It seems that Joe French operated a Variety Store and, later, an antique store in the building.

The only photo I have of Joe French's Store is of Ann Downs who lived across the street. The store, with two tall gas pumps out front, is in the background. Ann was the daughter of Levi and Ella Downs. She later married Win Salmons, an accomplished local artist. Many people in the area have Win's paintings in their homes.

Ann Downs, circa 1940's
(Photo courtesy of Tom Williams)

I also came across two advertisements from the 1940's that show that Joe French operated a Variety Store and an Antique Store in the building across the street from the Downs family Route 9 home.

Ad from a 1940's New Gretna Minstrel Show program

Hummmm! I wonder what Gent's Furnishing are?

Tuckerton Beacon ad - March 14, 1947

The only other thing that I know about Joe French is that his wife, Geraldine, married a widowed Otto Kalm after Joe's death. That would make her Dave Kalm's step-mom. Dave occasionally posts messages here at the Blog.

Otto Kalm and Geraldine French Kalm cut their wedding cake.
(Photo courtesy of Alston & Claire Kalm Allen)

I sure would like to know more about Joe French's store. I'm hoping that some of our readers out in the Blog-O-Sphere can tell us a few stories about Joe French and his store. Surely, Donald Maxwell who lived next door to Joe French's Store and Dave Kalm should be able to recall some memories. Clif Brown, out in California, should also be able to help. Let's hear from you guys!

Pete S