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Monday, June 4, 2012

New Gretna News Project

It's been a while since I posted a Blog entry. Seems I've been struggling with a severe case of writer's block. I seem to be plum out of ideas as to what to write about.

I've been working on a project to scan New Gretna news columns from back issues of the Tuckerton Beacon. Locals refer to these as gossip columns. The writers, usually not identified, were paid by the word or line, so a variety of items made the news in an effort to increase the paycheck. The more items, the more money made. It's American capitalism at the grass roots level.

Many of the news items are brief and may seem inconsequential, but such is not the case. They give use a peek at everyday life in old New Gretna. We learn who lived in town in a given year, what people did for a living, what church they attended, and a variety of other information that is not available from any other source. Piecing together these brief items over a period of time also allows us to get a sense of everyday life from other eras. Many of you with New Gretna roots many also notice the names of descendants mentioned. 

Over the next few weeks or so, I'll be featuring a variety of these New Gretna News columns, starting with a few from the late 1890's, the oldest ones that I have been able to find.  They are Out of the Past Columns made up of a brief selection of items reprinted from older columns.

The first column is a reprint from the November 26,1896 edition of the Tuckerton Beacon. I thought it was interesting in that it mentioned an Indian medicine show that was held at the town hall which was located on Route 9.

The old town hall was located on Route 9. It was later used by the Knights of Pythias
fraternal organization. I remember it as Hornberger's Bakery when I moved to New
Gretna in the early 1970's. It is now an empty lot. (Postcard courtesy of Paul Steinhaurer.)

Old timers have told me that Medicine Shows visited New Gretna into the 1930s . The following is a recollection from Dave Kalm.

I wanted to mention the traveling medicine show that used to come to New Gretna in the summer. I went with my Dad, I was probably 7 or eight at the time. It was in the mid thirties. The performers set up their stage on the back of an old model truck next to the Knights of Pythias hall, across from Donald Maxwell's home, on New York Road (Rt. 9). I remember that the performers were not locals. I also remember the older fellows in town throwing tomatoes at the performers. They kept the tomatoes hidden in a basket under the steps of the KP building. I can remember a tomato hitting a fat lady playing the piano, got her right in the back.

Dave Kalm

Lillian Arnold Lopez, a Forked River, NJ Piney, wrote a poem in "Pineylore" about the medicine shows that toured the Pine Barrens area. It gives a good mental picture of the type of Medicine Show that may have visited new Gretna.
The Medicine Show

Every summer, in the old days, they listened for a sound,
when they heard the ratt'lin wagons, it was time to gather 'round.
The medicine show they'd waited for was comin' down the road.
The horses' labored breathin' told they pulled a heavy load.
And when they pulled into the town the villagers looked on 
to see the show they'd waited for upon the village lawn.
A horseback rider's daring tricks, it made the people gasp.
A cowboy sang about his gal, his voice a whining rasp.

A juggler kept half'dozen plates suspended in the air.
A pretty girl in spangles danced with a big, black bear.
Then, after entertaining with acting and with song, 
the medicine man began his spiel, and brother, it was long!

"The elixir in this wagon you see lined up on the wall,
is guaranteed to help your kidneys, yur liver and your gall.
It cures a cough, it stops an itch, it eases aches and pains.
It calms your nerves, it strengthens bladders, use it on your sprains."

"Your horse's gimp, your husband's limp, ain't nothin' it won't cure.
A dollar for a bottle; of course, it's a hundred pure.
While we're here, might's well stock up; we'll soon be on our way.
Only a dollar for a bottle; sech a little price to pay."

Hard earned dollars changed hands, believing in its worth,
caught up in the fevor, the excitement, and the mirth.
Then, in a cloud of dust they watched the wagons disappear,
and went about their daily chores, until another year.

The next column from December 24, 1896 mentions Mrs. Joseph B. Lamson. She was the wife of the man who built the New Gretna House on the North-West corner of Route 9 and Maple Avenue which is also an empty lot today. It also shows how different schooling was in the old days, as the one room school was closed due to the absence of the teacher.  It appears that substitute teachers were not used in New Gretna at the turn of the 19th century.

Joseph B. Lamson built the New Gretna House in
the late 1880's. (Photo courtesy of Betty Lamson West.)

The last New Gretna News column from April 29, 1897 shows that New Gretna must have had a pretty good baseball team back in the old days, as they trounched Parkertown by a score of 26 to 11. Too bad that it didn't mention who played in the game.

Hope you enjoyed these old New Gretna News columns. Let me know if any of you out in the Blog-O-Sphere noticed the names of any relatives in these columns.

Pete S


  1. I was always told by my Aunt that my Grandfather, Elihu Ward Sears (1877-1927) was a great baseball player. He lived in New Gretna at least until 1917. I wonder if any players are listed in the newspapers?

    John Yates

  2. And, of course, the reason that the "miracle cure medicine in a bottle" worked so well is that it was mostly if not all alcohol. A few swigs of that and you could forget about your aches and pains. ;-)
    Beverly Mathis Robinson