JAMES A. GARFIELD SCHOOL
2825 Cramer Street
The James A. Garfield School was located in East Camden at North 29th and Cramer Streets, one block west of Westfield Avenue. The school was built around the turn of the century, and was named for James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States, who was elected in 1880 and was assassinated within a few months of having taken office in 1881.
The Garfield School was most likely built around the turn of the century, when East Camden was still a part of Stockton Township, or shortly after its merger with the City of Camden, possibly as a series that included two other schools, the James G. Blaine School in Cramer Hill and the William McKinley School in the Rosedale section of East Camden. As the population in this part of Camden grew, four other public schools were added within a short walk of the Garfield School; the Thomas H. Dudley School, the Henry H. Davis School, the Octavius Catto School, and the Alfred Cramer School. Catto, built when Camden's elementary schools were segregated, is only two and one half blocks away.
The James A. Garfield School remained in use until destroyed by a fire in January of 1960.
Camden Courier-Post - February 4, 1938
Garfield- The executive committee is meeting at the home of Mrs. William Reeves, 126 North Dudley Street today. The oyster supper committee appointed by William King, chairman of ways and means, includes Mrs. Samuel Josephson, ticket committee; Mrs. Samuel Ross, supper arrangements; assisted by Mrs. H. Corkhill, Mrs. P. Daniels, Mrs. M. Loscalso, Mrs. A. James, Mrs. A. Krivansky, Mrs. Mott, Mrs. J. Mohrfeld, Mrs. A. Gibson, Mrs. C. Landenberger, Mrs. J. Finnigan, Mrs. F. Young, Mrs. J. Wible, Mrs. M. Muckley. Mrs. M. Eckels, Mrs. C. Haines, Mrs. M. Henry, Mrs. E. McConnell, Mrs. W. Dodd, Mrs. E. Stubley, Mrs. B. Pierce, Mrs. Schirmer, Mrs. Conover, Mrs. Curran, Mrs. Cardwell and Mrs. W. Briggs. Mrs. Charles Fetters, Founder's Day program director will hold a rehearsal in the school tomorrow at 3.30 p. m..
I attended Garfield Elementary School in Camden in the 1950’s. My fourth grade teacher there was Mrs. Molotsky. She was a short dark-haired woman with glasses and a strict demeanor. Though matronly, she had a youthful vigor about her. Opening exercises at the beginning of each school day included a reading of a Psalm out of the Bible. She would read slowly and distinctly, so that we could catch each syllable and appreciate the majestic cadences of the King James Bible. One of her favorites was Psalm 24:
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors;
And the King of Glory shall come in.
Who is the King of Glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads O ye gates;
Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.”
We were thus lifted up out of our mundane circumstances and had our imaginative understanding of life enriched. Though we did not understand the words and could not understand the meaning except as fleeting dream-like images, we were given to understand that life consisted of things that transcended the circumstances of our daily existence, that there were things at stake in how we lived our life and in how we achieved whatever we were going to achieve that were more important than what our immediate circumstances were or how we might have felt about things at any given point in time.
The other thing I remember from that time of my life is that my buddy and I were fascinated by WWII and used to draw planes, ships, and battle scenes depicting the things we had seen on TV, like Victory at Sea or Navy Log. One afternoon as Mrs. Molotsky was walking the aisles as we did our class work, she took notice of a Messerschmitt 109 I had drawn on a book cover with a swastika on its tail and invited me to stay after school.
After all the other kids had left, she walked over to my desk and gently asked me if I knew that the Germans had killed millions of Jews during the war. Thus it was that I first learned of the unimaginable evil of the holocaust. As she spoke to me of the horrors and inhumanity I was dumbfounded. It marked a turning point in my understanding of evil in the world, that people with power could be not just illegitimate, but also profoundly and irretrievably evil. I didn’t, of course, fully comprehend that at the time, but the most immediate effect was that I never drew another swastika.
It [The Garfield School- PMC] burnt down on a Friday night in January of 1960. I was in 4th grade in Mrs. Molotsky's class at the time. I remember that I had gone with my dad to the Arlo theater that night to see 'The Magnificent Seven' (still one of my all time favorite westerns). When we got home, we got the news that the school had burnt down. It was a school boy's dream come true and I had visions of an early start to summer vacation, but within one week, all the students had been transferred to Davis or Vets for the remainder of the school year.
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