Essays by Bob Stanton


ROBERT A. STANTON- Bob to his friends, grew up on Park Boulevard in Camden's Parkside section, and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1940.

In recent years he has become well known for a series of books he has published about trolley car transportation in Camden and Philadelphia, and about life and times in Camden during the 1930s and 1940s. Several of these are still in print and available for be purchase. I highly recommend them.

On this page you will find a series of articles Bob has written, beginning in 2006, about his early years in Camden.

Phil Cohen

Photo is from 1940 Woodrow Wilson HS Yearbook.

From the February 1940 Woodrow Wilson H.S. yearbook- "The Wilsonian"


By Robert A. Stanton


Two intrepid 16 year-old boys rode their bicycles 70 miles to the New York World’s Fair in 1939. My friend Roland Maurer and I started from Camden before 6 a.m. and reached South Amboy by four. From that point we took public transportation into the big city. Even more remarkable than the trip was the fact that our parents allowed us to make it. They prepaid for our room and two meals a day at the William Sloan House of the YMCA in New York City , and trusted us to keep safe along the way. Cars ran much more slowly then, and we had carefully studied our route to avoid major highways.


After several weeks of hard training on the hills of Farnham Park, we set off with gym bags of clean clothes tied to the rear carrier, Lebanon baloney sandwiches in the basket in front, and a large can of V-8 tomato juice taped under the frame. These were ordinary bikes that we used every day and no one ever had bikes with gear shifts. It was still dark when we passed Moorestown but we were already hungry and thirsty and we quickly consumed all of the provisions we had intended for the trip. Long before noon , we were hungry again and stopped at a diner for a bowl of soup, the cheapest thing on the menu. We did that twice more before reaching South Amboy and then met a fellow Scout on the ferry to Tottenville. He suggested we leave our bikes in his garage and take the Rapid Transit and the big ferry to New York. This worked out fine and we rested at the “Y” that night.


The next day at the Fair was a marvelous experience and we saw most of what we came for. We took advantage of free samples of food to conserve our money, but at the end of the day, we were nearly broke. This left us with a free day in New York with no money to spend. Never at loss for ideas, we toured the city from the air by riding the elevated trains that were still running at the time. A five cent fare lasted all morning and we went north to the Bronx and, sneaking through a turnstile, south to Brooklyn and Coney Island . Back to earth at lunchtime, we wolfed down a five cent hamburger and a three cent hot chocolate. In the afternoon we continued our subway and elevated tour of Queens and other distant terminals.


After our last night at the “Y” we started home with just enough coins to pay for the bus, ferries and train to New Jersey, retrieved our bikes and started the long ride back. Later that day, coming down a long hill, the chain on my bike fell apart. Roly teased me about my homemade bike, which I had assembled from spare parts, but as I was walking down the hill with him riding beside me, his tire blew out! We were both out of action, miles from home, but not discouraged. Soon, we came to an auto garage, whose friendly owner agreed to let Roly leave his bike while he hitchhiked home, and he gave me the repair link from his chain so that I could get back on the road.


It didn’t take him long to get a ride, because that was a common practice then, but that left me to ride the rest of the way, lonely and broke. I ate an apple off of a tree, and even stopped at a farmhouse and asked for a glass of water. However, I was too proud to ask the nice lady for something to eat, and she didn’t offer me anything. I finally reached Camden about 4 p.m. and the first person I saw was a boy from my scout troop. I was only three blocks from home but starving, and he readily bought me a fishcake sandwich and a root beer from a nearby food cart. I have never forgotten how good that tasted!  


Poor Roly had to hitchhike back up with a replacement tire and ride back by himself, but I’ll bet he took plenty of food with him. In hindsight, we planned the trip well, but misjudged how hungry we would get along the way. It was a real adventure, we survived, and it was unforgettable.  


Robert A. Stanton


When commercial aviation really got started in the 1930s, Camden became the airport for Philadelphia because it was very convenient to the center city. The first multi-engine passenger planes, mostly Ford tri-motors and Curtis twin engine biplanes, lumbered into our new Central Airport with as many as 18 passengers on each trip, and a short taxi ride would conveniently take them anywhere in a few minutes.  Before long, an autogiro - predecessor of the helicopter – was carrying mail from the airport to the roof of the Post Office in Philadelphia .


Camden residents ran outside to watch each time they heard the sound of an aircraft coming in for a landing, but not everyone was ready to fly in one of them.  Boys, who knew the difference between every make of car, truck, or train, soon learned to identify each type of plane by the sound of its motors, and we built balsa wood models of the planes as well. Family trips to the airport in our Model A Ford were exciting, and it was possible to mingle with crews and travelers. In the early days, the single stewardess on each flight collected the tickets as the passengers entered the plane.


There had been a tiny airstrip at that location for some time, but when the new Philadelphia-Camden bridge opened and the Admiral Wilson Boulevard made it easy to connect with the big city, planners decided that it would be an excellent location for a new airport. A passenger terminal and two large hangers were constructed. Runways were paved, a tall tower and beacon provided guidance to arriving planes, and the field was fenced.  We recall United Airlines, Eastern Airlines, American, Transcontinental Western Airlines, and even Ludington Airlines.


The new modern low-wing planes were as exciting to us as streamlined autos were, and the Boeing 247 in 1932 was the first. The Douglass DC-2 in 1934 was another beautiful addition to the skies, but when the DC-3 came along in 1936, the fate of Camden ’s airport was sealed. This was the “Gooney Bird” of World War II fame that could land in a cow pasture, but the runways of our airport were declared “too short” for it. Philadelphia began building their own big facility south of the city, and those runways are still suitable for today’s big planes.


General aviation prospered at Central Airport during that same period, and many private owners kept their planes there. What thrilled us was Colonel Clarence Chamberlain’s annual visit with his big slow Curtis Condor. He would set up a stand and loudspeaker at the edge of the field, and coax people to take a ride for a dollar. As soon as he had 18 brave volunteers, he would crank up those two big engines and take his passengers for a five minute flight over Camden . For two 14 year-olds on their bicycles, with ten dimes saved up from their paper routes, that first flight was a real adventure.


The airport terminal and hangers are all gone, as is Weber’s Hof Brau and most of the other great attractions in the area, but it is still fun to tell people that in those days, when you flew to Philadelphia, you had to come to Camden first.  

"We'll Have These Moments to Remember"
Robert A. Stanton

Football shouldn't have dominated our high school life, but there was one day in 1939 that was the greatest moment in our entire time at Woodrow Wilson High. Our football team beat Camden High School for the first time! Until then, the annual Thanksgiving Day battle for the city championship always ended in disappointment. For the first years of the school's existence as a Senior High, Camden's experienced teams had routinely defeated ours, but in the fall of that year, Wilson's team under Grover Wearshing and Mitch Mozeleski overpowered all other teams in the area. They had also done very well in 1938 but on Turkey Day that year we again watched Camden triumph. However, we were sure that this year it would be different.

Thanksgiving Day was cool and clear and Wilson fans tilled our side of the stadium on Kaighn Avenue. The Wilson band looked sharp in their bright orange and black uniforms, and we were all pumped up after pep rallies during the week before. We were confident that our team was now good enough to beat the hated rivals from that "Castle on the Hill." But as the game went on, it became apparent that the Camden High team was just as tired up as ours was, and both sides seemed evenly matched. Camden scored, and for a moment we thought "Not again!" But Norm Selby took a pass from Joe Marchlik and streaked for a goal, then Joe Bottalico scored a field goal. Soon the game was over and Woodrow Wilson had won!

The wooden goal posts fell down much more easily than the Camden team had, and nearly the entire school body marched off the field behind our band. We sang our Alma Mater and all the tight songs as we tromped out Kaighn Avenue and all the way down Haddon Avenue to the center of Camden, carrying the shattered goalposts. We hollered and cheered and told everybody we passed that Wilson beat Camden. That still wasn't enough, so led by the band, we continued marching out Federal Street and Westfield Avenue all the way to our school.

Victory was sweet. Revenge was delicious. Many of us graduated the following February, still glowing with the memory of that triumphant day. As the 1958 song goes:

"Though other nights and other days, 
May find us gone our separate ways, 
We'll have these moments to remember. "



Robert A. Stanton


In 1941, my buddy Tony and I became busboys at the new Howard Johnson restaurant on Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden . It turned out to be a major influence on our lives, because we learned to appreciate good food, good company and good music. The guests were well behaved and the food was delicious and much different from our usual fare at home. One of the most pleasant things was the jukebox that played only light classics and Strauss waltzes which I still love today.


The local owner/manager was a very meticulous gentleman of Swiss origin. He carefully restricted the quantity and quality of the food that the employees could consume, and of course that became a challenge to all of us. One of the two dining rooms had an island bar which I had to keep supplied with ice cubes and bottles of soda. The bartender smuggled drinks to his friends the cooks under a towel on my tray, and I carried steak sandwiches back to him from the kitchen. Another kitchen ruse was to put a nice chicken platter on the hot shelf, and after a short time ask, “Who ordered this?” When none of the waitresses answered, the cooks would say, “Don’t let this go to waste.” Howard Johnson made the best baked beans in the world by cooking them all night, but when that was about all the employees were allowed to eat, a chicken dinner tasted much better.


On the second floor was a bakery, operated by to two formidable women who produced delicious baked goods of all kinds. Busboys were required to make frequent trips up there to obtain warm fresh rolls, but were quickly shooed out. Tony and I still laugh about the scam we pulled later in the evening. When they went home at night, those ladies left a cute little scullery maid in charge to clean up the pots and pans, and one of us would romance her behind the door while the other lifted a couple of slices of pie to consume in our locker room.  


We really had to hustle to maintain the standards of this fine eating place, and it makes me appreciate the young people who wait on me in restaurants today. However, I think I could still carry a big tray over my shoulder if I had to. The memories of fried clams, thirty flavors of ice cream, and many other wonderful foods have never been forgotten, nor has the fun of working in what was a popular new facility in our area. 


Robert A. Stanton


The finest hotel in the city of Camden had many amenities, including an elegant dining room and a cocktail lounge. On the corner facing Broadway and Cooper Street was its convenient drugstore and luncheonette where I enjoyed working on nights and weekends while studying chemistry at Camden County Vocational school. Those were heady days when we served hotel guests, local dignitaries, business people, and even movie stars.  


The place was very busy in the morning and at lunchtime with several waitresses and countermen, but in the evenings and on weekends I had one helper and a waitress. Except after a movie rush, I had time to relate to the customers, some of whom added to my knowledge of the world. Judges, lawyers and prosecutors knew me and sometimes let me suggest something tasty that they hadn’t thought of. A retired Army Colonel and his wife were regular customers who insisted I go to church with them on Sunday. The most interesting, was a British Navy officer, quartered at the hotel while his ship was being repaired at the Navy Yard – even before we were in the war. I still remember some of his bawdy stories.


I made sandwiches, sodas and sundaes, and learned to enjoy coffee made by the new Silex method. The delicious shrimp, crab, tuna, potato, and egg salad made by a lady in the kitchen have set the standard for me ever since. The muscle on my right forearm is bigger than my left as a result of dipping so much ice cream, and I can still whip up tasty sandwiches as fast as I did back then. Unlike today’s convenient methods, we squeezed every glass of fresh orange juice by hand.


When the Philadelphia theaters closed on Sunday because of their blue laws, the entertainers came over to the Stanley Theater in Camden, just for one show. Most of them snacked at the Stanley Drug luncheonette next to the theater, but occasionally a star and her escort would come into our place for a discreet breakfast before the show. We never asked who they were, but I have probably cooked bacon and eggs for a few that looked quite familiar.


The friendly pharmacist in that same big room was nominally in charge, took in the money, and kept the soda fountain supplied with dilute phosphoric acid, a dash of which we added to the “lemon phosphates” that some of the older guests seemed to prefer.   

I recently received the priceless gift of a dinner fork with the Walt Whitman Hotel name engraved on it, and I could only wonder how many times I might have put it in front of a customer, or washed it, or even eaten with it. The hotel is gone, but the good times we had in Camden can never be forgotten.


Robert A. Stanton


Although I was a frequent consumer of White Tower hamburgers, I never actually worked in one of their little stores, but I loved the flavor of those five-cent treats on my way home from Woodrow Wilson High. However, I did spend many hours cooking slightly bigger ones across the street at Marbetts, which was owned by the same company. In fact, all of the meat destined for White Tower’s grills was ground and packaged in a building behind that bigger store. In later years I have heard people boasting about “White Castle” hamburgers, but I know now that our White Tower chain was just the local equivalent. 

Marbett’s had a much more extensive menu, with platters as well as curb service. That made it a prime destination for teenagers with cars, and Friday and Saturday night found me cooking hamburgers as rapidly as I could to keep up with orders from the cute car-hops outside. The regular cook at the other end of the dining room produced platters of all kinds, including “Filet Mignon, wrapped in bacon, with lettuce, tomato and fries, $1.35.” Those steaks were only about four inches wide, but they were really tender.

My sweetheart at the time was carhop #7, but we only had time for a few words as she came to the busy window with orders. One of the other pretty girls married a good friend of mine and we are still friends today. Another employee was a congenial fellow from North Carolina , the first real Southerner that any of us had ever met, and we were fond of him. He had a Model “A” Ford that we borrowed to go swimming, and he left it for us when he returned home. It was everybody’s car until the tag expired!

The hamburger grill we used was big enough to cook 24 at a time, and the buns also came in packs of 24. We would start the patties cooking, add seasoning and a pinch of onions, then slice the buns in half with a long knife. After turning the partly cooked meat over, we laid half of a bun on top to steam and added a slice of pickle to the remaining half, all with a practiced symmetry. As soon as the meat was cooked we assembled the burgers and began wrapping and carrying the finished product to the takeout window. Then the grill was scraped and another batch started. One night I counted the empty bun boxes at the end of my shift and found that I had cooked nearly 1200 hamburgers for the hungry kids parked outside. It usually took a lot of soap and water to get the smell of the grease out of my hair and nose after 8 hours at that grill.

What is my fondest memory of those days? Always the fun and companionship of sweet friends, but by golly, those little filet mignon steaks were as good as any I have ever had since. 


Robert A. Stanton


I was privileged to be a temporary worker during two Christmas rushes at the Camden post office on Market Street. In 1941 I was assigned as a helper on one of those khaki green trucks that were such a familiar sight in the city before the war. The driver was a crusty veteran who covered his route efficiently, and expected me to be just as dedicated as he was. He drove from mailbox to mailbox, and my job was to bundle the hundreds of Christmas cards into a bag after he unlocked it. He delivered materials to the sub-stations along the route, and Parcel Post packages filled his truck. I knocked on doors and delivered the ones not requiring a signature.


The one stop that stands out in my mind as a 19 year-old, was the Camden Brewery. We went up on the delivery platform with a load of mail and packages, and when we were done, stopped at the courtesy window and had a free beer! That was a common thing in those days and unremarkable in a city where saloons were on every corner. It was there that I learned about the underground pipeline to a secret bottling plant several blocks away during Prohibition, when the Feds thought that only “near beer” was being produced.


In 1942, when wartime shortages had become prevalent, my little ’32 Ford and I were hired as collectors from mailboxes around North Camden. Both of us had timecards to check in at the beginning of each day, and I had an official key on a chain to open the boxes. Long before daylight, we started on a carefully prescribed and scheduled route, and the boxes were quite full from the previous evening. After each circuit, I returned to the post office, dumped my accumulation of Christmas cards into a sorting bin, and was allowed a few minutes break time before heading back out. The regular employees showed me several tiny windows above the room, where Postal Inspectors could watch for potential employee pilfering. They also told me that there were spy windows in the restrooms, but I never noticed them.


Because of the job, I was eligible for gas ration stamps and a “C” sticker on my car. The clerk at the ration board asked me how many miles I thought I would cover at the P.O. and when I gave him my estimate, he gave me stamps for that many gallons! They lasted me the rest of the war and came in handy when I came home on furlough from the Army. The most exciting moment of my short post office career was on my early trip one morning in the dark. My first stop was a box right next to the Delaware River Bridge (now Ben Franklin). After I unloaded the box and was starting away, a Bridge Police car came around the corner with its light flashing. Being a U. S. Mail employee on a tight schedule, I ignored them and went to the next box several streets away where two fat cops jumped in front of me with guns drawn. I calmly unlocked the box and went about my job while they huffed and puffed and pointed out that there was a war on and they had to be alert for saboteurs.


By the end of each long day, I was exhausted, but with the car making 65 cents an hour, and my 50 cents an hour, we were making as much as many factory workers. However, it only lasted for two weeks and I had fun doing it.


Robert A. Stanton

The food served at the dinner table in our house was plain, cheap, and in some ways, healthier than what we eat today. It was specific to our family's traditions, and probably a bit different from every other house on the street. A walk down our back alley at supper time often revealed the tantalizing odors of food cooked with unfamiliar seasonings like garlic and paprika, but ours was just old-fashioned American standard fare.

My Mother's mother, whom we called Nana, kept house, cooked, cleaned, and took care of my younger brother while Mom worked and I went to school. Born just after the Civil War, this is what she had done all her life and she never complained about it. Her unmarried son also lived with us and added to the household income, which was common in extended families at that time.

The list of all that we ate is incomplete and limited to fond memories of my favorites, but it seems useful to record them as part of life in Camden. In my early years we had an icebox with its drip pan underneath, and the iceman came nearly every day. We had a sign in the front window with numbers showing how many pounds of ice were wanted that day, and it was normal for him to just walk in with the ice balanced on his shoulder and put it into the box. When it was really cold outside, N ana used a galvanized "window box" to hold the few things that needed to be kept cool. Food was usually bought as needed with bread and milkmen making daily deliveries, and vegetable and fish hucksters stopping by regularly. I wasn't very old when she sent me down to Holtzman's corner store with a note and change for some small items, and before I was ten I usually went to the big American Store on Haddon Avenue for larger orders.

Without doubt, my favorite food was the chicken potpie that Nana made on Sunday after church. Nothing today tastes as good as that marvelous mixture of tender chicken, vegetables and flakey crust. Another delight was her "meat cakes." Not hamburgers, but small, oval-shaped patties in gravy, seasoned with onions. (Years later, when she was caring for another son's family, I took a pound of ground meat to her and asked if she would make her meat cakes for me. She willingly obliged, but they were not nearly as good as they were when I was a hungry little boy.) Ground ham patties, liver and onions, meat loaf, fish cakes, chicken livers, stew, and fish on Friday appeared frequently.

Vegetables were always cooked fresh, usually potatoes, carrots, peas, or string beans. What I really loved were creamed corn, creamed peas, and creamed dried beef. Stewed tomatoes with lots of onions and green peppers made a great side dish. Fried tomatoes in flour gravy were common during the summer. The infrequent boiled mushrooms in a slightly thickened sauce was unlike anything tasted since. We would have mashed potatoes one night, and potato cakes with onions from the leftovers the next. Desserts weren't fancy, but she made something delicious called "cottage pudding" from cake dough, browned on top and a layer of lemon pudding inside. Very rarely was roast beef or steak on the table, but a beef heart might be added to the stew. Everything smelled good while she was cooking. With Sunday dinner at noon, supper that evening was always informal, and Mom would make bacon and tomato sandwiches or something else tasty to give Nana a break.

Breakfast on school days was hot or cold cereal, but on Saturday, Nana would heat up her soapstone grill and make piles of pancakes. Eggs, sausage and bacon sizzled nearby, and a soft fried egg over pancakes is still a favorite. Sometimes, salt mackerel was fried after having been soaked in water all night, and other times, fried lamb kidneys or scrapple were served and enjoyed. I tried her coffee, cooked in an aluminum percolator, but thought it awful. A summer treat was home-made peach ice cream, or orange sherbet, and I helped turn the crank. We even had our own root beer made with yeast and Hire's extract.

After Nana left to take care of a younger family, my mother managed to keep us well fed with things she prepared after work, or on weekends. Her specialty was meat loaf made with onions, tomatoes and mushrooms, and sandwiches made from cold slices of it made a wonderful lunch at Wilson High the next day. However, those were the days when classmates from South Camden would bring in tantalizing egg, pepper, and onion sandwiches on torpedo rolls, and we would swap "halfies' with them. At other times, we enjoyed lunch meat on cracked wheat bread. Our tastes were changing, but when we were hungry, even a plain bologna sandwich with a five-cent TastyKake lemon pie, and a five­cent Pepsi was a great lunch.

Mom had other goodies she made, particularly stewed potatoes and onions - which we called "Depression Stew." And when she worked late on Friday night, she often left a pot of mixed meat and noodles that was so good my friends often asked to share it. The Reading Terminal Market in Philly was the source of most of the things she brought home after work, and we particularly loved the little chicken pies in crust that needed only to be heated for a short time in the oven. When the first frozen foods became available in the late 1930s, we marveled at how much better frozen peas were than those shelled out of a pod.

We had good plain food, and we didn't waste any of it. A lifetime of tasting other foods around the country has never erased the good memories of family food in Camden.


Robert A. Stanton

Synagogues, churches and clubs might have thought that they were important in the life of Parkside, but Mr. Solomon's drugstore was the real center of social life. Strategically located at the corner of Haddon and Kaighn Avenues, it was not only a large, well-stocked pharmacy, but also a soda fountain and a luncheonette. Managed personally by Mr. Sol himself, it was where everybody, who was anybody, went for ice cream, lunch, or a snack after the Parkside movie next door.

The fountain was managed by a tough Irishman named Jimmie, and his helper, Carl. Flo tended the cash register, Conrad cooked the food in the tiny kitchen, and others of us waited on tables facing both streets. When the crowds came in, everybody hustled, and between drug customers, Mr. Sol greeted his many friends. The doors shut at 11 PM.

After years of serving papers on foot and bicycle, I finally got my first real job there as a 16 year-old, waiting on tables in the evenings and on Saturday. Mister Sol's only instruction on my first day was, "Keep your eyes open, and your mouth shut." The pay was minimal, and the tips were something you earned by your manners and your smile. I know that it was September 1938 because that was when the first "Jefferson" nickels came out, and I saved every one I received until I had $3.00 for my first driver's license.

At the soda fountain, Jim was a real showman and amazed everybody by the way he would dip ice cream, flip it high in the air and catch it in a milkshake can. However, we laughed for weeks when one of his dips went up and never came down, because it landed in a box of cigars above the cashier's booth! They laughed at me too, because having been trained as a child never to waste food, I tried to eat leftover baked beans in the kitchen so they wouldn't be thrown in the trash. I soon learned the reality of the restaurant business after that.

I can still recall some of the customers and their sweet wives, although their names have faded, but as always, things learned on that job were part of my education. Where else could a boy learn how to set a table, serve food properly, write food checks legibly, mind his own business - and get paid for it? And it was fun as well!



Robert A. Stanton

My uncle Ed May operated one of the finest small print shops in Camden, and had customers all over the city. He had served his apprenticeship at a large Philadelphia printing plant, then opened a shop in the basement of his own home in Fairview. As his reputation grew, he was able to move to the downtown area to be near his many customers, and he operated a small but busy shop for over forty years. Known as a "job shop," it supplied the many forms used by doctors, lawyers, business men, and merchants in the daily life of the city. His own letterhead said, "Edmund May, Distinctive Printing," and as a result of working beside him. I knew that quality was the guiding principle of everything he did.

Like most small businessmen in those days, he rented a storefront as reasonably as possible, and never hesitated to move when something better became available. I remember his place on South Fifth Street very well, and later, in the 800 block of Market Street. After the War, he moved it out to Federal Street in East Camden and his customers always followed him. In his shop he had two Chandler & Price presses which were fed by hand. There was also a large cutter that could trim a whole ream of paper at a time. This was in the days of movable type, and he had a case for each font of type used, as well as a supply of large block letters. Composing sticks, ink, rollers, spacers, quoins, press forms, and all of the other tools of his trade were placed at convenient locations. Inevitably, something would be mislaid, and he would say with his characteristic laugh, "A place for everything, and not a - - - - thing in its place."

As the first male child in our large family, I was always close to Uncle Ed, and by the time I became a teenager, he was like a big brother to me. I decided that I too wanted to be a printer and took the print shop course at Woodrow Wilson High. Anxious to show him what I was learning, I appeared at his shop on Fifth Street where he let me be the "printer's devil." That meant my job was to put the little pieces of type back in the cases, ready for him, or his jolly assistant Frank McCoy to set for the next job. The compartments in the "California Job Case," as they were called, were not labeled but were arranged in the most frequently used order, and in different sized boxes. As might be expected, the letter "e" had the largest box. Printers quickly learned where each piece went and reached for them automatically, the way touch typists do on a typewriter.

My job also involved sweeping, cleaning, and heading down the street for a bucket of hot coffee and some of "Nick's Foot Long" hotdogs. I also delivered packages of finished work and advertising flyers. At the end of each after-school visit, he would hand me a few quarters, a real bonus in those days. To this day, I can still rime and arrange a ream of paper the way I saw him do it. He also taught me that the life of a printer would never make me rich, and was potentially unhealthy because of exposure to lead, ink, and solvents. After the war, however, working at his press helped subsidize my life while I was in college.

He raised a large family of his own, my five dear cousins, but he always found time to help me when I needed it. In addition to the fun I had working with him, he taught me to drive and let me take my driver's test in his big sedan. Every boy should have an uncle like that..


Robert A. Stanton

When Germany surrendered in May of 1945 I was still in an Army hospital in England recovering from wounds, but when Japan finally quit in August of that year, I managed to get to downtown Philadelphia and join the raucous celebration that erupted. Everybody rejoiced that the terrible war was over.

Before that happy moment, those of us who had survived the battle in Europe knew that it was only a matter of time before we would have to join the other troops in the Far East. They had been fighting fanatic Japanese troops who would defend their homeland as ferociously as they had every island in the Pacific. It was common knowledge that our military leaders expected many casualties on both sides, and we didn't doubt that we might be among them. Even those of us who had been wounded were aware that as soon as we recovered, we would be reassigned to an outfit headed for that area, so our comfort in Hitler's defeat was limited.

As difficult as combat had been against the skilled German Army, with their modern tanks and guns, they at least knew when to quit. If they were outnumbered or running out of ammunition, they would surrender, and only an occasional SS fanatic would have to be physically restrained. We had heard how the Japanese soldiers thought surrender was shameful and fought to the death, and that our Marines and soldiers had to literally burn them out of caves to overcome them.

When the news broke that American planes had dropped a new type of atomic weapon on Hiroshima, every one of us breathed a tentative sigh of relief. We wondered if that might possibly save us from joining the battle. Then when a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, our hopes soared. Everybody held their breath until the news finally broke on August 14 that Japan had agreed to give up.

I was home on pass from the Tilton Army Hospital in Fort Dix that day, and when someone suggested we go to Philly to celebrate, it didn't take much coaxing. Still using a cane, I joined the thousands of happy people milling along Market Street. It was really one big blur of an evening, but there was lots of hugging, kissing and free drinks for anyone in uniform. My face was smeared with lipstick from pretty girls who just wanted to show a soldier how glad they were that it was over, and their own boys would soon be coming back.

Today, historical revisionists sometimes try to say that we did a terrible thing to drop atomic bombs on Japan. Of course, evervthing done during the war was terrible, but conventional bombs dropped on Tokyo actually killed more people. Every one of us who was scheduled to join the assault on Japan cheered, and would have gladly pushed the button that sent those bombs on their way. Harry Truman made that decision for us and will always be our hero that saved so many American lives. A lot of us wouldn't be here today if he hadn't. 

V-J Day Photo
New York City

Alfred Eisenstaedt


25' tall statue in Sarasota FL

J. Seward Johnson


Robert A. Stanton

The common definition of coke today is either a soft drink, or a drug that is the scourge of many cities. Under the subject of "Heating With Coal" on the DVRBS website, there is a very accurate description of the production and use of the material we stored in a bin in our cellar. It was a clean alternative to the coal that most people burned to heat their houses, and gasses given off during its production were piped into our stoves and water heaters. For many years, those gasses provided house lighting until electricity became more common. Our home in Parkside was built just after the first World War, but even then, every room had a gas fixture on the wall to be used in case the electricity failed. In addition, there was a single gas burner and grate in the bathroom where a small pan of water could be heated for shaving or washing. There was even a "gas log" in a fake fireplace that was never really trusted.

Before 1946, cooking over a four burner gas stove in the kitchen was a marvelous improvement over the wood or coal stoves still in use in some homes on nearby Haddon Avenue. Women from that generation always insisted that the instant response of a gas stove was far better than that of the modern electric stoves. We all knew what gas smelled like when it wasn't burning, and learned as children that it was deadly if left on for more than a few minutes. A common form of suicide was to place one's head in an oven with a sheet over you and turn on the gas. The carbon monoxide in the gas acted quickly.

I am familiar with "Otto Coke" because my uncle, John May, worked in the accounting department of the Camden Coke Company - which by that time was owned by the Public Service Electric and Gas Company. As noted in the attached articles, regular coal was heated until the impurities were driven off by destructive distillation. Most of these became heating and cooking gas, and what was left was nearly pure carbon which burned cleanly and efficiently in the furnace. Naturally, we used Otto Coke at home, and furthermore, we had a Servel gas refrigerator, conveniently sold by Public Service also.

One of my favorite memories was being taken to the Coke Plant to see it in action. As I watched, a retort was opened, and red hot coke spilled out into a small railcar pushed by an electric locomotive. It was quenched with water to shatter it into smaller chunks, and then further graded into usable pieces. Huge pipes on top of the retorts captured the gasses that came off during the process, and they too were cleaned and separated before being distributed to the public.

Natural gas supplanted coke gas for household use many years ago, but coke is still widely used in the steel industry. The gas from its production is now used to make many modern chemicals, but almost nobody heats their house with coke and fewer still would recognize it by that name.


Robert A. Stanton

Teenagers have always tried to show off to impress the girls, and I suppose that Roly Maurer and I were no different. But, one time, we pulled a stunt that would have given everyone the chills -including me when I think about 67 years later.  

We were out bike riding with two pretty girls from our neighborhood. As we passed the old Convention Hall, we stopped alongside the tower from our local radio station, WCAM. At that time, there was no fence around the tower, and we just leaned our bikes against it. Roly looked up and saw that there were small hand holds fastened on the steel columns that could be used by the maintenance men. Normally, a ladder would be required to reach the first one, but by standing on his bike, he could start climbing.  

I climbed right behind him, figuring that we would just go part way up, but when the girls began to "ooh and ah" nothing would do but to see how far we could get. Never looking down, we kept climbing from handhold to handhold until we actually got to the top of that tower!  

At the very top was a small square of weathered plywood, and we both banged it with our fists. Magic Markers were unknown then, but it would have been a great place to write our names. We came down and enjoyed the adulation of two very scared young ladies. If Camden policeman had come by on his motorcycle when we were up there, we would have been arrested, but our poor mothers would have certainly aged a few years if they had heard about it. It was the stupid kind of thing that kids do..


Robert A. Stanton

Because we had heard that "everybody" did it, and "nobody would miss a gallon," we helped ourselves to "free" gasoline. It was done in the dark with a rubber hose from the gas tank of a man who lived in the nearby Magnolia Apartments, and it was stealing. It was only done once, when our old Ford's tank was nearly empty, but we could have gotten in deep trouble if caught. In those days, kids didn't just get a fine or community service - they were sent away.

Unlike today, gas tanks were usually located behind the cars, with a convenient gas tank cap. All we had to do was put the little hose in his tank, put our mouth on the other end, and suck up gas until the siphon started running into a gallon jug. I wasn't fast enough, and got a mouthful of gas which forever cured me of the practice. We surely helped encourage the development of locking gas caps, and at 20 cents a gallon, it was hardly worth the chance we took.


Bob's Books
works by Robert A. Stanton

Life In Camden, New Jersey 
Before 1946

by Robert A. Stanton

One man's story of what it was like to grow up in Camden between the two World Wars, this is a companion book to PARKSIDE: The Story of a Neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey Before 1946. This book will have anyone who was there at the time heading down memory lane in a hurry!

Price: $6.00 plus $1.75 USA postage.

Trolley Days in Camden New Jersey

by Robert A. Stanton

Full of vintage photographs and lively text, this book covers the trolley era in Camden and its suburbs from horse cars to the end in 1937. The history of the operating companies of the seven city lines and the six suburban lines along with the cars, car number series and assignments, and carbarns, are all documented. Also included are the ferries, amusement parks, notable wrecks, the special car CAMDEN, and the trackless trolleys. Softcover, 100 pages, 8 1/2"x11" format. Three maps and over 110 vintage photographs, including one in color.

This book contains covering all of the city and suburban lines before 1937.  Included are:  carbarns, ferries, maps, and even some old busses.  Price: $15.00 plus $1.75 USA postage.


by Robert A. Stanton

Early memories of a Camden boy who loved the Philadelphia Trolleys.

Price: $5.00 plus $1.75 USA postage.

PARKSIDE: The Story of a Neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey Before 1946

by Donald W. Stanton & Robert A. Stanton

An interesting history of Camden's Parkside section, containing an interesting collection of great and small memories of growing up there in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Price: $5.00 plus $1.75 USA postage.


by The Brownell Car Company
     St. Louis, Missouri, 1897.

Not about Camden per se, but still of great interest. This book is a complete reproduction of the original, with Mr. Brownell's candid analysis of quality problems in the new industry.   The original book had 171, 6"x9" pages, which have been combined into 97 full-size pages.  Included are three pictures of preserved Brownell cars and the author's comments.  Price:  $6.00 plus $1.75 USA postage.

In preparation:


“Streetcar to the Jungle” – Trolleys in the streets of St. Petersburg , Florida .  March 2006 (?)


“The Railroads of Camden New Jersey ” – And the impact they had on the growth and development of the city. First quarter 2006.

If you would like to purchase a copy of any of these books, or have any further questions concerning them, please contact Bob Stanton at the address below, or e-mail me.

Phil Cohen

PO Box 3676
Seminole FL 33775-3676