The "other" Cooper Street
1988 to 2024 Cooper Street in East Camden 

Tom Agin and his sister, Harriet Lynne Agin Stuhltrager e-mailed me a few memories of growing up on Cooper Street in East Camden, a street that most people aren't even aware of. 

Click here for this and other blocks of Cooper Street, east of Sixth Street

If you have any comments, corrections, or photographs that you would like me to add, PLEASE e-mail me. Like everything else on, this page is a work in progress.

Phil Cohen
 Camden NJ
September 2003

Cooper Street
Looking West from East State Street -
October 1, 2003
The first house on left is 2024 Cooper Street - the home of the Agin family during the 1930s

Tom Agin's Cooper Street Memories

When I  first lived on Cooper Street it was 2 blocks long and unpaved. It was covered with black slag. At the end of the street there began a huge empty lot of many acres that had pure yellow sand just like  an ocean beach . Nowhere else in the area was there anything like it. It was bounded by 19th Street, Federal Street  the railroad and the Haddon Bindery.

The Haddon Bindery is memorable for two reasons. One is that it supplied me with broken wooden skids which  we used for heat and cooking. And the linotypists would give us kids lead slugs which we converted into lead soldiers. Just beyond the Haddon Bindery was the Mumsey Candy Factory which was always good for a handout.

I enjoyed reading [on] about Warren Buck. For years I thought perhaps he was a figment of my imagination since  no one else seems to have heard of him.

I grew up on little Cooper Street just a few blocks from Buck's menagerie. I never heard of Stockton Park. We merely crossed Federal Street at 19th to what was referred to in my neighborhood as Hell's Half Acre, namely Carman Street and environs. Then about a half mile up a dirt road to where only two large  houses stood. One was the Fitzpatrick house and the other was Warren Buck's. Like most people I thought he was Frank Buck's brother. It was great to see the animals- gorillas, pythons, and everything in between. Spreading rumors to the women of the neighborhood that this or that animal had escaped was great sport. 

A little further up the road was the swamp and city dump. Beyond that was the world's first Drive-In Movie. We would stop at the swamp and cut cattails to take to the movie where we would light them to keep the mosquitoes away. Since we kids couldn't afford to go in we would sit out on a small rise that gave us a perfect view of the screen. Sound was no problem since they had large loud speakers mounted on poles around the periphery, in-car speakers had yet to be invented. Also, I remember a Dog Race Track at Airport Circle that no one else seems to recall.

Thinking back to the 30's there were horses in the neighborhood every day. The milkman, breadman, iceman, the ragmen collecting junk, even at times coal was delivered this way. There was even a miniature circus wagon pulled by a pony from which the guy sold waffles made on a gasoline stove on board. I can't remember ever having a nickel to buy one but we kids enjoyed seeing them all the same. As each horse drove through we kids would run all over and pull grass to feed them.

I don't know anyone who grew up in East Camden that doesn't have fond memories of those times.

2024 Cooper Street
Side view looking West from across State Street - late 1970s
Photos by Floyd Agin

Harriet Lynne Agin Stuhltrager's Cooper Street Memories

 I attended St. Joseph's. My brothers attended Dudley School, as did my playmates. They often spoke of their teachers.  One in particular  was a Miss Little. If I am correct Miss Little taught 6th grade at the time. She taught them a song called, "When I Grow Too Old To Dream, (I'll have you to remember)".  My friend sang the song to me so much.  I loved it. The reason I mention it is; she is the one who learned it but I was the one who loved and always remembered it, along with Miss Little whom I  never knew.

I guess one of my earliest recollections is walking to school and crossing 21st and Federal Street.  Right on the corner we kids would stop and look in as the Blacksmith worked on the horse's shoes.  I can still see the man's helmet which came down over his eyes to protect them from the flying sparks as he worked on the horses' shoes. I never knew the name of the place

I walked past The Black Cat Diner, Bill Grahams Tap Room, then a little candy store came next which sat on the corner. This is 21st. Across the small street on the corner sat the blacksmith. 21st did not run on the south side of Federal Street. On the other side of Federal Street across from the blacksmith sat Penn Jersey Auto Store, later a Pep Boys, which sat on the point, as Marlton Pike came in there.

I went to school with and lived next door to Cass Hanley. If two little girls were to roam today the way Cass and I did then-------we would not be here to tell about it and I might add we love most of our memories.

Next door to Cass lived Mr. and Mrs. MacIntosh. Cass & I went to Mr. MacIntosh's funeral. We always remembered it as it was a military honor.  They gave him a 21 gun salute

I would be remiss to share the pictures of the corner house which is 2024 Cooper Street without paying tribute to the "one person" who left its memory a shrine within the hearts of her children.  Our beloved mother, Dorothy Agin. During the Depression, most of the homes on the "other" Cooper Street were owned by a Mrs. Brock. She was a very kind and compassionate lady. My father, Tom Agin, was a "Jack-of-all-trades".  Mrs. Brock engaged him to attend to the maintenance of her properties. In time she sold them to Mrs. Yost.

Of course tenants changed frequently.  More than likely everyone rented.  A few houses had inside bathrooms.  Most had outhouses.  Also there were no furnaces in the cellars.  Most had electric.  We, along with a few others, did not.  In the winter time the stove was on which made cooking ready to prepare.  In the summer the fire had to be made.  First the paper--then the wood . Wow!

The "world came to an end" for us , when in 1940 we were evicted. We then moved to 624 Carman Street, right off of Broadway, not far from the City Hall. My mothers failing health and difficult life ended in May, 1941. Our life as a family had come to a close.

Camden Courier-Post

February 16, 1928


Camden Courier-Post - August 1, 1936

More of Tom Agin's Cooper Street Memories

Little Cooper Street :  Hard to believe anyone could be nostalgic about a place like that But it was a helluva lot cleaner and in better repair at the height of the depression, this in spite of the fact that  90% of the residents were on relief. And there were only about two old cars in the whole neighborhood. One was an old Packard, the other a Willys-Overland.

The corner house with the bay windows is 2024.That  was my abode from about 1932 to 1940. 2022 housed the Hanley family`` Then came the MacIntosh's. All the houses on Cooper Street had outdoor privies and no central heating. Heat usually came from pot bellied stoves. Although a few people had gas ranges   most did their cooking on wood stoves. These were not fun for the boys who had to find and chop the wood  nor the women who did the cooking on 100 degree days in July and August. Not all the houses had electricity including mine. Light was by oil lamp.

These were known as the good old days.

The triangular lot across the street was the site of a large two story house that housed the Ryan family until it was condemned and torn down about  1945. 

The other end of the street ,on the one side  had a large vacant lot  and a large frame house. That lot was always vacant. At times during the summer  groups from the WPA used to set up a screen and projector and show films, mostly cartoons and short subjects.

The other side of the street at that point had  about 12  row houses, only two of which I remember being occupied, the first was the  Wallace house and the third housed the Finch boys, a couple of middle aged bachelors with nothing to do but sit on the front step and drink. The remaining ten houses were vacant. About 1936 they all were condemned and razed.

East Camden's Cooper Street about 1933





The Olsen Family          

Many others through the years


George B. & Laura Ware

Children Bob, Dorothy & Lorraine


Sam & Minnie Wishnaff 



Edward S. & Nellie Harding



Norman & Agnes Stinger       

Agnes, Norman, Myrtle & Pearl


Ray Lentz                             

Two little boys 


Lou & Catherine Simpson        

Children Ruth & Louie;
Catherine's mother, everyone called her Aunt Annie)  She baked pies & took them down to the Haddon Press & sold them-  HLAS- 2004


William B. & Pearl C. Read

Children Katie (married) and Bill


Mr. & Mrs. Owens                   

Son Johnny, He had the greatest bicycle ever, Black & Silver


Albert S. & Viola A. Ruebeck



Anna Miller & her mother



Herb & Molly MacIntosh     

Veteran of World War I, 
Assembler at a radio factory in 1930. 


George & Bertha Hanley

Daughters Anita & Catherine "Cass"


Tom & Dorothy Agin            

Tom Jr., Harriet, Arthur, & Floyd


East Camden's Cooper Street in 1947





Samuel R. & Elsie Sailer



George B. Ware

1959 - George V. Ware, Paperhanger


Mrs. Minnie Wishnaff 

Widow of Samuel Wishnaff


Edward S. & Nellie Harding

Wool Washer


Mrs. Bessie A. Hans

Widow of Albert Hans


James Hans



John J. & Anna Greenwich

Employed at J. Eavenson & Sons


Betty Greenwich

Employed at J. Eavenson & Sons


Catherine M. Greenwich

Employed at J. Eavenson & Sons


John T. & Frances Smith



William B. & Pearl C. Read

Operator at East End Laundry


Antonio & Margaret Derago

Trackman for the Pennsylvania Railroad


Robert Derago



Albert S. & Viola A. Ruebeck



James & Mary Elward



John & Helen Lemayski 

Mr. & Mrs. Lemayski had three sons, John, Robert, and Stan. Robert & Stan Lemayski both were career Camden Police officers, as was a cousin, Richard Pierznik. Son John Lemayski retired from Riverview Towers on Mickle Boulevard. 


George & Bertha Hanley



Anita Hanley

Telephone Operator


Estella Hanley

Telephone Operator


Theo T. & Margaret Stone


Only George Ware was still on the block in 1959, according to the 1959 New Jersey Bell Telephone Directory. Of course it must me noted that not everyone may have had a telephone.

I can’t  help smiling when I read such tales of woe as “Heating with Coal”. Did everyone but me have central heating back in the 30’s?

Although it must have been fun to be able to spy  on those downstairs through the ceiling grates, it must have  been wonderful to feel the warm air  rising into your freezing bedroom on a cold winters night. Most houses with central heating ,which you didn't use in the summer, came equipped with a gas range for cooking and most houses with gas had a water heater. Central heat  via a furnace also meant the ability to pay for coal by the ton  which few if any on little Cooper Street could even dream of.

Life on the other side of the tracks:

Coal was a luxury to be bought only when it was absolutely necessary and  then only in 50 lb bags. Blue coal or pea or nut  or even coke ,it didn't matter on any particular day, except which happened to be cheapest.

I would   take my little wagon up to the Pavonia Ice and Coal Co. at  23rd and Howell Streets when we had the money and struggle with  a bag I could hardly lift then haul it back home and try to carry it into the house. This was our secondary source of coal. At other times, which I hated, I would be ordered to take a bucket and walk the railroad tracks to find coal that had fallen off coal cars. This also meant playing hide and seek with the railroad police, who were not the friendliest people in the world. At that age it didn't dawn on me that they were looking out for my safety as well as protecting railroad property.

My route for coal scavenging usually ranged from behind the Haddon Press down to behind Dimedio Lime, Dubell Lumber and Concrete Steel Co. On a bad day I would have to continue all the way beyond Warren Webster's to the Standard Oil place at Federal Street and River Road to fill my bucket after which it was a heavy trip back to Cooper Street. 

Our heating system at home consisted of a large wood/coal cooking range in the kitchen which was jet black and had shiny nickel plated parts hanging on it. I also had the job of polishing this stove which was done while it was very hot using a liquid consisting of an oil and carbon black dispersion. You rubbed this on with a  cloth and it smoked like a volcano and you continued rubbing until it was dry and shiny black, and so were you.

This stove was used for cooking and heating water. There was only one faucet in the house and it was ice cold water. This is why in those days there was a Saturday bath, you didn't shower a couple times a day even if you wanted to. There was no hot water and no shower. Bathing was done in the galvanized laundry tub. During the week you washed your face and hands. 

Picture a woman's life during this period:

Throughout the hottest time of the year she always needed a fire. To cook, to have water for the wash and  to heat the iron for ironing. The wash was done on a wash board which most women today have seen only in museums. It was backbreaking labor.... and let’s not forget my sister's hair which also required a fire. With no electricity how else do you heat a curling iron?

There were two kinds of curling irons I remember  my mother using. One was called a Marcelle Iron and this made waves. The other was a curling iron much like those used today, except that they weren't heated with electricity. Then how were they heated?? Glad you asked.

The irons were held in the fire until they were hot. Then they were taken out and closed on a piece of paper, preferably a brown paper bag. This would smoke, turn black and sometimes erupt into flame. You would continue testing it  until it no longer discolored the paper. At this point you would then proceed to  put the hair in and roll it up as you do today. After a few minutes you would unroll it and hope the hair didn't stay with the iron. Sound like fun?? I have a curling iron for you to try, if you are so inclined.

Ironing clothes on a 100 degree day was not fun either. Or any other day for that matter. 

During the summer months we used wood  which meant you could allow the fire to go out when it wasn't needed. The wood was usually scavenged by me from old shipping skids. These could be obtained from the Haddon Press and a few other businesses by hook or crook. Usually the latter. Many commodities in those days were shipped in wooden barrels. These were usually made of gum wood which was difficult to chop. The ax jumped back at you as if it had hid a block of rubber.

Women today say they are overworked because one day a week that may have to DRIVE Johnny to Little League.

That takes care of the kitchen.

There was a pot bellied stove in the parlor which was seldom used at all. Parlors were generally used for special visitors or which happened, it seems , all to often in those days, wakes.

Next comes the pot bellied stove in the dining room which was where we lived. This room served as living room, dining room and family room. This stove was our primary source of warmth throughout the winter months. This stove was not large but it kept the room comfortable. 

What about the bedrooms? There was zero heat except what your body generated and the quilts managed to hold next to you. The kitchen stove didn't help because the kitchen was a separate room attached to the rear  of the house.

As mentioned before the parlor stove wasn't used for general heating. Because of the size and limited utility of the dining room stove there was no ceiling grate to allow heat to rise to the upstairs…which would result in cooling the down stairs.

I remember one occasion where I didn't think it was warm enough and being home alone I proceeded to remedy that situation. I filled the dining room stove with coke, which was all we had on hand that day. Then I opened the damper all the way which I had seen my father do. In a short period of time the pot belly was glowing red. Soon after the  stove pipe started to get red and the red rose higher and higher and I  became more and more scared not knowing what to do about it.

The red was within three feet of the ceiling when my father walked in the door. In a short time he had the stove under control. As the stove returned to its normal black my bottom became redder and redder. I had doubts I would ever sit again.

This is the way life went on in the  good old days.... and they really were the good old days. Ask anyone who grew up during that period. You may get a different answer if  you ask those who were unemployed adults during this time.  It’s all in your perspective.


Tom Agin
December 18, 2004

2000 Block of Cooper Street
Side view looking West from across State Street - late 1970s
Photos by Floyd Agin
The grocery store at 53 East State Street
Known as Handleton's 1930s-1960s
2024 Cooper Street is at right, 
in the background
2000 Block Cooper Street
as seen from East State Street
2024 and 2022 Cooper Street 2000 Block Cooper Street
as seen from North 20th Street
Click on Images to Enlarge