Tuesday, April 24, 2001
Columnist's work lives on online
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  • Days of Yore by Bill Day 
  • By KEVIN RIORDAN
    Courier-Post Staff

    A quarter century ago, an opportunity to write about Haddonfield transformed Bill Day's life.

    Now his "Days of Yore" columns from the old Haddon Gazette weekly newspaper are getting a new life - on the Internet.

    (Go to DayHikes.info and click on "Oral history of Haddonfield.")

    "I'm happy about it, and Bill, up there, would be happy too," his widow, Jean, says.

    A longtime employee of the Courier-Post circulation department, Haddonfield-born Bill "knew everybody in town," Jean recalls.

    But after a major stroke in 1974, Bill was confined to a wheelchair. He worried about becoming a burden to his wife and their sons, Alan, of Virginia, and Robert, of Medford.

    Jean was working in the classified advertising department at the Suburban Newspaper Group in Cherry Hill. Editor Al Mattern suggested Bill turn his encyclopedic knowledge of Haddonfield into a column about local history.

    It took some convincing on Jean's part, but Bill finally agreed.

    The experience "made a major difference in his life," Jean says. "All of a sudden he was on the phone, interviewing people."

    Using one hand, Bill typed a new "Days of Yore" every week until he died in 1979.

    "Mrs. Clement resembled Dresden china. She was a delicate, refined little lady who walked around town in her Quaker garments with a quiet dignity," Day wrote in a column titled "Warwick Road Ladies."

    In "B.F. Fowler General Store," he wrote, "Wires ran all over the store just above the customers' heads. They transported little carriers which held sales slips and money to the cashier, who sat in a wrought iron cage in the center of the store."

    And in "Simpler Days," he described a Haddonfield where cars got stuck in the mud on unpaved streets.

    "Haddonfield is greatly improved now," Day wryly observed, "except for taxes."

    Says Jean, "I call Bill's columns `homespun' ... they had their own charm. He was a homespun guy - that was his   style - and it was reflected in his writing."

    Alan Day got the idea of putting his dad's work on the Web last year.

    So far, about 100 columns are online, along with audio clips of Bill reading from his work. The latter was transcribed from interviews local writer Tillie Clement taped with him in the late 1970s.

    "I view the project as about half-finished," Alan says via e-mail, adding that he hopes to add vintage photographs and other material.

    Says his mother, "Bill always said, `count your blessings.' I feel Bill is counting his blessings now, because he knows his column is on the Internet."

    Kevin Riordan's column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Contact him at (856) 486-2604 or kriordan@courier postonline.com