Days of Yore
as recounted by

Bill Day


Remember these? - Electric Company
About 1902 the Haddonfield Electric Company was located on a lane off Turnley avenue where later the Haddon Ice and Coal Company was situated.  The steam boilers there drove the dynamos to make the poser that supplied electricity to the Haddonfield homes that were wired for electric lights.  Electric power was undependable at that time and some houses had light fixtures installed to burn both electricity and gas.  When the electric lights failed, the gas mantles could then be lit.

Newlin Applegate, Billy Lake, Bill Heitz, and John Logan were the Public Service employees who maintained service in town after that utility company took over the electric needs in town.

Mr. Lake was so popular with all the kids as he worked his way around the streets checking the gas streetlights.  They would patiently watch him lower the lights on the poles.  The pulleys on the ropes enabled him to drop the lamps so he could check the long black carbon plugs and when one was too short, he threw it away and replaced it with a new one.  His fan club waiting would grab the old plug which they would write with as if it were a crayon.  Often the gas mantles that were set aglow by the light from the carbons had to be replaced too.

Remember the old soothsayers in town every winter when snow would begin to come and they would come up with those words of wisdom, "Well, here comes the storm right from the direction of Mt. Holly, and that's the sign that this snowstorm will be a good one."

Another old Haddonfield adage at one time was that when a train whistle could be heard coming over from Haddon Heights from the Reading Railroad line over there that it was a sure sign of an approaching rainstorm.  How did we ever get along without radio and television weather forecasts back in those days?

Remember the little one room building that stood on the Main street just to the rear of where the Bank Clock now is?  It was the office of Willits Coal and Lumber Company.  Miss Geismier, the bookkeeper, held that position there for many years and a good portion of the citizenry of Haddonfield stopped in to see her regularly to pay those coal bills that were always being owed.

Peter Joseph Leyendecker came to town in 1908 and began his ice business in the building just off Turnley avenue where the Haddonfield Electric Company formerly operated.  Baby, Jerry, and Brownie were the names of the three horses that pulled the wagons around town.  In the building were the three horse stalls.  Haddon Ice and Coal Company was a big business in Haddonfield for years.

A tube radio set powered by batteries was installed one evening in the sanctuary of the Grace Episcopal Church on the highway by John Holloway.  The congregation gathered to listen to the duet recital of Harry Beck and his sister Sarah with Harry on violin and Sarah on piano.  The broadcast was from the Wanamaker radio station WOO.  Good radio reception was a rarity at that time.  All of Haddonfield knew him as Harry, but later he was known as Henry G. Beck, the well-known author of Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey volumes, and as and ordained Episcopal minister. Homepage
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