Days of Yore
as recounted by

Bill Day


Ferry’s braved the ice
Fifty-five years ago ice was floating down the Delaware River in the winters just as it is coming down now on the side from Trenton.  It was in cakes from 18 inches to two feet thick.  It banged against the steel bulls of the ferry boats plowing through the mass on their trips back and forth between the foot of Federal street in Camden and Market street terminal over in Philadelphia.  The six slips on each side of the river, the sides of which were formed by huge logs fastened together, required repairs in the spring when the cakes of ice jammed between the boats and the pilings as the boats entered the slips.

The Philadelphia and Camden Ferry Company consisted of eight boats that were operated by the Pennsylvania and Reading railroads.  They were named after towns and the names remembered are Millville, Haddonfield, Camden and Vineland.

Coal was burned to form steam for the engines, and horses and wagons had to board the boat twice a day to remove the cinders and ashes.  A one way pedestrian fare was less than 5 cents, and a wheeled vehicle fare was 15 cents.  The schedule was for two boats to always be in docks on each side of the river while the other four would be passing each other in midstream.

The automobile became popular and the Sunday seashore traffic began to be a problem.  The cars waiting in line to cross the river would be four deep and standing up Cooper street to as far as Ninth street.  The superintendent of the ferry used to get his son to ride his bicycle up Cooper street to the end of the line of waiting cars, jot down the license number of the last car in line, make a note of the time, then go wait at the ferry entrance for that license number to get on the boat.  The waiting time was long enough, but it was never as long as the complainers claimed.

The Ben Franklin bridge was built in 1926 and a few years later the ferry service was discontinued.  Many Haddonfield residents remember how the only access to Philadelphia was to go by trolley or train down to the ferry at the foot of Federal street, cross the river by ferry, and trudge up that steep hill on Market street to reach the center of the city.  With our conveniences of today, it is difficult to believe that the route was ever like it used to be.

Dick Bimmer, whose father, back in the early 1920’s, was the stationmaster in Camden, reminisced about many of the interesting facts.

To the editor, Feb 2, 1981
There happens to be a slight error in Bill Day’s “Days of Yore” in the Jan 22, 1981, issue of the Haddon Gazette.

The column says “The Ben Franklin Bridge was built in 1926 and a few years later the (Federal street, Camden, to Market street in Philadelphia) ferry services was discontinued.”

I was born three years later between the opening of the Tacony Palmyra Bridge and the time of the stock market crash in 1929.  Many years later during the 1940’s and erly 1950s.  I rode the ferry boats to  and from Philadelphia while attending college   When I was younger, I also remember taking a few trips on the electric (?) ferry from Kaighn avenue in Camden to South street in Philadelphia.

I even remember the Pennsylvania Reading Seashore Line Railroad Ferry using a fare token in a shape unlike any other token I have ever seen.  It was like two different outside diametere washers had been fastened together.
R. Allen Hammell
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