UPDATED with new information below the original article
William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ--(April 26, 2021)--The other day we had a surprise visit from our long-time friend Howard Butch Shaffer. Butch has been living in South Carolina for some time but he was born and raised in Gloucester City.
Invariably we got talking about our memories of Gloucester back in the day without the internet, computers, televisions, cell phones, and not many cars.
As he reminisced the 81- year-old Shaffer painted a picture of our City that many of those living here today could ever imagine. "Klemm Avenue was a dirt road," Shaffer said. "Where Gloucester High is that was where 'Farmer Jim' had 20 acres or more that he farmed growing tomatoes, corn, and other vegetables. We kids would work the farm during the summer picking the vegetables all day long in the hot sun. My dad kept five horses on South Broadway where they eventually built the ACME Market. CVS Pharmacy is in that spot today. Before the ACME the field was also used in the 50s for Little League Baseball.
Shaffer talked about Farmer Jim who drove his horse and wagon throughout Gloucester selling produce. "There was a guy who walked the streets selling clothes props. Another person walked around the city sharpening knives and scissors. There was the ice-man selling his blocks of ice, the coalman, who delivered coal to homes, another man sold things like buttons, shoelaces, needles, threads, etc. Besides those mentioned, there were men who went around the city picking up junk, and Thomson's Bakery delivered their goods to your house. In the morning you go to your front step and get your milk that was delivered to your house before the sun came up. There would be a layer of cream at the top of the bottle."
"We swam in Martins Lake, also known as the pond. There was a long pier that we dove off of, and an iron raft that sat in the middle of the lake. That water was at least 10 feet deep. In the summer we would hop the freight train that was heading south to Brooklawn and climb to the top of the car. As it meandered down the tracks, we would be taking our clothes off. As it got close to the Brooklawn trestle we would throw our clothes and sneakers down to the ground. Once it got to Little Timber Creek we would jump off the top of the freight car into the water below. Yes, it was dangerous but we were kids and didn't give it much thought at the time. "
The Brooklawn trestle is seen from New Broadway, at the Brooklawn/Gloucester City bridge. Can you imagine jumping from the top of a moving freight train into Little Timber Creek? The photo was taken today, the creek is at low tide.
"And, there was my dad, who sold waffles from his horse-drawn wagon."
"We live in a small house on Washington Avenue. My family consisted of my dad, Howard Sr., and mom, Trudy Miller Shaffer, my sisters Trudy "(Shaffer) Miller, and Elsie (Shaffer) Baker.
My dad starting selling waffles when he was about 17 in Camden City where his grandfather, my great-grandfather, had a huckster business. After he married my mom, dad went to work at the New York Shipyard. All our family worked at the Shipyard, including me. After I quit school I went to a trade school and learned how to weld and got hired at the Yard.
"In the 40s there was a big layoff at the Shipyard. Trying to make a living my dad buys some milk wagons and converted them into waffle wagons. And that is how Shaffer’s Creamy Waffles business got started.
"At one time he had three teams of horses on the street. One in Fairview, one in Gloucester City, and one in South Philly. My Uncle Craig drove one of the wagons, Mr. Youkonis who lived on Westminister Street drove another and my dad drove one. At the end of the day, they would meet up at Washington Avenue, clean up the wagons and the milk cans they used for the waffle batter, scrub them all out. Every morning dad would get up around 4:30 AM and would make three big milk cans of waffle batter."
"He was so tired at the end of the day there were times he would fall asleep on the couch and catch a short 'catnap' before putting the horse and wagon away. The horse and wagon would be parked outside, kept in place by a heavyweight tied to the wagon. One time I recall Mom wakes dad from his catnap yelling the horse is pulling the wagon, down the street towards Quigley's Lumber Yard on Market Street. It wanted to go back to the barn where the horses were kept on South Broadway. Dad rotated the horses every day so they would get a day of rest.
"As he traveled up and down the streets selling the waffles he would blow a trumpet so the people would know he was coming. The other drivers would ring a big bell that was hooked to the wagon. They would pull the rope that was tied to the bell as they rode down the street. The bell made a loud clanging noise."
Shaffer wasn't sure how much waffles cost.
"The waffles were two for a nickel, a dozen for, I think, for a quarter. The driver would make two dozen at a time. Each wagon had two cast iron waffles stoves; they ran on white gas. The driver would cook them on one side then flip them over with a hook and they would raise just like your regular waffle irons do today. The waffles were topped off with powder sugar. "
"Dad would do the Philly route. He would drive the wagon to Camden City where he took the ferry, located on Ferry Avenue, to Philadelphia. Every once in a while I would go with him, sitting in the back of the wagon. It always amazed me how that horse knew right where he was going. And, as he traveled up and down the streets he knew just where to stop. Dad would blow that trumpet and the kids would come running out of their houses to buy those waffles. People were so friendly too. On those hot summer days, some of them would bring a bucket of water out for the horse."
"My Uncle Craig Shaffer took the Philly route this one day and the pole shaft on the wagon broke. My dad drove to Philly in the car and towed the wagon home while my uncle stayed with the horse. Dad goes back to South Philly, Uncle Craig drives the car home and Dad walked the horse to the ferry and then home from Camden."
"My father stopped selling waffles when my uncle went to serve during the Korean War in 1953. Dad went back to the shipyard, and in his spare time, he started to work on a truck fixing it so he could use it to sell waffles. But, things got busy at the shipyard and he just didn't have the time to finish the job."
Shaffer joined the Army in 1959 at the age of 19 and belonged to The 101st Airborne Division ("Screaming Eagles") which is a light infantry division of the United States Army specializing in air assault operations. After three years in the service, he lived for a while in Hollywood, Calif. working in the movie studios with his brother-in-law, Harry/Hank Miller, also from Gloucester City. Following that experience, Butch went to work as a welder in Ohio. During his four years there he met the love of his life, Lenore.
The couple, below with their family, came back to South Jersey and lived in the shore area before moving to Hilton Head, SC. Howard, in the red sleeveless sweater, and Lenore, on his left, have two children, Melissa (Shaffer) Esposito, and Craig Shaffer, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Editor's Note: One of the first articles Hank Miller wrote for us was in 2007 about his memories of growing up in Gloucester City which included a few lines about Shaffer's waffle wagon, and Farmer Jim. Here is an excerpt of his story.
Then we had the men in their horse and wagons such as Howard and Craig Schaffer, Butch Shaffer's father and uncle, in their waffle
wagon. They'd yell out "Yellow Hot Waffles", with the clang-clang of their bell. I can still smell those fresh waffles cooking as you waited and Howard smiling as he hit that clang. There was Bud Davis, with his Shetland pony pulling the little red wagon along selling yum-yums. There were also many kids and their wagons selling snow balls like my brother Joe Miller, and I each summer we'd work from morning till night.
There used to be a farm where Gloucester High School is presently. It was called "Farmer Jim's, I remember biking out there very early in the morning to pick tomatoes, peas and limas beans, all day in the hot sun. We'd try to get up early to be chosen to work that day. Because it seemed like every kid in Gloucester wanted to work.
Editor's Note--Bill Wiby Yeager, photo at the top of the page with the pond gang shared his memories of Gloucester City, Back in the Day, in a 2008 article. Here is an excerpt of his article. The link will take you to the complete story.
It was the summer of 1954 and I had just turned 17 years old. I was racing Lowell Hubbs on Lane Avenue. A Gloucester City policeman, Pete Sherman, followed us with his lights out. He pulled me over and gave me a reckless driving ticket. I lost my license for 60 days. Lowell Hubbs was the lucky one. He got away scott free.
After I lost my license I would walk down to the Gloucester Diner in the evenings to catch a ride with someone. On one particular Saturday night I was supposed to meet Frank Boden and a kid from Westville named Ozzie ( I don’t remember his last name). On my way down to the diner I stopped at St. Mary’s church and went to confession. By the time I got to the diner Frank and Ozzie had already left and there was no one else around. I was mad and walked home.
The next morning, I was washing my father’s car for something to do. My uncle, Tom Yeager, came over and asked if I knew what happened to Frank Bowden the night before. My uncle Tom was a neighbor of Frank’s. I told him I was supposed to go out with him, but missed him. My uncle told me that Frank and Ozzie had a head on collision at Delsea Drive and Olive Street in Westville.
They were racing another kid from Gloucester. The kid who was the other driver in the crash was Ludd Juergen from Woodbury.
I went to visit Ludd in the hospital and I told him who the guys were in the other car and that the accident was not his fault.
Both Frank and Ozzie were killed instantly.
Editor's Note: The last clip is something yours truly wrote after reading Jerry Blavat's, the geator with the heater, autobiography. Hard to believe that the years slipped by so fast. Great times, and great memories.
Reading Blavat’s story brings back many fond memories of growing up in the 40‘s, 50‘s and early 60‘s. I often think how lucky we were to have lived in Gloucester City/Brooklawn/South Jersey as a kid. There was so much to do compared to what is offered to today’s youth. If you ever watched “Happy Days” or saw the movie “American Graffitti” or listen to the song Cherry Bomb by John Mellencamp that is how it was to grow up during that time period.
We had the King Movie on King Street, The Savar and The Stanley in Camden, and two drive-ins...The Starlite (where Meadowbrook is located), The Talcony in Pennsauken.
Kids hung out in front of one of the many luncheonettes in the City without having to worried about being chased by the cops. There was Powell’s, Tuttie’s, Tucker’s Corner, Moxie’s a.k.a Glady’s, Gord’s, The Pine House, Kelly’s, The Venice, Jim’s Pizzeria, and who can forget the Gloucester Diner at Broadway and Ridgeway Street. In Brooklawn there was Cerrone’s on New Broadway at New Jersey.
In the summer we would meet at the Gloucester City Pool, where Proprietor’s Park stands today. Swim or just hang out there during the day laying under the trees. Or go to “Chicken Beach” to swim located at the back part of Almonesson Lake, in Almonesson. Every so often a bunch of us would head to the Wildwoods, sleep at Colliers on Maple Avenue or find a friend who was working on the Boardwalk and stay in their summer apartment.
Above the Gloucester Pool building that held the pool equipment, swim lockers and concession stand, was a large open balcony and an enclosed dance ballroom. Situated around the dance floor were French doors that would be opened to allow the breeze to blow in from the nearby Delaware River. In the early 60‘s Blavat actually visited Gloucester City on a couple occasions to DJ dances at the Park. Although he doesn’t mention those times in his book. One particular Park dance a fight broke out between Gloucester guys and some of Blavat’s teenaphonics from South Philly. The ballroom became a battle ground for a few minutes until the cops came an we all scattered.
Editor's Note: We have requested the police department to release the names of their present roster but as of this posting we haven't received a response.
- Letters: GROWING UP GLOUCESTER...The Junior Guild-cnbnews.net
- Fond Memories of Growing Up in Gloucester City/South Jersey Area and The Geator (gloucestercitynews.net)