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Yardville Heights, Hamilton Township, New Jersey

In the 1930's Yardville Heights was an isolated little community located about 5 miles southeast of Trenton, NJ. From Trenton you followed South Broad Street past White Horse, crossed over Gropp's Lake and then on the right side was Highland Avenue which led up to Yardville Heights. The Heights was really "Heights" because it stood on a plateau surrounded by wooded hillsides and swamps on 2 sides and Gropp's lake on a third side. It was a good place for a boy to grow up. There were lots of fields, swamps and woods to play in.

1 Black
2 Wright
3 Green
4 Yaeger
5 Archer
6 Ruhlman
7 Gorman
8 Wykoffe
9 Blakeslee
10 Thompson
11 Whiteley
12 Fenimore
13 Cochran
14 Cathcart
15 E Middleton
16 Whitehead
17 Geisier
18 Cornell
19 Heaton
20 Mascal
21 Maddux
22 Fletcher
23 Cubberley
24 Kokesh
25 Schroeder
26 R Middleton
27 North

Residents of houses in the Heights in the 1930s.

This list of residents is a "best guess". I used my memory and the memories of my bothers. I also consulted the 1930 and the 1940 census records as to who lived where.
28 Lockwood
29 Umblebee
30 E Middleton
21 Reither
32 Hall
33 D'Arcy
34 C Middleton
35 Nolan
36 Moore
37 Watson
38 Totten
39 Vorhees
40 Nutt
41 O Albrecht
42 Hughes
43 Lippencott
44 Weidbrecht
45 Bills
46 Fronley
47 Soden
48 Evans
49 Cason
50 Swanson
51 N Albrecht
52 Knott
53 Lousell

From Highland avenue there were two streets that went back and then several more cross streets. In all, there were 57 houses in the 1930's. There was a house with a small grocery store at the corner of our block operated by Mrs. Thompson. Thompsons store had penny candy for sale and a limited supply of other staples. Such a store was necessary because most people did not have a car. All the mothers I knew stayed at home to care for their children and families. We had a telephone but not everyone had a telephone, neighbors often came over to use our phone in an emergency.

Since the Heights was isolated, everyone knew everyone else by sight if not in more detail. As kids, we were in and out of the houses of our friends. For instance, every Sunday, I made the rounds to Junior Cason's, Jean Fronleys and David Moores because they all got different Sunday paper comics than we did. When I was about 8 Eddie Cason died from Leukemia so I didn't go there anymore. The details are hazy, I just know that he disappeared from our lives. The Cason's later adopted a boy (Eddy Miller) and a girl but we didn't go there anymore. In Yardville Heights, a lot of people were related to each other. There were several branches of the Middleton family. Mrs. Fronley and Mrs Casons were sisters, My grandmother lived down the street and my cousin lived around the corner.There were several members of the Albrecht family.

On one side of the Heights was South Broad Street and Gropp's Lake. At the "back" of the Heights was the Little Crick ( not creek) which ran from a dam at the end of the lake out to the Big Crick which was on the fourth side From the back of the Heights, we had to go down fairly steep wooded hills to get to the crick. The big crick was more open but surrounded by meadows and swamps where muskrats lived.

Little Crick below Scullins-

Little Crick in winter-

Little Crick

Big Crick -

During the winter a lot of the local boys trapped muskrats and sold the skins. I never had traps myself but often helped others, tramping along the frozen meadows making the rounds of the traps. On the first warm day in the very early spring, sometimes as early as mid April, we rushed the start of the swimming season. Trekking down the hill behind Bunky Middleton's house we followed the muddy path out to the little crick and to our favorite swimming spot. There was a big birch tree overhanging the crick that we used for diving. We would nervously strip and try to be the first to hop in for the first swim of the season. We didn't bother with bathing suits of course, girls never went any where near the woods as far as I know.

Later in the season, we swam there a lot as well as in the lake but the little crick was a favorite spot. The crick fed trhrough the big crick to the Delaware river and was tidal. Twce a day the tide came and went so that the depth ranged from a foot or so at low tide to 5 feet at high tide.From our swimming spot it was possible to walk in the crick out to where it intersected the Big Crick. The Big Crick was bigger, wider and faster moving. We didn't do too much swimming in it but there was some great mud flats out there.We considered it fun to get smeared all over with real thick, black and gooey meadow mud. I'm not sure now why we did it but it seemed like fun then. It took a while to get rid of the mud when we got back in the water. The woods around Yardville Heights were a favorite playing spot. We had trails all through the woods. We knew them intimately and some were used in winter for sledding, others were just trails along the creeks. We knew the location of all of the springs from which we could get a drink of water.

In the winter there were several spots on the hills through the woods that were favorites for sledding. Bakers Hill near the middle of the back of the Heights was the best. It was long and had nice curves in it as it went down through the woods almost to the crick. One summer we built sides on some of the curves so they were banked for speed.

Baker's Hill

Lockwood's hill nearby was longer and also good but did not have any curves in it.

There were things in the woods that we liked to do. We had favorite logs used to cross the cricks. There were a couple clay banks from which we could get clay to try to making pots "like the Indians did". We knew where the nicest flowers grew, dogwood, violets, may apples, wild azaleas, lady slippers, jack in the pulpits. Sometimes we picked them and tried to sell them to our neighbors.

In the woods we played games like "Release". We had teams and a jail, the object was to capture a member of the opposing team and put him in the jail. His team would then try to sneak up and tag him to "release" him from the jail. The games would last for hours and we roamed all over the woods to hide from the opposing team while trying to release a captive.

Back home at the house, we had a good sized lawn which we cut with a reel type power lawn mower, one of the first in the neighborhood. Earlier, my grandfather had cut it with a push mower. We played games on the lawn. In my ;youngest days, we played "Kick the Wicket" and "Hide and Seek". Later on it was football. We always had a football game going in the side yard. We also had a "basketball court" at an old barn on the lot next door We had a hoop stuck on the side of the barn and we cleared out bushes and weeds to make a bare dirt "court". It was not like the smooth courts kids have now but we spent many hours shooting baskets. Fortunately, we didn't have adults telling us what to do or how to do things.

Bicycles were big, we all had bikes. We didn't roller skate because there weren't many good sidewalks. We rode around the neighborhood on our bikes and setting up ramps to jump on as we had seen at Thrill shows at the State Fair. Being near a lake, our summers were spent swimming at Gropp's Lake. The Heights had it's own little beach with a small dock/diving board. I learned to swim at the YMCA, my mother took me up there to Trenton once or twice a week one summer. At the lake, the challenge was to swim across to the bridge or over to the dam. The dam overflow formed the little creek. In retrospect, the little creek probably wasn't the best place to swim. It was fed by the lake but along side the dam was a dump, a lot of the garbage and trash from Trenton was put into that dump. It was actively used and you could see rats running around it. Occassionally, we used our .22 rifles to shoot at them. Half the time the dump was burning with a noxious odor. Any rain that fell on the dump filtered through the trash and washed right into the little crick. Unknown to us, we were swimming in polluted water. The dam itself was fairly sturdy but once in a while in a big rain storm the water would go over the top of the dam in a stream several feet thick and they would struggle to open flood gates to relieve the pressure. After I left home, the dam finally broke and the lake drained. It was empty for several years until a new dam was built.

Broken Dam

Empty Lake

Looking toward Bridge

Lake edge

We did a lot of sledding in the winter, at Bakers Hill and Lockwood but also on the Bluff. The Bluff was the hill that lead from behind Middleton's in the Heights down to the lake. When there was snow and also ice on the lake we could sled down the bluff, which had a nice bump in it, down on to the ice. The lake was a great place to ice skate and we looked forward to the time the ice was strong enough to skate on. We cleared off the snow so we could play hockey. Sometimes we just liked to skate through the snow. At night this was done over on the Lakeside side of the lake where the "corner store" was located. They often had floodlights on the skating area at night. We always careful because there were always a few spots were the ice didn't freeze completely.

Skating on the lake

Lake in Summer

As a youngster, we spent a lot of time building model airplanes. The first World War hadn't been over too long (15-18 years) so the Boy's magazines had lots of articles about war planes, (G8 and the Flying Aces) and air battles. Airplanes were a big thing - they were not very common. If an airplane flew over, we kids would run outside to see it. We also got to see dirigibles because we were not too far from Lakehurst Naval Air Station were most Airships were then based. We spent many hours building model planes. Clarence Heaton (Clink) had a small room in a garage back of his house where we often did our model building. His house also had a 3rd story attic where we would take our newly constructed balsa wood -tissue paper airplanes to fly out the window. If a plane didn't fly well or got damaged, the most fun was setting it on fire and launching it from the attic window. As I got older I continued to build models and at one point in High School had a gas engine for a model though I never really got it running in a plane.

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Revised 2/7/13. Email: iamdpw@aol.com

Copyright 2013, Don and Loretta Whiteley