Picnics Back in the Day By Jack Coll
Nothing Like A Sunday In August
By Jack Coll
There was a time when every man, women and child in Conshohocken and surrounding communities couldn’t wait for the Annual Company Picnic generally held every August. Borough children were highly excited in anticipation of the rides, if the picnic were held at an amusement park, and or the games held at the picnic where prizes could be won, and of course the contest where they got an opportunity to show off their skills.
We’re not just talking about any old family picnic, no we’re talking about the COMPANY picnic. For many years thousands of residents would attend the different WOOD company picnics, John Wood, Alan Wood, and Schuylkill Iron Works, (owned by members of the Wood and Lukens families). Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s both the company management and the union were joint sponsors and the event would be this massive production of eating and entertainment. It was a great way to continue making the entire work force of the company bond, giving them the feeling of working together both in and out of the work-place. Office workers playing along with laborers and management playing side-by-side with union workers.
Along with the company picnics a number of organizations held annual summer picnics like the local fire companies, TK Club, CBC Club, the Conshohocken Lions Club and dozens of other organizations.
As I sit on my rooftop deck on an early August morning located outside my third floor office my mind wanders thinking about family picnics this coming Labor Day. I haven’t noticed many large family gatherings throughout this past summer with stinkin hot weather and a Phillies team down in the dumps, the worst team in baseball but showing a little promise. My mind wanders back to a time when Hale Pumps held picnics, throughout the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and even the early 1970’s. For Hale Pumps and other industries that stretched along the Schuylkill River they were glorious times.
The Annual Lee Tire and Rubber Company Annual Picnic was one of those big picnic events. Back in 1951 more than 3,200 employees and their families frolicked at their annual picnic held at Woodside Park. FREE RIDES for all 25 amusement rides were provided from sun-up until 6:30 in the evening. Kids of all ages rushed in to get in line for the WILDCAT, the TORNADO and the LOOPER. Of course the merry-go-round and Ferris Wheel were popular rides. The Crystal Pool was the scene of a jammed packed swimming party throughout the day.
As the sun rose throughout the day and the temperatures climbed the shady grove with its hundreds of food-laden picnic tables provided a fitting setting for the renewal of old acquaintances and the making of new ones. Aged employees bidding fond farewells knowing it was their last company picnic and new employees getting introduced as they were new to the picnic scene.
It was the one and only day of the year when all of the various families of the employees from the factory workers, to the office workers and management had an opportunity to forget their daily grind for a day and get together with all their families.
In 1951 more than thirty bus-loads of employees and families traveled to Woodside Park, employees from Conshohocken, West Conshohocken, Spring Mill, Norristown and Miquon while hundreds of others traveled by private cars.
As the sun set a professional floor show in Sylvan Hall topped off the day’s events. It took a number of committees and months of planning to put the picnic together every year, the 1951 General Committee consisted of, J. J. Conway, F. J. Bolger, Ann Sparano, John Allen, Agnes Cassell, Claudia Ridington, Fred Osborne, Frank Gable, Harold Kalp, Ella Rambo, George Reustle, Mildred Williams, Oscar Lobb, and James Ronnan.
Other employees serving on the Transportation, Safety, and Entertainment committees included George Reustle, Harry Arena, Francis McFadden, Frank Gable, Ellsworth Freas, Olive Kriebel, John Dougherty, Fred Clay, John DiCicco, Harry Enwright, Gerald Kohansby, Joseph Paliescheskey, James Skidmore and Stanley Eirch.
In 1951 many of our Spring Mill and Miquon residents worked at the Hamilton Paper and in 1951 nearly 2,000 employees along with their families attended the annual company picnic held at Lakeview Park in Royersford. A fleet of twelve buses made pick-ups at Conshohocken, Miquon, Manayunk and Norristown, two round trips were made in an effort to give all employees transportation to the amusement park.
As a bonus three hundred silver dollars were awarded as prizes in competitive events for adults and children. A baseball game was the highlight to the festivities. The Independent Union of Paper Makers provided free rides all day on the parks amusement rides and free ice cream and beverages for all the guests.
At the same time the Conshohocken Polish Eagles Association held a picnic with more than 2,000 Conshohocken residents attending the event at Forrest Park in Chalfont.
Not to be out-done the T. K. Club, 425 East Hector Street in the summer of 1951 sent 2,000 family members to Lakeview Park in Royersford as well. The club reserved most of the picnic tables and the principal amusement was the park’s spacious bathing facilities. The club provided hot dogs and soft drinks for everyone attending. The T. K. Club members serving on the picnic committee included Stanley Mrozek, Stephen Yablonski, and Edward Karpinski. The T. K. Club started the picnic tradition in 1931.
In 1951 the John Wood Manufacturing Company and the local union 2964 sponsored the annual picnic at Dorney Park in Allentown, more than 1,000 employees of the plant, management and their families joined in on the summertime fun. A total of more than $400.00 was given in awards at the athletic contest for young and old. A baseball game between married and single men brought honors to the single men. Perhaps the highlight of the event was Peggy and Lois Teaford appearing in a novelty singing and dancing act as the two won top honors of the day and a little bit of that $400.00 in cash. Joanne Hylinski won second honors in the amateur performance for a song and tap dance. Patricia Zadroga was the third place winner. Judges for the event included Gilbert Wardell, Robert Ashley and Albert Snow.
Six of the company’s employees with the longest record of service were presented with a certificate and cash awards. Recipients included William Keehler, Clifford Campbell, (Conshohocken Police Officer Chick Lucas’s partner who was with him the day Chick was killed), Clarence Ransom, William Shinners, Michael Turssline and Felix Winckoski.
Edward V. Bowe was the general chairman of the John Wood outing.
Also during the summer of 1951 three local fire companies were active with events, of course Spring Mill Fire Company held their annual Spring Mill Carnival hosting thousands of borough residents over a five night period that included high wire walking and other circus events, the Washing Fire Company held several Block Parties, (not unusual for Washies as they would shut down West Hector Street with about a fifteen minute notice, roll out the kegs of beer, set up their band and have un-announced block parties). In August of 1951 Washies held a three night block party complete with carnival rides and amusements and repeated the party just one week later.
Conshohocken Fire Company NO 2 held their annual picnic for members and families at the Francis L. Freas Farm along the Skippack Creek. Typically the guests would take-part in programs all day including games and contests, water sports and of course the traditional baseball game between the married and single men.
Then there were all those other picnics by Walker Brothers, Philadelphia Iron and Steel, Ford and Kendig Company, Quaker Chemical Company, Reilly-Whitman-Walton Company, The H. C. Jones Company, and so many more.
Perhaps we’ll talk about more company picnics in the future along with all their massive Christmas Parties back in the day.
As this beautiful August Sunday morning drifts into the afternoon I’ve enjoyed reminiscing and writing about summertime picnics and events. My mind drifts towards the fall, gone are the high school football games at the “A” Field, gone are the SS Cosmas Feast and the summertime celebration of St. Mary’s. And this year, my beloved Phillies are taking it tough, worst team in the majors tough. Maybe the Philadelphia Eagles can help me out.
Look at the crowds!
3 legged races
The children in these photos would be in their 70’s or 80’s by now, maybe your grandparents are in these photos.