Michael Thomsen

I lived in Pennington from 1946 until I graduated from Central High in 1959. As student body president in 1958, I helped Superintendent George Osborn and Principal C. Stephen Raciti lay the cornerstone for the new high school on West Delaware Avenue.

As my wife can testify, my mind is stuffed to capacity with sentimental "growing up in my home town" lore about Pennington. I have detailed recollections of the streets, buildings, country roads, local personalities and daily goings-on as they were absorbed by an inquisitive boy with a bicycle and some time to go exploring. I also have a fair number of black-and-white photographs that I took at that time. Here are a few samples of the Pennington that I recall:

  • David Waldron's (Pop's) candy store -- immediately north of the Presbyterian church and long since torn down. A place where boys ate Tastykakes, drank Yoo-hoo chocolate sodas and traded baseball cards.
  • Newt Stuart the postman, and his big red Kaiser sedan. I learned later that Newt had become an accomplished jazz musician, and I had the pleasure of hearing his group on the front lawn of the old Abbey mansion.
  • Local car dealers -- Blackwell Chevrolet, Baker's Kaiser/Jeep, and Lamson-Nitti Ford.
  • Sam the shoemaker. Fifty cents for soles and heels. Sam was on the first floor of a weathered old wooden building at the southwest corner of Delaware and Main, later cleared to make way for the new post office.
  • Ice skating on Howe's Pond -- a little east of Congressman Charles Howell's home at the east end of Curlis Avenue.
  • Police Chief Clarence Eshelman and his big gray Chrysler -- the kindest soul that ever helped a third-grader cross Main Street en route to the Primary School.
  • The Pennington Junior Players' 1959 production of "I Remember Mama" -- staged in the Playbarn at Fessler's farm off Franklin Street.

And so it goes. I'm not sure if ramblings about these things would have any value today, for the Web, or for the kids who are learning about Pennington's past. If so, no doubt they can be recounted better by some of my contemporaries who may still live in Pennington. Ronald Van Dyke, when last I knew, worked in the business office of the Hopewell valley Regional Schools. Scott Miller undoubtedly still runs the Pennington Agency insurance business. And, perhaps there are McVeighs -- descendants of John and Ed who founded Pennington Quality Market.

Editors note: Michael Thomsen recalls how Police Chief Clarence Eshelman contributed to our lives. This reminds me of an incident with Police Chief James Delle Monache, sometime in the early 1970s. It was on July 4th and someone was exploding fire crackers. The chief came to investigate. My big German Shepard dog, Schatzie, terrified by the fire crackers, climbed into the chief's car to hide, then wouldn't let the chief get back into his car. The chief had to walk to our house to get me to coax Schatzie from the car. Jim was a nice person. He helped a lot of people.

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Received May 18, 1999