35+ Year Members May 2014

Eleanor Miles is one of the youngest 93 year-olds around!  

Marilyn Thrush is an 85 year old woman you can’t keep down!

Helene Styer – 58 years as a Distinguished Member & Leader of The Porch Club

Nancy Hall – Carrying on a Proud Tradition

Marge Jefferies – Third Generation Porch Club Member

Shirley Ellis…80 Years Young & Still Working in the Family Business—Calkins Media


Eleanor Miles is one of the youngest 93 year-olds around! 

Having joined The Porch Club in 1976, she is now in her 38th year as a Member and continues to attend meetings regularly.  Eleanor was introduced to the Club by her mother, Anna Friday, and remembers accompanying her mother to the Annual Christmas Tea for many years before she retired and became a member herself. She recalls with a twinkle in her eye that when she went with her mother “Everyone looked so old to me.  Guess that’s what some of the younger members think about me now!”   

Eleanor was born and raised in Riverton.  After her first day in kindergarten at Riverton School, Eleanor came home and announced to her mother that she wanted to be a teacher.  She kept her word.  After graduating from Riverton School, Class of 1934 and Palmyra High School, Class of 1938, Eleanor earned her BS in Education from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and her MS Ed from the University of Pennsylvania.  She soon became a New Jersey State Department of Education Supervisor assigned to Burlington County where she spent a distinguished career as a liaison between local schools and the State, providing guidance and troubleshooting.  Her position required a great deal of travel, so it’s a good thing she loved to drive.  She got her driver’s license on her 17th birthday and kept going until a few years ago, when an eye condition forced her to stop driving.

“Having worked all my life, I needed something to do when I retired,” Eleanor says.  Before she knew it, she had plenty to do at the Club.  When the Club’s Recording Secretary had to leave because her husband was being transferred, then President Shirley Brown talked Eleanor into filling the slot. She served two terms in that position and then another two terms as Corresponding Secretary.

Asked to describe the differences between The Porch Club in 1976 and now, Eleanor says it is much more casual now.  “When I joined, everyone dressed up for the meetings…hats and gloves, usually white gloves…the whole nine yards.  In fact, I remember when a member first wore a pantsuit to a meeting.  When she walked in and took a seat everyone got quiet and just stared.  Of course, a little while after that everyone started wearing pantsuits and we still do.”

Another difference, according to Eleanor, is that the refreshments are much better now.  “It used to be strictly tea and cookies and maybe tea sandwiches for lunch.  Now everyone brings such fancy desserts and dishes!”

Eleanor’s husband passed away in 1978 after 15 years of a wonderful marriage.  Her daughter lives in Pennsylvania, along with a grand-daughter and grandson.  She has five great grand-children and one great-great grandchild!  Eleanor is planning on moving closer to her family in the near future, even though it means leaving Riverton for the first time.  She keeps herself busy playing the piano “for my own amusement,” knitting afghans, and reading.  She regularly attends the Presbyterian Church and, of course, The Porch Club.

And we are so glad to have her!

Marilyn Thrush is an 85 year old woman you can’t keep down!

Marilyn joined the Porch Club 37 years ago in the fall of 1977 and still regularly attends meetings and events. She learned about the Porch Club through Ruth Schweitzer, who directed the chorus and sponsored her, and Maryella Wiggins from Edgewater Park, who endorsed her.

Marilyn is originally from Toledo, Ohio. She did secretarial and some book-keeping work in Toledo before she married, and didn’t work afterwards while raising her 3 daughters. Her husband Carl was chief electrical engineer for Campbell Soup’s processing plant in Napoleon and was transferred to the General Office in Camden in 1965. Marilyn lived in Cinnaminson 12 years before joining the Porch Club. She was active in the Central Baptist Church in Palmyra, volunteered at the Baptist Home, and was a Room Mother and Chaperone at Memorial School in Cinnaminson.

When asked what it was like for women in 1977, Marilyn said that women didn’t work outside the home as much as they do today, made do with one family car and economized more. Members dressed up more than they do now. They wore skirts and blouses.

Nobody wore jeans. It was an honor to be asked by the President “to pour tea”.   Porch Club members have always been ‘’active workers,” and Marilyn was involved from the outset in the Garden Department, Literature, Public Affairs, and Rummage Sales, and she has served on the Executive Board twice. 

As Treasurer, she oversaw the transition from hand-written Ledger Books to computers—a challenge she met successfully.

Reminiscing about what keeps her in the Porch Club, Marilyn says it is her friendships and the Club activities. When her husband retired, he had a workshop in the basement to keep him busy.  He encouraged her to have her own interests and keep active.  She took his advice and is glad she did.

It’s hard to keep a busy woman down. After putting their 3 children through college, she and Carl travelled to Switzerland, The Holy Lands, and went on Alaskan and Caribbean cruises. In 1995, her husband Carl passed away. Marilyn has survived knee and hip replacements and is now cancer free from bladder cancer 1 year ago. Today, typical days may include:  bridge, line dancing, literature, public affairs, her “lunch bunch”, other Porch Club events and seeing her children and 8 grandchildren.

Looking back, Marilyn notes that when she joined in 1977, the Porch Club was half the size at about 80 members, and it was easier to know people. The Club often met in people’s homes and that made it easier to get to know people.  Now that the Club is bigger, Marilyn has these words of wisdom for today’s members:  BE FRIENDLY!  Praise accomplishments, compliment people, and call them by name.  And, very practical advice, help people up the outside step!

Marilyn has always been a Greeter and has taken her own advice in this role.  Her smiling face has welcomed many a member and guest to The Porch Club over the years.  We look forward to seeing that warm smile for many years to come.

We’re so happy to have her!

Helene Styer – 58 years as a Distinguished Member & Leader of The Porch Club

In 1956, Helene Styer joined The Porch Club and immediately began to have an impact.  A young mother with a toddler and a new-born, she skillfully combined motherhood and service to the Club and the community.  In fact, she fondly recalls her toddler daughter, Martha, coming to all the Club meetings with her.  Helene went on to serve in virtually every aspect and office of the Club, including serving as President in 1973-75.  Helene’s commitment and many contributions were recognized by declaring her an Honorary Member by naming her Porch Club Woman of the Year in 2011.

The Club’s support of ChildFund International, which Helene initiated, is her proudest accomplishment. Forty years later, The Club continues to “pass the basket,” a real tribute to the worthiness of the effort and to Helene’s vision.  Helene was also an imaginative fund-raiser.  She and Peg Wagenknight decided the Club needed a Christmas Bazaar so they organized an annual event at which each of the Club’s Departments presented a table selling whatever they wanted to raise money for the Club.  She also recalls a Friday morning group that made hoagies to sell to school children and others on their way home for lunch. Proceeds were donated to Riverton and Palmyra Schools.  Helene remembers that if the Club had $400 in the Treasury, she felt they were rich.

The Porch Club was smaller and more formal when Helene joined.  Hats and white gloves were expected.  As part of the Luncheon Committee, Helene helped to prepare the home-made food that was served to members.  “Some of my best recipes came from the Luncheon Committee,” she says.  Teas were simpler but very elegantly presented.  Formal receiving lines prevailed.  But the activities were much the same as now, if on a smaller scale.

When Helene moved to Riverton in 1956, there were 55 children among the families who lived around her home at Second and Lippincott. She remembers it as a wonderful time, when the children would have the whole area as their playground, playing kick the can and other games, and organizing their own summer activities, like putting on a “dog show”.  Doors were never locked.  She also remembers getting together after Christmas with neighbors for a communal bonfire of their discarded Christmas trees…a fun farewell to the holiday. 

Riverton was really a Quaker community, reflecting its early history and Helene loved it.  Most of her neighbors and friends were Quakers.  The Cole sisters lived across the street from Helene and her family, and she recalls one of the sisters coming to call on her, wearing her white gloves and hat, and telling Helene fascinating stories of her father helping runaway slaves make their way through Riverton to safety.  Their talk turned to advice for new brides, and Miss Cole asked Helene if she had received silver and china as wedding gifts.  Helene replied yes, and Helene says, “Miss Cole told me to be sure to use it, not to leave it locked away…and I did just that!”

Helene served as Riverton’s “First Lady” for twelve years, when her husband, Dave was Mayor of Riverton.  “Dave always had the best interests of the town at heart,” she says, and it is evident that she did too.  Helene and Dave had been married 69 years when he passed away two years ago.  Helene now lives in Brightview, Mt. Laurel, but the paintings on her wall of the Yacht Club and her Riverton home are constant reminders of her many happy years here, and she remains a lively observer and supporter of The Porch Club.

The Porch Club is grateful to Helene for her many years of loyal membership and leadership!

Nancy Hall – Carrying on a Proud Tradition

When Nancy Hall joined the Porch Club in 1974, she carried on a proud tradition set first by her grandmother Hetty Miller and then by her mother Betty Ritschard –both loyal members of The Porch Club.  This is just one of the many ties with Riverton’s history that Nancy embodies.  Her family traces its roots to Ezra Lippincott, one of the original Rivertonians, and her family tree reads like a history of the town.  Through her Swiss father, Nancy has strong ties to the former Zurbrugg hospital as well.   

One of her fondest childhood memories is of Christmas in her grandmother’s house at Carriage House and Lippincott.  Her grandmother would always have a huge fresh cut Christmas tree with real candles in the glass enclosed entry porch. The family would gather around to light the candles—with cousins stationed in each corner with buckets of water prepared to douse the tree in the event it went up in flames! Stockings stuffed with candy toys followed.

Nancy is a proud graduate of Riverton School, Class of 1943.

Nancy has lived in the same house on Cedar Street with her husband Bill for 62 years and her house is well known to generations of children who enjoyed their time in her nursery school there.  Her school, and the activities of her own family, kept her quite busy so when she first joined the Porch Club her participation was somewhat limited.  However, she did find time to serve on the all-important Luncheon Committee.  She recalls that Shirley Brown, the Luncheon Committee Chairwoman, would cook a sample lunch and serve it to the Committee at her house.  If it passed muster, the members of the Committee would cook all of the food that would be served at the luncheon….quite an undertaking.

Most recently Nancy did a star turn as Abigail Adams in the Arts Performing presentation celebrating Women’s History.  In addition to the Luncheon Committee, Nancy has been a member of the Garden Department and a loyal member of the Porch Club Chorus.  She especially enjoys being in the Chorus to hear Naomi Horn play the piano.  She also remembers when her son John and his friend John Law were kicked out of the Riverton School Chorus by Naomi because they were not participating.  John Law explained, “You can’t just move your lips….she watches your throat!”  The Porch Club Chorus is much better behaved…

Asked what keeps her a member of the Club Nancy replies the people, the programs, and most especially, the outreach activities.  Her answer reflects how deeply she and her husband remain involved in the Riverton community and beyond.

Nancy’s motto seems to be “Keep on keeping on…” and at 83 she’s doing a great job of it!

Marge Jefferies – Third Generation Porch Club Member

Marge Jefferies joined the Porch Club in 1972.  Her mother, Ruth Schweizer, her grandmother and two of her aunts were members at the time.  They all encouraged Marge to become a member.  When Marge first joined the Porch Club she was living in Cinnaminson and still does.

Marge has many Porch Club memories – judging flower shows, performing in annual plays, and taking part in rummage sales, art workshops, field trips, book reviews.  The activity that is most memorable is the Porch Club Chorus led by her mother Ruth.  The Chorus put on annual concerts, themed and sometimes costumed for the club and occasionally for the community.  Marge states that the luncheons and teas were quite similar to the luncheons and teas we have today, with one exception.  The two official greeters at the monthly meetings always wore gloves and shook your hand as you entered.

Marge has held various offices over the years, including two and one half terms as recording secretary.  As chairperson of Social Services she ran the Rummage Sales and coordinated the annual cookie/candy project which was delivered to Emergency Services.  Marge was the editor of The Porch Door in its inception.

Marge has several especially vivid memories. 

In the 70s Congresswoman, Millicent Fenwick, came to Riverton for a town meeting.  It was held in the auditorium of the Riverton School which was gaily decorated with bunting and flags.  The Porch Club Chorus was the musical entertainment for the program and the Chorus got to sit on the stage with Millicent Fenwick which was quite an exciting honor.

Another memory was a town meeting in 1987 held at Pennsauken High School to express Porch Club concerns over the solid waste disposal facility that was to be built in neighboring Pennsauken.  All Porch Club members wore black and came with prepared speeches. Yet, the PC women were never given a chance to speak because of the huge crowd.  Channel 6 newscaster, Vernon Odem reported the event on the 11:00 news. 

During the club’s 100th anniversary year, the officers of the Club participated in Riverton’s 4th of July parade.  The car Marge was riding in became overheated, so she and other PC members walked the remainder of parade (in true Riverton parade tradition) proudly with their 100th anniversary year signs.

We are so glad to have Marge carrying on family and Porch Club traditions!

Thank you Marge!

Shirley Ellis…80 Years Young & Still Working in the Family Business—Calkins Media

Shirley joined the porch club in 1970 when Barbara Smyth told her she should belong!! Wonder how many other women have started their tenure with The Porch Club because a friend told them to?

Although Shirley was a very busy working mother of three young sons, she volunteered in many ways – especially when Barbara needed her help. According to Shirley, she and Barbara were a perfect team. Barbara – the idea person with a creative mind and Shirley – the super organized person who followed through and saw that everything was completed on time. Perhaps those organizing skills were honed by her working for some of the family newspapers – including the Burlington County Times. 

Her volunteering included, but is not limited to, helping with Rummage Sales, attending State Federation Conferences in Atlantic City, helping organize meet and talk sessions with authors at The Riverton Country Club for the Literature Program, and the glamorous job of cleaning the building.

She is particularly proud of helping to develop and implement “Hoagie Day” for the Riverton Grammar School children. Remember in those days all Riverton students had to leave the building at lunch time, so this program really helped the parents while treating the students to home-made hoagies. Shirley also offered her garden twice for Porch Club Garden Tours.

Shirley is currently writing the history of her father, Stanley Willis Calkins, and the creation of Calkins Media. Her dad was a self-made man who founded a communications company that now includes newspapers, television stations and digital media with four generations of family still very much involved. Writing that history is a loving, albeit time-consuming task. Plus she has still has a pivotal role in the business that requires travel to a variety of sites.

One of the changes in the Porch Club that Shirley is especially pleased with is the addition of evening programs that allow women who work a chance to be involved – and since she still works that’s when we will see this very busy woman!!

Thank you Shirley for you continuing interest and generous support of the Porch Club!