• Gabriel Donio

It’s autumn in Hammonton—it’s good to live it again


courtesy photo

“Autumn in New York

Why does it seem so inviting?”

—from “Autumn in New York”

by Vernon Duke


Hammonton isn’t New York, of course.


But in autumn, it does have a particular charm of its own.


The fall foliage came late this year, but when it did, it exploded brilliantly on nearly every tree in town.


People are lingering in coffee shops and restaurants, enjoying the weather and the companionship of friends, family and loved ones. Sports have helped keep us all closer, with people checking in with each other about the recent Phillies run to the World Series, those undefeated Eagles, the so-close-to-a-championship Union, the Flyers and the Sixers.


At this past weekend’s playoff game at Hammonton High School between Hammonton and Shawnee, the stands were packed on both sides on a night that felt more like September than November.


Those light standards were blazing at Robert Capoferri Football Field, as they have this fall at William T. Capella Field at Hammonton Middle School. The Hawks have also drawn big crowds all season.


Autumn in Hammonton means the students are back in the classrooms, something we once took for granted but now, hopefully, will never take for granted again. Everything seems to be back in order: teachers and students in schools, students interacting with each other during the school day, at extra-curricular activities and in athletics.


The sight of school buses going down the road this fall never looked so good.


Sweet potatoes have been a crop in Hammonton since before the town was incorporated in 1866. If you grew up around a farm or produce warehouse locally, you were probably pressed into service around this time of year to help pack them. I still remember standing at a conveyor belt about waist-high (maybe chest-high then, I was a kid) helping sort them into boxes after school. Back then the boxes were larger; I remember working a staple machine that would put big copper staples into the brown cardboard boxes that would be topped with white lids with orange sweet potato illustrations on them.


That was about 30-plus years ago—they’re still packing sweet potatoes in Hammonton this autumn, a fine tradition.


I took a walk on Sunday with Gina in the gathering twilight of a unseasonably warm autumn early evening. The time change had happened overnight and it grew dark earlier, making it a little cooler. Leaves on trees showed brilliant colors around us as we walked through one of the most picturesque parts of Hammonton—the town common.


As the streetlights winked on, the stately buildings that coalesced around the refurbished town clock and the now-hibernating fountain created a perfect backdrop for our walk: St. Joseph Academy, Hammonton Town Hall, the Hammonton Post Office, Ss. Peter and Paul Church, the Hammonton Baptist Church and the red brick mercantile building all stood as they have for decades. You can always feel the history and the permanence when you walk or drive through the town common.


This time of year, it always makes me think of Frank Sinatra singing “Autumn in New York” by Vernon Duke. In my head, it’s always Billy May and his Orchestra from the Capitol Records years accompanying Sinatra as he sings.


You know how that one goes?


“Dreamers with empty hands

May sigh for exotic lands

It’s autumn in New York

It’s good to live it again.”


There were no empty hands for us this past Sunday, as we walked through Hammonton on a fine fall evening, the nearly full moon hanging in a clear sky overhead. It was a perfect night for a walk. Autumn in Hammonton lends itself well to evening walks.


It’s autumn in Hammonton. And it’s good to live it again.


Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.