• Donna Brown

Weather, Presbyterian Church & more



The daffodils are blooming, the robins are building their nests and the peas are planted by superstitious gardeners who religiously plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day. Yet don’t be fooled by this lovely weather. The average temperature for April in New Jersey is 62° F but the average low is 40° F. Averages are tricky and no matter how many flowers and tomato plants beckon you at Home Depot and Walmart, resist the temptation and wait until after Mother’s Day to plant them. There will be nights below 32° F in the next 40 days.


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Construction of the Christian Education wing of the Hammonton Presbyterian Church, 1962. (Courtesy Photo)

The Hammonton Presbyterian Church is searching for a new minister and my husband, Al, and I have been refreshing the pastor’s office. The walnut paneling, so prevalent in many Hammonton ranchers built in the 1960s, was in desperate need of Danish Oil. The drapes needed to be replaced as did the desk which was original to the room. It was the midcentury modern style made of light birch with narrow tapered legs and an asymmetrical top.


Though the actual brick church with the steeple was completed in 1896, the Christian Education addition was built in 1963. Previously on the lot was a two-story manse located between the church and the large parking lot that once belonged to the Acme. I remember going to see the house being lifted up and transported to make room for the church addition. A crowd watched it slowly moved up Bellevue Avenue. If anyone knows where on Bellevue that house is located today, please let me know.


As we purged the office file cabinets and desk drawers, we found remnants of past activities and programs from long ago left behind by seven previous pastors. A calendar from 1966 and bulletins from services in the 1970s. There was a box of brass Sunday school pins once given out for perfect attendance. The custom was very popular in most Protestant churches. Schools at that time also gave out pins as awards for achievements such as in spelling and penmanship.


Children began with a round one year pin and year two was a wreath that encircled it. Then each year after that a bar that hung below was added. The Presbyterian Church hasn’t given out pins for over 30 years, but here these pristine pins are ready for one single child to defy Sunday soccer practice or the temptation to sleep in.


In the 1960s, my friends and I challenged each other to get the most bars on our pin. I still have mine displaying 12 years of perfect attendance. I bet there are others in our community who have their pins safely tucked away. We Sunday School kids have shared memories of making clothes pin shepherds and cotton ball sheep, of Moses holding up the tablets on a blue flannel board held on with a strip of sandpaper and drinking bug juice in dixie cups and munching on local cookie factory treats.


Our Sunday school once filled six classrooms and today we have less than twelve students. Other denominations have the same problem. Why? Was it because the memory of sacrifices made during World War II and the loss of loved ones drew families to church for solace and strength? Or was it that the majority of households had only one car, little money for extras and activities were limited to our own neighborhood? So many people say today that they don’t need religion but looking at the state of our world I can’t disagree more.


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Usually by now my husband has the living room windows lined with tiny trays of tomato and pepper seedlings, but not this year. Next week we head out for a two-month long camping trip across the upper USA. He predicts we will visit 23 states and encounter winter, spring and summer weather on our journey, so we are packing snow boots and bathing suits.


As we have been researching states, I on the computer cutting, pasting and making notes while Al pores over pamphlets and brochures that have arrived in the mail. He turns down page corners and circles places he wants to see such as steam train rides and air museums. I on the other hand press print and then highlight the most important quilt shops and toy museums. Luckily, we both love nature and history, and the northwest abounds in both.


Our trusty little rescue dog, Jacques, traveled with us for two months eight years ago when we crossed the lower tier of the United States and though he is 14 years old now and nearly blind, he is going with us again. I will be writing this column from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and back as we let our readers in on all the strange and enchanted sights we see.



Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to wescoat@comcast.net.