A common love of Newark unites a crowd on Facebook
Feb 15, 2015 11:51PM
By Kerigan Butt
Main Street in the late 1940s, when traffic was two-way.
By John Chambless
Anyone who grew up in Newark has their favorite memories: Shopping at the elegant Newark Department Store, meeting friends at New England Pizza, catching a matinee at the State Theater, or piling into the family station wagon for an open-air movie at the Newark Drive-In.
For those who move away, there are high-school reunions every few years, but a new Facebook page has become a daily meeting ground for people who remember Newark as it was in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and more recently. The "Memories of Newark" group was started by Patty Farren Feeney, who has lived in Newark for more than 45 years. In an e-mail interview last month, she wrote that, "I moved to the area when I was 10 years old. I went to Christiana High School until 1971. I then moved to North Carolina for three years before returning back to the area. I live here now.
"With so many of my old friends living away from the area, I know they missed Newark like I did," Feeney continued. "At one time, I was a member of a 'Memories of Wilmington' Facebook page. Even though it was a great page, I really didn't have any memories of Wilmington. Most of my best memories were forged in Newark. So I decided to create my own page.
"Although I tried to stay in touch with a quite a few of my old friends from the Newark area, I certainly did reconnect with a few old ones and some new friends as well" through the page, Feeney said.
In April, the page welcomed its 1,000th member, and the group has continued to grow since then. "I am completely astonished!" Feeney wrote. "I had no idea it would become so large, but I am thrilled that so many people have joined, participate, and hopefully enjoy it the way I have."
The page is packed with photos sent in by members, and each one sparks a thread of conversation. Even the most casual snapshot becomes a launch pad for fond remembrances, and a few research projects. Someone will ask a question about the history of a building and the other members will be off and running, contributing tidbits of their own.
"The page is uploaded frequently with amazing pictures from contributors," Feeney wrote. "My favorites are of the places we remember. For example, my cousin gave me permission to include a picture of the State Theater the last day it was opened."
Feeney said her favorite memories of Newark "are from my childhood. Hanging out with friends at New England Pizza or Jimmy’s Diner in the '60s and '70s comes to mind. Perhaps it’s because I am a sixth-generation Delawarean and my family has roots in Wilmington, but I have found that I always had a profound fascination with Delaware history."
Newark, she wrote, "was always a happening place. As a college town, Main Street always had a youthful, energetic, and optimistic atmosphere. There was always something new and exciting going on.
"Although it may sound cliché, I truly miss the old times. I miss the old buildings, businesses, and friends of my youth. I think this is why reminiscing with the other group members is something I enjoy so much. I absolutely love exchanging the shared memories."
The Main Street of today retains precious few buildings from decades past, but Feeney wrote that, "Regardless of my personal views, I think change is inevitable and something we have to accept. Even though there is a lot of new construction, I do think the buildings are usually nice and fit within the character of the city I have grown so fond of. Whether that continues to be the case, time will tell. I do know that you cannot fight city hall!"
Feeney has gotten plenty of help from a fellow member, Joe Allmond, who is often the moderator in charge, fielding questions and responses from his home in Virginia.
"I was born in 1950," Allmond wrote last month. "I was raised in Newark, as was my father, who was born there in 1891. My family has been in Delaware for many generations, mostly in the Wilmington area. My grandfather was Charles M. Allmond, a physician, politician and businessman. He was one of the original developers of the Carrcroft area of Wilmington, where most of the family lived.
"When I was born, my father returned to work as the superintendent of grounds and buildings at the U. of D. It was during his tenure that the original stadium on South College was built. He retired from the U. of D. in 1956.
"My family lived in the former schoolhouse at Thompson's Bridge," Allmond added. "It was converted into a residence in the 1940s. It is now a park office for White Clay Creek Park."
Allmond's history in Newark hits a lot of familiar spots. "I attended elementary school at E. Francis Medill on Kirkwood Highway, then Central Junior High and Newark High School, class of 1968," he wrote. I graduated from U. of D. in 1972."
Allmond lived and worked in the Newark/Wilmington area until 2000. He retired in 2001 and moved to New Canton, Va. In 2011, he moved to Lake Monticello in Palmyra, Va..
"In retirement I am active with the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire & Rescue Auxiliary, the Lake Monticello Water Safety Patrol, and serve as a lay pastor for a small, rural three-church Presbyterian parish, serving Buckingham and Fluvanna counties here in Central Virginia," he wrote.
Allmond explained that he "just sort of stumbled across the Facebook page. I hadn't really kept up with any of the folks from high school, but had started some conversation with Craig Halman, first through Classmates.com and then Facebook. He had commented on some pictures by Rhonda Machulski Brown, and he saw one of her photos of opening day of trout season at Thompson's Bridge. I very much enjoy her beautiful photography, and this led to my discovering the 'Memories of Newark' page.
"Having been a Newarker all my life, I found many things to comment on," he wrote. "As a former teacher, I also enjoy researching stuff on the internet and could often provide
background information and photos as topics were posted. My father was also very interested in Delaware history, and taught me a great deal about it, including leaving me with many of his local history books.
"As I posted more and more, Patty invited me to join her as an administrator. I like to say it was because I was so 'mouthy' that she asked me to do so. I have reconnected with a few old friends through Facebook, including the keyboardist from the band I played in during high school.
"Most of my 'new' Facebook friends from the group are folks that have a shared Newark background of memories and feelings about Newark, but we didn't really know each other back in the day. It is the commonality of our past experiences that has led us into present-day friendship -- a wonderful way to connect and reconnect!"
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.