From the viewer's left to right: Vittoria Donata VALENTE, her cousin Filomena IACOVELLI, and their friend Millie BARNABIE on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge between Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, about 1940.
The bridge was originally named the "Delaware River Bridge" and was as old as the two cousins in age, who were born in 1925; the bridge opened in 1926.
The girls used to walk from Camden to Philadelphia to shop on Market Street and Broad Street, all the way to Temple University and back. Millie Barnabie's parents were from Le Marche; Vittoria Donata's and Filomena's parents were from Molise.
Millie Barnabie's mother Elsie was once the center of a famous local dispute with PSE&G (Public Service Electric and Gas Company); see the newspaper article titled Mayor's Aid Asked to End 'Pole' Siege, Camden Courier-Post - September 20, 1934. Also affected by the event was Pasquale Di Renzo, whose corner grocery store was down the street from Mrs. Barnabie's house.
Vittoria Donata remembered that people used to come from all over to look at Mrs. Barnabie: "It was quite a spectacle." Pasqualina DiRenzo (1902-1981), who lived one door away from Mrs. Barnabie -- "Our steps were dark; their steps were marble," Pasqualina's daughter remembered -- took Mrs. Barnabie's place in the rocking chair on top of the board from time to time, to give Mrs. Barnabie a rest. "There was always a crowd there. It was like a party. We couldn't wait to get home from school. At night they sang all these Italian songs," Filomena said. The dispute lasted about a week.
Source: World's Popular Encyclopedia. Vol. III. World Syndicate Publishing Co., 1940. Cleveland. O.
CAMDEN, a city of New Jersey, the county seat of Camden co. It is on the Delaware River and a port of entry. Camden is connected with Philadelphia by ferries and suspension bridge. It is noted for its large market gardens and is also important industrially and is the site of several shipbuilding plants which were especially prosperous during the World War. The city has an excellent system of paved streets, unusually good educational facilities, including private and public schools. The chief industries are shipbuilding, the manufacture of worsted goods, oilcloth, boots and shoes, phonographs, foundry products, pens, soups, etc. Camden received a city charter in 1828 and with the completion of the Camden and Amboy Railroad, in 1883, became an important business and commercial center.
Related Page: Map of the City of Camden in 1935, with a chronology from the 16th Century to 1950.
The following is a transcript of an article published in the Camden Courier-Post newspaper, 20 September 1934, pages 1-2:
Mayor's Aid Asked to End "Pole" Siege
Drastic Action Hinted as Royden Street Woman Continues Vigil
The office of Mayor of Camden was to be called upon today for mediation in the "Siege of Royden street."
Mrs. Elsie Barnabie still held the trenches in front of her home at 307 Royden street, while the frustrated crew of Public Service Electric and Gas Company stood helplessly by, waiting for the first sign of a break in the defense to open its attack.
The giant utility corporation had retreated to the extent of offering concessions to them mother of six children whose defiance promises to cost it several hundred dollars. But she countered by increasing her demands from a desire to have to have old pole for fire wood to a polite request for $500 "damages."
Today, Pasquale Di Renzo, the corner grocer at 556 South Third street, planned to ask Mayor Stewart to step into the breach and settle the squabble, to save the life of his paralyzed son, Joseph, 23. The boy has been unable to eat or sleep since Mrs. Barnabie ensconced herself over the pole hole Monday afternoon, he says, because of excitement in the neighborhood.
Company officials jeered at the demand for money, asserting she "wouldn't have a leg to stand on if taken into court." They haven't taken such action so far, they said, because they don't want any more trouble over the pole than they can help, but they may be forced to do so shortly, they averred.
"As a matter of fact," said one official, who declined to be quoted, "the pole hole is not on Mrs. Bar-
(Continued on Page Two)
Mayor's Aid Asked to End "Pole" Siege
(Continued from Page One)
nabie's property at all. It is at the curb at the end of an alleyway between two rows of houses on ground for which we hold the deed. The ground really is part of a public thoroughfare.
"The old pole was placed there in 1924, and now has become rotten at the bottom. We want to replace it with a new one to protect life and limb and property. Mrs. Barnabie can have the old pole for firewood, but certainly she is not entitled to any money for 'damages.' Where are the 'damages?' She wouldn't have a leg to stand on if we took her into court, and unless she lets us put up that new pole pretty soon we may be forced to do that."
Meanwhile, Mrs. Barnabie may not have a leg to stand on, but she has a wooden platform over the hole, a rocking chair to sit in, a fire along side to keep her warm, her husband Florindo, to relieve her at her vigil for a few hours at night to let her sleep inside her home, six daughters to carry her food and drink, and a host of sympathetic neighbors to bolster up her tenacity.
A Public Service derrick truck, manned by a corporal's guard of five or six workmen, stands by 24 hours a day, in 8-hour shifts, with a new pole all ready to go into the hole the moment it is left unguarded, but so far the besieged defender and her allies have successfully held the fort.