There She Goes

Many years ago I knew a young lady who lived in Runnemede, NJ. I forget her name, why I knew her, and why I even remember as much as I’ve already written. And yet, there’s more.

AlvaLike much of south Jersey (once you push back miles from the shore, and off the farmland), Runnemede was basically nowhere. Despite the apartments and houses, businesses, schools and churches, Rotary Clubs, bars and clubs, veterans’ centers, etc., nobody ever considered Runnemede or the dozens of shrunken mini-urban/suburban clusters clinging to south Jersey’s pervasive network of broken highways as “home.”

That’s something else I remember about my Runnemedean acquaintance. She broke it down this way:

  • Nobody lives here because they want to: they’re here for convenience, and that convenience has a short shelf life.
  • Although everybody living here will tell you they’re getting out as soon as they can, nobody has any definite plans, so they stay.
  • Nobody who moves here does so with the intention of staying here.
  • Ask anybody where they’re going and they’ll tell you they haven’t got any place better to go to, which (they say) is the only reason they’re still here.
  • Nobody who ever leaves comes back.

Unless other depressing Jersey crossroads like Cinnaminson, Teaneck, Shiloh, Berlin (pron: BER-lin), Brick, Griggstown, Florence, etc., for years Runnemede had something people recognized: a thriving business called Alva’s Vacuum Center. Again, I can’t tell you why. Maybe they did a lot of commercials on local UHF teevee. It sure wasn’t its glitzy decor or cutting-edge inventory. But everybody on both sides of the Delaware River knew about this successful Runnemede institution.

In fact, it was so well-regarded (my Runnemede informant assured me) that people referred to the surrounding metropolis as “Alva’s Vacuum.”

And that’s all I know, except that the cluster of stores that housed Alva’s, the Peking Chinese Kitchen, the News Plus Store, and The Singing Banana Telegram Company burned down in 1988 [via]. Alva’s moved to Bellmawr (the one with the w. Not Belmar, up near Asbury Park. Know your Jersey!). Can’t tell you about the others.









This entry was posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment, NIMBY. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to There She Goes

  1. Elemeno P says:

    Glassboro. Paulsboro. Swedesboro. Poetry in asphalt.

  2. Borkon says:

    I have family that go back 6 generations in this part of the world, including farmers whose lands were described in legal documents signed by members of William Penn’s family. According to family legend, every single one of them swore they wanted to get the hell out and never did. One exception: a great uncle who enlisted in WW2 and died in Europe. PS I’m still here, too, but I’m not staying.

  3. Richard Feder, Fort Lee NJ says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but burning down a shopping center is just part of doing business in Jersey. Usually it’s win-win, and in no time at all the burned-out business is back, sometimes in the next town, sometimes in the next shopping center. Even the banana telegram service!

  4. Frank of Oregon says:

    Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!
    Atco! Atco! Atco!

  5. I M. Hoover says:

    This story sucks!

  6. Frank of Oregon says:

    I worked on a construction site when I-295 was widened in the middle 1980s. A bunch of shared apartments in a complex that catered to temporary labor passing through. The town was Bridgeton, which locals called “Brisston.” Non-descript would be an exaggeration. We got up at dawn, worked all day, cleaned up afterwards, and went out drinking. Seems like a lot of people followed that same script back then.

  7. Frank of Oregon says:

    Just remembered — our watering hole of choice was on Jay’s Elbo Room on Rt 73. Wonder if it’s still standing. Or burned down.

    • Borkon says:

      Frank of Oregon: Your favorite dive bar is still here. Somewhere over the years Jay added the w to Elbow Room (matches the w in Belmawr, right Squato?), and decided to serve “craft beers” as well as their discount headaches in a glass like PBR and Ballantine Ale. I drop in now and then, and always wipe my feet on the way out.

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