232 85th Street – Tiny Tim

232 85th Street – Tiny Tim

In the summer of 1930, two women, Florence Cameron and Elise Sefton came to Stone Harbor to find an escape from the heat of North Philadelphia where they both lived and worked as single school teachers. With just a little money they found the ideal place for them on 85th Street just two blocks from the beach.

They named that place “Tiny Tim.”  It was a small bungalow built in 1917 and it still stands today. Our knowledge of “Tiny Tim” and they two woman who bought the place and loved it dearly comes from a journal that Elise recorded in her best “school teacher hand.”  It only covers their discovery of the place in August to their buying and moving in in October, but the journal is beautifully written and full of details of how they furnished it and who helped them along the way. 

Here is that story unedited:

Tiny Tim-His Story

The thought of a little seashore home of our very own began to seem a real necessity to Flo and me in late June 1930 when we spent a week in Ocean City, NJ. We had chosen a remarkably cheap boarding house, none too comfortable, I suppose, or we should not have looked so longingly and covetously at small houses around us. No matter how cheap, they exceeded our powers to buy, we knew.

It was a ghastly hot summer in Philadelphia, one long to be remembered as the great drought period. Flo often said how silly it seemed to be spending our summer miserably. We really could go away. My funds were doubtful, however, and I had no wish to go boarding again. What we both secretly wanted was a wee place of our own; yet, we had no idea any desirable place could be found. Our tastes were rather exalted, also!

On August twelfth, we were shopping in Wanamakers’ and happened to meet Gray Robertson. She had recently helped a friend find a bungalow in Stone Harbor and said, “I don’t see why you girls don’t have a little place of your own. I know a girl who bought a bungalow at Stone Harbor last year and she hasn’t nearly your salary I’m sure!” She went on, in her enthusiastic fashion, sketching possibilities for us until we glowed with Gray’s faith.

Two days later, filled with Gray’s faith, Flo and I made a bus trip to Stone Harbor. We had had a delightful month there over travels nine years before and knew we should like it. It’s splendid beach and wild vegetation, sunsets and wide horizon were joy enough.

What a delightful mood was ours! What had Fate in store for us? It was deliciously on the knees of the gods, I felt, whether or not we should find a little place. I abandoned myself to the unexpected. I could not quite plumb Flo’s feelings about it. We planned to go down on the excursion but were so dreadfully sleepy at five o’clock we decided to go later on the bus. Nine o’clock saw us, lunch box in hand, ready to depart for the land of Romance, it seemed to us.

We had to change buses at Cape May County Courthouse and got almost to Stone Harbor when we had to leave the bus, walk across a condemned bridge and get into another bus on the other side. How delightfully primitive that seemed! But we were glad we had no heavy baggage. The bus started off at a furious rate! Before we could get our bearings, we were whisked to 34th St.  We had planned to re-visit 96th, our former neighborhood. At any rate, we knew we were near Judy’s house and the Avalon Pier. Looking in vain for sign of life in Judy’s we decided everyone was at lunch and we had better eat ours. This we did, on the pier. We were a trifle downcast by the doubtfulness of getting back to 96th St. Inquiring, we found there was no bus until 4 o’clock. We were told we could get a taxi. We telephoned from the pier, one Mr. Smith Pool-master and taxi-driver of Avalon! He was a charming elderly gentleman and soon had us at the door of Don E. Newton’s office, Stone Harbor.

Mr. Marshall Fisher, a youth whom we liked instantly, showed us a map, several bungalows of the price that interested us. Getting into his cozy little Ford, we first drove to 85th St. The place looked so wee and shabby I had no interest in it, though Flo saw its possibilities at once, I think. Mr. Fisher asked the tenant if we might see it, but she refused. We then looked at a very new bungalow on 103rd St.  We were permitted to go in this one although the Lady-in-the-House deplored the fact that the maid was out, it being Thursday! The place looked very well built and nicely furnished a la Stern, we thought. There was nothing else except on the bay, which we did not care to see. Back to 8th St. we went, and as no one was around, we shamelessly peered in all the windows and got a fair idea of it. At any rate, its charms began to unfold quickly! It had a remarkable rambler rose at one end of the porch, for one thing, several hardy plants and we began investing it with shutters, awnings and other adornments until we felt it had to be ours!

Going back to the office we signed an agreement of sales, getting $100 reduction for cash, the settlement to be in 90 days, we to get possession September 10th. How we beamed at each other and how happy we were with the first incomparable joy of a dream realized, almost unexpectedly! For serval nights we could not sleep for planning. It did seem cruel we had several weeks of vacation and could not get at doing first-aid to the little house. Flo decided he was Tiny Tim-and so shall he ever be!

Nothing daunted, however, we threw ourselves into the ecstasy of spending. On Saturday, we saw some bargains in J. Franklin Miller’s window. Early on Monday, bearing the contents of a mutual savings bank, Florence and Shane kept for some time, we went to Miller’s and had a thoroughly delightful time. We bought a dear little bean-pot lamp, an ice-cream freezer, three waste paper baskets, a canister set of jade green, a dish pan and a garbage can.

Going through Wanamaker’s, we found they were having a sale of delightful soap. That, in green, made our second purchase. The color scheme, at this time, was planned to be green.

I had a good deal of silver. We sorted and cleaned it, but needed knives. A chance visit to Gimbels’ provided knives for eight cents each. Tim was on his way to being furnished!

We know we should need linens. Flo and I sorted out what we could spare from home and then took advantage of Allen’s summer sale. Each of us bought bedding for our own beds and shared in an extra set of tea towels, dish cloths, etc. As typical women, we adored buying linens.

The Cameron Family were so interested and helpful as soon as they heard the surprising news. Edith said we might have her ample cooking utensil collection which she was not using, her kitchen table and almost anything else the store room held that belonged to her. Wat a day we had selecting and packing! She let us have some rag rugs and glasses, too, all at a very low price, on which we had to insist.

Mrs. Cameron was a dear about hunting for things for Tim. A lovely Indian rug, a relic of that brave and romantic relative, Uncle John, is our piece do resistance; heavy shawls we could use as blankets, an ironing board, mattress and bolster were her gifts, most gratefully received.

A necessary visit to Dr. Kurtz’s office and chatter about the bungalow led to his driving us to Cynwyd to see a set of wicker furniture his mother was selling. It pleased us, and we bought it for our porch. It was a little sad that we had to pay for hauling it to 2206 W. Lehigh and annoy the family with it for two weeks, but that was one of the minor mishaps attendant to our venture.

One day soon after, we toured the stores for unpainted furniture. Gimbels’ seemed to offer the best values. We bought a dear table-desk, six ladder backed chairs with rush buttons, a cutlery bracket affair, a step ladder and broom; also much paint and brushes. By this time, the prevailing notion was cream color for walls, woodwork, and furniture.  Work ahead—ah, to get at it!

That same day made us the owners of a toaster, an electric iron, wonderful cretonne, seven yards for one dollar and some orange oil cloth reduced from $.25 to $.05 a yard which Flo’s artists-hands turned into a delightful luncheon set and left enough for shelves. There was also luck in finding some attractive oil cloth for our kitchen curtains. My, how happy possessions were making us!

Following the ads, we captured a nasturtium-decked set of dishes, a little mirror that was long and slim, a linen table cloth, pot holders and incense.

Fear for our new possessions welfare caused us to seek Fire Insurance for Tim. Tina Holden took care of this so speedily as to earn her middle initial “E” for efficiency.

What came next in our list of necessities? “Scissors,” said the Pixie. How expensive they were! We were outraged! At last, we found quite a decent pair for $.44.

Music was going to be a necessity and at once—while we worked, in fact. It chanced that Victrolas were sold very close to the picture framing department where I had gone to have Old Ironside framed. We heard every sort from $7.50 to $35, and decided only the last would do. “Would they send it down to Stone Harbor on the 13th of September, our first Saturday there?” Most certainly they would! We reminded the clerk of our paint and furniture.

Every time we went in town we seemed to see something temptingly attractive for our baby house. One day it was charming green coasters decorated with orange in a little shop on 18th St.  We bought four. On our first washing, the decoration nearly disappeared!

Mr. Fisher very graciously attended to the vital matters of having gas and electricity turned on for us. He promised to leave the one key in the door for us on the 12th. That sounded quite made to us, but we had been taught to think of Stone Harbor as the little place of safety—so dismissed further thought of getting into our home. The most urgent need now was the hauling of our surprisingly large accumulation of goods!

I offered to do the telephoning and spent a busy hour calling up every likely-reading hauler in the classified phone book. I got estimates ranging from $10 to $50, none of which I knew anything, of course. We tried to get a man in the neighborhood. He called us on Saturday night, a fat youth, much scrubbed up for the occasion it seemed. He could not decide on how much to charge us, but delighted us with the invitation, “Youse could ride down on the truck and save carfare.” Both he and another neighborhood man asked $20 so we let both go.

I so happened we were discussing our need at school. Miss Broman said, “Why not have Werner’s Wildwood Express down here on Passayunk Ave?” Bess Mr. Werner, he would take things from 2206 W. Lehigh and 520 N. 20 to Stone Harbor for $10.50!

Friday, September 12th came at last! The thought of it had taken a good bit of the sting out of going back to school. Flo and I each bore a paper shopping bag containing bedding, some food, immediate necessities, and working clothes. We decided such a momentous occasion called for a good meal so checking our lowly bags, we supped expensively and none too well at the Savarin Restaurant in Broad St. Station and left at 6:02 on the bridge train for our first sight of our very own little home by the sea!

On reaching 85th St. at dusk, we searched vainly for the key. Such a sinking feeling as assailed the tired immigrants! The Real Estate office would be closed. Mr. Fisher lived at Cape May Courthouse and we could never hope to get him on the telephone! We decided that nearby Locust Inn would probably have a telephone and could at least save ourselves a long walk to town. The hostess offered the cheering news that Mr. Newton himself was down for the week-end and to call his home. As I sought to get him one the wire, she carried on a third degree regarding us, our business, etc., etc. even to the price of our newly acquired property!

Mr. Newton, all apologies and white flannel elegance, appeared promptly with the keys and with the usual suggestions about the marvels of a little well applied paint, breezed off, leaving us amazed and so curious!

Such junk as we beheld. We wondered how any human beings could it as furniture. At least it would be fun to throw it out! Flo hauled down the pathetic draperies at once. After a thorough look around we decided to call it a day and get busy very early in the morning. We loved Tiny Tim, decided he had grown nicely in a month and would make a beautiful child when washed and properly attired.

The sun, streaming warmly across our bed (containing both mattresses) awoke us early and we joyfully snatched a bite and proceeded to fill the porch with all the impossible furniture.

At eight o’clock came Mr. Fisher, charmingly apologetic about the key and eager to expiate his sin of omission. We showed him the many stains on the walls, denoting a leaking roof, we thought, and asked him to send us a carpenter and someone to haul away the cast off “furniture”. The roof worried us. We had made such a particular point of seeing to that too.

In a surprisingly sort time appeared a gaunt blonde Scot, “Bob” Mills, to read his car’s legend. He advised a new roof, as so many places were weak. His estimate was over $100. The sun seemed less bright for a while.  Certain other repairs we had taken for granted, but not such a tremendous one as a new roof. We decided to see if the owner would not pay for the roof. It seemed like a wild idea. At any rate, a new roof would keep her waiting 90 days for her money. We had been ready to agree to a 60 day settlement to accommodate her. Perhaps she would at least help. It was worth a try.

After cleaning out a bit, Flo and I left Mr. Mills putting in two new window panes and journeyed to the stores. Alas, the Asco did not deliver orders and we had to stock up! They told us we could get a taxi, so we proceeded with a goodly order. We vainly tried to get a cab and the clerk promised to have someone take it down. It arrived before we did.

The very “nice” drug store was as “nice” as ever, if not nicer. We bought a few things and moved on to the hardware-electrical store. The proprietor proved to be an interesting soul, keen about the local fire department and its latest acquisition, a splendid ambulance. It would take you to Philadelphia for a mere $42! After selling us a coffee pot and various small things we decided to get him to put in some wall sockets for us, and remodel a brass lantern Ella had once given me.

How good it was to be happy on such a day. Beautiful sky, sea, air. No hay fever!

The rest of the day was spent planning and hoping our goods would arrive. We had a delightful picnic meal which Flo managed to make most delightful in spite of handicaps, and went to bed early, wondering rather fearfully about our belongings. “Suppose they should not come until Monday,” we thought, “What would happen?” But before we were quite dressed, we heard the promising sound of a big truck, and on hurrying to the door, found a youth inquiring for “Florence’s bungalow.” We enjoyed that joke, especially as the bill bore that address. In a few moments our precious belongs were in and we began the lengthy business of unwrapping 20 bundles! How delightful it was to place our little things, if only for the present.

Still no Gimbel’s delivery. We had to leave on the 5:15 train and on passing the freight room a little before train time, we beheld our unpainted furniture but no paint and no Victrola! Consulting the Station Agent, we found that it should be hauled away at once or we should have a pay storage for it. Before we could even think of what to do, he was calling every hauler in the Borough, it seemed. Finally, as all such gentlemen seemed otherwise engaged, he hailed a passing expressman and urge him to rush our things over in the five minutes before the train left. The expressman calmly suggested keeping the stuff for us until next Saturday. “What delightful people!” we mused.

The following week we dedicated to replacing some of that awful furniture. Monday we priced beds and refrigerators at Wanamaker’s. The prices were discouraging. One bed might do, but the other was a cast iron atrocity badly gilded, that we would not give house-room! The refrigerator had fallen to pieces, literally.

We decided to read the news! A storage house was selling unclaimed goods at low prices. We visited the place on Tuesday. How thrilled we were to get a real Simmons’ Windsor bed, a slightly less attractive but very presentable one for me, a porcelain lined refrigerator, a small table for the kitchen, a book rack, mirror, and porcelain pan for only $36. We were so jubilant that I left my package of books there and didn’t miss it until we had ridden five squares in the car! Recovering the books, we next visited the V and X for bathroom fixtures, thumb tacks and such necessities for Tim, bless him! Like all infants, he was expensive.

Another of our dreams was a white settee on our little side porch leading from the kitchen, shutters, and window boxes. The next day we ventured into a basement wood-working store at 19 and Market Sts. We were surprised to find there a charming lady, Mrs. Graff, who listened so sympathetically and interestedly, to our needs and desires that we were delighted. She know just the sort of little shutters we wanted, with little trees cut in them. She had a fine bench which we could have cheap—and some trellises. We promised to do some measuring and call again.

A few days later re returned to pay for the bench and trellises and met Mr. Graff, this time. He was a delightful soul who asked me to make out my bill! The shutters and window boxes we decided to leave until the spring.

On September 19th, we dined more frugally at H. and H. and left on our former train, primed for new adventures! At least we had keys—more were being made to lend our friends. We enjoyed the ride down and arriving at 232 85 St. I unlocked a singularly unresisting door! The entire frame had been pushed in! Turning on all the lights, we anxiously went through the tiny place. Nothing had been disturbed, nothing missing, but a ten cent comb and an old pair of stockings and those I may have mislaid. We barricaded the door, locked ourselves in our room and slept a little fearfully in spite of a comfortable theory that the owner had come to see about the roof and having no key, the Real Estate agent had broken in the door.

At eight o’clock on Saturday morning our express-man came with the unpainted furniture and the paint, but no Victola! Now we had work to do. After a sketchy breakfast, Flo and I got busy with our flat white. The electrician came and put in three wall sockets and our dear lantern, offering to put up the broken door frame if it were not fixed by the next day! He advised us to notify the police. Stone Harbor has two.

In a little while Mr. Mills called to see if he could do anything for us. He gave us estimates on painting the walls and fixing very things. We got him to put up some shelves for us. It was “nice” to have him around. He advised us to have the borough search made of the property besides the title search and helped us with our application. He persuaded us to defer the work until we got at least that information. We liked him for that. He screwed the door frame tightly in place, suggested the owner had come for something of hers, and advised us to report the matter to the police head-quarters.

Sunday, Mr. Fisher called and knew nothing of the breaking in! We felt disturbed now. When we were in Stone Harbor before we had always felt so safe. Now we feared to leave our good linens, blankets, and personal possessions. More work for Tim, getting us burglar insurance. It was very expensive!

Much to our surprise our furniture came, just as we had finished most of the work we had on hand. Mr. Mills helped put up beds and straighten things out as the movers were very hurried. We managed to get a coat of flat white on everything by Sunday night. Some things had two.

The days of the week passed busily, each but a tedious interlude until we could see Tim again! We felt a little timid about going down in the darkness of Friday night, although Mr. Mills had written to Flo that everything was all right and he would meet us at the house with the policeman if we wished. Bless him!

We decided we’d go down Saturday morning. A 9 o’clock train got us down in gorgeous brightness and bravely entered our small domain. It was another heavenly day. What luck we had in the matter of weather. Mr. Mills stopped with the key just as got in and said he was very busy and would not see us unless we needed him badly. That man seemed so friendly and trustworthy. We were actually learning on him. We asked him to begin the roof when he stopped on Sunday with two chubby little daughters.

We got started on our lovely old ivory enamel stopping only to interview a landscape gardener, Mr. Sange, for whom we’d sent. We got his estimate on fertilizing, planting grass seed and various small trimming and re-planting job. It surely ran into money, as we know it should. We decided to let the back yard go for a year and have the front and sides done.

We stopped work for the day around five, walked to the village for groceries, had ice cream and crackers, and lugging our groceries decided to stop in the Post Office “just in case”. There were three packages! One was pillows Flo had had Wanamaker’s clean and re-make. The other two were Victrolas from Gimbels! We refused the Victrolas as Flo had written them to cancel the order if they could not make delivery on Sept. 19. Since the other things from Gimbels had come by freight we never thought of their sending a heavy thing like a Victrola by mail. Why didn’t they notify us? The postmaster said he had driven down with them during the week but no one was in. We decided to lug the pillows home. Never did we know three pillows could be so heavy.

Sunday we set about giving our second coat of enamel. How splendid it looked to us!

On Sunday, our next door neighbor, a friendly little Mrs. Miller, came over to tell us the moving men had forgotten a little flower basket and had left it with people across the street. We asked her in and she seemed interested. She told us they had just sold their bungalow to a Southern minister, his wife, and little boy. We liked her so much we were indeed sorry to think this was their last trip down. It was a bit reassuring to hear our neighbors were likely to be gentle folk, at least.  Mrs. Miller asked if we’d like to buy their small Victrola with two books of records for $3. I was tickled to pieces and Flo valiantly gave up her longing for a good Vic under later! Mrs. Miller took us over to see her bungalow. Mr. Miller was a pleasant end too. Their place, built a year later than ours was an improvement on it, it was nicely furnished but we did not waver in our allegiance to Tim.

We took the Victrola. What fun we had trying all the records! Some were awful. One I treasure as an answer to a long deferred joy. I am going to smash it! Before they left about 3:30 Mrs. Miller came to say good-bye. Our hearts were warmed by this unexpected friendliness. We painted on, until train time. Things now need only touching up.

On our way up we saw the most glorious sunset I have ever beheld. The glory endured for an unusually long time and we were speechless with rapture and quiet thankfulness for the beauty and peace accompanying our possession of Tim.

The weekend of October third-fourth-fifth found us going down on a new train bearing materials for our supper—and a very good one it was. Instead of changing cars at Sea Isle City, we changed at the junction and were herded into a nasty, lumbering bus. There were more newspapers than passengers and much to our amusement, the doorway was completely packed with bundles of papers. The first passenger to get out did a mountain ascent, with no help nor apology from the driver! Fortunately the papers were thrown off before long and most of the passengers had an open path to the door. Flo and I were the last to leave. When we asked if he stopped near 85th St. he asked where on 85th. I told him. “Take you right there,” he said, “as you are my last.”

We got to bed early and the next morning were grateful for our many warm covers and for the two electric heaters and the gas range. The sun shone so brightly, though, that we were soon cozy. We were going to paint all the woodwork of the house today. Flo and I worked steadily all day stopping only for meals. We had brought a supply of food so did not go to the store. Mr. Sange came over in the afternoon to see the work he had begun. The soil was one, the plants moved and he was waiting for rain now, to plant the seeds. He was in fine from this day and told us much of this family history.

We had not enough flat white to finish the kitchen. It was more difficult than we imagined. We decided to let Mr. Mills finish it. At any rate we had saved $28. Sunday, we sewed a little, touched up the furniture (finding we might do this endlessly) and left after another happy weekend.

During the following week we bought dear, cream colored curtains, oil cloth and comb and brushes for our use at Stone Harbor. The fact that we got one pair of curtains too few and could not precisely match it later, was one of our really few mistakes!

As we could do very little more until Mr. Mills got the walls and wood-work painted, we decided to go down on the excursion Sunday, the twelfth. It was the most beautiful day! The Jersey woods flamed and glowed in their autumn finery. The sun shone warm, the ocean sparkled in the sunlight, and Tim’s new roof was on! It pleased us so much. It was a charming gray, much more attractive than the old red one.

The house warmed up beautifully with an airing, and while I washed and hung out to the heavenly breeze some too-new linens, Flo fussed over the refrigerator which refused to look perfect. I dare not count the coasts of enamel that received, in part, at least! Mr. Mills had asked us to pile up and cover everything we could, so we had carried down quantities of old sheets. We also carried down wondrous filet of beef (on ice cubes) cooked lima beans and carrots, rolls and pumpkin tarts. What a meal that was! Our first big one in Tim. We decided we had eaten from every flat surface in the place before our final enjoyment of our comfortable “kitchen” table now so beautifully enameled.

We enjoyed the Victrola, made covers for our so called “closets”, and walked to the beach a little before five o’clock. Was there ever anything more satisfyingly beautiful than the blue sky and its reflection in the wet sand? Numbers of huge gull and tiny sandpipers rested in the shallow water near shore or skated along the wet sand.

Another happy ride home amid smoke and fishermen’s talk, enjoying a little lunch, augmented by our usual ice cream. We were beginning to see daylight; Flo remarked, as our dear little home took its desired form.

On Monday we journeyed to 635 W. Hunting Park Ave. to order window shades, dark green ones to match Tim’s shingled sides, from Mr. Sandgrete, a most reliable man. As there is a special price on awnings at this time of year, we investigated that phase of beauty for Tim. We chose a pattern and were promised an estimate.

Being near the Superior Café, we decided to make a party of our shopping trip. We saw some delightful baskets in the Pansy Shop near there and I brought Flo and she one for me, both to be used at Stone Harbor.

Several communications had come to us in the meantime, regarding title search and an early settlement. We agreed, for Mrs. Humphreys offered a $50 reduction if it could be arranged.

On Wednesday afternoon, we were called at school and asked to make settlement on Thursday. It was quite a shock. We agreed, I hastened to get the bank to send a check over to the Real Estate Land Title and Trust Co., only to learn it would have to be postponed until Saturday morning. No settlements are made there after 3 p.m.

On Thursday, Florie got a request from Mr. Mills to send a gallon of enamel like what we had had before. We were delighted, as we wanted all alike. We ordered it in town Friday and on our way out of Gimbels found some wonderful bargains in oil cloth table-cloths. That was a find!

Saturday, we were on hand at ten o’clock at Mr. McLee’s office. A charming Mr. Ramsey had charge of our settlement.

Mrs. Humphrey appeared elephantine in dingy finery, mostly velvet. She was very pleasant, but assured us everything we’ve is either wrong or unnecessary. We have been cheated by both the gardener and carpenter! Well, as Flo said to me, “We enjoyed it—and it’s our business.” Of course, we think she got a good deal while she assured us we got a great bargain!

As she had failed to have two witnesses to the deed; she will have to do that and the deed be recorded before we can get it, but we count October 18th as Tim’s christening day.

We celebrated by buying a dear Gambino in a hand carved frame—and doing without candy!

So it went! Happy days, happy years with Tim. Robbie gave us a lovely “log” which we used to continue to the story of Tim and later our Venture.

 Tim was sold May 30, 1944 to Bassels. They sold to Dunns and they to Beckers, (1960)

The Stone Harbor Museum recently made high quality copies of the journal with pictures, bills of lading and receipts that give an absolutely charming picture of Stone Harbor at the start of the depression.  Come to the museum where you can see this in person.