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Camden has a rich history worth a second listen

There's the screech of the River Line, the rumble of underground PATCO trains, occasional cheers from the Riversharks crowd and Rutgers soccer games, children laughing in playgrounds, revelers at concert tailgate parties, shore birds squawking at the Cooper and Delaware rivers.

Even without the sounds of danger — the wail of police sirens or the hi-lo signal of ambulances and fire horns — Camden is and always has been a source of sound, both discordant and melodious.

For decades, it was a nucleus of technology and home to first The Victor Talking Machine Company, and later, RCA Victor.

Expanding on the sense of hearing, Rutgers-Camden has pulled together an exhibit, "Sounds of Camden.'' It opens microphones, sound stages and listening booths to the history of the city and its high-stepping role in technology. The exhibit encourages and invites participation and appreciation for the city's history.

The free exhibit runs through Dec. 18, Monday through Saturday at the Stedman Gallery in the university's Fine Arts building near Third Street.

Planning the exhibit brought enthusiastic response from university high-rankers with interests spiraling around the technology of communications.

The early stages of planning led to searches for music recordings of such greats as Enrico Caruso and Louis Armstrong, and work of poets Walt Whitman and Nick Virgilio.

Together, the planners and curators of the exhibit researched recording studios in churches and multilevel factories now gone. They dug up the history of the nation's first drive-in movie theater and construction of gramophones and cabinet televisions as large as a chest freezer with a screen the size of an iPad.

The gallery is so packed with historic tidbits it needs more than a single visit.

 

Dr. Cyril Reade, director of Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts and an associate professor of art, developed the exhibit after posing the question: "What can you hear in Camden?''

In January 2013, Reade pulled together "Visions of Camden,'' showcasing work of artists. He hopes to draw on the sense of touch for an exhibit next year.

"There is both a historic basis to this and an expansion on the present. We'll be inviting people to perform with poetry readings and oral histories. We even have a very short recording of Walt Whitman himself," said Reade.

One faculty member has asked classes to record bird sounds which are broadcast across the campus.

"We've borrowed things from Rowan (University), the Camden County Historical Society, and the Dover (Delaware) Museum. The Historical Society has lent us one of the first televisions made by RCA," said Reade.

The gallery is brightened by RCA posters and advertisements.

The exhibit is more than just stuff to look at while you walk around. Live productions are ongoing throughout its run.

One portion showcases Camden's history as the site of the first drive-in movie theater, near today's Airport Circle in Pennsauken. A loop of movies from when that open-air theater was in business, some of the early "talkies" from 1933 to 1935, are projected onto a screen.

Even that open-air entertainment idea of Richard Hollingshead involved Camden industry because he hired RCA to develop directional sound, blasting the sound of the movie to the parked cars. No car speaker system was functional until the 1940s.

"Neighbors weren't very happy," said Dr. Tyler Hoffman, a professor of English at Rutgers.

Recordings at listening spots include not only the famous musicians but elocutionists and actors from the 20th century, including Orson Welles.

Hoffman reached out to students in the English department to sign up for a marathon reading of Whitman's "Leaves of Grass.''

Hoffman has put together a binder of manuscripts of poetry by the late Nick Virgilio, a Camden resident with an international reputation. Virgilio also had worked as a disc jockey for Jerry Blavat and a radio sports announcer.

"Sound recordings are just as important a part of American history as the development of automobiles," said Stefan Arnarson, whose draw to the recording industry cane from his father, whom he described as "a hi-fi fanatic."

"There was unbelievable creativity on the artistic side as well as the technical that happened here," said Arnarson, who joined the Rutgers faculty in 2005. "I've been doing research on this for years. There are catalogs listing the artists, but not the studios they used. One of the mainstay studios was at the corner of Cooper and Front. It's no longer there.

"Camden was Caruso's preferred place to record," he said.

Arnarson said Thomas Edison "didn't see the opportunity for what the technology became. He saw it as a dictation device for offices."

When RCA started as a separate company in 1919, "it was just for military to develop communications systems. Work was done here with radios. I've often referred to Camden as the Silicone Valley of America at the time." he said.

"This is what the 20th century was all about. It was just as busy as the development of the car industry.

"When RCA was bought in in the 1980s and splintered into many companies, there was a tremendous lack of respect for the history of the company and the technology. Things were just left in dumpsters," said Arnarson.

Nancy Maguire, associate director for exhibits at Rutgers Camden said the exhibit is the result of collaborative efforts.

"We're all coming at it from different perspectives."

Camden city students, from public and charter schools, are involved in a music education program that includes a gallery talk and a hands-on project of making wind chimes.

"They'll have an opportunity to record their memories of growing up in Camden. Some have never seen a record album cover, or a record," said Maguire.

If you go

The Stedman Gallery is in the Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts at Third and Pearl Streets, Camden. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended hours on Thursdays until 8 p.m. The exhibit is free.

Updated information about specific events during the exhibit "Sounds of Camden'' is posted on rcca.camden.rutgers.edu. The phone for the gallery is (856)225-6306.

The exhibit continues until Dec. 18.

Live performances

"The Sounds of Camden'' is accompanied by a series of live performances highlighting a Camden connection throughout the run. (A theater event, "Hand Me Down the Silver Trumpet: A Red-Hot New Musical," took place earlier this month.)

A contemporary reading of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"' will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 13.

The annual Mallery Concert Series, offering free lunchtime performances on campus, will also pay homage to Camden's musical heritage.

"Almost all of the performances in the series this fall will feature works that were recorded in Camden by the Victor Talking Machine Company," says Joe Schiavo, associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and artistic director of the Mallery Concert Series.

Recitals will be held in the Mallery Room, Fine Arts Building 224 at 12:15 pm on the following Wednesdays: October 29, Nov. 5, 12, 19 and Dec. 3.

Symphony in C, one of America's leading professional training orchestras, has programmed Brahms' "Hungarian Dances No. 5 & 6," originally recorded by the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra in RCA Studios, for its November concert in the Gordon Theater.

The public is invited to attend a free rehearsal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, in the theater. Music director Rossen Milanov will speak briefly with guests, sharing his thoughts on the importance of recorded music in the City of Camden.

Read more here!

Philadelphia Halloween: History goes boo!

POSTED: October 25, 2014

 

 

 

Sean Kelley thinks roller coasters and haunted houses have a lot in common.

"[They] share the appeal of being something that seems really dangerous, but at the same time you know you're safe," says Kelley, senior vice president and director of public programming at Eastern State Penitentiary. "Haunted houses are like that in that you feel like you're going in somewhere you shouldn't be."

This Halloween, spooky thrills aren't contained within four walls. Festivities throughout Philadelphia cater to the whole family, from date night-worthy scares and beer-boosted tours to kid-friendly excursions. Philadelphia's secret ingredient: a dash of historical horror to flavor the diverse spread of events, catering to the public hunger for fright. Since its colonial beginnings, the city has been stockpiling spooky stories, and they're unearthed in droves this October. As Kelley observes: "Ghost stories and things that are old are almost always together."

This Halloween, your event of choice might just offer a sprinkling of history.

Terror Behind the Walls

Eastern State Penitentiary prides itself on being America's most historic prison, but "Terror Behind the Walls" is anything but a dry lecture on outdated incarceration policies. The prison transforms into a six-part horror extravaganza, including an optional interactive experience for guests at no additional charge.

By donning a "tracking device" - a glow necklace - terror fans notify the actors that they can be touched. Visitors who are "lucky - or unlucky," as Kelley puts it, will be grabbed by a zombie and forced through alternate routes, from tunnels to slides. The six portions of the terror tour are the overgrown labyrinth of Detritus, the pitch-black Night Watch, a prison hospital section Infirmary, Lockdown in the historic Cellblock 12, frightening 3-D illusions of the Experiment, and this year's newly unveiled Machine Shop.

A VIP experience is available through the "Fright and Bite," which enables diners at nearby restaurants to obtain a quick pass to Terror Behind the Walls through a dinner package of varying prices.


Eastern State Penitentiary, 22d Street and Fairmount Avenue, Friday to Sunday, and Tuesday to Nov. 2, 6:30 and 7 p.m. Admission: $19-$39. Information: 215-236-3300, easternstate.org/halloween.

Boo at the Zoo

The Philadelphia Zoo's "Boo at the Zoo" brings families together for a significantly less scary but interactive and informational multiday event. Musical groups perform kid-friendly tunes and costume parades take place at noon each day. Costumed guests can watch the decadelong tradition of Beast Feast, which provides pumpkins for animals to both eat and play with. The zoo's four new lion cubs will "add an extra bit of fun," says Laura Houston, the zoo's director of school, public, and youth programs.

Exhibits include the Halloween-themed extinction graveyard, where children learn the historical reasons for animal species' demise - part of the zoo's effort to "help people connect to wildlife and connect to how they can make a difference," Houston says. A Deforestation Free Palm Oil Zone will provide candy created without destruction of habitats. Guests can send companies an e-card encouraging them to take a pledge to protect environments.


The Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W. Girard Ave., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Adults $20; children 2-11 $18, members and under 2 free.

Information: www.philadelphiazoo.org .

Grim Philly Ghost Ship Terror Cruise

Grim Philly works year-round to bring spooky history to life with walking and boating tours, but they amp up the fright factor this time of year. The adult-themed tours include the Vampires, Sex and Ghost Tour; the Cemetery, Serial Killers, Blood and Beer Tour; an Oktoberfest Halloween Haunted Tavern Tour; and a Ghost Ship Terror Cruise: Pirates and the Jersey Devil, which delivers creepy historical lore by boat.

Joe Wojie, director of Grim Philly and a Rider University history professor, started the cruise along the Delaware River by partnering with Patriot Harbor Lines. With a bar on board, over-21 cruisers can drink to historic legends, including the famed Jersey Devil who terrorized the riverfront and the pirate Blackbeard, who supposedly built a secret tunnel to access a girlfriend's Philadelphia home. Capt. Walt Bohn with Patriot Harbor Lines offers insight into eerily rusting ships like the USS Olympia, which he said have scared visitors with ghost sightings.

 


Grim Philly, Friday at 5 and 7 p.m.; Saturday and Oct. 31 at 7 and 9 p.m. 599 Market St.

Admission: $9.99-$59.99

Information: 856-829-3100, www.grimphilly.com/tours

Goblins in the Garden

Camden Children's Garden will transform its four-acre waterfront park into a Halloween-themed outdoor adventure, but guest services manager Andrew Adams says the educational component of its mission statement as an "environmental and educational organization" still comes into play. Craft stations and fortune telling will help children learn and participate in the Latin American celebration of Dia de los Muertos. Guests can also get up close and personal and touch some of the visiting creepy crawler creatures.

A crowd favorite is often the Halloween parade through the gardens of the park, Adams says. Kids receive candy from employees wearing costumes that correspond to the sections of Camden Children's Garden, such as the dinosaur and Alice in Wonderland gardens.


Camden Children's Garden, 3 Riverside Drive, Camden Waterfront. Friday and Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Admission: $6, free 2 and under.

Information: 856-365-8733, www.camdenchildrensgarden.org.

Thousands Gather in Camden for The Color Run Night

Around 10,000 people gathered in Camden, New Jersey Saturday night for The Color Run Night.

The event began 7:30 p.m. at Campbell’s Field on North Delaware Avenue.

 

“The cool thing about this race is it’s a night-themed event,” said race director Kent Phippen. “This is our first nighttime event in the country. We’re testing it out here in the Philadelphia market.”

 

The event, which was founded in March 2011, is a five-kilometer, un-timed race in which runners wearing white are doused from head to toe with different colors at each kilometer.

 

“All the zones are going to be glowing color zones,” Phippen said. “There are going to be lots of black lights along the course. The powder is a little bit different because it glows in the dark. Everybody gets their own black light head lamp to run with.”

 

A daytime Color Run took place in July at the Wells Fargo Center. Phippen told NBC10 they were unable to hold the nighttime race at Wells Fargo due to limited availability.

 

“We wanted it to be over at the sports complex but we couldn’t find a date that worked for them in the fall,” Phippen said. “Campbell’s Field has been really grateful. We already knew we wanted to do a night-themed event in the area. We sought out a few vendors and thought this one worked best.”

 

Phippen admits he received requests to change the name to the “Camden Color Run” but decided to stick with the Philly title.

 

“We felt that since it was the Philly area it made sense to call it the Philadelphia Color Run,” he said. Phippen also addressed the safety concerns due to the event being held in Camden.

 

“We felt comfortable working with Campbell’s field and the county and felt that everything would be okay because they have lots of large events at the field,” he said. “We checked it out ourselves and talked to local law enforcement.  On top of all that we really beefed up security and increased our security significantly. On top of what the local law enforcement is going to do, we have 40 more security officers patrolling parking lots.”

The race ended around 10:30 p.m. with a party and two fireworks shows.

 

Check out pictures online!!