The Berlin Township/East Berlin/West Berlin Historical Association Marches Into the Future While Preserving The Past
On September 27, 2010, the Mayor and Council of the Township of Berlin signed a resolution to recognize the Berlin Township/East Berlin/West Berlin Historical Association whose mission is to commemorate and preserve the history of the township through the collection of artifacts, pictures, stories, oral interviews, etc.
The group, which had been meeting prior to their official recognition, consisted of roughly twenty members who had already begun the process of gathering documents, photographs and other memorabilia related to the township. However, in their eyes, the sanctioning of the township officials was powerful and strengthened and validated the cause.
Since that time, the association has met monthly and has successfully planned and presented exhibits and recreational activities which are educationally based to the residents of the community.
Looking Back at 2011
On February 26th, the association sponsored an exhibit which was entitled “The African American Presence in Berlin Township 1910-2010”. This was their first public event and it was awesome. It was held at the Berlin Township Senior Citizen’s Center on Pine Avenue.
Attendees roamed throughout the exhibit and were treated to colorful displays which detailed the lives of the African American for the first hundred years of the township’s existence.
Each of the neighborhood African American churches presented displays chronicling their history. Photographs, of veterans from World War I up to the present, adorned tables alongside those of policemen and members of the sheriff’s department. A music display yielded information pertaining to local musicians and their accomplishments as accompanists, pianists, organists, arrangers and music instructors.
Businesses in the African American community were also represented in the exhibit. Many stopped and commented on the Tippin Inn display which was composed of newspaper articles and ads and boasted the likes of Slappy White, Ray Charles, Ike & Tina Turner, B B King, Patti LaBelle and others who entertained at the bar during the 50’s and 60’s.
Some of the African American families living in the township presented displays which highlighted their history through historical documents and photographs. Those presented included the Worthington, Collins, Toomer, Riley and Woods families.
In July, the association was invited to participate in the Fourth of July Celebration, hosted jointly by Berlin Township and Berlin Borough. As a result of that exposure, we gained additional members.
On October 2nd, the historical association hosted its second exhibit entitled, “Celebrating over 100 Years of the Italian American Presence in Berlin Township”. On this day, the accomplishments, contributions, and history of the Italian American residents of the community were on display. The West Berlin Senior Citizen’s Center was colorfully decorated with red white and green flags and banners as well as red, white and blue.
There were exhibits which displayed the histories and genealogies of the Simone, Sacco, and Laginestra families. The immigration of Italians from Italy into the community and the influence of the railroad were explained. Maps showing the location of the Italian community within the township as well as US Census records of the Italian families residing in Berlin in 1910 were also available for viewing.
Included in the displays were photographs of family members, copies of immigration papers, marriage, birth and death certificates etc. There were documents presented by the DeRogatis family pertaining to the Italian Building & Loan Association of West Berlin as well as precious family recipes. The Simone family also provided a wine press which was a great visual aid to anyone unfamiliar with the wine making process.
Along with members of the association, several of the local Italian Restaurants and Delis graciously donated a variety of Italian dishes for all to enjoy. The food was delicious and overall, it was a banner day! There was great community support and the response was extremely positive.
Also in October, the association joined in the celebration of Halloween by assisting member, Jack Turner, in the preparation and distribution of candy apples. This was done in the memory of his grandmother, Marjorie Belle Turner, the ‘Apple Taffy Lady’ who was known in the community for disseminating the beloved treat for many years.
Plans for 2012
In the upcoming year, the historical association will continue planning exhibits for the education and entertainment of the community. They will also focus on building the archives of the organization. To do so, they are requesting the support of all residents. If you have any items or information which relate to the history of the town, your family, the geographical area, etc. please share it. The members of the association would gratefully appreciate hearing from you.
Contact can be made through the Township Municipal Hall (856 767-1854) or via the Berlin Township/East Berlin/West Berlin Historical Association’s Facebook page. The historical association meets every third Tuesday of the month at 7:00PM at the Berlin Township Senior Citizen’s Center at 240 Pine Avenue.
By Floyd M. Riley