Ups and downs from Cramer Hill

Dear Readers,

I hope that all of you are having a decent 2018.  You know how it is.  Some years are up and some are down.  Often in the middle! Hope your 2018 is good.  Mine has been pretty good.  Grateful.  You need those breather years.  Do you know what I mean?

The photo is from a really UP day in the restaurant of the Galmont Hotel in Galway, Ireland this October.  After a day of trains and vans and seeing the island of my ancestors, I was extremely tired, but happily so.  A pot of tea, a newspaper and a view–in Ireland! I still can’t believe that I had that time in Ireland…  Dreams do come true sometimes and they make good memories.

Today I’m home with a mug of tea, my laptop and a view of my kitchen in Cramer Hill.  Still very good.  I’m enjoying this free day and the company of pets.  My tiny cat, Reina, is standing on my chest meowing.  I think she likes me a lot. My dog, Finn, tries to push her off.  He’s jealous. Oh, to be so loved!  It’s a pretty much up day to be so desired.

A little down happened today–I got the news that I need a new washer.  What happened to those washers with metal, not plastic, parts like my mom had and that I also once had that lasted for decades?  I rejoice in a big up that I am able to get a new one.

Laundromat costs add up fast and I always manage to drop a pair of panties on the floor of the laundromat in front of a stranger. It never fails.

That’s my Cramer Hill day.  I’m not in Ireland and I’m not pinching myself that I’m in a dream come true, but I’m good.  I’m going to finish my tea and look at washers online.  UP.

Hope your days and years are UP.

Love to all my readers from Camden, New Jersey,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Retired Camden City Public Schools ESL Teacher

Camden resident























I voted! Even before I had a coffee

Dear Readers,

I got up super early and voted.  Maybe I should have voted by mail, but I followed the tradition of my parents who went to the former Washington Elementary School in Cramer Hill and entered into a booth and voted. If you know me, you know how I voted.

My parents never missed voting except in their very last years–Alzheimer’s for my dad and dementia for my mom.  They wouldn’t have missed for any less excuse.

Please vote–even if you have to miss a day of work, a wedding or picking up your lottery winnings.  Even if you haven’t had a coffee yet… Today might be your most important voting day so far.  Your priority today if you haven’t voted?  VOTE.

No excuses today.


Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident

Reunion within Reunion – WWHS Class of 68

Dear Readers,

At last!  The long anticipated reunion happened last Saturday night.  Now I can go back to eating bread.  You know I just had to fit into the little black dress I bought for the occasion.

The reunion was great–and I mean it.  I could have eaten that bread. I could have eaten a chocolate birthday cake every day for weeks.  I could have bulged and popped out of my dress and no one would have noticed.  Everyone was so happy to see each other.  Many of us hadn’t seen each other for five decades.

No kidding–the friendliness and happiness in that room at Braddock’s Tavern just glowed, absolutely glowed.  I hadn’t expected an atmosphere that warm and lovely.  Frankly, I’d worried it might be awkward.

I wish the reunion could have lasted all weekend.  (Reunion committee members–don’t faint!)  I didn’t get to talk to as many people as I wished and somehow I missed some old friends who were there.  (Cathy Manning!  I didn’t see you until I saw you on the Facebook photos.) The four hours flew like four minutes.

My reunion with Ruth Ostermayer, the girl with the sweet smile next to me in the photo, filled my heart.  We’d been best friends from kindergarten to sixth grade in John S. Read School in North Camden and then my family moved to Cramer Hill.  Sixth grade was an unhappy year for me.  Everything was new–new neighborhood, new school, new church. So much familiar and loved seemed to disappear.

My mother had decided that a new townhouse in Cramer Hill was her dream come true.  She could choose the color of the kitchen tiles, wallpaper, the bathtub…   Everything new.  Good-bye to our tiny old rowhouse in North Camden!

Mom loved that we would be up the street from Von Neida Park and a relatively few blocks’ walk from grocery stores, a florist, a 5 and 10 (Binkley’s), church, school and a bus stop. We had no car.  Even two friends of hers from North Camden would buy across the street. She had instant good friends. Cramer Hill looked like heaven.  She would have to pinch pennies, but managing my dad’s factory worker pay was her expertise.

Somehow she got my dad to agree to leave North Camden and somehow with a two-week-old baby and two reluctant elementary school kids, she got us moved.  I was so, so sad.  I didn’t want to leave, but, in those days, kids didn’t have any input.  I also wasn’t able to understand that this brand-new house was important for my mother.  (She would never agree to move from this house and she stayed there in her dream home until she died in it last year at age ninety-three.)

I was especially sad to leave my very best friend, Ruth.  I was sad to leave other friends, too, but I’d spent years with Ruth and her family. I worried that our friendship would survive, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Ruth and I kept in touch, but those years of childhood best friendship became a wistful memory.  We went to high school together, but we ended up in different classes.  I worked in the Woolworth’s and I babysat.  Not much social life. However, we persisted with Christmas cards and occasional letters and e-mails, never forgetting our years of jumping rope, going to Brownies, roller skating, making cookies, reading Highlights, comic books, Bobbsey Twins and the World Book Encyclopedia, telling stories, drawing, singing at her piano and walking home from school together.

When we saw each other at the class reunion last week, we were delighted to be back together in person and we talked for as long as we could without ignoring the rest of the class.  Ruth told me that she had been devastated when I moved.  Even after all those years, that news almost made me cry.  I hadn’t known that she, too, had been upset. She seemed to be okay with other friends.  I never knew that she missed me, too.

We talked about her family’s three-story house on State Street.  We recalled every floor, every room.  What good memories we shared of that house.  I’ve even dreamed about that house.

Ahhh…  I forget where I put my keys, but I remember perfectly those years with Ruth and her family.

What a blessing to be able to sit next to Ruth at the high school reunion and to have a reunion of our childhood–in person.

Thanks, dear readers, for reading this account of a bit of my wonderful reunion.


Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Class of 1968, Woodrow Wilson High School, Camden, NJ


PS I’m sure this is one little story of hundreds from the reunion.  Sincere thanks to the reunion committee for hunting up the class members and getting us to attend.  Great job. It was a night to remember.  Thanks, too, for letting us know what members of our class have passed away.  That list broke my heart, but it reminded me to be grateful for every day.  All in all, it was a super evening and I loved seeing so many friends.  Again, I wished it could have been a weekend.












Tonight’s the night. WWHS Class of 68

Dear Readers,

Tonight is my reunion–the Woodrow Wilson High School class of 1968.  Camden, New Jersey.  Fifty years. I’m ready.

I bought a simple black dress and I have kept it free from grandchildren mess, dog and cat hair.  That’s about all that’s needed.  A little black dress.  I should feel perfectly confident.  Maybe I don’t.

Will I recognize my classmates and will they recognize me?  I told my daughter, an oh-so-youthful thirty-five, that I wish that I was young again and then that new dress would look even better on me at the reunion.

She laughed.  “Your classmates will be your age, too!”

I guess so.

But, I imagine them as I knew them as teen-agers in high school and now I know myself as, shall we say, a more mature person in retirement. Certainly no teen-ager. Maybe this morning they, too, are thinking of how age has changed them.  I’m going to say–for the better!

All of us who can make it to the party are blessed that we have the health, the money, the time and the opportunity to get together.  No one is going to care  if someone has grandchildren’s yogurt stains, dog or cat hair on their reunion duds.  It’s going to be fun just to see each other.

Thanks to all the people who made it happen.  Sincerely.  It was a lot of work for you.

I’ll get back to you, my readers, with how the event went.

Love from Cramer Hill, yes, I live here in Camden,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

PS  That’s me in the picture…last week at the Bunratty Castle in Ireland. I still have a bit of jet lag.  Hopefully, my head won’t fall in the dinner plate tonight.





Funny Is Good

Dear Readers,

I get up and breathe the air of Cramer Hill retirement.  Bliss.   Should I go to the KROC CENTER just blocks away and walk in the pool?  Should I tackle the declutterment of the basement? Or, should I have a cup of tea and an egg with my new book?

You got it. I ‘m halfway through MAEVE IN AMERICA, ESSAYS BY A GIRL FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE, by Maeve Higgins.  It’s funny with a bit of serious thrown in.

Remember when you were in school and things were funny? Everyone told jokes?  You couldn’t stop laughing at the dinner table and your dad would say, “What’s so funny?”  I miss those days. The world is grim now.  So–please.  I love funny.

Funny happens especially with my grandchildren–needless to say, they are the dearest, sweetest, cutest, yummiest and funniest children on God’s green earth!  You could take that with a grain of salt because it’s a grandmother’s perspective.  Oh, you already knew that.  Sorry.

The other day I was playing “dolls” with my three-year-old granddaughter while her almost eight-month-old brother watched us.  He clutched his soft rabbit and listened to us act out scenarios that we made up on the spot.

Nora twirled Barbie who was wearing a fancy purple dress and no shoes.  She held her up, “She is the mother and she is taking her daughters to soccer practice.”

The daughters were tiny LOL dolls.  “We can’t find our soccer shoes. I mean, cleats.”  (I was the voice for the daughters.)

Soccer Mom Barbie (AKA Nora) said, “Look in your closet.  Hurry up. Don’t be late.”

In the imaginary car they go with their imaginary soccer ball, cleats and shin guards.

Nora looks around the room and Baby Nate loses his beloved stuffed rabbit because the rabbit must be the soccer coach.  His sister pops a pacifier in his mouth and Nate is good with that. Perhaps he figures there must be a reason that his friend was snatched away from him.  He’s an optimistic little chap even at this tender age.

“All right, get in line.  Pay attention.  No looking at birds in the sky nor squirrels in trees.  Keep your eye on the ball.”  I’m Soccer Coach Rabbit’s voice.   I say it sternly in my former teacher voice.

The two LOL dolls and elegant Barbie mom laugh appropriately.  I feel gratified at my humor being appreciated.  Thank you, Nora.

Then!  Soccer Mom Barbie lunges at the Soccer Coach Rabbit.  Does she feel that he spoke too harshly to the team?  What is this all about?  I remember sports moms–they can get excited.

Soccer Coach Rabbit falls back as the elegant soccer mom kisses him again and again.  “I love you!  I love you!  I love you!”

What could a grandmother say?

“Uh, are they married?”

Nora states, “Yes.  They had a wedding.”

Aaah, she’s going to be a writer.

Love from Camden resident,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

P.S.  I love to receive comments.  AND!!!!!!

I hope to see you at our 50th class reunion.  You can tell me about your kids, grandkids, neighbors, dogs, cats, birds or pet rocks.  OR— BRING A JOKE FOR ME!

 Here’s the info: October 20th, Saturday night at Braddock’s Tavern. 39 South Main Street, Medford, NJ 08055  6:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. $75 for buffet and dancing.  Cash bar.  Check payable to Woodrow Wilson 50th Reunion.  Send to Alberta Wolf, 25 Bear Head Rd., Medford, NJ  08055.  Please send by October 5th.








Dear Readers,

That photo of me sits on a little shelf in my mom’s dining room.  Mom is gone now, but the photo is still there in the Cramer Hill home where my brothers live.  Its place hasn’t changed.  Have I?  Of course.  That photo is what they call “back in the day.”

I didn’t like that photo at the time because it wasn’t glamorous, but that was how I looked.  I was still a junior in high school, seventeen, and I went to a photo studio in downtown Camden for this senior class picture. Maybe some of my Woodrow Wilson High, Class of 1968, remember the name of the studio?

I was nervous. I’d heard stories of how that drape slipped down.  How terrible it would be if that happened to me.  (It did not.)

The photo was going to be a big deal.  It would appear in our yearbook and we would keep our yearbooks forever and ever–or so I imagined.  I still have mine and it’s fifty years now.

Everyone would have wallet-size photos made for family and friends.  It would be one of our most important photos. A photo would sit on a family shelf for years–no, for decades.

Now I appreciate that photo and I don’t mind that it wasn’t glamorous. Ah, to be young! Wow, so innocent! Oh, to be in high school and to know what I know now!

What I do know is that our class reunion is coming up.  Here’s the info: October 20th, Saturday night at Braddock’s Tavern. 39 South Main Street, Medford, NJ 08055  6:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. $75 for buffet and dancing.  Cash bar.  Check payable to Woodrow Wilson 50th Reunion.  Send to Alberta Wolf, 25 Bear Head Rd., Medford, NJ  08055.  Please send by October 5th.

I also know that I wish that I had known more classmates.  Most of the people I knew were from my elementary school years in North Camden, my junior high years at Vets, my college prep classes and my W-Z homeroom.  That sounds like a lot of people, but it was not.  We had over four hundred students in that senior class–so many great people–but it was hard for anyone to know everyone.

Yes, I did have friends in high school, but not enough time to be a social butterfly.  I worked at Woolworth’s lunch counter at 26th and Federal Streets and I babysat when neighbor ladies went to bingo. (Minimum wage at Woolworths?  $1.65/hourly.  Babysitting?  $1.00/hourly.)  I gave my mother twelve dollars a week and bought my own clothing and little luxuries–Seventeen magazine, cakes of Maybelline mascara, those dang Woolworth’s pantyhose that snagged on the school chairs.

It was a busy time of my life.  I regret that I didn’t meet more people.  I wish I had.

The October reunion will be my chance to meet some people who didn’t cross my path very much in high school.  Someone is making badges with our senior photos so we can recognize each other.  I told you that those pictures were going to be important.

I hope more people sign up to attend.  Don’t worry about anything.  Sign up!

I’ve put aside my concern that I’ll look too fat, too old, too tired, too unglamorous.  Not rich, not famous, not interesting.  Whatever.  I figure being alive is celebratory enough for me to go to the reunion.

I’ve even thought that I won’t get annoyed when people say, “You still live in Camden?”  Yes, I do.  If you want my  very long life story, wait until I write a memoir and you can buy the book in hardback.  We can smile and hug and say, “So good to see you!  You haven’t changed a bit!”  That’ll do.

Of course, if you want to see photos of my grandchildren, I WILL be prepared.

Enjoy your day.  Enjoy every day, week, month, year, decade.  They sure do go by fast, don’t they?

Love to my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Class of 1968 WWHS, Camden resident

PS  If you want, you can sign up for my blog.  It’s free.












Another North Camden Memory – Gift from the nuns

Dear Readers,

The other day I bought rye bread, the special little rye bread used for appetizers for cocktail parties. I ate it this morning for breakfast with Irish butter and I thought of the nuns in the convent behind our childhood home in North Camden in the fifties.

We lived in a tiny row house and the back of the house faced the backs of the beautiful big three-storied houses on State Street.  Directly behind us was a convent, but I don’t remember the order of the nuns.

We weren’t Catholic, but we feared and respected the sisters.  I remember them in their tall black habits with starched white “bibs”.  Everyone knew they were way above the mortals in our neighborhood.

The nuns could see into our kitchen and when they stood at their kitchen window, they watched Billy and me wash and dry the dishes.  My brother and I didn’t know we were being watched until the nuns told my mother.  They said how nicely we behaved with each other and how they enjoyed seeing us do the dishes together. My mother basked in this unexpected compliment, but I worried if they’d seen us misbehaving.  We were elementary school kids after all.

They didn’t see the occasional smack we gave each other with the damp dish towel or sopping dish rag?  How we took breaks to fish out a maraschino cherry from the jar in the fridge?  How we acted when we squabbled about who was the better dishwasher?

If you want to know the answer to the dishwasher competition, my younger brother was better.  Much more thorough. I always ended up with one of two specks of pink Dreft on my dishes.  That bit of powdered detergent didn’t last there long.  Bill would see it and toss the dish back into the soapy water, chanting, “REJECT!  REJECT!  REJECT!”

Maybe the sisters saw our shenanigans and they remembered doing dishes as kids with siblings.

They occasionally called my mother to come to talk over their high wooden gray fence.  One summer day they reached over with a package of expensive cookies and a loaf of cocktail rye bread slices.  Someone had given them bakery goods and they decided to share with us. My mother was excited.

We looked at the tiny brown slices in awe and my mother told us that people used with cream cheese or cucumbers for cocktail parties.  Our family never had cocktail parties–only barbecues with lots of Schmidts of Philadelphia.  No cocktails.

We sat at our kitchen table and buttered the slices. They were good.  A rich person’s treat, I thought.

I’d forgotten about them until the other day when I purchased them from Wegman’s.   Why did I buy them? No, not for a cocktail party, but just for fun, in honor of those nice Catholic sisters on State Street.



Thanks for reading.

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill resident

Moved from North Camden to Cramer Hill