CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
German Settlement in Cramer Hill
by Frederick J. Frett
Frederick Frett was born and grew up in Cramer Hill at 2850 Polk Avenue, and resided there until January of 2014, when he moved to Burlington. To say that the Frett family had a major impact on Cramer Hill over many decades would be an understatement. He wrote this article in April of 2015, which was provided to me by his nephew, Ted Frett.
This article will also either appear in or be linked to a web-page currently in development about the German community in Camden.
As a permanent resident of Cramer Hill for 97 years, I have fond memories of our tight knit community and the camaraderie of the many residents of German descent. I spent 85 of those years living in the same house at 2850 Polk Avenue between 28th and 29th streets. In the 1920s to 1950s I had many German relatives in the area. They were mainly the Cramers, Hoffmans, and the Fretts. And yes, I am a descendent of Alfred Cramer who started the development of what became called Cramer Hill in the late 1800’s.
Other than the local taverns and cafes, every one of the various ethnic groups seemed to have their own special meeting place. Among the Germans of Cramer Hill that place was the Germania Maennerchor, which was located on the south side of 27th street between River Road and Lincoln Avenue. My grandfather, John Cramer, helped build this private club sometime in the 1920’s or 1930’s. I don’t recall what the cost of membership was but its members included some of the most influential German-American families in the city.
The club was known for its choir which consisted of both men and women and the German music that was sung and played. In addition to enjoying the music, there was a bar where one could catch up on the latest news or gossip, a two lane bowling alley and shuffleboard. In addition there was a dance floor for social events. The building was also used for some boxing events. Of course, during World War 2, the frequency of activities and the types of activities were toned down for obvious reasons.
Although it is impossible to remember them all, some of the German-American family names living in Cramer Hill during the heyday of the German Maennerchoer were as follows:
Another mainstay of entertainment in Cramer Hill was its sports teams, particularly baseball and football. There were some outstanding athletes among the German-American families in Cramer Hill. You can see photos of them in the Cramer Hill section of this website. Although my brother, uncles, and cousins participated, my activity was very limited. At 8 months old I had contracted polio and one of my legs did not develop fully like the other. However, in the 1930’s-1950’s, I had the great pleasure of coaching some of Cramer Hill’s independent teams. These opportunities included the Cramer Hill “Wildcats” football teams along with Defiance, M & S Machine, and Ackerle’s Bakery in the Camden City and Camden County Baseball Leagues. Our home fields were at 36th and Harrison, Von Nieda Park, and 24th and Harrison. That time period was a great time for Cramer Hill sports.
I have recently celebrated my 100th birthday in January with my family where I reside at the Masonic Home of New Jersey in Burlington. Every week I enjoy sitting with my nephew Ted and going over items in the website on his iPAD. I have seen a lot of changes in sports in my lifetime and appreciate the dedication and enthusiasm of the amateur athletes I grew up with in our Cramer Hill.
Frederick J. Frett
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