The Depression Years, St. Joan of Arc Parish

Adapted from "Saint Joan of Arc Parish Diamond Anniversary 1920-1995"
Copyright (c) 1995, St. Joan of Arc Parish

During the thirties many of the parishioners were without work when the shipyard practically closed down. Hardship and adversity however, have a way of drawing members of a community together in closer bonds of mutual dependence.

Rev. Joseph V. McCorristin
Second Pastor

With the scarcity of money for repairs to the parish facilities, the men of the parish volunteered and did the work themselves. The pastor in turn came to the aid of those most in need. In spite of many hard times, there were many happy times.

Fairview during those dark days became the focal point of sports activities. Exhibition boxing matches were held in St. Joan of Arc's basement and "local heroes" Chubby Stafford, Irish Patsy Mozier and George Sharkey, the future Monsignor, took on some of the best fighters in the country.

At Union Field, now Malandra Field, the local semipro baseball team used to play major league teams like the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoons and draw as many as 15,000 to the games. Due to the blue laws in Pennsylvania the teams were idle and would "moonlight" here on Sunday afternoons.

Father George A. Welsh, the first pastor, served until the end of 1925. On January 2, 1926, Reverend Joseph V. McCorristin became the new pastor and sustained the parish for nearly the next quarter century.

Father McCorristin had a hard act to follow with the closeness and popularity Father Welsh had sustained with the parishioners but the transition was easily accepted. Father Joe continued with that closeness in both religious and social aspects. Daily visits by Father Joe were made to each classroom and the social closeness of the parish expanded.

SJOA Basement, Photo by MJRuiz, June 6, 2003

An annual Minstrel Show emceed by Paul "Bud" Craig began and it "starred" end men and brothers Frank and Andy McMahon whose wife Helen was still a member of the parish at the time of its 75th anniversary in 1995.

For many years, the talented members of the parish entertained nightly during the week of St. Patrick's Day to sellout crowds in the school basement. It was definitely a yearly social highlight. Father Joe capped off the week by closing school each year on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day, his feast day.

In May, the preparation of the little ones by Sister Claretta for First Communion began. And after reception at Mass, the First Communicants were treated to breakfast in the school basement. It consisted of juice, creamed chipped beef, home fries and toast. It was quite a feast for the little ones. The practice was continued for many years to come.

May processions were held with Father Joe and the altar boys leading the way. They were followed by the First Communicants and rest of the students dressed in white. They exited the main church door and walked around the perimeter of the building leading to the statue of the Blessed Mother. A student crowned her with a wreath of fresh garden flowers and everyone participated in singing hymns.

In June, at the end of the school year, annual boat trips were held. Buses carried the groups to the docks of the river boats in Camden. The river boats were boarded and then departed from the ferry. They sailed down the Delaware River to Riverview Beach Park for an all day outing.

Students and Sisters along with Father Joe took packed lunches and enjoyed the rides and swimming pool for the entire day before returning to Camden on the same river boats. Eventually, in the 1940s, the boat trips were replaced by day trips for the Sisters and students to Clementon Lake Park.

At the start of Christmas vacation at school, Father Joe presented each child in each classroom with their own individual box of hard candy. In these hard times, it was a special treat for many children.