“Smoky” Joe …Where Did He Go?
by Cate Murway
The small town of historic Bristol on the Delaware provides a plethora of attractive scenes much like those depicted in the popular 19th century Currier and Ives prints where everyone knew everyone else and many were related by blood or by marriage. Children played in the streets during warmer weather and rode their bikes from Sears. The homes were shaded by large elm and maple trees and many lived in rooms behind or above their stores.
“I live in South Carolina. My memory is good in some areas and not so good in others. One thing I can tell you is my mother worked in the mill probably about 100 years ago. She did not talk much about it but she did work there.”
Joseph James Hoffman, Northeast Catholic HS ’56, first moved from the Borough and made Levittown his home until the mid ‘80’s. The name Joseph means “increase; addition”, very appropriate as he is the youngest of the twelve children born to James Aloysius “Jake” and Anna V. [ McHugh] Hoffman. Jake worked in the pipe foundry in Florence, NJ and then as a tinsmith from their Pine Street home where many of his tools still remained. He died in 1963. Anna worked in the Grundy Worsted Mills. “She was a very hard worker.”
The Thanksgiving Bristol/Morrisville games were important. “Everybody got together for dinner and Mom made lemon meringue pie. O'Boyle's Ice cream trucks moved slowly during summer evenings inviting patrons to share and enjoy a sweet treat. Because of our many family members, my mother took a bowl to the O'Boyle truck and had the vendor scoop ice cream directly into the bowl to divide equally among us. No cones.”
Their roast beef dinners on Sundays evoked special memories. He choked up some. We paused.
“It was a nice way to spend some time reminiscing. I should say that people I knew in Bristol back then would know me only as Smoky Joe. That was my common name as a young man. More folks would know that than my actual name.”
He was dubbed “Smoky Joe” because “I smoked a million cigarettes.”
His paternal grandparents lived on New Buckley Street after the PA RR moved their home in 1910 from Garden Street in preparation for the railroad to be elevated. Joe’s father was the second of the 4 boys in that family who relocated to Bristol from the coal regions. His dad’s brothers were Thomas E., a paperhanger; George, who worked at the Cornwell’s State Bank; and William, the proprietor of Hoffman’s Ice Service. His mom’s four sisters all lived on Corson Street.
The area of Pine Street, where Joe grew up, and Corson, Spruce, and Race Streets were called “the kettle”.
The eldest of the Hoffman brood was WWII USN [1942-1945] veteran James J., an original crew member of the USS NJ [BB62], America's most decorated Battleship. He was the Levittown postmaster when he returned home.
“Each of my 3 brothers served”.
"Here's a suncatcher my brother, Jim, made years ago from cut glass"
The late USN veteran George [wife, Katherine McInerny of Bristol] served in the early ‘50s on the USS Valley Forge [CG50] carrier cruiser, a baby carrier and returned to a supervisor position at Manhattan Soap, served as a Borough policeman and worked in the National Sugar Refining Company in Philadelphia.
US Army veteran Cpl. John James, the 9th of the 12 siblings, was stationed in Germany during the Korean War and retired as a Rohm & Haas accountant after 41 years. John is the former financial officer and has been a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians since he was 16 years old. He and his wife, Lorraine Marie [Lippincott] Hoffman, reside in Harriman. Lorraine’s mother, Mary [Pasciullo] and her Uncle Daniel Pasciullo also worked at the Grundy Worsted Mill. “They were young and they went to school there for a couple of hours daily.”
John’s first car was a 1938 Nash that he purchased for $195.00. “It looked like a tank.”
While John was stationed overseas in Germany, he was awarded his GED diploma. “Joe attended the graduation ceremonies and accepted it for me.”
Their infant brother, Thomas died at only 3 days old.
Joe’s sister, Anne “Anna” married a Navy pilot, Robert Hunt; and his sister Marie B., married Marvin Allison, a fire chief at US Steel.
Joe’s niece, Ann VanWagner shared, “He's my Uncle, my mom’s brother; kind, smart and talented. I loved the summers in Bristol when we had picnics on Pine Street and drank birch beer on tap. Wonderful man! Marie was the oldest of eleven and he is the youngest. My brothers are all his age!”
Joe’s sister, Blanche married Frank Rago who worked for the Hunter - Wilson Distillery and they lived on Bath Road; and Helen and her husband, Nicholas Vitale, a Purex union official, had six children. His sister, Theresa’s husband was Kenneth Nice, a Levittown mailman; and Frances married Bristol native, Joseph Flannigan who worked as a Trenton Times typesetter.
The youngest of the girls, Sara Helen Blair, BHS ‘53 was a bookkeeper at the Bristol office of PNB. Her husband, James R. worked with electronic instruments and they are Levittown residents.
“My mom lived with us after she was widowed. Joe was always considered the baby. He and I walked everywhere together and we had the same friends. He is my favorite person in the world!”
Having older sisters was like having more mothers. “Blanche made me coats and clothes for my children.” Sara recalls dances at St. Mark’s and concerts and shows in the auditorium.
“Growing up was very happy!”
Smoky Joe and his wife, Etta Mary [Donlan], whom he met at a BHS dance, a former bank teller, had five children, Joseph, James, Jeffrey, Theresa and Jason. Home and family have always been a strong focus. They have 15 grandchildren. “Granddaughters Barlow and Delaney live close.”
Joe’s first car was a 4 door 1949 black Fleetline, a marque in the history of Chevrolet, purchased for $299.00 in 1957.
“It might be interesting to today's youth that our family did not have a car. I never saw my father drive. We were not that rare. While most families did have a car there were quite a few that did not. Neibauer Bus Company ran a circuit route around Bristol, up Radcliffe Street, thru Edgely, Tullytown and along old Bristol Pike thru Morrisville to Trenton. Rt. 13 had not been constructed yet.”
What was so special about Bristol?
“Just the people! We walked or biked everywhere.”
He remembers sledding on hills and he loved the canal. They spent hours at Grundy Park, playing on the swings, participating in games of tennis or horseshoes, and pinochle under the trees. The adults would box outside of St. Ann’s. Joe recalls swimming in the Delaware. “It was a gathering place on the dock and people jumped off the wharf. There was lots to do and no trouble!”
A favorite hang out was either at the corner of Buckley & Bath Streets or in front of Edward F. Lawler’s “choice fresh meats and groceries store” at 119 Mill Street after it closed.
Mill Street was hopping! Nichols Studio showed movies in the window and McCrory’s served pumpkin pie and soda for $.25.
His buddies were former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Thomas C. Corrigan, the late Fenton Larrissey, and Walter “Chappy” Binkley, who has made Florida his home.
William Joseph Frake, III, whose dad was the sexton for St. Mark’s Church, and Joe went to school together for 12 years. His friend Bill shared, “We rode the train to Frankford Junction and then walked to school together. One day, we cut school and hopped the train back to Bristol.”
Msgr. Paul Baird greeted them on the train platform.
Joe started his first job, at Windsor Pharmacy at the age of thirteen, stocking shelves for $.50 hour and delivering prescriptions on his bike.
Alan and Audrey Vogenberg, proprietors of Alan’s Pharmacy that merged with the Windsor Pharmacy, remember Joe as a “good kid from a wonderful family; always on time and conscientious.”
Joe later worked at the Hunter - Wilson Distilling Company on Green Lane after classes while in High School, packing the barrels for shipping when the facility was closing.
“I earned an Associate's degree from BCCC around the time of the escalation of the Vietnam War. When I started it was $9 per credit. A lot of guys I hung with there were vets. I went full time days and worked full time nights with electrical wiring at Circle F Manufacturing in Trenton. Took several years off and then went to Temple at night.”
Many characters sketched in the shared heartwarming tales of their “wonderful life” in the Borough.
The Hoffman family, as well as incalculable others, has imbued the tonal colors into what was never to be just a gray palette fabric, known as life in historic Bristol on the Delaware.
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James J. "Jake" Hoffman
Bristol Boro Resident
James J. "Jake" Hoffman, 77, of Bristol Boro, died peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Wedn. Nov. 6, 2002. Born and raised in Bristol Boro, he resided in Bristol Township for many years, prior to moving back to Bristol Boro 15 years ago. Mr. Hoffman was a retired Operations Manager with the U.S. Postal Service for 38 years. He was a U.S. Navy Veteran serving in WWII from 1942-1945 and was an original crew member of the USS New Jersey. He was a member of St. Mark Church, the USS New Jersey Veterans Assoc., N.A.R.F. Chapter #1287, the Bristol Moose Lodge No. 1169, and the Seasoned Travelers.
Son of the late James A. and Anna V. (nee McHugh) Hoffman, and brother of the late Helen Vitale, Theresa Nice, Frances Flanagan, George Hoffman and Blanche Rago, he is survived by his beloved wife of 55 years, June P. (nee Heath) Hoffman, 1 son, James G. Hoffman and his wife, Nancy of Mechanicsburg, Pa, 1 daughter, Judi Jerdan and her husband, David of Bristol, 5 grandchildren, Stephen Aicher and his wife, Denise, Melanie Vest and her husband, Ron, Brian Aicher and his wife, Lisa, Mandy Hoffman, and Matthew Hoffman, his great-grandchildren, Walter Slivinski, III, Kierstyn Vest, Ronald Vest, III, Brian Aicher, Jr., and Caleigh Aicher. Also survived by 2 brothers, John Hoffman and his wife, Lorraine of Bristol and Joseph Hoffman and his wife, Etta of Murrells Inlet, SC, 3 sisters, Marie Allison of Porter, Ind., Anne Hunt of Midlothian, Va, Sarah Blair and her husband, James of Levittown, Pa, along with several nieces and nephews. Relatives and friends are invited to attend his Mass of Christian Burial on Sat., Nov. 9, 2002, 11:00am at St. Mark Church, Bristol Boro. Interment, Bristol Cemetery. Friends may call Sat. morning 9-11:00am at the Wade Funeral Home, 1002 Radcliffe Str, Bristol Boro. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Mark Building Fund, 1025 Radcliffe Street, Bristol Pa 19007 or to the American Insitutue of Cancer Research, P.O. Box 91493, Washington, DC 20090-1493. www.wadefh.com
Marie B. Allison, age 87, of Porter, IN, passed away Thursday, April 28, 2005 in Portage, IN. Marie was born August 19, 1917 in Bristol, PA to James Hoffman and Anna McHugh, who preceded her in death. On April 26, 1936 in Fallsington, PA, Marie married Marvin Allison, who also preceded her in death. Marie is survived by her sons: Edward (Betty) Allison of Gansevoort, NY; Thomas (Judy) Allison of Valparaiso, IN; James (Mary) Allison of Morrisville, PA; Marvin (Phyllis) Allison of Valparaiso, IN and Robert (Cathy) Allison of Chesterton, IN; daughters: Ann (John) Van Wagner of Porter IN; Carol (Fred) Trathen of Porter, IN and Cynthia (Mark) Bland of New Albany, IN; brothers: John Hoffman of Bristol, PA and Joseph Hoffman of Myrtle Beach, SC; sisters: Anna Hunt of Midlothian, VA and Sara Blair of Levittown, PA; 23 grandchildren; and nine great grandchildren. Also preceded in death by brothers, James and George Hoffman and sisters, Blanche Rago, Helen Vitale, Theresa Nice and Francis Flannigan. Mrs. Allison was an area resident since 1964 coming from Pennsylvania. She was a homemaker and attended Liberty Bible Church. She was also a former member of the Capitol View Fire Dept. Ladies Auxiliary in Pennsylvania. Marie also enjoyed bingo at the VFW. Services will be held Sunday, May 1, 2005 at 5:00 p.m. at the Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home Portage Chapel, 6941 Central Ave., Portage, IN with Pastor Al Marquez officiating. Visitation will be Sunday, May 1, 2005 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home Portage Chapel. Cremation will take place at Heritage Crematory, Portage, IN.,with interment of the ashes at McCool Cemetery, Portage, IN. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the VNA Hospice of Porter County, 501 Marquette St., Valpariaso, IN.
James A., husband of Anna Hoffman of 650 Pine St., Bristol. Pa. Survived by wife Mrs. James A. Hoffman of Bristol; daughters, Mrs. Marvin Allison. Morrisville: Mrs. Robert Hunt. Virginia; Mrs. Frank Rago, Bristol: Mrs. Nicholas Vitale, Levittown; Mrs. Kenneth Nice. Morrisville; Mrs. Joseph Flannigan, Levittown; Mrs. James Blair, Levittown; Sons, James, George. John all of Bristol and Joseph of Levittown. Thirty grandchildren. two great grandchildren. Brother. Thomas Hoffman, Bristol. Relatives, friends and members of Ancient Order Hibernians invited to attend the funeral on Monday 9 a.m. from the Murphy Funeral Home. 1002 Radcliffe St.. Bristol. Requiem High Mass celebrated at 10 a.m. St. Mark’s Church. Interment St. Mark’s Cemetery. Friends may call Sunday evening.
"Dr. Hoffman was my cousin. His family lived across the street from me in Bristol. Tom used to send me photos for the drawings I did of Bristol scenes. He has a sister, Mary, who lives near Cleveland. We correspond on occasion. Tom gave me all the data on the Hoffman family history. I miss him.. "
Dr. Thomas J. Hoffman
Bristol Boro Resident
Dr. Thomas J. Hoffman, age 79, entered into eternal rest on March 3, 2006, at his home in Bristol, surrounded by his loving family.
Born in Bristol, Pa., Dr. Hoffman was a graduate of North Catholic High School, St. Joseph University and Temple Dental School. Dr. Hoffman practiced General Dentistry for 38 years in Bristol. He was a parishioner of St. Mark R. C. Church. Dr. Hoffman was a member of the American Dental Association, a fifty year member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Div. 1, Bristol, a member of the Pennsylvania Train Museum and the Train Collectors Association. He was an avid sailor and a member of the Surf City Yacht Club. He was a WWII Navy Veteran, serving on the USS Baltimore.
Son of the late Thomas J. and Sarah Hoffman (nee Dugan), he is the beloved husband of Mary R. (nee Dooley) Hoffman, devoted father of Christine Cardi and her husband, Anthony and loving grandfather of Tina and Tommy Cardi. He is also survived by his sister, Mary Vail and her husband, Maurice of Bay Village, Ohio; his sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Catherine and Hugh Scullin of Meadow Brook, Pa, Joan Kiley of Lady Lakes, Fla., Margaret and John Brolly of Phila., Pa., James Dooley of Cave Creek, Az., Thomas and Carol Dooley of North Wales, Pa and Frank and Theresa Dooley of Southampton, Pa, along with many dear nieces and nephews.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend his Funeral Mass on Thursday, March 9, 2006, 11:00am at St. Mark R.C. Church. Interment, St. Mark Cemetery. Friends may call Thursday morning 9-10:45am at the Wade Funeral Home, 1002 Radcliffe Str., Bristol Boro. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Mark Church, 1025 Radcliffe St., Bristol, Pa 19007. www.wadefh.com
Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 8:25 am
John J. Hoffman Sr. passed away Monday, Nov. 30, 2015
at his home with his loving family by his side. He was 82.
Born in Bristol Borough, he was the son of the late James and Anna (McHugh) Hoffman and was a lifelong Bristol resident. John was a graduate of St. Mark School, Northeast Catholic High School and Rider University.
He was a U.S. Army veteran, serving in the Korean War.
John retired after 41 years as an Accounting Supervisor for Rohm & Haas Co.
He was a lifelong active member of St. Mark Church, where he served as an altar boy, lector, Eucharistic minister, the Pre-Cana team, the Parish Council and as the business manager for many years.
John was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Michael Dougherty Division 1, Bristol, for 66 years and was recently given the honor of National Life Member. He was also a member of the Celtic Heritage Foundation, a lifetime member of the V.F.W., John Billington Post, the Knights of Columbus, Council 906, the Bristol Moose Lodge No. 1169, and the Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation.
John is survived by his beloved wife, Lorraine (Lippincott) Hoffman, and his loving children, John J. Hoffman Jr. and his wife, Polly, Maryann Jashinske and her husband, Mitch, and Marita Connor. He will be sadly missed by his grandchildren, PJ Hoffman and his wife, Sarah, Bryan Hoffman and his wife, Kathleen, Mike Hoffman and his wife, Kathy, Devyn and Connor Jashinske and Seamus and Natalie Connor. John is also survived by a sister, Sara Blair and her husband, Jim; a brother, Joseph Hoffman and his wife, Etta; along with many loving nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by three brothers, James, George and Thomas Hoffman, and six sisters, Anna Hunt, Marie Allison, Helen Vitale, Theresa Nice, Blanche Rago and Frances Flanagan.
Friends may call from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday evening, and 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Friday morning, at the Wade Funeral Home, 1002 Radcliffe Street, Bristol Borough. Relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral Mass at 10 a.m., Friday, Dec. 4, at St. Mark Church, Bristol Borough. Interment will be held in St. Mark Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Mark School, 1024 Radcliffe St., Bristol, PA 19007.Wade Funeral Home, Bristol Borough