Thumbing through the pages of a recently donated Florence High School yearbook, George Lengel recounted fond memories of his youth to locals. It was a glimpse into a past the 76-year-old remembers vividly, thanks to a new exhibit offered by the Florence Historical Society.
“[The Historical Society] shows me my roots and my heritage,” Lengel, a Roebling resident, said. “It shows me what I’m so proud of when I think of my hometown.”
For nearly 20 years, the Florence Historical Society has provided locals with the opportunity to recollect and reminisce in the area’s storied background by showcasing donated relics tied to the township. When a recent contribution of memorabilia came to the Historical Society, the organization knew it had to make a continuous effort to cherish Florence’s history.
“What we’re trying to do is keep the memory alive of all the things that disappear as times change,” John Mojcik, vice president of the historical society, said. “We want to preserve these things and keep them available to future generations.”
During the exhibit’s opening event on Sept. 15, residents filed into the historical society’s building, where they were treated to the sights of donated antique farming equipment, military uniforms and high school mementos.
Whether it was an old varsity jacket for the Florence High School football team or the U.S. Army combat helmet of a World War II veteran from the township, the items on display had locals engaging and conversing with one another at the open house event.
Though several monuments and museums in the area pay homage to local history, Margie Anderson, treasurer of the Historical Society, believes the collection more closely reflects Florence and its citizens.
“For here, it’s about the people. The local businesses. The old houses,” Anderson. “There’s things in here that interest me from a genealogy angle, but the history as well – the history of the town, and the people here who made the history.”
While the items in the building serve as pleasant nostalgia for locals, Mojcik believes the historical society’s efforts are crucial to conserving history that could potentially vanish as the township continues to modernize and grow.
“There’s a lot of things being torn down in the area that had historical significance to the people, which the younger generation doesn’t know about, and a lot of the older people who did are dying off,” he said. “If [our history] is not recorded somewhere, it’s going to get lost completely.”