Port Norris Legends

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Legends of Port Norris

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Leslie S. Godown, Sr.
20th Century Legend
Recognized as a Legend in History of Port Norris on April 13, 2024

 Speaking: Daughter, Mary Lewis.

Leslie S. Godown, Sr.

Presented by daughter, Mary Lewis

Good Afternoon to the Historical Society, The Legends and their families here today. My name is Mary Lewis and I am representing my sisters Alice Garrison and Ruth Lee and my brother Edward Horseman along with our families in honoring our Father Leslie S. Godown Sr. as a 20th Century Legend.

Dad was born in Cedarville, NJ on March 15th, 1905. He was married to Henrietta and together they had six children, 3 sons and 3 daughters. Our oldest brother Bill Horseman and youngest brother Les Godown Jr. are deceased.

Most of you here today knew my Dad for owning Godown’s Clothing Store on 44 East Main Street in Port Norris. He owned and worked in his store for about 40 years. The store was open Monday through Saturday 9 am until 7pm or later. He allowed himself one day off on Sundays, but was even known to open on Sunday if he got a call from someone that needed something that day. He never said no.

He sold everything in that store from baby clothes and supplies, kids clothes, work clothes, all kinds of shoes, school supplies, make up, socks, stockings, towels, cigarettes and everything the oystermen needed when they went out to Bay in May for the oysters: boots, raincoats and pants, gloves, etc.

My sisters Alice and Ruth were even born in that store! My brother Ed enjoyed rides to Philly with Dad as he would by stock for the store. Then shopping at a sandwich shop nearby before heading back to Port Norris to unload.

What a lot of you didn’t know about my Dad was that before he had the store in Port Norris he moved from New Jersey and went to Kent, Ohio. He studied at Davey Tree Expert Company, Inc. and worked to become a Tree Surgeon. He also studied Patent at Kent University in Kent, OH. He studied Drafting & Design at The American School in Chicago, Illinois. He studied and received a diploma for mechanical drafting from the Columbia School of Drafting in Washington, DC and Patent Office Drafting from Columbia Technical School in Washington, DC.
While living in Kent, Ohio he had a terrible motorcycle accident. His leg was so burned that it had to be amputated. After his recovery he learned to go on with his life, wearing a full leg prothesis, which back then was quite heavy. He prided himself that he did everything someone with both legs could do. Climbed trees, ladders, received a chauffeur’s license because that was so hard to get, always drove standard shift car, enjoyed boating and fishing, even built a couple boats with a friend. When he took us kids swimming he would take off the leg and hop on down to the water.

He left Kent, OH some time after recovering from his accident and came back to New Jersey. That is when he bought the store on Main Street and started his career there. He never lost his love for growing and taking care of trees. He had apple, cherry, and pear trees. He also grew his own grapes and made jelly and wine every year.

Dad was fascinated with my accordion when I started taking lessons. So he bought one for himself, taught himself how to read music and played that accordion every night. I think he enjoyed it more than I did!!!

My Dad always wanted a monkey! In one of his trips to Philly he went to a pet store and asked about buying a chimp. They told him it wasn’t legal to sell chimps for pets anymore. But they sold him a little squirrel monkey. He wasn’t a good pet, he liked to bite. He donated him to the Bridgeton Zoo. But Dad still wanted a bigger monkey, so the next Philly trip he bought Norman! Normand and Dad became best friends. Norman turned out to be a female, but since she was used to the name Norman, she became “Normy”. Normy had full run of the house and yard. She loved sitting close to Dad when he smoked, she would suck up the smoke he exhaled. She knew where the cigarettes and matches were and if Dad wasn’t smoking she would try to put the cigarette in his mouth. The monkey was known to scare a few people leaving the Post Office as she would be in the tree outside shaking the leaves and making her shrieking sound!

One of the things Dad often said was “I want to leave this world with my work shoes on”. He said he had enough of hospitals when he was young and lost his leg. He didn’t want anyone to have to take care of him again. He got his wish on June 15th 1971. While waiting on a customer he died in his store. It was a sad day for his family.

It has been a great honor today for his family to celebrate Leslie S. Godown Sr. as a 20th Century Legend. He was loved so much for the humble, intelligent, kind and generous man he was. He will forever be our Hero - “The Wind Beneath Our Wings”

PNHS Board Member Gloria Guidera presents the Legends plaque to daughter Mary Lewis with her family.