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Presented by Linda Reeves
Luther R. Jeffries, Sr.
Recognized as a Legend of Port Norris on November 2, 2019
Here is Luther’s story as told by his daughter, Linda Reeves.
My father, Luther R. Jeffries, was born September l3, 1908 in a house on the corner of Church and Chestnut Streets here in Port Norris. I don’t know too much about his childhood but I do know he had a very loving, kind mother, Anna Dillahey Jeffries and a very strict, hard-working, honest father. My dad inherited his mother’s disposition. He was a gentle person.
As a child he suffered, from pleurisy-pneumonia, nearly dying before this led to removal of a rib to drain his lung. I suspect it might have caused trauma to his heart causing a great disappointment when he became an adult. Growing up his time was spent playing the great American sport, baseball. It was his great love. Not having a wealthy family, my dad would make his own baseballs out of string. He played baseball throughout his time in school and as a team member of the Oyster League. He was a left-handed pitcher and quite accomplished at the sport.
He was also a romantic who loved to read and memorize poetry and throughout my brother’s and my growing up period my dad would recite poetry to us. Always at Christmas he would read Dickens Christmas Carol to us. Much to our boredom.
During his senior year at P.N.H.S. he was approached by a scout from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He was awarded a fully-paid, four-year baseball scholarship to Bucknell. During his sophomore year he injured his heart while playing his beloved sport. He came home to Port Norris no longer able to play. At that time the United States was suffering due to the Great Depression. Fortunately there was an abundance of oysters and my dad went to work on my grandfather’s oyster boat, the R & A Jeffries. He worked in. the middle of the deck and was chief cook and bottle washer.
In the meantime he was courting Marion Lloyd. They were married in l931, my brother was born in 1933 and soon after my dad became employed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Millville. Although he did not possess an aggressive personality, he won awards for superior salesmanship.· One year he sold a half-a-million dollars worth of insurance and that was a great deal during recovery from the Depression. He would quietly pay premiums for those who did not have a dollar or two for insurance. While others in our neighborhood had ice·- boxes, we had a refrigerator and a nice Chevy sedan. We even took vacations to Fortescue but due to the pressure to sell more and more and more insurance my father fell under his own depression. He and my mother, who was his emotional support, bought not the store but the business of Mr. Massey who had a small sweet shop on the corner of Main and Market Streets. This was 1944 and the country was in the midst of the Second World War. While the young men in town were engaged in freeing our world from the evils of dictatorships my father, due to his heart condition, was classified 4F, therefore, not able to serve his country. But he and my mother were serving many soldiers, sailors, air force men and also during lunch, the teenagers attending Port Norris High School. They worked from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. taking care of business. They would take turns going home during the day to rest. I remember hearing my mother cry from exhaustion. And then the war was over ..... WHAT A CELEBRATION THERE WAS. My father made effigies of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. The town gathered at the ball diamond located across the street from the Shiloh Baptist Church on Memorial Ave. They had a huge bonfire and cremated those scoundrels.
During the following years my dad and mother purchased building and business from Lou Mathis located across the street from their sweet shop and proceeded eventually to build an addition which became a restaurant and for a few years they served home-cooked meals, my father cooking and my mother baking.They also served the local Rotary Club during their meetings held in the store. They employed young teens in the kitchen during lunch hour and older teens in the evening. For ten years they were a permanent fixture on Main St. They installed a real old-fashioned soda fountain and a huge carbonator in the kitchen that mysteriously and loudly carbonated the fountain sodas. It had a belt that could cause permanent disability if you happened to fall on it. The Wurlitzer jukebox seemed to be in constant use with “flashing lights” and GOOD music.
During that time alcoholic beverages could not be purchased legally but a person might be fortunate enough to locate a speakeasy in the surrounding area. During the winter months my parents provided my mother’s homemade soup but never my father’s attempts at baking. During the summer months my father would put a Coca Cola cooler on the sidewalk in front of the store filled with ice and bottles of soda. As the years went by the restaurant began to hurt their health so they sold it to Grace Barrett who eventually sold it to Jane Adams and eventually it led to the business called Jellybeans..
My father still loved baseball and during those years he erected a small, square building at the same diamond where he played during his teen years. And during every game you could find him there, selling hotdogs,sodas and snacks. He was adding to the family income while enjoying his real love, baseball. Those were the Port Norris years. They next purchased a considerably large portion of land near Green Creek, N.J My mother worked for Abbott’s Dairies in Wildwood and my father managed a clam house owned by his brother Norman which was located on the Bay near Pierce’s Point. He and my mother’s brother, John Lloyd, partnered in building a mobile home park on the a-fore-mentioned property. It had a clubhouse and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It was a successful venture. Then my father signed a contract with a Delaware oyster man to provide and plant wire bags of clam shells in the Bay to catch oyster spat. Unfortunately, that was the year MSX hit the Bay. Unfortunately for the Delaware Oysterman the oysters died but fortunately for my dad the contract was legal. So, they sold the mobile home park and purchased a house in Green Creek, adding a large addition to house my mother’s antiques.
Then, back to Port Norris where my father became partners with my brother and nuclear physicist Charley Thompson opening an isotope processing plant just off North Ave. They became famous when it was discovered the property was radioactive. By this time the property was owned by a company from Texas. Their final move was to Port Elizabeth.
Then, onto the next venture, working as manager of my brother’s clam house in South Port Norris. Father was in his mid-sixties and his health began to fail. He suffered a disabling heart attack and although he survived his working years were over. Around 70 years of age it was discovered he was suffering from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and when he was 71 his heart could no longer function and he suffered a heart attack which took his life.
My father was a born-again Christian and he is resting until we meet again. But, all those years and hard work allowed my mother to have her beloved antique shop known as the IRON KETTLE ANTIQUE SHOP and my father to enjoy his love, BASEBALL. ..... AND BASKETBALL. ... AND FOOTBALL. During those years at Christmas my mother would be baking her ‘lassie cakes and my father would be out purchasing gifts for little children who would not have had Christmas gifts if it were not for his and my mother’s hard work and unselfish ways.
Although they did not come from wealthy families, they enjoyed the wealth that was ingrained in them from growing up in Port Norris. One thing for sure, it’s not what the legends have done for Port Norris it’s what Port Norris has done for the Legends.
An afterthought: I am convinced family is the first and greatest
institution. I have been blessed to have been allowed to personally be touched by six generations (ancestors and descendents) of the Lake family. Read more on the Lake family.
Center Right: Linda Reeves (red sweater) and family.
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