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Robinson Clay Products Company
and "The Pit" in Pottstown, PA

Aerial Picture of Pottsgrove Manor and "The Pit", circa Nov. 1988

Ah, the memories ...
If you drive Rt. 100 through Pottstown, around the intersection of Shoemaker Road and Rt. 100 you'll see a large shopping center with a Wal-Mart as main attraction.  Years ago this area looking nothing like it does today.   Such is the story with many locations anywhere you go.  But here where this shopping center is located used to be a very distinct landmark, a large 43 acre clay pit.  Up until 1970 Robinson Clay Products would dig clay from this large site, truck it across the street, process it and fire the red clay in it's 8 kilns into terracotta vitrified sewer pipe.  The clay pipes would then be shipped off to locations all over.  Damaged or defective pipes were returned to the Earth in a large mountain of broken clay pipes.  Not many people may remember this place.  Maybe as a glance over to look while driving by on Rt. 100 or Shoemaker Road but few knew it as intimately as the kids who lived in Pottsgrove Manor (The Manor), the neighborhood directly next to the "The Pit" at Robinson Clay.

Aerial pictures were taken during a flight in
Steve Maguire's plane in November 1988.

Pottsgrove Manor is the name of the neighborhood next to the site of the former Robinson Clay pit.

The site of "The Pit" as many locals knew it as had many features including large hills, several tall cliffs, a 4 to 8 acre pond on it's east side that would grow or shrink depending on the weather, which submerged a small forest of trees creating an area we called the swamp.  There was also an area we called "The Plateau" which was no more than a lower level flat area that had 45 degree hills on three sides that dropped down into the floor of the pit.  We used to sled down the main hill of the plateau, which was pretty crazy.  In the winter we would ice skate on the pond.  In the summer we actually caught fish in that pond.  Not sure how they got there, probably dropped off by people who fished them out of the Manatawny Creek.  There was also a massive pile of discarded broken clay pipes that were probably damaged during the kiln firing process.  These pipes were backfilled in an area around the middle and had a drop-off in the back. The trucks would dump pipes here.  I recall many years ago hearing from my house a few blocks over, the sound of trucks dumping these pipes down over the edge of this pile.  It sounded like crashing and smashing glass.  An impressive sound for a kid.  Which is probably why we would later push large pipes over the edge by hand to get a good avalanche of terracotta pipes going.  People would also sneak into the pit and dump junk.  As a kid, that was also pretty interesting.  Sometimes I could hear the engines of the excavators digging up fresh red clay.  One thing was for sure, there were plenty of broken pieces of clay pipe everywhere.  It was a very interesting place.  Right on the edge of the pipe was a playground enticing all the kids to go have a look and play in the pit instead of the boring playground.  Some of the older teenagers (and probably some adults) would take their dirt bike motorcycles down into the pit and jump the multitude of hills as a small crowd would sometimes watch.  Howard "Nipsy" Showers was one of the lucky younger kids to have a cool mom that bought him a nice dirt bike. Nipsy and Stacy Bogenshoots would impress everyone with great air off of the walls of the pits.  Larry Levingood used to take his street bike down there and jump that up some of the hills.  One time he showed me the front forks on his bike and how they were bent forward due to repeated 30-foot landings.  Not only was it a street bike but Larry was a big guy!

All the kids who lived in "the manor" would visit "The Pit" against their parents instructions, not to go there.  "Stay out of the pit!"  "Ok, mom."  Of course that's where we were heading to the many bike trails that cris-crossed the pit and the areas we would explore.  In the winter, you couldn't find better hills to sled down.  The pond became an ice skating rink.  We all had our forts here and there.  The area had fond memories for many of us.

Towards the west side of "The Pit" the hole became shallower until it was at about ground surface level and then further west it was woods.  Trails ran through the woods and all the kids knew these trails and the forts that they built or visited.  Further west were fields with treelines separating a few different fields.  Again, trails ran through these fields.  Strawberry patches, apple trees, cherry trees and blackberry bushes could be found all through this wooded area all the way over to the Pottstown Municipal airport.  I remember walking though the field with a friend, Joey Owsley on our way to the Pottstown Airport to get a 15 cent Coke (in the glass bottle!) and a pheasant flew up directly in front of us, scared the crap out of us!  As time passed these fields became another business as our stomping grounds disappeared.  Ah, the memories.

Sunset over the Pit, March, 1989

Today "The Pit" is a Walmart shopping center with many retail stores.  The area was developed around 1995 erasing any evidence of the former clay pit.  It was exciting to see the area develop into something useful since I was now an adult and no longer cared to ride the trails on my BMX bike.  But with anything that changes something is lost.  So this is for the memories of "The Pit" and to all my friends in the Manor who I hung out with day after day.  Steven Souder and Mikie Souder, Kristen Havrolac and Greg Havrolac, Billy Broslawski and Johnny Broslawski, Melvin Cusick, my sisters Sharon and Bev, Stan Self, Scott Nester, Grant Amway and Celeste Amway, Joey Owsley and Stacie Owsley, Troy Conver, Anthony Jones, Kevin Browne, Ed Kuterbach, Robert Daegele ... the list goes on.  We were a bunch of characters.  I look back with fond memories on those long summer days of riding bikes around the neighborhood, playing the Wrench Game and going down to "The Pit" and its surrounding fields and trails, then riding back to the manor to jump trash cans in front of Steven's house off a make shift ramp. 

Way back when we were only old enough to venture down a few houses, we played our games like hide and seek and that game called "Ain't no Boogies Out tonight (My father killed them all last night").  Prison Break was another great game which was staged off of someone's porch and involved our whole gang of friends running through the yards.  We'd also pass the time climbing trees like that Cherry tree next door to Steven's and came down with purple fingers.  We'd have crab apple fights and hit Audra just for the fun of it. 

Playing with AFX slot cars was another favorite thing to do.  We'd hang out in our old, dilapidated garage and setup race tracks and have lots of fun.  AFX cars would always mean lugging a box of track to someone's house along with our tacklebox full of cars.  Customizing our cars was always fun.  A new paintjob, or hack the bodies apart or even modified an AFX gearbox and make a 4x4 or 6x6 AFX car!

We worked for days on our go-carts made of greased big wheel tires, 2x4's and pine planks and nailed whatever we could to it to make it cool.  Then we'd race other neighborhood kids down Chestnut Street hill ... with no brakes.  I remember Steven and I had the champion go cart to beat, and that it had three names over it's life, the General Lee, The Thunderbird and the Road Runner with the Road Runner being the final name, painted maroon and yellow.  Equipped with duct tape around the front wheels for traction, a rope or TV antenna wire to steer the thing and a Scooby Do Lunch box nail under the roof for a glove box.  We'd race down the West Chestnut Street hill at top speed and we won that controversial racing series 3 out of 5 against the Anthony Jones team which included Troy Conver and Kevin Browne in that ball bearing wheeled go-cart that gave us a run for the money.  Of course there was no way to stop these go-carts except ditch it into someone's yard if a car came.  Steven once did that and ripped the front tires off of the Road Runner and bloodied his lip.  I took a spill getting a massive 5 kid push out Matalan's driveway and flipped the Road Runner trying to turn it in the street and whacked my head on the curl on the other side of the street.  I got the 5 stitch scare to prove it.  Ah yes, the memories.

We'd play in the dirt with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars or GI-Joes for hours, then jump on the bikes and ride up into Stowe to Levengoods Market to get ice cream, Topps Baseball cards, Cinnamon Toothpicks, Lick em Sticks and Wacky Wafers then sit on the brick wall at Levengoods and thumb through our baseball cards .... got it, got it, got it, don't got this one!  Then we'd jump on our bikes and ride down to Trouts Market and sometimes down to Resse's Market or even that tiny little store on the lower end of Vine Street.  Never could remember the name of that little place but I remember the girl that we'd look forward to visiting who's parents owned the place.  Tara Zimoski maybe?  Who know's... we were all about 10 years old at the time.

Football!  We played hours of street football and made the touchdown goal line the bumper of someone's car.  Football games also occurred over at the "Oil Field" behind Kevin Browne's house and next to Sunoco's Home Heating Oil depot.

Back then we didn't have computers or game consoles or anything except our imagination and our friends.  Looking back at the flood of memories, we had a blast.  Few of us ever kept in touch after those early years.  A few of us are back in touch and reminiscing about places and people.  Places like "The Pit".  To some it was a huge eye sore hole in the ground.  To others, it was a playground.

If any of this sounds familiar, there's a good chance I know you!  Drop me an email!

Ralph Hassel       


Below is a set of pictures of "The Pit" during the early 1980's.  These were taken by my sister who always seems to have a camera ready to capture the moment.  Thanks Sis! 

The image above, also taken by my sister, is a shot looking across "The Pit" at the Robinson Clay Products plant.   At the bottom of this image on the right is the access road that lead dump trucks and excavating equipment down into "The Pit".  As a kid, if you saw a truck driving down that road, it signaled to everyone to take cover out of sight so you wouldn't get in trouble.   At the bottom left is the pump house where a pump apparently was housed to pump the water out of The Pit.

In the map below is the current location of "the Pit" at
Robinson Clay, which is a shopping center with a Walmart.


Image courtesy of Barry Isett & Associates



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