LEWIS S. KAIGHN was born in Camden in 1910, the youngest of ten children born to John Lord Kaighn and his wife Kate. The family lived for many years at 830 Elm Street in North Camden. A cousin, John R. Kaighn was a longtime member of the Camden Police Department. By April of 1930 the family had moved around the corner to 730 North 8th Street. His father drove an ice wagon. His childhood was similar to that of many young men in his neighborhood.

Joan Kaighn, the daughter of Lewis and his wife Alma, was kind enough to share some of his experiences as a boy and as a young man in 1920s Camden. Lewis Kaighn's early travels took him all over the city, and brought him in contact with a a few people of note. He was in a band with the Deighan brother, Neil and Richard, and through working as a stage door errand boy at the theaters in Camden which featured live entertainment, most certainly rubbed shoulders with journalist Dan McConnell, one-time Keith vaudeville circuit press agent and friend to many show people.

Lewis Kaighn after his marriage like so many others eventually left Camden, moving to the Lenola section of Moorestown NJ. he passed away in 1999. 

Lewis S. Kaighn’ Story
(as told by Joan A. Kaighn)

The last surviving child of John Lord Kaighn and Katherine (Kate) Lees, my dad, Lewis S. Kaighn was born on January 12, 1910.   He was born in Camden, New Jersey, where he grew up.  The children from that marriage were (in chronological order): Russell; Harry, Margaret (married name Skain),; William; Lewis Snyder, a sister, Frances (married name unknown), Roland, Lester (World War I vet), married to Rita (maiden name unknown , Joseph (died in childhood.)

When Lewis Kaighn was a young boy, he worked with his father, delivering ice in the summer and coal in the winter.  His dad, John, had two horses and a wagon that were stabled at Third and Mt. Vernon Streets in Camden.  Each day he and his father stopped at Emil Muckensturm’s bar at Haddon and Atlantic Avenues in Camden.  John, who was a small man, would climb a ladder in the back of the bar with an hundred pound of ice and place it on the track that would carry it to the built-in refrigerator overhead and repeat this, until the refrigerator was filled with ice.  Then Emil, a large German with a big mustache, would ask, “O.K. John, what will you have?”  My grandfather, who didn’t drink alcohol, would answer, “the usual, a glass of milk for the boy and a ginger ale for me.”  Then they would also stop at an oyster house on Haddon Avenue below Kaighn Avenue and buy oyster stew for lunch.  Afterward, they drove the two horses down Chestnut Street below 9th or 10th Street and stop under a shady tree.  While the horses dozed, grandpa would do his books for the day. 

The Barnum and Bailey circus came to Camden each year.  The local kids would work the first day setting up the tents and feeding the animals and in return they were all allowed to see the first day performance.  Only dad had forgotten to get his pass. .  He was caught by Colonel Tom Thumb sneaking under in the tent and thrown out.  Dad said, “He was a mean SOB!”

There was a church [Trinity Baptist- PMC] off of Cooper Street in Camden that the Victor Talking Machine Co. (later RCA) used as a recording studio.  Dad crept in and heard Enrico Caruso making a recording.  He also hung out at the stage doors of the local theatres in Camden where burlesque shows were held.  He ran errands for the performers, getting cigarettes, food, etc. In those days Camden was a safer place and a great place for entertainment.

Pop also played the piano “by ear” and with a group of his friends they formed a band that played on street corners during the late 1920s.  The members of the group were: Raymond Horner (drums), brother Harry Kaighn (banjo), Elwood Anderson, Francis Casey, Neil Deighan (who later owned a popular restaurant/club in Camden called “Neil Deighan’s”), Rich Deighan, Joe Dent, Ernie Broderick, John Cahill and a guy named Mooney.  At that time, Dad lived at 830 Elm Street in Camden, New Jersey.  The only piece that dad could play in later years was a ragtime piece, the title of which escapes me.

Pop had a story about “running rum” during prohibition: It went like this:

“Me and Charlie. ran the rum one night from Camden, (N.J.) through the New Jersey pines to Atlantic City.  At one point, Charlie yelled to me: ‘When we get to the railroad crossing ahead, duck down because the last time I came through here, the feds came out shooting.’  Fortunately we got through to Atlantic City and back without getting shot.  ”.  I was so scared, I quit the job that night.”

Sometime around 1928-29, dad met my mother, Alma Elmira Collins (daughter of Alma Elmira Horner and Charles Collins).  I think it was a blind date.  Alma was very good-looking and she and her best friend,  Mae Haines, were both “flappers”.  Dad said that mom didn’t like him at first, but he kept coming around in spite of the German Shepherd dog that her father kept to keep him out of the house.  But the dog liked dad and so they finally got married on December 24, 1930.  (Mae Haines married an entertainer with the Red Skelton burlesque show and lived in New York City for a while.  Mae later returned to the Camden area, divorced her first husband and reportedly married one of the Rickenbach boys, who were cousins on my mother’s side and friends of my dad.)

Lewis and Alma Kaighn had four children: Joan A., Carl L. (d.2003), Robert D. (d.1986) and Jeffrey C. and resided in Lenola (West Moorestown), New Jersey.

Lewis S. Kaighn died at Virtua Hospital in Marlton, N. J. on January 1, 1999 at the age of 88. His wife, Alma Elmira Kaighn is alive and well as of this writing and at age 92. She resides in Riverton, N. J.

Written by Joan Kaighn
February 11, 2005.

John Lord Kaighn