H. ROY STEELE was a well-known figure in Camden for both his expolits on the basketball court and as a tavern owner. although he passed away in 1946, bars in both Camden and Somers Point NJ that he owned bore his name into the mid-1960s.

Henry Roy Steele was born in Riddlesburg, Pennsylvania on October 22, 1886 to a 

butcher, Jacob Steele, and his wife, the former Melissa Fluke. He was the second of four children, coming after brother Homer B. Steele and before younger siblings Mary and Ross E. Steele. The 1900 census shows the family living on Sixth Avenue in Homestead PA.  

A fine athlete, Roy Steele played professional basketball for six seasons in the western Pennsylvania-based Central Basketball League, beginning with the 1906-1907 season. Roy Steele had the reputation as a clutch shooter as well as a team player. In 1906 with the Homestead Young Americans he scored a 220 points in 29 games, the 7th most points in the CBL. When the league increased its schedule to 70 games the next season, 1907-1908, Roy Steele scored 455 points in 67 games, 8th highest in the Central League. In 1908-1909, Roy Steele, helped the Homestead Young Americans win the CBL Championship with a 49-23 record. That season, Roy Steele posted 412 points in 65 games, again 8th best in the Central Basket Ball League. He also played with the Butler and Pittsburgh South Side teams of the Central league. 

When the Central league folded in November of 1912, many of the circuit's best players, including Roy Steele, came over to the Eastern Basketball League, which was centered around Philadelphia. Roy Steele, Jackie Adams, Jimmy Brown, and Eddie Dolin all eventually joined, and starred for the Camden franchise of the Eastern Basketball League, and Camden native Eddie Ferat, nearing the end of his career also returned during the 1912-1913 season. In the better-financed Eastern Basketball League, Roy Steele played with one of the best teams in the East, Camden of New Jersey. The Camden team was known as the Camden Alphas from 1912 to 1917, the Camden Crusaders from 1917 to 1921, and as the Camden Skeeters from 1921 until the league's collapse in 1923.

Although, he did not score as many points per games as before, his defense made him a valuable member of the team. He remained with Camden in the Eastern Basketball League until it folded in 1923. Roy Steele played some games with Gloversville in the New York State league and played one game with Camden during the 1912-1913 season. He split time between Gloversville and Camden the following season as well, and also split time between Camden and the Hazleton PA team of the Pennsylvania State League in 1915-1916. He played two games with the Paterson Crescents of the Interstate Baslketball League during the 1916-1917 season. 

Professional basketball was for the most part shut down during the 1918-1919 season. Roy Steele played one game for the Nanticoke Nans of the Pennsylvania State league during the 1919-1920 season. The 1919-1920 season for Roy Steele, resulted in his only championship, as he played 37 games for the Camden Crusaders and was seventh in the league in scoring. The 1919-1920 Camden Crusaders were champions of the Eastern Basketball League, which was and is acknowledged by many to be the leading professional basketball league of its time. His teammates included star players like Jimmy “Soup” Campbell, Neil Deighan, Eddie Dolin, and Dave Kerr, and young local talents Joe Hyde, Sam Lennox, and Richie Deighan. The team was owned by local businessmen Dr. Charles B. HelmW. Penn Corson, who had also been Sheriff of Camden County. Roy continued to play basketball in Camden until the Eastern league collapsed on January 18, 1923. Roy Steele appeared in two games for the Paterson Legionnaires in the Metropolitan Basketball league in 1922-1923. He returned to Paterson for the 1923-1924 campaign, when he returned to the Legionnaires for seventeen games. He was 37 years old when his  professional basketball career came to an end. 

Ed Wachter, a star player for several teams of the era, named Roy Steele as guard on his third team all-time greatest teams of the era, which is notable in that Wachter only played against Steele for two seasons. Ed Ferat was also named on Wachter's all-star that team.  

Roy Steele also played professional baseball on the minor league level. He opened the 1908 season in the Pennsylvania and West Virginia League in 1908 for the Clarksburg team, was released and signed by the Connellsville Cokers of the same circuit where he played first base.

Roy Steele married Georgina "Jean" Orris on November 4, 1909. When he registered for the draft in 1918 he still made his regular home in western Pennsylvania. His draft card shows him living on the Boyd farm at Pitcairn, in Patton Township, Allegheny County PA  and working as a farmer. Mr. and Mrs. Steele by that time had two children, with a third on the way, who was born shortly thereafter. His younger brother, Ross Emery Steele also was living and farming there.

The Steele family came to the Camden area the following year. Both the 1920 and 1930 Census shows Roy Steele  living in Collingswood NJ with wife Georgina, daughter Edna, and sons Bruce K. and Henry Roy Steele Jr. The 1920 Census shows the Steele family living at 704 Grant Avenue in Collingswood NJ. Roy Steele's Brother, Ross Steele, who had also played some professional basketball, was living with them, as was teammate Jimmy "Soup" Campbell. Both Steele brothers listed their professions as machinists, while Campbell gave his as a "general mechanic" at a shipyard. In January of 1920, the stars of a champion professional basketball team still worked day jobs to make ends meet! The Steele family was still at the Grant Avenue address in April of 1930. Roy Steele was then selling electrical supplies and not in the bar business. This would indicate that he became involved shortly after that point, as he was operating the bar, apparently under lease, at 28 Haddon Avenue by the time the 1931 Camden City Directory was compiled.

Roy Steele's Crusader teammate Neil Deighan had gone into the bar business in Camden,  Joe Hyde was literally born into the business, as his father owned a bar in the Eight Ward. Before it was all said and done Roy Steele, Jimmy "Soup" Campbell, and Sam Lennox would all be involved in the bar business.

At some point between April of 1930 and the compilation of the 1931 Camden City Directory, H. Roy Steele went into business at 28 Haddon Avenue, which in later years would be known as the Century Bar. In 1933 he bought a barge, built a log cabin on it, and established a floating cafe in the Cooper River near South 18th Street. By 1936 he had acquired a liquor license and opened bar nearby, at 560 Carman Street in the heart of downtown Camden. Prior to its conversion into a bar, 560 Carman Street had been the home of the Barret Tire Company as late as March of 1932. Roy Steele and his family would do business there through at least 1959 under the name Roy Steele's Tavern. His son Bruce K. Steele joined the family business when he was old enough and managed Roy Steele's Tavern for many years. Brother Ross Steele also worked there as bartender.

Roy Steele registered for the draft early in 1942. His World War II draft card shows that he lived at 537 Benson Street in Camden. He had by this time however, also acquired a bar at the Jersey shore. The draft card of his brother Ross showed him working as a bartender and also living at the Benson Street address.

In 1939, Roy Steele traveled to the Somers Point, New Jersey, looking for a new investment opportunity.  At the time Somers Point was a sleepy little town that you passed through to get to Ocean City. Roy found what he was looking for at 943 Bay Avenue, an old tavern named "Stretch Inn".  The tavern had been owned and operated by Thomas Stretch.  Since he had passed away his widow, Bertha, had decided to sell the Inn. Steele and Bertha Stretch entered into an agreement to lease the inn for $40.00 a month for three years.  The inn was described in the lease as a Tap Room and Cafe, which was a very accurate description. It suited Steele perfectly.  Above the bar was an apartment with five bedrooms, one bathroom, dining room, living room and kitchen. The inn had one large room with a huge bar in the shape of a ship. Behind this room was a kitchen and storage area.  Steele asked his son-in-law, Elmer Blake, to come to the shore and help him manage the tavern on Bay Avenue now known as Steele's Inn.  So Elmer and his wife Edna and their daughter Jean moved in above the bar with their parents.  Not long after this Steele's younger son and his wife also made the apartment of Steele's Ship Bar home.  All those people and one bathroom, remarkable.  

In these early years the Somers Point bar was run like any other local tavern.  Draft beer, mixed drinks and a kitchen that served up sandwiches, fries and great cole slaw.  Edna Blake helped by serving food to the patrons.  She liked to tell the story about two customers who came in and spoke with very heavy German accents and she was convinced they were spies that had been landed by submarine. Who knows- stranger things have happened.   

In 1945, Roy Steele became very ill and was hospitalized much of the time.
  He passed away at Somers Point on June 17, 1946 and left the bar that he had purchased to his wife Georgina.  Georgina continued to live with her family above the bar. Mrs. Steele moving to Somers Point, where she resided till her death on November 27, 1955. Elmer and Edna Blake ran Steele's Inn until the winter of 1965. 

After Roy Steele's death, his family remained in the tavern business in Camden for many years thereafter.  Bruce Steele, who managed the Camden bar, Roy Steele's Tavern, made his home in Collingswood with his wife Lillian. Ross Steele remained as a bartender and lived at 537 Benson Street through at least the fall of 1959. The bar was still open, as stated above, as late as the fall of 1959. Sadly, son Bruce Steele died in Camden on October 13, 1961; his wife Lillian remained a Collingswood resident until her passing in 1997. Ross Steele passed away in September of 1965. Roy Steele's Tavern had closed by 1970. When Carman Street was "erased" to make way for "urban renewal"  Roy Steele's Tavern went with it. The Walter Rand Transportation Center sits on the land where Roy Steele's Tavern once lay.


Central Basketball League
Season Team G FG FT TP PPG
1906-1907 Regular Season Homestead Young Americans 29  109  220 220  8th 
1906-1907 Post Season Butler 19 62 7 131 6.9 10th
1907-1908  Homestead Young Americans 67 226 3 455 6.8 8th
1908-1909 Homestead Young Americans 65 205 2 412 6.3 8th
1909-1910 Homestead Young Americans 67 196 0 392 5.9
1910-1911 Homestead Young Americans 49 147 0 294 6.0
1912-1913 Pittsburgh South Side 46 160 6 326 7.1 10th
Central Basketball League Career Totals 342 1105 20 2230
New York State League
1912-1913  Gloversville 15 35 10 80 8.3
1913-1914  Gloversville 38 94 27 215 5.7
New York State League Career Totals 53 129 37 295
Eastern Basketball League
1912-1913 Camden Alphas  1 3 0 6 6.0
1913-1914  Camden Alphas  11 18 0 36 3.3
1914-1915 Camden Alphas  40 114 0 228 5.7 9th
1915-1916  Camden Alphas  40 72 0 144 3.6
1916-1917  Camden Alphas  36 76 0 152 4.2
1917-1918  Camden Crusaders 6 15 9 39 6.5
1918-1919  NO EBL DUE TO WAR
1919-1920  Camden Crusaders 37 79 52 210 5.7 7th
1920-1921  Camden Crusaders 39 77 71 225 5.8 4th
Camden Skeeters 46 89 56 234 5.1 10th
1922-1923 Camden Skeeters 22 57 31 145 6.6 5th
The league disbanded on January 19, 1823
Eastern Basketball League Career Totals 278 600 219 1419 5.1
Pennsylvania State League
1915-1916 Hazleton Mountaineers  14 4 0 8 0.6
1919-1920 Nanticoke Nans  1 2 2 6 6.0
Pennsylvania State League Career Totals 15 6 2 14
Interstate Basket Ball League
1916-1917 Paterson Crescents  2 4 4 12 6.0
Metropolitan Basketball League
1922-1923 Paterson Legionnaires  2 6 1 13 6.5
1923-1924 Paterson Legionnaires 17 30 23 83 4.9
Metropolitan Basketball League Career Totals 19 36 24 96 5.0
Roy Steele's Professional Career Totals

Camden Courier - July 28, 1913

Alpha Club - Broadway - Basketball - Roy Steele - Jackie Adams
Eddie Dolin - Allie McLaughlin - J-mmy Brown - Bill Herron

Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger * November 21, 1917

Jimmy "Soup" Campbell - Roy Steele - Neil Deighan  - Jimmy Brown

Philadelphia Inquirer * December 9, 1917
Jimmy "Soup" Campbell - Roy Steele - Neil Deighan - Dr. Charles B. Helm
Jack Kelly - Chol Engle - Pete Kilpatrick - Willie Miller

Camden Crusaders
1919-1920 Eastern Basketball League Champs

Front row, left to right:  Jimmy “Soup” Campbell  and Joe Hyde.
Second row:
Dr. Charles B. Helm, Neil Deighan, Roy Steele, Eddie Dolin, Dave Kerr and Sheriff W. Penn Corson.
Back row: Bill Mitchell, trainer;
Sam Lennox, Manager Bill Kennedy,
Richie Deighan
and Timekeeper Jim Kane.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Camden Courier-Post
March 28, 1932

Camden Courier-Post - July 14, 1933


Camden Courier-Post * February 21, 2007

By Thomas A. Bergbauer, Retired Courier-Post Editor



In this 1955 photo, workmen remove portions of the sunken barge

Camden Courier-Post - February 2, 1938
N. J. Beverage Association Opposes State Stores
Curb on Price Cutting Sought in Resolution of State-wide Organization

The New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, in a one-day special convention, passed resolutions flatly opposing inauguration of state-operated liquor stores in New Jersey and asking the Legislature to grant State A. B. C. Commissioner D. Frederick Burnett wider powers to enforce the Fair Trade Act it was announced last night by Neil F. Deighan, president of the association.

Deighan reported the Camden and Jersey City delegations offered the only open opposition to the resolution against the state stores. They argued, Deighan said, that the association may be forced later to advocate state stores to break up price cutting by package stores.

The additional powers asked for Burnett are designed to break up price cutting, Deighan pointed out. He said the resolution asks setting of mandatory penalties, to be enforced by Burnett, of 30 days suspension for the first offense and license revocation for the second offense against the fair trade act.

Deighan said he supported the anti-state stores resolution, both personally and as president.

The association, which met Monday in 'Trenton, also passed a resolution urging that breweries be placed under the same Federal permit system as that which now prohibits ownership of liquor selling establishments by distillers.

Another resolution continued a committee, authorized to select private brands of whisky to bear the association's emblem and to be sold only by association members.

The association also passed a resolution disavowing criticism of Burnett as expressed in quotations from Roy Dunn, counsel for the Original Tavern Owners' Association of Newark, in the Newark News of January 28, went on record as being "not in agreement" with the criticism, and commended Burnett's administration. Deighan said the resolution pointed out also that "the association represented by Mr. Dunn is not affiliated with the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association."

A resolution urging the display of "Buy American Whisky" signs in taverns was passed also.

Deighan was given a vote of confidence by the delegates when questions involving administration policies was brought up, John Pennington, head of the Camden Unit, reported.

Camden delegates to the convention were Pennington, Roy Steele, Alfred Munyon, Bruno Bronislaus, Celia Ellis and Tony Paretto.

Banquet Program Ad

Industrial Union
of Marine and Ship Workers
Local No. 1
Fourth Annual Ball * January 27, 1939

Evening Times

June 18, 1946


Downtown Camden - 1957

Indicated by the red dot, 565 Carman Street lay just east of Broadway, behind the Broadway (later known as the Midway) Theater. Roy Steele's Tavern was directly across the street. To the left you can see where the tavern and Carman Street lay in relationship to City Hall, the old Camden County courthouse, and Camden Catholic High School. All but City Hall were gone by the end of 1961. The Parkade Building had not yet been built.

More about STEELE'S SHIP BAR in Somers Point, New Jersey

Much has been written of the Point in the 1960's. The rock and roll bars, the great music and the endless summer party. Steele's shared some of that, but it's real era was the decade before--the fifties.  The post-war fifties was a gracious time when people wanted to forget the horror of World War II and the Great Depression.  It was like the whole country could breathe a sigh of relief.  The economy was booming and so were families.   It was a time that was right for music, dancing and partying till dawn.  

The Ship Bar was quite plain on the outside. The only unique characteristics were the front door that was wooden with a porthole window and the other windows which were all port holes. Inside there was the main ship bar complete with bandstand in the center. Surrounding the main bar were four smaller bars.  These were in the shape of docks which completed the nautical theme.  The walls behind these bars were painted to resemble harbor scenes.  They had all been created by Elmer's friend Charlie Shane.  In the later years, the front door was replaced with a double glass front door.  A side addition to the original structure added three more side bars, bringing the total number of bars to seven.

Over the years  many bands played in the bar.  The first memorable one was Dave Apple and the Applejacks.  Bill Haley and his Comets were there.  A group called Dicky Doo and the Don'ts, Pete Carrol and the Carrol Brothers and in the later years Mike Pedicin became the regular attraction.  These bands never took their audiences for granted.  They knew there was too much competition next door and across the street.  Customers could be lost very easily if the band wasn't catering to what they wanted to hear. 

The band members constantly came up with new ideas and gimmicks to keep the entertainment new.  Mike Pedicin's band had an excellent drummer.  He would do a drum solo with his hands in white gloves and blue lights shining on him.  The house lights were turned down and the only thing you could see were the hands flying.  The only sound was a magnificent drum solo.  New acts and performers were always joining the regulars on stage.  The bands, however, were not the only attractions at Steele's.  There were the regular bartenders that people came to count on for entertainment as well. Mac MacNamara was there season after season.  It was said that Mac once played with the Boston Pops and wrote MacNamara's Band.  Somehow he got sand in his shoes and made his home at the Jersey shore.  He would share his gift on the violin with the whatever band happened to be appearing.  Patrons who were not regulars were always surprised when their bartender suddenly joined the band and played his wonderful songs.  There was also the group known as the Cherry Sisters.  This group would consist of a group of younger bartenders dressed as women in feed sacks, straw hats and scarves.  They would also become part of the floor show.  Jim Ross was usually the lead singer of the Cherry Sisters.  In addition to the regular bartenders, each year a group of college kids would earn next year's tuition tending bar for the summer at Steele's.  This was the group that usually attracted the younger female college students each summer.

Although the Ship Bar was named a bar, it was really a night club.  It usually opened around noon.  By day, fisherman would come in for a couple of drafts.  If it was a rainy day, you might get some of the beach refugees.  During the dinner hour the bar was very quiet.  The music would start at nine and Elmer would be there, in his white dinner jacket, to great his guest.  Those were the days when people still dressed to go out for an evening.  Ladies dressed to the nines, men in their summer suits.  There were three distinct groups of customers.  The first were natives of the area who would cap off a day of fishing or golfing with an evening at Steele's.  The second were the Ocean City summer visitors that had finally worn the children out on beach and boardwalk and now where looking for some great entertainment.  The last group were the college students out on the town looking for summer romance.  They would all come to Steele's. Elmer used to joke that it was only a good house if those that fainted had to remain standing up because there was no room to fall.

Elmer was also part of the fun at Steele's.  He always had a gimmick.  He would dress up as a trapeze artist in long johns and boxer shorts and do a skit with the band.  He'd walk into the bar on a busy evening with a ladder, paint cans, overalls and at least one tooth blacked out and just start painting.  Everyone including the band would wonder where this strange man had come from and what he was doing painting the wall in the middle of a busy evening until they realized it was just another of Elmer's gags.  He advertised a special appearance of Liberace and had a look-alike show up. He'd get on stage with the band and lip-sync with the lead singer.  Most of all he would entertain people with great stories.  He was a great joke and story teller that genuinely enjoyed people.

In the early days, one band playing was usually sufficient to keep the crowd for the evening.  As time wore on and Tony Mart's and Bay Shores began to compete for the same customers, the music would have to be constant or you could loose your entire crowd during a break.  So when one band would go on break another would pick up the music and no one would notice the difference.  The job of the entertainers didn't stop at break time.  Most of their breaks were spent chatting with the various groups of regular customers.  Everyone wanted to be friends with the band and owner and be able to say they knew so and so personally.

What did Bay Avenue look like back then? It was very different from today. If you were coming around the circle the first street that took you down to the bay was Goll Avenue.  At the corner of Goll and Shore Road there was a billboard for Steele's.  When it was put up, Mike Pedicin was playing at Steele's.  His lead guitarist was Sammy.  Sammy not only played guitar, he also charmed the audience with "risqué ditties" and so earned the name of "Sexy Sam".  The billboard originally advertised Mike Pedicin featuring "Sexy Sam".  Since this was the fifties, the sexy had to go.  So for billboard purposes "Sexy Sam" became "Suburban Sam".  As you turned onto Goll Ave, you would pass the old brick trolley station on your left and at the bottom on the hill on your right was the Gateway.  For a few glorious summers it was the Gateway Theater.  A summer stock theater that had marvelous shows.  When it was open they would use search lights to attract people.  If you followed along the Bay front the next structure was a little pier and in the summer it magically became "Ray White's Ski School" complete with ski jump for the braver set. Bay Shores occupied the lot next to the Ski School.  Next to Bay Shores was a beautiful old seashore home that was called the "Customs House". 

In summer The Customs House had the only front lawn on the corner. Unfortunately, this home was subsequently torn down and replaced by a miniature golf course and penny arcade.  Completing the corner was "Dick's Dock" featuring smelly bait and leaky boats.  Tony Mart's and Steele's Ship Bar were located across the street from Bay Shore's, The Custom House and Dick's Dock.  This was the corner.  In one day you could fish, crab, water ski, see a Broadway show and dance, drink and hear great entertainment till the wee small hours. (2:00 am for music, 3:00 am for drinks.) 

Tony Mart's was right next door to Steele's with only a narrow alley in between. The alley was large enough for a dolly with a keg on it and that's about it. The owner  was Anthony Marotta. Although Marotta and Blake were direct competitors  they also had a great deal of respect for each other. In the early days Tony Mart's employed a band called Len Carey and the Kracker Jacks. They were quite an act. The lead played saxophone and was also a contortionists of sorts. He would play that horn from almost any position; it was amazing. As part of the advertising for this band, Tony Mart's would give away boxes of Cracker Jacks. Weekends in the summer on Bay Ave. were the best.

Each of the bars had what they referred to as a jam session or matinee. From 3:00 to 6:00 the bands would play and people would come in casual clothes to party. Rain drums were beaten on weekend afternoons to get the Shoobies off the beach. The clubs would shake with the sounds of "Someone's in the Kitchen with DinaHHHHHHHHH" "Alabama Jubilee" and endless cheers as a new keg was tapped.  After the matinees, customers would go back to their rental houses, clean up, have a little dinner at Mac's, Daniels, or the Bala Inn and be back in time for the bands to start again at nine. 

The Summer season usually started on Easter Weekend.  Many visitors and locals would join the Easter Parade in either Ocean City or Atlantic City and then spend their afternoon on Bay Ave.  It was always fun to see the ladies in their new Easter suits, bonnets and corsages.  Usually by the end of the day the suits were wrinkled, the flowers wilted and the hats slightly askew but a good time was had by all.  Most of the places including Steele's were open on weekends from Easter to Memorial Day.  Memorial Day weekend became the official start of summer and seven nights a week of rock and roll.  Labor Day meant the end of summer. The corner would go from noisy, crowded, brightly lit to a ghost town the next day. The bands would play their last song and say good-bye for the winter. The cars would leave the parking lot for the last time and finally the band members would have all their equipment packed up in their cars and leave. Summer was over and the party at the corner ended for another season.

Thank you to Elizabeth Blake Houck