Doctor Charles Blaine Helm was born in Camden in 1884. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1906.
After establishing a veterinary practice in Camden at 900 South 5th Street where he also lived for many years, Dr. Helm involved himself in a variety of pursuits. Active politically as a Republican from the Sixth Ward, Dr. Helm served as city veterinarian in the days prior to the acquisition of police cars. Considered for a spot on the Republican slate in the commissioners race of 1927, he was not on the ticket, but was named as the city purchasing agent for Camden, and served as such through the administrations of Mayor Winfield S. Price and Mayor Roy R. Stewart. William M. Dilmore served under him as Assistant Purchasing Agent. Dr. Helm then took a position with the federal government as a poultry inspector, and worked at the Campbell’s Soup Plant from 1934 through 1949, when he was transferred to Salisbury MD.
Dr. Helm was most famous in the city of Camden for his involvement in professional basketball. He was manager and co-owner, with one-time Camden County Sheriff W. Penn Corson of the Camden franchise of the Eastern Basket Ball League from 1913 through 1925. The team, coached by William “Billy” Morgenweck was known as the Camden Alphas prior to World War I. The Alphas were the league champions in 1914-1915.
1917 was a year of turmoil in the world as the United States entered World War I. The New York State League and the Interstate Basket Ball League both suspended operations but the Eastern League began play in mid-November. On December 3 the league disbanded abruptly as two teams withdrew from the league without warning. An unsuccessful attempt was made to reorganize with a four team league and the league remained inactive until the 1919-20 season.
One of Camden’s players during this abridged season was future Olympic rowing star, Jack Kelly. He later would become the father of Grace Kelly, movie star and Princess of Monaco.
After the abrupt season ending, Trenton and Camden agreed to play a best of seven series for the “Championship of New Jersey” with EBL President William J. Scheffer as referee. The first game was won by Camden 28-27 at Trenton on December 19, 1917. Two days later a second game was played at Camden and Trenton was the victor 47-19 but attendance was very poor. On December 14, 1917 the Dr. Helm called off the series due to the lack of fan interest.
Dr. Helm renamed the team Camden Crusaders after World War I. The Camden five were champions again in 1919-1920, winning both halves of the split-season with a combined 30 and 9 record. The team was renamed once again as the Camden Skeeters for the 1921-1922 season. They were were one of the league’s better teams, until it disbanded in 1923. Dr. Helm fielded a team in the a new Eastern Basketball League in 1925 (note the new spelling of “Basketball”), but the team did not do well, and that marked the end of his involvement the professional game in Camden.
The Camden team was generally a winner in the league. Besides bringing players to Camden from out of town, Helm’s team employed and/or developed many fine players from Camden, including Eddie Ferat, Sam Lennox, Roy Steele, Joe Hyde, Neil Deighan, and his brother Rich Deighan.
Dr. Helm died in Salisbury MD on December 5, 1951 of a heart condition. He was survived by his wife Mabel, two brothers, and a sister. His nephew, Dr. David Helm Jr. was Camden’s health inspector at the time of Dr. Helm’s passing.
Reprinted from the series of stories of Camden’s earlier days, under the title Sixty Years in Camden County – Gosh! by Will Paul, appearing in The Community news, of Merchantville, NJ.
As director of Camden’s health department, Dr. David Helm added pertussis and tetanus immunization to the city clinics and school program and eliminated rabies from the area, through rigid control of stray dogs.
Known locally as W. Penn Corson, William, a Camden, NJ native, built the sewage systems in nearby towns and paved the White Horse Pike.
The Alpha Club was a social space that consisted mostly of young men from South Camden in the years prior to World War I.