The 10-year-old wowed at recent auditions for town crier, rattling off little known historical facts about Haddonfield and instantly landing the volunteer job through the Indian King Tavern along with four men many years his senior.
“Even though I’m a history fan, I’m still a 10-year-old boy,” he said.
A boy who has 16 youngsters in his Central School book club, can act in plays in foreign languages and takes private art lessons.
Teachers at his elementary school give Joey’s passions wings to creatively fly in his own way, his mother Patty Ann Rihl said.
“He has the best teachers in the world there,” she said.
Joey’s knowledge extends outside of the classroom and spans years, making both colonial Philadelphia workers and Disney World employees awestruck.
During family Florida trips, he is able to answer all of the tricky questions posed at Epcot.
“They’re supposed to be so hard,” Patty Ann said.
But now she, dad John and sister Emily “Em,” 13, know the answers, too.
“We’re learning from him,” Patty Ann said.
Ever supportive, Em even helped her brother to label the vast collection that is his private in-home museum.
A self-proclaimed antique collector, Joey has more than 100 items in the meticulous museum, ranging from pieces of hair from George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Aaron Burr, John F. Kennedy and Elvis, to a box of coins that includes one purchased in Venice, Italy, that is dated 85 B.C. and a panorama of a Gettysburg Civil War battlefield, inspired from a family trip.
His most valuable item is an autograph by John Hancock, the most famous signature on the Declaration of Independence. Joey beams while showing it off.
“I like that he’s collecting real things,” Patty Ann said.
His historical interests began in the first-grade, Joey said, but he still finds time to hang out with his friends and root on the Phillies.
“He’s just a regular 10-year-old boy,” Patty Ann said.
While his future aspirations are infinite, Joey plans to stick to his town crier job at least for the time being.
“There’s so many different options,” he said, musing on years to come while clad in his colonial outfit.
Each of the elder four town criers has his own tales to tell as well.
Craig E. Burgess, Audubon’s historian, is a published author, poet and liaison to the Navy at his town high school.
This will be his first stint as a town crier, having responded to an advertisement for auditions and preparing a cry on the Indian King Tavern in the 1700s.
“I thought, OK, maybe I can do that,” Burgess said. “If nothing else, the experience would help me learn about Haddonfield’s history.”
As he doesn’t own a computer, cell phone or even a microwave, he set about learning about the borough the old-fashioned way: at the library with books.
“I’m keeping busy,” he said.
Burgess has learned much already about town crying from Rich LaLena, the official town crier for Camden County since 1994.
LaLena is also the official crier for Smithville, Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia and the New Jersey League of Municipalities.
In 1997, according to his website, he founded the American Guild of Town Criers.
Many criers are British, LaLena said.
“In the British colonies, the town crier was somebody that everyone had to know,” he said, as that was who provided the news.
LaLena does the gig for the fun and the history.
The Berlin resident was contacted by Bill Brown with the Indian King Tavern for guidance with the auditions and signed on to volunteer for the year.
Some advice from the master?
Do not rest in the middle of a cry.
“You just do it,” he said.
Cries are usually between 100 and 125 words, he said, telling the facts concisely to get the announcement out as quickly as possible, similar to a news reporter.
“It holds the audience long enough,” he said.
Longer, he added, and the crier becomes a storyteller, and the crowd starts to disperse.
Rosario Licciardello of Mt. Laurel may not live in town, but he often finds himself visiting.
“I spend a lot of time in Haddonfield,” Licciardello said.
He saw an advertisement for town crier and felt his skills as a toastmaster could be parlayed into the job.
“I was correct,” he said.
Crying, he said, will be an addition to his life, adding a balance of fun.
“I’m just doing it for the fun of it,” he said, explaining that he is semi-retired and is on the Board of Directors for Contact of Camden County, a non-profit community help-line.
Licciardello isn’t worried about being one of five criers.
“It’s a club,” he said.
Plus, he has already learned more about the borough.
“I knew about the Indian King Tavern, but not as deeply as I do today,” he said.
The final town crier, Bob DeMinico, did not need to try out.
The Independence National Park volunteer moved to Haddonfield two years ago and quickly found his place.
DeMinico did a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence at the tavern last year.
“It was terrific,” he said.
Before the reading, he walked up and down Kings Highway following the parade to cordially remind spectators of the tavern event.
Retired from a life of theater, he has no problem projecting to the 40th row.
His wife has created a red outfit for him for the year.
“We just love the entire colonial period,” he said.
This year, DeMinico plans to be out on the town on Independence Day yet again, though he would love to be horseback this time around.
“I’m going to do it with or without the horse,” he said.
Such great talent caused the uptick in planned town criers, said Bill Brown with the Indian King Tavern.
“Initially, we were only going to have one,” he said.
The idea of having a crier came from a remembrance of former mayor Jack Tarditi, who once did the job unofficially.
Brown mentioned the idea to the Friends of the Indian King Tavern a few times before it was cleared.
“So I ran with it,” he said.
The criers will be at Indian King events, as well as at Borough Hall for proclamations and to join in on the tricentennial happenings.
“Whoever needs us, we’re here,” Brown said.
There is no script to crying.
“Each one does it in (his) own way,” he said. “I think we got the cream of the crop.”
Want more? Watch a video of Rich LaLena here.