To Freehold, With Love
By Carol A.(nee Hulse)Benton
When I think of my birth, it is inextricably connected to this town. I was born in Freehold in a Federal house at 14 Throckmorton Street. I was born in that house and it was how I entered the world that is still deeply within me. I was born on August 7, 1940 and as I am now retired at 64 and living elsewhere, I have a document of that birth that was written by hand by the registrar Harvey Brown. He wrote it out in black ink with very grand penmanship which I suppose he thought was really important for such a vital document. It is clearly stamped with the seal of the Board of Health and it was explained this would be sent and permanently filed with the State of New Jersey. It contains the name of the doctor who was David S. Carey, MD but I was actually delivered into my father's hands and those of the borough nurse Elsie Stewart. This piece of paper has come in handy over my lifetime because it was tendered for a passport, my social security and now my pension fund. No matter where I am or where I have gone and been asked where I was born and where I was from, there is a warm glow inside of me for that house, that Doctor and that town. Whenever and wherever I am and asked about where I come from that same feeling automatically fills me with a warmth that no other place I know. I think it was installed on that August afternoon.
Growing up Freehold, I was also endowed with the secure knowledge that I lived in a town where everyone knew to whom I belonged. I knew it and felt safe because of it. I knew that if I had a problem , I could approach any adult and ask for help and I would get it. So while in Cheers, everyone knew your name; in Freehold everyone knew you and your family from generations past. I always loved knowing that about my town because when my bicycle lost its chain, I knew I could as Bill Quinn to help never doubting the help would be given. When I was a kid and playing in the Lion's Club Band and needed my necktie tied, I could solve the problem by going into the Post Office and Les Grevel would do the honors. I do not think that I was the only kid who had this experience because I soon realize I was everybody's kid and they were all a part of my family. It saddens me to realize that most of America has seemed to have lost all of this. It is still with me an I will remember it all of my life.
As a child going to school I went to schools that my parents and grandparents had attended with some of the same teachers that had taught them. My life in school was under the tutorial of really fine teachers who instilled in us our love of home, country and education. School days for me were at the Broad Street School, the Hudson Street school, the Intermediate School on Bennett Street and finally at the Freehold Regional High School where my class of 1958 was the first full 4 year graduating class in that school. Prior to that it was simply Freehold High School where my father and mother graduated before me. My grandparents never had the opportunity to educate themselves after 8th grade. One of the big lessons all of them taught me was that education was a necessity.
Some of the treasured memories were found in Miss Marion Symms 2nd grade classroom. I simply love her and that was all there was to it. She remembered my mother being in her class 20 years before me. She read wonderful books to us of Mrs. Goose and the world she lived in. I know that when I was learning to read it was one of the most exciting times of my life and I have been a life long learner because of Miss Symms and Miss Julia Collins who had taught my father. These women were the ones who opened up the world to me because we would beg them to read us just one more chapter in the books they chose or that we chose. Miss Collins was a formidable woman but when she read to us, we would hang on her every word and beg for more. Even in the late 1940's this was considered old fashioned but I do remember simply being mezmerized as were my classmates. We were some of the last students in the Hudson Street School who had to learn to write with a straight pen and to use the inkwells in our desks. The girls were seated on the perimeter of the room because we would not get ink on the wainscotting under the slate chalk boards. Other students could use fountain pens but not in Miss Collins class! Oh, how we longed for an Esterbrook pen or even one of those new things called a ball point pen! Never in Miss Collins class and heaven forbid that some one took your blotter! Looking back I have to say that I really loved being in this class which was tied to the past because in Freehold the past is as much a part of us as the present no matter where we are.
Anyone who attended school in the elementary and intermediate schools with remember the cloakrooms. It was the place where we hung our coats, raincoats and boots in the rain and snow of winter. It was also a supply closet for the teachers in the Hudson Street school and a place that was the ultimate punishment for any student who did not conform to the standards of the classroom. It was really humiliating to be sent to the cloakroom. I also remember the black slate chalk boards and clapping the erasers at the end of the day. If you were given this honor you knew that it would be trouble if you clapped them on the brick wall of the building which would leave white prints as evidence.
The playground was also a great place to have fun. I would bring my lunch to school and our mothers would double wrap our sandwiches in waxed paper so that we could have a clean piece of paper to sit on when going down the sliding board. On a hot day we could wax up that board and fly off the end of it. I also remember the see saws on the side of the school and we would ride up and down and the men in the rug mill machine shop would wave to us. There were always hop scotch games drawn in chalk on the macadam and little girls in dresses playing and hoping in those games. Springtime was the time for jumping rope and double-Dutch with two ropes at recess and during lunch time. I was close enough to go home for lunch but I did not want to miss out on the playground fun. Freehold was also a place with bike racks since many students rode them to school and not many got rides except in really wet weather. It was also a place where you might forget to ride your bike home since you wanted to walk with friends on the way home and the bikes would be there in the morning when you realized that you had forgotten to ride home. One day I left my bike at the Intermediate school for three days and it was never touched by anyone. I know that some would liken this to Andy Hardy and Judy Garland movies but it was the way it was in the Freehold of the 1940-50's.
When I went off to college, I was considered from the sticks and a hick. I would dare to say that so many of my college friends who live in Maplewood, Irivington , Bloomfield and Verona are now living in all of the potato fields that they teased me about while at Montclair State.
High School in Freehold was just like a Hollywood movie only it was the real deal. I worked on the school newspaper The Spirit and for Freehold in the student page of the Asbury Park Press. Arthur Burger was the teacher/ advisor whose family ran the summer resort in Burgerville off of Rt. 9 in Howell. I remember him taking all of the staff to dinner and theatre in NYC. He took us to see Victor Borge in the original Comedy in Music. We laughed until we cried at that wonderful show. In those days we were expected to be dressed up which meant hats and gloves for the girls and the boys were in suits and ties. It was our ASunday@ best and we behaved to match the dress.
The high school was blessed by many fine teachers. Among them was M. Pearle Button, Hugh Hoover, Mildred Pate Morris, Jane Winchenback, Thomas Eldridge, Art Bentz, Stan Conklin, Al Bennett, Joe Calleart, Gene Collins, Pete Fedorocko, Charley Figg, Ted Lubaczewski, Yolanda Krusen, Edna Carey Kelley, Hal Schanck, Flora Sharpnack, Edna Skiffington, Earle Stillwell, and Walt Zuber who became my principal when I taught at SFRHS and Howell HS. Many of these teachers also taught my parents in the 30's and expected a lot from me twenty years later. As a small child I remember several of these ladies stopping to see my mother when we lived at 14 Throckmorton St. They never forgot her and they were eventually some of my colleagues when I began to teach in 1962.
I remember one of the teachers seeing me in the faculty room at Freehold and asking me what I was doing there. I was teaching in the afternoon session while she was still teaching in the senior part of the high school which had the rooms in the morning session. I knew that this was a big moment in my life and I knew that my answer to that question was a turning point. I told her that I was teaching there. She pulled herself up and told me in no uncertain terms that she "did not believe in inbreeding!" I gathered up my courage and quoted Margaret Mitchell's Rhett Butler when I told her "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!" and continued on my way to my classroom. She and I became dear and close friends after that but it could have gone either way. I was truly an adult at that moment. There are not many times in life when you can see yourself as clearly as I did that day. I loved and respected my teachers and I am sure that is why I have spent the last forty-two years of my life in Education. They modeled for me a life that I wanted for myself and I thank everyone of them for the contributions that they made in my life.
In Freehold we were all excited about moving into the Intermediate school! We thought of ourselves as moving out of being a child and into an almost teenager. Entering Intermediate school was a big step because we were not with one teacher all day and we moved from class to class. Miss Leona Conover really captured my heart as she had with my grandmother, my mother and now me. She could remember each of them and she was a treasure that we shared in our family. She exposed me to things that still resonate in my mind today. She told us about the Dali Lama in far, far away in Tibet. Years later when I had my own children, I took my own children to see this world leader and treasure when he came to visit the Temples of my students who lived in Freewood Acres. I would not have missed this event for anything out of respect for who he was and Miss Conover who taught us about him so many years earlier. So in a small town like Freehold I was made worldly by being taught about things that happened a world away from us when the Lamas went in search of the new Dali Lama who was a small child at that time.
Going on to the High School was really momentus for my class entering in 1954 because there was a new concept in this area about education which was to regionalize the high school district when the surrounding townships and towns decided to band together to deliver a good education as economically as possible to all of the students who were destined to become my classmates. Until this point in time I had gone to school all of my life with the same group of children but in 1954 we joined a much larger group of students who rode to school in school buses. Those of us in town were not at all envious of those students because we all left school at the end of the day to end up at Porky's or Dolly Madison or even Heckman's on South Street as well as at several of the drug stores with their soda fountains. Today it is hard to remember them when in CVS or Walgreen's.
I can remember being in the afternoon session of school and going into art class only to find that we could do nothing because all of the closets were locked. I was selected to walk to Mrs. Wolvington's house on Monument Street across from Molly Pitcher's Monument. I went with a friend to get the keys and of course we had to stop for ice cream cones at Du Bois' Pharmacy to sustain us on our trip back to school. As a teacher for all of my adult life I still feel amazement that we solved so many problems so easily. As students we were respected and respectful when we were given such assignments. I cannot imagine anyone being able to do this today even in Freehold but when I was a child it was possible. It taught me to value the trust and respect shown to me when asked to run an errand of this sort.
I also lived in a town where my mother could send me to the store to pick up things for her. Garden State Foods was owned and run by Carl Vanderveer. I just would sign my name on the tab my parents had and would pay each month. It was in the same store that Andy Morris had the meat market and I would get a piece of baloney when my mother bought her meats for the week. All of that really disappeared when the Saker Brothers whose store was on the corner of Parker Street and Institute Street opened up the ShopRite which was a super market not unlike the Acme on Main Street. It was the end of the small grocer and walking up to the store. It was shopping in a large market and driving all of your things home. My father had run a store of his own off of the market yard during the depression but his eyes really glazed over when he could go to the supermarket and buy sacks of chickens at a price so low that he felt he had to buy as many as possible so that my mother could package them and he would take them up to the Freezer lockers on Bowne Avenue. He was so enthused about all of this, he was the one who bought a home freezer in the early 1950's. By then we had moved to East Main Street to live in the house of my father's family. That meant summers of shelling bushels of lima beans, green beans and any other thing he could get a buy on like cauliflower from his uncles farm on Long Island. Having a freezer was his idea of heaven on earth but we as the rest of the family who had to do the preparation had less enthusiasm in this venture. I remember spending many summer hours sitting on the porch and shelling lima beans for most of the day so that when my mother came in from work, she would then blanch and package all of the bounty for the freezer. No matter how we would complain it fell on deaf ears because "you will be so happy to have them in cold of winter." I guess we were but my father enjoyed all of this more than anyone. While my grandmother did all of this all of his childhood, she was canning and now we were doing the modern thing which was freezing the food for the coming winter.
Living in two houses in town had advantages. For the first eight years of my life I lived at the house where I was born at 14 Throckmorton Street. I was a very small neighborhood since it was the end of Throckmorton Street that was a one way section. It began at the corner of West Main Street and it ended when it merged with South Street. There was a mixture of business and homes in this block of town. The homes with children were those that became the friends of my childhood. It was totally different when we moved from that house. It was after the death of my grandmother, that the decision was made to move to East Main Street. This was not the neighborhood with lots of children and we were the oldest children in the neighborhood. It was really hard on us to leave all the friends of childhood and we went frequently up to the old neighborhood on our bikes. I was the one in the family to love and want a bicycle and so going back to play with friends was easy because of the bike.
I will always remember the year we got our bicycles. They came on the Christmas when we were about 10 to 12 years old. Before that Christmas I rode a bike that was in the garage of my grandparents house. It was a fixed gear bike with wooden hand grips and a leather saddle stuffed with straw. It also had a string mesh on the back of the bike to keep the long skirts from getting caught in the wheels. It was an old bike when I found it in the garage and for my birthday my Poppop bought new tires for my bike. When I learned to ride a bike I was living on Throckmorton Street when I was about six, my next door neighbor Mary got a bike. Mary was about ten years old and it was just after WW II. I simply begged and begged Mary to let me ride her bike. I simply knew that I could ride it. Actually I was too small to reach the seat on her bike but she finally let me do it. She warned me that if I fell and scratched up her bike she would never let me ride it again. I got on the bike and simply rode it. It was so wonderful and I will never forget that moment when I could feel the success in doing something that I knew I could do. I began asking and asking about a bike but my parents always felt that what they did for one of us they had to do for all of us. So I had to wait for sometime to have my own bike. On that Christmas morning when we came downstairs early in the morning and there were three Schwinns. There was a maroon one for Bill, a Blue one for me and a green one for Sue. I don't remember anything else about that Christmas but those bikes. I simply wanted to ride my bike. We put the three of them in the car and went up to Joe's garage to put the air in the tires. On the way home we all met at Joe's diner for breakfast. I sat by the window just to see that blue bike sitting in front of the diner. Sue had to ride with training wheels on the back of her bike and I do not think that she ever rode it very much. Bill and I really did ride ours everywhere and so when we had moved to the other end of town it was easy for us to come back to the old neighborhood. It was very strange to me to think of other people living in our house but I soon made friends with them as well.
Freehold was a safe place for kids. When I rode my bike to school and would forget and walk home without it, it would still be there where I had left it in the bike rack at the school. There is no way to describe how safe a child felt in those days. Our hometown was just that a home. Every child could look to anyone for help at any time. That also allowed us to explore the place that we called home. I am sure many children my age knew almost every corner of Freehold. Not one of us today would ever make the mistake of being confused by Freehold and Freehold Township. The Borough of Freehold was one thing and the Township was quite another place. Today many who live near the Borough do not know the fine line between the two areas.
The years just after WWII were the years of early TV. The firehouse was the first place that had a TV. Each evening on Throckmorton St. the kids were fed early because they could run up the street to the firehouse and watch TV in the rec room where they could sit on the floor or sit in the chairs and see the children's programs for the evening. We could watch Howdy Doody and Lucky Pup in the evening but when the news came on it was time for us to leave. I can remember running so fast that I would get a pain in my side as I would run up that street with all of the other kids to get there in time. I think we lost something when we no longer had to do that because it was not long before we had our own TV in 1947. I remember how exciting it was that day and it seemed to take forever before the TV was installed and the antenna was installed on the roof. I remember when my Grandparents came by I went with them because I knew it would all be done by the time we came home. It was simply too much for me to wait for and I could not stand waiting so long while it was being done. There was not a kid on the street that was not there watching everything but I simply found the waiting too much to bear and I needed to be doing something else with my Grandmother until it would be over and done.
Living in the same town with my grandparents was a wonderful gift. I could go to their house anytime I chose and I would and could spend days there helping my grandmother cook, make soap and boil feathers in a large pot in the driveway so that she could make new pillows. The attic of that house was a treasure for me. I remember trunks of clothing that came from the 1870's thru to the dresses of the 20's and 30's. I would try them all on and I loved the hoop skirts, the parasols and the shoes with hooks and buttons. They appeared in my school plays and programs when I was in the Hudson Street School. I have to say that I come from a family of nesters and gatherers and it plagues me today. My father was the worst of all of us and he never wanted to get rid of anything. There were a few rugs with moths in the attic and we had to time it perfectly so that we could get rid of them. He would make a run on the mail route between Freehold and Colts Neck where Bill Miles was the postmaster. He would come back in on 537 or East Main St. where we kids would be on the front porch watching to see him go by and return to the post office for the second leg of the mail route that went out Rt. 33 to Perrineville and Clarksburg and much of Jackson near where Great Adventure is today. After he would go past my mother organized us to get all of the things that needed to go out and we would put them for the trash pick up and hope that they would get picked up before he came home again. I have to say that he never missed the things that were disposed of in this way and he never asked about them as far as I knew. It was a small conspiracy between Mom and kids.
One morning while in Joe Calleart's Algebra class on the second floor of the high school, I had gotten up to sharpen my pencil at the sharpener on the window sill and who should I see but my father delivering mail on 537 at Zlotkins farm. I told my Dad about that and he told me the next day to look out the window at the same time and he would wave to me. There he was using his jacket as a flag and waving it by the car at the mailbox. This went on for a few days and I began to pull the shade up and down to signal him back. All of the kids knew what was going on and we were having fun with it since we took turns every day doing this until Mr. Calleart went to the window and saw what was going on and on that day he pulled the shade up and down. Needless to say that was the last day of our signals. Years later when we taught together in Howell High School he outed me at lunch time with my colleagues. We all laughed at that and I was amazed that he had remembered that.