Home Town Memories
Of John Keil

BY:John Keil '65
As told to Gloria Klaschka-Pease

It's fun to recall old times, and with the world situation as it is, I find myself reflecting back on the "good old days" more and more. I don't know, maybe it's an age thing. I remember my parents boring me with stories about when they were kids. Now I find myself doing it to my own two daughters.

We never realized it at the time, but we sure had it good as kids. The world was our playground, and we had the imaginations to keep ourselves occupied all the time without electronic games or social centers. And surprisingly, we got into very little trouble.

  It's really amazing how small the world was when you knew almost everyone and everyone knew you. I don't think we could walk down the street without somebody going by in a car or truck tooting the horn and waving.

We would leave the house in the morning, be gone all day till our mother's called us home for dinner. My mom used to ring a old school bell. When Kathy Dietert had to go home for dinner, Mr. Dietert had a unique way to whistle that I haven't heard duplicated since. We'd gobble down dinner then charge back outside till dark where hide and seek and tag ruled our lives. 

Joe Tremitiere and my dad were friends. Joe was a science teacher in Ridgewood as well as being the Life Guard at the Allendale Pool. As a kid, I used to go swimming there. It's amazing to think in this day and age, that the pool did not have a fence around it. When I was in kindergarten, at Brookside School, Allison Hamway and I strayed off the school grounds at recess and played at the edge of the deep end of the pool. I don't remember the outcome when we wandered back, but when you think what could have happened......

I remember the huge sand box they had in our kindergarten class room. Man, I thought I was in heaven, and not a cat around to ruin it!  My teacher, Mrs. Waldorf was my first crush and when I found out she had a husband and a family I was devistated!

After kindergarten at Brookside, I went to St. Lukes and hated every minute of it! In those days parents gave the nuns license to do whatever needed to keep discipline, and they used that permission to excess. The high school office on the second floor had an old mimeograph machine. The nuns told us that the noise was a spanking machine. In second grade this nun tried to drag me up the stairs to be punished. I remember crying and holding onto the railings for dear life. I must have promised just about anything to avoid that machine! I remember a few occasions where I was kept after school until the last bus had left, and then made to walk home. I would walk up Franklin Turnpike from Ho-Ho-Kus through Waldwick to Doc. Gordon's in Allendale and waited for my dad to swing by on his way home from work for a ride home. Can you imagine that happening in this day and age?

Right across the street from St Lukes was the spooky old Hermitage. The Rosencrans sisters lived there and with all the overgrowth it looked like a real haunted house. Rumor had it that parts of the floor were roped off as unsafe. Little kids were not welcomed there and I never had the courage to go very far into the driveway. At night the house and grounds were dark and spooky. It was amazing that when the state took it over and removed all the overgrown vegetation a house emerged!

In grade school we learned to "duck and cover". Like that would be all you would need to do to be safe from an atom bomb. I guess if that didn't work, hiding under your desk would.

My next door neighbor and best friend Ken Cushing and I used to hang around and do everything together. As kids, we had the run of the neighborhood and if we kept out of the DeJoung brother's way, we managed to survive.

We also used to cut right through to the old "trolley tracks" right of way and follow it in either direction to Allendale or Ramsey. I'll never forget the year that we discovered that the trail ran right up to behind the Interstate Shopping Center. It was a big deal being able to spend some of our allowance at W.T. Grants or Woolworth's.

I lived on my bike when I was a kid and rode it everywhere. When the weather was bad, we walked. It never occurred to us to beg our parents for a ride. We would travel all over by bicycle, we went along the old trolley tracks as far south as route 20 in Paterson, and as far north somewhere beyond Suffern. After hiding our bikes, we followed an old fire trail up the mountain outside of Suffern right up to the top on foot. It was a steep climb, but worth it for the views.

We'd go to "Doc's" (Gordon's Allendale Sweet Shop) for cherry cokes and the Allendale 5 & 10 for penny candy and 5˘ candy bars. Every Sunday morning we would hit Althausens Deli and the Kraft Bakery. We always had car repairs done and bought gas at the Megnin brothers Esso station. I loved going there with my dad. To a kid, it was a real neat and mysterious shop, ready to handle anything automotive. I would snag free maps which I still have today!

I don't recall all of the other stores in Allendale, but I do remember Oakley's Gift Shop, a small A&P storefront, Winter Brothers Hardware Store, the Post Office, and Citizens First National Bank. Everyone called The Allendale Hotel a "flop house" but I never knew what that meant back then. Dr. Canning had his office up above the old post office. I went to Dr. Schultz, who had an office in his big house on Franklin Turnpike. It was a few blocks past Thurston's Garage that had a fenced in corral for their horses right next to it. Ma Connolly's bar and grill was a real"dive" in the late 50's. It has been renovated and is now the Allendale Bar and Grill. Ma's grandsons, the Kunishes, run it now.

My friends and I spent more time at the Lake in the Ramsey Estates and surrounding area than anywhere else. We would hunt golf balls and sell them to the golfers for a quarter a piece. One of our techniques for "hunting" golf balls was to wait for golfers to hit up over the brow of the hill by the lake. If a ball came close enough to the road, and the coast was clear, we'd dash up and grab the ball, then run and hide. We would go up to the tee by the ice cream stand on the beach to conduct our sales. We probably ended up selling them back their own golf balls! We'd either spend our 'loot' on ice cream or head down town Herb and Charlie's in Ramsey for sodas and candy.

I also recall the yearly drain down at the lake. We were fascinated by the outlet pipe well below street level and how it used to flood that area.

We would scour the expanded shore line looking for treasures. One year we found a whole bunch of broken statues that had originally graced the gardens when the estates were privately owned by the DeWhitecauffs, But we were made to throw them back and told to leave.

In the winter we went skating on the lake weekends and after school. We even go at night and build bonfires by the side of the lake. Usually the hockey players would commandeer the large open spaces for their games.  Sometimes we would bring snow shovels and clear lanes all over the lake. God help you if you hit a ridge while moving along at a good clip! We went sleigh riding down the hill by the country club gardens. You could go down the hill and right onto the lake.

  We dug tunnels along Cherokee Ave. when the snow plows would pile the snow up along the road. Once we had a tunnel that ran from the Cushing's, past my house and the one next to it,

Once we hauled an old row boat out of the lake. We managed to put it on some kind of wheeled thingy and pushed it all the way to my house. There we re-painted it and caulked it with window caulk. We then dragged it back down to the lake, where we got two good days of rowing (and bailing) before it finally sank. Sometimes I marvel at the fact that we survived childhood playing in areas where we played.

We used to get to the lake by two different paths, "Klaschka Lane" (Albert Road), or through Miss Beebe's yard. She owned what was probably the biggest house on Franklin Turnpike right across from Arlton Ave. She encouraged the neighborhood kids to use her property as I guess she felt it was better to keep us happy than antagonize us. She always had us in for lemonade and cookies.

Bob Tremitiere and some of his friends used her garage for a car club. Bob was, and still is, a car nut. He works for Ford in Michigan now. He restored a 1953 Packard. I loved hanging around when he worked on his car.

One of the things I remember about Miss. Beebe's was stack after stack of old Life magazines all around the house. It was a treat when she would allow us kids to go up to one of the third floor rooms to look at the old swords that were kept up there.

Do you remember the show "The Peoples Choice" starring Jackie Cooper? He had a Bassett hound named "Cleo". Miss. Beebe had one of Cleo's sisters and it was one of the nicest dogs I ever saw. I still have a soft spot for Bassett hounds.

We used to play wiffle ball in her side yard, climb all over the wide stone walls in the back, and gorge ourselves on the grapes from the arbors on the other side of the wall. We also used to climb all over the big tall pine trees in the front yard. We could get up very high with little effort due to the perfectly spaced branches. I remember that unique "old house" smell. I've haven't noticed it anywhere else since and I live in a 225 year old house!

When I got too old for the Allendale pool, my folks signed me up for a season at San Jacinto and Brookside the next. It was a long bike ride but going was downhill. Getting back home at the end of a long day was another story.

John Remembers Cherokee Ave:

I am in regular contact with Barbara Dobbs. They lived almost across the street from my house on Cherokee Ave. I remember the day lightning hit the Dobb's house. They were all taking naps and never knew they had been hit until my mom called them. My mother called the fire department who arrived to find a pretty good fire in the attic.

Bob Tamagny lived directly across the street from my house. The only thing I remember about the Tamagnys is that they all had red hair and freckles, with Peggy Jean getting the lions share.

There was a woman, Mrs. Bowman, who lived with her sister on Cherokee. I think she was related to Johnny Bowman who was severely burned after he accidentally ignited gasoline and paint. He was burned over 80% of his body but survived after a long recovery. I used to play with him before the accident. See, not all memories are good, but most are.

The Cotz's used to live on the northern corner of Cherokee. They used to have a mule, and later on sheep in their pasture. We used to play baseball in that pasture with George Cotz and his brother Tim.

Chuck Malley lived in that "modern" house at the end of Cherokee. It had a window wall that had a nice view of the city day and night.

The Smith's lived across form the Malley's. Mr. Smith co-owned a trucking company. The first canned soda I ever had came from a supply he brought home. They needed to be opened with a 'church key' (can opener). He also brought film reels home. He strung a bed sheet between a couple of trees and would show old movies to the neighborhood kids after dark. One day we were throwing rocks from Malleys yard, down across Crescent Ave, trying to hit the old abandoned Wilson greenhouses. One of my rocks almost hit a man and woman walking their dog on Crescent. He yelled and I ran! But he ran up the hill faster than a rocket! He saw me run into my garage to hide. Man, did he ever read my Mom the riot act about what we did. Talk about being grounded!

John Remembers Iroquoise Ave:

Old man Cornhoff on Iriquois sold my parents our house. He once showed my dad and I a military gun collection he had in his basement. He had everything from rifles to water cooled machine guns. To a little kid, it was amazing!

The Robbins' house had a garage around the back of the house which was unusual for that time. I know that Richie had an older sister and a brother Robbie. Next to the Robbins were the DeJoungs, Eddie, Dewey, and Janice. I strongly remember knotty pine walls in their living room. Boy, am I full of useless information!.

The Christophers who lived on Crescent Ave. had a house that was narrower and closer to the road than any house I have ever seen. They had a big barn out back. I was friends with Glenn Christopher. He had an electric car, complete with leather upholstery, and working headlights. I guess it stays in my memory because it was so neat!

I remember the antique shop Franklyn Tpke run by a little old lady, Mrs. Oddo's I believe. My mom went into that antique shop all the time. I always had to stand by the front door and not move, so that I wouldn't break anything. I still have a painted jug that my mom bought from her. I remember once having home-made vanilla ice cream at the Tierney farm on the corner of Arlton Ave. I can still almost taste that amazing flavor. None since has been as good.

With my Dad being on the fire department I got to watch the fireworks from behind them on the back of the fire truck. My friend Ken and I would spend just about the whole day there at the Allendale Ball Park, filling up on hot dogs, soda, and peanuts. We always got to ride back to the firehouse hanging onto the rear platform. The next day we'd be back at the field early hunting for remnants of the aerial bombs. To this day I can't figure out what we wanted with pieces of burned paper anyway. When the firemen had their picnic at the police pistol range, we'd spend hours digging up 22 pistol shells. We also went nuts for the different colored soda bottle caps. We used to carefully scoop out the cork insides, put the caps on our shirts, and then push the cork inserts back in on the other side of the material. All those bottle caps sure weighed us down!

Back in the days when Allendale was growing, developers had the fire department burn down houses that would otherwise be torn down. I used to go along to watch. My dad took a lot of pictures of those fires. In the late 50's Allendale experimented with silver reflective fire suits with hoods that allowed firemen to get closer to the fires.

I remember fondly my mom and I taking the Public Service bus to Paterson. It would drop us off right in front of City Hall. We would usually grab a hot-dog and orange crush at Nedicks. I haven't had hot dogs as good as those since then. Quackenbushs was a neat store that always had a big Lionel display at Christmas.

I remember Allendale's 50th anniversary celebration I was nine or so. It was held at Crestwood Lake. The then Governor, Myner, made an appearance and I got to shake his hand. That was big time. My dad and all the rest of the fireman grew big handlebar mustaches as part of the celebration. In those days the fireman wore snazzy uniforms. Gray and red or gray and yellow uniforms and not just the traditional blue.

I also remember the night that the Grand Union in Ramsey burned down. What woke me up was the sound of water being drawn from the water supply. It was over a mile away but at night the sounds from the fire would echo off the lake made it sound so much closer. You can bet that I was up there the next day checking out the scene. It was amazing to see the wreckage. When they cleared away all the debris I rode my bike around on the floor tiles.

We used to range all over in our explorations. We even crossed Route 17 by Hilltop Shell.That was in the days of the wide grass median.They actually had large trees on the median, and the cops used to hide behind them and catch cars speeding. When we got older, we would cross 17 to bowl a few games at Club 300. At that time it was fifty cents a game and a quarter to rent shoes.

I enjoyed the unique campus style of MHS, and was sorry that they felt the need to change it. The new building is nice, but it's rough on memories.

I was pretty much the "nerd" in high school. I was involved with the audio/video stuff. In those days it was reel-to-reel tape recorders and motion picture projectors. I also was on the stage crew. I loved being involved in all the productions running the lighting board. There were about three of us who were dedicated and worked just about every production or concert held there. We'd get into the football games for free and watch from the press box since we set up all the sound equipment.

I remember in my senior year, going up to the Rainbow Bar in Suffern for twenty-five cent beers, no questions asked. In subsequent years, my friends and I made many a run up to Greenwood Lake, especially to the topless go-go clubs.

I get up to the Allendale area once in a while. I usually take the loop through the Country Club just to drive around the lake and rekindle the memories of my youth. I used to marvel at the gardens and the stairs that lead down to the lake. One of these days I'm going to stop up by the club house, now called the Abbey, and wander around just for old times sake.
Ah, those were the days!

Note from Editor:

To me, John is the Christopher Robin of the 50's and the back ground music "Return to Pooh Corner" seems most fitting. I printed the lyrics and if you restart the music, you can sing along and feel young again.

Return to Pooh Corner


Written and performed by: Kenny Loggins

Christopher Robin and I walked along
Under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon
But I've wandered much further today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way back to the Wood
So help me if you can
I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh
Winnie the Pooh doesn't know what to do
Got a honey jar stuck on his nose
He came to me asking help and advice
And from here no one knows where he goes
So I sent him to ask of the Owl if he's there
How to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear
Seem to follow throughout all our lives
After all's said and done I was watching my son
Sleeping there with my bear by his side
So I tucked him in, I kissed him and as I was going
I swear that the old bear whispered "Boy welcome home"
Believe me if you can
I've finally come back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
What do you know
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
Back to the ways of Christopher Robin
Back to the days of Pooh


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