Category Archives: Down to Earth

A Walk on the Beach

Written By:  Neil Van Oost Jr.

A Walk on the Beach…  It is mid April and I could hear the rain on the roof for a good part of the night. I woke late, it was almost six, I could feel twinges in my right knee, so I really did not have to look out the window to see if it was still raining, but I did, and it was. I sat back down on the bed — “What the heck,”  I thought, as I rolled over and snuggled back under the covers. By the time I got organized, checked the email and did some computer shopping, had breakfast, did yesterday’s dishes (all six of them, not counting knives, forks and spoons) it was time for lunch. A very slow start to the day.

The rain had stopped, but everything in the yard was wet, I just could not face another day of yard work, moving heavy, wet, pots of earth had done me in yesterday. As usual, when I get the clean -up bug, I do not know when to stop, thank goodness it only strikes every couple of years. This left me with two choices, do clean-up in the house or the garage, and neither of those appealed to me at the time. I made my decision on the spur of the moment, “Just get away from the house, go for a drive some place,” I thought.

I decided to set Veteran’s Bicentennial Park, on Long Beach Island, in Beach Haven as my target because I knew it well and had done quite a few craft shows and even attended a couple of Summer concerts there in the past.  I had not been out that way since way before Sandy struck, and was curious to see how the area’s  recovery was coming along.  In 1873 the town was established as a beach-front resort for wealthy summer residents from Philadelphia and  was known by  islanders as “Queen City.” On November 11, 1890, Beach Haven was incorporated as a Borough by the New Jersey Legislature. From a census population of 239 in 1900, to an estimated, almost 1200 full time residents in 2013 it has grown quite a bit, considering it only incorporates a land area of  0.978 square miles, and a water area of  1.342 square miles. I love looking a the architecture of some of the older houses and buildings which reflect the influence of the bygone Victorian and Edwardian periods.

As I left the house, the sky still showed dirty gray clouds with only a few small holes showing blue. The outside temperature had crept to just a bit over 60 degrees, and I thought, perhaps it might even be clear over the water. The drive was about thirty miles and in the Summer can take up to an hour and a half if you are doing it at the wrong time of the day. Today it took a little over an hour, I wasn’t in a hurry and because I had forgotten the street I had to turn at, I went some fifteen blocks to far. I was lucky, I spotted a friendly borough policeman at a road construction site that set me right.

Arriving at Veteran’s Bicentennial Park, I grabbed my camera and locked the car heading for the fencing and that restricted path across the dunes. The weather had not cleared, as I had hoped, but instead had deteriorated. The wind had picked up, and as I passed over the top of the dune path, I felt the cold hit me. It felt as if I had stepped across a barrier with a more than ten degree drop in temperature, and, of course I was in my t-shirt. There is a smell to the ocean here, it is unlike the smell of other ocean shores, and I have been to several. Sometimes you can smell it on the Eastern side of the  bay, if the wind is right and it declares, “You are now at the Jersey Shore.”  I almost had the entire beach to myself, except for the couple in the distance on my right and a couple of fishermen on the distant jetty to my left, and the brave seagull that walked by some fifteen foot away, not even bothering to notice me, just pecking at something in the sand every once in awhile. I suffered the cold and wind for ten minutes or so, I was worth it, like having a total reset, the day wasn’t a disaster at all.

On the way back, I took some side street trips and looked things over, there were bare lots here and there that once contained bungalows, Summer beach houses, or homes to local residents. I passed some homes that, I knew if I stopped and looked in the bare windows, they would be empty inside. I passed one house that sat on bare I-beams on top of pilings, just recently raised up from its place on the ground. Other homes and commercial buildings showed their new clothes, siding bright, paint jobs sparkling with new color. Yes, Beach Haven is coming back to its old self, stronger I hope.

But still it is the empty lots and houses that affect me the most, and the nightmares they surly contain.

Looking Back on Winter

winter pic

Looking back on Winter….  Well it is the beginning of March as I write this and I cannot wait for Winter to end. There were a lot of changes in my life over this past year, some good, some not so. Last Fall, I made one very good decision, and it came at exactly the right time – I retired the old furnace that Pop and I installed when we moved here in 1973. It was time, operation had become erratic, it was very hard to keep the house at an even temperature, and constant checking was required just to keep the darn thing going. Incentives were very good to make the upgrade, both the State and the gas company were offering nice rebates which offset the cost by almost 20 percent. When I left on vacation last year just before Christmas, I set the thermostat at 60 degrees. While on vacation, the lady who watches my house sent me several emails, temperature in the house remained at 60 degrees.

I also made another good decision last Fall, I removed one of the four bird feeders hanging under the eaves in front of the house, and replaced it with two suet feeders,  I was immediately surprised  at the large number of different visitors I had. One drawback, was when the large woodpeckers were feeding, they peck so hard that the sound travels through the chain the feeder is hanging from, into the frame of the house, and it sounds exactly as if someone is knocking on the front door. Soon I became accustomed to the “rat-a-tat-tat,“ and was able to ignore it, instead of thinking, “Why doesn’t the person, beating on my door use the bell.” This Spring, I think I will put up a humming bird feeder up and see if I can entice one of those fast flitting fliers to visit me at my front window.

One of my great fears, living in a wood frame, converted Summer bungalow, is fire. I remember a house that burned down a couple of blocks away from me, it lasted seven minutes. With all the snow we have had this year, as soon as I can get the walk out to the street clear, I head for the fire hydrant and shovel that out, after all if there were a fire, minutes count, and I cannot help but think that it could be my house that is saved by those minutes the firemen don’t have to use shoveling snow.

Well here it is only two days after I started this article and it is snowing, this is perhaps the worse snow storm of the season and I have prepared as best I can. I have parked the car behind the truck, so I only have to shovel out in front of one vehicle – not that I intend on doing that much shoveling. I find that as I get older, I shovel as little as possible, history has shown that eventually the clouds go away and the sun comes out again, and the snow melts. During the night, I kept getting up, to see if the snow had started yet, an old habit from my work days when I faced a fifty mile commute to Trenton every day, thankfully I do not have to face that Winter nightmare now, and a commute behind a snow plow for most of the trip, although slower, kept me safely on the road. I feel for those who have to face that Winter trek now, I also say a little prayer for those who are keeping the roads clear, for I also have done my share of time behind the wheel of a snow plow when I was younger.

During the day, as snow started covering the front walk, I bundled up and spent five minutes  with the snow shovel scraping it clean and spread a little of the snow melt stuff I bought. Apparently temperatures were just right for it to do it’s job as it took almost two hours for the walk to turn white again. I did this three times, before the snow got to heavy and gave up around supper time. Now two days later the walk is clear and dry, I have cleaned a patch of snow off the windows and hood of the truck, and will let the sun clear off the rest as the inside of the vehicle warms up over the next couple of days. I also knocked off those foot long ice-sickles from the eves on the front of the house and filled the bird feeders.

It is quite nice now, as I put down these last lines, looking out the window at the variety of different birds at the five feeders and my thoughts turn to Summer and the adventures I will have on vacation.


What’s Up With the Weather….

Neil Van Oost Jr.

What’s up with the weather….  I turned on the weather channel to get the latest information on one of the winter storms this past February and the forecaster was talking about the US Weather Service model and the European model predictions of the storm path. This brought back memories of my time in the service, when I was stationed at the Navy, Fleet Numerical Weather Central Service facility in Monterey, California during he late 1960’s.

My first job was at the main computer center working on a Control Data Corporation 1604 computer which generated information on twelve inch tapes used to plot daily weather maps. The computer had six tape drives, a high speed printer, and two Bryant 500K drum memory units, which if laid on there side would have been about the size of a VW Beetle. Just think, one high definition picture on your camera takes more space than could be held on both of those units. Starting up the computer was not a simple as pressing the on button, there were sixteen switches which were used to load a small program to start a paper tape reader, which contained the main program. Before running this switch loaded program you had to load the paper tape reader, place a garbage can on the X on the floor behind the reader then hit the run switch. The paper tape reader was so fast, it would spit the tape out in a straight line about eight feet and gracefully loop down into the garbage can. Afterwords you would use a manual crank tape winder to roll the tape up for use again.

I worked at the main computer center for almost a year, during that time I took raw data from weather reports around the world to produce several different types of weather maps, transmitted this data to several different locations around the world, and ran war simulations, which produced cases of computer paper that I did not have clearance to look at after it left the building. I also ran the most used and famous program in the center called Bat. The Bat program was on a half inch deck of computer punch cards that ran on the CDC6400 computer. When run this program displayed a monogram image of a baseball diamond with players on the monitor, using the keyboard, one person pitched and the other batted. Every operator had a copy of this program stashed somewhere, and would run it under the title card of any of the submitted jobs so it would not show up in the chargeable accounting records as Bat.

My next step was to move to the Climatology department building, which was located in Pebble Beach, in fact the building was right behind the fifth hole of the Pebble Beach Golf Course (lunch time would find several of us outside the building looking for golf balls that went missing over the fence onto our grounds.) The building was an old coastal radar facility, the walls were two foot thick and only had windows on a room on top of the building and the entrance doors which were below the level of the surrounding ground. From the roof of the building you could spot whales out in the ocean. I worked on several different projects here, all of which produced weather maps which dated a few days in the past to several hundred, some as far back as the 1700’s.

Climatology is defined as, “The study of climate,” and includes interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans and land surface, and how these influence climatic conditions such as humidity, temperature, and winds. Climatology tries to find general trends in weather and understand what patterns are more permanent and descriptive of a particular climate. Information for these studies comes from many different sources, temperature records from ice cores can give an estimate of the temperature for the past several hundred thousand years,  growth rings from trees can give local climate information for one hundred or more years, old ship records give time, and location weather condition records. US ship records go a far back as the 1770’s and European ship records go back much further.

One of the projects I worked on involved creating weather maps from old ship records, the maps I created went on to the climatologists. This is some of the information that along with recent and current weather goes into computer programs to create a model of what the weather will be – using the past and present to predict the future weather. The difference between the US and European weather models is said to be in computing power, the European model uses constant input of current conditions  and the US model uses a spaced out period input system, which is why the European model is said to be more accurate.

Annual Trip West…

In the beginning of December, I get the truck serviced and ready for my annual trip out west. On the fifteenth I go to bed early, at one in the morning the following day I get up fill the cooler with food and frozen bottles of water, gather my cameras and travel computer and by two am ready to get on  the road. Everything else I will need has been loaded for almost a week.

I like getting on the road early and spending part of my day with minimal traffic, this part of my trip covers almost the exact route I covered for the twenty-six years I commuted to work outside of   Trenton. Within my first thirty minutes, I come across my first deer on the side of the road and remember a piece of advice my driving ed teacher gave during my senior year in high school, “Give five miles to weather and road conditions, and five miles to the night.”  I decrease my speed a bit and am on high alert, just a couple of weeks before I retired, almost 17 years ago, after many near misses I hit a deer.

I remember the incident well, I had a fresh container of coffee in the cup holder and a nice crispy bagel with cream cheese waiting on the seat next to me. It was early morning, the sun was still an hour away from showing itself on this crisp fall day. I was on a two lane back road, wasn’t going fast, about 40, because of the curves. It was around one of those curves when it happened, I caught movement on my right, it was a deer and he was in the air, jumping from the right. It was over in seconds, I remember standing on the break, the thump.

I got out of the car and walked over to where the deer was laying, his head jerked once and he lay there with his black eyes staring at me. Walking back over to the car, I surveyed the damage, grill was in pieces and the hood was buckled, one headlight was loose and there was a crack across the windshield. Getting back in  the car, I reached for my coffee, it wasn’t there, neither was my bagel, both were somewhere up under the dash — this was a total disaster. It didn’t cross my mind until a bit later – I had just walked away from what could have been a fatal accident.

It is estimated that there are over one hundred thousand deer in our state and they live in every corner. According to the NJ Division of  Fish and Game, white-tailed deer height at the shoulders is 90-105 cm (35 to 41 inches), length 134-206 cm (52 to 81 inches), weight (M) 90-135 kg (198 to 295 lbs) (F) 67-112 kg (147 to 246 lbs). Whitetails are tan or reddish brown in the summer and grayish brown in the winter. The underside and throat are white, the tail brown above and white below. The males have antlers with main beam forward and several un-branched tines. Fawns are reddish brown and white spotted

It is also estimated that there are over 26,000 deer-vehicle collisions every year. Drivers are cautioned to take heed of several tips from the Department of Environmental Protection’s biologists:

When you see a deer, slow down and pay attention to sudden movement. If the deer doesn’t move, don’t go around it – wait for it to make the first move. Pay attention to “deer crossing” signs – and be prepared. Daybreak and dusk are likely to see the most activity of the deer – so commuters should be cautious going to and from work. If traveling after dark, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams reflect off the eyes of the deer, allowing you time to prepare. When seeing one deer, be wary; there are probably more in the area. If a collision with a deer appears inevitable, don’t swerve. Apply the brake, but stay in your lane of travel.

I saw seventeen deer that morning before I crossed over the bridge into Pennsylvania, and did not see another the entire trip.


Christmas Past

Christmas Past,,,  Most of the majority of the original settlers of our country were Puritans and Christmas was just another workday, in fact the Puritans finding no justification for Christmas in the bible, considered it’s celebration paganism and idolatry. In those early days of our country the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Dutch Reform, and Anglicans celebrated Christmas behind closed doors as its celebration was suppressed and against the laws of the land in those early days.

There is much history that has gone into the celebration of Christmas as we know it today, but I can still remember some of the Christmas days in my past. I remember Mom telling me about her first Christmas right after she was married to my father, they were living in a third floor walk up in East Paterson. The stairs were outside and uncovered, dangerous to navigate in winter weather. Mom worked in the Little Falls Laundry, this was piece work, and Mom always received the bonus for the most pieces done in a week, although she was only a little bit of a thing, only 98 pounds, she was a fast worker and her pay envelope always had more than Pop’s. Pop worked in a jute factory, and I remember coming across one of his pay stubs from that time while cleaning out the garage, he was making 40 cents an hour and his take home was $11.63 cents for forty hours work. Pop’s 1941 Christmas gift to Mom was a beautiful scarf,  and  it is still put away in her hope chest.

One of my most memorable Christmas presents was when I received my first  Linoel Train, around 1951. It was most remembered, probably because I had snuck downstairs in the middle of the night and played with it. In the morning I had been found out because I had left the train in a different position on the track and one of the cars was derailed. That was something I never repeated. Over the next several years both my Father and I worked on our train set up in the basement. That train set up was sold in 1960 because I needed money to attend the Boy Scout Jamboree.

Then there was the “fruitcake” Christmas, I was in the Navy at the time, stationed on the USS Newport News, CA-148. The ship’s home berth was Pier 7, Navy Yards in Norfolk, Virginia. Sometime around the first week in December 1964, Mom had sent me a fruitcake. Well, when the fruitcake arrived at Norfolk, the ship was somewhere in the North Atlantic an the package was placed on another ship heading that way. Several transfers later the fruitcake caught up with me, this would be around June of 1965, the ship was on maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea. The temperature was in the 90’s when the box was opened – no telling what conditions the cake had been through in the past six months – and Mom’s famous cream cheese icing was coated with green mold. It was the First class, Earl who saved the day, he came up with something to scrape off the icing, the cake itself contained no mold. That year Christmas was celebrated in June, and everyone in the meteorological office aboard ship and a couple of our friends enjoyed that fruitcake.

Many Christmases have come and gone since those days, and sometimes the true meaning of Christmas has gotten diluted, I found a good definition of Christmas on, which I quote in full, “ A Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas evolved over two millennia into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian, pagan traditions into the festivities along the way. Today, Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together and exchange gifts.”

Things to remember to place on your Christmas list.

The Salvation Army

PBA toy drives of our various towns

Food drives of our various churches and organizations

Our service people

And, lastly as Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, everyone.”

A Place Called Waretown

Written By:  Neil Van Oost Jr.

A Place Called Waretown…. My family moved to Waretown in 1973, we purchased a converted summer bungalow from my cousin. The house was small and except for the side where my uncle had added two rooms, the walls had 2 X 3 studs. We were told the original was built by high school kids during their summer vacation in 1954, as were many of the homes in my development. My father and uncle added a utility room on the opposite side from the two rooms my uncle had added, so those walls were well insulated. They also built a nice sized garage in the back of the house, in which my father and I would spend much of our time. Except for a few weekends when I came down from North Jersey, where I was doing repairs to our old house so we could sell it, I only helped clearing trees and installing the heating system.

Over the 41 years I have lived here, I have picked up some of the local history, just bits and pieces mind you, but I had little time or interest in pursuing them. For 26 years I commuted back and forth the 50 miles to Trenton, where I worked, that made for eleven to twelve hour days. The fourteen years or so I worked nights are still a blur, eat, sleep, and work, Weekends were for fishing or clamming with Pop or taking Mom  and her two girl friends to the yard sales on Saturday. I have been retired for fifteen years now and some of my interests have been leaning towards the past.

There are things that have always puzzled me, but I never had the time to pursue them. You would think now I would have all the time I needed, but truthfully I seem to have little time to sit and ponder things. To many hobbies, things needing doing, volunteer work, places to see, and the list goes on. But when Jennifer, publisher of the Forked River Gazette, suggested I might try my hand at some local town history, I decided to give it a try. Perhaps I can answer some questions I have always wondered about, like why are there two Ocean Townships, who, why and hows of  the division of state property in the early days of our state. You, the reader can join me as I delve into some of the past that strikes my interest.

Long before the Dutch, English, and other Europeans arrived in New Jersey, the land around what we now call Waretown was populated by the Lenni-Lenape Indians. The Lenni-Lenape were a peaceful people and part of the Algonquin nation. They were farmers, hunters, and fishermen, who moved with the seasons, living off of the land. Being a peaceful people, they were sometimes looked down upon by the more aggressive tribes. In the early 1600’s their population was believed to be somewhere around 2000. When the white man first arrive , they would teach them how to set traps, clam with their toes, what and when to plant, all their lore was free for the taking. Soon Dutch traders took advantage of them, fighting and massacres took place. Their trails through the land became highways for the white man, their land was traded away to the English for trinkets, they were beset by the white mans diseases, smallpox, measles and tuberculosis and introduced to the problems and abuses of alcohol. By 1700 their population had shrunk to around 500.  Today, although there are small contingents of the Lenape in New Jersey, the main groups now live in Ontario (Canada), Wisconsin, and Oklahoma.

The first white men to set foot in the area around Waretown were most likely Dutch traders following Indian trails down from New Amsterdam. An Englishman, Henry Hudson started the push to colonize America by employing the Dutch. His ship the Half Moon was the first to anchor at Barnegat Inlet, which was given the Dutch name Barendegat, which meant Inlet of breakers. Many Dutch ships following the maps supplied by the mapping trip of the American built Dutch sailboat “Onrest” brought colonist settlers by boat, while others trickled in by following the Indian trails, by now mapped by traders.


To be continued…..




It is All About Family ~ Part 7

This is the last of the family history my mother wrote for one of my cousins and continues in the early thirties. Because Grandpa got along all right with Frank, it made Mom feel better also. At this time Grandpa was working for the W.P.A. digging ditches and that sort of work. His health started to deteriorate and he began to take time off now and then. When Dickie turned 15 he took over Grandpa’s work, a tough job for a 15 years old. A short time later Dickie joined the CCC and lived at the camp where he worked. Grandpa became very ill and the doctor prescribed morphine to help ease his pain, With Mom at work and Dickie away, I was the only one at home to watch Grandpa. One time he asked for a glass of water, when I came back to the bedroom with his water, he asked for the priest and it was evident that he was very sick. I called Mom at her work and she took a taxi home. I ran over to Mamie O’Hare’s house, she lived across the tracks and was my godmother. I asked her for the Last Rites kit that she had, then I ran across to the St. Bonaventure’s Monastery.  The priest came home with me and gave Grandpa the last rites as he wanted to be buried in the Catholic Cemetery with Grandma Alice. I stayed with Grandpa as Mom was never good with sick people. He had taken all the morphine with the water that I had brought him earlier. He gasped once and just passed away. All I had with me was a couple of nickels, so I closed his eyes and put the nickels on them and put his arms by his side. Some time ago Aunt Minnie had told me what to do.

We called the undertaker and when he came, Mom screamed, saying: “No, No, He’s warm yet and alive.” Aunt Minnie, Mom, and Frank made arrangements and Grandpa was laid out in the living room. Dickie came home from the CCC camp and Aunt Sadie (Sister John Marie) who was visiting St Bonaventure’s Convent at that time, was there also. I remember Dickie going over to the casket and putting a $1 bill in Grandpa’s hand, saying “Here Grandpa, buy yourself a beer in Heaven.” Poor  Aunt Sadie was mortified and said: “Oh Richard, you’re not getting any better.” That night when everyone went to bed, I sat up so Grandpa would not be alone. Sometimes I would hear a creak in the house and was very scared.

Grandpa passed away January 26, 1937. His first wife, Anna Marie, was born on January 26, and Mom was born on January 26.

Dickie came home from the CCC camp, and if I remember correctly, he started working at the 5 & 10 cent store on Main street in Paterson. I think Stanley Santee and Henry Mundrick also stared working there. They all worked upstairs in the kitchen, it was there that Dickie met his future wife Marion Bauer. They got along fine and we all liked her too, When the Holidays came around it was the first time we had a Christmas tree again since I was eight years old. Marion loved the Holidays and set up the tree, they were married June 17, 1938.

Neil’s note: When we are young there are lots of things that pass around us, some things we remember the rest of our lives, others are just vague memories, pieces of the puzzle of life that never seem to fit anywhere. Occasionally, something like my Mom’s Family History comes along and some of those puzzle pieces drop into place. As we get older, I think we tend to dwell a bit more on the past, I have listened to the stories that my Grandmother told me, the ones my Mother and Father told me, and the ones my Uncle Dick and Uncle Henry told me, I sometimes wish that I had paid a bit more attention, asked more questions. They are all gone on to a better place now, and it is to late to get answers to those unasked questions that I now find myself asking. For some of you reading this, it may not be to late, to ask those questions, or to write things down, to pass those pieces of the puzzle down to future generations.

It Is All About Family, Part 6…

down to earth

It is all about family, Part 6….  This is the continuation of the family history my mother wrote for one of my cousins. We were never allowed to have our friends in the yard (Neil’s note: That was because Mom’s grandfather was working as a gardener and I have seen pictures of the back yard and along the side of the house of the intricate flower arrangements from that time, I can only guess at the many hours he put into his own garden which was a labor of love.) Grandpa would yell at us. When he went on his long hikes in the woods for hickory nuts or mushrooms, we would play in the little old chicken coop in the back yard. We would have one girl out on the sidewalk. When she saw Grandpa coming up the hill, she would run away and say : “Chickie, here comes your Grandpa.” All my friends would hop over the back fence.

Dickie would have his friends in the chicken coop, playing cards sometimes. Nanny gave us twenty-five cents spending money. They would invite me in to play cards. After I lost all my pennies, they chased me out. Another time they had those narrow tubes from the silk mill, and would stuff them with dry leaves and have me be the first one to try out smoking them. In those days it was State Policy for all kids to be vaccinated before going to school in September, Dickie and four of his friends and I went to the Board of Health for our vaccinations. When it was our turn, they put me at the front of the line to see if it would hurt me. It seemed I was the human guinea pig for the gang at the time.

Because he was slowing down by and by, Grandpa lost his job eventually, doing garden work at Eastside Park. He was put on Old Age Pension for sixteen dollars a month. He gave Mom ten dollars and bought tobacco and beer with the rest. Most of the time he spent working in our yard with his flowers and tomatoes. We had the nicest garden on the hill. He very seldom was upstairs. Most of his leisure time he spent in the basement

During the big Silk strike in Paterson, Mom was out of work for about one year, we lived mostly on insurance policies that she would cash in. It was fortunate that Daddy had been a firm believer in insurance. The Silk Union would give out food to the strikers: bags of potatoes, rice, bread, etc. Aunt Minnie was also on strike and would go on the food line, but Mom was to proud, She would not do it. I remember one cold day, she and I walked downtown. We were passing Saint John’s Church, a man was sitting on the church steps, shivering from the cold, Mom gave him her last fifty cents to get a cup of hot soup.

Daddy was gone about six months when Uncle Stan and Aunt Minnie started taking Mon out more often. They went to a picnic in Singac. It was hosted by Mr. Howie, who owned the saloon where Uncle Stan worked. It was a July celebration for his employees. While there Uncle Stan introduced Mom to Frank Gilmartin. They became attracted to each other and Frank would visit Mom on the weekends. He was a chauffeur for the Lidgerwoods in Morristown. After a short time Frank started staying over with us on weekends. He and Grandpa got along fine, but Dickie and I were not too happy about the arrangements. Our friends would always say : “Who is the Star boarder?” The 30’s was not a period where behavior like that was common, but Mom had a will of her own. She did not care what anyone said. Frank was good to all of us and helped Mom out too. It was the first time in her life that she had a chance to enjoy life a little. They went to shows, racetracks, bingo, etc.

Neil’s note: News of Monday, Aug. 03, 1931, Paterson, scene of bitterly‑fought battles of the textile workers in past years, is again occupying the center of the strike field. The National Textile Workers Union has issued the call for a walkout of the silk and dye workers of the city, involving some 20,000 black and white workers of both sexes. The N.T.W. demands include the eight‑hour day, an increase in wages, an end to discrimination against Negroes, young workers and women, equal pay for equal work, opposition to the speed‑up system, unemployment insurance and recognition of the Union.


To be continued ……….

It Is All About Family, Part 5

Written By:  Neil Van Oost Jr.

down to earth

This is the continuation of the family history my mother wrote for one of my cousins. In the winter of 1929, Daddy had gone fishing through the ice and came home with a bad cold. After a couple of days he felt better and sat in the kitchen by the door, every time it opened he felt the draft and he had a relapse. 1929 also was the year of the Great Pneumonia Epidemic and Dad became worse, Mom and Dickie also became ill. They were in bed upstairs while Daddy was in a bed in the living room. Aunt Minnie came to take care of them. Dad got so bad they had to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital. While we were waiting I had to put his socks on. I had some problem getting them over his heels. He took the socks, pushed me away, saying: “Dammit, get out of here, I’ll do it myself.” Those were the last words my Dad said to me and I loved him so much, while they were loading him into the ambulance the neighbors outside were talking and laughing. I kept saying to myself, I hate you all. (Neil’s note: I heard this story many times and even when Mom told it to me when she was in her eighties you could tell how much it still had hurt her.)

It was only a short while after Dad went to the hospital that he passed away on January 10, 1929, just a month before his 38th  birthday.

Aunt Minnie cleaned the whole house and bought new curtains. Nanny insisted on the best oak casket, that she picked out from the Funeral Director’s catalog. She also ordered flower cars, limousines, etc. Daddy was laid out in the living room. We had so many visitors as he was well liked. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus, Foresters of America, and Moose Association. They gave Mom $200. Aunt Carrie (uncle Hynie’s wife) came and gave her $20, which was a lot of money in those days. Aunt Minnie cleaned the basement, bought liquid refreshments and prepaired all the food. There was a real Irish Wake with Dad’s old cronies singing Danny Boy, etc.

I went to the funeral sitting in the first limousine with Aunt Minnie and Uncle Stanley. I think Aunt Sadie (Sister John Marie, Dad’s sister) was also there. I was eigth years old and cried all the time. I could not remember who all went to the funeral. Mom and Dickie were too sick to go. We had a mass at St, Bonaventure’s  R. C. Church and Holy Sepulcher.

Daddy had passed away while the Christmass tree was still up. After that Mom never had a tree and we would go to Aunt Minnie for Christmas. Mom was a good mother, gave us the best of food and clothing, but we did not get much affection from her. As I got older, I began to realize that she herself was brought up with little or no affection and she worked hard all her life.

Now that Grandma and Daddy were gone, life was different, Mom continued to work in the silk mill and Grandpa still did garden work, but often came home earlier than Mom. Sometimes he would do the cooking. Dickie and I more or less were on our own and he was my protector. Grandpa was very strict. One time we ran out of ice and the potatoes in the icebox turned sour. Mom threw them down the toilet and it clogged up. When Grandpa came home he yelled at Mom. She said: “I didn’t do it, Sissy did.”


To be continued….

It’s All About Family, Part 4…

Written By:  Neil Van Osst Jr.

down to earth

This is the continuation of the family history my mother wrote for one of my cousins and picks up where Mom’s Grandmother passed away on January 7, 1927.

It was my first encounter with death and I was very sad (Mom was seven years old at the time) as I had been very close to her. A short time later Daddy decided to rebuild the large upstairs porch, in doing so he converted it inro a huge kitchen. I remember he also made a good batch of Root beer and Elderberry wine. When the kitchen was finished he installed a steam heat boiler in the former kitchen, which later became known as the cellar. We had steam heat throughout all the rooms. He was a foreman at the Passaic Valley Water Company and it took not long for him to install running water and a bathroom with a tub, something no one on the hill had.  He also bought a very good radio which at the time was a real luxury. When the Championship fights were on, the men in the neighborhood would come and sit with Daddy on the wall in front of the house and listen to the fights. Daddy would send Dickie and I down, across the tracks, to Alex Kiddle saloon for a 10 cent bucket of beer. Daddy was a hard worker but was ‘rough and ready’ so to speak. One time Aunt Minnie and Nanny went shopping on Saturday. Mom bought a red hat and put it on to show Daddy. He pulled it off her head and said: “Dammit, you look like a whore in a red hat.” He threw it out in the yard. Aunt Minnie went out and picked it up. She put it on and said: “Well, I’ll wear it and I’m not a whore!”

Another time Nanny worked late and cooked hot dogs for supper. Dad took the plate and threw the hot dogs out into the yard, saying: “Why should I eat hot dogs when I can eat steak.” Needless to say we had no more hot dogs and hamburgers while Daddy was alive. Mom and Dad never went out together on weekends. Dad was either hunting or fishing with his friends most weekends. On his vacation he would go away to friends in Main or other places to hunt.

The only place Dickie and I went was Mass on Sundays. In the summer, when school was out, we went to Daddy’s friends who had a farm and spent most of our vacation there. Here Dickie used to get up very early in the morning and help with the farm. I guess I was a brat because I did not want to do dishes or clean there, I said: This is my vacation and my Mom is paying for it.” When I was six years old I had thin blond hair, Daddy shaved it all off, saying it would grow back thicker. I sure prayed it would before school started again in September. I still remember how it was before we had heat and running hot water. Mom would get out a large brass double boiler and put it on the stove then fill it with water and when the water was near boiling she would shave a Fels Naptha soap bar in it. Then the sheets went in. Later scooping them out, rinsing them and hanging them on the line —- it was hard work!

One day when Dickie came home from school, he told Dad about a fight he had with a kid. Dad said: “Fight him back.” The next day came he home with boxing gloves and taught him how to fight.

It was my job to feed our dog Teddy after supper. One day I went out with his food and Daddy came running after me. He pushed me so hard I landed three feet away form him. He had seen the dog foaming at the mouth. Teddy jumped up and bit Daddy on the chest, near the heart. The dog had caught rabies from another dog up the street. Daddy had to go for treatment for ten weeks. They said it weakened his heart.

As time went by, the house took shape, the large porch became a huge kitchen. We had steam heat, a nice indoor bathroom, a new dining room and living room furniture. We had a concrete sidewalk, with curb, and Daddy bought a nice new Ford car.


To be continued….