Wally & Carolyn Carlson Mills
I will start with a little of my own history first. Born in Orange NJ, August 29, 1925 and moved to ML when six weeks old. We lived in an apartment over the old post office on Midvale because our new house on corner of Briarcliff and Howell was not finished. Howell Road was unpaved at that time and for ten years more. This apartment later burned. Actually the east end of the stores burned twice to what is there today. The stores at that time went all the way to Romaine road.
Went to Kindergarten two years because of an age change at Lake Drive School. I always said I “flunked sandbox”. Had Miss Calender and Kay Phalen. First grade was at the Community Church because of over-crowding. Miss Tapper.
Then back to Lake Drive through sixth grade. We were the first class to go all the way through the new High School. 1938 I think.
Our war started with the attack on Pearl Harbor when I was a Junior. The draft was in effect and as each class graduated, the boys disappeared into the military. I graduated in 1943. At that time the Navy required that any Naval officer be a college graduate but they were running out of graduates. So they started a college program of giving high school grads a four-year engineering education in 32 months, nonstop college. The V-12 program. I think five of us signed up in Feb. Joined the Navy in May and headed for college July first. I went to Cornell as did Betty Ann (Merritt). The war ended before we graduated but we left college with an officers commission. I was sent to Pensacola, Fl., was there four months and was discharged. So I never saw combat.
The war was over, everyone wanted out and they were having trouble keeping enough personnel to run the bases. You got your discharge based on “points” which were gained according to your service record, time in, what theater, etc. Some chose the military as a career but most wanted out.
Now for my recollections of the war and ML. First and foremost there was rationing. Every larger town had a Draft Board and a Rationing Board run by local citizens. The draft board had absolute power but appeals could be reviewed. Many were deferred because their job was essential. Every male had a draft status. Some with serious physical problems were 4-F with a stigma attached.
Everything was rationed. Tires, gasoline, no new cars at all, virtually no meat, butter, eggs sugar. Many things that were not rationed were just not made or produced. All the production went to the war. You literally could not buy anything new. Rationing was controlled with issued ration books and food stamps. I don’t know how we got these but you could hoard them for a special occasion or be given some by a friend, etc. You would hoard meat stamps for a special party. My parents visited me in Ithaca only once in 32 months. Everyone was behind the war effort with almost no exceptions. “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokow says it all.
There were some curious programs. One in particular was airplane spotting. On a field which is now near Lake Intervale was a short tower. This was manned day and night by people who reported all plane activity they saw to a central control post. They were looking for enemy planes. Where they might come from, I can’t imagine but they took it very seriously. Women in the daytime and men at night.
There was a small test site on Crystal Lake, run I think by the Bell Labs. Several high school teachers stood guard there at night. I think it involved early sonar for submarines and was highly secret.
So many of the younger men in town were in the service that we had almost no fire department. So the older high school boys were organized as the Junior Fire Dept. and they were trained and were quite effective. And if there was a fire, they got to leave class. They were all there was. Had a major house fire on Howell Rd and a lumber yard on Route 46 burned to the ground.
The Lackawanna RR had four tracks at that time. The war freight was very heavy. During several summers, a small group of high school boys worked summers on the RR section gang maintaining the tracks along with the regular Italian workers. Terribly hard work and hot and dirty but very macho. I had to lie about my age because I wasn’t quite sixteen. We would show up at Island Beach filthy dirty for a swim.
Along the Atlantic coast, German submarines were raising havoc with the coastal shipping, literally sinking hundreds of ships including tankers. The beaches were black with oil (shades of the Gulf). Ships silhouetted against shore lights made easy targets so a complete blackout was demanded. No building on shore could show any lights at all. And this carried inland. Cars had blackout headlights which gave very little light. Driving was dangerous and people stayed home.
Sincerely Wally Mills
Carolyn Carlson Mills
I moved to Mtn. Lakes in 1939 and lived with my parents and older brother in a rented house — 57 Melrose Rd. At that time many houses were rentals and sometimes people vacated their house in the middle of night to avoid the bill collectors. In 1940 my father went into the Navy and in 1942 my brother went into Naval Aviation so my mother and I lived alone for many years — moving and renting until after the war and we built the house at 22 Bellvale.
My memories of high school are of a wonderful time but also a very sad time due to the war. We like many others had a small blue flag with 2 silver stars (2 of our family in the service) hanging in our front window — sadly several families in town had to change the silver to gold as sons were killed. We listened to the news on the radio (no TV) and kept a map to mark the many battles that were reported. In those days of strict secrecy families did not know where their sons and husbands were — you knew their battalion or ship and feared hearing news of them being in a battle. Letters were written on very thin paper called victory letters and all were censored — anything that looked suspicious was either blacked out (ink went through to the other side) or cut out with a sharp knife so you often only got half a letter.
There was much rationing and many “do withouts” — we got used to very little sugar, two pairs of shoes a year, saving meat stamps for a special occasion, growing as much food as we could in our “victory garden” when we could buy eggs we put them in a jug of waterglass to prolong their life. We made our own soap and some of us picked berries at a farm in Parsippany and due to the lack of man-power many of us girls mowed lawns and of course little or no gasoline. Cars had a sticker on the windshield denoting the amount of gas they could buy — most had an “A” but we had a “C” because my father was in the Navy.
High school social life was very different from now. Friday evenings were pretty much basketball in the winter and Saturday was movie night (the show changed 3 times a week). We would (with or without a date) stand on the Boulevard and wait for the bus to take us to the State Theater in Boonton. After the show we would go to an ice cream shop called Ratti’s at the bottom of Main Street. After ice cream and maybe a song or two on the jukebox we would catch the bus for the ride home. There would be many friends on the bus and I now pity the driver who had to put up with all the chatter and much singing. The bus ride cost 10 cents but if I had time I could walk as far as Fanny Road and only have to pay 5 cents. When I got off the bus and headed home there was no worry about me walking, alone and in the dark!
As I remember, the street lights had been turned off and we would sometimes have a test air raid and a block captain would wander the street to make sure the was no light showing from your house. Once a week my mother and I would walk from our home at 50 Bellvale to the grade school (Lake Drive). It was a dark walk with only a flashlight to guide us. When we got there we would join several others and roll bandages for the Red Cross — always hoping that they would not be needed on our loved ones.
The entire country was on “War Time” — which meant daylight savings time was all year and in the usual day light savings time we skipped ahead another hour. This was to allow more daylight hours for workers but it also meant early dark in the winter time! As the classes graduated from high school the boys went off to the various services and I did not see many of them again for many, many years.
At last, that long awaited VJ (Victory in Japan) came and what a celebration! Gas rationing was immediately over so we were free to drive and we did — up and down Main Street, Boonton — horns blaring and everyone shouting and cheering. War was terrible but life in Mtn. Lakes was wonderful and I was very lucky to have spent my teen years there and raise our 4 children there also. (And now 1 granddaughter)
Carolyn Carlson Mills,
MLHS Class of 1945