Carolyn (a.k.a. Carole) Farley
- Mailing address:
- When and where were you born?
July 4, 1946 in West Englewood, NJ
- When did you come to Mountain Lakes?
I’m very bad at years… Let’s see… it was in the fall, just before Halloween, of 1954.
- Tell us something about your family did your parents also live here?
Both my parents were New York City born and raised. My dad grew up in Richmond Hill, which is either in Queens or Brooklyn…..around where they connect. He was from a very Irish Catholic family, consisting of Farleys and Murphys and Durkins, and Kellys by marriage. His brother became a priest and his first cousin became a cloistered nun. She was in a monastery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn by the Verrazano Bridge. My sister and I were always mystified by our semi-annual visits to the monastery. We had to visit “Aunt Catherine” with cross-hatch bars between where she sat and the room we were in – like she was in jail. We were only allowed to bring gifts for ALL the nuns, so it was almost always ribbon candy, Christmas hard candies and chocolates. At the door of the convent, we had to put the present into an old, dark wood dumbwaiter and send it off to the mysterious inside, and then we were shown to a waiting room with one wall all curtains. A section of the curtains would part, and there would be Aunt Catherine, behind the bars. She would put two or three fingers through the bars and we’d put our fingers up to touch hers. Aunt Catherine was the music teacher at the school connected to the monastery. Polio went through my father’s family – he had it, a sibling died of it, and Aunt Catherine was in a wheelchair, having been crippled by it. In her later years, Aunt Catherine became the Mother Superior and was also out from behind the bars, traveling the world.My mom was born in Manhattan. Her parents met on the boat, coming over from Germany. My grandfather had been a pharmacist in Dresden, Germany but, as he didn’t have US credentials, he made his living by playing the piano during silent movies in theaters around Manhattan. My grandmother was much older and from a totally insane family with roots in Stuttgart, Germany. My grandparents fought in a small city apartment and divorced when my mother was 7. People didn’t divorce back then, so it was thought quite scandalous. My mom had a difficult childhood and married my dad when she was only 18.
- Where have you lived in the Borough? In which houses?
We lived at 179 Lake Drive, the very last house on the street. Our property was a pie shaped wedge with Lake Drive along the front, Fernwood Place along the back, and Morris Avenue as the piecrust. We were just down a few lots from The Cove on Morris Ave.
- What do you remember particularly about the houses and properties where you lived?
I loved our house. It was small, and tudor style, and stood proudly. My mom had it painted white with gray trim, which was way prettier than the standard beige/brown tudors. We had a formidable fieldstone front entrance and a beautiful big pink dogwood tree at the livingroom window. Inside we had a huge and wonderful staircase to the second floor, with heavy oak carved and turned banisters and two landings along the way, perfect for spying down after bedtime upon my parents’ parties – they entertained friends and neighbors frequently with cocktails, “hiballs”, and elaborate hor d’oeuvres. The Prindles, the Kings, the Gabels, the Orsinos, the Jacksons, the Hills, the Hoffmans, and the Vernon Lees were frequent guests.
Our living room ended with French doors that opened into a large screened in porch room facing out towards the point of our pie shaped property. We always had the Christmas tree in that room, where it could be seen from 3 different streets and looked lovely. In the summers, Larry Jackson, Pete English, Gail Hoffman and I would play endless games of poker out there in the porch-room until late at night, with not quite enough light to play by and crickets and katydids making their mysterious, but also comforting night noises, broken only by our laughter, while moths kept flying against the screens and lightning bugs twinkled outside.
Soon after we moved to Mountain Lakes, my mother sought to join the garden club and the garden club declined to have her as a member because she was not a college graduate. After that, my highly insulted mom gardened night and day, outside working with a flashlight sometimes until two in the morning, insuring that her garden was prettier than all the others in town. At its peak, it really was spectacular, with hundreds of different varieties and colors of flowers.
We had a badminton net and sometimes a croquet set in the front yard in the summers, mostly as a boy-attraction. (Shy, overly-tall girls had to take extra measures!) Spirited games could attract the Jackson boys – Ray, Robbie and Larry – from next door; Rennie Graves, Tad Howard, Pete English, Trippy Lee and Rob Prindle from around the neighborhood; and who-knows-who-else cruising by in a convertible!
- What are some of your special memories growing up in Mountain Lakes?
I have many treasured memories. When I think of Mountain Lakes, I think of all four seasons and their individual, incredible beauty there. I think of sunlight dappled through lush trees, the feel of a good healthy lawn or a hot macadam road under bare feet, and huge piles of leaves in the fall. I had my own sunfish AND canoe, and a rickety cart in which I dragged them up to the cove to launch. I loved to sail the big lake in the early morning hours all by myself in a good wind. Sometimes Gretchen and I raced each other.Gretchen lived in the big house at the top of Fernwood Place and had a diving board at the end of her yard. We flung ourselves from it for hours on end until dragged away from it at dinnertime, lips blue and teeth chattering and covered in goose bumps, clutching wet beach towels around us.
One year, they had to drain the big lake in August because of algae overgrowth and, in the newly formed crater, Gretchen and I found fabulous, shiny, rare stones, minerals, and fossils! We thought we had found the mother lode, but it turned out they were discards from her brother Peter’s collection, tossed into the lake years earlier for being not good enough to keep.
After the Noyes’ moved back to Maine, Peter Margolius moved into the house with the diving board, and Dr. Margolius – an anesthesiologist at Riverside Hospital – had a telephone installed out on a tree near the lake for emergency calls. Back then, that was a way exotic lawn amusement and I would like to apologize herewith to any remaining Margoliuses for the calls…….. they must have been local because I didn’t know anyone outside of town at the time.
I rode my bike everywhere from Diaper Village to Lookout Road, and could easily pedal all those hills. Even Pollard Road. Even Tower Hill Road. Retracing the steps of my childhood of 50 years ago this summer at the Class of ’64 reunion, I marveled at the fact that I had legs as strong (and great looking) as I had then. Gretch and Larry and I once rode our bikes over to Denville for the exciting opening of a new strip mall, which turned out to be underwhelming, so we continued on and eventually found ourselves lost up in Pikitinny Arsenal lands. It got a little beyond a fun adventure after awhile, and the only way we knew to get home was to ride our bikes all the way down Route 46. I got a good thrashing for that one and, worse than that, my mother insisted that Larry come over to watch me take my licks as HIS punishment. Remember that, Larry?
- Where did you go to school? What particular memories do you have from your school years? Are there any special stories you associate with that time of your life?
I went to the Lake Drive School from 4th to 6th grade and the new high school from 7th grade onward. My father called the Lake Drive School “The Rock Pile”. The basement of The Rock Pile had a smell I can still recall. It was a combination of gym sweat and Lysol and perhaps mold. I danced my first slow dance in the gym there with Charlie Orr. In the spring and fall, I rode my bike, and in the winter I walked or sometimes even skated from The Cove to Lake Drive School. In home ec, I made half an apron the first year, half a skirt the second year, and about a third of a dress the third year. And I haven’t sewn as much or as well since.I was personally a little too immature to be thrown into the new high school with all the upper classmen in the 7th grade. I was young for the class. (I still had Ginny dolls!) It was an awkward, frightening, ill-fitting transition from The Rock Pile for me, and my complexion and grades suffered for it. I started out in the advanced math and science group of 7th graders, and was very relieved to be dumped back out of it in 8th grade into the mainstream. My class had many extremely smart kids in it. It was challenging to go through school with them, and I’m glad for having had that experience. I still surprise people all the time by telling them about how we had to have footnotes and bibliographies on all our papers by the sixth grade, and how if you spelled one word wrong, you couldn’t get an A. Mountain Lakes had some great teachers and provided us a wonderful education. I think most of us went easily through our freshman years at college, having done an equal or higher level of work in general at MLHS.
- Where did you and your family shop?
Del’s Village and Denville for groceries and the like. Morristown for school clothes. Best & Company in NYC for winter coats and Easter outfits. New York for furniture, my father’s clothes, and a lot of other things.
- What were the roads and the lakes like?
The roads were always in good condition, as I recall. And, of course, they were safe then! As children, we walked all over town, barefoot, day and night, on dark roads (no sidewalks!), through the woods, and through just about anybody’s private property without any fear at all, except for one incident when we had a local citizen bothering random children around town for a few weeks or months until he was caught. The lakes were beautiful and clean, albeit with seasonal algae and occasional globs of fish eggs, used by local boys to throw at local girls. There were black snakes in Birchwood, but that didn’t stop us from swimming. I never encountered a snapping turtle in any of the lakes, but that may just have been my good luck.
- Are there any special people you remember who contributed to the life of the town? Why do they stand out in your mind?
Mr. Bill Kogen, who was Ruler of All Children in Mountain Lakes. He taught us math, he taught us to swim, he coached the elite swimmers, and he was a constant presence in our lives, keeping an eye on us at Birchwood, telling us when to get out of the water, and when to cut the crap and get to work, and to learn to see BOTH the forest AND the trees. He’s THAT TEACHER who made a real difference in the lives of many of his students, including me.
- What did you do for fun formal recreation, sports and entertainment in general?
All the oral histories have talked about the swimming, diving, boating, skating and sledding – the center of the lives of Mountain Lakes youngsters. I want to mention the Mountain Lakes tradition and institution of ballroom dancing classes for 12-14 year olds, held Saturday evenings at the Community Church. Girls were to be dressed in semi-formal and formal gowns and gloves, boys in suits and ties. We were taught to waltz, fox trot, cha cha and behave with gentility and civility toward each other. We sometimes had dance cards, wherein the number of dances of the evening were listed and the boys went around and signed up for a specific dance with the girls of their choice until all the dances were promised. Then, in turn, the boys would turn up to claim their dances. The resulting full cards hung by ribbons or strings from the girls’ gloved wrists and were taken home as souvenirs. We all have memories of our worst faux pas, our sweaty hands, our angst over asking, being asked and NOT being asked to dance, and of our clumsiness at dancing classes – and they’re fond memories. Can you imagine 12-14 year olds of today at such an activity?
- Are there any special events that stand out in your mind?
My dad singing Oh Holy Night solo in church on Christmas Eves. He had a wonderful voice. There was also a Men’s Chorus in town that he sang in, along with about 30 other dads. They had several concerts at Briarcliff School.The various state championship teams we had in basketball and swimming. There were pep rallies and bonfires and much excitement, uniting everyone in town cheering for our teams. The games and meets were well attended by all the families in town and there were always beeping motorcades around town with convertibles full of our champion athletes, as well as the cheerleaders and homecoming queens.
The fourth of July picnics, sailing races, swimming races and fireworks out over the big lake. It was magical for everyone in town, but especially for me because it was my birthday as well.
- Did your parents and the parents of your friends work nearby? In New York or elsewhere? How did they get to work? How did commuting change over your time here?
My dad worked in an office on 5th Avenue and 38th Street in New York. Mother drove him to the Lackawana Railroad Station in town at 7 a.m. and picked him up again in the evening. Later, he commuted by car to a Park and Ride lot close to the city and then took a bus through the Lincoln Tunnel and walked to and from the Port Authority building through the garment district. Eventually, the commute became a burden to my father and in 1964 we moved back into New York. Mom didn’t work outside the home, except on that flower garden! As for me, I worked as a Clare Cadet (candy striper) at St. Clare’s Hospital, and then as a nurse’s aide. I was a short order cook in the coffee shop one summer. I also babysat all over our end of town, and I spent another summer working at the Pacquins Hand Cream factory in Parsippany.
- How did various laws affect the way people lived?
I remember that there was a law against putting up fences on one’s private land in Mountain Lakes. Some people didn’t like that very much, but it was felt that fences would have destroyed the park-like landscape of the town.
- Did you have a sense of Mountain Lakes as a unique place in its lifestyle, its homes, as a community?
Yes, I always did although hindsight is much clearer. We were the children of the first and biggest year of the Baby Boom and we had a strong belief that Kids Ruled in Mountain Lakes. We knew, on one level, that we were strong, smart, and privileged and much cooler than kids from anywhere else. But on another level, it all felt normal and the-way-it’s-supposed-to-be, because we didn’t know any other way of life. As others have said, the Real World was a rude awakening for many of us after we left Mountain Lakes. And a lot of us wish we could go back to that time and place!
- How did the world’s events — World War I, the Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the assassination of JFK, Viet Nam, Watergate, etc. — affect you and fellow Mountain Lakes residents when you were growing up?
When we were young, it was the Cold War that affected us most. We had drills at school and everyone was talking about fallout shelters and stockpiling supplies. I had a recurrent dream that there was a huge fallout shelter under the big lake and that somehow I was the one who could decide who was to be admitted and who would be left above when The Russians Were Coming, The Russians Were Coming! My father was very proud, as an Irish Catholic American male, when JFK was elected president. We were all devastated when he was shot. After that, the world turned upside down and, the next summer, we moved away from Mountain Lakes and out into that dangerous, tumultuous, real world.
- What made living in Mountain Lakes special to you, as you think back over your life here?
It was an idyllic place and a moment in time that was special, nearly perfect, and forever memorable. We used to sing a song with out hands over our hearts that ended with the line “No matter where we wander or wherever we may roam, we will always think of Mountain Lakes as Home!” I was just there again, 40 years after leaving, and it felt like home.