John David Flint
- Mailing address:
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3P 1R4, Canada
- When and where were you born?
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1946.
- When did you come to Mountain Lakes?
- Tell us something about your family did your parents also live here?
I moved to Mountain Lakes as a child with my parents, John B. and Gyda S. (“Jill) Flint, and my sister MaryLou.
- Where have you lived in the Borough? In which houses?
We lived at 76 Bellvale Rd. (corner of Hillcrest) until 1962.
- What do you remember particularly about the houses and properties where you lived?
Ours was a wonderful old stucco house with parquet floors and lots of wood panelling. It had two fireplaces. The garage was a stone, two-story building with a grease pit downstairs and a real Tiffany ceiling lamp upstairs. There must of been 100 trees in our yard, an apple orchard, pears, peaches, cherries, sassafras, catalpa, black walnut, magnolia, cedar, birch, 3 kinds of maples, oaks, etc. A lot of leaf raking for me as a kid, but it was fun to burn the leaves.
- What are some of your special memories growing up in Mountain Lakes?
The lakes were the big thing. Canoeing, swimming, skating in the winter. Hiking and catching frogs around Birchwood Lake. Trying to paddle a canoe up the canal from Wildwood to the Big Lake. Catching “sunnies”. We spent a lot of the summer at the Mtn. Lakes Club, diving off the raft or playing tennis. My dad was a pretty good tennis player, but he could never beat Ken Lester. “Hap” was the guy who used to run the Club. The 4th of July was a special treat, with the parade, the fireworks on the lake. Everybody around the lake put flares along the shore, it was beautiful.
- 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 was in the vanguard year cohort of the Baby Boom, so as we grew up the town had to keep building new schools for us- the new elementary school (Wildwood), and finally the new high school. At Wildwood we were “Polio Pioneers” – the first to get the new Salk Vaccine. Briarwood was the old elementary school where I attended grades 3-6. I never did go to the “old” high school. We went right into the new one in 7th grade. What a beautiful school, with its huge gym, modern classrooms, and great science labs. I was in the marching band in high school, we did some fancy drills and formations at the football games (though we had the crummiest band uniforms in the league). I ran crosscountry and track, but then we left town after my sophomore year.
- Where did you and your family shop?
Well, for emergencies you could go down to the “Village” by the train station. “Sodano’s” had essentials like pop and candy, and there was a barber shop and a rambling old stone service station. Most people went to the new shopping center in Boonton, just down the Boulevard. There was an Acme, a Woolworth’s, a drugstore, and the famous Worman’s Liquors was nearby. Worman’s delivered in a little panel truck, and we kids could tell who was drinking a lot by watching where the Worman’s truck stopped. There were lots of deliveries: you could get your milk delivered by either Hanover or Alderney Dairies. We got it from Hanover – they had those bottles with a kind of bulb near the top that captured the cream from the unhomogenized milk. There was a breadman, and an eggman among others. Not to mention regular visits from the Fuller Brush Man (who gave us free samples). There were lots of stores on Boonton’s steep main street – I remember Grobois Shoes (he sold Buster Brown’s), Ratti’s Cigar Store, the stationery store. But if you really wanted to go clothes shopping you went to Morristown. Later own, Two Guys From Harrison – the first discount store – opened up on Rte. 46. It burned down soon thereafter, I remember its steel girders twisted like spaghetti. Of course in the fall everyone went to the nearby farms to get fresh sweet corn. My dad would call the farmer to see when they were bringing it in from the fields so we’d get it really fresh.
- What were the roads and the lakes like?
The roads were paved but there weren’t many sidewalks. There were some big hills that were hard to negotiate when it snowed, but great for sledding – Powerville Rd. was legendary. The lakes were all different. Birchwood was wild, there was just a beach and no houses around. I think the other lakes were pretty polluted because everybody had septic systems. No one ever swam in Wildwood. The Big Lake (Mountain Lake) often got quite full of seaweed and algae – I think they used to put chemicals in it to keep the weeds and bacteria down. But the lakes made our town special. We were very proud of them, and it is probably no coincidence that we always had the state champion swimming team.
- Are there any special people you remember who contributed to the life of the town? Why do they stand out in your mind?
I remember immediate neighbours, older people who seemed very wise to me. For instance, Mr. Learnerd (?) next door was an amazing horticulturist. You know, I don’t really remember any outstanding civic leaders. I remember the town cops – Chief Brimlow and Officer Castellucci – in high school kids used to joke about how they had outwitted them with their pranks.
- What did you do for fun formal recreation, sports and entertainment in general?
Tennis, canoeing, running, music. Hiking in the Tourne sometimes. An occasional trip to the movie theatre in Boonton or Denville to see an Elvis Presley film. The borough had an orchestra, I bet it doesn’t anymore!
- Are there any special events that stand out in your mind?
When I was a kid I loved political clambakes. My dad would take me to both the Republican and Democratic clambakes (the Democratic ones were better – there were hardly any Democrats so it was easier to get more clams). The Memorial Day Parade was something special. And the annual Volunteer Fireman’s Parade in Boonton. Of course, waiting for the flag with the red ball to be raised on Island Beach – that meant the Big Lake was safe to skate on. There was also the Morris County Fair nearby – a rodeo, livestock and farm produce exhibits, the 4-H stuff and the midway – ferris wheels, roller coasters, the ring toss and cotton candy. I ate my first piece of pizza at the County Fair – it was an exotic dish at the time, though later we regularly went to the Reservoir Tavern for the best pizza in the world!
- 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 at E. F. Drew in Boonton, so he drove to work (one snowy day he skiied to work!). Many kids’ parents worked in New York. They took the DL&W train (“The Route of the Phoebe Snow”) from the Mountain Lakes station – took about 45 minutes I think. It was quite a train, the cars were from the late 19th century, they had wicker-upolstered seats. It was a treat for us kids to take the train to New York with Mom to see the Christmas windows at Macy’s or to visit the Planetarium. Later on, the train stopped running and you had to take the Lakeland bus to Port Authority terminal. Too bad!
- How did various laws affect the way people lived?
(See above discussion of the police force. Otherwise, I guess I wasn’t too aware of legal issues.
- Did you have a sense of Mountain Lakes as a unique place in its lifestyle, its homes, as a community?
I understood as a kid that Mountain Lakes was a very early example of a planned community for the relatively well-to-to. We certainly believed we were a better class of people than those who lived in Boonton – for instance, girls who dated guys from Boonton were considered desperate cases! When I lived in Mountain Lakes, we, like many other families, employed an African-American housecleaner, but black people were certainly not allowed to live in Mountain Lakes. In fact, I remember when the first Jewish family moved to Mountain Lakes in 1961 – many people were scandalized. I had never met an African-American child until I went to YMCA camp. I first met a Jewish boy on the Queen Mary when my family sailed to England one year for vacation.
I am sure Mountain Lakes is not like this any more, and a good thing too. Though the schools were “good” and the streets were safe, Mountain Lakes did not prepare me very well in some ways for the bigger world I entered later on.
- 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?
Well there was Sputnik – we all had to take more math and science classes after that. There weren’t any wars going on when I lived in Mountain Lakes – except the Cold War. My mom was a civil defense volunteer. She had a white helmet with a triangle on it in the closet. I wondered what good that would do in a nuclear war. We were all quite scared of the Bomb, and most of us kids wished our parents would build fallout shelters. I tried to dig one in our basement! We had air raid drills at school, but what good would it do to hide under our desks? I had vivid nightmares of nuclear holocaust.
- What made living in Mountain Lakes special to you, as you think back over your life here?
First, I think, was the wonderful nature that was everywhere. So many trees, animals, lakes. So much space. Big yards. New Jersey has the most nurturing climate and such fertile soil. To this day my fondest memories are of the wonderful natural spaces, forests and lakes in the changing seasons. I suppose I also felt very safe. Everybody know everyone else, knew whose kid you were and whether you were supposed to be doing what you were doing or not! Little kids could go trick-or-treating at Hallowe’en.