Robert H. Braunohler
- Mailing address:
Washington, DC 20012
- When and where were you born?
July 1946 in Mountain Lakes (born at home).
- When did you come to Mountain Lakes?
- Tell us something about your family. Did your parents also live here?
My parents, Otto and Hilde Braunohler, bought 24 Woodland Avenue in 1937 for $4,000. They moved to Mtn. Lakes from Boonton, where they had lived since their marriage in 1935. My mother, Hilde, sold 24 Woodland Ave in 1994, so she had lived there for 57 years. She passed away in 2001, and my father died in 1973. Hilde had grown up at 406 Fanny Road in Boonton and attended Boonton High School. Her sister, Elisabeth Geiger, still owns 406 Fanny Road, and has lived there since my grandfather bought it 1920.
- Where have you lived in the Borough? In which houses?
I only lived at 24 Woodland Avenue, from 1946 until I left for college in 1964. After that I returned for visits, up until 1994.
- What do you remember particularly about the houses and properties where you lived?
Woodland Ave was a dead-end street until about 1960. Prior to that time, when I was a child, we had acres and acres of woods in which to play cowboys, soldiers, or build forts. It was a wonderful place to be a young boy. There were many other boys of my general age: Bill, Bob and George Bowden, Doug and Jim Dressel, Stuart Richards, John Gritman, Herb Barrett. Together we had some very organized “wars” and built some very sophisticated tree forts and underground structures.
- What are some of your special memories growing up in Mountain Lakes?
Swimming in the summer, ice skating in the winter. Particularly swimming at Birchwood. Playing on and around the railroad, which our mothers forbade. We walked the tracks for up to two miles in either direction, and got to know some of the brakemen who rode in the cabooses of the freight trains.
- 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 attended Mt. Lakes public schools as a “lifer.” Kindergarten at Lake Drive, 1st and 2nd grades at Wildwood, 3rd thru 6th grades back at Lake Drive, then 7th thru 12th at the “new” High School, which is the current High School. I missed Briarcliff School, which was high school for my older sister and brother.
- Where did you and your family shop?
We shopped at Dels Village and at the A&P in Boonton. Spot purchases were made at Yaccarino’s. Hardware and lumber were bought at Anchor Supply on Route 46, my father’s favorite store.
- What were the roads and the lakes like?
Woodland Avenue was unpaved until 1960. The lakes were relatively clean, and they almost always froze over in winter.
- Are there any special people you remember who contributed to the life of the town? Why do they stand out in your mind?
George Wilson was a stalwart citizen, as was Bill Kogen. They both taught in the High School and contributed much to the community. Among other things, George taught me how to drive, and Bill taught me how to handle pressure and not be intimidated.
- What did you do for fun, formal recreation, sports and entertainment in general?
Swimming in the summer, playing in the woods (see above). Also going to the movies at the State Theatre in Boonton, where the screen was over the main entrance. We were always told this was the only “backwards” movie theatre in the country.
- Are there any special events that stand out in your mind?
Fourth of July fireworks at Island Beach.
- 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 father worked in Hoboken and commuted by train. He could walk to the station in five minutes, and was always home in time for dinner at 6:30pm. My mother was a full-time Mom, and was virtually always home.
- How did various laws affect the way people lived?
Not sure I understand the question.
- Did you have a sense of Mountain Lakes as a unique place in its lifestyle, its homes, as a community?
Absolutely; our parents kept telling us what a special place Mountain Lakes was, and we could appreciate that when we grew older and saw other towns in New Jersey, which were not nearly as picturesque.
- 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?
I really didn’t live in Mountain Lakes during any wars, except the Korean War. I was only five years old at that time, and it didn’t make a big impression. I remember the assassination of JFK very clearly: I was in my 11th grade English class when we heard the news. Later that day I traveled to Princeton to see the campus for the first time, and to see a football game the next day. The game was cancelled, but I ended up loving Princeton and was lucky enough to be admitted the following year.
- What made living in Mountain Lakes special to you, as you think back over your life here?
Mountain Lakes always felt like a warm and nurturing place, where the teachers, police and shopkeepers actually knew all of us kids and cared about us. Even when we occasionally got into trouble, the attitude of the adults was to gently push us back onto the right road rather than to punish us. I feel very blessed to have grown up in that kind of town.