- Mailing address:
- When and where were you born?
October 28, 1942 at Fayetteville (Ft. Bragg), NC.
- When did you come to Mountain Lakes?
Fall of 1954, with my parents and my brother, John Parman.
- Tell us something about your family did your parents also live here?
My parents, George and Elizabeth “Betsy” Parman, built a house in 1954. We were living in Nutley at the time and had recently returned from 3 years in Singapore. My father worked for Hoffman La Roche.
- Where have you lived in the Borough? In which houses?
The house was at 47 Powerville Road. It was a beautiful (though small) modernist house, an adaptation of a house that had been built somewhere on Long Island. My parents found it in THE MCCALLS BOOK OF MODERN HOUSES and my father adapted the plans to suit our family. My parents visited the house on Long Island and made certain changes suggested by the owner. Unfortunately the house was torn down in the 1990s and replaced by a McMansion. In the process many beautiful trees were removed–trees that our family had preserved when we cleared the land ourselves, using only hand tools.
- What do you remember particularly about the houses and properties where you lived?
It was wonderful to live with woods on two sides of the house. We spent a lot of time in the woods. The street changed a lot when the high school was built across the street from us. For one thing, a huge number of moles migrated to our property. I remember my dad explaining the term “ecology” to me in connection with that event. When I used to walk to the old high school on Briarcliff Road, I was never late. When I only had to run across the street, I was late a lot.
- What are some of your special memories growing up in Mountain Lakes?
It was hard being the new kid at first, but everyone was friendly and I soon began to fit in. Being able to walk everywhere, and knowing a lot of people and where they lived, were special parts of living in Mt. Lakes. It was easy to go to New York on the bus, and I went often with my friends. Our parents also took us to the city for museums, plays, and parades. Summers were spent almost full time in and around the water–first at Island Beach, then at Birchwood after it was developed. My father built a small sailboat–a 14 foot Bluejay–along with two friends who also built Bluejays. This created a racing class, and we often raced on Sundays. With my friends, we hiked the Tourne a lot. This wasn’t the present-day, gussied-up park, but just a walk in the woods. We all read SCOUTS OF 76, a kids’ book about the Revolution that took place, in part, on the Tourne. It was exciting to discover stone walls up there. Once I found the remains of a farm in the woods behind our house–a dump with mechanical parts. I was never able to locate it again. In winter, we ice skated on the big lake (and sometimes on Wildwood). People would light fires and invite us to have hot chocolate. We would make enormous whips that would send people flying for a long ways. We also went sleigh riding, mostly on Glen Road, which would be officially closed to traffic so everyone could go sleigh riding (that’s what we called it, not sledding).
- 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 started in the 7th grade when the high school and junior high shared the Briarcliff building. As an honor roll student I could spend study hall periods on the front bench by the “senior door”. Our teachers don’t really stand out for me in junior high. The very best teachers in high school were Miss Alice Kerr, who made everyone learn to write a paragraph; Mrs. Jane Lovis, a wonderful English teacher who aroused my interest in literature; Mrs. Harris, who taught Latin and was a demanding and nice teacher; Miss Helen Blanchard, an excellent history teacher; and of course, Mr. Anthony Davidowski, the best teacher I have ever had in any subject. I had the great good fortune to have Mr. Dave for both Algebra II and Senior Math.. When the new high school opened, the superintendent and principal took the opportunity to get rid of some traditions that had become burdensome to some students. They announced that there would be no more senior door. Also, they got rid of fraternities. This proved surprisingly easy. I think everyone was so blown away by the new building that there just wasn’t energy to fight the loss of traditions that didn’t matter to most people anyway.
- Where did you and your family shop?
Mother shopped for food at the Acme at Del’s Village. The hardware store in Del’s Village had just about anything a homeowner could want. My parents bought appliances at Sears (I can’t remember where that was) and also at Two Guys from Harrison–somewhere out on Route 46. We bought shoes at a shoe store in Boonton, and some clothes at a clothing store there. But major purchases of clothing were made during shopping trips to New York. Not having to pay New York sales tax was a big deal.
- What were the roads and the lakes like?
The roads were pretty much what I was used to from Nutley, except they didn’t have sidewalks. The lakes were great. The “big lake” seemed huge to me as a kid. I did the Island Beach to the Club swim a few times and it wasn’t a trivial distance. Birchwood was wonderful–no pesky little kids, and it was spring fed and always cool. We kept our boat in a little cove by the Bedfords’ house, and that was full of algae and not suitable for swimming.
- Are there any special people you remember who contributed to the life of the town? Why do they stand out in your mind?
We attended St. Peter’s Church, and Reverend Roland was quite a figure. I still can hear his sonorous Welsh voice. When I was in the 8th grade (I think) someone was inspired to put together a lecture series called “Town Hall”. There were three speakers: Clement Atlee, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Carlos Romulo. They spoke in the gym at the high school (Briarcliff). Each made a deep impression on me. Despite widespread hatred for the Roosevelts among Mt. Lakes Republicans, Eleanor Roosevelt got a standing ovation at the end of her talk. Carlos Romulo was a right wing nutbar. Clement Atlee pleaded for world peace; I learned later that he was fatally ill, but did the tour anyway.
- What did you do for fun formal recreation, sports and entertainment in general?
See above. Also in reference to a question that was asked of Pete Haas in his oral history, I do remember going to a couple of plays at the little theater. It was in a barn-like structure somewhere near Denville, as I recall. I saw “Time Limit” (about brainwashing in Korea) and “Death of a Salesman”–pretty advanced programming for the 1950s. I can still remember a lot about each production, and my impression is that they were pretty darn good.
- Are there any special events that stand out in your mind?
An exciting and disturbing event was that we had a peeping tom for a while. He first prowled around our house during my brother’s birthday party. My dad was away on a business trip. Mother called the police and the little boys looked for footprints in the snow (they thought it was the best birthday party ever). Mother got out the shotgun and left it in a place visible from the window until Dad got home. A couple of months later I was getting ready to go to the high school for a basketball game when I heard rustling outside. I pulled back the curtain and there was a face! I screamed! My mind put a complete blank in place of that face. Kids were walking down Powerville Road to the game, and when the person took off running through the woods Whitney Hutchinson chased him–but didn’t catch him. That was the last appearance.
- 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 drove to Hoffman La Roche every day, via Route 46 and Route 3. He carpooled with another Roche employee, Paul [can’t remember his last name]. It was a difficult commute. When my dad got a job in Washington DC and my parents moved there, it seemed like he became 10 years younger overnight.
- How did various laws affect the way people lived?
Here is an incident about the police. One time I was at a party, at the home of a kid whose parents were away. Lots of drinking going on, and the cops would drink with the kids. I remember a very nice cop named “Monk”. My friends and I asked the cops, in all sincerity, what kinds of calls they mostly answered. They looked at each other (“Should we tell them?”) and asked us, “Do you really want to know?” We really did want to know. The shocking answer (at least to me) was, “We break up fights between parents.” This was a reflection of the widespread incidence of alcoholism and drug use at the time. Drugs were widely prescribed by doctors, I guess. My parents didn’t use the tranks that were so popular then, but many of my friends’ bathrooms were filled with bottles of pills whose names I had heard of, such as Miltown.
- Did you have a sense of Mountain Lakes as a unique place in its lifestyle, its homes, as a community?
The houses up on the hill were quite amazing to me. Only as an adult did I realize the historic background of the town. Certainly it was never talked about in school–few teachers lived in Mountain Lakes. Our house was modest by comparison. As a friend said, we lived in a house where we could hear each other. Others lived in splendid isolation from their parents. It was ritzy, but it didn’t feel that way, and there was room for people without many resources. For example, Madeleine and Marilyn Rodda were twins in our class. Marilyn was blind and Madeleine wore thick glasses. The Roddas lived in a carriage house on someone’s big property. In retrospect, I realize that many Jews lived in Mountain Lakes in the anti-Semitic 50s; but they were overtly converts, mostly to Episcopalianism.
- 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?
My dad and many others were WWII vets, but it was almost never talked about. Korea was very real to me because of living in Singapore, but that also wasn’t talked about. When JFK was assassinated, my university closed and I came home early for Thanksgiving. One of my classmates, Linda Petrie, lost her husband in Vietnam. Another classmate, Susan Nash, lost her brother David. I found his name on the Vietnam memorial wall when it came to Eugene. He was the sweetest guy in the world, and it was so sad that his father died in WWII and he died in Vietnam.
- What made living in Mountain Lakes special to you, as you think back over your life here?
It was just a beautiful place. If you look at the 1960 yearbook, edited by my dear friend Christine Parilla Van Lenten, you’ll see that it is dedicated to Mountain Lakes. I think even as teenagers we realized what an extraordinarily beautiful place it was, how it blended small town camaraderie with proximity to the big city. We were lucky to grow up there.