Bill Ryan (now using Will as a nickname)
- Mailing address:
- When and where were you born?
1940 in Passaic, NJ
- When did you come to Mountain Lakes?
My family moved to Mountain Lakes in September 1947.
- Tell us something about your family did your parents also live here?
We moved to Mountain Lakes from Nutley, NJ when my father, Bill Ryan started a Willy’s Jeep Dealership in Dover, NJ. My sister, Gail Ryan is 13 months older than I. We were so close in age that when we were younger people thought we were twins. Now that we’re in our 60’s I call her my baby sister since I look older than she. We both live in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts and see each other quite often.
- Where have you lived in the Borough?
While I was in school, my family lived at 52 Crane Road from September 1947 until my mother, Kathleen Ryan finally sold her home (Dad died in 1987) and moved into NYC to live with my sister in 1990. My mother was well known as a Realtor in Mountain Lakes and she used to say that she sold every house in Mountain Lakes at least once.
I moved back to Mountain Lakes in 1977 with my wife and two sons. We built a home at 38 Arden Road, near Birchwood Lake. This was a wonderful experience since I got to see my sons enjoying the lakes, their Mountain Lakes friends and the school system.
- In which houses?
I lived 52 Crane Road from September 1947 until June of 1962. Later I lived at 38 Arden Road from 1977 until 1981.
- What do you remember particularly about the houses and properties where you lived?
I always thought of Mountain Lakes as a park. The entrance sign that used to be at Crane Road and Route 46 was beautiful and looked like a sign to the entrance to a National Park. The original homes were mostly very large, stucco dwellings with many bedrooms as well as rooms for entertaining. Mountain Lakes was a very social town so these large houses were perfect for parties and other gatherings. The roads in town were mostly without sidewalks thus adding to the “park” look and feel.
- What are some of your special memories growing up in Mountain Lakes?
My friends from my years in the Mountain Lakes school system are still my best friends. I’ve kept up with many of them and have even made new friends as a result of our class reunions. We lived near the end of the big lake at Morris Avenue. I remember my sister and I skating to school on Lake Drive, next to the Mountain Lakes Club. Our lives revolved around the lake with swimming, boating and ice skating. In the early 50’s the Third Lake as we called it was undeveloped and we had a Tarzan swing that was great fun. Since this lake was not used often, skinny dipping was common. I loved the social atmosphere of the town.
- Where did you go to school?
Mountain Lakes schools: Lake Drive (grades 2 thru 6) and the old High School (grades 7-12), then on to Brown University in 1958 when I graduated from MLHS.
- What particular memories do you have from your school years?
I loved my years while in school in Mountain Lakes. I learned to swim at Island Beach when I was seven and became a beach bum and competitive swimmer later. Dennis Mahony and I ran the candy/ice cream stand at Island Beach for two summers and had a blast every day. When I was old enough, I worked for Bill Kogen as a lifeguard (trained by Bill) also at Island Beach. Dennis was also a lifeguard and we had wonderful summers taking care of the beach and teaching many people how to swim. I loved playing high school sports: football, swimming and track (field events). In addition: parties all over town and particularly TD parties, hanging out with friends, trout fishing (mostly not) at Stokes,
- Are there any special stories you associate with that time of your life?
One of my best memories was the joy of seeing my children attend school in Mountain Lakes. I went to parents night when my oldest son Bill was in high school. I saw Mrs. Ketterer (formerly Miss McManus) and Mr. Davidowski, both of whom were teaching my son and had also been my teachers. I was able to thank both of them for their wonderful contributions to my life. I told Miss McManus that her bird records and bird walks changed my life for ever. To this day I’m able to identify many bird songs thanks to her teaching. Bill graduated from Mountain Lakes high in 1982.
- Where did you and your family shop?
Mostly in Denville at the A&P.
- What were the roads and the lakes like?
Much like they are today.
- Are there any special people you remember who contributed to the life of the town? Why do they stand out in your mind?
Bill Kogen (teacher and coach), Carl Dellenberger (hired Dennis and I to run the beach stand), Pete Haas (Boy Scout leader and friend), the Sturz family were good friends and they taught me about what it was like to be Jewish in a very non-Jewish town.
- What did you do for fun formal recreation, sports and entertainment in general?
When we were in elementary school we had dancing class at the Community Church. It was fun to hold and be with girls. The big lake used to freeze solid and the town organized ice skating races on Saturday. The big town trucks used to plow the lake for these events.
- Are there any special events that stand out in your mind?
I remember the town festival since my Dad ran a jeep ride and everyone loved it. I always loved pep rallies with a bon fire. I ran in a 10k, The Lakes & Woods run in 1977.
- Did your parents and the parents of your friends work nearby?
My dad was a jeep dealer in Dover and my mother ran a real estate office in our home. Most of my friend’s parents worked in NYC and took the train.
- In New York or elsewhere? How did they get to work?
When I lived in Mountain Lakes in the 1970’s, I worked in NYC and found that driving to Harrison, NJ and then taking the Path train was the easiest and fastest way to commute.
- How did commuting change over your time here?
Businesses moved out from NYC to Morris County and many people had easier commutes.
- How did various laws affect the way people lived?
Harry Dennis used to call our parents to report seeing us driving our cars when we were under age. It was a simpler, easier time. This actually happened to a Dave Tucker, Pete’s brother. Pete Tucker is still a very good friend. Later Wes Brimlow was chief of police and since my dad was a special cop I had no problems. When Castilucci became chief everything changed and the police were no longer our friends. In 1987 my dad had a stroke and fell down on the floor of the locked bathroom. Charlie McCoy (then chief) went through the tiny bathroom window to open the door and rescue my dad. I’ve always been grateful to Charlie for that. I had known Charlie for years since we played little league together in Boonton.
- Did you have a sense of Mountain Lakes as a unique place in its lifestyle, its homes, as a community?
It was and still is, I hope.
- 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 have no recollections of these events affecting me while I was living in Mountain Lakes.
- What made living in Mountain Lakes special to you, as you think back over your life here?
The bottom line is people and in particular, my life-long friends.