- Your name? Christopher E. Ryan
- When and Where Were You Born? January 9, 1951 Kingston, PA
- What Years did you live in Mtn. Lakes? 1964-1972
- Tell us something about your family did your parents also live here? We moved in as a family. I also have six sisters and two brothers.
- Where have you lived in the Borough? 208 Boulevard
- What do you remember particularly about the houses and properties where you lived? Large house, sunken circular driveway. It was a challenge driving a stick shift getting onto the Boulevard.
- What are some of your special memories growing up in Mountain Lakes? I was an accomplished swimmer and had excellent coaches during the summer swimming. Bill McCurdy, Davis Hart, particularly Rick Girdler. Coach Girdler pulled me aside gave me extra guidance and workouts and at the end of the summer I received the Bill Kogan Most Valuable Swimmer Award. We had awesome summer teams.I worked the summer shacks at Island Beach and Birchwood. I was a lifeguard at Island Beach and Birchwood. Probably the best time in Mtn. Lakes was as a lifeguard and being a member of the swimming teams both high school and summer teams. I always realized how lucky I was.
Sailing a sailfish on Mtn. Lake. It was always crowded with Sunfish and Sailfish. I was in Mtn. Lakes over the summer and even on Saturdays and Sundays was sad to see how few sailboats were on the lake.
We had very accomplished athletic teams. Graduating in 1969 I think that was one of the best years for State Championships in each sport. While on the Varsity Swim Team we were 3rd in the state my freshman year, State Champs my sophomore year, 2nd my junior year, and State Champs my senior year. I went to college on a swimming scholarship. I have Mtn. Lakes to thank for that.
The Island Beach to Mtn. Lakes Club swim July 4th. It was the only time you could swim from the beach to the club.
When someone stopped you and asked for directions, you didn’t ask them what street they were looking for, you asked them what family they were visiting then gave directions that way. You knew everyone and where they lived.
- 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 in your life? I went to the MLHS. My first day we were handed cards to fill out with name, address, etc. On the back was space to fill in your brothers and sisters. I was new to the school that day. I immediately asked the teacher for two more cards. He said I didn’t need it, I told him please give me two more and when he hesitated I said, “Do you know any Ryan family that has less than four in a family? I have 8 brothers and sisters!” I was sent to the principal’s office, and there was my brother Sean for the same reason. It was funny to the principal. I even told him there was a Ryan family across the street on the Boulevard that had 9 girls and a Ryan family with 5 boys down the Boulevard.Unfortunately, when I moved into town, two weeks before the Citizen ran a story about my family, my father was a correspondent with NBC and they also ran a photo of the family. I walked into school as ‘that Ryan kid’ and my 8th grade year was difficult at best. When I was on the Varsity Swim team as a freshman and missed a varsity letter by only 3 points, I guess because I marked myself as an accomplished swimmer. But I slowly but surely fit in. My senior year I was also named Captain with Brad Grandage. I had some very wonderful classmates.
- What were the roads and lakes like? It was easy to bike all around the town. It was amazing to have such a wide path along the Boulevard to ride without worrying about traffic. The lakes were incredible. I spent 90 percent of my time in the two, Mountain Lake and Birchwood. I was at a memorial service on a July Saturday afternoon at ML Club and reflected to a fellow classmate, look how few sailboats were on the big lake. At the time, there were two. It looked like a dozen or less people on Island Beach. I asked my classmate, “Do the kids realize what they have right in front of them? We need to tell them, stop texting and discover what is here for you.”I must say during my time ’64-’72, we made good use of the lakes. I will show friends where I lived and they marvel at what we had available to us.
- Are there any special people you remember who contributed to the life of the town? Why do they stand out in your mind?I wonder how many today would say “The police”. One because my best friend, Charles McCoy. I moved in and with the difficulty I had in 8th grade I gravitated to the ML Market on my bike; the police station was right next door at that time. Charlie was relatively new to the force and he was like an older brother. Then there was Jerry DiEllo, Danny Worts, Ernie Ginder, Vince Felice. We knew them, they knew us. They would stop at the beaches, chat with us, and as much as they could become friends they did. We could talk to them about anything and we respected them. They knew what we were going to do before we did it. When my father was transferred to Washington with NBC, my mother needed to rent a car, and she didn’t have a credit card. One of the officers, who I won’t name, put it on his credit card. Do you really think that would happen today? It was a very special time. Charlie McCoy and Jerry DiEllo were special.Viewing the Fireworks at Dr. Elder’s house, at 33 Lake Drive, on July 4th was a must. They were the greatest hosts. It almost seemed the entire town was there.
- What did you do for formal recreation, sport and entertainment in general?During the school year we had Canteen, a program in the high school where you could go Friday nights, to play, dance, watch TV, just hang out. Sports was LIFE in ML. Each season, the teams were great so you were always at a football game, cross country meet, basketball game, tennis match, baseball game, track meet. How many realized that the high school swim team then had to travel to Patterson to practice in the Patterson YMCA. We had no home swim meets. During the summer there were Hub Lakes and Lakeland Conference swim meets and there were also dances held at Birchwood a few times during the summer. It seemed there was always something to do.
- Are there any special events that stand out in your mind?July 4th Fireworks, the races at the ML Club. Hub Lakes swim championships at Birchwood. We NEVER lost!
- 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 there?My father worked in New York City and had a parking space at the NBC garage.
- How did various laws affect the way people lived?In my opinion we were very lucky to have the police force we did back them. They knew us and counseled us on what was right and wrong. They cared about us as individuals and were understanding to our mischief and if it got out of hand they dealt with us in a proper way, yet caring way.
- Did you have a sense of Mountain Lakes as a unique place in its lifestyle, its homes, as a community?Coming from Park Ridge in Bergen County I knew it was a very different place, extremely unique in many ways. The houses were massive.
- How did the world’s events—World War 1, the Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the assassination of JFK, Vietnam, Watergate, etc—affect you and fellow Mountain Lakes residents when you were growing up?My father was the first correspondent to go onto national TV and announce the President was shot, and then the very first to state that he had passed away. He spent the next four days on TV, and never got paid a dime for the time on TV. How many realized back then, no commercials, no pay to the correspondents. All correspondents did it out of duty and respect and never worried, just an aside for you to know. During 1965 my father spent a month in Vietnam as a reporter covering the war. Let’s just say it was a nervous month for 9 children and my mother. In 1972 I did an internship with the Justice Department with Attorney General Mitchell, then Attorney General Kleindiensdt in Washington. I was knee deep in the Watergate investigations dealing with all the information being gathered.
- What made living in Mountain Lakes special to you, as you think back over your life here?Coming from Park Ridge, at that time, more of a blue collar town in Bergen County, to Mountain Lakes I knew it was very different. We had a large house and acreage in Park Ridge and lost the fields and fruit trees we had there, but came to a large house in Mountain Lakes. Our dining room table with two leaves that sat 12 easily fit in the dining room.Life started off rocky but the first summer I was there life became great because of the swimming program. It allowed me to flourish and grow. The coaches made all the difference in the world. The fun I had running the shacks at Island Beach and Birchwood with Rob Pitcher and Buddy Rizzio made summer such fun. Being a lifeguard was the perfect way to spend a summer. The friendships I made with fellow guards, with fellow swimmers were pure gold. I never forgot how very lucky I was to be in Mountain Lakes.
I was a member of St. Catherine’s Church and was an altar boy from 1965 till 1972. I served high mass with Jimmy O’Brien many years and truly enjoyed the guidance in life from Father Glynn. Even though I moved out of Mtn. Lakes in 1972 Father Glynn quickly said yes to me celebrating my marriage in St. Catherine’s. Yes, you can go home again.
Yes, looking back at my time in Mountain Lakes I know we, I, was very lucky to live and experience what Mountain Lakes was. As I say, I wonder if the children who live there now realize how very lucky they are and hope they take advantage to everything that the town has to offer.