Conversation — Mildred Williams
The first people who had this house (135 Morris Ave) were the Ernest Daytons and then the Depression came along and they couldn’t pay their mortgage. My husband’s aunt had the mortgage on an awful lot of homes here in Mountain Lakes. She left us the house after she died in 1944. The aunt’s name was Mrs. Jenny B.S. Robertson and she lived at 171 Boulevard. Judge Beam and Kelly were the lawyers for Mrs. Robertson. They were in Boonton. They advised Mrs. Robertson on how to invest her money, and they suggested doing it in mortgages. She had about 7 Mountain Lakes houses when she died, in addition to 171 Boulevard.
You’ll notice some of the pictures have a different number as it used to be 15 Boulevard West. I have not been in the house since I left in 1944. The people who bought it from Aunt Jenny after she died only paid $10,500for the house. The Wileys bought the house and I gave them most of the pictures I had.
(Describing the pictures) that is when it was fairly new, that’s the front way up close, this is when they were building it, there’s the gentleman Sherwood Bradley Robertson, the one that finished it. You’ve heard the story about Hapgood starting so many houses, then he moved away.
I want to keep this picture to give to the Barn Theatre. That’s where the Barn Theatre started, although they called it the Mountain Lakes Dramatic Guild. Then they had to get some people in because there weren’t enough actors and actresses in Mountain Lakes. There was always Arthur Stringer, he wrote the stories for it. The barn was originally built as a chicken house. Mrs. Robertson gave over that building so that — when the Mountain Lakes Dramatic Guild — I liked it there because I would give them furniture from the house for the stage settings and that’s what would do. I would see that they had what they needed and that it go back to the house again.
There were three families there really. Aunt Jenny had the house furnished but she took over husband’s business, which was McCoy’s Publishing and a Masonic supply company in New York City. She ran that, she was the Secretary-Treasurer of it and my father-in-law was the President of It. His name was George Vansicklin Williams. She was Jenny Vansicklin Robertson. Her name was Williams before she got married. There weren’t enough people from Mountain Lakes. You always had the same actors and actresses, they really needed some more so they had to open it up to outsiders, some people from Rockaway or Denville and then it was better and then in 1944 when Mrs. Robertson died they had to find another place because Arthur Stringer was going to buy the place just for the theatre because he liked the idea of the theatre there but he only wanted to pay $10,000 for it and they were able to get $10,500.
Aunt Jenny had the bank foreclose on 135 Morris because the Daytons just moved out. I don’t know when that was –it was between 1933-44. Aunt Jenny tried to rent the house a couple of times but people couldn’t pay their rent and some didn’t want to pay that much. It was only $75-$100/month, which I guess was a lot of money at that time- it cost too much to heat, there wasn’t much insulation.
The house was built in- well all the houses were built about the same time in the 1920s. The house on the Boulevard has 1916 on the side of the steps, so that must have been finished in 1916, that’s when they moved out here from Brooklyn, the Robertsons. He died in 1918, Mr. Robertson. I never met him as I got married after that. I think he died of influenza. A lot of people died at that time. He wasn’t out here very long, there was a housekeeper and Aunt Jenny had to go to New York and just came out weekends, so when we lost our house in 1933 because of the Depression, we were glad we had a place to come to- to a nice house in Mountain Lakes. We had bought a house in Redburn in 1929 which we lost in 1933. Redburn is in Fairlawn, N.J. My mother-in-law and father-in-law also lived in the house at 171 Boulevard.
Aunt Jenny was glad to have us live with her. She had a nice Italian man from Boonton dig up the backyard and get seed and had him plant it so we could have a nice garden for all of us. The man worked for 40 cents an hour or $4.00 a day. There also was a quince tree, apple tree and crabapple tree or peach. The Italian gentleman also pruned the grapes and there were bees also. There was a lot of honey. We got rid of those because all of us were afraid of bees. My mother-in-law died in 1939. She died the end of August and the war with Hitler started the beginning of September. My father-in-law died in 1941 or ‘42 and another aunt of my husband’s died in 1943 and then Aunt Jenny died in 1944. By then she (Aunt Jenny) had three of her brothers’ children come up from Maryland to live here- Betty Williams, Irene Williams and Janet Williams. Janet got married and didn’t live there very long. The other two were there when Aunt Jenny died in 1944. Aunt Jenny was 72 when she died. She never wanted to tell her age, but I finally figured it out.
Lydia Klintrup of Klintrup Realty asked us if she should hold off selling 171 Boulevard as she wouldn’t get much for it. But I said no, we wouldn’t get anything from the sale as we were given 135 Morris and a trust fund. Lydia Klintrup was a neighbor and knew the family for many years. They used to call us at the Boulevard house and tell us kids had the doors open. There used to be two doors on the second floor, and the kids had left the doors open and we would have to come down and close the doors. The house was empty much of the time as she couldn’t find renters. In 1944 there were renters here and we told then that we owned the house, but they had a lease for a year, but when they knew we were waiting to come in and that they would have to find a place they started looking right away and they found a place up in Lake Mohawk and they were glad to be able to get out of their lease and move up there. We were glad they wanted to give it up so we would get in here. I had my furniture and my mother-in-law’s so I was glad to have this great big house for all of it.
This house was insured for $8,000. Another house was at 5 Crestview Rd. (Aunt Jenny’s). I worked at the Post Office from 1941 on and there weren’t too many families in Mountain Lakes then (many empty houses)–about 700. I moved in in 1944 and moved out in 1957. I had to be out in 60 days. I was working at the Post Office and couldn’t get any time off around Christmas. My boss gave me time off after Christmas but I strained my back moving things.
We were here 13 years. I didn’t expect to sell the house in November due to the school schedules, but the Ryans came and their 2 kids were grown up, they were both working in New York. Elaine was a teacher and Donald worked with an insurance company or the State of New York or something. They wanted to come in 60 days. My house wasn’t built down where I am (Lake Intervale) so I had to put my things in storage (Treadway Storage). I moved in 1958. The Rvans were here about two years and then they followed me down to Lake Intervale. They still live there. After the Ryans were the Spenders. The Oras were living at 134 Morris Ave. The new garage door was put on in 1944; it cost $40. My husband payed $50 for the car seen in the pictures- second hand. The large evergreen tree fell while we were living here. It fell during a storm.
We had coal heat when we moved in; there was also a little stove for hot water and we had it switched to oil. We were one of the first ones after the war to switch over’. We were advised to put the oil tanks inside the house. I had a gas stove in the kitchen. You had to walk through the pantry to get to the dining room. The stove was between the basement stairway and the upstairs stairway. Fifty feet on either side of the house went with the property; the rest was borough land. The Hayes bought down a little further. The Hayes sold the house (145 Morris) to the Dempseys. My husband died while we were living here, at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, the night before Christmas. I stayed here alone for about two years. I needed a smaller place. I sold the house for about $23,000 (J. Stansfield – we Payed $31,000 in 1966 for the house.) I think the first owner was Ernest Dayton. When we got this house, we only had to pay $198 a year in taxes. There was always an extra door in the kitchen so the iceman could come in.
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