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muriel j smith 120The Monmouth County library has a plethora of information not only on its shelves and Cds in headquarters and all its branches, but also there’s so much on line and so easily available! The Commission Chairman, Renee Swartz, is fond of saying the library is the heart of the community, and their programs, ideas, and staff make that absolutely true!

One of the library’s projects back in 2000 was coordinated by Flora Higgins, who, together with Ellen Williams, interviewed 100 local residents, many from the Bayshore, asking them their memories of Monmouth County from the earlier part of the century. And what fun those oral histories are now to read!

The persons Flora selected for her interviews are equally significant, since so many of them were in the spotlight during many of their 20th century years and all seemed to be at the right place at the right time to tell a terrific story about events that could otherwise go unnoticed, unlearned, or simply forgotten.

Helene Moore of Middletown was one of the very fascinating ladies who was interviewed. Her days in New Monmouth began in 1950 when, would you b elieve, she and her hyusband purchased a house with 52 acres of farmland! There were only two churches in New Monmouth then, the Baptist Church and St. Mary’s, and it was the beginning of the construction of lots of schools. Helene, a journalist by profession, also became a substitute teacher and was well known, loved, and highly regarded particularly at the Navesink School.

Danny Dorn of photographer fame, as many verbal memories as his photographic eye captured throughout the years, and he has some great stories about when his dad owned a nickelodeon in Asbury Park. Some fun stories about the ice boats on the Navesink River as well.

But for the Bayshore, probably the best story tellers are Mae Bahrs of the famed Highlands restaurant family, and Helen Marchetti of the famed everything family.

mae bahrs gertrude ederle brook agencyPHOTO:Gertrude Ederle (cutting the ribbon) making an appearance at the opening of Brook Agency in Atlantic Highlands, 1968

Mae, who lived in Atlantic Highlands as well as Highlands over the years, traced her history in the Bayshore back to when she was a youngster in Highlands, remembered Johnson’s Hotel at the corner of Miller and Bay, as well as the Twinlights Hotel on Shrewsbury ave., Kruse’s on Bay avenue as well as TEMPUS Fugit and the Alpine Manor on the hill. Mae also tells some wonderful stories about the trains and boats that came into the borough until the 1950s.

Speaking of trains, G. Lester Whitfield was a wonderful Highlands resident who was a trainmaster for Jersey Central in Long Branch. Les, who also was a long time member of the Highlands Board of Education, helping to shape it into the fine school it still remains, has some great stories about the days of steam and diesel in the Bayshore.

bahrs brothersPHOTO: Kenneth, Al, and Bud Bahrs (left to right)

But nobody can match the wit, wisdom and recall of Helen Marchetti, still referred to by so many as the Mayor of Atlantic Highlands. Now a nonagenarian, the first lady of Atlantic still lives in the very same house where she was born, a house always filled with company, laughter, and great memories. Helen’s recall begins with her dad being a milkman for Sheffield Farms, and the times she and her brother got to ride on his milk truck. She goes on to talk about so many more events, people, shops, and activities in the town she says tops whatever comes in second by a long shot!

1. Atlantic Highlands has a great branch and staff at its library on First Avenue….you should try attending a book club meeting!.....but whether you stop in there or go on line,. Be sure to visit www.co.monmouth.nj.us/oralhistory/index.html. It’s worth the fun!

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