muriel j smith 120Today, with the Atlantic Highlands branch of the Monmouth County Library such a vital, inviting and busy place at Borough Hall on First Avenue, it’s fun to look back 75 years or so when the new Atlantic Highlands High School opened just up the street and students boasted about the “new spacious library with its better lighting and modern fixtures” which all the residents of the borough were invited to enjoy.

In fact, the Class  of 1942, the first “to derive the benefits” of the new building, dedicated their yearbook to  Annie A. Woodward, the school librarian who had already been with the school for 15 years and earned “the since respect and ardent devotion of all those who have passed from our halls of learning.” Mrs. Woodward was described as an earnest and untiring librarian with quiet charm and “a beacon light which exudes grace, friendliness and efficiency.” She was a woman with “excellent literary ability and complete understanding of the world’s best literature,” the students wrote, adding she “has improved the selection of books not only for our students but also for the people of our community.”

Showing equal regard for the importance of athletics and the leadership of a great coach and teacher, the class of 1942 also dedicated the book to Jimmy Egidio, not only for his excellence as a patrolman, first aid squad captain, first aid instructor and volunteer fireman, but also for his assistance to all the varsity teams. For anyone who knew Jimmy, later the well beloved police chief, the students’ description of his
unceasing enthusiasm, his dedication to all things scholastic and athletic, his genuine love for his community and all its people, is quite apt.                      

Actually, the high school, the library and the grammar school were all in the same building.  During the 19th century, borough youngsters went to District School #69 on Leonardville Rd in Leonardo. Until November 5, 1883. That was the very important day when Miss Sarah R. Everett, the district school principal, herded the youngsters all together then marched them in a body to Avenue C, between Highland and Washington avenues, when the new school was built. The town elders had decided the year before that the Navesink and Leonardville schools were entirely too far for the youngsters to walk so a school house had to be built closer to home.

ah grammar high school 1910
PHOTO: Postcard of the Atlantic Highlands Grammar and High School, circa 1910, then located on Avenue C.

That was the first public school in the borough and it opened with great fanfare and pomp headed by the Board of Education and teacher Miss Sarah R. Everett, who assembled with the children in the upper room of the school waiting to greet all their parents and friends who came in to see the borough’s addition.  Students presented a program, beginning with a song, Miss Josie Leonard at the organ, the Rev. Mr. Lake offering a prayer and then more singing and recitations by the children. The county school superintendent came, as did the Rev. Mr. Lavelle from Navesink and at the end, a shade tree was planted on each side of the playground. About 150 local folks came for the big occasion.

But 13 years later, Atlantic Highlands was now officially a borough and the community had outgrown their first school. The second…the building still standing and in use on First Avenue, was formally opened Jan. 2, 1896 with many of the same names in attendance, names still held by local families today. There were the Mounts, the Swans, former Mayor Thomas Leonard and Mayor Jacob Stout. This time, there were about 400 local residents there for the celebrations.

ah high school 1960

photo: Atlantic Highlands High School, circa 1960.

It was another 15 years or so, with the town growing in leaps and bounds, when it was time for an addition to the ‘new’ school. And it was that 1920’s addition that lasted until the high school graduating class of 1942 bragged about their new school with “better lighting, modern fixtures, a comfortable teacher’s room to enjoy, work space for the work needed in the war emergency, a Red Cross Work Room, and a large, well-lighted and ventilated Study Hall complete with reference books and equipped with a projection room. Their pride and joy, the students wrote, represents “our realization of ambitions and our good times as we, the Class of 1942, are the first to derive its benefits.”

So many of those names from the Class of ’42 are still revered families today in both Atlantic Highlands and Highlands. Highlands did not have a high school so those teens had the option of Leonardo High or Atlantic Highlands High. Among those who went to Atlantic are names still well known and loved today….names like Dalton Carhart and Duke Black, Gloria Joy, Helen Cowden, Gloria Mendes, Ida Kadenbach, Anna Marchetti, Stu King, Sam Vasto, Brother Tracy and so many more. A mixture of Highlands and Atlantic highlands kids. A blend of both communities. And the class advisor was another name that also remained popular, revered, and involved through the decades, Everett C. Curry, later the town’s Mayor.

Don’t you just love being in a community that’s so beloved that decades, even a century later, the descendants of those families still want to live here and be a part of it?