Any of the old-timers in and around Atlantic Highlands will tell you of the ‘good old days,’ the amusement park at the river beach, the milkman who delivered milk to your door, the schools and churches that were an integral part of everyone’s life. But among her collection of things from the past that still keep Helen Marchetti so proud and happy she’s a native of the borough is a treasured little gray book that was offered to newcomers, be they settlers or vacationers. The book listed close to 200 businesses and business people, if you include all the notary publics, nurses, and well diggers that made their living here.
It was the era of the Roarin’ 1920s, and John R. Snedecker was in the second year of his second term as Mayor, up again for a third term in November, and the little booklet bragged that the tax rate here “is one of the lowest in Monmouth County and compares favorably with any municipality in the State..”
Most of the description then could be repeated now…..”the joy of a country home coupled with city conveniences…the joy of a garden….” , with the added promise “we can guarantee the fertile soil if you will make your own garden.” Class A weather, but then, the brochure proclaimed, “how could it be otherwise in a town so ideally located…hills and valleys touching hands, providing scenes of the Atlantic Ocean…from our Ocean Blvd on clear days, one may easily distinguish the sky-scrapers of Manhattan and also obtain a splendid view of Fort Hancock..one of our Coast Defenses.”
But it’s the Classified Directory that especially recalls famous local names, former and current businesses, and a genuinely great community. Five different amusements are included….the amusement park on Avenue A…the phone number was 497.. the Atlantic Theater on First Avenue, the Billiard Parlor at First and Highland avenues, the indoor golf course on First Avenue, and the Tennis Club on Bayview.
There was only one architect in town, L. Jerome Aimar at the corner of Memorial Drive and East Avenue, and one engineer, H.O. Todd on Memorial Drive. But there were seven builders and contractors, including Carhart Construction, D.A. Caruso, John Grary, B.G. Martin, W.B Mount, J.E. Stone, and C.A Wright. There was even a sawmill operated by William Irwin on W. Garfield ave. And to complete the building, there were four painting contractors, and two electricians.
There were four doctors and one dentist, physicians Fred Bullwinkel, A. Rosenthal, John VanMater, and Walter White, and Thomas McVey, whose dental office was at 95 First Avenue. And there were 11 women listed as either registered or practical nurses, familiar names today, like Miss Edna Dender, Mable Mount, Florence or Dorothy Gaffey, and Lottie Loux. Antonides and Shannons were drug stores practically across the street from each other on First Avenue, and Bridle and Latham in Navesink and Romeo Brothers on First Avenue were the two florists available.
Mack Davis, Tom Kelly and George Keyes provided all the ice needed for the four hotels and so many others in town, and the Red Bank Stem Dye Works at 77 First Avenue took care of all the dyeing and cleaning business.
There were four separate law offices before some of the attorney merged later, like John Pillsbury with Snyder and Roberts, all in the same building at 97 First Avenue, with John Sweeney a few doors down, and Edgar Cook practicing on Asbury Avenue.
There was no shortage of places to buy quality meats, groceries, or candy and ice cream. At least four stores had ice cream parlors, Stryker’s Market at First and Center, Wagner’s on First, Jagger’s and Blom markets, both also on First, pride themselves on the quality of their meat, fish and provisions. Some of the other general markets included American Stores, James Butler, Brookes & Company, W.V. Crawford, Economy Stores, William Nachamks, West End and White’s groceries made grocery shopping close to home easy and competitive.
It was interesting to see that 13 residents, some of them attorneys or bankers, some businessmen in other fields, were listed as notary publics, another six were plumbers, with one, Walter Williams on Bay View Avenue, also noting he was a tinsmith as well.
There was only one milliner, or hat shop, in town, that of Miss Bertha A. Briggs who sold the fashionable wear at her shop at 96 First Avenue,. The one newspaper, the Atlantic Highlands Journal, was also the only printer in town, and one window cleaner, Arnold Varrar was the only one listed in that business. The A.M. and Sons Posten’s Funeral home was at 25 First Avenue at this time, and Jake Heifetz had the only five and ten cent store, conducting his business at the shop on the corner of First and Mount avenues.
In addition to the Bay View, Hollywood, Lenox and Mandalay Inn hotels, another dozen property owners offered rooms and board, with Mrs. Laura Litchfield advertising that her home at 24 Fourth Avenue particularly offered a “homeplace place for vacationists.”
The businesses were varied enough to include not only five automobile dealers but an automobile painter as well, two bakeries, one bank, four barbers and two beauty parlors, two coal wood and feed stores, two electricians, an employment agency, three garages and three hardware stores, nine insurance agencies, two jewelers and two laundries, and a machinist. There were also two places, Hopping McHenry and Frost as well as Atlantic Mason Supply where you could purchase millwork and mason supplies, and four stores, including United Cigar owned by William Leff that sold newspapers and novelties. There were four tailors, two radio shops, four real estate agents, three restaurants, including the Log Cabin at the top of Ocean Blvd., two tree surgeons and two photographers.
The Atlantic Highlands High School combined with the elementary school classes with instruction “conducted in a manner to ensure a high class education for any and every pupil receiving its instruction.”
The brochure concluded by promising “Atlantic Highlands has every feature that makes living really worthwhile…beautiful scenery, perfect climate, abundant transportation, efficient utilities, picturesque homes, well-kept streets, shade trees under the care of the Shade Tree Commission, plentiful amusements, well tried religious and educational facilities..all of which are the desirable and necessary contributories to a happy American’s home. And so we say ‘come and see for yourself the community that we are…’ “
That was 20th century. It’s still true in the 21st. See for yourself!