MIDDLETOWN, NJ - Have you ever wondered what the initials R.F.D. mean when used in connection with our postal system or as part of the name of a local garden club in Middletown—“Garden Club R.F.D.”?

   Over 70 years ago when Garden Club R.F.D. was founded, farms (like Brasch Farms) surrounded it on Middletown Lincroft Road and the whole area was quite rural.  Farm families were, in many ways, isolated.

   It was the days before modern telephones, radios or televisions were common items in our homes.  Computers and cell phones were sci-fi dreams, like the wrist phone on Dick Tracy’s arm!

   A farmer’s main links to the outside world were letters and newspapers that came by mail to the nearest post office where it was picked up by the customer in what was sometimes a round trip that possibly took all day to accomplish.  A farmer might delay picking up his mail for days, weeks or months so that he could couple it with the procurement of supplies, food, farm equipment, etc.  It wasn’t until 1896 that the first United States Postmaster General inaugurated rural free delivery (R.F.D.) by having the first five riders on horseback go out on delivery routes in rural West Virginia.  In 1898, it was announced that any group of farmers could have free delivery by sending a petition to their congressman, and by 1905, the Post Office was serving 32,000 R.F.D. routes!

   Our club was originally known as The Garden Club R.F.D. Holmdel.  It had been started by a small group of women who began meeting in the early days of World War II to knit and sew for the Red Cross and British War Relief.  In the beginning, meetings were held at the former Holmdel Baptist Church.  The six founding members came from Lincroft, Vanderburg (Colts Neck) and Holmdel (two from each location).  They chose the name R.F.D. because most had Rural Free Delivery mail addresses.  Today a mailbox still remains as the icon for Garden Club R.F.D and a mailbox sits in front of The Little Red Schoolhouse, a one-room schoolhouse and our present-day meeting place.  In 1976, the building was listed as an historic site in New Jersey as well as being placed on The National Register of Historic Places.  But that’s another story.

   The Garden Club R.F.D. is presently beginning its 72nd year of existence and would love to invite you to join us in this venture.  Your interest might be learning to grow veggies, landscaping your yard, learning the names of various annual and perennial flowers and their growth patterns and/or learning how to make floral arrangements for your home or flower shows. 

   You might want to meet other gardeners and floral designers to exchange ideas, enter flower shows to compete for blue ribbons or just attend the shows to enjoy the presentations.  Whatever your level of knowledge, whatever your interest, call June Smith, our membership chair, at 732-671-9216 for more information or to answer any questions you may have.

   At our September 17 meeting, we will learn about Peonies with an opportunity to buy or order your favorites.  Brian Buck of Buck’s Garden Center will present a program called, “Peonies are Best Planted in the Fall”.   And we will be getting the information that can be applied immediately!

   We meet on the third Tuesday of the month at that one-room red schoolhouse to which we have added a kitchen with indoor plumbing and an indoor bathroom (nonexistent 72 years ago). It is at the corner of Dwight and Middletown Lincroft Roads opposite Thompson Middle School.  The Club is a member of The Garden Club of New Jersey, Inc. (www.GardenClubofNewJersey.com) the Central Atlantic Region (www.ngccar.org) and the National Garden Clubs, Inc. (www.gardenclub.org).    

   Begin the year in September with Garden Club R.F.D.  Give us a try!  We are user-friendly!  Check out the websites listed above to learn more about a wonderful group of men and women who enjoy all phases of gardening--or just call June Smith.