muriel j smith 120a

muriel j smith 120aHaving the opportunity to peruse some old police log records for the borough of Highlands, it became clear once again that life in this terrific town was a bit easier, a bit more laid back and overflowing with kindness and wonderful people who just helped each other and took a lot of bad times in stride. It was also a time when our local men in blue had different duties and responsibilities than today’s police department has. And while we all praise and appreciate the fine men that protect this town today, under great leadership and dedication, it’s fun to see some of the logbooks from 1930. And to see so many of the names that were part of the community then still very much memorable and a part of Highlands in the 21st century as well.

Howard Brey…that’s the first one, not the Chief of the latter part of the 20th century…..was an officer then, as were Kyril Parker, Howard Johnson and William Lawrence. Howard Monahan was also a police officer at that time, later Chief of Police in the 1960s.

It was Prohibition time in the early 1930s, there was an active army base at Fort Hancock, and one of the nightly duties of the officer on patrol was to check streetlights. So the log is full of notations about specific street lights not operable….one at the corner of Marine Place and Waterwitch, another Light # 28 on Navesink Avenue, or #1 light on Highland ave. There are no reports on whether the light outages were ever reported elsewhere or ever re-instated.  Police also did regular door checks and took care of small problems immediately. As when Officer Parker “found Ned Catton’s store door locked and the key was in the lock. So I brought it back to headquarters.” The same thing happened a few days later at Frank Hall’s store where the key was It was also a time when people reported everything, big or small, significant to the entire community or just helping out a single person. And the police took care of it all. For instance, The Aug. 31, 1930 log written by Ptl. Brey shows that at 11 p.m. that night, “Mr. Ed LaRue of 2nd st, reported “the awning on the Bay Ave. side of Wagner’s Meat Marker was hanging very low and it should be raised up as Edward Duncan of 2nd St. did not notice it and walked into it receiving a cut over his eye. I (Brey) went to Morris Schwartz store at Bay Avenue and Miller St. and got the handle that he had so I could raise the awning.”

A little later that same night, Ptl Parker wrote, “while trying store doors I discovered a man on the avenue sick with pain in stomach. I took him to Doctor Rowland, he examined the man and told me to take him to the hospital, which I did. The man was a soldier so I took him to hospital at Sandy Hook. The doctor claimed it was either bad liquor or appendicitis.”

Mayor Hardy was mayor of Highlands then, and apparently played a leading role with the police department as well, with police logs showing numerous times when he was called to a situation, or when he called the police. Or when he simply assisted with a need. There’s a log report in September, 1930 when a soldier at Fort Hancock, driving with a permit but no license, hit a vehicle on Bay Ave in front of Straus’s restaurant at 3:45 P.M. Just about the same time, Officer Johnson, the only officer on duty during the day, was called to Franklin’s Restaurant because Mr. Franklin “dropped dead in the yard back of the restaurant and the local doctors were not in town. Mayor Hardy got Dr. C. Woodruff of Atlantic Highlands. While Dr. Woodruff was here, he examined the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident and did not find him to be sufficiently under the influence of liquids as to be unfit to drive a car.” 


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On another date, Ptl. Lawrence wrote that at 3:30 a.m., a man “came to the door of the court room nude. I questioned him as to what was the matter, but could not get him to talk, so I coaxed him into a cell. He got violent, so I called Mayor Hardy and by his order I called Dr. Rowland. Doctor gave me some pills to give him but he would not take them. He bumped his head on cell and cut same. Dr came, dressed wound and gave him a shot to quiet him so officers could take him to Freehold…Got coffee and buns and sandwich for him and another prison.”  Ptl. Johnson added the man “was committed to Freehold by Mayor Hardy for disorderly conduct and dangerously insane. I notified (the man’s wife) that he was to be sent to Freehold, and Officer Monahan went with Joe Andrews to Freehold with prisoner.” No mention of whether the gentleman went clothed or unclothed to the county jail.

Nor was there any shortage of calls relating to prohibition, with more than a few of them at Conner’s Hotel, always a popular restaurant and bar, and always owned and operated by the Conner’s, later their daughter and her husband, then their sons, the Brothers Black.  In most cases, no action was ever taken and police never found anything wrong.

There was the time in August, 1930, when Ptl. Johnson reported “county men raided Tom and Mark Anthony’s place on Waterwitch Ave. I was with them while they raided. They got a large still.” A couple of days later, Johnson reported he received a call from the Prosecutor’s office to notify the Antonys “to be Freehold this afternoon without fail.. They were notified at 11:45 a.m.  I notified Tom Mark Antony’s wife to tell her husband for he was out of town. I notified Joe Mark Antony personally.”

Even during Prohibition, it was a quieter, easier time.

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Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...