Old News: Politics, ‘Hootch,’ Hallowe’en, Hoopla & Pranksters

Woolworth’s Halloween costume ad of 1975/Red Bank Register

Living in the past. Sometimes you just have to live a little … in the past. It’s an eye-opening, or -stabbing, thing. Nothing wrong with a clearer view or jab.

Yet, when someone is told they’re living in the past, it’s usually considered somewhat of an insult. It implies that the person is paralyzed, incapable of moving forward. Not always true, especially when it comes to old news.

Living a little in the past, or, let’s say, renting space there as a transient, offers a learning experience — one that opens up the closed mind to traveling to another era and learning from the history and habits repeating themselves, evolving or stagnating.

Sometimes it’s necessary to travel back to the past in order to move forward. The past is what catapults us, like it or not, to where we are today, albeit sometimes toting a load of trash too heavy to travel expediently. Yet, other times, news from the past arms us with an arsenal of clues that ties life’s twists and turns together, into a knot — a strong connection. A community connection that binds. That’s history’s gift.

When delving into the news of the past, it gives us a unique perspective on where we are today, why and how and at whose hands and what circumstances.

So, that in mind, our Old News column will offer a weekly glance back into the past, offering a unique perspective of the present news. We are giving you a gander at some old news that has cycled and circled right back to issues of this era. We’re also plucking out some gems of headlines and quotes you’d never see today.

So, looking back to the top news of 100, 75, 50 and 25 years ago, this week we’re looking at some classic news nuggets from elections, Halloween partying, mischief and mishaps, front-page headlines and stories that would never make it there today and classic quotes.

Next week we’ll just stick to one paramount issue. This week is another story, or several.

The trip back starts here …

100 & 75 Years Ago

Prices, Pranks and Other Oddities

Food and prices

A Red Bank Register ad showcased the bargain of pigs’ feet and corned beef for 5 cents at the Wagner Market Company on Monmouth Street in Red Bank. The most pricey meats in the ad were sugar cured sliced ham and milk fed veal at 38 cents, per pound, we’re guessing, though it did not say. That with some “fancy eggs” for 43 cents makes for a very interesting meal.

Pure wool men’s suits and overcoats were selling for $20 and $25.

A front page Asbury Park Press Evening Press story from Oct. 29, 1921 blasted “FAT WOMENS CLASS CONTINUES TO SHRINK.” That was a pick-up from New York, but really? Well, that was how the front page turned 100 years ago. That’d make anyone turn it.

Weight was on the mind of those in the newsroom back then for sure, and no one hesitated to a discriminate and accuse, even calling kids “subnormal.”

Yes, the odd weight obsession/discrimination thread continued with front page news on the Nov. 9, 1921 issue of the Red Bank Register.

And this is how health class got started …

A top story told of how there was a medical inspector of Fair Haven schools who wanted a health class organized, because “when the school children were weighed and measured in September, 15 percent of those weighed were found to be 10 percent (or are) underweight, and 60 percent were found to be underweight for (their) height to a greater or less degree.”

The cause of low weight was deemed, with no hesitation or back-up of facts, “definitely due to some physical defect.”

So, they were bringing the mothers in to educate them on proper nutrition and exercise designed to put weight on the kids. Fathers were not mentioned as responsible in any way.

And, of all things, a prize was going to be given to the boy and girl who “make the greatest gain” in the health class. Weight gain, that is.

Nowadays, and for quite some time, the obsession was on weight loss. Who knew? The school officials and moms of the past certainly didn’t. And, take note, there was only to be one prize for one boy and one girl. Ice cream, anyone? Halloween candy? And speaking of …

Halloween hijinks

76 years ago, Asbury Park Press photo Nov. 1, 1945

And the costume contest winners of 76 years ago are … Well, we have no idea what they are, except that the theme was much more originally spooky back in that day. What’s better than a skeleton with no mouth, Charlie Chaplin, or someone, with a cigar and shorts and a fanning femme fatale?

A century ago, that is 100 years, Hallowe’en was the way the occasion was spelled. Why? Well, it was first derived from an earlier name, All Hallows Even. That was shortened to Hallowe’en. Now it’s Halloween. Spooky? Not so much.

And there were Hallowe’en parties 100 years ago, too. A sub headline in an Asbury Park Press story about a Halloween party said, “Jolly crowd and spooky atmosphere make event enjoyable one.” Jolly and spooky. Gotta love that. Nothing quite like a jolly scare!

And one party feature a real odd welcome.

“Now, hands are meant to be shaken, but not when there is a nice juicy oyster between the clasp palms. Creepy? We’ll say so. Another thing. Those oysters were not as fresh as they should have been and they
had a very distinct odor.
Very distinct.”

There was a bit of a “run” on soap and water at that party, the story said. Hmmmm. Fishy scare?

Oh, and coin hunt anyone? This one’s from 76 years ago, in 1945. Yes, we miscalculated and ended up in the wrong year. But, this is a good one, so … Pie-eating, dunking for apples (that torture pit) and a jitterbug contest just make this a classic of the era. Who dreaded those damn apple bobbing tubs? They scared the bejesus out of kids! And then there was the threat of razor blades in apples to boot. But, hey, dunk away and dance!

Mischief Makers

While neighbors in Fair Haven this year were monitoring and taping mischief by surveillance cameras and talk was all about older kids lifting a bowl likely filled with Halloween candy from someone’s front porch and trick or treating with it, there was fire and booze at the hands of “pranksters” years ago.

A classic headline from the front page of the Red Bank Register on Nov. 9, 1921: “Hootch” Plentiful Here. Yes, there was a period in the headline, and, yes, it says “hootch.”

The front-page paragraph of a story was that “Fourteen out of a total of 23 persons arrested at Red Bank during the past month were drunk and disorderly.” Sixteen of those arrested were fined and seven were discharged. A total of $45 in fines was collected.

Halloweenfrom the Asbury Park Press of 75 years ago …

Now, this is classic …

“Police reported the most quiet Halloween, from the standpoint of hilarity and destruction, on record, with only a few grass fires and minor police action as a result of the annual celebration.”

In Rumson … “two small nres (stet) made of leaves by pranksters were quickly subdued by firemen.” Those incidents were on Blackpoint and River roads.

“In Fair Haven there was a parade of costumed children” … They went down River Road and gathered “at the Willow avenue school for a party under the auspices of the community activities committee of the Boro council.” Notice that, for some reason, Road and Avenue were not capitalized. The mayor back then was Mayor was Edgar V. Denise. Councilman Tony Hunting headed the committee.

Fair Haven reported a minor fire in the Knollwood section believed to have been started by pranksters. Firemen quickly extinguished it, and then joined the costume parade down River road to the school.”

Criminal mischief was referred to as pranks at the hands of pranksters. No arrests were mentioned, either.


From the archives of the Red Bank Register’s Nov. 2, 1921 issue

There were only two voting districts in Fair Haven in 1921. Today there are six.

The polling place for the first district was at Monmouth Hall, Pearl Street. Now, where the heck was Pearl Street and what was Monmouth Hall?

Here’s the kicker … The second polling place for the other district was “in Augustus Minton’s garage, East Side Park, Fair Haven Road near Lincoln Avenue.” OK then. Imagine the police calls if people tried to go to someone’s garage to vote now.

Two councilmen were running for three-year terms, one for two years for the unexpired term of Stanley Fielder and one for one year for the unexpired term of Harry W. Dennis.

There was no mention of party affiliation in the notice for the elections at all. It only said that the polls would be open on Nov. 8 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. That closing time is now 8.

The results were published in the Nov. 9, 1921 issue of the Asbury Park Press

In the Fair Haven Council election, two Democrats and two Republicans and won seats. So, see, there was some mixing up on the dais of yesteryear. Charles P. Cross and Tony E. Hunting won three-year full council terms and Clarence R. Smock won a two-year unexpired term and Jacob W. Cornwell for one. Interesting, but it didn’t say which were the Republicans and which were Dems. That wouldn’t float in a front page story of this era.

Now, in Rumson, the election heat was on and a fight brewing.

“The greatest battle of ballots Rumson has ever experienced resulted in the election of William H. Mahoney over John M. Corlies and in victory for the entire republican ticket,” the front page Asbury Park Press said.

The scrap at Rumson was very intensive, sharp and bitter. All the wealth and all the influence of the rich Rumson road section was pitted against Mayor Corlies and the battle took on the aspect of rich man against poor man … Feeling ran high at Rumson last night and for a time there was every prospect for a big street fight between rival camps.”

Summer residents weren’t allowed to vote. There were a lot of them back in the day, as many big-time Hollywood and New York producers and actors summered in Rumson.

Party lines were “wiped out by the strife. Democrats relied on Corlies’ popularity, but money won out.” Interesting. The alleged “hot heads” in the prospective “street fight” were quieted by “cooler heads.”

50 Years Ago

In Fair Haven, the Republican incumbents took out a large ad in the Red Bank Register that boasted accomplishments through action, citing youth, drugs, ecology, senior citizens and the economy as areas in which they “took decisive action.” The GOP winners in this year’s election ran on transparency and accountability. Some things have changed, others not. The price of the ad? Likely more hefty than online ads of today. A lot more hefty.

25 Years Ago

The Fair Haven election of 25 years ago from the archives of the Asbury Park Press’ Oct. 27, 1996 edition

Recognize these guys? Well, 25 years ago, two incumbent Republicans Richard L. Magovern and Andrew F. Trocchia, faced off with two Democrat write-ins. Yes, write-ins. They were Stephen Tetorka and Richie Brister. Tetorka got three write-ins in the June primary, the least amount needed to run, and Brister got five.

There were seven write-ins at this year’s polls. We don’t know who they were, though.

Oh, Richie Brister, a lifelong Fair Haven resident, is still around. Did you know that he also ran for mayor in 1994?

Tetorka, a Vietnam vet who was in Fair Haven for 17 years at the time, ran on the communication issue that is so paramount today. “There is no practical useful communication to speak of,” Tetorka said. “The residents are completely in the dark. There is no accountability.”

“We want to keep Fair Haven affordable,” Trocchia, an architect and very familiar face still in the local arena, said. He also said he wanted to see more residents at meetings. That hasn’t happened, but he’s been at them. Affordability? Not so much.

“One of the problems with people not attending meetings is that they think things are sprung at them from some smoke-filled room. If they want information, they can get it. I don’t know how much more information you can have.”

Richard Magovern in 1996

And that’s the old news scoop. Remember: Don’t bob for apples anymore. Don’t get into a street fight over an election. Don’t shake hands with an oyster. Always look for coins in a bale of hay, though. And always look behind you before taking a trek ahead. Live a little … in the past.

John Caroli
BCS Wealth Management