Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Woody Guthrie visits East Orange: 1959 to 1961

Singer-songwriter, folk musician Woody Guthrie was hospitalized at Greystone Park Hospital in Parsippany, NJ from May 1956 to April 1961 suffering from Huntington's disease.

Starting in 1959, music fans Bob and Sid (Sidsel Mari) Gleason of East Orange brought Woody to their 4th floor walk-up apartment at 182 North Arlington Avenue (near the SE corner of Park Avenue and North Arlington Avenue) on Sundays. This provided Woody's New York City friends, family, and fellow musicians a closer opportunity to visit with him regularly.

People hosted by the Gleasons on the Sunday visits included musicians Pete Seegar, Phil Ochs, and  the newly-arrived (January, 1961) musician Robert Zimmerman (See Bob Dylan in East Orange). Also visiting were Woody's family who lived in Brooklyn including son Arlo.

In April 1961, Woody was moved to Brooklyn State Hospital;  he passed away in 1967.

More details of Woody Guthrie's life and his time in East Orange are available in several biographies; excerpts from some of those biographies are available on Google books.

More about the Sunday visits

Greystone (above in a very early photo)  received recent notice as the exterior shot of the hospital (referred to as Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital) where the tv character Dr. Gregory House went in the final scene of season 5 and where he is in the first episodes of the sixth season of the tv show House.

Friday, October 28, 2011

1st Grade 1951/52: Miss Madden, Teacher

                                        Photo courtesy of Seth McQuillan, a student in the class

Monday, October 24, 2011

The East Orange Library System Makes National News: 1961

The Stockton neighborhood didn't have its own library. Several school and recreation reports between 1910 and 1945 recommended the expansion of the school toward The Oval with a community library as part of the mix but it never happened.

But we were only a half-mile from both the Ampere Library and the Main Library, and some of my earliest memories were of my mother pushing me to the Ampere Library in my stroller in the late 1940's so she could stock up on the murder mysteries she loved to read. The Ampere branch was much less imposing than the Main Library and, unlike the Main, there were no hills to deal with to get there, so it was also my library of choice when I started going by myself. In the late 1950's my mother was once again pushing the stroller to the Ampere Library with my younger brother. Libraries have always been very important to our family.

We moved from the neighborhood in December, 1959 to SC, but in February, 1961 I was excited to see the East Orange Library system make national news... newspapers, magazines, and tv: people with overdue books who had ignored letters and even court summonses were arrested at their homes. Life magazine carried the story as a spoof with these mocking dramatic photos:

                                                 Above: Harold Roth, Library director




Below: from a 4/4/1961 newspaper

Three years later, the East Orange Library made news again:

July 25, 1964; New York Times

East Orange Issues Orders to Arrest Library Laggards

EAST ORANGE. N. J., July 24—Magistrate Peter A. Wil­liams issued warrants today for the arrest of 26 persons who have failed to return books to the public library here.EAST ORANGE. N. J., July 24—Magistrate Peter A. Wil­liams issued warrants today for the arrest of 26 persons who have failed to return books to the public library here. City detectives were instruc­ted to talk to the borrowers by phone and ask that they sur­render at police headquarters. Failure to do so will mean ar­rest. The handling of today's war­rants will be more temperate than methods employed three years ago, when the police routed 14 delinquent borrowers from their beds late at night and jailed several in lieu of $100 bail. This time, Mayor James W. Kelly Jr. has Ordered that ar­rests be made between 8 A.M. and 8 P.M. The warrants issued today charge the borrowers, who have ignored three warning letters from the library and a court summons, with contempt of court. Officials say that the 26 borrowers owe a total of $600 in fines on almost 80 books. According to Harold L. Roth, director of the library, the ar­rests in 1961 solved the prob­lem of overdue books only tem­porarily. At that time, those for whom bench warrants were is­sued were ultimately fined $25 for contempt of court, ordered to return the delinquent books and pay the accumulated fines.

Below: postcard photo with 1929 postmark

Recess at Stockton: 1948

Newspaper clipping courtesy of Barbara Quinn who can be seen behind the shoulder of the boy in the striped shirt

Students in photo above are probably coming out of door shown in photo below from 1959.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Joel Brigham Baker, Principal, Eastern School, 1871-1875

Colonel Joel B. Baker came to East Orange in 1871 from Troy, NY where he was principal of First Ward School. He became Eastern District School's first principal in its new, brick building on the north side of Main Street near Maple Avenue and served at Eastern School until 1875 when he left to work at a Hartford, CT school. He was followed as principal of Eastern by Clarence Franklin Carroll.

Mr. Baker was born Joel Brigham Goodell in Ontario, Canada on August 9, 1833. In 1837 his parents, Jotham Weeks Goodell and Anna Bacheler (may be "Bachelor") Goodell decided to emigrate to Ohio (the family eventually went on to Washington state). Joel was only 4 and considered not healthy enough for the trip, so his father's older sister Phebe Goodell Baker and her husband Jonas Baker who lived in Lockport, NY took him in as their son. Another reason given for the informal adoption is that the Bakers were not able to have children of their own (Phebe was already 44 in 1837). Joel officially changed his name to Baker in 1860.

Joel Baker was a graduate of Wilson Academy, a NY school. He married Emily Lafler on May 23, 1854 and they had three children, William Jonas, Emma Anna, and Minnie Phebe. His pre-1863 and 1865-1870 employment history is unclear but he was elected school commissioner in Niagara County, NY in 1860. In 1863 he entered the army as a captain and when he was mustered out in June, 1865 he was a colonel. Colonel Baker died in Hartford on June 1, 1876 and is buried in Budd Cemetery, Cambria Center, Niagara County, NY. (Photo of Col. Baker's gravestone)

One of Col. Joel B Baker's descendents found letters that he had written to Emily during the Civil War and the letters were published in 1996 under the title Letters Home, Joel B Baker. More info about the Goodell family's travels to Ohio and then Washington, life in Washington state, and some info about the Baker family can be found at the following sites:
Phoebe Goodell Judson

Sunday, September 11, 2011

J. Garfield Jackson, Sr, East Orange Educator 1951 to 1980

J. Garfield Jackson, Sr. came to East Orange in 1951 to teach at Eastern School becoming one of the city's earliest African-American teachers.* In 1962 he was appointed principal of the newly formed Kentopp School, a kindergarten to 4th grade school located in the former "Stockton School West" building, making Mr. Jackson the first African-American principal in the city (one source says first in Essex County). In 1972 he became interim East Orange School Superintendent and Director of Principals and retired in 1980.

Mr. Jackson was born April 28, 1912 in Americus, GA. He graduated from Hartford, CT schools in 1928 and from State Normal College** (teachers' college) at Glassboro, NJ in 1935. He began his career in the Elk Township, NJ School District as a teaching principal before coming to East Orange. Mr. Jackson passed away December 4, 2006 and is buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange.

Photos of Mr. Jackson and more biographical info

* The newspaper The Afro-American reported on June 19, 1948 that Mrs. Cornelia Whiting had just been appointed East Orange's first African-American teacher and would teach at Eastern School, also reporting in the article that Eastern's student population was then 80% African-American.

** The college is now named Rowan University.

Henry Eugene Kentopp, Superintendent 1936 to 1960

Henry Eugene Kentopp received his AB from Midland College in 1921, his AM from the University of Wisconsin in 1930, and in 1940 he received his doctorate degree from Columbia University. In 1922 he was already superintendent of schools in Central City (population 2500 in 1922), Nebraska, came to East Orange in 1933 to be principal of Elmwood School, and became superintendent of East Orange schools in 1936 at the death of Cliifford J Scott.

                               Below: Mr Kentopp in the 1955 East Orange High School yearbook

                                       above is a biography that appeared in the 1960 EOHS yearbook

Henry E Kentopp retired in 1960 and passed away while living in Hendersonville NC in 1978.

Stockton School West became a separate kindergarten through 4th grade elementary school in the early 1960's and the school was named the Kentopp School. The school has recently been renamed the Mildred Barry Garvin School.

Kentopp School

Kentopp School came into existence about 1961/62 when Stockton School West (the separate building next to The Oval) became a kindergarten to 4th grade elementary school separate from Stockton. Kentopp had over 900 students in 1964/65. It's not clear at this writing if Kentopp included the Stockton School annex across the street. When Kentopp was formed, Stockton became a school with 5th to 7th grades and when Eastern School finally closed in 1965 its 7th and 8th grades were absorbed by Stockton using the Stockton annex.

J. Garfield Jackson became principal of Kentopp in 1962 making him the first African-American principal of a school in East Orange (another source goes further and says first "in Essex County").

Kentopp School was named for Henry Eugene Kentopp who had been East Orange Superintendent of Schools from 1936 to about 1960.

The school has recently had its name changed to the "Mildred Barry Garvin School."

                    Below: Stockton School West in 1959 shortly before it became Kentopp School

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Eastern School

The Eastern District of early 19th century Orange was sparsely populated by a few big landowners who lived on Main St, along Grove St and on the hill ("Peck's Hill" aka "Peck's Ridge") area where Maple Avenue intersected Main Street. The landowners had farms on the surrounding lowlands and some had businesses along Main St.

                                        Below: from a 1906 issue of The School Journal

The original Eastern School* was built in 1835 on the south side of Main near Maple Ave. and served the families and descendants of some of the early settlers e.g. Hedden, Mitchell, Peck, Dodd, Boylan, Munn, and Baldwin. One early teacher at Eastern was John Burroughs who taught there from about 1857 or 1858 to 1860 and would go on to become a world famous naturalist.

In 1870 the area had become part of recently (1863) formed East Orange and a new brick Eastern School was built on the north side of Main across from the original school. The building was designed by Frederick A Petersen, a well-known,** Prussian-born architect and civil engineer who had an office in Manhattan, but lived on Steuben Street in East Orange.

The first principal in the new building was Colonel Joel B Baker, followed in 1875 by Clarence Franklin Carroll, who was replaced in 1878 by Vernon Llewellyn Davey. In 1890 Davey left to become East Orange's first school superintendent, with a long-term teacher, Miss Georgianna Stevenson, becoming acting principal until Edward H. Dutcher*** became principal in 1891.

              Above and below: photos from the September, 1914 issue of The Playground magazine

As the neighborhoods around Eastern were completely developed between 1890 and 1915, more schools (Columbian, Stockton, Lincoln) were added to ensure that all elementary school students lived within a half-mile radius of their schools.  By 1945 a school report foresaw the final phasing out of Eastern as the other schools finished absorbing its students. The newspaper The Afro-American reported on June 19, 1948 that Mrs. Cornelia Whiting had just been appointed East Orange's first African-American teacher and would teach at Eastern School and also reported in the article that Eastern's student population was then 80% African-American (there was a historic African-American neighborhood next to the school). The school was finally torn down in 1965 to make way for I-280 and its 7th and 8th grade students were transferred to Stockton.

Above: A photo taken by Dr. Sam Berg in October 1964 shortly before the area was bulldozed to make room for I-280; photo courtesy of The Newark Public Library

* The school is sometimes referred to as "Eastern District School," "Eastern Grammar School," or "Eastern Elementary School" in articles and documents over its history.

** Mr. Peterson (1808-1885) designed the 1858 Cooper Union building in Manhattan and was a founding member of the American Institute of Architects in 1857.

*** Mr. Dutcher was principal until his death in 1929 and, in 1922, simultaneously became principal of Stockton School. Eastern and Stockton shared principals from 1922 to 1955.