Dorothy Waite Taylor Mac Gregor Remembers:
My mother fell in love with Spring Lake when she was fourteen. Her family had a brownstone in Manhattan, and every summer she and her sister visited their aunt and uncle, the Blackwells, at their summer home on Newark Ave. When Mother and Daddy married, they lived in the brownstone; but with the advent of my sister in 1090 they rented a house in Belmar for the summer. The second time the rent was increased, Dad bought a lot of Pitney Avenue in Spring Lake and engaged a builder, Mr. Herbert, to build a summer home. The carpenters got $4.00 a day, and came to work on bicycles, bringing lunch in a brown paper bag. It was very woodsy in the north end of Spring Lake. There were sidewalks, but all the roads were gravel and the Borough Watering Wagons went around every day sprinkling the roads to keep the dust down. They used salt water from the ocean, which played havoc with the undersides of everyone's mudguards. Mother didn't want grass, so we had pine needles as a ground cover. They leaves had to be hand picked spring and fall, and burned in a bonfire in the gutter, which smelled wonderful! We had lots of pine trees, sassafras trees which turned brilliant orange, yellow, and red in the fall. We had huckleberry bushes, bayberry, a wild cherry tree, trailing arbutus and even Indian Pipes - (small, 3 to 4 inch high, very thin white waxy stalks with a sort of pipe hanging upside down from the top). The O'Brien family lived a few doors west of us; they kept a horse of two, and one brown pony named Prince; their tomboy daughter, Mary, would jump on Prince, bareback and backwards, and ride him hell for leather down Pitney Ave. to Third, then left to Como Lake, where she would take him into the lake and give him a bath.
Where the Homestead Development is now was just fields, and there were World War I single engine, open cock pit planes; you could get a ride for $3.00. You'd hear the engine miss, and every once in awhile one would crash and any survivors would be rushed to Ann May Hospital on Vroom Ave. On Saturday mornings the teen age girls would go from house to house carrying baskets, and ask for eggs, which they would take to the hospital. The Como Railroad Station was at the end of our block, and Dad commuted daily to New York. Mr. Warner was the Station Master, and he and wife had children and lived upstairs over the station. Mr. Brahn had a dairy a couple of blocks from our house, and I would ride my bike over to buy cream. Mr. Randolph had a place on 71 where he made sinfully delicious home made ice cream and charlotte Russe. He even delivered!
The Community House had a story hour for the children every Saturday morning, and if you told a story, or sang a song you would win a ticket to the movies held there Saturday night. The teen agers sat in the balcony and threw pit balls down on the audience below, until someone thought of sprinkling talcum powder, my sister's string of pearls broke, and poor harried Mr. Gosling (we called him Goosy) the custodian threw us all out. The man delivered, and was always good for some chunks of ice to suck, and the organ grinder came around every summer with his organ on a stick, and his monkey on a leash. The monkey wore a little velvet jacket trimmed with gold braid, and a velvet bell hop's cap which he tipped when you gave him a coin. I took dancing lessons from Mrs. Stafford at the Essex & Sussex and every Monday night she had her children's Dance in the E&S Ballroom. They always played "Valencia" for the grand march. She also staged a children's Costume Party every summer in the E&S gardens.
In 1932 my parents sold the brownstone and moved to Spring Lake permanently. A real trolley car ran on tracks, down from Asbury Park, through Belmar on F Street to South Blvd, then West to Fifth Ave, and on through Spring Lake. The winter population was very small, and one winter they closed St. Catharine's to save money on heat, and only had Sunday Mass at St. Margaret's, because there were so few Catholics in the area. I went to Asbury Park High School, quite a transition from the Convent I attended before that! In the summer our family and several other families would get together and have beach parties in Mantoloking. You would walk over the dunes (there were only a few houses) gather driftwood for a bonfire, go swimming and then eat hot dogs with bacon, corn, and all the goodies Mother cooked. Dad loved to drive, and in the summer, after dinner every night, we drove out Hurley Pond Road (we called it "Magnolia Road", there were so many of them and they smelled so great) and parked in the gravel pits where the Allaire Airport is now, and watched the sun set. It was so quiet there, you could hear only a dog barking in the distance and the melancholy whistle of a far off train.
In 1933, 34 and 35 a whole bunch of us teenagers spent all our day on the beach; Marian Fitz brought a beach blanket and her victrola and records, and we spent the day sunning, swimming, and listening to records. After dinner the girls donned LONG evening dresses, the boys wore white jackets and good slacks, and the boy's fathers would drive us to the Monmouth Hotel to dance in the ballroom from 8-10 pm, when the band went down to the Grille, and we all went across the street to Hill's Drug Store for ice cream sodas and then walked home along the boardwalk. Johnny Johnson's band planned nightly and Harry something-or-other sang. Do you remember "Here come the British with a Bang!" and "The Horse With a Lavender Eye"? Every Thursday night was La Fiesta Night in the Grille, for the teenagers, and we could order ginger ale and orange ades, and dance till midnight. I had my sweet sixteen party in the Monmouth Grille. Every summer Eileen O'Kane, the Social Director at The Warren Hotel staged the Warren Follies, and my sisters and I were in them each year. They were for the benefit of the hospital, and Miss O'Kane really put you through your paces.
The December I was 16, a very nice man offered to hold my collie dog's leash outside of the A&P on Third Ave., while I did an errand for my mother. He asked someone my name, and a few days later phoned to ask me to go ice skating. He said he and his mother owned the Colonial Hotel. I asked my parents if I could go, and Daddy said he saw him every month at the Holy Name meetings, and Mother said he ushers at Mass every Sunday and takes up collection; and carries the canopy on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
So, they said I could go! I came home from that date and woke my mother up and told her I had just been out with the man I was going to Marry; but I was sixteen, and he was twenty-six, and my mother made us wait until I was nineteen to get married.
Well, I married Harold Taylor and the Colonial Hotel in 1937 and was there most of the time until I sold it in 1979. I took a few summers off when the twins were born. A well known Hotel owner, whose name I can't remember, wrote a book "Open for the Season" in which he told about growing up in a hotel. His Uncle told him the Hotel business is the easiest in the world to be in; you buy a hotel, hire a staff, and the first guest to check in will tell you just how to run it! It wasn't quite like that; I spent years learning the hotel business, helping to run it, and bringing up our six children. We were on the full American plan until 1964, and the food was delicious. Every summer I gained 10 pounds or more, but every winter I took it off. Right after Pearl Harbor Hall got a job at Bendix in Red Bank. He worked nights all through the war years, ran the Hotel days, grabbed four or five hours sleep in the late afternoon and lost 40 pounds. In the summer when he left Bendix to come home at 7 am he would stop at Swift and Co.'s meat packing plant in Asbury Park to pick up whatever meat they had available; rationing made it difficult. After consulting with the Chef he'd head for the Manasquan Block Ice Co. (the Elks is there not) to stash some meat in the freezer section and pick up what the chef wanted. All the hotels rented space there to keep their frozen meat; there was no lockers, you simply had a designated space on the floor around a post with your hotel's name on it, and the Honor system prevailed. I never heard of anyone abusing it.
Most of our guests were repeats, and many came for several weeks or a month or two. After dinner at night they would sit in the rockers on the porch, one of the guests brought out his guitar, and everyone sang while the children chased lightning bugs on the lawn. We had many families with children: Dr. and Mrs. Madaras, Judge and Mrs. McGeehan, the Barrys, the Smiths, the Silvanis - our children had the advantage of meeting many wonderful people.
We had one elderly spinster from Philadelphia who spent every August with us. She had a room on the top floor, because she didn't want anyone over her. She treated two elderly sisters from Baltimore to a month's vacation at the Colonial every summer. Every afternoon she had a Limo from Clayton's garage pick her up and drive out in the country for an hour or so. Their first stop was in the village to pick up food to take to poor people. She tipped the driver 10 cents each day! But when he had appendicitis and couldn't work, she paid for his surgery, all hospital and medical bills, and took care of his wife and children until he could work again. She held the mortgages on a number of homes in the Philadelphia area, and when the depression deepened, she notified all her debtors to consider themselves her guests until things got better. She wore high button shoes, black cotton stockings, layers of voluminous skirts, a shirt waist with a high, lacy, boned stand up collar, and topped it all off with an angora tam"O' shanter and a cashmere shawl. Like the Arabs, she isolated herself from the heat.
We employed about 18 in help, all of them black, and most of them were with us for years. There was Joseph, who was ancient and almost illiterate; he simply brought the guests what he thought they would like, since he couldn't read their orders. They loved him. He wore long johns all summer, and when he died his folks notified us and we went to his funeral in Philadelphia; we were the only white people there. When the second chef's daughter was married, we were invited to the wedding in Trenton, and again, we were the only white people there. Charles Waldo Scott was a bell man for two years while he attended Pre-Med in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He later became an eminent surgeon in Newport News, VA. One of his sons became a U.S. Senator. And then there was Cora; she was a five foot dynamo who acted as chambermaid and pantry girl, preparing salads and desserts. She bossed the waiters unmercifully and called them all "Little Man". One spring she came on early to help us open up; she had a heart attack and died in my mother's arms outside one of the guest rooms. Our children swear Cora's ghost still walks the halls in the winter, and our dog thought so too!
In 1964 we closed the Dining Room and only served a Continental Breakfast after that. Most of our guests gravitated to the Shoreham but we built up a clientele of younger people, many of them single. Bob MacGregor was one of them and I ended up marrying him in 1983. Hal died in 1973, but he had done for me the kindest thing any man can do for a wife - he taught me about finances, how to run a business, and how to parallel park the car.
When we closed the Dining Room we kept only Jepthina Moore, our head chambermaid, and Bill Moore, her husband who did anything and everything. He served the breakfast, washed the dishes, counted the laundry, washed and folded the towels, answered the switchboard, rented rooms and kept a strict eye on my children and their friends. The kids adored him and after Hal died I could not have run the hotel without him. There was never a problem Bill could not handle. We hired local young people to fill in as chambermaids and office help. My Rock of Gibraltar was my son Dick, who could and would do anything - plumbing, electrical, carpentry, Dick could do it all. Every day in the spring when he came home from work I would give him a list of things that had to be done and he sacrificed his work hours and his weekends to get the hotel open and running. All the children did "time" at the hotel, in the pantry, the dining room, the office, the kitchen, but they enjoyed Spring Lake to the fullest. Swim lessons with Ted Nitka, dancing lessons with Mrs. Stafford at the Monmouth and her Monday night dances, always the beach and the rowboat at the lake. Our dinners in the Dining Room were adventures, with the guests winking at the children, blowing smoke rings and otherwise distracting them. We rarely got through a meal without a glass of milk being spilled.
Running the hotel with Hal was a wonderful way of life because we did it together. But after he died, and most of the children were scattered, it was a lonely 7 am to 11 pm seven days a week job. The guests no longer congregated on the porch, they went off gleefully in the evening to the nearby lounges and I developed a wistful litany of "Good bye, have a good time" as I watched them take off. So - I sold the hotel in 1979 and joined the leisure class and never regretted it. My children and I have the fondest memories at the Colonial.
P.S. Bob and I run into my former guests all over the place now, and I'm saying "Hello" instead of "Good bye, have a good time!"
P.P.S. They call it The Ocean House now.