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Chapter 8 - Jay Willard Sterner

                 JAY WILLARD STERNER
                    1889    1902

     As a prelude to the many volumes of the Diary which
follow, this elaborate explanation of how Willard Ster-
ner and Jennie Disbrow came to be in the same spot in the
year 1882 may seem a bit lengthy - but have courage, it
is nearly finished; in fact, that part is finished.
There remains now merely the brief task of bridging the
gap between my arrival on the scene and the day I first
started to keep a diary.
     I arrived at 607 Sixth Ave., in what was still offi-
cially Ocean Beach but was so soon to be definitely and
for all time Belmar, at exactly 10:15 A.M. on October 23rd
1889 simultaneously with the first snow  flurry of the
year.  The birth certificate shows only "Child, male,
white (no name as yet)."  It may be of interest to note
that Dr. Thompson automatically put his address as Ocean
Beach but then bethought himself and put down "place of
birth" as Belmar.
     Number 607 was a large and rather pretentious house
for the place and period, something far beyond my father's
means at the time but he, as did many of his neighbors,
counted on paying for it with summer rentals - a hope
that was never dashed.  On the adjoining lot to the west
he built a humbler dwelling which we always called "The
Cottage," into which we migrated every summer while the
big house was occupied by the summer tenants.  Behind
the cottage, on the back of a vacant lot owned by the
Borough, was our chicken yard where, when I was somewhat
older, I sifted ashes and cleaned out the chicken house
every Saturday before being permitted to play or go else
where - tasks of which I complain so bitterly in the
pages to come.  At the time I appeared upon the scene,
my maternal grandmother, Louisa Lane, to be known here-
after as Grandma, was living with us.  Later, she spent
part of the time with mother's  younger sister, hereafter

JAY STERNER referred to as Aunt (pronounced "Ant") Lou. Six weeks after I was born, Aunt Lou was married to George Thompson in our living room, then known as the "Sitting Room" to distinguish it from the parlor which was only used for special occasions. I have been told that I was a most unwilling spectator at this ceremony. Thereafter they set up house-keeping in Newark and thence when I was five or six, to Providence whence she visited us periodically and - what is more important from my view point - where I visited them nearly every Summer from `96 on. Just when I made my first journey I don't know, but it was very early in life that I travelled to New York by train and thence overnight on the Sound steamers to Providence. By the start of my first diary in 1902, I had spent the greater part of at least three summers in New England where I had my little circle of Providence playmates with one set of ideas, vocabulary, and accent; while at home in Belmar I had the usual small village en- evironment so that I was equally at home with either group. Thus, when I was very young, I became aware that life went on in sundry different ways in a world that was quite attainable even to a small boy and which was in many respects, not only bigger but more important and interesting than Belmar. Writing now, after recording here over three cent- uries of Family history in America, the village of my boyhood seems incredibly raw and new. And yet, though many memories of that remote epoch are very clear, I have no recollection that Belmar seemed new to me then. On the contrary. As I recall it, the town seemed old, long settled; no thought crossed my mind that things herea- bouts had not always been more or less the same. The school was not yet ten years old when I first entered what seemed to me its great front doors and yet I re- 37
JAY STERNER call distinctly the floor worn into hollows by countless feet, the dry, musty smell of it - a smell I still assoc- iate with public buildings, especially old schools. Our little village was ideally situated for a resort and for the all-around development of small boys. It was re- ally a peninsula, bounded on the north and west by Shark River, on the east by the Atlantic, and on the south by Como Lake. Down its center ran Silver Lake. During my early boyhood the houses were still relatively few and the vacant fields and patches of woodland many. As the town filled in and I grew older, I gravitated first to the lake and then, more and more, to the River which, by the time the diary really starts in 1906, becomes, with the Asbury Park High School, the focal point of my ex- istence. All that is covered later in The River. Of the pre-school years I remember only unrelated incidents. I remember the excitement of the annual move to the cottage in the early Summer, the move back to the big house in the Fall. I remember being led by Dad into the parlor which, for this very special occasion, had been converted into a bedroom, and there being introduc- ed to a very red-faced, noisy mite who, I was told, was my new little brother Donald. In my excitement I danced around and around, looking into Mother's hand mirror the while, till I grew dizzy, fell, and broke it; but the seven years bad luck did not materialize - at least not until many years later. Most vividly of all do I remember a Christmas Eve when Dad assembled the entire family in the dining room behind the tightly closed sliding doors while he was mysteriously busy in the Sitting Room. Then he tip-toed out through the hall and joined us, threw back the slid- ing doors, and revealed a Christmas tree in the bay win- dow beautifully glowing with dozens of little wax tapers 38
JAY STERNER all alight. More than that. The tree itself was burning cheerfully so that I could snatch but the briefest glimpse before Dad had dashed heroically to the rescue screams of the women and my own crows of delight, snatched up the burning tree, rushed it out through the front door, and whipped it, ornaments and all, furiously up and down in the snow till the conflagration was extinguished. During the first years of my life Belmar was chang- ing rapidly from the village Mother had known. The Vil- lage, which at first merely partially lined the main, "F" street was now stretching down toward the summer colony along the beach front, which in turn was reaching rapid- ly westward until, by the time I was aware of the place as an entity, the two had merged - although for a gener- ation or so the old summer residents still, on occasion, referred to the business district as "The Village." Of course when I first became aware of anything be- yond the confines of our house and front yard, Belmar was just a delightful and wonderful place; but you child- ren would have considered it all very primitive. There was no electricity except some "arc" lights on "F" Street, not even gas yet, no sewer or water. Our lights were kerosene lamps, the cooking was done on a wood or coal- burning range. Our house, however, was ultra-modern by current standards. While we had the usual little house which had a half-moon cut in the door and stood shyly and apart behind the grape-arbor, our bath room was equipped with a flush toilet and marble hand-basin and there was running water there and in the kitchen. This was supplied from a large tank in the attic which was filled by a hand-pump in a kitchen closet by the stove. The water came from a well beneath the house and one of my daily chores was to deliver 100 strokes on this pump every day. 39
JAY STERNER Just when the water and sewer came through I don't remember but it was when I was still small enough to crawl through the cast-iron 12" mains as they lay be- side the trench into which they were to go. I was fas- cinated by the bubbling lead with which they sealed the joints after packing them with oakum. The extension of the trolley tracks from Avon across the new bridge and on to 16th Ave. is another date not ac- curately established in my mind. It was long after I had started school. I remember vividly though the day the first trolley came through. I was watching a "Medicine Show" when suddenly there was a banging and crashing out- side and everyone rushed into the street, leaving the tent deserted. The new track was covered with gravel which the wheels were noisily crushing to the accompan- iment of showers of blue sparks and the most unholy din. Mother and Dad both being school teachers, they taught me to read and write and do simple arithmetic quite early so that, when I entered school in 1895, the September before my Sixth birthday, I spent only a few weeks in the Primary (known as the Busy Bees) and then was moved up to the First Grade with a further advance to the Second with the beginning of the second term. The following Fall I entered the Third Grade and in September 1897 I entered the Fourth Grade under a Miss Lucy Corson of Cape May and she and I were advanced together so that I had no further teachers until I had left the Eighth Grade and the Belmar School. The walk from Sixth Ave. to the School at Twelfth was not a long one. Sometimes I dawdled along "F" Street gazing into all the shop windows - particularly Kinmouth's Drug Store with its patent medicine samples "for free," and Mrs. Hutchinson's Candy Shop with its licorice shoe- strings, its cats-eyes and its all-day suckers. On other days I wended my way up "E" Street on 11th Ave. beyond which 40
JAY STERNER lay thick woods through which a path meandered diagonally toward "F" Street, emerging in front of the school. Twelfth ran east barely a hundred yards into the woods past the Baptist Church which stood on the southeast corner of 12th and F. South of this to 16th lay only open fields and scattered woods. When occasion arose the open land south of 16th Ave. became a circus lot. Here I saw Buffalo Bill in all the glory of his white suit, flowing white goatee, long locks and drooping mustache, and Annie Oakley with her un- erring .22 (loaded with buckshot, I was later to disco- ver; though no breath of such scandal seeped down to us at the time). Also there was a lesser light known as Paw- nee Bill with his show and the 101 Ranch too, upon occas- ion. There must have been circuses but I don't remember. Having learned to read and enjoy it early, I devel- oped into a full-fledged bookworm and became a rapid and voluminous - though by no means scholarly - reader and lived much in the land of books and imagination. Not that all was pleasure for me even then. I had my chores. The only allowance Don and I ever had was one cent every Monday - the "Monday Penny." For anything more we had to work. I have mentioned the 100 strokes on the kitchen pump, and the chicken yard. Every Saturday came the never-to-be-broken routine which must be carried out before I was free to join my friends. There was the cel- lar to be swept, the chicken house to be hoed out and the floor sprinkled with dust from the freshly-sifted ashes from which I had carefully picked what useable coal might remain. The diary will tell of other odd jobs - the Daisy air-rifle earned painting a fence, the nickles re- ceived from Mrs. Pyott for carrying in her coal, various and sundry things. During my earliest years Dad was still manager of 41
JAY STERNER Warman's but in 1895, when I was six, this yard folded up and he opened a bicycle store at the same location in partnership with a man named Gus Pyott. Within a year or so they shifted to the more centrally located building owned by my grandmother at 9th and F, she having now moved in with us. That same year he became manager of the Charles Lewis Yard in Asbury Park; which meant that he was simultaneously carrying on the bicycle business with Gus, being District Clerk of the Board of Education, Secretary of the Building and Loan, and man- ager of Lewis's. So, by 1902 when the diary begins, you can see we are definitely getting up in our little world. At this time my two most intimate friends were Ed- ward Glass and Clarence Cooper. Ed was the youngest child of an Army captain who had been killed by Indians about the same time Ed was born in 1890. The Glasses lived in a rambling house of the gingerbread (Carpenter's Gothic) type of the `70s with his mother, his older bro- ther Beaumont, and his sister Virginia. For long peri- ods his Aunt Sadie, wife of an always absent Colonel Blocksome, lived with them and was an important member of the household. They had a maid named `Jessie' - they were the only family I knew who kept a servant. They also had a house in Washington to which they repaired at irregular intervals, so that Ed too was in contact with the great world beyond Belmar - just as I was with Provi- dence - as well as with the world of the past and of books about which much of our play revolved. But the outstand- ing thing we had in common, as I think back upon those distant days, was our love for the primitive out-of- doors and a curious love of danger for its own sake; never for us the motto -- "Safety First." Clarence ("Pete") Cooper was the younger of the two 42
JAY STERNER sons of a man who kept a dry goods store at the northeast corner of 6th and F, half a block from my home. His brother Harry was some four or five years older but fi- gures prominently later. The Coopers were all Belmar - no outside contacts. Having set the stage for Belmar to some extent in all of the preceding, let me now turn to my second, my New England home, in Providence, RI. In 1960, looking for what was worth salvaging among the relics in "Ma's" attic, I found a map of Providence dated May 1893 - and immediately pictures came swarming back out of that long-ago [period] when I was a little boy. Muriel, who is eighteen years my junior, says I live too much in the past. This is probably so; but, after all, my present is not too inspiring, my future cannot be too long to hold out too much promise; so I am thankful for the bright spots I have known. While I admit that mine has been a sadly mis-spent life from any practical point of view, it has given me a past crowded with the most wonderful memories of things I did and saw and felt while I was so inexcusably frittering away what should have been, they tell me, years of dedication to the im- portant things of life. But not to get side-tracked in trivialities, what I here wish to do is to give the reader, if such there should ever be, a hint of how this map brought back again, if only briefly, those Summers around the turn of the Century when I visited Aunt Lou and Uncle George at 11 Plenty Street, Providence. Plenty Street runs from Broad Street to Elmwood Avenue. The first house in from Broad Street on Plenty was ours, #11, a two story apartment (in Providence they were called tenements). Aunt Lou and Uncle George occupied the ground floor; above us were the Thorndykes. Mrs. Thorndyke's maiden name was Pepperell and her mo- 43
JAY STERNER ther lived with them. Those names meant nothing to me then; but now I marvel that here, under the same roof, lived descendants of the Bradfords, the Thorndykes, the Pepperells - not to mention the Desboroughs. Across the street on the north side, occupying all the space from Plenty to Peace Streets, and back some 200 yards on both streets, was St. Joseph's Hospital. At the back of the hospital on our street was Mother Superior's garden with its little pool and marble bench. in this pool were goldfish for which I one day fished with a bent pin for a hook; Mother Superior caught me in the act and spanked me soundly as she sat upon her marble bench. At the back of this garden was the "Dead House" where those who had died in the hospital were tidily tucked away until the undertaker came during the hours of darkness and carried them off - or so we were told. Next to the hospital grounds was the parochial school. Several blocks south on Broad was a huge, ugly yel- low brick Baptist Church where I attended Sunday School. I remember none of my classmates nor my teacher, but I do recall my introduction to the well-coached mass demon- strations so perfected today by our Communist brethren. The Superintendent, a Mr. Waterman (of fountain pen fame, I think) was very proud that this was the largest Sun- day School in all creation - or something. At the start of the hour he would stride briskly front and center de- claiming loudly - "Good Morning, Children." Whereat, as per instructions, the three, or four, or five thousand of us Chorused back - "Good Morning, Mr. Waterman." At its west end, Plenty Street dead-ended on Elm- wood Avenue. Beyond, stretched a large street of open field with little patches of trees. The map shows it much smaller than I remember it - but then I myself was very small at the time. This was our favorite play- 44
JAY STERNER ground where, in the shelter of the trees, we had our campfire and roasted potatoes, ears of corn. There were trollies on both Broad and Elmwood; north-bound took you down town to the Library and the shops and Potter & Buffington's factory where Uncle George superintended the manufacture of Jewelry; south- bound took you to Roger Williams Park, the Falls of the Pattuxet and all the world beyond. The Park stretched from Broad to Elmwood which at this point were nearly a mile apart. This Park held my consuming interest. In its cen- ter was a large pond with swans and various water-fowl, and it swarmed with horned pout which came rushing to you when you knocked two stones together and ate bread from your hand. In the pond's center was an island where, on summer evenings, a band played semi-classical programs. Either they were very good or the fact that the music came to us across the water in the still air of the summer night did something special to it. Even today, when I hear the Poet and Peasant overture, I am back there again sitting on the turf at the water's edge, a little boy of nine. The bright particular star of these performances was Bomenard Church who played the solos on the cornet or the trombone. But my deepest and most abiding interest was in none of these. In my letters I ask Aunt Lou for news of my animal friends - for so I thought of them. In my child's mind (and I must admit that this reprehensible attitude has persisted to this very day) the distinct- ion between the so-called lower animals and humans was not nearly so sharp as it appears to be in most. If, for any reason no matter how trivial, any living crea- ture gained my affection or respect or deep interest, be they dog or cat or horse or human or mouse or even a 45
JAY STERNER little reptile like Bill the Lizard, they thereupon be- came "persons" or "friends" to me on a more or less equal footing with all other persons who had gained my affection or respect or interest. The Zoo was at the west end of the Park near the Elmwood Avenue entrance and I visited it at every opp- ortunity. I have mentioned the horned pots. There were the prairie dogs in their village with the little owls who lived so peacefully with them. I had been told and was convinced that there were equally peaceful rattlesnakes deep down in their burrows although, watch as often and as closely as I may, I never saw one. Under some trees close by, far enough apart to be out of each other's reach, were chained two delightful little bear cubs who loved peanuts. One was surely and snatched as his due whatever you handed out but showed no faintest interest in the donor. The other would sit up and wave to you as you approached as though it were you, not the peanuts, which were welcome. Naturally I gave this second one all my attention and most of the peanuts. One day I was squatting down feeding my little friend and rubbing her nose from time to time, when the indignation of the neglected cub became more than he could endure - and he acted. Suddenly I was struck hea- vily from behind; I felt a sharp nip in the seat of my tightly stretched pants, and was precipitated head first into the soft, furry stomach of the cub I was feeding. So, children, your father has been attacked and bitten by a bear - albeit a very tiny bear. A little to the left of the bear cubs and the prai- rie dogs was a heavily fenced enclosure where dwelt my particular friend Baby Roger. As I recall the story, the elephant who was his mother was with a travelling circus visiting Providence when her time came upon her 46
JAY STERNER and she was left at the Zoo to have her baby. In return for supervising this event and supporting her until Baby Roger was weaned, the circus people presented him to the City. When I knew him in 1899 he was probably two or three years old and very friendly. I always visited him and I always tried to bring him something special; and I was convinced that he knew and liked me personally - as he may have done since he saw me often enough. He had, however, one very reprehensible habit, a trick which indicated a depraved sense of humor. Whenever an admiring crowd assembled, he would start sidling over toward his water trough where there was always a large puddle of trampled mire as vile smelling as any pig sty. Here he would surreptitiously fill his trunk with this horrible brew and then - Whissssh! - he would blow it expertly over the goggling crowd. After my first dread- ful experience I recognized the preliminaries and retir- ed up the slope to my little bears where I could miss no detail of the inevitable catastrophe. So these were the animal friends to which I refer in my letter. Of course there were the big cats in the Lion House - a family of lions, two magnificent Bengal tigers, a black leopard, many others. But with them there was not the same rapport; I could only admire them from afar and gaze raptly at their lithe, sleek beauty. As to my human friends, mt New England playmates, I only remember two. One was Hermann Wegrin who lived next door; his father was a Swedish pastor and I was much impressed by his large library, mostly in Swedish. The other was Connie Fairweather, a negro boy who lived half-way down our street toward Elmwood and whose mother took in washing. What eventually became of Hermann I never heard for he moved elsewhere, but from Aunt Lou I heard that Connie, after graduating from Brown, went on 47
JAY STERNER to law school and became a successful practicing lawyer in Providence. I almost forgot Don Carlos Thorndyke, eldest child of the family up-stairs. At four he spoke the most meticulously correct and delightful English and I was very fond of him. But, after all, my real friends were Uncle George and Aunt Lou, and the letters I wrote this beloved aunt and which now follow reveal something of what went on at 607 6th Avenue in the years preceding the 1902 di- ary. It not only partially covers this earlier period but it does it at greater length and it does it better. I don't know why these letters should have been so much more mature than the diary unless it was because, al- though they seem spontaneous enough, they were written to someone whose regard mattered very much to me; where- as the diary was just scribbled down any way to myself, who didn't matter at all. Aunt Lou was a shining personality to all us kids - I mean to my playmates as well as to Don and me. She was "Aunt Lou" to all those boys. She understood kids and their little interests, she liked them (perhaps being childless herself) and they all felt that and loved her. The fact that to them she was a beautiful woman, always beautifully dressed, who appeared only at intervals from what was to us in those days far-away New England, did not detract from the effect. I have no way of knowing how much of this comes through to the casual reader but to me it brings it all back so vividly that, as I read these letters, I am for the moment a little boy again, writing to one whom he loved very much - and who didn't mind saying so when he was only six. And now for the letters themselves. The first has no date but was obviously written shortly after school. 48
JAY STERNER No date See my ship and School House. I go to school every day and have learned to read. I wish you would come to see me. I have a little black kitten. She is a playful little fellow and Donald and I have fine fun with her. Jay Sterner. * * * 14th Dec. 1895. My dear Aunt Lou: How I like you. Donald (who was two that January) does not like the kitty because he does not treat her right. I went to the pond and slid on the ice and got my feet wet and went home right away and I never went out again that night. I have a theatre from the New York Recorder, Jr. and it is nice. Papa and Ma- ma fixed it for me. When I came home from Sunday School and saw it I was surprised. There stood the little Brownie Band among the trees and it looked so pretty. Next Sunday the play will be Rip Vanwinkle or Cinderella or Uncle Tom's Cabin and many others. We had Little Red Riding Hood I wish you could have seen it! Donald is going to get a ball for Christmas. Who do you think is going to buy it? How is the canary bird? That is all I can write tonight. With love from Jay. * * * 6th Jan. 1896. Can you come down by Monday? How I'd like you to. I was promoted the night before last. The first time I went there Miss Pyott (Gus's sister) said I could take my slate home for good work. I am going to a Brownie play with grandma Saturday night. At Asbury Park, love to Uncle George. Jay Sterner. 49
JAY STERNER Dear Aunt Lou: 27th Jan. 1896. I have a little mouse in my trap. he is so cute. We feed it crackers, candy, cheese and pot- cheese. And he drinks water, and he washes his hands, and he bites our fingers sometimes. And we pin his wheel fast, because he gets his feet sore if he goes around too much. (So once again the tiny ghost of little "Sharp Eyes" rises to haunt me, this time after sixty-two years - and that is many many mouse generations for one lost little pet to journey through to his master who loved him and still remembers.) Aunt Lou I do not want you to come when you were going to come but in the Spring time, or you can come when you were, and come in the Spring time too. Because I want to go home with you and see my friends the ani- mals. And Uncle George too. Here are the stamps to pay you for the plate. I like it very much. Your loving friend Jay Sterner. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 1st March, 1896. Today there was a storm. I think the river is flooded by the way it looks as though it was, I guess. I think the river is up to the top of the bank. And Oh! I will get some fish And wont I have fun gathering the fish. And maybe some crabs that the river has brought in with todays storm. And maybe some lob- sters and I am going to sunday school today and wont that be nice. Just think. I have been home from sunday school 8 weeks. Just think. Yester-day I made a little kite for myself isent that nice. And I cant help think of the good time down at the river getting the fish and crabs and other things. A ship named St. Paul quite a little while ago half past one in the morning it struck 50
JAY STERNER ashore (at Long Branch) it had 400 people aboard her. And thank you for the gold cents and for my drawing cards which I enjoyed them very much. And thank you for mamma's box of candy which contained two brandy candies. And I gave it to her. And when she bit it she jerked her head back as quick as she could And spilt some. But my next letter wont come to you. It will be to grand- ma Sterner in Pennsylvania isent that nice? only 60 miles from Belmar I think. And I am glad you and Uncle George Are coming down here. Jay Sterner. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 30th March, 1896. Next Sunday It will be punch and Judy wont that be nice? You know last sunday was a nice one I am writing this outdoors in the sun. I have been trying to fly my big kite yesterday and today isnt that nice? And it would not fly isnt that too bad! bad! bad! Georgie broke my little kite so he made me a big kite and I went and broke it all up! up! up! isnt that too bad? I went and got two wasp's nests and took them in to Ma- ma and one of the doors were shut and mamma said that she thought that a wasp was in it and I smashed it all up and it was only a little spider's nest that the wasp gave him to keep while he was away. And then I played with the drain and I filled a little hole that I found. Jay Sterner. * * * 6th April, 1896. I want you to come here in two days. Yours in great haste. - Jay Sterner. - Uncle George: I want you to be sure to come with Aunt Lou. Jay Sterner. * * * 5th July, 1896. Dear Aunt Lou: I thank you for the ten cents you gave me. Donald lost five cents of it. And I am going to buy four packs of fire-crackers at Hilliard's. Mamma is going to give me the five cents Donald lost. I thank you for the little boat that you sent me. And I had lots of fun yesterday I had a sky-rocket and a roman candle and some- thing else that made little stars come out of it. And we went to the Park and saw the parade and saw satan in a wagon and a goat was in with him and they had horns on their heads. With love from Jay. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 16th October 1896 Are you coming this year? I'm in the 3rd Grade! She lives in Long Branch! We get the Sunday Tribune now (instead of the "Recorder"). You know the sled I got christmas I got it up out of the cellar to- day. I wont get the theater any more. I wont get the Ray Tags either. (These are cut-outs for the children that came with the Recorder which was now defunct) I am going to get Bushy soon as I get one dollar and one half dollars. I got Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found There. All about little chess men that Alice made friends with. (My first book review) Your loving Jay Sterner. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 26th October, 1896. Are you coming this year? I got a letter from Leah (Coward who had lived next door) to-day and she sent me a examples that she does in school. And she told me that she was in the third reader and I dont know what room she is in at all. 52
JAY STERNER And thank you for the knife you sent me. And thank you for the book. Your loving Jay Sterner. * * * My dear Grandma: 14th November, 1896. I am so sorry that you went away. I helped mamma just lots. I pumped all the dish-water, I got the chicken food and the coal. And I was good to Donald. And Charlie (Miller) hit me right in the face and made me cry. And he made believe that he was friends with me and when I went over to Charlie's house, he began saying to you to tell Aunt Lou to send me her picture. Jay. * * * Mt dear Aunt Lou: 20th November, 1896. I made a dart today. I read a story about a boy and a scorpion. I will tell you about him. A boy was hunting for locusts. He had caught a goodly number, when he saw a scorpion and, mistaking him for a locust, reached out his hand to take him. The scorp- ion, showing his sting, said: "If you had but touched me, my friend, you would have lost me and all your lo- custs too!" Dont you think that was a nice little story it was out of Aesop's Fables. I have read Beautiful Joe once, and a lot of other books through. I have read a lot of stories out of the Arabian Nights. Your loving Jay Sterner. * * * Dear Grandma: 25th November, 1896. How glad I was to get your letter the other day and to hear about the old good friends of mine the Animals. And what about Baby Roger? Are you 53
JAY STERNER going to take Donald and I to the Park next year? I am so sorry the Bison died of lonesomeness for he had no friends there. He was all alone when I saw him. I am to have a vacation this week. Gus (Pyott) you know went hunting down in Virginia and shot a deer and we ate some of the venison for dinner today noon. Oh! It was grand! Send my love to Aunt Lou and Uncle George. Jay. * * * Dear Grandma: 15th December, 1896. How do you like my name in the paper? I was home every day early and papa gave me a dime. I want you to send back that spelling paper please because mamma is so proud of it. It was my lesson at school the other day. I would so like you to come down Christ- mas. How about that Christmas kiss that you are going to get from Uncle George. It will be made of a mouthful of sugar and that will be so sweet that you will faint away. Jay Sterner. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 21st March, 1897. I have got a furr for your kitty and will send it with his letter, and I received the United States flag allright and I have one just like it of Cuba and I put them face to face for you know that Cuba wants Uni- ted States to help them and United States wants to help Cuba too. I want you to please ask Uncle George to send me all the buttons that he has for I want to put them all on a ribbon and pin the ribbon to the wall. Your loving friend Jay Sterner. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 7th April, 1897. I thank you ever so much for the dime, and for the buttons, and for the pin which I gave 54
JAY STERNER to Donald because I had the buttons in the same letter, and he wanted something. I hope your little kitten is not to old to play with the rabbit skin now, for I am send- ing it in this letter. Jay. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 24th October, 1897. I thank you for the book and the pencil, I am writing with the pencil now and dont you think it writes good? I thank Uncle George for the candies that he sent us. Papa gave me St. Nicholas and Grandma gave me a book called Jan of the Windmill. I was out hickory nutting yesterday and brought home two pockets full, my coat pocket and my pants pocket. We had a fire down a- long the river and had lots of fun running around and getting hickory nuts. In my St. Nicholas there is a story called my narrowest escape, it tells about a man who had to go across the ocean in a boat, it was a large one but they sent a little boat to come back in, and a gale struck them and there boat was swamped but they got to the ship all right. Jay Sterner. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 23rd October, 1897. I thank you so much for the colored crayons and the globe. The book grandma gave me is a fine one but I like the colored crayons best I think the trip to Providence is the best of all for I can visit all my friends. Where is the little fox terrier I fed peanuts the last day I was there? Have they got any more animals in Roger Williams Park? If they have I wish you would tell me what kind they are. Is that grey hound there yet? Now we can go up to the corner and get on the trolley and ride to Asbury Park without having to 55
JAY STERNER [go all the] way down to the chutes. At school we have Miss Corson and the vice-principal is Mr. Love, the brother of Mr. Love, the old Principal. Jay. This letter is a truly gorgeous thing for in writ- ing it I used every crayon in the box Aunt Lou had given me, Note too that this tells the date when the trollies went through sixteenth Avenue. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 31st December, 1898. I thank you very much for the presents you sent me. Mamma gave me five volumes of "Cooper's Sea Tales". The pictures in "Black Beauty" are very nice. Ginger was a nicer looking horse than I expected. The engine does not work just right, he and mamma has sent to the "Youth's Companion" to tell them about it. I got eight books in all - I gave Perce Cooper my old "Black Beauty" this afternoon. Donald is riding around the table with his new velo[c]ipede and having a fine time. I also got "Treasure Divers" and "Micha Clark". Mamma just found a peanut down in the toe of my stocking she was mending. Tell Thomas (Hutchins, across the street) that he will have a boy to pull him this summer. A Happy New Year to you all. Your loving nephew Jay. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 12th April, 1899. I thank you very much for my photos and for my five cents. How is little Peter Piper (the can- ary) and Roxy (the cat who was to be the mother of Sancho and Frisky that summer). Please hurry and come down. Your Nephew Jay. * * * 56
JAY STERNER Summer of 1898 Dear Mamma: (in Providence) "The Adventures of Brownie" are in "Cad- well's De Novo Library". I was reading over the names on the back of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and I happened to see the name of it. Grandma took me over to the Park "Opra House" to a play by the Bryne Brothers. It was fine. The name of the play was "Going to the Races". there was a party set out in an air-ship and the air-ship is wrecked by an explosion and the air-ship goes in two. [My-my! What a scary portent of what Grandpa was to wit- ness in Lakehurst, NJ some thirty-eight years later. He took pictures of the Hindenburg just before it reached Lakehurst - and its ultimate destructive demise - as the great airship was sailing overland on its way in to Lake- hurst. We have found two of those pictures. It is un- known if Grandpa took any more. -Todd] There is a fine artist there, he drew pictures of Hobson and Dewey. The picture of Hobson was fine but the pic- ture of Dewey was not so good. Papa has given me the old sewer place under the grape arbor and maybe he will build a shed over it. I did not spend any of my time playing marbles but I went over to Cleve Hankin's hut and had some fun. Saturday I did not have my hut so I went over to Cleve's hut instead. Tomorrow I am going to get up early and bale out some of the water from the sewer cistern and fix it up. I did not spend Donald's penny at all but will spend it allright. The painter's have nearly finished the big house only they haven't got the green paint yet. Saturday afternoon I painted the chicken-house the same color that the big house is, I mean the body. Papa says I must paint the roof and give the whole thing a good coat of paint. Say mamma can I have your little doll's stove in my hut if papa dont object? Kisses from Grandma, papa and Jay. * * * Later that same summer Dear Mama: Oh how I wish you and Donald were here. What is the color of Aunt Lou's kitty? I wish you would 57
JAY STERNER let me know if I can play marbles for fair (keeps) with Percy and the boys around here? I want you to write me a letter every Sunday too. I like the books that papa brought home very much. I am writing on "Uncle Tom" now, Papa thinks I can have Cleve Hankin's old wheel because it runs easier and dont cost so much. I think that box of marshmallows was fine in looks and fine in eating. I haven't read a bit of that "Child's History of England" yet. Grandma went into it for good the first night but I haven't seen her with it since. I wish that when you come home that you get "The Adventures of a Brownie" in New York at the same place Papa got these books. I sleep with Papa now and we have a fine time in bed. How is Donald getting on with the cat? Have you been to the zoo with Donald yet? Linnie was here today when Grandma was at Sunday School and I didn't know where Papa was. Linnie said that she thought she could see you before you went away. She did not come in the house but went right on home. How is Aunt Lou and Uncle George. Love and kisses to you all. Jay. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: Late Spring of 1899. I wish you would come down here and get me. There is only two more days of school and I want you to please come and take me up to Providence. Mamma says that if I get promoted she will give me a cent for every day I am up there, and papa says he will give me a cent every day I am down here. Isent that nice? I got ninty in Spelling and ninty four in number work. Jay. * * * 58
JAY STERNER September, 1899. Dear Aunt Lou: School will begin tomorrow. Tell Marie I thought the story a very nice one. I am fixing the Col- umbia for a race. I go out in the river in a trunk lid. I went almost across it once. Tell Herman to come down next summer. Ask him if he is still fighting with Cony (Connie Fairweather). My love to you, Uncle George, Marie and Herman. Your Nephew Jay. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: October, 1899. Thank you again for the boat, Aunt Lou. She has won a good many races. She is best in a light breeze. I am going to have more keel put on her and Mr. Pierce is going to make a new set of sails. Tell Uncle George that I thank him very much for the quarter, I did not expect it. I got the book "20000 Leagues un- der The Sea" and I think it is a fine book. Mamma has given me a book I haven't read yet. Donald gave me a book strap for my birthday. Papa brought home an ice cream treat for my birthday supper. Please remember me to Herman and Eddie and give my love to Marie and Mrs. Doldt, and kisses to you and Uncle George. Good night, Your Nephew Jay. * * * ITEMS FROM THE BELMAR WEEKLY GAZETTE. - Issue of 3rd Dec. 1899 NEW GAME A new Game of War has been played at the house of Jay Sterner. The game is played with swords instead of guns. There are two sides. The two sides rush at each other and begin to fight. Whenever anyone is hit he must drop. When all of a side have been killed, those 59
JAY STERNER still standing are victorious. Donald Cooper shoots a bow and arrow in the game of war. He is a fine shot by this time. LEARNING TO WHISTLE Donald Sterner is just learning to whistle and is making everybody whish that he had never heard of it. DONALD'S ADVENTURE! Mrs. Morris (an Irish washerwoman who lived at 606 Seventh Ave.) pulled Donald Sterner off the fence of his own back yard because she thought that it was her fence. He was really on a tree blowing feathers to Hazel Cooper. She twisted his arm around and jerked him off into a barrel. She then began to hit him about the face and also in the stomach. * * * Dear Aunt Lou: 4th March, 1900. When are you coming down? My Mockingbird is broken. The knot came off the string. I am glad that Mamma has a birth-day. Thank you for all the things you sent me. Tatters (a black, raggedy stray dog I was allowed to keep till his owners returned that summer) followed me to Sunday School. He generally is sent back but he came sneaking up to us and we let him come. He seemed almost wild with delight because I did not send him back. I'm going to print the "Belmar Weekly Gazette" (sample above). You better not bring Sancho or Friday down here for there is a dog in the house. There has been a wreck down to Point Pleasant. It was a British ship "County of Edinburgh" from South Africa. I have a piece of hard-tack from it. We still play that Game of War that I sent to you in the newspaper a month or two ago. How is Herman getting on? I hope Uncle George is better today. How are you, Mrs. Doldt, and Marie getting 60
JAY STERNER along? Your loving Nephew Jay. * * * 30th December, 1900. Dear Aunt Lou: That little boat you sent me is a fine one. I have lots of fun in the bath-tub with it and it tows my big boat. I had a fine time with those lantern slides. They are fine ones. There are two with the different nations on them and two with a sea fight. Ed Glass has an uncle who is a Major or something in the Army in China and he has a Chinese flag and two Imperial Palace uniforms and some lovely chair and sofa covers, yellow, green, and gold, with the Chinese dragon on both of them. His uncle got them in the looting of the palace. Ed put them on and picked up a saber and he began to chase Cla- rence and me. I haven't read Uncle George's "Elephant" yet. I have been too busy with "the 28th", but will soon at- tack the fierce beast. I had some cocoa Xmas night and now we have it every Sunday night. I enjoy it so much. Your nevy, Jay. * * * 14th April, 1901. Dear Aunt Lou: Please come down here as soon as you can. I have a fish-globe and have put two fish and a young eel in it. I have them right here on top of the desk. We have lots of sand and little shells and stones on the bottom and they seem to be having a good time. I am go- ing to save up and get a large globe and some gold fish. Donald and I were very much surprised and pleased. Please ask Grandma to come down with you when you and Uncle George come. We have named the two little 61
JAY STERNER fish Nibble and Dibble and we call the Eel Swiggles. We had three fish and two eels but one of each died. I had to give your anagram letter up in despair, but I got it almost worked out, all but a few words. I liked my little Easter Card very much. I wish I could go to Keith's with you, Grandma. Did they have any good moving pictures there? [Note that the "cinema" had only just recently been developed by the French inventor brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumière, when they had developed the first good cine camera and projector. First public viewing of their films took place in 1895 - just five years before this letter. So, moving pictures were probably a really hot new thing here at this time, as the technology was still pretty new. -Todd] I will have to close now. Good Bye! Your nevy, Jay. * * * From Willard Sterner to his first-born in Providence. July 7, 1901. My dear Boy: Your very welcome letter reached here all right and we were pleased you had such a good time on the Fourth. Be very careful tho' with your cannon. A little boy in Newark only last week put a small stone or bullet in his cannon and when he fired it off hit a woman in the face and killed her instantly. But I almost forgot to tell you our little chick is growing fine and he is real tame. Tonight he came to the back door and sat on the top step chirping till I put him in his basket. He has not seen his mother for a week. Friskie has not changed much, only he occasionally springs towards the chick and knocks him over or fright- ens him away. The little chick now keeps at a safe dis- tance and stalks about the yard watching for game which seldom escapes him. I see but few of your playmates. Harry Cooper has not been here since you went away and his brother Percy is now working for Ed Bowne who lives where Ervie Morris lived last year. (606 7th again) Mamma and I counted twelve or thirteen peaches on your tree. You would probably count fourteen as thir- 62
JAY STERNER teen is not a good number. Donald had more fun with his caps about home but he took his fire crackers over to Don's and had his fun o- ver there. Your two white chicks now roost in their summer house and seem quite big, but the ten others are growing fine. How have you been getting along since the very warm weather began? Donald has not had any swim yet. We are afraid of his rheumatism and we have not had a chance to go ourselves. The little boy in our house is not nearly so large as you (in the big house rented for the summer). I wish he was big enough to cut grass. Our lawn looks fine and our recent rains make it look very pretty. With kind wishes to all and a good night kiss to you, I must now close. Yours affectionately, Papa. * * * 29th October, 1901 Dear Aunt Lou: I am writing this letter on my new writ- ing cabinet. The other day I was over at Rogers' house and an old colored lady gave us a lot of things. I also found some foreign stamps beside a bonfire (the start of a new craze). I didn't have the Canadian, the Cuban, nor the one cent stamp. My album is a fine one and I have a lot of stamps. Tell Uncle George I am ever so much obliged for those stamps. I want to see Don Carlos and you folks pretty bad. Tell Mrs. Pepperil I was glad to get those stamps. Love to all. Your nevvy, Jay. * * *


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Last updated February 27, 1996.

Todd L. Sherman (afn09444@afn.org)
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