My father, Abraham Smolen, was a vegetable peddler. In the summertime, if he came back early from work, he would throw us into the back of his truck and we’d go up to Woodmont for the rest of the day. On weekends, from when I was 7 or 8 (about 1936), we’d go to Platt’s parking lot on Seabreeze Ave. They had a “barn” with curtains for women and children to change. We paid to park and then spent the day. My mother would make her hamburgers and mashed potatoes, tie up the pot with a dishtowel, we’d get in the truck, and go to Platt’s. The men would play pinnocle or poker and the ladies “hacked a cheinik.” (My parents spoke Yiddish to each other and I often use Yiddish expressions to this day.) Sometimes, instead of coming by truck, we’d take the trolley or the bus and get off at the restaurant, because then the fare changed.
We’d spend most of the time on the water, swimming. We had a “diving board” for a while at Bagel Beach – it was a raft and we would dive from there. Our idea of having a good time was to go down to Cohen’s and buy 2 cents worth of Indian nuts and walk down to the Anchor. Going to Savin Rock was a big deal. My aunt Gertrude Newman rented a cottage in the summer on the hill. Sometimes we’d stay at her place. I remember the giant stairs (leading up the hill) before they were concrete—we’d get splinters from the wood when we’d climb them. I remember the ladies would sit outside and knit and crochet. They could do it even in the dark! I also distinctly remember one girl, Pearl, who had polio and stayed with her family at the Sauter House. All of us were so considerate of her. We would take walks and carry her. I remember that I once stayed at the Lila House on Merwin Avenue for two weeks; and once at the Hilltop Lodge (which still exists today) on Edgefield Avenue with my aunt and sister.
Near the casino where the bus stopped was a dance hall with a soda fountain place in the front. You could come from the beach right into the dance section. There was a juke box and kids would go there to dance. I remember Dave Solomon who was a fantastic dancer. We’d come in our bare feet trekking sand and dance just for fun.
My tragic story is the time my Canadian cousin and my boyfriend, Joe Feinmark (who later became my husband) were in the service. During a break, we rented a boat and the weather got bad while we were out. Then we discovered that the oar lock was rotten and we ended up near drowning—it was scary! The boat turned over, but we all made it out. Another girl was in a boat and was blown all the way to Long Island. There were helicopters searching for her. All this was in the paper.
When I got married, Sparrow Bush Lane Development was going up. Houses were $50 down and 1.5% interest on the mortgage. In 1951 we bought one of the houses in the development. They weren’t too happy when we came, as they were trying to keep the practice of restricting the Woodmont area (Borough of Woodmont) to Jews. We were 10 Jewish families. We had to walk down to the post office, next door to what is now Scribner’s, to get our mail. My sister and her husband, who worked as teachers and were off in the summer, would come and stay with us. She didn’t like the fact that our families were too intertwined so she put up a sign over the garage with her address: 22 ½ Sparrow Bush Lane! We lived in that house for 14 years, and then moved to the home in which I still live on Hawley Ave. My cousin in Derby had 4 children. She would come to my house very often and we would give the kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and go down to the beach—it was great fun. We played mahjong, kaluki, and other card games.
I have four children, 3 sons and a daughter, and taught them how to swim. My husband was a typesetter and I would stay up nights to do proofreading. So in the daytime, while the kids were out, I’d sleep! My father would come up sometimes with his truck and the kids would be so excited to go for a ride in “Zaidy’s Truck.” I was very involved in starting Temple Shalom in downtown Milford. I was the first female president. Sometimes my husband and I went to the Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont.
Some of the people in knew in Woodmont were Mimi Nodelman, Ruth Gottlieb, Viola Flescher, Rita Brown, the Byers, and Glickmans. In the 1980s, the Jewish population started declining. Orange became popular. The homes in Milford are close together, and as times changed, people wanted more space around them. I loved Woodmont. It has wonderful memories for me of my youth. It was a lovely place to grow up and everyone got along. Maybe we were different but we didn’t know the difference. The Woodmont of today is nothing like what it once was.
Estelle’s son, David Feinmark was present at the interview and has the following memories:
I remember walking down the beach with friends in a group of 8 or 10. The asphalt was hot and we were barefoot. We’d take towels and drag them with us—you’d never know what you’d catch. We packaged the shiners and sold them. We’d go down to the beach at 9 in the morning without an adult and would come home when the street lights came back on. There used to be a drugstore on Village Road owned by a Jewish man. Once, I bought ten dollar’s worth of gum, and I remember riding on my bike with bags full of gum hanging from the handlebars. When I got home, my mother made me go back and return it!