Weichert Realtors John Tunny and Mary Weichert took a deep dive into some Chatham history with longtime resident Liz Holler, the author of the 2005 book "My Town by a River".
Here's what they found out from their interview with Holler.
Q: What was the inspiration behind your book "My Town by a River"?
Holler: Another Chatham resident, MaryAnn Mann and I were co-editors of the newsletter for the Chatham Historical Society during the 1990s. We decided to perk up the newsletter with something new. I offered to write some short essays about historical events and people. These stories seemed to be well-received. The leaders of the Historical Society gathered stories I had written for the newsletter for over 10 years and asked if they could publish them in a book. I said okay. What a nice compliment. My older sister, Anne, has written and published a few books. Anyway....I asked to dedicate the book to my late parents, Fred and Willi Holler.
Q: Can you name a few of your favorite memories of Chatham?
Holler: The memory of walking with my grandfather, when I was a pre-schooler, down Chatham's Main Street, visiting all the different storekeepers. They all knew my grandfather. Some memories of 1950s Main Street and the downtown personalities still come back to me. And I remember Chatham Methodist Church when it was on Center Street. My sister and I played with Bill Kelley's daughters at 18 Center St. when we were little. Bill's grandfather, Frank Kelley, developed Center Street in the 1880s. The street was informally called "Kelley's Elbow". You can see the curve in the original Center Street as it veers onto Center Place.
I enjoyed all the Fourth of July celebrations throughout the years in Chatham; the Christmas Tree burnings in the Milton Avenue woods, usually the night of the Epiphany, the official end of the Christmas season.
Q: What changes have you seen over the years, good and maybe not so good?
Holler: It's nice seeing the young kids in my neighborhood still playing out in the street - as my friends and I did in the early 1960s. Recently I showed them the manhole covering, still existing, which served as home plate in our kickball games. The small, cozy "mom & pop" stores are not happening as much these days, as in the 1950s and 1960s. But the current stores and restaurants are colorful and exciting, and I wish them well.
Q: What's your current role at town hall and the library?
Holler: At town hall, I attend a number of board meetings and commission meetings. I take down the minutes, type them up, and when they are approved, they are officially put in the Borough Minutes books and on the Borough website. I also help realtors with the CCO applications, preparing for inspections by the Zoning Officer. At the Chatham Library, I work three nights a week as "a page" filing back books and DVDs that patrons have taken out and returned.
Q: Did you have any favorite restaurants/stores growing up?
Holler; There were a number of fun stores. There was Ginny Burr's Gift Shop at 242 Main St., where Pour HoMMe now operates. Ms. Burr had wonderful greeting cards, knick-knacks, very affordable for us young kids on a small budget. She was very patient and nice ot us kids.
Patterson's Newspaper Store, on the corner of Main Street and S. Passaic Avenue, now the Taste of Asia restaurant. We kids bought our candy, comic books, baseball cards there. Our fathers bought their newspapers, cigars, cigarettes and liquor there. Frank Patterson, who ran it, was a local guy, who was a former basketball star at Colgate University years ago. He was well-liked by the high school boys and helped coach basketball in his spare time. Also was a fireman. He added a certain glamour to the store.