Home & Garden

Farmers of Fairfield: A History of Suzy Lane

625a87e238358f29b28b_20170223_215428.jpg
Girls posing for photo at Boulder Beach in Fairfield Credits: Mary Romano DeMaio
d6035dbde46ccc349a02_20170223_215448.jpg
Fairfield residents enjoy a sunny day at Boulder Beach Credits: Mary Romano DeMaio
55a29cec74fd4b19562e_20170223_215307.jpg
Romano's Pumpkin Patch in the 1950s with John, Tony and Mary Romano Credits: Mary Romano DeMaio
e6f4f86322cfbb2a264f_20170223_215409.jpg
Robert Henning, drowning victim at Boulder Beach in January 1960 Credits: Newark Sunday News, 1960
4a049a33284850939f7e_20170223_215348.jpg
Joseph Gambino, second drowning victim at Boulder Beach in January 1960. Credits: Newark Sunday News, 1960
79d7bba6f38f1cfba1ce_20170223_215526.jpg
Susie Romano with her mountain pinks Credits: Mary Romano DeMaio
76138667ef3bed041160_20170223_215610.jpg
Susie Romano with daughter, Mary, and son, John. Credits: Mary Romano DeMaio
9f1485e5005e0ee9bc70_20170223_215544.jpg
Perennials displayed out front of the Romano barn, rabbit cages and corn-husking shed Credits: Mary Romano DeMaio
664f1d5a322a27f656c8_20170223_215503.jpg
Boulder Beach Credits: Mary Romano DeMaio
6040db467b44d6b3754e_20170223_215329.jpg
New Development Near Suzie Lane Credits: Mary Romano DeMaio
625a87e238358f29b28b_20170223_215428.jpg

FAIRFIELD, NJ — Fairfield-area residents who have noticed a new road in Fairfield called Suzie Lane in the new development on Horseneck Road may be wondering who Suzie is. According to resident Mary Romano DeMaio, the road is named after her mother, Susie Matarazzo Romano, who owned and operated the historic Romano Farm along with her husband, Tony “Ruby” Romano.

The Romano farm, which was located on 33 acres in the area between Horseneck Road and Route 46, was once a place that DeMaio and her five siblings called home. Wanting to preserve her family’s history in Fairfield and all the other farms of the area, DeMaio agreed to an interview with TAPinto West Essex.

“So many people who saw the sign for Suzie Lane have approached me saying that they are so happy that my mom is being remembered in this way,” she said.

Sign Up for E-News

Susie Matarazzo Romano grew up farming. The story begins with her parents coming to the United States in the late 1800s from Naples and Avellino, Italy. They first settled in Hoboken then moved to Branchville to farm, but eventually they moved to Livingston to be closer to the Newark farmers’ market, where they sold a lot of their produce.

The Matarazzos then sold their Livingston farm to the Bottones, who farmed in Livingston from the 1920s to the 1990s, and moved to North Caldwell in 1921, where they farmed there for decades.

Susie lived with her parents even after she got married, but moved out when she was expecting her sixth child and room was running out at her mother’s house. Susie’s children were Canio “Sunny,” Carmela, Constantino “Gus,” Anthony, John and Mary Ann Romano DeMaio.

Mary Ann was the only child born in Fairfield, which at the time was part of Caldwell Township. (Fairfield did not become its own township until 1963. However, for the sake of this story, the area will be referred to as Fairfield.)

Susie and Ruby began a dairy farm in North Caldwell called Marigold Dairy. Ruby became the milkman. When asked if Ruby was a farmer, Mary said, “Well, after he married my mother, he was.” The whole family was expected to work on the farm, she said.

As a profession, Ruby worked as an operator engineer for construction, but the work was only for six months out of the year. To supplement the family income, farming was necessary, according to Mary.

When Susie spoke to Mrs. Kulick, a Fairfield resident, about having to move out from her mother’s farm, Kulick told Susie about the 33-acre property for sale on Horseneck Road, which was owned by the Bodkin family. The Romano family bought the property in 1943.

Kulick also advised Susie at the time that the property would be worth a lot someday due to rumors that the state was planning to install a highway nearby. It turned out that Mrs. Kulick was right.

Before Susie and Ruby moved to Fairfield, the couple sold the dairy farm and kept a few cows for their own use. They also raised chickens, pigs and turkeys and began farming mostly perennials, tomatoes, corn and pumpkins. In later years, the pumpkins were still visible from Horseneck Road. 

Mary said that they mostly raised the turkeys for Thanksgiving, and that her mother was very proud of the perennials they sold.

The original house had no electricity or running water—leaving the family to use the outhouse in the backyard and a tub set under a tree near the water pump for baths. It took 13 months of renovations before the house was ready for permanent family use, Mary said.

Before the Romanos bought the house, it had been rented out in the summers to visitors from the city who wanted to spend some time in the country. According to Mary, mostly teachers occupied the summer home so that they could enjoy and learn about the beauty of nature to bring back to their students.

The Bodkins, the previous owners, had a saw mill/lumber yard on the property. A tragic accident killed one of the Bodkin’s sons when his jacket got caught in the saw.

Mary tells a story about the family hearing strange noises in the house when they first moved in—ghostly noises. Her father would not believe his wife and children until one night he heard the noises himself.

The family called Father Beggans from St. Aloysius in Caldwell asking for a house blessing, and the noises stopped. The family thinks the ghost was that of Bodkin’s son.

Mary also has distinct memories of Leni Lenapi Native Americans coming to the farm in full Native-American attire to sell their handmade furniture.

“The tribe lived off of Route 23,” said Mary, whose memories include being frightened of them. “I remember holding on to my mother’s skirt.”

Many years ago, the Leni Lenapi tribe lived throughout the area of Fairfield and nearby towns such as Caldwell, West Caldwell, North Caldwell, Verona, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Roseland and parts of Livingston. The Leni Lenapis owned land of about 14,000 acres that was called the Horseneck Tract before selling it to the Dutch settlers in 1669 for $325 worth of goods.

The Native Americans lived especially around land near the Passaic River, where they had water and a source of food. Many early Fairfield residents, including Mary, remember finding arrowheads and other artifacts buried on their property.

Mary also said she remembers that there were no streetlights, and that some of the roads were dirt roads. Prior to 1945-46, when Route 46 came through, the part of Fairfield Road that currently runs parallel to Route 46 was the main road, called Route 6.

The building of Route 46 caused many changes in the small farming community. According to Mary, some were good and others were tragic.

In order to build the highway, she said, dirt was needed. Mary remembers the highway using dirt from their farm that caused a change the topography of their property. Instead of being rather flat, now there was a valley that still can be seen today when looking at the Commons on Route 46.

With the money the Romanos got from the state for the fill, they were able to build a barn for their animals. But the biggest change in the topography of the land in Fairfield was the formation of Boulder Beach, which has since been filled in and developed in the Cheri Lane and Birchtree Drive areas.

Many older residents remember Boulder Beach and the recreational activities that took place there. Mary remembers her relatives from Newark and other Essex County areas enjoying Boulder Beach.

“They would come for picnics and swimming in the summer and ice-skating in the winter,” she said.

When describing how Boulder Beach was formed, Mary said, “As fill for the highway was taken from the Cheri Lane area, two natural springs were found that developed a pond. Sand was brought in to create a beach, and that was how Boulder Beach was formed.”

One of the boulders from Boulder Beach decorates the outside of the township’s municipal building, and Mary said there is another boulder on Cheri Lane. Unfortunately, she said, Boulder Beach brought three terrible tragedies.

One summer day, a young boy drowned in the pond. It is said that the springs caused a natural whirlpool at times, and it seemed that the boy was taken in by the whirlpool.

The second tragedy occurred in 1960 when two local boys, Robert Henning, Jr., and Joseph Gambino, were ice-skating on the pond when they fell through the ice and drowned. Robert Henning was the 15-year-old son of then Caldwell Chief of Police Robert Henning, a resident of Hollywood Avenue. Joseph Gambino was a 16-year-old boy from Big Piece Road.  

The boys were ice-skating with Roy Zartman, 15, of Hollywood Ave., Joseph Kaiser, 12, of Big Piece Road, and his sister Linda Kaiser, 16, at the time.  Linda was the only one who did not fall into the pond.

According to the Mary, Robert Henning fell in first. Roy attempted to help, but fell into the pond as well, followed by Joseph Gambino, who tried to help them both. Then Joseph Kaiser tried to help, but he too fell into the pond.

No one was able to save Robert Henning and Joseph Gambino. Linda ran to get help, but it was too late. After these tragedies, the pond was closed for swimming and ice-skating.

Mary Ann went to St. Aloysius in Caldwell for grammar school and West Essex for high school. She remembers taking the bus to St. Aloysius from the Pollio farm on Fairfield Road with her Fairfield friends Mary Pollio, Peggy Dippel, Grace Androccio and Marilyn Grasso, to name a few.

At West Essex High School, Mary remembers the Fairfield students being called the “farmers from Fairfield” on the West Essex bus.  She graduated in 1966 and is now the successful co-owner of Richard V. Michael’s Salon on Fairfield Road. Mary and Rich have been married 35 years.

Rich started his business more than 50 years ago on Hollywood Avenue. The business moved to Fairfield Road in 1980 and is still there today. Mary and Rich now live in Montville Township.

This is the first story in a series of stories on the farmers of Fairfield. There is quite a long list of farmers who lived in Fairfield. There is only one remaining farm in the township—Fairfield Farms on Big Piece Road, owned and farmed by Sal and Joyce Francavilla.

Should anyone recognize any of the people in the old photos that are not labeled, they are encouraged to contact TAPinto West Essex at 973-943-3067 or dsantola@tapinto.net.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Essex

One Free Class at Cycle Bar Livingston

April 23, 2018

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Get a free ride at Cycle Bar Livingston. Livingston’s premium indoor cycling facility invites the public to sign up for their first ride free.

Click HERE to see the full class schedule.

During this week only, Cycle Bar is also participating in the Livingston Fitness Crawl, offering five days of free classes through Friday.  

Cycle Bar ...

Livingston Fitness Crawl: Five Days of Free Classes at 12 Livingston Businesses

LIVINGSTON, NJ — The public is invited to enjoy one free class at as many of Livingston’s fitness businesses as they would like during this week’s Livingston Fitness Crawl, a Livingston Business Improvement District event, beginning on April 23 and continuing through April 27.

For five days, no purchase is necessary at the following locations:

BARRE3 ...

Full Pet Grooming Service 25% OFF

LITTLE FALLS, NJ - Cloud Canine Grooming Salon & Spa in Little Falls is open for business and owner and pet stylist Melissa DiRoma is offering 25% off a FULL GROOMING SERVICE for all new customers. Call (973) 837-8884 or visit http://cloudcaninesalon.com to schedule your appointment. Mention promo code TAP DOG for discount. 

About Cloud ...

Free Wellness Event at The Joint Chiropractic

WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The public is invited to a "Wellness Event to Remember" at The Joint Chiropractic in West Caldwell on Thursday, April 19 from 7 p.m. to  9 p.m.

Guests will include:

Michael Piercy, owner of The Lab
Justyna Debski, owner of Revive Mind Body
Karen Caplan, owner of Nutrition Transitions

Join the ...

Luxury Facial Services 50% OFF

MILLBURN, NJ - DeAmour Salon & Spa is proud to announce its newest team member, Renee Rudikh, formerly of the famous Georgette Klinger Spa at the Short Hills Mall.

Rudikh has extensive experience and specializes in a plethora of facial styles including: deep pore cleansing/European, microdermabrasion with collagen, teenage, men's, back, LED and customized European ...

Imperial Lawns - FREE Lawn Treatment

Fairfield, NJ - As a special thank you Imperial Lawns is now offering a FREE GRUB CONTROL TREATMENT when you sign-up for a full season 5-Application lawn care program. Call 973-882-7598 or visit www.imperiallawns.com and enter the word: SPRING in the Special "Discount Section" of the online Form to receive this great offer. 

ACT ...

West Essex Baseball's Max Ruvo Named Athlete of the Week

April 20, 2018

NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The West Essex High School baseball team is off to a hot start, and a major reason for it has been the play of star outfielder Max Ruvo, who has been named as TAPinto West Essex’s first Athlete of the Week for the Spring 2018 season.

“I’m just trying to do what helps the team best,” said Ruvo. “Everyone is rallying around each other ...

Women Need Better Treatment Behind Bars, Lawmakers Say

April 24, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - Middlesex County Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) held a roundtable discussion on Monday with criminal justice reform advocates and formally incarcerated women to discuss legislation Lopez and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle are introducing, modeled after legislation Booker introduced in the Senate, to reform the way women are treated behind ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_732109b0232dbbe15c56_ffpl_logo_with_address

Thu, April 26, 10:30 AM

Fairfield Free Public Library, Fairfield

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)


Arts & Entertainment Education

Thu, April 26, 4:00 PM

Alzheimer's NJ Headquarters, Roseland

Alzheimer's 101

Education

Thu, April 26, 4:00 PM

Fairfield Free Public Library, Fairfield

Pre-K Storytime

Arts & Entertainment Education

CCM to Present "The Dance of Life," a Celebration of Playwright Henrik Ibsen’s "A Doll’s House"

April 25, 2018

RANDOLPH, NJ — The Music, Dance and Performing Arts department at County College of Morris (CCM) will present The Dance of Life: A Celebration of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” on Thursday, April 26, and Friday, April  27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Performance Art Lab located in the Music Technology Center. It is opened the public and admission is ...

Obituaries

- Apr 20, 2018
Robert T. Pipczynski, 72, of Caldwell, NJ, passed away Friday, April 20, 2018, at the Veterans ...
Read more
Nov 22, 1941 - Apr 14, 2018
Barbara Ann Barretti (nee Ernst), 76, of North Caldwell passed away on Saturday, April 14, 2018. A ...
Read more
Nov 28, 1947 - Apr 13, 2018
Barry Wachtler, 70, a lifelong resident of Fairfield, New Jersey passed away on Friday April 13, ...
Read more
Sep 8, 1940 - Apr 1, 2018
Russell Talamo, 77, of Fairfield, New Jersey, passed away early on Easter morning, Sunday, April 1, ...
Read more
- Apr 3, 2018
Obituary of Melvina Caputo Melvina C. Caputo, 82, of Caldwell, NJ, passed away on Tuesday, April ...
Read more
Jul 14, 1934 - Apr 3, 2018
Patrick Joseph Moran, 83, of North Caldwell, died on April 3, 2018. Relatives and friends are ...
Read more
Obituary of Margaret Sullivan Margaret L. Sullivan Loving Mother, Grandmother & Great ...
Read more
Jun 13, 1926 - Apr 29, 2018
Helen Manna (nee Dudnick), 91, of Fairfield, New Jersey, passed away on Thursday, March 29, 2018.
Read more
May 12, 1924 - Mar 28, 2018
Cuozzo, Rose (nee Giovinco), 93, of West Caldwell, New Jersey passed away on Wednesday, March ...
Read more
Jun 10, 1947 - Mar 21, 2018
Joseph A. Masone, Jr., 70, of Bloomfield, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Joe ...
Read more

Lock Down Initiated After Stray Bullet Found at Morristown High School

April 24, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ -  Morristown High School was on a school-wide lock down as of 1 p.m. on Tuesday after a stray bullet was discovered on the athletic fields of the school. 

Police were on the scene and currently investigating the incident. The school initiated a "shelter in place," which means instruction continued as students stayed in their ...

Letter to the Editor: Don't Complain. Vote!

April 12, 2018

Don’t Complain; Vote!

It’s no secret that people have strong feelings about what’s happening in our country. It’s also true that much of politics is local. In November, 11th District residents will have the opportunity to choose a new congressional representative who will not only serve as a critical check on the federal level, but also determine how our distract fares ...

Cluelessly Clueless

I teenaged my way through high school under the assumption that my parents had no idea what I was doing.  I like to think I was pretty good at withholding information and presenting situations in ways that were other than they really were.

 

Still, sometimes they found things out.  Like the time my friends plopped me on our front door step at one o'clock in the morning ...