Recollections of Eleanor Farrell
A Personal Story
As told By: Eleanor Farrell
To: Nancy Heins-Glaser
During production of “Once Upon a Gaslight: A Walking Tour of South Orange” These were handwritten during one of our many visits in 2003
Buddy came home from the war. Only his wife was waiting for him. He went to work for his father in the park. We were just a couple of kids. We met at school, and I got my first kiss at Gruning’s - our first time to hold hands. I used to look in the mirror at myselfand wonder what he saw in me? My husband Buddy was the first to enlist for World War II and he was so proud of that. I was too.
We lived in the house at the park for 10 years before they tore it down to build the new pool in the 1970’s. The pool did not have a chlorinating system, and you often put your feet in the water just to clean off but it was not so clean then.
For more than 80 years, I spent most of my life at the pool. They used to have to empty it every week because there was no chlorine in the early days. There was not shared swimming between boys and girls. Boys used to swim from 1 to 3. Girls used to swim from 3 to 5.
I was a former junior librarian working part time, working on the catalogues and covering books. I did this for 23 years until I retired at 72. I used to work for 1.75 per hour but I felt it could help my son go to Seton Hall; well, eventually he did and he has gone on to be successful in life. It was a great opportunity following the death of my beloved husband Buddy to work there. I continue to stay involved and attend library talks.
We lived in the Taylor house which used to be the Ramosa home (from Ramosa’s Bakery,) but the house was torn down; it was located in what is now the library parking lot. Then we lived in the park house. It was torn down to make way for the new pool. We used to sneak into the pool at night and we had a comfortable life and had a lovely home.
Don Plattner was Village Administrator and they helped make a beautiful kitchen for us. In the basement of the Park House was the girls changing room, with 8 showers and 8 bathrooms. It was a lovely big house and when we moved in we made some upgrades. Rich went to Korea and really never came home. My one son had a chance to walk to the middle school because the house was right next door.
We used to have picnics every Tuesday in the park which were sponsored by the town and everyone would bring their own food.
Fourths of July were a big deal with hot dogs. We used to have fireworks in Grove Park back in the day. Mr. Farrell was in charge of the parks (Eleanor’s father-in-law.) Mr. Farrell is how everyone referred to Buddy’s father.
Eleanor’s father was an ice man in town; there was an opening for caretaker and he did this for 45 years.
Dr. Brown was the obstetrician. Her husband’s sisters were born in the home in the park (Buddy’s sister) who was living in Pennsylvania.
Mom learned English and had immigrated from Warsaw; the name was Kankowski. Her parents met at a parade in 1920 and her brothers were firemen in the village. There were five kids in the family: Eleanor Kankowski (Farrell,) Helen Kankowski and Stella Kankowski (Locker). There were two boys, Joe Kankowski (Meeker Street) and Charles (Clark St.) and most everyone was born and raised in South Orange. One of my sisters-in-law lived close by on Meeker Street, Barbara Kankowski. Everyone grew up in South Orange and just stayed on.
When Buddy came home from the war, there were the little cement apartments – small houses where we stayed, these were right off the park and we were able to stay there because of the GI Bill. I took a course in public speaking but the only time I ever spoke was at my retirement party at the library.
They say you should live every day – and my days consist of living and loving but I do have so many beautiful memories. They say you should not live in the past. Sometimes I do live in the past but I have so many beautiful memories and I didn’t have to have a fancy address, but I was happy someone gave me a kind word – that was enough for me. A friend of my husband’s writes me letters from Texas to keep in touch.
My mother and father were hardworking and grew up on Christopher Street in Orange – just two people who came from Europe and owned, they worked hard enough and were lucky to own their own home. They were practical, sensible and had a good strong work ethic. I’ll never change that about me – that’s me too.
Fortunately I was able to pay my bills, stay in my home, so I can’t complain. I am very, very close to my sister Stella who still lives here. I went to Valley Church and made my Holy Communion and confirmation there and got married in the wooden church (original Our Lady of Sorrows Church.) A person’s religion doesn’t mean as much as long as you are good to others and one has success and happiness. Because of the emphasis on family, I just like everyone. I find my happiness at senior meetings. One of the nice things? My granddaughter became a librarian.
In my 1939 Columbia High School yearbook, someone once wrote to me: “To the Girl Who Always Smiles.” The gal who wrote that was Hilda (Hill) Lang. Some of the other notes say things like: “Lots of luck to a sweet girl” or “Best of luck to a winking girl” or “Best of luck to a budding artist with lovely hair.“ Another comment was, “As one historian to another.”
We had our 50th reunion and I can tell you that we talked about how life was more simple then. We didn’t have television - we simply paid more attention. I think I am a success in my own little way because I never got involved in arguments with my kids and they have stayed together – they never talk about each other to me. Here’s hoping all the world gives you the best – just what you deserve.
TYPED AS HANDWRITTEN TO ME BY ELEANOR FARRELL
One of our private conversations in 2003. I only hope I typed this correctly from handwritten notes of long ago. (Eleanor would not be pleased with me if I haven’t gotten the spirit of her words right.) She wouldn’t care if it was exactly right - just that the spirit of her words were there.
Nancy Heins-Glaser June 14, 2013