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A Lifetime Of Yesterdays 4/16/24

Updated: Apr 29

Growing up in Rumson, NJ, during the 70s was an opaque experience. Sure, we dealt with the have/have not issues as residents. The trouble is that those of us considered have nots had more than many others throughout the state and country. I felt tucked in a tight, gooey cocoon of people like me. The sheath ensured less danger and exposure to others who might dilute our heritage and introduce the habits of commoners. That said, my dad was a blue-collar guy. He did well and provided for the four of us. No one ever had to worry that we would run the risk of lowering the average household income in our toney town.


I often refer to my neighborhood as "the mean streets of Rumson." We lived up the street from the borough garage, police station, and boat ramp. This area had its advantages. We were close to the schools, firehouse, first aid station, and a budding commercial area with restaurants, bars, and one or two nick-nack places. You couldn't avoid the daily fire siren, which wailed to let everyone know it was noon. What a bonus. I always thought it was like Fred Flintstone's boss pulling the birds' tail to sound the alarm that work was over for the day. 

On my street, the occupants of the homes were masons, builders, and contractors. Add a local cop or two; the area was well-stocked to serve the rest of the town's needs. My dad was an HVAC mechanic; he had a good business doing AC work and refrigeration at homes and restaurants in the area. He worked hard from morning through noon and at night if needed. My mom was the clerical part of the business, Frank J. Farber Air Conditioning and Refrigeration. She had an office in the basement where she lived all day, keeping him busy. The area now consists of fewer and fewer old homes. They are now multi-million dollar places where you can spit across the lawn. The people living in them are considered relatively wealthy. They are rich enough to spend a couple of million dollars to carry a Rumson address, but... It's like being a minority and getting into Harvard. Once you're in, you will have the moniker forever, opening many doors and closing none. 

In 1975, I entered Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School while my sister, Karen, had graduated and was heading off to college. RFH was a whole new experience for everyone. For many of us, it was surreal as we would have daily contact with new people from a different town and school system. Students from Rumson would spend the next four years learning and playing with kids from Fair Haven. It would include many of our first experiences with people who were black. At the time, there weren't any black families who lived in Rumson, but they were coming and would arrive soon in a golden parachute of wealth accretive to everything financial. By comparison, it seems that the black population has grown somewhat. In the 2000 census, a whopping .06 percent of the 7000-plus population of the town was black. The fit-to-be-tied combination of segregation and integration. A social festoon if there ever was one in five square miles of prime Rumson real estate.

I remember feeling different walking around the high school. Particularly in an area nicknamed "the cave," a separate space off the cafeteria's side. There were some tables and chairs there, seating about a dozen people. The black students gathered there and made the space their own. It had separate steps and doors leading outside or to the gym. Passing through the cave brought real or imagined looks and comments if you were white. I did this frequently, developing relationships with black men and women I maintain today. I was pale white with blond hair, thin as a rail, but somehow a wise guy. My words kept me unbalanced and aloof, which helped make me who I am. 

I remember what my mom said to me after we sold a company I worked for, and I was fortunate to have a piece of it. It was in late 2008, and we had already built a home and family. "Are you going to buy a house in Rumson now?" she said. I laughed out loud and said, "No, we like it where we are in Tinton Falls." After my parents passed early in 2019, I inherited the home I grew up in. I was the only heir, as my beautiful sister had passed ten years prior. I would sell it shortly after cleaning it out. No real estate agent was needed for this 1461-square-foot corner lot with a small lawn. We had multiple offers from desperate people looking to wear the soul patch at 93 Blackpoint Road. Who would have guessed?

Where you live becomes much of who you are, whether you or anyone else likes it. My wife would say it took a few years to dull the self-inflicted sheen I wore. I would return the comment saying she needed some buffing after growing up in Matawan. We settled in Tinton Falls because that was all we could afford in 1998. While my career would take off one day, it would take years of trying and failing first. She kept the lights on while I tried to figure out what I was good at. The journey lay within the years, tears, and beers it would take me to get there. We would build a home and life together like everyone else, without practice or a plan to guide us. Everything we tried had to be tried and tried yet again, but we would get it right eventually.

Peace, Chris

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2 comentários

Chris you did an amazing job explaining the realities and challenges of where we grew up. And what the merging of our two towns for high school felt like. Your description of the cave is pretty accurate. It was the one place in the school where as a black student, we knew we belonged. And felt safe.

Keep writing and fighting my friend.

Respondendo a

I did my best. I have always felt welcome wherever people gathered. My best to you, FB, and yours. Life is some journey, so glad we can connect again. CF


About Chris

Christian J. Farber

After a thriving corporate career, Chris now enjoys retirement at the Jersey Shore. As a prostate cancer survivor, he's committed to educating men about the disease and covers various topics like Alcoholism, Multiple Sclerosis, and Career Success in his featured writing on platforms such as The Good Men Project, Huffington Post, and Thrive Global.

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