1 \c FINAL COPY TAPED INTERVIEW - Ray Ditzel
2 Ray Ditzel side B only It is October 15, 1980, I'm Ab Jackson and this interview is being made for the Westfield Historical Society and the Oral History Committee of the Westfield Library. Tonight, we will be talking with Ray Ditzel, a long-time resident and businessman of older Westfield. We are sitting in Ray's charming living room in Jenson Beach, Florida, the beautiful, tropical part of Florida to which Ray retired six years ago. Am I right on that, Ray? Ah, well, Ray, I think it's time we should start to jog your memory about the good old days in Westfield. Ah, Ray, ah, well, first, before we start, since, well, maybe some folks are interested... would be interested in knowing just where you've got yourself anchored down now. Give me or give us your, your, your full formal living address now, since it's all changed. Go ahead. Well, I live at 4101 Northeast Cheri Drive, Jenson Beach, Florida. That's good. I bet that's C-h-e-r-i... That's right. I figured it was. Well, anyway, let's get started on this thing. Ah, tell me about how you first were introduced to Westfield way back when. They tell me you got born in this town. Well, I was born on January the 16th, 1912, over Hohenstein's Feed Store on Prospect Street... Way before me, go ahead.... that was... that is now, ah, George Worth's luncheonette, operated by his son, Tom. And, I can remember when I was about six, seven years old standing in front of that store and watching the team of horses come down with a dumper wagon that was owned by the town and they would... when the fire bell rang, they would come along and they would unhook
3 Ditzel, p. 2 the horses from the dump truck and hook 'em up to a hook 'n' ladder'in front of the Westfield Firehouse. That's what they used for moving those machines around? That's what they used for moving those machines around. Urn hm. Were there a lot of wagons and stuff in the area, this time in the... this time in Westfield? Oh, yes, there were many horses and wagons. In fact, right out in front of the railroad station, there was a great big fountain there with a watering trough for horses, and those people would go by... Oh, wait. Where, where? Right in front of the railroad station on North Avenue. Okay. And across from that, John Frank's father had a small shoeshine store that included felt hats... Danny, Frank's and John's brother, and I used to play around the neighborhood there together. You, see, that's when you were really young... when you enjoyed life. Right. We were talking a little earlier and, ah, we mentioned you could remember different locations at the, that the, Post Office was located in. I don't know where it is now on Elm Street, er, on Central Avenue. I know it's on Central Avenue now. But that's the only location I've ever known. Tell me about, ah... Well, the first one I ever remember was on Elm Street, opposite Quimby Street, where Meisel's Stationery Store was, and then they moved from there into the building that's now occupied by Made in America. But they had remodeled that considerably. Prior to the Made in America, there was an Acme Food Store in there.
4 Ditzel, p. 3 I can remember that. Ah, well, I don't remember what the day was.i. you see, I'm getting old now just as you are, so it's o.k. Heh, heh. Aw, shucks. What else do you remember back in there? Well, I can remember Windfeldt's Store, which was on East Broad Street Yeah, in between Elm Street and Prospect Street, in a building on the righthand side going east, and they used to have, oh, maybe four or five electric trucks at the road to deliver orders to the people around the town. So, there were horse-and-wagons and there were electric trucks. There was electric trucks. How about that? Eventually getting back into those things, I suppose, and making a lot of money or something of it. Um, here, what about, ah, you'd mentioned, ah, war bond drives in Westfield. I never saw one of those. Well, it was in, the one thing I remember distinctly was, um, ah, First World War, I was about six years old, when a man climbed up the front of a building up in Plainfield and, ah, we met him and he came down to Westfield and, ah, see if he could climb a building in Westfield to promote war bonds drive. Garbled. And I can remember they came down Elm Street from Plainfield, whether they walked all the way or not, I don't know. But he came down Broad
5 Ditzel, p. 4 Street to what is the John Dughi building on the corner of Prospect Street and Broad Street where the Roth and Schlenger used to be, and he climbed up the front of that building, but I honestly can't say from what else he did, but that I don't remember. You probably did, but you were a kid and you were running around and not paying attention by that time. But, across the street alongside the People's Bank, they had a great big cannon there and people came with bugles and one thing or another and were banging on drums for a little excitement to sell some war bonds. And I gather they sold some. They did, I believe. Yeah, I betcha they did. Tell me about Mindowaskin Park dedication. You said you saw or remembered that. That was... well, that would be a few years later. I remember some of it. I remember seeing tons of rocks in there and people dressed as Indians and colonial attire and there was a big celebration but the ins and outs of it, I can't tell too much from. But about when in there, can you remember? About 1920, you say? I would say so, somewhere in there. Now, when you were a kid, you had to do something that was fun, like fishing. Yes, well, my father used to take my brother and I out to Echo Lake... that was real country there. There was an old building alongside of the lake which I think it belonged to the Parkhurst family and that was a little old icehouse there. And we used to go in there and catch some sunfish and not too much of that...
6 Ditzel, p. 5 Now, don't make 'em too big, now. We know about fish stories; they're believable... The other place we used to go fishing was Silver Lake, which is more... Never heard of it.... which is now Surprise Lake. Aw, heard of that. And there was a little pond off of Mountain Avenue in Mountainside in back of a little chapel there, and we used to put a net in there and throw some bread crumbs in it and we'd catch some little fish with bait feeding them one thing or another, and then go to Silver Lake and we'd rent a little rowboat off a man by the name of Ayres. He owned a lot about the mountain there, especially where the lake was. And I believe part of that property of his is where the horse stable... riding stable was up there on top of the mountain. What'd they call it here? Well, there was hard enough to get up to Silver Lake, and I don't know what they called "Potluck Hill." Potluck Hill. My father and a man by the name of Glasser ran a stationery store when I was a kid on Broad Street. When we went up there to go fishing and when Mr. Glasser forgot to put enough gas in the car and it started up Potluck Hill and ran out of gas and then had to back down and turned it around and back it up the rest of the hill. Good enough. There were many people that came from the cities that camped up around that lake. Mr. Ayres, he rented out campsites there, and if you went up
7 Ditzel, p. 6 * there at six o'clock in the morning, you'd see a lot of bonfires with a coffee pot out and a little tent and people just camped there for a vacation by the lake. That was the country. That was the country. In those days. Real country. Well, I guess, it was, Westfield was a small town, really, in those days, and in a minute, I want to ask you if you can remember early newspapers; maybe you didn't even need too much... As I remember about small towns and communications. Most everybody knew everybody else and whatever you did, it seems that your neighbor got to learn about it without too much delay, especially if it was something you're not supposed to do. Anyway, what newspapers did we have back in there? ^TV MS.VSN.O^'^ Well, when I was... well, there was the Westfield Standard and that seemed to be a hit and miss proposition through the years and finally faded away and, of course, at that same time, there was the Westfield Leader... Um hm.... which is still going strong. It's still plenty strong. Yes, indeed. You mentioned then, when we were talking earlier, there used to be a Vaudeville house in Westfield. Well, Harry Taylor had a hardware store that was known as Taylor's Hardware... Where it is now?... where it is now on Elm Street, but it has since been divided in half,
8 Ditzel, p. 7 when I was there this summer. Yeah, right; yeah, that's right. Well, that was a theatre in there and in the basement were the bowling alleys. And they had matinees and evening movies there and... Even live shows, sometimes?... they had some vaudeville shows, anyway, I think they... I don't ever remember them, but I think probably for a few plays that would come there. Urn hm. Well, we can remember horse and wagons and electric cars, or rather electric trucks, you said, trolley tracks? Yes, there was trolleys that ran along all the way down from Dunellen down into Elizabeth and Newark and I can remember having a pretty heavy snow, why they had a pretty big wreck trying to get out a great big snow broom out in front of them and that pushed the snow into where the cars had to go but the trolley went through. And the cars didn't make it? And the cars didn't make it. Crossing Broad Street, downtown Broad Street, there was a red brick road and it was later on, it was blacktopped. Blacktopped? Um hm. Did the trolley go down by the Plaza or was that before the Plaza was built? Well, there was a bridge to the east of the present Plaza bridge where you went underneath the railroad and at that particular point and I am almost sure that the trolleys went through that.
9 Ditzel, p. 8 Underneath there. And there used to be a... I know my father worked for Hohenstein's Feed Store and drove a horse and wagon delivering hay and grain, I would go with him on occasions and there used to be a railroad crossing up there at Tuttle's Lumber Yard; it went across into West Broad Street. I can't tell the exact position of it, but I know it was there and we went across it many times. Urn hm. What kind of trouble did you used to get into on Halloween up there? Did you do the things that I did? Mmm, not too much, no. I don't want to age you too fast up into the present, but once upon a time, you were a pretty heavy businessman in Westfield, but that started back, on, you can tell me about where that starts, but I'm interested before the business occurred there, when you used to be Fink's Garage. Tell us about that. Well, I wasn't too heavy on the business end, but... Well,... Fink's Garage, my father worked there when I was, oh, nine or ten years old and... Just where was that, Ray? Right next door to Taylor's Hardware, where the Citgo Station was, where they had quite a controversy over and they just tore it down. Right. Okay, I know about that. Hiram Fink first started before any time that I can remember with a twostory building where they built wagons, painted wagons; it was a twostory building they built wagons on the ground floor and painted the
10 Ditzel, p. 9 wagons on the second floor. There was an elevator in there that you <r work with long ropes and the counterbalance and they'd pull the wagons up on the second floor and then paint them. Nice arrangement. And, as time went on, the automobile came into the scene. They built a building... Before we get into cars, Ray, in this garage of Fink's or rather painting the wagons in it, they had other facilities back in there, you mentioned. They had a whole complex of stuff. That's right. They ran a shop there where they could make tops for wagons and I don't know what else, bottoms or backs couldn't have been bound at that time, it was some kind of cloth and they... Canvas or something? Canvas and they also had a blacksmith shop there and then when the automobile did come it, they had an upholstry shop there and also made tops for tin cars and side curtains, new seats. In a blacksmith shop. And that eventually led them into the automobile business... That's right. I remember a big red brick building that was right there near the sidewalk and on the second floor there was a beautiful apartment. And then right around the back part of the property was enclosed and that... Fink's Garage at that time sold oil lamps. That's a while back. That's a while back. Um hm. And then I guess the Depression came around after the war was over and they went out of business and sold Chrysler products. And then the De-
11 Ditzel, p. 10 pression came along and I... really don't know what happened then,/but the building sat there for some time. Pretty soon, City Service Oil Company came along and rented it on a long lease and they tore the front part of the building off and moved it back a hundred feet or so and that's where the gas pumps and automobiles that was... And it was City Service? And it was City Service. Um hm. And then they had problems with Bernard Jager in 1945; he left in 1960, and I operated from '60 to '72 by myself. So, really, in the... you were really operating there from '45 to '72. That's right. That's a long haul. Long haul. Well, Ray, I want to thank you for your memories. I know for sure that the Historical Society will be surprised and pleased and I want to thank you on their behalf. And I hope that you have much good luck in the future and 20 years from now, you can remember a lot of things about Jenson Beach, Florida. So, you take care and we will say good night. Thank you and good night. «, TaRe care, Kay. Thank you.