Tales of LHS

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A Safe, Happy Place to Grow Up
by Joanne Huskey Grady

After 1968, I never really came back to Livingston except for short visits, even though my father was Town Councilman for many years, and Mayor for two. But those formative years of life were stable and laid an important foundation.  It is interesting to think about the fact that the years we were in high school, 1965-1968, were really bridge years between the early 60’s when our nation was calm and comfortable, and the late 60’s and early 70’s when many Americans lost their faith in their government because they lied to us about Vietnam, and we began to question everything.  Although the Civil Rights movement was raging in the south when we were in high school, the closest I ever really got to it was going to so-called, “Consciousness Raising” sessions with Eleanor Jennings in downtown Newark, where we met with black kids and talked about race.  I would, then, come home and grill my parents about why we lived in an all white town. Of course we did have our minorities… Roger Tsien was the smartest kid in our class!

But as I look upon those growing up years, they were safe and easy and predictable in ways we can’t count on 50 years later.  Playing hide and seek on Cobblewood Road with Karen Goodman and Diane Laurilliard. Going to St. Philomena’s School with the Catholic mafia… Jane Winberry, Sharon Conway, GJ Semler, Jimmer Glynn, Peter Desch, Miles Dotto, Kathy Burns, and so many more… Meeting Mindy Wilensky at a sleep over party in 4th grade.  Going to Y dances with Beverly Huber and Leigh Hunziker, and going down the shore with my Y group and Mrs. Mathiesias. Getting to know Nellie Nugiel who brought new ideas and style to our town. We could count on friends hanging at the courts, or swimming at the Livingston pool in the summer. Football games were a place to see everyone and feel the autumn leaves and cool air, and although we liked to win, it wasn’t all that competitive or mean spirited. There was a kindness.  Everyone was decent to Joey Falcone and made sure he was OK.  People knew each other around town at Silvermans, or Seymours, or the Friendly’s Ice Cream store. On Sunday, families would meet at St. Phil’s for mass, or, on Friday, for services at the temple.

And the two sides of town… the Mr. Pleasant kids and the Heritage kids— came together in high school and got to know each other, and we were all invited to each other’s Sweet Sixteen parties.  Of course we had the “hoods” and the “frats” but everyone was cool with each other.

We all knew that Cal Nordt was a great football player, and Ellen Lenox had the most school spirit, Pat Culbertson was always going to the the best looking, Angel and Ralph were a great couple, and Jeannie Panagakos would be the most likely to succeed, but we weren’t divided by our politics, or scared of terrorism.

Livingston was a nice place to grow up In those years, where American values flourished.  We just didn’t know then, how much life in America would change in 50 years. Not only is Livingston not quite the same, but the US has lost some of that small town cohesiveness.  It will be great to be reminded of it all and reconnect with old friends and a past that holds warm memories at the 50th reunion.


Remembering the man behind Don’s Drive-In
Not from a classmate, but it’s good!
By Kathleen O’Malley, Patch Poster
(Published 12/9/09)

It’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that everyone who lived in the Livingston area between the mid-1950s and mid-1990s fondly remembers Don’s Restaurant, originally Don’s Drive-In. It was friendly, affordable and served great food, qualities that reflected the personality and talents of its founder and owner, Donald Roth, who passed away just before Thanksgiving at 83. It is sad to know Roth is gone, but he left thousands of people with many happy memories of a Livingston institution. For those who don’t remember Don’s, it was located on the corner of South Orange Avenue and Hobart Gap Road, where Tutor Time Child Care is today. It served hamburgers, deli-style sandwiches, soups, milk shakes, ice cream and other casual American fare, and it featured an on-site bakery and deli.Its hamburgers, with several variations such as the pizza burger, were the tastiest in the world according to many fans, though every customer seemed to have a second favorite, such as the beef stew, onion rings or chicken salad. Every table was supplied with tangy cole slaw and half-sour pickles, on the house. In its heyday, Don’s seated 250 diners and had about 10,000 customers a week, many of them regulars who came for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There was always a wait at peak times.

Roth himself was almost always there to greet customers, often by name.

“He was great with names and faces,” remembers his oldest son, Bob. “He had a wonderful sense of humor and was great at telling jokes.” The restaurant evolved and grew in size over the years to accommodate extra business, but it always had a simple, cheerful décor, with red being the dominant color. In the 1980s, Roth made a quirky and enormously successful design choice, festooning the walls with large black and white photos of customers enjoying Don’s food. “Didn’t we all secretly wish our picture was on the wall?” reminisces Jeff Brodman, who was a college student from West Orange at the time. Roth opened the restaurant in 1954 as Don’s Drive-In, with classic Fifties car- hop service as well as an indoor dining room. A veteran of World War II and a college graduate, he had been looking for a career for a few years. Roth’s father was a surgeon at Newark Beth Israel but apparently did not push him to go into medicine, according to Bob Roth. Instead, after trying the business world for a few years, Roth more or less followed in the footsteps of his mother, Grace, who was “a fantastic cook,” as her grandson put it. Most of Livingston was downright rural when Don’s opened. Farms stood on the sites of Livingston Mall and most of today’s residential neighborhoods. But the location on a major east-west road (this was well before I-280 opened) was a smart choice that paid off increasingly over the years as the area built up. In those early days there were plenty of baby-boom teenagers with cars who gladly became regulars, as well as families with small children who enjoyed the adventure of eating in the back of the family station wagon.

Grace Roth helped her son get the restaurant off the ground with some of her recipes, including beef stew, chili and onion rings. All of those items were “keepers” and stayed on the menu for more than 40 years. Roth came up with his own recipes as well, including the legendary hamburgers, and he invented the pizza burger. “He was always adding new menu items to keep people interested,” recalls Bob Roth. “He copyrighted the pizza burger. I don’t know if it matters [legally], but he invented it.” Indeed, a 1967 placemat from Don’s proclaims it to be the “Home of the Pizza-Burger.” Roth was a stickler about quality down to the last detail. Bob Roth, who did a stint at the fry station as a young man, remembers his father buying the biggest onions he could fine because they made the best onion rings, and how “he was always particular about the shortening” used to fry them. Everything was made on the premises, including the hamburger rolls (after Roth built the bakery). Roth was also very conscious about keeping his prices reasonable. “He thought long and hard about price increases,” recalls Bob Roth. Above all, his son said, Roth “wanted people to leave satisfied. He thought that was the key to success, getting repeat customers.” Roth patiently listened to his customers’ complaints and requests, which is probably why Don’s was a pioneer of the no-smoking section way back in the late 1970s.

Running a restaurant with such personal investment meant Roth was usually there and worked very hard. His son remembers him saying that in the early days he often slept at the drive-in because there was so much work to be done whether the restaurant was open or closed. Still, he found time to have a life outside of Don’s. His wife, Carol, a native of Livingston, was a waitress there before becoming Mrs. Roth in 1959, and the mother of their six children. The family lived in Morristown before settling in Mendham in 1968. Roth managed to have another great passion: golf. “He lived for golf,” says Bob Roth, and the restaurant actually accommodated this very well. Roth could be at Don’s for the lunch crowd, dash out and play nine holes at Mountain Ridge Country Club, then be back to take down names during the dinner rush. Since his work was busiest when the courses were most crowded, and he was off when everyone else was at work, he had no trouble getting tee times. Roth also “definitely enjoyed cooking,” confirms Bob Roth. Especially in his retirement, he loved cooking for his wife and family. When all six children and their families made a surprise visit to Florida for his 80th birthday, Roth joyfully made breakfast for all of them.

All of the Roth children tried worked at Don’s at some point, but none of them shared their father’s passion for the restaurant business. Like his father before him, Roth didn’t push his children to take over the restaurant, though he had some hope for son Bob, who worked at Don’s the longest, for three years.Bob Roth ultimately joined the Navy as a pilot and credits his father for giving him the freedom to do that.

“He worked hard and we [children] all got a good work ethic from his example, but he wanted us to do what we loved.” The one child who came closest to following in Roth’s footsteps is daughter Jackie, who is in the deli business in Seattle. So, when Roth was ready to retire in the early 1990s, he sold the restaurant. Unfortunately, according to Bob Roth, the buyers were not experienced in food service, so the restaurant limped to a close a few years later. It was a sad end to a great restaurant, but then again it just couldn’t be Don’s without Don Roth there to breathe life into it. Asked about an Internet rumor that the hamburgers were still sold in a couple of area stores, Bob Roth told Patch, “Not to my knowledge. But I wish I could have one of his cheeseburgers right now.” Amen.

My Last Night at Don’s
by Joanne Huskey

It was the night before I left for Freshman year in college. I was, of course, in Don’s Drive-In parking lot with about half the LHS class. We had been there alot that summer, hanging out around our cars talking. But that night was a particularly poignant night. Everyone was about to leave home for the first time. It was the end of this high school time and we were leaving Livingston. We were all about to go our separate ways– alone.. There were lots of “goodbyes” and “be sure to writes” (it was before text messages or email, remember?). I was eating my last delicious coffee royale swirl ice cream cone and about to head home, when Bobby Higgins came up to me and said, “Good luck at college.” But then he said to me, “Thanks for all you did to serve our class and our school as Student Council officer.” I was taken aback that anyone had even recognized the work that we did on the Student Council, and that he had the decency to thank me. That was about the last line that anyone from LHS said to me before I took off for the next stage of life, and it has stuck with me for all these years. Who knows what other people said that night, but Bob Higgins left that one lasting impression and I smiled as I headed off into the world

Remembering Silverman’s
by Bill Salmon
Class of ’64

This may be ‘old news’ to some of you, but this link takes you to a YouTube video of Silverman’s in Livingston. I nearly died when I saw those old familiar faces. I used to walk from my house on Taconic past the old Sugar Bowl and to Silverman’s with 50 cents to buy five packs of baseball cards and get a ‘black ‘n white’ ice cream soda. The BEST ice cream soda you ever had!

Looking The Other Way
by Anonymous

I remember a hot day near the end of our senior year and we’re all wilting at a table in the cafeteria. The windows right behind us are open, but not even a faint hope of a breeze. Mr. Ransegnola is chatting with us and then says, “Ya know, I bet you could climb right out one of those windows and down at the shore before anybody even missed you.” He then very deliberately turned his back and stood, arms folded, staring intently at the opposite wall. A few of those swifter on the uptake were gone before I could blink. Me, I couldn’t believe he was serious. What that got me (and a few others) was a pitying look from Mr. R. when he turned back around. But I always greatly appreciated the gesture.

Dances, Fights & Teachers
by Donald E. Davidson

Hard to believe that in the late 1960s, a dance committee came up with a computer match-up idea. We didn’t have personal computers then. We filled out questionnaires, and we were given so called “matches” on pieces of paper to search for a dancing match. I don’t remember meeting anyone special from that night, but there was big trouble on the way home. There were seven of us guys walking on the sidewalk of South Livingston Ave., when three other “classmates” followed us. Jeff H. was with us, and was dating an ex-girlfriend of one of these three angry guys. Jeff was grabbed in a split second and punched out of jealousy. Poor Jeff. Bruce A. was also with us during that walk, and he thought it was better not to get into fight with guys who might have weapons. I was new to Livingston at the time. I also remember another night, when Ken S. and I drove to the diner in Livingston. A few guys from our rival high school in West Orange attacked us, and Ken used his car keys against some of them. Luckily for us there were witnesses to tell the police that we did not start the fight. Ken and I were escorted to our parents’ homes. Ken’s parents were playing cards, while my Mom was asleep. Dad never told her about the fight until years later. I also remember my U.S. history teacher Mr. Shields. He called me Dan instead of Don, and I wouldn’t answer to the name Dan. He also once asked me a strange question, when I was writing an answer on the blackboard. He said, “Dan, do you have trouble writing with your left hand?” I could not help myself and I answered, “Why, do you have trouble writing with your right hand?” He laughed, and that was the end of that. Mr. Shields also thought I had a Dean Martin casual attitude about me. I remember I slouched a lot in his class, but he also didn’t know I was also nervous that he was going to call on me to answer one of his quick questions.

Too Many Memories
by Hilary Hoffman

I remember mini dresses; granny dresses; fake fur; fake eyelashes; coulottes; kneesocks; someone’s striped sweater and matching striped kneesocks; gold bangles; heather sweaters; daisies were our flower; Jean Nate; English Leather; Jeanne’s Twiggy haircut; Andy Siegel’s Sassoon; Maggie’s amazingly beautiful hair; Y groups; Y dances; the old Y building; Susie Cruse and I dancing our asses off; Dave Gusky’s fight with the policeman at a Y dance — it was all over the place; Jim Hill and the Cavedwellers; Sweet 16s – Robin Feldman’s bomb shelter; Robin Feldman’s Sweet 16 — great band and a mentalist (I think he was a mentalist); cutting school on a weekly basis and going to the Village; Emily Heller’s party when someone hurled a rock thru her parents’ big window; Emily’s black Corvair- motor always hot; Joy’s VW; Elise and Elise’s Firebird; John Collins’ old army ambulance; us girls smoking cigarettes; Barbara Walsh’s laugh; LHS football games; basketball games in the gym; Roger & Jack; going down the shore; going down the shore when Andy Kreedian came with us (do you still like Tequilla and the worm, girlfriend?); the Courts; our Proms; our senior trip when the boys mooned everyone on shore from the float, and finally graduating. It was a very good year!

Jagger Does Hurley
by Sandy Schantz

As you all remember, Mr. Hurley – the Vice Principal for Discipline – left after our Junior year. In tribute to his memory I wrote a song parody to the Rolling Stone’s tune Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday. Here is part of that song, and if I find the original copy of it, I’ll submit it in full. He would never say where he came from / Walking the halls ’til the school day’s nearly done / Smiling like a bear / He says: “You! Cut your hair” / and lose your cool / for such a fool / … Goodbye Leo Hurley / You know we think the same of you / You’re a pain through every new day / Sure ain’t gonna miss you.

The Hurley Horror
by Anonymous

This may be ‘old news’ to some of you, but this link takes you to a YouTube video of Silverman’s in Livingston. I nearly died when I saw those old familiar faces. I used to waMr. Hurley. This was no ordinary man. Even his title was extraordinary, “School Disciplinarian.” What was behind the door and in the room clearly inhabited by a man who slept hanging by his feet, waking up thirsty for blood? His face was pock-marked, clearly second in horror to the curse etched on Cain’s face when he killed his brother. Did I notice that students went in and never came out? Wasn’t there an incinerator right outside his office? (Come to think of it, there are no more incinerators. Did they eventually discover all the student dental work not completely burnt?) I never did get sent to Mr. Hurley because the idea of checking into the roach motel and not checking was a successful deterrent. What was it really like in there? Anyone live to tell about it?lk from my house on Taconic past the old Sugar Bowl and to Silverman’s with 50 cents to buy five packs of baseball cards and get a ‘black ‘n white’ ice cream soda. The BEST ice cream soda you ever had!

Who’s On Second
by Chris Vitella

Great story by Roger O’Neil about Doyle’s Rock. Of course I was right in the middle of it being on the bus coming home from the game at Morris Hills HS and it was funny and scary at the same time. But another baseball/life story… I was pitching against West Essex HS during our April Spring Break in 1968…. one of those coldish damp days NJ springs can offer. I had the good fortune to hit a double and was standing on second base talking with the West Essex second baseman who said “nice hit.” I was dating a girl from West Essex HS at the time and we went to her school play that same night (Saturday) to watch a production of “Damn Yankees.” She told me during the play that the lead role of Joe Hardy was being played by the same kid who played second base for the baseball team that day. I didn’t think anything of it at the time — fast forward through college and my 20s when one day during a phone conversation with Carl Vidal he dropped a “bomb” on me. He said “do you know who that second baseman for West Essex HS was?” I said “no…who?” Carl said.. it was Joe Piscopo. Joe was on Saturday Night Live at the time so it was kind of fun looking back thinking about playing against him. And as the old saying goes… we are all separated by just six degrees and if you know me… then you know Joe Piscopo. I just thought of that story because I saw Joe Piscopo on the news this morning… looking forward to the reunion in September.

Tapping at My Window
by Ellen Lenox Smith

I read the posting for Jim Beverly written by his sister and it got me thinking about that time period when he and I dated in our senior year. As you all know, he was a cross country runner. We had talked one night and he made a comment that he was going to surprise me the next morning for my birthday in April. I had no idea what he meant by this. But, early that next AM, I awoke to tapping at my window. This may not seem like a big deal, but Jim had actually run the distance of our entire town to wake me up. After I realized what and who this was, we laughed, he waved and took off again to get home in time to wash up and get to school.

So Many Memories
by Joanne Grady Husk

Here are some of the memories I have from LHS days….. Entering High school with St. Philomena’s friends…. Jane, Myles, Peter, Jimmer, Al…. Spending lunch hours in John Collins’ ambulance in the school parking lot…. Early years with Beverly and Leigh… Getting to know Andrea Reisner, our exchange student from Austria… Driving around town with Mindy and Nellie… Throwing Bob Higgins’ shoe out of the window in English class…. Acting in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”…. Hanging at the “courts”…. Playing flag tag around Cedar Hills Country Club in the middle of the night…. Waiting tables at Don’s Drive In…. Summers down the shore with the Y group and Mrs. Mathesias…. Hating Mrs. Feiber’s Geometry class…. Being sent home from school because my skirt was too short…. Y Dances…. Getting a ride to school from Steve Beck…. Tobagganing at Cedar Hill Country Club the night Joey Falcone broke his leg…. Decorating for the Senior Prom and being told I won the Student Council election…. Working with Cal Nordt and Jeannie Penagokas on the Student Council…. Watching Buddy, GJ, Jimmy, and the guys play basketball for LHS…. Cheering at Football games in the cold autumns…. Penny loafers and saddle shoes…. The hoods and the frats…. Painting the Rock…. Milkshakes at Seymour’s…. The night before I left for college at Don’s Drive-In…. Graduation party and the sadness the day after, when flowers arrived at my door from a certain someone.

Educating Suely
by Louie Fink

Suely was here as our exchange student at LHS. Though half the male population of the school had eyes for her, she and I ended up as a couple for just about her whole time here. I thought I must be pretty cool, the fact that she passed up all those jock types, surfer types, and frat types, for me, no type. This until she revealed that her first attraction to me was that I reminded her of that globally broadcasted TV image of Ron Howard, better known then as “Opie” Opie!! This was what she wanted? Well, whatever. We had a ton of fun.

Her main stumbling block in this new culture was the language. Her English was much better than my Portuguese, but she had a lot to learn. We all helped as best we could. Well, not always. We did make fun of this cute young import. It pissed her off, but we kept at it. Then came the appointment with the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Richard Hoffman, if memory serves. Sort of a formal welcome from “the top.” She was VERY nervous. She doubted her English would be strong enough to support a spontaneous conversation with some old guy with giant eyebrows. We all told her she would be fine. She wanted a fail-safe of politeness. What was the best thing to say if you just plain didn’t understand a question? We (Ken Segall and I) told her that the proper response to best show respect while admitting you didn’t understand was “Whhaaaaa” — spoken loudly, high-pitched and with a long single-syllable whining sound. She took us up on it. Think she was pissed before!!

About 18 months later I ended up living with her and her family outside of Rio for six months. Zero Portuguese under my belt when I arrived. Over the next few months I paid. Oh, I paid DEARLY. “Whhaaaaa”……………………..

Slippery Jack
by Roger O’Neill

Remember Mr. Berry? Track coach? His wife had a baby. Someone in the class asked what he named the baby. Jack Henning “H” throws an eraser at me and at the same time bends down to pick up a pencil on the floor by his desk. As he is reaching for the pencil he says “Dingle” in answer to the name. Berry goes nuts and thinks I said it. Everyone in the class is howling and Berry wants to kill me. I looked like a deer in headlights so he knew I didn’t say it. He knew Jack said it but there was no way he could prove it. The amazing thing was that in the split second after the question was asked and before Berry could answer himself, Jack pulled off the stunt. I have never been around someone who could constantly come up with instantaneous plays, pull them off completely, and never get caught.

Doyle’s Rock
by Roger O’Neill

We just got done playing Morris Hills in baseball at Morris Hills. We won and clinched the conference and everyone was pumped. We had been on a winning streak and someone started throwing pebbles out of the bus window after games on the way back to Livingston. We figured it was what made us win and baseball players are very superstitious. So Kent Doyle decides to pick up a granite curbstone laying by the field and he brings it on the bus. Remember, we traveled out there via Route 10 which was just 2 lonely lanes each way. We’re booking down the highway going about 70 mph and Kent decides to heave the curbstone out the window. I guess we all figured it would just hit the ground and lay there — no rocket scientists on that bus.

The stone hits the road and proceeds to bounce about 30 ft above the bus and it is traveling like a missile. We were in the right lane and Kent drops it out onto the left lane. Brilliant. The thing to do would have been to take a look to see if there were any cars in the left lane behind us. Naturally, that was an afterthought, and, lo and behold, there are two guys in a corvair about 500 ft behind us in the left lane who see this 40 lb stone bouncing down the road in front of them. It probably looked like a depth charge. They go in the right lane and the stone follows them. They go back into the left lane and there’s the stone. They finally time it so it goes under their car and bounces up taking out god knows what on the undercarriage. The bus slows down for some reason and the guys in the corvair pass the bus with everyone screaming and cheering at the top of their lungs. Coach Lampeter stands up and says “You’re right. We did play a great game”. He had no idea what happened.

I was sitting next to Kent when he dropped the stone out the window. When he saw it bounce way above the bus he looked at me and I will never forget the expression on his face. Everyone on the bus turned around and watched the action with the stone and the car hoping that we would have a direct hit through the windshield. After we get back to the HS, the bus driver pulls Kent and I aside and says “That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”

The Wrong Door
by Anonymous

It’s the first day of high school. The last class of the day is over and everyone is rushing to their carpools, buses, etc. Here I am – this very shy, quiet little girl who has ZERO sense of direction desperately trying to find my way out of the building to where my bus is waiting just praying it doesn’t leave before I find it. This door? No. That door? Nope. Oh wait, here’s a door that lots of people are walking through; I’ll go that way! All of a sudden someone is grabbing me from behind and I’m being yanked backwards. What the heck is going on? I’M WALKING INTO THE BOYS’ LOCKER ROOM!!!! Over forty years later and I still see the halls and that doorway clearly in my mind.