Leaps & Bounds?

At two different meetings of the Highlands Borough Council, at least one, sometimes two, members of the council said the town is “growing in leaps and bounds.” That made me wonder, because I’ve lived in or been very close to the town since the mid-1950s. I remember taking my youngsters to the merry-go-round….opps, that isn’t there anymore. I remember at least three wonderful restaurants on Route 36, the Himalaya, a great Indian restaurant with some pretty wonderful people owning it and serving in it, the Cedar Inn, first made famous by the gracious and generous Knittels, later owned by others, including a former councilwoman, and of course the Stowaway, which thankfully is still around as Off the Hook, and still a great place to eat. Ok, so that’s one out of three restaurants is still operating, liquor license and all. I can’t remember how many taverns there were, someplace around 30. Fewer than that now, but I suppose, still enough to keep people satisfied. I remember Johnny Sciortino’s father had a bowling alley before I got here. That was a great place because that even included some summer jobs for kids setting up the pins. Ben Goldwasser’s 5&10 was sheer joy for any kid to go in with a spare nickel or dime. Both the Bedle’s and Art Cohen ran very sophisticated pharmacies, almost across the street from each other. Oops, both gone, along with the 5&10. Along with Fehlhaber’s. And the two…TWO… hardware stores ,the Johnston Brothers in Waterwitch and Kadenbach’s in the middle of town. Heck, I even remember the very elegant Joy Shop, a wonderful women’s dress store run by the Joy family of Atlantic Highlands. Dr Meltzer had his dental office upstairs. Wow!, they’re all gone, though another generation of Dr. Meltzer has a very successful practice in another town. It’s true, no one could really replace Ralph the Shoemaker, but today, it would be nice to be able to just go into town to get new heels put on shoes or have a leather purse repaired. There’s still a laundromat or two in town, but the one in Waterwitch is at the cost of Frantin’s Market being lost, and isn’t an addition, since it takes the place of the one that used to be across the street from it, Lola Canns. The liquor store is still there, but not the gas station that was on the corner. Wow, even Neimarks store with its shelves of fresh fruits and vegetables out front during spring and summer isn’t there anymore. In the 60s, we bragged that the first supermarket ever in the Bayshore was John Azzolina’s Food Basket on Bay Avenue. Isn’t that store empty now? I could go on, but it is depressing. So then I decided to look at census figures from the start of each decade. They wouldn’t lie, for sure. I found there were just over 2,000 year round residents in 1940. And more than 5,000 residents in 1980!. Now, that I would say, is something like growing in leaps and bounds. Especially since there were growths everyone of those decades in-between.The next ten years saw a drop in population, about 238 fewer persons lived here. But we got most of them back in the next ten years cycle. So then when we got to 2010, the last census that’s official, we dropped maybe 87 people. All of which is to say we had more people living in Highlands in the 1980s than any other time in recorded history. But look, the Growing in leaps and bounds people will say, we’re about to get more! We’re going to have two rather large buildings on one of the scenic points on the top of the hill, just below Top of the East. That will bring in lots of folks. Perhaps. But what happened to all those folks who were living in all those RVs and trailer homes on that same site? Will the number even out or be less albeit with more space for cars and paved parking lots. My kids remember growing up in Highlands and looking forward to summer and renewing friendships with part-time residents, the families who came down summers and shared our beaches, our merry-go-round, our restaurants and our shops, adding money to local business coffers and paying taxes on houses used only part of the year. Where are all those folks today? The summer cottages and the hotel at Conners are gone, so are the bungalows on 4th and 5th streets. So is the Alpine Manor and the Stowaway Hotel, though Ben Trask’s house next to Henry Hudson is now a charming B&B. Churches. There used to be three very active churches in town. Now there are two, and yes, another empty building. A parking lot replaces the borough hall though I suppose the newly promoted $10 million edifice on the highway will be considered a growth in leaps and bounds. At least it will be in the amount of taxes imposed to pay for it. So leaps and bounds council-members? Really? Don’t you know any of the history of the town and its people?