Who Remembers Miss Murray & the Library?

Facebook had a few comments from people in the last few days about the library in Highlands and the former librarian, Miss Violet Murray. She was a fascinating lady with a love not only for libraries but for teaching. A Highlands native, she was born, as she had told newspaper reports many times “in that front upstairs bedroom overlooking Navesink Ave.” Her home, since torn down to make room for the planned Highlands Borough Hall, later became the home of an actor, then later the convent for the teaching sisters at Our Lady of Perpetual Help school, but they are other stories. Her dad was the first wireless operator at the Twin Lights and her sister, Pearl Masciale and her husband, maintained the building for several years until it was taken over by the state.

The Murrays were another of those Highlands families who left their mark in a most positive way on the community.

For Miss Murray ….and through her 60 years of providing library services for the residents of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, she was always Miss Murray….the Navesink Avenue home was wonderful and memorable but it was the old homestead, a house on Ocean St. where the family lived until 1944 that she loved.. She remembered the date specifically they moved from that house, because as she told it, ,”That was the year my dad grew ill, and poor Doc Opfermann couldn’t make it all the way up those hills to see him. So we moved to an apartment upstairs over the old bank in Atlantic Highlands.” Doc still had to climb stairs to make those visits, she’d said, “but it wasn’t anything like climbing the hill to our house in Highlands.

When she moved out of her parents’ home, Miss Murray then assumed an apartment at the Bay Haven complex on Ocean Blvd.

But her life was always in education. She was a graduate of Syracuse University with degrees in English and Spanish; then took course during the summer to learn abou9t library work. She got a teacher’s certificate from Trenton State Teachers College, as well as certification for library work for the facilities in both public and school libraries. Next she went on to get a degree in primary education, so in the end, she had taught both high school and first grade at the Bayview School in Belford.

When Atlantic Highlands School needed a library, Miss Murray took that job on and worked for both the elementary and high schools as a librarian for 13 years. But space got crowded, and the board of education took away the library to make room for kindergarten, moving the librarian to what had been the school’s nurse’s office. She did her library work there, along with teaching two English classes. Still she served on that borough’s library board as secretary for many years. That was a thriving library in the 1950s, annual reports showed more than 11,0000books were circulated throughout the year and there were more than 200 library members.

But it was while George Hardy was Mayor of Highlands sometime in the 1930s that the library actually started in Highlands. Miss Murray was an active member of the Girls Friendly Society at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Bay Aven, and all the ladies wanted a library. So did Mayor Hardy when he heard their idea. But there was no space for one. So the mayor’s wife, Mrs. Hardy offered her house and officially, that was the location for the first library in Highlands. It was on Navesink Avenue’s a few houses west of the Highlands Bridge on the west bound side of Navesink Ave. When Mrs. Hardy was no longer able to keep her doors open for library visitors on a regular basis, room had finally opened up in the annex of the school a few doors away at the corner of Miller St, a location that housed the Highlands library for several years. After that, there was a move to the American Legion Hall, but a troublesome heating system giving off noxious gases made that stay short. The library moved from building to building for a while, mostly on Bay Ave. Mostly funded by the Girls Friendly Society, and mostly Miss Murray doing all of the work. Nor did she get paid for it. Only the one time when Charles Hatzenbuehler was Mayor in the early 1950s and the state was receiving some funds from the state did Miss Murray accept any recompense for her library dedication.

It was after that that the library finally opened in Borough Hall on Bay Ave., and the library was upstairs, sharing space with John Adair, the borough’s tax collector. It was there for a short time, until space was found downstairs, and the library opened in the back of the building opposite Police Headquarters. Miss Murray served the borough as librarian under Mayors Hardy, Harry Brown, Harry Johnson, A. Meade Robertson, Joe Dempsey, Hatzenbuehler, Neil Guiney, Bud Bahrs, Jimmy White and Bob Wilson, and retired in 1984 when the library moved from Borough Hall to the Community Center. But she was there in 1985 when the library celebrated its first year in a room of its own in a municipal building.


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