I spent the weekend in Ridgefield, New Jersey, with my mom and two of her sisters this weekend. Their dad (my grandfather) John Joseph Gallagher (1924-1990) was a police officer, and their grandfather Walter Gallagher (1902-1973) was also a police officer and was Chief of Police of Ridgefield for many years.
We visited with two ladies (sisters) who lived across the street from the Gallaghers when they were children. Fortunately, one of the sisters still lives across the street! It was fun to see where they grew up and hear stories about everyone who lived in the neighborhood. It’s amazing how freely the memories flow when you are immersed in the environment where they all happened. To say I’m elated would be an understatement! Let’s just say that I’m glad I remembered to bring my digital recorder.
Their house has been modified a bit. The new owners have replaced the open porch with a closed portico or mudroom of some sort, but otherwise the outside of the house looks the same. Their grandparents lived in the house next door, but it has since been torn down and a new one has been built. (In my opinion, they should have just left the house where it was — the new one is pretty awful).
The main reason for our trip was to visit the Ridgefield Public Library where we heard there were a few of my great grandfather’s scrapbooks. These were scrapbooks that had been donated by his second wife without the knowledge (or permission) of his children or grandchildren back in the 1970s. We got to the library just as they were opening on Friday. We were essentially given free reign in the basement to go through the boxes and see if we could find what we were looking for. There must have been a DOZEN scrapbooks dating from the early 1940s to the mid-1960s! It would have taken us an entire week to scan or photograph all the articles in them. After reconsidering a life if crime and smuggling the scrapbooks out of the library, we opted to write a letter to the Board of Trustees and ask permission to either borrow or (preferably) keep the scrapbooks. I hope to have a response after they meet next month.
Saturday, we went to the Statue of Liberty and took the train into Manhattan to visit the 9/11 Memorial and the cabaret my great great grandfather owned in the 1920s and 1930s. We didn’t get to see either one due to logistical problems, but we did manage to find a nice little pub (imagine that!) to have lunch. The name was O’Hara’s. It is about 150 feet from Ground Zero. It must be a place where a lot of firemen and police officers hang out because they have patches from various law enforcement and fire departments all over the country covering their walls. Did I mention that they also have the best burgers I’ve ever tasted?
All the people we ran into in New Jersey and in New York were SO nice and SO helpful. Especially Mr. Cutie-pants at the PATH station who helped us figure out where we were going and the best way to get there … and back. So, thanks Mr. Cutie-pants!
I’ll be writing more in-depth about what we discovered in subsequent posts … after I review and transcribe about 7 hours of recorded conversations and weed through about 300 photos and at least 100 scanned images. Stay tuned!
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