06/08/2016 11:26 PM


Anazom.com; 'John J Toffey'

1943; PFC, Noal, CA.

He was drafted into the Army at WWII on March 16, 1942. Typewriter, picture: NOEL; Angle, 1943


Xxx xx.

Akin Toffey, 1936, 4 years younger, 145 Gifford Avenue, jersey City, which my parentss helped to design and had built in 1912, was across the street from Lincoln Park



Learning more.."To Begin With (born - 1939)"

The only other expedition with Granny that I remember was a visit to the fire house on Belmont Avenue to see the horse-drawn apparatus The horses' harness was suspended from the ceiling and dropped into place over the horses when they were ready to roll.

Since our house was the last on the block, we were able to look out of our windows across the meadows to Kearny. We watched the Pulaski Skyway being built.

School for me was Public School No. 17 on Duncan Avenue (more about that later). I also went to Sunday School at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Duncan Avenue. Many a Saturday afternoon was spent at the Duncan Theater, a silent movie theater just west of West Side Avenue on Duncan Avenue.

And after my mother sold her house about 1959, she moved to an apartment on Duncan Avenue. So Duncan Avenue loomed big in my life.

Lincoln Park had a large playground to enjoy in summer and a hill for sledding in winter. When I was older I'd get up early for before-breakfast bicycle spins around the Park.

For eight years I walked the seven blocks to Public School No. 17 -- four trips in all since I went home for lunch.

The trip was longer to Lincoln High School, where I went for two years. I can't for the life of me think of anything memorable that happened at Lincoln High.

We lived on the extreme west end of Gifford Ave. at the foot of a steep hill, while Grandmother Koonz, Uncle Harold and Aunt Beatrice lived at 39 Gifford, almost at the east end of the street. On Sundays we would walk up Gifford to the Koonz home, Dad swinging his walking stick, and join the family for dinner. The dinner was cooked by Annie and served by her husband, William, the butler. It was quite formal and always ended with finger bowls.

I went through the usual childhood diseases -- chicken pox and measles -- at the same time that little brother Akin, four years my junior, was also laid up with - and almost died of - pneumonia. When it was all over, Mother ended up in the Riggs Sanitarium at Stockbridge, Mass., to recover.

Then there was the summer when Akin and I came down with whooping cough. My parents wanted to get away from the city for a month, but no resort would take whooping children. Finally they located a Christian Science family in Essex Falls, NJ, who would let us use their home provided we took care of their vegetable garden and chickens. So Dad became a farmer for a month. The first time he tried to dislodge a chicken from her egg she pecked him. But Dad found a solution to that problem. I, being left handed, had a right hand baseball glove, and with Akin's glove on his left hand and my glove on his right hand he would lift the chickens while I gathered the eggs. A neighbor said he had never seen the garden and chicken house look so neat.

After graduating from P.S. 17 in 1927, I went to Lincoln High School for two years. Then my father decided I should go to his alma mater -- Stevens Preparatory School in Hoboken, an institution which was no longer affiliated with Stevens Institute, the college. To get there I had to walk three long blocks to Monticello Ave. to get the Hoboken trolley.

At Hoboken I could walk six blocks or take a jitney. The jitneys that ran along Washington Ave. were beat up old passenger cars modified with a rope leading from the right front door to a pulley next to the driver, which enabled him to close the door without getting out of the car. The ride cost 5¢.

Stevens Prep was located in an ancient and dilapidated building. The fabric blackboards were patch ed and the chairs were constantly collapsing. I decided I should go out for some activity there and tried football. Not long afterward I developed a sinus problem from swimming at the YMCA and that gave me the opportunity I was looking for to quit football. I ended up as manager of the track team, which only involved keeping track of the equipment.

The school had a tiny cafeteria, but we generally ate at a delicatessen a block away. I could get a ham sandwich for 8 cents, a quart of milk for 8 cents and a quarter of a pie for 8 cents. Just 24 cents for a very satisfying lunch.

The summer before my senior year at Stevens Prep, I worked as a bell hop at Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River in N.Y., and I came home with the magnificent sum of $150.


I spent $60 of that for a wikipedia.org/Ford Model T and $70 for liability insurance which my father insisted I take out.

The insurance was well advised. Two weeks later I was driving along the Boulevard when a man jumped out from the shadow of a streetlight post, trying to catch a bus I had just passed. My bumper hit him and rolled him over. He was bloody and semiconscious when some bystanders loaded him into my car and I drove the few blocks to the hospital. The nurses patched him up; he told the policeman he would not press charges as long as I had insurance; and I drove him home. "Accidents will happen," he said as I left him.

The insurance company PAid him $75 for a new suit. No problems, but the realization that an accident could happen so quickly and unexpectedly robbed me to this day of any pleasure I might have had from driving a car. I sold the car when I went to college. I was told that it remained around Lincoln High School with various owners for some time afterward. [My dad, one time "Accidents will happen." But dad, after, no accident!]

Lehigh University

I decided I wanted to become an engineer. Aunt Anne Sherwood (referred to in the family as "Sister," so I called her "Aunt Sister") had a friend who was a Lehigh University graduate and she arranged for me to meet him. His name was Carmen and he was very wealthy. He was also blind and had locomotor ataxia, a muscular disability. A mining engineer, he had discovered oil after losing his sight by having his wife read the maps and charts to him. He had a suite at the Hotel Plaza, one of New York City's most expensive and luxurious hostelries. I had dinner there twice with the Carmens, the second time also with an active Lehigh alumnus. So I went to Lehigh.

At Lehigh, I enrolled in an engineering curriculum and made out fairly well during my freshman year. Then I hit analytical geometry. The instructor was a Ph.D. who had just finished an important paper -- something about a skew line in space. As far as I was concerned he was way out in space I flunked. I took the course again, this time with a young doctoral candidate who also left me trailing far behind. On the third try, I had an elderly instructor with a master's degree who made sure everyone in the class understood what he was teaching. I got a "B".

All of this showed me that I would never be enough of a mathematician to become an engineer.

I had decided that I should engage in some campus activity and, since I was not an athlete, I joined the staff of the college newspaper which was published twice a week. The paper was under the supervision of the journalism department, which consisted of a professor and one graduate assistant. The professor, a seasoned newspaper man, insisted that it conform with the best newspaper practices.

In my sophomore year I was made news editor, a job I really enjoyed. That sold me on the idea of a new career. I went to the dean and told him I wanted to switch to an arts and science curriculum majoring in journalism. "You've got to realize," the dean said, "that the New York Times can hire the pick of the best universities for the price of a ham sandwich." I said that there were enough collateral fields the course would fit me for that I would take my chances.

So in June of 1935 I received my diploma attesting that I had made it through four years of college. I was leaving all that academic work behind and all I had to do was find a job.

The other day (54 years later) a columnist on the Orlando Sentinel wrote: "Many of us in the communications and journalism field are regularly asked, 'How did you choose this career?' The answer is painfully simple: We couldn't do math."

That couldn't have been truer in my case.

"Dad; William Vermilye Toffey III"

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