06/08/2015 11:55 AM


Barren and muddy, 19
1924, Barren and muddy!
 

 

 

 

Ctesrer, 22 acres, 1956.

Chester, in summer, 1925, 22 acre!

 

 

 


Learning more…Dad's Story: "Chester Dwight Eldridge"

Art School, but..

At some point he did attend art school, but further details on this are unavailable. By the time he was 20 years old he had "broken into the art game," as the saying went.

At the time of his marriage he was working at a studio in New York City and he and his bride set up house keeping at an apartment in New Rochelle. Some two years later he was recruited for a job in Chicago that specialized in mail-order work. So they moved.

Dorothy Edith

On July 1, 1919 their only child was born, a daughter named Dorothy Edith.

After six months they moved back East and bought a large house in Westfield, New Jersey, renting two bedrooms to school teachers to help meet expenses.

Twenty-two acre fruit farm

Early in 1923, in cooperation with his parents, they bought a 22-acre fruit farm, complete with a 60-year-old farmhouse and many out buildings in the rural area of Clark Township, between Rahway & Westfield.

[In 2011, Bill and me, right, Home, 128 years old, but, Bankruptcy!]

Chester thought that if the "art game" went under, he could live off the land. However, the art studio he was associated with prospered and after struggling to work the farm for three or four years with Edith bearing the brunt of the work while Chester commuted to New York City they gave up farming.

1923, no electricity, plumbing, outhouse, bed chambers

For the first three years they were there, life was pretty primitive - no electricity or inside plumbing - just an outhouse and bed chambers. There was a kerosene cooking stove, an outside well with water cranked up by hand and carried into the house by the buckets.

Undaunted, Chester worked hard to prepare for the day that electricity would be brought along Madison Hill Road in Westfield. He installed all the plumbing himself, including a bathroom and kitchen fixtures; had an electrician wire the house; tapped the well with an underground pipe leading to an electric pump in the basement; and put in a coal-burning pot stove and a tank for hot water. A modern range using bottled gas ultimately replaced the kerosene stove and sometime later the coal-burning furnace was converted to oil.

The house was renovated inside and out, building an addition to enlarge the dining room, removing a front porch, adding a side porch, and adding and removing assorted windows and doors throughout the house. The surrounding landscaping was gradually extended until it encom passed an acre of lawn, shrubs, flowers and trees. The outbuildings were torn down, except for the huge chicken house, which was moved about 50 feet and converted into a two-car garage with a loft above it.

My mother told me an interesting story about the day the lights went on.

"When the big moment came that we were hooked up to electricity and the switch was thrown, everything worked just fine except that the light switch in the dining room turned on the overhead lights in my bedroom and vice versa," she said. "That was a small matter to correct. In the early days, even a minor thunderstorm would knock out our electricity, so lamps and candles were always in hand. Furthermore, our hot and cold running water was dependent on an electric pump. So it was a matter of routine that when storm clouds gathered we filled the bath tub and every available pan and pitcher in the house with water. To this day I still have to fight the impulse to draw water when I see a storm coming."

My grandparents lived in Clark for 28 years and never really considered their house finished.

Oradell, New Jersey; De Barry, Florida

After their daughter Dorothy married William Toffey and settled in Bergen County, New Jersey, Chester and Edith decided to sell their home, and in 1951 they moved to a brand new smaller house in Oradell, New Jersey.  They remained there until just he retired in 1961, when they moved to De Barry, Florida.  Chester died their February 17, 1966, and Edith died that same year on December 13. Over the years Chester's art studio flourished and he with it.  Pagano's Incorporated became widely noted for its advertising photography and artwork.  Life Magazine gave it an extensive write up in the mid-1940s. At the time of his retirement, Chester was director of the art department.

"Two-Mommy and Two-Daddy"

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