Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beacon Light / Herrmann's Grove

As far back as I can remember, River Vale had a beacon light. This light was one in a series of lights that would guide airplanes at night that were headed to the Newark or Teterboro airports. As was told to us, there were mail planes that would fly through the night from points north, such as Albany or Boston, and they would use these signals, that could been seen for many miles, to guide them on their flight.

There was also one in that series on the top of the mountain in Haverstraw, NY. The signal from our light was 3 red flashes and one white. When the pilot got over that, he could see Teterboro and head directly there. I saw that 3 red and 1 white signal flashing on my bedroom wall for many years and went to sleep many times watching it sending out it's constant signal. For years it was mounted on a concrete slab right next to the gun club, about 50 feet off Rockland Avenue. It was then moved to the southeast corner of the property that was know as "Herrmann's Grove". This property is now part of the River Vale Town Hall complex. I think that I remember that this light was originally on the easterly end of the Holdrum complex, but I can't seem to find anyone who can verify this, so that is also a "maybe".

Beacon Light Again

This same beacon light became significant on an evening in about 1938 or 1939.. On this particular evening a young fellow was flying a WWI army surplus biplane called a "Jenny" and hopefully heading for the Teterboro airport. The Jenny was the United States' principal plane used for training in the war. It had two wings and was fabric covered and although not spectacular the country had thousands of them. (top speed 55 MPH) As this fellow approached River Vale, following the beacon trail, a sudden fog rapidly formed and the poor fellow was instantly lost. He did locate our beacon though and kept circling around it hoping for a miracle to happen. We could hear this thing going over and over our house at about 500 feet. The "miracle" did indeed happen... One of our residents, living on Rockland Ave, had a radio of some sort and luckily was able to get on the same frequency as this hapless fellow in the plane...Our resident somehow managed to guide the plane to a safe landing on Roosevelt Ave much to his relief. The pilot stayed the night in a local home and was off again on his trip early the next day.

Herrmann's Grove...

The parcel of property that is now occupied by the town hall, senior citizen's place and the library was all known as "Herrmann's Picnic Grove". This was owned by Leopold Herrmann ("Lep"). This was a great place on weekends as it very often had a picnic going on being run by some Hudson County organization of some kind. There was lots of loud music and often a place where a wily interloper could "con" some unknowing citizen out of a hot dog or something eat-able. Sometimes we could even get a free bottle of Sattley's soda along with it. This would last until some observant person would notice that we didn't belong there at all and suggest that we move on.

Of course, by far the most important day of the entire summer was the annual River Vale Fireman's picnic at this grove. We counted the days until this great day arrived. Imagine, free soda and hot dogs and even ice cream!!! Also there were contests of all kinds, sack races, potato races and all that wonderful stuff. It surely was a day that we wanted to never end. As the day came near its' end some of the lively adults would move to the dance hall in the grounds and encouraged by some of the beverages they may have ingested during the day they would dance up a storm. The kids like myself were wearing down and would be content to sit and watch these grownups acting crazy... Great day, it was!

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