History Alive

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:48

    Near the juncture of Acres Road and Bakertown Road in the Town of Monroe, there once stood a one-room schoolhouse. Known in 1910 as the "Bakertown School," by 1935 it had come to be called the "Sunny Acres School." In the 1870's William Owens, who then owned a part of what is currently the Ace Farm property, had donated a parcel of land for the school to be built. As was typical during that period, families from the surrounding farms enrolled their children and provided the teachers. In 1910, the student body, although certainly not uncommon in its composition or academic program for that time period, was more privileged than many similar schools in that they had a very prominent neighbor who from time to time made an exerted effort to treat them in a special way. The famous Jerry J. Cohan, father of equally famous George M. Cohan, at times invited the children and teachers from the school to his pleasant summer home known as "Sunnycroft," situated just a short distance away on Bakertown Road. An article that appeared in 1910 in a newspaper known as The Ramapo Valley Gazette describes an exciting outing where no expense was spared to make the event most enjoyable. Jerry Cohan's grandson, Fred Niblo, had attended the school for a time in 1910. On the last day of school he presented it with a new flag to be hung the following September. Following his presentation of this flag, a school picture was taken and everyone adjourned to the Cohan estate, which still stood until a very unfortunate fire last year. There, the youngsters were given full liberty to do as they pleased. They were served ice cream (a rare luxury in 1910), cake, lemonade, candies and a host of other assorted treats. Games were enjoyed, and before it was time to leave, each child was offered his pick from a sumptuous grab bag, which Mr. and Mrs. Cohan had overfilled with presents they purchased on a special trip to New York City a few days before the picnic. Even famous house guests of the Cohan's assisted with the event. These notable names included Mrs. Charles Vion, Mrs. Hudson, Mrs. Campbell and Marjorie and Josephine Rhodes. It should also be noted that this generosity to the Bakertown School was not an anomaly. In that time period, established families of social and financial prominence often treated school children and local families with kind indulgence . . . whether with turkeys at Christmas time, holiday gifts for children or graceful parties on their estates where all were invited to join in the festivities. A touch of kindness and courtesy went a long way . . . and the memories of those very special events went even further.