This Week in Rockland: Newspaper Excerpts: Flashback Friday: Week of October 8

2021-10-08 TWIR Image-St Peters

October 7, 1871 – 150 YEARS AGO
Rockland County Journal

[Image: St. Peter's Church, Haverstraw. Postcard, ca. 1920, Dexter Press, Pearl River. Image courtesy of Nyack Library Local History Room, via NYHeritage.]
      Ice cream and summer are things of the past. 
      Nutting time has come and the boys are jubilant.
      The “Shoo Fly” House has been closed up. Nyack is rid of one miserable den.
      The Samsondale Iron Works will soon resume operations.
      Anna E. Dickinson lectured in the Reformed Church, of this village, to about six hundred people on Tuesday night.  Her subject was “Demagogues and Workingmen.” — Anna is intimately acquainted with herself and almost every subject she handles.
      On Sunday, 15th inst., the new Church of St. Peter, Haverstraw, will be dedicated by Arch-Bishop McCloskey who will preach the dedicatory sermon at 10:30 a.m. and administer the rite of Confirmation at 3:30 p.m.  It is thought that the church will not accommodate one-half the number of those who may desire to witness the ceremony.

October 7, 1921 – 100 YEARS AGO
Rockland News

       The second annual dance of the telephone employees of Rockland County, to be held on the evening of October 28 at Fireman’s Hall, Nanuet, promises to attract a large crowd. There will be a door prize and dance prize and refreshments will be free. Fox’s six-piece orchestra will furnish the music.

       Miss Marion Crumbie, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank R. Crumbie, was married in Grace Episcopal Church last Saturday afternoon to William Isleworth Zabriskie, of New York City, by the Rev. A. L. Longley.
       The bride was given away by her father. She wore her mother’s wedding dress and a rose point veil, a family heirloom. The maid of honor was Miss Constance Crumbie, sister to the bride. The bridesmaids were Miss Martha Reed, Miss Nancy Frost and Miss Marion Frost, cousins of the bride; . . . Miss Margaret Smith of Upper Nyack, and Miss Isabel Bradley of New York City. George A. Zabriskie, brother to the bridegroom, was best man. The ushers were Frank R. Crumbie Jr., Albert Shaw, William B. Paxton, Charles Smith, Harry Keller and Edward Kinnear, all of Princeton University.
       After the wedding a reception was held at Glenholme, the residence of the bride’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Zabriskie departed for their honeymoon trip and on their return will reside at Fairhaven, Mass.

October 6 1971 – 50 YEARS AGO
Rockland Independent/Leader

       The school playground is a dense forest on Concklin Road in Pomona. Walls of sliding glass doors serve as blackboards. Rows of desks and chairs have been replaced with low couches, an occasional folding chair, and the floor. Traditional educational materials have been substituted with lessons taught by “feeling, seeing and experiencing.” 
       This philosophy of complete educational freedom is the reason 33 Rockland, Westchester, and Bergen County, N.J., students left their public high schools to enroll at Skunk Hollow High School.
       “If you really want to learn, this is the place to do it,” said Bruce Devan, Palisades senior at Skunk Hollow. “I went to Tappan Zee High School for three years and there is no comparison. Here you can pick up a magazine or something and know that no bell is going to ring forcing you to put it down and go to Spanish.”
       In rooms rented from the First Unitarian Society of Rockland County, Skunk Hollow instructors teach Bruce, and his fellow students, courses as diversified as witchcraft, sensitivity, science fiction writing, psychology and archeology, in addition to the subjects usually taught in public schools.
       But at Skunk Hollow there are no mandatory classes, tests or homework.  Students decide what courses they want offered and then work with the teachers in exploring the topic.
       “The free school movement is growing and collecting interest along its way,” said teacher Tilly Grey, a drop-out at 16 who later returned to school and went on to receive her B.A. from Columbia's School of General Studies.  “Last year was our first year. We were in Blauvelt then  [See Flashback Friday: Week of October 9, 2020]. We had five students enrolled, all seniors. One graduated with the National Merit Scholarship and now attends Marlboro [College] in Vermont.”
       Mrs. Grey, one of the school’s four original founders, has a personal interest in the school’s success. In addition to her disillusionment with public schools at age 16, she found further complaint with conventional techniques when her daughter, now seven, entered one of Rockland’s elementary schools.
       “I have a son who is mentally retarded,” she explained. “He’s in BOCES. When my daughter entered school, I discovered that my son was getting a better education than she was, because BOCES taught by meeting the individual needs of each child. Public school did not do this.”

Freedom School ‘Exciting’
       Soon after, Mrs. Grey learned of the Rockland County Project School in Blauvelt. An elementary free school, patterned after the British Primary School Program, the Project School excited Mrs. Grey with its philosophy.
       Also the mother of two teenage stepchildren, she “knew that teenagers were always getting lost in the shuffle,” and joined by three other enthusiasts of free curriculum, established Skunk Hollow a year ago. The group is presently seeking a state charter. Supported primarily by donations and tuition fees, the school also offers scholarships to the financially needy.
       But the financial operation of Skunk Hollow is not Mrs. Grey’s primary concern. For she and the rest of the school staff, “taking away the computer, and putting the individual basis back” into education is their main function.
       “Our kids run the school because it is their school,” she stressed. “Consequently we face problems not found in public schools. We deal with the whole individual, not just his academic interests. We're deeply involved in the personal life of the kids in a way unheard of in public schools.”

School Is an Extended Family
       A recent scene at Skunk Hollow seemed to back up Mrs. Grey’s claims. A student guitarist in the school band discovered his instrument had been stolen from a friend’s home. Distraught and lost without his beloved guitar he wandered from room to room discussing possible ways to get it back with the others.
       “It doesn’t make much sense to expect them to relate to a class at this time,” Mrs. Grey said. “All that’s on his mind right now is that guitar. In public school, he would be expected to pretend everything was fine and to participate in his classes.”
       Skunk Hollow tries to go beyond this, Mrs. Grey added, becoming an extended family where teenagers can live outside their home yet still be part of a family situation where the group cares for each other.
       The theory seems to have worked. Students often vote down vacations, preferring to attend Skunk Hollow instead of staying home on a holiday.
       “Here, the kids get options,” Mrs. Grey said. “We don’t jam anything down their throats. Learning does not happen all at once in a predictable pattern and shouldn’t be expected to. Learning can only take place when a student is relatively comfortable and happy in his surroundings, and it doesn’t take place in just one location.”
       Bearing this out that day was a freshman who seemed eager to learn. “Is this a class?” he said as he poked his head into a room in which Mrs. Grey and several students were relaxing and talking.
       “No,” she answered. “We’re just rapping. Would you like to have a class?”
       “Well,” he said, “yeah!” and then pondered what subject he wanted to be taught.

This Week in Rockland (#FBF Flashback Friday) is prepared by Clare Sheridan on behalf of the Historical Society of Rockland County. To learn about the HSRC’s mission, upcoming events or programs, visit or call (845) 634-9629.


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