GLEN RIDGE, NJ — After 50 years on Burnett Street, one would think Jack and Carol Franz would have seen their share of changes in Glen Ridge. By their estimate, they are the longest-residing homeowners on their street. The others, the neighbors they had known for many years while their five daughters were growing up, have mostly died off, Carol said. The only other family that was around when they moved in, according to Jack, is the Bogarts, a block or so away. That family is still there, he said, but the others in the neighborhood are “newbies” and have been around for only five or 10 years.
But according to the couple, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on June 8 after one-half century together, the borough has pretty much remained the same, except for the cost of homes and property taxes. Off the top of their heads, they could not think of many changes.
“The education has remained the same,” Carol said. “Our daughters got into the schools they wanted. And they acquired a love of music from the marching band.”
“It’s really a good town,” Jack said. “I have no complaints.”
They purchased their home in March 1968, three months before they were married. The house next door to them is in Bloomfield. The municipal line goes through their garage which houses a ‘41 Ford Woody and a ‘41 Ford sedan. The Woody is parked in Bloomfield.
“I remember being scared coming into the neighborhood,” Jack said last week at his home. “People weren’t super-friendly. I thought they were mad at me for moving in.”
But that feeling did not last long. Block parties and progressive dinner parties followed.
“It was fun,” Carol said. “You were in your own neighborhood.”
There was also the Memorial Day and holiday get-togethers. Jack had classic cars in local parades and afterward people would come to his home.
“We were involved in antique cars and they would all come back here,” Carol said. “They would be having a block party on Oakview Avenue. They’d come to look at the cars, but we couldn’t go there because we didn’t live there.”
Jack said they put up a fuss and were included in the block party the next year.
“I thought of moving a couple of times, but where would we go?” he said.
“We have no incentive to move except for the taxes,” Carol added. “When we moved here, we found a house we liked. We didn’t think of it anymore. Now we couldn’t afford a house in Glen Ridge. That’s the one bad thing. None of our daughters could afford to live in Glen Ridge.”
Their house cost $24,000 in 1968.
“It was probably 10 times that in 25 years,” Jack said.
“The taxes are 14-times more than when we bought it,” Carol said. “It was $975 a year then. It’s close to $14,000 now.”
“And the property hasn’t changed, size-wise,” Jack said. “You have to live with it.”
Carol said she would not move out-of-state just to save on taxes.
“This is home,” she said.
Jack was born in Yonkers and lived in Newark before coming to the borough. Carol was born in Hoboken and has lived in North Bergen and Cliffside Park before settling in Glen Ridge.
She said one of her classmates, at Horace Mann Grammar School, in North Bergen, was Wilbur Ross, the present commerce secretary.
“He made it to be a billionaire,” she said. “I didn’t.”
But she did work in the financial sector, on Wall Street, until she began having children.
“In those days, when you started looking a little pregnant, you were gone,” she said.
Jack met Carol on a blind date. Jack was working in the recording industry and one of his co-workers said he had found the right girl for him.
“He was dating Carol’s cousin and was busting my chops,” Jack said. “It was a double-date. I wouldn’t go alone.”
The rest is history. The couple had five daughters: Catherine, Molly, Beatrix, Monica and Regina, in that order. Ten years separates the oldest from the youngest. Two daughters live locally while the others are on the West Coast. There are seven grandchildren.
Suddenly Jack remembered something that had changed: the Glen Ridge street gas lamps. Time was when they needed to be wound.
“They use to wind them up once a week,” Carol said. “The guy would come with a little ladder and wind it.”
Before Public Service took over the operation of the lamps, Jack said they ran on a timer. That was why they needed to be wound. He guessed it was 30 years ago when Public Service installed wicks into the lamps. They now illuminate continuously.
“The first controversy when were here was that they were going to close Forest and Linden schools and just keep Ridgewood open,” Carol said. “I think it was the first time in history the Civic Conference Committee candidates lost.”
She said both schools were closed for a year.
“We had a daughter in kindergarten and she did that in the middle school,” Carol said. “The following year, when new people were elected, they reopened the schools and closed the middle school.”
The Bloomfield Avenue building that housed the middle school was sold but repurchased by the school district last year and is reopening again as a school in September. It was previously a Wells Fargo Bank.
Carol remembered another change.
“Fitzgerald’s use to be called Joseph’s,” she said. “It had fine dining instead of the bar-type.
She also recalled an incident.
“The first night Glen Ridge gave up its fire department and picked up Montclair, a house burned down on Ridgewood Avenue,” she said. “A fire captain had a heart attack and died.”
“It was on Jan. 1 or something,” Jack said.
The friend of one of their daughters live in the house, Carol said. Everyone escaped safely.
Carol still works in finances, for Immedicenter, at locations in Clifton, Bloomfield and Totowa. Jack said she knows more about money than he does and probably still has the first nickel anyone gave her. He remembered another something that has not changed.
“When we want to be funny, we tell people we couldn’t afford a divorce,” Jack said. “When we don’t want to be funny, we say we just love each other.”
The couple will celebrate their anniversary this coming Sunday at the Glen Ridge Country Club.