A Growing Town
This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in May 1982.
In 1892 John Y. Dater started the Ramsey Journal in what was then the principal town of HoHoKus Township. It was started in the two story frame house which he built on what was then the corner of Dater Avenue (now W. Main Street) and Maple Street. He used a hot air engine to operate his presses. This engine was very noisy and offended the neighbors. The building was afterwards moved down Maple Street.
In 1896 he started the old brick Journal Building at 2-10 Main Street. He already had two tenants: William Henry Pulis for grocery and hardware and John Garrison of Darlington for a butcher shop. The first was where Electrolux now is, and the second where the Deli is now. A deli and candy store opened between the two which was run by John Guatelli. The second floor was partly rented to the Ramsey Building & Loan. Other offices housed insurance and real estate and later borough clerk and the library. One of the two big rooms was rented by the Improved Order of Oddfellows and the Jr. Order of American Mechanics. Later a basketball and sports club occupied it. The big room next to the railroad had a stage in it which traveling shows rented and movies (silent) were shown. I remember my 1910 grammar school graduation there. A frequent tenant was Claude Rouclere of Ridgewood who put on magic shows.
John Y. Dater installed a coal-fired steam engine in his shop next to the track to run a newspaper cylinder press and smaller job presses. There were two type-setting aisles by the windows. Emerson McMillan, who bought the Crocker mansion, used to take the railroad to New York. While waiting for the train, and he saw me setting type, he would come over and chat with me. He made his money running several electric trolley lines across the state. I also folded papers and helped with job work.
This growth in the town was certainly influenced by the newspaper with its local news and advertising. Mahwah, Allendale and Waldwick all came here to shop. The post office was in the Pulis store and about 1904 the Vanderbeek Drug Company opened in the front of the Journal area. This was also the telephone switchboard until 1906 serving local phones, Havemeyer in Darlington and Mahwah. All of these facts had a hand in the local development. Of course there were two liquor saloons on Main Street, which were very popular on election days. The Township Committee met in a part of one on the corner of Church Street. Up where Spruce Street is now, William Slack built a store where he made furniture, sold hardware and ran funerals (he made the coffins).
In 1909 the First National Bank (now Citizens First) opened in the old Valentine house which stood where the bank is now. E.F. Carpenter, who managed the Crocker estate, was its first president. In 1908 Ramsey became a borough and there was a new phase of development. About this time an electric trolley was built from Suffern to Paterson with the Ramsey station on Main St. where the high tension electric line crosses. Ramsey was a complete town with lawyers, doctors and vet, also a dry goods store and clothing store. The first ice cream and soda fountain was in the drug store with ice cream coming on the railroad from Paterson where it was made. There was also a lunch room on Main Street, a shoemaker, plumber, hay grain and feed store. As mentioned movies were also shown upstairs in the Journal building.
The Journal did all forms of job printing, even books. The operation of the newspaper and the print shop were all in the age old tradition of printing. That in itself, is a long story going back to the Middle Ages. With handset metal type hand-fed presses and hand-powered paper cutters.
The railroad was growing in those days with its fine old steam locomotives, and at least 800 daily commuters and lots of freight. When the rich people in Darlington went off or came back from Newport, or the seashore, in the summer there would be a big load of 6 to 10 trunks to be shipped on the railroad.
John Y. Dater switched to a typesetting machine for use on the newspaper. It deposited a line of type, set in words, which another operator justified into a column for the paper. Later on he bought one of the first Lino-types which cast metal slugs to be assembled in a column on the paper.
Now it is all different. Newspapers are produced by offset printing in which a typewriter-like machine produces type in a column. If handset ads are used, they are reproduced on paper for insertion. When the sheet is pasted up, it is made ready for the press by a photo-electric process. I learned offset printing on board ship in the Navy and installed it in the Journal. Advertising was the reason the old Journal was sold and the Store-News started in its stead. The shopper generated a circulation 10 times greater and carried a greater and more varied advertising service.