June 28, 2017

A March Down Memory Lane with Marguerite Corona

By Pam Laughlin

CDs with a 15 percent interest rate; a trolley ride for five cents; a sirloin steak big enough to feed eight for fifty cents; 2 pounds of sugar ,a stick of butter, eggs, and a dozen eggs for less than one dollar – where is this little slice of heaven?  In Raritan, NJ as remembered by ninety-four year old, lifetime resident, Marguerite Corona. “Those were the good old days, “smiles Marguerite.

Marguerite, mother of 2 children (Marilyn Forte of Randolph, NJ and Frederick Corona Jr. of Mendham, NJ), grandmother of three and great grandmother of four, has lived her entire life on Thompson Street, in Raritan, New Jersey and has great memories to share.

Marguerite shines when she reminiscences about her childhood.  “I had a wonderful childhood.  We didn’t have much money, but we had a lot of fun.  We played baseball, hide and seek, hopscotch, double-dutch, jump rope, roly poly, and roller skating after school.  We would play baseball out on the street (Thompson).  There weren’t a lot of cars then.   Main Street wasn’t even concrete yet and there were trolley tracks right in the middle of the road.  You don’t see the kids do that today. Today, you see kids walking around with a bottle of water in one hand and a cell phone in the other.  That’s the youth of today.  But we couldn’t wait to get out of school and roller skate on the sidewalk.”

Raritan has changed a lot over the years. The new apartment buildings used to be the Woolen Mills, Stop and Shop used to be home of the “dumps”, a trolley would go from Somerville to Middlesex with stops in between, The Quick Chek was home to a house that looked like an Oklahoma Hotel, and the St. Rocco Celebration used to be Raritan’s smaller version of the Feast of San Gennaro.  Marguerite shares, “We’d all march in the procession in the festival and have money pinned on us.”

As a lifetime member and pillar of St. Ann’s Church in Raritan, at age fourteen Marguerite was president of the St. Theresa Club and was nicknamed, “the Baby of the Parish.”  Marguerite is proud to say,” I was baptized there, took all of my sacraments there and have been president of most of the societies they have.” This includes president to such clubs as the Rosary Altar Society, St. Ann’s Golden Age, and St. Ann’s Lunch Bunch. Marguerite laughs, “I even started the PTA before we had a school.  Every year I did more and more. I’ve always been very active in the church and still am.  I’ve been given many titles too, like St. General, Mother Superior, and even The Boss.”

Today, Marguerite goes to mass every morning, is part of St. Ann’s finance committee and is responsible for bringing the collection money to the bank.  She is president of the Lunch Bunch, where once a month grandparents of the 7th & 8th grade students have lunch with the students.  Marguerite does the cooking.  “I make soup and sandwiches and dessert. I make minestrone soup, chicken noodle soup, and the wedding soup.  I make sandwiches – ham and cheese, tuna fish.  We have a lot of fun”, she says.

Marguerite grew up in a family of eight, 4 girls and 4 boys and was next to the last one in age.  Their second home on Thomson Street was home to their father’s confectionary store and they lived above the store. “I was too little to reach the counter and my dad used to put a cigar box or empty soda box so I could reach the counter and help people.  We were always in business”, smiles Marguerite.

It seems the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. After High School, Marguerite worked for the Raritan Savings Bank in the Bridgewater tax office.  When they needed new office space, Marguerite offered up the empty confectionary store as their location. She worked with ledger books to calculate shares and varied mortgage payments.  Marguerite points to her head and says,” I used this (points to head) and figured out the mortgage payments. “   Marguerite lived upstairs. “I would run upstairs, set the timer, put my roast in the oven, and run downstairs and take care of the bank, “ she says.  And as the bank grew so did Marguerite responsibilities.  She started as a teller and continued as an assistant treasurer, manager, and retired as Assistant Vice President.  Today, she is a retiree of the Somerset Savings Bank with 42 years of service under her belt.  “They still contact me every month and call me to go to the Retirees breakfast every 2nd Monday of the month.  And I still go.  They’ll call and pick me up and sometimes my daughter comes with us.  When I retired they gave me such a party – all the bankers came”, she says proudly.

Marguerite has this to say about Raritan.  “It’s a friendly town with friendly people.  I like the people.  And I know all the people from being in banking all of these years.  People still come up to me and say, ‘Hi, Mrs. Corona.  Do you remember me?  You gave me my first mortgage. ‘“

You may have seen her at the Chamber of Commerce Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 6th.  As a pillar of the community, she was asked to light the tree this year and I bet she did a great job!

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