Thomas Patrick Norton II
Norton-ThomasPatrick 100 0562.JPG
Sex: Male
Birth: July 8, 1920 (1920-07-08) (102 years ago)
Death: October 6, 2011 (age 91)
11 years ago
Father: Thomas Patrick Norton I (1891-1968)
Siblings: Vincent Gerard Norton (1923-2005)
John Burke Norton (1927)
James Joseph Norton II (1929- )
Catherine Finn Norton (1930-1934)
Marriage: 1941

From left to right are: Thomas Patrick Norton I (1891-1968) with his wife, Mary Margaret Burke (1890-1949); Thomas Patrick Norton II (1920- ) and Vincent Gerard Norton (1923-2005) circa 1925, on the corner of Garfield Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey

Thomas Patrick Norton (1920- ) marriage in 1941

Thomas Patrick Norton (1920- ) on Sunday, December 28, 1958

Thomas Patrick Norton (1920- ) and James Joseph Norton II (1929- ) in 1998

Thomas Patrick Norton gravemarker.jpg

Thomas Patrick Norton II (1920-2011) was the comptroller for White Beeches Country Club and later Rockland Country Club. (b. 1920; Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey, USA - 2011; Edison, New Jersey, USA)





It is said that strong memories can many times be associated with traumatic events and in my case my earliest has to do with intense pain. When I was about five years old I developed an ear infection which resulted in mastoiditis and I can remember when the specialist who was recommended by our family doctor came to our home at 603 Garfield Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey to examine me, and my mother's tearful reaction when he told her that I would have to be hospitalized and operated on to drain the abscessed ear. I can still remember fighting the ether mask and how sick to my stomach I was when I finally awoke and also how heavy my head felt when I tried to get up.


The next time I was hospitalized and given ether, I was a little older and wiser and did breathe slowly and deeply as I was told and as a result did not suffer the same after effects. This was for a minor overnight stay to remove my tonsils and adenoids when I was about eight years old.

Scarlet fever[]

I was the first born and may have been a little premature because I weighed only about five pounds. My brothers and my sister were bigger and were in the seven to eight pound range at birth. I only mention this because I seemed to be the one who was to get all the childhood diseases and one of the worst was a very bad case of scarlet fever. This was when I was about ten and I was kept under quarantine at home. I was isolated in a small room which had to be kept dark to protect my eyes and the doorway was covered by a sheet dampened by a solution of Lysol. The effect of the fever caused a mild heart murmur and as I continued to grow up, a gradual lessening of flexibility in my joints.

Physical education[]

I remember this very well because in junior high school we had to take physical education under the supervision of a special teacher in a gymnasium (in elementary school we just went outside to play games while the teachers watched) and the special teacher, a Mr. Schenkle, a grossly overweight, loud-mouthed, profane, bully was, to me, a sorry example to set as a result of physical education. Again, intense pain is the reason this is burned into my memory because when we were doing our exercises and were required to reach down and touch our toes, I could not get much further than my knees and Mr. Schenkle who loved to vocally excoriate "slackers" as he called the non-achievers, decided to help me by coming up behind me and pushing my back down. This just about finished me as he strained not only my back, but my hamstrings as well. I was not able to go to school for quite a while and never took physical education again. The subject is required under New Jersey state law but I was able to avoid it by having my doctor petition the school authorities to excuse me due to my heart murmur.

Second mastoiditis[]

I developed mastoiditis in my other ear when I was twelve years old but it was caught earlier and the operation was merely to puncture the eardrum to drain out the infection. It was performed at home by the same specialist, a Doctor Morris Pyle who had his office at Exchange Place in Jersey City.


My most serious medical problem was a burst appendix which resulted in gangrene and peritonitis and almost cost me my life. I remember the pain. I had the attack in high school when I was just sixteen and the nurse sent me home. We had no telephone then and really never had an automobile (my father had won a car in a church raffle some years before but he was such a poor driver that my mother had him sell it. Jersey city was not a good place to have a car anyway because there was no place to garage the car or to park it.) I lived about two miles from the high school and started to walk home. When I was one block away from my house my appendix must have burst because I remember trying to hold myself upright by grabbing the pole that held the sign for Stegman Street and Ocean Avenue but I gradually slipped down to my knees and then blacked out. I do not know who got me home or how my mother got word to the doctor but it took time before he could get to me and make the arrangements to get me to the hospital. It was an emergency operation which was performed about midnight and the delay undoubtedly led to the serious nature of the infection. I was in the hospital for a month and was given the last rites of the church. I was kept under sedation by morphine not only for the pain but also to keep me from writhing and inadvertently pulling out the tubes which were feeding me but also draining the infection. I lost twenty five pounds and came out as a living skeleton. Our family doctor, George Brick (the one who sent me to Dr. Pyle, the specialist and who arranged for me to be sent to the St. Francis hospital for the appendectomy) gave my father a recipe for a tonic to help me gain back some of the weight I had lost. It was like eggnog with milk and cinnamon but was fortified with sherry wine. My dad dutifully made this for me every day and at the same time made one for himself. It gradually helped me to gain back some of the lost weight but unfortunately caused him to gain weight he did not need. My general health improved considerably after the appendix operation and recovery and to compensate for the missing physical education at school I took up dynamic tension, a form of non-equipment exercise. I always like to run and so kept in good shape.

Grocery store[]

When I graduated from high school at sixteen I was, in a way, still a kid. I was small and shy but I got a full time job as a clerk in our local eagle grocery store. It was a two man store, the manager and me. The pay was five dollars a week for sixty hours of work but I did such a good job that the manager, an old man named Bill Miller who suffered from ulcers, gave me an extra fifty cents out of his own pocket because I did most of the work and let him take it easy if possible. The corner grocery store in 1937 was a far cry from the supermarkets of today. As the clerk of the two man staff I had to sweep the sidewalk every morning, put up or down the awnings as the weather dictated, wash the display windows once a week and when the grocery delivery was made the truckmen would just put the barrels and boxes on the sidewalk, the manager would confirm the delivery, sign for it and I would have to move it all inside to the back storeroom. Also much of the items such as flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, potatoes, etc. had to be broken down into smaller amounts such as pounds, dozens, quarts, etc. This was my job also. I had to restock the shelves by carefully removing the old items, wiping the shelf and then replacing the old items in front of the newer ones. When the store was busy I also would wait on customers by physically moving about the store to bring whatever they wanted to the counter, wrapping it up and also delivering it to their home if that was requested. That was usually worth a ten cent tip! There were no scanners then so you had to know all the prices and you had to add up the total (twice as a matter of fact for the required confirmation). After about a year I left Mr. Miller to work as an experienced clerk for the National Grocery Company at a salary of eight dollars a week. Grocery stores then were open six days a week from 8 am until 6 Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Eagle Printing Ink Company[]

When I was eighteen I got a job with the Eagle Printing Ink Company as a shipping clerk on the recommendation of Pete Van Deusen who used to live next door to us on Garfield Avenue. Pete was seven years older than me and had the same job with Mr. Miller when he was just out of high school. He was a quality control inspector at the ink plant and was the manager of the company softball team in the Jersey City industrial league. He wanted me to play on the company team and I agreed to do it. I had played for him once before in the Sunday softball league in Bayside Park in Jersey City. About this time in my life I became a member of the Jersey City Lancers a local neighborhood sports club made up of young men for fun more than anything else. It was encouraged by the grownups because we played at the local parks or schools and generally kept out of trouble. Besides working at the ink plant and playing on their softball team in the summer, I also played softball and baseball for the Lancers on Sunday in the summer and football in the fall and winter. I played football for the Lancers on Thanksgiving day in 1939 and was hurt so that I could not go to work the next day at the ink company. Since we did not have a telephone, there was no way that I could report my reason for being absent and when I went to work on the following Monday I found out that I was fired.

Mutual Chemical Company[]

I went to the state unemployment office to see if I could register for benefits. (I was not sure if my circumstances were covered) and instead they sent me on an interview for a job with the Mutual Chemical Company of America a large bulk processing and refining company in Jersey City. They were looking to hire a traffic clerk. I had never worked as a traffic clerk before or even knew what one did but I had observed how the shipping room operated at the ink company and told them I was willing to learn and they hired me for fifteen dollars for a five and a half day, forty-four hour week. The traffic clerk job was to keep the necessary records of all of the incoming raw materials and the outgoing finished products. It involved both railroad and trucking and domestic and overseas shipments. I worked under the traffic manager who was also the office manager and paymaster and he encouraged me to go with him to the local traffic club when they had educational seminars in order to broaden my knowledge.

World War II[]

When our country went to war against the axis in December, 1941 I felt particularly obliged to contribute because one of my friends from the Lancers was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. He had joined the Navy only about six months before. I told them at the chemical company that I was going to enter the service and they said my job would be there when I returned. When I went to the Navy recruiting office in New York City in early 1942 to enlist, I failed the physical because I was underweight, had bad hearing and the heart murmur. They suggested that I try to gain eight pounds to bring me up to their standard for my height and build to ensure that I had no chronic health problem which was keeping my weight so low and to be re-tested. It took me several months to gain the weight (I had to eat a lot of bananas and cream plus a regular high calorie diet) and when I was re-tested I was sent to the officer in charge, a full Navy captain, who explained that he would have to make a recommendation because my hearing and heart were not 100%. He said the problems were slight but enough to keep me out under ordinary circumstances but this was wartime and if I still wanted to join the Navy he would approve a limited duty enlistment which would mean I could not serve in the submarine service or in the naval flight service. I agreed and was sent to the U.S. Naval training station in Newport, Rhode Island for boot camp then to Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania for radio school and then to Noroton Heights, Connecticut for special advanced communication school. I was finally assigned to the United States Navy armed guard service facility at the Brooklyn Naval Armory in late November of 1942. The armed guard service of the Navy provided gunners and communication personnel for allied shipping which moved in convoys under naval protection against German planes and submarines. My first ship, the James Iradell, was in the invasion of Casablanca in December, 1942 and in the invasion of Sicily in 1943. During my almost three years of sea duty I was on many ships and went to Cuba, Trinidad, Jamaica, England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Algeria as well, to some of these countries many times. I was discharged from the Navy at the Lido Beach Separation Center in Long Island in late 1945.


  • Thomas Patrick Norton II (1920-2011) talks about receiving an autographed baseball from Yogi Berra (1925- ) circa 1960-1970, while he was working at White Beeches Country Club in New Jersey. The interview was recorded on February 17, 2008 in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey.

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Otto Winblad offered me an apprenticeship as a stereotyper when he worked for the Herald in New York City or the Jersey Journal in Jersey City. This was after the war, probably 1945 or 1946. The pay was $15 per week and I was already making $33 per week working for Mutual Chemical as a traffic clerk. Later on I was a paymaster and carried a gun. I turned down the job and it was given to Joseph Lawrence Reilly the husband of Eloise Freudenberg. After the war they didn't know what to do with me when I went back to Mutual Chemical so they had me substitute for everyone who was away. That way I learned how the whole company worked. Before the war my job was as the traffic clerk, Fred was the office manager and I was his assistant. Before Mutual Chemical I worked at the company that Pete Van Deusen worked at, I was fired when I missed a day of work when I was injured playing football. My family didn't have a telephone so I couldn't call in sick. Pete told me to go to the unemployment office and they sent me to Mutual Chemical. (Source: Thomas Patrick Norton II (1920-2011) on Sunday, May 11, 2003)

Otto Perry Winblad (1902-1977)[]

Otto was part owner of a gas station in Paramus, New Jersey around 1953 when we moved to Paramus. The gas station was at the corner of Midland Avenue and Forest Avenue and was a Shell station. I didn't have a job and he paid me $1 per hour to work from 5:00 pm to closing at 10:00 pm. The gas station also had a freezer that they sold ice cream from. Paramus was mostly celery farms back then. (Source: Thomas Patrick Norton II (1920-2011) on July 20, 2003)

Jersey City[]

Bernard Pashelinsky's father was the ragman and he had a mule pulled wagon that would go up and down the streets of Jersey City and he would call out for rags, bones and bottles. Bernard took over the business after the War and he expanded the business. When I was at Mutual Chemical we had a big vat lined with lead that need to be dismantled and I suggested that we call him and ses if he would buy the lead. It was a win-win situation. After the War, Bernie bought surplus military equipment and resold it. He made a lot of money. They lived on a side street off of Stegman. (Source: Thomas Patrick Norton (1920-2011) on July 20, 2003). Note: The family appears in the 1930 census

Home-made root beer[]

We used to make home-made root beer in the kitchen in the spring time, we would use old ginger ale quart bottles. We bought a packet to make it. We used an old porcelain pot to mix it. You used yeast and sugar and syrup. We would sterilize the bottles which as the most difficult part. We would fill the bottles with a siphon and then use a crimper to put on the bottle caps. We would bring them down to the basement and put them next to the coal bin and cover them with a tarp. They would ferment for months to produce the carbonation. We would know if it was a success if we heard the hiss when we opened the bottles. My dad would open the first bottle and we would keep a few in the ice box during the summer.Source: Thomas Patrick Norton (1920- ) July 20, 2003 Thomas Patrick Norton II (1920- ):My dad once bought a kit for making dandelion wine and when he tasted it he said it wasn't worth the effort. He tried making beer at home but the lid blew of the fermentation container and made a mess. My mother made him not make beer anymore. (Source: Thomas Patrick Norton (1920-2011) on July 20, 2003)

Bergen Pines Hospital[]

I was offered a job at Bergen Pines Hospital as the administrator but I turned down the job. It would have been a cut in pay, but it had a pension. I still regret turning down that job. I worked for 54 years and never had a pension. (Source: Thomas Patrick Norton (1920-2011) on April 4, 2004)

Memory problems[]

  • Your dad is getting much worse with his memory, the other day he didn't recognize the block we live on and we were just a few houses away from our own. I am thinking we might move to Florida. I was sick for Thanksgiving so your dad and I stayed home alone. His memory comes and goes. (Source: Selma Louise Freudenberg (1921-2009) on Saturday, November 27, 2004)
  • Today we tried to drive down to visit you but we got lost when we were on Route 18 in New Brunswick, we ended up lost for 4 hours with your father not knowing where he was at all. We finally made it back to Paramus after going through Paterson three times. He kept asking for directions and then getting lost again. When we got home he said to me that he realized he had Alzheimers. (Source: Selma Feudenberg (1921-2009), Saturday, February 19, 2005) Note: He took the right lane at the split of Route 18 North into Route 1 North which took him through Edison, New Jersey and finally Newark, New Jersey by the airport. He ended up asking the police for directions and they arranged for an escort and his driver's license was revoked. (Source: Richard Arthur Norton on August 23, 2019)