RBR SENIOR IN TOUCH WITH HISTORY

kaylaRed Bank Regional senior and Red Bank resident Kayla Williams is currently working on an oral history project, in alliance with the Red Bank Library.  

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

Each Sunday, area residents flock to the Galleria parking lot to pick the fresh produce at the farmers’ market. Few among the shoppers realize that a similar scene once played out down the road at Marine Park, where boats carried in fruits and vegetables straight from New York City’s markets in the days when Red Bank was an operating port.

That was the memory of 97- year-old Anthony Trufolo, a former Red Bank High School teacher, as recorded by 17 year-old Red Bank resident Kayla Williams, a rising senior at Red Bank Regional High School.

Kayla spent a good part of her summer vacation interviewing and recording the memories of other senior Red Bank residents, in collaboration with the Red Bank Library’s on-going oral history project. She volunteered to participate as she thought it would be interesting and fun.  She found it to be all that and, in her words, “just amazing.”

The project, a long-fermenting idea of the library’s Acting Director Elizabeth McDermott, was catalyzed by a recent bequest of old photos from Mr. Trufolo to the library. The project gathered momentum when McDermott happened to observe Kayla at the library, donning her RBR Creative Writing t-shirt. Kayla is a Creative Writing Major in RBR’s Visual & Performing Arts Academy.

“I asked her if she would mind using her creative writing talents in putting together a list of questions for an interview with Mr. Trufolo and writing it up,” the director recalls. “What she created showed such insight.”

From her crafted questions, Kayla would uncover a wealth of fascinating information.  Responding to “what did you like to do as a teenager?” she learned of the vastly different physicality of Red Bank, since young Anthony would play pick-up games with friends in the many vacant lots around town. Also dotting the town were numerous primary schools, one of which now houses her alma mater, Red Bank Charter, on Oakland Street. River Street School, near Kayla’s home, is now a senior residence.

In response to her question on growing up during the depression, Mr. Trufolo recalled his siblings scouring area wood shops for scraps to heat their homes.  The injustice of the times were recounted, ironically in the memory of the iconic Count Basie theatre, now named for Red Bank’s most famous resident. Mr. Trufolo recalled its segregated predecessor The Carlton Theatre, into which he would try to sneak in with his African American friends to the lower level (the balcony was designated seating for “colored”).

“Kayla learned that both he and his beloved wife were born in their respective family homes; and that Mrs. Trufolo was born in the house diagonally across from Kayla’s house,” observed McDermott. “In addition, Mr. Trufolo fondly recalled Kayla’s grandfather, Horner Williams, whom he taught in school.”

Kayla and Ms. McDermott collaborated on several other oral history interviews of Red Bank residents, all longtime residents of Red Bank.  The two volunteered at a Pop Up Museum on Monmouth Street at the 60th annual Red Bank Sidewalk Sale. Through announcements at town council meetings and a subsequent newspaper article, the list of prospective residents eager to tell their tale grew. Ms. McDermott hopes to conduct as many in-depth interviews as possible, and post the write-ups with pictures on the library website in addition to a fluid display in the library.

An honor roll student and member of the Spanish Honor Society, Kayla Williams hopes to help bring such a project to fruition. Kayla has won numerous awards from the National Scholastic Competition for her poetry submissions, and has performed her works with her classmates locally and on a European tour. She is a youth leader in her church and a member of the Navesink River Rowing Youth team, and hopes to study biology in college upon her 2015 graduation.

As she reported on her synopsis of the Anthony Trufulo meeting, “Interviewing Mr. Trufolo was an amazing experience…hearing what he had to say, learning about life from generations before was almost like traveling back in time.

“Mr. Trufolo has been alive since before the 19th amendment was ratified, before the first commercial airplanes, toasters, masking tape, bubble gum, sunglasses. The first supermarket in America a Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis the year he was born! I loved talking to him!”

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