• Donna Brown

Traveling back in time is always a fun exercise



In the 2002 Mark Wills song, “19 Somethin’” a 30ish guy reminisces about growing up in the 1970s by remembering Farah Fawcett hair, bellbottoms and 8-track tapes. In the 1980s he recalled watching MTV, taking the stickers off the Rubix cube and his first love, Daisy Duke. Then came big hair, parachute pants and black Trans-Ams. The song ends with him saying he now has a mortgage and an SUV, and it sometimes makes him wish for 1970 somethin’ or 19 somethin’.


Have you ever wanted to travel back in time? Where would you go? A place where you were happiest, a time of historical significance or a random day way before your time? I have been asking friends and family, and most want to go back to times in their lives: wedding, kindergarten, birth of their children. A friend wants to be at the Kennedy assassination to see what really happened. Another wants to go back and witness a day at the height of the Roman Empire. Our grandson wants to see a T-Rex firsthand.


My husband wants to watch his birth from a distance. He was born in Hammonton at the Esposito Maternity Home on 12th Street and after three girls, his parents yearned for a boy. Apparently when he was born Dr. Esposito held him up and shouted, “It’s a boy!” In our politically correct world today I wonder if doctors can say that. Oh, but I digress.


As for myself I love history and would like to walk down the streets of Hammonton 150 years ago, but I think I’d choose a day when my sons were five and 11. A random summer day when they played in the woods in the morning building forts and throwing pinecone hand grenades and spending the afternoon in the pool with Super Soakers and popsicles.


In the 1990s the local post office called the middle school library and offered a set of educational materials called “The Decades.” There were packets with posters, lesson plans and other materials to supplement lessons on the different decades of American history. This facilitated one of the greatest projects ever hosted in the library.


Reference skills were a required weeklong lesson in the library for all social studies classes and I would collaborate with the teachers to incorporate the research with their curriculum. For most of the week the students pored through books, not computers, to find information on food, clothing, entertainment, historical events, transportation, inventions and communication of their assigned decade. In addition, they were asked to interview family members for memories of the past. On the fifth day we partied. The students were invited to dress up and often wore clothing from their parents or grandparents. Now truthfully, not all eighth graders are willing to put on costumes and that was fine, but they did willingly partake in the decades related food I brought in such as cheese fondue, Jell-O molds and spam.


Hammonton Middle School eighth graders wear vintage hats while participating in a 1998 library activity, “The Decades.” Pictured (l-r): Elizabeth Flores, Adriana Sandoval, Robyn Mascioli and Allison DeCicco. (Courtesy Photo)

One class stands out in my mind, the eighth grade class of 1997-98. Mrs. Pat Alvino brought her classes in and her kind mannerism and encouragement always motived her student to work hard and participate in any library activity. Everyone seemed to have a family story and on the last day I was impressed, especially with Robyn Mascioli and her friend Allison DeCicco.


During the week they had shown enthusiasm for the project by helping others and sparking interest in the students around them who were less than thrilled about the research. Then on party day Robyn, Allison and their friends all showed up in vintage 1940s-’50s hats decked out in flowers and veils. In the eighth grade yearbook Robyn was chosen as friendliest, and she certainly was. Always eager to learn and compassionate to her classmates.


I found a photo of Robyn and Allison in their flowered hats taken the day of the Decades Party. It brought back so many wonderful library memories that I had to catch up on their lives. Today Robyn Brazill and Allison Sciotto are still best friends, and both are married with children. Robyn teaches fourth grade in Pennsylvania, and I am sure she still sparkles with enthusiasm.



Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to wescoat@comcast.net.