Navarre woman co-writes memoir of New Jersey town

Special to Entertainer

Small town living. You either loved it or hated it, but eventually you found peace with it. Growing up in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, was no different … or was it?

“Growing Up Laker” is a tribute to the rich heritage, community values and sheer wonder of growing up in a small northern New Jersey town surrounded by nature’s bounty. It is also a tribute to the generations of families who recognize the uniqueness of the town and continue to raise their children there.

Navarre resident Susan Denise Barnes, along with photographer and contributor Amy Stewart-Wilmarth of Oak Ridge, New Jersey, look at their home town through the eyes of kids growing up in Mountain Lakes during the first 70 years, weaving tales and memories of their favorite seasonal activities and hangouts throughout.

They uncover common denominators that span the decades and discover that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Mountain Lakes is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, and if it were possible to register the perseverance, the community ethos, and the spirit of Mountain Lakes, its residents would somehow find a way to do that, too.

“Curiosity about what made Mountain Lakes special for kids growing up Laker was like an itch I couldn’t reach. What made the town so unique, so special, that generations of families remained or returned to raise their own children here? What is it that draws hundreds of graduates together every year for reunions to pick up where they left off, whether it’s been just one year or 40?” said Barnes. “And, finally, why is it that we can’t seem to explain the magic of growing up Laker to anyone outside of Mountain Lakes? Something about that town, something about those memories.”

“Growing Up Laker” is a feel-good book, plain and simple, about generations of kids growing up — visiting the same haunts, engaging in the same traditions, and pulling the same antics decade after decade. Stroll down memory lane with the authors to unravel the mystery of the Laker Spirit, enjoy the reverie, and share your own tales with family and friends.

“Growing Up Laker: A Collective Memoir of the First 70 Years” by Susan Denise Barnes and Amy Stewart-Wilmarth is available from Amazon. Print version contains black-and-white photos, and the Kindle edition contains color photos.