By Chris Rotolo |
LITTLE SILVER – Parked behind a Citgo station and the G&S Auto Repair garage on Branch Avenue is a dented and dilapidated pickup truck with a spiderweb fracture winding its way around the rear window.
The truck bed’s wooden panels have been eaten away by time and protruding from beneath decades of dust and rust are sparse splotches of metallic mint green paint, a nod to the heyday of this once pristine 1960 Chevrolet. Emblazoned on the driver’s side and passenger doors is “Parker’s Farm,” a block of wavy lettering linking this vehicle to the historic Parker Homestead on nearby Rumson Road.
The truck’s bumps and bruises are evidence of a rough-and-tumble life on the Parker family farm. Now the president of the Parker Homestead-1665 organization, Keith Wells, says a campaign is underway to bring the vehicle back home.
Last weekend, members of the local historical organization and other volunteers from the area ventured to the site to clear out space in the on-site Wagon Barn, where the vintage truck will be parked once it is back in running order.
Dan Laden, owner of G&S Auto Repair is the man tasked with refurbishing the vehicle, and has already successfully replaced the fuel line and rebuilt the carburetor.
“We’ve got it running, but there’s still some work left to do,” Laden said, adding that the Parker Homestead-1665 has already put about $2,600 into the project he estimates will cost about $5,000.
Wells said the initial fundraising effort was spearheaded by “a very generous donation” from Rumson resident Rick Blank and, like Laden, stressed that the funds are being used for general maintenance, rather than a full restoration.
“The truck is rusted and dented as a farm truck should be,” Wells said in a Nov. 12 interview with The Two River Times. “The truck in itself is not spectacular, but it’s just another part of the story we’re able to tell and we’re ready to bring it back home.”
The story of the Parker family and the family’s preserved parcel on the outskirts of Sickles Market, is one that spans 350 years.
The Parkers settled the land in 1665 as the first Europeans to lay their roots in Monmouth County. For eight generations they farmed the land until 1995, when the last surviving member of the family, Julia Parker, passed away, leaving the home, the barns and the surrounding land to the Borough of Little Silver.
“That’s what makes the homestead so unique,” Wells said. “It was one family and we use the history of the family and property to tell the history of the area. There’s nothing that has occurred in the county, in New Jersey or the United States over the last 350 years that isn’t somehow a part of the history of the homestead.”
He noted how in 1778 British soldiers had dinner at the homestead following the famed Battle of Monmouth – outside the Monmouth Courthouse in what is now Freehold Borough – in which George Washington and Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Green forced Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis and his opposing troops to withdraw from battlefield under the cover of darkness.
The beginning of World War I caused the U.S. military to begin constructing Fort Monmouth in 1928 and it was the Parker family that would be tapped for produce to feed all the servicemen stationed there.
By the beginning of World War II the Parkers had established an apple orchard and the military came calling again, purchasing and shipping the product to troops fighting in Russia.
“We have furniture from the 1700s. We have a tractor from 1939. These things by themselves are not special. But like the truck, it’s another visible display of the family’s presence in our area and it’s just another part of the story we’re able to tell,” Wells said.
Laden said the next major task of the maintenance project is to give the truck new brakes.
“We can start it up and get it moving. Now we just have to work on getting it to stop,” he said.
Wells said the goal is not to make the vehicle worthy of a state-issued registration, but to get it to the point where it can be safely stored and displayed at the homestead and possibly even driven in the borough’s annual Memorial Day Parade.
Those who wish to contribute to the funding for this refurbishment effort can do so at the Parker Homestead-1665 annual winter open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 9 where hot chocolate, Christmas carols and other festive activities will take place.
Organizers say donations can also be made via PayPal at parkerhomestead-1665.org by specifying “Truck” in the subject line, or by sending a check with “Truck” specified in the memo line to P.O. Box 82, Little Silver, NJ 07739.
This article was first published in the Nov. 15 – Nov. 21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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