Bertrand Island Park has been closed for thirty years but continues to live on in the pictures and the memorabilia on display at the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum, and in the minds and hearts of those visiting the exhibit. The museum officially opened for the season Sunday at noon and will be open every Sunday from noon to 4 until the end of May.
Amanda Garrison Hinchman came to the museum with her husband and in-laws. She was particularly interested in the Bertrand Island Park exhibit.
“My father worked at the park and my mother and aunts went there all the time,” she said looking at a wall of photographs. “All I ever heard about was how great nickel night and penny night was. They would say ‘We used to go with a handful of pennies and be there all night long,’” said the Hopatcong resident, laughing.
Jeff Chaplin and Susan Romeo stopped at the museum specifically to look at the Bertrand Island Park exhibit. He grew up and still lives in the area and was excited to show Romeo a piece of his childhood. Having visited the museum “three or four years ago,” Chaplin was impressed at how much it has changed and how much there is to look at.
“It’s fascinating to see everything that I grew up with,” said Chaplin.
“Some of this stuff is like seeing old friends,” said Chaplin hugging one of the dummies used in the game, Knock Their Hats Off. Chaplin also said he recognized some of the people featured in the photographs on the wall.
Marty Kane, LHHM president, was on hand to greet visitors and start them off on their self-guided tour of the two story building, beginning with the Joe Cook exhibit on the first floor. According to Kane, Cook was one of the most popular actors of his time in the 1920’s and 1930’s, performing in vaudeville, movies, on the radio and on stage. From 1924 until 1941, Cook made Lake Hopatcong, Sleepless Hollow at Davis Cove, his full time home, playing host to hundreds of fellow performers and famous people from around the nation. Cook used his upright piano as a sort of sign-in book during this time. Anyone who came for a visit engraved their name into the piano. The piano is covered in hundreds of signatures, including that of Babe Ruth, Groucho Marx and Ginger Rogers, to name a few. In 2004, the piano was donated to the museum, and after being restored to working conditions, became the cornerstone of the Cook exhibit.
But on opening day, most people came to see the Bertrand Island Park exhibit. As a child growing up in Pequannock, Debbie Hinchman barely remembers her visits to the park but said it was nice to see things the way they used to be.
A visitor to the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum listens as Marty Kane, right, president, talks about one of the exhibits.
The Joe Cook exhibit features a piano signed by hundreds of people who visited the actor at his residence, Sleepless Hollow, in Davis Cove.