Charles E. Smith

Life Communities

Meet Sophie

Meet Sophie: 

Remembering the Glory Days of Lakewood, New Jersey

If you're interested in historic Lakewood, New Jersey, speak to Sophie, a resident today of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. She'll fill you in on life in this once popular resort area, located in New Jersey's Pine Belt, from two perspectives: that of a child whose parents managed one of its major hotels and of an adult who owned and operated this same hotel until the region's decline.

Starting in the nineteenth century, Lakewood was widely viewed as an outstanding vacation getaway and winter health resort, drawing socially prominent millionaires (think Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Astor, and Gould) as well as regular folks attracted by its reputation for mild weather, natural beauty, and gracious comfort. By the early 1900s it was host to many well-known entertainment and sports personalities, and during WWII, the New York baseball Giants made Lakewood their official training base.

In 1920, Sophie's parents moved to Lakewood from New York City to assume ownership of The Manhattan, a picturesque hotel with 50 bedrooms overlooking Lake Carasaljo. Sophie grew up in the Township of Lakewood, married, and soon after she and her husband Alex joined her parents in managing the hotel. Eventually Sophie and Alex became the sole owners: Alex handled business operations while Sophie supervised in the kitchen. Guests came to The Manhattan to relax, enjoy healthy cuisine, and treat themselves to carrage rides, ice skating, and long walks around the lake.

By the mid-1960s, Lakewood's glory days were over, so Sophie and Alex retired to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After many years, Sophie, now on her own, moved to Los Angeles, California, to be near her daughter and son-in-law. Sophie lived at The Los Angeles Hebrew Home where she maintained an active lifestyle by serving as the Home's Sisterhood president as well as president of their Resident Council. Two years ago, Sophie and her daughter returned to the East Coast and Sophie moved into our Wasserman Residence. She and her daughter, who lives nearby, are extremely close -- almost like friends -- and they continue to have fun on outings to restaurants, shops, movies, and parks. "I keep busy here," says Sophie. "I'm not one for idle chitchat."

Sophie takes part in painting classes, weekly Bingo, poker games, and various interesting activities; she also reads avidly and savors the challenge of a good word puzzle. The walls of her room are decorated with photos of her three grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and placid landscapes, samples of her considerable outpouring of artwork completed over the last decade. From Lakewood to Rockville, Sophie has, and continues to, experience life to the fullest.

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