Life on Morristown’s Altamont Court: When the fence came down, the neighbors came out

Good fences make good neighbors.

Except on Altamont Court in Morristown.

Life on Altamont Court by Trent PinesWhen the fence came down, along with the bushes that shrouded Trent and Ken’s porch, the neighbors came out. In droves.

Before long, the entire neighborhood was camped in the couple’s backyard, munching hot dogs and watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show projected onto a bedsheet.

“When we moved onto that street, we were a bit nervous. We were a gay couple, and you never know how that will go over,” said Trent Pines, author of  Life on Altamont Court, Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.

They went over so well that Trent felt compelled to self-publish a chronicle of their seven years on the Court, a place he and his partner still miss, three years after moving to Atlanta.

Trent could not have predicted such an outcome. When Ken first showed him the Cape Ann colonial, it reminded him of Nora Desmond’s overgrown house in Sunset Boulevard. A gloomy money pit.  The sellers were so desperate to unload the place, they agreed to give back $25,000 of the purchase price to help cover renovations.

Author Trent Pines, right, with his partner, Ken. Photo courtesy of Trent Pines.

Author Trent Pines, right, with his partner, Ken. Photo courtesy of Trent Pines.

Pretty soon, however, an army of fixer-uppers were volunteering to pitch in. The cul-de-sac yielded a zany cast of characters who were so over-the-top that the couple seldom caught a breather.

“Once I started cooking in the new kitchen, it just became a free-for-all and it never stopped,” Trent recounted in a phone interview. “The street was a big party.”

Every Halloween and Christmas became a gaudy decorating contest. Power tools were shared freely. When the fence became history, kids scampered unabashedly after balls that strayed onto the yard.

It felt like time-traveling to a bygone era, said Trent, 51.

“People miss this kind of close-knit neighborhood of 50 or 60 years ago… My grandparents told me everyone used to live within blocks of each other. As jobs forced people to move around, what we all miss out on is really close, intimate neighborhoods,” said the new author, an executive for a communications company.

Trent and Ken with family and friends from Altamont Court. Photo courtesy of Trent Pines.

Trent and Ken with family and friends from Altamont Court. Photo courtesy of Trent Pines.

Ken’s two daughters from his first marriage were frequent visitors.

“When you have kids, it changes everything,” Trent said. “You forgot that we’re gay guys. We were just another couple on the street with the same challenges and fun as anybody else there.”

The Ohio native thought he might mine a newspaper column from the Court. But as he started jotting down his Morristown adventures, they began to flow more like a book, he said.

Written on international flights and in hotels during long business trips, Life on Altamont Court has garnered enough positive responses to make Trent think he might have a humorous novel in him. Working title: Life on the Cubicle Farm.

But he knows it will be hard to top his breezy stroll down memory lane, from the Franklin Corners neighborhood to South Street, the Morristown Green, Century 21 and the movie theater at Headquarters Plaza.

“I miss being able to walk to town and know so many proprietors, and go into restaurants where they said, ‘Oh, it’s good to see you again.’ And bartenders who would mix your favorite drinks, because they remembered,” Trent said.

“It all was within walking distance.”

A backyard party at Altamont Court in Morristown. Photo courtesy of Trent Pines.

A backyard party at Altamont Court in Morristown. Photo courtesy of Trent Pines.

 

 



Comments

  1. Fantastic book. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will definitely want to come to the next backyard BBQ!!

  2. Jill Anderson says:

    Kevin’s review leaves out just how funny this book is. You will find yourself laughing out loud or reading sections to your family. There’s a bonus section of neighborhood recipes that look quite tasty.

  3. Margret Brady says:

    The Franklin Corners Neighborhood Association was formed by a group of residents, concerned that the Master Plan did not support residential uses in areas where there were other types of uses. Little did we know that this would become the basis for a whole way of life. It was all made possible by living in a neighborhood where everything was in walking distance, there was a very diverse population and lots of porches and friendly neighbors who care about each other and the Town.

    My thanks to Jon Teeple who created the Articles of Association for The Franklin Corners &Vicinity Guardian & Historic Preservation Society, our official name back in 1976.
    Article G reads. To reestablish a cohesive community and to promulgate good will among the residents themselves and the community at large.
    Thank you, Jon and all those citizens who have worked so hard to accomplish this goal for the last 37 years, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

  4. Trent Pines says:

    Marge, The Franklin Corners “Friday in the Driveway,” events made it into the book. If you do get a copy, I hope you truly enjoy the read. I had fun living it and reliving it as I wrote.
    Trent Pines
    Author, “Life on Altamont Court”

  5. Margret Brady says:

    Hi Trent,
    I did buy and read your book and have already passed it on for others to read. I couldn’t put it down until it was finished but of course all your characters, pun intended, were so very real to me.

    It made me realize that several generations of residents have come and gone and all left their mark and many good memories on our neighborhood.

    I believe Jane and Mike Kurek on Green Hill hosted the first Friday in the driveway.

    Our first gay couple, living in the Corners was Bill Chambers and Bob Guter, who were tenants on Franklin Place at the time. Bill was the Town clerk and Bob was a historic preservation expert who has written several books featuring homes in our area. Bill later partnered with attorney Claude Minter and they are now retired in SC. Bob partnered with the pianist Garrick Olsen and traveled the world on concert tours. Your memories of Linclon Center reminded me of hearing Garrick play there.

    I thank you for bringing back the memories of so many good times.

  6. Trent Pines says:

    Wonderful Marge – I am so very glad you enjoyed it!

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