25 From Blawenburg Kid to Movie Star

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Blawenburg child actor, Tom Gaman in 1961

By most accounts, growing up in Blawenburg in the late 1950s and 60s was pretty quiet and uneventful. You manufactured your own fun and relied on the kids you knew for entertainment. Tom Gaman, who grew up on Mountain View Road on the eastern side of Blawenburg, describes his childhood years in retrospect as “delightful.” But it certainly wasn’t uneventful.

Tom, who now lives in California, recalled his childhood in a recent phone conversation.

Tom’s parents were British, and they came to the Princeton area because it was a reasonable commute to New York City where Tom’s father, John Gaman, worked for New Zealand Insurance Company. They insured cargo on freighters in the days before container ships. John took the train from Belle Mead, when that was an option, and a ferry to the financial district in New York City. Initially, the family lived on Province Line Road, but then John was briefly transferred to San Francisco. In 1957, the family returned to the Princeton area when John was promoted to assistant manager of the insurance company. They bought a house in Blawenburg.

The family loved animals, and the tranquil, rural life on Mountain View Road was perfect for raising many of them. Tom recalls that they built a stable on their property, got a couple of horses, and joined Somerset County 4-H. His horse was a pinto named Jobie, but he called it Fred. They bred rabbits and sheep for food. They had a one-horned goat named Alvin and milked another named Cynthia. They also trained seeing-eye dogs. The Gaman property was a veritable menagerie with plenty of action to keep Tom, his older brother Dudley, and younger sister Jane busy.

Tom’s mother, Elizabeth, worked at NJNPI (New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute, now Skillman Park) doing heart research using rabbits. For his weekend job, Tom’s walked to the NJNPI Bureau of Research, as it was called, to feed the hundreds of lab rabbits kept there.

Tom was in the last graduating class at Princeton Country Day School before it merged with Miss Fine’s School to become Princeton Day School in 1965. Like most Montgomery Township students at the time, he went on to attend Princeton High School.

A New Adventure

Tom’s life became a lot more active in early 1961, when, on a lark, he answered a newspaper ad to try out for a movie. The production company was seeking British boys for a movie that would be made from a book he had never heard of. He had no acting experience, but this opportunity seemed like something worth pursuing. Tom applied. What did he have to lose?