World War I Ended 100 Years ago… In New Jersey?

While many believe “the war to end all wars” ended in 1918 when the Armistice took place, technically the United States did not formally end World War I until 1921. Where did it end you might ask? You guessed it, New Jersey.

Allow me to explain.

The United States entered the Great War in April of 1917, almost three years after the War began. New Jersey would send 72,946 conscripts and 46,960 volunteers to fight. Camp Dix, later Ford Dix, opened in July of 1917, and the 78th “Lightning” Division was activated there one month later. Many New Jersey-born African Americans joined the 369th Infantry Regiment, a unit organized in nearby New York that went onto become the first black regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Force.

The women of New Jersey also made significant contributions to the war effort. New Jersey was the training site for approximately 300 women who served in the Army Signal Corps as bilingual long-distance operators. Jersey ladies campaigned in Liberty Bond efforts as well as volunteering to serve with aid organizations such as the Red Cross. Dupont hired countless women to work as munition makers at plants in Carney’s Point, Salem County.

From Salem County to Morris County, manufacturing was everywhere. In 1915, Hercules Powder produced 150,000 pounds of cordite per day at the company’s Kenvil plant (not far from where I live currently in Ledgewood). Even Singer Sewing Machine in Elizabeth converted their normal production to wartime materials. By 1918, New Jersey was the largest supplier of munitions in America.

Ultimately, New Jersey paid a heavy toll. Our beloved state lost 3,836 New Jerseyans to combat, accident and disease. You can find over 160 monuments dedicated to our brave fighters. A total of nine New Jerseyans were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, including Marine Gunnery Sgt. Fred William Stockham of Belleville, my hometown, better known to those of us as The Motherland.

So, how did the United States officially end involvement in WWI?

On November 11, 1918, Germany signed the Armistice at Compiègne, ending World War I. In January of 1919, the Paris Peace Conference began. In June of 1919, Allied and German representatives signed Treaty of Versailles. The United States signs a treaty of guaranty, pledging to defend France in case of an unprovoked attack by Germany. However, the first time the Treaty of Versailles was presented to Congress in November of 1919, it failed. Yes, I’m serious.

The marker where the American involvement of World War I ended. Credit: atlasobscura.com

The Treaty of Versailles was presented to Congress for a vote again in March of 1920 and failed… again. No, I’m not kidding.

Ultimately, the Knox-Porter Resolution was signed by President Warren Harding to officially end American wartime involvement in July 1921. It was signed in Raritan, New Jersey on July 2, 1921.

I would love to tell you President Harding picked New Jersey to sign the Resolution as a thank you for all the contributions our great state made to the success of the war effort, but I would be lying. The President was visiting Senator Joseph Frelinghuysen of New Jersey to play golf. The papers were delivered to the Raritan Country Club, where the President signed the resolution and officially ended World War I… during a break from his golf game.

Now all that remains from that famous spot is a marker just off the Somerville Circle, not far from (you guessed it) a shopping mall. It’s funny and sad at the same time.

So what have we learned?

First, as I have always known, we are an awesome state. Our ancestors played a key role in the success of War.

Second, as I have mentioned in previous posts, it is important we protect our historic landmarks. A marker on the side of a busy traffic circle is undignified. Protect our Jersey history. Our future generations are depending on us.

Finally, and most importantly, our state paid a heavy price. We owe our vets a debt that can never be repaid. So make sure this Veteran’s Day to thank a vet. Shake their hand, pick up their check at the diner, or buy them a cup of coffee while on line to pay at Dunkin Donuts. We owe them far more, especially those who gave their last full measure of devotion. May God bless them and their families.

Italian Heritage in New Jersey: St. Lucy’s Church

If someone asked me what is the most important location associated with Italian heritage in New Jersey, I would say without hesitation St. Lucy’s Church.

Since its cornerstone was placed in 1891, St. Lucy’s Church in Newark has been a source of pride and devotion for the millions of Italian immigrants and the generations that followed. In 1998, St. Lucy’s Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The parish namesake, Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia), martyred in Sicily in third-century is the patroness of those afflicted with diseases of the eyes.

St. Lucy’s Church is the home of the National Shrine of St. Gerard. Every October, tens of thousands of the faithful flock to pay homage to St. Gerard. St. Gerard Maiella of Avellino was born on April 6, 1726. He was the only son of Benedetta and Comenico Maiella. Because of his frail health he was not immediately accepted into the Order but, due to his insistence and persistence he was finally accepted in May of 1749 and became a lay brother of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. St. Gerard passed away on October 16, 1755. In 1977, St. Gerard’s chapel in St. Lucy’s Church was dedicated as a national shrine. While it was never made official, he is considered by many to be the Patron Saint of Mothers.

The third pastor, Msgr. Joseph Granato, served the parish with dedication and faith in God’s providence for 54 years, until June 2009. For those of us who have met Msgr. Granato, he borders on rock star status. His dedication to St. Lucy’s and the community has earned him a spot on many prayer lists of families of the parish.

At its height, over 30,000 Italian immigrants lived in the one square mile around the church, known as the First Ward. For over 80 years, that neighborhood thrived and supported their beloved church. Sadly, the neighborhood came to its end in the post-World War II period. The main factor causing the disintegration of the neighborhood came in 1953 thanks to developers and the city government. They forced people give up their homes and move against their will, bulldozing in days what took over eight decades to build. City officials often referred to the First Ward as a “slum.” The Newark Housing Authority claimed its rebuilding efforts would slow or reverse the population shift to the suburbs, however, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Approximately 15 percent of First Ward residents left the city for good (including my family) the moment they were displaced. More than half the businesses in the clearance zone ceased to exist. Those homes were replaced with large buildings providing low-income housing. As the years continued, they were a great source of crime and an example of all that was wrong with Newark. Unfortunately, the damage was done at the point. The First Ward was destroyed and one of the most vibrant Italian communities in the country was history. All in the name of progress.

People with a connection to the area, and St. Lucy’s specifically, still return regularly for church. I am the fourth generation of my family that returns to St. Lucy’s every October for the Feast of St. Gerard. It is one of only two churches in the entire state where I feel truly at peace and able to prayerfully reflect and enjoy the silence.

I tell everyone I know, if you have never visited St. Lucy’s, take the time to visit this amazing church full of beautiful art and history, as well as a strong connection to the Italian community of New Jersey.

Italian Heritage in New Jersey: Joseph Rotunda

Many of us have passed by Rotunda Pool in Newark on our way to St. Lucy’s Church or coming out of Branch Brook Park and have not given it a second thought. It is, however, an important location in the community and New Jersey Italian heritage.

The Rotunda Pool plaque
Source: Newark Historical Society

Rotunda Pool is named after Private Joseph Ralph Rotunda Jr., the first soldier from Newark’s Italian-American community to die in World War II. The dedication of this pool stands a testament to his sacrifice, as well as the sacrifices of the countless Italian immigrants and Americans of Italian decent that fought on behalf of their new homeland. The official renaming from Clifton Pool to Rotunda Pool took place in 1966.

By the early twentieth-century, approximately 21,000 Italian immigrants made Newark the fifth largest Italian-American community in the country.

Private Rotunda was killed by a land mine while serving with Cannon Company, 168th Infantry, in Tunisia, Northern Africa, as part of the first invasion forces. He had only been overseas for three months. A letter to the family from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, dated June 9, 1943, informed the family that their son was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

On June 16, 1943, the Newark Evening News reported on an announcement from the War Department which listed the death of Private Joseph R. Rotunda, Jr. as one of four soldiers from New Jersey to lose their lives in combat. In total 229 U.S. soldiers were reported killed in action in North Africa and 630 more wounded, 11 of whom were from New Jersey.

In February 1944, after seeking permission from Joseph Rotunda, Sr., officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) designated the Pvt. Joseph R. Rotunda Jr. Post (No. 848) in honor of the “first soldier from the First Ward to be killed in action in this war.” This post became the ninth V.F.W. unit in Newark.

So next time you ride past Rotunda pool, maybe take a moment and bow your head or tip your cap to the memory of Private Rotunda.

It’s Spring: Get Out!

Let’s face it; we’re all sick of being stuck inside. As the weather continues to improve, the masses will head outside to the many wonderful parks and open spaces throughout New Jersey. As families continue to cancel vacations and choose to stay local, some of the hidden gems of The Garden State may not stay quite as hidden. Here are some suggestions as you and your family head outside.

Frenchtown, New Jersey

Be a tourist in your own backyard

You could live in New Jersey your entire life and miss out on some of the best attractions, parks, museums, and more within a short drive from your home. Start your day by checking out the New Jersey tourism site to see what is right near you. The site not only provides information about places to go, it also has a calendar of events so you can get out and enjoy a special event. Like jazz? How about the Exit Zero Jazz Festival in Cape May. Want to learn about how Revolutionary soldiers survived winters during the war? Experience America’s first national historic park, Morristown National Historical Park. There’s something for everyone.

Take a step further and do even more local research by looking at county and town or city websites. The Morris County website can tell you all about the Frelinghuysen Arboretum. The Essex County website will tell you when to visit Branch Brook Park in Newark and Belleville to see the cherry blossoms in bloom (hint: it’s now!). Every town in New Jersey offers something interesting. I bet there’s even something in your own hometown you may not even know is there!

Know before you go

COVID rules are continuing to change at a dizzying pace. Make sure to go online and check the current rules so you are properly prepared. This will help avoid frustration and disappointment when you head out.

Leave only footprints

Last year, our parks saw traffic that was unprecedented. Unfortunately, some visitors did not treat our parks with the respect they deserve. Last summer Hedden Park in Morris County was closed for two weeks to repair damage from park visitors that included hauling out trash, stream repair, and taking care of damage from a dumpster fire.

Please do not leave trash behind, move rocks in streams, or harass or feed wild animals. And absolutely please do NOT leave behind PPE garbage. PPE like masks and gloves are threatening wildlife everywhere. Leave the electronics in the car (or even at home!) and enjoy the beauty of nature around you. Make sure to carry in/carry out. Take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Get out!

So take advantage of the nice weather and finally leave your home confinement. Check out one of the great New Jersey museums, visit Branch Brook Park, go down the shore, enjoy some Kohr’s frozen custard, and take a walk down the boardwalk. Just get out!

My 2020 Jersey Christmas List

This has been a hard year for all of us; especially for the small business owners of New Jersey. Like many, I am urging everyone to shop small as much as possible this year.

My Christmas list this year has a special Jersey flair this year. These are gifts that are made by Jersey artisans available in Jersey stores.

Cape May Suncatchers

Cape May Suncatchers
Credit: Cape May Suncatchers

These works of art by Tommy of Cape May Suncatchers are just amazing. He digs up antique bottles found around the beaches of Cape May and then carves them into beautiful ornaments, suncatchers, and window-hangers. This would certainly be a unique and lovely gift, especially for those who love Cape May.

Just Jersey Goods

You can find just about ANYTHING with a unique Jersey attitude from the Jersey Jersey Goods store in Morristown. From cutting boards and mugs for the foodie to books for the state historian, you can find almost anything with a Jersey theme at this awesome shop. Personally, I am partial to the Parkway token keychain. For decades, it was a required item in every car as you went down the shore. And it is worth mentioning I was a champion at pitching it up and over the car from the passenger side as well as the trick shot through the sunroof.

Sue Sachs Jewelry

Credit: Sue Sachs

Located in Livingston, Sue has been making jewelry and crafting metal objects for more then 30 years. Her jewelry and metal objects are crafted in sterling silver, brass, copper, and/or gold. I feel they are masterfully created and bring a sense of whimsy to each piece. I especially love her garden pieces, as I have become an avid gardener the last two years and you can often find me at the Roxbury Community Garden during the season. Her “shovel series” is definitely at the top of my list!

Reddie to Burn

Credit: Reddit to Burn

OK, I am completely partial on this one. Our intelligent and incredibly talented Goddaughter and niece has started her own candle making business. Reddie to Burn Candle Co. offers a wide variety of soy hand-made candles and wax melts and uses clean fragrances for just the right amount of scent. Which one is the best? Well that’s up to you. Personally, I really like the idea of a having access to the smell of a library any time I want it. One of my favorite places in college was leaning up against a book shelf in the stacks.

Gift Certificates

If you have that person who is just too hard to buy for, consider purchasing a gift certificate from a locally-owned business. From nail salons, to restaurants, to sport shops, every business is having a hard time right now and I am sure your gift certificate purchase would be appreciated.

Local Non-Profits

Just as small businesses are struggling, local non-profit organizations are having an even harder time right now. Many people are out of work and every dollar in a family budget has been stretched to its limit. Many organizations are really in need of support so they can continue to help their local communities. Consider making a donation in someone’s name as a thoughtful and unique gift. Here are some that have a special place in my heart:

  • Peters Valley School of Craft: Peters Valley enriches lives through the learning, practice, and appreciation of fine crafts. This community, brings together established and emerging artists from around the globe. Peters Valley was officially incorporated as a non-profit in 1970 and is located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
  • The New Jersey Historical Society: The NJ History Society collects, preserves, teaches and interprets New Jersey history through its archives, research library, and educational programs. Not only is it a great place to visit, the Society offers materials for teachers to help share the story of New Jersey with their students.
  • Discover Jersey Arts: A collaboration between ArtPride New Jersey and New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Discover Jersey Arts is a multifaceted program dedicated to increasing the awareness of and participation in the arts in New Jersey. It is coordinated through the regional Jersey Arts Marketers (JAM) network and provides resources for both arts organizations and patrons alike.
  • New York-New Jersey Trail Conference: Even though it is not New Jersey-exclusive, the NY/NJ Trail Conference plays an important role in our great state. This is a volunteer-powered organization that builds, maintains, and protects public trails. Together with organization partners, the Train Conference strives to ensure that the trails and natural areas we all enjoy are sustainable and accessible for generations to come.
  • New Jersey Conservation Foundation: The mission of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation Foundation has protected over 125,000 acres of natural areas and farmland in New Jersey – from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bay, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks.

No matter how you decide to celebrate the holiday, I urge you to “shop small” and look to support the businesses and non-profits right in your own community. After all, these are the businesses and organizations that sponsor your son’s little league team or purchase an ad in the high school play’s program. They will (God willing) be there for the long-haul providing services, products, and jobs to you and your neighbors.

Protecting Our Parks

We’ve all had to make alternate plans this year due to COVID-19 and the following lockdown. As a result, many had to cancel vacation plans and stay local. And that means lots of people in town, county, and state parks.

Unfortunately, not everyone values our park systems.

Just a few weeks ago, Hedden Park in Dover/Randolph was closed for two weeks due to vandalism, litter, damage to the creek, and a dumpster fire. Today, we went to a park and unfortunately the continuation of poor behavior.

HeddenPark

Damage to Jackson Brook at Hedden Park. Credit: NJ.com

Two weeks ago while at the Delaware Gap, we had the opportunity to talk to a Park Ranger and he told us they spend an incredible amount of time telling people to get out of the small creeks, as they are not for swimming and have no lifeguard supervision. As we were leaving, we observed several emergency vehicles heading towards the Gap. When we returned home and turned on the television, we learned someone died right in the area where we were.

Some of you may normally not bother visiting your local parks. And I can spot newbies a mile away. When they come to the park they. bring. everything. If they have children, some actually bring high-chairs and play pens. Kids are either in the river or ignoring the beauty around them as they play on their phones.

Cigarettes-sm

Trash left behind at Saxton Falls.

If you are new to New Jersey’s parks, I hope you enjoy, but I ask that you respect the space. Do not dam up any creeks or rivers to create swimming holes. Moving rocks will release sediment and upset the ecological balance of the water system. It is also a swimming hazard. There have been five drownings at the Delaware Water Gap so far in 2020. Just today there was a water death at Upper Greenwood Lake. If you want to swim, go where it is allowed and there are lifeguards on duty. Don’t leave your trash behind. Carry in/carry out. Leave the space cleaner than how you found it.

When all of this is over, many will never go to a park again. Some might have just discovered a little spot near their home to enjoy the outdoors and have a new appreciation for open space. I ask on behalf of all of us that use parks in the Garden State on a regular basis, that you respect the natural space availed to you. These are wonderful spaces that have been set aside for all of us to enjoy. Please take only photos and leave only footprints.

The Official Jersey Bucket List – Part Two

After the publishing of my “Official Jersey Bucket List,” I received many requests for a part two. I will admit as soon as I published it, I continued to come up with more ideas. There is so much to see in New Jersey, it is almost impossible to include it all in one list.

Let’s face it, in light of the Coronavirus outbreak, many of us will staycation this summer, so why not turn into a Jersey tourist for a day and check out some of our great places right outside your front door! Some are currently open, while others aren’t quite there just yet. But that’s OK, as you will have plenty ideas as the summer continues. Here are some more ideas in my “Official Jersey Bucket List – Part Two.”

Visit a public farm: While many refer to Jersey as “The Mall State,” we are officially known as “The Garden State.” From the top of the state to the bottom, there are public farms, wineries, nurseries, and “pick your own” options available. I recommend you check out Hillcrest Orchard & Dairy in Branchville, the home of Jersey Girl Cheese.

Visit one of our great museums: In 2018, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City put in place a mandatory entrance fee of $25 for non-New York residents. Up until now, The Met’s entrance fee was by “suggested donation,” which made it accessible for all. Now it will be far from that for many. I can’t tell you how much this ticked me off. However, it was a good reminder that there are MANY great museums right here in New Jersey! I recommend you check out the Newark Museum, our largest museum in the state, which opened in 1909. A personal favorite of mine is the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, which focuses on 18th- and 19th- century craftsmen and artisans. If you are looking for something outside, visit the Grounds for Sculpture, which opened in 1992. It is a 42-acre sculpture park, museum, and arboretum founded on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds. These are just three museums in our great state. There is at least one museum in every county, so no matter where you live, there’s a museum nearby.

Check out the Jersey music scene: Bands like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes are known for that “Jersey sound.” What some may not know is that the sound is actually something we all know from the shore – the Calliope. Listen to the keyboard of those bands and see if your memory brings you back to The pipe organ and drum sound from the merry-go-round you couldn’t wait to ride when you were a child. Of course The Stone Pony is a Jersey icon, but there are plenty other music venues in the state. Check out the Count Basie Center for the Arts.

Visit Ellis Island: New Jersey has one of the most diverse immigrant populations in the country. And while New York thinks they “own” Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, they are actually in Jersey waters. Ellis Island is a National Park and offers an amazing amount of information about the story of immigration in the United States. Trace your family history in their genealogy database and you can even add your family information to the story of the Island.

Go to Fort Hancock: Another great National Park in New Jersey is Sandy Hook. While many people head to Sandy Hook just for the beach, there is a lot more to do on the over 4,000 acres of land that comprise the park. This piece of land has played a significant part of American History going back to the 1700s. One part of Sandy Hook is Fort Hancock. In 1895, the U.S. Army renamed the “Fortifications at Sandy Hook” as Fort Hancock. The installation would protect New York Harbor from invasion by sea. Its yellow brick buildings were constructed largely between 1898-1910, with the fort reaching its peak population in World War II. There is now a push on to preserve these old buildings that are, unfortunately, beginning to crumble. Hopefully, they will continue to persevere.

Visit the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park: Located in-between New York City and Philadelphia, New Jersey was able to play a part of the industrial revolution during the early 19th century. How? Through the Delaware & Raritan Canal (known as the D&R). In 1834, the D&R was officially open for business and was one of the busiest navigation canals in the United States. Its peak years were in the mid to late 1800s, primarily moving tons of Pennsylvania coal. By the end of the 19th century, canal use was declining throughout the country. In 1973, the canal and its remaining structures were entered on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a beautiful place to fish, hike and bike along the 70 miles of the canal.

Visit Walpack, but please be respectful: Officially founded in 1731, the Dutch lived on the land known as “Wallpack” as early as the mid-1600s. The of the town’s name comes from the Lenape Native American content word “wahlpeck,” which means “turn-hole (eddy or whirlpool). It is not considered a “ghost town,” as about 20 residents still call Walpack home. The town is located within the confines of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The town has a sad history since the 1970s that includes a failed national project, eminent domain, vandalism, looting, and fires intentionally set. Many are afraid one day what is left of the town will be gone. During the lockdown, vandals broke into several buildings and left behind an incredible amount of damage. If you are so inclined, consider joining their historical society to help repair what was damaged. If you know anything about the damage, please contact NPS Dispatch at 570-426-2457. It is a beautiful place, but if you visit, please be respectful of the history of the town and its residents. Take only photos and leave only footprints.

I hope you enjoyed this “part two” of my official Jersey bucket list and it provides you with more ways to enjoy your staycation in our wonderful state!

The Official Jersey Bucket List

As we all continue to wait to be paroled from Coronavirus jail, many of us are making plans of what we would like to do once we are free to go anywhere and do anything. Well, this had me start to make a “Jersey bucket list;” all the things Jersey-related someone should do at some point.

I hope you consider checking out some of these ideas once we are turned loose. Whether you are a foodie, a shopper extraordinaire, or someone who loves the outdoors, there is something on this list for everyone.

Visit High Point: At 1,803 feet above sea level, High Point State Park is the highest spot in the state. High Point is also the highest peak of the Kittatinny Mountains. The view is simply spectacular, as you can see New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The land for High Point State Park, donated by Colonel Anthony R. and Susie Dryden Kuser, was dedicated as a park in 1923. You can hike, swim, fish, and camp.

Hike the New Jersey Section of the Appalachian Trail: While you are checking out High Point, get on the Appalachian Trail. The “AT” as it is often referred to, is a non-governmental, independently managed recreation facility of the national park system and is the nation’s longest marked hiking only trail at 2,180 miles. The AT runs from Maine all the way to Georgia. The New Jersey section is 74 miles long. If you are a serious hiker, many can complete the entire New Jersey section in less than a week. It can also be traversed in shorter day hikes. Hiking the Trail is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the state.

Rutt's Hut

A typical meal at the Jersey famous Rutt’s Hut.

Complete the Hot Dog Trifecta: In Jersey we have opinions about EVERYTHING. Including who has the best hot dog. For many, it comes down to three: Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, Hirams in Fort Lee, and Hot Grill in Clifton. I know some who would argue River View East in Elmwood Park or Maui’s Dog House, North Wildwood. We certainly have a ton of great options!

Decide which is the Best Italian Hot Dog: Just like everyone has their favorite hot dog joint, there is always an argument as to who has the best Italian hot dogs. It comes down to two places: Dickie Dee’s in Newark and Jimmy Buff’s in West Orange. Try both and decide for yourself.

SunsetBeach

The rocks at Sunset Beach

Visit Sunset Beach in Cape May: This is one of my favorite places in the entire state. I could easily spend an entire day at Sunset Beach. Take the kids to play miniature golf, grab a bite to eat the The Grille, or do my favorite thing of all – dig for Cape May diamonds on the beach. The most touching moment of the day takes place as the sun sets. At the end of each day at Sunset Beach during the summer, make sure to stay and watch the flag ceremony. All of the flags flown at Sunset Beach are veterans’ casket flags that families bring with them from their loved one’s funeral. It is a truly moving event.

Shop the outlets in Atlantic City: As you leave Cape May, check out the great deals at the outlets in Atlantic City. From Calvin Klein, to Coach, to Cablea’s, there’s something for every member of your family. It is definitely worth the ride!

Visit Morristown National Historical Park: One of my first dates with my now husband was a visit to Jockey Hollow. It is a great place to see “where America survived.” The entire area is known as Morristown National Historical Park and includes multiple interesting places to explore and commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record.

Plan a Wine Tasting Event at One of Jersey’s Wineries: The Garden State is home to over 40 wineries. It’s history goes all the way back to 1758 when Great Britain’s Royal Society offered £100 to any colonist who would produce red or white wine “of acceptable quality,” meaning the wine was of the same caliber as that being purchased from France. While New Jersey’s wine history has experienced challenges, it is now flourishing!

Visit all of New Jersey’s Lighthouses: There are over 20 lighthouses still in existence in New Jersey and they are from the top of New Jersey to the bottom; not just down the shore. About half of those are open to the public.

Catch a Wild Brook Trout on a Dry Fly: When people talk about fly fishing they usually think of two things: Montana and the movie A River Runs Through It. What you might not know is that there’s plenty of great places to fly fish right in New Jersey. As someone who has been fly fishing for over two decades, there is nothing like catching a fish – any fish – on top water. To me, the most perfect catch is a native wild brook trout on a dry fly. For me that would be on one of four of my favorite dry flies: an Adams, a Royal Wulff, A Blue Wing Olive, or an Elk Hair Caddis. And not your standard 12 or 13 inch brook trout; a serious brookie. In case you didn’t know, the brook trout is the state’s official fish.

Go to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart: One of the most beautiful churches in the state is the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. During Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995, he celebrated evening prayer at the Cathedral. At this occasion, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was elevated to a minor basilica to become the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Enjoy Dinner at The Belmont: Growing up, I had two favorite restaurants: The Finish Line and The Belmont and I had favorite dishes at each place. At The Finish Line, I loved their zuppa di pesce. At The Belmont, I know many people go for Stretch’s “Famous” Chicken Savoy, but for me it was always their Scrod “Di Giacomo” Oreganato.  I haven’t been to The Belmont in a long time, and I am way overdue.

Lemonade and a Cheese Steak at The Midway: Like many others, I have great memories of going “down the shore.” I’ve learned your shore stop has a lot to do with you age. When I was a teenager, like many others, my stop was Seaside. A favorite practice of mine was to grab a cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway, sit on one of the many benches, and people watch. It was always fascinating. Sadly, Sandy and the boardwalk fire took away the “shore of my youth” as Governor Christie put it. What hasn’t changed is the opportunity for cheese steak and lemonade at The Midway while people watching.

Visit the Pine Barrens: The Pinelands is the largest remaining example of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem, stretching across more than seven counties of New Jersey. Congress created the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, the country’s first National Reserve, to protect the area under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The reserve contains Wharton State Forest, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, Bass River State Forest, and Penn State Forest. It is approximately 1.1 million acres and spans portions of seven counties. The reserve occupies 22% of New Jersey’s land area and it is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston. The Pinelands was designated a U.S. Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1983 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988. It is also known as the home of the legend of The Jersey Devil.

I’m sure there’s a lot I am missing. What is on your Jersey bucket list?

Five Tips to Surviving Coronavirus – Jersey Style

So we’ve all been hearing about the expansion of the Coronavirus around the world on a minute-by-minute basis. A lot of people are in quarantine – either by choice or government mandate; others are following curfews. We are all social distancing and every school in New Jersey has been switched to remote learning.

For the next few weeks (or longer, possibly), what are we going to do? Here are five suggestions on how to survive Coronavirus with a Jersey flair.

  1. Binge Watch: There are plenty of great Jersey movies and television shows to watch while you are cooped up in the house. Need some suggestions? How about some of my favorite shows and movies with a Jersey theme:
    1. The Sopranos (I mean, do I really need to explain this one?)
    2. Cop Land (a great movie starring Sly Stallone)
    3. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (when you need a good laugh)
    4. Eddie and the Cruisers (think Bruce in a movie)
    5. Garden State (a home-grown cult classic from Jersey’s own Zach Braff)
  2. Tick-Tock

    Coffee at the Tick Tock

    Grab a Bite: Even though we are no longer allowed to go to our favorite diner, you can still enjoy disco fries – just at home. Place an order to go bring home a hamburger deluxe or a TEC (that’s taylor ham, egg, and cheese for you non-North Jersey folks). Not only will you avoid cooking one night, you’ll be supporting small business owners in your community that need your help so they will still be there when life gets back to normal. My favorites? The Jefferson Diner in Jefferson, the Tick Tock in Clifton, and the Roxbury Diner in Roxbury.

  3. Go for a Walk: There’s going to come a point when we all need to get out for some fresh air. While some towns are closing down their parks, the Morris County Parks Commission still offers plenty of great locations to get out, stretch your legs, and clear your mind. They are keeping their website up to date with what parks are available.
  4. Turn off the News and Grab a Beer: While I appreciate the media working to keep us up to date on all the latest updates, over time it can really get on your last nerve (I know it is for me). Turn off the television and try and to get it off your mind. Enjoy a brew of the deck instead. I suggest picking up some Angry Erik.
  5. Be Jersey Tough: At the end of the day, let’s face it. There’s no one tougher than people from New Jersey. We need to put up with traffic on the Turnpike and corruption from our politicians. Not to mention all the abuse from residents of other states who think they know what New Jersey is all about. But remember, we know better. Just hang tough. It will all be over soon.

Rambling ‘Round: Respectrum Books

Like most Jersey kids, I spent many of my teenage hours at the mall. Before my friends and I could drive we would take the public bus to Willowbrook and just wander. After I had my license, I was officially set free to go whenever I wanted (almost). Whether it was sitting with a slice in the food court or going over to the arcade in the Sears wing, you could spend hours at the mall and hardly spend any money.

However, when I wanted to actually make a purchase, most of the time I would go to the stores near my home. I lived only a few blocks away from a small shopping center that had everything a teenager with only a few bucks needed. I could go to Plaza Chemist, a placed I eventually worked for a year in high school, and pick up my two local papers; The Belleville Times and The Belleville Post, I could get a cone at the Carvel, buy a gift and card for a family member’s birthday at the card store, and then bring home a mozzarella and roasted pepper sandwich at Esposito’s. While it didn’t seem significant at the time, I was supporting local businesses in my community.

Now as an adult, I understand how special it is to have those stores in local communities. The big box stores are pushing more and more of those “mom and pop shops” out of business as we continue to look for a good deal and do everything we can do stretch every dollar of our budget. While I can still, quite easily, drop a fast fifty bucks at Target, I do what I can to support local businesses and buy in those locations whenever possible.

Enter Respectrum Books.

RespectrumBooks

Credit: Respectrum Books

There are few places I truly enjoy shopping. A yarn shop, a fly shop, a specialty foods store, and a bookstore are just about it on my list. I could easily spend half a day at any of those locations while chatting with the owner or other shoppers, and have a cup of coffee. I often turn to Facebook and Yelp when looking for these special places in my area. That’s how I discovered Respectrum Books. I started following this shop on Facebook and always enjoy their posts. They are both informative and fun!

Located on Bank Street in Sussex, NJ, this shop offers a unique blend of old and new. You can find classic first editions as well as new books. They host reading groups and provide lectures on different subjects. And if you want anything printed that is New Jersey-related, I’m sure you can find it here.

I picked up a few books while I was there on three vastly different subjects. A photographer’s pocket guide, a biography about Frank Lloyd Wright, and Zane Grey: Outdoorsman. My total purchase? Eleven dollars. While I was enjoying the shop, a few other individuals came in and spoke with the owner and made a few purchases. As I was paying for my selections, we chatted about why I picked these particular books and I signed up for their mailing list.

While this is probably a bit of a ride for most New Jerseyans (it was a 40 minute ride for me), I promise you it is worth the trip! It is also in one of the prettiest areas in the state. Make a day of it!