Remembering the Haunts of my Youth

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

We all have favorite places from our youth. For me there were several. One favorite of mine was Mickey Music – a record store. One of my high school jobs was at a cigar store in the same strip mall as Mickey Music. I would work all day Saturday and was paid in cash. During my 30 minute lunch, I would walk down to Mickey Music and each week pick out a new album. I think it’s a GNC now.

Then there’s Muscara Music that used to be on Washington Avenue. It was down the

Muscara-Music

Credit: Ralph J Barone

street from Belleville Middle School (which was the original High School). Mr. and Mrs. Muscara started the instrument shop in 1951 and was visited by the likes of Connie Francis and Frankie Valli – two of Belleville’s own, by the way. I would go in and check out all the instruments as I would walk home from school and sometimes pick up some new sheet music.

It’s a Walgreen’s now.

Then there’s Jackie’s Lemon Ice. It was the BEST lemon ice. Period. I used to ride my bike down to Jackie’s on Union Avenue in the summer. The parking lot was the official hangout. You would always run into someone while you were there. Once I had my license, my friends and I would head there by the car full. You could get almost any flavor you could dream up, but I really only ever wanted lemon. Giacomina “Jackie” Rega’s lemon ice stand was open from 1951 and until his death in 2001. After that it became a Rita’s – common lemon ice. Nothing compared to Jackie’s.

 

Jackies-Lemon

Credit: Matt Kadosh/NorthJersey.com

Well, this past week, Jackie’s building was torn down. And when that building was torn down, there was a lot of sadness felt by the decades of fans of Jackie’s special recipe of lemon ice, complete with lemon zest. At least we all still have our memories. What will go up in its place you ask? A 7-Eleven.

And there goes another paradise.

 

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New Jersey and the Cranberry

As I have always said, New Jersey has many things to offer. One wonderful taste of Jersey is the cranberry.

New Jersey is the third largest cranberry producer in the nation, behind Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Agricultural cooperative, Ocean Spray, was founded by three growers in 1930, two from Massachusetts and one from New Jersey. Ocean Spray still grows cranberries in New Jersey.

Out of the roughly 700 farms overall that grow cranberries for Ocean Spray, about 20 are in South Jersey and they produce between 500,000 and 600,000 barrels of cranberries a year.

According to PineyPower.com, the North American cranberry industry has a long and distinguished history. Native peoples used cranberries as food, in ceremonies, and medicinally. They mixed cranberries with deer meat to make pemmican, a convenience food that could be kept for a long time. Medicine men used them as poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds, and women used the juice as a dye for cloth. In New Jersey, the Delaware Indians used them as peace symbols. They got their name, “crane berries,” from the early German and Dutch settlers who thought their blossoms resembled the neck and head of a crane.

So when you enjoy your cranberry sauce today, those berries may well have been harvested in New Jersey!

Why I love New Jersey

My husband and I were watching a television show about real estate in Montana. One couple was planning a move from California to Montana. Now, when most people think of Big Sky Country, they imagine the open prairie, cowboys, and wood cabins. Instead of embracing the lifestyle, they were trying to shoehorn California living into their new house. They obviously shouldn’t have left California. That’s where their heart is.

That’s kind of like how I feel about New Jersey.

Frankford-Cemetery

Frankford Cemetery in black and white by Lisaann VanBlarcom Permunian.

I am often asked a simple question. “Why would you EVER want to stay in New Jersey?”

When my husband and I were married there very were few things that were non-negotiable. One of those non-negotiable items is that I would NEVER move out of New Jersey.

“Why?”

New Jersey is my home. I was born in Columbus Hospital in Newark and spent over 30 years in Belleville. When a move needed to take place, we stayed close by in Nutley until we could decide on our next move. While it may sound crazy, going to the next town over from Belleville was tough. I also felt like I had betrayed my beloved Belleville by moving to our rival town. Two years later, we moved again. Instead of town-to-town, we moved county-to-county. Again, I almost had a nervous breakdown.

As my regular readers know, I don’t deal well with change. I know people who have moved across the country and half-way around the world. Me? I move from Essex County to Morris County and I could barely handle it. I’m a Jersey Girl through and through. I would’ve been very happy to stay in my house on Irving Street for the rest of my life.

Where else can you be at an awesome beach and then the mountains within a two hour drive

Rutt's Hut

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

in the same state? Have the best REAL Italian and REAL Portuguese cooking in the same city? I can go fly fishing in Walpack or grab a cheese steak at Seaside Heights. You want a great deep fried hot dog? I know the place. Oh, and I don’t pump my own gas.

Some people see Newark Airport and the Turnpike. Me? I see important places that played key roles in the birth of our nation. We are tough. If you are from Jersey, you need to be tough to fight off all the stupid stereotypes from those horrible television shows which I will not name.

So will I travel? Sure. But I will always come home to my New Jersey.

Jersey Icon: Rutt’s Hut

As part of my blog, I am going to include posts about “Jersey icons.” These are locations that are of cultural, historical, and popular importance. Today’s Jersey Icon? Rutt’s Hut.

Rutt's Hut

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

There are lots of great hot dog joints in New Jersey. My favorite, by far, is Rutt’s Hut. Since 1928, Rutt’s Hut in Clifton has made what patrons call “rippers;” hot dogs deep fried until they split open. For generations, this place has a deep-fried spot in many a Jersey heart. They have a language all their own – if an order is to go, it is “travelin.” You want an order of fries? It is a “frenchie.”

Since I was a child, this was a usual spot. Most of the time, I would be on the “to go” side, picking up huge orders for everyone at the house on a Saturday night. Nowadays, my husband and I go to the “sit down” area since we don’t live nearby anymore. They have a menu, but no one I know has ever even looked at it. Your choices are:

  • Wellers (with their famous home-made relish)
  • Fries
  • Rings
  • Burgers
  • Birch soda
  • Chili (with or without beans)

If you are going there for anything else, you are missing the point. Needless to say if you are a vegetarian, watching your cholesterol, or focused on healthy eating, then this is not your place. If you do decide to go, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. This is true Jersey Icon.

Peters Valley Annual Fine Craft Fair This Weekend

As fall is officially here, there are plenty of great festivals to attend. One that is surely not to Peters Valley Mailboxbe missed is the Peters Valley Annual Fine Craft Fair this weekend. It is held at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta and showcases wonderful works of art made by over 150 different artisans throughout five buildings on the fairgrounds.

There are artist demonstrations taking place each day as well awesome food!

This a juried show of exhibitors, who are each selected for excellence and originality in twelve different medias: ceramics & pottery, drawing & painting, fiber, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper, photography, printmaking, sculpture, wood and basketry. We are now expanding to include a selection of Artisanal Food exhibitors.

In case you aren’t familiar, Peters Valley School of Craft is a wonderful place that was founded in 1970 and is part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. What was originally the farm village of Bevans, Peters Valley is now a wonderful facility with classes, a gallery, and artisan shopping, all nestled in the natural setting of the Delaware Water Gap Area. This is a perfect time of year to check it out!

What My New Jersey Is…

I love those “you know you’re from…” lists you see on sites like Facebook. Well, I came up with my own New Jersey list. I would love to hear if you think I missed anything!

  1. You’ve been seriously injured at Action Park (probably on the Alpine Slide).
  2. You know that the only people who call it “Joisey” are from New York (usually The Bronx) or Texas.
  3. You don’t think of citrus when people mention “The Oranges.”
  4. You know that it’s called “Great Adventure,” not “Six Flags.”
  5. Coffee and a buttered roll is a perfectly acceptable breakfast.
  6. You went to Seaside Heights for prom weekend.
  7. You know what a “jug handle” is and how to properly negotiate one.
  8. You go “down the shore” and not “to the beach.”
  9. Your school cafeteria made very good Italian subs.
  10. You know how to properly negotiate a Circle.
  11. You knew that the last question had to do with driving.
  12. You know where to get a freshly cooked taylor ham egg and cheese sandwich at 2 am.
  13. You don’t think “What exit” is very funny.
  14. Every year, you had at least two kids in your class named Tony, Michael, Vito, and Marie
  15. You know the location of every “clip” shown in the Sopranos opening credits.
  16. You know that “youse” is not a synonym for utilize but for y’all.
  17. You’ve never pumped your own gas.
  18. You can’t stand PA drivers.
  19. You know that there are bakeries which are not part of a supermarket, but actual individual stores.
  20. At least half the people you knew in high school went to Rutgers.
  21. You know that you cannot visit “the boards” in Seaside Heights without stopping by Midway for the best sausage, pepper and onion or cheese steak.
  22. You know that the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are IN New Jersey, NOT New York.
  23. It’s a sub, not a hoagie
  24. You call pizza without toppings “plain,” not “cheese” and you have at least one Uncle that calls it a “tomato pie.”
  25. You have paid a toll with a hook shot from the passenger side of the car.
  26. You know there are TWO Jerseys… North and South and they ARE very different.
  27. You don’t understand why people look at you funny when you order fries with mozzarella and brown gravy.
  28. You know what taylor ham is.
  29. There is an ongoing debate between your friends – Jimmy Buffs or Rutt’s Hut.
  30. You consider taking your car to inspection one of the traumatic events in an individual’s life.
  31. You know it’s pronounced “Nork,” not “New-ark” and how to properly pronounce Boonton.
  32. You don’t understand how people eat Sunday dinner after 3:00 p.m.
  33. You remember seeing concerts at the Capitol Theater.
  34. You felt that two of the best places to go were Pizza Town and the Short Stop.
  35. Everyone has an opinion on the best diner in Jersey.