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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Belleville Goes to Hell’s Kitchen

Anyone who is a regular reader of my blog knows I grew up in Belleville. It was a great place to grow up. My life consisted of Girl Scouts (Brownie Troop 255, Junior Troop 292), drama club, and of course marching band. My years in band were the best times growing up. I made great friends and, thanks to Facebook, I’ve had the opportunity to get in touch with many of them.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of so many of them. Jennifer recently graduated from Seton Hall Law, Trish is a published author, and Pat Tortorello is an awesome chef and now television star. He will be on the upcoming season 16 of Hell’s Kitchen.

“Tort” as he was known to his friends back then has been an awesome cook for as long as I can remember. His New Year’s Eve parties were epic to say the least. The food was always awesome! He was a drummer in marching band and still plays in a band today. He was a great friend and a lot of fun growing up. He would pick us up in his hot little sports car after school and drive us home. We though we were just awesome. Band football on Sunday. It was the best. We all went through thick and thin together and we are all proud of Tort and can’t wait to see the show!

You can meet Pat in person at a viewing party at Runway 22 in Fairfield on Friday, September 23rd.

We all know Jersey people are tough. And Belleville people? Well, we can hold our own. I am sure Tort can handle Chef Ramsay and will do Belleville, and New Jersey proud!

New Jersey and Independence Day

Ford Mansion

Independence Day is a day for great American pride. What you may not know is that New Jersey played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. If you want to celebrate our independence in a patriotic way, check out some of these locations and events.

Ford Mansion

Ford Mansion, image circa 1930. Credit: National Park Service

Morristown: This may be one of the most well-known locations in the Revolutionary War in New Jersey. Morristown is home to Washington’s Headquarters and Jockey Hollow. Historic Ford Mansion was home to General Washington’s military headquarters for six months during the winter of 1779-80. Despite the extreme winter, Washington was able to hold his army together and continue the fight for freedom. The national park consists of four non-contiguous units including the Washington’s Headquarters Unit, the Fort Nonsense Unit, the Jockey Hollow Unit, and the New Jersey Brigade Area. The park features two original structures, the Ford Mansion in Morristown and the Wick House in Jockey Hollow. Soldiers camped at Jockey Hollow until June, 1780. There is an encampment at the site with reenactors to educate visitors on what soldiers endured while onsite. There are approximately 27 miles of walking trails in the Jockey Hollow Unit.

Sandy Hook: Built in 1764, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in the country. At one point during the war, there was talk about destroying the lighthouse so it wouldn’t fall into the hands of the British. Major William Malcolm received orders in a letter dated March 6, 1776 to “take the glass out of the lantern, and save it if possible; but if you find this impracticable you will break the glass. You will also endeavor to pump the oil out of the cisterns into casks, or not being able to procure casks, you will pump it out onto the ground. In short, you will use your best discretion to render the lighthouse entirely useless.” Less than three months later, the British had the lighthouse repaired and back in operation and would remain under British control for most of the war.

Princeton: On January 3, 1777, Princeton Battlefield transformed into the site of what is considered to be the fiercest fight of its size during the American Revolution. During the battle, American troops under General Washington surprised and defeated a force of British soldiers. The Battle of Princeton gave Washington his first victory against the British on the field. With the victory at Princeton, morale rose in the American ranks and more men began to enlist in the army.

Battle of Second River

Battle of Second River market. Credit: Anthony Buccino/Bellevillesons.com

Belleville: Of course I must include my beloved home town of Belleville, known as Second River during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Second River in Belleville was fought from Sept. 12 through Sept. 14, 1777. It was the only battle fought in Essex County during the American Revolution. The cemetery alongside the Belleville Dutch Reformed Church holds the bodies of 66 Revolutionary War Patriots.

Hopewell Township/Titusville: These two town names may not sound familiar, but trust me they are incredibly important to our nation’s fight for freedom. This area is the location of Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware. On December 25, 1776, the Continental Army had little to celebrate that Christmas and seemed beat by hunger and cold. After crossing the rough winter river at night, General George Washington and the Continental Army landed at Johnson’s Ferry, at the site now known as Washington Crossing State Park. At 4 am, they began their march to Trenton where they defeated the Hessian troops in an unexpected attack. This battle was quickly followed by the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777, and the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.

These are just a few of the important historical locations in New Jersey. I hope you take time to check them out.

Belleville on Shark Tank

My husband and I usually watch Shark Tank on ABC on Friday night. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, business owners pitch their ideas to a group of “sharks” (very wealthy investors) in order to get an investment to start or expand their business.

A while ago, a young boy wanted an investment for his line of bow ties, Mo’s Bows. While he did not get an investment, shark and FuBu founder Daymond John offered to mentor the young entrepreneur. Since then his business has grown by leaps and bounds!

During last night’s show, an update was provided on Mo’s Bows. Daymond had helped to broker a deal with a company that makes hand-made ties in order to ramp up production. Where is the facility, you might ask? Belleville, New Jersey!

Robert Stewart has been producing hand-made ties in the United States since 1919. Originally located in Connecticut, the factory is now located on Little Street in Belleville.

Now, not only was I jazzed to see a New Jersey company on Shark Tank, I was especially excited to see Belleville. Why you ask? I lived in Belleville for close to 30 years before a two year stop in Nutley and now 10 years in Rockaway, New Jersey. I loved growing up in Belleville. I still go back to that area to visit family, for all my doctors, and head to Branch Brook Park in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

Originally known as Second River, the area was renamed Washington. Later in June 1797, the name was permanently changed to Belleville. Shared with Newark, Branch Brook Park is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The park’s total number of cherry blossom trees exceeds even the famous collection in Washington, D.C. They are usually in bloom in April and the park plays host to 500,000 while they are in bloom. When my parents were married, they took their wedding photos in the park. When I was a child, I used to go sledding in the park in the winter and hunted for Easter eggs in the spring. The town holds a number of wonderful memories for me.

As spring approaches, I hope you will check out this little gem of North Jersey.