Monday, September 30, 2013

POTPOURRI TIME AGAIN



At 9:30 am the house became quiet except for Mick’s verbal insistence that he needs more to eat.

It was a very pleasant intimate family weekend although my oldest daughter was missing. Serendipitously my oldest nephew made a rare phone call and was able to talk to his cousins.

Other than “watching” my three football teams (college and NFL) play in the style to which I have been accustomed- error prone- I have been out of touch with the world.

I accidentally did catch the opening sequence of Saturday Night Live with its new staff this weekend. The skit was Obama at a ”town meeting” defending Obama care and all the “citizens” who were supposed to praise it of course did anything but. I caught a clip from it on this morning’s Channel 2 news. It seems to have also been loaded onto Youtube.

I also learned this morning from Plaintalker II that the Queen of Hearts aka our Mayor has appointed herself as acting City Administrator and supposed directed the Payroll Clerk to pay her additional salary per diem based on Berry’s salary. Once again her unique financial skills are forthcoming.

Perhaps her four stooges will finally join the other three on the Council and request a State audit of the city’s finances for at least the last two years and more of anything that could be criminal is discovered.

That is probably less likely than the Democrats and the Republicans reaching a compromise before the first of October.

Oh there will be a compromise reached near midnight since the number of Federal employees who have a vote is tremendous. Since this is an off election year Congress is more willing to run a brinkmanship course; but it may backfire.

I would like to thank all those nice people who on Facebook recently posted nice words about me in "I used to live in Plainfield".

I expect to be back blogging starting tomorrow.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

MORE NOSTALGIA



On a all too rare cleaning expedition of old files I ran across this Blog posted in 2008 as part of a series on the city’s past.

Once upon a time Plainfield was a split personality town. A significant portion was “white collar”. It was a New York City Bedroom Community.  The four local train stations were crowded during the commuting hours. Railroad and Wall Street executives lived here. The Netherwood station in the 1890s up to WW I was the specific designation for New York celebrities coming to spend time at the resort Netherwood Hotel.

The locomotives used on CRNJ were  called " Camelbacks" because the engineer's cab was mounted over the middle side of the boiler. That was because of the hard coal used the boilers were oversized. The commute by train ended at the river in Jersey City and the the ferry either to Cortland St. an d a one block walk to the subway, or a ferry to 23rd St.*

Likewise, the 1st and 4th Wards were the dwelling place for Plainfield’s large Irish, Italian and Polish “blue collar” working class. There was also a significant Afro-American population that lived mostly between Plainfield Ave and Grant Ave on West 2nd and 3rd Streets, among the other working population.

The Queen City area was the location of the country’s three major printing press manufacturers. Plainfield boasted Wood’s along the railroad tracks from Grant Ave east. Next to the tracks on South Ave. was the Scott’s plant which is still standing but used by other industries.

In Middlesex, bordering Dunellen was the Hoe’s printing press works. All had a foundry as part of the assembly plant.  After World War II, these plants became outdated due to changes in the technology of printing the factories that produce the printing presses closed down.
In the West End law between Grant Ave., and Clinton, The Mack truck factory occupied both sides of the railroad.   During WWI this plant was the leading supplier for heavy duty trucks. Interestingly the rear wheels were chain driven and of course the trucks were not speedy. By the end of WWII this plant which had grown like topsy became inefficient to operate. Mack trucks in a move to escape a strong union in an outdated plant transferred some of its operations to Allentown Pennsylvania.   

Truck production was relocated to a new modern facility in Hagerstown, Maryland.  Since this was rural farm country, labor costs were much lower than here.
Thereafter, Plainfield had no heavy industry to produce a major source of personal and taxable income.

 Between Roosevelt and Berkman north of the tracks was a railroad engine house with a turntable and storage tracks plus a still standing warehouse.  Further east of Berkman on the north side of the tracks, was the large electrical motor manufacturing factory, Howell. There was also the large Samoset Laundry building which was destroyed by fire long after it had been abandoned.
Because of the availability of excellent road networks, the railroads no longer were an absolute necessity for the manufacturing and transportation of goods.

The Pennsylvania coal mines lost importance for several reasons. Anthracite (hard) coal was more difficult to use than the soft bituminous coals from West Virginia and the western states. Pipelines made oil and natural gas cheaper and cleaner sources of energy.

In the east all the railroads were no longer financial viable industries.
Other industries that closed within a little over a decade after World War II included the Bronston’s Hats\. This manufacture of men’s hats was a victim of the change in fashion.

Another casualty, although not manufacturing, was the large manufactured gas storage tank by the railroad tracks off Watching Ave. A parking lot now occupies that spot.
In South Plainfield the buildings of the sprawling Spicer plant along the Lehigh tracks at Hamilton Ave became an Industrial Park. Today its revitalization is complicated by the grossly contaminated soil.

Harris Steel was once one of the major structural steel plants in the East. There are other smaller companies occupying the plant space.
Dunellen’s Art Color plant, once one of the largest producers of magazines and catalogs in the country, became a victim of the newer technologies and closed.

Plainfield was no longer a major manufacturing town.  The loss of revenue from those factories would never be recovered. Unlike the other towns which had available land for commercial development Plainfield and Dunellen suffered from the shifts in economic enterprises.

Plainfield was also the major shopping center in Central Jersey west of the Newark/Elizabeth area and north of the Rt. 1/Turnpike axis. 

There were three major department stores after the war. Two had survived the depression; Tepper’s 
which was upscale; Rosebaum Brother’s which appealed to a slightly less affluent cliental and shortly after the war Bamberger’s later Macy's added to the mix. Downtown was also the mecca of various regional and national specialty shops including at least four shoe stores plus many local owner shops.

The advent of the highway mall started the decline which accelerated after the 68 riots.
Plainfield had been noted for its excellent education system which was one of the best in the state. 

However, in the 50s I believe Plainfield became one of the first school districts in the country to have mandated ethnic integration resulting in school bussing and the destruction of the neighborhood school system.

This resulted in the first white migration out of the city. Parents objected more to having their grade school kids bussed across town when there was a nearby walking distances school. Some of the objection was of course bigotry; but the major objection was the irrational disruption by the bussing. *
*(Added for this posting).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

EXCUSES

No I have not vanished into cyberspace. I have been busy with personal stuff; most of it of little importance but seems to eat the hours. Thursday I may have to do some computer adjusting so that I do not keep getting  something like "firefox is not responding"  or "excelL is not etc.".

And then at about dinner time Patti and Bob will be here until Monday morning.  Therefore, unless somebody blows up a mall in the US or even more unlikely Congress passes legislation that will produce at least a temporary functioning government I may not post anything I believe worth reading before Tuesday.

However, please check once in a while, I may have a brainstorm.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

NOSTALGIA


A busy Monday and a full Tuesday. However there is a little time  left for some bicycle nostalgia.   

In the 30s automobile traffic was not a problem, and we kids were a bicycle riding society. Our bikes were heavy, had balloon tires and coaster brakes, not the sophisticated multigear lightweights of today. Since braking was applied only to the hub of the rear wheel there were no dreaded head over handlebars accidents. 

In good weather we rode to school and left our wheels in the provided racks. Even then we chain locked them. After school we traveled to whatever empty lot (field) where we would have our unsupervised ball games.  Football in the fall; baseball spring and summer.

In the West End there were two lots on the corner of Grant and Seventh, one more at Lee and Seventh, another on 8th near Clinton and one on Stelle directly opposite Hubbard School. Kenyon Gardens in the Cedar Brook area between Stelle and Randolph was also a football site. 

Besides the tennis courts in Cedar Brook Park and the High School field there was a city owned clay court on the corner of Hobart(?) and Sherman. 

We were not reluctant to ride our bikes out to Hadley Airport, which was about five miles away. By the late 20s, Hadley was no longer the terminus for the airmail. The large commercial Newark airport had replaced it. However, many private planes, including autogiros and a metal tri-motor Ford plane that the Bell Labs used for an airborne laboratory, continued to be based there. The Tri-motor's hanger site today sports a Red Lobster. The airport and hangers were on the other side where the mall is.

Also between New Brunswick Ave. and South Washington Ave there was a half mile dirt (auto) race track . On weekends it was possible to ride there and climb a tree to watch the cars.


 

Monday, September 23, 2013

RANDOM POTPOURRI



Yes as some TV “wit” remarked;”Fall has fell”. The leaves are dropping and soon the trees will be barren. Already new material for a blog is in a fall mode.


There has been no positive news from the Mid-East; but at least nothing negative for two days. In Kenya terrorists have once again shown how vulnerable Malls as well as stadiums. mass transport, indeed any place where crowds can aggregate can be to a determined group.


Although not classified as terrorists; both the extreme right Republican wing and the far left Democrat faction in Congress continue to threaten our economy and savings by not yielding an inch. As long as their own income is safe the “H” with everyone else’s.


By October 15 the day of reckoning will be it for all of us. At least the British have always managed to muddle through.


As to this antiquated blogger; Monday will be occupied by getting my semi-annual flat tire fixed while repairs to the heating system are taking place.That’s a busy day. Tuesday is not any better; two social visits to specialists for annual; "How are you, OK, see you in a year (six months)" visits take place. I believe in supporting the economy.


Seriously, preventive care is important. One may think these visits are nonsense but if the physician asks the right questions, and/or the patient volunteers all information even if he feels it to be irreverent, then perhaps major problems can be averted.
 
While I do post 99% of the comments I receive there are some especially from regulars such as ‘Bob”, “Rob”, “Alan”, and “Blackdog” that are serious enough to merit collecting and posting as part of a devoted blog.