We have learned that you can't describe New Jersey in any simple way. We began our visit in northeastern New Jersey, learning that it is economically and spiritually tied to New York City. Now, farther south, we are within commuting distance of Philadelphia. Roy lived in a house like this Here we have found a much greater variety of occupations, towns, people, and lifestyles.
Shortly after we arrived here, we made an excursion to Collingswood, where Elsa's father lived in the early 1930s, working for the Travelers Insurance Company. Roy Walther supervised fourteen girls, as he loved to remember; he and his friend Al Reed enjoyed parties where they would drink and dance the night away.
The 1930 census showed Roy boarding at 521 Haddon Avenue, which is Collingswood's long main street, lined with stores. Number 521 has recently been remodeled and combined with its neighbor 523 into a Looking into the pine forest law office, but across the street we could see what it looked like before remodelling. It's a typical building in this part of town - two homes side by side with a common wall, shared porch, separate front doors, and a tiny garden in back.
Our second trip, on a cool rainy morning, took us to the New Jersey pine barrens. Over 20% of the state consists of this flat sandy forested land, not good for farming, so never heavily settled. In a few short miles one leaves the densely settled suburban towns for a rural wilderness. What buildings there are tend to be quite old and ramshackle, and it's like driving into the past. There are sandy ruts which date from Colonial times and penetrate A cranberry bog the pine barrens, but with all the recent rain we did not try a four-wheel drive adventure!
The pine barrens are home to many of New Jersey's famed cranberry bogs, and many of the current residents are engaged in cranberry farming. Bog iron was found in abundance and used for cannonballs during the Revolution. Batsto Village was engaged in a large number of forestry and agricultural projects towards the end of the 19th century, and is today a State Historical Park.
The pine barrens The entrance to Batsto village were also home to the Jukes and the Kallikaks, families which were used to “prove” that anti-social behavior and feeble-mindedness were inherited, and provided fuel for the proposals of early eugenecists.
A second trip to South Jersey took us to WheatonArts, which is primarily a glass and pottery center in Millville. Resident artists and craftspeople demonstrate a variety of glassmaking and ceramic skills, while visiting artists and fellows take advantage of the large-scale glassmaking equipment available at the site. The gem of WheatonArts is the American Glass Museum, Glass blowing demonstration which carefully depicts the story of American glass from early work at Millville in the colonial period up through the modern creations of fine artists. We enjoyed looking at all the glass products from baby bottles to marbles, stemware to paperweights, light bulbs to coffins to modern sculpture, and would have stayed longer if we hadn't wanted our lunch!
We finished off that trip with a drive along the south shore of New Jersey, penetrating through to Delaware Bay at Bay Side, Modern glass sculpture which is not much more than a name on the map. It's just past Greenwich, which has a monument to the patriots who burned British tea in 1776. Immediately next to the Bay are grassy marshes and wetlands which are protected refuges for waterfowl, but just inland is some of New Jersey's richest farmland, with fields of corn, beans, and wheat and many good-size vegetable gardens. Bay Side, New Jersey We saw dozens of tree farms and extensive peach orchards. In this remote farmland we found that other drivers and even workers would wave as we drove past; you won't find that kind of friendliness in the bedroom communities!
On the other hand, the two county seats of Bridgeton and
Salem were unattractive, in our opinion. Both cities
showed a depressed economy, with many boarded up buildings
and many idlers in the streets. Bridgeton had a huge
New Sweden Farm Museum -
Fenced and locked up park, evidently nearly out of funds, for the 1638 New Sweden farm museum was locked up, and the ramshackle zoo appeared to be completely unattended.
Four years ago we drove north along the Jersey Shore and were flabbergasted by the sudden change from opulence to poverty as we crossed the boundary from Deal to Asbury Park. This year we are spending four weeks in New Jersey, and our explorations continue to reveal the same shocking differences from one town to another. While all states have both prosperous and poor regions, New Jersey seems to take the prize for the rapidity in which neighborhoods can change. Despite being one of the smaller states in area, New Jersey seems like many different states crowded together.