I have been teaching “Introduction to Business 101” at Bergen Community College for several years now and in the era of COVID, it has been especially difficult. With businesses shutting down never to reopen getting students to understand that business must go on and pivot is a difficult thing to do. You have to learn to adapt and survive or else everything fails.
This is happening in small downtowns all over the country. You have to learn to adapt, or you will fail. Things have gotten better though with the dropping of the mask mandates and businesses opening up.
In my live classes, I open my consulting company, “Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.”, for business and the whole class bands together and we have one big project. In the era of COVID and online learning, I was lucky that I was able to teach one of the live classes on the Bergen Community College, Paramus Campus. It was such a pleasure welcoming students back to campus with live lectures and conversing with them.
The Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. corporate logo of the six trees
In the past, I have created these projects under the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. banner, the main consulting company, the Orion Malls banner, a Mall design company and the Buscomonzefi.com banner, my Tech Division. Each business does its best to be creative, forward thinking and have a thought producing presentations. I also challenge the students to top on another in their presentations and build on what they have seen others do in the past.
Professor Justin Watrel, CEO & Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
This semester’s project “Rocking it in Rutherford: Being a Tourist in your own Town” was inspired by the success of the “Take me back to Paterson, NJ” project in 2019. I loved how the students really had to learn about the history of the City of Paterson and about New Jersey history in general. This is something not being taught in schools today.
The blog on Day One Hundred and Fifty-Five: “Take me back to Paterson, NJ” in 2019:
I chose Rutherford because it was the next town over from the Lyndhurst campus where I was teaching and the fact that Lyndhurst did not have a cohesive downtown area to promote. When I walked it, their downtown was in sections instead of one long stretch. Also, Downtown Rutherford had more of a history to it and was picturesque with its old buildings, classic look of an old church dominating the downtown and a park with a band shell at the top of the shopping district. There was more you could do with it.
The town is on two major bus routes one into New York City and one into Newark as well as being a railroad head for New York City. The town has become more desirable for people moving out of New York City for more open space, better schools and the amenities that come with living in the suburbs. They still want a ‘citified’ atmosphere though with good restaurants, clean safe parks to relax in and a strollable downtown with lots to offer for both shopping and eating. Rutherford has all of these.
I assembled the project together in two days after walking the downtown several times getting inspiration of how to market it and ideas that I had seen in the past in other towns of what they run at various times of the year drawing ideas from towns in the Hudson River Valley.
I entitled the project “Rocking it in Rutherford: Being a tourist in your own Town”, a creative approach to market the downtown for tourists to come visit from all over New Jersey and New York especially the City, the way Rhinebeck and Beacon do for dining, shopping and special events like “First Monday’s” and “Sinterklaas”.
The second week back from the Spring Break I presented the project and handed out the positions of the company and then explained the project. I go the usual ‘Yeahs’ and ‘groans’ from the students. I also got those panicked looks from the students who looked at me like they could never handle their position in the company. I would like to think as a CEO, I know them better than they know myself. After that, I had the Teams break up into their groups, met with my Executive Team and then met with the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations before they left for the night. It is always an interesting experience when meeting your Executive Team for the first time. They look nervous about being in charge.
The Project “Rocking it in Rutherford: Being a Tourist in your own Town”:
This all changes over the next few weeks as the students start up group chats and meet with one another after class. Then it was time to take the students out “into the field”. Right before COVID hit, I was going to take my class who were creating the project “From Revolution to Revelation-Visiting Historic Bergen County, NJ” out to visit historical sites, museums and farms all over the county. Then the virus hit, and we could not do any of that. I had seen how successful these field trips had been just by visiting our own campus or our trip to Downtown Paterson, NJ. I had to help the students overcome their fear of that city and see it gems and benefits.
I arranged for the students to take a field trip to Downtown Rutherford, NJ one night of class three weeks after the Spring Break. Of course, it has been raining the whole week and I asked the students in advance if they wanted to take the field trip even if there was a chance of rain. My Senior VP of Operations emailed me and said that people did not have a problem with it. It was the most rainy, miserable night to walk around a town!
We all met in class where I gave my speech about behaving themselves on a field trip and how they are representing Bergen Community College. That always helps. Then the heavens opened up on our way to the first stop, the First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford, an elegant church at the top of the downtown that was going to serve as the location for the “Snowflake Festival”.
The First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford at 1 East Passaic Avenue
The church was an example of Victorian architecture not seen today
I could not believe how beautiful this church was with it wooden carved benches, Tiffany windows and elegant pews. The whole church was done in carved wood and since it had an endowment to keep it up, the church was immaculate. It was one of those churches that you want to attend during the holidays to enjoy the pipe music and flowers. It also had lots of meeting spaces that were perfect for the project. I could tell that the students were impressed.
The inside the First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford is so elegant
After we left the tour of the church, we had to endure the elements and walk to Lincoln Park across the street to view the band shell for the “Big Band” concerts that we would be holding there in the month of August. I could not believe that most of the students were not carrying umbrellas (this is after I told them all to bring an umbrella with them twice). The rain was really coming down at that point.
We walked the park and I showed them how we could set the whole thing up and how operations could work. We could even use the meeting rooms at the church and their kitchen to cook the refreshments for the concerts. While we were finishing, one of the students snapped a group shot of us at the band shell.
My class at the Band Shell in Lincoln Park in Rutherford, NJ on that rainy night
After the tour of the band shell, we walked the entire side of the downtown going south with me pointing out historical points like the WWII Memorial at the circle and historic businesses like Varrelman’s Bake Shop at 60 Park Avenue (it was closed at this point of the evening). We then stopped at the railroad station and talked for a bit where there was a covering from the rain.
I explained how people could come into town by both rail and by bus where they did not need a car. This way people from other parts of New Jersey could join in the fun without having to look for parking.
Then we walked north up the other side of Park Avenue to our final destination, dinner at Da Mario Pizza at 25 Park Avenue for dinner. I had planned a pizza dinner for my class (which I pay for) which is a Team building event and also gives the students a chance to bond as a group. Plus, I feed them and on this gloomy night, they deserved it.
I ordered five large cheese pizzas and then let the students pick their beverages. I gave a little speech about the town and then about the project. We would be having another series of field trips to other places in town over the next few weeks while they worked on their project. They would also have to take trips to the town on their own. After that, I let the groups get together and work on their game plans for the project.
It was nice to just get out of the rain. I was hoping by the time we got out of the restaurant that the rain would stop. It poured more! After dinner, the Teams walked to the Williams Center to see the complex and I explained what would be happening in the future to the site with a new condo building and parking garage. It would bring more people to the downtown creating a new base of customers to the businesses downtown. Then I let them go home. It was a wet evening.
“Welcome to Rutherford” video promoting the attributes of the town
Over the next two weeks, there were two extra credit trips, one to the Meadowlands Museum on a Saturday so that the students could see the museum with time to visit all the exhibitions. The other trip was to City Hall for a Council Meeting to meet the Mayor and the Borough Council. Those were eye openers for not just the students but myself as well. These were the trips that I was to take with my students two years earlier to promote their projects before COVID shut us down. I could imagine the extra work that could have been done on those projects if the virus had not come.
I was able to arrange with the Meadowlands Museum, a small historical museum in Rutherford that concentrates on both the town and the County’s history from the Native Americans to the rise of the agriculture industry in Bergen County. I lead my class on a tour before class one Thursday evening and it was an eye-opener to students who lived nearby and never knew the museum existed.
We toured the first floor with its local art exhibition, communications display and section dedicated to a local doctor. Then to the second floor where children’s toys were located, the mining exhibition and a display of glowing minerals to show off New Jersey’s Mining past. Then it was to the basement level where spinning wheels, farm equipment and a turn of the last century kitchen was displayed. Some of the students had never seen displays like this before. After the tour, it was back to class for their quiz and lecture.
My class touring the Meadowlands Museum during class time
For the next three weeks, I gave the students class time to work with their Teams on the project and then on their own they revisited the town, created their commercials and put together their presentations.
The Historical tour of Rutherford, NJ brought to YouTube
On the night of April 28th, 2022, the students dressed in professional dress and presented their project to the Honorable Mayor Frank Nunziato and the Rutherford Borough Council. This is when I present a group of Generation Z students as Generation X consultants, and they are the executives of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
Each group presented their part of the presentation to our invited guests and creatively introduced their section of the project. I could not have been prouder.
The PowerPoint Presentation of “Rocking it in Rutherford: Being a Tourist in your own Town”:
These videos of the presentation are available on YouTube:
The Introduction and the Talent Team:
My Introduction of the Project and the Talent Team Presentation
The Historical Team Presentation:
The Historical Team describes their ideas for the Historical Tour and updates at the Meadowland Museum
The Marketing Team Presentation:
The Marketing Team presented their ideas for Special Events and Advertising plus the new town song “Rutherford 07070”.
When the presentation was over, I could see that the Mayor and the Council as well as the Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce were blown away by the whole presentation. They were so impressed by the work that the student consultants did on the project. I had not seen the full presentation at that point and have to say that I was blown away as well.
Everyone had such great questions for the student consultants, and they were up for the challenge. I even had our Team Leader sing “Rutherford 07070” live to the Mayor and his Team and everyone enjoyed that.
The song “Rutherford 07070”
Each of the Council men and women got up and talked with each Team on their ideas and were very impressed by the thoroughness of the budgets and the realistic numbers that they presented. They even noted the student’s followed things like budgeting for the police and DPW for the Special Events. They also liked that everyone from locating our offices in the Rutherford area to using downtown restaurants for catering and for our company “Wrap Up” party. Everyone got a chance to give the student consultants their input on the project.
After the presentation, the Mayor and the Council along with the Vice-President of the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce took a group shot with my class and that meant a lot to me. It showed both myself and the students that they took the presentation seriously.
My Business 101 student consultants with the Mayor and Council and Chamber of Commerce of Rutherford, NJ
After we finished, I had a light reception for the students, their families and our invited guests. It was a nice evening, and I was so proud of my students. It was another group that has now entered to the Alumni of “Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.” (Acronym for Bergen Community College-Paramus Campus).
I went to Heights Bar & Grill that evening to celebrate their success. It had been a long semester in the post-COVID era. We overcame the difficulties with masks and stress and achieved the goal! This is when a thin-crusted pizza and a drink taste even better.
I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.
Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.
Setting up the Christmas trees
Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021
I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.
The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.
I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.
I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.
The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!
The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island
Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.
The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.
Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing
After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.
My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.
The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.
The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society
After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.
For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.
After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.
Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?
Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!
After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:
it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.
I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.
We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.
(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)
Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY
Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting
All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade
Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse
Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade
The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade
The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am
After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.
I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.
The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9
The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.
After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.
No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.
What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.
I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.
I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.
By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.
The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.
Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life
I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.
It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.
The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.
Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.
Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck
Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.
This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’
The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.
After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas. I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.
After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.
Downtown Rhinebeck before nightfall
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.
Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.
Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.
Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times
It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.
Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored
Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.
On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.
The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.
The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th
Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.
These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.
John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”
Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”
Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English
On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.
The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.
Here is the presentation with all the commercials:
Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:
This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.
There is a message from me their CEO as well:
A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.
Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:
Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.
The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ
I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!
I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.
This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.
“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ
The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”
The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.
This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.
Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck
The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.
But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.
The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas
When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.
The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.
Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.
The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions
Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.
It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas
The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences
The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.
Moravian Residences by the bank
The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.
The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas
The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home
I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.
Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.
This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive
St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.
I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).
Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.
Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road
For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).
When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.
The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street
The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.
Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza
What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.
This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021
I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.
I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.
The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe
For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.
I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas
Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.
The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.
The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.
Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner
The sitting room at Mount Gulian
After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.
Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.
Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall
Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year
I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.
Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.
Downtown Red Hook, NY
I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.
The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.
Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree
Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful
After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockage District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.
Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas
The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brillantly.
Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree
The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.
Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.
By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.
The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.
Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree
My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.
Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.
We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.
Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.
I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.
I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!
Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.
On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.
This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021
By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.
First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.
So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.
So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Annex and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).
This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.
My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.
The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place
I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.
Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.
After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.
The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May
After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).
Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ
It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.
The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.
If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.
The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.
After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!
By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.
After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.
Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.
My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner
To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.
My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.
My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth
My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach
Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach
The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background
It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.
I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.
When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.
Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.
With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.
The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!
I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.
The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.
The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition
It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.
After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.
I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.
You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.
I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.
I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.
New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway
The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.
After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.
I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.
I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.
Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway
New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!
This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.
The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:
Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here
The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:
I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.
I had the most interesting semester for Spring Term at the college where I work. Everything started off fine. We had classes in the afternoon, good discussions on Marketing and had a very successful Team Project marketing the Lyndhurst Snack Shop, the new Bulldog Cafe, for business (See Day One Hundred and Fifty-Nine in MywalkinManhattan.com):
I had just handed out the next Team Project, “From Revolution to Renewal: Exploring the Historic Bergen County”, a major tourism project I wanted to the students to work on for the remainder of the semester the week before the break. I had the students to break up into groups and get to know one another and get their game plans in order before the Midterm. We had only one class to introduce the project and they set their group chats up and introduced themselves. The next week I gave the Midterm and then left for the Spring Break.
This project had been inspired by a couple of things. One was the fact that many of these students did not know their own County. They knew nothing of its history let alone had ever really explored it. It amazed me how many of them did not know the history of the towns they lived in and if there was a well-known cultural site in the town they lived in they never visited it. A few students said to me when I asked had they visited this or that in their town the answer always seemed to be “well I passed it but never really noticed it.”
Another thing that inspired the project was the Northwest Bergen Historical Coalition. Every year this historical group runs a “History Day” for the historical sites of northwest Bergen County. When I asked a friend who worked for the County why they did not have a weekend with all the sights in Bergen County, she said that it would be too difficult to put together. That was what I needed to hear to put this project together. To prove that it could be done.
It wasn’t just that. Many of the these sites were never visited and some were only open once or twice a year to visitors because their volunteers were getting too old. Many people were not taking these sites seriously in the role they played in not just the formation of the County but the United States. When you really read the history of the people who lived there or what the site meant, it was interesting to see what role it played in the history of Bergen County.
As I said in my previous blog on my Introduction to Business class creating the Ambassador Program, it was a harder go with my Essentials in Marketing class. They were a younger group who did not know much about the history of Bergen County let alone their own towns. I had poised the question many times in class about where they had visited in the County and mentioned many historical sites in towns which they lived in. Only a few had ever visited them or if they had had been way back in elementary school when it was considered part of a school field trip.
This is when I created “From Revolution to Renewal: A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”. This would be a two day weekend with an opening private cocktail party of the Arts Community and VIP’s followed by a two day tour of all of Bergen County’s historical sites with side trips to our wonderful historical restaurants and a scavenger hunt to wrap it all up.
I had started to arrange a series of field trips that we were going to take over the last week of school and the first week of Spring Break. I had planned a trip to Downtown Hackensack, NJ to see the Courthouse, visit two Dutch Reformed Churches and the cemeteries and then visit White Mana, a very well-known hamburger place that has been around since the 1940’s.
The Bergen County Courthouse, The Green and the Dutch Reformed Church in Downtown Hackensack, NJ
Another field trip that I started to look into was the Aviation Hall of Fame in Teterboro, NJ and then a tasting at Spindler’s Bakery and Lovey’s Pizzeria in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and then on to Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge, NJ.
I was doing this while running in and out of New York City for the Restaurant Show and a Michigan State University Alumni Night for the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State University. I was just getting everything organized and then planning a quick trip to visit my mother when all hell broke loose and the government started to shut everything down. From a Wednesday Membership Night at the Met Breuer to a Thursday morning shut down of New York City and all air travel to Europe, the world changed.
Our Spring Break was extended a week to see what the State of New Jersey was going to do with the educational system and with that at the end of the week we were informed that we would not be returning to school. Not only did that mean no field trips it meant no more live class and I would not be seeing my students again. I was not sure how like my other class we were going to pull this project off.
None of my students had visited practically any of these sites or been to any of the restaurants on the project. Almost everything was closed. You could see some of the sites like the churches and memorials from the street but everything inside was closed. Everything would have to be done online.
The one thing I did have was belief in the class that they could do the work. I had been so impressed by their work on the Snack Shop project that I knew they could do the work. It was the intense research that would have to be done online. A crisis is when you see the best in people. I did.
While my other class had a better head start of the Student Ambassador Project, my Historic Bergen County Team had a lot of ingenuity. The one thing they didn’t know was the history of Bergen County, NJ. I could have asked them to visit some of the sites around the County which would not have been hard as the Reformed Dutch churches could be seen from the sidewalks as well as the cemeteries that surrounded them.
Places like the Camp Merrill Memorial and the Baylor Massacre site were open to the public in obscure areas and not in big parks that would have been closed during the pandemic so it would have been no problem visiting them. I did not want to put anyone at risk of anything at this time so I nixed them leaving their homes. I just did not want to be responsible for anyone getting sick.
Once we realized that we were not returning, I started to contact the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations who I chose for the project and started to get underway. Just like my other class, the students all had their own situations. Some students got sick, some just did not communicate with me, some had changes in their family situations and some had communications problems with me. On top of all of this, the Teams of Student Consultants regrouped and really worked their butts off to make it work.
The Talent Team who was responsible for setting up the salaries and benefits for the three-month Division formation had already started doing their work. They had found the location for the office before the break and had a lot of ideas they were contemplating during the break. Since the two Teams of students from Paramus and Lyndhurst would not be meeting up as I had originally planned, I had the Lyndhurst Team develop their own unique plan for their Division of the company.
The Talent Division set up their office design, created a Wrap Up party for the Division, created a set of ‘perks’ for the Division staff and developed a very fair package of benefits for the staff (see their website below).
The Marketing Division I created for the Team Project had the bulk of the work. I broke the Division down into three sections:
The Historical Museums/Parks/Homes & Zoo Division was responsible doing the research on every historic tourist site in the County. This included the historical homes, churches, parks, cemeteries, monuments and the zoo. They had to do the research on each and then for the website put together a small bio on them so that tourists could find them when using the website on their smartphones. This also included a Scavenger Hunt in the buildings that they had never been inside of before.
They also had to set up a cocktail party opening event at The Gallery Bergen, our on campus art gallery at Bergen Community College. The cocktail party was being created for Museum Curators, Historians, members of the Arts Community, Artists and VIP’s from the County.
The second Division was the Historical Restaurant Division whose job it was to find restaurants all over the County that predated 1980. We were looking showcase well-known restaurants with years of longevity in the County that were well-known not just in the community but around the country with foodies. Places like White Mana in Hackensack, NJ and Hiram’s Hot Dogs in Fort Lee, NJ.
The Third Division of the Marketing Team was the History Division whose job it was to research Bergen County’s History from the Lenape Settlements with the Dutch to the Revolutionary War to World War II. Bergen County played such a huge role in all the wars from setting up and training troops to munitions being developed here to battle grounds between the wars.
They were also responsible for researching a list of the ‘first family’s’ of Bergen County. People like the Zabriskie’s, the Demerest’s, the Terhune’s and the Haring’s played a big part not just in the development of Bergen County but in the formation of the United States especially during the Revolutionary War.
The Marketing Division itself was responsible for creating the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. websites for the client that were eventually merged into one. The Marketing Team would be gathering information from the three Teams that made up the Division and create the site for tourists and residents who were going to attend the three-day History Event.
They were also responsible for filming two commercials. One commercial would be on the role of Bergen County in the United States foundation from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
The Team’s commercial on the ‘History of Bergen County’ for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
The second would be inviting people to come to visit Bergen County and all it has to offer:
The Team’s commercial on “Welcoming people to Bergen County, NJ” in many languages for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
This was a very extensive project, and I could not wait to come back to school after the break and start the project. When I took my students ‘out into the field’ (i.e. field trips) to the location, these projects made more sense to the class. The field trips to Paterson, NJ and to the Snack Shop on the Bergen Community College Lyndhurst, NJ campus resulted in extremely creative work and the students being able to see first hand what it was they were marketing. This would be put to the test when we did not return to the college.
I have to say of all my classes, I have never seen a collective of students regroup and get the job done. The Talent Team was very diligent and got their work done on a timely basis. My senior executives for that division lead their Team and created a game plan to get their job accomplished.
It was much harder in our Historical Division in that there was a lot of research to do with each site, restaurant and family that had to be carefully explored and researched in detail. It was not so easy with no access to certain books as all libraries were shut down and not everything was on an eBook.
Almost all the restaurants on the list were not open at the time of the project (a lot of them have since opened for take-out only) and since this was a younger group of students, they did not know a lot of the restaurants that had been opened for years. Here I was able to assist as a CEO and be able to add to the project. With the help of my aunt, who had lived in Bergen County since the 1950’s, we were able to create a list of about thirty five restaurants, candy and ice cream stores and bakeries all over Bergen County that tourists and residents alike would enjoy when they were touring on the Historical Weekend.
Still we were able to create an interesting commercial on the restaurants that were open since before the 1970’s. Here is the commercial for “Historic Restaurants of Bergen County” that the students put together:
This commercial really highlights the older restaurants of Bergen County, NJ.
Since all the cemeteries and churches were off limits for the duration of the project (they have now started to open), everything had to be done online by the help of Google. All the wonderful historic cemeteries that we were going to tour in Ridgewood, Hackensack, Dumont and Bergenfield were closed to us and I would not be able to show the significance of the families and how they intertwined with marriage.
The Dutch Reformed Church and cemetery on the Green in Hackensack, NJ
It was a rough first two weeks as communication was limited to just campus email but as things like Zoom and WebEx video conferencing started to be introduced then we were raring to go. My students were already group chatting and video conferencing with each other before my training was over and then it was ‘Zooming’ in meetings for the rest of the semester.
Some of my students needed to learn how to time prioritize and some of them needed to take their work much more seriously but when I read their final papers on the project, I realized that was not always so easy.
Some students were taking care of loved ones who were sick or had been sick themselves, some had multiple classes and not much access to computers and had professor’s like myself emailing them all the time so they got over-whelmed. It was a real challenge but I knew this Team of Student Consultants was up for the sense of self-accomplishment.
For the next three weeks before the Monday, April 27th presentation, I have never emailed so many people so many times answering questions, trying to find information and trying to guide people to doing their best work.
One of the attributes I let the students use was my blog site, VisitingaMuseum.com:
This way it would save them time in their research. I had found when I was putting the site together that many of these smaller historical sites in Bergen County did not even have their own websites. We also discovered as a Team that there was no site in the County or in the State that showed off all of Bergen County attributes.
To add to the historical sites and the historical restaurants, I had all the students in both classes do research on every town in Bergen County to add to the website. This way it would tie everything you needed to know about the County with the families, where they lived, who they were, how they played a role in the development of the County, the towns that they lived in and by the way when you are visiting all the great long service restaurants to dine at for the weekend.
All of this was a major challenge as the Team had never put a website together and the one that the mythical client, the New Jersey Historical Guild of Bergen County, had wanted had an interactive map. This all had to be created from scratch.
I am not sure what went on behind the scenes as I was not privy to the Group Chat but I could tell there was a lot of conversation back and forth on everything. I was lucky that I created an Executive Team who saw this as a challenge themselves. Nothing like this had ever been attempted by the County or the State of New Jersey Tourism that I knew of in past history.
On Monday, April 27th at 11:00am, the students presented me their Power Point Presentation and their commercials. If ever there was a Professor that was prouder of his students, it was me. The Team took all the proposed ideas that I came up with plus adding the history of every town in Bergen County (all 70 of them) and came up with a very creative website not just for the Historical Sites, History of the Country and Historic Restaurants but the Talent Division created their own website as well.
The Power Point presentation was attended not just by myself but with other members of the Historical Community of Bergen County and that made the presentation really special that the students would get that feedback.
I have to say that I was totally blown away by not just the Power Point Presentation but by the commercials and the websites that they created. The one thing I knew is that the global pandemic did not stop this Team of students from accomplishing the task.
Both of my classes exceeded and impressed me with all of their ideas. Hats off to all the students involved in both projects. You should be proud of yourselves!
Here is the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Historical Website of Bergen County, NJ:
I put “MywalkinManhattan” on hold for a few days as the local activities in New Jersey started to take up my time. There is so much to see and do as the weather is getting warmer.
The Northwest Bergen History Coalition every year gives people the opportunity to visit almost a dozen different historical sites in the upper part of Bergen County, NJ and take the time to tour and explore all the sites with the help of trained docents and volunteers who take immense pride in showing off their site all for the low price of $10.00 ($15.00 the day of the event). Be prepared to drive though because all the sites can be a distance from one another. Also, have a a game plan because there is no way you can see everything in one day. You will only have from 10:00am-4:00pm so plan to visit the remaining sites at another time.
This year’s theme was “How Immigration & the Railroad Shaped our Towns”, so all the exhibits were on the immigration of the area and how it shaped the individual town’s population.
“The towns in Northwest Bergen County were settled in the 18th Century by immigrants from countries in Europe and Africa. Through the centuries the number of countries grew. Today, we have been enriched by immigrants from all over the world. The railroad came to Northwest Bergen in the mid-19th century, bringing with it jobs, prosperity and immigrants. Come see how immigrants and the railroad helped to define what would become our modern towns of today.” was the prospective of the days event.
Since I had toured most of the historic homes and museums to the south of the region, I planned my day to the northern part of the county. I bought my ticket way in advance at the Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum (featured on my blog, “VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com and reviewed on TripAdvisor) when I was viewing the “Thread of Life” exhibition, which you should not miss that is showing through December of 2018. It explores life of the era’s family life through clothing.
I planned an early morning and started my Saturday at the Majestic Diner at 1045 Route 17 South in Ramsey, NJ. This way I would be close to my first site, The Old Stone House in Ramsey, NJ. The food at the Majestic Diner I would highly recommend because I really enjoyed my breakfast there.
The diner does all their baking on premise and I had one of their homemade ‘Pop-Tarts’ ($3.75) to start the meal. These freshly baked pastries resemble their commercial counterparts. The outside was a flaky pastry crust with a thick white icing and a powdering of cinnamon and the inside was loaded with a thick layer of a cinnamon mixture. Decadent yes but well worth it. You have to try this version of the sweet treat.
Don’t miss their freshly baked ‘Pop-Tarts”
Breakfast itself match in creativity and quality. I ordered the Brioche French Toast with a side of homemade sausage. The one thing I liked about the Majestic Diner is that the portion sizes are not huge and over-whelming. It was just the right amount for breakfast. The French Toast was made out of brioche and it was perfect (See review on TripAdvisor).
Their Brioche French Toast is excellent
They cooked it with a crisp outside and soft inside. As I was eating, I saw the omelettes going by and that was for another time. What was nice about breakfast was that it kept me content for the rest of the afternoon. There would be a lot of running around.
The Majestic Diner is a nice place to start your day of touring Bergen County
My first stop was at The Old Stone House at 538 Island Road in Ramsey, NJ (See review on VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com). This obscure little Dutch home sits on a bend on a hill hidden by trees off a very busy section of Route 17 South and by looking at it, you never would have guessed that it was once home to a 300 acre farm. This is the oldest building in Ramsey and was built from a combination of rubble stone, clay mortar, chopped straw and hog’s hair. The home dates back to 1740 and is run by the Ramsey Historical Society (RHS).
The house is credited to being built by members of the Westervelt family for brothers Uriah and Ruloff Westervelt, who leased the land in 1744. There is a feeling that there had been a house on the property at the time they leased the land. The land had been part of the Ramapough Tract for Proprietors. Other members of the Westervelt family are though to have had influence in the building of the house as well maybe back earlier (RHS).
The Ramapough tract situated between the Ramapo Mountains and Saddle River was purchased from the Indians on November 18,1709 and acknowledged by the Indians at Tappan before Cornelius Harring, the Justice of the Peace (RHS).
The Ramapough Tract
The house had been through many owners since and the land around it diminished over time with each owner. In 1950, the building of Route 17 South, made the lot even smaller and destroyed the spring and stream that were once part of the land around the house. Both the Schweizer family and the Labosky families, who were the last two owners of the house, which the Labosky family sold to the state in 1955, operated an antique shop that is now part of the house that faces Route 17 (RHS).
The house is furnished in period furniture and the barn outside is stocked with all sorts of equipment for early Dutch farming from the era. When you tour the house with the historians, they will point out where the fireplaces once were and the original wooden floors that line the house. Upstairs where the bedrooms once were are both Children’s displays of an old schoolhouse and a toy exhibition. In the downstairs area, there are two displays to the War Years and the old antique shop is set up like a general store. The sites next big fundraiser will be the Sinterklaas event in December for a Dutch Christmas.
Old Stone House Barn
My second stop of the historical tour was the Hopper-Goetschius House and Museum at 363 East Saddle River Road in Upper Saddle River, NJ, run by the Upper Saddle River Historical Society (USRHS). This historic home dates back to 1739 for the original part of the house, which has since been added onto three more times and still kept its historic look even into the 1980’s when the last resident moved out.
Hopper-Goetschius House & Garden at 363 East Saddle River Road
The property houses several buildings that were part of the original house like the outhouse, out kitchen and beehive oven. Other historic buildings that were threatened with being knocked down by developers have since been resembled and brought the property that include a woodshed, a tenant house, the Ramsey Sayer House, a Dutch barn, the Van Riper-Tice Barn and a working blacksmith shop. That part of the property toward the back part of the farmhouse looks like a mini-village and volunteers were working each of the buildings when I was there.
One of the buildings on the ground of the Upper Saddle River Historical Society
The Hopper-Goetschius House on the corner of Lake Street and East Saddle River Road dates back to 1739. Built by the Hopper family, it is the oldest remaining house in Upper Saddle River, NJ. The Saddle River Historical Society knew it existed in 1739 because it was recorded in surveyor Charles Clinton’s journal and possibly it is older. It was also marked as the home of Gerrit Hoppa on a rough sheepskin map made about 1713. The Hoppers farmed the land and had a lot of it. The property extended from the Saddle River up the hill almost to Montvale, NJ and up to the East Road in Upper Saddle River (USRHS).
The house underwent several changes in the mid-1800’s. The large central chimney with back to back fireplaces was removed. Probably with more modern forms of heating available, such as wooden stoves, the fireplace seemed a bit old-fashioned and the owners took it out. They wanted to use the entrance hall as a room, so the stairway along the east wall was removed and a central stairway added where the fireplaces had once been. The dormers were added in the Victorian era (USRHS). Don’t miss the secret stairs in the kitchen that lead to the old second floor which houses a few bedrooms. It is one of the unique features of the house.
In 1814, the house became the home of the Reverend Stephen Goetschius of the Old Stone Church. It remained in the Goetschius family for a century and a half, always a place of central importance in town as Stephen Goetschius, the great-great grandson of the Reverend Stephen, served as the borough clerk for over 40 years and conducted his town business from the east room of the house (USRHS).
The house was without running water until Stephen’s death in 1962. Until improvements were made at that time, Stephen’s wife, Lizzie, carried water from the well for washing, cooking and shoveled coal for heat (USRHS).
In 1985, the Hopper-Goetschius House was presented to the Borough of Upper Saddle River by Clinton and Gracie Carlough. Lizzie Goetschius, the last resident of the house was Clint Carlough’s aunt. The house today serves as a museum, run by the Upper Saddle River Historical Society (USRHS) and offers the public historically related events through out the year (USRHS). Check out their website, http://www.usrhistoricalsociety.org for special events and check out their Annual Harvest Festival in October for a day of fun.
I double backed around the county to the Mahwah Museum at 201 Franklin Turnpike in Mahwah, NJ and the sister museum, The Old Station Museum at 171 Old Station Lane just south of the main museum. What I like about these museums is that it does not take long to tour them and they sponsor interesting exhibitions that feature local history that do not tax you with lengthy displays and loads of reading. They keep everything interesting, factual and get to the point.
Having been to the Mahwah Museum earlier that month, I wanted to concentrate on The Old Station Museum. This historic train station was built in 1871 and was used for years until the modern station was built. Behind the building, there is a 1929 Erie Line Caboose that you can walk through that shows the life on the railroad and the use of the caboose on a railroad.
The Old Station Museum at 171 Old Station Lane in Mahwah, NJ
The museum has a interesting collection of items from the Pullman era that includes china and menus. There is a collection of trains and interesting items including maps from the era when Mahwah was major point of the railroad in the area.
The next stop on my journey as I drove south through Bergen County was the Waldwick Signal Tower at 1 Bohnert Place in Waldwick, NJ and the sister museum of the Waldwick Museum of Local History at 4 Hewson Avenue in Waldwick, NJ right by the current train station. These are part of the Waldwick Historical Society (WHS).
The Erie Railroad Interlocking Tower “WC” was built in 1890 by the New York Lake Erie and Western Railroad the tower in on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a symbol of the overall impact of the railroad industry on the Waldwick area. The tower is constructed in a Queen Anne style and other than a few minor maintenance shortcuts, the tower looks as it did when constructed nearly 130 years ago (WHS).
The tower still controlled traffic but as the railroads modernized with radio communications, automatic block control and other labor saving ideas the need for the number of towers on the line was reduced until 1986, when most of the towers outside major hub such as Jersey City were closed. During the last few decades, the tower was only manned during the day (WHS).
It is believed that this is the last standing tower of six built to this design. The two closest known examples in the area were in Ramsey, NJ and Suffern, NY, both having been torn down. The tower is named in honor of Harvey Springstead, one of the most famous engineers on the New York Division of the Erie from 1910 until 1929 and a key citizen of Waldwick (WHS).
The downstairs houses a small display of railroad deeds from the various railroads that used to operate in this part of Bergen County and the upstairs has a collection of railroad artifacts as well as pictures of the renovation of the tower.
I did a circle around the tracks and stopped at the Waldwick Museum of Local History at 4 Hewson Avenue which is located in the restored 1887 Waldwick Railroad and opened in 2016. It is part of the Waldwick Community Alliance.
The Society was started by member Doug Cowie in 1977 with the purpose to lobby for the placement of the train station on the National Register of Historic Places in order to save it. With the formation of the Society, the station was placed on the registry.
It is noted that these railroad lines are what brought the new population of immigrants to upper Bergen County at the turn of the last century and why these towns had a building boom before and after World War II.
The museum has an interesting exhibition on the immigration to the area due to railroad transportation. There are historical items as furniture and clothing and train memorabilia. The history of the rails is well represented at the museum. Members of the museum were on hand to give a personal tour.
My last historical place I visited was The Museum at the Station at 176 Rock Road in Glen Rock. The museum is manged by the Glen Rock Historical Society and is housed inside the original 1905 Erie Main Line Train Station on Rock Road.
The Museum showcases items from Glen Rock’s past with displays that change periodically as well as permanent exhibits on the Erie Railroad and artifacts from Glen Rock’s farming history (BCHS).
When I visited it was at the end of the day so I was the ladies last guest. The members of the Society took me around the museum which has a interesting exhibition on immigration and how it affected Glen Rock and how it grew as a town. Many of the items are historic family items donated member of the Glen Rock community including clothing and furniture. They had the most interesting Victrola with the original records and period clothing. One resident donated an interesting collection of antique toys including many trains.
While in Glen Rock, I visited the famous Glen ‘Rock’, located right off the downtown at the intersection of Rock Road and Doremus Avenue, which the town is named. The Rock was pulled to the town by the last Ice Age and was a meeting place and marker for the Lenape Indians when they lived in the area. In the Colonial era, it was a meeting place for residents. There have been many legends about the power of the Rock.
Dinner that night was a revisit to Mahwah to have pizza at Kinchley’s Tavern at 586 North Franklin Turnpike in Ramsey, NJ, for one of their thin crusted pizzas (See review on TripAdvisor). This is one of the oldest restaurants in this part of upper Bergen County and has been on my must try list for about two years.
Kinchley’s Tavern at 586 Northern Franklin Turnpike
First off, the place is mobbed all the time. I have heard that people swear by their pizza. It is different from the usual Neapolitan pies that I try all over Bergen County. Kinchley’s specializes in thin-crusted pizzas, more of what people would call a ‘bar pizza’. The 12 inch pizza can be easily eaten by one person if they are hungry and the sausage pizza I ordered was loaded with sweet Italian sausage. One thing Kinchley’s doesn’t do is skimp on the ingredients.
The inside of Kinchley’s is very homey
The pizza was cooked to a crisp consistency and was devoured quickly after a long day of touring. The restaurant is a great family restaurant with a good vibe. It was like going back in time to the 70’s when going out to dinner with your family was a treat and a rite of the summer. I highly recommend a visit there at least once when visiting Bergen County.
Kinchley’s Pizza is very good!
Until next year! Don’t miss this event every year in May!
The Northwest Bergen History Coalition
6th Annual History Day
Theme: ‘Spreading the News: Rail, Mail & the Press in Days Gone By’
Special Exhibitions at each Museum
Come discover how we communicated when letter were left at the local inn, when postcards were our ‘twitter feed’ and the operator listened to all our calls on the party line. See how mail was delivered by train and what our local newspapers were like in 1900.
I took a day out of touring in the city to tour my own county, Bergen County, New Jersey is rich in Revolutionary, Civil and WWI &II history yet we still have a big link to our Colonial past in each town in Bergen County.
The unfortunate part of this tour is that it only covers a small portion of the county and it was hard to get to all of the sites in one day and really see them once a docent took over. I just didn’t want to leave the sites quickly because each tour was special in its own way.
I got off to a late start and got lost in Ridgewood because the Map Quest was not very good in describing the location of the first site on the west side of Route 17 South on the Ridgewood side of the highway. From there it just got easier.
My first stop was at the Schoolhouse Museum at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood, NJ (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This quirky little school house sits at the edge of a vast cemetery next to Route 17 South in Ridgewood.
The School House Museum, built in 1872, is maintained by the Ridgewood Historical Society. This year’s exhibit is ‘Farm to Home: Exploring Our Agrarian Roots with Artifacts from the 18th and 19th Centuries’. Objects on display include early Dutch artifacts, farm tools, home furnishings, quilts, coverlets, pottery and tin ware. During the Spring, there will also be a special small exhibit featuring letters and writing tools as well as newspapers communicating important events. For History Day only, a letter from George Washington will be on display. The current exhibition is called ‘Farm & Home: Exploring our Agrarian Roots with Artifacts from the 18th & 19th centuries’. The museum is open from 1:00pm-3:00pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and 2:00pm-4:00pm on Sundays.
Schoolhouse Museum at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood, NJ
I bought my pass here to start the tour and a nice donation of $10.00 let me into all the sites on the tour. Since I was the first one to the museum, I got a personal tour by Dot, a retired teacher from Ridgewood who taught in Hasbrouck Heights. It’s a small world.
The Schoolhouse Museum is a step back into Bergen County’s rural past with many interesting displays from the Lenape Indians who first lived in the area and taught the Dutch how to farm and fish to early Colonial clothing and its purpose when working. The displays were beautifully presented and well noted by their cards. The section on cooking utensils and their changes over time with modernization was interesting. How to bake on an open hearth versus a modern cast iron grill is the difference from a rotary phone to a smartphone.
The fact that many of these items came from people’s basements and private dwellings was the most interesting part. That people kept these heirlooms for so long and then gave them up when they moved and donated them to the museum really tells the story of Ridgewood’s farming past.
We had good conversation for over an hour and the ladies volunteering that day invited me back in the future and then provided me with chocolate bites and bottled water, which I thought was a nice touch.
My next stop on the tour was The Hermitage located at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho Ho Kus, New Jersey (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The old homestead sits on a rather large parcel in the middle of a residential and commercial area that shows how time has progressed on in this town.
The Hermitage at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho Ho Kus, NJ at Halloween
The Hermitage, a National Historic Landmark and house museum, incorporates an 18th century stone house that was visited during the Revolutionary War by General George Washington. It was also the site of the marriage of Aaron Burr and Theodosia Prevost. Its picturesque Gothic Design dates to the 1847-48 Gothic Revival renovation by architect William Ranlett for Elijah Rosencrantz. The house was willed to the State of New Jersey by his granddaughter Mary Elizabeth in 1970 and is furnished as it appeared in the 1890’s. A special exhibition in the 1888 summer kitchen honors the legacy of Bergen County historian, Claire K. Tholl. Her maps, books and drawings are on display.
The Hermitage in the Summer months
Bumping your head on some of these tours is easy as parts of the homes visited were built when people must have been smaller. When you start the tour of the Hermitage, you enter through the kitchen which was built in the late 1700’s and it is small. The rest of the house was built before the Civil War with high ceilings and a more Victorian flair. The rest of the house had been modernized in the 1920’s.
The later history was hardly the glory days of when Aaron Burr married there. The last of the Rosencrantz descendants had gone broke after the Crash and their source of income which was a tearoom to traveling tourists from New York City when the Franklin Turnpike was a major thoroughfare, had dried up as fewer cars were traveling through the area. It had gotten to the point where the family was living in the back room of the house and the rest of the house was shut down. The house is still in need of a lot of repairs so donations are accepted by the foundation. It is an unique house with an interesting history so take the time and tour the house in detail.
The next home on the tour was The John Fell House at 475 Franklin Turnpike in Allendale, New Jersey (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The house was vacated by the former owner and was scheduled to be knocked down for townhouses. The community rallied together and saved the house from the wrecking ball. Now the house is being renovated room by room to its former glory.
The John Fell House at 475 Franklin Turnpike in Allendale, NJ
The historic John Fell House is named in recognition of Founding Father, John Fell, a revolutionary war patriot, who purchased the property circa 1766. The house was also home to Colonel Joseph Warner Allen, a Civil War hero for whom Allendale is named.
This 22 room Colonial Revival mansion was home to a Founding Father, a Civil War Colonel and a Sunday School that led to the first church in Allendale. The stately house is set on a hill on 2.8 acres near the center of town. The property also includes a late 19th Century Barn, exceptional wetlands and a stand of old-growth.
The history is very unique. John Fell led the local resistance movement against the British. He was arrested at the house by 25 armed Loyalist and imprisoned in New York City, where he kept a secret diary documenting the British Army’s horrific treatment of American prisoners of war. Located across the street from the house is the Celery Farm Natural Area, 107 acres of wetlands and woods originally known as “Wolf Swamp” and later “Fell’s Meadows”, which was originally part of the Fell estate.
The home, which was built circa 1760 and originally called Peterfield, has had several subsequent owners, including John H. Thompson, John G. Ackerman, the Stephen Cable family and the Joseph B. Taylor family, who enlarged it in the Colonial Revival style in the early 1900’s. Colonel Joseph Warner Allen for whom Allendale is named, stayed at the house while he surveyed the route for the Paterson-Ramapo Railroad. He was a key New Jersey figure at the beginning of the Civil War. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Exhibits will include recreations of early 18th and 19th century broadsides, early local 20th century newspapers featuring historic military news, copies of historic letters, photos and railroad news. Jim Wright gave a brief talk and a slide show on “Revolutionary Communications: Getting the Word Out in John Fell’s Day.”
The Fell House is owned and operated by the Concerned Citizens of Allendale, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit group, which saved the house looked mostly modern to me as it had just been lived in by a family before the sale. The exterior of the house needs lots of work saved the property from being bulldozed to make way for a controversial townhouse development. The house is home to a tearoom, community events, school events, nature programs and an annual holiday open house.
The organization has also developed several history programs that inform the public and students about the history of the John Fell House, including reenactments of his arrest at the house. During every open house, docents inform visitors of the timeline of the house and its important role in American history. Historic preservationists have studied the house and produced a Preservation Plan that document the history of the home, barn and landscape while suggesting how to best restore, preserve and maintain the house and property. As a member of the Northwest Bergen History Coalition, the organization works with eight other historical sites to encourage both children and adults to learn about the region’s amazing history. (The Historic John Fell House Pamphlet)
The house tour was very interesting and the docents lead some of us to the outside grounds to show some of us some new discoveries such as an old well that was discovered. The only problem with the tour was that house was modernized for current times as it was a private home until just recently and needs more period furniture and decorations to it. While the outside looks historical on the outside, the interior is quite modern. The Fell House has a rich history but is a work in progress. It is still worth the trip just to see the grounds and hear about its rich history.
The next site on the tour was The Waldwick Signal Tower at 1 Bohnert Place, which had just finished a renovation (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The tower sits in a rather obscure place by the railroad tracks up the tracks from the station. You have to make several twists and turns to get to the tower.
Waldwick Signal Tower at 1 Bohnert Place in Waldwick, NJ
Built in 1890 by the New York Lake Erie and Western Railroad, the Waldwick Signal Tower was the key to the movement of railroad traffic within the newly created yard facility. Eventually it also handled 4 tracks of heavy m service on the Erie’s route between New York and Chicago. Manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week for over 50 years, it was also the hub for maintenance of the signal systems between Ridgewood, NJ and Suffern, NY. The tower museum is dedicated to the railroad workers of the area and educates visitors about the variety of jobs and operations of the Waldwick Facility. Check http://www.allaboardwaldwick.org for a schedule of events. (Historical pamphlet)
Waldwick’s Train Signal tower is both historically and architecturally significant. It is a rare historical treasure for its residents and railroad enthusiasts from far and wide. Before the turn of 20th Century, the Waldwick rail yard was an active repair depot and turn station for the Erie Main Line from Jersey City, NJ to Port Jervis, NY and was a major employer in Waldwick thus contributing to the bough’s residential and commercial growth.
The ornate Queen Anne style building was built in 1890 and housed the mechanism connecting switches and signals allowing trains to safely move from one track to another. The tower men who operated the switches by hand had a great power indeed in their time. By the mid 1980’s upgrades in computerized signal equipment warranted the elimination of the tower.
The tower was slated for demolition in June 1987. The Waldwick Historical Society members led by Kay Williams campaigned to place the tower on The National Registry of Historical Places. This accomplishment allowed the tower to at least stay dormant till the next wave of enthusiasts came along in 1999. Michael Brunkhorst and Glen Corbett banded together a group of citizens to form the All Aboard committee of Waldwick’s Historical Society. Curtis Springstead of Wanaque who is the great-great grandson of the renowned locomotive engineer Harvey Springstead, got wind of the tower’s trials. He stepped up to the plate and purchased the tower for $6,000 then gave the Tower to the Borough of Waldwick as a gift to preserve for future generations in honor of the trainman’s family name. The small All Aboard group set out to create awareness of the tower’s existence and it’s plight.
Before long, fund drives were organized and grant applications were filed. The response of the number of supporters including Mr. Robert Keeble have given this project a solid start. Meticulous measures are currently being made can now be witnessed at the track end of Bohnert Place, to maintain the tower’s historic authenticity. Attention is being given to the placement of exact shaped decorative shingles and the repair and replacement of the original slate roof are among the initial stage of it’s restoration.
Mission Statement: The All Aboard continues seeking membership and financial support to complete the tower with the vision of becoming “The Harvey Springstead Memorial Tower at Waldwick” for generations of Waldwick citizens and for rail enthusiasts everywhere. If funding continues the tower is sure to be the pride of Waldwick with time and care. (All Aboard Pamphlet of the Waldwick Historical Society).
I was the only one at the tower that part of the afternoon. It was a colorfully decorated tower full of pictures and timelines. The docent who was there that afternoon could not believe the number of visitors that the tower was getting that afternoon. I told him if it were not for the tour, I would have never known the tower even existed. The history of the tower and how it played a role in the town of Waldwick. It was considered very innovative at that time. The fact that it was still being used into the 80’s was pretty amazing. Now they want to bring back some of the equipment that was being used at the time that is just sitting in warehouses. It will be an interesting place to revisit once those items are put into place.
I double backed on the tour with only an hour left and I went to the Zabriskie House at 421 Franklin Avenue in Wyckoff, New Jersey (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This old home is a combination of historic home and modern day living as it was in the family’s hands until 1973.
Zabriskie House 421 Franklin Turnpike in Wyckoff, NJ
The original stone structure of the house was built by William Van Voor Haze in 1730 on a 550 acre of tract of land and is believed to be the oldest house in Wyckoff. Prior to 1806, a small parcel of land was purchased from William’s son and heir, Albert, to build the Wyckoff Reformed Church. In 1824, Albert completed a major addition to the house in the classically Dutch Colonial style and the original section of the home became the dining room.
The house was purchased by Uriah Quackenbush in 1867 and was willed to his granddaughter, Grace Quackenbush Zabriskie, the wife of the late County Judge John B. Zabriskie. In 1964, Mrs. Zabriskie, the last resident owner, donated the pond and the surrounding acreage to the township of Wyckoff. Upon her death in 1973, she bequeathed the house and the antique furnishings to the town. Throughout its history, the Zabriskie House has been used, at different times, as a village store, a candy store, a tavern, a hotel and a ballroom.
Under the guidance of the house’s Trustees, the Zabriskie House is continuing restoration for future generations to enjoy. The Trustees have recently overseen extensive work on the porch and stairs, re-oiling of the roof, stone step repairs and limited gutter installation. Children can try colonial toys and all can guess the at the ‘What It’ table.
This was one of the quickest tours I went on as the house was closing down for the day and I was in the kitchen looking at one of the docent’s daughter’s wedding pictures. I excused myself and walked through out the house. It had been left the way it had when Mrs. Zabriskie was still living there. There were many antiques mixed in with the modern furniture. Nothing remains of the original owners but the docents told me that a clock was still in the house from the Quackenbush family. Most everything left in the house was owned by Mrs. Zabriskie.
The docents described all the rooms to me and how the house was added on through the years. Watch your head as some of the places have low ceilings. The kitchen really gives you an idea of how old the home really is in comparison to the rest of the house. It was a nice mix of the old and the new. At the end of the tour, the members of their Friends group had the nicest selection of homemade treats and lemonade. It was nice to talk to members and what goals they have for the house. It looks over the pond in the park next door and is a picturesque view.
I had just enough time to visit my last house, the Van Allen House at 3 Franklin Avenue (corner of Route 202 & Franklin Avenue) in Oakland, New Jersey. Most of the volunteers were leaving for the day but let me still walk around as many of them were talking around a table. The house is falling apart and the grounds are over-grown.
Van Allen House at 3 Franklin Avenue in Oakland, NJ
The Van Allen House was host to George Washington and troops on July 14, 1777 and helped get word to his field officers by allowing him to compose documents there which were dispatched by carriers along the Ramapo Valley trail, now Route 202. In 1915-1919 owners of the Van Allen House and builders of the Stream House adjacent were the publishers and editors of the Sussex Register of Newton, NJ. Edward Page often published trade and economic articles in the NY Times, inspiring his son Allen to take over the Sussex Register until Allen’s death in 1917, passing on ownership to the father Edward until he died 12/26/1918. The Sussex Register joined the NJ Herald in 1928. (Tour Pamphlet)
I was able to tour the Van Allen House and grounds on my own. Most of the docents were relaxing after a long day. I walked up and around the house and there was not much to see as the house needed a serious renovation. The new roof had just been put on the house but there still were leeks in it. The grounds were loaded with weeds and was in need of a good landscaper. The one thing the house had going for it was their gift shop. They had the most interesting sewn dolls that one of the members makes and they had a beautiful selection of Christmas ornaments.
One the Van Allen house goes through some form of restoration, it will really be a jewel on the tour as it sits on a nice piece of land that was part of the original estate.
Overall it was a nice tour of the historical sites and gave me a real insight to old Bergen County when it was still called Franklin Township that was formed in 1771. The population was small. The families who lived here all knew one another , worshipped together and intermarried. It showed the important role that Bergen County played in the American Revolution. If you are able to take time out to visit these sites, you will be pleasantly surprised on what you will learn. I did not realize how much history was right in the neighborhood. (Tour Pamphlet)
Don’t miss this amazing tour of Historical sites in Northern Bergen Country each May.
Places to Visit:
The Schoolhouse Museum-Ridgewood Historical Society