Tag Archives: Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department

Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ

Day One Hundred and Sixty-Nine: Exploring Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey-A Local Journey

Since my thirty two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan, I have stayed clear of New York City for the time being while things calm down a bit. Since my walk and even on Father’s Day weekend there have been a rash of shootings and thirteen people murdered in various neighborhoods. The papers said they have not seen anything like this since the late 90’s before Rudy Giuliani became Mayor and started to clean things up in New York City. What really spooked me is that I walked through parts of Harlem that were affected the day of the shootings especially between East 145th to East 118th Streets before I got on the riverfront walkway. I still can’t believe that people would act this way at a time like this.

Still between work and the fire department keeping me busy, it has been hard to get back into the City. Phase Three is slowly being introduced in but indoor seating has been put on hold. Outdoor dining has been cautious and the museum and parks have been slow to open. I just got a email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they will be opening on August 25th and 26th for a ‘Members Private Night’. It will be interesting to see if that happens.

Upstate New York in Dutchess County is slowly opening up with precautions and we are now entering the ‘new normal’ that I would not have even thought about when I was running around the City and Upstate during the holiday season. I glad I made the visits I made when I did. You can’t do that now.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have been pretty much limited on what we can do and needing exercise and to get out of the house, I have been walking to our downtown and around the blocks exploring my own town. The Hasbrouck Height Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored “A Stroll Downtown” for our residents for people to explore their downtown and visit the restaurants and stores that are open for limited business and outdoor dining. With the weather getting warmer, people are tired of getting cooped up in their homes and want to get outside and enjoy the weather (yes, we are all wearing masks when necessary).

So every evening, I walk the Boulevard, our business district in Hasbrouck Heights and over time I have really noticed a lot more of our downtown. There is an array of architecture that dates back to the late 1800’s and historical markers that I had never really noticed before.

There is also an array of nice stores (See https://littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/) and reasonable restaurants (See https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/) in our downtown to visit. The nice part of being family-owned businesses is that you can call in and make an appointment to see merchandise and pickup gifts. We have a lot of nice business owners who will work with their clients.

The song ‘Hasbrouck Heights’ by Burt Bacharach

 

I start my walk every evening with a turn around the corner from my home and I walk down Williams Avenue to the Boulevard which starts our small part of downtown on our side of town. What is interesting about Williams Avenue is that is was used as an escape route for George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War from the Battles in Hackensack and Paramus with the British.

Battle of Hackensack

The Battles in Hackensack and Paramus during the Revolutionary War

Our area of New Jersey has a very prominent place in Revolutionary War history with local battles with the British.

Washington Retreat Sign

Washington’s forces retreated down Williams Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights after the Battle in Hackensack NJ

Before rounding Williams Avenue onto the busy Boulevard, which is a County of Bergen road, you will pass Corleone’s Pizza at 205 Williams Avenue, one of the newest pizzeria/restaurant’s in Hasbrouck Heights. Their pizza and sandwiches are really good anchored by their rich Marinara Sauce and well priced lunch specials. Outdoor dining here is rather unusual on such a busy road but makes it almost seem like you are in the City.

Corleone's Pizza II

Corleone’s Pizza at 205 Williams Avenue

https://www.facebook.com/CorleonesPizzeriaNJ/

https://www.corleonespizzeriamenu.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d13447995-Reviews-Corleone_s_Pizzeria-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Walking to the downtown area is only a few blocks away passing many homes that have stood in town since the late 1800’s to the 1930’s. Hasbrouck Heights has a diversity of types of homes so it makes walking around interesting especially if you are into historic homes and architecture.

Back in the early 2000’s, our former Mayor Rose Heck, started a beautification of the downtown area by cutting down the old trees  and opening the buildings to more sun and creating a whole new landscape by bricking the new sidewalks and adding flowering cherry trees that bloom an abundance of colors in the Spring.

On the new wrought iron lampposts we have pictures of the graduates of Hasbrouck Heights High School, who missed the last four months of school (but recently had their graduation socially distanced on the football field) and American flags that are placed for Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Forth of July. During Christmas time, wreaths and white lights adorn them.

Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is a very homey, tight knit town.

I always start on the right side of the Boulevard as you approach downtown. The downtown starts with the historic Corpus Christi Church at 215 Kipp Avenue. The complex with the historic parish house, which had once been a well-known doctor’s home in the late 1890’s sits between Washington Place, home to many historic Victorian homes and Kipp Avenue, the start of the business district.

Corpus Chrisit Church

Corpus Christi Catholic Church at 215 Kipp Avenue

http://www.corpuschristihh.org/

The original part of the Church that was built in 1896 was moved from across the street to its current location when the parish bought the Dunstan estate in 1914. The church has been added onto twice in 1934 and 1957.

Corpus Christi Church II

The parish house is the historic Dunstan mansion on the original estate grounds.

The business district runs from Kipp Avenue in town to the circle at Passaic Avenue. Since there are numerous businesses, I wanted to point out the ones that I have enjoyed and been a patron of for years.

Our newest Chinese restaurant, China House at 250 Boulevard, opened (ironically on March 13th when everything was shutting down) just off Kipp Avenue. This small take out restaurant has a few small tables to dine in, which I did the first week it was open (now due to COVID-19 it is just take out). Their General Tso’s and Orange Chicken are really good. The family that runs the restaurant is really nice and has been offering opening discounts.

China House

China House at 250 Boulevard

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d20322076-Reviews-China_House-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

The nice thing about our downtown is the diversity of stores and restaurants. One of the most unique shops is the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard. One of the few stores in the State of New Jersey that specializes in Catholic gifts, it has an array of merchandise from crosses to crucifixes and at the holidays there is a selection of jewelry, books, figurines, statuary and selected gifts both religious and secular.

The Religious Shoppe

The Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard

https://thereligiousshopusa.com/

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/119

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/bp–the-religious-shoppe-unique-merchandise-in-a-welc9ecbf32558

Next to the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard (the other side of the building) is Sophia’s Kitchen, a very popular Greek restaurant that opened several years ago and continues to grow in popularity. Their food and service are excellent and after many great reviews in both the local papers and on the internet has been a destination restaurant ever since. You need to wait for tables between Thursday and Saturday nights.

Sophia's Mediterranean Grill

The Religious Shoppe and Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill during the Summer months

Their gyro sandwiches are delicious and they have this shrimp appetizer, the Shrimp Sanganaki, that is cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with cheese that is out of this world. Their Baklava is sweet and buttery and soaked in honey in all layers.

Sofia's Kitchen II

Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill at 220 Boulevard

https://sofiasmediterraneangrill.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d3468322-Reviews-Sofia_s_Mediterranean_Grill-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/bp–sofias-mediterranean-grill-the-cuisine-of-greece-fdb3d070f6

 

Crossing over Franklin Avenue to the next block, you will find a series of interesting shops with Young Fashions at 208 Boulevard,  for beautiful children’s wear and Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard for custom made and vintage painted furniture.

Young Fashions Inc III

Young Fashions at 206 Boulevard

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/53

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchant-series-young-fashions

 

Young Fashions Inc. II

Owner Addie Carrino greets all her customers personally

Young Fashions is a Lilliputian dream for the well-dressed child and a favorite for grandparents and aunts and uncles all over Bergen County. This delightful store still carries quality clothing for children from infant to age 12. Owner Addie Carrino still believes that there are children that still dress nicely and provides clothing from head to toe for them. She offers complimentary pressing of items when bought and free gift wrapping.

Not Too Shabby is run by Addie’s daughter, Liz Carrino, who brings to life her custom painted furniture and one of a kind pieces. She loves vintage furniture from the Depression era and all sorts of decorative pieces for the home and office. Take time to walk around the aisles of furniture and knick knacks.

Not too Shabby

Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard

https://nottooshabbynj.com/

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/meet-liz-carrino-owner-of-not-too-shabby

Please watch the video on the creativity of the business:

 

Next to Not Too Shabby at 202 Boulevard, the new and much enlarged Dumpling Chinese Restaurant  moved to from their old location at 220 Boulevard (now the home to China House). The restaurant is much bigger and brighter than their old restaurant and has lots of places to sit down (during the COVID-19 pandemic it is strictly pick-up and delivery). They made a wonderful Lemon Chicken and Moo Shu Pork and their dumplings are not bad too.

Dumpling Chinese Food

Dumpling Chinese Food at 202 Boulevard

http://www.dumplingchinesehasbrouckheights.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

Dumplings

Dumplings dumplings are really good!

Walking further down the Boulevard I always pass the Masonic Temple at 200 Boulevard, one of the oldest buildings in Hasbrouck Heights. The Euclid Masonic Lodge has been in existence for 145 years and its stately building has been part of the downtown since anyone can remember.

Masonic Lodge

The Euclid Masonic Lodge at 200 Boulevard

About Us

As you walk to the next two blocks you will reach the Circle which is the home to many a Christmas Celebration with the annual Tree Lighting after Thanksgiving. One little unique local landmark we have is the old ‘Neil Parrot Dollhouse’ that sits on the Circle and is decorated for the holidays. In 2016 a group of concerned citizens got together to have the little dollhouse, which matched the home of the old Neil Parrot business office and home of Neil Parrot, a local realtor. He used the little house to amuse children while their parents did business with him.

The Circle at the corner of Boulevard and Passaic Avenue is the official end of the Business District and is where all holiday events take place with the Tree Lighting at the end of November and the Holiday Choir performing.

Hasbrouck Heights Christmas

The pine trees at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights add to a festive mood at the holidays

On the other side of the Circle from the old Neil Parrot Dollhouse is the Firemen’s Memorial where every Memorial Day and 9/11 Day, we on the fire department have our special ceremonies and events. It really is a place of reflection and a nice place to sit and think. I like to take time and look at the names of fire fighters from the past.

Firemen's Memorial Hasbrouck Heights

The Firemen’s Memorial in Hasbrouck Heights

http://www.hasbrouck-heights.com/hhfd/

I like to take a break here but move on I do very quickly and I start the walk on the other side of the Boulevard.

Another nice restaurant that I enjoy going to is Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard. The restaurant is now serving outdoor diners and has delivery and take out. Still the outdoor dining is really popular. When it is open, it is the local watering hole for customers all over Bergen County who enjoy a good mixed drink, their wonderful pub food and watching the games. Their pizza and burgers are really good and they have a nice assortment of appetizers.

Heights Bar & Grill

Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard

http://www.heightsbarandgrill.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d4734828-Reviews-The_Heights_Bar_and_Grill-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchant-series-heights-bar-and-grill

Walking past the Heights Bar & Grill there is a bevy of small businesses and commercial banks housed in older and modern buildings. The architecture in our downtown is a combination of old and new and old becoming new again.

A new addition to our restaurant scene and adding a little ‘hipster’ to Hasbrouck Heights is the new KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard that just opened last year. It had been an old convenience store for years and the new owners stripped it down to the bearings where is looks like a combination of Williamsburg meets Beacon, NY. The food is reasonable and they have nice sandwiches and wraps. The nice part is when the place was open pre-COVID-19, they had entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. It was nice to hear saxophonists and guitar players rather than the usual garage bands. It gives the downtown a little diversity from all the pizzerias and Chinese take out places.

KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge

KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard now has outdoor dining

https://www.ktbcoffeeshop.com/our-shop

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d17595045-Reviews-KTB_Coffee_Shop_Lounge-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

The next few blocks is studded with service businesses, hair salons and banks and then you have a series of restaurants some opening in recent years. On the corner of Hamilton Avenue and the Boulevard replacing the long service Carroll’s Fashion which had been that location for about thirty years.  Bella Pizza opened at 193 Boulevard. The pizzeria has quickly established itself in town among the other six pizzerias we have and makes the most amazing calzones and Sicilian pies.

Bella Pizza

Bella Pizza at 193 Boulevard

https://www.bellapizzahh.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d13840427-Reviews-Bella_Pizza-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights, a branch of the popular Rutherford, NJ restaurant is at 203 Boulevard is one of the growing fine dining restaurants added to our downtown. It is always been busy at the holidays and in the COVID-19 era has a small outdoor dining area to sit and relax while you enjoy dishes like Shrimp Risotto and Veal Milanese.

Risotto House

The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights at 203 Boulevard

https://www.ourrisottohouse.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d3599716-Reviews-The_Risotto_House_Of_Hasbrouck_Heights-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Next to The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights is J. Maru Sushi at 205 Boulevard and is known for their Bento Box lunches and their Shrimp Tempura and Chicken Teriyaki are always delicious.

J. Maru Sushi

J. Maru Sushi at 205 Boulevard

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Sushi-Restaurant/J-Maru-Sushi-435694726465834/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d4967381-Reviews-J_Maru_Sushi-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/bp–j-maru-sushi-a-visit-to-japan-without-leaving-town

One of the nicest stores in Hasbrouck Heights especially at each of the holidays is Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard. Their window displays are some of the best in the downtown area and are especially nice at Christmas and Easter. I love their selection of gifts at the holidays and their owner always makes special arrangements for me when visiting the cemetery. The business is housed in an old home that has been in the downtown since the 1880’s and was renovated to its beauty by the owner.

Heights Flower Shoppe

Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard

https://www.heightsflowershoppe.com/

My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/130

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-guest-column-heights-florist-shoppes-vorisek-5b8b062f7d

 

Heights Flower Shoppe

Heights Flower Shoppe is always special at the Christmas holidays

 

The historic Lovey’s Pizzeria at 211 Boulevard and has been in town since the early 1960’s. There is a small dining room in the restaurant and I have been partial over the years to their fried calzones and their ravioli with red sauce. The current owner bought the pizzeria from her parents who had owned it all those years.

Lovey's Pizza

Lovey’s Pizzeria & Ristorante at 211 Boulevard with Summer dining

https://www.loveysristorantepizzeria.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d4711933-Reviews-Lovey_s_Pizzeria_Ristorante-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/lovey-s-owner-corrine-seidel-knows-everything-about-p3ceadb12a9

One of my favorite Chinese take out places in Hasbrouck Heights is Ho Mei Kitchen at 227 Boulevard. I enjoy many of the dishes here especially their Lemon Chicken, their House Fried Rice and they have the best egg rolls in town. Their lunch specials are really reasonable and you can order them until 4:00pm. They are like a dinner. The family who owns the place are really nice and have set up an interesting system of ordering in the COVID-19 era.

Ho Mei Kitchen

Ho Mei Kitchen at 227 Boulevard

http://www.homeikitchen.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d8605835-Reviews-Ho_Mei_Kitchen-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/673

Lemon Chicken

Their Lemon Chicken is the best!

Crossing the street at Jefferson Avenue are three of the oldest businesses in town along with Lovey’s Pizzeria, Height Floral Shoppe and Young Fashions is Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and the Boulevard at 231 Boulevard has been opened since the 1960’s as well.

Like Heights Flower Shoppe, Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is always so nicely merchandised with the wonderful flower arrangements for a quick pickup, nice assortments of candy and stuffed animals and creative gift items for the home at the holidays. Their owners are really nice and accommodating. They also have a nice Open House at the opening of the holiday season.

Bill O'Sheas Florist

Bill O’Sheas Florist & Gifts at 227 Boulevard

https://osheasflowers.com/

My article on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/151

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchant-series-bill-osheas-florist

Bill OShea's

The owners of Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts, John and Linda Kosakowski, at their Food Drive.

Fisher’s Cafe at 245 Boulevard is another restaurant that has been in town since the 1960’s and is a popular place for breakfast and lunch with a lot of the locals who make this their place to eat. Fisher’s is very popular for their breakfast dishes and platters and is a hang out after school for the junior high and high students for their burgers and grilled cheese.

Fisher's Cafe

Fisher’s Cafe at 245 Boulevard

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/American-Restaurant/Fishers-Cafe-Hasbrouck-Heights-190840294276558/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d4953321-Reviews-Fisher_s_Cafe-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchant-series-fisher-s-cafe

Another long time merchant in Hasbrouck Heights is Spindler’s Bake Shop at 247 Boulevard,  which had reopened after a few years of being closed by the family. The bakery has been a Hasbrouck Heights institution since the 1950’s by the current owners grandparents.

Spindler's Bakery V

Ginny & Bob Spindler at their store as the next generation of bakers.

They are well-known for their butter cookies arrangements, their fresh rolls and their apple and lemon turnovers are melt in your mouth good! The staff is always friendly and the smells of the baked goods as you enter the store are sensational.

Spindler's Bakery III

Spindler’s Bake Shop at 247 Boulevard

https://twitter.com/spindlersbakery?lang=en

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d12898321-Reviews-Spindler_s_Bake_Shop-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/1645

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/spindlers-bakery-a-hasbrouck-heights-tradition-returns-to-town

Spindler's Bakery VI

The baked goods are so good! Don’t miss their Lemon Turnovers!

Lemon Turnovers at Spindler's Bake Shop

Their Lemon Turnovers are excellent!

As you pass by Spindler’s Bake Shop, you will walk the next block over and pass Kipp Avenue again to the end of the official part of the Business District and start walking back to Williams Avenue past residential and commercial properties and Corpus Christi Church again until you reach our Municipal Building.

In a small strip of stores across from our new Town Hall that was built in 2004 are two very popular restaurants, Tom Young Koong, at 305 Boulevard and Heights Pizzeria at 313 Boulevard which have both adapted to the COVID-19 era of outdoor dining and take-out/delivery.

Tom Young Koong is a very well-known destination Thai restaurant that is very busy between Thursday and Saturday nights. Their assortment of appetizers that include Chicken Satay, Curry Puffs, Fried Dumplings and Shrimp Fried Noodle are excellent and they have the most delicious Pad Thai which is wonderful with Chicken and Shrimp. The food is cooked by the owner with recipes that came from his mother. The service is always friendly and the owners are really nice.

Tom Young Koong

Tom Young Koong at 305 Boulevard

https://www.menuism.com/restaurants/tom-yum-koong-thai-restaurant-medford-19871

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d4632674-Reviews-Tom_Yum_Koong_Thai_Kitchen-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Hasbrouck Heights Pizza (Heights Pizza to locals) at 313 Boulevard has been popular since it opened its doors almost a decade ago. Their pizza is so popular that people order it from several towns away and even during the worst storms even Hurricane Sandy, it never closed and was as busy as ever. Everything here is delicious and it is known not just for its regular Cheese Pizza but their Grandma Pizza, their Pepperoni Calzones, Specialty pies and their entrees are excellent and restaurant quality. The place is always busy so the staff and drivers run in and out of the place. The outdoor dining is even popular from early Spring until it gets cold in October.

Heights Pizza

Heights Pizzeria at 313 Boulevard

https://www.hasbrouckheightspizza.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46497-d4789435-Reviews-Hasbrouck_Heights_Pizza-Hasbrouck_Heights_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/bp–friends-merchant-series-heights-pizzeria-serves-g2bd44b4fc5

Heights Pizza II

The owner of Heights Pizza, Celestino Gencarelli, welcomes guests to his restaurant.

Across the street from these restaurants sits the Hasbrouck Heights Municipal Building that stands guard over the downtown and welcomes visitors and residents alike.

Hasbrouck Heights Municipal Building

The Hasbrouck Heights Municipal Building at 320 Boulevard

https://hasbrouck-heightsnj.org/

The last thing I always see on my way home is the Hasbrouck Heights Junior/Senior High School which has stood here since the 1940’s educating generations of Hasbrouck Heights residents.

Hasbrouck Heights High School

Hasbrouck Heights High School at 365 Boulevard

https://www.hhschools.org/

When arriving back at Williams Avenue, I cross the Boulevard again with Corleone’s Pizzeria in the distance and their well lit tables. Two other businesses have been in town a long time in this series of stores.

Danson Jewelers at 201 Williams Avenue has been in Hasbrouck Heights since the 1980’s and does a nice job on repairs of watches and jewelry and has a nice selection of watches. The service is very friendly and the family that owns it gets to know their regulars.

Danson Jewelers

Danson Jewelers at 201 Williams Avenue

Jewelry

Another long service merchant who has been assisting residents for years is Heights Specialty Pharmacy (the former BeJay Drug Store) at 450 Boulevard. The staff has been here for years and is helpful to many of our senior residents. The owners wife runs a small gift shop both in the store and a few doors down has a separate shop.

Heights Pharmacy

Heights Specialty Pharmacy at 450 Boulevard

http://heightsspecialty.com/

My article on Patch.com:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchants-series-bejay-drugs-tradition-and-ole6071c843e

The last merchant I pass on my way home is Jerry’s Barber Shop at 406 Boulevard, which has been here since the 1920’s when Jerry’s father ran the business. Jerry has been cutting my hair since 1988 and is one of the only people I trust to do it correctly. I even waited for trips home from Hawaii, Guam and California when I lived in those places to get my hair cut. A haircut here is still $14.00 and he does an excellent job. I highly recommend him.

Jerry's Barber Shop

Jerry’s Barber Shop at 460 Boulevard

https://www.bestprosintown.com/nj/hasbrouck-heights/jerrys-barber-shop-/

Then I round the corner and am on my way home again. For such a small town, Hasbrouck Heights has the most interesting and historic downtown that few residents appreciate when you look at the history and longevity of our merchants. A few long time merchants have closed their doors as they have either retired or COVID-19 has affected the business.

As the State of the New Jersey slowly opens again, I can still walk my entire downtown in the evenings and appreciate the fact that sometimes small town living is not so bad and it is still only twenty minutes and twelve miles to Midtown Manhattan.

This is what walking is all about. Discovering things close to home.

Watch this video on our town and try to locate some of the older homes still standing.

 

And be a tourist in your own town!

The Sinterklaas Parade in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

Day One Hundred and Twenty Seven: Here Comes Christmas! Part One- November 30th-December 14th, 2018

I do not know how Christmas creeps up every year. It starts when Forth of July weekend ends and then we blink our eyes and there is Christmas. The years just keep getting faster and faster. Even though the holiday season snuck up on me the month of December was full of interesting events.

I had to put my walk around Manhattan on hold for most of the holiday season. Between classes, work, the Fire Department and selling Christmas trees (as you have seen in other blogs), the month of December was a busy one. There were different events to attend, activities to participate in and places to visit.

Christmas to me is not just the holiday itself but the time of the year to give back and help raise money for those in need. I really believe in giving back to the community during the holidays so there was a whole series of fundraisers that I attended. As my friends always say of me, you never sit still for one minute.

The holiday season started right after returning from seeing Lillian out in Kings Park, NY. We had such a nice time together having dinner with the other families and enjoying the entertainment that I promised her that I would see her in two weeks for the family Christmas dinner at her facility.

The next day, I got up early to the firehouse to help wash the truck as the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was participating in the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Our Chamber of Commerce sponsors the parade and Christmas tree lighting every year on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always a lot of fun. It gives all of us a chance to give back to the community as the procession of floats, decorated cars and organizations participate in the parade ending at the circle near the edge of town for the tree lighting ceremony.

Christmas Parade in HH

Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade

Before the parade, all of us met up at the firehouse to wash and decorate the trucks and then stage by the Boulevard before the parade. I always enjoy watching the little kids in awe when the trucks pass by. It was cold the night of the parade so the crowds were thinner than previous years but still people looked like they were having a nice time. After the parade was over, everyone met at the circle for the tree lighting ceremony which got the usual ohhs and ahhs.

I had to be up early the next day as we had to unload 340 Christmas trees from the truck for the Annual Christmas tree sales for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. This is our organization’s largest fundraiser and it is our job to sell all those trees for our scholarship program. We must have set a new record for emptying the truck and by the end of the season for selling them (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Six).

It is something for me as next year I will be going on my twentieth year on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association.  I have seen the growth of the organization and the all the high school seniors that we have given a head start with our scholarship program.  I can’t believe I have served on the Executive Board for four years now as Director (Sargent of Arms). It has been quite the journey.

HHMA Christmas Tree Set Up 2017

The members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association setting up the trees.

This starts the holiday season in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Boulevard decorated for the holidays, fantastic window displays by our town merchants and everyone excited that Santa was coming.  The holiday season means holiday parties, tours of decorated mansions, hand writing Christmas cards and keeping everything in check. I went to a record thirteen Christmas parties and get togethers this year. I am the member so many organizations and with four jobs everyone wants to get together. I was a busy person this year.

Right after Thanksgiving Weekend with the endless activity and getting to work selling those trees, I had to go back to work and put my schedule together for the month of December.

My first weekend of December was busy with back to back activities with Sinterklaas Weekend ahead of me and the day after the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party. This is always a busy weekend so I spend my weekend up in Rhinebeck at the Quality Inn (See review on TripAdvisor) while I run from one place to another. This was on top of the fact that my class would be presenting their final project for my Communications class the Monday I got back to work.

This was my sixth year participating in the parade. Rhinebeck, New York is a magical place at the holidays. The store windows are beautifully decorated with all sorts of merchandise that showcase the stores and the trees that line the downtown are layered with white lights that illuminate the downtown. Little wooden paintings line all the trees in the downtown area and garland accents a lot of buildings. It looks like a quaint little Christmas town straight out of a Currier & Ives print.

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Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas

I help with the set up at 10:00am at the Starr Library every year. This year the theme was the Butterfly. (At the cocktail party fundraiser before Thanksgiving, the Sinterklaas community was introduced to the Butterfly King & Queen and were given the traditional blessing before the start of the Sinterklaas season.) The committee created Butterfly puppets for the parade that we put together that morning. As I unpacked the truck with the other volunteers, I could not believe how fast the year went. I kept asking myself how did this go so fast.

The same group of volunteers I have worked with for four years and we all worked in tandem with each other, emptying out the truck, unloading all the puppets and then putting them all together and stacking them against the library for the night of the parade. I have done this for so many years, I know how to put most of them together in my sleep. We were done in about two hours and then I was able to enjoy the rest of the days activities.

I have been volunteering in the parade now since 2010 and I can definitely tell you that the number of people has tripled over the past four years alone. After the Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms Hotel (I get a kick out of Mother Holly’s ‘feeling Jolly’ speech every year), I got a copy of the day’s activities and then snuck up to Red Hook, NY right up Route 9 to visit a few stores and restaurants on my bucket list for my blogs (you will find Little Pickles Children’s Store on ‘LittleShoponMainStreet’ and Village Pizza II on ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ on my WordPress.com blog sites). Red Hook’s downtown was decorated for their Christmas event the next weekend. As one gallery owner explained “everyone is in Rhinebeck for Sinterklaas, so the town is quiet”.

Little Pickles II

Little Pickles in Red Hook, NY

I was able to visit businesses for my blogs that had not been open the weekend I visited President Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY (see the Van Buren Homestead on my VisitingaMuseum.com site) and revisit old ones. I wanted to get a better feel for their downtown. (Please don’t miss the pizza at Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. Their slices are excellent).

By the time I got back to Rhinebeck at about 1:30pm, I could not find a parking spot. The town was mobbed with people and almost every block around the downtown was lined with cars. I had to park almost five blocks away.

The rest of the afternoon was full of concerts, performances by the dancing polar bear and the grumpuses and lively singing at the churches. All four churches in town had either singing groups or bands. Lining the Main Street of Rhinebeck were all sorts of local charities selling Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other snacks. Most were almost empty when I got back as people were snacking as they walked the streets to get from one activity to another.

Sinterklaas Parade III.jpg

The Grumpus singing and dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

I decided to relax and not run around for the afternoon as I have seen most of the shows and acts that were on the roster and pinpointed how I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon.

I first visited the Butterfly nest that was located in the courtyard. The artists are very creative on the Sinterklaas staff. They built entire Butterfly cocoon that you could walk through. There was music going on in and around the cocoon and when I exited, the grumpuses were starting to do one of their dances in the courtyard. They had the whole crowd laughing and clapping along.

My stop on the event was the ‘Into the Light’ show at the Church of the Messiah. I have seen this show over the years of coming to Sinterklaas and I swear, the girl who plays the main character has not changed in the last five years. She is just getting older.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 II.jpg

‘Into the Light’ Show

I spent the rest of the afternoon at the United Methodist Church listening to the Brass bands. I got to hear the Funkrust Brass Band and The Second Line Brass Band. It was nice to just sit back and relax and listen to the music. I had been running around the town the who afternoon.

After the bands, it was time to get ready for the parade. So back up to the Starr Library and my position in the parade as part of the “Star Forest” of puppets. We lucked out again that night as the weather was mild and it was in the high 40′ that night.

As the excitement of the parade started and we made our way down the hill, I noticed immediately that the crowds had really grown this year. They were five deep at the parade route on both sides and everyone had their cellphones out to record the parade. With all the white lights on the trees, all the decorated windows in full light and all the Sinterklaas stars that lined the route, it was a beautiful and festive night when coming into town.

Sinterklaas Parade 2018 III

Me in the Parade in the ‘Star Forrest; by the Mother Earth Float

People got so excited to see “Sinterklaas” (the Dutch word for ‘Santa Claus’) and the various characters in the parade as ‘Mother Holly’, ‘The Pocket Lady’, ‘The Dancing Polar Bear and his trainer”, ‘The Butterfly King and Queen’,  ‘The Grumpuses’ and ‘The Wild Women of Rhinebeck’ joined the brass bands, floats, puppets and singers, dancers, performers and animals who make the parade what is every year. It really is exciting to be part of this parade.

At the end of the parade route, we pass the stage with all the members of the Sinterklaas family to make our final goodbyes until next year and drop off the puppets. It was funny that the whole time I was walking in the parade I kept telling myself how fast the year had gone and I could not believe I was here again.

Watch me in the Sinterklaas Parade in the ‘Star Forrest’ on the right

I dropped off my puppet and went to watch the last of the parade before leaving for dinner. It was fun to watch the fire throwers perform at the end of the parade. It was a nice way to end the evening and after the performance was over, the crowds dispersed to go to dinner. Every restaurant in town was mobbed all evening.

I went to a barbecue restaurant that I had wanted to try for years, (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the buffet dinner ($20.00) that they had set up for the day and just ate. I had to admit as much as l liked the food, the waiter annoyed me when he charged me for the refills on the drinks (Noted in the review and in his tip).

As I walked back to my car, it started to mist and rain lightly. I did not realize how far I had packed away from town. I was four blocks away near the Duchess County Fairgrounds. That is how busy the town was that day. I just went back to the hotel and relaxed. I had an early trip the next morning.

The next morning after a big breakfast, it was off to the Boonton Firemen’s Home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party for the residents that we throw every year. The facility was nicely decorated and we had some crowd that afternoon with all the residents present and their family members as well.

The band was a lot to be desired as they were off key most of the time and the lead singer could not sing a note. The place was really in the holiday spirit when member, Jerry Naylis and his family, who sing in their church choir and whose daughter in law sing opera, entertained the crowd. It really livened up the room and put us all in the holiday spirit. His little granddaughter stole the show when she sang ‘Jingle Bells’.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 III

The Naylis Family entertaining the residents at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ

During the intermission we gave the residents their Christmas presents, monogrammed sweatshirts with their names on them, as a gift which I still see them wearing everytime we come to the home for events (See blog, BCFHA@Wordpress.com-Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association below).

https://wordpress.com/post/tbcfha.wordpress.com/156

The residents look forward to this party every year and were very touched by the gifts and the holiday thoughts. It was a fun time for all.

BCFHA XMAS 2018 II

The members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association with the residents in December 2018

After the party was over, the members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association went to dinner at the Columbia Inn for our annual get together. We had a great time just catching up with one another and having a few laughs. The restaurants pizza is terrific too (See review on TripAdvisor).

With the weekend closing, it was back to work for me and another week of a round of holiday parties. First though, my students presented their project, “Bergecco-Park Consulting Inc. presents “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”, their final exam project (See Day One Hundred & in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’). The students gave a very professional presentation to a crowd of professors and administrators and members of the Athletic, Theater, Art, College Foundation, Alumni Association and Department of Special Services were on hand to view the presentation. It was well received by everyone and I could not have been prouder as a professor (please view that blog for the full project presentation).

bergecco logo yellow brick road final draft

Our logo for “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”.

See the whole project presentation on my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com”

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8022

After I finally had the presentation behind me, it was a series of holiday parties one after another between the school, the fire department and various organizations that I am involved in (and that number is high). I joined the faculty at the college for our annual holiday get together, which was really nice. They had a full Thanksgiving dinner for us and a lot of holiday cheer. The Administration got up and wished us all a happy holiday season and good luck with the remainder of classes. It was nice to talk to the other professors who had come to the presentation. They gave me nice feedback at the party.

The next night it was off to the Engine One Christmas Party at Segovia’s in Moonachie. It was a nice evening with the guys, toasting the year and the successes that we had as a company (See The Brothers of Engine One HHFD-Blog on WordPress.com). It had been a busy year for us activity and project wise accomplishing both getting the bell fixed and chromed and getting the tee-shirts finally ordered and out to everyone. It was nice to catch up with everyone in a relaxed environment.

On Friday night was the annual Friends of Mills Mansion Holiday Cocktail party and fundraiser. Normally this is the night before Sinterklaas but it seemed that no one was in the holiday spirit on November 30th so they held it the week after.

Mills Mansion Holiday Party

Me at the Mills Mansion Holiday Party with members of the Friends Executive Board and dancers from the Isabel Duncan Dance company.

We had a really nice time. The event for the first time was sold out and the mansion was packed with well dressed people. The food was excellent and the servers did a nice job passing appetizers to all the guests. One of the local wineries was sampling one of their new sweet ice wines as well as a Chenin Blanc. It was a perfect dessert wine for the holidays.

The rooms were fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas and the Jazz band they had performing were excellent. They were engaging and people cleared the floor for impromptu dancing. It was nice to see people get up and dance again. It was nice to just sit back and catch up with other members I had met over the years and listen to the music. After that I took a quick tour of the rooms before heading back to the main room to hear the holiday greetings from the Executive Board.

Mills Mansion Dining Room

The formal dining room at the Mills Mansion for Christmas

It was important that they sold out the event because the money will go to renovating both ceiling in the dining room and redoing the curtains that line the dining room windows. The mansion is slowly returning to its past glory and these events make this possible. The only problem was I was really tired after the event and it was a long ride home.

The weekend was coming up and there were two big events planned and I wanted to get enough rest to enjoy them. The first was on Saturday afternoon where I joined the Cornell Club as we we took a tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile and Gramercy Park with an event, the “Victorian Tour: Origin of Christmas Traditions” (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight). We literally walked this entire section of the City around Union and Gramercy Parks and walked up lower Sixth Avenue to visit the old department store buildings to know their history as part of the shopping area after the Civil War.

Ladies Shopping Mile

Ladies Shopping Mile on lower 6th Avenue

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/8117

On Sunday was the dress rehearsal for the “Washington Crossing Reenactment” at Washington Crossing Historic Park. The event takes place every Christmas morning to remember when General Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the British. It was an interesting event that everyone should see once in life. It is very important to know how he crossed the river, in what type of boat and the conditions they were under that morning during a snow storm.

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The Military Parade by the Delaware River

We started the morning with a Artillery Demonstration and then this lead to a Fife and Drum Parade in the historic village on the Pennsylvania side of the park. Then the troops had a Musket Firing Demo & Soldier’s Drill by the Delaware River. At noontime, the troops had their formation and the Reading of the Order of Battle.

See the parade of soldier’s before the Crossing December 2018

By 12:45pm when the troops made their trip, the event was narrated by Major General Walter Lord, U.S. Army (Retired). The troops had their parade movement and then they loaded the Durham boats, which were rebuilt for the event from the original designs that General Washington and the troops actually used.

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The Washington Crossing Reenactment 2018

What I found interesting about the event was that they used the same boats as General Washington used and even in normal conditions, it was hard to maneuver these boats in the river. One of the boats even had problems had with the crossing and it took them extra time to cross and they had rescue boats off to the side in case the boats lost control, Imagine doing this during an ice storm riding in boats with chunks of ice coming at you in the water. What these men did to save our freedom is commendable.

The reenactments have been going on at this site since 1838 where it was discussed the importance of this historic event. The first attempt at a proper crossing was done in 1844 but the crowd was so rowdy and drunk that it marred the event. When they tried the event again in 1876, it was so cold and the exposure to the weather and too much alcohol consumption by the crowd marred the event again and it was noted not to attempt is again for another hundred years (History of Washington Crossing-Park).

As part of a pledge project in 1947, a group of Rider College students attempted the crossing again and it received national attention. In 1953, a half-scale Durham boat was built and a proper ‘authentic’ using the same boats as used that day of the crossing and it was successful. Over 700 people came to the event and since then it has become an annual tradition (Washington Crossing Park History).

It was a busy first half of the holiday season and just kept getting busier as the holiday got closer. Between work and outside activities, I just kept running.

Please read about the Victorian Walking Tour on Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight.

 

Places to stay:

 

Quality Inn Rhinebeck

4142 Albany Post Road

Hyde Park, NY  12538

(845) 229-0088

https://www.googleadservices.com/pagead/aclk?sa=L&ai=DChcSEwjjlt6N7OvgAhWGhLMKHbcJBsgYABAAGgJxbg&ohost=www.google.com&cid=CAASE-RooTIxmc5SMBldM5FH_lmQddE&sig=AOD64_2mmL-hiEz3ZSdcMhSE1Dot8L-jQw&q=&ved=2ahUKEwiQnteN7OvgAhWkct8KHa-EB7wQ0Qx6BAgNEAE&adurl=

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60801-d590312-Reviews-Quality_Inn_Hyde_Park-Hyde_Park_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

 

Columbia Inn

29 Main Road

Montville, NJ 07045

(973) 263-1300

https://www.thecolumbiainn.com/

Hours: Sunday 1:00pm-9:30pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-10:00pm/Saturday 2:30pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46639-d639843-Reviews-Columbia_Inn_Restaurant-Montville_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Smokey Rock BBQ

6367 Mill Street

Rhinebeck, NY  12572

(845) 876-5232

Hours: Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm

https://www.smokyrockbbq.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48486-d6684399-Reviews-Smoky_Rock_BBQ-Rhinebeck_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Segovia’s Steakhouse

217 Main Street

Little Ferry, NJ  07643

(201) 814-1110

Open: Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Friday-Saturday 12:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46575-d3700411-Reviews-Segovia_Steakhouse-Little_Ferry_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Places to Visit:

 

Downtown Rhinebeck, NY

http://www.rhinebeckchamber.com/

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

Washington Crossing PE Road

Titusville, NJ  08560

(609) 737-0623

https://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46869-d3440313-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_State_Historic_Park-Titusville_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Washington Crossing Historical Park

1112 River Road

Washington Crossing, PA  18977

(215) 493-4076

https://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g53924-d2522457-Reviews-Washington_Crossing_Historic_Park-Washington_Crossing_Pennsylvania.html?m=19905

Have a great holiday season!!

Here’s the whole reenactment event on YouTube of the Washington Crossing Event 2018

 

 

Author Justin Watrel

Day One Hundred and Eleven: Participating in Pump Operations Class with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department May 18th-20th, 2018

I put aside “MywalkinManhattan” for the weekend to concentrate of Pump Operations Classes that was sponsored by the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. I have been a Volunteer Firefighter for thirteen years (as of June 12th) and this is one of of the many classes I have taken over the years.

First off, I am hardly ‘Joe Fireman’. Most of my friends wanted to know why ‘preppie’ me wanted to be a fireman. The answer to that was easy. I think it had always been a part of me. At a young age, I used to look up to the firemen who used to come visit us in elementary school. Then it was looking at the Richard Scary comics on professions that you might want to be when you got older. I remember looking at the artist, chef and fireman motifs on the cats and wondering what they would all be like (which I do and have done all three).

9/11 changed a lot for me. When I was working in Monterey, California during the tragic events of that day, I saw the bravery and dedication in the guys on the FDNY had and all the volunteers that came the days after. I wrote about my fears and triumphs in my novel, “Firehouse 101” (IUniverse.com 2005). It was funny that just as I was publishing the book, I joined the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ as a member. Here I am thirteen years later still dragging myself out of bed all the time for calls.

Getting back to Pump Operations Training,  this was the first time I ever really learned how to do this. I had seen it on drills but not to this detail where we talked about hose connections, velocity of pressure of the hose and drafting. This was a combination of both lecture and practical and we participated in hooking everything up to the engine and how to turn the equipment on and off.  The second of practical, we drafted water into the engine from a local pond to learn how to get the pressure, pull water from a water source and how to flow it through the engine to the fire.

Pump Class Group Shot

It was a three day eye-opener that got the ‘light-bulb’ in my head moving to how the operation worked and the cause and effects of water to the source of the fire.

I swear, you never stop learning in life.

Author and Fire Fighter Justin Watral

Day Fifty-Five: The Fifteenth Anniversary of the Attacks of 9/11 and the Tenth Anniversary of my novel, “Firehouse 101” September 11th, 2016

 

 

JUstin Watrel I

Author Justin Watral

I can’t believe that it has been fifteen years since the attacks on the World Trade Center. It seems like a lifetime ago. As the site has been almost rebuilt with the new One World Trade Center (visited earlier in my walk last Thanksgiving) and two visits to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and numerous visits to the site, I think back on my eleven years on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and the path I have lead to this point.

I think that the department has really grounded me in many ways and made me more disciplined. I have been able to help my community in ways that baking items for bake sales and selling Christmas trees never did even though these raised a lot of money for their respective causes. I think I have become a better person and a more aware person since joining the department. I really do think you are born a fireman. It just comes out a time when you recognize it. It was like a calling for me and I found what I was looking for in my life and I would never change it for the world.

Am I the best fire fighter or the most dedicated? That is up for debate after every call. I do know one thing, I have been able to help the people in my community in so many ways and when I hear from perfect strangers in my town or surrounding towns “I remember you. You came to my house and helped so-in-so in my family. Thank you so much for that.”, it makes me feel like a better person.

When I wrote “Firehouse 101” (part of a trilogy of books that take place in New York City, the other two being “Love Triangles” and “Dinner at Midnight”), I was at a different stage of my life and honestly if I had to write the book today, I could not do it. The book helped me grapple with what I saw and heard from other guys on the department when I got home to New Jersey from the island of Guam where I was living at the time.

Firehouse 101 Picture III

How did a ‘preppie’ like me join the fire department? I was writing several articles on 9/11 for the local paper when I got home (basically because would write for free and I volunteered) and I interviewed so many fire fighters in my town on their role on 9/11 that I got sucked in. After a three hour interview with our now former chief and a long service fire fighter that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time with the stories they told me of that horrible day, the chief turned to me and said, “Have you ever considered becoming a fire fighter?”

I really thought about it when I got home and said to myself “Why would anyone think ‘Preppie Me’ would make a good fireman?” Then it really got me thinking of a lot of times I had met firemen along the way in my life and how impressed I was by them. It stayed with me for a long time and then I was helping out with the town’s tree lighting ceremony about a year later and the fireman I interviewed was standing in line behind me for a hot chocolate and I asked how he like the article I wrote. Then out of the blue I asked “Are you still looking for more firemen to join the department?” He then took me over to meet the chief I had interviewed and I asked about joining the department. Two months later I interviewed with my company and five months after that on June 12, 2005, I became a member of Engine One of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department and eleven years later I am still going strong as an Exempt fire fighter, member of the Bergen County Fireman’s Home Association, Department Secretary, Company Secretary, Head of our company’s annual barbecue and chicken parm dinner and still writing articles on the department. I  really do think they saw something in me that day that I did not see in myself.

The Engine One Barbecue 2017
The Brothers of Engine One at the 2017 Summer Barbecue

As much as my brothers can drive me crazy at times, there is no other place I would rather be and when push comes to shove, they are there for me. The one true time I saw the ‘Brotherhood’ shine was when my father died and on the night of the wake, they came out for me. The fireman, who I wrote the article about, Fire Fighter Tom Rubino, who will be retiring from the department this year and is our acting Fire Chaplin, read a beautiful speech about my father, whom everyone on the department had known for years at that point and had admired his bravery and hard work after his stroke to get better. It made it even more touching that it was him that read the speech after that night so many years ago.

Brother's of Engine One with their bell

The Brothers of Engine One christen their new/old bell for Engine One

The members of not just my company but other companies as well came out to support me and my father at a very tough time in my life and I will never forget that kindness. It is really a feeling that someone who is not a fire fighter will ever experience. There really is something to being a fire fighter and being part of a community in the fire service.

So on this anniversary of 9/11, I leave you with a section of the book when Alex Livingston, a scion of the famous Livingston family of the Hudson Valley, interviews the fire chief from Firehouse 101 in Brooklyn, New York and his tale of the 9/11 attacks. It tells the story of fire fighter Ryan Callahan, who survived that attacks that day and watched his best friend die next to him.

To all the families and friends who lost loved ones that day, my heart goes out to you. It still is not easy for any of us on the fire service no matter when we joined. I hope one day you can read my novel “Firehouse 101”. It might help you grapple with your pain. If you want to read a funny but touching article on me, read The Gazette newspaper article in 2006 on my life a year later in the fire service “So, yous want to be a Fireman?”

 

Excerpt from the interview with Carmen Giovanni (who I wanted it to be played in the movie version by musician and actor Huey Lewis)

What exactly happened to Ryan that day?” Alex asked. “At the school or on September 11th?” Carmen replied. “Both,” Alex said now fascinated by it all. He wanted to get the story straight once and for all. “I can only tell you what the men told me. When they got the call on September 11th, this house was the second one to respond from Brooklyn. They were going over the bridge when they saw the second plane hit the towers. The house sent seven men down plus two others who were off duty. Some stayed to man the house, while the others went down to the site. We were going through a shift change, not unlike my own house at the time, so there were lots of men milling around that morning. They got the call early and being so close to lower Manhattan they went. Hilly was never one to wait. One of the men told me that on the ride down, Hilly had said, “When we put this one out, I personally want to catch those rat bastards that did this to our city.”

“What about Ryan that day?” Alex said wanting to get back on the subject. “From what I heard he barely said a word. He was in another world by that point. Others were chatting on and on about what type of plane must have hit when the second plane hit the other tower. Then they were all quiet. Those men saw too much that day,” Carmen added. He paused for a second, looked at Alex and gave him a sorrowful look like he was waiting for a reaction. Alex sat wide eyed and continued to write.

“From what the men told me, Hilly went into the Tower Two to see what they could do and where they should go first. Since there was so much chaos, Hilly took control and helped escorting people out of the building and away from danger. They say he was pretty calm. From what I knew of the guy, he would have had everyone double step and yell at them if they didn’t do it. So he and the rest of the men helped there. From what I heard, they then got a call to help on the upper floors, so Hilly took four of the men with him and told Ryan and Patrick to stay behind to help get the infirmed or injured out of the building. That’s why Ryan and Patrick were alive that day.

The picture of Ryan and Patrick was taken ten minutes before the first tower came down. It had literally knocked their helmets off. All Ryan could remember when he came out of the coma in the hospital was that he and Patrick had gone back to the lobby to help get more people out of he building. They had been helping an older man and the next thing he knew, he woke up in the hospital a few weeks later. Carmen was calm as he explained the story to Alex.

Alex could not believe what he was hearing. It was like a TV movie. So that was the story, that’s what really happened that day. No wonder Ryan wanted to forget it, what a horrifying experience. “So what happened at the hospital when he woke up?” Alex asked.

Carmen thought about this for a minute. Should he continue on? Who was this for anyway? Carmen decided to continue thinking that Alex was a concerned friend. In actuality, Alex was trying to get an idea of the magnitude of what happened that day to one person. He wanted to know what Leslie, Ryan, and Roger were not telling him. Alex felt that he had never been that nice to Ryan the whole time he lived in New York. He began to realize that he felt sorry for himself as Ryan had for himself and what concerned Ryan was much worse.

“One of the men told me that they could not believe that Ryan made it out with just a sprained ankle and a few minor cuts. It was the way he fell. The base of a fountain protected him. Even I couldn’t believe it but that’s where they found him. He and Patrick were still alive. The man they were helping was literally crushed by the beam they found on top of him,” Carmen added. “How did they find them?” Alex asked. Some firemen from a downtown house found them and got them the hell out of there,” Carmen continued, “no one could believe that they survived the first collapse. There was no help for Patrick though; he died after they got to the hospital. The impact was more severe that it appeared, he was suffering from internal bleeding. He died before his parents even knew that he had made it to the hospital. Mr. And Mrs. Callahan had to help the two of them home.” Alex had known that the two families were very close and Patrick and Ryan knew each other since they were practically born. Carmen was not sure how much Alex knew of Ryan.

“His old girlfriend told me about that,” Alex said, “it must be horrible for any parent to bury a child under any conditions but after what had happened on September 11th, it must have been even more traumatizing, especially when it seemed like there was a chance he survived. No one should have had to die such a terrible death.”

Alex had not noticed that during the interview. Carmen’s face turned red them almost to almost purple, like he was holding his breath. Alex was worried and said, “Carmen are you okay? Do you need some water or something?” Carmen looked away then looked back at Alex. He looked him straight in the eye and started a speech that Alex would not ever dream of interrupting.

“You’re right, Alex. No one should have had to die such a horrible way because no one should have had to die that day!” Carmen shouted. “We had so many good men die that day that should not have and why? I’ll tell you why. No one was watching the signs, no one shared information. Everyone letting their egos get in the way. No one had a back up plan, no one understood the big picture. We all went in blind because no one knew. And the city, Jesus Christ, I still can’t believe it. You’d think we would have learned from the bombings in ’93, but we didn’t. We got smug. We thought they couldn’t possibly do it again. They wouldn’t even try. And we warned the city government! We said we needed new equipment but did they listen, NO!!! It was too expensive, we have no money, we have to cut the budget and wait until next year. Jesus Christ, here it is nine years later and we still don’t have it! What the fuck are they waiting for to get hit next? The Brooklyn Bridge? The Empire State Building? I would like to know what the hell they are waiting for. My own brother and I can’t even talk to each other on radio. The police can’t talk to the firemen in this city and that is so fuckin’ ridiculous!” Carmen said now screaming at the top of his lungs. Carmen took a book off his desk and threw it at the wall. He was really pissed!

Then he continued, “Nothing in this god-damned city will ever change. They will spend money on parades and on memorials and then turn around and not want to buy new radios for us because it is too expensive! Well tell me this; would the person who said it would be too expensive to buy us new radios like to explain to over two thousand family members and to over a hundred and fifty widows of fire fighters that there was no money for them? I would like to meet them myself and explain it to them!” Carmen was in a near frenzy.

“I even yelled at that stupid brother of mine to knock some sense into some of his friends in the police department to get the ball rolling. This is such a load of bullshit! When did we let out egos get in the way such that departments won’t even help each other? Do you know how many firemen are former policemen? This is our wake up call to talk to one another and be better organized. If we don’t, I won’t blame the federal government because it won’t be the government’s fault but our own pride and stupidity! We don’t need anymore god damn parades praising us. We need good working conditions. Our firehouses can’t be falling apart and rat infested, we need new equipment to do our jobs and we need better salaries so our men and women can live closer to the city they serve. Do you know that some of our men have to live at home because they can’t make it on the starting salary? Christ, that’s pathetic! Our men aren’t being subsidized by Mommy and Daddy to live on the Upper East Side!” Carmen gave Alex the conclusion to his speech when he swept everything off his desk and yelled at the top of his lungs, “NO ONE HAD TO DIE THAT DAY!!!!”

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