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My First Trip

My parents separated early in my life, I was two to three years old at the time. Japan, Germany and Italy came between those two young marrieds. My mother would have a small apartment over my maternal great-grandparents home in New Jersey not far from Philadelphia. My maternal grandparents would live but a block away. I was loved, dotted upon and for accounts and purposes, spoiled. My grandparents would always cart me along with them on any trip or outing.

I’m not sure which was my first trip, in the summer summer or winter,. I will write on both, these were trips with my maternal Grandmother and Grandfather. That would be Harry and Emma Wittman from Audubon, NJ. A trip to New York City prior to November 5th 1951 comes to mind. So, perhaps eight years old. I know prior to that date as the NJ turnpike was not open to Exit 10 from the Delaware Memorial Bridge as yet. We got on our bus in Camden, NJ and traveled old route 130 and crossed into NYC via the Lincoln Tunnel onto W. 36th st. I remember as a youngster, I would often hold my breath in a Tunnel.

EBay Photo

We would stay in the Victoria Hotel, 160 Central Park South. It is now a Landmark, Marriott house. We would make this trip several times, always staying in the Victoria. It was quite nice back in the day and continues to remain so.

This particular trip was during cold weather and obviously close to Christmas. I know this as we went to Radio City Music Hall and saw their Christmas production. I  shall forever remember the Rockettes. 

We also saw some ice skating, it was so long ago I remember not where. Here is a little history on Ice Skating in NYC, should you be interested.

I remember walking about the city, going into Gimbels department store and being awestruck on the toy floor. I remember the elevator and the operator, announcing the floors. Being an effective elevator operator required many skills. Manual elevators were often controlled by a large lever. The elevator operator had to regulate the elevator’s speed, which typically required a good sense of timing to consistently stop the elevator level with each floor. In addition to their training in operation and safety, department stores later combined the role of operator with greeter and tour guide, announcing product departments, floor by floor, and occasionally mentioning special offers. I would always get a special gift on one of these trips. I remember also getting jostled a bit as the operator lined up the lift so as one would not trip exiting.

On the same trip, 6 months prior or 6 months later, warmer weather, anyway, we would have a boat trip. That trip would either be the Circle line around Manhattan or a trip from the Battery out to the Statue of Liberty. I got to do both back in the day.

The Circle Line Trip was a cruise all the way around Manhattan Island on a guided boat tour that takes in every angle of New York City’s iconic waterfront. Traveling by boat means unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty—ideal for snapping memorable photographs. With live narration throughout the cruise, learn about the Big Apple while passing all five of New York’s boroughs.

The trip out to the statute of Liberty was special also.  Visits to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island are musts in the Big Apple. On this guided tour, you get boarding on the ferry from Manhattan to visit the two important historical sites. Visit the grounds of Liberty Island and go inside the Statue of Liberty Museum. Then hop the ferry to Ellis Island and learn about the millions of people who arrived here between 1892 and 1954 in hope of living the American dream.

The highlight of my first trip was the ability to spit out of the window and to watch it travel down however many floors we were up. I also remember hanging out the window to see if I hit anyone down below. My leaning out the window and my grandmother going bezerk is still implanted in my head today. Three steps up a ladder with my vertigo is a high climb today. 

We would take several trips to NYC prior to age 13, the age my grandfather died. Those trips were always special. Oh to be able to recall such details. Now, to what do I attribute that gift?

Remembering

Growing up in the South of New Jersey, Exit # 3 of the NJ Tpk. was my geographical reference point. I was quite familiar with the Jersey Devil. The below is from https://weirdnj.com/

The Jersey Devil

Weird NJ Photo

While this one is not a “ghost” story, the tale of the Jersey Devil has withstood the test of time—and for good reason. Stories of the winged beast are truly terrifying. But who or what is the Jersey Devil? According to Weird NJ, the infamous creature haunting the Pine Barrens is the child of Mother Leeds, a Pines resident who conceived her thirteenth child in 1735. At the time, Leeds had no idea how she could care for (let alone afford) another kid and so, in exasperation, she raised her hands to the heavens and proclaimed “Let this one be a devil!” Leeds got her wish. Moments after birth, her healthy baby boy grew horns and claws and bat-like wings. Legend has it the “devil” then killed his mother before attacking onlookers.

https://www.countryliving.com/life/g3793/scary-ghost-stories/

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This remembrance should have been posted before or on Halloween, once again, however, Life got in the way. 

One thought going back many years ago, in the mid-fifties I’d say, is the following:

There were train tracks going through our town back then. These tracks ran the breadth of South Jersey from Camden to Atlantic City, with many spurs running from them in north and south directions. One such spur even went to the north into the Pine Barrens.

On this day I was walking the tracks with a few friends in early fall. Just days prior, it had been reported that a murder had occurred in the area around Chatsworth, a town that is kind of the Capitol of the Pine Barrens.

Image result for boys on train tracks
Dreamstime Photo

One of the three or four of us began talking about the incident as we headed back home from Hadden Heights. The sun was setting to our front, and the early fall darkness was setting in. Someone even mentioned the killer could have hopped a freight out of the Barrens. I remember all of our imaginations running a bit on the wild side.

As you come into Audubon, there is a lean-to built to protect commuter passengers in foul weather. Someone surmised that the killer from Chatsworth could be holed out in there. To this day, I can remember passing that lean-to very quickly. Dinner and the safety of home were calling.

Image result for old lean-to shed by train tracks
A similar lean-to in Putnam County, NY

Whenever I return to that town of my youth and pass that intersection, E. Atlantic and Chestnut streets, I can still remember that fall day.

https://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1109136

Image result for halloween candy
Good Housekeeping photo.

I hope you all got a lot of candy and had a fun Halloween.  

1966

It’s Christmas Eve put the computer away, is what she said to me. But I have friends out there waiting to hear from me. Well wait until later before you go to bed, unless you hear the bells, on Santa’s sled.

I’ve got to send greetings to those who follow me, this is one day I just can’t let pass. Well right now we’ve got to get ready and, get to Mass, there is someone more important to who we must thank, and before church we need gas in the tank. So I log off the keys and clean up my act. If we don’t hurry, we’ll stand in the back.

We fill up the tank and drive to the church, I’m driving too fast, and we stop with a lurch. We’re greeted by the Priest with a skeptical stare, I’m thinking he saw us, speeding in there. We find us a seat and just settle in, as the priest and the Alter Boy’s march does begin.

The opening prayer is on Christmas and the birth of Christ, it’s the season of Joy and, everyone’s so nice. The theme of the Homily is to go forth and be kind, I turn to the wife and just start to smile, I’ve been kind to the woman for quite a while. Fifty-three years together are we, I shut my eyes and our first Christmas Mass together I see.

It was 1966 in New Jersey, a cold winter’s night when the two of us walked through thunder and snow. It was 8/10 of a mile to the church, the wind gusts were blowing 25 knots or so. There was something so special with everything white, I remember that walk, like it was this Holy Night.

Back at my grandmothers home after Mass, we were offered Mogen David wine, in a fancy cut glass. Joining us there were Aunt Maude and Uncle Jim. When I was little, every time they would depart, he would give me a dime. Those memories way back to a long-ago time, bring genuine joy and, I remember the Homily, Be Kind! theRooster, 2018

Reflecting Back

There are many great memories of Christmas with our families. While living in Connecticut, we would have Christmas Day at home and then in a day or two drive to New Jersey and Delaware to celebrate with our respective families there. This, of course, was a grand time for the kids when they were young. Santa seemed to always leave a few out of state gifts for our three, what a treat.

That first Christmas Mass together was attended at Holy Maternity Catholic church in Audubon, NJ. We walked the 8/10 of a mile from my grandmother’s house at W. Pine and 4th Ave. You can check the weather at the Wunderground site below. Twas, not a night fit for man or beast, but we were young, so what the hell.

Image result for heavy snow
Google Image

An excellent remembrance for me was a Christmas Eve I had to work many years ago. I was a young State Trooper and my assignment on this eve was I-84 between Rt. 32 and the Massachusetts State Line. It was called the Upper Patrol. On this night I exchanged my big grey Stetson for a red floppy Santa’s hat, big white tassel on end and all.

If my memory serves me correctly, it was a relatively quiet evening. I would make a few stops, give some verbal warnings. I would hand out candy canes to those I came in contact with and wish them a Merry Christmas and ask them to please drive safely as they continued their journey. After the shift was over, I’d enter our home quietly, my lady was waiting up, and we would have a bit of quiet time and last minute wrapping together. Those were the days my friends.  

This past week saw us journey North to CT to visit our son and his family. We would take a leisurely route and cross into NY via the Bear MT. bridge.

Image result for bear mt bridge

A stop at the 202 diner in Cortlandt provided nourishment.

Image result for 202 diner cortlandt ny

It was only a three-day visit, but it was grand to be with those who are near and dear to our hearts. We had a meal at our favorite haunt when visiting Tolland, Camille’s. I got to spend a few hours with an old member of the Thin Blue Line, #467. We drank coffee at Dunkin Donut’s and told war stories for a couple of hours. I spent time with a brother-in-law, talking clocks and wine racks. He’s quite a Woodworker.

Yes, Christmas time is great for bringing us together. I thank the good Lord for giving me and the little women good health to travel and the ability to wish all of you who take a gander at the Blog from time to time a very Merry Christmas from our house to yours.

As I close, remember the theme from the Homily at Mass, BE KIND!

The weather on 24 December 1966 in the greater Philadelphia area.

Don’t forget to check on the elderly.