Wednesday, July 05, 2006

07926

I live in Brookside, New Jersey 07926. Brookside is a small town of about 1100 people located approximately 35 miles due west of New York City - or as some may say "the greater New York area". But when you're in my town, you not only feel like you're a thousand miles from NYC, you feel like you've just stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting.

When I moved here in 1994, residents told me that there had been more people living in Brookside during the time of the American Revolution, than there were now - 1994. I don't know if that statistic still holds true because "we've" grown in the past twelve years - but I wouldn't be surprised if it does. Back in the mid to late 1700's Brookside was not the quiet, suburban town it is today. Because of it's numerous natural resources of water, forests and ore, it was the site of sawmills, gristmills, iron mines and other supporting businesses of it's day. During the time of the Revolution, it was a dangerous place for a loyalist to be. Washington's troops were camped about 5 miles down the road at Jockey Hollow which is now New Jersey's only National Park.

Brookside is now a small quiet community within Mendham Township. The 4th of July is Brookside's big day. So yesterday (as we do every 4th of July) the residents of Brookside turned out to watch as tractors, antique cars, fire engines, homespun floats and marchers (including about a dozen pooches dressed for the holiday) paraded down Main Street. People lined the street or watched from their porches as the parade passed by. Anyone can be a part of the parade, and most people watching it know at least one person in it. As one of our officials delcared "It's the grandest little small town parade in America". Afterwards there's field games behind the Community Club for the kids and beer at the Brookside Firehouse for the adults. The "beach" is free to all on July 4th. Yes, I said beach - the Brookside Beach is located on the grounds of the elementary school and is the favorite local "watering hole" in town. In the late afternoon most people try to sneak in a nap between the picnics and bingo that starts at 7:00PM sharp down at the community center. I got lucky last night. I won a large plain pizza in a bingo round. July 4th is Brookside's biggest day and even locals who have summer houses at the shore, make it a point to be back in Brookside for the 4th.

There is no commerical zoning in my town. The only thing you can buy in Brookside is a newspaper from the machine located outside our post office. We have our own post office and our own zip code - 07926. We don't get mail delivery to our homes in Brookside. We go down to the post office to retrieve our mail. I don't really know anyone who minds that - gives us a chance to talk to Pete or Rita, our postmaster and her associate, and catch up on the local gossip with friends - especially on a Saturday morning. You can also check out the bulletin board inside to read notices that residents have put up announcing bake sales or music lessons offered and that sort of thing. Shortly after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden's Ten Most Wanted flyer was posted on the wall along side a picture of someone's lost cat and someone else's notice that their piano was for sale. Also hanging on the walls are some wonderful vintage photos of the post office in it's early years when it was a general store. A couple of people in town decorate the windows for each season or holiday. Recently, a protest was staged down at the post office. An angry but not unruly mob of about two dozen people chanted "no standardization" . What caused this dissention? Apparantly, a postal inspector had ordered the removal of pictures, notices and other personal items displayed on the walls of this "federal" building in accordance with the new Postal Office policy "retail standardization". I don't think these postal officials were prepared for the outcry that arose from a community whose roots go back to our country's original dissenters. After our US representative sent a strong letter to some high level postal officials, things began to quiet down and return to status quo, at least for the time being.

Mendham Township - of which Brookside is a part of - is about 17 square miles with a population of around 5000 people. What's amazing is this township has over 55 miles of walking trails, 850 acres of parks and natural land and a beach. It also has 9 zipcodes - some people say more, but I will stick with the conservative estimate of 9 separate zipcodes that residents use in their addresses. Gets a bit confusing for surveys and fund raising. Getting, back to my zipcode, 07926 - which is unique to residents in Brookside and services about 500 postal boxes down at the post office. Unfortunately, at times this zipcode can very extremely problematic. For instance, American Express sends my bills to me regularly at this zipcode. But if I try to purchase a "Be My Guest" (a gift certificate to be used at a restaurant) I can't do it. Amex will not deliver these certificates to a post office box and yet when I ask them to send it to my physical address via Fedex I get routed to someone like "Chuck" in Bombay who tells me that my town and zipcode don't exist. One time I got so exasperated that I exclaimed " I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone". Apparently, the day that "Chuck" had his "Americanization" lessons, they didn't learn about the Twilight Zone, because he politely responded to me in his best "American" accent "What is this Twilight Zone?".

The other time living with the "07926" zipcode became a problem was during the last Census. Apparantly there's a law, that census forms must be sent to a physical address. So each form sent out that year was addressed to the physical addresses for all the residents of Brookside - with no supplemental zipcode or box number - just the physical address. Well, when the forms arrived at our little post office - our postmaster (who at the time was "large Marge" - at least that's what I call her - but that's another story for another time) sent them all back to the Census Bureau because they didn't have post office box numbers on them and thus in her eyes, not deliverable. Therefore the residents of Brookside had fallen into a "gray area" and were never counted.

I love it here in Brookside. I complain like other citizens of New Jersey that our property taxes are way too high, but I think I have found the nearly perfect place to live. A place full of history, wonderful historic homes, great schools, an old fashioned swimming hole in the summer which transforms to a skating rink in the winter, an abundance of natural beauty and neighbors who know you and look out for you. The kind of town you expect to see in a Frank Capra movie starring Jimmy Stewart.


When I'm asked "what exit are you from in NJ?" by people whose impression of New Jersey is based on bad jokes from comedians and now the TV show The Sopranos - I answer "the pretty part". I try not to be any more informative about exactly where I live because I prefer at times to keep it a secret. But every now and then we get "new" folks moving in and sometimes they want to change things - like erect a new cell tower because they can't get a signal on their cell phones. Most of us try to gently "enlighten them" about such foolish notions. And so far it's working.

2 Comments:

Blogger bedforddorothy said...

HI GAIL, I JUST READ YOUR POSTING OF BROOKSIDE AND I LOVED IT. I WAS RAISED IN BROOKSIDE IN THE EARLY 60"S. I TOO LOVED IT THERE. WE WERE RAISED ON A DAIRY FARM THERE. GREATEST PLACE EVER. I REMEMBER WH EN THEY DUG OUT THE 'BEACH". I LOVED THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL THERE. WE ALL WALKED TO SCHOOL. I REMEMBER HOW QUIET IT WAS BUT OF COURSE WE ALWAYS HAD SOMETHING GOING ON ON OUR FARM. IT WAS THE NEIGHBORHOOD PLAYGROUND. ENJOY WHAT YOU HAVE,I LIVE IN NY AND ITS NOT AT ALL LIKE PEACEFUL,LOVING BROOKSIDE. I WOULD LOVE TO READ MORE- DOTTIE IN NY bedforddorothy@yahoo.com

11:54 PM  
Blogger Steve B in Fl said...

Gail,
My family, the Hulbert family started out on the Pitney farm in Brookside. My grandmother Evelyn born in 1912 was one of 13.She later settled on w. Main st. directly across the street from the driveway to the elementary school the house was built in the 1700's. Old time residents of Brookside would remember her beautiful flower garden along the street. She always hosted the annual family pic-nic on the fourth of July. Earlier this week I had lunch with my aunt and uncle Dick and Joan Hulbert. They are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next month.Dicks sister Judy Herndon still resides in Brookside. Dicks father Dude was the postmaster in the fifties and sixties.
Steve

12:22 PM  

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