I left the house this morning around 8:30 am to drive down to Hammonton to meet Paul Evans, who is an artist, a musician and a writer. A friend from high school "introduced" us via Facebook. She knew I was looking for NJ artists and artisans and thought that he might have something I could put into Idiosyncrazies. So we exchanged phone numbers and chatted and arranged a meeting so that I could see his work. I won't tell you what he makes just yet, I will save that for another post.
There are a few different ways to get to Hammonton from my house, but I decided to take Route 542. Route 542 runs from Tuckerton to Hammonton. It's very rural and perhaps a bit backwards and the local people that live in this area are known as "Pineys" which comes from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Kind of the Native New Jerseyan - but far from anything you will see on TV - The Sopranos, Jersey Shore on MTV. They aren't gangsters (well maybe a few in Hammonton), they are hard working, mostly blue collar workers and farmers.
My parents moved from northern New Jersey to this area when my sister was very young. I spent the first six years there as well and am proud to call myself a "Piney". As soon as I get below exit 63 on the Garden State Parkway the smell of the air changes and so does the scenery. The scent is a mixture of pine, cedar, creosote from the pilings on the docks and salt air. It may not seem like a nice combination, but as soon as the first whiff comes across my nose, my whole body relaxes.
It smells like home.
I arrived at my destination, an antique shop right on the White Horse Pike in Hammonton, got out of my car, checked my watch - 10:00 am, right on time! I looked up at the sign for the store and noticed that the hours were: Wed - Sunday 10:00 - 5:00 PM.
D'oh! Today is Tuesday.
My meeting with Paul isn't until tomorrow.
After murmuring a few other expletives I got back in my car.
There were a few interesting spots I passed along the way, I decided to investigate!
Hammonton was the hometown of a guy I dated in High School. I am familiar with it, but it's been almost 30 years since I've been there.
Not much has really changed.
Hammonton is known as the "Blueberry Capitol of the World". If you don't believe me well then here is a picture of the welcome sign as you are driving in:
Blueberries grow wild all over much of southern New Jersey. The sandy soil is perfect for them to flourish and when I was a kid we used to pick them and eat them right off the bushes!
This clothing store has been here since...I don't know when. I've never actually been in the store, at least I don't think so, but I know their jingle by heart:
If you've got a passion for fashion.
And you've got a craving for saving.
Then take the wheel of your automobile
and swing on down to...IDEAL!
I actually sang this the other day. It just popped into my brain and as soon as I started singing it, my friend Robin joined right in. If you are really into cheezy jingles, take a listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQFlkK9nYYs If you listen to the talking parts in the very beginning you will hear the woman say: "It's nothing but a Quonset Hut". I used to think it said it was a closet hut because I had no idea what a Quonset hut was - but now I do! (I love the internet!)
Another well know landmark in South Jersey is this:
The Renault Winery champagne bottle. Originally there were four of them used as advertisements for the winery: Egg Harbor, Hammonton, New Gretna and Bayville. Only 2, the one in Egg Harbor and in Hammonton are still used by Renault.
Renault is one of the oldest continually running wineries in the country. It was established in 1850 and is still going! They were able to make "sacramental" wine during the prohibition by getting special permission from the Government. Renault has cut down on the production of their wines and is now basically a tourist spot. They have a very nice tour of the winery, with tasting and a nice dinner at the end. The tour is fun, but the wine...eh. Not my favorite. It's very sweet, kind of like Welch's grape juice sweet.
Farm markets used to be everywhere here in New Jersey. Jersey fresh produce is absolutely the best and that is why we are known as the "Garden State". Actually the name came from the Hon. Abraham Browning who described New Jersey as: an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other." He called New Jersey the "Garden State" and the name kind of stuck!
Along Rt. 30 in NJ is this farm market that I can remember since I was a kid:
The White Horse Farm Market. (Can you see the white horse on the right hand side?) Route 30 is called the White Horse Pike and there is a Black Horse Pike as well which is made up of several routes that run through NJ: #168, #42, #322 and #40. I could never remember which was what when I was a kid, but they basically got me to the same place so that was all I needed to know! Each roadway will have either a white or black horse somewhere along the way and that was the only way I could really tell.
You can find just about anything you ever wanted or needed along these two roads and my occasional A.D.D. spotted all kinds of stuff.
Here's an old John Deere Tractor that was left abandoned. It's become a very nice planter now. Vehicle planters are very popular among the Piney's. Most Piney's will have either a car planter, a boat planter, tractor planter, trailer planter...another reason we are the Garden State! ;) To the untrained eye they may look like an old car up on cinder blocks that was just left there, but to a Piney - it's like making a barrier reef with an old ship. We are preserving wild life by allowing the indigenous plants to grow wild which supports local wild life by giving them shelter. It's a whole eco system of it's own.
A work of art all by itself isn't it?
Ok, I know it's not only a Piney thing, but this particular one is!
Gosh - I just rambled and still haven't gotten to Jack or Paul.
I think I will save them both for another post, this girl is going to bed!