Nothing gets your name in the paper - or your story on the 24-hour news channels - like falling down a well. From Tikki-Tikki-Tembo to the trapped Chilean miners, the price paid for your 15 minutes of fame can range from several hours to 69 days.
As the miners are being rescued this morning - practically 23 years to the day after "Baby Jessica" took her tumble in Midland, Texas - we can reflect on Hillsborough's entry into well lore. Here's the New York Times headline from October of 1932.
William Richter, a 53-year-old cabinet-maker from Union City was spending the weekend at his cabin on Zion Road in Hillsborough when he decided to investigate whether or not an old well on the property could be made serviceable.
24 October 1932 Home News
Richter enlisted the aid of local teen Benny Kukuruza to help him get a ladder down the well. Richter went first and was able to get to the bottom, but as Kukuruza started down, the walls of the well, built with rocks that had been dry-fitted without cement, began to crumble, trapping Richter.
Several of the larger stones pressed against his face and chest, immobilizing him. Fortunately, Kukuruza escaped the cave-in and was able to call for help. Neighbors soon arrived, but their first attempts at rescue only made things worse, causing more large stones to fall down on top of Richter completely burying him.
When the state police arrived, neighbors relegated their efforts to providing hot coffee for the rescuers, which also included ten members of the local rescue squad and two local doctors. After five hours of digging, rescue squad members Edward Haring and Harry Lambert were lowered into the well where they secured Richter to a rope which allowed the weekend farmer to be pulled to the surface.
Not surprisingly, it was the rescuer Haring who was taken to the hospital after the ordeal - suffering from nervous shock.
The mission of the Somerset County Parks Commission, going all the way back to its formation in the mid 50s, is to provide recreational opportunities for county residents. To that end, they have built facilities for tennis and golf, hiking and fishing, baseball and bocce. But one recreational pastime oft-mentioned as a projected use of Somerset County parks has been lately overlooked.
Yes, I know, you can get a permit for group camping for scouts at Colonial Park, but I still believe this falls short of the Parks Commission's original objectives.
In 1973, as the county was about to purchase 900 acres to add to the original 700 acres of what would eventually become the Sourland Mountain Preserve, the commission reiterated their desire to include overnight camping as a component of the park. Sadly, despite the preserve growing to 3000 acres, that has never come to pass.
Thirty years later, we are getting a second chance. With the pending cleanup of the former GSA Depot, Somerset County - which co-owns the properly with Hillsborough Township - will have an opportunity to allow camping on the edge of the Sourlands by incorporating the facilities needed into the plan for the proposed park.
I had the great pleasure to spend last weekend camping with the cub scouts of Hillsborough Pack 89 in the comparative wilds of northern Hunterdon County at Teetertown Preserve.
It was a super weekend with perfect clear blue skies and night time temps in the adventurous mid 40s - but there was one frustrating aspect to this trip....
...it wasn't setting up the tents...
...or the three mile hike...
...or getting the campfire going...
....or feeding the hungry hordes...
...or even losing to the ten-year-olds in the tug-of-war!
The most frustrating part of the entire weekend was the convoluted drive up into the Hunterdon hinterlands on the devious Cokesbury-Califon Rd. - guaranteed to fool your sense of direction, and your GPS.
If only the Somerset County Park System had a group campground somewhere nearby.....
"It's Somerset, N.J." That was the headline of the Franklin News-Record fifty years ago this week, as the paper reported the decision of the Franklin Township Council to name the township's first central post office after Somerset County.
When Hilsborough got its first central post office four decades later, there was never any doubt that the post office would be called "Hillsborough". The Franklin Township councilmen of 1960 were faced with a much more difficult choice. Federal regulations precluded naming the post office "Franklin" because of other communities in New Jersey already using that name - although Franklintown would have been an acceptable name, and was in the running.
Other possibilities under consideration included Somerfield, Rockingham, Middlebush, which was the name of the post office that would be closed when the new one opened, and Wilson, which was the choice of the Franklin Township Chamber of Commerce.
After several names were eliminated on successive ballots, the nine councilmen were left with a choice between Somerfield and Somerset. The final vote was five to four.
Now, when someone tries to tell you that Somerset is a section of Franklin Township, you'll know where to send them your response!
Here's an ad from June 1962 for the second of the three Hillsborough developments bearing some iteration of the "Claremont" name - the original Claremont Hills.
Not to be confused with the mid-rise and two-story Auten Rd. condominium complex of the 1970s, or the Millstone River Rd. development from the 1950s, these houses can be found on the south side of Amwell Rd. between the high school and Pleasantview, and on the north side of Pleasantview.
By 1964 they had dropped the prices from $21,900 to $19,900 - but for a real bargain, you could have one of these exact same models in Manville for just $16,900!
See if you can spot all three models the next time you're in the passenger seat.
Did you know there are three residential developments in Hillsborough bearing the name Claremont? the first was Claremont Homes on Millstone River Rd. built in the 1950s.
This is the third - Claremont Hills, now commonly known as Claremont Towers. Here is an ad from June 1973, touting the luxury condominium's proximity to Princeton.
The following ad from 1974 takes the form of a telegram to Gerald Ford, pledging their support of the President's plan to fight inflation by maintaining their 1973 prices and by offering mortgages "well below the allowable maximum"!
The 1975 ad gets into the spirit of "The Godfather" by making "an offer you can't refuse".
The second Claremont development is also called Claremont Hills, and was built in the 1960s. I'll give you a couple of days to guess where this development is. One clue - even a newcomer to Hillsborough has probably already driven past these houses hundreds of times.