31 May 2008

One and Two and Step

The Racquet Club on Amwell Road. Hillsborough Pool, Racquet and Fitness. Hillsborough Racquet Club. HRC. Hillsborough Dance Academy. Premiere Dance of Hillsborough. For the sake of you googlers out there, these are all of the names for the studio where my daughter has taken dance lessons for the past six years. I think they prefer Premiere Dance of Hillsborough nowadays - but still require checks to be made out to HRC, so, go figure!

In a town where children's dance studios are ubiquitous, Premiere Dance stands out for its size, longevity, variety of course offerings, and quality of instructors - dedicated professionals with years of experience.

Over the years my daughter has taken classes in ballet, jazz, tap, and lyrical dance, and enjoys dance class primarily as a recreational activity. Which is not to say that she doesn't get psyched for the annual recital.

Premiere Dance of Hillsborough Recital 2008

A Premiere Dance of Hillsborough recital (actually recitals - the school is so big they have four shows over the course of a weekend) is a wonderful thing to behold. The event, which takes place at the Raritan Valley Community College theater is a model of organization and entertainment.

I have been to various dance recitals and other student entertainments over the years, but no one beats Premiere Dance for their professionalism and honest-to-goodness entertainment value. I have seen other shows beset by all sorts of problems - curtains not opening or closing, wrong music being played, terrified children frozen on stage or running off in tears, delays between dance numbers of 2, 3, 4 minutes or more. None of these problems plague Premiere.

Eighteen dance numbers in 65 minutes - every one of them perfect, a joy to watch.

Premiere Dance of Hillsborough - one of our worst kept secrets. Whatever you call them!

30 May 2008

Day Trippin'

We took advantage of the kids' school vacation day on Friday to take the mother of all day trips - Hershey Park. There aren't very many other one day excursions that require a longer drive than this 285 mile round trip - only Wildwood comes to mind, and at over 300 miles driving, that is pushing it for us.

With gasoline prices approaching $4 a gallon, it is unlikely that we will be taking this type of day trip again any time soon.

What are some of your favorite day trips? And how far from Hillsborough would you go and return the same day?

29 May 2008

No, No, No! Three Times No!

I was interested to read in the Courier News today that the Hillsborough Township Committee has rejected all three bids received for the $220,000 Senior Center project. Two of the bids were over the allotted budget, and the third did not contain all of the required documentation. Now the project will be re-bid - but not until the architect has reexamined the specifications to ensure that the budget for the project is realistic and to see if any changes need to be made to the plan.

It was encouraging to see this process being played out, which is in stark contrast to what happened in Bernardsville recently where it appeared a town councilman gave the inside track to a painting contractor by telling him bids were still being taken for a project, and then allowing him to fax a bid from his office. The councilman, who claims that he was only trying to move the project along and admits to no wrongdoing, was nevertheless censured by the council for giving the "appearance" of wrongdoing.

Can you imagine the outcry if something like that ever took place in Hillsborough?

Can you believe I didn't speculate on the completion date of the Hillsborough Senior Center?

28 May 2008

The Eleventh Hour - or Later

A recent letter to the editor in one of the local newspapers called for an increase in public transportation in Hillsborough and the surrounding area. If you don't drive, or choose not to drive, getting to where you want to go, when you want to go there, is nearly impossible. Regularly scheduled public transportation in the town and between towns would be a great benefit to residents, and a boon to the local economy.

It's hard to imagine now that such a service not only existed once upon a time in central New Jersey but actually flourished. In the late nineteenth century, and well into the age of the automobile, our area was well served by an interconnected network of electrified trolley lines - which today we would call "inter-urban" or 'light-rail".

Bound Brook Trolley, postcard circa 1910

At the turn of the last century, it was said that a person could travel from the east coast to Chicago using only trolleys, and that probably wasn't far from the truth. Somerset and Middlesex Counties had a number of lines, many converging at New Brunswick. My maternal grandfather, a machinist by trade, worked as a young man in Dunellen - and many times recounted the days when you could go just about anywhere in Central Jersey by trolley, anytime you pleased.


East Main Street Bound Brook circa 1907

On the cold winter evening of January 10th, 1902, Mrs. George Daly, Miss Louise Daly, and Mrs. Mae Bellis of Bound Brook, took the trolley to New Brunswick to see the popular playwright Lincoln J. Carter's brand new offering "The Eleventh Hour" at the Shortridge Theatre on Liberty Street. It turns out that the play was prophetically named, as the last trolley car back to Bound Brook left New Brunswick at 11 p.m.

The three women were under the impression that the last car left at midnight, and were bewildered when they exited the theater shortly after 11 and were told that they had missed the last trolley home.

Lobby card for the 1923 film version of "The Eleventh Hour"

Instead of looking to hire a carriage for the seven-mile ride to Bound Brook - a two-hour trip - a "strange impulse" led them to seek out the house of Edward Radel, Secretary of the trolley company, and lay out their grievances.

They rang the bell at the Radel home at about 12:15. Mr. Radel, leaning out of the window expecting to hear about some catastrophe on his trolley line, instead was met with the despairing appeals of the women. As The New York Times reported the next day, Mr. Radel was touched by the plight of the young women, saying, "All right girls; I'll take you home myself. You go down to the traction office and wait for me."

George Street, New Brunswick, circa 1905

Mr. Radel hurried to the office, retrieved a controller handle to operate the trolley, and made an express run to Bound Brook in record time - acting as motorman and conductor, but collecting no fares from his three passengers. He returned home alone at about 2 a.m.

If we could guarantee that kind of service today, I'd bring back the trolleys in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I think those days are long gone!

27 May 2008

Thirty Years in Pain



State of New York, County of Allegany, in the Pension Claim of Wm. B. Gillett, late of Co. H of the 9th Regiment Heavy Artillery, N.Y. Vols.

Personally appeared before me, a Notary Public in and for the aforesaid County and State, duly authorized to administer oaths, Dr. H.H. Lyman a resident of Hume in the County of Allegany and State of N.Y. whose Post Office address is Fillmore, N.Y., well known to me to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declares in relation to the aforesaid case that his age is 67 years; that he has been a practising physician for the past 43 years; that he has made a careful medical examination of the above-named claimant and finds his present physical condition as follows:

Has has chronic Muscular Rheumatism of the hips, back (lumbar region), arms, forearms, shoulders for the last twenty years, and of the muscles of his back ever since his return from the army - which has produced Paralysis Agitans of the entire body by exhausting the vital forces of the nervous system. The whole body is in a constant tremor when awake. The right hand is nearly useless.

Is unable to feed himself a good deal of the time on account of the tremor and loss of muscular power. The muscles of the back and shoulders are so painful that he has to take anodynes at night in order to sleep. He is one-half disabled by reason of the Rheumatism for the performance of manual labor, and one-half disabled by the Paralysis Agitans for the purposes of manual labor.

This affidavit is in my own handwriting and I am in possession of all the facts in his case for the last twenty-five years and have known him since his discharge.

He further declares that he is not interested in said claim nor concerned in its prosecution.

signed H.H. Lyman

Sworn to and subscribed before me this day, by the above-named affiant; and I certify that I read the foregoing affidavit to said affiant, and acquainted him with its contents before he executed the same. I am in no wise interested in this claim nor am I concerned in its prosecution; and that affiant is known to be a regular practising physician of good standing in the community in which he resides.

Witness my hand and seal, this 27th day of June, 1894.

signed John Howden, Notary Public

25 May 2008

Wii Can't Drive

My kids have been playing Mario Kart for the Wii. Now, THIS is a driving game with its own rules. You race around crazy tracks, maneuver past all kinds of obstacles, and throw nasty objects at the other racers in an attempt to disable them.

The first time I tried the game, I just concentrated on driving. Big mistake. You can't possibly win by following the normal driving rules. I should have known that - after all, I've been driving in New Jersey for almost three decades!

New Jersey motorists don't know how to drive. That's the finding of the 2008 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test. Apparently we don't know the basic driving rules - and what we don't know put us in 51st place in the ranking of states. Yes, we couldn't even beat D.C.!

There's really only one explanation for this. New Jersey autoists make their own rules. And as long as everyone plays along, we're fine. You just have to be consistent, like the umpire with the wide strike zone, or the basketball ref that let's 'em "play on".

Just like in Mario Kart, as long as we avoid the flying turtle shells and explosive whatsits, we'll get to the finish line just fine!

22 May 2008

Cool - e - rratic!

Is it Spring yet? Still feels like winter to me. Are we in Central New Jersey, or Central Manitoba? I can't believe the furnace was running last night - it's almost June! Is this some kind of joke?

Maybe - and a cruel one at that. You see, we just had a brand new central air conditioner installed about two weeks ago - for mucho bucks - and have yet to use it. At this rate, I don't know if we ever will. We might just make it to Halloween before I ever hear how "ultra-quiet" the new system is.

I've read about "years without a summer". There were a few years in the nineteenth century where worldwide volcanic activity put so many particles into the air that sunlight was effectively blocked. It never got warm, crops failed, snow in July - all kinds of freaky stuff.

Do I even remember how hot it can get in Hillsborough in July and August? Hmmmm. Oh yeah, I remember - how could I forget. We were nearly through July last year when the air conditioning quit. Did I already tell you that we just got the new one two weeks ago?

You do the math.

21 May 2008

The Happiest Birthday

May 21, 1999. The happiest day of my life. The day the most beautiful little baby girl came into the world, and into our lives.

Don't believe she is the MOST beautiful? This is her at exactly one month old.

Now THAT'S beautiful!

20 May 2008

Blog Is Up!

The On Hillsborough Blog is up and running over at MyCentralJersey.com. Eventually you will be able to find it by going to the main Blog page, but for now, you can go directly to www.mycentraljersey.com/ggillette. This will be the permanent url, so when you get there, go ahead and bookmark it.

For now, this current blog will have my latest entries while I catch up by reposting some stuff from the last couple of weeks over at the new site. In a couple of weeks, I am going to change it so that the new site will have the posts first, and this site will have them a day or two later.

As a compromise, this site will have some content that won't be over on the new site - for a long time, or maybe ever. Stuff like Weird, Wild, and Wicked Wednesday, and some of the other more personal posts. And of course this site will have all of the past entries - which, surprisingly, are still being read daily.

That's what I've come up with anyway, and that's what I'm planning. I'll see how it goes.

19 May 2008


New Jersey municipalities have been complaining about recently announced Council On Affordable Housing mandates - They are unfair, arbitrary, don't take into account land preservation initiatives or towns' master plans, and undo much of the work towns have done since 2004.

Hillsborough Township officials have decided to put their money where their mouths are by throwing in with the League of Municipalities in a potential lawsuit to fight COAH Round Three obligations.

Our $500 pledge is a nice token, but I don't see how it will make any difference. Seventy other municipalities around the state have also anted up, but it won't be nearly enough. I would think that you would need at least half of the state's 550 municipalities to contribute AT LEAST $5000 apiece to even get started.

I have previously given my opionion of COAH. I think the whole thing stinks. Fixing it will require a complete dismantling of the COAH bureaucracy and a new vision for what affordable housing really means. Until then, every resident in Hillsborough could pony up $500 and it wouldn't do a bit of good.

18 May 2008

New Blog?

It looks like I will be up on the MyCentralJersey.com web site soon. Look for me on the Blog page by following this link.

I will probably start by reposting some of the entries fron the last week or so, and then start with stuff.

I will also keep this blog going. The two blogs will overlap, for the most part.

I will let you know when my first blog goes up over there.

Stay tuned...

17 May 2008

Four More Years! Four More Years!

The Hillsborough Township Committee finalized their agreement with the Hillsborough Baseball League this week, allowing the organization to use the Willow Road Baseball Complex for four more years. The hope is that at the end of the four year lease, the Belle Mead GSA Depot property will be redeveloped to include a new baseball complex.

Residents in the Winding Way neighborhood adjacent to the Willow Road fields were pleased that the lease again forbids the use of lights at the complex, and puts limits on the length of the baseball season. They also were cautiously optimistic about the creation of a review committee that will make sure the lease is being adhered to.

But what intrigued me were the questions residents had about what would happen to the Willow Road Baseball Complex after 2012. My first impulse would be to shrink the complex, eliminate some of the seven fields - but keep two or three. Continue to plant trees as a buffer for the residents on Winding Way. Redevelop the grounds as a large community park, similar to Woodfield.

What would you do?

16 May 2008

Give it Up!

Have you given up anything in order to live in this town, in this state? Let's face it, Hillsborough is a fairly expensive town to live in, in one of the most expensive states in the U.S.

So, what is it? Our sacrifices started about three years before we moved here - in our three room walk-up apartment in Freehold Township. I don't think we went to the movies, or went out to dinner more than two or three times in three years. We skipped vacations and worked overtime - saving every penny for a down payment on our dream house.

Even today, as I look around the house I see we still have some builder's grade wall-to-wall carpet here and there - 15 years old, the sofa and loveseat in the family room - 14 years old, the couches in the living room - 17 years old, and the dinette set in the kitchen that we bought in 1989! And this is in a neighborhood where we have seen some of our neighbors completely re-do their whole house every three or four years!

But there is one thing we did not sacrifice. We wanted our kids, when they were young, to have a parent at home full time. We didn't want day-care or latch-key kids. We wanted our kids to have the kind of childhood we had, where a parent was always there. And we also wanted to live in the kind of town that we grew up in. A town where our kids would be safe and happy.

To have both, we've made some sacrifices. But you know what? In the end, we'll have all the material things we could ever really want - and we'll have something more.

I can live with that!

15 May 2008


I needed to have an MRI right away. This was about five years ago, just days before surgery to repair an exploded vertebral disk in my lower back. Yes - exploded! Apparently, the disks are really little sacks of goo - and if they burst, the goo can go everywhere. That is what happened to me, but i didn't know it yet. All I knew was that I had been in pain for weeks, and the insurance-mandated physical therapy was only making things worse!

I made an appointment at Hillsborough Radiology on Route 206. This wasn't the first time that I had had a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test - I had one about 10 years earlier. Although I remembered it was quite unpleasant, especially because they had forgotten to put the air on and I was sweating profusely, I got through it fine. So I wasn't at all expecting what happened 10 years later.

Everyone at Hillsborough Radiology was very nice, and all was going smoothly as I was sucked into the machine for the series of scans. Then it happened - I had a full blown panic attack in the machine. Heart racing, chest pounding, cold sweat from head to toe - very scary, and something that, once you have one, you know you never want to have again.

They pulled me out, and I was fine. I actually returned the next day and completed the series of scans on their other machine, which has more of an open feel to it.

Last week, I needed to have an MRI again. My insurance no longer covers Hillsborough Radiology, but does cover University Radiology, located in the office building on the southeast corner of Route 206 and Raider Boulevard.

There is no telling what will set off a panic attack. It is a completely automatic response, and isn't at all rational. But having said that - I somehow knew I couldn't have a scan done at University Radiology.

I found Roseland Imaging in Franklin Township. They have an open-style MRI machine, which is what I was looking for. I was rationalizing that it was the closed-in feeling that had set off the panic attack five years earlier. Actually, I was hoping it was - but who knows! The technician who did the scan took all the time I needed to get started, and obviously was used to catering to anxious patients.

He understood that it wasn't any fear of the machine or the procedure that was causing my anxiety - it was the fear that I would have another panic attack! He was very reassuring - in fact, the procedure could be stopped any time if i felt uncomfortable.

In the event, I sped right through the entire series of scans, never felt uncomfortable, and it was all over in about twenty minutes.

By the way, though my wife may argue this point, my brain turned out to be normal - just like the one in the picture!

14 May 2008

Hillsborough's Cold War Casualty

With Memorial Day approaching, I wanted to reprint this story about a World War II hero that was killed right here in Hillsborough during the Cold War. The following appeared in The New York Times July 18, 1959.


HILLSBORO TOWNSHIP, N.J., July 17 - A Marine Corps pilot who shot down eleven enemy aircraft in World War II was killed today on a routine flight when his Navy jet crashed and burned in a cornfield near here, at the base of Sourland Mountain.

Just before the crash, farmers saw the SJ3 jet circling in what appeared to be a struggle to gain altitude. The pilot, Lieut. Col. Kenneth D. Frazier was flying out of the Naval Air Station at Willow Grove, Pa.

Three officers from Willow Grove found Colonel Frazier's wallet in the wreckage. They were unable to determine the cause of the crash.

The pilot had flown about thirty-five miles from his base, which is north of Philadelphia. He was to log flying time and return to the base.

Colonel Frazier lived at 5 Home Road in Hatboro, Pa. His wife and four daughters are vacationing in California.

The 39-year-old pilot joined the Marine Corps in 1941. He saw action over Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Guam in the Pacific during World War II. He held the Navy Cross, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, eleven Air Medals, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

Colonel Frazier was a graduate of Temple University. He had 3,600 flying hours, 825 of them in jet aircraft.

13 May 2008

Hillsborough Hall of Fame

The New Jersey Hall of Fame has officially inducted its first fifteen members. Honorees include all of the usual suspects - Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, Yogi Berra, Thomas Edison - and even a couple whose link to New Jersey is a little more tenuous, such as Harriet Tubman.

Only one politician is included in the list, former senator Bill Bradley. I suppose they are saving most of the politicos for the Hall of Shame!

If Hillsborough Township were to start its own Hall of Fame, who would you nominate? Our Superbowl heroes perhaps? - or how about former governor Peter Vroom?

Would you allow living persons to be honored, as the New Jersey Hall of Fame does? How about a waiting period like in the Baseball Hall of Fame (not sure how that would work).

O.K. Your turn. I'm ready. Let me have it!

12 May 2008

Is "Central Jersey" a Myth?

What is Central New Jersey? The Gannett editors running the MyCentralJersey.com would probably define it as any place they can sell the Courier News or Home News Tribune!

That is probably as good a definition as any - and would include Somerset, Middlesex, and Union Counties, as well as portions of Monmouth, Mercer, and Hunterdon.

The creators of the upcoming "New Jersey: The Movie" have made the dividing line between North Jersey and South Jersey one of the central issues of their film. They have also tackled the topic of Central Jersey in their blog, which also contains many interesting theories and maps as to the dividing lines between North, Central, and South Jersey.

When I was a kid growing up in Monmouth County, many of us believed we lived in South Jersey. Once you went over the Driscoll Bridge driving south on the Garden State Parkway, you were in South Jersey! Of course we had heard rumors of people living in Ocean County and even further south, but once you got past Point Pleasant or Great Adventure, it was all a mystery!

So I'll open this up to the readers. What and where is Central Jersey? Can it be defined geographically or culturally the way North and South Jersey have been defined?