31 August 2009

Thanks for Caring

This is just a quick note to thank everyone for the kind thoughts that have been expressed to me as my mother continues her very slow recovery from the tragic motor vehicle collision of one year ago today.

After spending the first six months immobilized in various hospitals, I am pleased to report that she has spent the last six months at her home here in New Jersey.

Thank you all for your prayers.

30 August 2009


As you may know, Patty and I are co-chairs of "Central New Jersey Walk Now for Autism", the signature fundraising and awareness event for Autism Speaks. We, along with several dedicated volunteers, also volunteer with our own community-based fundraising team "Hillsborough's Hope".

We are always looking to improve our efforts - and especially make it easier for people to get involved or make a donation. One complaint about the Walk Now for Autism web site is that donations made through the internet have a $20 minimum. In today's economy, $20 may be too much to ask for. We feel that there are many who would like to give $5 or $10, but are put off by having to write a check and mail their contribution.

To solve that problem, I have installed a PayPal "Donate" button on the right side of the blog page. Clicking on the button allows you to make a "no-minimum" donation to Autism Speaks through PayPal. All donations are credited to our Hillsborough's Hope team.

The walk is October 11 at Mercer County College.

Our Hillsborough's Hope fundraising goal is $30,000.

Thanks for your support.

29 August 2009

Breaking News

What do you think of the new Chris Christie web video responding to the Jon Corzine attack ads?

I think it is a decent ad for what it is - but it doesn't address what most people are thinking when they hear the governor knocking Christie over a personal loan to a friend, his driving record, and his relationship with Karl Rove.

When people hear these attacks they think - what about Carla Katz? - what about the Parkway crash? - what about the moves Corzine has made as governor that were strictly catering to his political base?

These questions are the real answers to the attacks.

28 August 2009

Share This

Observant readers will notice something new about the Blogger web page today. Up there, at the top of the page, "SEARCH BLOG", "FLAG BLOG", "FOLLOW BLOG", and now, "SHARE".

"Share" is a convenient way to let other people know about something you have read in the blog. By clicking "Share" the url for Gillette On Hillsborough can be posted to Facebook, Google Reader, or Twitter.

Even better, if you are looking at an individual blog post - by clicking on the title of the post, for instance - "Share" will allow you to easily email that post to a friend.

Please use this new feature to pass along anything of interest.

26 August 2009

Baker Bunn's Dirty Dough

I've had this New York Times story from April 6, 1885 for a while, trying to find out what became of Mr. Bunn. In December of that year, his father was taken to court by the banks involved in an effort to recover some of the cash. His wife and three children closed up the bakery and moved in with her widowed mother. What happened to Van Kirk may never be known.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., April 5. - Van Kirk Bunn, of Millstone, N.J., left his home last Sunday night, telling his family that he was going to New York to buy flour. He has not since been heard from, and an investigation made during the past week proves that he had forged notes to the amount of $9,965, of which sum he had obtained $5,000 over his father's signature. The First National Bank of Somerville, and a bank of New Brunswick hold some of the notes to the amount of $1,200 each, and his neighbors have the balance. Bunn was the town baker of Millstone, which is a small manufacturing town near here.

25 August 2009

If At First...Thor Solberg - Transatllantic Air Pioneer

On August 23, 1932, central New Jersey's second greatest aviator took off from Floyd Bennett Field in an attempt to pilot the first northern-route flight to Europe. Thor Solberg, a thirty-nine-year-old Norwegian who had come to America in 1928, had been working at a picture frame factory in Brooklyn - and saving every penny to realize his dream of establishing an air-route from New York to Norway.

Accompanying Mr. Solberg was radioman Carl Petersen. A fellow Norwegian, Petersen had already been to the Antarctic on Admiral Byrd's first expedition of 1928-30 and would return there again on his second expedition of 1933-35.

Solberg, left, and Petersen, right, before taking off on August 23, 1932.
Their plan was sponsored by the Enna Jettick  (get it?) Shoe Company.

Solberg and Petersen had some competition. Also departing that day, from an airfield at Barre, Vermont, flying the same type of aircraft - a Bellanca K biplane with the 12 passenger seats removed and customized for a trans-Atlantic flight - and with the very same destination, Oslo, was Norwegian-American Clyde Lee.

25 August 1932 New York Daily News

Lee and radioman John Bochkon had a slight head start and navigated through a tremendous storm to complete the first leg of the trip, landing at Harbor Grace, Newfoundland. Solberg and Petersen flew through the same storm on their way to Harbor Grace - a storm that was described by Solberg as one of the worst he had ever seen. At one point, they were completely blinded by snow and did not know whether they were over land or water.

24 August 1932 New York Daily News

Every newspaper in the nation carried reports - morning and evening editions - of the aviators' progress. Besides the two teams racing to be the first to fly to Oslo, George Hutchinson, along with his wife, daughters, engineer, radio operator, and cameraman, was attempting to establish an air route from New York to London via Greenland and Iceland. And Amelia Earhardt was becoming the first woman to fly non-stop from California to New Jersey! 

24 August 1932 Daily Messenger

As Lee and Bochkon readied their plane at Harbor Grace for the long transatlantic hop to Oslo, they learned that their rivals had been forced into a water landing 60 miles offshore. Solberg had tried to climb above the storm before the engine stalled and he had to put the plane down. They were rescued by fishermen, and the badly damaged plane was towed to port.

31 August 1932 New York Daily News

Over the next several days while Solberg and Petersen tended to their wrecked airplane they waited anxiously for news of Lee's progress.  The news never came. Lee and Bochkon were never heard from again and are presumed to have gone down in the Atlantic.

It was nearly three years before Thor Solberg was able to realize his dream, finally touching down at Bergen, Norway on August 16, 1935.

24 August 2009

Music Underground

"The compact, one-story house at 121 Meadowbrook Drive is, except for its color, identical to all the small homes that line this street just off Route 206. But No, 121 has a magical difference..." That is how the reporter for The New York Times began his 1973 feature story about Hillsborough-based record producer Tony Camillo

Tony Camillo at work in his Hillsborough studio circa 1975

Born August 11, 1928, Anthony J. Camillo grew up in Somerville, picked up the trumpet at the age of 9, and soon began transcribing the music he heard on his favorite records.  He formed his first bands while attending Somerville High School in the 1940s and after graduation went on the road playing with different bands in the waning days of the big band era. 

2 May 1954 Home News

After three years of that, he came to the conclusion that he should study music in college - a decision that eventually led to degrees from Juilliard and Columbia, including a Ph.D. in music composition. 

18 November 1953 Courier News

After a stint overseas with the 314th US Army Band in Germany, Camillo returned to the area and found himself teaching music at Flemington Elementary School. That lasted for twelve years. He went on to teach in the Middlesex school system, and for a time was the head of the music program at Alma White College in Zarephath.

27 January 1958 Courier News

In 1975 Camillo told a reporter for the New Brunswick Home News, "I was happy and I loved teaching, but I could see it wasn't my thing. I believe a lot of people waste their entire lives doing things they don't exactly like, or worse, things they hate. I did not want to do that." To that end, he hooked up with fellow Somerville native Tony Bongiovi and the two built a recording studio in the Lyric Theater building in Bound Brook. They began to make a name for themselves, merged with a New York studio, and then they were off to Detroit to produce records for Motown.

Tony Camillo at work in his Hillsborough studio circa 1975

He moved to Country Club Homes in Hillsborough in 1957.

When the New York Times wrote their profile in 1973, Tony Camillo was well established as a producer and arranger, scoring a huge hit with Freda Payne's "Band of Gold" in 1970, and was on the verge of another smash with Gladys Knight and the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia".

The "magical difference" was that many of Tony Camillo's biggest hits were recorded right here in Hillsborough, in the $150,000 (1973 dollars!) basement recording student he built under his Country Club Homes house.

Check out these Tony Camillo-produced hit songs.

23 August 2009

Curiosities from the 1850 Map

The Otley, Van Derveer, Keily 1850 Map of Somerset County is a great resource for discovering Hillsborough history. Although it predates the 1873 Beers Atlas and the 1860 Farm Map, it contains tremendous detail - including property owner names, church, cemetery, saw mill, grist mill, and blacksmith locations, and, in some cases, names of roads.

Also included are these nine Hillsborough curiosities. Taken off the map here, can you figure out where any of these places were located?

Everyone should know where the Union House Tavern stood - although we do not commonly refer to it by that name.
There were many water-powered grist mills and saw mills in Hillsborough in the mid 19th century. Apparently we also had a steam powered mill!


A lot of shoes during this period were still made one pair at a time in a cobbler's shop. Apparently, cutting-edge Hillsborough had an entire factory churning out footwear.

In 1850, being driven to the poorhouse wasn't just an expression, it was a destination! Do you know where Hillsborough's "Poor Farm" was located?

One of these two locations was in the news recently.

You had to be pretty important to not only have your name on the map as a current property owner, but to also have your FORMER residence noted. Peter Vroom was governor of New Jersey, and the Labagh residence is still singled out - take a look at the 206 bypass plan!

Mid-19th century Hillsborough had three "earthenware manufactories", all in the same general location.
We've all heard of the Devil's Half Acre, but who or what was "Francis Clift"?


22 August 2009

Emergency Drill Exercise August 27

Here's the press release from the Hillsborough Township web site.
Residents’ Help Needed for Emergency Drill Exercise on August 27th
Release Date: August 12, 2009
The Hillsborough Township Office of Emergency Management, in conjunction with the Hillsborough Township Health Department, will be conducting a Point Of Distribution (POD) Drill on August 27, 2009 at the Veterans Administration Depot (entrance located on Roycefield Rd. between train tracks & Dukes Parkway West, click here for map) from 11:30am to 1pm.

"Township residents are encouraged to assist in the drill by driving through the POD at any time between 11:30AM and 1PM on August 27th to receive mock emergency supplies. The more people that participate the better prepared we will be in the event of an emergency," stated Committeeman Anthony Ferrera, Township emergency services liaison.

"The drill is designed to test the Township’s plan for the mass distribution of materials and supplies needed during an emergency, such as an H1N1 pandemic. Although the drill is designed for the distribution of medications, no medication will be handed out during this exercise," stated Health Officer Glen Belnay.
Residents can access the POD from Roycefield Road just north of the Somerset County Public Works facility anytime between 11:30am-1pm. Upon entering the driveway, participants will be directed to the POD by emergency services personnel.
For more information contact the Township Health Department at (908) 369-5652.
Remember to enter the site from Roycefield Road, NOT from Route 206.

21 August 2009

Route 206 Bypass Plan

For those of you looking for a map of the Route 206 bypass plan through Hillsborough, here is the most recent map that I have found. If anyone knows of a more current plan, please let me know.

Click on the image to view and print the map.

Update - July 21, 2010: I created a simpler version of the 206 Bypass Map - click here.

20 August 2009

What's Coming Up?

I've spent much of the past week reading and organizing my notes. Some of the things I will be writing about in the upcoming weeks include:

  • More on Anna Case
  • The 206 bypass - again!
  • Something about Tony Camillo
  • Gleanings from the 1850 Somerset County map
  • That OTHER Depot
  • And lots more Weird, Wild and Wicked - including Hillsborough's ORIGINAL health care debate!

19 August 2009

First Day Anxiety?

With the start of the new school year just a few weeks away, it's only natural for students to feel some anxiety. New teacher, new classroom, possibly even a new school - all add to those first day jitters.

Students aren't the only ones who may be feeling the pressure. Consider these two news items from the 20s recounting the tragic deaths of a teacher and an administrator just prior to the start of the school year.

Teacher Ends Life at Trenton

TRENTON, N.J.. Aug. 29. - The body of Miss Hulda Schulz, 22 years old. principal of a school at Ringoes, N.J., was found beneath a tree near the Delaware River in StacyPark here today. Police said death was caused by poisoning. Two letters signed by her said that she had troubles, but did not divulge their nature. [The New York Times 30 August 1928]


Body is Found in Car Near Home in North Branch, N.J. - Mother Lays Act to Melancholia.
SOMERVILLE, N.J. Sept. 5. - Miss Enola Skillman of North Branch, five miles west of here, who was to have started teaching in Bedminster this morning, committed suicide late yesterday afternoon by shooting herself through the head with a bullet from a 25 calibre German automatic pistol. She is the second New Jersey school teacher to commit suicide with[in] a week. Last Wednesday Miss Hulda Schulz, 22 years old. principal of the school at Ringoes. N.J. took her own life by drinking poison.
Miss Skillman, who was 20 years old, was graduated from Somerville High School in 1926, and from the Newark Normal School last Spring. The Bedminster School was to have been her first place at a teacher. [The New York Times 6 September 1928]

17 August 2009

Images from the Campout - Plus...an Idea

Here are some images from the 2009 Hillsborough Township Campout at Ann Van Middlesworth Park. Scroll through to the end to read an idea for next year's campout.

All lines cast for the fishing derby.

All tents pitched on the outfield grass.

All ears perked for Committeeman Ferrera.

All marshmallows toasted over the campfire.

All mouths filled with smores!

Here's the idea. As I walked back to the campsite Saturday morning carrying two cups of coffee, I met a couple of people who were just browsing between the tents. It's cool to see all the different shelter designs and camping gear.

It occurred to me that some sporting goods or outdoor store is missing an opportunity at an event like this. These are the people - the families and novice campers - that the equipment manufacturers need to reach in order to expand their customer base.

It would be great to get one of these stores involved in next year's event, maybe as a sponsor. If some of the cost could be underwritten, the fee paid by campers might be able to go to a charitable cause.

One way for an outdoor store to get involved would be to offer an "instant upgrade" during the campout. One cramped family with a too small tent could be upgraded on the spot to a new big one - kind of like how they used to pick someone way at the back of the stadium and give them tickets right down on the front row.

Something like this, combined with a charitable element, would add an interesting addition to the campout. It could be a win-win for all involved.

13 August 2009

Foothill Acres

When the South Wing of Building #1 opened in October 1954, Foothill Acres was described as a "pioneer in the field of modern health care". More than half a century later, the Hillsborough nursing home and rehabilitation center is again poised to be a leader in elder care.

The North and South Wings of Building #1 and the V-shaped Building #2 in the early 60s.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 28, 2009, to announce the beginning of construction on a new 180,000 square ft. facility. This is the first major addition to the complex since Building #3 was completed in 1964. Building #2 opened in 1958.

Construction equipment on the site of phase one of Foothill Acres redevelopment.

The one-story buildings from the 50s and 60s are set to be replaced in phases with modern two-story structures. The phased-in approach will allow residents to remain at the facility throughout construction.

The following are postcards from the early days of Foothill Acres. Check out the amenities. I don't think they got HBO!

11 August 2009

Comcast Kills Analog

Another nail in the coffin of analog T.V. June 12 saw the end of over-the-air analog broadcasts - now this.

Today marks the beginning of Comcast's plan to eliminate the transmission of analog signals over their cable network. Beginning August 11, 2009, Comcast customers in Hillsborough will need to use an addressable cable box or a DTA digital converter to receive many of the channels they currently get straight from the coaxial cable to the television.

If you are like me and don't subscribe to any premium channels, cable boxes and the like have been unnecessary - until now. Installation is fairly straightforward -but I'll tell you what, I couldn't picture my grandmother, or mother for that matter, figuring it out on her own.

The installation hassles are compounded if you use a service like Tivo - which needs to use its OWN remote control, and control channel changes. The changeover requires setting up the Tivo software from step one - a sometimes hours-long process - and installing infrared sensors on the new cable equipment. - a tricky proposition.

After all of that, the actual picture IS marginally better, in my opinion. Still I don't see why I am paying $115 a month for basic cable and internet service, when I keep receiving offers for Comcast's Triple Play - cable, internet, and phone - for $99.

I think I'll save THAT rant for another time.

09 August 2009

500 Reasons Corzine's Gotta Go

I thought about saving this post for my 600th or 700th blog - there are so many reasons Jon Corzine must be defeated. Unfortunately, those blogging milestones are not likely to be reached until after November. So, here goes.

Number one, he has fallen so short of expectations. His financial acumen was touted, and he has floundered. Maybe he would have done better if the economy didn't go to hell. But when it comes down to it, he didn't get the job done. Now, New Jersey is a 60-win team, and we can't afford to carry a past-his-prime Mariano Rivera - especially when he's been pitching like Armando Benitez.

Number two, he is out of touch with the average resident. This has been a complaint since day one. When everything is going well, people don't mind being led by someone who is a little richer, or moves in a different circle. But when we are struggling, we want someone to feel our pain - and Corzine just doesn't get it.

Number three, none of his economic plans have worked - unemployment is raging, companies are not just downsizing, they're folding up the tent and getting out. It's because New Jersey is no longer a business friendly state, and Corzine is responsible.

Number four, his biggest - perhaps only - accomplishment , in my opinion, was his new funding formula for state aid for education. The new formula offered a more equitable distribution of state aid based on a community's ability to pay, and the needs of their students. The problem is that it's all on paper! Actual funding keeps rolling to districts where it is wasted, mismanaged, and hasn't benefited students, while districts like Hillsborough can only look at the formula and see what we SHOULD be getting, with the knowledge that increases are capped in a way that will NEVER allow us, or many suburban districts, to get anywhere near the funding allowed by the new law. When your only real accomplishment is bogus, what do we need you for?

Number five, we have a better choice. Chris Christie provides a real alternative - differing with the Governor on almost every issue. As George Castanza once surmised, "If every choice I've ever made has been wrong, then the opposite must be right!" And as Mr. Christie has somewhat facetiously pointed out , "I can't do any worse!"

Well, multiply by 100, and you get the idea. Feel free to list a few more reasons in the comment section. Rebuttals welcome as well, as always.

07 August 2009

Which Comes First - NJ or Nation?

Congressman Leonard Lance will be setting up his mobile office at the Hillsborough Public Library on Tuesday, August 11. The congressman is not expected to be present, but staff members will be available to help residents with issues, and to answer questions. I am sure they will get a lot of questions.

Most of the questions will be about the congressman's vote on the “American Clean Energy and Security Act" - the so-called "cap and trade" bill. Lance was one of just eight Republicans to vote in favor of the bill - a stat that is troubling to many of his 7th district constituents and our neighbors throughout the state.

Before I get into the congressman's explanation for his vote, it is important to understand that in no way was Lance's vote a "deciding vote" on this bill. There were a small number of Democrats who voted against the bill, and there is no doubt in my mind that if the bill were in danger of being defeated, any one or all of these Democrats would have voted Yes.

Lance issued a statement explaining his vote. His message is that the bill leads America into an era of clean energy and away from dependence on foreign oil. More importantly, New Jersey is already a leader in clean energy initiatives. The standards imposed by the bill are LESS strict than the current New Jersey standards, and, therefore, our state will reap the benefits of the bill, without shouldering the burden.

I respect the congressman's view here. It is entirely valid to vote "NJ first" - he is our representative, representing our entire district, Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

But he also must know that it does New Jersey no good to come out on top while the nation goes down the drain - and his votes need to represent that also.

I think Leonard Lance understands this. His views on the stimulus and health care reform show that he is not ONLY looking at New Jersey, but also looking at the big picture. I don't think this one vote on "cap and trade" suggests a shift away from his core fiscal conservative values.

And besides that, there's always the alternative.
Linda Stender and Bob Menendez with Bill Clinton

05 August 2009

Anna Case Sings - A Year Before Jolson Speaks!

A New York Times feature story from 1936 on the tenth anniversary of "talking pictures" declared, "Sound Has a Birthday." Indeed it does. The very first presentation of a successful commercial motion picture with "living sound" took place at Warners' Theatre in New York on August 5, 1926. And Hillsborough's own Anna Case was there to cut the cord.

Warner's Theater, New York City, 1926

Anna Case, the daughter of South Branch village blacksmith Peter van Nuys Case, was a former Metropolitan Opera soprano, leading concert and radio performer, and renowned Edison recording artist when she was chosen by Warner Brothers to star in the musical short "La Fiesta". The nine-minute film, utilizing the new sound synchronization process Vitaphone, was the penultimate presentation on a bill that concluded with John Barrymore in "Don Juan", the first sound feature - premiering more than a year before Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer". And while "Don Juan" was essentially a silent film with synchronized music and sound effects, the stars who appeared in the shorts wowed the public and the critics with their perfectly synchronized singing and playing.

Premiere Handbill
(Collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

The decision to cast Miss Case in this historic movie appears to have been an easy one, perhaps the only one possible. Producer Samuel L. Warner, in a New York Times article earlier that year explained that it was extremely difficult to find a leading-lady pleasing enough that the camera did not see her flaws.

Publicity Still from the set of La Fiesta
(Collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

This problem was exacerbated when it came to opera singers. "The film public would need much education to accept the average prima donna physique", opined Mr. Warner. "I know of only one great singer who is near enough the screen type to be accepted by the movie public. That is Anna Case."

Blurb from "Music Trade Review", September 1926

She appears in the second half of the short film, singing her own composition, "Anhelo". La Fiesta proved to be one of the most popular of the early Vitaphone films and continued to be shown in combination with other shorts and features for a number of years after that initial August 1926 premiere.

Anna Case in "La Fiesta"

Anna Case filmed one other Vitaphone short. She sang "Swanee River" in a program that also featured guitarist Roy Smeck and the Dixie Jubilee Singers. Neither the film nor the phonograph soundtrack appears to have survived.

Anna Case and the Dixie Jubilee Singers in "Swanee River"
(Collection of Gillette on Hillsborough)

02 August 2009

Save the Date for Autism Walk

The Central New Jersey Walk Now For Autism fundraising walk will take place:

Sunday, October 11, 2009 at Mercer County Community College, West Windsor.

For details about the walk, click here.

To join us on our Hillsborough's Hope Team, click here.

To learn more about Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism research, awareness, and advocacy charity, click here.