People who have been to my home/office in Brookside, NJ:
- Are surprised they are in New Jersey
- They think they’ve gone back in time
- Can’t believe they are only 38 miles from New York City
I live in a small semi-rural town in Morris County, NJ. There were more people living here in the 18th century than there are now. We don’t get mail delivery, but we (about 120 homes/addresses) have our own zip code, 07926.
Our big event of the year is our 4th of July parade. On a good day, I’m 40 minutes to EWR and 75 minutes from Manhattan. If it weren’t so expensive to live in New Jersey, I’d be here forever.
I came across an old blog I wrote in 2006 about my town. Written July 5, 2006
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, bucolic town it is today. Because of its natural resources, water, forests and iron ore, it was the site of sawmills, gristmills, iron mines and other supporting businesses of its day. During the American 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 a small quiet community . The 4th of July is Brookside’s big day. Yesterday (just like every 4th of July) the residents of Brookside turned out to watch the tractors, antique cars, fire engines, homespun floats and marchers (including about a dozen pooches dressed for the holiday) parade down Main Street. Anyone can be a part of the parade, and most people watching know at least one person in it. Afterwards there are field games for the kids and beer at the firehouse for the adults. The “beach” is free to all on July 4th. Yes, a beach – Brookside Beach, which is the local watering hole on the grounds of the elementary school. In the late afternoon most people try to sneak in a nap between the picnics and bingo that starts at 7:00 sharp. July 4th is Brookside’s biggest day and even locals who have summer homes at the shore, make it a point to be back in Brookside for the 4th.
There is no commercial zoning in my town. The only thing you can buy in Brookside is a newspaper from the machine in front of the post office.
We have our own post office and our own zip code – 07926. We don’t get mail delivery in Brookside. We go to the post office to retrieve it. I don’t really know anyone who minds that – gives us a chance to catch up on the gossip with postmaster Pete or run into friends, especially on a Saturday morning. It’s fun to scan the bulletin board inside – read notices neighbors have put up, announcing bake sales or music lessons or that sort of thing. Shortly after 9/11, the Ten Most Wanted poster with Osama Bin Laden’s photo on it was tacked on the board along side a picture of someone’s lost cat and someone else’s ad for a piano they wanted to sell. There’s a wonderful collection of vintage photos of the post office in its early years when it was a general store. A couple of people in town still decorate the windows for each season or holiday
Recently, a small protest was staged down at our little post office. An angry but not unruly mob of about two dozen people chanted “no standardization”. What caused this dissention? Apparently, 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 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 the status quo, at least for the time being.
Brookside is part of Mendham Township, which 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 zip codes – some people say more, but I will stick with the conservative estimate of 9 separate zip codes that residents use in their addresses. Gets a bit confusing for surveys and fund raising. My zip code, 07926 is unique to residents in Brookside. Unfortunately, there are times when this zip code is extremely problematic. For instance, American Express sends my bills to me regularly at this zip code. 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.
The other time living with the “07926” zip code became a problem was during the last Census. Apparently 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 zip code 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 were never counted in the census.
I love it here. 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.
I call Brookside my home. But home is where your heart and that can be anywhere.