Top 10 Things I Miss About New Jersey
The Terry-Lou Zoo in Scotch Plains
After many long battles with animal rights groups the zoo finally shut down years ago. A chief complaint was the zoo wasn't like the large, sprawling natural habitat enclosures of today. A bear on a cement floor. A tiger in a cage. It was definitely old school, but when you're a kid you don't connect all those dots and it was fascinating seeing what they had without having to travel all the way to Bronx, NY or Philadelphia. Remember the pony rides they had out front always led by the young girls in the red cowgirl hats? How about the deer that were allowed to wander the grounds with us kids and we'd feed them right out of our hand? Maybe the protestors had a point as I remember one day when a buffalo somehow got out of its pen and you never saw girls in red cowgirl hats move so quickly to keep the kids safe. Oh and the unbelievable hazmat odor of that monkey house? Still when you were a kid you weren't thinking of animal rights, and the Terry-Lou zoo is a part of my childhood forever.
The Rahway Movie Theater
Long before it became the Union County Performing Arts Center it was a movie theater. Back when movies were shown beneath ornate chandeliers and watched from crushed velvet seats. No, no drink cup holders. So many great memories though. All of the Planet Of The Apes movies and James Bond films that filled my childhood were seen there. Plus that quirky little foreign woman who managed the theater and ran such a tight ship. She was afraid of nothing and you didn't dare give her lip. If she thought you were too young to see a movie she'd make you call your parents from the lobby and send you packing. My father was even an usher in that movie theater going back to the 1950's.
Amboys Drive-in Theater in Sayreville
Okay, ANY drive-in movie theater, how about that? This was just the one we went to. Crackling speakers that you hung on your car window and hopefully didn't forget to remove before you drove off at the end of the night. Camped out in the back of dad's station wagon. The guy who played DJ from that little concrete bunker in the middle of the field and played tunes til the movies started. The food from the concession stand that you could pick out blindfolded as drive-in movie concession food because it was so mediocre yet unique that it was great. Drive-in movies are missed in my heart. They once dotted the Jersey landscape like diners. Now there's only Delsea.
The Super Diner in Rahway
Even the building is gone. Across from the Rahway train station it sat there for years, one of the true American diners. Stainless steel inside and out and looked just like the train car. Had it all. Jukeboxes in every booth. Mini boxes of cereal behind the counter and desserts under those plexi-glass domes. Owned for years by a Greek family, it was as authentic as a true diner gets. My grandmother worked too hard there for years. Everyone in that town back then knew her, but never knew her name, only knew her as “Mom”.
Parkway Toll Tokens
Anyone remember these? Those Chuck E. Cheese looking tokens you used to buy in advance for your trips down the shore? Although they accepted them for years after, the last tokens were sold in 2001. This is the only “thing” and not a “place” on my list, and I suppose part of the nostalgia is that for me it represented a time when the idea of keeping the promise of eliminating the tolls once the roads were paid off was still in play.
Sodl’s on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights
The Giant Elephant Sign At Intersection Of 35 and 27
Edison Tower Playland
The OLD Menlo Park Mall