The needler in the haystack.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day memories

Gateway to a once-a-year world of excitement.

As a kid in the early 1950s, Labor Day meant two things: Summer vacation was over and we'd be back at the grind of school -- and the Chautauqua County Fair would fill the end of summer with farmer pride and midway razzle-dazzle.

fairgrounds was jammed with a carnival midway with rides and games offering kewpie dolls and cheap glassware as prizes.

The barns were full of the horses, cattle and pigs raised by 4-H members during the past year. Exhibit halls were filled with the canned fruits and vegetables, cakes, pies and jams and jellies of farm wives vying for prize ribbons.

The front corner of the fairgrounds near Central Avenue was filled with the latest display of John Deere, Allis-Chalmers and Ford tractors and farm equipment, each in their distinctive colors. This was designed to entice passersby, who could glimpse the display but would have to pay to enter and inspect the 'toys' more closely.

There would be competitive tractor pulls. The men would have a try at tugs of war with enormous hemp ropes. A perennial favorite was the egg toss, where couples would lightly toss an egg underhand to each other, backing up a step at a time before each toss -- often enough the girl would end up throwing the egg overhand with great force to her beau, much to everyone's amusement.

But the most exciting part to me always was the Joie Chitwood Hell Drivers stunt show.

Here's a YouTube vid of a 1952 show, same as I would have witnessed. By the way, Chitwood, a famed race car driver of the 1930s and 40s was the first to wear a safety belt.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sad state of sympathy cards

Heaven help us!

death of a friend's parent led to a trip to Norman's Hallmark in Fanwood to buy a sympathy card, and to chagrin over what's become of them.

I've been buying cards for special occasions at this shop for over thirty years -- since before it was even Irma's Bag. The shop has changed over the years, with less space devoted to giftwrap and more to tchotchkes. On this trip, I even noticed a mannequin offering clothing items.

The Hallmark greeting cards section has become enormous, even as Americans are mailing fewer items each year. And Hallmark, with an exquisitely tuned ear for marketing, has created several smaller distinctive lines offering edgy alternatives to the more traditional offerings.

But in sympathy cards, I prefer a very simple and straightforward card with plenty of space for me to write a personal note.

To my surprise, though there were over a hundred cards to choose from, there wasn't a single simple card. Everything was awash in pastel swoops and bunches of flowers. And the insides were filled with overlong treacly sentiments.

Since Hallmark wouldn't offer all this stuff if it weren't making money by doing so, the question came to my mind whether we substitute this stuff for a real expression of our sympathy and connection to those who have suffered a loss because we are just too busy, afraid to look the inevitable in the eye, or because we don't know how to express ourselves any more.

Or perhaps all three?

In any event, it's a sad state for sympathy cards.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Exhibit of Detwiller Collection drawings opens at Library

The Plainfield Public Library, one of a handful of modernist buildings in the city,
houses an outstanding collection of local architectural drawings.

The Plainfield
Public Library is mounting an exhibition from its Detwiller Collection of architectural drawings in honor of New Jersey's 350th anniversary.

Plainfield architect Charles H. Detwiller, Jr., is credited with rescuing thousands of architectural drawings that were being disposed of by the City by dumping from an upper floor window at City Hall into a dumpster in the parking lot.

The collection of over 16,000 items representing over 500 architects documents over a century of residential and commercial architecture in the Plainfield area. Its record of the architectural history of a suburban community is unique in the United States.

Among its outstanding items of interest are drawings of the Fire Headquarters on Central Avenue designed by African-American architect George Ernest Robinson, designed in 1925 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The exhibit culls 70 pieces from thirty-five sets of drawings by 24 architects. It is displayed on walls and in display cases on both levels of the Library.

Preservation of these aging documents began in 1998. The conservation and digitizing of the collection is still ongoing. This work is entirely supported through grant funding and volunteer efforts. Local funders  include the Plainfield Foundation and the Friends of the Plainfield Public Library.

The exhibit opens September 2 and runs through October during regular library hours. For more information on the Detwiller Collection, contact Sarah Hull, head of the Local History Department at (908) 757-1111 x136.

To arrange group visits, call (908) 757-1111 x129. The Plainfield Public Library is at Park Avenue and West 8th Street and is an accessible facility. Parking is available in the 8th and 9th Street lots.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mayor Mapp vetoes HAP ordinance

Mayor Mapp has vetoed the 'land grab' ordinance
that would convey Public Parking Lot 9
to the Housing Authority of Plainfield.

Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp forwarded his veto of the so-called HAP ordinance (MC 2014-16) Thursday morning to Council President Bridget Rivers and members of the governing body by hand and electronically to their email accounts. I have posted a copy of the document online (see here) and embedded it below for your reference.

The veto lists sixteen objections, several of which appear to be fatal to the ordinance, presented in descending order of importance.

Here are some of the main points --

  1. The statute cited in the proposed ordinance to justify the transfer (NJSA 40A: 12-20) is either misunderstood or purposely misconstrued by the person(s) who drafted the ordinance and does not convey the authority put forward by the ordinance's assertion;

  2. The terms and conditions of the sale are not fully set forth -- including the question of soil contamination and remediation which had been in the back of my mind;

  3. One of the properties listed in the ordinance (318-20 West Front) is actually across the street from the proposed property to be transferred and is not even owned by the City -- this is was completely missed by the Council majority in the rush to pass the ordinance;

  4. The one lot that could be transferred (the vacant lot at Madison Avenue and West 2nd Street) is in a redevelopment plan and must be conveyed for the purposes specifically outlined in that plan -- conditions not spelled out in the proposed ordinance; and

  5. The ordinance does not set forth a finding that the lots are not needed for a public use.
Further, the matter of the qualifications of the Housing Authority of Plainfield and its Community Development Corporation are addressed in several other points.

Besides unanswered questions about the experience, ability or financial wherewithal of these entities to perform as set forth, the failure of HAP Executive Director Randy Wood to submit resolutions by both his Board of Commissioners and the CDC's board authorizing the transfer is also noted.

Lastly, the mayor's letter notes there is no indication of who or what entity drafted this ordinance. (The copy that was presented to the Council at its July agenda-setting session looked fishy to me because the document did not contain either an ordinance number -- supplied by the Clerk's office -- or the customary lines for attestation by the Clerk and the Mayor.)

Has the haste of Council President Bridget Rivers and the Council majority to 'railroad' this ordinance -- to use Councilor Storch's term -- led to embarrassing the Council and sending Wood & Co. back to the drawing board?

Though Council President Rivers asserted 'we [the Council] are not going to do anything illegal' at the August second reading and hearing, the question is whether the Council will ignore the ordinance's fatal defects and vote to overturn the veto?

I don't think we've heard the last on the matter just yet.

Below is the full text of Mayor Mapp's veto.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Sharon planning recall of Mapp?

The notorious 'Re-elect Sharon' banner hung on City Hall
was doctored to remove 'Re-elect'.

Former Plainfield
mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs has been nearly as visible since losing office as she was during her two terms in City Hall.

She and a tight-knit group of supporters are regular attendees at Council meetings, where she is given extra deferential treatment -- including extra time at the mike while others are not.

Sharon can also be seen at some public events, working the crowd. The recent capper probably was the National Night Out celebration at City Hall, where the stage was taken over by Her Honor and friends, turning it into a sort of 'Sharon Show'.

During the break at last week's Council meeting for an executive session to interview Health Officer Denise Proctor over the residency waiver, someone said to me they had heard Sharon was organizing a recall of Mayor Adrian Mapp.

The scenario would include launching the campaign after the first of the year -- an elected official cannot be recalled until after at least a year in office -- and include Sharon herself as the replacement candidate.

Do I see a movie here?

'Night of the Living Dead in Plainfield'?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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