Cruising the Green of Second Avenue

Wild Child Publishing has issued the second volume of short stories in Cruising the Green of Second Avenue. The tales take up where Vol. I left off — bringing back Klein the Biker, Straight Charlie and Sammy the Madman while introducing new characters stumbling over life’s difficulties in the late 60s. Vol. II is an e-book published by Wild Child Publishing that you can download, save as a pdf (Adobe) file and print. Read both volumes and see that life isn't all that serious. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other online book sellers.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Vote

Elections seem to get more baffling each season, but this isn’t the first time New Jersey has run into some curious situations. 

Biting the Voter in the Neck?  One of the most controversial candidates was Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey, who filed to run for President in 2004 and 2008 as an Independent candidate.  He was familiar to Jerseyans, however, as reported by  He had run for Congress in New Jersey as the Republican candidate in 1999, in Indiana with the Reform Party in 2000, and once again as Republican in Florida in 2001, and governor of Minnesota in 2006. 

Sharkey proclaimed himself to be a Luciferian, vampire, professional boxer and wrestler under the name of Rocky "Hurricane" Flash.  He founded the Vampires, Witches and Pagans Party in 2005, a party officially recognized by United States Federal Election Committee. 

During his 2006 run, when asked about violent criminals during a press conference, Sharkey told reporters that he would impale murderers, rapists and other dangerous offenders on the capitol lawn, just as Vlad the Impaler supposedly did in Romania during the mid-1400s.   

Honest Abe Never Carried the State  The Democrats met in April 1860 amid great turmoil to select their candidate for President.  Northern Democrats felt that Stephen Douglas had the best chance to defeat the “Black Republicans” and nominated him.  Southern Democrats considered Douglas a traitor because he wanted to let territories choose not to have slavery, and stormed out of the convention.  At a separate convention, southern Democrats chose then vice president John C. Breckenridge.  But troubles were only beginning, according to the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia.

The Republicans met in Chicago and recognized that the Democrat’s turmoil actually gave them a chance to win.  They needed a candidate who could carry the North with a majority of the electoral votes.  To do that, they needed someone who could win New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania — four important states that remained uncertain.  Abraham Lincoln emerged as the best choice as the symbol of the frontier, hard work, the self-made man and the American dream.  His debates with Douglas in early 1860 had made him a well-known national figure.    

A number of politicians and citizens calling themselves the Constitutional Union Party nominated John Bell of Tennessee, a wealthy slaveholder.  They were for moderation, deciding the best way was to take no stand at all on the issues dividing the north and the south. 

With four candidates in the field, Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote, but garnered 180 electoral votes — enough to narrowly win.  Abe Lincoln failed to carry New Jersey, losing to Douglas in 1860.  (He lost again, four years later, to George B. McClellan.)  

A few weeks after the election, South Carolina seceded from the Union.

The states that Lincoln won are shown in red, Breckenridge in green, Bell in orange and Douglas in brown.  In 1864, Douglas won only New Jersey, Kentucky and Delaware.

Nominating the Birthday Boy  One of the unlikeliest of host cities for a party convention was also the scene of one the most unusual moments in convention history.  Democratic delegates attending the 1964 gathering in Atlantic City were greeted with the usual pomp and spectacle, but with one special twist, according to the History Channel website 
President Lyndon Johnson, never one to shy away from public adoration, had arranged for the final night of the convention to fall on his 56th birthday. His acceptance speech was followed with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the crowd, and topped off not just by balloons but fireworks.
There’s no record of birthday cake being served to the thousands of attendees. 
Oops, There Goes a Vote  Because of the 2010 Census Reapportionment, New Jersey lost one electoral vote, giving it 14 through the 2020 presidential election, according to the political website
New Jersey, one of the 13 original colonies, joined the Union in December 1787 and has participated in all 57 presidential elections.  Thanks to the density of our population, the state has more electoral votes per square mile than any state except Rhode Island.  Our 14 electoral votes make it a rich prize.  New Jersey has gone Democratic in the last six elections, after voting Republican in eight out of the previous 10.  Barack Obama won the state over Mitt Romney by a margin of 58 percent to 41 percent in 2012.  
Back When New Jersey Women Voted.  Really.  The Founding fathers’ electoral college didn't do much for the Founding mothers, wrote Akhi Reed Amar and Vikram David Amar in a legal analysis, “History, Slavery, Sexism, the South and the Electoral College.”  
In a system of direct national election, any state that chose to enfranchise its women would have automatically doubled its voting power in presidential elections.  The era of universal white manhood suffrage in the early 19th century saw many other restrictions on voting.  New Jersey was the one state that had allowed women property holders to vote.  Women lost that right in the early 1800s with the introduction of universal white manhood suffrage.  
Under the electoral college, each state got a fixed number of electoral votes based on population, regardless of how many or few citizens were allowed to vote or actually voted.  As with slaves, what mattered was simply how many women resided in a state, not how many could vote there.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Greenwich Gathers for a Tea Party

A local monument lists the colonists who participated
in the “tea party”
On this Independence Day commemorating our own "Brexit," it's worth remembering an earlier break-up.

Everyone knows about the Boston Tea Party when the colonists dumped British tea into the harbor to protest King George’s taxes.  But did you know the little town of Greenwich (pronounced GREEN-wich), N.J., had its own gathering on the night of Dec. 22, 1774.  It was almost exactly one year after the famed Boston incident. 

In fact, “There were five incidents up and down the East Coast where they destroyed tea,” says Bob Francois of the Cumberland County Historical Society.  Charleston, Annapolis and Princeton also sabotaged imported tea.

On that night, a group of about 40 South Jersey patriots braved the cold to protest British taxation.  The villagers stole a shipment of tea, hauled it to the town square and set it ablaze to express their defiance.

“The tea that arrived in Greenwich came on the second attempt to deliver the shipment,” said Jonathan Wood, former president of the Cumberland County Historical Society.  “The first attempt was hindered by a group of Philadelphia patriots.  They said, ‘If you will turn the ship around, there will be no problems at all.  If you decide that you will not turn the ship around, you have never seen as much trouble as you are about to see.’  The ship simply turned around and went back to the European port.”

A year later, the British tried to deliver tea again.  This time, the Greyhound sailed four miles up the Cohansey River and hid its cargo in Greenwich, a peaceful settlement of Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians.  They intended to secretly hold the shipment in Greenwich until it was safe to move it overland to Philadelphia.

John Fea, associate professor of American history at Pennsylvania’s Messiah College, researched the incident through Philip Vickers Fithian’s diaries.  Fithian returned to Greenwich just before the tea burning and wrote, “Last night the tea was, by a number of persons in disguise, taken out of the house and consumed with fire,  Violent and different are the words about this uncommon manoeuvre among the inhabitants.  Some rave, some curse and condemn, some try to reason; many are glad the tea is destroyed, but almost all disapprove the manner of the destruction.”

The East India Tea Company, owners of the tea, weren’t happy and appealed to Gov. William Franklin for justice.  Franklin told Sheriff Jonathan Elmer to arrest the participants, some of them being Elmer’s own relatives.

Sheriff Elmer brought the men to trial, but chose a jury of sympathetic Whigs and his own nephew as foreman.  The verdict: “No cause for action.”  Gov. Franklin promptly removed the sheriff and appointed Daniel Bowen, the loyalist who had stored the tea.  The second jury also found no cause for action.  The tea owners and governor gave up.

The tea party participants went on to lead very public lives.  Most that took part in the burning enlisted in the Continental Army.  Four would give their lives for freedom.  Sheriff Elmer was elected one of the first two senators from New Jersey.  Richard Howell, in whose home they assembled on that night, became governor of the state in 1792.  Joseph Bloomfield, defense attorney at both trials, succeeded Howell as governor, and the town of Bloomfield is named after him.

“We don’t know a lot about what actually happened that night,” admits Fea.  “In Cumberland County, there were no Revolutionary War battles.  The tea burning was a major happening in our county, and even though it happened back in 1774 it’s still in the forefront and the locals really celebrate it.”

The lesson of the tea burning is important even if details are missing.  It’s a story of revolt.  The central characters are ordinary individuals rather than war heroes or politicians.  Fea says, “The tea burning is what the Revolution looked like in a local town.” 

Greenwich faded as a major commercial hub in the early 1800s, and its population now stands at just over 800 residents.  The buildings that once were businesses are now homes along Ye Greate Street.  The two-mile long main avenue’s course hasn’t changed since 1684. 

In its heyday, Greenwich had 11 taverns where people would gather and gossip.  It was a thriving port, and by 1701 was one of only three official ports of entry for New Jersey.  (The other two were Burlington and Perth Amboy.)  Foreign ships unloaded their cargoes that were then hauled to Philadelphia or Burlington overland or on smaller boats.

Today’s commercial life is largely limited to the Greenwich Country Store & Deli and Aunt Betty’s Kitchen.  Along Ye Greate Street is the Gibbon House, a 1730 replica of a London townhouse that houses the historical society. 

While time may have forgotten this south Jersey town, visiting Greenwich is like stepping pleasantly back into the 18th century.