All you ever wanted to know about New Jersey

September 06, 1992|By Fred Rasmussen

THE NEW JERSEY BOOK OF LISTS.

Gerald Tomlinson

and Ronald A. Mayer.

Home Run Press.

1! 192 pages. $9.95 (paperback).

This is an amazing collection of trivia on New Jersey, written by a resident of Lake Hopatcong (near the largest lake in the state -- Page 78) and one of East Hanover (home of Prima Donna's restaurant, No. 11 of the state's top 12 Italian restaurants -- Page 137). You may learn all you may ever want to know about the Garden State -- or is it the Mosquito State, or the Switzerland of America (nine nicknames for the state -- Page 176)?

Did you know that John Bongiovani (known in the music world as Jon Bon Jovi), Connie Francis, Whitney Houston, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Sarah Vaughan and Dionne Warwick were born in New Jersey?

Or that Sandra Dee, Brian Keith and Frank Langella were born in Bayonne? Danny DeVito (Neptune), Michael Douglas (New Brunswick), Mel Ferrer (Elberon), Bette Midler (Paterson), Jack Nicholson (Neptune) and Meryl Streep (Summit) are but a few of the notable film stars with roots in the Clam State.

Harriet Tubman, the "Moses of Her People," was born a slave in Maryland but spent 1849 to 1852 in Cape May helping slaves escape northward through the Underground Railroad.

New Jersey has a reputation as a Mafia haven, and one of the most dramatic Mafia rub-outs was the Willie Moretti hit ordered by Vito Genovese after Moretti sang before the Kefauver Committee in 1951. As Moretti prepared to dine in a Cliffside Park restaurant, shots rang out. The waitress who could have identified the trigger man just happened to be out of the room.

If you're tired of crime figures, how about ghosts? There are 10 ghosts that haunt the state and one, a uniformed American naval officer, hangs around Hangar One at Lakehurst Naval Air Station -- where the Hindenburg, Graf Zeppelin and Shenandoah were once housed -- scaring the dickens out of everyone.

The list of great military officers includes Norman Schwarzkopf (Trenton) and James ("Don't give up the ship") Lawrence, commander of the naval vessel Chesapeake, upon whose decks he was mortally wounded during the War of 1812. He hailed from Burlington.

Then there are the monuments to now-forgotten achievements such as the one to an early aviation pioneer. Deep in the Pine Barrens of Wharton State Forest is a cement shaft to the "Mexican Lindbergh," Capt. Emilio Carranza,who crashed there in a violent storm while flying back to Mexico in 1928. This guide will direct you there.

Thomas Alva Edison not only invented the light bulb at Menlo Park but practically invented the motion picture and record business at his vast factories in West Orange. His "Great Train Robbery" feature film was made not in the West but in western New Jersey, along the tracks of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.

There are categories devoted to best parks, demolished Atlantic City hotels, Jersey Shore amusement parks, firsts and lasts, tallest buildings, highest incomes, sports figures, inventions, writers, medicine, law firms, autos once manufactured there and upscale neighborhoods.

This book alters the wrongful impressions that most folks have of New Jersey gathered primarily from that dreary artery known as the New Jersey Turnpike. While the state's very existence has provided boxcar loads of material for the nation's comics and New Yawkers, who look down their nose at anything west of the Hudson, this book reveals that Jersey has a rich, varied and fascinating past. After all, how could you knock a place that gave us Lou Costello and saltwater taffy?

Mr. Rasmussen, a member of The Sun's Baltimore County bureau, grew up in the Camden & Amboy State.

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