Leaning To Be A Piney
I’m not sure if this has even been brought up before… I was born and raised in Southern California. More specifically the Inland Empire aka a little smoggy slice of heaven nestled between the foot hills of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Mojave Desert. And before anyone asks; yes, I do still say “Dude”, “Totally”, and “Copasetic” and I love the bands Journey and The Beach Boys. My sister, Donna, lived in The Valley for a while and says things like “For Sure”, “Seriously” and “Gag me with a spoon”. If I ever hear those phrases again, I just might actually gag on a spoon, seriously. Even though I am from So Cal, The 714, the United States Air Force brought me to New Jersey where I retired and settled down almost 20 years ago. Looking at the Calendar I have been in Jersey almost as long as I lived out west, but I am still a Southern California boy, or “City Boy” as Charlene likes to call me.
Charlene keeps trying to turn me into a Piney, where she grew up. A Piney? My brain conjures up banjos, in-breeding, shacks and missing teeth. Those pictures couldn’t be farther from the truth. The people of the New Jersey Pine Barrens are a hard-working, give you the shirt off their back, church going, kayak paddling, gun rack in the back window of the pick-up truck kind of folk. And, while I will never be a Piney, I am damn proud to brought into the fold. And, I have looked for but have never seen the Jersey Devil.
Our website is called Escaping New Jersey; but there are many great things about New Jersey. This past weekend I spent the day doing and seeing two wonderful events that help define Piney. We started our day heading out to a little place called Whitesbog Village. Whitesbog Village came to be the mid-1800s as a Cranberry Farm or Bog. What is unique about the Village is a woman named Elizabeth White who had the idea of growing Blueberries between the bogs and helped develop a large berry bush that thrived in the sandy soils found in Southern New Jersey. In fact, blueberries in New Jersey have become a bumper crop and each year Whitesbog has a Blueberry Festival near the time the berries are becoming ripe. The festival features vendors, steam engines, tours, horticulture experts, and food. Oh, and of course Blueberries; Blueberry Pie, Ice cream, Muffins, Cookies, etc… oh, and don’t forget to buy a flat of berries or go out and pick your own while you’re there.
Remember my initial mental picture about Pineys included banjos? Well later in the day we headed out to Waretown, New Jersey, on the Southern New Jersey Coast-line, and stopped into Albert Hall. Not the Albert Hall of Beatles Music Fame but the Albert Hall known for pick’n and grinn’n. It seems George and Joe Albert and few of their friends would meet at their deer cabin in the Pines some 50 years ago or so and start picking and playing. Word of mouth spread the news and soon musicians and people from all over would show to play and enjoy the country and bluegrass sounds of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Time changes all and they moved to an old warehouse that could handle the crowds and on most times there was music both inside and outside being played on those summer weekend nights. Eventually a small but wonderfully put together Music Hall and Pick’n Shed were built and the music flows. There is a cost of admission if you go inside for the bands on stage, some good food (pies, cakes and such) and some good ‘ol A/C but $5 is small price to pay for a night’s entertainment and a room full of smiles and good will.
Escape where you are and come to New Jersey. There is a lot of history and surprises for all to enjoy. And of course, thank you for joining us on our adventure. Please subscribe and check out our YouTube channel. What’s next? I can’t wait to see.
Charlene and Don