Back On The Map

By Bob Batch

When I went to grammar school in Edgewater we had to make a map of all the landmarks in and around our town.  Part of the exercise was to learn our way around the community, and, I suppose, to become aware that there was a world beyond the borders of Edgewater.

Bob Batch

We were given a map outline and we drew in all the places we knew and labeled them.  Up past the border of Edgewater on the north end right by the GW Bridge we labeled Tom Swift’s, even though we probably didn’t know what it was.  It just sounded famous.

In the early part of the last century when kids actually read books as part of their education (and since there was nothing else to do anyway) a lot of series such as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were conceived as an inducement to young readers who could imagine themselves in the adventures related in the books.  Tom Swift was a character in a popular series that was published for years.

I vaguely remember that Tom Swift had an ‘Electric Runabout’ and a ‘Magic Cannon’ and various other devices, but I don’t think he ever had a bar/restaurant in the book series.  Maybe he retired to Fort Lee later in life, but most likely who ever owned the restaurant up on Hudson Terrace borrowed the name years ago.

At any rate, not actually knowing anything about the Tom Swift Restaurant I often wondered what the history of the whole area was back before the bridge was built.  Especially what is now Interstate Park.  I always heard stories about a big night club that was perched right up on the cliff over-looking the river.  Every body knows that the cliffs along the Palisades were used in silent films back in the day, but I’ve always been sketchy on what was park land and what actually existed before the GW Bridge and Fort Lee became the gateway to the west for tractor- trailer companies, and the traffic jam capital of Bergen County.

Today it’s hard to imagine that there was a time the bridge wasn’t there!  It’s hard to believe that there was a world that I heard about when I was a kid, of trolley cars, and ferry boats carrying passenger cars across the Hudson.  It’s almost like looking back on the days of covered wagons and steam ships.

With every new innovation, we tend to take it for granted and forget what life was like before it came along.  I can’t really remember what it was like to get up and change the channels on the T.V. set thirty years ago, ( even though I tell my kids about it when I’m trying to impress upon them how easy their lives are today) but I used to do it all the time.

I was always a sucker for those people who love to tell you how things used to be, and how it changed during their life time.  “This all used to be farms when I was a kid”. I mean the guys in bars who bend your ear, and the people who stop and talk to you just because every one they know doesn’t want to hear it any more.  They’ve got their story to tell about the life they lived and how the world changed.  Of course, having that predilection for listening to those stories means I’m probably becoming one of those people myself.

I remember fondly the old Interstate Park before they built the historic museum up by the bridge.  It was just a couple of trails and not many people went there.  The old man would take us up there when we were kids and make a little camp fire. Today we’d probably all go to jail for doing that!

I kind of miss the old Main Street in Fort Lee when you came up to the top of the hill from Edgewater – before they left all that land vacant for years only to build the recently completed Mirrored Tower of Death jutting up from the clogged roadways around the bridge entrance.  I hope that thing is not going to be reflecting sunlight anywhere in particular.  I’m imagining Chris Christie aiming it at the Mayor of Fort Lee.  All kidding aside, there’s an even bigger change coming for Fort Lee that I’ve seen in my life time when that construction site is finished.

Meanwhile, back over on Hudson Terrace there’s a new place where Tom Swift’s used to be. I’d been hearing about if for a long time before it opened because Vito from town was working on the construction, and I guess they paid him extra to advertise because he never stopped talking about it.

After it opened I passed by a few times, but I didn’t go in.  This may sound stupid, but when I see a place with valet parking I imagine that it’s too chic for me.  I think I should be pulling up with a Mercedes and meeting important investors or something, instead of unloading a bunch of unruly kids like a ring master unpacking a clown car.  It turns out they only have these valet parking services to make it easier for you to stop at the place.  When I went to the G.W. Grill I didn’t need to know anybody or need to be on any special guest list.

I don’t know anything about reviewing restaurants so I’d be terrible at it.  I’m impressed by stuff like ‘Nobody spilled anything on me’. Also, living in the city, I find the restaurants there are all cramped.  You’re practically eating with the people at the table next to you.  In New Jersey, the restaurants seem incredibly spacious by comparison.  That’s what I like in a restaurant!  Anyway, I think restaurant reviewers just get into that game to get free diners.

As a former patron of Vespas, until they changed the name to Anthony’s and went out of business, I’m glad there is another restaurant to take its place.  I must admit I’m a little bit biased toward the G.W. Grill because they have live entertainment as well.

The whole map of Edgewater and its surrounding landmarks has changed since we filled in our version back when I went to school (It’s probably changed since I started writing this article). The Borough Hall is in a different location, River Road is wider, and all the factories that lined the waterfront are gone, replaced by malls and apartment complexes.  Fort Lee is about to turn into a Donald Trump Fantasy Land and nothing will stop it now.  The best we can hope for is that the tables in its restaurant won’t get all cramped together.

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