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United States/Covers & Postmarks : A minor cover jaunt the day after Christmas

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
26 Dec 2017
07:20:39pm
We spent Christmas in Montvale, New Jersey with family. Montvale is as far north as you can go in NJ, as it's the state border with New York. We stayed over and had breakfast, another dose of Christmas pies and coffee. We left around noon and headed towards the Garden State Parkway.

Of course I had my NJ postmark covers and supplies along in the glove compartment. The wife was in a good mood and agreed to capture a few postmarks... but not to over do it. The good news and the bad news is that my collection near Montvale is fairly complete. Heading in the southern direction towards home, I checked my list and decided to head to River Vale. My great aunt lived there and I had fond memories of going to her house as a child. So off we went.

We got off the Parkway at exit 168 in the quest for River Vale. We actually passed right by the Westwood post office, as I already had it checked off on my master list. The GPS proclaimed that we had arrived! It took a few minutes to actually find the post office on the small town main street. It was a dingy little storefront. I saw that there was an open area and a lot of post office boxes, but no sales area. That's when I saw one little window closed, with "Reopen at 2pm" sign on it. Damn! It was a quarter after twelve and we weren't hanging out. So we went onward without a River Vale postmark. I couldn't see the hours on the USPS app, but upon getting home I checked and the lunch hour was 12:30-2:00pm... as in who gets an hour and half for lunch? And then I checked my timing again... I was there at 12:15! So someone even fudged on that.

From there wee headed off towards the Township of Washington post office. I have some history here. Back when the Washington At Princeton stamp was issued in 1977, I went to the first day in Princeton and then thought it would be cool to have unofficial first day covers cancelled here. I got all the way to the town and was told by locals that yes, this was the town name but the post office was Paramus. So I left empty handed back then. So my curiosity was peaked to see this post office on the USPS website.

I knew it was going to be in a shopping center from the address. So we traveled through the local towns, again right past a post office in Hillsdale. I confirmed that I already had the postmark before proceeding. GPS again proclaimed we had arrived and sure enough it was a large shopping center. The USPS banner was on the big sign up on the road. We entered the parking lot and scanned the stores end to end. No post office. So I started to drive around the back to start again at the other end, and what's on the back side of the shopping center among all the other stores receiving doors? The post office! Quite hidden.

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I was met by a clerk with the good name of Tom. He was happy to help me and showed me this interesting two color postmark. He said it gave a light impression but I was welcome to try it. So I stamped off two covers as best I could. The center is blue, while the day dial around the edge is red. He showed me how the device twisted, like a pepper mill, to get the desired day. A pleasant stop.

I then decided to head towards Paramus and knock off a few branch stations. As we headed there, we were reminded that Paramus was the site of the first mall in the country, and still home to major shopping destinations when traffic on the highway was stopped dead. We rethought our strategy and will attempt Paramus after the Christmas rush!

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Looking at the USPS app for close post offices I found New Bridge Landing. It wasn't on my hit list, but didn't sound familiar. Later I found it wasn't on my extensive list at all. A short ride and we found the very small post office and learned it was a branch of River Edge, NJ. I was the second patron, behind a young dark haired woman who was trying to mail a package. Apparently the address she had wasn't valid, so she was arguing with the clerk to send it anyway. All the time she was texting on her phone. I was getting impatient as in "get off your friggin phone and solve this situation!". Finally the clerk agreed to mail it and she paid, and went away.

The clerk was a small man with a heavy foreign accent although his name tag said he was "BILL". He was confused to my request so I pulled out my handy USPS regulation that says it's allowable to give collectors counter service for cancellations. Still confused he wanted his boss to read it. He went in the back and I heard, "Yeah that's fine", and both Bill and his boss came back to the counter.

The boss was a bit apologetic, letting me know that their hand cancel was in poor condition and he had ordered a new one. He gave me a sample cancel on a bit of register receipt paper, and recommended that I go to their main post office for cancels. I told him I was looking for his branch specific cancel and I could make the name, so he cancelled my card. Well you can nearly make it out. They even had the date slug in upside down. I made a note to try again maybe a year from now.

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I can only guess that this is a subsequent station to the original New Bridge town cancel that was only in use from 1869 to 1895. That cancel was modified to Newbridge as part of that 1895 name standardization program and the post office was discontinued in 1900. I don't have any further information on this post office branch since it wasn't listed in any of my references.

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The USPS app showed a post office called Warren Point. Again, not on my list but it sounded interesting and in the right direction. So we headed there. I found the post office in a row of older buildings on Broadway, which is now busy Route 4. It was a shabby little place with on street parking. The woman inside looked like a younger Whoopie Goldberg, and questioned the legality of giving me postmarks. I produced my magic paper which she read intently. She then canceled my two cards for me.

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Warren Point is a section of Fairlawn, NJ that originally had it's own identity and post office. The post office was established in 1894 and only ran with this postmark until 1895 and that derned name standardization act. At that point it became Warrenpoint, and it's postmark read that way until 1932. Our cover here was cancelled in that last year. From 1932 until 1941 the postmark again became two words, "Warren Point" and in 1941 it became a station of Fairlawn, which it remains to this day. That makes for a total of four different eras of postmark to collect. As of today I have two of them.

This was around 2:30 and my wife had been patient enough for one day. We were near the parkway so we pointed the big Buick south and towards our home in Pennsylvania. It was a short jaunt, but we got three good postmarks and learned a bit more about Northern NJ. A good afternoon!

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PaulMitchell
26 Dec 2017
11:16:06pm
re: A minor cover jaunt the day after Christmas

Another enjoyable story! Keep 'em coming.

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philb
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27 Dec 2017
08:24:48am

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re: A minor cover jaunt the day after Christmas

You are a true believer...i am with you on Paramus..i Big Grindo not shudder about much,but when my wife mentions IKEA !!!

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
27 Dec 2017
09:54:52am
re: A minor cover jaunt the day after Christmas

Ah Paramus!

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Here's a nice clean commercial cover using a commemorative stamp. I've had this one forever so I don't know how I acquired it. This is the type of cover I like to have in the collection. And I was 6 weeks old when this cover, probably a cleaning bill, was sent! There is a restaurant at this location today.

Paramus is an interesting place. It is the site of the first mall in the USA, which of course I have a family connection.

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Here's the old family business, William Geiger and Sons, aka Central Jewelers. My great grandfather established the store in the 1920s, here on Central Avenue in Jersey City. This photo is a current one, with new owners calling the business Christian Jewelers. The Geiger name is in stained glass which was hidden for years.. my entire life.. under a bad 1950s modernization of aluminum cladding. My father had told me the glass was under there, and it seems the current owners found it during a subsequent renovation and restored it. The family name wasn't sold with the store in 1975, but I'm sure my grandfather and his brothers would approve seeing the family name there for historical purposes. I sure do!

And you may ask why we swerved from Paramus, and yes I have a reason. As my great grandfather William had established the store and as his sons became of age, they left school around 16 and became apprentices in the trade. There were three brothers, Edward was the oldest and was trained in diamonds, my grandfather Arthur was the second son and became the watch maker. The youngest son was Edward and he was the gold guy. And this small business prospered through the depression and beyond. In fact the business took care of the family until it was sold in 1975 when the brothers retired. It was interesting to note that my grandfather never held another job, nor had ever been unemployed or had gone on a job interview his entire life!

It was in the late 1950s when the first Paramus mall was under construction. My grandfather saw the writing on the wall for small local businesses when Two Guys From Harrison department store opened up locally. There he found they could sell Timex watches for less then his wholesale price! He knew the small store couldn't compete with that. So he had the grand idea of opening a second store in the brand new Paramus mall!

My great grandfather set up the business so that eldest son Edward was in charge of the business, and the younger two brothers were merely employees rather than equal partners. It was a bad decision as Ed had the business sense of toast. As such the business never was progressive, always ran on a cash basis, and profits were kept in the safe in cash and gold, rather than distributed to the owners. My grandfather's idea was quickly snuffed. Ed wouldn't take any risks or take on debt for such an endeavor. Plus he proclaimed that the Paramus mall would be a big disaster.. in his mind, nobody would drive out to the suburbs to go shopping.

My grandfather would tell this story his entire life. It was the one "should've, could've" and regret that he had. I can only imagine how history would have played if indeed they had taken that chance! There may be a Geiger's jewelers in every mall in the country and I could be the jewelry king today! And how life goes, I don't know a darn thing about jewelry today, and I don't even wear jewelry in any way. Not even a ring or watch! Oh well.

Anyway... as we know, Paramus became one of the largest shopping destinations in the country, generating more revenue than any other zip code according to Wikipedia. And that's why traffic was jammed headed that way on the day after Christmas.

And all this shopping takes place in spite of Bergen County having one of the strictest "Blue Laws" in the country. No retail sales may take place in the county on Sundays, so all these stores are closed! The laws originally were enacted in Northern New Jersey to allow business owners a day of rest and to attend church services. Most of the counties have repealed theirs, but it came up for a referendum vote in 1993 and of 63% of voters agreed to keep the restriction! Interesting.

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Here's one of my Paramus covers from the era that I started my New Jersey collection. My Uncle Dan worked for PSE&G, which is Public Service Electric and Gas Company. Dan walked into their employment office the day he graduated high school and was instantly hired. He worked most of his career there as a meter reader, retiring with full pension at 65. He never did warm up to the modern name and always referred to the company as "Public Service" right up to his death in his mid 90s.

Back around 1973 he heard I was a stamp collector and showed up one day with a huge box of PSE&G used covers. These came from the department that received all of the payments from the utility's million customers. He thought I'd like to cut off the stamps, which indeed I was pleased to do. That's when I noticed the grand variety of postmarks. I started to keep the nice clean ones and put them in alphabetical order in a shoe box. And that's how the New Jersey collection began! So this cover is one of the originals and will forever be in the collection.

And that's also why the New Jersey collection is pretty complete in the Bergen County area we roamed yesterday. This was the main service area for the PSE&G, so the collection was formed around this area. I never knew what would be in the next box that Uncle Dan would bring me. There were a fair amount of hand cancels, and of course these were the final days of town postmarks before we got regional smears on our mail. There would also be postmarks from further away where people mailed in their check while on vacation. And that's how I got hooked on NJ postmarks as a kid!

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2010ccg
27 Dec 2017
10:31:07am
re: A minor cover jaunt the day after Christmas

Neat to hear that the post offices are actually open on Dec 26th Not in CANADA!!!!!

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