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United States/Covers & Postmarks : A Little Detour Into New Jersey

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
17 Nov 2018
02:19:36pm

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This was a crazy week! I had a commitment for an event in Devens,Massachusetts on Thursday, even though we had a winter storm predicted. It couldn't be changed because we had a tightly scheduled consultant booked. I headed south around 5:30pm and it was still dry in Devens. I knew that their Friday morning was predicted to be a mess so I decided to see how far I could get, as I knew it was snowing at home in Pennsylvania, and the storm was traveling north.

I only got two hours south when it started snowing like all the heavens were emptying! The interstate slowed down to 20mph or less and cars were leaving the road, or just getting stuck in place. I exited the road in Vernon, Connecticut and found a warm motel room for the evening. It was a good call. In the morning I took a few meetings in the room, then by the time I emerged, it was sunny and the roads were black pavement.

I went over the George Washington Bridge around 11:30 am, and a wicked thought occurred to me.... I had the entire day before me and I was in New Jersey! I did have my own laptop with my NJ postmark checklist with me! So I veered off the road into Fort Lee for a bit of adventure.

My first stop was McDonalds. I made a minimal purchase and sat down with laptop, cell phone on their WiFi, and a writing pad. Within a short time I had made a list of seven post offices within a two mile radius that I should visit. I always keep the pack of ready to service covers in my car's glove box, so let's do it!

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Fort Lee is an upscale community right where the George Washington Bridge exits into New Jersey. It is also city like,with huge stone mansions squeezed in next to each other, along with 150 years of old houses. It's high up on the Palisades Cliffs, so the bridge actually exits level with the ground. The town and surrounding area in Bergen County are quite hilly. It's an expensive area due to the proximity to New York City. There is even a Ferrari dealer! I took the above photo of the Hudson River and New York City on the opposite bank. If you look to the right, there is the bridge too.

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Anyway, there were supposed to be two post offices in Fort Lee. I already had the main town one covered, as I have with much of the surrounding area. But my first stop was to be the Fort Lee Annex. When I arrived at the address there was a Cadillac dealer there. I decided not to waste precious time looking further, especially with snow on the ground. So I moved onward. My post office listing also shows a "Palisade Station" but I couldn't find it on the USPS website, so I'm assuming it's now a DPO.

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My next stop was in Englewood. I already have Englewood and Englewood Cliffs, so I headed to the Englewood Annex. It's down a narrow dead end back street that I started doubting a post office would be in such an alley, but it was there! There is a retail window, so I went inside and the clerk happily cancelled my cover to my specification. She was curious so I spent a few minutes explaining my collection.

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From there I headed to the West Englewood post office, at 1393 Palisade Avenue in West Englewood.. I saw I was passing Englewood Cliffs post office, also on Palisade Avenue so I stopped to take a photo of this tacky little shopping center. Note that there is a competing UPS store two doors down! If ever there was an office screaming "Shut me down!" it's this one. I already had a cancel, but why not another to prove I was here? This was the stop where a clerk refused to give me a cancellation "without mailing it". I showed her my magic USPS regulation but she wasn't having it. Since I already had the cancel, I wasn't pressing it. So I addressed the envelope, she cancelled it and then turned to me saying, "It must be sealed." I had tucked the flap into the envelope and I told her it was staying that way so she put it in her outgoing mail bin. I'll bet it's sealed when it arrives!

So once again I set out to find West Englewood at 1393 Palisade Avenue. The GPS takes me to the spot where I took the scenic view of the Hudson at the top of this post! So we marked that spot as one to return to one day for a scenic ride through the park there. At that point I gave up on West Englewood. Today, some more research not done from the inside of a Hyundai reveals that it indeed exists, only in TEANECK, NJ. Another day!

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We once again hit the road, and my cell phone battery started to fail. The Waze GPS program eats batteries quicker than my car charger can replenish, and it had been on for several hours since I left Connecticut. I pulled up the directions to this next post office and wrote them down. Then I turned off Waze, hoping my battery would replenish enough for the next set of directions. I did find this post office old school, from my written directions.

Right as I was entering the post office a small jet goes roaring overhead, so low I could count the windows! That's when I figured that the airport was less than a block away. The clerk was happy to help, although she missed the stamp entirely, I was pleased with the clean and clear strike.

The next two offices are cancels I'm surprised I don't have as they are fairly large, well known towns in NJ. They are both within the area served by the PSE&G utility where my uncle worked back in the 1970s. He gave me huge boxes of envelopes from people mailing in their checks, and that's what got me interested in NJ postmarks. See the Fort Lee cover at the top of this story, that's one of my original covers.


Following my new method, the phone had charged enough to give me directions to my next stop in Lodi, New Jersey. My old car pool mate was Indian and he'd always snicker when we passed the directional sign for LODI, saying it was a naughty word in Hindi. This is from a guy who arrived in America to find out his first name, Neshit, was equally taboo. So he renamed himself Nick. Actually a pretty nice guy to know and we are still friends.


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Anyway, I wrote down the directions and made a dash for Lodi. When I got there, the line was a few people deep because a very old man was trying to understand how to send a registered letter with return receipt. The clerk kept telling him he needed the green card from the rack I was standing in front of, so I held one up for him. Next thing I know I'm filling out forms for him, and he was complaining the whole time about how confusing the post office was. He was appreciative, the clerk was happy to be done with him and maybe I bought myself a bit of Karma.

I believe I endeared myself to the clerk, since he stamped my card carefully and with a smile. You may recognize the post card I used as part of a Priority Mail envelope some dealer had used as an envelope stiffener. I thought it was cool so I cut it down to a postcard. I did think of that as I handed it over to the clerk for postmark! But he didn't complain and we left there successfully.

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I had figured Lodi was my final stop, but with the phone charging in the car while I spent time in the post office, I again was able to head for my final office, Rochelle Park. I saw it was less than a mile away so I gambled and left the Waze program running.

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Rochelle Park is a standard 1950s USPS light brick architecture. As I stood out front to take a photo, my phone died. Good enough, I had achieved my mission for the day. So I stole this photo from Google Maps. I go inside and there is a sign, "Closed for Lunch, 1-2pm"... only it's 2:05 and I'm standing there with two other waiting patrons. I stayed partly just to see how late it would go, but soon enough a large black woman with bright red dreadlocks tied into two pig tails and a large blue and white plaid bow on top (I kid you not!) unlocked the door. Seriously, she looked like Raggedy Ann. She didn't flinch and stamped my envelope, and I in turn acted like everything was normal. Maybe because we had the goods on her for opening 5 minutes late? Or just because of my good Karma from my previous stop. Either way I'll take it.

Within two hours I had visited 5 post offices, missed 2 and was now on my way to the New Jersey Turnpike and my way home. A good day, an unexpected one since it wasn't planned, and I added 4 more cancellations to the New Jersey Collection.

You may know that I try to use different envelopes and stamps to add interest to the collection. The envelopes used in today's post are the Staples brand Invitation envelopes, size 4 3/8"x 5 3/4". They fit neatly into my two pocket pages and between the two boxes, one "Pastels" and one "Brights", I have ten different colors to use. And the best part is they were free, I bought them with Staples Rewards certificates!

With the 4 postmarks added today, our count is now 807 unique postmarks out of 2188 possible, for a total of 36.88% completion. Note that the total of postmarks changes as I discover new varieties, for instance both the Fort Lee Annex and Englewood Annex were not on my list before today.

As far as current Bergen County offices I now have 61 out of 87. I cannot assume that all 26 offices are still in business, but I'll have to research it.

Until my next trip!



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ernieinjax
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19 Nov 2018
11:42:11am
re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Tom,
I love this project! I like it for a couple of reasons...

1. Its affordable..
2. Its measurable.. you always know how far along you and as that percentage creeps higher and higher you can get more and more excited.

couple of questions, why don't you address them to yourself and just mail them. Wouldn't you like them more if they "pushed the mail"? Just a thought..

Also, when you get one back with weaker strikes like the Lodi and Englewood Annex, are you tempted to ask them to do a "do over"? Happy

Keep sharing these stories.. I bet getting them is half the fun. Be well friend!

Ernie

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
19 Nov 2018
09:26:20pm

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re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Quote:

" why don't you address them to yourself and just mail them. Wouldn't you like them more if they "pushed the mail"?"



Back when I was a kid I would just put them in a town mail box and see what I got back. Those were the days when towns cancelled their own mail. Doing that today would just result in the regional mail center cancel.

I like to get them handed back to me, again because when they put them in the mail stream, dollars to donuts I get them with the town hand cancel run over by the regional mail center cancel.

My logical but lazy brother in law looked at my adventures and said, "That's a lot of work!" He asked how many POs I still needed.. I said "about 200 current POs". So he asked why I don't just do a bulk mailing to them all and be done with it. He just doesn't understand the fun of collecting and the incremental thrills involved!

Quote:

"Also, when you get one back with weaker strikes like the Lodi and Englewood Annex, are you tempted to ask them to do a "do over"?
"



There are times I do, when the postmark is completely illegible. I run into places where the cancel device is either dirty or worn. You cannot get a good cancel from those. I also measure the patience of each postal worker. I do have an envelope full of covers, so there are times I go for a second cover. There are times they'll add a second cancel onto the cover on their own. Those I'll take, it's "as it happened". But I should get a bit more picky! In the case of Lodi, I had one of that striped card, and I did want it in my collection. The cancel is readable, with LODI appearing in front of the stamp. The Englewood Annex had a worn cancel.


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2010ccg
23 Nov 2018
06:52:34am
re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Love your stories of collecting...I do a similar collection of pictorial cancels for my NS province...You meet interesting folks and each PO is unique,,,,,,Thankyou

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parkinlot
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President - West Essex Philatelic Society www.wepsonline.org
26 Nov 2018
03:44:53pm
re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

I had a job interview in Fort Lee once. There was no way I was ever going to take that job. The commute would have been a nightmare. The building was right at the entrance of the George Washington Bridge. I live about 10 miles away but under normal circumstances it would take about an hour to get there during rush hour.

For those not familiar with this area, this is where Bridgegate occured, where supposedly Governor Christy's cronies shut down lanes of the GWB because the Mayor of Fort Lee would not endorse Christy.

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vinman
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04 Dec 2018
04:44:30pm
re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Tom,
I saw this thread on another site.
http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/main.asp?webtag=stamps&nav=messages&prettyurl=%2Fstamps%2Fmessages&gid=2000072033

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
04 Dec 2018
08:46:18pm

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re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Hey Vince! It wouldn't let me on without a log in and password.

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vinman
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04 Dec 2018
09:49:13pm
re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Tom,
I tried to copy and past the thread but I was not successful. It discussed collectors taking pictures of post offices. The Post Mark Collectors Club (PMCC)recently posted a warning in their newsletter not to take photos in or outside a post office with out the station manager's permission. Apparently you cannot take photos without permission.
Here is a link to tho bulletin http://about.usps.com/posters/pos7.pdf

This is the section referring to picture taking.

Quote:

" Photographs for News, Advertising,
or Commercial Purposes
Photographs for news purposes may be
taken in entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors,
or auditoriums when used for public
meetings except where prohibited by
official signs or Security Force personnel
or other authorized personnel or a federal
court order or rule. Other photographs may
be taken only with the permission of the
local Postmaster or installation head."



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dollhaus
05 Dec 2018
09:41:39am
re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Quote:

"Apparently you cannot take photos without permission."



I would interpret the rule cited to apply to interior photos only - you can take a picture of specific areas in the building at specific times, but all other interior photos require prior approval.

Don't see any way photos taken from a public area, such a street or sidewalk, could be banned.
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pigdoc
05 Dec 2018
11:04:46am
re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Also, for Federal personnel, having them be identifiable in images is verboten. That's probably a large part of a Postmaster's concern - that USPS employees do not appear on images.

And, I'm sure there is concern at Homeland Security about images of Federal installations abetting entities that seek to physically damage those facilities. Like, showing how closely you could park a vehicle to them.

-Paul


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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
06 Dec 2018
10:48:07am

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re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Thanks Vince! I am a member of the PMCC and saw that in the newsletter. They have the largest collection of post office photographs anywhere on their website. One member, Evan Kaldish, is on a mission to visit every office in the country and has taken the lion share of those. You'll find my name in the credits for some of the NJ offices I've visited. His photography is much better than mine!

I wasn't aware of the photography ban, but being a government office, it does make sense. In the past I was tempted to take photos of some very nice historic interiors, now I will refrain. I will continue to take exterior shots. And I have copied some from Google Street View.

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
09 Dec 2018
03:34:36pm

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re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

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This is the piece that was in the PMCC Newsletter this month. It appears this was in Illinois.


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And one more cover for the New Jersey collection. Irony is that I literally pass by the Keasbey post office one Saturday a month on the way to my model car club meeting. It's unfortunate that it is always after noon when they close, and it's been on my list for at least two years to stop in and get the postmark!

So yesterday was the day. I was in the area early because I was picking up catering for our Christmas party. I got off the NJ Turnpike around 11am and was early. I immediately had the evil thought that I could do this with little effort and still be where I needed to be on time.

So I headed onto 287 North towards Perth Amboy, and then down the Smith Street exit. The post office is in a small three story office building a mile or two from there. This is nearly under the large Garden State Parkway bridge over the Raritan River. There used to be a whole little neighborhood under there, but it was all wiped out under eminent domain for the construction of the second bridge a few years ago. You'd never know it was there. So all alone is this little post office without a village.

The parking lot was empty so I first thought it was closed, but I tried the door and went inside. Unlike my local PO in Pennsylvania which was mobbed on Friday afternoon, there was nobody there! The clerk, a young fellow, looked lonely and welcomed me with a smile. I asked for my postmark and he immediately complied with this perfect strike! No problem! A pleasant visit and now I no longer have to worry about Keasbey!


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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
29 Dec 2018
04:23:17pm

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re: A Little Detour Into New Jersey

Oh I feel a road trip coming on! I was in NJ with my daughters for Christmas. I had planned a route on paper just in case my wife and daughters wanted to go shopping the day after Christmas. Nope! Didn't happen. We went to lunch with daughter number two at her new job. Can't say I minded at all!

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And to keep everyone interested... look what came in the mail yesterday! It's a card sent from Scotch Plains, NJ in 1891 to Germany. I love the large postmark and target stamp obliterator.

There are three eras of Scotch Plains postmarks. This is what I'll call type 1, which was used from the founding of the post office in 1804 up to 1895 when the US Geological Survey mandated name conformity of towns. That led to the elimination of the space between the two words, becoming Scotchplains, from 1895 until someone had some common sense and changed it back to two words again in 1905. It remains that way to today. This office is still open.

Right now I have this Type 1 and the 1905 Type 3. I am still on the look out for the 1895 to 1905 one word version to complete the set. And this card brings us to 810 unique town cancels out of 2190 possible on my list. That's 37% completion.

And back to modern day New Jersey I actually have two routes planned on paper. I think I will complete the state western shore route I started on my way back from Cape May this summer. And when I'm staying with my daughter the next time, I can do the shore route I recently planned, that will complete from Middlesex County all the way down to Cape May County at the tip.

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