Saturday, July 18, 2015

Chester, New Jersey, History, Hacklebarney State Park Hike


When my wife and I lived in Chester in one of the apartments above Pegasus Antiques, we used to go hiking in Hacklebarney State Park, down into the Black River Gorge. On a few occasions, I came here myself, hiking the two mile or so round trip with my super-ultra light spinning rod to fish for recently stocked trout. Yesterday we hiked down into the gorge for the first time in about 17 years, taking our son along who is nearly that old now.

We had spent some time in Chester first, visiting our former landlord who still owns the shop. While he told us about the demise of the town--he's the last antique shop, when during the 90's as many as 28 thrived--I picked out a photograph from the 19th century or early 20th of a young chorister to take home. Since my father is Director Emeritus of the American Boychoir, and I sang for 13 years under his and others' direction (Leonard Bernstein included) with Trinity Episcopal Church, Princeton, and other organizations, this little piece of history I found in Ken's shop is a fine keepsake.

Stepping back outside some time later, I caught myself and made sure to go check out the public memorial in front of his shop. A memorial for all American wars graces a black and white film photo I had taken years ago, but can't read what in the picture. Of course. I remembered. But since that time, a new memorial is placed to the left, with a life-sized statue of a soldier, and a black marble plaque honoring Iraq, 2002, included.

"Chester is dead," Ken had said. For me, this is very sad. We lived right in the middle of a thriving shop keepers town, across the street from the Public House restaurant and bar that goes back how long--I should know. I waited tables at historic Larison's Turkey Farm. Weeks after I left, Turkey Central, to my mind in honor of Benjamin Franklin, closed its doors.

The American Boychoir School is in trouble also, funds drying up. The choir invites boy singers from any and all religions--or none--and although my father began life as a Methodist, he converted to Episcopalianism, the high church denomination originating in England when King Henry the 8th separated from Rome, and the tradition with the best sacred choral anthems, the culture of sacred choral and organ music my father leads especially in America. The refinement of anthems and choral/orchestral works like those of George Frederick Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may seem alien to the American mainstream, and yet they are more central to Western Civilization than popular culture ever will be. Western Civilization, however, may be as dead as Chester. Nevertheless, a few of us draw inspiration from great music, and our lives may be happier than the sort of schizophrenia celebrated as cool.

I will never forget performing Ian Hamilton's Epitaph for this World and Time, world premier, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Manhattan, 1970. We poured out the seven vials.

 Trout Brook has wild trout
 Trout Brook


  1. Just letting you know I stopped by here, today. Helloooo!

    1. Hey Catherine, thought you'd like this one.


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