Bridgeport, New Jersey: A White Steeple Under An Overpass

This morning I set off to cross the Barry Bridge to visit my favorite farmer’s stand in Swedesboro. I was in search of a full box of plum tomatoes to turn into a sauce base that I will freeze for winter use. Then too, it would be good to pick up some peppers to prepare a peperonata also for freezing. The boys piled into the car. We had our water and our Tripe A map. Who needs anything more?

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Just after you cross the Barry Bridge into New Jersey, the road takes you along an overpass. To the right of the overpass a white wooden church steeple rises up out of a town that is submerged below the roadway. The steeple seems to say, “Stop, take a look, we are a town down here!” I’ve always wanted to see that town but I was always on my way elsewhere. Even today, we were on our way to get our tomatoes. Maybe I would stop on the way back. Our destination today was “Ever Fresh” farmer’s market, just a few minutes from the bridge. Every visit there makes my head spin with the kitchen possibilities of all the wonderful Jersey Fresh produce mái tôn đẹp. Today I selected a box of Italian plum tomatoes to be turned into sauce; a basket of sweet Italian peppers for peperonata, several Sicilian eggplant for moussaka and fried eggplant and a quick grab of melon, peaches and corn. Summer fresh is just wonderful!

I had boxes and bags of fresh summer vegetables and spent less than $30. With the car loaded up, we began our return. This time for sure, I would turn off at the town with the white wooden steeple. We found the exit and made the descent to the town. There was the white towered church. The sign reads, Saint Paul’s Methodist. Along the same street simple and modest wood frame Victorian houses lined the way. These are the homes of yesterday’s America in the shadow of a complex metropolitan world. The new highway overpass from the Barry Bridge cut the town in half. The overpass split the town to leave the church’s white wooden steeple as a lone voice of a bisected community. We are in Bridgeport.

There is a gentle simplicity to the houses along Bridgeport’s main street. The August sun warms perception. At the far end of the town road the houses give way to marsh and creeks and broad waterways. The view is wonderfully simple and beautiful. An iron bridge that raises the full flat road bed directly upward marks the creek crossing. I don’t know what this kind of bridge is called, but it is very unusual.

This area of New Jersey allures. It begs me to see more. So, I follow route 130. The road parallels the Delaware. Except for Bridgport, the road is devoid of towns. This is the realm of industry. Tall grasses and cat tails flank the roadside. On the Delaware side, steel frameworks announce power plants and other industries. There is an eerie sense of isolation: the feeling of being lost in a faceless world hot in the summer sun with only the occasional cry of a red-winged blackbird.

Then I see a sign for Centertown: a sign for a town, a sign for people, for a community. Curiosity and the need to escape the world of industry lure me. As I follow the road, I find no town. There are no quaint streets of New Jersey wood frame Victorian houses. Instead I come upon mile after mile, acre after acre, of an industrial complex: endless blocks of cast concrete and corrugated roofs, signs that announce any number of famous companies. This is contemporary industry. This is the heir to the 19th century factory town. This is the backbone, the life blood that keeps all the other small towns alive. These are the furnaces of H.G. Wells Morlocks that give life to those who enjoy its fruits. Yet, who knows about such places? I certainly never knew that this part of New Jersey held so many industries. I am certain that our children in school never learn of such places. But, here they are, the active and vibrant commerces that enervate our society.

Eventually I turn back to the main road. I follow 130 back North to the bridge. As I make the turn to the on ramp, my eyes are taken by a rafter (yes, that’s the word) of wild turkeys. By the time I grab my cell camera they begin to retreat into the woods. There is something of a Wellsian Time Machine in this part of New Jersey. Power plants and industries share a world with wood frame houses, swamp marsh and wild turkeys. Turning off the main highway opens the way to an America little known.

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