There is an uncommon loyalty by people who have grown up in the state of New Jersey. Perhaps this commitment is shared by most Americans who grew up in small towns, but my experiences tell me that this feeling is by no means universal. I grew up in a small town called Highland Park (and graduated from its high school), located in central New Jersey (exit 9 on the NJ Turnpike), consisting of some 14,000 souls in 1.8 square miles (4.8 square kilometers), tucked in to the Raritan River and across from (north of) the middle-sized historical city of New Brunswick (George Washington slept there, or at least I think he did), home of the main campus of Rutgers University (the State University of New Jersey) and the international headquarters of the pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson – also known as “J&J”. The larger township of Edison is located to the northeast (think Thomas Edison, the antisemitic inventor of the lightbulb and many other things) and Piscataway Township is located to the west. I know that it’s notoriously changeable, but Wikipedia has a good summary of Highland Park.
J&J has a long and fascinating history: It is used as an important example of a high quality company “built to last” by business authors James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (I have the third edition published by Random House in 2000, see http://www.amazon.com/Built-Last-Successful-Visionary-Essentials/dp/0060516402/ and http://www.jimcollins.com/books.html). I currently live in Sydney, Australia, not far from the J&J Australian headquarters, which is housed in a building that I just love: it is a three storey red-brick building with white Doric (?) columns out front, looking for all intents and purposes just like it was snatched from the fields of New Jersey and plunked right down in … the northern suburbs of Sydney. It’s totally incongruous, and only us American-born folks recognise that building for what it is: an outpost of an American pharmaceutical giant sitting in the South Pacific nation of Australia, whose head of state legally still is … the Queen of England. (And by the way, the mayor of Highland Park from 1920-21 was Robert Wood Johnson II, the son of the founder of J&J and later its President and Chair of the Board.)
For those pining for the Highland Park of yore, there are three essential books for your bookshelf, all published by Arcadia Publishing, which specialises in local American histories. For Highland Park alumni, residents and former residents here are three “must have” books from their “Images of America” series:
And for completeness, go to another Arcadia book, this one about New Brunswick, by Timothy E. Regan (2003).
Coming up soon: literature set in Highland Park, New Jersey.