Route 46 by
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On a map, Route 46 is an east-west line connecting the entire state of New Jersey from the Pennsylvania border to the George Washington Bridge. Although its cousin, the Garden State Parkway, is better known, Route 46 was the go-to road from my early childhood in the 1950s to the day in 1972 that I left New Jersey for good.

Route 46 was the go-to road from my early childhood in the 1950s to the day in 1972 that I left New Jersey for good.

When I lived in New Jersey, the interstate highways there were planned but not yet built, so Route 46 took us everywhere we wanted to go when we traveled east or west. As a very young child, I remember going east on 46, crossing the George Washington Bridge, and then on to Mount Vernon, New York, to visit my grandparents. When I was in kindergarten, a bus heading west on 46 to Roseland took us on a field trip to Becker’s Farm, where I saw pigs for the first time. That farm was replaced by housing by the mid 1960s.

During the summer, we often headed west on Route 46 to get rich, chocolately ice cream and milk shakes at Taylor’s Dairy, on the way to Pine Brook. (Alas, my milk allergy cut short my ice cream enjoyment by age 11.) In my tween and early teen years, each summer weekday my mother drove my brother and me to day camp at Pine Brook swim club. The ride seemed really long on the way because both of us hated that camp. The ride back home seemed shorter and more pleasant. I have no idea of how long the ride really was.

My father used Route 46 for his daily commute west from our houses in Essex County (first in Verona, then North Caldwell) to his office in Parsippany. This area was considered almost rural at the time, the office being surrounded by trees and a beautiful lake. My dad appreciated the counter-commute because most people were driving east to New York City.

I don’t remember a lot about the actual road conditions of Route 46, although my research indicates that we would have crossed bridges, and I do remember a variety of scenery. The memories surrounding these trips on 46 surprised me by how vivid they are, and none of my recollections of driving on an interstate highway are comparable. I guess for me the destinations were more memorable than the road.

 

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: been there, moving, well written

Comments

  1. Laurie Levy says:

    It’s so true that we rarely have memories of trips on the interstates, we do remember those childhood trips on more scenic roads. Perhaps because they took so much longer?

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    Well, THAT was a travelogue through my own memories for sure! 46 was like 22; it went to all sorts of places that we needed to go. This also makes me recall that when I was a little kid, we used to take 46 to 202 north to Oakland to swim and play at “Sandy Beach,” one of the little resorts that used to line the Ramapo river. All are long gone.

    • Marian says:

      Alas, most of those places are gone, Dave. The last time I was on 22 was visiting friends who were then living in Westfield. I remember a curvy road, but mostly a stop at an old-fashioned diner that made delicious pancakes and where the waitresses still called me honey.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    It is the exception to find as place to eat along a highway anymore that isn’t a chain. The roads, the signs, the places to stop all blend in because they all look the same. This story was a nice trip down the old memory lane.

    • Marian says:

      Milk allergy or no, I do miss that funky old dairy that made ice cream, Khati. You could be anywhere these days and find stops all the way along your route with the same chain restaurants and stores. Boring …

  4. John Shutkin says:

    Lovely memories, Marian, and evocatively told. And, as Laurie notes, we seem to remember so much better the trips on the non-interstates. (Like my own memories of the Berlin Turnpike in CT.)

    In fact, having been a Tri-State resident myself, I’m sure I’ve been on Route 46 — I certainly remember seeing the signs when driving westbound across the GW bridge, but I can’t recall ever being on it. (And I do remember Routes 17 and 22 in NJ, as they were jammed with stores and restaurants — and traffic lights.)

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Thank you for taking us to so many lovely spots from your childhood, Marian. It is true that so many of those are now gone.

    As I read this, it made me wonder if I had corresponding memories. I don’t from my childhood in Detroit, but I do from my children’s time in the Boston area. It reminded me of taking them out Rt 117 to Dairy Joy in Weston for dinner and ice cream, going out Rt 20 to the Wayside Inn in Sudbury (where Longfellow wrote “Tales from the Wayside Inn”) and is still a functioning inn. Just up the road is an old grist mill. The kids used to love to run around there. Thanks for stirring up those memories. Perhaps I’ll write a different story, if I have some time.

  6. Thanx for sharing those memories Marian, it seems I too remember destinations more than the car trips.

    But now I’m thinking about regular childhood drives my family made from the Bronx to visit my grandparents in the Rockaways, and the license plate games we played in the car, and seeing the back of my parents’ heads in the front seat!!

    Sorry your folks didn’t pull you out of that day camp, but glad you had your brother with you to commiserate!

  7. Suzy says:

    Even though I grew up fairly near you, I’m sad to say that I don’t remember Route 46, although it looks like it goes right by Montclair State College, where I went to high school. I do remember Route 3, and Route 21. Route 21 ran along the edge of Belleville, paralleling the Passaic River, and was also known as McCarter Highway. I think that most highways also had names back then, not just numbers, so maybe I knew Route 46 by another name.

    • Marian says:

      I don’t remember any name associated with Route 46, Suzy, but that could be because my parents never said it. I do remember Route 3. Montclair State is very familiar because the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school I attended a live-in theater program there. We lived in one of the dorms but I don’t remember the name of it.

  8. It still amazes me, how much of rural America has been turned into suburbia in our lifetime. The changes we have seen… and continue to witness as the big wheel keeps on turnin’.

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