The Missing History of Humble Hazlet

Among the many readers of this blog are people who are lucky enough to live in historic cities and towns; Gettysburg and Fredericksburg to name a couple. As for the rest of us, well, we are relegated to living in normal, boring towns, where the history has been swept away by the sands of time…or worse, the plowing of a bulldozer. Most of you know that I live in Hazlet, formerly Raritan Township, if you were to look at an antique map of the area. What annoys me is that there is absolutely no history here (made even more depressing by the fact that nearby towns such as Keyport, Middletown, and Atlantic Highlands are steeped in Revolutionary War and maritime history)—any landmarks or historic sites we had (operative word, had) have been destroyed over time by our own doing.

You may now understand why I was incensed when our local rag of a paper, the Independent (among other various outlets, but their story is the one I happened upon first), ran a story today about the new $4,300 project to paint a mural on one of the walls of the town’s library, in an effort to “trace Hazlet’s history” and “look into the past”. The amount of money that they are spending on this project is irrelevant, because it is being self-funded through their committee and annual book sales. They are also using local high school students to paint it, which is a great way for them to volunteer their skills on behalf of the community. The reason for my anger is that they are ignorant of the fact that this money-hungry town has erased all of the “notable landmarks” and “history from its agrarian past through the present day”. The fact that the people who commissioned this project are so misinformed that they actually want to pretend that these things still exist is mind-boggling. It’s nothing but a slap in the face to the actual memory of this town.

The only two landmarks that I actually remember seeing after my family moved here in 1995 were right down the street from us, near our train station. One was a red barn, a type of storage depot that used to hold goods to load onto the trains heading into New York City. That was bulldozed to make room for more parking spaces. This depot was massive, and I remember as a little kid wandering around it with my friends, trying to peer through the cracks in the walls. Across the tracks was the most notable, a single chimney remaining from a ketchup factory that operated there many years before we arrived. This chimney, though incredibly thin and not in anybody’s way (and was surprisingly never marred by graffiti or damaged, not that I can remember), was knocked down to make room for literally two additional parking spots for the train station. As a further insult, they then sold off the bricks to make even more money, and to trick unsuspecting townspeople into thinking that they should own a piece of history—history which was apparently so important, they had to destroy it.

There is one other place too, which was the mansion home of Dr. John Hazlett, the man who the town is now named after. His house, which was a real landmark, has absolutely no traces left of its existence, as a youth baseball field now sits on its location. I think it has been gone for decades, but would a historical marker be so much to ask? Just a little wooden sign? Also, I want to direct you to the spelling of his last name. Notice that it differs from the name of our actual town: Hazlett and Hazlet. So there you have it, a town so steeped in stupidity that they could not even get the spelling right for the man they named it after (or they were just lazy—who needs that extra T, anyway?). What a way to give the guy a tribute!

And so this mural, which has not yet been completed, will include exactly what landmarks? Paintings of all the places that have been torn down for the almighty dollar? I suppose the powers that be would rather show citizens what used to exist than actually have the places still standing to visit. What happens when children see these items up there on the wall, and ask what they are and where to find them? “Sorry little Johnny, we had to knock down that big one in the middle so people would have more room for parking at the train station.” The one item that is certainly going to be in this mural, according to the picture emblazoned in the Independent, is a train called the “Blue Comet”, whose cars span the entire length of the masterpiece and finish with the locomotive on the right, with the name of the train plastered right there for everyone to see. The significance of this train to the town of Hazlet, you are wondering? Not one damn thing. It is merely a train that happened to pass through on its way from Atlantic City to New York. Gee, doesn’t that reflect our history? Might as well paint a modern NJ Transit logo on it, or maybe some trees. Yeah! We have trees in Hazlet, maybe that should represent us!

I would now like to summarize with some quotes from the original article along with some rebuttals: 1) “Hazlet has a strong history as an agricultural area and you really don’t see that today.” No kidding! I wonder why. 2) “[The mural] will be here a long time.” Yeah, a lot longer than the buildings you are painting that were torn down out of greed and an utter disregard for our past. 3) “It could be here forever. All of these young kids that are asking questions about it now are probably going to bring their kids back and see it here someday.” Great. I hope people ask questions. How about, just where the hell are these landmarks, and how can you pretend to care now after all these years of ignorance? The damage has been done, mural or no mural. While they are painting, they might as well add a nice big wrecking ball and maybe some dollar signs. They want an accurate picture of Hazlet? That’s one right there. Money, greed, and stupidity—the Holy Trinity.


6 thoughts on “The Missing History of Humble Hazlet

  1. John Traynor

    Now is the perfect time for your town fathers to invent a wonderful history for Hazlet!
    Perhaps the mural could contain an Indian Chief (you can pick any name you want as long as it sounds good), a nice little log cabin, a Revolutionary War soldier, and a few other colorful people.
    After that someone needs to write a brief story about each of them and it can snowball from there.

  2. Lorna G. Hazlett

    afterI saw people standing in line for gas after the storm hit in HAZLET,NJ.I saw the name and looked up what I could on the town. I found your blog too and read th every interesting story.I’m sorry so much had been lost.I hope you and your family are okay safe and warm.Blessings to you. Lorna Hazlett, Reno,NV

  3. Stephen J. Brown

    I moved here permanently in 1990 (my wife and I previously lived about a year in the Village Green condos when we were first married) and loved the way the town still had reminders of it’s rural past like the roadside patches of farmland and vegetable markets, and especially the house on the corner of N. Beers and Bethany that had not only a tractor on it’s front lawn (for the little field across the street) but a vintage fire engine as well (I never did find out what that was all about, sadly).

    The whole aspect of the place reminded me of where I grew up (Flushing, Queens) which stll had two horse ranches, swamps and even a Colonial era Quaker Meeting House which George Washington had actually used as a Headquarters for a brief time before he experienced that unpleasantness in Brooklyn and Manhattan which caused him to scoot to Jersey.

    My whole point in bringing this up is that the same damn thing happened to Flushing that happened to Hazlet – the last time I was there, only the Meeting House, the historic Bowne House (oldest home in NYC) and one of the ranches (now just a boarding stable) were still there.

    Makes you want to move to rural Maine or some damn place.


  4. Kyle Faron

    This small town that I grew up in is steeped in history, this history may not be visible or tangible in the form of rusting structures and broken down barns. It is a bay-shore town that is and always was made up of great PEOPLE. The people of this town made decisions (good or bad) to develop and modernize certain areas (like the still overcrowded train station) in order to benefit the PEOPLE living in the town. I am not one to critique a “blog” post, but I need to say this is a long diatribe of whining about a few monuments that were torn down and removed, likely for safety and for room for an ever-growing population. You have not added one single piece of interesting history or mention of some of the great people who have lived here. All towns undergo changes, especially those that sit within the central core of the most densely populated state in the country. My memories as a child are my own and in no way were less important or less valuable than some folks who are older than I. I often hear stories of the “old days” from those much older than I and it upsets me to think that these same people who once enjoyed their childhood in this area seem to think that we younger folk were deprived of these “landmarks”, which would have enriched our childhood, leaving us with some boring meaningless existence. This rationale is disconcerting and reminds me much of the issues we face in society with each generation that enters retirement labeling the proceeding generations with some negative moniker in order to make themselves feel better about the mistakes and misgivings of their own generation. I am proud of the town I grew up in and the people I shared it with. We do not need old brick towers or abandoned barns to see the value………

  5. Michael mercilliott

    I only moved to hazlet in 1999. However, living right over by the train station, I discovered some pieces of history of hazlet a lot of natives probably have never seen. when I was a kid. In the woods (which are now football fields and apparently the founder of hazlet lived) I found pieces of a car or truck which look like they might have been a ford model t or something. Where are those artifacts! Also , the ketchup factory smokestack. Not only was it a landmark, it was an Icon of hazlet. I watched the demolition of the smokestack in 2002. As the neighbors and I watched it I spoke with a couple who had been hazlet residents since the 1940s. This guy was telling me after the ketchup factory closed, him and his friends used to drink beers and trade baseball cards in the smokestack which still remained. Could
    You imagine the

  6. j. villa

    My family moved to Hazlet in 1956; brand new development homes, $13000. I watched the town grow in an opposite direction from what it should have. Yes there are landmarks no more. Sad, I always
    liked looking at that factory chimney, went by it all the time. Too many considerations given to people in the name of progress when it was really money. The powers that be gave no thought of the towns future. I married and finally left Hazlet. The landmarks are in my memory of friends and events that were part of my growing up. The town continues to allow building on any open space that will bring in tax revenues and it takes three changes to get through a traffic light.

    I agree with Greg.

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