The 'I am not leaving the US on my own accord' Road Trip: Day 3 (Continued from here)

Summer 2008

Wilmington, Delaware to Northern New Jersey (rough map)

The previous night's Silver Thunder tasted like Coors Light and had about the same effect - anger and disappointment. I awoke groggy, but my condition soon improved as I realized I was still in Delaware!

Our plans for the day were at places in New Jersey, so I knew my time in Delaware would not be long for this world. Appalled at the oppressing heat of 'The First State', we hurriedly packed the car so we could get inside to a temperature controlled environment.

The motel we stayed at was located along Urban Sprawl Boulevard. Big box stores, fast food and heavy urban development engulfed us. While the environment didn't make for a pleasant view of Delaware, it did afford a Taco Bell. I demanded that we stop at once as I couldn't believe my luck. Quesadillas for breakfast in a new state.

Life is good.

Ange, who was our New Jersey affiliate, soon called us. She asked how much longer we would be and Chad told her that we had just crossed the state line from Delaware. Confused, she asked what the hell we were doing in Delaware.

Apparently, there are two Poplar Grove, New Jerseys. We were looking at a map and seeing the Poplar Grove only a 1/2 hour from Delaware; when we were actually 2 hours away from our desired Poplar Grove in Northern New Jersey.

We would spend the next 2 hours on the Jersey Pike.

Before our meeting with Ange we planned to stop in nearby Paterson - the 3rd largest city in the State of New Jersey and the 110th most dangerous city in the U.S. between Seattle (109) and Savannah, Georgia (111).

Paterson was home to the one place I insisted we visit - Hinchliffe Stadium. I had seen pictures of Hinchliffe soon after reaching Nova Scotia last year and became enraged at the fact that I had just drove through the Northeast and I didn't know about it. I took to thinking of how I could get down there. 14 hour drive from NS? Stop there at xmas break? It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when.

I eventually ruled out xmas, then march break and then summer. My opportunity finally came when I decided to leave on this road trip.

Having only been in New Jersey for a half hour and a Starbucks coffee (sorry - it was late, I just wanted to get back on the highway), I didn't know much about the state and definitely nothing about Paterson.

So I took to asking some locals for the scouting report as I knew Paterson wasn't the safest place. One told me that she'd never go there unless she had a death wish. The other said that if I REALLY wanted to go, that I should go really early in the morning.

My stubborn self didn't listen to this advice and I resorted to a plan of being super aware and ready to dip out or abort the mission. I was fully expecting a scene out of New Jersey Drive with a White Delta 88 ripping around the corner, shooting to kill for the few dollars and Bud Ices we had.

We pulled off the highway into Paterson and found an industrial, working class city, reminiscent of the small towns which surround Pittsburgh. The two veterans of Detroit sploring' now scoffed at the Paterson warnings; while I continued to wait on that moment where you're driving and suddenly your surroundings are rundown.

From the highway and into Paterson, we drove on 4 streets for about 5-10 minutes. The neighbourhoods were much like Mexicantown in their architecture, businesses and population demographics. I imagine bad things happen here, but more so to people involved in bad things in the first place. This place didn't strike me as particularly dangerous, but then again, I'm comparing to cities like Cincy, Philly, Newark, Toledo and Detroit.

I was thankful for the advice that was passed down to me, but it seemed like everything would be okay.

We pulled down a road and parked in a lot across the street from Hinchliffe. Not wanting to carry valuables on us, but not wanting to leave them in the car, we stuffed them beneath our clothes in the trunk.

Chad took a little longer getting his Canon ready and his Bud Ice out of the cooler.

Eventually we braved some forest cover and watched our steps amongst the trash and bumshit, before making our way out into the main arena.

At the turn and into the 20th century, a great number of immigrants were moving to the manufacturing centres of New Jersey. These families produced children who required a place to participate in sporting events. In the 1910's and 1920's, the children played in run down lots and even graveyards. The mayor and the people of the time saw a need for a stadium and planned for its opening. The best piece of land was a old, forgotten graveyard in the centre of town - approximately 15 minutes from 75% of the population.

After exhuming the graves, the city constructed Hinchliffe atop the escarpment to the Great Paterson Falls. The new stadium was built not in a certain school of architecture but with tastes of both Art Deco and Mission Revival. The structure resembles an amphitheater of off-white walls and towers decorated with red terra cotta roofs. Each of these towers have ceramic reliefs depicting classical Olympic field events.

The stadium's configuration allowed baseball, football, track & field, boxing and musical events. The first event was the patriotic George Washington Bicentennial Birthday celebration, followed by a baseball doubleheader between the House of Davids (from Michigan) and the Paterson Professionals.

The first football played at the stadium occurred in 1930, before the stadium was anywhere close to being completed. Under pressure, the mayor decided to host the giant 'Thanksgiving Clash' held annually between the two rival high schools in Paterson. Approximately 12 000 people came to stand in the sub zero temps and watch the game in the absence of bleachers.

Once the stadium was completed in 1932, it became home to three professional football teams - the Paterson Nighthawks/Giants, Paterson Panthers and the Silk City Bears. The Paterson Panthers were the most famous of the three teams as they played in the American Professional Football Association. The Panthers would play host to a number of teams, one being the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom Vince Lombardi was playing for at the time.

The Paterson Panthers would become a farm team for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1950s.

^Highly organized hobo quarters. I've never came across one like this before.

Boxing also had a rich history at Hinchliffe as major events were attended by the likes of Babe Ruth and Sugar Ray Robinson. These events would have guest referees like Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis.

Motorcycle and car racing also took place at Paterson up until the 1960s. The racing which would become NASCAR, as well as many other race types were held at Hinchliffe.

^I always wondered how they made those numbers
(And no, I didn't organize them into '420')

Football, boxing, racing and track and field are nice and all, but the big draw came from America's favorite pastime - baseball!

At the time of Hinchliffe's opening, Jim Crow laws still existed. Jim Crow laws prevented whites and blacks from congregating together in public places. An example Jim Crow Law: (Nebraska) 1943: Miscegenation [Statute] Prohibited marriage of whites with anyone with one-eighth or more Negro, Japanese or Chinese blood.

These laws prevented major league baseball from having a mix of black and white players, so other leagues existed - Negro Leagues. The New York Black Yankees chose to play at Hinchliffe at their inauguration in 1933 until 1948. The New York Black Yankees were especially skilled in their first seasons and Hinchliffe held the Colored Championships of the Nation in 1933.

The team only survived until 1948 due to the great exodus of black players to major league baseball; which doomed the Negro Leagues. Of the famous players for the New York Black Yankees at the time, I have only heard of Leroy 'Satchel' Page.

A major claim made is that Hinchliffe is one of the last existing Negro Leagues stadiums. I couldn't find a site with proof of this, so I took to looking at each of the 75 Negro Leagues teams.

Team City Stadium & State What's There Now
Atlanta Black Crackers Atlanta Ponce de Leon Park - Demolished A shopping centre. The stadium had a famous magnolia tree which stood within the playing field...that tree still stands in the shopping centre parking lot.
Bacharach Giants Atlantic City, NJ Bacharach Park - Assumed Demolished

It was hard to find info about this one. I assume it was demolished since there's next to no info. It was a converted dog track.

Baltimore Elite Giants Baltimore, MD

Bugle Field - Demolished

Oriole Park - Demolished

Westpark Stadium - Demolished

Torn down to build a press. Now a supermarket distribution centre.

Destroyed by fire. The grounds are now home to a corporation and Barclay Elementary School.

Played home to auto racing until the 60s. Demolished in 1963.

Birmingham Black Barons Birmingham, AL Rockwood Field - Under Renovation  
Brooklyn Royal Giants Queens, NY Dexter Park - Demolished Demolished in 1955, 2 homes now stand on the land.
Chicago American Giants Chicago, IL

South Side Park III - Demolished

Comiskey Park - Demolished

It was environmentally unsafe land, but it looks like they built housing atop of it.

The owner wanted a new ballpark. He demolished Comiskey and built a new one across the street. The Comiskey site is now a parking lot.

Chatanooga Choo-Choos Chatanooga, TN Engel Stadium - In Use! Used for high school baseball games with an additional outfield wall.
Cincinnati Tigers Cincinnati, OH Crosley Field - Demolished Demolished in 1972. Various commercial businesses are now on the old footprint.
Cleveland Giants/Red Sox/Cubs Browns/Hornets/Elites/Tate Stars Cleveland, OH Luna Bowl - Demolished The team played in an old stadium at a defunct amusement park. Once the team folded, the entire area was demolished for housing.
Columbus Red Birds Columbus, OH Red Bird Stadium - Closed 2008, still stands! They stopped baseball this year, the stadium will remain in use for small car racing.
Dayton Macros Dayton, OH Duck Park - demolished Now the site of a storage company.
Detroit Stars Detroit, MI

Mack Park - demolished

Hamtramck Stadium - In Use!
(For football)

A tin and wood structure, it was demolished in the 1960's to try and revive the neighborhood by building housing there.

The field is used for local school football events.

Harrisburg Giants Harrisburg, PA West End Grounds - Demolished Now the site of a park.
Hilldale Club Darby, PA Hilldale Park - Demolished The grounds are still there, but there are no bleachers or box seats.
Homestead Grays Pittsburgh, PA Forbes Field - Demolished The stadium became run down and they demolished it. Portions of the wall and flagpole still stand on the University of Pittsburgh campus.
Indianapolis ABC's Indianapolis, IN Federal League Park - Demolished Was one of the parks also in use in the Federal League. All stadiums have since been demolished except Wrigley.
Kansas City Monarchs Kansas City, MO Municipal Stadium - Demolished Demolished when the Royals & Chiefs each built adjacent stadiums. Was a garden, now home to single family homes.
Lincoln Giants Brooklyn, NY Catholic Protectory Oval - Demolished A tiny field on the ground of a poor home for abandoned boys. The field was so small that only one man ever hit a triple here. It was demolished in 1939 to make way for the Parkchester Apts.
Louisville White Sox/Buckeyes Louisville, KY Parkway Field - Demolished The grandstands were quickly demolished, the U of Kentucky used the field for many years after, but demolished it in 1998. There's now a grass field there.
Memphis Red Sox Memphis, TN Martin Park - Demolished

Now the site of a trucking company.

Milwaukee Bears Milwaukee, WI Borchert Field - Demolished Too small for a major league team, this field was demolished and I-43 runs atop the land now.
Monroe Monarchs Monroe, LA Casino Park - Demolished No idea.
Montgomery Gray Sox Montgomery, AL College Hill Park - Demolished

No idea.

Nashville Elite Giants Nashville, TN Tom Wilson Park - Demolished Was converted into a dog track, then a ballroom before being demolished. Now a semi-truck loading dock.
New York Black Yankees New York, NY Hincliffe Stadium - Hmmm, let me see?  
New York Cubans New York, NY Hinchliffe Stadium - still checking...  
New Orleans Black Pelicans New Orleans, LA Pelican Stadium - demolished Demolished a defunct amusement park called White City to build Pelican. Pelican was demolished in 1957 to build Fontainebleu Hotel and recently Fontainebleu was closed and used for storage units plus dorms for Xavier U were built on the grounds.
Newark Bears Newark, NJ Ruppert Stadium - demolished Now a parking lot.
Newark Stars Newark, NJ Newark Schools Stadium - Still in use by Newark Schools!  
Philadelphia Stars Philadelphia, PA Penmar Park - Demolished Now some industrial land.
Pittsburgh Crawfords Pittsburgh, PA Greenlee Field - Demolished The park was very expensive and of high quality, but couldn't escape the wrecking ball in 1938 after the team disbanded. Its age was 6 years old.
Pittsburgh Keystones Pittsburgh, PA Ammon Field - Demolished The grounds remain, but no structures.
St.Louis Giants St.Louis, MO Giants Park - Demolished

The grounds remain, but no structures.

St.Louis Stars St.Louis, MO Stars Park - Demolished

The grounds remain, but no structures.

Toledo Tigers Toledo, OH Swayne Field - Demolished Now a 5/3rd bank, Rite Aid, various houses, industry and a food mart.
Washington Potomacs / Black Senators Washington, MD Griffith Stadium - Demolished Demolished in 1965. Now a Howard University Hospital.


7 out of 42 stadiums.

Their story checks out.

The population never drastically changed in Paterson, but the economics did. As the population grew poorer, Hinchliffe maintenance was seen as an excess and the school system, whom had possession of the school for events, rarely performed upkeep. The odd car show or Duke Ellington concert wasn't enough and Hinchliffe continued into disrepair.

The school system in receivership and the stadium continuing to decay, Hinchliffe was last used for school athletics in 1998.

Looking at pictures, they seem to always concentrate on the outside field. We realized why this was while at Hinchliffe as we wandered into the portion under the grandstands and didn't find much.

Hinchliffe didn't have any large pieces of graffiti, but it did have some very nice hands. It was nice to be so close to NYC where an abandoned building will have tags that exhibit can control.

And that's not a diss on Detroit either, I mean more so when I drive around Windsore and see ugly, no cap, foul, cat in the hat ass, bougie, moldy tags.

That brought our Hinchliffe excursion to an end.

While it was a quiet, pre-noon exploration; I still was never really at ease with the hobo quarters and the proximity to the street. Nevertheless, it went smooth.

If you're thinking of visiting Hinchliffe, I should say that, while it was top 5 on my places I wanted to go in the U.S., it did disappoint somewhat. It is an alright place, but it didn't move me the way the Aud did; or anywhere close for that matter.

There is currently a foundation known as The Friends of Hinchliffe who are working on its restoration and preservation.

The city park where we left our car at was actually for the Paterson Great Falls. I had asked UJ if we could go to Hinchliffe prior to this trip and while looking at the aerials, she insisted that we visit the falls as well.

Standing at 77 feet, the Great Falls are one of the larger waterfalls in Eastern New Jersey. It is the reason Paterson became what it became, as companies discovered the electricity it could provide.

These same falls are featured in an episode of The Sopranos where Rusty Irish sells drugs to Junior's 14 year old grandson and the kid jumps off this bridge while high. Therefore, the crime family decides to teach Rusty Irish a lesson by sending him off the same bridge and into the Passaic River.

Anyway, Ange was already calling us, so we had to get on our way. I made mention of how Paterson didn't seem that bad & UJ told me that the other dudes on the bridge were eyeing her camera the whole time.

Maybe we just got lucky.

The second destination couldn't have been any further removed from Paterson. In only 30 minutes, we went from the hood to Anytown, U.S.A.. Flags waved behind picket fences, people looked at us with contempt and the police were plentiful...this is where the second place is?

Well, ok. Since we had planned to sleep at the second location, we stopped at a grocery store first and bought various sandwich making items and drinks. I bought some turkey breast, New York Yankees mustard, pop tarts, water and whole grain bread (Chad/UJ had bought lettuce).

It was here that I had one of those epiphanies. As Chad and UJ rearranged the endless items of the car, I looked around at the people here, in small town New Jersey. They're probably just headed to the store for some groceries on your average day, probably will fix dinner later, and may watch some King of Queens before hitting the sack. Then you have some Michiganders & a Canadian who only know each other from meeting at a car factory in the west side of Detroit, who have drove 10 hours to trespass in a closed hospital in this random town that they only had heard about from other trespassing sources. It makes one wonder about the lives everyone around them leads.

We would be in contact with another colleague who would guide the unknowing. She would tell us where to park, who to avoid, how to cross the lawn and which of the 30 buildings to enter to be able to meet up.

She wouldn't tell us about the deer that I found in the bush and scared me half to death though.

She would lead us to a room full of records. We would spend what must have been an hour combing over them in great depths. The asylums I had been to previously didn't have much left; so to be able to read these records and get a closer view into the patient's life was enthralling.

I've always had an obsession for reading about the course that each human takes, so these records were more exciting than 3 chili cheese burritos with extra cheese.

In one row of the record room was individual file folders for each patient. Some of these contained enough information to give you a very comprehensive look into their lives.

The saddest had to be this one file folder which had a letter from a woman to a patient. He was apparently writing her and she said that she couldn't correspond anymore; that she had to go; that she's moving on; that he needs to let it go and to please stop writing her.

Could you imagine being in a 9ft x 4ft room, in physical isolation, trying to just have some correspondence and your girl turns the cold shoulder...leaving you alone, in your room, in some watered down state of existence.

I could have sat and read those files all day long, but Hinchliffe and the travel time left us here in the evening. We needed to get moving a bit if we wanted to see more than file folders.

Like clockwork though, we found a laboratory room and the group of now 8 people, took to searching the drawers and examining all finds.

One of the people who joined our group was particularly excited to find a speculum.

(If you don't know what a speculum is, follow that link because I'm unable to explain it gracefully.)

It had been nearly 5 hours since we had eaten at this point, so we found the chill room and took to eating some of those handy sandwiches and pop tarts we brought.

Ange and her two friends had to split, so we went off with UT and The Dude, who we had also arranged to meet there.

Our time was running out and we quickly checked out the front area where the security used to be.

We had originally planned to sleep at the hospital. This would save us money & it's not like any of the 3 of us would be scared. The problem came when we told Ange this while we were there and she said that we would probably be ok to park our car where it was for the night.

Not one of us seemed overly confident about parking our car there, so I stuck my neck out and asked The Dude if he would mind if we grabbed some real estate on his hotel room floor (they already had a hotel for the night). The Dude didn't even think twice and said it was more than ok. After having him show me around Woostah and now this, The Dude gets a high grade in my book.

We soon left and I scared up yet another deer on my way out. We waited for The Dude at the local Burger King while laughing at the fake, upper class New Jersey gangstahs. The Dude and UT soon rolled up and we followed them to their hotel.

We watched a documentary on South Korea and enjoyed some Domino's before retiring for the night sometime around 11.

Day 4...


Sources: 1. USA Today - Rankings of Most, Least Dangerous U.S. Cities

2. Forgotten NY - Woodhaven

3. BaseballFever.Com boards

4. Ballparks of the Negro Leagues and Barnstorming Black Baseball Teams.

5. Project Baseball - History

6. The Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium - Various Pages

7. Wikipedia - Far too many pages

8. Paterson Wikitravel

9. College Candy - My First Time at the Gyno...

10. Cappy & Vixen word of mouth

Go Home

Day 1
Detroit to Camden
Spring City

Day 2
Philly to Delaware

Day 4
Northern NJ to Long Island
Kings Park, NY
Day 5
Long Island to Norwich, CT
Day 6
Norwich, CT to Taunton, MA
Jerimoth Hill
Day 7
Taunton, MA to Northern NJ
Nearby, MA

Day 8/9
Northern, NJ to Detroit
Cedar Grove, NJ