Edison, The Other Electric Guy

New Jersey signage is the worst signage. Every sign has a lot of information and icons and arrows and none of them are easy to understand. Also, exit 161 used to be 162 B and 201 used to be 203 P. Or something. See? Confusing. There, now that that’s out of the way, we can dive into the fabulous fun times to be had in NJ.

First stop on sibling summer fun part II: the Thomas Edison museum. We found the museum easily because (1) There’s a huge light bulb on the way up the street towards it, and (2) there’s an extremely tall tower next to it. The tower is reminiscent of Tesla’s tower, though this tower does not shoot off electricity. Still, since everyone stole ideas from Tesla, it’s very shady territory.

For $5, we gained access to the museum and a 35-minute tour. Here, 35 minutes means at least an hour, and the tour guide, a former engineer, told us he felt like he was rushing. The hour didn’t feel like an hour, though. There was so much to learn, like Edison worked on trains and did chemistry experiments in his compartment, and Edison was an entrepreneur, printing his own newspapers and selling them at each train stop. Also, Edison invented an electric pen that involves writing on wax paper, which he also invented, and that all seems like a really burdensome way to write except that it was the first way to make a mimeograph. So smart, that Edison. We saw some machinery from the original shop that was run on steam power. It was old.

Also, we saw the evolution of the phonograph. Since my brother is a vinyl guy, I felt this was of utmost importance for him. We learned that the phrase “Put a sock in it” comes from putting a literal sock into the horn of the phonograph to mute its sound. Who knew? Well, the tour guide knew. He knew everything.

Once we were finished with the museum itself, we went out to the tower. It’s a memorial tower, which means it’s mostly for show. There’s a light bulb in it that doesn’t actually work. It’s on a pedestal with a light that shines under it to light it up.  Fact: Edison did NOT invent the light bulb. He perfected it. It had something to do with cotton. There was a lot of information.

Second stop: Thomas Edison’s laboratory, a National Park, in one of Jersey’s Oranges. There are several of them, and I don’t remember which one we went to. Not important. What is important is that as soon as we walked in, we learned that Edison and the New York Yankees have a connection. My brother was wearing a Yankees cap, and the ranger immediately launched into trivia. Edison made the concrete that was used to build the original Yankee Stadium. Who knew? Well, this guy knew, and now we knew, too.

The grounds are the labs and workshops of Edison once he moved from the first location to this one. They remain untouched and original, which means all the bottles filled with teals and mauves, all the powders and corked concoctions, all the machinery and test tubes and rusting over sinks–all touched by Edison and his crew. Pretty neat, especially if you like old stuff. Now instead of seeing just one machine from the steam-powered factory, we were walking through the factory, stuck in time. We also walked through a storage room where Edison kept one of every kind of stuff. Example: I asked the ranger, Is that human hair? The ranger answered, Yes, we put the more curious stuff up front; next to it is an elephant ear.

I was fascinated about how everything seemed to be stuck in time. We even got to meet Edison.

We also saw his office and conference room. Every room had bottles of stuff. His desk was a mess of papers and mini drawers. There were many light bulb enthusiasts about.

Before leaving, we took a glimpse into Black Maria. I know, that sounds very not okay, but I assure you, it’s fine. There was a replica of Edison’s first sound stage, which was called the Black Maria, at the edge of the grounds. We missed the actual presentation of how he came to invent the motion picture camera, but we were able to peek inside the structure to get an idea of what it was all about.

On the way out, I found a board game called Tesla Versus Edison. If it did not cost $60, I would have bought it because Tesla needs to take a stand. Also, there were these:

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Third stop: the Yogi Berra Museum. The grounds of Montclair campus are beautiful, but also, they are confusing when you don’t know where you can park. In driving back and forth, at the top of a hill, a furry friend started making his way across the road. I stopped immediately and shouted at it to go back. My brother was like, wow it’s a possum! And I was like, that’s not a possum; it’s an otter!

Clearly, we aced zoology. FYI: It was a beaver, though I also thought it was a prairie dog. He kept making fun of me because otters live in the water. I kept pointing out that at least otters and beavers look similar. Possums look like giant balding rats. I’d call this one a draw.

Anyway, the not otter went back to the roadside so I moved on back again until we found a parking lot and decided we could park there because there was a game that night and we should be allowed to park near it even if we weren’t going. The museum is attached to the baseball field and overlooks the park from the inside.

Having already visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, I knew what to expect here. Timelines and memorabilia. Yogi Berra is known for his Yogi-isms, so reading those were the highlight for me. Also, I was fascinated by the fact that most players from that time had other jobs because baseball didn’t pay them enough to earn a living. He owned a bowling alley with Phil Rizzutto! And he was a bigwig over at the Yoo-Hoo company.

We didn’t get a ticket for parking where we parked. I’m assuming the not-possum is happily roaming through the woods of Jersey. And now my brother and I are experts in not only Yogi Berra but also all things electric.

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