Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

I want to go everywhere I haven't been, and back to everywhere I have been.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A NATIONAL PARK IN MY HOME TOWN: PATERSON GREAT FALLS




Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes



Is there anything in particular that your home town is known for?

Is it the site of an annual mashed potato wrestling event, like Clark, South Dakota?
Can it claim to be the smallest town in America (population: 1),
like Buford, Wyoming
Does everyone in the town reside in a single building,
like Whittier, Alaska?

The city where I grew up (not where I live now)

actually has several claims to fame
(I'll get to those in another post),
though none quite as amusing as the ones above.
However, the fact that Paterson, NJ is home to the  
Great Falls National Historical Park 
is a source of civic pride for residents, both current and past.

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


The falls have been flowing for, oh, 13,000-ish years, 
since about the end of the Ice Age........a tad before my time.
Just 18 miles from midtown Manhattan,  
it is the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, 
second only to its more famous sister, Niagara Falls.
And you thought New Jersey's national landmark
was the Vince Lombardi Rest Area on the turnpike!
Hah!
If there's one thing I hope to do via this blog,
it's to help change the negative image my little state wrongly endures.
We've got lots of natural beauty here in NJ,
but today, the Great Falls are front and center.

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


When I was a kid growing up in Paterson, NJ,
the Great Falls didn't have a national park designation.
That didn't make them any less spectacular, of course,
but when they were named as a national landmark in 1976,
we Patersonians were proud as peacocks.
 And then, in 2009, when the falls were designated as a national park,
well, to say we were bursting with pride would be a bit of an understatement. 

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


We always knew the Great Falls were a special spot,
but now, their splendor would be recognized nationwide.
Most importantly, the site would be eligible for millions of dollars in federal funds.

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


This was hugely important, because unfortunately, 
over the years, the area surrounding the falls had deteriorated badly.
The neighborhood was unsafe;
historically important buildings were literally crumbling, 
and a nearby stadium, which once held elite status,
was abandoned, and had decayed badly.

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


The Great Falls have an important place in history.
Alexander Hamilton.......
yes, THAT Hamilton........
the very same who is currently the hot ticket on Broadway, 
visited the area and was so impressed, 
he selected Paterson as the first planned industrial city.
The 77-foot waterfall soon powered local silk mills,
earning Paterson the nickname "Silk City."
My grandfather and great uncles worked in those very mills,
as did many of the area's immigrant population.
The falls also powered companies such as Rogers Locomotive, 
Colt (maker of the famed revolver), and the USS Holland submarine.

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


As kids, our parents would take us to the falls for picnics. 
Every Thanksgiving we'd go to the stadium next door for high school football games. 
But there was no denying that the area was in sad shape.
In the early 70's, many people I knew (friends, teachers, politicians) 
began a revitalization project to clean up the neighborhood,
and restore it to its former glory.
The goal was to make the Great Falls
as vibrant and attractive to visitors as it once was.
Since that time, the district has come a long way.
It's been cleaned up, and is safe to visit. 
A welcome center includes exhibits that explain the history of the area,
and........we've got our very own park ranger!

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Although the falls are only about a half hour from where I live,
I hadn't been there in about ten years.  
When my photography teacher announced that our field trip
would be to the Great Falls, I was delighted!

This was the first time I'd be going back with a decent camera.
In the past, I could blame terrible pictures
on ancient photographic technology;
this time, I'd have to "woman up" and take responsibility for my shots.

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


So there I was, with my classmates, snapping away at the falls.
Did I feel intimidated taking pictures with a teacher 
who had a renowned career at Sports Illustrated?
Uh, yeah.....you bet I did. 
It would be one thing if the pictures I took 
could stay private between me and my camera.
 But, our assignment was to show a few of our best images in class. 
No pressure........nope. 😓

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


I took over 200 photos, and when I got home and scanned them,
I thought they were all awful. 
I took a deep breath, ate a bag of candy corn,
and gave the dog a bath.
I needed to put some space between me and iPhoto.

A couple of hours later, I took a closer look,
and this time, I found a few pictures that I liked. 
A little cropping here, a little enhancement there,
and I had some that I felt good about presenting in class.
Most of the photos in this blog post are the ones I showed.
I got some constructive feedback, but overall, they were well-received.
It was interesting to see how everyone saw the same scenery,
but captured it differently on their cameras.

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes


It was wonderful to go back home and see 
all of the positive changes at the Great Falls since I'd last been there.
A lot of work remains to be done in the surrounding historic district,
and some of the same people I knew back in the day are still involved with the project.

Just around the time I visited, there was a poll on Facebook  
for a new slogan to help improve Paterson's image.
My friends and I all agreed there was one obvious choice:

Great Falls, Great Food, Great Future

It won.  




 

Spectacular Paterson Great Falls: the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River after Niagara. | Ms. Toody Goo Shoes