In this episode of SBN Newsmakers, Steve Lubetkin interviews Fred Rossi, author of Jersey People: Stories you may not have heard about people and events in New Jersey’s History, a book detailing well-known – and some lesser-known – stories about New Jersey.
Fred T. Rossi is a writer and journalist for over 30 years. Fred has extensively researched some of the lesser-known stories about interesting people and unusual events from his home state’s history. Fred is a resident of Scotch Plains. This is Fred’s first book.
You can watch the interview in the player below. The video is closed-captioned for the deaf and people with a hearing loss. Press the “CC” button in the bottom of the player to turn on captions.
Here are summaries of the chapters in Jersey People.
New Jersey Firsts
For such a small state, New Jersey has been the site of a number of “firsts,” including the first Martian
“invasion” back in 1938, the first transcontinental telephone call, the first baseball and college football games, the first highway traffic circle — and many others.
Garden State Presidents
If someone asked you how many Presidents of the United States have been from New Jersey, how would you answer? It depends on what the meaning of “from” is. Of the 44 different men who’ve occupied the Oval Office, only one was actually born in New Jersey. Another was born elsewhere but was a resident of New Jersey when he became president.
One Garden Stater Who Could’ve Been President
Poor Garret Hobart of Paterson. If not for some badly-timed failing health, he very well might have been the 26th President of the United States—and American and world history would have been altered.
Drive-Ins and Fly-Ins
Did you know that the very first patented drive-in movie theater in the country was located in New Jersey? And we also were the site of a fly-in theater.
Creepy, Kooky — And Inspired By Westfield
“They’re creepy and they’re kooky. Mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky. The Addams family.” Those altogether memorable characters were created by Charles Addams of Westfield.
What’s In A Name?
Do you know how your town got its name?
Mundy Peterson Votes
The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — which states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” — was formally enshrined in the Constitution on March 30, 1870. The following day, an election was held in Perth Amboy. An African-American man voted in that election and made history.
Wife Of One President, Grandmother Of Another
Anna Tuthill Symmes from Morristown was the wife of the 9th president and the grandmother of the 23rd president.
Let’s Make A Record
On a rainy day in May 1966, a factory worker took a band of teenage musicians — led by a 16-year-old kid from Freehold with dreams of rock-and-roll stardom named Bruce Springsteen — into a small recording studio in Bricktown for an hour of time to record two hastily-written songs.
Arresting The Governor
Benjamin Franklin’s son was the royal governor of New Jersey, and in June 1776, he was arrested for treason by revolutionaries led by Col. Nathaniel Heard, my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather.
Dr. Einstein of 112 Mercer Street
Albert Einstein spent the last two decades of his life living in Princeton, where he was a somewhat eccentric but very interesting and outspoken neighbor.
A Memorable Commencement Speaker
Does anyone remember who the commencement speaker was at their high school or college graduation ceremony? It’s a good bet that the graduating class of 1986 at Glassboro High School still does.
The Katharine Hepburn of Politics
What do you call an aristocratic, politically independent, pipe-smoking former fashion model who gets herself elected to Congress a few months before her 65th birthday? There clearly was no one like Millicent Fenwick of Bernardsville.
The Assassin From Paterson
Gaetano Bresci was a 30-year-old Italian immigrant who left his silk-weaving job in Paterson in 1900 to return to his homeland where he changed the course of Italy’s history.
Who Ate The Tomato?
The beloved tomato was not always as popular as today. Up until the 1800s, it was believed by many that they were poisonous. Enter Robert Gibbon Johnson of Salem County, alleged hero of the tomato and star of a two-century-old tale that’s more apocryphal than true—but still amusing.
The President Dies Down The Shore
The only President unluckier than William Henry Harrison, who served a mere 39 days in office, was James Garfield, who was shot on the 120th day of his presidency and died 79 days later after being brought to the Jersey Shore in hopes of helping his recuperation.
Wanna-Be Presidents and Vice Presidents
While not the “Cradle of Presidents” that Ohio is, New Jersey has sent a number of aspirants onto the
campaign trail in pursuit of the White House and the vice presidency, with mixed results.
Born In New Jersey
Were you born in New Jersey? Well, you’re not the only one.
Buried In New Jersey
There are a number of notable people spending eternity in a New Jersey cemetery.
The 183-page Jersey Stories is in its third printing, costs $20 and is available directly from the author. To pay securely with a credit card, send your e-mail address and quantity desired to JerseystoriesNJ@gmail.com. The book is also available at several independent bookstores in New Jersey as well as on gardenstatelegacy.com, and it will soon be available on Amazon. You can also check out Jersey Stories on Facebook and Instagram.
Steve Lubetkin is the news director for StateBroadcastNews.com. Steve’s journalism background includes print and broadcast reporting for NJ news organizations. He refocused on multimedia journalism and podcast production after a long career in corporate branded journalism and public relations.
He has won numerous awards for his audio and video news reporting from the Garden State Journalists Association, and he has also been recognized for video by the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has produced a wide range of audio and video podcasts in his other role as managing partner of State Broadcast News’s parent, The Lubetkin Media Companies.
Steve is co-author, with Toronto-based podcasting pioneer Donna Papacosta, of the book, The Business of Podcasting: How to Take Your Podcasting Passion from the Personal to the Professional.
In March 2021, he was elected to the board of directors of the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and in July 2021 he was named secretary of the chapter. In August 2021, he was honored by SPJ with one of the organization’s 2021 Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Member Awards, given to regular members of an SPJ chapter who go above and beyond in serving their chapter.
Steve has been the computer columnist for the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey, since 1996.
Steve also has reported on-camera and produces virtual conferences for NJSpotlightNews.org, a public policy news coverage website focused on New Jersey government and industry; and for clients of StateBroadcastNews.com, a division of The Lubetkin Media Companies LLC.
From May-November 2019, he produced and reported a weekly podcast, The CRE News Hour, a news and features program focusing on the commercial real estate industry.
From 2014 to 2019 he was New Jersey and Philadelphia editor for GlobeSt.com and filled in covering Chicago/Midwest and Atlanta.
Steve has also served (from August 2017 to March 2018) as national broadcast news correspondent for CEOReport.com, a news website focused on practical advice for senior executives in small- and medium-sized companies.
Earlier in his career, Steve reported on rock music at the Jersey Shore for the Asbury Park Press, and was a broadcast news anchor and production engineer for WJLK-AM & FM, then owned by the Press. He also worked as a general assignment reporter for the Red Bank Register, Shrewsbury, NJ.
You can email Steve at email@example.com.