"The true test of the first rate mind is the ability to hold contradictory ideas at the same time." F. Scott Fitzgerald
I love Flemington but I cannot say it was love at first site. Our family landed here in the throes of one of those corporate moves. We had resided in Houston for 10 years during the 1980’s oil boom that had seen Houston transform itself into one of the hottest spots on the US map. My daughters are Texans. But to stay employed we had to uproot and return to NJ, AT&T corporate headquarters. Like most parents we shopped school districts. Through the AT&T office grapevine the corporate brethren had informed us that Flemington had good schools. So we snapped up the only house we could afford in Flemington and settled in on West Road about 20 years ago. Here we faced the adjustment of going from Houston, an exciting new metropolis that took an hour to travel from end to end, to the then one traffic light hamlet of Flemington. For all the glitz and glitter Houston had to offer, you never saw anyone you knew if you went for a walk. Actually, if you went for a walk, you were threatened with heatstroke. True, there was great Texas beef, ---kicking music like Cotton-Eyed Joe, those tall, hunky, bruiser cowboys in their jeans and cowboy boots and hats. There is the incomparable, billowy, blue Texas sky but there are no foliage displays or change of seasons. Houston is hot and hotter. If it snowed a dusting’s worth, Interstate Highway 10 looked more like a demolition derby. So much concrete, hot and steamy after the rains. And those roaches, those Texas roaches! Flemington offered retreat into an intimate community and continuity in the lush green landscape of Hunterdon County, away from the maddening crowd.
On the one hand, Houston was basking in its growth and the opportunity to change into whatever it could, loving every minute of it. It was aglow with anticipation in how it could become more than it ever had been. On the other hand, Flemington, with its several generations of residents, rightly so was basking very much in its past and history, preserving what it loves about itself for the future generations.
I had tasted the excitement that the evolving world offered. Not love at first site, Flemington for me was a bit more of an acquired taste, more a love that grows after taking the time to see its subtleties, the rich texture of life in a community of people who take the time and make the effort to really care about you and about the borough, from its Boro council to its tireless cadre of volunteers like our firemen and Shade Tree Commission. Flemington functions like a brotherhood of sorts, at times fighting and squabbling like a family but still quick to help and assist, neighbor to neighbor and resident to resident, as we again witnessed with the outpouring of assistance after the Hunter Hills fire a few weeks ago. We Flemingtonians are not anonymous. In a myriad of ways so many of us are personally devoted to this little slice of Norman Rockwell Americana that embodies the very necessary humanistic qualities, albeit today often sidelined, that make it a stable community in which to raise a child. Now I too would not rush to change much about Flemington.
Life’s experience tells me that other cities should change to be more Flemington-esque. Other municipalities could benefit by adopting our ways such as the informality and personal touches we have at Boro council meetings, for instance. There everyone can speak and there everyone will be answered by a council member. This is no doubt the dream some Founder dreamed once upon a time.
But we, Flemington residents, are conflicted. We read the newspapers and catch the news. We can see globally how detrimental it is to a culture to rally to the past and not welcome or open our hearts and minds to the future. In the end nature mandates that we grow and adapt or we will surely deteriorate and die off. Flemington needs economic enhancement. In the face of developer’s aspirations for Main Street, we need to review our master plan. Flemington needs to preserve its environment and resources like our water. We cannot leave Flemington bereft of the opportunities that can better and protect the lives of its residents. So the question becomes---How do we the people of Flemington accommodate change while not ruffling the feathers of its beautiful plumage? Or put another way, those who are reluctant to change must be sure they are not crushing the pearls that will secure a continued good future for the residents of Flemington and those who champion and facilitate change must be sure they are not crushing the time-tested pearls of Flemington’s success. Never should we reduce Flemington to the level of a problem that needs to be fixed. It is a gem of a place to live. From time to time ,we just may need to buff it up here and there to shine all the brighter.