Passing: Liberty Travel on Route 4
Journeys into River Edge
Much as the construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway decimated neighborhoods across that borough during the mid-20th century, so too did Route 4’s arrival similarly cut through River Edge. During the 1930’s, the Cherry Hill section of town saw the demolition of homes, businesses and even a school as the highway from the GW Bridge was built. While the new road allowed ultimately thousands to come to settle in the area, providing them to own an affordable home of their own and build their version of the post-war American dream, it also served a blow from which Cherry Hill/North Hackensack has never recovered almost a century later.
Given this history and the marginalization of the southern tip of town on the other side of Route 4, it perhaps was hardly noticed when a long time area business recently closed for good. Liberty Travel had long been on the south side of Route 4 at the intersection of Main Street and the Coles Brook. Barely in River Edge, it was nonetheless a mainstay business that served the community for some 60 years.
On a personal level it was to Liberty Travel that my Dad went to make our family travel plans. But that type of vacation came in later years, only after some semblance of financial success and security. In early years our family trips were by car to places such as Boston, Washington, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Niagara Falls, Lake Placed, and Montreal. But then in the mid-1960’s a business convention in California got us to fly for the first time. Liberty Travel helped us navigate this new world of travel as we flew to San Francisco then drove down the coast to L.A. and Disneyland. Planning for that family trip would prove to be the first of many travel plans my Dad secured through Liberty Travel that took him, my Mom and sometimes my sister and I too to places around the globe.
So to us Liberty Travel was more than a local business or a travel agency. The place was a portal into a beckoning world beyond Zabriskie Place, Kinderkamack Road, and Main Street.
Looking back, the trips and tours were pretty cookie cutter. But at the time they were exotic for us.
Over time, the limitations and conventionality of these trips prompted me to yearn for more. Out of this yearning that there existed more out there than Liberty Travel was serving up, “Journeys Into”, and these explorations of the offbeat, off the beaten path, overlooked and forgotten were born.
So, my memories and feelings for Liberty Travel were mixed and complex. There are those memories of early trips that opened up a new world. At the same time, Liberty Travel also came to represent travel as “product”, rather than an experience. That there existed more out there beyond the conventional tourist spots inspired me to seek more. This search continues these many decades later.
Apparently others felt the same way. Perhaps it was the advent of the internet and sites such as Travelocity which left margins too tight to carry on. Perhaps it was a more independent minded traveler. Or maybe it was the case of the COVID economy killing off yet another business. Who knows.
But still there is something to be said for longevity. So we take this moment to honor Liberty Travel and the dreams that it help nurture and make accessible to so many for so long.
Today’s dreams and dreamers are different. We can only hope that the new business that occupies that spot can claim its own successes as did the old travel business during its heyday.