Bruce Springsteen helps announce ‘My Hometown’ exhibition space in Freehold

springsteen freehold exhibition space

JAY LUSTIG

Bruce Springsteen at the Freehold Fire Department building, March 7. The building will house a new exhibition space devoted to Springsteen’s life and career that is expected to open in 2024.

“Everything I learned of deep importance, I learned in this town,” said Bruce Springsteen, speaking at a press conference announcing a new exhibition space devoted to his life and work in his original hometown, Freehold, March 7. The event took place in downtown Freehold, at the Freehold Fire Department building, which will house the exhibition space.

A joint project of Freehold Borough and the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, the exhibition space will be called “My Hometown: The Bruce Springsteen Story Center,” Freehold Borough mayor Kevin Kane said at the press conference.

It is expected to open in mid-2024; the Fire Department will move elsewhere.

The space will include “artifacts, photographs, multi-media displays (voice, film, concert footage, interviews), and interactive displays,” according to a press release.

Archives director Eileen Chapman said at the press conference: “This multi-media exhibition space will be curated and programmed by the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music, along with Freehold historian Kevin Coyne and other members of the community deeply familiar with the Springsteen story. Together we will provide dynamic educational and public programs with strong ties to the community and area schools. Programming will include music, lectures, film screenings (and) conferences that will bring international audiences to Freehold and strengthen its place in the landscape of American music.”

JAY LUSTIG

Springsteen speaks as Springsteen Borough mayor Kevin Kane, far right, looks on.

Here is complete text of Springsteen’s speech. You can also watch it below, in the video posted to YouTube by Michelle Angermiller.

They didn’t tell me I was going to have to say anything. So, I just thought I was going to come down and get my picture taken (laughs).

But what can I say? Everything I learned of deep importance, I learned in this town. You learn most of what makes you who you are … gosh, I don’t know, by the time you’re 12, maybe. Maybe your teen years. And I had all the usual joy and the heartbreak of growing up in a small town like this. And of course, the minute the opportunity arose, I got the hell out, all right (laughs). And I suppose the unusual thing was that, moving around the world as I did, all I knew is I always came back. I always came back. And to this day, I’ve spent quite a bit of money and time trying to figure out what I keep coming back for. And so far, no answer. I’ll let you know as things go along. But I think one of the things I come back for is just this (i.e., an event like this). This is nice.

Who mentioned to me first this idea, of putting the Archives in here in connection with Monmouth? Was it you, Mike? Mike Wilson (the former Freehold Borough mayor, and a friend of Springsteen’s, who was in attendance). So at first: ‘I don’t know. They’re going to do it at Monmouth University. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes.’ Mike: ‘Well, they’re going to put it in the firehouse.’ ‘In the firehouse? That’s the coolest building in town.’ (laughs) So I said, ‘Gee, I don’t know, that sounds … well, if you can do it with everyone agreeing on what it’s going to be and how it’s going to work, that’d kind of be wonderful for me.’

The Freehold Fire Department building, as it currently stands.

The bottom line is, you can’t get away from the fact that it feels bizarre … I sat three blocks from here, came up with a few songs and things that I liked, and the idea that 50 years later, anybody was going to be interested in them at all … I mean, what are the odds, folks, you know? They’re very small.

But … (holds up hand) I’ve got on … this is the ring … my first manager, Tex Vinyard, passed away. And, uh … we were over there in Tex’s, over by the rug mill, and he gave me this ring, and I wear it on very special occasions because it’s the one thing I have that deeply connects me to Center Street and the town in general, and my great old friends that I knew at the time, and worked with and played with. That remains some essential part of me. I could not even tell you why. I don’t know why. All I know is it has, you know. And it’s the reason I’m skipping breakfast to be here today (laughs).

But all I can really do is thank everybody. Mike, and everybody here on the dais. You guys are all the best. I come to town often. Very, very often. We’ll be sitting at Federici’s (restaurant). Or I’ll just drive through on my own. I still do all the time. So, I’m watching ya.

But it’s been wonderful having this town as the center of my art and of my life. I look forward to doing that till they put me in the box. Thanks.

For more on the Springsteen archives, visit springsteenarchives.org.

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