Vailsburg 1970 - 1980

by Mike Helminski


I'm Mike Helminski,

I'm not sure exactly what I was looking for when I came across this site, but I really enjoyed as I read a few stories, and realized re-appearing out of my past was that old Newark feeling I thought I lost a long time ago. So I'd like to also share a few random memories of my own even though wasn't as long ago as most I've read thus far.

For me it was 1971 I believe that my step family moved from Clinton Ave. to Alexander St. in Vailsburg. Clinton Ave had gotten pretty bad already and to me it was amazing to be in this new house with grass, trees and kids my age. And now I could go outside! I don't remember meeting any of them, my friends were just always my friends in my memory. We lived across from Alexander St school and had a lot of fun in and around the school yard playing new games like "catch one catch'm all 1 2 3" which was like 'hide and seek' only whoever was it had to physically catch and hold you yelling: catch one catch'm all 123! Then you were on his team and you both went looking for the others who were hiding, and so on. (Once I kind of cheated and went home ate lunch and watched TV while the others looked for me! I remember laughing as I ate 'cause I thought that was so funny). Another game called "hot peas and butter". It was like Tag - but a belt was used to whack whoever wasn't fast enough to get away.

I remember a friend named Anthony Sherman that lived across the street once came outside with his socks on inside-out and when I told him about it he said I know, that's so when I put'm back on tomorrow they'll be on the right side out!

There is something I don't think I'll ever forget that happened in front of that school. One day, it must've been when school was out for the summer, I was I guess 9 or 10 yrs old standing there in front of the school, doing who knows what when a little girl about my age came around the corner on a shiny, brand new bike. As she passed me smiling I pushed her! She did not fall but hit the wall and looked over at me and said "now why'd you go and do that for?! she said you know if you wanted a ride all you had to do was say so! "You can have a ride one day. I said I can!? She said sure! Would you like one? I said now? she said sure and stepped off the bike holding one handle bar so I could get on. I did not feel she did it out of fear at all. It felt strange but I got on and started slowly riding down the hill through the fence that leads into the playground and looked back at her. She waved me on saying 'go ahead, it's alright'. I took a quick ride in a circle and went straight back to her and said thanks, thanks a lot! She said your welcome. And anytime you want a ride you can have one. That was it. That may sound very insignificant, but that small act of kindness had an effect on me. I never forgot it. Because she caught me off guard as I never expected her to treat me as she did when I was so mean to her.

Many years later while at church (maybe 30 years) the preacher read from Proverbs (21 & 22) saying; "treating your enemies with kindness is like heaping hot coals of fire upon his head)! And as the memory of the girl came back I realized, that's exactly what she did to me all those years ago! I also remember the preacher saying an elderly woman told him after the service that she was going home to burn her husband's head off! Anyhow I didn't do stuff like that to her any more. Don't know if I ever saw her again now that I think about it.

There was another friend named Angelo Perarri that lived a few houses away. I remember my step sister (much older than us) standing between us and saying just fight fair! We fought over who knows what and he won fair and square. We were better friends after that and never fought again. He had a little white bike that folded up I thought was so cool. I remember calling it his little Italian bike. I learned to ride on it and later when he got a new one he gave it to me! Boy did I get banged up on that thing! Here's one more: a kid named tony lived across the street a little way and had a 10 speed that had thin, large wheels. We all would do crazy stuff on our bikes and he would be right with us. Once he got 2 flats from jumping home made ramps with us and even then with flat tires and bent rims he kept on going. When the sun went down you could see sparks flying. Lot of fun, but didn't last very long 'cause you couldn't get very far on square wheels!

One by one my friends moved out. Little by little things changed and by the 80's it was very different. I found other friends "up the hill" around the Smith St area and then that too changed..

Thanks for this site, thanks for all your memories! I knew it was a nice place to live at one time but I didn't know how nice, until reading your memories.

Thank you all, and God Bless You !


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