Memories of Vassar Avenue

by Nathan L. Jacobson


When I was a very little boy I lived with my parents and paternal grandmother in the first floor flat at 129 Vassar Avenue just north of Maple Avenue. In 1933 when I was 4 and my mother was expecting the birth of "what" became my younger sister we moved out of Newark. I have no pictures of that period of my life; but I do member the layout of the flat and its furniture.

For some reason it is memories of my grandmother, her canary and snake plant that are the most vivid during those 4 years. She would read to me the poems from Stevenson's "Child's Garden of Verses" and the column "Uncle Wiggly" that appeared in the Newark Evening News. She also taught me simple card games and we played a game she called "dots." It consisted of a grid of dots which she fashioned on a piece and paper. We took turns drawing vertical and horizontal lines between the dots. As a box would be formed it was scored for the person who drew the fourth line. At the end, when all the boxes were formed, the person who scored the most boxes was the winner.

There was one book of short poems entitled "Funday" which had a poem for each day of the year. The author lived across from the 2-family house in which we lived. His was a small, white, detached single family home; surrounded by a white picket fence. The family living there was named Orleans. It was Dr. Ilo Orleans who wrote that book. When I was about 80 years old, at a gathering of friends, I was introduced to a man by the name of Orleans. Naturally I inquired and of course he was the son of Ilo Orleans. Our hostess was related to him and had a copy of book. We regaled ourselves reading from it. Younger Orleans told us that each morning when he and his sister came down to breakfast there was a new poem on a blackboard to greet them and begin their day. Why I remember all this I do not know.

I remember Weequahic Park. Just inside the park, about the end of Vassar Avenue, was a big concrete awning held up by concrete pillars. It was a gigantic sandbox. There were slides and seesaws. Once in a while by grandmother would walk me through the park to a perch overlooking the Pennsylvania Railroad and New Jersey Central Railroad tracks. We would watch the large steam engines and lines of passenger and freight cars go by. If I was very lucky an engineer or fireman on the train would return my wave.


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