Down Neck

by Mary Ellen Donegan


My goodness. Reading this takes me back. My family lived at 105 Niagara Street until I was 5, when we moved to the Vailsburg section. Just the words "Down Neck" or "Ironbound Section" give me chills.

I remember that the first aid squad used to charter buses and take us to some public pool somewhere. I still have pictures of being on the bus and at the pool in my mind. Does anyone remember that?

I remember one of my father's friends, Johnny Van Volkum, on that bus. Tall with a full head of white hair. He was a Teamster like my Dad. At the time they were driving trucks but, my Dad had driven for Public Service. His daughter, Ginny, was my sister, Dianne's, best friend. I still have a picture of her.

My brother and sisters, all older than me, went to St. Aloysius and then St. Benedict's until we moved. I started Kindergarten at St. Benedict's. I can still see my Mom walking me to school and that big, red brick building.

Then there was Mickey's bar . Our house was second in from the corner. If we came out our front door, made a left, and crossed the street, there was Mickey's bar. I was in there often. Back then it wasn't a big deal for kids to be in the bars. No one even considered the idea of serving them alcoholic beverages. We just got sodas. As you walked into the bar, the bar was to your right. As usual, it was one of those long rooms just like you see on TV. On the left wall was a shuffleboard machine. I played it often with my Dad. I remember Mickey had been in a car accident and had to wear one of the neck braces for a long time - remember the old ones that were heavy white plastic - it kind of looked like a nun's cowl?

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