Down Neck

by Bob Melis


I was born in Newark in 1940 and lived down neck (ironbound section). My dad was born in Newark in 1917. I still remember the cobble stone streets and the horses pulling wagons (rag man and vegetable man). We used to step in the horse manure for good luck. The best hot dogs were sold out of a wagon pulled by horse. When we finished swimming, we always got one of his hot dogs and then on our way home stopped at the Nabisco bakery for discount donuts (couldn't past up the smell of freshly baked bread in the air).

During World War II, my Dad had a war garden and chickens - imagine that in a city. My favorite memories were down the Newark Bay, meadows and dumps. We used to go there to crab, swim and collect mushrooms. The bay was polluted but there were still crabs, eels and some small fish. We'd catch kellies and use them for bait to catch crabs and cook them on the beach. In the fall my dad would take us to find mushrooms. I remember bird hunters there at the same time and I used to retrieve their birds (something that helped me to decide not to be a hunter). When we used to go down the bay past the stink house (waste processing plant) we knew we were close to our destination. I remember building an eel trap and bringing it down the bay on my bicycle. After hurricanes we would find many interesting thinks such as boats that went adrift. I also learned to ice skate on a pond in the dumps with a pair of skates a buddy of mine stole from the basement in his three story multi-family house.

All that changed once the oil companies moved in and started discharging their sludge into the bay, and I guess I started growing up. Our private swimming hole, which was an inlet, was filled with sludge instead of water and the whole bay eventually was covered with oil, killing everything that lived in it. So as things changed I spent more time on the streets playing kick-the-can, buck-buck how many fingers up, roller derby on the newly paved street, fishing with one of my best buddies, sand lot ball, and pole vaulting in a lot next to the public bath house. That's also were I earned one of my first dollars shining shoes. I had a route going to the Pubs and then ending up at the bathhouse to shine shoes. We had our pecking order and had to get there the right time. Certain nights (I believe it was Wed and Friday) were the best since people would go to the bath house and have their shoes shined before going out that evening. That bathhouse was also a place where you could go to swim. Alternate days for boys and girls since you had to swim in the nude. On girls day we'd play ball in the lot next store and fight over who would retrieve a ball when it wound up on the roof of the bathhouse. I never made it up there but what stories the guys told that did go up and looked through the sky light.

Anyway, those are some fond memories from a boy from Newark. I bet my Dad who is 87 could tell you even more.

Question: Can you tell me what happened to Fidelity Union Trust Company?


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