Ironbound Section, Newark, New Jersey, circa 1945

by MaryAnn Spager


Water Hydrant, Italian Swimming Pools, White Castle Burgers, Rumble Seats and Punks

Not being an affluent neighborhood and being poor, we had no community swimming pool, but we did have an Italian swimming pool

Water hydrant

On hot, steamy nights, sitting on stoops, waiting for the cooling breeze that never comes, the quiet would be broken by someone suddenly shouting "Here comes Ralphie with the wrench." Only that special, magical wrench could open up that mystical fountain of cooling, ice cold water. Holding our breaths, we would all crowd around him in anticipation and after a few hard tugs, lo and behold! To yelps of untold joy, the cooling needles of icy cold water stung and drenched us, and we would lie prone in the middle of the street, overcome. Even the old Italian ladies on the porches welcomed the shower, as they took off their shoes, and with dresses held high, walked in the rippling collection of water now flowing down the street at curbside.

White Castle and Rumble Seats

After the good, cold drenching, we sat at curbside, exhilarated. If we had saved our pennies and had a nickel, Ralphie would collect as many as he could and then he would drive down to the White Castle for a sack. If he let you, you could ride along with him, in the rumble seat, accompanied by his dog, Blackie. Oh, the joy of riding in a rumble seat!


Then, after that great meal, he would bring out the punks he had collected from the nearby meadows and we would all sit back, put our feet up on the stoop and have a really good "smoke". We were not poor; we are rich; for anyone who never rode in a rumble seat, never had a "Ralphie", never ran in front of the spray of a water hydrant, never ate White Castle burgers nor "smoked" a punk is the poor one.


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