Father John Preston was the pastor of Saint
Aloysius Church from 1914 -1928. He was the fourth pastor of "St.
Al's'. During his 14 years as pastor he was truly looked upon as
a leader. Back then few people had more than a primary education.
Many more had less and than like my Grandfather some had none.
The priest, doctor and teacher were the educated. The former being
the one who you sought out in time of difficulty. The form of communication
was that of a monologue rather than a dialogue. The solution or
the answer to the problem he gave was thought to be gospel.
During the hot summers the children of Down Neck had few places
other than the street for enjoyment.
True the city did have some respites to the shore for kids. But
this was not workable with some kids not unlike my father. The one
exception being the swimming at the Passaic River and the Morris
The Morris Canal was adjacent to the Passaic River and was a vestige
of the past. It was no longer functional as a canal after 1915.
Both bodies of waters were thought by some to be no more than sewers;
however, it was water. I'm sure hundreds of kids enjoyed the unsupervised
fun that it provided.
Many years back I visited my Uncle James in the hospital right
before he died. We were talking about his experiences as a youth
Down Neck. While over the years he and others had told me many,
this one was exceptional.
He and his many friends were swimming in the Morris Canal for
most of the day. As with most kids in water there is a lot of fooling
around and horse play. No one is really looking after one another.
When it was time to go home one little boy was missing. He didn't
go home and there was no other place to go. When all the checks
were made it was assumed that he may have drowned. A large number
of people were assembled along the sides of the canal. There were
a lot of would be rescuers in the water looking for him. The problem
was that they weren't sure where he slipped under the water. As
daylight was fading it emphasized that something had to be done
quickly. Someone suggested getting the priest.
The tragedy was explained to Father Preston at the rectory. He
hurriedly put some things together and left for the canal. When
he arrived all eyes were upon him.
I wonder if he knew what he was going to do. Sometimes In leadership
others look at you and little do they know you don't have a clue
what to do.
I'm sure silence prevailed as he stood along the side of the canal.
He had brought his Chalice with him.
In the silence he probably prayed in Latin. He then took a host
from the Eucharist cup and dropped it in the water. The wafer floated
on top of the water as expected. But what amazed everyone was that
it moved in a circular motion. This went on for a while in the deathly
silence. Then it stopped moving. Father Preston pointed to that
spot in the canal and said check that area. Several jumped into
the water and the boy's lifeless body was found within seconds.
My Uncle James said that was a sight he would never forget.