Remember when you walked to and from school
4 times every day-once in the morning and then home for lunch; and
then back in the afternoon and home again at 3:00 or so?
After school you ran around your neighborhood until you dropped.
I cannot recall anyone in my neighborhood ever dieing from too much
exercise. What has become of all that youthful exercise today?
In gym class you ran around some more. When you got to school
in the morning and again when you got there after lunch you played
all sorts of physical games. Every inch of that playground was used
for active games. I never remember just sitting around and talking
in the playground, like I see many kids doing today. Where did all
those physical schoolyard games go? What ever happened to kickball,
punch ball, buck-buck, tag, 3 flys up, jump rope, and all those
jungle gyms and such?
Our legs were the chief means of transportation, and they got
plenty of exercise.
"Look at the legs on that Santini kid!"
"Yeah, those calves are the size of my thighs."
"That comes from walking to school in the snow, 2 miles,
uphill both ways."
Too bad all those hills got worn away. Kids don't seem to get
any rigorous daily exercise now.
It didn’t matter if it was snowing or raining, you walked
to school. You put those monster buckled or zippered boots on, along
with your rain slicker and away you went, books in a plastic bag
and umbrella in hand. When you arrived at school and if it was cold
outside and the radiators were hot, you dried your clothes on them-otherwise
you just hung them in the cloakroom and settled down to business.
Today you stay at school all day once you get there, probably
because Mom works now and no one is home at lunchtime. That's too
bad, once for the missed love and hugs at lunchtime and again for
the delicious hot lunch Mom made on those cold days—hot soup
and a sandwich, and maybe a cup of hot cocoa. I can taste it now.
You ate lunch and off you went again to walk back to school. More
No one complained, or sued the school system. All the arguments
today about the streets not being safe were non-existent. The bad
guys were not on the streets. It was called “jail” back
then, and it meant being locked up. There was no stuff about one
more final last chance to straighten out or some other lame excuse.
They got exercise too, like real work. And sometimes they got sent
to the Army, with lots and lots of exercise.
Many kids arrive now by bus (clogging the streets at rush hour—don’t
you just love that).
The Newark schools were actually situated to allow neighborhood
children to be able to reach them by foot in a reasonable length
of time. The only bus delivery I can remember at Abington Avenue
School was for the kids living in Stephen Crane Village, which was
a considerable distance away. And if my memory serves me correct,
they used bus tickets (remember them!?) for the #30 bus that ran
down 6th Street.
No one drove anyone around in our neighborhood during the day.
There were no extra cars in families. Dad took the family car to
work every morning and rare was it that Mom would have her own car
to go driving around during the day, even if she was one of the
few women who had a driver's license.
Mom walked to local stores like you walked to school, or the park,
or the library, or anywhere else. If it was that far, you took a
bus. You also walked to church on Sunday, to the bakery, to pick
up the paper, or to the barbershop.
When you lived in a city like Newark, things really weren't all
that far away--not like the suburban areas of today where you need
to take a bus a good number of miles to get to a regional high school.
We walked every day through Branch Brook Park to Barringer High
and then home again. I would estimate maybe a mile each way.
To go to the local library branch we walked down to Clifton Avenue
along Bloomfield Avenue starting from the water tower at 6th Street
and 1st Avenue. Back then the library was on the second floor of
a building by the old Howard Savings Bank just a few feet in from
As a boy I would spend the whole day in the park running around
and then come home for dinner and be out again to run around until
dusk. Don't kids have legs anymore?
I don’t remember anyone being on a diet, or trying to lose
weight, except if they were sick and the doctor told them to drink
more things like malted milkshakes and stuff. Your daily exercise-filled
routine automatically kept the excess pounds off.
It seems somewhere along the scale of evolution, minivans were
invented to move kids between places. I guess their legs must have
fallen off because of non-use.