Memories of Essex Troop & St Rose of Lima School

by Colonel (Ret) Frank L. Carlone

I was a student at Saint Rose of Lima Grammar school and immediately after Mass on Sunday, January 5th, 1941, I dashed across Orange Street and stood under the Marquee of the Tivoli Movie Theatre, waiting for some friends who had also attended the children’s’ 8 or 9 A.M. Mass. Suddenly, this Irish kid runs up to me and says” Hey kid, are you the “Pepper”? Upon hearing that greeting, I prepared for another fight, with another “Harp”, right there, in front of the theatre and Church. The Irish kids referred to us Italian kids as “Peppers”, and we referred to them as “Harps”, and them was “fightin words” in those days. As eight and nine years olds, that was about as harsh as the name calling ever got, but of course that changed as the years passed.

But I had this kid all wrong. He wasn’t looking for a fight. He was conveying a message from the men at the Roseville Avenue Armory. “They’re looking for you at the Armory” he said. “They want you to shine shoes.” Little did I know the significance that day would have on my life. The 3 Squadrons of the 102nd Cavalry Regiment, New Jersey National Guard, had received orders to mobilize for Federal Service, in preparation for World War II. The Regiment, with elements in Newark, West Orange, and Westfield was ordered to Active Duty, effective the following day, January 6th, 1941, my ninth birthday.

I ran home and picked up my shoeshine box and then ran back to the armory, arriving just after 10:00 A.M. I didn’t get home until after 9:00 P.M. that night, spending the whole day shining shoes and boots. Some men, not having time to stand around waiting for me to get to them, left their shoes or boots in the hallways, just outside the office doors. There were many people all over the armory without shoes. They left quarters and half dollars and some even left Dollar Bills inside their boots. I figure I shined over 200 pairs of footwear that day, and after paying my helper (who wore some of the shoes while I shined them), I went home with more then $85.00. In those days, that was more than my father earned in several weeks.

On the following day, Monday, January 6th, 1941, as some of us tried to get to school, grownups and schoolchildren alike watched in awe as some men and equipment exited the Armory on the Bathgate Place side, and paraded East on Orange Street toward the Rail Yard at Orange and Nesbitt Streets, behind the old Borden’s Dairy Truck Garage. Other elements of the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 102nd Cavalry exited the Armory on Roseville Avenue and paraded North on Roseville, toward the Liff-Schultz Rail Yard, at Bloomfield Avenue and Ampere Parkway, in Bloomfield. At each location, the men and horses and equipment would be boarded and loaded for transport to Fort Jackson, where they soon traded their horses for tanks and, were redesignated the 102nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The Regiment served Honorably throughout World War II, in Africa and in Europe, but that’s another story.

Response from Charles McGrath


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