by Don Hebert

I grew up in Newark on Fifth Street, between Dickerson Street and Sussex Avenue during the late 1940's and into the early 1960's. I went to Saint Rose of Lima School on Orange Street and then on to Essex Catholic High School which was then located on Broadway. I was in the first graduation class from Essex Catholic in 1961. My family had a hardware store on Central Ave founded by my Grandfather, Frank Renner and later carried on by my uncles and their sons. When the store closed last year it was one of the oldest businesses left in Newark. All of family worked there at one time or another and it was a great place to learn the business and meet our neighbors. I later went on to join the Marines, graduate Rutgers and work at PSEG in Newark for almost 39 years before retiring this past August. From my office window I could see the hospital where I was born, the church where my parents married, my grammar school and Sacred Heart Cathedral where I graduated high school. I could see my whole life out that window every work day.

I have fond memories of sleigh ridding down the mountainous hills in Branch Brook Park and the lesser slopes on Dickerson Street, which were dangerous but more convenient. My circle of friends and play activities were not unlike those shown in the "Our Gang" movies. For example, we built soap box racers without the help of special tools or adult assistance. These vehicles were prone to several breakdowns and never did measure up to the official minimum required Soap Box Racer standards. We always wound up as spectators on race day.

I remember Orange Street at Christmas. The season did not start until after Bamberger's Thanksgiving Parade. The overhead lights and decorated store windows transformed the street into an exciting wonderland that no mall today could ever match.

Things were so much less complex then and I am very grateful for my experiences growing up in Newark and the people I met along the way.


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