My grandparents, Harry and Madeline Roelke,
lived in Newark when they were first married, but then made their
way to Kearny and then North Arlington - both though worked in Newark,
and as a kid growing up in the early sixties they made Newark sound
like a wonderful place and sometimes I even got to go there with
one of them.
After working at Bambergers and Swift Meat , Grandpa worked for
Ballantine as a driver; we all looked forward to the Turkey he was
given each Thanksgiving, but I looked forward more to the times
he would bring the big blue truck with the golden rings onto tiny
Shields Place in North Arlington. I was the envy of the neighborhood
as he lifted me into the truck and I waved merrily to all as we
drove away. I can't remember where we went those few times, but
at each stop I was perched at the bar and given a Shirley Temple
while grandpa made his delivery - sometimes the bartender gave me
boiled eggs and sausage as well.
Grandma worked at Firemen's Insurance as a filer and she really
was a lover of Newark. On special days we would catch the bus together
on River Road and she would take me to all the places she always
talked about 'Bams' , Kresge's , Woolworth's ,Chock Full of Nuts
and we would come home with bags of treasures.
When I was about 12 my grandparents took me on a trip to Maryland
where Grandpa was from; on the way home for miles and miles away
we saw dark black clouds rising form the direction of Newark and
found out later the fires were the result of the riots after Martin
Luther King died.
The year before, 1967, I had been awakened in the middle of the
night because I heard noises coming from our front yard on Northfield
Road in Livingston. I looked out the window, it was about three
in the morning, and there were what seemed liked hundreds of army
troops and equipment all around-they were on their way to the Newark
Riots and were taking a break before they got there. I have never
forgotten that or how scary it was then -- it seemed like everything
was coming apart, and I guess in some ways it was.
Grandpa managed to retire from Ballantine just before they went
out of business in 1964 or thereabouts I think, but Grandma kept
on working and even after she loved top take the bus `downtown'
until one by one all the stores closed down and finally there was
not a reason to go.