A View from South Orange

by Mary Ann (De Amicis) McGowan


I don't know if I qualify to join this group. I grew up in South Orange, two blocks from the City Line, but I have many fond memories of Newark. Our Church was Sacred Heart in Vailsburg, we walked to the Stanley Movie Theater and would stop at Dubrows for black & white ice cream sodas or Silvermans for their delicious jelly donuts. Each Saturday, we would go to the barbers on Sandford Ave so my brothers could get their $1 haircut. Now I am really showing my age.

When we were kids and our parents were out, our babysitter would tell us they went to the Hoffman Bottle to get us soda. That seemed to quiet us down. I really felt sad when I read it was coming down.

Weekly trips to my grandparents and cousins meant stopping a Ferrara's for pastries and driving through Branch Brook Park in the Spring. The best, of course, was making that left turn off of Bloomfield Avenue onto Highland Avenue and getting to stop at Branch Brook Toy Store. Of course, we never picked up bread. They only bread they would eat was Calandra's. Our family parties were at Biasi's. The funeral masses were at the Cathedral. We would all be in awe of its beauty. I still am when driving up 280 especially at night. When we went to the Dentist that meant lunch at Hahnes or Bams to see the train display at Christmas.

For years, I've listened to my Dad's stories about growing up in Newark. He is 95 years old but still remembers his friends from 14th Avenue. If you are ever in his company, he will tell you about his father and how proud he is. My grandfather started an Abruzzese Club in Newark in 1907. They would collect dues to help members out of work and retained the services of a Doctor for those who were ill. They were so ahead of their time.

One of his best stories is when his two brothers returned from World War 1. They moved from an Italian neighborhood to an Irish one. On my Dad's first day of school, the teacher renamed him from Rafaela to Ralph. My youngest brother, who is named after my Dad, would have preferred Raphaela!


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