Growing Up on Arlington Avenue

by Danny Buckley


When I was 2 weeks old (1957), my family moved from 45 Broad St. to 420 Summer Ave, on the NW corner of Summer & Arlington Ave. Although Arlington Avenue was just 3 very short blocks, it was busy to say the least. On the left hand side of Arlington Ave., at the Broadway/Lincoln Ave. end, was the Rutgers School of Pharmacy (it is now a North District NPD precinct). As a kid, I remember one week each year where they'd open up the school to the locals and show us some of the things they were teaching. I must say I'd never seen so many white mice as I'd seen there.

Further up the block was Arlington Avenue School. Although most of the fun I associate with Arlington Ave. has to do with the playground, which was entered on Wakeman Avenue, I can tell you a bit about the Arlington Ave. side. It was the local polling place and I remember hanging outside there all day when there were major elections - it was the thing to do. As a school, Arlington was a school for, as my mom referred to them, 'slower learners'. There was also one tragedy when in July of 1969, a drunk drive jumped the curb and ran down my 11 year old neighbor. Janet was out with her friend Susan, who was walking her dog. The dog may have saved Susan's life by pulling her clear of the car, but Janet was killed.

On the other side of Arlington Ave. (still on the first block) was the Broadway Boys Club. I've said it many times that so much of what I know in life I learned here. Games such as checkers, chess, ping pong, billiards, card games. Friday night was movies for kids and bingo for the grown ups. I learned to swim, play basketball, softball during the summer in the parking lot. There was also arts and crafts and woodworking as well. (Some of you older folks may not remember the Boys Club there - it was probably founded around 1960 or so.)

After crossing Wakeman Ave., there was a grass field where the Rutgers kids played intramural sports. Don't know if the field had a name; we just called it Rutgers Field. On the other side of the street was a little grass park, which, in about 1966 or so had 3 houses built on it. We were very impressed by these 3 houses, since it had probably been a real long time since any new homes had gone up in the area. As I got older, I realized these houses were pretty ugly - all exactly the same and pretty cheaply made. A little white house stood between the 3 new homes and a corner apartment building that was 5 stories high. There was a little store built into the apartment building. It was a candy store and then a corner grocery. In the late 60's and early 70's, the store was owned by an old Italian gentleman, Louie, but nobody knew him by that name. He was known affectionately as 'Guinea Ghoul'.

Crossing Summer Avenue on Arlington you were headed up to the famed 77 steps. Some said there were only 76, but if you counted the bottom landing and the step down from the curb, there were 77. This portion of Arlington had all homes, but had a great hill for sledding (after the trip through the woods next to the steps). Also, we played touch football, kick the can, tag or ringo here. Of course there was also the woods at the top of Arlington Ave, and that was great for playing army or just hiding out from parents or younger siblings.

It's amazing how much of my early years revolved around a 3 block long street in the heart of the North Ward.


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