School Stadium

by Harry T. Roman


It was our own neighborhood entertainment center. If it was important, it happened in the stadium. It sits there still on Bloomfield Avenue, like a miniature of the Coliseum in Rome, extending the whole block, back to First Avenue. You could go there to see evening Little League games, or watch the industrial leagues playing fast-pitch softball. Under the big lights you spent an enjoyable summer evening. As the smudge red sun set in the humid night air, you might be holding hands with a girlfriend or just killing time with your buddies, watching the action.

It always seemed to be open. We often wandered in after dinner from one of the two gates on First Avenue where the Little League diamonds seemed always in use. For the big events you entered from the Bloomfield Avenue side. If no industrial leagues were playing you could use the track for a run, or just walk around and enjoy the atmosphere.

When I was small, my cousin Teresa and her boyfriend Bob-now married for almost 35 years- used to take me there all the time for an ice cream cone. My cousin “Babbers” and Uncle Mickey played in the industrial leagues. Uncle Mickey did so long past others his age.

As I got older, I would make the walk from home on 5th Street, and be back home about 9:30. No lurking dangers from a night walk back then. Everyone would be sitting out on their porches or walking around. It was completely safe. If the events were not so great, we might detour over to First Avenue School and play some basketball. Back then the playgrounds were lighted and open from 9 AM to 9 PM with chaperones like "Mr. Bell" (Belmonte) a big brother and teacher to many kids in the area.

In the Fall afternoons, it was high school football, most likely a Barringer home game; or perhaps some Saturday night you might watch The Newark Bears play their semi-pro games. The smell of popcorn, fresh peanuts, hot dogs, pretzels, and occasionally some “sneaked –in” beer made for a happy, cheering crowd. There were visiting sporting events, track and field competitions, exhibition games featuring softball greats, and once I remember seeing open air professional wrestling there-certainly not the extravaganzas you see on TV today.

The Fourth of July events were always memorable. The fireworks, mixed with brilliant ground displays, made for a magical event. How the aerial bombs shook my chest and scented the air with gunpowder---an aroma often smelled the following day. You did not have to sit in the stadium to enjoy the fireworks. Sometimes, to avoid the big crowds, we just brought some lawn chairs to an open area between the houses on my street, or to an empty lot and watched from there. The bright flashes of light and the resounding "booms" that resonated down your street gave you an eerie feeling.

Many a romance bloomed there at the stadium----a hurried and exciting kiss under the stands in your favorite “smooching place”. I’ll bet the kids today still do. Good kissing places never go out of style.

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