Schley Street Memories

by Diane Nikel Martin


My name is Diane Nikel Martin, and I just read this piece by Sara Friedman. We were classmates at Chancellor Avenue, then Weequahic and finally at Rutgers Newark. I too lived on Schley Street, but between Chancellor and Lyons Avenue. My grandfather built a bunch of those houses in 1928, when he moved up from "down neck" to the Weequahic section which was all farmland at that time.

We had what was called a two and half family house. There were two full floors and then a smaller apartment on the third. Our house, number 290, had an extra lot, where my grandfather showered time and love on a garden filled with roses, lilacs, other flowers, and numerous vegetables. We had a large swing by the garages as well as a hammock and I remember those summer days which never seemed to end.

Newark was such a great place to live. We had everything. Location made New York accessible while not interfering with the flavor of a neighborhood. You could stay out late, come home on the New York bus at midnight and not be afraid to come home. Newark had and still has a magnificent library, museum and now NJPAC.

Like Sara Friedman I too can name those wonderful teachers at Chancellor Avenue School. It was a welcoming place and I think, along with our families, instilled in us a lifelong quest for learning. I remember how the art department used to put different decorations on the windows to acknowledge the seasons. I used to love the snowmen, made of three white circles with black hats and red scarves.

Summers were wonderful. Trips in late June to the Library on Osborne Terrace, where one could take out at least ten or more books to last through the summer. Comic books having double editions to keep one occupied when it was too hot to go out and play. Beds being pulled in front of windows to cool one on nights spent without air conditioning. Listening to the radio until we were lucky enough to get a television. That first Crosley in the blonde cabinet still remains vivid in my mind. Watching Lon Chaney movies and then being too afraid to go to bed and having to call my grandmother to come and get this eight year old who was too fearful to pass the mirror in the darkened foyer.

Just recently I tried to name the stores that one passed when walking up Chancellor Avenue to school, and I amazed myself, because they were so easily called up from the recesses of memory. Was it really half a century ago?

I lived on Schley Street until my family moved to Millburn in 1962. Perhaps because I was already an adult, I do not recall it with the same nostalgia as I do Weequahic.

I have tried to explain to my son what it was like to live there, but so much of it had to be experienced firsthand to really appreciate the uniqueness of the neighborhood and its people.


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