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
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
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.