Roseville Revisited

by John P. Rotondo


Although my memories are basically about Roseville, my origins were down on West Market Street just above High Street and the Essex County Hall of Records and our local movie, the Court theater.

My dad, Charles J. Rotondo, operated a funeral Home at 32 West Market Street. Our family attended church at St. Philip Neri on Court House Place which ran just across from the famous bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln seated in front of the Essex County Court House. However, for schooling, I attended St. Mary's Catholic school over on High street and ,eventually St. Benedict's Prep.

Just below the school was Branford Place where every Saturday morning we would march down to the Adams theater to see and hear the great big bands like Vaughnh Monroe, Louie Prima, Charlie Spivak, Xavier Cugat, Ted Lewis and Johnny Long among countless others. We also were kept entertained by movies like the Proctors, the Capital, Branford, Loews and the Paramount.

On Sunday afternoon, we would take the bus along Broad Street to the Dreamland Skating rink and end the day at Joe's on Branford Place devouring huge banana splits.

In 1945, dad moved the family and the new funeral home up to 279 Roseville Ave. I chuckled at Sue Carols memory that she lived in the old Oxley funeral home because we were directly across the street next to the Baptist Home for the Aged and the big, gray stone Presbyterian church on the corner of Park Avenue. Down Park Avenue was our nearby shopping area to Nick's candy store, Gianella's Meat Market, the drugstore on the corner of No. 7th St. and the car wash at No. 5th Street just across from the Promenade Cocktail Lounge and the Newark Subway station.

But Orange Street and Roseville Avenue was where I spent most of my time. I lunched either at the food concession in the drugstore on the corner run by my dear friend Guy Centanni and his wife Helen or up the street to Bodholt's Diner just across the street from St. Rose of Lima church. I remember ,so vividly , the monument to the late Fr. Washington in front of the church. He was one of the Navy Chaplains who went down with his ship after giving his life jacket to one of the sailors during World War II. It was vandalized so badly that it was moved up to the Seton Hall University campus.

Down Orange Street was the so convenient Tivoli movie and next to that was the Barney Livery Service which supplied the hearse, limousines and flower cars for our funeral home.

Of course I remember John P. Teevan's Clipper Ship next to the Armory, where we held the party for my 1951 graduation from Newark Rutgers.

After graduation, I joined the National Guard at the Armory and became a member of the 102nd Mechanized Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron of the 50th Armored Division. However, due to administrative foul ups, I was drafted during the Korean War. Fortunately, I eventually wound up at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and was stationed at Ft. Myer, Virginia for the duration.

But Roseville had deteriorated badly. The familiar stores were either all gone or shuttered and the streets were unsafe at any hour of the day. I can recall so vividly, on warm summer nights, walking from Park Avenue to the White Castle on 7th Avenue or over to Grunnings on Orange Street for one of my favorite banana splits. I still miss all the congenial people I ran into while shopping and while visiting Mrs. Chessner's Bakery for her wonderful breads and where she frequently roasted our turkey for Thanksgiving day.

Roseville Avenue was also the route of the famous Bamberger's Thanksgiving Day parade that came right past our front door. Friends would gather on our little balcony while mom set out candy, cakes, sweet drinks and coffee while everyone waved to the clowns and especially Santa Claus at the end. It was a serene neighborhood with beautiful landscaped lawns of the many Doctor's and funeral homes. We even had the luxury of a night policeman walking his beat.

It was also the route of the many police cars that raced past our front door with shotguns poking out from their windows on their way over to the riots on Springfield Avenue. Thank God they never reached the Roseville Section.

Because of the failing Orange Street environment, I traveled north on Roseville Avenue to Bloomfield Avenue and attended St. Francis Xavier church, eventually joining their choir (which lasted 17 years). In this section of Roseville there was a new neighborhood and life style. Among the many restaurants were Biase's, Vesuvius, Aulise's, Pizzzeria's as well as the wonderful bakeries like Calandras', Ferrara's and Di Paola's.

And of course, the Columbus Day parade where ofttimes the Mayor as well as dignitaries reigned as Grand Marshal.

But all that is gone and, unfortunately, this section of Roseville is also going by the wayside of memory.

Thanks to Glenn G. Geisheimer for reminding us never to forget and for providing a website for our memories.


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