Growing up in Newark

by Madeline (Diaz) Block


I can't imagine a better place to have grown up in than Newark, New Jersey. We lived in Newark from 1962 to 1980. We lived right off Bloomfield Avenue on a little one block street named Rowland Street. Rowland St. was a world of it's own. It seemed to be separated from the rest of the city. Everyone knew each other on that street, and neighbors were like friends. The street was predominately Italian. We were Cuban, and thrilled to be introduced to authentic Italian food, and the wonderful culture of the Italian people. During the summer, the block was filled with kids riding bikes, playing dodge ball, or just sitting on old fashion front porches, listening to music from portable radios.

When you got to be a bit older, the thing to do was to walk up Bloomfield Ave, to the Dairy Queen. The "cool kids" in their black leather jackets hung out there, and the rest of us had to muster all the courage we could find to barely be able to walk up to the window and place our orders, hoping not to trip or say something that would humiliate us in front of these teen idols. Those warm summer evenings seemed magical.  

But there was so much more that Newark had to offer. My brother and I were fortunate to have been able to attend St. Michael's School. This school was amazing. It had blackboards that were not black. The blackboards were blue, or green, or tan. The boards matched the color of the carpet in each classroom. The school also had a wonderful library, and a science lab that would rival any lab at any present day school. St. Michael's school was years ahead of its time.

Eventually,I graduated and went on to Saint Vincent Academy; an excellent school which offered young women a wonderful christian education, and empowered them to strive to reach their highest potential. During my freshmen year at SVA, I attended my first high school dance at Essex Catholic High School. Considering that SVA looked like the boarding school from the Hayley Mills movie Trouble With Angels(in fact, I think one of the restrooms had a tub in it)Essex Catholic looked like something from a Roman epic. Tall wide steps lead to huge overpowering white columns which lead to the front doors of the school. Inside the school's massive rooms and high ceiling felt more like a university than a high school.That night was the Battle of the Bands. The competition was fierce, the excitement high, and for a freshmen at her first dance, the experience was unforgettable.

Weekends in Newark offered numerous possibilities; the incredible public library in downtown Newark, the museums, and the shopping. Shopping in downtown Newark offered every level and variety of retail imaginable. Stores varied from the high end ones like Bambergers and Hahnes to the traditional ones like Woolworth, and McCorys (sp?), to the ethnic ones offering merchandise that promised to have come from South America,or Africa. 

But my favorite memories of Newark have to do with the small town feeling that .......


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