I was born at Presbyterian Hospital in
Newark. In my early years, My mother and father and I moved a lot. Finally, we settled in at 645
Summer Avenue, just across the street from Our Lady of Good Counsel
Church. There was a new church under construction. It was 1940 when
I started in the first grade at Good Counsel School.
In those days, you didn’t say you were from Newark. You identified
with a neighborhood. Neighborhoods were like separate countries.
There were Jewish families in Weequahic. Irishmen in Vailsburg,
Italians in the Central Ward. North Newark was a mixed bag, mostly
Italians and Irishmen with a smattering of Poles and Germans and
a few Jews. West of us was Forest Hill, where the rich people lived.
Most of us went to Mass at Good Counsel.
The neighborhood. Everything was there, all the staples anyway.
Bernie’s candy store on the corner of Summer Avenue and Heller Parkway
where the Good Counsel kids hung out. A few doors up Summer Avenue,
Marty’s barber shop gave a haircut for a quarter. Next door was
the delicatessen. Across the street Roy’s butcher shop hired a boy
to deliver orders riding a bike with an enormous basket.
A few blocks west was Mt. Prospect Avenue. There was an assortment
of store-front businesses, Arnold’s, the neighborhood drug store;
Nebb’s candy store; a National Newark and Essex bank and a pizzeria
whose window featured a plaster statue of a mustachioed Italian
cook wearing a red bandana and a white chef’s hat. You took your
tomato pie home on a metal platter for which you would leave a dime
On Broadway, there was the Elwood Theater; always a double feature,
a newsreel, a cartoon and previews of coming attractions. For kids
a Saturday matinee was fifteen cents. Adults could take in an evening
show for less than a buck.
For important purchases or special occasions, you went downtown.
Within a five-block radius, there were five bus lines running all
day long; the 13 the 17 and the 18 on Broadway, the 28 on Summer
Avenue and the 27 on Mt. Prospect. Each had its own faraway terminus.
One of them went all the way to Olympic Park in Irvington, with
its rides and games and an enormous swimming pool with simulated
By the time I was old enough to take the bus on my own, the fare
had gone up from a nickel to seven cents. In fifteen minutes, the
bus would hiss to a stop at Military Park or Broad and Market. Whatever
you wanted you could buy, at Bamberger’s or Ohrbach’s on Market
Street, Kresge’s and Hahne’s on Broad Street. Of all of them, I
always thought Hahne’s the most....