My Newark Christmas

by John Desranleau


The early ones were full of Joy lots of American Made Toys Trucks were the toys my brothers and I enjoyed. But the later years the Christmas Toys wined and the decoration also fettered out. This was because the family got bigger and my fathers check only went so far.

The hardest part was going back to school after the Christmas break (St Antonius) and hearing all the tales of what each school mate got. Bikes Train and the lot. We mainly got socks and underwear. One Christmas I had wanted a toy plane that I saw in Hopper Drug Store Window, it was made by Ideal Toys Called the Flying Boxcar. Each day prior to Christmas I imagine how I would fly the Toy around our house rescuing Downed solders. But Christmas came and I got the socks and under shirt and an orange.

Our tree was an artificial silver twig it looked like an upside down umbrella. No lights, just a few Styrofoam balls that the treads were falling off. I tried to make the best of it. I listen to WABC radio and listen to the DJ tracking Santa flying over the metropolitan area hoping that he would find our house he never did!

Id make a big deal of the hard candies that Santa give out on the last day of school - before Christmas. Id do anything to dwarf off the sad felling. Id go to bed and look over across the street to our neighbors house. They always had a beautiful lit tree. So that became my tree I would stay up very late - just looking at its twinkling lights. I would count down the minutes down as another Christmas day passed away.

This all changed in 1967. I worked for a man called JR selling Pretzels on Street Corners in Newark (to help out the family). This year JR picked me to have the best spot to sell pretzels. This was in Irvington Center in front of a 5 & 10 Store called Greens.

It was a magical Time. People going to and from stores all dressed up for Christmas. Each store was decked out with Gold-Silver-Red-Green-Lights. The snow flakes and what filled the air those frosted nights with the unforgettable Christmas Music - coming from the Salvation Army Booth. It was the first time I really appreciated those fine hymens and wonderful blessed songs. It truly was a Norman Rockwell Sitting.

I would treat myself to wonderful tasting hot chocolate (not from a pouch) sitting at the counter of Green. It had wooden floors and glass counters with all sorts of trinkets. To a boy from a dying city that had just had its revolt the summer pass, this was heaven. I had this spot from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.

Going forward into the future We all used to gather and celebrate Christmas Eve in my Moms House in upper Irvington. The year was now 1989. My girls lead the other cousins in singing wonderful children's Christmas songs. It was a wonderful evening.

My mother came over to me and said, son I want to show you something. We walked over to the stable and she said to me this is why we celebrate. I said to her as I looked at the infant Jesus in the stable, Yes I Know. She then said to me: Do you know who gave me this stable? I said no Did you just get it? She looked me in the eyes and said; You did, dont you remember. You brought if from Irvington Center when you sold pretzels.

Just as in the movie its a wonderful Life it all come back to me. That Christmas Eve Night in 1967, My Boss JR was half loaded (As Jules coined the old but accurate saying) when he came to close me out for the night counting the monies and paying me. He gave me my pay, I think I made $7. JR Said to me Johnny have a Merry Christmas and handed me an extra $25. I could not believe it!!!

I ran into Green and started buying gifts for all my brother and sisters. I bought a real good hand mixer for my Mom. I was down to 6 bucks when I remembered the Stable that was in to store window that I had seen every night I was selling pretzels. Green was closing down. I ask how much is the stable in the window. I think it was 18 dollars. The kind man said to me how much to you have left? I said only 6 dollars. The man said well Ill take 5 for it Merry Christmas.

I walked all the way from Irvington Center down to South Eleventh Street in Newark (Again remember what the city had gone thru that summer). It was and still is my most Joyous Christmas. My brother Jacques helped me set up all the toys for my brother and sisters to wake up to. Jacques then took me to Roush Common House for my first Roast Beef Sandwich. A Frank Sinatra Christmas Song was playing on the Juke Box. I thanked the Lord in my heart for all the Blessings he had bestowed on me that night

This truly was a magical night that I will never forget. The true meaning of Christmas is giving and God the Father give us his only begotten son our savior.

God Bless and to all a Merry and Blessed Christmas

John Desranlesu is a Car Show Photographer. You can view his work at:


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