North Newark 1947-1963

by Jim Ahearn


I was born in St. Michael's Hospital in 1947. The first home I remember was in Weequahic Park. I seem to remember the grandstand still standing from when the trotters had run there and we kids pedaling our bikes around the track.

We then moved to the Archbishop Walsh apartments in 1953. That fall, I started first grade at Our Lady Of Good Counsel and was followed in succeeding years by my two sisters and a brother. Although I didn't realize it at the time, Archbishop Walsh was actually a project built as low income housing. Not many of the project families sent their kids to Catholic school so I ended up with two sets of friends, home and school. It was great! The projects were located on McCarter Hwy, right across from the Passaic River.

I remember walking up Grafton Ave. across Broadway to Summer Ave. and then along Summer to Heller to get to school. Along the way I'd pass Glatzel(?) Bakery, Elliott Street Public School, and the Summer Street branch of the public library. As I got older, lunch would be at Bernie's and haircuts at the Italian barber next door, all the while trying to sneak peeks in the National Geographic.

I fondly remember the Elwood Theatre which was the site of my first date in the summer of 1963 with a young woman by the name of Fran Baldi. Two years later I attended Good Counsel's Senior Prom with her older sister,Sue.

In 1961 I achieved a dream when I was accepted into Essex Catholic High School. It was truly exciting as my basketball idol and mentor, Hugh Mahoney, was an upper classman there. For high school, I would hike up Grafton Ave. and catch a bus on Broadway. Seems to me there were two separate bus lines that ran along Broadway. One was an independent and cost a nickel instead of 15 cents. They didn't run as often so I was more likely to save money coming rather than going to school.

Another of my favorite haunts during this time was the Boys Club on Broadway between my home and school. I played ping pong, shot pool,and swam there. Best of all, I played basketball there. During the winters of 61-62 and 62-63, I played in league games two nights a week and refereed peewee games Saturday mornings followed by lunch at the White Castle and shooting hoops in the afternoon. It was heaven on earth and the Boys Club was a home away from home.

At Essex, I ran cross country and wrestled and thoroughly enjoyed my two years there. Sadly,my dad died in June 1963. This, along with the fact that Newark in general and the projects in particular were changing for the worse prompted my mom to move the family to Philadelphia later that year. I must admit that I was blissfully unaware of impending troubles and quite upset with her decision. In retrospect,it must have been the right move as my sisters and brother still reside there and I met my wife of 37 years there, although we've lived in Florida the last 24 years.

Newark seems like another life to me. But almost all the memories are fond ones and I'm very glad to have stumbled across this web site. Incidentally,what originally put me in the nostalgic mood for Newark was a wonderful book which I just read and recommend highly: "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth,a fellow Newark native.


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