The Projects and Our Lady of Good Counsel

by Diane Castner


I, too, grew up in the Archbishop Walsh Projects on McCarter Highway. We could see the Passaic River and the Boys Town across the river from our building....Building One. 

For kindergarten, I attended Broadway Elementary School. It's still there, but it is not listed as a Newark Public School, so I do not know if it is private or a charter school or what. 

After kindergarten, along with my older brother and sister, I went to Our Lady of Good Counsel. As my younger brothers were born, they, too attend Our Lady of Good Counsel. 

When my parents had a couple extra cents, they would send us to the Elmwood Theatre for the Saturday matinee! My fondest memory was the "Rock ARound the Clock" movie where all the kids in the audience jumped out of their seats and proceeded to dance in the aisles! My worst movie memory was when my older brother took me to see The Creature from the Black Lagoon. To this day, that movie gives me the creeps! :-} 

It only cost 25 cents to see a bunch of cartoons and a movie. They always showed a "follow the bouncing ball" cartoon where we all followed that ball across the screen, showing us the lyrics to sing to some silly song. (Eventually, the cost went up to 50 cents so it was not very often we could go!) 

Once the movie ended, we would roll down the hill behind Broadway Elementary school and through lots full of run down buildings,on our way back to the Projects. 

Of special note is that Frankie Valle, yes, Frankie Valle of the Four Seasons, was the janitor for Building One for a while before he recorded "Sherry" and began his famous career! 

When my father died in April of 1962, it meant moving into the suburbs of Scotch Plains. It was a relief, because even then, there were horrible things going on in the projects. I myself got "mugged" twice in my young life. Once after a day at Broadway Elementary and another several years later while coming home from the grocery store on Bloomfield Avenue. 

I also remember the American Legion Hospital where four of us kids all got our tonsils out at the same time and a reporter took our picture for either the Star Ledger or Newark Evening News, I don't remember which; but it sure would be great to have a copy of that now. (I also got a few stitches in my head from falling once, too!) 

Other than the Washington family, the Fitterer's, and Maria Santiago, I cannot remember the names of the other kids we played with. And I am especially at a loss for the names of the other kids from the projects who attended Our Lady of Good Counsel. All of the families were BIG families so everyone always had someone their age to play with. 

The games were cool, too ....stickball, marbles, hide the belt, the whip, giant steps and red rover; to say nothing of those roller skates that held tight to our shoes with the use of a skate key. Only the REAL lucky kids had bicycles! 

We would also walk on top of the wire fence that surrounded the playground that had two concrete turtles on either end and a huge shower, which the janitor (Frankie Valle), would turn on when it was a very hot summer day. 

We thought of all kinds of creative ways to jump that fence and held competitions. (Right after the spitting contest!) "War" was a favorite game, too, but the girls always had to be the nurses and had to "patch up" the boys who were injured on the battle field! And who could forget those pinky balls? 

We used them for everything from stickball, points, and hit the bat! Our mothers used to have to scream for us to come inside. We LOVED to play outside in any kind of weather. 

Currently, I live in Virginia....I am a teacher at a Juvenile Detention Facility...the students remind me of my buddies back then! :-}


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