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
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
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!