Ironbound Section, Newark, New
Jersey, circa 1945
Water Hydrant,Italian Swimming Pools, White Castle Burgers, Rumble
Seats and Punks
Not being an affluent neighborhood and being poor, we had no community
swimming pool, but we did have an Italian swimming pool:
On hot, steamy nights, sitting on stoops, waiting for the cooling
breeze that never comes, the quiet would be broken by someone suddenly
shouting: “Here comes Ralphie with the wrench.” Only that special,
magical wrench could open up that mystical fountain of cooling,
ice cold water. Holding our breaths, we would all crowd around him
in anticipation and after a few hard tugs, lo and behold! To yelps
of untold joy, the cooling needles of icy cold water stung and drenched
us, and we would lie prone in the middle of the street, overcome.
Even the old Italian ladies on the porches welcomed the shower,
as they took off their shoes, and with dresses held high, walked
in the rippling collection of water now flowing down the street
White Castle and Rumble Seats:
After the good, cold drenching, we sat at curbside, exhilarated.
If we had saved our pennies and had a nickel, Ralphie would collect
as many as he could and then he would drive down to the White Castle
for a sack. If he let you, you could ride along with him, in the
rumble seat, accompanied by his dog, Blackie. Oh, the joy of riding
in a rumble seat!
Then, after that great meal, he would bring out the punks he had
collected from the nearby meadows and we would all sit back, put
our feet up on the stoop and have a really good “smoke”.
We were not poor; we are rich; for anyone who never rode in a rumble
seat, never had a “Ralphie”, never ran in front of the spray of
a water hydrant, never ate White Castle burgers nor “smoked” a punk
is the poor one.