The Projects and Jan, Jan the Ice Cream Man

by Diane Castner


After reading everyone's memories, so many more are triggered in me about life on McCarter Highway! 
We were a devoted bunch of kids! There was an ice cream man, Jan, who was not affiliated with Good Humor. He had his own truck, and I suppose it was his own FRANCHISE! But we sang a song about Jan, Jan the Ice cream man. Now, he was so kind to us that we swore never to buy ice cream from the Good Humor Man and that caused quite a stir in front of Building One! Once the kids who had a nickel bought ice cream, Jan would line the rest of us up behind the short building...building three. He'd hop into his truck and throw pennies for us to scramble after, or other times, ice pops! ( He felt bad for the kids who could not afford to buy an ice cream.) 
Now when the Good Humor man arrived ringing HIS bell, we basically picketed him because he never gave any one anything for free. He was so frustrated with our devotion to Jan, that he decided to put a silver tray on the right rear side of his truck, announcing that "Jan did not serve HIS ice cream on a silver platter," like he did! We didn't care, we refused to buy from him anyway! And if some unsuspecting kid dared to go to his truck, well...he didn't make that mistake again. We told Jan about the silver platter and I remember him laughing and laughing about that. 
The other treat guy was the Dugan man. Let's face it, if you were living in the projects, you were poor, and the Dugan man understood that, too. So he would come to our apartments with "day old" cup cakes and tarts and breads, all at least half price to sell to our families. Every other month or so, we could afford to buy them and to this day I remember how the icing tasted on those yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing and the white cupcakes with strawberry icing. He, too, would "slip" in a few extra treats for us! 
Then there was the banana cart; "bananas, bananas, ten cents a pound!" Another treat...we loved that fresh fruit! This cart was pulled by a horse! And this was in the 1950's and 1960's! 
Does anyone remember Paul the Laundry Man? When the piles got too high, my mother would have to send it out to Paul every once in a while he'd come to the apartment to pick it up and dropped it off. Otherwise, we had to lug the laundry all the way up the hill to a laundromat because the washing rooms in the apartment buildings were always flooded! 
Nobody had a car. We walked and walked and walked everywhere! We even had to walk up the hill to catch a bus when we went to downtown Newark to shop. My first taste of a corn muffin was at the counter of Kresge's...I think that's where the lunch counter was.  
Treats and sweet memories...


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