Growing up in Stephen Crane Projects

by John McEvoy


I was born in St Michael's Hospital on Central Avenue in '53. I was raised in the Stephen Crane Projects on Franklin Ave. I was the only boy of 6 kids, so there were 8 of us in a 3 bedroom projects apartment.  
This was about 1959. Next door was an Italian family, The Salamone's. Mr Salamone was a nice guy who had his mother living with him. She was in her late 80s at least and she would come over to my mothers kitchen every day to talk. Now I was born to all Irish parents, and Mrs Salamone would sit at our kitchen table talking to my mom in Italian for hours and my mom would just go about her household chores and smile and nod. My mom was a wonderful person so she would never let on to Mr or Mrs Salamone and make her feel unwanted. Mrs Salamone would leave happy so that's all that mattered. 
My mothers mother (my grandmother) lived on Lake St. between Park Ave. and Bloomfield Ave. She would visit her at least every other day and I had to go too. If I was lucky we would have 50 cents and we would ride the trolley from Franklin Ave to Bloomfield Ave, but most time we walked. Let me tell you, when you are 5 and walking that far with a woman pushing a baby carriage with a 1 year old, that is a long walk. We would walk up Franklin Ave past: 
THE PONY RIDES (near Andre's) 
Then turn down Davenport Ave (I think) to N. THIRD ST and walk past 
DUGGAN'S BAKERY and buy bread at the little outlet store there 
THE BON VIVANT SOUP FACTORY (remember the scandal when a person died after they ate some tainted BON VIVANT VICHYSSOISE ?) 
Then we would walk past Branch Brook Park and the PUBLIC SERVICE BUS DEPOT And we would be at grandma's. WHEW what a trip, then return a few hours later. 
It seemed to me to be understood that we walked everywhere. I walked to St Francis Xavier school from there, a decent walk. But the big trek was to my pediatrician. IN VAILSBURG ! 
My mom would drag me to the trolley (as we called the subway) on Franklin Ave and take it to PENN STATION. Then a bus up South Orange Ave to Vailsburg. My doctor was on Stuyvesant Ave. All this time I was whining because I was going to get a booster shot for something. Looking back now I can see that one way trip must have taken an hour and a half at least. My mom was a very patient lady 
In 63 we moved to grandma's house on Lake Street after she died, and the long treks seemed to be a thing of the past but living there near the park and approaching an age where I was a bit free, is another memory I may share.


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