Cherished Memories

by Nanette LaCapra Rotonda


As I stroll down memory lane, once again, I'm reminded of someone special,who, accidentally was left out of my last entry. He is one of my favorite "guy" pals, Albert Calcagno. I went to the Seton Hall Prep Prom with Albert. We had a great time! Years later, he became a teacher at the Prep, where my son had him for gym. It was great knowing Al was watching over him for me.

My fondest memories of growing up in Forest Hill, include going to Parkwood Pizzeria, The Elwood Theatre, where we'd see The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" about 28 times, losing our voices from screaming so much, going to Kearny Pool, with Denise, Carol, and Sally, and the Branch Brook Park Skating Rink, on Friday nights. We also went to the Essex Catholic "Battle of the Bands" dances.

My greatest memories were of cold, snowy, nights, walking in the middle of the wide, beautiful streets of Forest Hill, with about ten of my friends, hoping there'd be no school the next day, so we could stay out later. We'd go to Carol Petrucci's or my house, for hot chocolate, where we'd play our records, taking turns, dancing with everyone. Our group consisted of Anthony Maisto, Al Calcagno, Joe Polito, Jimmy Soriano, Sally Gaglioti, Denise McCabe, Carol, and me, of course!

Other memorable moments were of going to Rom's Luncheonette, Rexall's and Arnold's Pharmacies, The French Deli, where we'd sift through the huge pickle barrel, looking for the crunchiest pickle, and the Royal Pantry. The best shoe man was, of course, Tony of Tony's Shoe Repair Shop. Each and every one of these stores was within a one-block radius...Mt. Prospect Avenue!

A little further down the hill, was Our Lady of Good Counsel School. Across the street from the school, was the infamous Bernie's Store. On First Fridays, we'd go to mass, then would be allowed to go home for breakfast. Of course, the so-called "bad kids," would go to Bernie's for a Royal Crown cola and a cigarette. I would go home, eat breakfast, and watch the "Munsters." Simple things made us happy. We didn't need to spend a lot of money like our kids today.

We traveled in groups and always felt safe,even when walking through the park. I'm grateful that I'm still in the vicinity of Newark, where I can stop by my old house, go in and see how it's changed, and visit a few of my parents' neighbors, who are still there...there are so few left.

As I drive through the neighborhoods that were once so full of life, I'm reminded of a time when, on each block, there was a family or family member. Everyone was within walking distance. Everyone sat outside, on their stoops, talking to everyone who drove or walked by. How proud I am to tell my kids, Joseph and Johnna, how wonderful and carefree my childhood was, growing up in such a wonderful city.

Long live Forest Hill!


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