Memories of Stephen Crane Village

by John McEvoy


I did not know it at the time but I was lucky to grow up in the Stephen Crane projects. 8 of us in a three bedroom apartment. Never having enough money because my parents sacrificed to send us to Catholic school. (St. Francis Xavier). But it was great. It was the late 50s very early 60s. We lived at 988A Franklin Ave. There were a ton of kids your age to play with, whatever your age was! I was young (we moved in 62 when I was 9)and when you played outside you had to watch out for Mr. Tomaselli. He was an OLD retired barber who now was the security guard in the projects. He had a uniform and walked all around and wow was he stern and strict. I knew he was an old barber because for a dollar my mother sent me to his apartment for haircuts. God they were painful affairs with hand powered clippers and dull scissors!

Plenty of kids around to play with. I wish I could remember all the names. Mawn, DiVito, Falcone, were a few. We played hide and seek, kick the can, late into the summer night it seemed, (it was most likely 9PM tops) Hula hoops were the rave one summer. Then the GOOD HUMOR truck would arrive down the tiny Linden Lane in back and if I were very lucky my dad would buy us all (family)ice cream.

On hot summer days over by the projects office, they would turn on the "showers". It was a fat pipe that stuck up from the ground in the middle of a large cement pad that had a water sprinkler on top. Talk about a cheap 50s style event. But it was fun.

On Saturday mornings or Sundays after church, my father would go up the street to KIELBS bakery and get donuts (6 jelly and 6 cream) and crullers. What a treat. Later my aunt and uncle would come over and we would walk across the street with lawn chairs to Branch Brook Park. The parking lot there would be packed. Men playing bocce, dozens of families having picnics, the older boys and men played baseball in uniforms and cleats. To this day when I hear cleats walking on cement it reminds me of those days. I remember the small green water fountain where they all came around and talked. These guys were very impressive to an 8 year old kid. That's where I learned to ride a two wheeler bike with my dad pushing and yelling from behind. I really remember how wonderful the cherry blossoms were. (Still are)

When they started construction of Clara Maas hospital we used to go and play in the site. Probably a dangerous thing to do but that was why we were doing it.

Winters we would go sledding in the same park, next to the regular hill was Suicide Hill, today it probably looks tame but back then, whoa. I remember some kid went down suicide hill on a bike, there were plenty of rumors about what happened to him.

Behind the projects, believe it or not, there was a farm of sorts with horses and other animals. I think it was related to the pony ride stand on Franklin Ave across from Anthony St. I got several pony rides there myself.


Email this memory to a friend.
Enter recipient's e-mail: