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.
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.