Memories of Weequahic Section

by Elvan Knight


I have so many memories of Newark that it would take days to write them all down so maybe just the most vivid ones should be here. I lived in the Weequahic Section of Newark, the house on the corner of   Custer Place and Custer Avenue for most of the time there. 

I attended Peshine Elementary School, I guess from 1950 to 1958. It's kinda funny that for all those years the same kids were in my class. Jack Grossman, Howard Korn, Raymond Isenburg, Patrica Gaunt, Gary Becker, Rosalin LaRue, Marion Bogart, Robert Russell, Jay Jackson, Andre Mobily, Noel Bediguin, Ruth Cantor, Marsha Cornspan, Stanley Zidner, Andrew Yunos.. I'm sure I forgot someone, sorry. 

We were one of the mid-term classes so there wasn't a whole lot of us. I can still remember some of our teachers. Mrs. Clark in first grade. Mrs. Moore in third. Mrs. Churny in fifth. Mr. Chirico in seventh and   Ms. Kehrrer in eighth. Mrs. Johnson was our math teacher, Ms. Stiller and Mrs. Weiner were art. Mr. O'Sullivan was psy-ed. Mr. Kevlin was shop. Mrs. Cavicia was principal (I certainly did not spell her name right). I'm sorry that I can't remember all of our teachers. They were all such great people.

I've seen some recent photos of the school. The school yard is gone and an addition was put on. Too bad. Lots of memories in that school yard. I just remembered that there were 2 schoolyards, one for boys and one for girls.

On Thursday nights there was always a social in the boys gym. A woman named Mrs. Shaw took care of it. She and I used to demonstrate dances together and try to teach the kids how to dance. I was about 12 at the time but had no problem dancing with her to just about any type of dance. Friday nights was roller skating night in the gym. Unfortunately the gym was kinda small so you learned how to go around in circles.

Across the street form the school was my church, Weequahic Presbyterian on Meeker Avenue. Besides the usual things you do in church I used to bowl on the bowling alleys in the basement. One night I set a record high score and had my name put up on the scoreboard above everyone else's. It caused a bit of a commotion at first because I was only 12 or 13 and had a higher score than anyone who ever bowled there. If the church is still there and the bowling alleys are still there, I hope my name is still there too.

The guy that took care of the church was named Bill Moser. He asked my parents if they would allow me to go professional (bowling). He was going to sponsor me. It never happened...It should have.

The Boy Scout's troop #1 was also at the church. Yes...number 1. The first boy scout troop in the United States. During our Jamborees we were the target for all the other troops. "Get Troop 1". We were number 1 so we had to be the best. We were also the first Boy Scout troop in NJ to have a black scout. His name was Preston Hart. A really nice kid. It did cause problems at the Jamborees too. "Get Troop One...get that (black kid)" I won't use the word they used. You have to remember..this was the early/mid 50's.

As we grew out of that stage (and got interested in girls) we (John Chenevert, Nick Cirello, my older brother Ronald and I) started going to St. Charles CYO "Canteen" on Thursday nights. St. Charles was a Catholic School across the street from Peshine Ave. school and my church. They had several bowling alleys and pool tables and a Jukebox in their basement. Cokes were 10 cents and the music was free...great..and a lot of nice lookin' girls for me to dance with.

I did start seeing a girl named Clair Mullarky but it didn't last too long. One of the St. Charles girls named Carol McGee organizes a reunion every year now for the St. Charles crowd. When she started it was going to be a reunion of the kids who used to hang out on Bergen Street around Custer Avenue or in Trudy's. Trudy's was an Icon of the 50's. Stairs in the back up to where the Jukebox and pinball machine were with several booths to sit with your girl and drink sodas all day.

A bit of 50's information...if a pinball machine was too hard to win on, it would end up with holes drilled in the sides so we could stick a wire through to trip one of the scoring wires that the balls ran over. And incidentally, we were thrown out of Trudy's many times for drilling holes.

Getting back to Carol McGee. Unfortunately she began to expand the reunion until it ended up for all of St. Charles alumni. I was going to attend the first one three years ago but didn't.

Through Carol McGee I got a hold of a dear friend of mine when I was 15. She lived on Bergen Street next to Pop's Candy store (3 buildings/houses from Custer Avenue). Lois, Jeannie and Butch Durrett lived on the second floor. Lois and I spent a lot of time together even though I had a girlfriend and she had a boyfriend. Today she lives in Hudson Falls, NY and we email each other regularly.

Around that time (September of 1958) I had open heart surgery in Beth Israel Hospital. Before the operation I was a "test" case. I would be called to come to the hospital to be examined by student doctors or other doctors who were interested in my condition. I was out of the hospital in less than 2 weeks and back to school (Arts High School on High St.) in less than a month. I believe that High St. is now Martin Luther King Blvd.

Well..high school is another story.


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