The Opening Scene
It’s a quiet Friday evening in late April in the West ward section
of Newark. Cars are heading up and down South Orange Avenue. The
street lights have just come on illuminating the cars parked on
either side of South Eleventh Street.
The corner of 11th Street and South Orange Avenue is one of the
few blocks that does not have a traffic light. On the corner sat
a small forties looking Texaco gas station; on the opposite corner
an ultra-modern looking One Hour Martinizing Dry cleaner. Across
the street stood the infamous “Sparkies Bar” with its door elevated
a few steps off the main thoroughfare of South Orange Avenue.
There is a faint rumble and slight tremble in the air that can
be heard and felt in my brother’s basement apartment of our house.
I go closer to the two front facing slightly tinted green jalousie
windows that were ground level to get a glimpse of the flyby that
is taking place at the corner of 11th and South Orange Avenue.
The sound that emulated was from the great gasps of air being sucked
down the throats of massive four barrel carburetors of two large
Motown manufactured chrome laden chariots facing down one another
before coming down our street. The roar grew as these two meteors
were now thundering, descending down my block just reaching their
full velocity as they passed our house. The sound of these two passing
hunks of charging steel with inches of space between them and the
cars parked on either side of the street created a vacuum as they
pushed aside the still night air which added to the excitement of
an impending crash. It was like two locomotives passing side by
side in a tight tunnel. The feel and power rushing bye was exhilarating.
Then the roaring sound descended to the end of the block as the
power sound echoed from the “Glass Pack and Cherry Bomb” mufflers
exhaling the spent octane.
It was usually a quick slow down, a fast check and then the burning
rubber and thunderous scream of horse power being let loose as they
resumed their charge toward Central Avenue four blocks up. Friday
and Saturday nights were when the main action usually took place.
I would sometimes sit on my father’s Captain chair (which was bolted
down) on our front porch and wait for the next dual.
All across the nation this scene was becoming a phenomenon. But
down here on Eleventh Street it really took hold when “Mustang Sally”
recorded by Wilson Picket became a nation wide Top Forty Hit on
the AM Airways 11th Street seemed to be the place where most of
these races occurred in my neighborhood. The main avenue, South
Orange, seldom had any races; I guess it was because it curved a
little bit by the Fairmount Cemetery.
There was one exception, which will be reveled in a later chapter……………….
Just like the Call Of The Wild. It was just a matter of time that
this beckoning would stir the “need for speed” in my brother, Jacques.
He, too, would become a legend of terror on the side streets of
Newark on the hot summer nights of 1967.
Motown = A slang word depicting Detroit Motor City made vehicle
To be continued................................................
John Desranlesu is a Car Show Photographer.
You can view his work at: