Secondhand memories

by Florence Colandro


I grew up in the South Ward of Newark which gave me many great memories. I have been married to my husband Anthony for 45 years and I feel sometimes that his memories are mine since I have heard about how wonderful the First Ward was many many times.

He attended St. Lucy's school and then McKinley School. His memories of Catholic school are mostly bad because his family was dirt poor and he was treated as such. I hear many times how they would sleep on the fire escapes where he lived on Sheffield Street (these houses were torn down to build the Columbus Homes) when the older guys had the fire hydrant open to keep cool. Nobody had fans, let alone air conditioners. They would feel the cool water spray every once in a while. They slept out there complete with blankets and pillows.

I also have heard about the chocolate factory and the wonderful smells coming from it. I feel like I was the one to buy candy at Mario's candy store since I have heard the stories so often.

He had uncles who belonged to one of the men's clubs(The PC Club?) they had at the time and they would let the kids in to watch TV if they were quiet and give them all a nice cold soda (maybe Manhattan Special?). He mentions D' Noia bread which I did have the pleasure of tasting later on. It was different than regular Italian Bread. Also Harry Mayer Foodtown which was the big supermarket of the time. Nappi's wonderful sandwiches, Zippo's sausage and provolone etc. Then there was Carmine's deli on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Stone Street I believe. They also had all the Italian specialties. The best cheesecake was bought at Boscia's (sp?) on Seventh Avenue.

Everyone shopped on Broadway and then had some hotdogs from Broadway Tom's truck. My husband, Anthony, seems to think they were like .15 each. He had a relative who was said to have eaten 35 hotdogs at one time! Can this be true?

There was also the Regent Theatre where everyone went on Saturday for the matinee. And let us not forget the Greek restaurant on Broadway with the best rice pudding. The Rotunda pool on the corner of Clifton Avenue was only a dime to enter and the only place to cool off other than the fire escapes. There was Leo's dry goods on Seventh Avenue where you could purchase clothes, towels, shoes and the black dresses that all the old Italian widows wore forever once they lost a husband.

He even got to see Jackie Gleason, Joe Dimaggio and other celebrities when they were entering the restaurant down there. I think it was Victoria's Castle. They naturally never got to eat there since they were so poor. Nappi's sandwiches was as good as it got for them. It seems everyone hung out of the windows. Especially the mom's watching the kids. And at mealtime or when it was time to "come in" everyone called the kids by name out the windows.

To hear my husband tell it, the First Ward was paradise. I almost feel at times as if I was there. It is a shame that today's kids will not have these simple innocent times when kids appreciated even a cold soda.


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