St. Columba and the Wigwam

by Maureen O'Flaherty Groseclose


St. Columba Church and Elementary School are located on Pennsylvania Ave. in Newark between Thomas St. and South St.

Around 1941. the parish undertook a complete renovation of the inside of the school . Painting, flooring, adjustable desks, latest in lighting, all new bathrooms, new gym-auditorium with pull out bleachers and a beautiful new stage. The entire basement of the school was turned into a social center. There were pool tables, bowling alleys,meeting rooms,bar for adults, and a club room for teens and young adults called the Wigwam. I can't recall how that name was decided.

The Wigwam was a tastefully decorated, very large room with tables for four situated on each side of the dance floor. There was a juke box on one end and a full service soda and snack bar on the other.

Does anyone out there remember May Martini? That soda fountain was May's territory and woe to anyone who crossed her. She wore a faded red wig and a huge leather belt around her waist on which hung her keys. It was rumored ( very quietly) that May was an ex-show girl from the burlesque.

Frequently on Saturday, there was live music supplied by Chuck Robbins on the piano, Johnny Bell on the sax, Artie Bell on the clarinet and Leo Helm on the drums. Leo's drum solos were the stuff of legend. And everybody danced-jitterbug-slow dance -boogie. My sister, Kitty , was the undisputed "camel walk" champ and Hank and Helen Dlugosz did a peabody that put Fred and Ginger to shame.

What an unbelievable facility.

How lucky we were then.

And how lucky we are now to have the wonderful memories of that time.


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