Memories of Elementary School in the Weequahic Section of Newark

by Bonnie Gray Kaye


My name is Bonnie Gray Kaye and I lived in an apartment house at 155 Renner Avenue and Bergen Street from the time I was one and a half years old in l944 until I was almost 13 years old in l956. I have always believed that I grew up in an extraordinary time and place. Reading the sentiments of other residents of Newark during the middle of the 20th century lets me know that others share this believe. A great many of my memories involve my best friend Susan Michelstein, who lived across the street and halfway up a long block, at 200 Renner Avenue. Susan and I started kindergarten at Peshine Avenue School and graduated from there in l957 at the end of eighth grade. We walked to school every day and came home for lunch, as well. I can still hear “The Make Believe Ballroom” music playing on the radio, as I walked in for lunch.

Our parents felt safe in allowing us to cross the busy street because of the crossing guards that were on duty. Bernie the cop and then Trudy the cop stationed at Bergen Street and Custer Avenue kept a careful eye on us. Susan’s mother Wilma was instrumental in seeking out and providing cultural activities for us. Susan was her full time job, as her older son Martin was already away at Cornell University. At the end of second grade, Mrs. Michelstein decided that we should skip the first half of third grade.

Every day for six weeks, we got on the 9 Clifton Bus and went to Bergen Street School, where we learned the material and subsequently “skipped” half of third grade. The following summer, she decided that we should learn to swim at the YM-YWHA. It was still on high street at that time, so 3 times a week, we took either the 8 Lyon or the 48 Maple (both stopped in front of my house), got off on High Street near the Hotel Riviera, which was not yet owned by Father Devine, and walked up the hill to the Y. We both learned to swim.

Our favorite teacher was Mrs. Alice F. Moore. We were in her class for a year and a half; during the second half of fourth grade and the entire fifth grade. One of the classmates I remember clearly was Kenneth Cypra; a math whiz. Every Friday we would have a math test consisting of 8 problems; 2 addition, 2 subtraction, 2 multiplication and two long division. I suffer from math anxiety and would become very anxious during the test. Every Friday, just as I was finishing my first addition problem, I would look up and see Kenneth Cypra walking up to Mrs. Moore’s desk to hand in his finished paper. Needless to say, my anxiety heightened and I became even more stressed.


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