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.