by Ralph J. Chin


Do I remember Newark? Why yes, yes I do. My name is Ralph J. Chin aka Bingy.

I lived in the Weequahic section of Newark that bordered on Irvington and Hillside, circa 1960. I went to Maple Avenue Elementary School, Weequahic High School and then finally on to college at Arizona State University and Newark College of Engineering.

I lived at 342 Clinton Place just off of the main thoroughfare of Lyons Avenue. All my schools were within walking distance. Maple Avenue Elementary School was on Maple Avenue, of course! Weequahic High School was on Chancellor Avenue next to Chancellor Avenue Elementary School and Utterman Field, where we lost most of our football games was on the other side of the Chancellor Avenue Elementary school.

We walked to Maple Avenue Elementary School via Clinton Place, crossed over on Lyons Avenue and continued on Clinton Place. On the way was Ming’s, a Chinese Restaurant, on the corner and Harjay’s, the number one stop for me after school. Harjay’s was a little soda shop that sold comics, candy and lots of other stuff. Crossing Weequahic Avenue then Pomona Avenue and turning left to get to the school. The playground started halfway down the street and the school occupied the rest of the block. There were small trees in the median that ran down the street and on the other side of the school was Goldsmith Avenue. It really was a great looking neighborhood and school.

The walk to Weequahic High School involved going down Clinton Place past Marshall’s, a wall to wall conglomeration of everything a kid could want, on the corner and then turning right for a block and then left, crossing over Lyons Avenue to Aldine Street. From there it was a straight line all the way to the high school. It was quite a long walk especially in the winter when there was snow on the ground and it was freezing out!!

Dr. Edith Gann was the principal at Maple Avenue at the time I was attending. My favorite teachers were Mrs. Tso, my art teacher, Mr. Grinlinger, my physical education teacher and Mr. Kahn, my eighth grade teacher.

My high school principal was Mr. Benjamin Epstein but other than that I can’t recall any teacher that stood out and affected my life in the way my elementary school teachers did. I graduated Weequahic High School in 1966 and the Beatles had already taken the U.S.A. by storm and because of them, I became a Music Major in college in order to pursue my musical interests. But that’s getting off the subject and ahead of my story. My favorite time was my youth in Newark.

It was city living but I remember the streets were always lined with big beautiful trees and very unlike New York City which could be had by catching the #107 bus on Lyons Avenue. The trees would shade us in the summer time and on Irving Avenue, which was just around the corner, I could play and ride my bike all day on the shady street and sidewalks.

Transportation was no problem. Besides the #107 to New York, we had the #8 bus that we could also catch on Lyons Avenue but it went to Downtown Newark by way of Bergen Street. The #14 bus went right pass my house and there were bus stops on almost every block on the way to downtown Newark via Clinton Avenue.

I felt unique in that community because I was the only American of Chinese descent in the neighborhood. My family owned the Chinese Restaurant called Ming’s in an area made up of mostly people of the Jewish faith and Italians. In fact, when there was a Jewish holiday I was only one of a handful of other kids to attend school!! There was a Synagogue across the street where I lived. On Saturdays there would be so many people in attendance that they spilled over onto my side of the street and sat on my porch.

My best friends were Martin Jacobs and Lester Fromkin. Marty live quite a distance from my house but Lester lived right around the corner on Lehigh Avenue. They taught me what a Mezuzah and Yarmulke symbolized and some chants over a snack of matzo crackers and chicken fat after school.

Watson Bagels was just down the street at that time. It was a small bagel bakery where we could get hot, fresh bagels right out of the oven whenever the urge hit. I used to love the salted ones that they made. There was only one spread to put on them as far as I was concerned and that was cream cheese!!! When they were hot, I could easily eat them plain and often did.

I also knew Bergen Street. My first date was at the local movie house on Bergen Street called the Park Theater. The girl I dated was named Jacquelyn Green who later became Jacquelyn Kraufer when her mother remarried. I remember how nervous I was because I thought she was really beautiful and could hardly believe that she would go out with me! I remember getting upset when she talked to my best friend Marty all the time because I was at a loss for things to say! The movie that was playing was Rio Bravo with Ricky Nelson who was heartthrob of all the teenage girls back then. You got to see two movies and cartoons during intermission for the price of admission. After the movies my group of friends would go down the street for some “Black and Whites” at a place called Henry’s Sweet Shop. In case you didn’t know, “Black and Whites” were ice cream sodas with vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Yum!

Another Bergen Street memory involves some family friends that owned Fong’s. My family used to visit them once in a while at their home. I remember that they taught my sister and I how to play pool on their basement pool table. What a fun time that was!

Anyway, in the winter, we had plenty of places to go sledding. Irvington Park was closer than Weequahic Park but most of the time we went sledding on Irving Avenue. For a better sled ride there was always Irvington General up on Chancellor Avenue but the problem was getting there. In the summer time, I used to break out my home made racer and go careening down the emergency entrance to Beth Israel Hospital a block away. No one ever complained and I never got hurt so it was a good time.

We had plenty of good places to eat besides Mings. There was the Bunny Hop up the street from the high school (a big hangout) and almost directly across the street from the high school was Syd’s, a hot dog eatery. There was also a deli called Tabatchnicks (pickles!!!) and small pizzerias scattered around the neighborhood that made “Italian Hot Dogs”. These hot dogs were made with seasoned peppers, onions and potatoes cooked in oil. A round, thick bread was cut in half and then sliced internally to make pocket for the ingredients and I would squirt some mustard on it just to give it a kick.

Another hangout was across the street from the YMCA on Chancellor Avenue. There was a parking lot on that side of the street so no one bothered us when we got loud in the process of having a good time. A small pizzeria sat adjacent to the parking lot and I witnessed some pretty heavy arm wrestling in there. The owner was a good guy and he liked all the kids. When some bully from another town got the best of me outside his pizzeria, he came out and got him off me. He told him in no uncertain terms to leave and never come back. Needless to say I never saw that guy again.

The YMCA would occasionally have dances and I remember a local band called the “Counts” played there because they were all my schoolmates and I thought they were pretty good.

Then slowly but surely the neighborhood changed. All of my neighborhood and school friends moved away and then my family sold Ming’s. I went off to work in Hawaii for Bendix Field Engineering Corporation and came back two years later only to see a completely different neighborhood where I didn’t know a single person. I went back to Hawaii for another two years and almost got married to local girl but it didn’t work out. After we broke up I decided to go to Florida. After living in the sunshine of Hawaii for four years I didn’t think I could take the Jersey winters anymore. Florida seemed to be the logical choice for me, besides, my grandparents already lived there. Mom and Dad eventually moved to be in the warm Florida sunshine with me leaving my sister, Diane, to freeze in Boonton, New Jersey. Back then, Boonton was what I called the “boonies”, a real hick town. Alas, no more…Oh, how times have changed. I know my Camelot is gone…I can never go back home again.


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