I was born on a rainy summer night at what
was then Presbyterian Hospital in 1957. My early years were spent
on the West Side at 410 So. 16th St right near South Orange Ave.
I attended the brand spanking new St. Rocco's School on Ashland
St but got so terrified by the nuns that my mom enrolled me at 15th
Ave. School. I went from mean nuns to benevolent, Jewish-American
teachers such Mrs. Cohn and Miss Rosenberg. The school pre-dated
the 20th century and is still standing today. I remember Blackie's
candy store and how my older brother got in trouble with my mom
because Blackie had him running numbers. I remember when the Pabst
bottle was a Hoffman soda bottle, getting soda, milk, juice and
bleach delivered to the house. The feasts on 14th Ave were great
because you got to eat zeppoles and ride the half-moon on the truck.
I remember riding the 31 bus downtown and uptown. Downtown Newark
was great for a kid, especially Christmas when Bambergers went all
out. One year they had a seal in this big above ground pool. Going
to Child's and eating chicken croquettes, seeing the Three Stooges
live in 1964 (?) at the Loews maybe? The Newark Museum with the
one room school house in a courtyard. We used to take the train
to Miami to visit my aunts and uncles. Penn Station had (and probably
still does) these immense WPA murals in the waiting room. I was
taught to be very proud of my city and state. Olympic Park was my
most favorite place in the world! Does my heart good to see that
carousel still running at the Magic Kingdom.
In 1966 we moved to the country (Vailsburg), Dover St. to be exact.
This was another world. The end of the 31 line was right at our
corner. In Vailsburg everyone was either Irish or Italian but always
Catholic. I was the odd Portuguese kid. Every Saturday we'd go to
the Stanley Theatre for the kiddie matinee, usually horror, Elvis
or those Mexican fairy tale movies, you know, with the skunk. I
remember St. Mary's Orphanage on South Orange Ave. We'd get real
close to the fence so we could get a real good look at those orphans.
Went to Lincoln School at the time.
We then moved during the summer of 1967 down to Columbia Ave,
Zeigler's for comics and there was a great lemon ice stand on South
Orange Ave. That summer of 1967 I remember hearing gunshots in the
middle of the night. The riots were scary for a 10 year old. And
listening to the adults talking made you even more scared. Vailsburg
Park was a great place to hang around with your friends when you
weren't at Boylan St Pool. I attended Alexander Street School and
remember getting my first library card at the Vailsburg Public Library
when I was 5.
My family moved to Irvington in 1969 where I attended Union Ave
School, went on to Irvington HS and then Kean. Been in Los Angeles
since 1985. I find that people my age who grew up in Southern CA
had a very different childhood than I. Just the fact that I didn't
go to a McDonalds or 7-11 until late in high school makes me unique.
We had candy stores and diners instead.