My Newark Memories

by Anthony Cerqueira


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.


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