Ivy Hill Apartments

by Joyce Champion


I am writing this memory in response to Charles McGrath's memory of the Ivy Hill Apartments.

I lived in the apts. for 6 years; from 1st grade until 6th, 1960 to 1966. I haven't read all of his posts, but I did read about Charles' interest in the Native Americans who lived there. I remember studying about the Leni Lenape Indians in elementary school. My school was within walking distance from the Ivy Hill apts. Passing a park on the way, I remember a teacher saying that the Leni Lenape Indians had built a fence or something that still remained, and was close to the school. I have a foggy memory of that fence, and I also remember that there was some sort of "insane asylum" behind the fence.

I hope you don't mind if I share some of my memories with you....All sorts of horrible things happened at Ivy Hill. I was a haunted child; living in terror. When I was about 7 yrs. old, a woman jumped off the roof of 35 Manor Dr., our apt. building. I happened to be looking out of our 2nd floor window, and saw the body actually bounce on the landing above the entrance to the apt. building. The landing was only several feet from the window. My mother lied and told me that it wasn't a real person, that it was a dummy that landed there. I knew that she was lying, even at 7.

News and rumors spread around the Ivy Hill apts. all of the time. The day after the girl jumped, everyone was talking about the pregnant Catholic girl who took her own life. I remember the playground at Ivy Hill. There were benches, where the "old people" sat. I remember a particular woman, who had burns all over. She would bring out a box of trinkets and the kids (including me) would look through them, while she sat there and cried. She scared me to death, but her trinkets must have been interesting to a kid.

There was a teen who had no arms, only stumps. I think his name was George. It's amazing that I can remember his name. He always had a transistor radio hanging from one of his stumps. He would chase the kids, (me included) all around the apartments. It was rumored that his mother kept him locked away for his entire childhood. Interesting note: Many years later, when I was in High School in Maplewood, NJ, an assembly was held by a doctor who worked at a Rehab. hospital. He showed slides of the work they did there. I was shocked to see pictures of the armless teen, with new prosthetic arms. I was glad that he got some help.

I also remember stories about a nearby asylum. I wonder if there really was one there. Do you know anything about the possibility of an asylum near the Ivy Hill apts? There were always scary stories told about what went on there.

I was petrified of the incinerators at Ivy Hill. It was my job to take out the trash, and I would pray that the hallways didn't smell like smoke. If they did, I knew that they'd be burning trash, and I'd have to look down the long shoot as I emptied and pushed the trash down. I remember sparks flying up from the fire below. I was afraid of fire, and thought that hell was down there.

I remember ambulances and fire trucks at the apts. on a regular basis. I was scared to go into the apt. building; petrified that I'd see the fire. I thought the incinerator caused all of the fires there, and I was sure our apt. would be on fire one day. When I was about 8 years old, I was in an elevator that got stuck. I was alone with adults I didn't know. Someone pushed the alarm, and a man tried to get the doors open. I remember the people panicking, not paying any attention to me. The man finally got the elevator doors open. My horror grew, when I saw that there was a brick wall blocking the exit. I shook all over; looking at the brick wall with the alarm whaling.

After a few years, we moved to the 8th floor of the same apt. building. I remember being able to look out and see downtown Newark far in the distance. I remember that there was a large soda bottle (building?) in the distance. My mother worked in downtown Newark, and I remember the riots that went on there. My friends and I slept under our beds, in fear that the riots would come to Ivy Hill.
I never told my mother how petrified I was living there. My single divorced mother had lots of her own problems, so I kept quiet.

The basement of the Ivy Hill apts. was also a place of horror for me.(It was where the laundry rooms were). I can't remember what scared me so much about the basement, except that it was very dark.

I was pretty much on my own when I lived there, and do have a few good memories. I liked the nearby park, and remember ice skating there, as well as going to dances that were held in the summer.

During 6th grade, my mother took me out of school, and we moved to So. Orange(1966), into a one bedroom "garden apt." on Valley St. It was a good move for me, and I was no longer afraid of my environment. However, my memories of the bad times while living at Ivy Hill have never left me. I have never written any of this down before. I hope you don't mind me telling you all of this.

I liked the new Garden Apts. in So. Orange, despite the fact that I learned that I was living on the "wrong side of the tracks." I loved South Mountain Reservation, and remember when they had deer in paddocks there. So. Orange was a fun place to live at that time. The Village was within walking distance, and they had Grunnings Ice Cream, and a hippie store called "The Closet." I remember swimming on So. Orange Ave. whenever it flooded. The water was so deep, canoes paddled down the new "river."

I loved the old trains that went into Hoboken; with their wicker seats, with backs that could be pushed to face a different direction. I loved Maplewood park, and So. Mountain Reservation. I'm actually very nostalgic about that place during that time. I had good friends, and there was a lot to do. When I went back there, about 5 years ago, everything had changed. The reservation wasn't safe any longer, the Village was no longer the quaint place it had been, and Columbia HS had major locks on lots of the rooms.

Someday, I'd like to see the Ivy Hill Apts, and environs. Perhaps I can face down my deep fears about that area. I haven't been there since 1966.

At any rate, I enjoyed the posts that Charles put up on the Newark site, and look forward to reading more of them. I suppose the Leni Lenape Indians were the Native Americans who made the paths that you mentioned and showed on your map. I wonder when the last of them were forced off their land. Do you know if the tribe exists anywhere in the west?

Wow...I'm sorry for such a long memory! I'd be happy to hear about any memories you'd like to share.


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