Clinton Avenue Section

by Charles Interdonato


I was born, in Newark (Doctor's Hospital) in 1952, and lived there with my family until 1963. We lived in the Clinton-Hill section, in a three-story, three-family home at 387 Lyons Avenue (the corner of Lyons Ave. and Leslie street). My father and his brother, married my mother and her sister. My family (mom, dad, and my older sister) lived on the first floor; my aunt and uncle (and my three 1st cousins - all boys, and older than me) lived on the 2nd floor, and the 3rd floor was rented out.

I attended Kindergarten at the Bragaw Avenue School. I remember my mom used to walk me there every day. It seemed like a very long walk, and I guess it was (I just mapped it on, at it's a half-mile)! I was raised Roman Catholic, so I attended St. Peter's Catholic School (also on Lyons Avenue). It was also an orphanage, and taught grades 1 through 6. The teachers were all nuns, and ruled the classrooms with an iron hand. My first grade teacher was Sister Francine. Her nick name was Mighty Mouse. Of course she was never called that; not to her face anyway. She was probably all of 4' 9", but that's still tall to a 1st grader. Back then, if you got out of line, sister would approach your desk, with a stern look on her face, rolling up her sleeves as she approached. When she rolled-up her sleeves, you knew were gonna get smacked. And, sure enough, she'd stand beside your desk, and let you have a couple of hard ones across the back of your head. Of course, it didn't take long to learn not to step out of line again. We had several orphans in most all of the classes. While I'm ashamed to admit it now, as we got older (and wiser?), if sister didn't know who was "making noise" while her back was turned, most of the class would turn, and point at an orphan, and they'd wind-up getting' what for.

I remember a candy store being across Lyons avenue from our house, "George's." If we were good, my mom would give my sister and I money to go to George's and buy some ice cream cones. Our favorite was mint chocolate chip. Once scoop was $0.10, and if you wanted "choc-o-jimmies" on them, it was an extra $0.02. Yummy! If we had any left over money, we'd buy either a pretzel stick, or a piece of Bazooka bubble gum (your choice - $0.01). At the rear of George's, was a pin-ball machine - tucked-away in the far corner. I remember that the older boys would play that -- I was too young. To me, it seemed almost like a right of passage. If you were old enough to play the pin-ball machine, you've come of age! Unfortunately, my family moved out of Newark before I ever got that chance.

Our house had a one car detached garage, that was separated from the house by the backyard. As I got a little older (around 8) I remember it was all cement, no grass. That meant that I didn't have any lawn to mow, and using the side of the garage made a great surface to play "elimination" against. I'm not sure if elimination is "hand-ball" or not. But there were times when, 12 or so guys (all with their bikes parked up against the house), would line up in a row facing the garage. The first would toss the ball (not a "high bouncer" though, just the regular "pink" ones) against the garage wall. After it would bounce once on the ground, the next in line had to hit it with his palm against the wall, and then the next guy would step up, and so on. Of course the idea was to "eliminate" as many guys as you could, by hitting the ball as far from them as you could, and hit the garage as low as you could. If you didn't hit the ball after one bounce, you were eliminated. Of course we had to have "special rules" too. We had a fence with a bench in front of it on one side of the back yard. So there had to be a rule if your ball "hit the bench!" That always led to a lot of arguments as I recall!

When the weather was nice, my mom would take us to Irvington Park. I remember going on the swings, and the sliding board. Is that a Newark thing? I mean calling it a sliding "board." I hear some people refer to them as sliding "ponds." I remember playing with my sister and cousins on the "see-saw." Of course my cousin Richard would sometimes like to jump off while I was still up in the air. Boy did that smart!

Other things I remember from my childhood in Newark:
- Leo Carlin running for office (don't ask me why I remember that - I was 9)
- climbing the iron fence on St. Peter's School property, catching my pants on the top.
- Mom taking us shopping at Vanity Fair
- Dad working at Pabst (Blue Ribbon)
- The "Hungarian Blimp" (professional wrestler) he lived across the street on Lesley Street. A nice guy, but not a great wrestler. Actually saw him wrestle on TV once. He got beat.
- my Dad's first "new" car (1957 ford)
- learning, later in life, that I had an accent!
- shoveling coal into the furnace
- Dad taking us to Walker-Gordon Dairy (and drinking a quart of milk on the car ride home).


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