It was June 28, 1944 That was the day I
was born. We lived at 116 Fleming Ave. in the Ironbound section
(Down Neck) Newark, NJ My whole family were hard working people
who didn't own their own home, & while many of the men in the
family were away at war, the women held-down one or to jobs. My
Grandmother owned a small diner just over the Passaic river bridge
in South Kearny called "The Supreme Diner" She used to
get up at 4:00 am & be downstairs in front of the house by 4:30.
That's when the Kearny Cops would have a car there to pick her up
& take her to the diner. No one in my family owned a car. When
she got there, the Police would have the coffee urns full of fresh
coffee & about 10 lbs of bacon grilled & ready to go for
a head start on the breakfast crowd. I always remembered her telling
us "I would have sold that place a long time ago, but who would
feed the cops?" My Grandfather worked for a small trucking
co. on Raymond Blvd. & he played ball for the Newark Bears.back
in the good old days. He died when I was very young.
My memories of growing up "Down Neck" are wonderful.
I started school at St Al's on Fleming Ave. I went there for two
yrs, & it got to be too expensive, so, my Mother took me out
& I started 2nd. grade at Hawkins St. school. I remember that
was the year that we had a terrible snowstorm & Ballantine's
beer trucks were stuck all over Fleming Ave was a cobblestone road
& the solid rubber tires they used could get any traction.
The snow was so deep that when the people shoveled the sidewalks,
I couldn't see over the mountains of snow, It seemed like it took
almost the whole winter for it to melt.
The summer was always the best time for me. We used to get up
in the morning have a bowl either corn flakes or rice krispies go
take a fresh washed towel & your Bathing suit, roll them tightly
together, put on your US Keds & head off to Hayes Pool. The
pool opened for the morning session at 9:00 am until 12:00 noon
At that time everyone had to leave & we would go outside the
fence & get a hot dog & a soda from Mike's Busy0Bee"
horse drawn hot dog wagon. Mike was an old grubby looking guy with
dirty fingernails and an apron that he washed about once a month.
But, as I recall, he served the best "Dirty-Water" hot
dogs that I can remember! (& I've eaten quite a few hot dogs
in my day) We'd get a hot dog, a penny pretzel rod & a can of
Vigor soda for 20 cents Then after 1:00 pm, we'd pool our money
& make sure everyone had their 10 cents to get back in the pool
for the afternoon session (The morning session was free).
Hayes pool had three separate pools, a Baby pool for toddlers
& it was only about 10 inches deep. A lot of people said that
the water was al ways warm because the sun could warm it fast because
it was only shallow, but I've always had my doubts! Then there was
the middle pool (As we called it) That was an enormous oversized
4' deep all over pool. It could accommodate all of the Ironbound
section & still have room for more! The third pool was a 12'
deep Olympic diving pool that had three or four springboards. 2
low boards & 2 High dive boards that you had to master before
you turned 13. That was the "Law of the Land"! Then, when
you were good, & you knew how to perform the ever-so-graceful
Swan Dive & the Cool Jack Knife. All the girls would want to
meet you! It was a right of passage. Kinda like getting your first
car, you know. All those other dives that you see like, the two
& a half gainer & the Back twist are good, but The Swan
dive & the Jack Knife, They were the test of time. Just think,
We had all this fun every day of the summer for about a half-a-buck-a-day!
All this, provided by the City of Newark. I loved the summers that
I spent at the pool when I was a kid growing up in Newark.
When I was about 10 yrs. old we moved to the Roseville section.
247 Park Ave & my parents started me at St. Rose of Lima school.
I, being from a public school was about 6 months behind the catholic
schools found it difficult to catch up & struggled with the
curriculum. They put me in 5th grade. At that time, the Newark grade
schools had 2 separate half year classes. A & B. We moved during
the summer so, St Rose started me at the beginning of the grade,
having to re take the same studies that I already had. That's when
I met my best friends,.Henry, his first cousin Jimmy, & a few
other classmates, Scotty, Joe, & Paul, We all were inseparable
wherever one went, you could always find us all. Whether it was
riding our bikes on the Pony Trail in Branch Brook Park, or spending
a Saturday afternoon at the Tivoli, or the Plaza, theaters watching
a matinee. All our Mother's were called Mom by all & all our
Father's were called Pop, or Mr. Mac. We all stayed very close until
we got married & went our own separate ways Providing for our
Now, after 40 plus years of marriage for my Wife & I, I'm
trying to get in touch with "The Old Gang" from Orange
Street. (Not the 7-11's, they were around the same age) I met with
Henry,& I spoke to Scotty, he's living down in Florida &
Jimmy was killed in a fire while on-duty for the City of Newark,
but Paul Steenbach, & Joe McDonald, if you guys are still around,
I'd love to her from you. Or if anyone knows of their whereabouts,
let me know.
All in all, at the age of 65, I have no regrets for the way my
life turned out. I married my Childhood sweetheart who lived on
7th st. in 1968 & we now live in Old Bridge Twp. We raised 5
children & we've enjoyed every minute of it! I wouldn't change
But I'd give anything right now, to be sitting in the "White
Circle" eating a Large Hamburger on a hard roll & a Coke!
Then going to Ampere Lanes on 4th Ave & bowl a few games then
go to Bodholt's Diner for late night coffee!
Who wants to join me?