Ferry Street, Newark, New Jersey, 1959

by Dolores (Santiago) Stephenson


Saturday morning. On my way to Pitta’s Bakery, I wobbled across the cobblestones of Ferry Street, clutching a shiny quarter my mother gave me.

As I stepped inside the bakery, customers and counter girls were joking and laughing trading dollar bills for doughy bags of treats.

The good hot smell of torpedo rolls rose from the pyramid of bread on the countertop. I glanced over trays of vanilla and chocolate iced cupcakes, strawberry shortcakes and tall lemon sponge cakes tied up in yellow and pink bows.

Suddenly, the baker appeared from the kitchen with a custard cream cake and set it down right in front of my face. That’s when a salesgirl with a heavy Portuguese accent asked me what I wanted. I answered, “Three custard cups please.” Sadly, she pointed to an empty tray, so I left.

I decided to go to Tony’s grocery store. I stepped inside the narrow shop, slid open the freezer door below the counter top and hit bottom. I spotted the owner hanging sausages in the back of the store and shouted “Tony, you’re out of banana pops!” Then I slipped out the door.

Three doors down, I entered a local favorite, Libby’s Luncheonette. Libby was flipping greasy hamburgers on an open grill, stuffing hot meatballs dripping with red gravy into Italian rolls and serving three husky men at the counter.

As I sat down in a cushiony booth, the local bank vice-president, a tall, blonde, woman walked inside and sat down in the booth next to mine.

Libby scooted out from the behind the counter and served me my usual, a silver dish of French vanilla ice cream with a glass of water. Then, she handed the Bank VP a large plastic bib and one steaming red lobster.

I spooned the rich creamy ice cream into my mouth and beamed.

I still visit “down neck” Newark and keep addresses of vintage markets and stores in my NJ family, foods, feasts and tradition notebook.


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