First Ward Columbus Homes

by Francis Dougherty


My brother Bob and I grew up in the coal region in PA till i was nine, he was seven. When the mines started closing in PA our father got a job driving busses for city service in Newark. We ended up moving into the Columbus Homes projects in 1955.

The house we had moved from had no running water inside, we used a outhouse for a bathroom, and heated water on a wood stove for baths in a tin tub. I can remember the first time we moved into our apartment, it was 6 F at 12 Sheffield Dr. I couldn't believe it, we had a tub with running hot water, and ,wow, a toilet we could flush, and steam heat that got so warm you needed to open the windows at times in the coldest winter days. My brother and i thought it was grand .

We soon found out making friends at first wasn't so easy for two hicks from PA. After a couple fights and learning to stand up for ourselves, we did start meeting friends as time went on. These friends would turn out to be the best i could ever have wanted.

We went to school at MCKINLEY, and church at ST. LUCYS. Father NATIVO turned out be the priest who would keep me in line if my mother called him and said i was giving her trouble. My mother and father had divorced by the time I was eleven but my mom had swore she would never move my brother and I back to the coal region in PA. By that time my brother and I loved the city and my mom had a job in a electronic shop on 7 th Ave. She had met many women in our building and other buildings that were in the same situation, MRS. OBRIEN, MRS. MULLIGAN, & MRS. JONES to name a few. They all seemed to be moms of my friends. I now figure that's how they kept tabs on us. The families in the projects had a bond.

We were supposed to be the poor people, but our moms always made sure we didN't go without, although they did many times. It was, i feel, a great neighborhood to learn and grow up in .

I ended up in the navy in July of 1969. MULLIGAN and I joined together on a 180 day program in May of that year. When i left ,the gang i hung around with, used to meet my mom down at the LACAWONNA TRAIN STA. wHere her bus would leave her off to walk back to the projects.

Things were getting bad by then with drugs and stupid thugs, but my mom always wrote me to tell me she felt safe with my friends, all who had know her from early years of our childhood. In my younger years i remember the dances at the civic center of the projects and the project cops who would take us to our apt. if we got in trouble, and let our parents take care of the punishment .

OH damn i could go on and on. It was a GRAND NEIBORHOOD with a great diversity .



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