Transistor Radios and "Lookin for the Guys"

by Carol "Petrucci" Falsetti


Living in North Newark during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were wonderful. I would like to talk about my teen years growing up in the North Ward.

My teen years in North Newark hold many more memories for me. The early childhood years of my life were slowly disappearing and all of us kids on Highland Avenue were not as carefree as in our younger days. We were now entering “the sometimes troublesome teen years”. Life was actually becoming “Real” and we were the “Big” kids now. Osmosis was happening to us. Different bodies, confusing thoughts, actually having to make some decisions! (Weren’t our parents supposed to be doing that?????? Still!!!) We were kind of on our own now. We turned into “Big deal teenagers”.

The Highland Avenue gang was still pretty close. We still hung out after school, just fooling around and shooting the old breeze. We were in High School now and we had to buckle down with some real homework. So as dusk fell, we went in to conquer our books. Times were changing. We discovered music, Rock and Roll and later the Beatles. We had dancing parties in Mary Ellen and Patty Barrett’s backyard on summer nights. It was like our own “American Bandstand”, only on Highland Ave. in Newark! The gang included, myself, Carol Petrucci Falsetti, Mary Ellen Barrett Martko, Patty Barrett Valese, Donna Legato Furlong, Carole Edelman and the guys, Brother John Petrucci, Paulie and Tommy Palumbo, Joey and Jimmy Capezio, Peter Timpano , Carmen Legato and Michael Daly. Yea, that’s right, the guys on our block liked to dance too, and , who were their dancing instructors? Who do you think??? The Highland Ave. Fly Girls! Being “Pro’s” we knew the latest dances. (By the way, dancing was and still is a great love of mine). I can remember winning a slow dance contest with my partner Joey Capezio, to the tune of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. To be very truthful though, the boys never did learn the fast dances, they could only dance “slow” real slow!

In the cooler months, we graduated to Mary Ellen and Patty Barrett’s basement. We listened to records, danced and just hung out. We also spent a lot of time drinking coffee in the Barrett Girls famous “Kitchen”. Miss those days………..

Now if this story is not getting too boring I must speak of my school friends from Our Lady of Good Counsel. I still keep in touch with a few of the girls. Their names are as follows: Denise McCabe Adams, Nanette LaCapra Rotonda, Janine Giangeruso (now deceased), Roann Scriffignano, Sally Ann Gaglioti Esteves, and Roseann Chiarell.

We were together all the time. We were always walking along the streets of North Newark, (the blocks usually consisting of Mt. Prospect Avenue, Clifton Avenue, Ridge Street, Parker Street, Highland Avenue, and Lake Street. These streets were between Verona Avenue and Elwood Avenue. We walked, skipped, laughed and sang , with our transistor radios in hand. We all had a transistor radio! Especially being a teenager, transistors were VERY IMPORTANT. We waited patiently every week for the WABC record surveys. Cousin Brucie ruled!

We spent many an afternoon and early evening on either my steps at 554 Highland Avenue, and a lot of times too, on Nanette La Capra Rotonda’s steps , who lived on Ridge Street, listening to our transistors and playing our 45’s and albums on my portable record player. (which I will never, ever part with). We knew just about every song that was out and of course all the latest dances. One particular song stands out in my mind, it was “I was made to love her” by Stevie Wonder, little Stevie Wonder then. We even did a step dance to it!! We thought we were just the coolest!

We had guy friends too, they were Jimmy Soriano, Anthony Maesto, Joe Palito, and sometimes Albert Calcagno and Nicky Palma. All from the neighborhood. We hung out with these guys and sometimes went down the Jersey Shore with them and more often to Kearny Pool. By the way, my father’s uncle, Joseph Nesto, owner of the Nesto Construction Company, also owned the pool. So guess what, I happily was able to get all the kids in For Free!! We were an innocent crowd, no drinking, no drugs, no smokes, and truthfully, didn’t even desire the stuff. I must get to the exciting part and most important part of those years. It was “Lookin For the Guys”.

There were some really nice lookers back then, and our eyes were always on the search for a new cute guy. And yes, we did spot them, and OFTEN! Then the day dreaming would begin and we would fantasize how great it would be to go out with one of them. Of course, that rarely happened. An ironic thing for me, was that the man that I would eventually marry in 1973, Joseph Falsetti, lived only a few blocks from me, was only one grade ahead of me in school and I remember passing him by on the street, never imagining that we would eventually meet up again after High School and fall madly in love. We will be celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary this March.! We have been blessed with many happy years and a beautiful grand daughter, Lisa, who is now 4 years old. There are not enough words to express the happiness of being grandparents!

Back to the school friends. Another thing we did was go to the Branch Brook Park Ice Skating Rink. We were there almost every Friday night during the colder months. We looked forward to those Friday nights at the rink, skating, falling on our butts, laughing hysterically at everything and just having a ball. None of us took skating lessons. There was no organized ice skating teams. Nothing like the organized sports of today. No competition, just plain old fun. All we had to do was just walk into the skating rink, rent our skates and turn them in at the end of the night. After a while the guards would call out, “Couples only” and we waited with baited breath, teeth chattering from the cold, and hoping against hope that some cute guy would ask us to skate. Sometimes, one of us was actually asked and that really made our night. (the one who was asked ). Disappointment for the ones who weren’t. Oh well…there was always next week.

When it was really cold, we would huddle inside where they sold REALLY HOT CHOCOLATE . If I remember correctly, an 8oz cup cost about $.25. One thing though, “It was really watery!!!!” I remember getting my tongue burnt on that hot chocolate many a time. But again, it was worth it. Then 11:00 P.M. came and it was over. My brother John Petrucci or my father, the late, Jim Petrucci were the usual chauffeur’s. They woefully had to listen to us chatter about the night and would hear us laughing, screaming, and being just loud as holy hell.
My dad and brother John were good about it though and didn’t mind it one bit. I miss my dad a lot. He left this world 33 years ago this past Oct. 24. Brother John is still around and we see each other often. He is the kindest, most wonderful brother in the world, and a grandpa now to Travis John Petrucci, my adorable little grand nephew, which is an honor he truly deserves. He will be a grandpa for the second time next year! God bless the Petrucci family!

The Beatles played a big part in our teenage years too. We were all Beatle Maniacs and each of us had a favorite one. We collected Beatle cards, wore Beatle hats, Beatle pocketbooks, Beatle posters , Beatle records, etc. etc. etc. I remember going to the Lowe’s movie theatre on Broad Street in Downtown Newark, and watching “A Hard Day’s Night”. All of us went and we screamed, jumped up and down, cried, and at the end of the movie, we ran on the stage, practically tearing the screen apart, thinking that the Beatles were going to jump out or something! I believe to this day, the Beatles had such an iconic effect on just about everyone.

In July of 1967 we experienced the Newark Riots. It was a bad time, everyone became a little paranoid and the City of Newark was really changing. The riots destroyed a large part of South Newark, and there were fires being set all over the place and complete chaos, especially in that area. We were fearful too in our precious North Ward. My dad sent my mom, myself and brother John over to Belleville to stay with my aunt, till things calmed down a bit. Lots of scary stories went around about what was happening in “Our Ward” and they weren’t a bit nice to talk about. Our wonderful city was at “War”. The black and white issues were not good. The riots divided our city and it was never the same. Prejudice is an awful thing, and thank God, today, things are much different and most of us seem to live in harmony with the various ethnic groups. My daughter Danya married a wonderful Ecuadorian young man and my husband and I never thought twice about his not being Caucasian. In fact, I couldn’t have asked for better. Danya and her husband Oscar gave us the most wonderful gift imaginable, a beautiful grand daughter, “Our Lisa”! What could be more precious than that.

I am proud of my Italian roots growing up in North Newark. We probably had some of the best Italian bakeries in the State. We had the iconic Ferrara’s on Bloomfield Avenue, Now let’s get real friends, who could make a better tasting Cannoli than Ferrara’s??.... There was Calandra’s, Paramount, Catherine’s Bakery and remember the Black and White cake from Capri’s Bakery?? My mouth is watering for it now. And oh!, the Italian bread from Giordano’s Bakery on 7th Avenue in the old First Ward, definitely ‘Fogettabouttit”!!! And how is this for a blast from the past, “Lard Bread” from Mascellino’s Bakery , that bakery was located near Orange Street not far from the Stickel Bridge. My dad would make special trips there just to have that wonderful, fattening delicious, oh, so unhealthy bread! Thanks Dad for bestowing on me such great eating habits! Being Italian, we really knew how to eat and thoroughly enjoyed our food.

Aside from all the luscious bakeries, we had Ting A Ling’s also located on Bloomfield Avenue and how good were their hot dogs and lemon ice. Probably two out of three nights a week in the summertime, my dad would go and get us some of that delicious lemon ice, packed so firmly in those big white, round, cardboard containers. It was “The Best”.

These were just some of the happy things that we enjoyed living in North Newark during my teenage years. These beautiful memories will be safely and securely tucked away in my heart forever.


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