Posts tagged ‘Newark New Jersey’

POEMS & FLEETING THOUGHTS: WINDOWS’ VIEW, PAST AND PRESENT

 

I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, a city not known for its beauty or soft heart.  Not my choice, but it helped to form what I am.  These words are meant to describe the difference between my life then and now. 

After all these years I still ponder my life in Newark, and appreciate the emotions and experiences the city provided.

 

As I sit, advanced in age

Looking out back from my home

I see a multitude of trees

Denying the presence of neighbors,

 

I recall the home of my youth

And the views I saw then,

Beer factories

And the back windows

Filled with clothes lines

And hard-packed ground,

Beyond the bordering fence of wood,

More of the same.

 

I now pray

Not to take for granted

This present life,

And not to forget

The past.

April 6, 2016 at 5:14 pm 1 comment

SEASIDE HEIGHTS: I’LL NEVER RETURN, CONTINUED

You can tell my memories of summers spent on Sumner Avenue in Seaside Heights are fond and cherished. I tried to pass some of that fondness on to my kids – didn’t work.

It was shortly before Easter when I drove my wife and two daughters through the pine barrens of New Jersey to visit Seaside Heights for a weekend to renew my love and establish theirs for this beach town. It had been more than twenty years since I last visited the resort. I expected some change, or course, but was not prepared for the amount of change I discovered. I guess Thomas Wolfe was right. Driving down Sumner Avenue I was stunned. Where were all the bungalows, the salt water toffee selling that traditional costal confection, the bakery where daily we purchased rolls for lunch – all gone? The eccentric guy who lived on the corner of Sumner Avenue across the street from the boardwalk whose overgrown yard was the source of fantastic stories – gone. All replace by an endless parking lot surrounded by loud bars. My mind’s eye could see what was once there, but nothing could be shared with my family other than what was now.

But there was still the boardwalk.

Surprisingly, the boardwalk was more or less as I remembered. It was off-season so the only ride open was the indoor merry-go-round. Of course the penny arcade – gone, replace by mindless video games, no chance to claw-up those precious little false teeth. At least my girls got to play skeeball and watch their prize tickets accumulate to be redeemed for useless junk precious to kids their age.

Driving home, I know my family wondered what the big deal was, while I sought to regain the memories dashed by our pilgrimage, trying to erase the reality of our visit. Now, only the boardwalk anchored my memories of what used to be, and that young boy with his pennies and his dreams of the rewards they would win.

Then Sandy came for a visit and the roller-coaster was ocean-bound and the wheel-of-chance booths blown asunder. Rebuilding slowly accomplished only to be erased by fire.

First, all my memories finding no renewal other than that beloved boardwalk, and then the double dose of destruction visited upon the memorial of my youth. I cannot revisit Seaside Heights. That little boy haunting the boards did not survive fire and flood.

Here are some links where you may purchase my work.

Melange Books

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/walttrizna/index.html

 

 

Barnes & Noble.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/walt-trizna?store=book&keyword=walt+trizna

 

 

Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=walt+trizna

November 30, 2014 at 9:14 pm Leave a comment

SEASIDE HEIGHTS: I’LL NEVER RETURN

When I was young, growing up in Newark, New Jersey, a week’s vacation at the shore was rare for our cash-strapped family, but they did occur. When they did take place, it was always at Seaside Heights and always the same bungalow on Sumner Avenue. The event was an extended family affair with my mother’s siblings and always with her oldest sibling, unmarried Auntie Zosia (Polish for Sophie). I have a feeling she contributed a great deal of my family’s share of the cost, she was always helping us out. Perhaps, a future post will be dedicated to Auntie Zosia. She deserves to be remembered.

Another unusual characteristic of our shore vacation was that every night my dad would be handing out cash to us kids to spend while walking the boardwalk while normally little money was available. I think this was Auntie Zosia in action again behind the scenes. Nothing was ever said about the source of this new-found wealth, but that was the way she usually worked.

The bungalow on Sumner Avenue was only half a block from the boardwalk, and because of its close proximity to the ocean, the house was permeated with a constant salt-tinged moistness, not an unpleasant benefit of a life near the ocean.

The week was filled with family bonding and boardwalk adventures. An early morning visit to the beach to claim our piece of sand with an army blanket, in those days everyone had an army blanket, then a patrol exploring the area of the boardwalk under the shooting gallery to harvest the small copper shell casings that would fall through the boards. Why, because we were kids.

The days were spent on the crowded beach with the occasional dip into the frigid ocean jumping the waves. Nights were spent on the boardwalk playing miniature golf and going on rides. The adults would congregate around the spinning wheels of chance hoping to win towels, candy and yes – cigarettes.

Those were also the days of the penny arcade when a pocket full of pennies could entertain you for hours. Investing pennies in claw machines harvesting tiny sets of plastic false teeth along with other plastic junk you kept forever or until your mother cleaned. One of my favorite ways to spend my pennies was at the card machines. For two cents inserted, out would pop a post-card sized picture of a baseball player or airplane, depending on which machine you chose.

Rainy days were not a washout at the shore thanks to the penny arcade. If you wanted to make a slightly larger investment of a nickel, you could play the baseball pinball machine. A steel ball was pitched and the lever you worked was your bat. Depending on your skill, and of course luck, you scored runs. The best part was, as the runs added up, you were rewarded free games. A nickel sometimes brought you an hour’s worth of entertainment if you were ‘hot’ that day.

To be continues…

Here are some links where you may purchase my work.

Melange Books

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/walttrizna/index.html

 

Barnes & Noble.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/walt-trizna?store=book&keyword=walt+trizna

 

Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=walt+trizna

November 29, 2014 at 9:35 pm Leave a comment

MEMOIR: HIKING SOJOURN

In the scouts for years, I journeyed from Cub Scout to Boy Scout to Explorer earning the Eagle Scout award along the way, learned and explored many things a city boy would not normally encounter. One of the activities I enjoyed the most was the opportunity to go camping.
An hour’s drive northwest of Newark, New Jersey near Boonton was a Boy Scout campground. My troop would camp there several times a year, mostly in the winter. Cabins of various sizes dotted the campground. The only source of heat was a fireplace at one end of the cabin and cooking was done on a wood-burning stove. One winter, we had to melt ice for water. The weather had been so cold that the pipes to the old hand pump had burst. It seemed the harsher the conditions; the more we enjoyed the outing. City boys were facing nature head on.
On my first experience camping at the campground, we boys were going to cook a spaghetti dinner for Saturday night. The scout master wasn’t there, and none of us had ever cooked spaghetti before, but that didn’t stop us. We filled a large pot with water, put in the pasta and set it on the wood-burning stove to cook. A couple hours later we had one large noodle. That’s how I learned you needed boiling water to cook pasta.
The camping trips were formal outings organized by the troop. The less formal day hikes to the local Boy Scout area located in the South Orange Mountain Reservation, would be organized spontaneously, when a group of us were just hanging around with nothing to do. For a group of boys ranging from maybe eleven to thirteen, these trips were a real adventure. The beauty of these outings was that the city bus could take us to the base of the mountains. No adult input was required, once permission to go was obtained.
We usually caught the bus fairly early in the morning because once we arrived at the base of the mountain; it was at least an hour walk to the Boy Scout area. Sitting amongst commuters going to work or out to do some shopping, laden with packs and canteens and any other camping paraphernalia we thought we might need, we proudly displayed our badge of ruggedness. We rode through the Newark downtown area, then north through some of the blighted areas of the city, and then on to the more affluent suburbs. The bus would leave us in the shopping district of South Orange, where we would start to trudge up the hill to what us city boys considered wilderness. We hiked past stately homes with manicured lawns, a far cry from our homes in Newark. Finally, the houses were replaced with trees and the sidewalks with a dirt shoulder – we were almost there.
Our destination lay down a dirt road branching from the main highway. The area was large and open, set aside for day-tripping scouts to build fires and cook their meals. Across a stream bordering the area and up into the trees stood a few cabins for weekend outings. The cooking area was supplied with a generous amount of wood provided by work crews maintaining the reserve. For a bunch of boys who thought starting a charcoal fire was an adventure – this was nirvana.
Lunch was usually hot dogs and foil-wrapped potatoes and onions. The fire built to prepare these meager meals was immense to say the least. On hot summer days, we built fires large enough to heat the whole area during the dead of winter. Once everyone tired of throwing on wood, we had a fire too hot to approach to do any cooking. Either you waited for the flames to die down or had to find a very long stick to cook your hot dogs.
After our meals were consumed and the fire extinguished (I won’t go into how we boys would sometime extinguish fires), we set off on our hike. The mountain reservation was extensive with a variety of trails we could wander. Some were relatively flat, along a streambed, while others were more strenuous. One hike we often took was up a steep hill with the final climb to the summit a rock face. A spectacular view awaited, a view city boys could appreciate. When we later returned to the Boy Scout area, we usually built another fire whether on not we had anything to cook. With everyone rested, we began our trek down the hill to catch the bus home. Somehow the walk down always seemed longer than the walk up. By now we were all grungy and reeked with the smell of smoke, but we always enjoyed each other’s company and the time we had in the woods. After once again walking through affluence, we boarded the bus and made our way past the slums of Newark and finally to our homes. I treasured these outings with friends and took comfort in the fact that the solitude of a forest was only a bus ride away.

July 7, 2014 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment

MEMOIR: NIGHTS WITH JEAN SHEPARD AND CRIPPLED JOE

It was a time before cell phones, before computers and instant messaging. It was a time before people felt obligated to be at the beck and call of anyone who has anything to communicate no matter how insignificant the information might be. To many today, the ability to communicate – to use the technology – is more important than the content of what they have to say. It was a time of relative freedom, when you could truly be alone without getting away, when people did not feel uncomfortable to be out of the loop, for the loop for most did not yet exist. We were individuals, not part of a grid. It was a time when people were allowed to live their lives without the constant intrusions that today we consider to be normal – no telemarketers, no beepers no SPAM – the only SPAM being that fantastic pink brick. You could answer the phone at dinnertime and be fairly sure it was someone you wanted to talk to instead of someone trying to sell you something.
Growing up, my family did not have a phone. We lived in a four family house and only one family had a phone, a family on the second floor of our two-story house and you only asked to use it if a there was a real emergency. I’m talking seizure or some other life-threatening event. About the time I entered my teenage years we did get a phone, but in those days it was on a party line and, with our plan, you were limited to thirty calls a month, then you paid extra for every call over thirty. Imagine those limitations today in a family of six that included two girls.
But don’t get me wrong, when I was young the exchange of information was important – but there was just so much less of it. Or maybe it is that today, what we call information is not information at all, only considered so by those who generate it. What was communicated had importance, not the latest Hollywood starlet’s drug problem, not the public following the antics of an individual acting like a fool and wanting to be the first to know what outrageous or sick thing they do next. Long gone are the days when social media was comprised primarily of face-to-face conversations.
I watched my share of TV while growing up, maybe more than my kids do now, but I would never admit that to them. I listened to the radio, there always seemed to be a radio on in the house. That is why now, when I hear just the first few bars of a song from the late 50’s or 60’s I can usually share the song’s title and the artist singing with my children although they could care less about this information. I would listen to talk shows. These days I still listen to quite a bit of radio, usually National Public Radio when I’m not listening to an oldies station.
I would listen to Jean Shepard during the final hour of my shift working in a newsstand at the corner of Broad and Market streets, the heart of Newark, New Jersey. I was addicted to his show broadcasted on WOR weekday nights from 10:15 to 11. What a fantastic storyteller. For those not familiar with Jean Shepard, if you have ever watched A Christmas Story you have heard his voice and watched his work. We have a local station here in Pennsylvania that shows the movie nonstop for 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve. When he died at the age of seventy-eight, his obituary read, “A Twain of the radio.” He would start each show and off he would go on a forty-five minute monologue about what it was like when he was growing up in Indiana or his observations of life around him, and you never knew where he would end up by the end of his show. He was genuine, one of life’s observers, and listening to him relate his memories and thoughts was a true treasure. He would conjure up stories of his childhood, remembering things that happened to us all but take a slightly different slant in his observations and in doing this create those wonderful views of his youth.
I would be counting up the papers and magazines and get the place ready for my relief as I listened to the radio. I worked at this newsstand for most of my high school and college years and came to know quite a collection of characters, old men haunting the nights on Newark’s streets. Talking to one another, carrying newspapers days old and talking to me for I was a regular of Newark’s night too. One individual, who could have been a character in a novel, was the man who would relieve me, a man with the most unpolitically correct name I have ever had the honor to hear – his name was Crippled Joe.
Now Crippled Joe must have been in his 50’s and walked with the use of a cane. His deformity was one leg that had an almost ninety degree bend in the top before it entered the hip. Crippled Joe had worked for my boss, the owner of the newsstand, for years and years, working the 11 PM to 6 AM shift and he was my relief of the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that I worked. And every night all papers and magazines would have to be counted and the money counted and locked up for Crippled Joe would try to steal whatever wasn’t accounted for, and my boss knew this and that was the relationship they had, Crippled Joe could be trusted as long as he was not given an opportunity not to be trusted.
Joe also had a little side business going. He used to run a numbers racket at the newsstand. Everyone knew about it, my boss, the other workers – everyone, yet every night Joe would complete these transactions secretly, and I suppose he really thought they were secret. Men would come up while I was changing over with Joe, whisper something in his ear and handed him some bills but would never take a newspaper or magazine. Being just fifteen or sixteen when I started to work, and quite naïve. It took a while for me to figure out what was going on and used to think it funny that, after all the years I worked there, every night he would still try to hide.
I worked year round while in high school and summers while in college. The newsstand was a good-sized booth with the front open to about waist level. We sold all the Newark and New York City papers. Back then Newark had two daily papers and New York at least six or more. We sold comics and magazines and some kind of dream cards that told you which numbers you should play according to the dreams you were having. Working at the newsstand during the winter was a real challenge. The wind would whip around into the booth and all the papers had to be held down with heavy metal weights. The change was kept in a metal change holder, a series of metal cups nailed in front of where you stood in the booth. When it was cold, I mean really cold, the change would freeze to your bare fingertips. You kept gloves on when no one was buying anything, but when the time to make a sale came, off came the gloves and those warm fingers would freeze right to the coins. Snowstorms were a real challenge. I had what some might determine to be a twisted sense of duty. During one particular storm, the snow was drifting against the door on the inside of the booth. We had electric heaters but unless you were right on top of them, you froze. I kept the stand open even though no one in his or her right mind was out on a night like this. Finally I got the word to close down. It was the first time I ever saw the newsstand closed.
During the summers of my high school and early college years I worked days and ran the newsstand for my boss who would drop by once a week to pick up the deposit slips and see how things were going. It was about this time that my well-established hormones began to really kick in and along with fantasies about some of my customers. I can recall one shorthaired blond girl, who must have been a secretary, and every day would pick up a paper – perhaps for her boss. I was in college at this time and she was about my age, probably working right out of high school. By the time I would sell her a paper I was dirty with newsprint from the early morning rush hour. I would see her every day and she would never say a word. Thinking back it was probably good that she hadn’t for I probably would have answered with some garbled response. So I would have my fantasies of meeting for a soda after work, maybe a movie but all I did was keep folding her papers and taking her money.
There was another girl I remember but she haunted the nights. I first noticed her while I was still in high school. She was about my age, maybe seventeen, not pretty but not unattractive either. She was very slim with long red hair and would hang out on the corner where I worked. She usually had other kids with her but she was the oldest. I never knew if the other kids were siblings or just friends. She was not well dressed and just looking at her you could tell she had very little money. I just wondered what she was doing night after night on that corner. Even now, when I think of her, I can hear Frankie Vallie singing ‘Rag Doll’. I wonder what became of the ‘rag doll’ as I wonder about other people that crossed my path during those night and days I spent selling papers.
On Mondays and Wednesdays my shifts were from 6-11PM, but on Fridays I went to work straight from school starting at 3PM and working until 11. I got quite a few stares and have to do some explaining after gym in high school as I was putting on my long johns in preparation for a winter’s night work.
Fridays, I would get home about 11:30 have some dinner and go to bed. My bed by now was a single pull-out bed in the parlor next to the kerosene stove which, during the winter, you could almost sit on and have no fear of injury. But my radio listening for the day was not yet over, or just beginning, depending on which way you wanted to approach the time of day, for another of my favorite radio shows was about to begin – Long John Nebal whose talk show on WOR radio ran from midnight to about five in the morning. The topics would vary but the subject often discussed that stirred my interest was flying saucers. Nebal would sometimes have on his show the editor of Saucer News, a local magazine-type publication although calling it a magazine was quite a stretch, and of course I immediately sent away for a subscription. It was just a few pages long and would be filled with pictures of flying saucers along with local sightings and editorial comments. The funny thing was that most of the editorial comments were about the editor’s ongoing divorce. For some reason I’ve always been drawn to slightly wacko subjects, here’s where my kids could provide an editorial.
Anyway, I would listen to these shows as late into the night as I could. Now I wouldn’t use my newsstand radio for that would be a waste of batteries, I used my crystal radio. Let me explain what this is, although my theoretical knowledge may be a little rough. The radio actually contained a crystal and onto it pressed a thin piece of wire called a ‘cat’s whisker’. The pressure generated electricity and it was also the way you tuned in a station, by moving the ‘cat’s whisker’ around the crystal. My radio was in the shape of a rocket and about six inches long, a black and red beauty. Coming out the rocket were three wires. One wire ended in and alligator clip for the ground, one wire was an earpiece and the last wire was the antenna. The antenna was rather long, somewhere between twenty and thirty feet and I would stretch it through the whole house before climbing into bed. I tend to toss and turn in my sleep so I would always wake up all wrapped up in the earphone and antenna wire, but no electricity was wasted although every night I listened to my crystal radio I risked death by strangulation.
Looking back, they were rough days, hard days but good days. I was easily entertained. I worked hard, and ever so slowly I matured.

June 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm 1 comment

REVISITING MY MEMOIR

Around the year 2000, I began writing my first prose in the form of a memoir. Sections of that effort have appeared in this blog and now I thought I’d post a few more. You may have to hunt if you want to read past entries. My blog needs better organization, but I guess I’m limited by the ability of the organizer.
The title of my memoir, if it ever sees the light of day as a published work, will be You Had Hot Water? This title is derived from the fact that the house where I lived until the later part of my undergraduate college education which I pursued far from Newark, New Jersey where the house was located, did not. Come to think of it, our kitchen sink was the only sink I can ever recall seeing which sported just one faucet.
Our family resided in the Ironbound section of Newark, given that name because of all the industry located in the neighborhood. It was also referred to as ‘Down Neck’ by the locals and is still to this day although I don’t know and I’m sure the vast majority of its residents don’t know the origin of that name.
I began writing my memoir after making observations of the world around me as an adult and seeing what people had and the lives they lived and how the conditions and attitudes were so different from those I experienced growing up. People live in conditions far better than I could ever imagine growing up in Newark, yet bemoan a life I would have given anything for while growing up in Newark during the 1950s and 60s. And I bet they all have hot water.
I realize that these are ‘blanket statements’ and there are many living lives in this country which are miserable existences, but there are more safety nets available now than there were back in the 50s and 60s. Back then, it was a time when you appreciated what you had rather than what the other person had. In reality, no one had a great deal, but we lived life as best we could.
With this introduction, I shall begin posting more memoir pieces offering a glimpse of live in Down Neck Newark when I was a boy.

June 27, 2014 at 2:14 am Leave a comment

DOWNNECK ST. PATRICK’S DAY

MEMOIR

For the last two years, St. Patrick’s Day has held a special significance. I now work for Bewley Irish Imports, in the warehouse, packing orders for tea, oatmeal, pottery and other various products of the emerald isle. Needless to say, the month or so before this holiday is extremely busy. But as a kid growing up in Newark, the only significant occurrence associated with that holiday was the local parade.
Here is my remembrance.

DOWNNECK ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE

The section of Newark, New Jersey I called home was referred to as the ‘Downneck Section’, why, no one could ever explain. And on the Sunday afternoon, on or before St. Patrick’s Day, the residents of my street were treated to what had to have been the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country.
Our local Catholic Church sponsored the parade. I could see the church’s steeple from my parlor window. It was that close. The parade had to be held on Sunday for between my house and the church stood Balentine Brewery. Weekdays were filled with the rumble of trucks quenching the thirst of a parched city. Sunday was a day of rest for the trucks, making the parade possible.
Magically, sometime before the parade, a green line appeared down the center of our street, the first harbinger of a gala event. I never witnessed this lines creation, but every year it materialized. Around one-thirty the residents began to gather on the sidewalk. We all walked out our front doors with anxious anticipation. The brewery and Catholic school took up one side of the street, multiple family houses stood opposite. Of course, there were always the annoying boys riding their bikes down the center of the blocked-off street before the parade began. I was proud to add to their number.
I assumed the parade began at the church. I never did discover where it finished.
There was always a band, not a school band, but one made up of adult men most of whom had almost mastered the instruments they were assigned. Before the band came a few ruddy-faced Irish men, decked out in their top hats, waving to the minuscule crowd. At the front of this procession were the parish priests. The parade took thirty seconds to pass. The procession turned the corner on to Ferry Street and marched on, melting into the Downneck neighborhood.

March 3, 2010 at 8:22 pm Leave a comment

COMIC BOOKS

MEMOIR

COMIC BOOKS

When I was around nine years old I remember making trips with my father to uptown Newark to visit bookstores to buy comic books.
The stores are now long gone, torn down and replaced by skyscrapers, but once there was a series of used bookstores, the only ones in the area, huddled together on Market Street, located where the uptown section of Newark began, just beyond Penn Station. Once you left my area of Newark and made your way to Penn Station. and under the elevated railroad you were uptown, heading toward Broad and Market, the heart of Newark.
Off I would go with my dad to buy comic books. The stores were ancient with cats perched in the dirty plate-glass windows. They were musty-smelling rooms filled with shelves piled with old books from the creaky hardwood floor to the grimy ceiling. This was my first experience visiting bookstores. During my youth, I received a gift from my mother; the love of books. She was a constant reader.
I love bookstores to this day, both old and new, and the smells of the used bookstores take me back to Market Street. The bookstores of Market Street had huge front windows crammed with books along with the before mentioned cats; the store overflowed with books. And somewhere in this maze of books were bags and bags of used comic books. The comics had their covers removed (which might have indicated something illegal) and sold for a nickel each or six for a quarter and we would buy them by the stack.
There would be romance comics for my mother, science fiction and action heroes for me and for the younger kids there would be Nancy, Donald Duck, Archie and more. We would bring home a bundle of comics, along with the musty smell of the store, sit around the kitchen table and divide them up.
Taking part of my stack of comics and hiding some in the bathroom for nature’s calls did not endear me to my family. There was a water pipe running from floor to ceiling on the outer wall and I would hide my comics rolled up and wedged between the pipe and the wall near the ceiling. Of course, they were in plain sight. I just assumed no one would ever look up.
At the age of nine comics were my entertainment; they were my entry to the world of reading and imagination. To this day I lose patience with computer games, get bored with TV and other electronic means of filling your day. But given a good book, I get lost for hours always needing to know what the next page holds.

February 13, 2010 at 10:58 pm Leave a comment

RIOTS

During my years in Newark I witnessed the good and the bad. This was the ugly.

MEMOIR

RIOTS

It was a summer’s morning in 1967. The buses were running late, and I soon found out why. I think it was the lack of knowledge I had that morning that, helped in part, to make me the news junkie that I am today.
I was in college now, and had two summer jobs, I still had my job at the newsstand working my usual Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. I had also started a new job. With a strong interest in science, I was studying biochemistry in college and wanted to find a job where I could gain some kind of practical laboratory training. I wrote to all the hospitals I could think of in the Newark area and asked if there was a lab job available. To my great surprise I got a positive reply from Presbyterian Hospital and an offer to work in their hospital laboratory. I found out later that most of the summer positions went to doctor’s children, and at the last moment, someone decided that the job was not for them. I guess my letter must have shown up at just the right time.
When I reported for work at Presbyterian Hospital to begin my summer job, I was shown into one of many small rooms that made up the hospital laboratory and was giver the job of dipping urinalysis sticks into urine samples and told that someday I might be able to spin down the urine and look at it under the microscope. This was not the exciting summer job that would bring me the lab experience that I had hoped to gain. But beggars can’t be choosers so I decided to stick it out for the summer. After a few days of dipping into urine, someone came around the lab and asked for volunteers to go across the street and work in the Children’s Hospital that was affiliated with Presbyterian. I figured that the job could not get more boring than what I was doing now, so off I went.
After I had volunteered, people around me told me that I had made a major mistake and that soon I would see the error of my ways.
The next day I showed up for work at Children’s Hospital and asked for directions to the lab. When I found it, I was greeted not by a huge anonymous operation, but a rather small room with just a bench for each area such as urinalysis, hematology, along with microbiology and blood chemistry. The hospital was fairly small so I should have anticipated this but, of course, I didn’t. I did find out why I had been discouraged from coming to this lab. For there was no place to hide and you really had to work.
With a little training, I went from dipping urinalysis sticks to doing all the complete urinalysis for the hospital every day, making out the reports and initialing them. If the doctors only knew who W.T. was, would they have been surprised. After I was done with the urine, I would drift over to blood chemistries and with some training was soon reporting results from that bench. I was having a ball. And as the summer progressed and some of the technicians went on vacations, I was covering all the urinalysis and blood chemistries. This was also before the days of strict laboratory practices when dealing with human samples. I was mouth pipeting human serum and plasma with what are now old fashioned glass pipettes and of course wore no gloves, but I had a great time and felt I really contributed something because they were so short-staffed.
I began my workday at the hospital laboratory at 8 o’clock in the morning, worked till about four then went home, and on my days at the newsstand, had something to eat and worked at the newsstand from 6 to 11 P.M.
One morning when I knew I would be working both jobs, I prepared to go to work at the hospital. My main task was to have some breakfast and get to the bus stop on time. I seldom had time for the news. The buses ran fairly regularly, but for some reason today the bus was late – very late. Finally, when I did see the bus coming, my bus was part of a convoy of about four buses. So I got on, found a seat and was ready for the usual thirty to forty minute ride to work, but this ride would be different than any ride to work that I had had before.
As I rode past the intersection of Broad & Market Streets, and past the newsstand where I was to work that night, I could see flames rolling out of the storefronts of some of the nearby businesses. The streets were crowded with fire engines and police cars. The streets were unusually full of activity.
Once I made it to the hospital, I found out what was going on, riots had broken out in Newark, starting the night before in the downtown area. All that day I could look down on the street from the lab window and see convoys of state police cars and jeeps with mounted and manned machine guns, a truly eerie sight to witness in your hometown. During the workday, I called my boss at the newsstand and asked if he was going to stay open that night. At first he said he would but later changed his mind, much to my relief. I think that in all the years I worked there, this was the first time the newsstand had been closed without there being a major snowstorm.
That afternoon, instead of catching the bus home, my cousins called and asked if I would want to be picked up after work, that sounded pretty good to me. While riding home, I saw sandbag emplacements with machine guns in the middle of the downtown area. The city had changed – scarred forever. Anger that had long been buried rose into full view. I also found out the next day that a man had been shot and killed at my bus stop.
The nights in the Down Neck section were quiet for the next few days due to the curfew in effect for all of Newark. Our area of the city, being far from the riots, was like a ghost town. There was no activity on the streets at all.
I have not recently revisited the area of the riots, so I have no idea what the area looks like now. I do remember that for years after the riots, once the burned-out homes and stores were torn down, the lots remained vacant, whole city blocks where nothing existed, only the rubble of human folly, anger and injustice.
One can only imagine how lives were changed forever on that day that the buses ran late.

February 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment

SUNDAY DRIVES

MEMOIR

 

SUNDAY DRIVES

There existed a tradition back years ago that has not survived to the present, at least not to the extent that it existed back then – the Sunday drive.  With today’s complex society and fast-paced lifestyles, to say nothing of gas prices, no one just drives for the sake of driving, unless you’re a teenager with a brand-new car.  Every time you get in the car there is a definite destination at the end of the trip.  But when I was a kid, many times the trip would start at home and finish at home with nothing in between except burning gas.

On Sunday afternoons my family would pile into the old Chevy and off we would go, unencumbered by seat belts, piled high with blankets if the drive was during the winter – which was rare.  The blankets were necessary because, back then, heaters were an option and our Chevy was a bare-bones model.  The route we took was more or less the same every week.  It got to where I would know when my father would turn, when we would change lanes, never straying from the usual Sunday afternoon course.

We would leave our house in the city and venture out into the ‘country’.  For me, the country was anywhere where the houses did not sit one beside the other, places with lawns and an occasional open field and a total lack of any kind of industry.  On our journey we would go, past housing developments and until finally sighting an open field or pasture. We would journey down roads bordered by store after store, but being Sunday, many of the stores were closed.  The only stores open for business were grocery and drug stores.

You see, these were the days of the ‘blue laws’ in New Jersey.  On Sunday, there were certain items you could buy and certain items you couldn’t.  For example, you could buy food but not any type of clothing.  We had these huge Wal Mart type stores that sold everything, the section that sold food was open but there were ropes across the aisles that sold clothes.  This could be the reason for Sunday drives!  You see malls did not yet exist – and if they had most of the stores would be closed or at least partially roped off.  We all know, especially those of us lucky enough to have teenagers, that the mall is The Destination.  There were also small shore communities that would, on Sundays, put sawhorses across the streets leading into town.  No cars allowed on the streets on Sunday.

Our journey would last long, hours, but they were never far.  My father was the opposite of a lead-footed driver.  He was more of a feather foot.  It was before the interstate highway system came into existence, so speedy travel did not exist as it does today and my father was not a fast driver.  There were times we would take a ride ‘down the shore’ towards Asbury Park.  My mother would pack a lunch and halfway there we would pull over onto the shoulder and eat, then continue on our trip.  When I was older, and started to drive, I would retrace this journey and it would take me less than an hour.

There was, however, one detour that we kids loved. On our Sunday drives, we would occasionally make a stop at the doughnut man’s bus.  This was before there were any doughnut store chains.  This made the outing a great joy for everyone. The man had bought a school bus and converted it into a mobile doughnut shop – complete with cooking facilities.  He parked his brown and white school bus on the shoulder of a four-lane highway – always the same place of course – and sell doughnuts, either plain or powdered sugar.  How we kids loved those doughnuts, most of the time still warm.  One of the kids would get out with mom to go up to the window to make the doughnut purchase. If he saw a kid, he would present the buyer with a bag of doughnut pieces – mistakes that occurred during the doughnut making.  And of course the bag of doughnut pieces was free.  I know people like that still exist.  Business people whose bottom line is to see a child’s eyes light up, but they are few and far between.

The other destination that might be visited was the driving range.  This stop I could never figure out – not to this day.  Here was my father, a toggler in a tannery, who to the best of my knowledge, had never even been on a golf course, stopping to hit some golf balls.  I never even saw my father play miniature golf, but there were the Triznas at the driving range hitting buckets of balls.  I of course would aim for the jeep driving around with its protective cage gathering the golf balls, later on I actually would hit for distance.  I can’t remember how long our driving range phase lasted, a few months, maybe a year, but it soon slipped into the past.  As we got older we kids played miniature golf.  But after our driving range phase was over, my father did not pick up a golf club again.

February 5, 2010 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

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