Bayside Park, Jersey City, circa 1960
One of the best parts of writing this blog has been the chance I've gotten to wax nostalgic. I've been able to write down some of the stories of my younger days that all people of a certain age carry around with them. Unlike prior generations, however, nowadays you can post your Memory Lane meanderings on the internet, and sometimes get instant feedback.
Some of my nostalgia posts have evoked responses of the most gratifying kind. Google searches landing on these posts have led to my getting back in touch with several of the very people I have written about. Such intense blasts from the past are great fun.
The other day, I got a new kind of input. A stranger from the same neck of the woods as mine sent me a photo of herself and some of her friends in Bayside Park in the Greenville section of Jersey City. She also e-mailed some remembrances of her days growing up in that town. Her name is Carol Saba. Here is the picture, and here is her story:
Well, sure you could use the picture -- my intention was to post it. I don't know what happened to most of the girls, though. Some went on to St. Aloysius Academy before college. Most of my friends moved away from the City. All of my cousins moved to the Shore, upper New York State, California. My immediate family moved to Florida.
You've started me on a trip down "Memory Lane." I was born in Jersey City and so were my parents and grandparents. We could see the Statue of Liberty from my grandparents' kitchen window (they lived upstairs, we lived downstairs.) All the houses were similar -- duplexes with a narrow alley between them. I lived there only until I completed eighth grade in 1960 but I knew every family on my street, Bidwell Avenue, that had kids: The Duffys, the O'Connors, the Rydwins, the Coogans, the Parseghians, the Lanagans, the Kearneys, the Wards, and the Reillys. Oh, and Gigi Up-the-Street and Karen Up-the-Street, too. We played outside every day: box ball, stoop ball, roller-skates (where's my skate key?), or walked to Bayside Park. We took the bus to Roosevelt Stadium for ice skating; we walked to the public library on Hudson Boulevard (I think it's Kennedy, now), swam at the CYO pool, and in the summer hung out sometimes at the Bayonne Pool. (Ooh, that pool scene was fun -- the PA blasted Connie Francis singing "Lipstick on your Collar" and I was wearing lipstick for the first time, behind my mother's back.)
I remember lining up for flag-raising every morning at Sacred Heart School, running to the 12:20 low Mass in the church basement on Sundays. I loved going to the movies in Journal Square: those plush balconies, Oriental rugs, and chandeliers in the Loew's and the Stanley. I used to walk to the stores on Ocean Avenue between Bidwell and Bayview: Joe's Delicatessen, the shoemaker's, Aiello's (fruits and vegetables), the butcher's, Mrs. Pinkowitz's notions, Eddie Cox's News and Candy store (had a fountain and nickel cokes -- NICKEL cokes, dear God I AM old), and the A&P on the corner.
We played on the street unsupervised by parents who trusted us to be where we said we would be. But it was a different world. Would any parent today allow two 12 year olds to take the Tube into Manhattan every Saturday morning to a class for the High School Entrance Exam?
My favorite image? I remember the Holy Name Parade in Lincoln Park on one cold Sunday, how beautiful our city looked then, the women in fur, the men and boys marching with their crisp pennants, and children dressed in their best. I loved the camaraderie in the air as people shouted their hellos to each other.
My time in Jersey City was short, but its impact on me was tremendous. I had what you'd have to call a happy childhood.
Okay, enough! Sorry to rattle on so, but really, I'm just scratching the surface!
Thanks, Carol. Great to hear from you.