June 5, 2008
Get ready for a ride, and a long one, to the Happy Days period of Hoboken, when everybody was young and all we can remember is the good times. This post, prompted by a couple of emails, one from Slezak, two from Dennis (“Rabbi”) will fill you and me in on what Hoboken once was.
First, a word from Slezak:
Hoboken is still beautiful...yes, the buildings are still there but the people and places have vanished with time...the happy days of the 1950s should be remembered ...a book maybe with pictures...an era never to return...the smells of coffee from the Maxwell House plant and fresh baked bread of the Wonder Bread factory, and foghorns on a foggy day...in the Hudson River ..the many large parades down Washington Street ...the Kramer’s clock on Washington Street that always told the right time twice a day: 12 o’clock....THE CRIME, none to speak of...you never locked your doors or car if you had one...Church doors were never locked either...you could pray any time of the day or night ..COPS walked the street...you knew them by the first name...jobs if you needed one ..the mayor’s office door was always open..he would always get you a job...just with a phone call. SCHOOLS – the teacher you had your mother had had also...lastly, the people...depending on what part of the city you lived. Downtown was the Italians, uptown was the Irish, Germans, Poles...the blacks lived on 1st Street...that's the way it was.
Manhattan was just short a bus ride away.
And then this from “Rabbi.” (No doubt he’ll explain that nickname one of these days):
Cops were respected in Hoboken. You had your Specials and the Civil Service Cops then. When a cop told you to stop, you stopped in your tracks. I found out what the night stick was used for besides twirling on a piece of leather one night, and yes, it was my fault, and I take all the blame.
I will not mention the cop's name but he hollered for me to stop and I figured that this fat cop could not catch me, not that I was doing something bad, and I started to run. He twirled that stick right in back of my knees and down I went head first into the sidewalk. Skinned up my knees pretty bad.
He asked why I ran and I was honest with him and told him that I figured that he would not catch me. He just laughed at me and asked me what I was doing out at 10 PM running through the streets. I was running home because my curfew – yes, we had them – was at 10 PM and I was late. That is what happens when you are watching submarine races in the park!
I actually told him that I was watching submarine races and he roared laughing. He told me that he hoped that I learned a lesson from running from a cop. I sure did, and he let me run the rest of the way home, to get another lesson about being late.
Just could not win that night!!!
Can't ever remember calling a cop a police person.
The cops did a good job of cleaning out the homeless from Fourth Street Park, aka Church Square Park. The paddy wagon would pick them all up and let them out on the boundary of Jersey City on Saturday afternoon. I wonder what the Jersey City cops did with them? We called the homeless hobos then.
When I got in trouble in high school later on in life, these hobos came in handy for me. Some of them became my father!!! Yep, I would give them a buck and they would come to school with me as my father. I know of someone else that tried this and the hobo smacked the kid in the face in front of Mr. Stover because the kid
got caught writing a gyp slip to Mr. Stover to get excused from school.
And in a later email, Dennis came back with this:
78 Bloomfield Street: The block was like one big family. Everyone looking out for everyone else's children. We all played in the street.
When the old lady looked out the window and hollered, one of us had better be there or else. If someone else's mother was looking for them, and if we knew where they were, we went and got them.
We even had block parties! Our baseball field was that strip of weeds in front of the jail, until some cop chased us. They never asked us to leave, it was, "Hey, you kids get your asses outta there, NOW!"
No ice cream trucks came around, we had Johnny’s Candy Store. On 1st Street we had Teddy's Ice Cream Parlor.
The former Judge De Fazio's father had a barber shop and in the summer would sit outside and play the mandolin. He gave a lousy haircut! It cost all of 25 cents!
On weekends, especially Saturdays it was the "Scratch House" and two movies – a chapter of Rocket Man, and ten cartoons. The "Scratch House" was named that because of all the drunks that would sleep there. The real name was the Rivoli and the show cost 12 cents. If you went to the Fabian, you got to see the high class pictures in color, with air conditioning!!!! Two movies, news, one cartoon. The cost was 25 cents. It was a shame that they took that theatre down. They said that it was falling apart. That was a laugh because it was built with steel beams!! Someone made money on that deal.
There were about only ten cars on the whole block. Parking was a breeze! Love those old cars with running boards on them. Seems everyone in those days loved black colored cars. The owners prided themselves on how shiny they could keep them.
On the corner of Newark and Bloomfield Street was Marotta's grocery/liquor store. If you bought something there and got a receipt with the red star on it you got a prize!! It was a great gimmick to get people to shop there instead of walking all the way to the A&P up on 6th and Washington Street.
We had to listen 24/7 to the presses of the Jersey Observer right across the street. In fact we used to play on the rolls of newsprint that were being unloaded on the sidewalk there. If you got hurt, it was your fault. In those days I guess lawyers did not get lots of people suing other people over accidents like they do now.
Names of families were -- gotta really think about this one -- the Geerloffs, the Reileys, the Fosbergs, the Geerings, the Curkos, Mr. and Mrs. O'Reily, Miss Boylson, Petey Nistler, almost forgot the prettiest girls around the block, the Shannons, the Haacks. Only one Italian family on the block, the Presiosis – all six of them.
Back to the present, and your humble blogger, me, the editor of these emails. Dennis
(“Rabbi”) in particular seems to have a memory like me and Jill Price – see my earlier post “Living with Memories” – and both he, Slezak, and others are now bombarding me with emails. Slezak has put me onto the trail of Jimmy Roselli, Hoboken’s other singer, and I’m reading his biography which I’ll post about soon, but in the future there will also be more and more from these and other citizens of the old Hoboken.
I hope you’re enjoying this trip as much as I am! Comments and more emails are welcome.