Friday, June 27, 2008

East Side, West Side, Hoboken Style

June 27, 2008

You move to Hoboken and get to know your way around. Streets are laid out conveniently, in a grid, and those in the south part of town are numbered First, Second, Third and Fourth Street. Running east to west, the streets have names like River, Hudson, Washington and Bloomfield. Clearly the main drag is wide Washington Street, lined with businesses and restaurants with sidewalk seating.

Easy as pie. You try to learn the sequence of those named streets and discover that the farther west you go in town all the names correspond with U.S. Presidents – Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson.

Standing at the foot of Washington Street and looking north, you feel that you are at the “downtown” section, looking “uptown.”


My correspondents, emissaries from Old Hoboken, began enlightening me in terse comments.

From Dennis (“The Rabbi”) Maloney:

“A note to new Hobokenites. Uptown was and is Washington St. to Clinton St. 1st. to 14th.

“Downtown is Grand to Harrison 1st. to 14th. For some reason, newbies have changed uptown to 7th to 14th and downtown from the Path to 6th.”

slezak said...

“He is right on the money. UP TOWN, AND THERE WAS DOWN TOWN, it has nothing to do with numbers...from Clinton Street to Washington Street was uptown. We called it the upper crust.

"HUDSON STREET and Castle Point Terrace was the Beverly Hills of Hoboken. Feel honored that you live there. It meant you had money...and lions on your stoop to protect you."

Later a reader in Jersey City calling himself Primitive Sound System added: “Downtown Hoboken has always been toward the Palisades. The current crop of Newbies really seem clueless to what Hoboken was like nor do they seem to care. Unfortunately they need to research a little more because the ones that are horrified that their condos are flooding along the Palisades should have known that that used to be swamps. Goats roamed free back there – not suits running to catch the Light Rail.

“The Newbies also seem to complain about the Light Rail. I won't call them Yuppies. That generation has moved on. Also, the original Yuppies seemed to actually enjoy and take part in the culture of Hoboken regardless of the fact that we all laughed at the ridiculous rents they were paying.”

I'm beginning to get it. "Up" and "Down" were really east and west. And the rich people lived on Hudson. Now the newbies, all richer than I, live all over town, and I live in a walkup on Hudson. I’m paying an astronomical rent for a 800-sq. foot third floor – not counting the stoop, and Neil Simon says in Barefoot in the Park – walkup, in a building without a washer or dryer, and I’m planning to upgrade to an even more expensive place as soon as possible.

Add to this that I grew up, and just spent 18 more years in a town on the eastern shore of a bay which made me accustomed to watching the sun set into the water. Now the sun sets into Jersey City, and the water is on the east – and the city on the other side is New York itself, with its magnificent skyline looking so close I think I could toss a softball right into it.

It’s hard enough for my frozen old brain to accept that west is west (and it's Jersey City) and east is on the other side of the water, to say nothing of that 14th Street is not uptown, but River Street is. Therefore the sun sets on Jersey City.

But give me time. I’ll get it.


Anonymous said...

Like your blog a lot. I grew up in Hoboken, uptown which to me is on the North end of town. I lived on 12th and Hudson and it is fun to hear people talk about Snackies, Maxwell House Coffee and the ship yards. I just visited again a few weeks ago and much is still the same. The churches (OLG and STS P&P), the bars (Helmers and the Elysian ), the parks and even the buildings. Prices are definitely higher but parking is probably easier.

Hoboken was definitely blue collar, with some very large businesses. There was even a freight train that went from about 16th street, up to the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards, it traveled down Hudson street to River Road (Sinatra Drive) and there were places where box cars were put on barges,

Keep up the good blogging.

barbary kid / charles said...

Jim B mentioned the place were the box car were put on the rail road barges. That was Shore Road and not River Road. The pier that the barges tied up to belonged to the rail road. On the hot summer days when we didn't go to Palisades Park. We would walk or ride our bicycles to the pier and dive into the water from it. Yep! We did swim in that dirty, filthy, oily, garbage infested water of the fabulous Hudson River. Back in the day that spot was called B.A.B. (bare ass beach) and rightfully named. I'm sure if someone from Hoboken reads this, will remember the name of our beach. Most of the times when we went there we didn't expect to go swimming. So we didn't bring bathing suits. If you stood in Elysian Park you can look out over the water an see us diving and swimming. Almost every time we were there was the girls there watching us. When we got out of the water and went to the park they would all be gone. As bad as the water was we enjoyed every minute of it. A couple of us wanted to be explores so we got old pallets wired them together. Picked up some boards to use as oars. Went out into the river we got picked up by the N.Y. Police Boat and bought back to Hoboken they handed us over to a Hoboken Policeman Sgt. John Fleitcher. My family knew hem well. It didn't make much difference to him. He still gave us a wack on the butt with the night stick. Put us into his car a rode home to face our parents. That's when the cops didn't have to arrest you to make points and get promoted. We also attempted to swim across the river at one time. Guess what! We got 1/3 way across and we were so tired out we turned back. Yep, same thing happened, they captured us again. But this time I truly belive they saved our lives. Again we were taken home to face our parents again. The worst thing in the world was to be taken home by the police. Our parents didn't take to litely. I for one got my butt warmed good. I am totally enjoying sharing my stories of the Hoboken I remember.