I recall when I was but a child, penny candy, and Ice Cream for just a nickel. I can still taste the sugar cone…chocolate on the bottom and creamy vanilla on top…melting down to my shoes on a hot summer day. The siren sound of the pied piper was heard, the Good Humor man…making his rounds in the neighborhood after dinner…the tinkling bells summoning all the children to worship at his shrine.
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The hot dog man at the entrance to the park…the pungent fragrance of sauerkraut wafting through the air, was a comforting reminder of spring. On Easter Sunday after Mass, we promenaded through the park, showing off our Easter finery featuring stylish hats covered with flowers, veils, or even artificial fruit! We shopped and prepared for weeks for the big day…sometimes outfitting our hapless doggies to match our ensembles. Single ladies traveled in groups, past ogling gentlemen, who checked us out, before deciding which one of us to approach…all carefully choreographed.
There was a Woolworth’s in every town…sometimes more than one…and the butcher in town knew your name and favorite cut of meat (which in wartime rationing was no small thing!) On Sunday mornings, after church, everyone gravitated to the local bakery…to pick up crisp rolls and hot cross buns straight out of the oven. We always ordered a baker's dozen, so there would be an extra one to munch on as we headed home!
On weekends in the summertime, especially if you were from Jersey City, everyone headed down the Jersey Shore…Avon, Spring Lake, Belmar, Asbury Park, Point Pleasant and other fun towns. The latter towns were referred to as the home of the Irish Mafia; for whether or not you were Irish…you were adopted as one there!
During the day, you would lounge on the sun-drenched beaches, the hot sand scalding your bare feet, sizzling in the sun, covered with baby oil and iodine to see who could develop the darkest tan. Every once in a while, the girls in their one piece bathing suits (Bikinis would have landed you in jail in those days!) ventured down to the water every now and then to cool off, tentatively putting a toe in the water to check the temperature. The boys on the other hand, would run in like wild horses yelping and calling to each other as they plunged into the waves with wild abandon.
In the evening, young men and women strolled the boardwalks, eating frozen custard and salt-water taffy as they checked each other out as they passed by. The children would ride the carousel and the whip, shrieking with delight as they were tossed too and fro. Curdling screams could be heard for a block, emanating from the fun house, as the girls would encounter monsters who would jump out at them at every turn! After Labor Day…everyone would return en mass to their homes, dreading the start of the school year and vowing to come back next year.
Long before television was a staple in every home, we sat around the radio listening to the popular shows of the day, including “The Shadow…The Witches Tale…various soap operas…Fibber McGee and Molly, Jack Benny, Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and many more, including the symphony and Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Saturday afternoons.
The radio was our primary source of news…as was the local newspaper. Families would sit around the radio listening intently to every word…particularly during the war when they would wait to hear word of the action where their loved ones were serving. Edward R. Murrow was their lifeline to the war and they were riveted to their seats listening to the bombings occurring in London as it was happening!
People would flock to the local movie house to see Fox newsreels of the war hoping to catch a glimpse of a loved one. After the war was over, the newsreels captured the joy and delirious relief of people celebrating on the streets as they heard the good news.
Life…as we knew it…would never be the same again!
Copyright 2009 Beatrice Boyle
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