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Friday, December 9, 2016

My childhood started off in.... Paterson/Totowa - Totowa/Paterson, WHATEVER!

I will be the first to tell you that the fundamentals of my childhood were not positive, but the times I spent with the neighborhood kids will remain as happy smiles on my heart forever.

In all honesty, these things that bring a smile to my face today are things I would never consider for my kids be horrified if my kids were doing.

Times were different back then. The world was different. 
We were different.
There wasn't so much electronic stimulation.  We didn't even have HBO.
We played OUTSIDE.

I grew up for the first thirteen years of my life in - technically Totowa, BUT because of where I lived in Totowa, all the Totowa kids said I lived in Paterson. All the Paterson kids said I lived in Totowa. For whatever reason the Quick Check seemed to be the unofficial dividing line.


I honestly didn't care. Until I transferred to Memorial School for one year, I went to school in Paterson - St Gerard's on Chamberlain Ave & West Broadway. Most of my friends lived in Paterson. I played in Paterson. I walked Union Boulevard all the way to Redwood Avenue and Chamberlain Avenue all the way to West Broadway, further if I could get away with it.  I went to E&V Pizza, Colonial Grill & all of the carnivals at St. Gerard's and remember the Brownstone before it was THE Brownstone.

To this day, I can navigate Paterson way better than Totowa & remember where each of my friends used to live from Chatham Ave to Totowa Road and from Shephard Lane to West Broadway.  That was my stomping ground until I moved to Clifton.

My main group of friends were a family of mostly boys who lived on Cumberland Ave, on the other side of the cemetery. Beside my cousin Michelle, there weren't any girls in the neighborhood for me.  No playing Barbie for me. It was Army, Ghost in the Graveyard - or sit in my house and watch everyone else play from the window. I chose army. Make no mistake....When you're the only girl and you need to play army with the boys - you're always the dead guy. Always.

We had fun.  The cemetery was across the street and the balloon factory, as we called it, was next door to me.  Back then, the cemetery was still pretty new & we'd play in the flower dump area.  King of the mountain, Ghost in the graveyard.

When the balloon factory closed for the day - we went dumpster diving.

I KNOW...  Believe me.... those words coming through my fingers were painful to type...but you have no idea how incredibly cool it was for a kid to grow up next to the "balloon factory".

Beyond the fact that this company made ginormous weather balloons, their property (as a kid) was HUGE.

The giant wall on the side of the building that was perfect for hitting tennis balls (that I conveniently pulled from their dumpster) against - until they went up on the roof and I had to ask the kid downstairs to climb up on the roof for me.

In the winter a part of the parking lot froze over and I had my own personal skating rink.  The back of the property had HUGE hills that all the neighborhood kids would sleigh ride down.

AND OMG the dumpster!!!
Ya know the stuff inside Stretch Armstrong???  Well I do!  It was right there in the dumpster alongside hundreds of failed Stretch's and tubes upon tubes of the gooey stuff that goes inside, which we happily brought home. Our parents were so pleased....NOT!

There were boxes of ladies shoes, tennis balls, rubber toys - anything that you could think of that was made of rubber / plastic - if it somehow failed in their factory, it was in the dumpster!
As far as we were concerned, they made EVERYTHING!!  That dumpster was our own private treasure trove!

Dumpster Diving became our favorite past time.  We were in our glory and couldn't wait to share our Dumpster Diving exploits and spoils with those who couldn't attend.

Even better, my downstairs neighbor and his friends (best known as "the Big Kids") would sneak into the factory and grab some of the balloons. At night after company closed for the evening, he'd get his mom's vacuum cleaner and blow up those balloons bigger than anything I'd ever seen!

On super hot days, we'd walk to Boonstra's for ice cream.  THAT was a huge treat, because regardless of how far I walked, I was never allowed to cross Union Boulevard.

My brothers and I used to ride our bikes to the park on Totowa Road and go visit the first submarine that used to be on display at JFK High School.

Even back then we appreciated having a small part of history on display for us.

I hate to admit that I don't know the specifics of the sub, we still thought it was very cool to just go there and to have things like the Great Falls so near to us.  

Speaking of the Great Falls - there also used to be what was called The Great Falls Festival every year, I remember funnel cakes, zeppole & the Flying Wallendas crossing the falls via tightrope.
It was just as spectacular then as it is now!

Those times may not have been a total piece of cake; I was forced to become tough at a young age, but life really was so much simpler - not so in your face.

I'm grateful for those days.  Even the bad days. They helped to build the person I am today.

Late 6th grade and all of 7th grade I did spend time in the Totowa Public School System. I guess I really was a Totowa kid after all. I was able to make more memories with a new group of friends until we swooped on over to Clifton for the next phase of my adolescence.

My Paterson friends will always remain in my heart. I often wonder about some of them and wonder if they get the same heart smiles as I do thinking of the old days.

Thank you for reading my blog!

December 9, 2016


  1. Good memories, many similar to mine sans the cemetery and balloon factory.

  2. Great to see you writing here again and it's so nice to remember good memories from the past. :)


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