It was just a sleepy little group on Facebook called, “You know you’re from Belleville, N.J., if you.” Over the years, there has been some minor interest as several hundred folks joined and then forgot about the little Facebook group.
But on Monday, when we needed to decide whether to upgrade or abandon the group, is when things took a surreal turn. We figured that although the activity has been minimal, it’s still a great place to stop in and reminisce about Belleville. And there was never any noticeable animosity that you sometimes find on anonymous public forums.
So, we went and upgraded the group. Frankly, we didn’t exactly know what that meant but figured, well, how bad can it be, you know?
Before you could say the high school is sinking in the bog, the group’s member rolls started rolling from the Valley to the Hill and everybody settled around Silver Lake and let their memories flood good old SoHo. (Is that ‘too Belleville’?)
As the sun set, the group set its site on 1,000 members. On Tuesday at 11:20 we added member 2,000. And the fun part of it is the cross section of group members, ages, backgrounds, who still lives in town, who moved to Nutley and who lives across the country.
John Servidio writes, “you know you’re from Belleville if your younger self would kick your [tail] if he knew you live in Nutley.”
For instance, some remember the place for instruments at Muscara’s, others recall Spinoza’s Music and others are talking about Mickey’s Music, including someone who wishes she still worked there today!
Some remember snow cones at Rosebuds, donuts at Belle Maid, Watter’s dairy, Harry’s near School 10, Harriet’s near School 3, the live Christmas display on New Street.
Tom Fulmer, my childhood pal, remembers when the plane crashed into the new high school on July 21, 1967. It was his 14th birthday. Tom posted a copy of the accident report. I remember being among the crowd to see what happened when someone walked out of his driveway carrying the airplane door. It still had the maps in the pocket. Others recall the deceased pilot landing in a neighbor's swimming pool.
Where were you that Sunday night when School 3 caught fire? Getting a lemon ice at Jackie’s? No, it was the middle of winter! Likewise, when Jolly Cleaners disappeared?
Loretto Brown asks, “does anyone remember the White Lady Tree in Branch Brook Park?”
Richard Higgins recalls the White Lady story: A rainy night in 1920 a couple got married and were going through the park in a car, and as they rounded the curve the new husband lost control of the car and slammed into the tree. Legend says that on a rainy night when you go through the park you can see her looking for her husband.
With the benefit of an older (first year baby boomer) sister, I got to tag along in search of the White Lady in the park. It was so scary, and then the road curved as you headed straight for the white ghost shadow on the tree and had to swerve to get out of there with being added to the legend.
Then, later generations recall other scary rides to Monk’s Castle and Albino Village. Those were the days before it cost $40 to fill up a four-cylinder car. You could drive around all night on five bucks and still stop to eat at the new McDonald’s near the bowling alley.
And, there, someone else remembers a bowling alley on William Street. Someone remembers School 2, another person recalls the wafting aroma from the Red Star Yeast factory.
The questions of the pool in the old high school popped up. Some group members actually finished in that high school before 1965. For a while many from my neighborhood took the 37 bus to Belleville Junior High. Now, it’s a middle school and that bus route is history.
You really know your Belleville history if you know that the Washington Avenue school is the one Connie Francis attended. Someone posted that they lived in Connie’s old house.
Perhaps you remember The Galaxy, and Grant’s and Channel and Rickel? You’re showing your age when you remember the Bellboys and not the Buccaneers. But that’s okay, we’re all recalling good times and good places in Belleville.
The group has gone viral and you’re welcome to join us. I really don’t mind getting 190 emails first thing in the morning, especially if you’re going to play nice with others. We don’t need a fictional TV show to tell us about growing up in Belleville, N.J., we lived it. We swept up the cherry blossoms after the bloom.
Check your attitude and politics at the door and share your memories of good old Belleville.
Copyright © 2011 by Anthony Buccino – used by permission.