Thursday, August 30, 2012

East Orange High School

"Immediately after the consolidation of the school districts, the town purchased a lot on 
Winans Street and the erection of a high school building was undertaken. It was finished 
in December, 1891, and contained 10 recitation rooms, two large study halls, a drawing 
room, a chemistry laboratory and a gymnasium."  *

The tower was 90 feet tall.






Image below is from an 1895 insurance map


"By 1899, the rapid growth of the high school population induced the Board of Education 
to buy a piece of property on North Walnut Street, adjoining the high school, and shortly 
thereafter began erecting an addition. Joined to the 1891 building on the north side, the 
new edition was ready for occupancy in September, 1911, holding 750 boys and girls. 
Graduation exercises, held up to that time in Ashland School, were celebrated in the new 
high school auditorium for the first time in June, 1912." * 



I was inside the high school only once: In 1955 during the Davy Crockett craze caused by the Walt Disney miniseries, an event at the East Orange High School auditorium was advertised as featuring an appearance by "Davy Crockett." We kids packed the place but when "Davy Crockett" walked out onto the stage we were stunned to see that it wasn't Fess Parker, everyone started booing, and that's my only memory of the event.  





Image below is from a 1911 Sanborn insurance map




                      *text from a 1963 history of East Orange celebrating the city's centennial 

Columbian School


                                          Above: view is looking NE across Grove Street

From a description in 1922:

"Columbian School derives its name from the fact that it was opened in the 400th year
after the discovery of America by Columbus. Originally, it was an eight room building
and was considered one of the most complete schools in the state on its opening. It was
built at the corner of Springdale Avenue and Grove Street. Just 100 pupils occupied its
spacious quarters on opening.

This spaciousness didn’t last long. As the population in the Fifth Ward began increasing
by leaps and bounds, the 7th and 8th grades had to be transferred to Eastern School. In
1902, four new rooms and an assembly hall were added. In 1912, it was necessary to use
a portable building to accommodate two extra classes until another addition was
completed a year later. At present, Columbian has 35 classrooms, two gyms, many
special classrooms and a teaching staff of 46 members. It handles over 1,000 students."


Above: views are looking SE from NW corner of Springdale Avenue/Grove Street intersection

Frank S Coe was principal of Columbian from its opening to his retirement in 1938.

For many years until 1958, Stockton students went on to Columbian for 7th and 8th grades. The main memory of the Columbian area for those of us who didn't attend Columbian School was the Columbian Playground, especially the Playground's annual carnival.

Above: view is looking ENE across Grove Street
Below: view is looking NE across Grove Street

Below: from a 1911 Sanborn insurance map

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Park Avenue Methodist Church




Park Avenue Methodist Church on the NW corner of Park Avenue and North Grove Street had been organized in 1893 as the Park Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church with a temporary, "straw board" chapel and in 1898 the church building that still exists today was built with Rev. W. W. C. Walker as the first pastor. The Methodist churches to the east and to the west of the area were overcrowded so the location had been chosen to serve the Methodists in the rapidly growing neighborhoods between the Roseville church in Newark and the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church at Main St and Walnut St in downtown East Orange.*



In 1958 the church was celebrating its 60th anniversary in the 1898 building, one of the events was a baby contest, and my mother an excellent seamstress made my brother Drew a sailor suit for the contest. A photographer for the Newark News was there and snapped this photo which appeared on the front page of the Newark Sunday News the next day, November 9, 1958. 

The little girl in the photo, Laura Israel, is now an award-winning documentary film maker, winning for the film Windfall  which shows the somewhat unexpected negative, local environmental effects of windpower.  Laura's father, former Stockton School student  Harry Israel, was a 1952 graduate of East Orange High School and later a teacher at Vernon L Davey Junior High School where he taught Janis Fink, soon to be known as Janis Ian.


My family attended the church from 1947 to 1959 and one Sunday morning in spring 1957, I put on my Sunday clothes and my Sunday School pin with its ladder of attendance pieces hanging from it. My family didn't always attend the church service possibly because my little brother was only 6 months old but I always went to Sunday school with the lengthy attendance pin as extra incentive. I walked up William St to Grove St and started the long walk down Grove toward Park Avenue Methodist Church, but as I got close to Park Avenue, I could see kids I knew walking up Grove toward me from Park Avenue and as I got closer I asked one kid where they were all going. "Sunday school's over" the kid said, "you're an hour late." It was the first weekend of Daylight Saving Time, my parents had forgotten to "spring forward" and I was embarrassed as the other kids laughed at me, but at least it was my parents' fault, not mine.

                                                            Above: a recent photo

In 1959 the church's pastor Rev. Clark van Auken gave the invocation at Stockton School's 8th grade graduation ceremony. 

* From a history of the church:







Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bob Dylan in East Orange

Robert Zimmerman, later known as Bob Dylan, arrived in New York City from Minnesota in January 1961 with the intent to perform in the NYC folk scene, but also to track down and meet influence and idol Woody Guthrie.

Dylan soon discovered that the best way to meet Guthrie was to travel to East Orange on a Sunday afternoon to the apartment of Bob and Sidsel Gleason at 182 North Arlington Avenue near the SE corner of Park Avenue and N. Arlington, and  Dylan met Guthrie there for the first time on Sunday January 29, 1961. (date from Woody Guthrie: Writing America's Songs by Ronald D Cohen) The Gleasons had been hosting Guthrie's outpatient visits for several years from Greystone Park Hospital where he was being cared for as he suffered from Huntington's disease.  

Dylan continued to visit the Gleasons and over several weeks in February and March he recorded a group of cover songs there under the title East Orange Tape aka Gleason home tape ( Remember Me  from that tape along with early photos of Dylan). While Dylan hadn't been in NYC very long, he was quickly disappointed with the reception to his performances, began performing at a club in East Orange and in May he hitchhiked back to the Midwest for a month.


He wrote a song called Talkin' New York in which he described New Yorkers' derisive reactions in early 1961 to his performing style and he ended the song with a humorous allusion to his time in East Orange combined with his Midwest trip:

"So one mornin’ when the sun was warm
I rambled out of New York town
Pulled my cap down over my eyes
And headed out for the western skies
So long, New York
Howdy, East Orange"


He also wrote a satirical song called East Orange, New Jersey about his experience at a coffee house, The Cave* which I'm told was on Main St near East Orange High School: 
First time I ever worked in East Orange, New Jersey --
Folks, never go to East Orange, New Jersey,
It's a horrible town.
I once had to play in a coffeehouse out there.
It was so bad -- uh -- so bad,
People playing chess out there -- uh --
It's all they thought about
Was chess 'n' chess 'n' chess.
People come up to me
You play a song, you play a real quiet song
In the middle of the song ya hear "check"
And "Hey, that was a good move"
And all kinds of stuff like that.Yes, folks, it was so bad I had a little dream out there
The first night I worked,
About this chess playing stuff.
I dreamed I went to work out in East Orange, New Jersey,
And -- uh -- about the time I quit in two days
I went there to ask the guy for my money,
"I worked two days for you"
He says, "Uh, well, o.k., we don't pay money around here, though."
I says, "Uh, yeah?" He says, "Uh, well"
He says, "Uh, we pay chessmen."
I said, "Uh, well, gimme my chessmen then. I worked for two days."
I was sort of -- didn't really figure --
I thought he was lying at first,
But I took it anyway.
He gave me a king and a queen for working two days.
I says, "Uh, fine, that's o.k."
So I took my king and queen, went down to a bar, the nearest bar I could find.
I walked in the bar and ordered a pint.
Down the bar, the bartender,
I says, "Can I have a pint?"
I'll be damned, he give me a pint.
He asks me for the money,
I gave him my king and queen.
I'll be damned, he took that king and queen,
Threw it under the counter,
And brought me out four pawns, two bishops, and a rook for change.
Little story about East Orange, New Jersey.
(It's not clear if this "song" was ever performed; if so, it may have really been just the monologue as presented here)

 Promoter Jerry Schoenkopf writes "The real story is Bob came to East Orange every weekend for 4 or 5 months. He got paid in money, not much, but money. There was a lot of chess playing going on. Bob was loved and his music was greatly admired and appreciated. I met Bob at Gerde's Folk City hootenanny on a Monday night and asked him to play at our coffee house in East Orange, The Cave. He did." 



 More about the Sunday visits at the Gleasons   Blowin' in the Wind 1962




*The 1961 East Orange High yearbook references The Cave in a prediction about the 1961 graduates:

"As a late arrival opens the door of East Orange's famous cafe "The Cave," his 
eyes become accustomed to the smog-like atmosphere and he smells the pungent 
espresso coffee perking in time with the beats of the bongos. 
Jimmie Hooper's "Hippers" swing out with a modern version of "On, East 
Orange," while from across the dim room come the opening strains of "Stand 
Up and Cheer," transmitted by Billie Brooks and his combo. 
With an experienced air, Al Monica, the Dick Clark of '81, announces that 
David Tute, the versatile entertainer of international renown, will present his 
ever-popular night club act. 
Suddenly, whistles pierce the smoke as models Judy Curry, Brigitte Falck, and 
Randy Bishop enter, wearing the latest fashions of designer Sharon Jetter. 
Seated in a conservative corner, Sheila Flower, Rosalind Bjornson, and Laura 
Fitzpatrick industriously collect information for their theses on the influence of the 
Cave upon its middle-aged patrons." 

Janis Ian in East Orange

Janis Eddy Fink and her family, parents Victor and Pearl and brother Eric, arrived in East Orange from the New Brunswick area in summer, 1961. They had previously lived on a farm in the NJ town of Farmingdale. During their time in East Orange the family lived at the corner of S. Munn and Central Avenue in a  historic apartment house, The Hamilton,* which was built in 1911 and is considered the first apartment house in East Orange.

                                                                    Above: 1968

Janis attended Nassau School during her first school year in the city, then Vernon L Davey Junior High School for two years, and finally East Orange High School for several months in the fall of 1964, where she spent some of her time writing Society's Child, the song that quickly gave her national recognition. Miss Ian has written that, while she had good teachers at the junior high, she generally found schoolwork unchallenging and took refuge at the East Orange Public Library during her time in the city, and she credits Mrs. Baker, the children's librarian there, for helping her reach her intellectual potential by guiding her to many of the great books the library had to offer.


                                Above: from the 1966 East Orange High School yearbook where Janis is listed as being on the staff of the school's literary magazine (several images from the 1964/65 school year appear in the 1966 yearbook).

Near the end of 1964 the family moved to New York City and by 1965 she was a full-time musician and had changed her name to Janis Ian, Ian being her brother's middle name.

From a 2008 Time Magazine story: 
"How did you get your start in music?
I played for anybody and everybody from the time I started playing guitar, when I was 10 or 11. We were living in East Orange, and I made friends with a bunch of student nurses, and I'd go over to their dormitory and play for them. I gave guitar lessons. I tried to join bands. My mom always said it was obvious that nothing was going to stop me.
How did your song Society's Child come about?
I started Society's Child on a bus in East Orange as I was going home from school. I saw a black and white couple sitting there and started thinking about it. I finished it sitting outside my guidance counselor's office. We moved to New York three or four months later and I started banging on doors."




She achieved even greater recognition when she wrote and performed her now classic At Seventeen, and was announced as the winner of the 1975 Grammy for it immediately after her 1976 Grammy show performance of the song. When it was announced that Janis had won the award,  she received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience of her peers. She had also performed the song as the musical guest on the debut show of Saturday Night Live in October 1975.

Miss Ian has lived in Nashville for many years and continues to tour. Her website; her Wikipedia biography

A  former Stockton student has written on a website that Janis Ian's father Victor Fink was a music teacher at Stockton:  "Janis Ian’s father was a music teacher in East Orange @ Stockton School in the 60′s. I still have a ‘recorder’ that I bought in his class for 3$ in 1962. I can still play the recorder solo from ‘Wild Thing’ by the Troggs.  Janis used to play guitar over at my friend’s house on Munn Ave."


Another Stockton student has said that Mr. Fink was her 7th grade homeroom teacher at Stockton during the 1961/62 school year in addition to being a music teacher at the school.

  
                                                       *Below: The Hamilton

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Orange YMCA

The Orange YMCA was only a few hundred feet from the East Orange line just a short ride by bicycle, car, or bus from the Stockton School neighborhood.

I attended day camp there for several summers with the mornings spent in swimming lessons at the Y and the afternoons at a camp in South Mountain Reservation where we were grouped by age into various "tribes," Crow and Blackfoot being the only ones I remember, and we hiked, learned archery, and made leather wallets.  


Above: circa 1930

Unfortunately, the swimming lessons were a problem. My father did his best to help me learn when I was young even though opportunities were rare, an early 1950's trip to Lake Mohawk, a visit to a SC lake, occasional visits to the Jersey shore. But it didn't take. I was a terrified sack of skin and bones and sank immediately. My father had grown up in the Ironbound section of Newark a few blocks from the Passaic River and I guess he had learned to swim there in what passed for fresh water in those days. Maybe his older brothers just threw him in at an early age. Or maybe there was a bathhouse in his neighborhood or a YMCA. 

By the mid 1950's he decided to turn the job of swimming lessons over to The Orange YMCA and I took lessons during summer day camp and took additional lessons at other times... sometimes with me taking the bus on summer mornings and sometimes with my father taking me on Saturday mornings. I'd  plead the proverbial stomach ache and sometimes that would get me out of going. The water was highly chlorinated, pretty cold, and I had to stand on tiptoes to keep my nose above water even in the shallow end. We'd push off from the side and I'd go straight to the bottom and wonder if someone would save me.  There were bleachers overlooking the pool and there'd be the occasional spectators at our lessons, parents I hope, now that I look back on it. 

And did I mention that the lessons were in the nude? We were required to strip down in the dressing room, take a shower, and then stand with our backs to the wall next to the pool to begin the lesson.  Over the years I often wondered if that was a national Y policy or unique to our area. About 50 years later a man heard me describing  the lessons and he said the Columbia SC Y had the same policy and he had always wondered if it was unique to that Y.  Any feelings of embarrassment  about the nudity were probably overwhelmed by my fear of the water so I don't think being naked bothered me that much by comparison.  My time at the Y can best be summed up as The Naked and the Dread.

If the Y had had a contraption like the one shown below in this 1930's photo of a bath house in Newark  I might have had a better chance of learning to swim. Maybe.

By my teenaged years I had taught myself to swim under water but not on top. After college graduation I enrolled in adult beginner swimming lessons at the YMCA in Alexandria VA and mastered the basics of swimming a couple of laps, treading water for ten minutes and retrieving something from the bottom of the pool,  but I never felt any love for the water other than the occasional body surfing at Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach. I've always applauded my primordial ancestors for dragging themselves out of the water onto dry land and have never seen much reason to go back.

The Orange YMCA was founded in 1885 as the Central Branch YMCA and its first home was a small house on Main Street next to the North Orange Baptist Church which was on the south side of Main St facing Park St. .

Below: from an 1893 book
Two years later in 1887 the brick building shown in the drawing above was built next to Grace Episcopal Church diagonally across Main St from the house.

Belowa Sanborn insurance map from 1895



The front portion below was added in 1900.








Above: a Sanborn insurance map from 1912


By 1924 ( but started about 1919) the building had been completely renovated and the Metcalf Natatorium* was constructed.



Below: from American Contractor July 1919


A natatorium is a building dedicated to a swimming pool



One of the founding members of the YMCA in 1885 was industrialist Samuel Colgate:


Below: In this early 1960's view looking ENE across Day Street down Main Street in Orange, the YMCA can be seen as the long brown building in the distance on the right 

The Orange YMCA on Main Street closed in 1985 and eventually was torn down.