Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Louis Orangeo

In the spring of 1969 I made my first visit to East Orange since 1959. The principal let me wander Stockton's hallways and the first kids I started remembering were the few who intimidated me and other kids and even intimidated some teachers,  but could also occasionally be friendly depending on their moods. The one "intimidator" my age throughout my years at Stockton was Louis Orangeo and I thought about Louis  (pronounced by the kids as Louie) while I was touring the school and neighborhood. 

My next stop that day was to visit my older cousin who was running a business on Ferry St at Wilson Ave. in the Ironbound section of Newark.

I drove into Newark on West Market Street, then under Penn Station, veered right, down Ferry St and at the next light a man ran in front of my car yelling to me. He came to the car window, said he'd just had lunch, missed his ride back to work, would be fired if he couldn't get back in time, it was just a few blocks and, please, could he have a ride. Having lived in a small town in SC for years, I was somewhat naive and said ok and he got in. I told him I had just visited East Orange and he said that was where he grew up and I looked at him more closely and asked him if he'd gone to Stockton. He looked startled (plus, I think he'd had a liquid lunch) and said "uh, yeah?" I said "you're Louis Orangeo, aren't you?"

                                         Above: Louis Orangeo in Miss Todd's Kindergarten class 1952/53

He quickly got over his initial shock, started treating me like we were old war buddies, decided he needed to make a quick, token appearance at work, and then we'd go for a drink. Turned out the "few blocks" to his job was actually several miles to the Port of Newark where his job was moving new cars around a giant parking area. He had me park, told me to get into a car with him (see, he could still intimidate me), and proceeded to tear around the lot as fast as he could, having me duck down once so he could drive by his boss to show he was working; but I quickly told him my cousin was expecting me and as soon as he slowed down, I jumped out and ran back to my car. Ever since, anytime somebody tells me about a weird coincidence, I say, "wait till you hear my Louis Orangeo story."

Postscript: From social security records I see that there was a Louis Orangeo who was born in 1946 and died in 1973. I don't know if that is the same person but the birth year is in the right time range.

                                   Below: Pennsylvania Station shortly after its completion in 1935

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