Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Eddie Rabbitt in East Orange

Edward Thomas Rabbitt was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, but his family moved to East Orange when he was a young child. 

According to the 1950 census Rabbitt lived at 118 North 19th Street, between Park Avenue and William Street. Another student says the family later moved to 4th Avenue.

Eddie attended Our Lady of All Souls School on Grove Street near 4th Avenue and graduated from 8th grade there in 1956. He probably then began high school at East Orange High, but dropped out soon after. (there is no mention of him or photo of him in the 1957 or 1958 East Orange High yearbooks)

Below: the graduation program for the 1956 8th grade graduation class of Our Lady of All Souls school.

Below, from several sources:

"100% Irish, his father, Thomas, emigrated from County Galway to the U.S. in 1924, while his mother, Mae, came from County Mayo. The name “Rabbitt” is Gaelic for “counselor to chiefs.” Although born in Brooklyn on November 27, 1941, Eddie was raised in East Orange, NJ. Eddie was exposed to music from an early age, listening to his father playing Irish jigs and reels on the fiddle and accordion. Eddie started to play guitar at age 12 (being taught by his scoutmaster, Tony Schwickrath, who performed as “Texas Bob Randall.” Eddie began entering talent contests. In 1953 Eddie wrote his first song, Susie."

[Several sources cite Tony Schwickrath as not only Eddie's scoutmaster, but also his neighbor, which would explain why he was able to teach guitar to Eddie]

"Eddie’s parents divorced while he was in high school, with the result that his grades dropped and he dropped out and hit the road. (He later got his high school diploma at night school). He had various jobs including driving a truck, working as an attendant in a mental hospital, working in an electronics plant and scooping ice cream at a Howard Johnson’s. In 1964 he got a job singing in the Six Steps Down club in East Orange, NJ. That same year Eddie made his recording debut on 20th Century Records with “ext to the Note/Six Nights & Seven Days. Eddie hopped a Greyhound Bus to Nashville in 1968 with $1,000 to his name."

Eddie Rabbitt may be in the 1947 kindergarten photo below, but he has not been identified yet

Thursday, September 22, 2016

East Orange in Popular Culture

1) From I Love Lucy episode #109 "Lucy Learns To Drive," first aired January 3, 1955:
"Ricky: No, I may never drive again.
Ethel: You made a U-turn in the Holland Tunnel?! Oh, brother! That must have been somethin'!
Lucy: Yeah, the policeman said the cars were backed up all the way to East Orange, New Jersey!"

2) From M*A*S*H episode #41 "For Want of a Boot," first aired January 12, 1974
Captain Bernie Futterman: 
"I know I'm Japanese.
I was born Japanese.
I have a feeling that I was kidnapped by a dentist whose wife was barren and spirited away to East Orange.
My life there has only been prologue to my final destiny: Underwater dentist in an all-night bathhouse.".

3) In fiction, the protagonist of Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize winning novel American Pastoral, Seymour "Swede" Levov, and his wife, Dawn Levov, are graduates of Upsala. The charactor Levov was inspired by the real person "Swede" Masin who attended Panzer College in East Orange.

4) The Human Stain is a 2000 novel by Philip Roth, and the protagonist is Coleman Silk, a 1944 graduate of East Orange High School. In the section below, at the novel's end which takes place in the late 1990's, Silk's sister reminisces about life in East Orange before 1955.

“In my parents' day and age, it used to be the person who fell short. Now it's the discipline. Reading the classics is too difficult, therefore it's the classics that are to blame. Today the student asserts his incapacity as a privilege. I can't learn it, so there is something wrong with it. And there is something especially wrong with the bad teacher who wants to teach it. There are no more criteria, Mr. Zuckerman, only opinions. I often wrestle with this question of what everything used to be. What education used to be. What East Orange High used to be. What East Orange used to be. Urban renewal destroyed East Orange, there's no doubt in my mind. They---the city fathers---talked about all the great things that were going to happen because of the urban renewal. It scared the merchants to death and the merchants left, and the more the merchants left, the less business there was. Then 280 and the Parkway cut our little town in quarters. The Parkway eliminated Jones Street---the center of our colored community the Parkway eliminated altogether. Then 280. A devastating intrusion. What that did to the community! Because the highway had to come through, the nice houses along Oraton Parkway, Elmwood Avenue, Maple Avenue, the state just bought them up and they disappeared overnight. I used to be able to do all my Christmas shopping on Main Street. Well, Main Street and Central Avenue. Central Avenue was called the 5th Avenue of the Oranges then. You know what we've got today? We've got a ShopRite. And we've got a Dunkin' Donuts. And there was a Domino's Pizza, but they closed. Now they've got another food place. And there's a cleaners.  But you can't compare quality. It's not the same. In all honesty, I drive up the hill to West Orange to shop.. But I didn't then. There was no reason to. Every night when we went out to walk the dog, I'd go with my husband, unless the weather was real bad---walk to Central Avenue, which is two blocks, then down Central Avenue for four blocks, cross over, then window-shop back, and home. There was a B. Altman, A Russek's. There was a Black, Starr, and Gorham. There was a Bachrach, the photographer. A very nice men's store, Mink's, that was a Jewish, that was over on Main Street. Two theaters. There was the Hollywood Theater on Central Avenue. There was the Palace Theater on Main Street. All of life was there in little East Orange..."

5) Bob Dylan 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 monolog called East Orange, New Jersey about his experience at a coffee house, The Cave which was on Main Street in East Orange near the SE corner of Main Street and Halsted Street:

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.

More about Dylan's time in East Orange and performance at The Cave

Sunday, September 11, 2016

James Blish, Science Fiction Writer

Above: Blish in the 1938 East Orange High yearbook

James Benjamin Blish was born in East Orange on May 23, 1921 and graduated from East Orange High School in 1938. He was a fantasy and science fiction writer and, in his last years, was best known for the short stories he wrote based on the 1960's Star Trek episodes.

The 1940 census shows him living with his mother Dorothea at 12 Washington Terrace, and the census also shows they were living at the same address in 1935 when he was attending high school.*

Blish died on July 30, 1975 in Henley-on-Thames (a town between London and Oxford), England and is buried in Oxford, England.

James Blish in Wikipedia

Blish Family genealogy

* The 1920 census shows his parents, Asa Rhodes Blish and wife Dorothea living at 18 Munn Avenue, which would have been only a few hundred feet from East Orange's main library. By the 1930 census, Dorothea is shown as divorced, and she and son James were living with her parents, Ben and Lucille Schneewind in Chicago.

Below: 12 Washington Terrace

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Velma Anne Todd, Kindergarten Teacher

Velma Anne Todd: Born in Banner, Trego County, Kansas on Feb 25, 1910 to Francis Marion Todd and Rosa Gertrude Berger, she passed away on Dec 13, 1998 in Jamesburg, NJ.

Miss Todd was descended from a family that came to NJ from England in about 1675 and the line was in the Midwest by 1770, farming in Missouri and then Kansas where she was born. (I wonder if Miss Todd knew her ancestors were in NJ)

Post about Miss Todd and her 1952/53 Morning Class here.

Photo of her 1946/47 Class Here

I received this comment on the blog:

"Just found this blog and have been enjoying all the photos. My family lived in East Orange 1956-58 and I attended Calvary Roseville United Methodist Church until 1984. Miss Todd was head of the Sunday school and I taught 1 grade Sunday school underneath her supervision in 1970 (or so). Would have loved to see a photo of her in her younger days."

(Since Calvary Methodist Church is in East Orange and Roseville Methodist Church is in Newark, I'm not sure which church the person is referring to; or possibly Miss Todd moved from Calvary Ch. to Roseville Ch.).

In response to that comment, a former Stockton student wrote "Miss Todd was also my Sunday school teacher, [at Calvary Methodist Church in E.O] probably in an early primary grade. I believe she was also the teacher for my sisters and brother."

It's always nice to find out that the teachers had lives outside of Stockton. 

By the late 1960's (and probably much earlier) Miss Todd was living at 212 North Arlington Avenue in a garden apartment on the SW corner of N. Arlington Ave. and Park Ave. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Stockton School Pennant and Patches

One former 1950's Stockton student writes "I remember being a part of a large group of people, including our PE teacher back then, that debated the school colors...as I remember, the Brown and Gold won out over Royal and Sky Blue."

                                                                   Below:circa 1959

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mayor James W Kelly, Jr

James W Kelly, Jr. was the first mayor in the history of East Orange elected as a Democrat.

Mayor Kelly was born about 1908, and, according to one source, died in 1990.

While a student at Stockton School in 1959, I was one of a group of three students who interviewed Mayor Kelly for the Stockton School newspaper. 

Below: photo from Life magazine in 1961 article about the East Orange Library System

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Graham M Skea

Graham Skea was recreation director in East Orange during the late 1950's and until 1967 when he left to head recreation in Orange County, NY (Middletown area).

Mr. Skea became well-known in recreation circles around the country because of his 1958 project to bring a surplus Korean War jet to Soverel Field in East Orange.

[East Orange] "was THE first in the nation to secure surplus military equipment for its playgrounds. The present director, Graham M. Skea, asked the Navy for a surplus fighter plane. It was granted, if he could  remove it from the depot in Philadelphia. He secured a truck and, with the aid of some of the department’s maintenance men, brought the plane to Soverel Field, where it became the cynosure of eyes all over the United States." (From 1964 Centennial History of East Orange)

                                   Above: from East Orange's centennial celebration, 1963

Mr Skea was born on March 20, 1928 in Orange but both his parents and an older brother were born in Scotland. In 1940 the family lived at 513 Main St (south side of the block across from Muir's).

                                    Below: senior photo in 1946 East Orange High yearbook