Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grove Street Lackawanna Station 1905

The Morris and Essex Railroad opened in 1836 connecting downtown Newark and the Scotland Road area (near the foot of "The Mountain") of Orange. The RR roughly paralleled Main Street which very early on (late 17th century) was called First Road and later Orange Road and the first station west of the Newark Roseville station was, by 1890, called the Grove Street RR station. Before 1890 it was first called Peck's Ridge, then the East Orange Station.  The property around Main Street, Grove Street, and Maple Avenue was on a high spot and had been settled early in the area's history. The intersection of Maple and Main was called Peck's Hill, Grove Street was "Whiskey Lane" and the property was the site of a minor skirmish during the Revolutionary War. Settlers had homes on the high ground and farmed the surrounding low-lying areas.

Above: postcard is postmarked 1905. View is looking west from Greenwood Ave. The writer has written "N. 21st St"  which would soon be renamed "Stockton Place;" His arrow points north toward William St. and he writes that when he goes to New York he has to take the pedestrian tunnel under the railroad to get to the main part of the station in order to take the eastbound train.  

     Below: postcard photo looking east from Grove Street end of platform

The original Grove Street railroad stations (1836 to 1900) were at the intersection of the railroad and Grove Street, but the much larger station seen in the above photos was built in 1901 between Grove and Greenwood Avenue, and rebuilt reusing the main floor as the basement or 1st floor of the "new" building when the tracks were elevated in 1921. The area developed quickly between 1890 and 1905 as big landowners drained their low-lying properties, laid out streets, and sold lots. During the 1890 to 1900 heyday of the Orange Athletic Club, thousands of spectators and many of the athletes arrived by train from NYC and Newark, pouring through the pre-1901 station to attend football, baseball, and many other sporting events at the adjacent Orange Oval.

Above and below (C1573): views from 9/4/1913 are looking west across Greenwood Avenue; the tall, storage building in the background had just been built and by the 1950's was a Lincoln-Mayflower storage building and was one of the tallest landmarks in the area. The Oval  playground is just out of view to the right. (photos are courtesy of the Steamtown National Historic Site)

Below: from the 1906 "Souvenir History of the Oranges." 

Below: view is looking east; The Oval playground is to the left.

Hotel East Orange

Built about 1926 the Hotel East Orange was on Grove Street at New Street. Because Grove was on the high ridge between the Newark line and Arlington Avenue, Grove Street was developed much earlier than the lowlands to its east and west, and in the early 20th century, the new hotel and tall apartment buildings along Grove were replacing large houses and estates, some of which had been there a hundred years or more. 

One former Stockton student has written that the actor John Amos (Mary Tyler Moore Show, Good Times, and Roots) lived on adjacent Division Place and worked at the Hotel East Orange in the 1950's. Mr. Amos was a 1958 graduate of East Orange High and a highly touted fullback on its football team.

Above: photo from East Orange High Yearbook courtesy of Cary Keogh

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

School Safety Patrol: To Serve and Protect

Making good grades in the early years (1st to 5th grades) at Stockton made a student eligible for school service that sometimes got us out of class time. In the 5th grade I was allowed to miss class to work in the main school library and in 6th grade, a fellow student and I were allowed to miss class to actually run (with no direct adult supervision) the small library in Stockton School West.

Another service job starting around 5th grade was school safety patrol/crossing guard/marshall which permitted us to get to school a little late and to leave early and we got to wear an official-looking sash.  Each of us was usually assigned a relatively low-traffic street corner near our home to help get the younger kids across the street safely (policemen like Officer Marty or adult crossing guards handled busier intersections like Grove at William St and 19th at William St).  Barbara Mondino was a crossing guard at the corner of New St and Grove St., Seth McQuillan had the corner of William St and Vernon Terrace and a couple of years later I had William and Stockton Place. Seth did well and received a certificate. I could get no cooperation from any but the youngest kids, quickly realized I had no future as an authority figure, sash or no sash, resigned in disgrace, and got no certificate. (certificate courtesy of Seth McQuillan)

Friday, June 24, 2011

James Oliver: Dodgeball Legend

Starting with 5th grade (1957 for me) we no longer had coed recess with its easy going pastimes ...kickball, relay races, and the like. It was time for the boys' "mettle to be tested" (I think that's what they euphemistically called physical intimidation back then) and it included even those of us who were only 55" tall and 60 pounds. James Oliver was a year ahead of me, but they must have been combining grades in PE class because he was in my 5th or 6th grade PE class. James was a man among little boys. We called him James but we'd probably have called him Mr. Oliver if he had asked. My usual dodgeball strategy was to cower at the back wall till either my team won or till I had to put myself out there at the end to make that desperate try to catch the ball without suffering too much pain. But with James' rocket arm on the other side, the cowering area was pretty crowded and not really out of his range, and when his throw hit you there was some pain involved.

            Above: James Oliver in the 1960 Columbian School 8th grade promotion photo 

By September, 1963, I had lived in SC for almost four years and was a junior in high school. My physical dodgeball wounds had healed and I had blocked out the scariest memories. A teacher handed out Senior Scholastic magazine one day and there was a familiar face looking back at me from the page, James Oliver, who, according to the article was considered one of the top six football players in the country. "Hey everybody," I said to my classmates, "a few years ago I was a random target for this guy in dodgeball" and, knowing that my short stature, rail-thin "physique," and adrenaline-fueled reflexes had forced him to learn to throw at me with great accuracy, I felt a small sense of pride that my pain had been part of his eventual stardom.     

                       Photo: James Donald Oliver, Jr. from the 1964 East Orange High yearbook 
 "Jim Oliver, fullback at East Orange (NJ) High School. All-everything in his state and area, 6-2, 205 pound Oliver twists opposing lines into pretzels. Playing in one of the three or four toughest high school leagues in the country, Jim plowed through enemy lines for 875 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and scoring 11 touchdowns.

Blessed with remarkable hands, Jim is used as the holder on extra-point and field goal attempts. He also returns punts and plays the deep position in East Orange's umbrella defense-most unusual for a big fullback."

From The Six Most Wanted Boys in America by Herman L Masin in Senior Scholastic (Teachers' edition) v. 83 (September 27 1963) p. 34; The article featured the six best high school players in America going into the 1963 season. Others were Paul Walker, QB, Middleton OH; Bennie Galloway HB, Easley, SC; Ted Sweets, FB, Butler MO; Don Moore FB, Lincoln HS, Tacoma WA; Bill O'Brien QB, Princess Ann HS, Virginia Beach, VA. (Thanks to my brother, Drew Smith for finding the Senior Scholastic article)

Oliver also was named to Parade magazine's 1st annual  High School All-American Football Team in 1963.

In 1999 The Star Ledger listed the best NJ high school football players by decade: James was one of the 10 for the 1960's along with Joe Theisman, South River 1966; Franco Harris, Rancocas Valley 1967; Jack Tatum, Passaic 1966; Drew Pearson, South River 1968; Lonnie Wright, South Side 1961; Len Coleman, Montclair 1966; Chuck Hinton, East Orange 1968; Brian Taylor, Perth Amboy 1967; and Pete Jilleba, Madison Borough 1964.

Oliver went on to play at Colorado State University and in 1968 was drafted by the NFL's Detroit Lions.

Above: Oliver as a sophomore in a 1965 Colorado State football program

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kindergarten 1952/53 Velma Anne Todd, Morning Class

I knew I had been in most Stockton classes with Pat Quinn, but after she was kind enough to send me this photo, I saw no kid who looked much like my other childhood photos, but finally decided that the kid on the left with ears protruding, resembling Opie Taylor was the only possibility. I magnified it a little and saw a clue: "Opie" has a big wound over his left eye. My father had built a brick grill with a ledge around its chimney and at a neighborhood gathering, a "friend" and I were sitting on the ledge; he pushed me off the ledge, I fell on my head, had to get stitches above my left eye and still have a small scar. Identification confirmed and the head injury may explain the dull expression on my face.
Students identified in this photo: Janice Crider, Jeff Smith, Pat Quinn, Thomas Gaffrey, Gerald Kamowski, Dale McQuillan, Michael Hatzel, Phyllis Semcer, Evelyn Lindsay, Enid Fiore, Barbara Mertz, Louis Orangeo, Glenn Endress. (Photo courtesy of Pat Quinn)

Our kindergarten room was new and state-of-the-art: big, bright, high ceiling, a pretend kitchen with kid-sized appliances, lots of large toy vehicles, unlimited art supplies, and many simple rhythm instruments to play during music time; and we had a wonderful, experienced teacher, Miss Velma Todd, who, early on, was very worried about me and took my mother aside one day to express her concerns: during our free time, when we could play wherever we wanted, I was the only boy who would spend his time with the girls in the pretend kitchen. I don't know what the teacher and my mother said to each other or to me or remember what I said to them but I know what my five year-old brain was thinking: "I'm not that interested in the kitchen, but outside of school I play with other boys in the dirt and run around and climb trees and I have lots of toy soldiers, trains, and trucks at home. What I don't have at home is a bunch of cute girls; I don't want to be a girl, I just like 'em."

Kindergarten brochure given to parents 1952

                                    Below: One of the new, bright rooms in the 1951 Stockton Annex

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Orange Athletic Club: The Beginning

In late 1884 a group of men in the Oranges met one evening each week to bowl at a bowling alley on Main St. Wanting better accomodations and other athletics too, they proposed a plan in February 1885 to start a club. Interest was immediate and by March 1886 they had enough subscribers (in 1889 the club had 581 members) to the club to make it formal and begin construction of a club house at Halstead St and Railroad Ave. near the East Orange Brick Church RR station, the geographical center of the Oranges. The club house of the Orange Athletic Club was completed by December 1886, the tennis building by March 1887. One fifth of the members were women, an innovation at the time (the club house was open to women till 3 PM each day, and all day Monday and Thursday).

Above: Club House fronting on Halstead St. and behind it (left side of photo) the Tennis building fronting on Railroad Ave;  built in 1886/87 near Brick Church RR station. Photo from Outing magazine, Nov. 1889.
Below: 1895 Sanborn map showing Club House with the Lackawanna RR running along side it.

The gymnasium was 41' by 48' with a 30' ceiling and the club house also had a large billiard room and its basement had four bowling alleys. The tennis building was 100' by 110' with a 45' ceiling at its highest point and had two full size tennis courts. There were eight skylights, and after experiments with electric lighting for the courts, gas lights were installed instead and had large overhead and side reflectors to direct the light.

                 Above: view is looking west; the houses in the background faced Grove Street

The club's athletic field, soon called the Orange Oval, was being developed 3/4 mile away at the Grove Street RR station. The 1895 Sanborn map below shows a baseball grandstand in the SE corner,  football bleachers on the west side, and tennis courts behind the bleachers. (There is a photo of the 1898 state championship East Orange High baseball team on p. 50 of East Orange Images of America by Bill Hart, Arcadia Publishing. The photo view is from the outfield looking toward the grandstand that appears on the Sanborn map)

Below: from 1890 map

"That it is a misfortune not to have the club house and the ground together is undeniable. However, land in The Oranges along the line of the railroad and accessible to stations is too valuable to be used as an athletic ground except the one plot* the club house [sic, probably should just be "Club"] has secured, and that, as a site for the club house, is too far away from the center of the community to be available or popular in the evenings.

The new ground is a rectangular plot about six hundred by four hundred and fifty feet with here and there a large oak. There is being laid out upon this an elliptical, wide cinder track, five laps to a mile and so laid out as to permit a 150-yard straight-away course on the side. Within the oval is placed the baseball, football, and cricket field, the oval permitting a full-size football field within it. Outside of the track are the tennis courts, ten in number, and archery and croquet will be also provided for. At the lower end of the grounds a grand stand, with a seating capacity of 1200 is to be built as soon as possible. Round the track a wide carriage way will extend, sufficient for 100 vehicles to stand in. Separate openings will give ingress and egress to and from the grounds. The slope of the ground on the west** will be terrraced, and, from this, spectators will have an uninterrupted view of the field. At the north*** end a summer club house will be erected, with dressing rooms and baths. Work has been pushed as rapidly as possible, but delays in draining have prevented the grounds being completed this year."

Information, photo and quoted passage from The Orange Athletic Club by Newell B Woodworth, Outing magazine Nov. 1889, archived at

*the "plot" was the Aaron Peck Estate property that would be called The Oval
** the Grove St side
*** the Grove Place side

Monday, June 20, 2011

Football At The Orange Oval 1895

"The game on the Orange Oval, if it shine, brings out all the pleasant life of the Oranges, and drags and traps as far away as Englewood. And if it rain, the men and the girls who keep in touch with the men, come out in macintoshes; and the girls, like the women on the back row of the open stands at the last Yale and Princeton game, half-drowned and seeing nothing but open umbrellas before them , perhaps hope that the fad may change. The crowd follows the game in a way that shows that even the youngest boys in knickerbockers understand how the Crescent left end isn't getting low enough for the interference, or how the Orange "full" is slow in getting away the kicks, and how the umpire is a beast and is giving away the game to the other side. Then when the Orange scores they drawl out in unison that most expressive and typical of slang words "Easy!! Easy!!" And when the Crescent Club scores, then its rooters howl as defiantly as if the bleachers across the fields were the walls of Jericho. When the Orange Club wins, as it did last year, the Orangites execute war dances on the boards of the stand, and perhaps press the hand of the girls next to them with unnecessary warmth (as it seems to the Crescent man passing by). And they all go out through the gates with their heads in the air looking for friends at whom to smile, while the members of the team are being hugged in that crazy fashion that is considered de riguer after football games.
The Orange Athletic Club is a fair type of all the suburban athletic clubs, and those of the smaller cities, that are often social clubs, athletic clubs, and family clubs rolled into one."

"Perhaps many of these clubs give each year a grand ball that is the social event of the neighborhood (as does the Orange Athletic Club), or dances galore, for the athletes are much appreciated at suburban routs [sic] as "stayers," but the real life of these clubs is accurately expressed by saying that they are playgrounds for the grown-up boys of the town."

from Scribners magazine, vol 18, 1895 at Google books

Note: The rival Crescent Athletic Club was in Brooklyn

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stockton School: Early 20th Century Images

Above: from The School Journal vol. 70, p.488, 1905

Above postcard: view from NW corner of Greenwood Avenue and William Street; this postcard is probably one of the earliest photos available of Stockton (the school opened February 13, 1905): there is no landscaping or fencing so the photo must have been made in 1904 or 1905 at the time of the building's completion and the message is dated May, 1906 by the writer (photo courtesy of Pat Quinn)

Middle postcard photo: View from NE corner of William and 19th, 1911 postmark; printed on other side is "Pub. by Ward's Pharmacy, East Orange, NJ, Made in Germany;" Many late 19th and early 20th century articles refer to the eastern and northeastern sections of East Orange as "Ampere, NJ." 
Bottom postcard photo: View from SE corner of William and 19th; postcard was unmailed and date of photo is unknown; printed on other side is "G Lynn Coursen, Photographer-Publisher, East Orange, NJ"

Below: from a long newspaper article about new schools