Remembering the Past: Readers’ Memories

RAHWAY-Before I begin my column, I would like to make a correction. In my July 10 column I had “Mary Haines delivered milk to the area.” It was my typo and should have read Marty Haines. (This has been corrected in the version posted online.)

CLARK-“Dear Diane, My name is Douglas Mack and I lived behind Madison School and Rahway High School. In the summer of 1967, if it was sunny out, my two friends, brother and I would ride our sting ray bicycles from Rahway into Clark to Grant City. Right next to Grant City was Shoprite. We would try to be careful around the Clark circle which is just now under construction. There were many ladies food shopping in Shoprite and they would come out with carts full of groceries in brown paper bags. Well, what we would do, now you have to remember I was only 11 years old at this time, we would follow the lady to her car, a few steps behind her. Nowadays she would probably feel threatened, but back then we were only there to put the bags in their trunks. Usually they would be very happy to see us and let us help them. So happy in fact they would generally tip us 25 cents, 50 cents, sometimes even a dollar, which would make me go nuts.

After doing this for about 5 hours, my brother and friends would practically be millionaires. Needing to spend our money, we would go into Grant City. I would go right to the record section and buy 45’s, titles like, “Pictures of Match Stick Men” and “Incense and Peppermint” were the coolest tunes and still are. After buying the latest hip tunes I would go to the model section where I would buy plastic model kits of cars like the 1967 Fairlane GTA’s. We would then ride our sting rays back home and would go in the back yard at our picnic table and build our models while listening to 77 WABC AM radio. We did this all summer long.

I will never forget those times. I know you can never go back, but I sure wish you could.”

“Sounds We Don’t Hear In Elizabeth Any More”

ELIZABETH-These memories are from reader William Frolich: “There were times years ago that we used to hear a variety of sounds that would tell us what was happening around town. On a warm summer night, while lying in bed with the windows open, we could hear the sounds of the Central Railroad in the Elizabethport yards making up a freight train, with the banging and bumping of the cars being coupled. Then, after the blast of the steam whistle, we could hear the chugs of the locomotives as it began to move the train out onto the main line tracks. There would be one long chug, and then another, and another, and then suddenly a series of rapid chugs, as the drive wheels slipped and lost traction on the rails. This sound was followed by a moment of silence as the engineer closed the throttle and then the sound of the long chug, and then another, and another and another series of rapid chugs as the engineer opened the throttle a little too much. Finally after a few false starts, would come the rhythmic sound of the steam locomotive chugging easily as the long line of freight cars was underway, and then began to fade away into the distance.

There were other sounds heard early in the morning, such as the milkman making his deliveries. We could hear the sound of his horse’s hooves in the street as the animal pulled the wagon along it route. The horse knew the route as well as the milkman, and would stop at each house with no command from the driver. Then came the sound of the glass milk bottles, first the full ones from the wagon, and then the rattles of the empties, as the man made the switch at the rear porch steps. Then the sound of the horse and wagon moving on.

The small ferry boat at the foot of East Jersey St. provided another sound now missing from our ears, for each move into the Arthur Kill was preceded, as required by law, by a long single blast of its horn. It is probable that radio communication has eliminated the need for whistle signals between the tugboats and ships as the maneuver the big tankers into their berths at the Linden refineries.

Another missing sound is that of the once numerous trolley cars that roamed the streets of Elizabeth. The cars had their own sound, and there was often the sound of a clanging bell as the annoyed motorman tramped on the foot pedal in an attempt to clear traffic from the rails ahead of him. Another ringing sound was that of the recording of an overhead meter of each incoming passenger.

It has been years since the distinctive sound of the Klaxon of a chain-driven Mack truck has been heard on those same streets, as well as that of the Motel T Ford’s engine. Neither the junk man’s nor the rag man’s horse and wagons roam the streets anymore, and their drivers cries of “junk” or “rags” are no longer heard, and the itinerant scissor grinder has also vanished, all lost to progress.”

Thanks Doug and Mr. Frolich! I will have more memories from Mr. Frolich in future columns.

Having a school or class reunion? Why not gather school or town memories from your former schoolmates and send them to be used in my column? Winter is almost here. I am hoping to hear more memories from readers. If you have Halloween or Thanksgiving memories or past material from the area I need all by Sept. 25 and don’t forget I am looking for winter memories from Clark, Linden and Rahway and Christmas or Hanukkah memories or past material from all four towns for my end of the year columns, which I need all by Nov. 15. Send your scouting, plays, school, houses of worship, town, organization’s parties, where you saw Santa, stores that were decorated, where you did Christmas shopping, bought Christmas ornaments or live trees, sleigh riding, ice skating, bon fires, etc. It is not politically correct to use Christmas anymore with the end of the year festivities, but it sure is in my column. Your name does not have to be used with past information sent, but please state if you wish not to be identified.

If you have your own memories or past material for Clark, Elizabeth, Linden or Rahway you can email me at or send copies of your material to me at CMD Media, P.O. Box 1061 Rahway, NJ 07065.

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