South Amboy And Hopelawn Memories

Remembering the Past by Diane Norek Harrisonby Diane Norek Harrison

Here are some great memories from Priscilla Szabo Jenkins: “Dear Diane, your articles always bring some old memory back-good job! I am enclosing a few more of my own. I grew up in the Hopelawn section of Woodbridge, but had ties to South Amboy, as well, so this story is the result. Keep up the good work.”

SOUTH AMBOY—“For many years my mother Helen Szabo’s uncle, Sandor Szabolsky, had a shoe repair shop on Broadway beginning in the late 1940s. When he passed away, my father John Szabo took over the business and my sister Elsie and I would go there on Saturdays to shine shoes and sweep the floors. We had to be sure to save the larger scraps of leather for repairing the heels of ladies’ shoes! There was a drug store down the street, near the movie house (Empire Theater.) Elsie and I would eat at the lunch counter there, and as a treat get to see a movie once in awhile.”

HOPELAWN—“After my father sold the South Amboy business, he opened a repair shop on Ellen Avenue in Hopelawn, down the street from our house on May Street and one block from New Brunswick Avenue.

“In the late 1940s, there was a vendor who used to visit our home in Hopelawn, a Mr. Shovein, who would have his ‘wares’ wrapped in brown paper tied with a string. He sold stockings, underwear, and the like to my grandmother. I always got a charge out of this man selling this type of clothing in this manner. But he was successful at it!

“My parents were yesterday’s ‘cool’ parents-they together with a group of other parents, including Mr. and Mrs. Klusza, Mr. and Mrs. Ivar Lunde, Mr. and Mrs. Swallick, and a few others, organized a recreation program in Hopelawn in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Every Friday night the school would be open to the youngsters of the town. The parents would show a movie, we had basketball, volleyball, shuffleball, checkers, dancing, and they also sold snacks. It was from 7 to 10 p.m., and our parents would show us how to play the games, etc. It was great fun, and something we always looked forward to. The parents were in complete charge and gave the kids a wonderful outlet for our energy. We really appreciated the efforts our parents put into that venture.

“The Kluska’s owned a gas station near Pennsylvania Avenue, which was later taken over by the highway. Mr. Klusza had one of the first television sets in town, and I remember all the fathers going there to watch boxing matches on television. We kids would go, too, just to hang out and drink soda and have fun. The other ‘first’ television in Hopelawn was owned by Mr. Accurso, the barber on May Street. My sister and I used to go there on Tuesday nights at eight o’clock to watch Milton Berle!

“Then later my parents got a television to and we no longer had to go out to see our favorite show. Remember when we had big magnifiers over the television screen to make them appear larger, and you could only see the picture from straight in front?

“Growing up in a small community certainly had its advantages. We did not lock our doors when we went next door or down the street to visit our neighbors; everybody knew everybody else, and you dared not misbehave, because your neighbor would tell your parents! Our school was a big part of the community, and Halloween was a community affair, with Miss Mary C. Fee, the school principal, leading us in a parade down the street to Florida Grove Road, and then across one of the side streets to Ellen Avenue and back up to the school. The whole town came out for that event.

“The area near Mr. Klusza’s gas station was a big vacant area which used to house the yearly carnivals that visited Hopelawn. So now when you drive down the highway before the bowling lanes in Hopelawn, you are driving over the spot where the rides and the shows with the bearded lady, etc., used to be, where we used to ride up on our bicycles on a Saturday afternoon.

“Does anyone remember ‘Donkey Baseball’? I remember a game at Hopelawn baseball field-the batter would hit the ball, then jump on a real donkey and get the animal to go around the bases! What fun.”

Thanks again so much Priscilla!

Have great memories like Priscilla? Her memories are what my column is all about. Start sending your own memories or past material for my 2009 columns. Have memories from more then one town like Priscilla? I’m looking for them all.

If you have your own memories or past information for Carteret, Edison, Metuchen, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Amboy or Woodbridge you can email me at or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media, P.O. Box. 1061, Rahway, N.J. 07065.

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