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My Neighborhood

Life Story Club Contributor

July 24, 2020

I was born in the north of Virginia in 1945 while my dad was stationed in the Navy. My parents came north when I was 2 and went to live in my grandparents’ house, which was in Bayonne, New Jersey. And Bayonne was an oil refinery town, mostly blue collar. We lived in the attic. My grandparents had a three-family house. I have a brother and a sister. When I was four I contracted polio and was sent to the Sister Kenny Institute in Jersey City. That was a very stressful and anxious time, which made me really a very anxious child from that point on. The isolation, there was no visiting, etc.

So my elementary school years weren’t that great because I was such an anxious kid. But we had a very stable household. I had my grandparents, my aunts, and uncles all living upstairs. The town was a very mixed town. It was mostly Eastern Europeans from Lithuania, from Poland. There was antisemitism, but it was not rampant. I mean, a few incidents but nothing much. We all played together. We played outside, we skated, we played Jack, we hopscotched. We did all…you know, there were long hot summers with no air conditioning and no camp because my parents couldn’t really afford camp. So, you know, we made the best of it. We played points against the steps.

And then when I got into high school, for me, things were much, much better because… There were some Jewish families in town, but we were on the poor end of the Jewish families, so we weren’t terribly accepted. And when I got into high school it was a whole new world because of these 12 elementary schools merging into 1 big high school. I was at the town square where I was the president of this and president of that. I became very popular in high school. And I still have… Bayonne was a great town to grow up in. It was a small city. You either walked or you took a bus. There were lots of shops. You know, it was just a great place to grow up. It wasn’t mainly Jewish, but it didn’t really matter because my friends were from every walk of life. And I still have friends dating all the way back from the time I was 3 years old. My best friend lived in White Plains, and she and I lived next door to each other. So nothing to complain about except for the polio thing, which I think scared my parents more than it did even me. It was a very good life.

I wasn’t in an iron lung. I was not left with any disability, luckily. I had a very mild case.

I used to like to be the teacher. We had a basement and she would be one of my students. And I would give her assignments and then I would give her stars if she did well. She was one year behind me. She’ll laugh when she hears this. She was one year behind me. Then, of course, later in life, we reconnoitered. We kind of lost touch after college and went our own ways, but we reconnoitered later in life and wound up going to Italy and France to live for a year. You know, then both got married and had kids, etc., etc. And we’ve been best friends ever since.

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