Steve Sherry's The Vagabonds of '74

Cedar Grove
Home
Early '74 Montclair, New Jersey, Alf a most unusual friend
Cedar Grove, New Jersey my little town....Miss Munches House, Newberry's, Cedar Grove Pool
Hitchhiking To Albuquerque 1972, The Commune and Krishnamurti, University of New Mexico
Seeing Badfinger At Carnegie Hall, The Dugout, McSorely's Ale House
Seeing Bob Dylan, "The Poet Lad" At Madison Square Garden
South End Pizzeria, Van Gogh and Plans for California
Jersey Shore Recollections, Summer of '71. St. Louis, The Gateway of the West, The Road to Colorado
Rocky Mountain Panorama, Problems with the Pinto, Ritchfield Utah???
California! Lennon's Lost Weekend, Venice Beach, Malibu
Pacific Coast Highway, Panoramic Visions and the Magic Carpet Ride To Santa Barbara
San Francisco, The Shelter, The Warf and the Hole in the Wall Hotel
Sacramento, Jumping A Train? Wierd But True, The Shock of My Life
Oblivion, Reno, Good Samaritans and The Ghosts of Woody Guthrie, James Dean and Tom Joad
A Night In The Can in Kansas
University of Kansas at Lawrence and The Doobie Brothers
True Meditation Foundation of Human Understanding, "How Your Mind Can Keep You Well"
Vagabonds of '74 Part 2: Old Friend Ollie, Meeting Veronica, The Suburban in Montclair
BOSTON, The Leap of Faith and A Night in a Shelter
Sleeping in a Newspaper Truck, Cambridge Hippies and No Turning Back
Squatter's Rights: 269 BROADWAY, Furnishing Our Hippie Pad
269 BROADWAY becomes Miss Dale's Farm
California Hippies Arrive. Free Food from The Docks, Strange Encounters
Kenmore Square Blood Bank
Leonard Cohen, Patron Saint, Ali Defeats Foreman and the Great Squash Fight of '74
Vivid Visitors from New Jersey,
The Invasion of Boston University, Taking Over The Dorm
Jonathan Swifts, Harvard Square and The Sugar Shortage
Beacon Hill Gulf Gas Station and Reflections Atop The Longfellow Bridge
Christmas 1974 in Montclair, Returning to Cambridge, "13th Floor Panarama"
Bandages, Canes, Barroom Brawls and Spontaneous Conversation
Meeting Leonard Cohen
The Beginning Of The End and Saying Goodbye
Vagabonds of 74 Epilogue
Essex Catholic Memories: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Marty Liquori, Mark Murro, City Stadium, St. Benedicts, Dylan, Positively 4th St.
The Essex Catholic Wrestling Team 1971: 8 District Champs, Ting A Lings, Hitting the Town....
Essex Catholic Teachers and Students, Br. Harrington, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Taglieri, Mr. Zarro, Simon and Garfunkel
Random Events at Essex Catholic 1967-1971: Stuff Happens! Bomb Scare, JUG!, Abbey Road
Essex Catholic Senior Year 1971: World Trade Center Rising, The Staircase from "A Hard Days Night?" Meditation, MySpace: "Jersey Shore," Crosby, Stills and Nash Epilogue
The Jersey Shore: May, 2011 Brielle....Sea Girt....Introspection On The Sand.....
Essex Catholic Memories 2012

The Sweet Shoppe, Miss Munche's House, Cedar Grove Pool and The Reservoir

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Cedar Grove is a suburban town located in the rolling hills of eastern New Jersey.


My family moved there in the late 1950's when I was in kindergarten.

A good place to grow up, it was safe and had large parcels of woods and farmland that had not yet given way to New Development.

I attended public school through 3rd grade then transferred to St. Catherine's, close to where I lived.

Alf and I would bump into each other at the Candy Store which was located on busy Pompton Avenue  just a stones throw from my front door. 


It's formal name was The Sweet Shoppe and as far as the kids were concerned it was the most happening place in the neighborhood.


Old fashioned by today's standards, it had a wooden Phone Booth in the back and a Soda Fountain with all the trimmings.
 
It carried all kinds of merchandise ranging from Stationary to Cigars to Baseball Cards (a nickel a pack) to Candy Bars (a nickel) to Sodas whipped up right there at the Soda Fountain with Seltzer and Flavored Syrup.
 

We'd watch as the Counter Person squeezed in the syrup from a Pump then added Seltzer.

This was the way it was done back then and on a hot Summer day it really hit the spot. 

    In Winter the place was dense with the aroma of Soup, Coffee and Hot Chocolate and older men would sit at the counter reading Newspapers and talking about the weather.

For us kids it was like King Tut's tomb.

All the latest toys including G.I. Joe's, Silly Putty, and Water Pistols were there, a huge array of Candies and just about anything a kid might want could be found at the Candy Store.
                                

          

                                Miss Munch's House
                              ***************************

 A short walk down Pompton Avenue was an abandoned Victorian "mansion."

The previous occupants were an elderly woman and her sister who were in their nineties and had lived there for since the 1800's.
 
The old house was 3 stories high, dark and foreboding and in a state of disrepair.

Overgrown shrubbery and trees shrouded it from view.

Out back was a dilapidated Shed filled with broken furniture and tools.

We used to go in there to rattle the furniture and watch startled rats and mice run up and down the walls.

Behind the house were the remnants of the Family Farm and each autumn Gourds, Squash and Pumpkins still grew there in abundance. To us kids, it was Magic.


When Miss Munch passed away the first floor was boarded up to discourage kids from getting inside and having the run of the place. This is of course exactly what we would do whenever the fancy struck.

If we needed a thrill, Miss Munch's house was right there waiting for us.
 

Hearts pounding, we'd slip into the darkness never knowing what we might encounter inside.

The place was in disarray, the rooms filled with clutter ranging from brass beds to piles of Magazines and Newspapers from the 1800's and even a broken piano in the living room.


The kitchen shelves were stocked with Mason Jars filled with fruit grown right there on the property and broken dishes were scattered around.


As our eyes grew accustomed to the shadows we'd make our way upstairs and go from room to room until a noise, real or imagined, would send us scurrying outside into the reassuring reality of a crisp Autumn afternoon.

The world again!!!.....where we could feel the breeze through our hair and see the traffic whizzing by on Pompton Avenue......
Safe!!!

Having once again braved the vague terror of Miss Munch's house, it was on to the next adventure. 

Then one day the house was torn down........gone forever.........     
                         

                                   *************************

It was back in the days of Glass Milk Bottles.

At first they were Quart Sized then upgraded to Half Gallons, then, in the Mid 60's they went to Gallon Jugs.

There was a 25 cent deposit on each one which was a Windfall to a kid in 1965.

The local Super Market was where we went to redeem our bounty, then run over to the Candy Store to eye the assortment of things to choose from.


Anything you wanted was 5 cents so one milk jug could net you two Candy Bars, a pack of Baseball Cards, Chewing Gum and a Lemon Ice.

The only problem was that the jugs were hard to come by so we devised our own system.

We'd head to the Super Market and go around back to the loading dock where the Jugs were placed in shopping carts.


There'd be dozens of those bulbous beauties glistening in the afternoon sun and we'd pluck a couple and bring them around to the front of the store to redeem them. One trip kept us in Candy and Butterscotch Crumpets for the entire afternoon.

The gravy train ended when a Cyclone Fence was erected around the loading dock to keep the bottles from walking away.


                   

                       Newberry's Department Store
                                                 *********************
  

   There were afternoons when we'd head over to Newberry's to explore that fascinating world.

Arriving in our  play clothes we'd saunter up to the Display Windows where Mannequins were decked out in the latest fashions and position ourselves there among them.


Staring off into space, we'd strike a pose as if we were Mannequins too and fight like mad to keep from laughing.
 
People passing by would do a "Double Take" when their eyes fell on the 2 Life Like Mannequins with twisted smiles on their faces......
 

For a little added effect we'd wrap an arm around the Mannequins next to us and hold the pose like one Big Happy Family.

It always got a laugh but it was never very long before the Manager would show up and toss us out of the store.

For the amount of fun though, it was worth it.

Of course we had to repeat the Performance every time we returned to Newberry's.

We just couldn't help ourselves.


           
                       The Cedar Grove Pool

                               *******************************

There were times when Alf would have some wicked fun at my expense when we'd go swimming at the Cedar Grove Pool.

Being a head taller than me, he'd sneak up behind me and drag me to the deep end of the pool where the water was over my head but only up to his chest.

He'd then let go and watch as I tried frantically to paddle back to the shallows while swallowing huge gulps of water in the process.

In the background I could hear his whoops of laughter which made me laugh harder and swallow more water.
Once I made it back I would curse him out while he taunted me from the safety of the deeper water.


Alf, like my other friends knew me in my Heart of Hearts.

The neighborhood wasn't like school where I always had to be "on."

For me, school meant pressure...... pressure from too much Homework....and pressure to be something other than what I was.

I couldn't wait to go home at the end of the day so I could play football or baseball and just hang out with friends.

Once that bell rang and I walked home it was a Different World.
Off would come the baggy pants, shirt and tie and I'd turn my attention toward an afternoon's adventure.


                        

                            The Slaughterhouse


Cedar Grove was brimming with Possibilities, one of which was the Slaughterhouse, an Awesome Structure on county property not far from where we lived.
 

Like Miss Munch's House, it provided us with Adventure when we wondered into its Inner Sanctum.

It was huge with long Corridors where the Cattle would be restrained until the Coup-Do-Grace was administered.


Pigeons cooing in the rafters made it sound very spooky and like Miss Munch's House, the slightest noise would send us running outside through the tall grass until we reached the streets of the neighborhood.

The Slaughterhouse burned down a few years later in a Spectacular Fire that had the town buzzing for weeks.
                           


                               The Reservoir
                                 ************************************* 

Then there was the Reservoir where we went fishing in the Golden Days of Summer.

This took a bit of gumption because you weren't really allowed to fish there.
 
We'd roll out of bed before dawn and walk the mile or so and squeeze under the fence.

It was like Eden in there and even Mediocre Fishermen like me could catch many fish in a day.
All you had to do was cast your line and in minutes you'd be reeling in your catch.


We spent many a day fishing and swimming in the clear water.

Though we often complained about being bored, Cedar Grove was an Oasis in Space and Time

and the era in which we grew up was a Golden Age of Freedom that may never be seen again.


                        

                                                   High School
                                      ********************************


 By the time High School rolled around I was seeing less and less of Alf.


I went to Essex Catholic in Newark and Alf attended Cedar Grove High School so our paths crossed less frequently and less frequently still when in summer of 1968 my family moved to Glen Ridge, several miles away.

There was a long period of time when I didn't run into Alf at all or other childhood friends for that matter.

As far as I was concerned my world was changing and not for the better.
 

I was thrust into New Situations in a New Town, in a New School and I began to feel great uncertainty about where my life was going.

The world I left behind was far more palatable to me than the one I was now facing.

It wasn't until my Senior Year that I'd find myself in Cedar Grove......

visiting friends who also went to Essex Catholic.


One Saturday Evening we ended up at a dance at Memorial (Cedar Grove H.S.)  

We heard music coming from the Auditorium and tumbled in among the crowd where a band was playing.
 
Between songs I caught a glimpse of the Lead Singer and who of all people should it be???

None other than my old friend, Alf......

He was decked out in a Purple Vest with long fringes and a pendant hung around his neck. 


During the time I hadn't seen him he'd Morphed into a Hippie..........

but that was Alf.........ever adapting, ever changing......

When the set ended I went up to him, shook hands and for a few minutes we talked.
 
We had both changed or more accurately we were "going through" changes.

We lived in different worlds now, moved in different circles.
We didn't quite recognize each other because we didn't quite recognize ourselves. 


We made some polite talk and then I had to go.

"See ya man," he said, shaking my hand.

"Okay, take care," I said.

It would be a long time before I saw him again......

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