In this week’s column, I would like to share some memories of Bayonne in the 1970s.
In those days, kids played ball games sometimes in the middle of the street with whiffle balls, baseballs, and pink Spalding balls that were called “spaldeens.” Baseball was a more dominant game then than it is today. Things began to change in 1979 when the Bayonne Youth Soccer Association was formed.
There were backyard games, too. One was called “Prisoner.” It was a kind of hide-and-seek game. In Bayonne, some kids did something called “pool-hopping.” That involved playing in more than one backyard swimming pool in a day. Friends had the chance to sample different families’ backyard pools, which was fun on a hot day. Roller skating was popular then before later generations of kids moved onto skate boards and scooters.
In the 1970s, the City of Bayonne had some temporary, metal, collapsible swimming pools on 1st Street in the summer. They were located across the street from the Seaview apartments. Cheryl Scott Cashman, who is now one of our municipal judges, was a lifeguard there.
There was a specialty swim team for girls called The Mermaids, which was organized and coached by Tom Wojslawowicz, who was called “Mr. W.”
In the early 1970s, Uncle Milty’s Amusement Park went out of business. Its former property is now part of Dennis P. Collins Park, which is located between First Street and the Kill Van Kull.
In the 1970s, Bayonne still had chain discount department stores such as Woolworth’s, Grant’s, and Kresge’s. Broadway also featured a store called The Nut Shoppe, where you could buy ices. There were also movie theaters. The DeWitt showed movies until 1975 at 25th Street and Broadway. The Lyceum was in business until 1979. At the City Line, Bay Cinema hung on for a few more years, including a period as an X-rated movie theater.
When I was growing up, various special trucks came around to the side streets in Bayonne. There were trucks with amusement park-style rides, trucks with pizzas, Good Humor trucks with ice cream, and Mr. Softee trucks with soft ice cream.
Like other downtown residents, I remember playing at Plaza Park, a green space with a windmill that was located near the Bayonne Bridge. Many kids in my neighborhood went to the summer camp at Henry Harris School, which offered sports, arts and crafts, talent shows, and trips out of town.