Recollections of Cindy Feketie

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Interview with Cindy Feketie, May 3, 2012

Interviewer: When did you first move to South Orange?
Cindy: Around 1952.

I: Where did you live in South Orange? For how long?
C: We lived on Montague Place until 1961, a block from Our Lady of Sorrows; we have cousins around the corner on Coudert Place. Our two sets of grandparents lived on opposite sides of Seton Hall University and we could ride our bikes from Woodbine Ave to Elm Ct through the campus – there were no fences or gates. When I was entering grade we moved to Forest Rd. We didn’t have much property, but the Orange Lawn Tennis Club was our backyard. My family was there until 1995.

I: Tell me about the schools you attended.
C: I went to OLS and then Marylawn. In kindergarten a couple of times I would go in and then walk out and cross the street before my mother noticed. I would go home (we lived a block and a half away) and wait for her and then she would find me at home and bring me back. I had Mrs. Miller for kindergarten, Mrs. Carey for 2nd grade, 5th grade another lay person, and the rest of my teachers were nuns. The nuns were very fun. On Halloween we would go back to the school after hours in our costumes and the nuns would be in costume as well. The priests were very generous on Halloween, and we came home with bags full of candy. At Marylawn I worked in the office before and after school my whole four years.

I: What are a few of your favorite memories of growing up in South Orange?
C: At Christmas they had a manger with live animals at Seton Hall. Someone had to watch over the animals at all times and my uncle was one of those people – my father’s brother. I recall a donkey, a cow and a lamb. There were life sized statues for Joseph, Mary, etc. The manger was very realistic looking. Lots of people came to see it and it was up for about a month. It was easy to get onto the campus then, because the gate wasn’t there yet. They probably ended it in the early ‘60s.

A house on the corner nearby had a lot of lights, ornaments and a person dressed up as Santa, who gave out candy canes. We went to the duck pond to skate and would go into the house where you could get close to the fireplace because your feet were so frozen. There was also hot chocolate, either free or at nominal cost. Across the way on Flood’s Hill there used to be major bumps for sleigh riding and tobogganing which they removed - some people had ended up in the Rahway River branch. One time late at night we went tobogganing starting from Orange Lawn Tennis Club, across Ridgewood Road and all the way down Flood’s Hill. Luckily there was no traffic.

Another memory: My father was a bat boy at Seton Hall for Coach Carroll, one of the baseball coaches.

I: Can you tell us about your experiences in the library?
C: I went to story hour in the old (Connett) library when I was about 3. We also did the summer reading program each year. The Children’s room was downstairs, they had little stools that we sat on and the windows were at ground level and we could see people walking by. I remember lots of bookcases around the room and lower ones in the middle. I made sure I knew where Hardy boys and Nancy Drew books were. All the librarians had glasses! I couldn’t wait to go to the YA room – you couldn’t go there unless you had finished 6th grade. That was on the top level and they had really comfy chairs and a window looking out on Taylor Place. There was a desk for staff but it wasn’t always occupied. I guess they trusted us to be up there. That was around 1963.

I: Tell me about some of the businesses that used to be in South Orange. Where were they? What is there now?
C: Fellers, a ladies’ clothing store became ShopRite liquors, that is where The Avenue is today. Phillips Barber was also there.

Where Trattoria is now was Romosser’s Bakery , with phenomenal crumb buns. Then it became Bellins Boys Town, then Vose’s Stationary Store.

Mink’s was a men’s clothing store near where Blockbuster was most recently. They had lots of ties and handkerchiefs for the men in your family. It was always good for gifts. Bellins Girls’ Town replaced Mink’s. Among other things they were headquarters for Girl Scout supplies.

Of course there was Gruning’s – Mr. Gruning would come out and make sure that everyone coming in was behaving and being respectful to each other. If you acted up you weren’t allowed in for a week. It had booths and a counter with stools. You could get an ice cream soda for 35 cents and a cone for 25 cent. It was a popular after school hang out place.

Across the street was Town Hall Deli where you would get a heel of bread for 10 cents and maybe a soda after school. Then we would stop at the Baird Center and do arts and crafts, pottery or dance lessons. We would put on dance shows with costumes and makeup. We also used the stage there and a group of OLS students would put on our own shows. There was no instructor - we did everything. We would rope in our parents, siblings and classmates as an audience.

Near Grove Park were a couple of stores. We would go with our dad on Saturdays after doing errands (if we were good), to a book and variety store.

Where Toro loco is now, used to be Victor’s Restaurant Village Diner used to be Bun and Burger

The corner store where Investors Savings is now went through a number of changes. I first remember a drug store with a fountain and stools. Then it was Ruth Satsky Jewelers, (which later moved to where Rite Aid is) Then Consumers , then Lila Clothing

I: What do you miss?
C: Shoe stores, for one – there aren’t really any these days. There used to be two. In the summers the Baird had many activities, either free or for a minimal fee. More people walked or rode their bikes, now there is more traffic. My brother went through a lot of bikes!

I: What is the one thing you would describe to someone who has never lived here?
C: It is a safe and great place to grow up with friendly and caring people.